Monday, 31 March 2014

This Has Got To Change

If you look closely at the picture to the left, you might see something that will shock you. These are bantam-aged kids engaged in a brawl, and that alone should be a little shocking. The 13 and 14 year-olds from the Stonewall Blues and the Lake Manitoba First Nation from the Interlake Bantam Hockey League in Manitoba brawled with 11 minutes remaining in the game. The problem? The person at the bottom of that pile seen above is an official, not a player. Yes, you read that correctly.

Having read a few articles about this game, it is clear that there is a problem in minor-hockey that won't be solved by some panacea. This is a problem that runs deeper than just adjusting an attitude or changing a coaching style. This is a deeply-rooted problem that needs extreme measures levied in order to stop this kind of insanity.

Before we got too far into this, here is an eye-witness account from Peter Mandryk, a coach from the Stonewall Blues that was found in the Winnipeg Free Press today. Mandryk was working as a time-keeper for the game when the problems in the third period started. Reporter Mike McIntyre wrote,
He said the game quickly got out of hand when the Blues scored three goals in the first period and appeared well on their way to victory. The Lake Manitoba team began playing aggressively, resulting in several major penalties and a handful of ejections for cheap shots and head contact. He said Lake Manitoba parents were also screaming and harassing the referees, claiming they were calling a one-sided game.

The game reached a boiling point with 11 minutes left in the 3rd period and Stonewall holding a commanding 5-1 lead. Mandryk said one of the Lake Manitoba players attacked a Blues player, resulting in a skirmish that saw the two referees and linesman have to get involved. At this point, three or four Lake Manitoba players began shoving and even kicking at the linesman who ended up on the ice.

Once the players were separated, a female player on Lake Manitoba took the puck, wound up and fired a slap-shot at the referees which narrowly missed hitting them.
I am shocked. I understand that both teams worked very hard to get to Game Three in their championship, but let's keep things in perspective here. I'm certainly not suggesting that winning the championship is anything but important to these kids and their parents after all the work and sacrifice needed to win a championship. What I am suggesting is that this isn't the last shot at glory for any of these kids, and that there will be other opportunities in the future if they stick with it. A bantam hockey championship, in the big picture, is a great memory, but we're stuck with the memory of this game for a reason that has embarrassed all involved.

In saying that, Hockey Manitoba needs to come down hard on those offending players who have been identified by the officials for their poor choice of actions in this game. It's time to send a message that this sort of crap won't be tolerated. This is a game played by kids, not some sort of gladiatorial war. The trophy at the end of the game is meaningless when it is awarded under these circumstances.

If you're a frequent reader of Hockey Blog In Canada, though, you know I'm going to give my opinion on what should happen. Feeling will be hurt. People may complain. As an official in a different sport where things can and do get out of hand, I couldn't care less if people don't approve of my thoughts on what happened in this game. A message needs to be sent. At 13 and 14 years of age, right and wrong should be known. Here we go.
  • The young lady who fired the slapshot at the officials should be suspended for life from any and all hockey leagues under Hockey Manitoba's jurisdiction. There is nothing on the planet that should warrant that action. Had that shot hit an official and caused serious injury, she'd be in deeper trouble that what she already is. To any other players who want to consider this action to be an appropriate solution to deal with frustration, I am now setting the lifetime ban precedent. Choose your actions wisely.
  • Any player identified by the officials who were involved in the shoving or kicking of the linesman will be suspended for one year from any team, game, and/or tournament under Hockey Manitoba's jurisdiction. You do not make contact in any way with an official for any reason, so shoving and kicking an official pushes this way beyond the line of "accidental contact". Again, had any serious injury been caused by these actions, these players would be in serious trouble. To any other players who want to consider this action to be an appropriate solution to deal with the frustration of losing the game, I am now setting the precedent at a one-year ban. Again, choose your actions wisely.
  • The coaches of the Lake Manitoba First Nation team would be placed on a one-year probationary period for their actions, or lack of action, in this situation. The coaches are responsible for their team, and they need to be held accountable for what their players did on the ice. They are also responsible for the fans attending the game as part of the team who seemed to enjoy verbally-abusing the officials. If the coaches want to survive the probationary period, they need to enforce a new set of rules for their players and their fans that stress sportsmanship, fairness, tolerance, and understanding. Otherwise, that one-year probationary period becomes a five-year ban from being behind any bench for any team under Hockey Manitoba's jurisdiction.
As per Ashley Prest's Winnipeg Free Press article, Hockey Manitoba's head official was not impressed.
Grant Heather, Hockey Manitoba's referee-in-chief, said there were four match penalties -- which carry player ejections -- called in the game for abuse of officials, including shooting the puck at a referee, but he said he had not yet read the referees' report.

"I go back to everything I said in the Southdale incident, which is that it's not acceptable in society, so why is it acceptable in a hockey arena for people to act like hooligans and go after authority figures?" Heather said. "The police wouldn't tolerate it; we shouldn't have to. Without referees, there's no hockey."
Hockey Manitoba will review the reports from the officials, and there will likely be a conference call with all those involved in order to hear each of their stories. I know people will ask for forgiveness and express regret for their actions, but, as Mr. Heather indicated, if this isn't acceptable in society, it shouldn't be acceptable at a hockey rink.

Hockey Manitoba has an opportunity to send a clear message to everyone playing hockey in Manitoba by handing down severe penalties in this situation. At some point, someone at Hockey Manitoba has to have the courage to draw a clear line in the sand by administering harsh justice. Officials deserve much better treatment than what was seen in this game, and it's time that Hockey Manitoba protect those who make the games possible.

As Mr. Heather stated, without officials, there is no hockey.

UPDATE: The Winnipeg Free Press is hot on this story as Mike McIntyre caught up with the Scott Miskiewicz, the linesman at the bottom of the pile in the photo at the top of the page. Miskiewicz has been officiating hockey since he was 13, and he has admitted that this has made him reconsider.
"As a referee, you're getting yelled at all the time. But it was the physical abuse here that was shocking," Miskiewicz told the Free Press on Monday.

He declined to discuss specifics of the incident from his perspective, citing instructions from hockey supervisors to keep quiet because of the ongoing RCMP criminal investigation. Miskiewicz has given a full statement.

Although he didn't suffer physical injuries, Miskiewicz admits the attack has left him re-considering whether he wants to continue officiating. He said it's a lot to tolerate for the $20 or $30 per game he earns.

"I'm going to take some time and think about it," he said. "I mean, you hear of stories like this happening, but they're rare. I just don't know."
In his added investigating, McIntyre also found some rather unsettling news about the Lake Manitoba First Nation team which would change my stance on the team and its coaches. As I stated above, I'd hand the coaches a one-year probationary period, but I'd waive that now with this new info.
Mandryk also serves as president of the Stonewall Minor Hockey Association and said his executive will discuss potential sanctions, including the Lake Manitoba team's expulsion from the league, to bring to Hockey Manitoba officials who oversee it.

He said Lake Manitoba was banned several years ago for other incidents of rough play and unsportsmanlike conduct but were eventually given a second chance and let back in.

Officials with the Lake Manitoba team and the Interlake Minor Hockey Association did not return calls Monday seeking comment.
Clearly, there are larger problems here within the team and the Lake Manitoba First Nation hockey program. 13 and 14 year-olds shouldn't be mercenaries. Especially when it comes to attacking the men who are trying to keep the peace.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Learning To Love The Flyers

This is Dan. Dan is a fantastic individual, an annual participant in the HBIC Playoff Pool, and a friend of HBIC. Dan is also an accomplished actor, having appeared in wide range of productions including Veep, The Wire, and The Replacements. While he's not a full-fledged leading man on a drama series or sitcom yet, I have a feeling we're not far from seeing Dan grab a permanent role on a major television network. Dan grew up in Maryland, though, so he's a die-hard Washington Capitals fan. In saying that, you know he'd never cheer for the hated Philadelphia Flyers no matter what, right? Well, Dan took a job that required him to change allegiances!

Here's how Dan describes the experience from his website.
How do you get a Caps fan to root for the Flyers to make the playoffs? Cast him in a short film about the Flyers making the playoffs.

I recently worked on a very funny short film called, Playoffs, Baby! It's about a dysfunctional group of Flyers fans getting ready to watch the Orange & Black’s opening playoff game.

I play "Dan," a fan who takes his superstitious routine to a bit of an extreme. (Let's say it's a very 'revealing' role.)

Playoffs, Baby! was written and directed by Chris Perillo (who also stars in it) and co-stars Ken Arnold, Rasik Ohal, Mikael Johnson, Art Bookout... and me. (Also pictured: John Zadeh was our DP, and Jason Kenny ran sound.)

I've worked with Ken, Rasik, and Mikael on several past projects, including, Lovely Molly, ParaAbnormal, Cordially invited, Click!, and Naked Radio. They’re always great to act/play with. This was my first time working with Chris and Art, and it was a blast. We spent the entire shoot laughing. If even a third of the laughs we had making it translate to the final…it’s going to be hilarious!

Special thanks to Karen Kraus for loaning me an old-school Terry Carkner Flyers jersey for the shoot. Having an early 90's jersey for wardrobe really added some authenticity to the shoot.

The NHL Playoffs start in mid-April. Playoffs, Baby! will debut in the days leading up to the Flyers playoff opener.
Sounds interesting, right? I mean, how bad could Philadelphia Flyers fans be during the playoffs? I mean, they're like everyone else, right?

In all seriousness, there are some things to watch for when this debuts. The uniform that Dan is wearing (second from right) is actually a borrowed jersey. Karen, who Dan mentions above, lent him the jersey, but she's also a Capitals fan! Clearly, there's something strange going on here as Capitals fans are being assimilated as Flyers fans! So why does she have a Flyers jersey? Ironically, because of Flyers fans!
The Flyers t-shirt worn on the gentleman in the middle is reportedly from a 2012 playoff game that featured the Devils and Flyers. And the man in the Flyers jersey to the right of him? He's wearing Dan's Flyers jersey won through the HBIC Playoff Pool! How cool is that?!?

When the debut episode appears on TV or the web, I will link to it here in HBIC. I think Dan's a great guy, a talented actor, and a die-hard Capitals fan. However, learning to love the Flyers is another great addition to the acting resumé, and here's hoping Playoffs, Baby! goes viral and blows up all over the world!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Charity Wins!

If you were following my Twitter feed on Friday, it should be no surprise that I was attending the Juno Cup in Winnipeg where a collection of Canadian music stars squared off against a collection of former and current hockey stars! The action last night was fast, fun, and memorable as the hockey stars and music stars put on quite a show for the near-1500 fans in attendance. From incredible passing plays to ridiculous saves made that shouldn't have been made to seeing a former NHL star sing his heart out and win over a pile of new fans, the 2014 Juno Cup was an absolute success here in Winnipeg!

If you're not aware, the Juno Cup is a charity game that helps to raise money for MusiCounts, Canada's music education charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). From MusiCounts' website, "MusiCounts' mission is to ensure that children in Canada, regardless of socio-economic circumstances or cultural background, have access to a music program through their school. MusiCounts includes Band Aid musical instrument grants, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, Scholarships, and other music education initiatives." I'd say they're pretty important when it comes to continuing the development of Canadian musicians across this great land, so I was happy to have been a part of this great night!

The two teams had impressive rosters. I won't link everyone, but there are some pretty impressive names on both teams. The Hockey Greats included head coach Ab McDonald, assistant coach Carey Wilson, former Jet Mike Ford, former Maple Leaf Mike Pelyk, Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Johnston, former Blue Wayne Babych, three-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Keane, former Islander Brad Dalgarno, Olympic gold medalist and CWHL champion Natalie Spooner, former Canadien and two-time Stanley Cup-winner Mark Napier, former Devil Troy Crowder, and former Jet Perry Miller!

The Rockers had a massive lineup, so I just want to highlight a few guys who stood out in their lineup. First off, Jim Cuddy, the man who got this game going in 2004, was back and he looked pretty good on the ice for a music legend. Local radio personality Dave Wheeler of 92 CITI-FM came out with a killer moustache and flow. He could have been mistaken for George Parros as he skated around the ice! Ottawa native Amanda Rheaume was the only member of the fairer sex to suit up for the rockers, and she scored a beauty penalty shot goal!

The lineups for both teams can be found here. The one player for the Hockey Legends that didn't show? Former Jet Thomas Steen. Steen is a city councilor in Winnipeg, so it's not like the guy couldn't make it to the city because of travel problems. Where was he? It would have been great to see the Jets legend back on the ice in his familiar #25. Instead, he was nowhere to be found. Disappointing.

There was a trade before the game as it was announced that the Hockey Legends had traded former NHL netminder Trevor Kidd to the Rockers for netminder and folk artist David Francey! In saying this, Francey took to the ice in these vintage Lange skates that literally looked like they jumped out of the 1980s. Personally, I am very impressed that Francey still uses them as his everyday skates. Look at that fantastic chassis on the blade! BEAUTY!

Trevor Kidd donned the dark jersey of the Rockers, and decided to sport his Carolina Hurricanes-emblazoned gear for this game! He was ridiculously good in between the pipes as well. It seemed as though he made about 70 saves last night, and still had an excellent glove hand to rob a few players - Mike Keane repeatedly, for example. If the current roster of Winnipeg Jets ever needed an emergency call-up, Trevor Kidd looked like he was ready!

As for the game itself, there is absolutely no doubt why both Rebecca Johnston and Natalie Spooner are Canadian Olympians. Along with linemate Brad Dalgarno, they were dangerous every time they stepped on the ice. Spooner and Johnston both recorded a goal and an assist in the first half as they paced the Hockey Legends out to a 6-2 lead, but it was their hands and puck movement that were so electric. Without a doubt, these two ladies should be idols for a lot of young women playing hockey today.

The break at halftime saw the Rockers and Hockey Legends square off in a skills competition, and there was a lot of laughter as both teams tried to one-up each other. However, the highlight of the event was Mr. Jim Cuddy singing his famous lyrics from Blue Rodeo's song Try against hockey legend Troy Crowder.

Cuddy was awesome - he always is - and the crowd roared as he sung to the end. Crowder, being one of hockey's feared pugilists, admitted his nervousness as he took the mic to replicate the song just song by Mr. Cuddy, but Crowder's version was scripted for the event as he changed lyrics to reflect the Rockers' team! And you know, he's a pretty damn good singer! Crowder's version earned him a standing ovation as the fans showed their appreciation for him being a good sport, and I have to say that Crowder shouldn't be nervous at all after belting out his version of Try. Very impressed!

The other thing that Crowder should get credit for is helping a young lady win big. Kira (I hope I spelled that right), a 14 year-old fan attending the game, was picked to be a shooter in the closest-to-the-center-ice-dot contest. She and three other kids had to shoot a puck from the defensive zone face-off dots in an effort to get it closest to center ice on two shots.

Kira, looking nervous, admitted to having never held a hockey stick. Crowder spent about five minutes with Kira showing her how to hold a stick, shoot with it, and generally get the puck moving in the right direction. No word of a lie, Kira's first puck stopped less than a foot from the center ice dot! Call it beginner's luck if you like, but Troy Crowder deserves some major kudos for scoring that young lady a chance to meet a pile of musicians and hockey legends who signed the jersey she won. The screams as each musician approached her only proved how excited she was. Well done, Troy!

After the skills competition ended, the Rockers found themselves trailing 7-6 on the scoreboard, and they needed a push. However, the man at the other end of the ice, Mr. David Francey, summoned the ghost of Jacques Plante as he stonewalled chance after chance that the Rockers had. Francey stoned Devin Cuddy a couple of times, Jim Cuddy a couple of times, and Steve Marriner at least once during a late flurry in the game. Needless to say, those Lange skates worked well!

In the end, the Hockey Legends won the 11th Juno Cup 10-9, but the real winners were the recipients of the grants handed out by MusiCounts and MusiCounts itself. The fans were pretty big winners as well as they got to see a pile of hockey and music legends battle it out on the ice, and were lucky enough to get a mini-concert from Jim Cuddy and Troy Crowder.

Overall, this was an excellent event, and I highly recommend you check out the next Juno Cup in Hamilton in 2015. It's an awesome exhibition of talent on both sides of the ice, and it's really a lot of fun. Not only that, but you're supporting a fantastic charity, and there's never a losing team when charity wins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 28 March 2014

I Lost On Jeopardy!

If you missed last night's episode of The Hockey Show, you missed a good one. Brody Jackson and Samantha Stevens of the QX104 Winnipeg Morning Crew came in, and they were awesome. Go download the episode now. It was too much fun. Almost as much as whiffing on the easiest question you'll ever see on Jeopardy!, and then realizing moments after that you gave the wrong answer to perhaps the easiest hockey question ever on national TV. The statue above? That's Magic Johnson outside Staples Center, and someone threw a Kings jersey on him before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To my knowledge, he has never played professional hockey.

Let me repeat that: he has never played professional hockey.
Ouch. Joe's reaction after realizing what he did tells you that he probably wasn't listening to the question very closely. Listening is a skill. Joe is probably a pretty decent listener most time, but that was a gaffe that shouldn't have happened. Yikes!

We'll move a slightly harder question now. It's a well-known fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins have a pretty lethal one-two punch in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Or at least I assumed it was a well-known fact.
Look, I get that hockey may not rank highly on a university student's list of interests. And I know that Crosby is probably the most famous of Penguins thanks to him being the face of hockey. The problem I see here is that this gentleman - hailing from Tufts Univeristy - is smack-dab in the middle of one of America's most hockey-mad regions, and he seems to only know "Penguins = Crosby".

Tufts University is routinely hailed as one of the country's best schools after transforming itself in the 1970s and rapidly becoming an "internationally renowned research university". Three of the four campuses reside in or around Boston, Massachusetts. You know, that place that is home to the Boston Bruins, Boston College, and Boston University, not to mention the myriad of NHL, AHL, and NCAA teams scattered through the region. In other words, Tufts is basically in hockey country in the northeast.

In saying this, I am not condemning Jed for not knowing Evgeni Malkin. Hockey may not be a priority to him. However, depending on what his major is at Tufts University, he may want to get a little more familiar with his surroundings if he plans on staying in or near Boston.

Got a minute? Ok, got 44 minutes? This NHL expansion documentary is a must-watch for any hockey fan.
Wow. Consider me stunned with that look at NHL expansion. Incredible info there!

And just to bring this video entry around full circle, here's Weird Al Yankovic with his tune to the Greg Kihn Band's "Our Love's In Jeopardy". Classic Weird Al never gets old.

Tonight, I'll be out at the MTS IcePlex as Beans and I cover the Juno Cup! I'll have lots of info on that tomorrow, so tune in to see your favorite Canadian music stars take on a pile of former NHL and Olympic stars! Should be a beauty!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode Eighty-One

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, has a massive show set-up for today. We have guests, we have giveaways, we have announcements, we have controversy - in other words, it will be a pretty normal episode of The Hockey Show. Of course, I joke, but we have a lot to cover today as we work through all of hockey's biggest news stories!

Joining us today will be the hosts of the QX104FM Morning Show in Winnipeg as we welcome the incredible Brody Jackson and Samantha Stevens to The Hockey Show! Now you might be asking why a couple of country music DJs are breaking free from their own radio show to come and do another radio show. Good question, I counter. The only answer I can give comes in the form of this YouTube video.
We're going to see if we can get Brody and Samantha comfortable and confident during tomorrow's show as we talk to them about this experience, what it was like for Brody to play in figure skates, how Samantha's progress is going, and much more. What else? Let's move on!

This story blew up in a major way, so we'll touch upon it. Troy Westwood, former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker and current morning show host on TSN1290 in Winnipeg, tweeted out an odd comment after finding out that Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd missed Monday's game against the Dallas Stars after returning home to witness the birth of his daughter. He tweeted,
Now, I want to make something clear. Troy isn't questioning Ladd's commitment to being a good father or a great husband as he was with his wife, Brandy, during the birth. All Troy was asking was why Ladd missed the game on Monday when his daughter was born on Sunday. Twitter nearly imploded as Troy was hammered by Jets fans, so we'll talk a little about what happened and why Jets fans need to take a step back when someone asks a legitimate question.

Onward we go as we'll look at the Jets and their race to finish 23rd-overall this season. Personally, I can't see the Jets making the playoffs - a running theme for me on The Hockey Show - and we'll find out from Brody and Samantha what they think about this squad. We'll toss some info in about the Brandon Wheat Kings who are in a playoff series against the Regina Pats in the WHL and holding their own! We'll bounce over to the KHL where the Gagarin Cup Playoffs are still going, and where a titillating offer fell short for one team.
That's too bad... I think. Her name is Maria Levinskaya if you want to look her up. Her Twitter account is set to private, though, and I don't know enough Russian to be able to strike up a conversation with her. Oh well....

We'll also look at the rest of the playoff series still happening over in Russia, and we'll check in on Orebro to see how the battle is going in Sweden as Jared Aulin looks for a playoff spot in the Swedish Elite League. From that news, we'll jump to this new puck design that the Nordic folks want to try out in hockey and get everyone's thoughts on the Aalto puck.

We'll toss out birthday wishes to Winnipegger and gold medalist Sami Jo Small who celebrated her birthday on March 25, a few days after seeing Toronto win the CWHL's Clarkson Cup! As you may know, Sami Jo is one of the top people in the CWHL, and Toronto is her former team! Staying on the women's trail, two gold medalists were also named to the Juno Cup roster yesterday, so we'll get everyone updated on who is playing in the Juno Cup.

Why is that important? Because we're giving away a PAIR OF TICKETS to the game on Friday night! Now you might be saying, "Hold on a sec, Teebz, one pair only?" Unfortunately, yes. If that makes you say bad words, though, we have a second giveaway of a PAIR OF TICKETS PLUS TWO $10 GIFT CARDS to Jason Bateman's new movie, Bad Words! The opening night screening is set for 8:10pm at SilverCity Polo Park tomorrow night, so you have two chances to win some awesome prizes tonight!

Phew! Episode 81 is blowing the lid off this popsicle stand! You can always listen to us at 101.5FM in the Winnipeg area, and on the UMFM website outside the city. Listen for your cue to call tonight for the giveaways, and feel free to call between the prize giveaways to speak with Brody and Samantha! You can reach us at (204) 269-8636. I'll have my eyes on the Twitterverse as well so hit us up there at @TeebzHBIC. Lots of stuff happening on The Hockey Show, so get ready for some fun! And, of course, the podcast will be linked after the show!

PODCAST: MARCH 27, 2014: Episode 81

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Hockey And Learning

If there is one thing this blog doesn't do very well, it's that I don't cater to the younger hockey fans out there. I apologize for this since I'm no longer a young hockey fan by age despite my apparent immaturity. I have taken to reviewing books through Teebz's Book Club for the younger fans, but I'm going to see if I can add some stuff to the ol' blog here for younger fans to enjoy in the coming weeks. That being said, today's entry is for the youngest fans as I want to show off a cool image.

If your young hockey fan is starting to grasp the game and is learning to count, I may have a way to combine their passion for the game with some learning. Found on a number of sites today and across the Twittersphere, here is your NHL counting chart!
Seriously, how cool is that?!? I wish I would have had that as a poster as a kid. Kudos to the parents who not only teach their kids to count using this handy chart, but who also teach their kids about the players who wore the numbers in each of the pictures! From Ken Dryden at 29 to Dwyane Norris at 53 to Wayne Gretzky at 99, each of these players has a story as well as a unique number!

In a secondary note, I never really have a reason to have Megan Fox on HBIC for any reason. As far as I can tell, she doesn't care for hockey, she hasn't been to any games, and she's married to a guy who apparently doesn't like hockey either. In short, the only reason I can put Megan Fox on HBIC is if there is something that relates her choice of t-shirt - excellent choice, might I add - to a relevant hockey story. Today, I have that opportunity as fans of the Hartford Whalers may have this date as circled as the date of hockey apocalypse in their fine city.

According to historical documents and facts, back on this date in 1997, Peter Karmanos announced to the world that the Hartford Whalers would be leaving the city of Hartford for greener pastures for the 1997-98 season. Along with ripping one of the Adams Division's most beloved underachieving teams out of Connecticut, the fantastic Whalers logo would cease to exist on merchandise as the city of Hartford fought and won the rights to the logo from the NHL for the next ten years.

Needless to say, I miss the Whalers. I loved that logo, and it needs to return along with the Nordiques' logo as well. Megan Fox is wearing that logo well!

Tomorrow, we have a massive episode of The Hockey Show. Great guests, controversial topics, giveaways to some awesome stuff, announcements... it's a full hour of fun! Make sure you tune in! The preview will be posted tomorrow morning!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Innovation? We Shall See

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the next innovation in hockey if the Nordic folks in Europe get their way. According to the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery, the Aalto Puck, as it's called, is "the most equal puck produced" because most of its actions are decided by chance, giving both teams random advantages throughout the game depending on how the puck bounces. Or at least that's how I read the release for the puck. For the first time ever in modern hockey, the proposal of changing the puck is being considered by these Nordic scientists as they look to change something vital to the game.

We've seen innovations in everything in hockey. Sticks went from wood to aluminum to composite. Shoulder and elbow pads went from leather to plastic. Skates went from tube skates to the TUUK chassis to Reebok Pump skates and on and on. Goaltenders used one-pieces masks and eventually switched to the cages and the hybrid masks we see today. Pads, blockers, jerseys, water bottles, nets - everything has changed, but the puck has always remained a constant. Sure, they tried the FoxTrak puck, but that idea died quickly.

According to Rule 13.1 in the NHL Rulebook, "The puck shall be made of vulcanized rubber, or other approved material, one inch (1") thick and three inches (3") in diameter and shall weigh between five and one-half ounces (5½" oz.) and six ounces (6 oz.). All pucks used in competition must be approved by the League."

Seems pretty standard, right?

The physics of a standard puck are pretty simple as well. The conservation of angles states that a puck hitting a perpendicular surface will rebound off at the same angle. This law is how a number of the better players in the NHL can bank pucks off the boards to make perfect breakaway passes, and why some great goal-scorers seem to have no problem judging where a puck will end up before it has left a player's stick. Using the image to the right, if the puck goes in on Angle-A, the puck will rebound off the boards at Angle-A as well. That's puck physics in the game of hockey.

With the Aalto puck, however, physics goes completely out the window thanks to its non-uniform shape. As illustrated in the image to the right, there is literally no respect to the laws of physics as the unique shape of the Aalto puck cuts out any chance of the conservation of angles from being enforced. This is that "built-in randomness" that the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery boasts with their puck, and how this randomness will present opportunities for both teams as this puck skitters around the ice. I'm not sure that many coaches will appreciate this puck, but it could make for some very interesting games.

Let's be honest: this new puck will not be popular with the hockey world. I'm going to guess that 99.999% of people involved in the game will turn their noses up at the Aalto puck. The NHL, the NHLPA, all the minor-pro leagues, all European leagues, all junior and collegiate leagues - I can't see anyone endorsing this puck for play in any league anywhere. That 99.999% can probably be rounded up to 100% when it comes to the hockey establishment.

And that's fine because I'm going to be the 0.001% that gives this puck a shot - literally. I'm going to drag it out onto the ice and shoot with it. And I'll get others to try it out. I'll record thoughts of the players, the effects of shooting the puck and the rebounds given off, and I'll post the results.

All I need is an Aalto puck! Thankfully, I signed up for one on the Aalto puck website, so head over there if this idea intrigues you. We can collaborate if you receive one, and we'll see how our results compare.

The Aalto puck may look weird, but HBIC will see if it has any shot at changing how hockey is played by adding more chance and fun to the game!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Back At It

It appears my internet is back! In taking the day off yesterday, I got a lot of stuff done. Poke fun at me if you like, but I was baking up a storm in the kitchen. I now have enough cookies to rival the Keebler Elves. However, all of that was nothing compared to some of the finds I stumbled across on Saturday night that I wanted to post yesterday. Like the dog to the left who appears to be halfway to China, I did some deep digging and found some pearls to share with you. Let's get going because there's some great stuff to share.

I want to kick things off with a newly-discovered mascot for an era past. I was aware that there were mascots for some WHA teams as they looked to grow their brands in their own markets. I had never seen a mascot for the Chicago Cougars, though, until Saturday. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Clawford! I had never once seen anything about Clawford in my life before this, and the internet has barely any information on Clawford's existence. Apparently, he also known as "Charlie", but that may have just been a more colloquial name. Adding to that, there are no photos of an actual mascot, so Clawford may be more like Sparky used by the California Golden Seals in that he existed in print only. Unlike Sparky, there's no artist's mark on Clawford either. In any case, there's Clawford, the mascot for the WHA's Chicago Cougars!

I have always wanted to see a WHA Ottawa Nationals uniform in action for one reason. I have seen players wear the uniform facing the camera, but rarely do we see the backs of uniforms. I logged into the WHA Uniform site - favorite that site if you haven't already - and noticed that the Nationals had a unique stripe that ran below the shoulder yoke. The WHA Uniform site shows that it runs into the name on the back, so I went hunting. I managed to track down this image of Bob Charlesbois skating with his back towards the camera, and there they are! I'm surprised we haven't seen many teams through the last forty years try to do something like this unique feature!

Everyone knows that the WHA and NHL differed in many ways, and one of those key differences was in the rulebook. This page from a program features six rule differences found in the WHA that made it different from the NHL. Let's go over these quickly.
  • Overtime: Everyone should know that overtime in the NHL came directly from the success of overtime in the WHA.  In 1975, though, the NHL was still ending games in sixty minutes with ties. As written in the passage, the ten-minute overtime period saw most teams settle the game in an average time of six minutes. More winners equals more happy fans!
  • Third Man In: In 1975, any fracas in the NHL where a third man intervened caused that third man to have the rest of the night off with a game misconduct. In the WHA, the third man would be given a 10-minute misconduct and a $100 fine for the first time he skated into a scrap, and would only be given a game misconduct if he did it again in the same game. While I realize that $100 isn't much of a fine nowadays, would this strategy work better than the automatic game misconduct? Leave your thoughts below in the comments!
  • Red Line Pass: As long as a player was behind the center line when a breakaway pass was sent up the ice, he could corral it without being whistled for a two-line pass like he would be in the NHL. This, of course, is similar to the removal of the red line in today's NHL. That's some forward thinking in the WHA some forty years ago!
  • Shorthanded Icing: If you're playing a man down in the NHL, you're free to dump the puck down the ice. Not in the WHA! The WHA enforced icing the same way as if you were playing at even-strength. Needless to say, there were a lot of powerplay goals scored on a lot of tired WHA penalty killers! Would you like to see this rule tested out in the NHL? It could generate a ton of offence for highly-skilled teams! Lemme know in the comments!
  • Illegal Curve: The standard NHL blade curvature in 1975 was a ½-inch, but the WHA allowed true banana curves as they opted for a curvature of up to 1¼-inches! No wonder that puck jumped off Bobby Hull's stick in 1975!
  • Less Chatter: The WHA decided in 1975 that the team captain would be the only player permitted to speak to the referee, and even allowed the captain to come off the bench to discuss a matter. While the captain can no longer hop onto the ice while the referees are mulling over an incident, the NHL followed suit in letting only the captains and alternate captains speak to the officials.
You can say that the WHA caused major issues with the pay scales in professional hockey all you want, but the men running the league actually had some pretty intelligent thoughts when it came to opening up the game and keeping the offence flowing. The NHL today could learn a few things from the "Rebel League" from yesteryear.

I wanted to post this, but you've probably seen this elsewhere. Andrew Loewen, a Winnipegger, is playing for the Columbus Cottonmouths and is their starting goaltender. Loewen is a pretty solid goaltender, and, if you haven't seen it, is a heckuva dancer!
There is a back story to this dance routine, however. During the second intermission of the March 15, 2014 game where he was backing up Shannon Szabados in her first professional start, a video was shown of Loewen teaching this dance routine known as "The Wobble". Minutes before the intermission ran out, Loewen decided to show off his skills in-person! Now, I admit that the cheerleaders were a little unenthusiastic, but Loewen looked like he was appearing on Dancing with the Stars!

In a related matter, Andrew Loewen will be appearing on The Hockey Show this summer when he returns home! You better believe we'll be asking about "The Wobble" when he appears, so make sure you watch this site for the preview so you can call in and speak with Andrew too!

Also related, Shannon Szabados is now 0-2-0 in her SPHL career. She hasn't been bad at all, losing both games by one goal in 4-3 and 3-2 decisions to the Knoxville IceBears and the Huntsville Havoc, respectively. She absolutely is proving that she play in the SPHL, and she should be tendered a contract for next season if she wishes to remain in the men's game. While her win-loss record and stats probably aren't where she'd like them to be at the moment, she's proving she can hang with the men. Well done, Shannon!

Finally, if you missed the latest blowout in Oilers Nation, their provincial rivals in the Calgary Flames came into the "City of Champions" and thumped the Oilers by an 8-1 score. Once more, we saw a fan toss a jersey on the ice in frustration, and Ben Scrivens decided to do the only thing possible: return it to its rightful owner.
Here's what I don't understand. Fans pay out a ton of money for these jerseys. Heck, I know because I've done it. In saying that, seeing stuff like this astounds me when it's equivalent to tossing $300 on the ice. I get that the fans are frustrated, but are people in Alberta really that well-off that they can toss $300 on the ice in frustration? No? Didn't think so. Use your heads, Oiler fans.

Ben Scrivens was pretty honest in his comments after the game. "I always feel like as a fan, you pay your money and you get to do whatever you want," he explained to reporters. "If you want to boo me, jeer me, call me every name, you are entitled to that. You could spit on me for all I care, if I deserve it. But when I see a jersey thrown on the ice... I'm from here. You are not just disrespecting the guys in this room, you are disrespecting guys who wore this jersey before us. All of the great guys who have pulled this sweater over their heads, Gretzky, Messier, they all took great pride wearing that jersey. That logo is a sacred thing for us. It is disheartening for me to see our fans treat it that way."

I happen to agree with Scrivens in respecting the logo. It stands for something much bigger than this season's disappointments. You're better than that, Oiler fans. I spent a number of springs watching the Oilers in the playoffs, and I still vividly remember those series against the Dallas Stars. You guys were amazing, and the passion for the team and the game was incredible. This latest act is not what I remember from Oiler fans. I know you guys are better than this. Let's live up to that.

Lots of stuff here today, but there's some beauty WHA history above! Enjoy!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Internet Struggles

My internet has taken a holiday. According to my ISP, there are "intermittent service outages in my area" today, and that they are "working to resolve the problem as soon as possible". I've been trying to do a number of things online today, but it appears that my internet is still down. And yes, I've been posting this when I've had random service available.

Needless to say, thanks to my ISP taking the day off, HBIC is gonna follow suit. If you're trying to hit HBIC Radio, it too will be offline while my ISP struggles to provide service. I'll be back tomorrow, though, with some WHA stuff, some stuff from this weekend, and more!

Thanks for bearing with me, readers. We're into HOUR 10 of barely being online. I'd complain about my online woes, but that's a first-world problem and I'm well-aware there are larger problems in the world than my online woes. I finally was able to post this at 9:00pm instead of at noon when I had originally wanted. Yeesh!

Until next time, keep your internet online!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Problem Isn't In Net

Today, I am pretty disgusted with Maple Leaf fans. I understand that you care about your team, and that losses at this time of the season could be the difference between facing Tampa Bay and Boston in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I get that. However, I'm not entirely sure why everyone seems to believe that James Reimer is to blame for the recent play of the Maple Leafs team. And I also know his wife, April, has nothing to do with the Leafs playing poorly down the stretch.

To every single Maple Leafs fan who took to Twitter tonight to rip April Reimer, you're gutless. GUTLESS. You disgust me to the point where I am enraged. Personally, if I were James Reimer, I'd tell the Maple Leafs that I was done for the season. He certainly doesn't need to feel the venom you're spewing. But to direct it at his wife is pure gutlessness and cowardice. I cannot stress that enough.

Here's something all you Leaf fans who tweeted Mrs. Reimer should consider: the men patrolling the blue line in blue-and-white are pretty horrible. It's time to accept that reality. You need to hear it here, you gutless cowards, so I'm gonna lay it out for you.

Your blue line gives up too many shots in general, and way too many quality scoring chances overall. They rank dead-last in the NHL for shots-against-per-game (SAPG) at 36.2 every night Bernier or Reimer takes to the nets. Buffalo, who is the worst team in the NHL and ranks 29th in SAPG, gives up nearly two shots less per game every night. To put that in perspective, if an average NHL player scores on 10% of his shots (for argument's sake), that's an extra sixteen goals surrendered per season more than Buffalo because your defence couldn't get the job done.

Secondly, the Maple Leafs are 25th in shots-for-per-game at 28.0. While the defence isn't responsible for generating the offence as a whole, they can do something about the average shot differential seen in their game. The Maple Leafs average 8.2 shots less per game than they take which would mean, as a whole, their puck possession game is terrible. Buffalo, in comparison, takes 8.3 shots less per game as the NHL's worst team. In other words, there isn't much of a difference the two teams' defences when it comes to how they play.

When it comes to James Reimer's play, people will point at his record since the calendar flipped to 2014 and say, "Teebz, he's a god-awful 3-10 in since January 1". I can't dispute that fact whatsoever. However, in six of those losses, the score was decided by two goals or less. In those thirteen games, the Maple Leafs were outscored 32-56. While there is blame that Reimer can accept for some of those 56 goals, not all of them are his fault and I can assure you that April Reimer was responsible for exactly zero of them.

No one is suggesting that Reimer can't be better. I'm pretty sure that all goaltenders strive to be better just as any other player does, but the law of averages say that he will get scored on more often than other goaltenders who face less shots. His .910 save percentage is better than Ottawa's Craig Anderson, Dallas' Tim Thomas, Nashville's Pekka Rinne, and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, so it's not like he's not making saves. However, the rub is that he's faced more shots in less games than guys like Edmonton's Ben Scrivens, New Jersey's Cory Schneider, and Vancouver's Eddie Lack. And all three of those players, who have played mostly as backups, have appeared in more games and have better save percentages on less shots. See the correlation?

If you don't, let me spell it out for you. Less shots-against means less goals-against. Less goals-against means better save percentages. Better save percentages means more wins. And more wins means less gutless, cowardly attacks on a goaltender's wife's social media account.

If there is anyone to blame for this mess, look at the Leafs blue line and front office. Dave Nonis' team can't stop teams from driving rubber at the net, Carlyle's systems aren't preventing shots from being taken, and the Leafs' defencemen don't block enough shots and don't prevent enough shots. It's pretty simple when you sit down and look at the numbers.

If I'm James Reimer, I'm demanding a trade out of Toronto the moment the Stanley Cup is awarded. Neither he nor April deserves the treatment that a faction of Leaf fans seem to think is appropriate, and he's been the whipping boy in Toronto too long. And to April Reimer, I apologize for what some of these people said to you on Twitter. You certainly deserve a lot better than to have your husband cheered by gutless cowards.

The other problem this team has is with this horsepoop reaction that saw fans tweet some vile stuff to April Reimer. I hope that you're happy that you've tarnished all Leaf fans with your gutless acts. Everyone gets a little tougher behind the anonymity of their smartphone screens and computer screens. Instead, all I see is a collection of cowards.

Here's a quick life lesson: if you wouldn't say it to April Reimer in real-life, what gives you the right to say it on social media? No, you're the cowards who rip the team online and then beg James Reimer for an autograph the next time he's out in public. And that sickens me. Look, if you took to Twitter to rip the Reimers after tonight's loss to Montreal, I implore you to take a good long look in the mirror over the next couple of days. And I mean really look at yourself and ask if you're proud of what you did. While I doubt any of you who participated in tonight's evisceration of April Reimer will feel any remorse for what was said, just know that the rest of the world still sees you as...

Until next time, let this be a lesson for all of us.

Friday, 21 March 2014

A LADA Money Spent

Pictured to the left is Alexander Semin during his brief stint with Lada Togliatti of the Russian SuperLeague. Lada Togliatti had been a part of the Russian hockey scene since 1976 when they were founded as Torpedo Togliatti. Officially, they played their first exhibition game on August 31, 1976 against Dizelist Penza which ended in a 3-3 tie. Since their founding, Lada played in the Volgar Sports Palace which held a paltry 2908 fans since its opening in 1975. When the KHL came along as the next best thing to the NHL in 2008, a rink with 2908 seats simply wouldn't do in this magnificent, new league. A new arena was needed or Lada wasn't going to retain membership in the KHL.

Lada wasn't really in a position to build a state-of-the-art arena. While Lada had certainly a pile of amazing achievements on their side - rising from the Soviet League's Class A3 system to the Russian SuperLeague, becoming the first non-Moscow team to win the Russian SuperLeague in 1994, and becoming the first Russian team to win the IIHF Continental Cup in 2006 - they ran into financial problems in November of 2005 when sixteen players walked away from the team after not being paid. With Lada's regular season in jeopardy, they called up players from their second-tier team to finish the season. Needless to say, things in Lada were a little sketchy when it came to their financial situation. Hard to believe that just six months earlier in April, they had lost in the Russian SuperLeague Final to Dynamo Moscow.

In 2008, with their finances still in question, the KHL decided that the 2900-seat Volgar Sports Palace, seen below, simply wasn't up to KHL standards any longer, and the team was removed from the KHL. While the KHL will cite the arena as the main cause for concern, one shouldn't forget that this team basically teetered on the brink of insolvency each year in the KHL with the travel demands and the demand to attract and retain players to remain competitive.

Lada suspended their franchise after 2008 as they needed to get their finances on-track and find themselves a suitable arena if they hoped to return to Russia's premiere hockey circuit. Things began to look up when it was announced by Governor Konstantin Titov - the head of the region at that time - that a brand-new arena would replace the aging Volgar Sports Palace, and that construction on this new facility would begin in 2009 where the Volgar Sports Palace stood. It was an ambitious plan that Lada CEO Alexander Chebotarev envisioned to help his struggling club become the jewel of the Samara region once more.

Problems plagued the construction from the start in 2009. The original estimates for a new 10,000-seat arena came in at an estimated $35-40 million, but the design company and the region were stuck in a battle over costs and architectural plans. Costs sky-rocketed as the hired contractors and companies squabbled over costs and design with the region, and the dream of having this arena ready for 2010 or 2011 suddenly fell into limbo. Funding was provided for up to "52 million rubles" by the region for the continued construction of the facility.

The problem with that last statement is that 52 million rubles, in December 2009, would have been equivalent to approximately $1.73 million USD. One American dollar was worth approximately 30 Russian rubles at the time, so it became clear that this funding was nothing more than a ruse. Even if the region had promised 520 million rubles, they still would have only had half the money needed in the original estimate of $35-40 million!

The second issue was that the Volgar Sports Palace wasn't actually destroyed and replaced. The newly-named Lada Arena was actually built in the northwestern part of Togliatti. In other words, not only did the funding provided not meet the costs of the building, but there was considerable delay in getting green lights to build the arena in this new area.

With the Lada team still in self-imposed suspension, the team decided to play out of the newly-formed Supreme Hockey League in 2010 - the KHL's version of the AHL. The team aligned itself to be the reserve team for HC Yugra, and they took to the ice back at the Volgar Sports Palace once more as they tried to win a VHL championship, but they have yet to capture that accolade. The team finished dead-last in the VHL in 2010-11 with a record of 15-36-3-2 (W-L-OTW/SOW-OTL/SOL) for a mere 53 points, and did not qualify for the playoffs.

In 2011-12, Lada finished in seventh-place in the WHL Western Conference with a record of 18-22-5-8 for 72 points - a 19-point improvement from the inaugural VHL season. They qualified for the playoffs against second-seeded Dizel Penza, but Dizel Penza would win the best-of-five series by a 3-1 margin. While Lada's improvement signaled that they were on the rise once more, they still were playing in a substandard arena by KHL standards. In comparison, Donbass Donetsk, who joined the VHL at the start of the year, was promoted to the KHL after winning the Western Conference.

The 2012-13 season saw changes in the VHL as the top-sixteen teams would qualify for the playoffs and the conferences would be abandoned. Lada saw improvement once more as they finished ninth-overall with a record of 24-17-5-6 for 88 points. They actually were tied for seventh-overall with three other teams, but were dropped to the ninth-seed after tie-breakers were applied. Lada would play eighth-seeded Ermak Angarsk in the opening round, and they would defeat Ermak Angarsk 3-2 in the best-of-five series for their first VHL series win! They would meet third-seeded Toros Neftekamsk in the second-round, but Toros was too much as they downed Lada 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. Again, it was a season of improvements, and Lada had finally found solid financial footing after years of uncertainty thanks to their three years in the VHL. Things were definitely looking up.

On the arena front, things were moving slowly, but progress was being made. While the original idea was to have a 10,000-seat arena, that was scaled back to a more manageable plan of approximately 6500 seats, but additional amenities were added to the design. A practice rink was added for the team to skate on and host additional events with a seating capacity of 500 people. A parking garage with underground parking was added with a capacity for 1000 cars. A café with fifty dining room seats was added. Catwalks above the lower bowl were also added for fans to be able to view games. A press box capable of holding fifty reporters and a broadcast booth for up to five radio broadcasters and four TV broadcasters was also added. In short, the pipe dream was coming together.

Fantasy became reality this season as the doors to the new Lada Arena opened. 6112 fans - a capacity crowd - made their way into the new arena to watch Lada Togliatti play in their new home. Needless to say, it was a long time coming. Now you're probably asking how much this arena's final tally cost the people of the Samara region. It wasn't close to the $35-40 million estimate. Not even remotely near it. The final tally was more than double the price originally estimated - 2.6 billion rubles or approximately $87 million USD. However, I suspect that number is far too low considering all the delays and political in-fighting that happened. With conservative estimates, the arena's final cost probably ended up somewhere around $150 million after all was said and done. In any case, here's Lada Arena.

Looks pretty impressive, right? We had reported on The Hockey Show yesterday that the arena cost the people of Russia $2.6 billion, but I checked some Russian sites and it turns out that the figure was in rubles. I will take to Twitter and correct the information there as well as a few people commented on the cost of the arena. In any case, Lada Togliatti, with their new arena, will re-join the KHL next season.

Let's just hope that they can remain a viable business this time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Hockey Show: Episode Eighty

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, will dive into European hockey tonight as we pull back the Iron Curtain, open up the borders, and get intimate with hockey in an unfamiliar setting. With the Gagarin Cup happening in the KHL, we'll highlight a couple of series that we have an interest in and run down the other series in quick fashion. We'll take a look at and talk about Orebro HK over in Sweden where Jared Aulin was the recipient of an impressive outpouring of support from the Orebro fans. We'll highlight Linkopings in Sweden where the ladies' team brought home some new hardware. More on all of this below.

It hasn't been a highly-publicized thing, but Jared Aulin's mom is battling cancer. Jared, who is a Friend of the Show, is currently playing hockey in Sweden for Orebro HK, making it very difficult to be with his mom in her time of needing her loved ones around to get her through this. The fans in Orebro, who have taken a liking to Jared, heard about his struggles in wanting to be by his mom's side as she battles this disease, and they all became extended family the other night when they showed their support for Mrs. Aulin. How impressive is that? Kudos to the people of Orebro for this outpouring of support. While I don't know her personally, Mrs. Aulin is a heckuva woman based upon how Jared was raised, and she deserves a little support here at home. The Hockey Show wishes nothing but the best in this battle you're facing, Mrs. Aulin, and if there's anything we can do to help, please ask. We'd be happy to help in any way we can.

Staying in Sweden, I was lucky enough to catch the photo on the right on my Twitter feed. That's former Team Canada player and current Linkopings team member Bailey Bram on the right chomping down on her gold medal! In front of 3,449 spectators in Fjällräven Center in Örnsköldsvik, Linkopings won their first Swedish women's hockey championship over MODO! The two teams battled to a draw in regulation time, but MODO was handed a penalty before the horn sounded to give Linkopings a powerplay to start the overtime period. In a bizarre move that seems to be one borne out of desperation, MODO head coach Mikael Nilsson asked for a measurement of Linkopings goaltender Kim Martin's mask during the intermission! The measurement came back as being within guidelines, and MODO was hit for a delay-of-game penalty to put Linkopings on a two-man advantage to start overtime! MODO goalie Valentina Lizana Wallner made a number of key saves, but Bailey Bram got the gold medal-winning goal at 61:06 when she fired home a rebound on the right side to give Linkopings the 3-2 overtime win! Congratulations to Bailey Bram and her Linkopings teammates on their championship!

We'll also look at an interesting report that came out of the IIHF yesterday that looks at the attendance at hockey games in a number of European countries. It was rather interesting to see that SC Bern has the highest average attendance of all European-based teams, and that the Swiss League has the highest as well. SKA St. Petersburg, possibly thanks to the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, is the team with the third-best attendance, and is the KHL's best team in terms of attendance. The KHL as a whole, though, fell behind the Swedish Elite League to fourth-place in overall average attendance. We'll discuss some of these numbers tonight as we look at all things hockey in Europe!

Finally, we'll enjoy some cake after the show as we celebrate another birthday! Columbus, our loyal and dedicated student of the game of hockey, is turning... 80 43 12 does she still work here?... um, another year older! Happy birthday, Columbus, and we'll have cake tonight!

Join us at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM if you're in the listening radius, and on the web at the UMFM site if you're listening elsewhere on the planet. Feel free to give us a call on this or any other hockey topic that you'd like to discuss at (204) 269-8636, or feel free to tweet is at @TeebzHBIC and we'll read those tweets on the air! Looking forward to a big show tonight as we bring you a ton of news from across the pond!

PODCAST: MARCH 20, 2014: Episode 80

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Gagarin Cup Playoffs - West

I recapped all the action from the Eastern Conference last night, so tonight we'll focus on the Western Conference as the KHL's Gagarin Cup Playoffs continue. While I'm always looking for an upset, there were some tough series on this side of the tournament for the lower seeds. That being said, games are played for a reason, so let's find out who did what in the Western Conference! Would Dynamo Moscow continue on their trek for a three-peat? How would Iya Kovalchuk and SKA St. Petersburg fare? These questions and more are answered here! And, of course, all overtime goals will be featured!

#1 Dynamo Moscow vs. #8 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

In 2011, the Lokomotiv team suffered one of sports' worst tragedies of all-time when the plane carrying the team crashed. Lokomotiv has been rebuilding to re-establish itself, and it finally made it back to the Gagarin Cup Playoffs only to run into the two-time defending Gagarin Cup champions. While the odds were stacked against them, could they overcome Dynamo in a seven-game battle? In the regular season, Dynamo Moscow finished 31 points ahead of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl - yikes!

GAME ONE: The hometown Dynamo fans were certainly expecting their team to take it to the visitors, but it was Lokomotiv who came out jumping. Just 4:29 into the game, Mikelis Redlihs' shot found some room past Moscow goalie Alexander Yeryomenko, and Yaroslavl had the early 1-0 lead. Lokomotiv would make it a 2-0 game at 14:22 when Sergei Plotnikov ripped a shot past Yeryomenko, silencing the crowd. There wouldn't be much to cheer about for another 35 minutes, but Dynamo finally broke the goose egg when Alexander Ryazantsev beat Lokomotiv goalie Curtis Sanford at 9:44 of the third period to make it a 2-1 game. 1:01 later, Leo Komarov snapped a shot past Sanford, and we were suddenly knotted up at 2-2! These teams couldn't solve their differences in regulation time, so it was off to overtime! Just 1:31 into the extra frame, Maxim Karpov cruised down the right wing into the Lokomotiv zone where he fired a wrist shot high on Sanford from the top of the right circle that somehow got past Sanford! With the goal, Karpov and Dynamo capture the 3-2 overtime win! DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 1-0.

GAME TWO: Dynamo looked to build on the momentum generated by their overtime win in Game One. Dynamo's Maxim Solovyov notches his first goal of the playoffs at 15:10, and then he adds another in the middle frame at 4:49 to make it 2-0 Moscow. Alexander Chernikov made it 2-1 13:44 into the third period, but Yeryomenko held strong the rest of the way as Dynamo Moscow takes both home games as the series shifts to Yaroslavl. DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 2-0.

GAME THREE: Lokomotiv came home looking to rally against the deficit they found themselves in, and they started the right way. Geoff Platt's slapshot from the point on the powerplay got past Yeryomenko at the 8:26 mark of the first period, and the home team was up 1-0. This next picture may interest Toronto Maple Leaf fans:
Yes, that's Leo Komarov scoring on a penalty shot in the third period to even the score at 1-1. But just 3:15 later, Yuri Petrov put Lokomotiv up 2-1 on his first goal of the playoffs. From there, it was all Curtis Sanford as he shut down the Moscow offence for the final thirteen minutes to cut the series deficit in half! DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 2-1.

GAME FOUR: Dynamo and Lokomotiv came out a little more defensively in Game Four as neither team could solve the other through the opening twenty minutes. Moscow would strike early as Maxim Pestushko finds some room past Sanford just 21 seconds into the middle frame to put Dynamo up 1-0. Geoff Platt's powerplay goal at 6:28 brought the teams even again. Marek Kvapil wasn't satisfied with that, so he went out and scored a powerplay goal at 9:04 to put Moscow back on top by a 2-1 score. Late in the game, Staffan Kronwall ripped home a powerplay goal with 2:34 to play, and this game was headed to overtime! Nothing would be solved in the first overtime period, so we were off to double-overtime. In that fifth period, Mikelis Redlihs was battling in front of the net and corralled a loose puck that he slid home as Yeryomenko couldn't find the puck, and Lokomotiv would take Game Four in double-overtime by a 3-2 score! SERIES TIED AT 2-2.

GAME FIVE: After one double-overtime game, why not play another? The teams made their way back to Moscow where defence ruled. Through sixty minutes, all shots were turned aside meaning we were looking at overtime with a 0-0 game! In fact, we'd play eighty minutes with no goals as this game did, in fact, make it to double-overtime! Konstantin Volkov converts a pass from Yury Babenko at the hash marks past Curtis Sanford at the 3:11 mark of double-overtime, and Dynamo Moscow goes up 3-2 on their 1-0 victory! DYNAMO MOSCOW LEADS 3-2.

GAME SIX: Lokomotiv returned to Yaroslavl needing a win to live another day while Dynamo Moscow would love to close this series out with a win on the road. Let's just say that one of those two things happened in a big way. Lokomotiv opened the scoring late in the first period as Ilya Gorokhov netted his first goal on the powerplay at 19:46 for a 1-0 lead. Midway through the second period, Sergei Plotnikov made it 2-0 for Lokomotiv with his second goal at 10:34. At 16:47, Sergei Konkov made it 3-0 for the home team. Just 2:54 into the third period, Alexander Chernikov scored shorthanded for his second goal of the playoffs to make it 4-0, and that would be the end of the night for Yeryomenko as the Moscow goalie was replaced by backup Alexander Sharychenkov. Things didn't get better, though, as Chernikov would strike again at 8:53 on the powerplay to make it a 5-0 advantage for Yaroslavl. And Konkov would pick up his second goal of the game at 11:56 on the powerplay to put Lokomotiv up 6-0. Sanford looked very impressive on home ice as he stopped all 28 shots to record the shutout in Game Six as Lokomotiv would send this back to Moscow for Game Seven with a 6-0 win! SERIES TIED AT 3-3.

GAME SEVEN: It's the do-or-die game in Moscow as Lokomotiv and Dynamo meet for Game Seven! Unfortunately for the home side, Lokomotiv breaks the stalemate at 11:09 of the first period as Alexander Chernikov's shot finds room past Yeryomenko to put Yaroslavl up 1-0. Just 1:24 later, Geoff Platt doubles the lead as his bomb finds twine, putting Lokomotiv up 2-0. Leo Komarov's third goal at the 14:31 mark of the second period cut Lokomotiv's lead to 2-1, setting up what appeared to be an exciting finish! Except that Lokomotiv had other ideas. Sergei Konkov scored his third goal just 57 seconds into the third period to put Yaroslavl up 3-1, and then he adds another goal while on the powerplay at 15:31 to make it a 4-1 Lokomotiv lead. With the net empty, Lokomotiv ices the game as Yegor Averin deposits the puck in the yawning cage with 48 seconds to play, and Lokomotiv does the unthinkable in winning Game Seven 5-1, ousting the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, and sending the two-time defending champions home in the first round! LOKOMOTIV YAROSLAVL WINS 4-3.

#2 SKA St. Petersburg vs. #7 CSKA Moscow

These two teams usually meet in later rounds, but CSKA's inconsistent season put them in as the seventh-seed in the West, fourteen points back of SKA. Despite having a pile of talent, CSKA never could find their way this season whereas the stars for SKA helped that team climb to the second-seed. This could be an ugly series if SKA St. Petersburg imposes their will.

GAME ONE: Having spoken with CSKA forward Brandon Reid before the series started, he felt that CSKA needed to play a more "Canadian game" - checking the stars of SKA closely. This game resembled that idea put forth by Reid as the first goal of the game didn't come until midway through the third period. At the 9:47 mark, SKA's Andrei Sigaryov found a hole through CSKA goaltender Jeff Glass for the 1-0 lead. SKA goaltender Alexander Salak didn't need any extra help as he turned away all 43 CSKA shots for the shutout as Sigaryov's goal stood as the winner in the 1-0 victory. SKA ST. PETERSBURG LEADS 1-0.

GAME TWO: For all the tight checking done in the first game, CSKA needed some in this game. SKA's Viktor Tikhonov opened the scoring just 3:07 in to put St. Petersburg up 1-0, and then Yury Alexandrov added a powerplay goal at 4:50 for a 2-0 SKA lead. Things got worse in the first period for CSKA as Patrick Thoresen sniped a shot past Jeff Glass to make it 3-0 at the 18:31 mark, and Jeff Glass' night would be done at the next stoppage of play after 19:45 of ice-time. Mikhail Biryukov would take over, and he would get some help as Igor Fefelov scored 2:03 into the second period to cut the deficit to 3-1. However, former Flame Roman Cervenka would get his name on the scoresheet with a snipe at 8:31 to put SKA St. Petersburg up 4-1 heading into the third period. Kevin Dallman would blast a shot from the point past Biryukov while on the powerplay to round out the scoring as SKA skated to the 5-1 victory. SKA ST. PETERSBURG LEADS 2-0.

GAME THREE: CSKA returned home needing a win, and they got off on the right foot. Igor Grigorenko hammered home his first playoff goal on the powerplay to put CSKA up 1-0 at 17:57 of the first period. SKA would respond with their own powerplay goal as Patrick Thoresen put one home at 5:46 of the second period, and this game was knotted at 1-1. Both goaltenders would hold strong through to the end of regulation, so we were off to overtime! A very questionable slashing call was made on Oleg Saprykin at the 9:38 mark of overtime, and SKA went to work on the powerplay. Dmitry Kalinin faked a slapshot and sent a pass over to Roman Cervenka who one-timed a laser past Jeff Glass, and SKA escapes with the 2-1 overtime victory! SKA ST. PETERSBURG LEADS 3-0.

GAME FOUR: With their backs against the wall, CSKA would need to play with some desperation to keep this series going. Nikita Zaitsev put the home squad up 1-0 with his powerplay blast at 17:59 of the first period, and CSKA carried the lead into the second period. They would add to the lead at the 1:48 mark when Yakov Rylov converted a feed from Fefelov to make it a 2-0 game. Patrick Thoresen would cut the lead in half with his powerplay goal at 6:58, and SKA would tie the game up off Tony Martensson's powerplay goal at the 11:01 mark. CSKA would dig in once more, and Nikita Zaitsev scored his second of the game at 15:10 on a two-man advantage to give CSKA the same one-goal lead as they headed into the intermission. Just 5:55 into the third period, Nikolai Prokhorkin's one-timer on a two-on-one found its way past Salak to give CSKA a 4-2 lead. At 13:13, we finally saw SKA's big gun break free as Ilya Kovalchuk notched his first goal on the powerplay to make it a 4-3 goal, and SKA would tie the game minutes later as Roman Cervenka notched his third goal of the playoffs at 18:42 with the net empty as he potted a carom off the end-boards. With no goals in the remaining 1:18, we were off to overtime again! Just 3:15 in, we'd have our winner. Kovalchuk's shot squeaks through Glass' pads, and is sitting next to the goalpost. A furious scramble sees Alexei Ponikarovsky push the puck over the line with two CSKA players on top of him. Despite their protests, the goal stands, and SKA sweeps CSKA out of the playoffs. SKA ST. PETERSBURG WINS 4-0.

#3 Lev Prague vs. #6 Medvescak Zagreb

There may only have been seven points between these two teams in the regular season, but their styles of play were entirely different as Lev seemed to push the play while Medvescak played more of a defensive-style of game. It would be interesting to see if offence vs. defence would result in an upset in this series.

GAME ONE: Lev's Jiri Novotny got the crowd on their feet early as he potted the first goal of the series just 39 seconds into the game past Mark Dekanich! The lead would evaporate at the 8:56 mark, though, as Medvescak's Matt Ellison fired a puck past Petri Vehanen to even the score at 1-1. However, the home crowd would celebrate in the intermission as Justin Azevedo notched a powerplay goal at 14:28 to put Lev up 2-1 after the first period. At 8:46 of the second, Medvescak found themselves on a powerplay, and former NHLer Kurtis Foster blasted home a shot from the point to tie the game at 2-2. Petr Vrana would put Lev up by one early in the third period as he sniped a goal at the 1:46 mark. Martin Thornberg would make it a two-goal game as he scored at 4:17 of the third, but Medvescak would make things interesting as Matt Murley would score at the 16:35 mark. Vehanen would hold the fort the rest of the way as Lev takes Game One by a 4-3 score! LEV PRAGUE LEADS 1-0.

GAME TWO: Like they did in Game One, Lev opened the scoring in this game as Lukas Cingel converted on a delayed penalty call at 9:52 into the first period. The second period saw Medvescak apply serious pressure as Matt Ellison evened the game at the 5:44 mark of the second, and Bill Thomas would send Medvescak to the intermission with their first lead in the series as his shot at 17:27 got through Vehanen for a 2-1 lead. However, it seemed like the ice was slanted that night as all the scoring happened in one end. Lev responded with a Jiri Novotny powerplay goal 26 seconds into the third, a Martin Thornberg powerplay goal at 9:09, and a Patrik Zackrisson goal at 16:19 to take a 4-2 lead. With Mark Dekanich pulled late, Justin Azevedo put the puck in the unguarded cage with 11 seconds to play, icing the game with a 5-2 score. LEV PRAGUE LEADS 2-0.

GAME THREE: Medvescak needed a win to generate some momentum as they returned home. Lev had other plans, though, as they struck first for the third-straight game. Martin Thornberg potted a shorthanded goal at 12:15 of the second period to put Lev up 1-0. Michal Repik made it a 2-0 game at 15:29 when his baseball-style shot eluded Barry Brust. Boyd Kane would respond seconds later as he benefited from a bounce off his knee and the puck found the back of the net at 16:05 of the second. Minutes later, Lev's Martin Sevc hauled down Sasa Martinovic on a breakaway as he came out of the penalty box, and we got to see a penalty shot! Martinovic deked Vehanen nicely, faking a wrist shot causing Vehanen to go down before dragging the puck across the crease and firing it into the yawning cage to make it a 2-2 game. Sevc would make up for his gaffe in the third period by setting up David Ullstrom for his first goal - a long wrist shot from the point - at 9:37 of the third period. Martin Thornberg would pick up his second of the night and fourth goal of the playoffs of a nice deflection in front of Brust at 16:32 for a 4-2 Lev lead. And Petr Vrana would pick a pocket in front of Brust and fire it home on the powerplay with 58 seconds to play to give Lev the 5-2 victory. LEV PRAGUE LEADS 3-0.

GAME FOUR: If there's a theme in these games, it's that Lev scores first. And they did it again. Jakub Matai converted a gorgeous no-look, cross-crease touch pass from Lukas Cingel to put Lev up 1-0 just 5:49 into the game. Mikko Maenpaa made it 2-0 on the powerplay when he rocketed a slapshot from the circle past Mark Dekanich at 15:55. In what has to be the worst goal of the opening round, Medvescak's Alan Letang dumped the puck in from center ice, and it finds a way past Vehanen into the net at the 6:25 mark of the third period, cutting the lead to 2-1. But 1:26 later, David Ullstrom, from the same spot as the night before, counted a long wrist shot that found its way past Dekanich to give Lev a 3-1 lead. Matt Ellison would make things interesting with his goal at 15:44, but Medvescak couldn't find another goal as they fall 3-2 to Lev in the game and are swept out of the playoffs. LEV PRAGUE WINS 4-0.

#4 Donbass Donetsk vs. #5 Dinamo Riga

Donbass Donetsk finished four points ahead of Dinamo Riga in the Western Conference standings, and both teams have a few former NHL players on their rosters. Goaltending could be a factor in this series as Mikael Tellqvist is the starter for Riga while Donetsk boasts Michael Leighton as their starter. I thought this series would be interesting considering the problems in Ukraine right now, and it turns out that this played a bit of a factor.

GAME ONE: Riga opens the scoring in this series off a nice passing play on the powerplay. Gints Meija was the recipient of a cross-crease pass from Mat Robinson, and he went shelf over Leighton for the powerplay marker at 13:22. Donbass would get a powerplay goal of their own when Petteri Wirtanen was the recipient of a juicy rebound that he fired home past Tellqvist at 12:25 of the second. At 15:59, Lukas Kaspar drew a defender to him on a two-on-one before feeding the puck across to a wide-open Clay Wilson who had no problem swatting the puck into the back of the net while shorthanded for a 2-1 Donbass lead. Teemu Laine would make it a 3-1 game on the powerplay as his blast past a screened Tellqvist at 1:45 of the third period. Evgeny Dadonov goes forehand-backhand-back-of-the-net on a partial breakaway at 16:01 to make it a 4-1 Donbass lead. 40 seconds later, Lauris Darzins slips a puck past Leighton, and it's 4-2 for Donbass. Riga sends out the extra attacker, but Teemu Laine pots the empty-netter for a 5-2 Donbass victory. DONBASS DONETSK LEADS 1-0.

GAME TWO: Donbass would open the scoring in this game as Clay Wilson dropped the puck for Teemu Laine, and his long wrist shot beat Mikael Tellqvist for the 1-0 lead. Oleg Piganovich would make it a 2-0 game just 2:34 into the second period when his wrist shot from the point eludes the screen and Tellqvist. Riga would cut the lead in half when Roberts Bukarts long wrist shot from the highest high-slot beat Michael Leighton at the 12:01 mark. Teemu Laine ices this game late, though, as he wins a footrace at 18:17 of the third for the empty-net goal as Donbass skates to the 3-1 win. DONBASS DONETSK LEADS 2-0.

GAME THREE: Riga returned home needing a win badly, and they definitely came to play tonight in the Latvian capital. Donbass, though, opened the scoring as Maxim Yakutsenya's backhander finds rooms between Tellqvist's pads for the 1-0 lead just 3:58 into the game. Riga evens the score on the powerplay at 16:16 when Marcel Hossa deflects a slap-pass past Leighton to tie the game at 1-1. 4:10 into the second period, Yakutsenya fires a centering pass to Evgeny Dadonov who tips the puck past Tellqvist, giving Donbass a 2-1 lead. Again, Riga ties it up off a long wrist shot as Maris Bicevskis' off-speed shot eludes Leighton at 6:34 of the second. At 8:13, Lukas Kaspar finds himself on a breakaway where Tellqvist gets a piece of the shot, but not enough as the puck finds the net to put Donbass up 3-2. That would end Tellqvist's night as Riga would go with backup Jakub Sedlacek for the rest of the evening. That move seemed to spark Riga as they rattled off five straight goals: Gints Meija on a wrap-around at 16:10 of the second; Marcel Hossa on a curl to the slot at 18:33 of the second; Andris Dzerins on a loose puck in the slot at 0:49 of the third (which prompted Leighton to be pulled for Jan Laco); Kristaps Sotnieks on a one-timer from the slot at 3:44 of the third; and Lauris Darzins 37 seconds later on a partial breakaway snaps one past Laco. Final score would be 7-2 for Dinamo Riga as they make a statement in this game. DONBASS DONETSK LEADS 2-1.

GAME FOUR: If a statement was made in the last game, Donbass wasn't listening. They opened the scoring in Game Four as Teemu Laine dragged Jakub Sedlacek across the crease until there was an opening, and he fired it home at the 3:44 mark. Maxim Yakutsenya would make it 2-0 at the 18:05 mark of the second period when he tipped home a centering pass past Sedlacek. At 6:54 of the third, Lukas Kaspar streaked down the left wing, pulling Sedlacek out of the net, and while he missed the wrap-around, Sergei Varlamov poked the puck into the vacant net for a 3-0 lead for Donbass. Gints Meija would whack home a puck in front of the Donbass net at 12:44, but Donbass' Tuomas Kiiskinen would win a footrace for the empty-net goal to seal the deal at 19:54 for the 4-1 win. DONBASS DONETSK LEADS 3-1.

GAME FIVE: Riga's backs were against the wall in this game. Win and they live another day. Lose and they go home. Riga started things off right as Gints Meija's centering pass on the powerplay was blocked, but he picked up the loose puck and backhanded it past Jan Laco for the 1-0 lead 17:01 into the game. Lauris Darzins is the recipient of a nice cross-ice pass from Sandis Ozolinsh, and he pots his third goal of the playoffs at the 7:11 mark of the second period for a 2-0 Riga lead. With 1:15 left in the second, Tuomas Kiiskinen was the man who found the puck in a goalmouth scramble during a Donbass two-man advantage, and he slid the puck home to cut Riga's lead to 2-1. Jakub Sedlacek would allow no other pucks to pass, though, and Riga would escape Donetsk with a 2-1 win! DONBASS DONETSK LEADS 3-2.

GAME SIX: Same story for Riga: gotta win to stay in, and Donbass was looking to close this series out for a second time. Donbass would open the scoring in the second period as Maxim Yakutsenya's wrap-around finds the twine to give Donetsk the 1-0 lead at 5:05 of the middle frame. Riga would respond a couple of minutes later as Lauris Darzins converts a pass from behind the net to even the game with 10:02 to play in the period. With both teams skating four-on-four, Riga's Andris Dzerins took a drop pass and fired a puck towards Michael Leighton that deflected off a defenceman and past the goalie! Riga jumped ahead 2-1 at the 13:59 mark of the second. The goalies would match each other save-for-save the rest of the way, and the final horn gave Riga the 2-1 win to push this series to seven games! SERIES TIED AT 3-3.

GAME SEVEN: Game Seven was supposed to take place in Donetsk, Ukraine, but the game was moved to Bratislava, Slovakia due to the political strife happening in Ukraine. Donbass didn't seem to mind as they struck first at the 4:00 mark when Evgeny Dadonov picked up a rebound on the powerplay and put it home for the 1-0 lead. 2:17 later, Teemu Laine one-times a perfect feed from Clay Wilson for his sixth goal of the playoffs, and Donbass was out in front 2-0. At 16:31, Gints Meija rifled a shot upstairs past Laco to cut the lead to 2-1. Donbass would go back up by two when Dadonov finished off a tic-tac-toe play at the 6:25 mark of the third period, and that would be all that Laco needed to finish off this game as Donbass Donetsk advances over Dinamo Riga! DONBASS DONETSK WINS 4-3.

Looking at the semi-final match-ups, SKA St. Petersburg will take on Lokomotiv Yaroslavl while Lev Prague will play Donbass Donetsk in Bratislava as their remaining games will be played outside of their home arena due to the political unrest in Ukraine. Lokomotiv is the underdog favorite at this point, but SKA appears to be the wise choice to advance from the West.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!