Sunday 31 August 2014

A Wrinkle Over Colors

The Bruins and Penguins have had some lively battles over the last few years as these two elite teams looked to add to their respective Stanley Cup totals. However, there have also been battles in their history that have taken place off the ice. One of the more memorable battles came in 1980 when the Penguins applied to change their color scheme from their blue-and-white scheme to the black-and-yellow as the other Pittsburgh-based sports teams wore.

The Bruins tried to block the Penguins from wearing the iconic black-and-yellow, claiming that color scheme was historically worn by the Bruins through their history. They claimed that the Penguins had applied for the change only after the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers had won the Super Bowl in 1980. The Penguins, of course, stated that their fans demanded the change.

It's pretty ludicrous to think that a team can own a color scheme. After all, the Canadiens, Rangers, and the New York Americans all wore red-white-and-blue during their histories at the same time. Toronto, it should be noted, wore blue-and-white forever, and that's the scheme with which the Penguins broke into the league albeit in different shades.

The key in this whole protest debacle is that the Penguins changed their uniforms in the middle of the season! The Bruins may not even had a chance to protest the change had the Penguins actually used their heads on this one as well. I want to bring to light an article in Montreal's The Gazette from January 25, 1980.

According to the article, "the Penguins ordered the uniforms from the pro shop at Boston Garden", and it appears this caused a delay in the new uniforms being shipped to the Penguins! Boston Garden was home to the Boston Bruins, as you may know, so the Bruins may have had a hand in delaying the shipment to the Penguins! Call me crazy here, but it may not be the best idea to order your new uniforms from the team that is protesting your uniform change.

Thankfully, the NHL came to its senses, and John Zeigler allowed the Penguins to wear their new black-and-yellow uniforms. Of course, they still didn't have the uniforms thanks to the Boston Garden pro shop not sending them for the home-and-home series against the Bruins on January 25 and 26, 1980. So when did the Penguins start wearing their new colors?

According to the Palm Beach Post on January 30, 1980, the Penguins would take to the ice in their new uniforms against the St. Louis Blues on the same date! Five days after the Bruins' protest, the Penguins skated out on home ice in their 50th game of the season in their new uniforms! The new uniforms wouldn't help on that night, though, as the Penguins fell to the Blues by a 4-3 score. In fact, the Penguins recorded six straight losses - including a 9-0 loss to Buffalo - in their new uniforms from January 30 through February 10 before finally defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on February 13, 1980.

The Penguins would finish the season 11-18-2 in their new uniforms after having gone 19-19-11 in their old blue-and-white uniforms. Personally, it's a pretty cool note to see that the Penguins ordered their new uniforms from the Bruins, and that the Bruins delayed the shipment while they protested. However, you can mark it down on your calendars that on January 30, 1980, the Penguins officially went black-and-yellow and never looked back!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 30 August 2014

Two Are Better Than One

I was looking for some information last weekend about Cesare Maniago when I discovered the image above on the Classic Auctions site. Pictured is Maniago's uniform from the 1977-78 season, and, as you can see, it has TWO tie-downs! This is the first time I've actually seen a jersey with two tie-downs!

Of course, the tie-downs or fight straps would be attached to the pants at the back so that Maniago's jersey couldn't be pulled off his body. Maniago wasn't a fighter, though, so the only thing the tie-downs were doing was holding his jersey in place while he saved pucks. In any case, I hadn't seen the double tie-down in my life, and I've now seen at least a photo of them existing.

You might be asking why I was hunting down information on Maniago. Reader and HBIC friend Tim B. brought something to my attention that I hadn't seen ever in my life. As you may be aware, the NHL mandated in 1977 that names appear on the backs of jerseys for all players in the NHL. What I didn't know is that the Canucks wore contrasting name bars on the back of their uniforms!
That picture was taken on November 2, 1977 and features two pretty unique features. Obviously, the first is that the Canucks are wearing the contrasting name bars, but the second feature is that they are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs who are not wearing names across their backs at all!

The Leafs simply wouldn't acquiesce to the idea of wearing names early in the 1977-78 season, but I can't find any information on why the Canucks wore contrasting name bars on their uniforms. I also can't find when they started wearing the contrasting name bars (I assume it was the start of the season), if they wore contrasting name bars on the road, or when they stopped wearing contrasting name bars. Online newspaper archives are incomplete, and it appears no one has kept a record of this uniform change electronically.

Luckily, YouTube had one video of the Canucks playing against the Rangers on November 20, 1977. Well, it isn't the two teams playing as much as it is them brawling as Nick Fotiu and Jack McIlhargey throw haymakers for the entire clip.
If you notice, the Rangers are wearing blue names on their white jerseys while the Canucks are wearing white names on their green jerseys. That helps us in nailing down some information about the road uniforms, but it doesn't give us the full picture.

So readers, I ask you: do any of you have more information or picture evidence of this contrasting name bar phenomenon worn by the Canucks? Tim and I would like to figure out when the Canucks stopped using the green name bars on the white uniforms so we can lay this mystery to rest!

In most cases, two heads are better than one. In this case, we can use as many people as we can get to solve this mystery!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 29 August 2014

Spun Into A New Look

For as long as I can remember, the Cincinnati Cyclones have worn the logo to the left. They wore it through their days in the IHL and carried it into their era in the ECHL. While the cartoon logo is a little primitive, it allowed Cincinnati to establish a mascot for their team as well. However, there was talk of changes to the Cyclones' brand as they established the "Winds of Change" initiative as they worked on a new branding campaign. Today, we got a chance to see what the new Cyclones will look like in this upcoming ECHL season.

It's, um, different. I'm not sure I understand it, so let's go a little deeper into what this new brand is supposed to be. From WCPO Cincinnati, "The logo features a blocked letter “C” with an abstract depiction of a cyclone inside it. When combined with the banner at the bottom of the sweater the emblem is instantly recognizable to fans of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes." The Hurricanes are one of the two NHL affiliations the Cyclones have - the Florida Panthers are the other - and the colors do resemble those of the Hurricanes. But is that even necessary?

The "abstract depiction of a cyclone" doesn't even make me think of a cyclone when I look at it. It actually looks more like a 45 rpm adapter that one would use on a record player. I had to look at it a few times to realize that it might be something a weather person would use to represent a cyclone or hurricane on a weather telecast, but we're really stretching on that association.

In saying that, it dawned on me that with the Cyclones using the Hurricanes' color scheme and rebranding themselves with a new logo that could be used by the Carolina Hurricanes, we're seeing another minor league team losing its unique identity. "Marketing agency LPK spearheaded the image overhaul and partnered with team management to create a sleek, contemporary look" that could be used by the team's NHL affiliate.

"If you look at the new mark, it's very versatile. It's a bit of a tribute in terms of color scheme and it embodies everything about this organization," Sean Lynn, the Cyclones' director of marketing, told WCPO. What does all that rhetoric even mean? That entire statement is a load of crap. I don't know how the new mark is versatile, I'm not sure how it's a tribute in terms of color scheme, and I'm not sure how it embodies the organization in any capacity. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of that warm and fuzzy jargon being used by Mr. Lynn is nothing more than babble.

I'm not saying that the Cyclones didn't need an update. In fact, quite the opposite as their cartoon logo was looking a little dated. The problem is that this update actually took away the one thing that made them identifiable from just their logo. There was no doubt they were the Cyclones with the old logo. Now? It's hard to tell exactly who or what they are.

The winds of change blew into Cincinnati alright. Like the aftermath of any storm, the Cyclones destroyed what was once recognizable, leaving behind a mess in its wake.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 103

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is officially one show from completing two years on the air at the conclusion of tonight's show! It's pretty amazing to think Beans and I have been on the air for nearly two years with our opinions and thoughts on the game of hockey, and we're already working on some cool stuff for Year Three. We have some solid guests being lined up, we have some cool contests, and we're going to have a pile of fun like we do every Thursday!

We'll point out the elephant in the room early in tonight's show. That mask belongs to former Las Vegas Wranglers goalie Marc Magliarditi, and there's a good chance a lot of that imagery would end up on a mask if and/or when Las Vegas gets an NHL team. We've debated the possibilities of expansion cities before on The Hockey Show, and we'll re-open the debate tonight as the rumors of NHL expansion swirled around Las Vegas. We'll talk about the new arena being built, the issues surrounding the area, how gambling fits into the equation, why hockey hasn't worked in Las Vegas long-term in the past, and why this idea of NHL expansion has more negatives than positives. We'll also toss a few more cities into the mix, and discuss how the NHL can resolve their unbalanced conferences problem.

Tonight on 3 Rounds Deep, Beans and I will look at players who need a bounce-back season this year. This could be a player who has joined a new team and needs to live up to a contract, or it could be a player who simply hasn't met the expectations that many placed upon him. This won't be a scientific study on players, but both Beans and I will give our opinions on three players each and why we think these six players need a big season this year.

Same rules apply as always for tonight's 3 Rounds Deep as we can't repeat picks made by the others, so we'll see how this plays out. Phone lines will be open at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), and we'll hit Twitter and Facebook for everyone else to participate. If you want to toss some names in electronically, the Twitter and Facebook links are below where you can go 3 Rounds Deep!

Going 3 ROUNDS DEEP tonight: players who need to step up this season! You know what to do!

We'll also talk about the retro look for the St. Louis Blues and whether or not we like the uniforms, Devin Setoguchi signing with the Calgary Flames, Craig Anderson's extension and what it means for Robin Lehner, Shannon Szabados returning to Columbus to tandem with Friend of the Show Andrew Loewen, our annual NHL '94 tournament, and the idea of a union being formed for CHL players. In other words, we have good topics to discuss tonight, and we'll kick it off with some expansion chatter!

We're on the air at 5:30pm so tune in for some hockey fun! We're on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! We'll be available via phone at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), so give us a call and play 3 Rounds Deep or share your thoughts on any of the topics we cover! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. It's time for Vegas chatter, baby, so join us tonight on UMFM and be a part of the action!

PODCAST: AUGUST 28, 2014: Episode 103

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Vegas, Baby... Maybe?

It's amazing how things can change in a matter of months. The NHL is starting to become a more stable entity in terms of franchise health - the Florida Panthers are still on shaky ground - and league revenues have never been better or higher based on all the NHL's numbers. More fans are pushing through the turnstiles, more people are buying merchandise, and the NHL has a fat contract north of the border that will help every team on its map. Things are great, right?

Tony Gallagher, a highly-respected journalist from the Vancouver Province, published a piece yesterday that stated that expansion is going to happen sooner than later, and that Las Vegas is a "done deal". He also wrote that Gary Bettman has been talking about the interest shown in expansion teams from various sources, and that the rhetoric has gone from something Bettman wouldn't even hear to Bettman bringing up the chatter. This about-face from the Commissioner seems to point to the obvious, especially if Gallagher's sources are saying Las Vegas is all but done in terms of receiving an expansion franchise.

However, I want to put the brakes on for a minute. The excitement over NHL expansion into two western cities - presumably Las Vegas and Seattle - should be stifled a little. Just a wee bit. There are significant risks that the NHL is taking in even bringing this topic up, and I want to toss out a few scenarios that should be discussed before expansion is even brought into question.

First, there is this little matter about the Florida Panthers. The Panthers' owner, Doug Cifu, stated just two weeks ago that staying in south Florida "is not sustainable" as the team records losses up to $30 million per year. If the Panthers were actual panthers in Florida, they would already be labeled as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. Of course, the next step on the Red List is extinction, and the NHL's Panthers are facing that grim reality right now.

"The arena and the team have lost a significant amount of money year over year for the last 10-plus years and the current business model is not sustainable," Cifu told Fox Sports in early August. As per The Hockey News, the club has amassed approximately $250 million in debt and are stuck in their lease in Sunrise, Florida until 2028. Needless to say, the clock is ticking on the Panthers' existence in Florida as you read this.

If the NHL is looking to balance the conferences by adding teams, they could do it easily by relocating the Florida Panthers to a more hockey-inclined market. Say, for example, the Panthers moved to Seattle, the NHL would kill two birds with one stone as move into a state-of-the-art facility where there are already hockey fans and solve their unbalanced conferences problem. I'm not sure why this isn't being considered when you'd want to have all thirty teams financially viable and thriving before deciding to bring on a wave of expansion that guarantees nothing more than a pocket full of greenbacks for the current owners. Sure, there would be some money spent in getting out of their lease with the Broward County, but the county has already "hired a consultant who is looking into the possibility of allowing the Panthers out of their arena lease and the opportunity to relocate" as Dhiran Mahiban wrote on August 17, 2014 on NBC's Pro Hockey Talk.

However, we're faced with the comments from Gary Bettman who, on August 12, 2014, stated,
"There's a lot of interest. We're hearing from multiple groups in Seattle and in Vegas and Kansas City and Quebec City," Bettman said to the Tribune while scoping out Target Field in Minny for yet another trip to the well of outdoor games.

"We have not decided to engage in a formal expansion process but we listen to expressions of interest. It's not something we've seriously considered yet."
So how did we get to this point where Las Vegas is now a "done deal" if no one is seriously considering expansion? Seattle is an obvious choice with the new arena going up, the proximity to Vancouver, and the addition of another western team. Make no mistake that Seattle is on the NHL's radar for the near future. Quebec City, whose arena is currently being built, has the money and media resources to pour into an NHL franchise, and they have a little history with the game. Like Seattle, a state-of-the-art arena goes a long, long way in helping Quebec City's cause, so there are your two most favorable destinations for expansion if this topic is going to be in play. But should it be?

The closest team in terms of proximity to Las Vegas would be the Arizona Coyotes, and the last decade has seen money poured into saving them, cities nearly bankrupted because of them, and owners fleeing from Glendale as a wave of red ink chases them. Hockey in the desert has been nothing short of a soap opera when it comes to all the twists and turns in the Coyotes' story, and the view from Las Vegas probably won't be much better. In fact, you probably won't see much of Sin City at all.

Let's be honest with ourselves: people don't go to Vegas to watch sports unless it's UFC or boxing. They go to Vegas for the entertainment, the shows, the gambling, and the history, but sports ranks low on the reasons to go to Las Vegas. There are dozens of shows that happen on a daily basis that tourists are there to see, and the vast majority of these shows would probably bring better entertainment in the first decade of an expansion franchise's existence. If you weren't a hockey fan during the rapid expansion in the 1990s, the hockey was criminally bad. The neutral zone trap, the left wing lock, and playing for tie were all phrases tossed around as the NHL grew from twenty-one teams to thirty teams. The NHL should consider how scoring fell off the map during those expansion years. The hockey was crap!

The bigger issue is that the arena proposed by Anschutz Entertainment Group and MGM seems to be a beacon for hatred in the Las Vegas area. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in November 2013 that the new arena was going to be built on the Las Vegas strip "without public money on 12 acres between New York-New York and Frank Sinatra Drive". The MGM-AEG Arena, as it's affectionately being called for now, broke ground on May 1, 2014, and should be ready by 2016. Commenters on that story have already said what a nightmare the intersections and roads are in that area on Friday and Saturday nights, so adding another 17,500 people to the area should help, right? Parking is also an issue in the area, so there will have to be major concessions made for hockey nights or fans will have to find other means of getting to the arena. One commenter cites the issues the city had with congestion and traffic when the NBA All-Star Game was played downtown in 2007. Can you imagine forty-one nights of that problem?

Speaking of the NBA All-Star Game, it should be noted that the reason the NBA played in downtown Las Vegas was because the NBA demanded and received a concession in that no sports wagering could be done on the All-Star Game. How does the NHL control gambling within its ranks? We already know the NHL does its best when it comes to controlling vices such as alcohol and drugs, but gambling is a little harder to control. It took a New Jersey State Police investigation, dubbed Operation Slapshot, for the NHL to recognize that gambling could be a problem in their society. And now they want to head into the hornet's nest?

I do want to say, in defence of everyone involved with the NHL, that not all NHL players gamble and that nothing may ever happen when it comes to players, coaches, staff, or any other NHL-employed person engaging in gambling on hockey. I believe that the vast majority of NHL employees are smart, responsible people who wouldn't endanger their employment, the league's reputation, or their own reputation with a "night on the town" where they drop a few bills on an NHL game.

In debating all this pro-Vegas/anti-Vegas chatter, reports broke today that the NHL actually hadn't come to any decision regarding any future expansion. Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email on Wednesday to the National Post,
"We are in no different position today with respect to expansion than we were the last time we answered the same questions. There has been interest expressed, we have and will listen to the interest, but we haven't defined a process and certainly no decisions have been made."
Some may say that the NHL is simply spin-doctoring this story into nothing for a later announcement, but I actually believe Bill Daly on this one. Why? There are better offers on the table than Las Vegas, and the NHL isn't out of the woods when it comes to that other team in the desert. There are places that have interested potential owners with brand-new state-of-the-art arenas awaiting a main tenant, and yet all of the talk is instead about Las Vegas?

"What I can tell you, 100 percent, as of this morning, for sure? This isn't on the agenda right now," MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke told The Fan this morning. Based on his recent track record, I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in his word, but I'm leaning towards truth on this one. The NHL still has some work to do with current franchises becoming stable, money-earning entities in the NHL community, and tossing another desert-based franchise into the mix when there's no guarantee the Arizona Coyotes be in Glendale in five years is simply ludicrous. The NHL is close to having all thirty franchises on stable ground, but there's still work to be done.

The talk of NHL expansion always gets people excited and a little nostalgic, but we need to be a little more realistic when dealing with that excitement. However, the factors that go into an expansion franchise are both large and many, and there should be a massive amount of due diligence done before the word "expansion" is even uttered.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Stuck In The Nineties

Moxy Früvous, a Canadian band that featured Jian Ghomeshi, had a hit with "Stuck in the 90's", their satirical look at life for a number of people in the 1990s. They referenced Pat Buchanan, Abbie Hoffman, and allude to a few others in the song, but they missed out on one group: the St. Louis Blues. The Blues decided to update their look last night at their IceBreaker event, and it appears that the Blues will wear uniforms similar to what they wore when players like Pronger, MacInnis, and others wore from 1998 through to 2007.

We'll start with the home jersey in blue in terms of looking at TJ Oshie in the new uniform on the left and Chris Pronger on the right.
If you're looking closely, these new uniforms are nearly similar to the ones worn by the Blues in 1998. The new uniforms squared off the shoulder yoke and the striping is a little different, but we're looking at a near-perfect throwback right down to the colors used. Granted, the collar is different and the stripes are thicker, but that's due to the template being used by Reebok and the NHL now. However, if one were to glance at this new uniform, it has very few differences from what was worn in the late-1990s and the majority of the 2000s.

The road uniform, worn by Alex Pietrangelo on the left, also resembles what Chris Pronger wore for nearly a decade while he played in St. Louis.
Same as above, the shoulder yoke has been squared off, the striping is a little thicker, and the collar is different, but the Blues went straight back to 1998 in redesigning their look. You can say what you want about the small differences, but the Blues will throwback to an era in which they posted a franchise-best 114 points in 1999-2000 in earning the President's Trophy and a berth in the Western Conference Final.

Call me a fan of this look. I love the hem stripe being brought back, but I commend and celebrate the Blues' decision to bring back a hockey jersey from a team that people loved. The Blues were a force in the late-1990s in the Western Conference alongside names like the Detroit Red Wings, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Dallas Stars. They had the stars in players like Pronger, MacInnis, Pavol Demitra, and Pierre Turgeon and were coached by Joel Quenneville, but just came up short each year before falling off the pace of these teams.

The Blues will look sharp again next season. They haven't altered too much aside from yanking some piping from the design and widening stripes. If you want a team that is moving into being a consistently good-looking team, the St. Louis Blues have delivered in this new look.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 25 August 2014

"Lose Money To Make Money"

Charles Schulz was a pretty big hockey fan. He grew up in Minnesota where he developed his craft in drawing comic strips before striking gold with his most famous work known as Peanuts. Schulz often has Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the gang on the ice in his comic strips and in his cartoons, and he continued to portray them in hockey and other sports after he moved to California in 1958.

His move to California saw him miss hockey in a large way, and the only rink in the county where he lived closed in the early-1960s. He was involved with California Seals as a season ticket holder when the NHL awarded a franchise to Barry Van Gerbig in 1966. The Seals, renamed as the Oakland Seals in December 1967, struggled out of the gate in terms of attendance, and were eventually purchased by Charles Finley, the owner of the Oakland Athletics. The team was renamed as the California Golden Seals on October 15, 1970, and Schulz would remain a season ticket holder until the team moved in 1976.

Schulz lent his talents to Finley as well as he came up with Sparky, the unofficial mascot of the California Golden Seals. Schulz also built an arena in Santa Rosa, California called the Redwood Empire Ice Arena that featured a snack bar called "The Warm Puppy" where he would often have lunch. Schulz and his son, Monte, would play pick-up games on Tuesdays in the arena, and Schulz founded Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament in 1975 that is still going strong today.

I've always wondered why Charles Schulz never got involved in trying to keep the Seals in California or why he never got involved with the North Stars in Minnesota. He was a huge fan of the game, and clearly loved watching the Seals play in California. Nevertheless, Schulz kept his distance. This has always puzzled me when he could have had more of an impact.

Surprisingly, Schulz answered why he never pursued ownership of a hockey or baseball team in 1977! Schulz was interviewed in the Victoria Advocate on September 11, 1977, and he gave a very interesting answer!

He uses the term "insane" twice when it comes to owning a professional sport team which, to me, is quite fascinating. I appreciate that Schulz knew it took "a whole different kind of wealth" to own a team, but he literally calls every owner "insane" in terms of owning a franchise. He also astutely points out the financial risk in owning a team, making it clear that his calling was at the drawing board and not the board room table. So despite his love of the game, he wasn't going to foolishly buy into professional sports franchise ownership for any reason.

Sometimes, I have a greater appreciation for those who refused the bright lights of the game than those who risked it all. Let's not forget that Schulz is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game. In saying this, his contributions have done so much more for so many more people than perhaps what he could have done in owning a team.

"I'd be insane to get involved where you lose money to make money." Statements like that still ring true today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 24 August 2014

Credit To The Aussies

I have to admit that the Australian Ice Hockey League flies under the radar here at HBIC. It's not to say that the ice hockey played in the Land Down Under isn't good, but it's simply not a high-profile league. In fact, Australia hasn't produced many hockey victories on the major international stage, but they are producing highlights. Yesterday's game between the Perth Thunder and the Melbourne Ice produced one such moment!

The Washington Capitals have the distinction of being the only NHL team to have drafted an Australian-born when they selected Nathan Walker in the third round of this year's NHL Entry Draft. While Nathan has yet to build his own highlight reel, the Capitals - already armed with goal celebrator Alex Ovechkin - may want to take a flyer on Ric Del Basso of the Perth Thunder.

With Melbourne and Perth knotted up and in the shootout, Del Basso had his number called by Perth coach Stan Scott. Del Basso isn't known for his scoring ability as he's netted just three goals in 65 AIHL games. However, shootouts produce heroes, and Del Basso will stand as a hero for at least one game. Huge thanks to Reddit's DarylHafsack for posting this!

I can't recommend this celebration be done anywhere else as it's a little dangerous, especially when one considers how much strain would be placed on one's neck, but that was a celebration for the ages. Considering Del Basso's lack of goals to celebrate in his career thus far, I'd say he deserves a little slack when it comes to this celebration.

Until next time, keep your sticks - or helmet? - on the ice!

Saturday 23 August 2014

There's A Marathon Going On

I don't get the channel, but there's a marathon of all The Simpsons episodes happening on FXX this weekend. Every. Single. Episode. All 25 seasons. That's a lot of Homer saying "D'Oh" over the weekend. While hockey hasn't been a major topic in The Simpsons, there is one episode that dealt entirely with the sport we love so much.

Episode eight in Season Six is titled "Lisa on Ice". It debuted 20 years ago on November 13, 1994. The episode sees Principal Skinner handing out academic alerts to the students of Springfield Elementary School, and Lisa - normally a straight-A student - discovers she's not doing so well in physical education! This leads Lisa to taking up a sport, and she eventually chooses ice hockey. And she's good at it!

She joins the Kwik-E-Mart Gougers after Apu spies her stopping pieces of litter fired at her by her brother Bart. With Bart on the Mighty Pigs, coached by Police Chief Clancy Wiggum, a sibling rivalry begins as Lisa's goaltending skills push the Gougers up the standings. Like any good drama, the final game comes down to the Gougers and Mighty Pigs.

I'm not going to spoil the ending here in case you haven't seen it. Thanks to writer Mike Scully's love of the game, The Simpsons dove into hockey for one episode, and it was one of the better episodes in The Simpsons' history based on critics' reviews and the Neilsen rating it received. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm sure you will too if you're able to see it. If anything, it's way better than Milhouse's goaltending.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 22 August 2014

Sports Bag Plus Helps!

If you're a hockey player, you know the fun it is to open your hockey bag the next day after having played a game. If you've been using the same equipment for a while, the stench in that hockey bag is overwhelming. It can even take over a room if you bring your gear home to air and dry out after a game! I know my parents didn't appreciate my equipment's odor, but HBIC is happy to report that there is a product on the market that may help alleviate that problem! The Sports Bag Plus is a new way to air out and store your gear, it works great, and it wont break the bank as a vital part of your hockey bag!

Let's be honest here: hockey gear stinks. It absorbs sweat, it rarely gets washed, and any bacteria growing on it just multiplies exponentially so that the smell becomes almost unbearable. In short, opening the bag after letting it sit for a night may be hazardous to your health! Molson Canadian, a Canadian beer company, hyperbolizes this phenomenon in a commercial.

In joking about this, HBIC had a chance to review the Sports Bag Plus, putting it to the test in terms of its claims that the Sports Bag Plus "will reduce the stress of packing the hockey bag, forgetting equipment, and making drying equipment as easy as hanging up your coat". In knowing how bad hockey equipment can get, I went for a casual skate the other day, and I'm happy to report that the Sports Bag Plus hits the mark in terms of its claims!

It took me a little bit of reading to understand how the Sports Bag Plus worked, but I have all my gear stored away as they recommended. It was pretty awesome to be able to pull the Sports Bag Plus out of my hockey bag and hang it up in my locker. I had two people ask me what I had hanging in my stall, so it certainly caught the attention of the other casual skaters.

You work up a bit of a sweat at these summer sessions, I must admit. I skated hard for a few laps, did some puck-handling, participated in a shootout with one of the goalies who wanted some extra ice-time, and did some passing drills with a couple of kids. I came off the ice, and I knew my gloves, my helmet, and my shin pads definitely needed to dry out.

After getting changed and putting my gear into my hockey bag, I headed home where I proceeded to unpack my hockey bag and hang the Sports Bag Plus up in the basement where things could dry and no one would be affected by the smell that usually emanates from my equipment. After letting it sit in the Sports Bag Plus for the better part of twenty-four hours, it was like I hadn't even played - dry equipment and almost no scent!

I like the Sports Bag Plus because it's easy to use, it's quick to put in and pull out of your hockey bag, and does exactly what it says it does. The price point of $14.99 is easy on the wallet, and it's definitely affordable for both parents and non-professional players. If there is one beef I have with the Sports Bag Plus, it's that the gear occasionally gets snagged on the mesh, but that's a minor quibble when it comes to making sure my equipment doesn't make me gag the next day.

I have to say I was impressed with the Sports Bag Plus. I had my doubts when I first heard about it, but it does the job well. Head on over to the Sports Bag Plus website, and get one for the hockey player in your life. Your nose will thank you for it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 21 August 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 102

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a fairly normal show as it's just Beans and I chatting hockey. However, we have a pile of stuff to go through after having guests on for the last couple of weeks. You'll probably enjoy the segment later in the show as we also have a couple of announcements to make about our show and a friend of the show!

The biggest story to come out of hockey this week is the changes to the NHL Entry Draft. Beans and I will discuss how this affects teams, what it means for the perennially bad, how it benefits the successful, and why the NHL should look at other options. We'll also discuss the comments made by Evander Kane to the Team1040 radio on Wednesday night about his disappointment in not appearing in the playoffs thus far in his career, the Leafs and Oilers hiring bloggers to improve their hockey, how much stock we put into advanced statistics like Corsi and Fenwick, the suspension of the CHL's Denver Cutthroats for the upcoming season, and the sale of the New York Islanders. In other words, it's a busy show!

Tonight on 3 Rounds Deep, we look back at the best players drafted by the New York Islanders since Charles Wang bought into the Islanders in 2000. His fourteen years of owning the Islanders saw some great players drafted by the Isles with the number of times they missed the playoffs, and Beans and I will choose the best players who were picked by his staff during his time as the owner of the Islanders. Honestly, there haven't been a lot of players who have stood out, but we should be able to come up with six.

Same rules apply as always for tonight's 3 Rounds Deep as we can't repeat picks made by the others, so we'll see how this plays out. Call us at (204) 269-8636, and we'll hit Twitter and Facebook for everyone else to participate. If you want to toss some names in electronically, the Twitter and Facebook links are below where you can go 3 Rounds Deep!

Going 3 ROUNDS DEEP tonight: the best draft picks made during the Charles Wang era of the New York Islanders! You know what to do!

We're on the air at 5:30pm so tune in for some hockey fun! Hit us up at 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! We'll be available via phone at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), so give us a call and play 3 Rounds Deep or share your thoughts on any of the topics we cover! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. We have lots to cover, so join us tonight on UMFM and be a part of the action!

PODCAST: AUGUST 21, 2014: Episode 102

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Punishing The Downtrodden

I had every intention on writing about the new draft lottery experiment that the NHL is implementing this season, and it turned out that one of the people who submits columns here had the same need to speak! Neal of the Gentlemen, To Your Corners! feature hammered out an article for HBIC today, and it will be a great start to what I wanted to write. I'll let Neal lead on this one with his piece, and then I'll add my thoughts below. Needless to say, this new draft system is generating discussion across the hockey spectrum.

There are a couple topics that touch people's nerves in the hockey world. For my co-GTYC columnist John, diving has always been an issue that has pushed his button. We already did a segment on that and I still don't see why he considers it as big a deal as it is. The issue that drives me nuts is tanking. That is something that has grinded my gears in every sport that it occurs in. I'm sure there are people that will wonder why I feel that is such a big deal. I just hate the idea of rewarding people for essentially throwing games. That's why I applaud the league's announcement regarding the draft lottery changes, although I will explain later that I don't think they went far enough. I'm so excited about this change I had to rush to write a blog even though I had no intentions of writing another blog possibly before the HBIC season preview.

In case you haven't heard, the new system involves the worst teams getting worse odds in winning the lottery and the teams just missing the playoffs receiving better odds. In addition, the top three picks will be up for grabs by all teams. It's something that will greatly alter hockey's landscape for years to come. Not so coincidentally, it comes right before the season of McDavid - a tanking team's dream.

Of course, the worst example of tanking involved the '83-84 Pittsburgh Penguins tanking to ensure they got the right to choose Mario Lemieux. It was an example so obvious that documentaries have been done on the subject. Some would say the Penguins tried to tank in '03-04 to win the Alex Ovechkin sweepstakes as well, but they lost that lottery and wound up with Malkin instead. This, though, enabled them to have the extra ping pong balls in the lottery to win the Crosby sweepstakes the following year.

In a more humorous example that didn't pan out, multiple people have accused the Ottawa Senators of throwing the '92-93 season in order to draft Alexander Daigle. I have always thought this wasn't the case given that it was the team's inaugural season, but it's a subject that even Sports Illustrated wrote about in 1993. Not sure how an expansion team has to tank to lose games, but that's beside the point. I don't think there is any question that teams would try to position themselves to get McDavid or even Jack Eichel.

One team to protest the league's decision is - you guessed it! - the Buffalo Sabres. GM Tim Murray thinks his team is being unfairly penalized for being bad and it may cost him a top pick when the team needs it most. To that I say simply, "Too freaking bad!"

A team's first objective in sports should be winning. Let me be the first to say that I have no problem with teams deciding they aren't good enough and deciding to trade to rebuild. That's all fine and dandy. What I don't like is what teams like Buffalo have been doing for what seems like forever: trading for draft picks and then turning around a couple years later and trading their semi-developed prospects for more draft picks. It shows that you have no plan and no vision. Losing is the easy way out.

There are already reports out of Buffalo that suggest that they are open to trading Tyler Myers for draft picks. I guess, according to Buffalo, being 24 years-old is considered ancient and the time is now for a "youth movement". Buffalo already boasts the top farm system in the league according to Why wouldn't Buffalo want to parlay that into a competitive team? Are you telling me that you could trade some of those prized prospects for legitimate stars and become instantly competitive in a not-so-elite Eastern Conference? You don't see Steve Yzerman wheeling and dealing prospects in Tampa. Instead, you see an organization that is combining hot prospects with legitimate stars. Real organizations mix a strategy of drafting a good farm system and either signing or acquiring stars, not just hoarding prospects. The Sabres could be in serious trouble if its pick falls to fourth-overall as they desperately need a franchise cornerstone after really having one since the likes of Hasek and Lafontaine played in Buffalo. We'll have to wait to see if Sam Reinhart becomes that piece, but, again, I say if it happens, it is for the best.

If I haven't made it clear, let me be clear: teams should not be rewarded for mediocrity. If somehow the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, or some other team that barely missed the playoffs lands Connor McDavid, I will not be disappointed. Let that team build a potential dynasty because hockey is better when we get a couple dominant teams. That team could be a new challenge to the Kings and the Blackhawks for league supremacy. I won't even begin to imagine the reaction if McDavid winds up on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto hospitals might have a million heart attack patients in one day.

Personally, I don't think these changes go far enough. I want to see at least the top five picks open to all the teams. What would the Sabres do if they tanked and not even get a top-five pick for it? Would they open the prospect vault and try to get legitimate NHL-ready talent? Would they find a way to keep Tyler Myers who is just entering his prime as an NHL defenseman and by all accounts could be a top defenceman for several seasons to come? Would the Edmonton Oilers stop their practice of drafting lottery pick after lottery pick hoping to catch lightning-in-a-bottle for once? OK, that was a low blow as I think Edmonton will be improved this year, but when you draft in the top five spots so many times, you aren't immune to my wrath either.

The other addition I want to see added is Gary Bettman doing the lottery on the stage at the draft. Just as an aside, I've gone to the last two drafts, and John and I are thinking about making the trek to Miami this June to see it again. Could you imagine the excitement right before the pick when Bettman picks a ping pong ball to see who drafts first? Imagine if the host city won. What a story that would become!

After the team with the first pick goes off the stage after the obligatory pictures and stuff, Bettman comes out again and draws the second pick. It would be must-see TV. I don't want to hear the argument about how teams couldn't draft properly because they aren't prepared. They are paid professionals and have already had their top 50-100 players ranked months ago. The draft would instantly be a fan favorite, I'm sure. If anything, it gives hockey a ton of excitement during its off-season.

So in conclusion, I want to thank the NHL Offices for taking the first step to eliminate tanking. Anything that increases competitiveness throughout the season is a thing I am definitely behind. Teams will now have less of an incentive to tank games and it could lead to Cinderella stories where a team who just misses the cut suddenly becomes a juggernaut with the first-overall pick.

I like Neal and he's a great guest contributor, but I'm going to take this one the opposite way.

If I'm an NHL general manager and my team is 15 points out of a playoff spot by the NHL All-Star Break, I'm not tanking. I'll put this bluntly: the season's already over. This is where I start looking to unload wanted assets for draft picks and prospects. While the fans may like the popular players being shipped out of town, the make-up of the team that I hedged my bets on when handing out contracts needs to change. The best place to make changes? The NHL Entry Draft.

If you look at the Sabres, the Panthers, and the Oilers, they are flush with great, young talent thanks to the draft. The problem with young talent is that it takes time to develop. Where the Oilers went wrong is that they almost entirely drafted forwards. Keeping the puck out of their net was the biggest problem over the last few years as their defence and goaltending really let them down. Before Ben Scrivens arrived in Edmonton, the Oilers had used Jason LaBarbera, Ilya Bryzgalov, Devan Dubnyk, a past-his-prime Nikolai Khabibulin, Yann Danis, Martin Gerber, Mathieu Garon, and Jeff Deslauriers. With the exception of Bryzgalov - and that's a major exception - none of those guys would be a starting goaltender in any other NHL city. The worst part? The majority of those players no longer them play in the NHL.

Back to looking at the drafts, there have been teams who greatly benefited from being a cellar dweller. The Colorado Avalanche, who finished 29th overall in 2012-13, moved up one spot to the top spot in the draft and selected Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon only went out and had a great rookie season, winning the Calder Trophy in the process, and playing a major role in helping the Avalanche win the Central Division in 2013-14. Would he have had the same success in Florida or Tampa Bay? No one can answer that definitively, but the proof is that the Avalanche were a better team with MacKinnon in their lineup.

MacKinnon's hype before the draft was that he was the next Sidney Crosby - a can't-miss prospect that will elevate a team to new heights. While MacKinnon's contributions to the Avalanche's season can't be overlooked, I wouldn't say he lit the world on fire with his 24 goals and 63 points. Again, take nothing away from him as that's an excellent point total, but he didn't exactly challenge Sidney Crosby for the Art Ross or Hart Trophies either.

What should be noted, though, is how the Colorado Avalanche didn't tank to get MacKinnon. They legitimately were a terrible team in 2012-13, and they drafted a great kid who certainly helped them get better out of the gate this season. However, when the NHL institutes its new draft rules after the upcoming season, the Avalanche may never get the opportunity to draft a kid like MacKinnon again.

For every Florida, Edmonton, and Buffalo, there are teams like Colorado, Anaheim, and Montreal who draft well enough to be able to insert those young players into their lineups and rise above their standing from the previous year. You might ask how I sneaked Montreal in there? Alex Galchenyuk has been a solid contributor for them since he was drafted by the Canadiens in 2012. None of Colorado, Anaheim, and Montreal tanked to get their hands on a top pick. Instead, they got lucky, drafted well, and made strides the following season.

Buffalo's Tim Murray is exactly right when he says that these changes will hurt the Sabres. The Sabres are trying to draft well and add key pieces to their lineup through free agency, but the NHL will potentially hurt their chances at a key player like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel if the young players they're betting on this season fail to meet expectations.

The NHL instituted the salary cap to provide parity amongst the teams in terms of attracting and landing free agents as well as retaining talent. With their new draft rules, parity flies out the window if teams like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh are able to pick up McDavid and/or Eichel. The teams who are trying to compete with the perennial powerhouses will never be able to make up the ground they need to if they are unable to restock their cupboards with exceptional talent.

Allegations of tanking are a serious matter, and there have been no NHL teams that have been found guilty of tanking. This will remain the case because there is pride on the line for these players and franchises, so talking about the Sabres tanking for a shot at McDavid this season is completely absurd. While they may not have the talent of a Pittsburgh or Chicago, Buffalo will ice a team that they believe is building towards a resurgence, but they may still be a piece or two away.

Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Boston - previous bottom-feeders a decade ago - have built successful runs to Stanley Cups through the draft. Why is the NHL now preventing teams using the same methodology from achieving the same goal? This seems counter-productive if the league wants all thirty teams to be competitive and viable.

If the league wanted parity, it just tore down any chance of recently-unsuccessful teams finding it through the draft. Like all lotteries, getting the first-overall pick if you're a cellar dweller in order to draft a key player just became entirely about luck.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 19 August 2014

The Countdown Is On

The man to the immediate left? New York Islanders owner Charles Wang. Take a good look at him here because he won't be as visible any longer. It was announced today that Wang has decided to sell the franchise to Jonathan Ledecky and investor Scott Malkin with their ownership starting in 2016. They will be minority owners this season as they get their feet into the Islanders' water, and fully assume control in 2016 once they get a good look at this franchise. You can bet there will be a lot of personnel assessments made over the next two seasons, so some people - Garth Snow? - had better start knocking their performance reviews out of the park.

It's been far too long for the Islanders to be as bad as they have been considering their legacy in the early-1980s. Historians look back on the days of Bossy, Trottier, Gillies, Potvin, and Smith and see a dynasty built upon hungry, young players who wanted to win. Lately, the Islanders have begun building with younger players once more, but their fortunes in climbing out of the Metropolitan Division cellar have yet to change.

The Islanders do have a bright future, though, as players like John Tavares, Travis Hamonic, Casey Cizikas, and Kyle Okposo gain experience. The team will move to the state-of-the-art Barclay's Center for the 2015-16 season, and there's hope that the new venue will attract more people to see the Islanders play. Getting new ownership who have experience in the hockey business is also key.

Jonathan Ledecky is the former co-owner of the Washington Capitals as he was the chairman from 1999 to 2001 of Lincoln Holdings with Ted Leonsis. In addition to having a hockey background, both Ledecky and partner Scott Malkin are astute businessmen as well. Ledecky has served as a member of the Board of Directors for Forbes since January 2011 and as our Non-Executive Chairman of the Board since February 2012. Previously, Mr. Ledecky served as the Interim Chief Financial Officer (from February 2012 until July 2013) and as the Chief Executive Officer (from January 2011 to February 2012) of Forbes as well. Scott Malkin founded the Value Retail brand, serving as its chairman as the company grew in leaps and bounds. He manages Malkin Holdings, a real estate company that holds and manages over eleven million square-feet of retail and office space in New York City, and he is the Vice-Chairman of the Urban Land Institute Empire and Chairman of the Urban Land Institute Europe. In other words, these two men know business, and they are flush with money after being roommates in college at Harvard. Did I mention they were smart?

"We are pleased to have the opportunity to become partners in the New York Islanders with Charles, and to pursue our shared dream of winning a fifth Stanley Cup for the greatest fans in the NHL," Ledecky said in a statement released through the team. If the NHL was looking for "good" ownership for one of the league's more storied franchises, they may have found it Ledecky and Malkin. They're saying all the right things, and that's a better outlook than what Wang had been painting for the last few years.

Newsday reported in 2009 that Wang was losing $20 million a year on the Islanders. He tried to spearhead a shopping-entertainment district around the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, named as the Lighthouse Project, that was defeated in a referendum vote by Nassau County voters. The fact that the Lighthouse Project was drawn out for nearly a decade and was defeated by those it was supposed to help appeared to be the straw that broke the camel's back for Wang.

"I'd have to say it's good news," said Islanders Hall of Famer Bob Nystrom told Newsday's Arthur Staple. "I know Charles has been looking to sell for a while. I definitely think you've got to look on the positive side of it. We've been hearing rumors for so long, years actually. I know Charles really did want to get out after the Lighthouse debacle. I think that kind of iced it for him. So it's positive, for his side and for Islanders fans."

While the sale of the team still has to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, there's no reason to think this sale won't go through. Two smart, well-financed men want to own the team moving into New York City from Long Island, and this should bring some excitement back to Islanders hockey. Of course, the NHL will want to do its due diligence on both Ledecky and Malkin, but this new ownership really could be the team that pulls the Islanders out of the stormy waters they've been swirling in for so long now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 18 August 2014

TBC: Forgotten Heroes

If you've been visiting this blog from time to time, you're probably aware that I get giddy when it comes to great hockey history. I'm a huge fan of taking glimpses into the game's past, and I normally find something awesome buried in the black-and-white remnants of the game. Today, though, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage, written by Richard Brignall and published by JG Shillingford Publishing Incorporated. Mr. Brignall has done an exceptional job with this book as the amount of amazing and fascinating history he's put inside the covers is second-to-none.

From the Thin Air Writer's Festival webpage, "Richard Brignall is a freelance writer and journalist with a particular interest in sports. He helped originate the Recordbooks series at James Lorimer, and has published several titles, including Small Town Glory (about the Kenora Thistles' Stanley Cup win), Big League Dreams (about black baseball player Fergie Jenkins), and China Clipper (about Chinese-Canadian football player Norm Kwong). His new book, Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage (JG Shillingford) is a trove of stories, data and photos tracing the history of hockey, from it's early days - it began here, in Manitoba - to its wild popularity across the continent. Brignall lives in Kenora."

Mr. Brignall has done an outstanding job in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage in finding some amazing photos to go along with the stories of Winnipeg's earliest hockey heroes. He outlines the success the Winnipeg Victorias had in winning the Stanley Cup over the Montreal Victorias twice at the turn of the twentieth century. His vivid descriptions of the matches played between the two Vitoria teams, the Montreal Shamrocks, the Ottawa clubs, and the Winnipeg Winnipegs - the other Winnipeg-based senior hockey team - are phenomenal, and he spares no detail in bringing together the accuracy of reports.

Amongst the many stories are highlights of specific key players to the Winnipeg Victorias. Dan Bain, Jack Armytage, Whitey Merritt, Joe Hall, and Tony Gingras are key names that should be mentioned in any hockey history about Winnipeg, and Mr. Brignall doesn't gloss over these names. He highlights their contributions to the Stanley Cup victories celebrated by the Victorias very well, and it is apparent they started the legacy of great hockey players in Winnipeg.

Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage also features historical stories about some of the key people in hockey history who made their impacts off the ice. Goaltender Whitey Merritt first thought of wearing cricket pads to protect his shins. Former hockey player and speed skating legend Jack McCulloch developed the tube skate for hockey players that allowed players to maneuver better on a short, thin blade. George Tackaberry, living beside hockey player Joe Hall, came up with a boot for Hall made from kangaroo leather with a reinforced toe that would stand up to the rigors of a full hockey season. This style of boot would be known as the Tackaberry, and his wife would sell the patent to CCM in 1937 to Canadian Cycle and Motor Company, better known as CCM. Today, the Tackaberry boot is better known as CCM "Tacks"!

Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage doesn't just look at that small window of time surrounding the Victorias, though. There's a section on the Allan Cup that ranged from 1908-1935 that features the exceptional talent shown on the ice by the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Falcons, and the Winnipeg Monarchs. While professional hockey was still raging in the NHA in the east, amateur hockey had gripped the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. Stories of Dick Irvin and George Hay leading the Monarchs to an Allan Cup chaampionship in 1915, the 61st Battalion dominating amateur hockey in 1917 and 1918, and the Winnipeg Falcons winning the 1920 Antwerp Olympic men's ice hockey gold medals are all documented!

Simply put, there is way too much information to give Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage its true credit. Mr. Brignall has done incredible work in bringing to light the teams from the turn of the twentieth century through to the years of World War II that helped put Winnipeg on the hockey map. Literally, there are hundreds of players mentioned in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage that should be credited for Winnipeg's rich history of hockey, and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of communities like Brandon, Portage la Prairie, The Pas, Flin Flon, Selkirk, or anywhere else in Manitoba. I am completely blown away at the depth that Mr. Brignall went to in digging up some of the histories of teams in Winnipeg, and his exhaustive work makes Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage so good.

I usually have something I've found with the current review that is a bit of a negative. I am happy to say that while some of Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage's stories are long, the pictures and information are unparalleled. Mr. Brignall is exhaustive in bringing every detail to light about the teams and eras featured in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage, and he deserves major credit for writing an incredible book on Winnipeg's hockey history.
"Harnessing a powerhouse attack, which could not be stopped, the St. Boniface Seals proved to be unstoppable in that final game. A record paid attendance of 15,617 watched the Seals defeat the Generals 7-1. The St. Boniface Seals were the Memorial Cup champions of 1938.
Mr. Brignall should be proud of his efforts in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage. I haven't seen any book containing the same depth of information about Winnipeg's early hockey history, and Mr. Brignall should be commended for the effort put forth in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage. Because of that fact, Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Look for Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage at your local bookstore! It comes highly recommended!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 17 August 2014

Musketeers Invade Russia

The USHL is generally regarded as the best junior level of hockey below the professional leagues in the United States. It's a great developmental league, and is second only to the NCAA in sending players to the NHL from an American-based league. They have former US National Team players in the league, and they're starting to pick up steam as a viable option for players who want to play high-level hockey before they become eligible for entry into college. In saying that, the USHL has a great thing going with the IIHF in sending teams to participate in the Junior Club World Cup, a tournament that features junior clubs from eight different countries.

This year, the USHL pegged the Sioux City Musketeers to represent the league at the JCWC in Ufa, Russia, following in the footsteps of the Waterloo Blackhawks in 2012 and the Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2013. Waterloo brought home a silver medal after losing to the CHL's Sudbury Wolves, and Dubuque captured the bronze medal with a win over Dinamo-Shinnik in their final game. Clearly, Sioux City is being counted on to continue the medal haul for the USHL.

This year sees the ten participating teams organized as follows:

  • Tolpar Ufa of Ufa, Russia
  • Chomutov Pirates of Chomutov, Czech Republic
  • Dinamo-Shinnik of Bobruisk, Belarus
  • Espoo Blues of Espoo, Finland
  • Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of Sydney, Nova Scotia in the QMJHL
  • Spartak Moscow of Moscow, Russia
  • Red Bull Salzburg of Salzburg, Austria
  • HC Riga of Riga, Latvia
  • Sioux City Musketeers of Sioux City, Iowa in the USHL
  • Malmo Red Hawks of Malmo, Sweden
Now you may be asking why I'm following the Musketeers for this article and not the Screaming Eagles. Well, it's two-fold. First, the Musketeers decided to design special uniforms for the trip to Russia. Personally, these uniforms are probably going to be a hot commodity in the USHL community, so if you like them and get an opportunity to get one, my advice is don't pass it up! The only thing missing? The dark uniform!

Secondly, the Musketeers are documenting a pile of stuff through pictures and video. In the following videos, you can see that the team's practice uniforms have been branded in Russian as well! The team arrived on Saturday and began documenting their progress. The first video features Max Zimmer and the second features Jerad Rosburg!

Not to be a downer for the people of Ufa, but I am really hoping for an all-North American final as we saw in 2012 when the Sudbury Wolves and Waterloo Blackhawks met. Of all the teams at the tournament, Malmo and Espoo should be considered tough draws, and the Chomutov Pirates have a couple of solid players if they are on the roster for the tournament. Being that this tournament is in Russia, one should never count out the Russian squads either.

However, in saying that, I expect the North American squads to capture two of the three medals. Unless one of the European teams has a massive tournament, it should be largely North American on the medal podium. Cape Breton was a middle-of-the-pack team last season at 37-27-1-3, finishing ninth, but has already beaten the Halifax Mooseheads in an early exhibition matchup to prepare for this tournament. The Sioux City Musketeers went 38-19-3 to finish third in the USHL's Western Conference last season, so they have a good chance at doing well in Ufa too.

Of course, they play the games on ice and not on paper, so we'll see who comes out and wins this whole thing on August 30. Sioux City plays Red Bull Salzberg on the 22nd, HC Riga on the 24th, the Malmo Red Hawks on the 25th, and Spartak Moscow on the 27th. The Screaming Eagles, if you're interested, play the Chomutov Pirates on the 23rd, Dinamo-Shinnik on the 24th, the Espoo Blues on the 26th, and Toplar Ufa on the 27th. We'll see where all the teams stand when the dust settles!

Unfortunately, I know of no video feeds for these games, so you'll have to scour the interwebs for highlights and/or recaps. Both teams look solid as they prepare for their games, though, so here's hoping that the North American teams can bring home some medals!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 16 August 2014

TBC: The Hockey Saint

Teebz's Book Club had taken a long break from the site, but I remain dedicated to reading. It's a skill that is fading away with the vast amount of technology in our lives, and I want to bring back the freedom that reading provides. When one gets lost in a book, time seems to fly by as the pages are turned. I have read a lot of books, but today's entry is a unique one in that it is the first graphic novel about hockey that I've read! Teebz's Book Club is proud to review The Hockey Saint, written by Howard Shapiro, illustrated by Maricia Inoue and Andres Mossa, and published by Animal Media Group. The Hockey Saint is a great read with some excellent messages written into the story, and I read Mr. Shapiro's story cover-to-cover in one sitting!

From Mr. Shapiro's website, "Since I decided to start writing children’s stories my goal has been to create characters that adults and kids would care about and be interested in following their journey. And also to create stories that SAY SOMETHING. There are thousands of kids books out there and in my little corner of the book store, I want and wanted to do something that can stand the test of time, be relevant and vital. Plus, make it entertaining and enjoyable to read each and every time. I hope I am succeeding in that goal." Mr. Shapiro is an accomplished author with a number of titles for younger readers to his name!

As far as I can find, Andres Mossa is a colorist and artist that has worked for a number of major outlets including Marvel Comics. Miss Maricia Inoue appears to be a newcomer to the world of book publishing as I couldn't find any information on her or any previous works she has produced. Both of them should be extremely proud of their work on The Hockey Saint!

Mr. Shapiro continues his storyline in The Hockey Saint that follows protagonist Tom Leonard from previous books. Tom's now a sophomore in college where he's a walk-on for the hockey team. Through an exchange and a friendly bet with his best friend, Cam, Tom is given the address for the CAHL's star player in Jeremiah Jacobson. Jacobson is Tom's favorite player, so this piece of news is welcomed by Tom!

Tom decides to take a drive out to the address he was given, and he meets Jeremiah Jacobson in a chance encounter. Jeremiah is taken aback at a person stopping by his address to think, and Tom informs Jeremiah that he's struggling with the loss of his parents to a car accident. Jeremiah takes Tom under his wing, but he has one condition: no one can know about their friendship. Tom learns that Jeremiah has stopped talking to the media, and he doesn't want anyone pestering Tom about Jacobson's life.

As Tom and Jeremiah hang out more often, Tom begins to fall under the magic that the CAHL's biggest star has. Jeremiah smokes and drinks, but also volunteers his time at a local food bank and visiting people at the hospital. There's a good and bad side to Jeremiah's secrecy, and Tom begins to let his grades slip and his friendships suffer in order to spend time with Jeremiah.

The bond between them begins to show cracks when Tom is stripped of his captaincy with the school hockey team and his grades don't meet the approval of his grandmother. On top of that, Jeremiah's drinking and partying begin to wear on Tom, and league security begins to ask questions to Tom about Jeremiah! Tom has a lot on his plate as the story progresses, and the strain on his and Jeremiah's relationship begins to show! Will he confront Jeremiah about his drinking, smoking, and partying? Will he tell the security representative anything? Will these two remain friends?

I have to hand it to Mr. Shapiro in that The Hockey Saint is a well-written story about a kid who gets caught up in being friends with his idol. I really enjoyed the illustrated story through the graphic novel as it gave a good sense in what Tom was feeling through his facial expressions. The work done by Andres Mossa and Maricia Inoue really bring Mr. Shapiro's story to life, and they should be commended for their work in this graphic novel.

Mr. Shapiro does an excellent job in The Hockey Saint in illustrating the challenges that Tom faces after he begins to lose track of his responsibilities in the face of hanging out with Jeremiah Jacobson. However, when faced with tough decisions, Tom has to make them. Does he make the right ones? Mr. Shapiro shows how Tom's friendship with Mr. Jacobson comes to a fork in the road between making the easy decision and making the right decision. The Hockey Saint teaches some good lessons, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Because of this, The Hockey Saint deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Pick up your copy of The Hockey Saint at your local bookstore!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 15 August 2014

Gentlemen, To Your Corners! - Round 3

If you're new to HBIC, you know that I enjoy a good debate. Normally, I talk hockey, but it can be on any topic when it comes to the discussion. I welcome all to bring their hockey discussion points here, and we're lucky to have the third round of the head-to-head battle between John and Neal today! If you missed Round One and Round Two, worry not! This battle for the ages rages on again today as the two men go mano-a-mano once more as they tackle a hockey topic with passion and fervor as each takes a side! Let the battle begin once more!

We all know that goalies are some of the best-protected athletes in the game. In the NHL, they wear more padding than football players in order to stop pucks fired faster than missiles, and they have rules written so that they are off-limits from any body contact. But being as protected as they are, should they be protected from that body contact if they wander from their crease? John and Neal will take a swing at this topic today on Gentlemen, To Your Corners!

Protecting the Overprotected?

Neal's Stance

My side is that goalies should not, in fact, be open game. I can think of multiple reasons why they shouldn't be. I'm going to break these down into two main reasons - one that directly affects the game play and one the effects the league in a broader sense. While hockey purists may side with the other side, I’m hoping that, given my arguments, I can begin to sway individuals on this topic.

My first argument is that, given the current goalie rules, contact shouldn't be allowed. Let's face it: the trapezoid may be one of the most nonsensical rules in the game today. It was ridiculous enough that fifteen years ago if you had a skate in a then-gigantic crease that it would disallow a goal, but this may be worse. I feel like it is terrible because in an effort to generate offense, it actually had the reverse effect. My reasoning behind this is that goalies usually aren't the best puck handlers in the world. You want the goalies to come out of the crease because you want them to mess up handling the puck. In addition, their large frames wouldn't be blocking the net as much increasing chances for shooters to snipe some goals over the goalies' shoulders. Generally, you want less of a controlled environment so the better players can take advantage of bad plays by the goalie to capitalize on mistakes.

So what does this have to do with this argument? My feeling is that if the goalie can only play the puck from the trapezoid behind the net, in a sense, it becomes part of the goalie's area. I think the part where goalies come far out of the crease to challenge shooters could be a bit more questionable, but, when in doubt, side with the goalies. Besides, the better puck-handlers and forecheckers should be easily able to strip the goalie of the puck and take advantage of them out of the crease. Of course, that leads up to the second part of my argument that I'm sure at first will have hockey purist fuming.

My other side of the argument is that the league should protect goalies because it simply is in their best interests to do so. Not only are goalies a key component of a team, but they are quickly becoming stars of the league. Sure, back in the day guys like Patrick Roy and Jacques Plante were legitimate stars of their own, but it has only grown this century. Fans identify goalies as stars of the team as men like Quick, Miller, Lundqvist, and others are almost given "rock star status" now. I'm sure Montreal fans would admit they pay money to see Carey Price play and not Dustin Tokarski, even though Tokarski played excellent in relief in the playoffs.

So how does this relate to the issue? The NHL needs to protect these guys so that its teams can remain draws both at home and on the road. It is something that may seem a little bizarre at first, but there is precedent behind the fact. Years ago, the most successful sporting league in North America, the NFL, started implementing rules that greatly protected the quarterback position. Fans (and even myself sometimes) still yell at the TV when a seemingly hard-but-clean-looking hit gets flagged. Of course, the NFL knows that an injury to a team's starting QB can alter its season and cause fan interest, TV ratings, and ticket sales to plummet. In other words the necessity to protects the stars caused the rule changes.

In the NHL, the goalie is almost like the team's QB in terms of his importance. If Cory Schneider gets hurt and the Devils begin dropping games, it could be the difference between them staying in NJ or going to Seattle. Several teams in the NHL are already on thin ice financially, so there is great incentive to make sure that the team's stars are given protection. Just for the record, I'm for making sure the stars get plenty of protection regardless of position, not just goalies. I know this argument may not go over well with the fans, but the NHL needs to do to make sure its business model is secure. Teams should also be on board because if one team's profits dwindle, it reduces HRR and, subsequently, the cap for the top spenders.

In conclusion, I feel like goalies should not be open game. It doesn't make sense in terms of the way the game is played currently and could have serious financial implications if goalies started to get hammered, resulting in injures. If it doesn’t make sense in either one of those aspects, then in what world would it make sense?

John's Reply

Who is the most protected player on the ice in terms of padding? The goalie. So why is it that whenever they get hit, it's like a Mac Truck hit them? The answer is simple: the league has been protecting them for so long that they don't prepare for impact.

Before I go much further let me state that I do not believe that goalies should be run at like any player. It is my belief that goalies should be protected inside their zone. In my NHL, I would get rid of that stupid trapezoid. Keep the crease the size that it is, and create another half circle from the red line with a ten-foot radius so the goalie can safely cut down angles and play the puck in "his zone" without having to worry about contact. Like I said above, the only reason goalies become injured from contact is because they aren't expecting it. While in this zone, they will continue to be protected.

So when isn't he protected? Anytime he leaves his zone and PLAYS the puck. I think this the phrase "plays the puck" is vitally important. People think that if you give free shots at the goalie, then anytime he is outside his zone will see players will be throwing themselves at him. However, just like any other player, if he is contacted away from the puck, it is interference. Plain and simple.

With that in mind, we can now do some speculating. First, goalies will know if they play the puck with an opposing player around, they may be checked. They will be able to prepare themselves for the hits to make it less devastating. However, the decision to pursue the puck is completely the goalie's choice. A good example would be when an opposing player is chasing the puck gets behind the defense. If the goalie doesn’t come out, it's going to be a breakaway. If he does come out, he knows he is likely to get checked, but may prevent a breakaway. The goalie has the choice in this case, and will have to decide which choice works for him.

Second, this will actually increase offense unlike the trapezoid. As Neal stated above, when the goalie plays the puck there is a chance of a mistake. This idea opens the entire ice for any goalie that is confident enough to handle the puck again, and possibly putting those turnovers back into the game. But it also will add offense another way: by having fewer goalies take control of the puck away from opposing players because they know they are protected. Let's go back to the example above of the goalie rushing out to prevent a breakaway. In today's NHL, the goalie only has to worry about if he doesn't get there first. If he's second to the puck, he leaves an open net behind him. In my NHL, the goalie will know he will likely get checked, so there is a 50/50 chance he decides to stay in the goal and attempt to stop the breakaway. Depending on your goalies, there could be more breakaways in the game. Moreover, think about all the times a goalie is behind the net and uses his body to shield an oncoming player to have time to make a play. Not anymore in this new NHL. Now he can be checked and may not go back there at all. This will result in more chances to gain control of the puck for the forechecking team.

Now that we know the goalie has the choice to get hit and the rule changes will likely create more offense, let's go back to Neal's example of the NFL and quarterbacks. First off, in the NFL the quarterback is LESS protected than the other players on the field in terms of padding - completely the opposite of the goalies in the NHL. Secondly, can anyone tell me what happens to a quarterback that "chooses" to run with the ball? He gets hit like any other player outside his protected zone.

The question now becomes one of will we see more injuries? Possibly a few more, but nothing so drastic that would affect the league. Goalies will still be run in their zone and will be unprepared and be injured. When they are hit outside the zone, they will already be preparing for a check and should lessen the chance of injury. Let's be honest, though: injuries do happen. What we all have to remember though is an injury creates opportunity. Let's jump back to 2010. The Flyers have just lost the Stanley Cup to Chicago. They were led there by the play of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. Shortly before camp, Leighton suffers an injury that will keep him out most of the season. The Flyers, needing another goalie, brought in a twenty year-old undrafted goalie from Russia that had never played in a North American arena. That player was Sergei Bobrovsky. Due to Leighton's injury, Bobrovksy got a long look in camp and performed well enough to split time with Boucher before becoming the starter and forcing Leighton to play in the AHL even after recovering from injury. If Leighton isn't injured, would Bobovksy have performed well on a very bad AHL team? Would he ever have been given a chance in the NHL? No one knows, bnd the list of players that have become stars out of obscurity due to filling in for an injured player is a lot longer.

I’m going to conclude with this: I'm not trying to make the goalies into crash-test dummies. All I want is for them to be subject to the same rules on the ice when outside of their zone.

Again, both men make excellent arguments in Round Three. As a hockey traditionalist, there is one fact that stands out in my mind here that will sway the argument. I'll bring this fact to light as we work through the evidence presented by Neal and John.

First off, I don't buy the NFL analogy made by Neal. While quarterbacks are protected in the NFL in terms of how they can be hit, there are still dangerous blindside hits thrown, there is still helmet-to-helmet contact, and there are still 300-pound linemen looking to throw their bodies into the 200-pound quarterback. As John pointed out, the quarterbacks wear less padding than NHL goalies do, and they still absorb a heckuva lot of punishment in their "protected" state.

I do, however, completely buy into Neal's idea that goaltenders are stars in the league. There's a reason why goaltenders have won the Conn Smythe Trophy sixteen times in its 48-year history. Players like Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Grant Fuhr, Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, and Terry Sawchuk aren't just remembered because they were goaltenders. No, they are remembered for how valuable they were to their teams and for their accomplishments in the nets. Patrick Roy is the only player who has won the Conn Smythe Trophy three times, the only player to win the trophy for more than one team, and the only player to win it in three different decades. He literally was a rock star in both Montreal and Colorado, and the star power he still holds today is a result of his legacy on the ice. There's a saying that a team will only go as far as its goaltending will take them, and these men proved that axiom correct.

I am with both men in the thought of removing the trapezoid altogether. While the idea seemed good in theory, the real-life benefits have yet to be realized. Teams used to have to prepare a game plan to play against the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur because of his stick-handling skills. With the introduction of the trapezoid, the NHL actually took one of the things that caused goals away from teams. With goalies not wandering any longer because stick-handling isn't as prevalent, there are less mistakes being made. Let's get rid of the trapezoid and let the goalies wander if they like.

And that bring me to the fact I've been holding on to: there are only two goaltenders on a bench. While Cam Talbot has shown his ability in playing behind Henrik Lundqvist, do the Pittsburgh Penguins have the same faith in Thomas Greiss if Marc-Andre Fleury gets hurt off a check? Anders Lindback failed horribly for the Lightning last year in the playoffs after Ben Bishop was injured, and I'm pretty sure that's why Tampa Bay went out and signed veteran Evgeni Nabokov this off-season to ensure they have a capable backup.

Therein lies the rub. Opening up goaltenders to checks actually creates a slippery slope when the playoffs roll around. If you're the Minnesota Wild, would you have asked, say, Matt Cooke to take a run at Corey Crawford last year knowing how Crawford was playing? We saw how Montreal's playoff fortunes changed when Chris Kreider piled into Carey Price, so do we really want to open the field up by having players take runs at goaltenders? As we've seen in the NHL, if you give the players an inch of wiggle room, someone will certainly try to stretch it into a mile.

With most NHL teams having a legitimate starting goaltender that gives them a shot to win night-in and night-out plus a capable backup who can provide occasional relief, there just isn't the depth at the goaltending position to absorb injuries at that position. If, say, Henrik Lundqvist was injured in the first period off a hit and Cam Talbot was injured in the second period, how do the Rangers play the game without there being an unfair advantage? If a goalie is run and is injured, when do teams stop trying to one-up the other in terms of injuring goalies with hits? As you can see, the slope becomes quite messy once teams start using this rule as a strategy to win games.

As much as I'd like to see goalies become fair game in the NHL due to the amount of armor they wear, implementing a rule that allows this opens up Pandora's Box in a number of ways. A suspension to a fourth-line player for injuring a star goalie in the playoffs is a trade-off most coaches would make in their quests for a Stanley Cup, so we're better off keeping the status quo. In saying that, Round Three's winner is...

Maybe just get rid of that damned trapezoid?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!