Monday, 31 August 2015

Having A Little Fun

The image above, tweeted out by the Winnipeg Goldeyes, features the Goldeyes players in a promotional uniform as the American Association team winds down the season. The Goldeyes find themselves 8.5 games back of the wild card spot with eight games to play thanks to the Laredo Lemurs winning on Sunday night, so tonight's game against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks carried no pressure for the Goldeyes as their playoff dreams are over. Instead, it allows the Goldeyes to have a little fun, enjoy these promotions, and try to feed off the hockey-hungry city of Winnipeg for a few more weeks.

I'm generally against cross-sport promotions when it comes to a team celebrating another team, but the Goldeyes aren't celebrating the Jets. They legitimately hockey-fied themselves for the game with these uniforms. TV numbers on the sleeves, hockey stripes at the bottom of the jersey, and a fun logo that is a little different than the same Goldeyes logo used every day make these uniforms unique to the Goldeyes for their promotion. There are, however, some issues.

First, don't tuck. Ever. Hockey jerseys aren't meant to be tucked at all unless you're Gretzky or Ovechkin, and the look created by the players above eliminates those glorious hem stripes. If there are hem stripes, the hockey jersey stays untucked to display said stripes. However, being baseball there are dress code rules that the teams have to follow, and tucking in is one of those rules. This might be why a "hockey night" on the ball diamond isn't the best of ideas.

Otherwise, the uniforms look pretty good. The white really pops against the green field - yet another reason more hockey teams should wear green - and the Goldeyes wore the uniforms well on Hockey Night at Shaw Park. The baseball, however, was a different story as the RedHawks pummeled the Goldeyes into submission with 17 hits leading to a 9-2 victory. In other words, not a hockey score unless the word "blowout" was written on the whiteboard in the Goldeyes' dressing room. At 43-50, the Goldeyes have to win out in their remaining seven games to finish .500. Not good.

If there's one thing the Goldeyes do well, though, it's their promotional uniforms. Their recent Bacon Night was a hit, and tonight's Hockey Night looked pretty solid as well. While the 5810 people in attendance didn't go home with a smile, they did get to see two of their hockey heroes toss the first pitch as Winnipeg Jets Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart were on-hand for the ceremonial tosses! Apparently both found the plate with their throws as well!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Where I Am Today

Pictured to the left is what I was involved with today. Actually, it was all weekend. I had a blast this weekend coaching a women's team in the Provincial Championships. While the picture to the left isn't the team I was coaching, the ladies showed the same heart and teamwork to carry them to a 3-0 round-robin record on Saturday to set up the semi-final with a shot at the return encounter with the odds-on favorite in the final today. This team is a lot like the current Blue Jays - incredible offence and solid defence, but they are prone to a bad inning here and there.

Because I'm out in the baking sun today for hopefully two games, HBIC is take a breather for this Sunday. I can't necessarily say we'll win it all, but we've got a solid team who has been pounding the ball and scoring runs in bunches. We'll need to tighten the defence up a little if we're going to beat the odds, but the offence certainly made up for the few defensive miscues we had in the field. That needs to continue today, and I'll certainly be forcing players to be aggressive on the base paths.

It's championship Sunday on the ball diamonds! I'll get back into hockey tomorrow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Not The Best Start

The KHL season is six days old as of today, and there's definitely one player who wishes that things may have gone a little different in the early part of this season. Ilya Kovalchuk, SKA St. Petersburg's primary sniper, has been firing the puck as he always had done in the NHL, but things haven't been as smooth as we're used to seeing on this side of the pond. Arguably the biggest star in the KHL, Kovalchuk's early season woes only got worse on Saturday night.

In the opening game of the season, Kovalchuk had a quality chance while on the power-play only to be robbed by CSKA's Stanislav Galimov when it appeared a goal was certain. Kudos for Galimov for the stretch on this save, but you know that Kovalchuk wanted that one back. And in the back of the net.

Kovalchuk has a goal and an assist thus far on the season, but we may not see the sniper for some time after an early first-period collision in SKA's game against Torpedo today. It looked harmless, but reports after the game have Kovalchuk injured. How bad? No further reports have been made, but you be the judge based on the following video.
If you ask me, it appears that Kovalchuk was aiming for a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that Torpedo's Vladimir Galuzin stood up on upon release of his shot, and the two went knee-on-knee as Galuzin avoided most of Kovalchuk's impact. The key here is that Galuzin's knee was in a far more vulnerable spot by taking the impact on the side of the knee while Kovalchuk sent the front of his knee, protected by the knee pad, through the check. In what has to be a weird turn of events, Galuzin was fine after the hit while Kovalchuk struggled on his skates.

Kovalchuk lasted just two shifts into today's game before leaving with that apparent knee injury. SKA dropped the match to Torpedo by a 3-1 score to fall to 1-0-1-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) on the season with four points. Granted, it's still very early, but losing Kovalchuk for a long period may put SKA in a little trouble as they have their best player on the sidelines recovering from this knee injury. Jokerit is the only undefeated team in the KHL, and they play in SKA's Western Conference.

If St. Petersburg hopes to be back in the Gagarin Cup Championship, they'll need Kovalchuk in the lineup.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 28 August 2015


With each passing day, the men who helped to build and manage this great game get slightly older. Not to be entirely morbid, but these are the men who set the bar for the Gretzkys, Lemieuxs, Crosbys, and Brodeurs to ascend to in their own times and who provided us with memories of greatness. In doing so, the men who constructed these teams were also setting records and redefining the game year after year as the Bowmans, Burnses, and Arbours began knocking down the past records of the Blakes, Adamses, and Imlachs. It's with sadness today that I write that the great Al Arbour, architect of the Islanders' dynasty in the late-'70s and early-'80s, has passed on at the age of 82.

I could go on and on about Al's achievements and records in the NHL, but I never had any interaction with him. Everything I've heard about him, though, makes it seem like this is a man who could motivate the most lazy of people into greatness! There are some unique things about Al Arbour you may not know so let's go to the man himself who will explain a number of things about Al Arbour including how he got the nickname "Radar". This piece from CBC features Elliotte Friedman interviewing Mr. Arbour, and it shows a lot about the man who led the Islanders to great heights on a number of occasions.

There was an excellent video on Newsday's site as well. Mark Herrman wrote a great piece on Arbour, and the video is from there. There are a lot of great stories from players who played under Arbour within this piece, so enjoy this one as well.
The man was a legend in life as much as he was in hockey. Seeing him break down into tears upon hearing Kelly Hrudey's words shows how much he dedicated to his players. If there was one thing I could wish for, it would be to be remembered as Al Arbour is being remembered. The man truly was a legend in all facets of his life. Rest in peace, Mr. Arbour. Many players are better people because of your influence.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Mr. Al Arbour!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 154

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a somewhat-busy show. There are a ton of hockey stories out there right now, but we're going to focus on the good ones tonight. By good, I mean happy. Pleasant. Uplifting. The kinds of stories where you'll be inclined to ask your friends if they've heard this one. Yes, there are a pile of stories in and around hockey right now that have all sorts of negativity in them, and we've talked about those on previous shows. Hit the Podcast page under the Radio drop-down menu above to find those shows. Tonight, we go in a different direction as we look at some fun stuff!

Because we're a campus radio station, we take pride in our student-athletes being students first. When the CIS begins handing out awards for academic achievement, the Manitoba Bisons usually have a few names on there. When I say a few, I mean 102. WOW! We'll go over the criteria to obtain the CIS Academic All-Canadian status for 2014-15 and look at which Bisons, specifically the hockey-playing ones, achieved their All-Canadian status. From there, we'll weigh in on our puffy shirt statuses for two new looks in hockey, discuss the Mark Giordano signing and how that may affect Dustin Byfuglien's status in Winnipeg, Andrew Ladd being back in Winnipeg and how he's ignored our requests for an interview, and we'll look at the AHL schedule in all its glory with the AHL finally releasing the full schedule this afternoon.

The phones will go live at 5:30pm CT, so give us a call at 204-269-8636 (269-UMFM)! Make sure you tune in tonight 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! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me 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're going to move at a quick pace, so get your calls in if you want to chat hockey on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: August 27, 2015: Episode 154

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 17

Antler Banter is back for the seventeenth time already! Can you believe it's been four months since True North Sports and Entertainment announced the return of the AHL franchise to Winnipeg? Yeah, it feels like the announcement was yesterday for me as well! In saying that, we've got some stories to bring forth from the world of the American Hockey League that include a new uniform, a few signings, and the biggest moment of the off-season for all thirty AHL clubs as the schedule is finally ready to go! If hearing that the schedule is ready doesn't make you giddy, you might want to check for a pulse because that's the signal that hockey season isn't that far off! Let's get rolling on another edition of Antler Banter!

Utica Goes Third

The Utica Comets had been teasing all summer about a third jersey, and today they finally unveiled it. As you can see to the right, the new uniform looks pretty darn swell! First off, I love the green uniform. If there's a colour that has been under-utilized in hockey, it's the bold green colour. The Comets' alternate logo really works with the puck flying across the "U". The blue is a little lighter than what the Comets normally wear, but it fits very nicely in this scheme. This actually feels like a throwback uniform with the lighter blue and bold green, and I have to say that I'm a fan of this alternate. The numbering and lettering is single-colour white in the Vancouver Canucks' style, and the white really pops on the green. That's a snazzy uniform, Utica.

Here's hoping we get to see that uniform in Winnipeg. Yes, it's a long shot, but the Utica Comets have make the alternate jersey world look good!

Utica Gets Cracknell-ing

Sticking with the Utica-based AHL franchise, the Canucks signed veteran Adam Cracknell to a deal on Wednesday. The 30 year-old forward played 17 gameswith Columbus last season in the NHL while appearing with both Springfield and Chicago in the AHL where he had 20 points in 40 games between the two clubs.

Cracknell has played in a few cities over his career thus far, but he's a serviceable player who should provide some good depth for the Canucks if called upon this season. Expect Cracknell to play with the Comets this season, but call-ups could come often.

IceCaps Get A Manitoban

The St. John's IceCaps announced today that they signed former Blackhawks draft pick and Manitoba-born defenceman Travis Brown to a one-year, two-way deal. The blueliner spent last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Victoria Royals in the WHL. Brown was chosen 149th-overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago.

The youngster will attend the rookie tournament in September at London, Ontario with the rest of the Canadiens rookies where he'll see action against three other teams' rookies. It's always good to see a good kid from Manitoba getting a chance to follow his dreams!

Wolves Sign Blain

The Chicago Wolves announced on Tuesday that they has signed defenceman Jeremie Blain for the second time in his career. Blain spent last season with Utica and the ECHL's Kalamazoo K-Wings where he saw action in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Blain saw action in 25 games for the Wolves in 2012-13 where he posted eight assists and 48 penalty minutes. He is a former fourth-round pick at 91st-overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2010. While Blain won't set records for the Wolves this season, he's a solid signing who will round out their blue line nicely for this upcoming season.

Phantoms Go KHL

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms announced on Saturday that they had signed defenceman Logan Pyett to a one-year deal. Pyett spent last season in the KHL with Vladivostok and Cherepovets where he posted five goals and ten assists in 53 games.

Pyett has also skated with Chekhov Vityaz in the KHL, and has donned the jerseys for both the Grand Rapids Griffins and Connecticut Whale here in North America. Thus far in his AHL career, he has 30 goals and 102 assists in 362 career games, so it's not like he can't score at the professional level. He'll be a solid contributor this season with the Phantoms.

Wolfpack Find A Veteran

It's been some time since the name Brian Gibbons has hopped up on this screen, but the former Pittsburgh Penguin has found a new home with the New York Rangers after agreeing to a one-year, two-way deal way back on July 1. Gibbons' signing flew under the radar after a rather forgettable season with the Blue Jackets and Falcons where he suffered a knee injury, and he'll look to crack the Rangers' roster this season.

"It's a great opportunity," Gibbons told Mike Loftus of The Patriot Ledger. "Hopefully I can find some kind of role there." The undrafted forward could provide the same speed and tenacity he showed with the Penguins when he cracked their line-up as a fourth-line forward, and that would replace some of the speed given up by the Rangers in their trade of Carl Hagelin. Either way, Gibbons has a shot with one of the better teams in hockey. And if he doesn't crack the roster, he'll be playing with a solid Hartford Wolfpack team this season!

Clear Your Calendar

If you've been waiting to see your AHL team's schedule, you only have to wait a few hours longer! The AHL announced today that the schedule will be revealed for all thirty AHL clubs tomorrow at 1pm ET!

Of course, no one is saying anything at this point, but we do know the Manitoba Moose will play their home opener on Thursday, October 15. Who will it be against? We'll know all come tomorrow at noon in Winnipeg. Head over to the AHL site or check out the Manitoba Moose site for more details!

That'll wrap up another edition of Antler Banter this week. I am going to be digging through the schedule tomorrow to look at key match-ups and important dates in the AHL season this year as the league celebrates its 80th anniversary! Tune in next week as we break down the schedule in pointing out the key games for the Manitoba Moose!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Blue Line Of Green

These two men to the left - Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie - are two-thirds of the very expensive blue line being assembled in Calgary for the immediate and longer-term future. Mark Giordano's six-year, $40.5 million contract extension kicks in after this upcoming season, but Calgary has done a pretty spectacular job in building what could be the best six-man rotation on the blue line in recent memory. The only problem in building that kind of talented defence corps? It costs a heckuva lot of money. The Flames had that money to spend, and now they're looking at starting the season with one of the best back-ends in all of hockey.

Mark Giordano was a game-changer for the Flames a year ago before he was injured as some considered him a Norris Trophy candidate with his play. The Flames' blue line saw others step up in Giordano's absence, but you could tell that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Adding Dougie Hamilton to the fold protects the Flames in case of future injury, having TJ Brodie locked up adds more strength, and there's still the remaining three musketeers in Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, and one of Ladislav Smid or Tyler Wotherspoon, and this Flames' blue line is as good as those from the late-1980s.

"We know what he can do on the ice," Treliving told the Flames website. "For those who are around our team, we know what he does the other 22 hours a day. He's a leader in every sense of this organization. It's a good feeling for us knowing that we've got him signed long-term. Moving forward, he can continue to do what he does, and that is lead this team."

That gives the Flames a three-pronged attack in Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton through the 2019-20 season, and should keep the Flames in the running for a playoff sport each and every year. Most good teams can boast a solid back-end with a quality goalie and at least two high-quality defencemen. Chicago, of course, has Crawford, Keith, and Seabrook. Montreal has Price, Subban, and Markov. Tampa Bay has Bishop, Hedman, and Stralman. There aren't many teams who can boast the likes of Hiller, Giordano, and Hamilton/Brodie/Wideman/Russell. In other words, Calgary has a plethora of riches on its blue line that features last season's shot-blocking leader Kris Russell.

"We like what it is on paper, but we all know what paper means; not a whole lot once you get going," Treliving said. "It will be a work in progress. Adding Dougie to the mix, he's going to have to find his way. The coaches will figure out how that is going to shape up, but I like the versatility. We've got lefties, we've got righties, people that can play both sides of special teams, there's depth."

In saying that, getting Giordano - who has only improved season after season since returning from the KHL in 2007-08 - under a long-term deal is a smart move. Yes, it eats up a pile of cap room that the Flames had, but holding onto that room means nothing unless it's spent wisely. According to GM Jim Treliving, this signing was a wise investment.

"I do think Mark Giordano on the open market can make more than what Mark Giordano signed for here with us," Treliving said. "Absolutely he did a good deal for himself, but I also think he was very cognizant of his team here and making sure we give ourselves the best chance moving forward to have success."

The Flames still have priorities following this season. Both Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are restricted free agents in 2016-17, and both are in line for a solid raise after last season. Sam Bennett will also require a new contract once his entry-level deal runs out in 2017-18. Getting the captain's contract signed and sealed this season before his deal ran out next summer was important for Treliving, and now he can turn his attention to adjudicating his young players for their next contracts. In other words, the Flames are set nicely for the future.

The captain is signed, the Flames are solid, and the season's just around the corner. With all the right pieces in place, this could be the season where the Flames are on fire.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Back To Their Roots

The very uninspired logo to the left is the old Kelowna Rockets' logo that followed them in their move from Tacoma, Washington. That logo existed from the founding of the team in Tacoma in 1991 to the move to Kelowna in 1995 to the new millennium when the Rockets decided to switch up their logo and feature the monster which represents Ogopogo found in the Okanagan Lake. There were many versions of the Tacoma Rockets found in various leagues along the west coast, but Kelowna's only WHL team has used that same moniker despite the area having no history with rockets nor rocketry of any kind.

However, that's not the biggest news we should be discussing as the Rockets, based on their 1991 founding, will play this season as their 25th anniversary season! Because of this important occasion in the team's history, the Rockets have decided to give Ogopogo the season off and replace the primary logo with something we've seen before.
That seems a little "been there, done that", no? Why would the Rockets go back to a logo they willfully discarded in 2000-01? I was slightly shocked at this step back in time, but it does make sense in terms of honouring the past twenty-five years.

"I think it doesn't hurt to go back to something that you started with," general manager Bruce Hamilton told Global News' Blaine Gaffney. "You'll see it's got the crossed rockets on the shoulders, things like that, very traditional uniform."

For all the positive spins people are putting on these uniforms, I'm in the "meh" category. Yes, I know there's a historical connection, but it just seems so boring. Second to that, allowing CCM to occupy the left shoulder with their logo rather than the 25th anniversary logo is an abomination. Because the CCM logo is on the shoulder/chest area, the 25th anniversary logo has been pushed to the left hip where it is "prominently" displayed. Note my sarcasm in that statement. Case in point? This is the article found on the Rockets' website.
Notice the 25th anniversary patch? No? So these are just throwback jerseys then, right? No? I'm confused. What happened to the red alternate jerseys then?

"The red jerseys will still have the monster on it. That's been a very popular jersey for our organization. It's winning record is very good so we always keep it around," says Hamilton. So the Rockets will wear these throwback, 25th-anniversary jerseys for everyday hockey, and only pull out the red alternates for special occasions.

Personally, I'm not a fan of these uniforms, this uniform idea, or the lack of prominence that this anniversary is getting considering the work that's gone it to it from the Rockets. CCM should have moved their logo before placing the anniversary logo on the hip which is a garbage place to put it. Going back to the 1990s is fun if you have a hideously garish uniform that has moved into a cult status, but this isn't that kind of uniform.

Kelowna will have a good team again this season, but they won't be as sharp on the ice as they could be.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

No Sweatt At All

Bill Sweatt, wearing #42 in the image to the left, was a member of the Manitoba Moose for a single season before he was on the move to the Chicago Wolves and Vancouver Canucks. In the 80 games he spent with Manitoba in the 2010-11 season, he put up a respectable 19 goals and 27 assists for second in team scoring in helping the Moose to third-place in the North Division, just four points behind first-place Hamilton. The Moose were ousted in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs that season by those Hamilton Bulldogs, and Bill Sweatt found himself as one of the fan favorites that season. The winger was a solid two-way player with a nose for the net and great hands, and the puck always seemed to find his stick. In other words, he was a great player in his one season with the Moose!

So why would I be talking about a former Moose player? Well, Bill Sweatt has gone on to play in a couple of leagues since his time in the AHL, and he's currently skating for Lulea HF in Sweden! They were playing in the Champions League today against Lukko Rauma of Finland, and Sweatt made his impact felt with this smooth shootout beauty!
The 26 year-old nearly deked me out of my seat with that goal! Sweatt had a pair of assists in helping Lulea to the 3-3 stalemate, and then had a pair of goals - including the shootout winner above - in the skills competition as Lulea downed Lukko Rauma 4-3 in the shootout.

What did he think of the highlight-reel goal? "The first time I came in fast, so I figured I should change it up a little bit the second time," Sweatt explained to Swedish freelance reporter Robert Söderlind. "I came in slow and the goalie didn't move at all. I realized I had to force him to make the first move, I faked the shot and and he dropped down a bit. After that I just had to make a small move to the side and I had an empty net."

Remember how I said he had great hands? I'd like to submit this video as evidence of that claim!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Doomed To Repeat It

The young lady to the left, Miss Hilary Knight, is arguably the face of women's hockey for this generation. Knight, Brianna Decker, and Kacey Bellamy played for the Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades last season in the CWHL, and the three reportedly were to sign with the NWHL's Boston Pride sometime in the last week. However, things apparently have changed for the American Olympians because none of them have put signature to paper on a paying hockey contract yet, and the NWHL free agency period has ended. We can sit here and asked what may have happened, but I think we're seeing history repeat itself when looking at two leagues going head-to-head for talent in their respective leagues.

Puck Daddy's Jen Neale dropped a very interesting piece today on the hockey world when she did a little digging into the CWHL contracts, and found some interesting pieces of legalese buried within the contracts. Miss Neale found,
Article 13 – Termination of the Agreement

13.1 This Agreement shall automatically terminate on the Termination Date.

13.2 This Agreement shall terminate prior to the Termination Date, upon the execution of a written agreement of the parties.

13.3. This Agreement shall terminate prior to the Termination Date, upon the execution of a player no longer being on a CWHL member club roster.
That's pretty cut-and-dry language. Basically, 13.1 states that the contract ends on the specified date set out by the contract. 13.2 states that a contract can be terminated upon a written agreement by both the league and the player. 13.3 states that the contract ends on the date specified on the contract if the player is no longer on a specific club's roster.

Basically, players are under contract if they sign the deal, are not released from said signed contract unless both parties - league and player - agree in writing to terminate the contract, and will not be released from said signed contract unless a club decides to cut all ties to the player.

In other words, the CWHL holds a lot of power over that player once she signs a deal. The kicker to all of this is that the CWHL made all players sign contracts last season so the CWHL holds all the cards when determining a player's future at this point. If the league doesn't agree to terminate a contract or a club doesn't cut all ties with a player - hard to do when the league owns all the contracts - the players have no power in this agreement.

I think we've seen this before.

History Lesson

I want to apologize for making this section sound like canyon of echoes, but the similarities between the battle that the NHL and WHA had compared to what the CWHL and NWHL are currently having is almost identical to the point of being verbatim. This is a high overview, but the comparisons are valid in my mind based upon recent events.

I also want to point out I'm not a lawyer, have no legal training whatsoever, and have never set foot in a court room to argue law, so I might be making some serious leaps and bounds here that aren't valid. I can, however, think logically, so let's follow the rabbit hole here, shall we?

Miss Andress was quoted in a Toronto Observer article saying, "A child who might love hockey would never know hockey until the father (of the family) turns the (television) on to the NHL. The exposure if (girls are) not in the grassroots program right now will come from the (female) adult age group as they turn the TV on."

As we saw with Miss Andress' "good of the game" statement above, Mr. Joyce writes in The Devil and Bobby Hull that NHL President Clarence Campbell tried to invoke the same "good of the game" speech to the US Senate in 1972 when the US Senate was questioning the major professional sports leagues regarding the regulations for sports leagues. Mr. Joyce writes,
At first Campbell invoked the good-of-the-game principle - that he did not oversee the league as a business but rather as an organization that had the interests of hockey at heart. He suggested that the NHL was generously underwriting the development of coming generations of players...".
In other words, the CWHL is "generously underwriting the development of coming generations of players", according to Miss Andress, by getting the game on TV. Forget paying the players - the CWHL is giving the game exposure which is far more important for the next generations of Hilary Knights and Natalie Spooners who will make the league even better! That's totally more important than paying players of today, right?

Ok, if that is a little unsettling, let's press on.

CWHL Commissioner Andress told Vice Sports, "We've done our research. For us, it's about sound operational and financial foundations first because we want to ensure the viability of the long term. You can't have more teams than what the fan base is, you can't pay players all this amount of money and recoup the money, or we'd have done it."

The part about "you can't pay players" should really worry the CWHL. The WHA worked to establish that NHL contracts were invalid on the basis of their wordings. As Mr. Joyce writes,
... the line in the contract binding a player to his team "at a salary to be determined" was void. In any contract, the terms have to be specifically stated to be legally binding, and in this case, the salary was left unstated. It was insufficient to leave any significant condition as "to be determined."
Since the CWHL doesn't pay any salary to its players, how is this part of the contract determined regarding salary? If this isn't very clearly defined, the contractual agreement between league and players would be rendered void, making virtually all of the CWHL players free agents at this point.

On top of this, Mr. Joyce writes,
What was known as the reserve clause, the single line that bound a player to a team in perpetuity, effectively and artificially limited salaries - it denied players to a free market to get fair value for their services. The reserve clause had gone almost unquestioned and unchallenged by professional athletes in North America to that point in the 20th century.
If Knight, Decker, and Bellamy aren't being paid and are willfully kept out of hockey for a year by the CWHL until their "contracts" - written with quotes due to not being paid - run out since they have yet to be released by the CWHL, they may have legal grounds in which they can take the CWHL to court in order to be able to sign with the NWHL for fair market value much like Hull, Sanderson, and Cheevers did in the WHA.

In other words, the CWHL is committing nearly the same blunders that the NHL committed in the early-1970s when defending their position on how they are growing the game and making the game better for players. Both, as we know from history, are blatant twists of the truth.

Where the NWHL may find itself in trouble is that they may be committing a massive error in judgment just as the WHA did when it was getting itself off the ground to rival the established league. We've heard NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan explain that the NWHL teams will have a salary cap of $270,000 annually, and that players would be able to negotiate their own pay within that salary cap structure. The problem is that no one knows where this money is coming from since there are officially no owners at this time for any of the four teams. The league is generating some merchandise, but they need over a million dollars just for player salaries, and I'm pretty sure that they haven't generated that in merchandise sales. So where is this money tree they seem to have growing?

Gary Davidson, one of the founders of the WHA, also proposed a salary cap structure to help the WHA teams find financial footing. As Ed Willes writes in Rebel League,
Davidson had set down the WHA's business plan, and of course it was foolproof. Individual team payrolls would cost around $750,000, and that would buy you a couple of stars at around $150,000 each. Travel would be another $150,000. Throw in $50,000 for equipment, add some other stuff, and you had a budget around $1.25 million to $1.5 million. Sure, there would be losses along the way, Davidson admitted, but with his revenue projections, teams should start breaking even by the third year!
The reality was that the Calgary Broncos, the Dayton Aeros, Miami Screaming Eagles, and San Francisco Sharks never made it out of the starting gates with all four teams relocating before setting foot on the ice, the Philadelphia Blazers relocated to Vancouver for the second season, the New York Raiders become the Golden Blades before relocating to New Jersey to become the Knights before relocating in Season Three to San Diego to become the Mariners, the Los Angeles Sharks moving to Detroit to become the Michigan Stags before moving midseason to Baltimore to become the Blades before folding outright, and the Chicago Cougars also folded at the end of Season Three. So much for that break-even revenue projection, right? And this was a league with established millionaire owners!

What Does This All Mean?

Without knowing the legalities of the CWHL contracts, I can't say much. It seems from the comments being made by the people in charge of the CWHL that their contracts would stand to be void, but that's something an actual lawyer should look over. If things were to play out as the NHL-WHA battle did, though, the NWHL would be filing court dates to challenge any contract held by the CWHL at this point. Additionally, the agents for Knight, Decker, and Bellamy should also be doing the same in order to challenge the hold that the CWHL has over its players who want to play for fair market value.

From there, the NWHL will force the CWHL to absorb the same or a similar business plan which pays players in order to bring the fair market value for players in both leagues up to par. In saying that, it then becomes a question of the quality of hockey, and that will determine which league will thrive and which will wilt. Once one league wilts, the absorption of teams into the surviving league should make for a stronger, singular league overall.

This singular women's league will still have its problems much like the NHL did in 1979 in the aftermath of the WHA collapse. But the one thing that can be said for the players is that they will all be paid fairly and within market value. If the pay outpaces the money the league makes, it might be a pretty strong indicator that the market isn't there.

To not pay players and prevent them from going to find the money they feel they deserve for playing the game they love is entirely wrong. The only way this will change is if the NWHL gets a little more aggressive in pursuing the players they want or the CWHL comes around and figures out how to pay its players.

It's time to see which league wants to be a professional league.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 21 August 2015

All About The Beard

The playoff beard. It's a legitimate sign of playoff success in the NHL Playoffs, and it is a tradition that has taken on legendary status. From Mike Commodore to Brent Burns to the pictured Scott Hartnell, those with a significant and thick growth are generally given a ton of respect for their commitment to not shaving and keeping the beard through thick and thin. But what happens when the playoffs are over? Most of those beards are shaved off, so who do these gods of the hirsute turn to in their time of need when that beard needs to be kept clean, well-groomed, and awe-inspiring?

I have heard of a few shaving discount clubs, but Canadians are generally left in the cold. One could use that beard if one is in the cold, but that beard can't be a scraggly-looking, food-wearing hairpiece hanging off one's face. It should be clean, well-kept, and shown the respect it garners from the general public. And one company wants to help you do that!
I'll admit that I've never used Dollar Beard Club. Heck, I've only ever heard of Dollar Shave Club which promises to send customers inexpensive, quality razors at wholesale prices. It appears that Dollar Beard Club is the bizarro-world version of Dollar Shave Club because they promise, as seen in the awesome video above, grooming products for your phenomenal mane!

I love that they filmed this commercial in a hockey rink. Chris, the owner of Dollar Beard Club, jerseys the shaving player in the locker room, bites the razor blade off the razor he is using to de-beard himself, and spits it out is pure awesome. Chris shotguns a beer. Chris poses beside a real lion. Chris tees up a puck at a stack of shaving cream cans, and it should be noted that Chris can skate pretty well! In short, Chris hits all the marks when it comes to pushing the hockey life of bearded Canadians!

I can't speak for the quality of the products that Dollar Beard Club sends. I can't speak for company nor was I asked to endorse them. I happened across this commercial on Facebook on Wednesday, and I found myself chuckling at the message it conveyed. I just know that their commercials are pretty over-the-top and funny. Just as a heads-up, the commercial below does have some choice language, so viewer discretion is advised!
If you want to ride motorcycles, live in a box full of women, and dominate your hockey league, having a beard probably won't get you any further ahead of where you are now. But if you want a solid, clean, manly-looking beard, it might be in your best interest to give Dollar Beard Club a shot. They seem to be pretty pumped about their products!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 153

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with a pile of stories that range from puffy shirt ratings to changes to uniforms to ads on uniforms to some free agency moves to a guy who unretired to join the Maple Leafs to a pile of women's hockey info. In other words, tonight's show is a cornucopia of topics that will touch all the bases as we look at a number of corners of the hockey world. It will be a jam-packed show that will feature a whole pile of topics, so get yourself a comfortable seat on this wild hockey ride known as The Hockey Show!

Amongst the many topics that Beans and I will be tossing around tonight will be Brandon Reid's new job with Hockey Canada, the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins and their new look, the new logo for the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads, Adidas and the NHL, ads on NHL jerseys, Sergei Gonchar's chances of making it with the Penguins, Nik Antropov reportedly negotiating with two NHL teams on a return to the league, Jacques Lemaire and whatever his "special assignment coach" position is supposed to be, NWHL free agency ends without a major star being named, the University of Regina women's hockey team playing in Sweden, Henrik Zetterberg's new baby boy's name, and whatever else floats across our respective desks this afternoon.

NOTE: We don't actually have desk. They're metaphorical desks. We don't have that kind of budget. We need sponsors!

The phones will go live at 5:30pm CT, so give us a call at 204-269-8636 (269-UMFM)! Make sure you tune in tonight 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! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me 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. The bag of random hockey stories will be opened and we'll sort through tonight on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: August 20, 2015: Episode 153

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 16

Antler Banter returns for another Wednesday as we do our weekly look at the biggest news out of hockey's second-highest circuit here in North America. The AHL, like the NHL, has shifted into "fairly quiet" mode as the signings slow down into August, but there has still been some notable stories coming out of the league at which we'll take a peek. There was a major unveiling of a new logo and jerseys for one team, a Moose rival added a defenceman and a winger, the Moose re-design their website, and another Moose rival re-signs a big piece of their team for the upcoming season. If you're not fired up for AHL hockey yet, hold on tight because this edition of Antler Banter is just getting fired up!

Brand-New Griffins

I teased about the Griffins' new look last week in this ongoing series, and we did indeed get a brand-new look for the Griffins on Tuesday.
Wow. The Griffins got a lot angrier and a little more Detroit-red. Credit the Griffins for holding on to their own unique identity, though, as they didn't just convert their look to their NHL affiliate's look like many AHL teams have. While they certainly could have gone full Red Wings, they maintained a semblance of being their own team and that will always gain points with this writer.

The new logo itself is very aggressive. I'm not sure that it was necessary for the Griffins to go completely Godzilla in their logo choice, but the aggressive logo itself may spell a new style of play under coach Todd Nelson. There have been other aggressive designs submitted for the Griffins' jersey contests that they hold each year, but this design is the most aggressive "everyday" logo we've seen from the Griffins ever. Whether that changes the way that the Griffins play the game will be seen, but they are a lot more intimidating in this new look.

If there is a downside to the jerseys, they went black after featuring a blue theme over their history. While blue and red are fairly common colours in the hockey world, I always liked the combination that the Griffins used. Yes, I get that a redesign should include a makeover at some point, but the Griffins had worn blue for nearly two decades.

Overall, I would have liked to have seen that original colour scheme remain, but I have to say that these new, aggressive Griffins will look good flying up and down the ice next season. Well done, Grand Rapids!

Wolves Get Defensive

The Chicago Wolves added to their blue line on Friday when they signed Scooter Vaughan to a deal. Vaughan was a member of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season where he posted nine goals and seven assists in 71 games in his first full AHL season. Prior to joining the Tigers, he was a member of the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays and Wheeling Nailers.

The Placentia, California native was also a member of the Michigan Wolverines team in 2010-11 that won the CCHA regular season championship and advanced to the Frozen Four championship game. What's more impressive, though, is that he and friend Austin Glenn created Jamboo Headphones - headphones made from bamboo that are woven to be tangle-free and are made in six highly-noticeable bright colours.

"People love them," Vaughan told Matt Slovin of The Michigan Daily. "They sound great. There are three different-sized earplugs. They last, too. They don't fray or come apart. I've had my pair for six or seven months now. I use it every day."

Not only is a solid defenceman, but he's an entrepreneur! You're going to like this guy, Wolves fans. He's a gamer!

Wolves Add A Wing

The Wolves also signed right winger Eriah Hayes to a deal on Friday. Hayes skated with the Worcester Sharks last season, scoring eight goals and 17 assists in 59 games. He also saw action in four NHL games with the San Jose Sharks.

Hayes is a solid winger who has shown some excellent flashes of talent on the ice. The University of Minnesota-Makato graduate scored 52 goals and 44 assists in 153 games in his NCAA career, and was named captain in his senior year in 2013 while ranking second in the NCAA with 12 power-play goals and helping Mankato reach the NCAA Tournament.

Chicago always finds good players, and Hayes qualifies as another one.

We Have A Website!

The Manitoba Moose are starting to look like all the other AHL teams! The Moose made a change this week in taking down their standard HTML webpage that contained a lot of info but very little content, replacing it with the AHL-configured template! With this change, Moose hockey feels like it's back in a big way!

For all your Manitoba Moose information, stay tuned here of course, but head over to the Manitoba Moose website for even more in-depth looks at your favorite AHL franchise! Pick up some Moose gear, get yourself tickets to a Moose game, and get ready for the Herd to return because it literally all starts at the revamped Moose website!

Wild Bring Back Olivier

22 year-old Olivier Archambault will be back with the Iowa Wild this season after signing a new deal with the Des Moines-based club. Archambault split time between the Wild and the ECHL's Alaska Aces last season, but performed pretty well in both leagues. With Alaska, Archambault had 20 goals and 18 assists in 38 games where he was named as an ECHL All-Star, and he scored four goals and five assists in 24 games with the Wild.

Archambault was a fourth-round pick at 108th overall in 2011 for the Montreal Canadiens after starring for the Val d'Or Foreurs and the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL where he recorded 231 points in 270 career junior games. He was a free agent invitee to the 2014 Minnesota Wild prospects camp after having spending time previous to that with the Hamilton Bulldogs on a professional tryout contract. Surprisingly, the Canadiens opted not to sign him to an entry-level deal, and Archambault actually re-entered the draft in 2013 but was not selected. That allowed him to become a free agent, and the Minnesota Wild took a chance on the former first-overall pick in the QMJHL bantam draft.

It's up to Archambault at this point, but he looks like he's figuring out this pro game. That could be bad news for the other 29 AHL teams.

That's all for today, folks. Sound off on the Griffins' new look in the comments below. I'm always interested in what others think of new uniforms! And sine we're here, GO MOOSE GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Hockey And Golf Meet Again

The young lady to the left has been causing quite a stir in women's golf with her play. Brooke Henderson become the second golfer in LPGA history to go from Monday qualifier to tournament winner after taking the Cambia Portland Classic by eight strokes this past weekend. Now, you might be asking why I'm writing about a seventeen year-old golf phenom from Canada on a hockey blog, but there's a significant tie-in to the hockey world as Brooke was a goaltender when she was younger! How does this all relate? We'll take a quick peek into Brooke Henderson's brief hockey career before she rewrites the history books for the LPGA!

The story actually starts with Dave Henderson, Brooke's father. Dave is now a retired teacher, but he was goaltender for both the Ottawa 67's and the University of Toronto in the early-1980s. Dave's hockey history isn't well-documented online, but he did spend five games in 1979-80 with the Aurora Tigers of the OPJHL. The 1979-80 edition of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues went an impressive 17-2-3 to finish first in the OUAA, so it appears Dave was a key piece of that successful team!

His daughter, Brooke, followed in her dad's footsteps as she was a goaltender in the town of Smith Falls, Ontario! Brooke tended nets for a few teams growing up, but had to abandon her chosen winter sport once she made the Canadian national golf team at age fourteen. She had been playing golf since she was eleven thanks to her dad as he was one of the better golfers at the Smiths Falls Country Club. Dave would take her out to the course and allow her and older sister Brittany to play alongside dad as the two youngsters worked on their games. Dave also ran an after-school golf program called the Junior Linksters, and the Hendersons would spend their time thwacking golf balls into the twilight as dad taught golf.

Brittany, six years Brooke's senior, was accepted into Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina on a golf scholarship, and it only fueled Brooke's passion for the game. "I grew up wanting to be like my sister," Henderson told Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports. "She was a golfer and although I skipped a step and didn't play college golf like she did I've always wanted to do what she did."

So it was a choice that Brooke had to make and golf won out over hockey. "Starting around 12 or 13, I started to feel I would love to have a career in the sport and make it to the LPGA, so I gave up playing hockey, which was tough," Henderson explained to the Globe and Mail's Rachel Brady. "But being a goalie, I faced a lot of heat sometimes and it could be stressful, so I think that has helped me on the golf course, playing with big crowds, coming down the stretch and having to finish strong."

The intertwining of hockey and golf is usually an annual April and May thing when jokes are made about teams getting ready to hit the links after failing to qualify for the playoffs, but Brooke Henderson's sporting life literally did see hockey and golf live amicably together for a short period of time. Brooke refined her golf game at an indoor golf school in Smiths Falls during the off-season while playing girls’ hockey!

"I can remember, when she was like 11 or 12, she would come into my golf school in the winter and she'd hit some balls, then sit down with a healthy snack, and get back up with a tennis ball and go throw it against the wall in the warehouse to work on her reflexes for goaltending," Paulin Vaillancourt, her coach at Smiths Falls Golf & Country Club, told Rachel Brady. "Then she'd be right back to hitting golf balls. Her work ethic was always tremendous, and she and her sister always had incredible maturity."

Brooke has kept things in perspective with her golf game by relating back to her time on the ice. "To be a goalie you have to be a little bit strange, a little bit odd," Henderson told reporters, prompting laughs during a news conference. "I think that has really helped me along the way mentally preparing for not only professional golf, but golf in general.

"A shooter coming down on you, and you have a one-goal lead, it's a lot of pressure. The whole team is counting on you. It's the same when you have a three-foot birdie putt to win a championship or make the cut. It's the same kind of pressure."

Henderson has been impressive on the course this year as she's making a name for herself among the LPGA players. Still considered an amateur after her win in Portland, Henderson has already earned $660,000 USD and seen her world ranking jump to #17. Henderson had been turned down by LPGA commissioner Michael Whan for a special exemption to get into the LPGA Tour school last year, but Whan granted her full membership on Tuesday after her impressive win in Portland. LPGA policy states that any woman 18 years of age or over is eligible to apply for Tour membership, but golfers who are between 15 and 18 may be granted special permission to apply for membership by petitioning directly to the Tour commissioner.

Today, Brooke Henderson received her LPGA card and will play on the tour! "Brooke truly earned her card, and we are looking forward to Brooke joining our Tour and our family," Whan said in a statement.

The former Smith Falls Cub never got a chance to lace up the skates as an Olympian or professional player, but she does have professional support. The Ottawa Senators sponsor Brooke, and they took time to give the netminder a chance to strap on the pads once more as former Smith Falls Bear and current Ottawa Senator Mark Borowiecki peppered Brooke with shots in a promotional video!
"I'm not a very good actor," Borowiecki admitted to Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun. "Took a few outtakes to get that many goals, in a row, too."

Borowiecki played 99 games over two seasons as a member of the Smith Falls Bears, scoring five goals and adding 49 assists to go along with 165 PIMs before making the jump to the NCAA's Clarkson University in 2008. It was also the same season he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators 139th overall in the fifth round as they saw something in the Ottawa-born, Ontario-trained hockey player. So how did he do in testing Henderson?
Borowiecki did put a couple past Henderson in the video, but he also refused to say how many times she stopped him.

"She definitely challenged a lot in the crease," he said. "She was out high. I had to sneak a few through the five-hole. I didn't have much to shoot at."
While Brooke is committed to the University of Florida in the future, playing on the LPGA tour is certainly front-and-center for the Canadian. There will be a ton of opportunities for her on the links as she matures, but she has the drive and attitude that will carry her far on the golf course.

If and when she feels she wants to head to school in Florida, she should probably take her goalie gear with her. Who knows if the Florida Panthers will need an emergency goalie again?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Nothing Changes... Maybe?

It was announced today that Adidas had won the NHL contract for all jerseys starting in 2017-18. It seems weird making that announcement because Reebok is owned by Adidas, and Reebok has the current NHL contract. However, there were others that wanted the NHL deal including both Under Armour and Bauer, so Adidas had to ante up to keep the contract under their umbrella. Where things could get murky is the cost of jerseys for you and I as fans since the deal reportedly will reportedly pay the NHL some $70 million per season!

I suspect that Adidas will keep the jersey designs much the same unless a team wants to make changes. The branding will obviously change from Reebok to Adidas on the back neckline, but there's still a lot of money to be recouped in this deal. While Adidas will make some of the money back in jersey sales to fans, there's one way they can make a lot of money in a short period of time: advertising on jerseys.

The NHL has already said that jerseys for the World Cup of Hockey will feature advertising and it appears that Adidas will be making those jerseys, so it is most likely a prelude to the inevitable. The NHL is always looking for additional revenue sources, and jersey advertising is the last great expanse that has been kept free of logos outside of the NHL's logo, the team's logo, and the manufacturer's logo. I have an idea that the logos will be kept small enough to look tasteful much like the AHL does. I'm not 100% against the way that the AHL does it, but I also don't want to see anything bigger.

According to TSN's Rick Westhead, "During a meeting of NHL team presidents in New York last year, league officials estimated they might raise $4 million per team – or $120 million annually – by allowing corporate sponsors to put their logos front and centre on jerseys." Now you might be saying that $4 million isn't a lot of money when looking at the big picture, but that money pays for one player per team. That's an investment that a number of team owners would appreciate since it means less of their money being spent. Call the advertising "pennies from heaven".

If you're a soccer fan - football or futbol - you're aware that the three stripes run along a player's shoulders as a way for Adidas to advertise their own brand. Would we see three stripes being added to NHL jerseys? This, to me, seems superfluous and unnecessary, but nothing can be ruled out at this point. However, the patches on the sleeves would serve as a termination point for the stripes if they were to be added. Again, I'm not saying they will be nor should they be added, but a vast number of teams use patches on the shoulders which Adidas could easily turn into something they can use for their own advertising purposes.

Here's what I do know for certain.

The NHL is now getting some $70 million per season for the length of this yet-unannounced contract. They have the possibility of selling advertising for another $120 million per season. That's more than $6 million per team per season simply through this jersey deal. While no designs have been announced, the NCAA seen some schools go with Adidas, and the results haven't been bad at all. Basically, let the teams decide the style and look and let Adidas brand the jerseys. No complaints there whatsoever. As for advertisements, decisions are being made but the NHL would be wise to keep them small and somewhat inconspicuous like the AHL does.

The moment the NHL starts to look like this...
... it might be time to start asking how much money the NHL is making off these ads.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Former Dictator

The Maple Leafs are putting together quite the all-star team when it comes to front office staff. Brendan Shanhan, Mike Babcock, Mark Hunter, and Lou Lamoriello are an impressive group already, but it seems that Lamoriello has a line on "retired" personnel as the Leafs hired for Devils bench boss Jacques Lemaire as a "special assignment coach". We'll get to that title in a minute, but adding the two-time Jack Adams Award winner as a part-time coach seems like a favor rather than an important front office move. There hasn't been a lot of elaboration on what special assignments the Leafs have planned, so what exactly is Lemaire's role if he's not calling the shots like he once did?

If there was one thing that Lemaire was known for in his playing Hall-of-Fame playing career, it was defensive hockey. With the Leafs having one of the worst defensive measures in a number of categories last season, I could see that being an assignment for him if it weren't for Mike Babcock who has proven time and again that he understands the defensive nuances of the game as well as anyone before him. While I can see Babcock and Lemaire collaborating on certain things, I can't see Babcock abandoning the systems that have made him successful.

Perhaps he'll be handed the defencemen who certainly can use a class or two on keeping the puck out of their own net and cutting down shots? I can see this being an assignment he could be given as the Maple Leafs' roster has a pile of retreads and three guys aged 30 or older including captain Dion Phaneuf. While Lemaire may not get a lot of extra speed out of this revamped Maple Leafs defence, he can certainly work on positioning, shot blocking, and angles - three areas where the Leafs were terrible in their own zone last season.

Another option for a "special assignment" could be one specific player in Nazem Kadri. Kadri has the skill to be an effective NHL centerman, but he lacks discipline when it comes to defensive assignments and a complete two-way game. Lemaire built a career out of being the best two-way centerman in the game as he put up 835 points in 853 career regular season games, and his focus on improving Kadri to be a modern-day version of himself could transform Kadri from pedestrian NHL centerman to dominant shut-down, two-way centerman. It won't happen overnight, but this is the kind of player that Babcock relishes in his lineup, and the challenges have been laid out for Kadri to make good on the contract that he just signed in the off-season.

If you're like me, though, you're probably wondering exactly a "special assignment coach" does for the majority of the season. It seems like a fairly sketchy title that the Maple Leafs are using to justify bringing on another high-priced front office member. "Obviously Jacques Lemaire has a wealth of experience," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. "We had a great relationship from the 2010 Olympics and I've asked him to join our staff to help me and the rest of our coaches within the entire organization be the best they can be."

Does anyone expect to see him at Ricoh Centre working with the Marlies? Perhaps he'll fly down to Orlando and work with the Solar Bears while spending time with the rest of the vacationing Canadian snowbirds in Florida. While I can't officially say what Jacques Lemaire's capacity is with the Maple Leafs, he's one more piece of the all-star front office assembled by the Leafs.

If only the team on the ice resembled their front office.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Let's Do It Again

The Pittsburgh Penguins decided to bring back Sergei Gonchar for a second go-around today as the two sides agreed to a professional tryout contract for the 41 year-old Russian. Six seasons and four teams ago, Sergei Gonchar was slowing down, so one has to wonder why the Penguins are bringing back a player who has most likely seen his best days in the rear-view mirror. They let him walk six seasons ago when it was deemed he was too old with all of the younger players the Penguins had at that time, so what changed to make him not too old for this year's edition of the Penguins?

Let's be honest in saying that watching Gonchar last season with Montreal was painful. He's easily lost a step or two, doesn't really play defence to make him a stopper, and has limited offensive upside. He didn't appear once in the playoffs for the Canadiens last season, and his play before the acquisition of Jeff Petry was slightly better than terrible. In other words, last seasons should have been the swan song for Sergei Gonchar.

While I understand that Pittsburgh needs some defensive help, there are still better options out there who could fill the role that Gonchar is looking to fill. The fact that Pittsburgh is dipping into the nostalgia files shows both a lack of recognition of Gonchar's diminishing skills and a desperation that comes with being tight to the salary cap. Expecting Gonchar to throw up double-digits in goals and fifty points is nothing but a pipe dream.

"I know this is a determined man that still wants to play and still feels he can contribute," Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told Jenn Menendez of the Post-Gazette. Apparently, Jim Rutherford has lost any semblance of sanity over the last two months because he and Gonchar are the only two people who seem to believe this sentiment to be true. According to the contract he signed, Gonchar was promised "several preseason games to determine if he is a fit for the team".

We can cut to the chase right now and let him walk, right?

The Penguins have a vast number of young defencemen including Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Lovejoy, Rob Scuderi, Brian Dumoulin, Tim Erixon, and Adam Clendening. Letang, Maatta, Cole, and Pouliot are almost locks at this point with Scuderi and Lovejoy being the fifth and sixth defencemen. Doumoulin and Clendening could bump one of those two out of a spot with a strong preseason, and you'd have the seven defencemen Pittsburgh will carry this season. In no way do I see Gonchar beating out any of the bottom-four guys on this list unless he changes his name to Juan Ponce de León and he's hiding a fountain of youth somewhere.

Secondly, the power-play units will feature Letang and most likely Malkin on the top unit and Maatta and Pouliot on the second unit. Gonchar's speed will be questioned the moment a turnover at the blue line is committed, and teams will pressure him because of this. Gonchar simply doesn't fit on Pittsburgh's power-play units, so there's no real place for him to fit in if he were to somehow make the team.

I hate to say it because he was always one of my favorite defencemen, but Sergei Gonchar's time in the NHL is most likely done. It was probably done a season ago after he struggled in Dallas, but it appears that the Penguins are going to try to squeeze a little more blood from the stone.

The NHL today is a young man's game. Gonchar is no longer a young enough man.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 152

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back with our last show of 2015 featuring the one and only Columbus! Our intrepid reporter is back home in the US-of-A, and we'll call down to get her take on a few things before she leaves for South Korea to continue her education! I have no idea how that's going to work, but we have a special assignment for Miss Columbus, and we'll break that to her tonight!

As you can see to the left, there's a new cover for EA Sports' NHL '16. The previous cover had Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on it, but Patrick Kane's legal issues forced EA Sports to reconsider his inclusion on the cover. With Columbus on the phone, we'll get her perspective on the Kane saga as it stands, we'll discuss new events and details that have been released, and we'll have a discussion about consent because it needs to be said being that we're a campus radio station. Not only are we a hockey-themed show, but we also have a responsibility to our student body to discuss relevant topics that may affect them. This is one of those topics as consent and rape need to be pulled out of the shadows when it comes to having a mature discussion.

We'll also discuss Auston Matthews decision to play in Switzerland, Jon Blum's decision to play in Russia, the NHLPA filing a grievance over Mike Richards' terminated contract, Jarret Stoll getting a contract with the Rangers after being found with drugs, and anything else that comes up in discussion. It's going to be a busy show, and we're always looking forward to your phone calls about any of these topics or anything else from the hockey world!

The phones will go live at 5:30pm CT, so give us a call at 204-269-8636 (269-UMFM)! Make sure you tune in tonight 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! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me 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 a meaningful and mature discussion about Patrick Kane's situation, and you'll get that tonight on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: August 13, 2015: Episode 152

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 15

Antler Banter rumbles into town once more as we take a look at all things AHL once more, and there are definitely a few stories to be followed from tonight's article. We have a firmer date from the AHL about a schedule release, there are changes coming for an AHL team, there was a new affiliation in the ECHL with a NHL and an AHL club, and there were a pile of key signings as NHL and AHL teams finalize rosters and add depth in those organizations. While I was hoping the Manitoba Moose were going to make some noise, it's a quiet Antler Banter on that front, so let's get into other news around the American Hockey League!

Date Makers

The AHL release a tweet today that gave fans an idea of when their team's respective schedule will be released. Basically, it all depends on the NBA schedule which will be released tonight. Why would that matter, you ask? Well, three AHL teams share arenas with an NBA franchise and the NBA usually gets the nod for preferred dates over minor-league hockey.

The Lake Erie Monsters share Quicken Loans Arena with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and I'm quite certain that LeBron James and his crew are the main attraction in that venue. The Milwaukee Admirals play second fiddle to the Milwaukee Bucks in that city. San Antonio is pretty much a Spurs town, and the AT&T Center is no different as the Rampage get non-Spurs dates. Being that all three of these teams play in the AHL's Western Division means that scheduling around the NBA makes the AHL schedule a little more difficult.

Adding to that headache are the two AHL teams that share a rink with NHL teams. The Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Jets will skate on MTS Centre ice while the San Jose Sharks and San Jose Barracuda both will occupy the SAP Center in San Jose. Again, both teams are in the Western Conference, so there's some serious juggling to be done on the western front by the schedule makers.

With the NBA schedule released tonight, though, the AHL has stated that their schedule will come out within the next two weeks. I expect that it will be closer to the fourteen-day limit they've stated, but we now have a timeframe in which we'll see the AHL's dates. I'm already psyched to see which dates I'll be booking at the MTS Centre for Manitoba Moose hockey!

Changes Are Coming

There was some buzz on Twitter late in July regarding the logo to the left for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Speculation was that the alternate logo for the Griffins may be used this season by the Griffins after NHL '16 showed the logo used in the game. That screen grab, captured by @FlamezGaming, clearly shows a different Griffins logo from what we're used to seeing. Grand Rapids had yet to announce anything regarding a uniform or logo change, though, so everyone kind of shrugged and moved on.

Today, I received an email from the Griffins that stated that the "Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League will unveil a new look for the franchise in advance of their 20th anniversary season in 2015-16" on Tuesday, August 18. As we saw with the San Diego Gulls, EA Sports is usually right on the money when it comes to what's seen in the game, so I would get ready for the above logo to appear as the Griffins' new logo. I'm guessing there will be new colors and new uniforms as well, so clear your schedule at 11AM on August 18 for another uniform unveiling!

Coyotes Get Rush

No, Geddy Lee won't be suiting up for the Arizona Coyotes this season. The Coyotes announced on Tuesday that they had signed an affiliation agreement with the ECHL's Rapid City Rush! Rapid City, based in South Dakota, is just beginning its second season in the ECHL after being founded as a member of the Central Hockey League in 2008. They play home games at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. They won the CHL's Ray Miron President's Cup in 2009-10 over the Allen Americans who won the ECHL's Kelly Cup this year.

It's a one-year deal between the clubs after Arizona opted to leave the affiliation with the Gwinnett Gladiators. The Springfield Falcons will undoubtedly have a direct line to the Rush as there's a good chance players will be shuffled between those two clubs.

Key Signings

Let's run through the signings by highlighting those players who could see NHL time this season if their AHL seasons go well.
  • San Antonio signed defenceman Justin Hamonic to a one-year deal. Hamonic is not related to Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic despite both players being from Manitoba. Don't make that mistake, readers!
  • Calvin Pickard re-signed with the Avalanche, and will most likely start the season with the San Antonio Rampage. Pickard was crucial in Colorado's season last year after they saw multiple injuries to their goaltenders.
  • Philip McRae signed with the Bakersfield Condors after spending last season with the Chicago Wolves where he finished fifth on the team in scoring.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers signed Chris Porter to a one-year, two-way deal. Porter spent time with the St. Louis Blues last season and has played 173 NHL games in his career. Porter will look to crack the Flyers' roster, but he'll probably spend most of the season with Lehigh Valley.
  • The Springfield Falcons signed defenceman Steven Delisle who spent last season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The 25 year-old had two goals and 13 assists last season.
  • The Bakersfield Condors signed Edmonton's 2013 second-round pick Marc-Olivier Roy to a deal. Roy should be a good fit in Bakersfield as he'll get a chance to develop his offence in a professional setting after spending last season in the QMJHL.
  • Matt Carkner re-signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for two years. The 34 year-old will expected to be a leader once again for the Tigers as he carries 237 games of NHL experience. Another great depth signing.
  • The Islanders also brought back goalie Kevin Poulin on a one-year, two-way deal. Poulin will see a lot of action in Bridgeport, but is a very capable goalie in terms of NHL play. The Islanders shouldn't have a depth problem this season.
  • The Hershey Bears added Austin Fyten from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms today on a one-year deal. Fyten has played 122 career AHL games with Texas, Oklahoma City and Lehigh Valley with his first full season coming last season with the Phantoms.
That's about all for tonight, folks! We're most likely looking at next week for a schedule release, so stay tuned to the AHL's website and Twitter feed for updates as they happen. From seeing a pile of new teams to welcoming back the former IHL rivals of the Manitoba Moose, I'm psyched for the upcoming season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Unique Table Legs

While some may look at the image to the left and immediately think Dion Phaneuf from those legs, the actual reality is that they are table legs! There's a new product hitting the market from a company called Team Tables that features end tables with the stockinged legs of hockey players or golfers as table legs! I have seen products before that use jerseys as upholstery coverings, but having table legs resemble the legs of your favorite hockey team or golfer is definitely unique. You probably have questions about these tables - price, size, weight - and I was lucky enough to receive an email from owner Mike Brajak who answered a few questions I tossed his way. Ladies and gentlemen, here is all you want to know about Team Tables.

First, here's the promotional video that was sent to me.
As you can see in the video, the combinations are endless for how you'd like your table. The socks and skates are the real thing - NHL, AHL, and any other set of socks can be worn as long as they are available! The options for wood and finishes also varies, and buyers are encouraged to choose which finish suits their decor best. The sticks are metal-casted for additional strength and durability, and shin pads are moulded to give the best strength in the two socked legs possible. In short, the Team Tables stand own their own merit (excuse the pun)!

Team Tables stand just over two feet tall at 26 inches and have a depth of two feet at 24 inches. In other words, it's a solid end table in terms of putting a cold beverage on or holding the roster of remote controls. The hockey table weighs in at 28 pounds while the golf table holds its ground around 33 pounds making them sturdy on their three legs due to the weight. Assembly is easy as Team Tables does most of the work before it even leaves the door of the warehouse, so it arrives and can be set up under an hour!

The one thing that Mike stressed in his email to me, though, was that pictures do not do the Team Tables justice as they look better in person than in digital format. Being that Team Tables is based in Toronto, I haven't seen one in person myself, but the photos do look pretty good considering Mike's comments so there's a good possibility that they may very well look better in person that what you see to the right! Either way, I'm still pretty impressed by Team Tables in terms of the product they have shown, but there's one question we haven't answered yet for which I do have the answer.

Cost is the one thing that I haven't mentioned yet, but we need to cross that bridge. According to the Team Tables Kickstarter page, you can grab one for $349 CDN (approximately $269 USD) before they revert to their retail price of $599 plus applicable taxes and shipping costs. If you're looking to beat the Christmas rush with a unique gift, I suggest jumping on the $397 Kickstarter level that will get a Team Table in your home before Christmas hits!

Ok, I'm not going to sugar-coat the obvious here. It's a pricey investment for a sports-themed end table for the average consumer. The Team Tables Kickstarter page is probably your best option at getting a Team Table for less than $600, so start rolling any extra coins you have to help you in your quest for your Team Table. However, I can guarantee that unless there's a case of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses going on in your neighbourhood, you'll most likely be the only one on the block in their TV room with a Team Table!

One of the major highlights for me in learning about Team Tables is that they are Canadian-made! Team Tables is based in Toronto, Ontario, and they have arranged for suppliers in and around the Greater Toronto Area to be ready for orders so that turn-around times are within 30 days! It's always nice to see a Canadian company getting a push, and Hockey Blog In Canada is happy to be giving them that push!

There are all sorts of price options on the Team Tables Kickstarter page for all sorts of cool things, but let's be honest when we're talking about Team Tables because it's all about the tables. If you have a rec room or a team-themed room, one of the Team Tables could be the final piece in your sports cavern to make it complete! Nicole, Mike's wife, stated in regards to the founding of Team Tables, "It had to be cool and decorative but at the same time something he would cherish; it's not an easy find for someone who has everything."

Cool? Yes. Decorative? Yes. Unique? Absolutely. Hit the Team Tables Kickstarter page and pick yourself up something awesome while supporting a great Canadian company! Team Tables is literally leaving it all on the table with this product!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!