Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 19

Antler Banter returns for yet another Wednesday as the weekly look at the AHL, specifically Manitoba Moose news, continues. There was a little bit of news from Moose camp this week, but none of it revolves around players on the ice. Yet. We're inching closer to hockey season, though, so the news should start pouring in! Today, we'll look at that Moose news, a new look for another AHL team, some new front office appointments, and a couple of free agent signings. We're aiming for the October 9 opening game in the AHL between the Moose and Marlies in Toronto, so let's get this edition of Antler Banter underway!

Enhanced Delays

True North Sports and Entertainment announced that there will be new security protocols for both Jets and Moose games this year as well as any other events in MTS Centre. While the entry to the arena will remain the same, TNSE announced that they "will be introducing the use of magnetometers (walk-through metal detectors similar to those used at all airports) to screen all fans as they enter the venue at every point of entry" as mandated by the NHL.

I was unaware that this was a mandate in the NHL, but let's roll with that for now. According to the announcement, "magnetometers will be used in tandem with handheld wands to conduct secondary screening as required" and pat-downs will only be done in unique circumstances. MTS Centre Service Staff will also search all bags carried into the venue, so "fans are encouraged to arrive early and travel light".

Look, I get that this might be mandated by the NHL, but are $8 beers and $5 hot dogs mandated by the NHL? MTS Centre offers the worst value for the price of a beer in the NHL. Bringing cheaper beverages is one way that Jets fans were beating the system, but that is no more now thanks to the new security protocols. The same will go for Moose fans where the family atmosphere just got a lot more corporate.

Hey, MTS Centre and True North, lower your concession stand prices. I'll bet you sell more hot dogs and beers. Sure, the profit margin drops a bit, but if you're moving more, you'll make up the difference. Simple economics here, guys.

Mini-Packs Announced

It's taken a while, but the Moose finally got their mini-packs scheduled. You can check the packages here, but there are a few highlights. All packages have nine games, plus the "Prime Package" of the following two games: the Home Opener (October 15, 2015) and New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2015).

Variety Pack #1 features games against Bakersfield and Stockton if you want to see the new California teams plus the Texas clubs, but has a pair of games against Lake Erie. Variety Pack #2 features five of the Central Division opponents (no Iowa and Rockford), but you see Toronto, Milwaukee, and Chicago twice. The Weekend Pack has Ontario and five of the Central Division opponents (no Lake Erie and Grand Rapids), but you see Toronto and Chicago twice. The Weekday Pack features Bakersfield and Stockton and the Texas clubs, but you get Lake Erie twice.

I'm currently debating on whether Variety Pack #1 or the Weekday Pack works better because I do want to see a few of the newer teams, but because of the lack of variety in the AHL schedule it seems that these four packs could easily be sorted out as "two slightly different packs of two".

I'm not buying until I see the promotional schedule. And that has yet to be released to the public as of publishing this article.

Cost-Per-Character Contract

The New Jersey Devils announced on Tuesday that they had signed Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond to a one-year, two-way deal that will pay him $575,000 at the NHL level. Letourneau-Leblond finished a two-year stint with the AHL's Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins under new New Jersey head coach John Hynes, so he'll be going to a system where he has some familiarity.

Letourneau-Leblond is a good signing for a bit of toughness at either the NHL or AHL level, and he'll provide good leadership in the AHL. While he won't light up the scoreboard at either level, Letourneau-Leblond provides grit, toughness, and hustle to any line he's put on. I like this depth move.

Horvat Returns

The Ontario Reign announced on Tuesday that they had re-signed Ryan Horvat to a deal. Horvat spent last season with the Manchester Monarchs as a rookie, playing 52 games and scoring three goals and eight assists. He also had one goal in nine Calder Cup Playoff games in helping the Monarchs capture the Calder Cup. Prior to his run to a championship with the Monarchs, Horvat spent time with the Guelph Storm in the OHL where he helped the team capture the 2014 Robertson Cup as OHL champions.

Horvat is still finding his pro legs, but he's a good re-signing by the Reign who will rely on him a little more this season. He'll have to chip in a few more points, but expect Horvat to show some improvement on the ice this season.

From Ice To Bench

The Milwaukee Admirals have hired Scott Ford, who suited up for the Admirals last season, as an assistant coach under head coach Dean Evason. Ford, who split time between the Admirals and the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays, will work with the team's blue line for this upcoming season as he breaks into the coaching ranks.

"We're really looking forward to having Scott as our second assistant coach in Milwaukee," said Admirals general manager and Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton. "Obviously his experience and knowledge of our organization played a large role in his hiring. His leadership and his ability to help our kids develop as players will be a tremendous benefit and we are really pleased to have him."

Ford spent 11 years playing pro hockey with parts of seven of them coming in Milwaukee. He was team captain twice, and has played the second-most games in Admirals history. He'll be a quality addition to the coaching staff in Milwaukee as he works to get players on-track to make the jump to the Nashville Predators.

Taking Over In Albany

The New Jersey Devils announced today that current Devils GM Ray Shero will take over as the Albany Devils' governor while Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald will assume the role of general manager for Albany. Both Shero and Fitzgerald were hired by the Devils this summer, and they begin the task of evaluating talent and improving both the NHL Devils and AHL Devils.

Fitzgerald was part of the 2009 Penguins Stanley Cup coaching staff after having retired in 2007 from the game. Shero, of course, was the GM of the Penguins in 2009 as he put together the roster and replaced head coach Michel Therrien with Dan Bylsma. These two men have a good working relationship, so it will be interesting to see what they can do with the Devils on both levels as they look to return to the playoffs in both leagues.

Pirate's Life For Maine

We've seen a number of new NHL designs this week, so why should the AHL be left out? The Portland Pirates unveiled a brand-new and somewhat-old look for the upcoming season on Tuesday.
"The uniforms unveiled today represent an opportunity for us to a create fresh, clean look as we begin our new affiliation with the Florida Panthers, while also paying tribute to our roots as an organization," said Portland Pirates COO Brad Church. "We feel the new game uniforms bring us a more traditional look that our players and fans will be proud of. We're also excited to bring back our original 'Swash' logo and our original uniform design in our alternate jerseys. This is a design that our fans have been asking for, and we are very happy to make this design a reality."

The home whites have Salty Pete as the logo, the new horizontal hem and sleeve stripes, the outlined shoulder yoke, and the tie-up collar. The road red uniform is basically the opposite of the white with the red and white colours switching places on the uniform. The alternate jersey brings back the original Pirates' Swash logo with a thicker middle hem and sleeve stripe in red which looks like the original uniform used in 1993. This throwback alternate is almost identical to those worn when the team was founded.

Honestly, this is how a rebranding should be done. The Pirates look good. Very good. They incorporated their past into the new uniform set by using the alternate to bridge the old and new, and they went traditional with their new look while incorporating new style elements. Of all the new uniforms I've seen this year, the Pirates have certainly been better than anything seen to date. It's just too bad we won't see them at MTS Centre this year.

That's all for Antler Banter tonight. What do you think of Portland's new look? Are you a fan? Is there something you don't like? Sound off in the comments, and we can discuss everything there!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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