Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Another Great Is Gone

It's been a rather tough month for the world of hockey. Ten days ago, we saw coaching great Pat Burns finally succumb to the cancer that has been plaguing his body for the last few years, and today we find out that sportswriter and NHL reporter Jim Kelley has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. Kelley was a long-time newspaper reporter for the Buffalo News, and could recently be found contributing articles to Sportsnet.ca, FOXSports.com, and ESPN.com. Kelley's work in the NHL earned him the Elmer Ferguson Award in 2004 when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and that legendary career of bringing the hard-hitting stories will cease.

I'll admit that I always found Kelley's stories on Sportsnet.ca to be a little contentious, but the man was paid to deliver the big stories for the website. He was seemingly always hard on the Maple Leafs, especially Brian Burke, but he never held back when he thought a story should be told. I respect him for his candor and style, and he deserves a moment of silence for his incredible body of work.

Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector, another of Sportsnet's stable of hockey writers, had these kinds words to say about Kelley today:

"'To any writer of my generation, Jim was old school. A column, sidebar and notes were considered a regular day on the beat for Jimmy at the Buffalo News - 1700 words boss? No trouble just get it all in. There, Jim became to Sabres fans what Frank Orr was in Toronto and Jim Matheson still is in Edmonton: a workhorse, who gave you a laugh every day while keeping you up on your team,' said Spector.

"'He was that veteran scribe who could sniff out a misdirection play from some coach or organization faster than you could say 'Hull's foot was in the crease.' He would break the story the team didn't want broken, and had a legendary dust-up with Dominik Hasek because of it. In his last year, when he realized his days were few, he shared much with me whenever I'd call or email. So eloquent, so oozing perspective.

"'He filed his final column at 1:30 am on the day he passed. This, dear readers, was a sports writer's sports writer.'"
Even Kelley's own biography stated that his views were his own, and often may have caused a few people to push back against him:
"Most of you who have read me know I have strong opinions on the game and the people in it. Being of a certain age I don't worry much about what those people think. I write what I believe and let the chips fall where they may. That angers some people including some of you who read me regularly, but I didn't get into the business to make friends, I got in it to tell stories and, now, to give opinions based on what I've seen and learned in what is now a professional lifetime in the sport.

"I like offence, appreciate good defence and great goaltending and lean toward larger nets, even less obstruction and a limit on the kind of stupid actions that too often disgrace the game and the many good people in it.

"I don't ask you to agree with what I write, but I would hope you read it with an open mind, think about what's being said and, hopefully, realize that there is always more than one way to see the game."
It is that last paragraph that we, the readers, will lose out on one of the game's most trusted eyes and voice. Jim Kelley is a Hockey Hall of Fame writer, a man of integrity and conviction, and a true fan of the game of hockey. Those ingredients sometimes would cause him to write some pretty sensational stuff, but his views on the game were always ones that I respected because of his experience.

Another hockey legend has passed on. You may not have liked Jim Kelley or his writing, but his views on the game were his own and they prompted discussion. That, readers, is why this hockey great will be missed by me.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kelley. Your words will live on forever.

Until next time, raise your sticks in Mr. Kelley's honour!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Knowing The Code

I've never been an enforcer or a fighter in the NHL, but some say that the willingness to drop the gloves night-in and night-out is written into some players' genetic codes. It takes an incredible amount of courage and intestinal fortitude to lose the mitts and chuck knuckles at another guy while absorbing the rain of blows he is unleashing upon you. However, as you're aware, I fully endorse those men that stand for and honour "the Code" in hockey, and it's always nice to see two men who know how "the Code" works. In most cases, both players leave enough sense in their heads to pat each other on the back as warriors before they head to the penalty box thanks to "the Code" ensuring that the fight was fair.

Tonight, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings got to see what a time-honoured tradition looks like as Aaron Voros of Anaheim and Kyle Clifford of the Kings showed what "the Code" is all about. Check this fight out:

Let's go through this to examine why this fight was a prime example of two players living by the words of "the Code".
  1. Players fight within their weight classes. Aaron Voros stands 6'2" tall, and weighs in at 210 lbs. Kyle Clifford measures in at 6'2", and tips the scales at 207 lbs. Clearly, there isn't much difference between the height, weight, and, by extrapolation, the reach that these two men have. Because of these factors, this fight should be fair on paper and neither man will be embarrassed based on size and weight.
  2. Fights are mutually agreed upon. It appears that both men were willing to engage in this battle of fisticuffs, so I see no issues here.
  3. Always fight fresh, and never fight tired. It appears, from the video, that Voros is coming from the bench while Clifford is still fairly fresh as he turns up ice while taking a pass. Again, I see no issues here as both men appear to be fresh off the bench, and certainly aren't that tired.
  4. Fight fair. This is a big one, and I'm very impressed by both men in this fight with their willingness to keep things fair. At the :08 mark, you can see that Voros' helmet pops off, leaving his head exposed. After a few more punches from both men, Clifford asks Voros to wait as he unbuckles his chin strap and removes his helmet at the :18 mark. This, kids, is the definition of fighting fair. Voros could easily break a hand on Clifford's helmet, so Clifford has an unfair advantage in this fight. However, Clifford recognizes this and corrects it with Voros' approval. Once done, the fight can continue as both men are on equal footing again. I am very impressed with Kyle Clifford's honouring of "the Code", and Voros deserves some kudos for giving the kid time to square up the fight. Well done, men!
The entire set of unwritten rules about "the Code" comes down to one thing: respect. Players who follow "the Code" have respect for their opponents, the game, and the integrity of the fight, and it is clearly evident that Kyle Clifford learned this either in the OHL with the Barrie Colts or the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs. He saw that Voros was at a disadvantage, asked Voros if he could remove the helmet, and did so without hesitation once Voros gave the go-ahead. That, kids, is respect to the highest degree shown by Clifford, and I am very impressed with the youngster's knowledge of "the Code".

Clifford may not be setting the world on fire on the scoresheet, but the young man definitely has shown the proper respect for the game of hockey in his short time in the NHL. And that has to count for something. If you ask me, I respect the kid for doing the right thing.

And sometimes, the right thing is the hardest thing to do.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

TBC: Hockey Is A Battle

Teebz's Book Club has primarily been keeping readers up-to-date on a lot of the newer books being published. However, there is a lot that one can learn from older books that may now be out of circulation, and I encourage you to seek out some of these books at bookstores. I was lucky enough to discover one such book at a little bookstore in a small town as I passed through this summer during a road trip, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring you Hockey Is A Battle, written by Punch Imlach and Scott Young, and published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Limited. The paperback version I have of this book is even older than the image to the left, and it's still in great condition! And much like Imlach's stories in the book, this book is a timeless classic.

While Punch Imlach is a fairly well-known name in hockey circles, Scott Young may not be. Young was a Canadian sportswriter and journalist who wound up writing more than 45 books for readers throughout his career. Young was born in Cypress River, Manitoba on April 14, 1918, and was hired as a copyboy for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1936 before becoming a sports reporter. In 1940, he married Edna "Rassy" Ragland, the two had two sons: Bob Young, born in 1942, and Neil Young, in November of 1945. Young moved to Toronto shortly before World War II had started, and worked for a number of publications as a short-story writer and reporter, including the Globe & Mail on a number of occasions.

In 1988, Young received hockey's highest honour for a writer as he received the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, and was also inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. Young passed away on June 12, 2005 at the age of 87.

Hockey Is A Battle is somewhat unique as it is written in Imlach's own words in a stream-of-consciousness style. Reading the book feels like listening to your grandfather or father tell stories of "old-time hockey" and the way it used to be in hockey. However, make no mistake in that Imlach's personality and insight into these stories are not conveyed. If anything, Young brings the stories to life by keeping Imlach's personality intact throughout each chapter of the book.

The chapter I found most interesting was Chapter 12 where the Maple Leafs and Punch Imlach prepared for the 1967 NHL Expansion. In this chapter, Imlach discusses how the Expansion Draft would affect each of the Original Six teams, and how difficult it was to keep the Maple Leafs together after winning the 1967 Stanley Cup. This entire chapter was extremely interesting to read in terms of the historical aspects of the game, and Imlach's insight as the General Manager and Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs provides amazing information for the reader.

There are many fascinating stories in the book besides what is found in Chapter 12, though. From the proposed Frank Mahovolich trade to Chicago that fell through in 1962 to Andy Bathgate's falling out with Imlach to how George Imlach got the nickname "Punch", it is all chronicled in Hockey Is A Battle. He talks of coaching Jean Béliveau with the Quebec Aces, how his minor-league career got him into Maple Leaf Gardens, and where he decided coaching was his lot in life. Again, Young's conversational style of writing makes it seem that Imlach is speaking directly to you, giving you some great insight on Imlach's thinking.

There's no doubt that I would have never been able to read some of these stories had I not been able to find Hockey Is A Battle. While the book itself might be hard to find in a local bookstore, I highly recommend purchasing a used copy from Amazon if you have the means. Hockey Is A Battle is an excellent book to read, and really shows off Young's writing talents. Because of Imlach's great stories and Young's abilities, Hockey Is A Battle certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Chris Pronger Comedy

I have to give some credit to a man that a lot of people simply don't like. Chris Pronger, in recent years, has become sort of the NHL's improv comedy guy. From toying with reporters during press conferences to cracking jokes during scrums around his locker, Pronger really has started to show his personality, and I'm starting to warm to the guy. How many times have you seen an interview with a player where he gives all the clichéd answers and standard responses to questions? Too many, I'd say. It's no longer the case with Chris Pronger.

The following video was posted to YouTube by BroadStreetHockey, and they deserve some credit for capturing the reporters' reactions as they ask Pronger about the disallowed goal against Calgary on Friday night. The reporters clearly like talking to Pronger because of how candid his answers are. Take a look, and watch their reactions to Pronger's answers:

"That's a five-second delay, Chuck!"

I'm not here to debate the wording of the rule that the NHL has in place or whether the referee, Mr. Ghislain Hebert, was right in making the call. The call was made, it can't be changed, done and done. Yes, the call cost the Flyers one point in the standings, but they had additional chances after the goal was waved off.

What I am here to say is that it is refreshing to hear a player make comments that generally don't get him fined. More players need to learn this skill, and it's one that Pronger has down cold. How entertaining would the NHL be if the player interviews were as good as the game itself?

Don't get me wrong: I don't support or endorse what Pronger did in any way. I know Don Cherry had a problem with it tonight, and that's his belief. If Pronger did it innocently, that's his claim to defend and support. I'm not comparing his actions with Sean Avery's actions simply because Avery went out of his way to distract Martin Brodeur. But it does look kind of fishy when Pronger is waving his hand at the height of Kiprusoff's head.

Regardless of whether he was right or wrong, Pronger's interview skills should be endorsed because he's the most entertaining chatter in the NHL right now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Duck. Duck. Lose.

Black Friday was appropriately celebrated by the Anaheim Ducks as they unveiled their newest look with their new alternate uniform. I say it's appropriate for Black Friday because Anaheim just can't seem to stay away from a black alternate uniform. In 2003, the then-Mighty Ducks introduced a brand-new alternate uniform that went away from their eggplant colour. They, of course, chose black. These Mighty Ducks alternate uniforms weren't the best sellers, but they weren't the best looking uniforms either. Today, though, the Ducks went a little more radical, although we're not seeing anything like this once-worn alternate jersey.

Here is your 2010-11 Anaheim Ducks alternate uniform. Much like the Blue Jackets yesterday, there are points about this uniform that I like, and some that I would rather see gone like the Wild Wing jerseys. We'll go through these individually as we always do, and I'll give the old thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

First off, I like the new logo. It's not necessarily "new" in the full sense of the word as the Ducks wear it on their normal home and road jerseys, but removing the word mark now makes this a true logo. All NHL teams need a logo to give them a recognizable image, so keeping the webbed "D" foot makes complete sense as a logo since most people already know that it's part of the Ducks' image. Thumbs-up for this idea.

The rear font on the new alternate jersey is the same as their normal font they use on their other jerseys. Again, continuity is important for a franchise with a unique font as it really does become a selling point for retailers. There are no added costs for a different font or different number of layers, so fans know exactly how much the name and number on the back will cost. Thumbs-up for keeping the unique font and making it easy on fans.

The Ducks have also brought back a little history as the shoulder patch shows the old Mighty Ducks mask logo. There's nothing wrong with a little nostalgia on a patch as I'm sure that a lot of Ducks fans have those old uniforms, so this brings the new jerseys and old jerseys together. I like the patch, and it gets a thumbs-up from me as well.

The image of Selanne showing the patch is also fraught with problems. What is going on down the side panel of that jersey? Stripes that go nowhere and do nothing are, in a word, useless. You can see that they don't continue down the pants, so why add them? While I appreciate Anaheim's black, orange, and champagne colour scheme, there are so many reasons why the orange and champagne should only be used as accent colours. They just don't blend well together when used in large blocks against a black background, and stick out vividly like a sore thumb. Speaking of thumbs, thumbs-down for the side panels.

We just went over why the accent colours don't work well, yet there are the Ducks wearing those two colours as the main colours on their new socks. Those socks look horrid, especially when the pants slide up a bit. I don't know if the designers watched a lot of children's shows before getting into the design process, but the Anaheim Ducks' socks look fairly similar to Big Bird's legs - mostly orange with a contrasting colour for definition. In fact, if you strapped a pair of skates onto Big Bird's feet, his legs would look a lot like the Ducks' socks. Big thumbs-down for the socks.

I get that the Ducks use black as their main home jersey, so I'm not sure why they couldn't add some colour to their scheme. They re-introduced the Mighty Ducks logo on the shoulder patch, so why couldn't they wear the Mighty Ducks uniform like they once did? Does anyone think this is a step back if they swapped out the "Duck mask" logo for the webbed "D" logo? It honestly doesn't look that bad at all, and I clearly have little to no graphic designer ability. Thumbs-down for another black uniform in the Ducks' closet.

Overall, it's a 3-3 tie, but the aesthetic of the jerseys just bring it down another notch. I've gone on record a few times that hockey is a sport where colours are important, and black is simply choking the life out of a once-vibrantly colourful sport. Anaheim could have done a lot with these alternate jerseys, but they chose to remain inside the box that is their uniform scheme. And that's unfortunate.

I don't think I'll ever have one of these uniforms in my closet unless I can get one on the thrift. Orange and champagne aren't really my colours, and I don't need or want any black clothing. Sorry, Anaheim, but these just aren't your best effort, similar to what we saw in the game against the Chicago Blackhawks today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cannon-izing The Jackets

The image to the left is that of the brand-new Columbus Blue Jackets' alternate uniform to be worn during the 2010-11 season and beyond. Columbus has worn an alternate jersey in the past that had the black shoulder-to-wrist yoke, and that look eventually became their everyday uniforms in 2007 with a few minor changes. In continuing with Columbus' "new uniform" trend, a brand new logo can be seen on their new alternate jersey, and they have introduced a new colour not seen as an accent colour on their uniforms before. But the big question always remains: how does this uniform rate? There are a few things that I like on this uniform, but we'll see if they make the grade below.

The new alternate uniforms are very clean, very simple, and very easy on the eyes in terms of their look. There are no flashy designs or crazy graphics or sensational striping, and the jerseys have a very "retro" feel to them despite the team being just ten years old. I'm not against this retro feel that the NHL seems to have reverted to, but maybe this should send designers a clear message that new is not always better. The overall exterior look of the new Blue Jackets' uniform gets a thumbs-up.

The rear font used on the alternate jerseys for the players' names is still the same as before. Keeping the font the same makes it easy for fans who have grown accustomed to the Blue Jackets' font over the last few years, so that's good. Thumbs-up for that decision.

The number font, however, has taken a turn for the "blockish". The Blue Jackets wore a very unique font on their regular uniforms compared to most of the other block-lettered teams of the NHL. That, however, has fallen to the wayside with the new alternate uniforms, and I, for one, don't think this was a necessary move. Block letters are nice for companies that cut and stitch numbers onto uniforms, but the NHL is a multi-billion dollar retail business based on the each team's unique features. It's the uniqueness of each team that separates them from all the rest. This move to block letters makes the Blue Jackets' alternate uniform less unique compared to the rest of the NHL, and that's a thumbs-down from me.

Speaking of a lack of uniqueness, what's with this colour scheme? Light blue, white/cream, and navy blue? That would be a unique colour scheme if it weren't for Nashville, St. Louis, Florida, and Pittsburgh. In fact, when looking at the last few alternate jerseys, all of Nashville, St. Louis, Florida, and, to some extent, Minnesota have been designed in the same fashion: hem stripes, sleeve stripes at the elbow, lace-up collars, and a shoulder yoke. Granted, not every one of these teams has all of these features, but the majority of them are present on each team's alternate uniform. Is Reebok simply not trying, or do the teams just not have any creativity? Thumbs-down to the overall design for the Blue Jackets because they look like everyone else.

I do like the new logo on the alternate jersey, but, like the rest of the jersey, it seems to be copying something else from someone else. The Blues, Panthers, Penguins (twice), Sabres, and Wild all opted for a change back to a circular, retro-style logo in the last few years. The cannon? A great addition and could be a great logo on its own. The circular logo like everyone else? I can do without. I'll give this a push because the cannon logo is a great idea, but the circular logo has been done.

You may have noticed that the collar of the new Blue Jackets' alternate jersey has a special insignia on it. Blown up, you can clearly read the letters of JHM on the collar as the insignia. Why is that there? Let's go to the press release.

"To honor Blue Jackets founder John H. McConnell during the team’s 10th season, the initials JHM adorn the back of the neckline.The JHM edition of the jersey will only be worn by the team during the 2010-11 season. For jerseys sold at retail, the JHM will appear only on the initial production run, making it a true collectors’ edition."
Ok, so there's something to commemorate the team's founder, but I'm thinking this really isn't necessary. Yes, it will make game-worn jerseys fairly unique and recognizable through this special mark, but fans aren't really interested in a collectors' edition unless they are interested in buying every single uniform the team has worn. Making that person a "collector"! Thumbs-down.

The writing on the outside of the collar isn't the only place to find something as the Blue Jackets added stuff to the inside of the collar too! Let's go back to the press release for the reasons this was done.
"The phrase 'We Fight. We March!,' which appears on the interior of the jersey’s collar, was first introduced during the 2008-09 season to describe the Blue Jackets’ first-ever march to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The expression continues to represent the team’s intention each year to fight and march throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. Below 'We Fight. We March!,' 10 stars commemorate the introduction of the jersey in the club’s 10th season."
Here's a news flash to all designers: if you can't see it, it doesn't exist. If this stuff was really that important, why not add ten stars to the bottom hem to commemorate this jersey's addition to the Blue Jackets' wardrobe where it can actually, y'know, be seen? Adding the motto on the inside is simply adding for adding's sake. These two "features" serve zero purpose overall, and have already been done by two teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Pittburgh gets a pass simply because it will be worn on the Winter Classic uniforms, and it commemorates that event. The Rangers, however, fail miserably because no one cares about the year the franchise was established. If you're a fan, you already know that! Therefore, the Blue Jackets fall into the latter category of "fail miserably", leaving them with a thumbs-down for this idea which seems dumber and dumber every time a team does it.

Ok, so where do we stand? Well, I count 2-4-1. These jerseys just seem too cookie-cutter to me in terms of how they look. I expected more, and some of the kids in Columbus did as well. That first image by Brittany Curry? Not bad at all! I think that, for all the hype and secrecy on this unveiling, the results leave me feeling a little underwhelmed. That's never a good thing for your fanbase, especially those who don't live in the metro area of Columbus, Ohio, because they probably won't want to be part of the "We Fight, We March!" squad. I expected some creativity after they came up with a gorgeous home and road set, but all I see are ideas stolen from other teams. And that's not very professional.

Sorry, but I expected more, Jackets. You gave us a fairly standard uniform in terms of how it looks with very little original design. What's that? You did provide something more? I'm sorry, but a new cannon mascot named "Boomer" who will only appear when the new uniforms are worn is far too kitschy, and seems very much like a marketing ploy. He's not Batman who appears when the Bat Signal comes out. And you certainly don't need a second mascot when Stinger is already wearing the new threads! What's the point of that?

Because of this, I now fear the unveiling of the new Anaheim Ducks' alternate jersey coming up.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 7

We're back with another edition of Antler Banter as we follow the AHL's Manitoba Moose through the season in their efforts to win the Calder Cup. The Moose had a fairly quiet week as they played host to the Rockford IceHogs at MTS Centre for two games. Both games were an opportunity to add some points to their overall standing as the Moose carried a 2-0 record against the IceHogs this year, so there definitely was something on the line as these two teams clashed. As always, if you're looking for news or information on the Manitoba Moose, 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 check out this past week's Hardcore Hockey!

Dude Looks Like An NHLer

Thursday night's game against Rockford had a definite defensive flavor to it as both goaltenders put on a clinic in stopping the puck. Eddie Lack was outstanding in the Manitoba net while former NHL goaltender Hannu Toivonen took his third shot at beating Manitoba this season for Rockford. Honestly, if the officials working on the scoresheets needed a quiet night, this was it.

Eddie Lack played an outstanding game in the net, surrendering just one goal early in the first period. From there, he was perfect for the rest of the night, stopping 29 of 30 shots on the evening. While Jonas Gustavsson got a lot of press for signing in Toronto, I'm thinking that the Canucks got the better young, Swedish goaltender when they signed Lack. He has been a bright spot since stepping on the ice for the Moose, and I'm guessing it may not be long before he gets a shot with Canucks after a little more seasoning in the AHL.

The Moose powerplay was fairly quiet as the IceHogs only provided two powerplay opportunities on the evening, but in a low-scoring game, the powerplay has to produce. The Moose were held scoreless with the man-advantage, so I'll keep beating this drum: the powerplay MUST be better. The Moose are 26th overall on the powerplay this season through 17 games with a 12.6% conversion rate as they've scored only 12 goals on 96 powerplays total. Simply put: not good enough for an elite team.

The story on the night was Hannu Toivonen's 29-save performance as he stymied the Moose at every opportunity. The former Boston Bruin, St. Louis Blue, and Chicago Blackhawk looked much better than he did in his previous two attempts against the Moose as he backstopped his team to a 1-0 shutout victory over the Moose. With the loss, the Moose fall to 9-6-1 on the season, and see their winning streak stopped at four games.

Putting Away The Rebound

The Moose needed a strong "rebound game" after being shutout on home ice, and Friday night's tilt was a very good look at a dangerous Moose team. The Manitoba fans came out on Friday for the team as the largest crowd since the 2009 Calder Cup Finals showed up, and the Moose had 14,134 fans behind them from start to finish. Kudos to the Moose fans for their efforts on this night, and it's great to see the "extra attacker" back in the seats at MTS Centre!

It's nice to see Jordan Schroeder breaking out of his slump as he scored a couple of goals on the evening. His powerplay marker broke the Moose shutout-streak at 107:39 as he scored in the third period. With Rockford defenceman Ivan Vishnevskiy in the penalty box for hooking, Schroeder loaded up the cannon and hammered a slapshot past Hannu Toivonen for his second goal of the season, knocking the monkey off his back. He then added his third goal of the season just 5:58 later as he poked home a puck during a goalmouth scramble. On behalf of all Moose fans, it's good to have you back, Jordan! Now just keep it up!

Tyler Weiman had himself another solid night, stopping 22 of 23 shots on the evening. The only puck that got away from him was Jeremy Morin's wrist shot that went over his right shoulder with 55 seconds to play. However, this Moose goaltending tandem is proving to be a major strength with both Weiman and Lack playing as well as they have. Weiman improves his personal record to 5-2-1 while narrowly missing out on his first blanking of the season.

The Moose gave their biggest crowd of the season something to go home happy about as they defeated the Rockford IceHogs on Friday night by a 3-1 score. While it looked like Toivonen might record back-to-back shutouts as he held the Moose in check over five periods, the Moose finally broke through as they scored three times on 41 shots! With the win, the Moose improve to 10-6-1 on the season.

Stats Crunch

Through 17 games, we're seeing some pretty clear trends emerge with this Moose team. Despite having played the fewest games at this point of the season, the Moose have some pretty encouraging numbers.
  • When the Moose outshoot their opponents, they are 4-1-0 on the season, but they drop to .500 when outshot with a 5-5-1 record.
  • Manitoba is 19th overall in the AHL with an average of 28.88 shots-per-game. Defensively, the Moose are 6th overall in only allowing 27.59 shots-per-game.
  • Manitoba jumps out to games well with a 176-127 margin in shots (+49), but fall off dramatically in the second period as they fall to a 151-183 margin (-32). Overall, the Moose have outshot their opponents this season with a 491-469 margin (+22).
  • The Moose rank 9th overall in goals-per-game with 3.12, and are 6th overall defensively in only allowing 2.59 goals-per-game.
  • Despite having taken the most shots in the first period, Manitoba has only scored 14 first-period goals versus 11 scored against. With the second period being their worst in terms of the difference in shots, Manitoba makes those shots count as they have 17 goals-for in the second period versus 13 goals-against. The third period sees Manitoba with 20 goals-for compared to 19 goals-against. They have scored 53 times this season while only allowing 44 goals-against.
  • The Moose are an impressive 5-0-1 when leading after two periods, but drop to 3-4-0 when tied after two periods. They are .500 when training after two periods with a 2-2-0 record, so a loss isn't a guarantee if the Moose enter the final twenty minutes trailing in the game.
  • Thus far, the Moose are 5-3-1 in one-goal games, 2-3-0 in two-goal games, but a perfect 3-0-0 in three-goal or more games.
  • The Moose have neither scored a shorthanded marker this season nor have they given up a shorthanded goal.
  • The Moose have scored six powerplay goals both on the road and at home.
We'll update these marks randomly throughout the season, so check back to find out how the Herd is faring.

When The Phone Rings...

The Moose lost two players to call-ups this week as centerman Joel Perrault and winger Jeff Tambellini are in Vancouver with the Canucks. Losing these two players certainly creates some large holes in the Moose line-up, so the Canucks tried to fix them.

They did return centerman Mario Bliznak, and he had two assists against the IceHogs on Friday for a great return to the Moose line-up. Bliznak knows his role and knows the Moose system, so getting Bliznak back patches one hole.

The hole on the wing, however, will not be filled as easily.

First, the Moose released Jason Pitton from his professional tryout (PTO) contract. He played one game against the IceHogs, and had just two penalty minutes in his short Moose career. The Canucks, however, waived Peter Schaefer with the intention of sending him to the Moose to regain his effectiveness, but the scrappy winger decided he wasn't interested in reporting. Schaefer's wife, Julie, is expecting their second child any day now and he's still being paid a $600,000 buyout from the Bruins so he has options, but it appears he'll become an unrestricted free agent once he clears waivers.

I'm going on record here: as a Moose fan, we want someone who wants to play here for the Moose rather than having some player half-ass it here because he's unhappy being demoted. It happens. It happened to Wade Redden, it happened to Sheldon Souray, and it happened to Martin Gerber. All are going about their business like professionals. I appreciate Schaefer not reporting if he's not going to give it all he has, and the Moose are better off for it.

Checking The Calendar

The Moose hit the road for a pair of games in Abbotsford against the Heat this weekend. The Heat sit three points ahead of the Moose in the North Division standings, but the Moose still have four games-in-hand on the Heat. Winning these two games will be important in terms of the Moose finishing the season in good standing. As always, divisional games are must-wins, so the Moose need to go out and pin a couple of losses on the Heat.

The Moose then head back to the American Midwest as they visit the Chicago Wolves on Tuesday and the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday. Chicago is having an uncharacteristic poor season right now, sitting seventh in the West Division at 9-11-1-0. Milwaukee is sixth in the West Division at 9-6-1-3, so these two former IHL rivals of the Moose are struggling early in the season. Nothing should be taken for granted with these two as they are both former Calder Cup Champions, and both can be dangerous on any given night.

The main focus right now should be the games in Abbotsford on Friday and Saturday. Four points for the Moose would be a huge help for the Herd as it could possibly vault them into second-place in the North Division, but, at the very least, will put them one point ahead of the Heat. You know what to do, so DO IT!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday Hodgepodge

Occasionally, I need to clean my desktop off when it has a number of images, stories, and emails sitting on it that have yet to be addressed. Today is one of those days as I find myself with a lot of images, stories, and emails that should be posted, but have yet to be posted. So I'll post them. I'll clean out the old file cabinet of stuff and miscellaneous items, and we'll take a look at my thoughts on each of them. There are a couple of historical pictures, there are definitely several jersey pictures, there's an "oops" picture, and there's my commentary. The pictures will certainly be more entertaining that my comments, but I'll also throw in a few emails that I've received just for good measure so that you're not overwhelmed by my sardonic outlook today. You've probably had enough babbling from me already, so let's get started.

  • I never noticed it before, but I was looking through the Classic Auctions website once again and I came across an auction for a Neal Broten jersey from the Minnesota North Stars. What caught my attention was how the number is cut. Notice the top right corner is angled downward to the right? I had never noticed that about the North Stars' font before.
  • Also from the Classic Auctions website, there's a good look at the Babe Pratt patch worn by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1988-89 season. Pratt was the goodwill ambassador for the Vancouver Canucks before succumbing to a heart attack on December 16, 1988. As a tribute, the Canucks honoured him with a patch for the remainder of that season. Very classy move by the Canucks.
  • Speaking of classy, the New Jersey Devils took to the ice last night wearing a new patch on their jerseys. With the passing of Pat Burns, there were a couple of teams who honoured the fallen coach, and I'm glad to see a man like Pat Burns getting this kind of reaction. I completely support the Devils in their honouring Pat Burns, and they look good doing it.
  • The other team that took the ice with a memorial for Pat Burns was the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, unlike the Devils, the Leafs wore their tribute on their helmets. Check out the back of Colton Orr's helmet for the "PB" sticker as he punches out Krys Barch. Another classy tribute by a hockey team, and I fully support it.
  • There was a grand unveiling on Facebook today as the AHL's Connecticut Whale showed off their new green uniforms. I still think the logo is far too cartoonish and minor-league to be a professional team's logo, but that's clearly in the past and will not be changed now. Apparently, Reebok couldn't come up with jerseys in time, so they contracted SP Apparel, to make the Whale's uniforms. The Whale will wear the green uniforms both at home and on the road until mid-December when the new white and blue uniforms arrive. So just like their name, the Whale's uniforms are becoming a major debacle.
  • I was going through Bleacher Report's slideshow of "The 100 Worst Decisions in Sports History", and I was entertained by some of their choices. It's a pretty good slideshow with lots of info in it, but I was bothered by one picture in particular. On slide 79, they highlight Brett Hull's 1999 Stanley Cup-winning goal where he had his foot in Dominik Hasek's crease. As you remember, the NHL rule said absolutely no player could be in the crease as a goal was scored, yet Hull's goal was allowed to stand as the series winner. However, slide 79 shows Hull's foot in Patrick Roy's crease as the Stars played the Colorado Avalanche! Every other slide in the series has the correct photo with it except this one. Oops!
  • Sports Illustrated had a great shot of a very young Steve Nash in British Columbia dressed in hockey gear! Nash was an accomplished soccer player, is one heckuva basketball player, and now he has hockey on his resumé as well! How cool is that?
  • I received a pretty interesting email from Benny who works on behalf of the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The press release states that the CWHL and Bauer Hockey have partnered to bring the women in the CWHL elite hockey equipment from Bauer! This is a great announcement as all the women will now have top-of-the-line gear to play in, and this gives the CWHL a very credible hockey partner. "Bauer Hockey is committed to growing the sport and as a company, we have always supported women’s hockey," said Kevin Davis, chief executive officer and president of Bauer Hockey. "We’re excited to partner with the CWHL and do our part to help move the women’s game forward." I, for one, think this is an excellent announcement. Congratulations to both the CWHL and to Bauer for their commitment to the women's game!
There's the hodgepodge for Tuesday. Antler Banter returns tomorrow, and I'll have a full run-down of the Columbus Blue Jackets' new alternate uniform on Thursday as they unveil their newest design tomorrow evening. Lots of stuff coming up, so stay tuned!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Contest Update

I had posted a little information about this contest back on Tuesday, November 9, but I think someone - and hopefully it will be someone who reads this blog - should have a chance at winning a pretty cool prize. Unfortunately, this contest is only open to Canadians, but I plan on getting details on another contest that can be won by my American and worldwide readers later this week. Please stay tuned for this one because it does sound pretty cool. However, if you scroll to the bottom, there is a chance to win something from HBIC, and that's better than nothing, right? Alright, since there's a week left on the "Big Save", let's make sure you know the details on Scotiabank's "Big Save" in case you missed them two weeks ago.

Kids today should be planning for the future when looking at money matters. Having a background in the financial industry, I know that early planning leads to much better futures when it comes to money matters, and a penny saved today can reap large rewards in the future. Far too often, I would see men and women having children with little to no savings stashed away for future endeavors, purchases, or investments. While I get that dollars and cents don't stretch as far as they used to, there still has to be a way to teach your kids good financial literacy and savings techniques.

Enter Scotiabank's "Big Save" as part of the Scotiabank Hockey Club! Scotiabank has devised this contest with saving in mind not only for your child, but for your child's hockey team as well! And they're giving your child's hockey team a chance to travel to one of the biggest days on the hockey calendar: Scotiabank Hockey Day In Canada in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory! How cool is that?

All you have to do to get your child's team entered is to fill out the form. Pledging to save money as a team will help with all sorts of future buys: new equipment and uniforms, rink upgrades, awesome parties, or even cool events like a hockey game where the team attends!

Again, Scotiabank realizes that saving an arbitrary amount of money isn't easy, especially with today's economy. That's why they have provided ten great money-saving tips to help you and your team save a few extra bucks every day, week, and month. It's not hard to follow these tips, and the tips don't require you to set aside 10% of your child's allowance or anything either. In fact, some of you reading this who can't or won't enter the contest may find these tips useful in your own household!

Scotiabank has set up a blog where some guest bloggers will be adding information in regards to the contest and saving money. The highly-respected Joe Pelletier is already writing for Scotiabank's "Big Save", and his recent article on how Barry Gibbs was the reason he became a hockey fan is a fantastic read! Check this area for more info regarding the contest and for additional blogger stories!

If you noticed on the form, there was an area where you can upload a photo of your child's team. The reason for this is that Scotiabank also has a photo gallery up, and your child's team will appear here if you submit a photo! How cool would it be to show your budding superstar his or her picture on a major website? This is a very cool idea by Scotiabank, and I'm excited to see all the teams that enter!

Scotiabank Hockey Club also has a nifty Facebook page where you can connect with hockey fans from all over the world, and I'll post this link on the HBIC Facebook page as well. You can find me there by clicking on the Facebook button to the right.

If you're on the Twitter-sphere, you can find the Scotiabank Hockey Club there as well. Scotiabank Hockey Club is very active on Twitter, so if you have an account, follow them and catch all of their news and information there as well. I have a Twitter account, but it rarely ever gets used. Perhaps I'm missing out?

For legal purposes, I have to link back to the contest rules and regulations, but this lawyer-speak is simply to explain the rules. Click here if you need more information on the contest, or if you simply need something to put you to sleep.

Get your entries in by November 30, kids! You never know what could happen if you enter. You could be going to Whitehorse for Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada in February! But you have to be in the game to win the game! So get entered!

Oh, and if you comment here about how your team is going to save a few bucks this season, I'll award a prize for the best money-saving tip! That's right: absolutely free to enter, and a chance to come away with some free stuff! Hit me up with your best idea!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

TBC: Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey

As you're probably quite aware, I love hockey history and quirky facts from the fastest team game known to man. There are lots of places to find these tidbits of information, but it's always handy to have a book full of interesting anecdotes and quips about the game of hockey. Admittedly, I could probably sit and read a book of historical and interesting hockey facts for hours. Because of that, Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey, written by Brian McFarlane and published by HB Fenn and Company. Peter Puck, the "Poke-Check Professor", takes a front-and-center role in presenting some historical, unusual, and interesting stories from the game of hockey, and it's this look at hockey through the eyes of the affable Peter Puck that we get Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey.

Brian McFarlane, the son of Hardy Boys author Leslie McFarlane, was working for NBC in the early 1970s. The Canadian sportscaster and author was asked by his boss at NBC to come up with a way to educate people in hockey. McFarlane's idea was Peter Puck, although the name was created by Joe Barbera, president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Studios who helped create the look of Peter Puck.

"When I was with NBC in 1973, my boss, Scotty Connell, decided that our intermission features needed to be more instructional in nature," McFarlane said. "He called Joe Barbera out at Hanna-Barbera, and said, 'We need a little animated character to describe hockey.' They asked me to send Hanna-Barbera some of my literature on hockey, some of my books, and describe what an offside is and icing and that sort of thing."

Now that you know how Brian McFarlane and Peter Puck came to be, Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey, voiced by Peter Puck, contains a lot of information broken into distinct chapters:

  • Love That Hockey History! - all about hockey's beginnings.
  • The NHL's Fascinating Past - all about the NHL's history.
  • Those Cool, Courageous Goalies - all about goaltenders.
  • Getting An Early Start - all about youth and young hockey players.
  • Women Love Hockey, Too - all about the fairer sex in hockey.
  • Stanley Cup Facts and Follies - all about the big, silver trophy.
  • Some Fabulous Hockey Records... and a Few Less Memorable Ones - all about hockey records.
  • When Coaches Lose Their Cool - all about coaches.
  • Some of My Personal Favorites - all about Peter Puck's favorite facts.
  • Remember the WHA? - all about the WHA.
  • About the Game Officials - all about officials.
  • Hockey Here and There - all about facts and stories from random hockey locations.
  • What More Can I Say? - all about random hockey facts.
Needless to say, there is a wide range of hockey information contained on the 222 pages that Peter Puck has voiced. The facts that are presented are a variety: there are some that are known, and some that were completely unknown to me. What Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey does is bring them all together in one place, and present them in an organized fashion.

Do you know who the youngest NHL owner was? Do you know who the first Russian-trained player to score an NHL goal was? What team did he play for? Why was 1989 a significant year for Europeans in the NHL? Do you know who the last goaltender was to play every minute of every game for his team, and what team did he play for? How many women have had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup? All of these questions are answered in this book, and Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey presents it all in short, anecdotal form.

As stated above, there are some relatively well-known facts that are presented in Peter Puck's Big Book of Hockey, but there are a significant amount of facts that were unknown to me. The chapters are broken down into easy-to-read sections, and all progress chronologically so that finding a specific fact is relatively easy to locate. The one thing that this book required was an index for even faster referencing, but it's not that hard to find what you're looking for if you know what you need. Because of Mr. McFarlane's writing and knowledge of the game, this book is a "must-have" for all hockey trivia buffs and amateur hockey historians, and certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval.

As Peter Puck always says, "Love that hockey game!"

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Gone Too Soon

The man to the left looks nothing like he once did, and it is with great sadness that I report that Pat Burns, former NHL coach, has finally succumbed to the cancer that his body fought so valiantly for the last few years. HBIC wishes his family and friends all the best in this difficult time, and I want nothing more than for the pain of losing a great man, husband, brother, father, and son to be eased. Pat Burns was a living legend in terms of how great he was behind an NHL bench, and he truly deserves to rest in peace after his long battle with a relentless foe. I just want to post a few images and some comments from NHL icons about the great Pat Burns as a memory of his legacy.

"Next to my parents he's the most influential person in my hockey career. He's the one that gave me a chance and the one that taught me how to play so I could last in the NHL," said former Montreal Canadien Mike Keane to Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.

"What I learned from Pat gave me the foundation that kept me in hockey. He was instrumental," said Keane. "John Ferguson Jr. called me earlier. It hasn't been a very good day. It was an honour to play for him and then to call him a friend."

"He believed in me when not a lot of people did. Everything I have today, I owe to Pat Burns."

"I just heard — I can’t talk about it right now," former Maple Leaf Doug Gilmour told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun, his voice cracking with emotion. "It’s such a sad sad day."

"He definitely was the best coach I had in my career," former Maple Leafs goaltender Felix Potvin said to Bill Beacon and Neil Stevens of the Hamilton Spectator. "He was hard, but honest."

"Pat was really emotional and really a great coach," former Boston Bruin Ray Bourque said to NESN. "I never had a better coach who taught players how to play without the puck and in your end. He was so knowledgeable about the defensive side of the puck and really taught a lot of young guys how to play defense."

"Being an 18-year-old player, it’s tough when you don’t always play because you’re used to playing all the time," former Boston Bruin Joe Thornton said to David Pollak of the Mercury News. "Back then you might not have understood why that was happening, but in the big picture, he was a smart hockey man. He’d dealt with a lot of good, young hockey players before. And you look back now and there was definitely a method to his madness.

"He definitely made me grow as a player and as a person," Thornton added, "and I definitely owe him a lot from the days back then to now."

"Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey. He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Line, and the entire Burns family," Devils president Lou Lamoriello said in a statement released by the team.

"Just as they will remember Pat for his success as a coach, hockey fans also will remember his humour, his honesty, his humanity and his courage," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "As it mourns the loss of an outstanding contributor to the game, the National Hockey League sends heartfelt condolences to Pat's family and friends."

"He met his final and most difficult battle with that same tough and gritty spirit," Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper said in a statement. "Canada has lost a sports legend today, but Pat Burns' legacy will live on in the players and coaches whose careers he touched, as well as the young people who will skate in the Pat Burns Arena for years to come. He will not soon be forgotten."

There isn't much more that can be said that hasn't already been said by his peers and colleagues. But there is one thing that needs to be added: rest in peace, Mr. Burns.

You'll always have utmost respect and admiration from HBIC for your abilities, dedication, and success as a coach. However, you'll always be one of the best when looking at your achievements and generosity as a Canadian.

R.I.P., Mr. Burns.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Mr. Burns.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Classic Auctions Images - Part Three

We're back today with another round of images from the Classic Auctions website. I was very impressed by what the site had to offer last time on their current round of auctions, so I went back through the archives to see if I could find some more interesting stuff. Needless to say, the archives are a treasure chest of historical items and, of course, there are a ton of NHL sweaters and jerseys that should be examined for details. With that, we have another edition of the Classic Auctions images today as we look at a number of uniforms once more.

  • As we saw in the most recent set of Classic Auctions images, there was an NHL Showdown segment that used to air between periods that featured a few NHL stars that went head-to-head for cash and bragging rights. I've found more players who were a part of this now. It appears that Gilbert Perreault of the Buffalo Sabres participated for at least one season in the Showdown, and he wore a sweater similar to that of Rogie Vachon! Could they have been teammates in their respective Showdown?
  • Another player who participated was Toronto's Darryl Sittler. However, his sweater is significantly different in terms of colours than those of Perreault and Vachon, so I'm guessing he played in the NHL Showdown in a different season.
  • Another Darryl Sittler jersey that the Classic Auctions website had up for auction was a Sittler "Masters of Hockey" uniform. I've never seen or heard about this before, so I had to refer to the information on the website. "As part of an important Zellers promotion, Darryl Sittler, along with many other Oldtimers, participated in the 'Masters of Hockey' program. This white hockey [was] uniform produced by 'Hattem'". Nothing like an old promotional jersey for a department store promotion!
  • In the article about the New York Rangers' new alternate uniform, I had stated that there was precedence for the Rangers wearing "New York" diagonally on their uniforms thanks to their 9/11 tribute uniforms. However, there is even more precedence that shows the Rangers wearing "New York" for a much longer time on the road. Here is Bobby Carpenter's 1986-87 New York Rangers road uniform. Obviously, they wore these for at least one season, and, upon further research, they actually wore the "New York" road jerseys from 1978-1987. Lots of precedence!
  • I've rarely seen the patch worn, but there is no doubt that the Toronto Maple Leafs wore the King Clancy patch on their uniforms during the 1986-87 season. Thanks to the auction, we can now clearly see that the Leafs wore the King Clancy patch above the TV numbers on their sleeves on the road that season.
  • Some of the patches worn before photography became a major aspect of the NHL world are much more difficult to find, especially affixed to an NHL uniform. The Lake Placid patch worn by the Buffalo Sabres is one such patch, but this Richie Dunn sweater from the 1979-80 season shows it clearly affixed on the right shoulder. Notice that there are no names on the Sabres' uniforms as of 1980? I had never noticed before that either.
  • Heading into the AHL, we find a trend that seems to have been reproduced in the NHL with the introduction of the Rbk EDGE uniforms. I've never liked the idea of having front numbers on a hockey sweater, but the Hershey B'ars decided that front numbers were fine for a hockey sweater as far back as the 1940s! Here is a sweater that was worn by Mark Marquess as a member of the Hershey B'ars that has the city name over top of the front number. More precedence for a current trend, perhaps?
  • The Detroit Red Wings have a gorgeous jersey due to the colours and the logo. I cannot deny this. However, history shows that the logo routinely was off-centered on the Red Wings sweaters. One such example comes from the 1937 Jimmy Orlando sweater. As you can see, the center of the wheel was used as the focal point for the logo, and that caused the wing to be significantly off-center.
  • In Part One of this series, I discovered a startling trend in the 1980s that showed floating portions of names on a number of teams. Today, there appears to be some sort of discrepancy in terms of how names are displayed on at least one team. I had made mention of Brad McCrimmon's floating "C" in 1988, but I discovered an Al MacInnis uniform from the 1980s that has no floating letters! What gives? Why the change? MacInnis' first game in a Flames uniform came in 1981-82, so we at least have a start date as to when the floating letters may have started, and it had to be after the '81-82 season.
  • Because I miss the uniform and the team, here is Wendel Clark's Quebec Nordiques uniform from the 1994-95 season. Man, I miss that uniform. It's gorgeous!
  • In other lost uniform news, here is Gerry Ehman's 1967-68 Oakland Seals uniform. Does anyone miss the colour green in hockey? I sure do. Why can't more teams go with a bold green instead of these near-black colours?
  • Next, we have the second wave of California's Seal teams as we get a chance to see Joey Johnston's uniform from the 1970 California Golden Seals. I'm not all that fond of this colour scheme, but the yellow uniform is definitely bold. Much like their name, the Golden Seals certainly were living it up in goldenrod.
  • We have a 1979-80 Atlanta Flames uniform worn by Gary Unger. That's still a great uniform, and I'm glad that the Calgary Flames have gone back to those great colours. Yellow-on-red is a very striking uniform... and the lack of black is entirely refreshing!
  • Take a good look at this 1976-77 Colorado Rockies uniform worn by Michel Plasse. See how small the front logo is? Compare that to the 1981-82 uniform worn by Tapio Levo. There's a significant difference in the sizes between the two uniforms. It's almost as if the Rockies were telling everyone in 1976 that they weren't all that relevant.
  • In the 1970s, the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL wore some fairly vanilla uniforms. However, they changed that up in the 1980s by bringing out the black-and-silver colour scheme that became famous thanks to Wayne Gretzky's trade to Los Angeles. As you may have heard, Luc Robitaille played for the Olympiques and Gretzky owned part of the Olympiques, so Bruce McNall made the change to the new colour scheme due to Robitaille's suggestion to make Los Angeles more attractive for Gretzky. Now you have some visual proof of how this change came about thanks to Marc Saumier's uniform.
  • In 1985, the Hull Olympiques decided to roll out a different road uniform by wearing some awesome stripes! I love the stripes on this jersey, even if it looks like a black-and-white television's test pattern.
  • The WHL gets a mention on this one as we get to see the Vancouver Canucks in their original form. The WHL Canucks wore this uniform in the 1950s, and they went with a colour change in the 1960s. Of course, Vancouver received an NHL franchise in 1970 so these jerseys weren't needed any longer, but there is some precedence to the Canucks wearing a name on the front of their uniforms. It seems that the trend of front numbers was more of a minor-league thing through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, though. Take note, NHL. MINOR-league.
  • It has been well-documented that NHL teams often name their minor-league affiliates after their own NHL franchise name. The Sherbrooke Canadiens, the St. John's Maple Leafs, and the Albany Devils are some well-known examples. Here is Rob Tudor's jersey from the 1978-79 season. If you inspect that jersey closely, you'll see two tomahawks crossed over a "D" on the shoulder. This is a Dallas Blackhawks uniform from the Central Hockey League!
  • International jerseys are always interesting. The 1988 Winter Olympics saw Poland compete in Calgary as a part of the ice hockey competition. One member of that team was a player by the name of Jerzy Christ. Yes, that is his real last name. He was born in Katowice, Poland, and played center for his home country. The highlight of his international career was when he scored both Polish goals in a 2-1 victory over reigning World Champion Czechoslovakia at the 1986 World Championships in Moscow, Russia!
  • Love this 1976 Team USA sweater. Larry Pleau wore this uniform at the 1976 Canada Cup where Team USA finished 1-3-1 and in fifth-place. Regardless of their standing, they wore a gorgeous sweater, and it really feels like a patriotic American uniform.
  • We'll close this look at interesting jerseys with a glimpse into German hockey. Grefrath, a German city, played in the second-division of the German Eishockey League in the early-1990s, and wore these uniforms while on the ice. As you can see, there's no logo, but a message where the logo should be. Using a handy translator, the message states, "My friend is a foreigner" or "My friend is an alien". Is this the first time any team has ever used their uniform to convey a written message to its fans? Weird idea.
So there you have it, kids. Lots of good looks at uniforms, and there was some weird and wacky stuff seen. The Classic Auctions website is a great place to find some incredible hockey history, and I encourage you to poke around their website if you're interested in some cool hockey memorabilia.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wild Night In Philly

Occasionally, I find myself complaining about the number of red lights I hit on my way to work or an event. Tonight in Philadelphia, the Lightning and Flyers made my drive to work seem like child's play with all the red lights they set off in their game. In case you missed it, the Lightning defeated the Flyers by an 8-7 score in a game where individual saves should have been applauded. The outburst of goals by both teams saw them reach accolades not seen in decades, and it left me with nothing but pity for the goaltenders as the snipers from both teams just kept filling the net.

First off, Steven Stamkos continued his assault on the NHL scoring race as he posted three goals and two assists in the game, and pushed his totals to an NHL-leading 19 goals and an NHL-leading 35 points. If nothing else, Stamkos has been the early-season leader for the Most Valuable Player in the NHL this year, and his torrid scoring puts him on pace for 151 points! He also leads the NHL is powerplay goals with 10 and game-winning goals with three, so the kid hasn't fallen off his goal-scoring pace from last season whatsoever. Kudos to Stamkos for his outstanding season thus far!

Alright, to the record books. The nine first period goals scored by the two teams ties a mark not seen in the NHL since December 17, 1991. On that night, the battle of Quebec was underway, and the Montreal Canadiens jumped out to a 6-3 lead over the Quebec Nordiques at Le Coliseé before the first intermission.

The fourteen total goals scored by the two teams through two periods ties a mark not seen since January 17, 1986. On that night, the Hartford Whalers led at home over the Quebec Nordiques by a 10-4 margin through two periods as the Adams Division rivals battled in Hartford, Connecticut.

The NHL has not seen a fifteen-goal game since December 13, 2007 when the Lightning were involved in another high-scoring affair. The visiting Calgary Flames defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 9-6 score that saw Jarome Iginla score a hat trick in the game. Ironically, Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier would go on to win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for being the NHL's leading goal scorer that season as he tallied 52 goals in the 2006-07 season. Could Stamkos be on his way to that honour again this season?

The game-winning goal for the Lightning came courtesy of Nate Thompson, a checking forward for the Lightning who tallied his third of the season in the third period. Thompson has eight points on the season, and 22 points in his career that has seen him suit up with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning. He's not really the guy you'd expect to cap off a crazy goal-scoring night, but Thompson picks up his first game-winning goal in his career. His third goal of the season is also a season high for Thompson!

TeeBay's Dan Ellis and Philly's Sergei Bobrovsky didn't make it past the first intermission as their night's were done early. Ellis was yanked after 15:34 of the first period had expired, making only six saves on ten shots. Bobrovsky lasted until the end of the period, but opened the second period at the end of the bench after having only made seven saves on eleven shots. Tampa Bay's Mike Smith picked up the win after stopping 19 of 22 shots, while Brian Boucher suffered the loss after he gave up four more goals on 22 shots. Not a great night to be a goaltender, for sure!

It felt like an NHL game from the 1980s tonight in Philly, and the score was reflective of that era. Games that involved Gretzky and the Oilers were routinely high-scoring affairs, and this game brought back a ton of those memories as every shot seemed to have a chance of finding the back of the net. While I'm not against goaltending and defence, it is fun to watch these kinds of games once in a while.

And if you're in the USA, you can watch this game on replay if you missed it! NHL Network-US will rebroadcast this game at 4pm ET on Saturday, November 20! That means that you can see the carnage that both teams unleashed on their opponent's net, and I have to admit that it was entertaining. Catch it if you can!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 6

The Moose embark on their seventh week into the 2010-11 AHL regular season, and things are looking up for the club. Players are getting healthy, the team has found its winning ways once again, and a few key cogs are starting to heat up on the ice. Antler Banter takes a look back at a fairly quiet week as the Moose had a pair of games against the Rochester Americans followed by the Moose Super Skills Challenge. If you're looking news or information on the Manitoba Moose, 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. Here is this week's edition of Hardcore Hockey!

Heritage Night

The Moose faced off against one of the original AHL clubs in the Rochester Americans on Friday, and they were looking to improve on a two-game winning streak. Manitoba wore special AHL 75th Anniversary jerseys in this game as part of the Heritage Night theme. Rochester and Manitoba always seem to have excellent battles, and it was made a little more interesting as Eddie Lack and Jakob Markstrom, friends in Sweden, could potentially face one another in a showdown between stoppers. However, Tyler Plante got the start on Friday night for the Amerks while Lack started for Manitoba.

The scorers continue to score as both Jeff Tambellini and Cody Hodgson lit the lamp. Tambellini cleaned up a rebound off a Joel Perrault blast on the powerplay for his third of the season, and Hodgson scored his seventh goal of the season after having several whacks at the puck in front of Plante. Having these two men heating up on the top two Moose lines only bodes well for the AHL club. Teams will have to be wary of both lines when they come out over the boards.

Winnipegger Kevin Clark made his impact on Friday as he showed some incredible speed every time he stepped onto the ice. Clark, Volpatti, and Perrault buzzed the Rochester net all game long, and Clark managed to clean up the garbage in the crease with a tap-in off a rebound for his first goal of the season. There's no doubt that the Clark-Perrault-Volpatti line was the "Charlie Hustle" line of the night, and they were rewarded with a goal. Great work by these three men, and it appears that the top-three lines of the Moose are starting to come together very nicely.

Eddie Lack wasn't spectacular, but he stopped 21 shots to give Manitoba a chance in this game. The two goals he surrendered looked "soft", but the Moose have to be happy with their efforts on both ends of the ice. Manitoba fired a season-high 45 shots on Tyler Plante, and they came away with a 3-2 victory after playing hard in the defensive zone. With the victory, the Moose improve to 8-5-1 on the season, and improve their winning streak to three games.

Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree

The Moose were looking to continue their winning ways on Saturday night with a second win over the Rochester Americans in as many nights. With the annual Santa Claus Parade happening outside, the Moose took to the ice and lit the lamp a number of times in this game as the offence went all-out against the Americans. Jakob Markstrom got the start for the Americans while the Moose sent Tyler Weiman to their net.

The Moose have found a phenomenal second line in Shirokov, Hodgson, and Bill Sweatt. The four players accounted for three goals and four assists on Saturday as they dismantled the Americans in the third period. All three men accounted for a goal in the third period, and Hodgson finished the game with a goal and two assists. There's no doubt that this line is clicking, and the sky's the limit for these three if the chemistry continues to produce these results.

Kevin Clark and Jeff Tambellini had strong games again as both contributed goals on Saturday night just as they did Friday night. Tambellini's goal was not of the pretty variety as his high shot bounced off the endboards and came back over the crossbar where it hit defenceman Mark Caruso and went in. Clark's goal was a gorgeous deflection of a Kevin Connauton point shot which put Manitoba up 3-2. However, both Tambellini and Clark were dangerous all night with their speed and tenacity, and they deserve some credit for putting in the work on consecutive days that routinely earns victory. The Moose need that kind of effort every night, and it's great to see these two men leading by example.

Manitoba's special teams deserve some kudos as they saw an excellent game put in by both units. The powerplay lines went 2-for-7 in the game while the penalty killers successfully killed off all four Rochester powerplays in the game. Special mention goes out to the Moose blueline as the defenders did an excellent job in giving Weiman clear views on the majority of Rochester's shots. This kind of attention to detail and solid effort will result in more wins than not as the season progresses.

The Moose burned the Americans by a 6-2 score on Saturday to earn wins in both games of the two-game set against Rochester. With the two wins, Manitoba pushes its all-time record against the Americans to 32-13-3-2, and improve to 13-7-1-1 against Rochester at MTS Centre. With the win on Saturday night, Manitoba improves its 2010-11 AHL record to 9-5-1 on the season.

The Other White Meat

The Rockford IceHogs visit the Manitoba Moose on Thursday and Friday this week as the AHL season rolls on. Manitoba owns a 2-0 record against the IceHogs this season, having defeated them by a 5-2 score on October 9 in Rockford and by a 3-1 score on November 6 in Rockford. These will be the final two games against Rockford this season, so the Moose are in prime position for the series sweep if they can continue to play as well as they have over the last four games.

Rockford comes into the game on a two-game losing streak with a 6-8-1 record, having gone 3-6-1 in their last ten games. Defenceman Brian Connelly leads the 'Hogs with 11 points, all of them being assists. Jeff Taffe and Kyle Beach have been the most dangerous forwards with four goals and eight points while Jeremy Morin also has four goals and five points. The Moose will probably see both goaltenders in Hannu Toivonen, who is 0-2 versus the Moose this season, and rookie Alec Richards in this back-to-back series.

Top Antlered Player

As stated above, the Moose participated in their second annual Super Skills Challenge on Tuesday, and it was a night of competitive fun for the players and fans. Only one of the winners from last season's Super Skills Challenge was still playing with the Moose, so it remained to be seen if Travis Ramsey could defend his hardest shot title.

Here are the results of the competitions:
  • Fastest Skater - Bill Sweatt completed the lap in 14.16 seconds.
  • Most Accurate - Cody Hodsgon hit all four targets on five shots in 10.8 seconds.
  • Hardest Shot - Travis Ramsey defended his title with a 98 mph blast.
  • Breakaway Competition - Tyler Weiman stopped all but two shots that came his way.
Team White won the Super Skills Challenge by a 13-12 margin as Jeff Tambellini's sudden-death breakaway challenge goal won the event for Team White.

There were some great moments at the Super Skills Challenge, and it seemed that everyone, players and fans included, had a great time. There were lots of autographs for fans and the players really seemed to enjoy themselves on a night where bragging rights in the dressing room were up for grabs. I'm looking forward to the Moose continuing this event as I'm sure it will be one of the most popular promotions they do throughout the year as word-of-mouth builds the groundswell for the event.

Get It Done

Two games against Rockford should be four points for the Moose if they continue to play hard. They currently sit in third-place in the AHL's North Division as they trail the Hamilton Bulldogs by two points and the Abbotsford Heat by five points. However, both the Bulldogs and Moose have four games in-hand on the Heat, so they should be able to easily catch the Heat if they continue to knock off the lesser teams such as Rockford.

The quest for top spot in the North Division starts tomorrow night down at MTS Centre as the IceHogs visit Winnipeg. DO IT!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!