Wednesday, 30 November 2016

He Only Plays Outdoors Now

At the age of 55, you'd expect Wayne Gretzky to be settled into life as a retired hockey player. I'm sure he has other interests and passions that he'd like to pursue, but it seems he's trying to add one more record to the NHL record books this season. While no team has yet to lure him out of retirement, Wayne Gretzky appears to be looking to add the record of "most outdoor games played" to his illustrious career. He's already appeared in a few, including this season's Heritage Classic in Winnipeg, and he's signed up for a couple of more to put him in the running for this unofficial record!

As stated and shown in the picture above, Wayne donned the blue-and-orange as the Edmonton Oilers' alumni squared off against the Winnipeg Jets' alumni at Investors Group Field. For Wayne, his assessment of his game following the Saturday afternoon tilt was unexpected.

"I stink," Gretzky said, laughing. "I'm really bad."

While he certainly was having a little fun with reporters, seeing Wayne Gretzky on the ice again was magical. Yes, he looked a little older, but just seeing him skate up and down the ice was like sitting in the stands of the old Winnipeg Arena watching him decimate the Jets in the 1980s.

Gretzky also took part in another Heritage Classic alumni game when he wore the Oilers' colours in 2003 when the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens met in the first Heritage Classic in NHL history. That game saw Gretzky square off against Canadiens' legend Guy Lafleur at the middle of Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, and the hosts came away with a 2-0 victory.

This wasn't Wayne's first outdoor game as an NHLer, though. In 1991, the New York Rangers met the Los Angeles Kings at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. While it was somewhat unfathomable to think hockey could be played in the Nevada desert, the Rangers and Kings made a game of it as the Kings prevailed in the preseason contest by a 5-2 score.

Gretzky was also invited to the 2012 Winter Classic alumni game when the New York Rangers met the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Wayne opted out of this game, though, as he wanted to spend the holidays with his family as opposed to traveling across the country. It would have been neat to see Wayne Gretzky playing as part of the Rangers, but that was his choice not to play.

As mentioned above, Gretzky suited up for the Heritage Classic in Winnipeg, making that three outdoor appearances for The Great One. Now it appears he'll play two more games within a week of one another as he suits up in two different leagues!

On December 31, Wayne Gretzky will return to St. Louis - where he played all of 31 regular season and playoff games - as part of their alumni team as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks' alumni as part of the 2017 Winter Classic festivities at Busch Stadium. Wayne had a decent 18 games with the Blues as he put up eight goals and 13 assists in his 18 regular season games, and then added two goals and 14 assists in 13 playoff games in 1995-96. While I'm not too concerned with his inclusion on that roster as he played games for the Blues, the next game he will appear in is mostly promotional. Ok, ENTIRELY promotional.

On January 7, 2017, Wayne Gretzky will serve as one of the two captains of the Alumni-Celebrities teams being assembled for the AHL's Three-Way Chevrolet Condorstown Outdoor Classic presented by Mission Bank. In that AHL game, the Bakersfield Condors will host the Ontario Reign as the two AHL rivals look to light up the ice on a California night. Gretzky's alumni-celebrity team will square off against another alumni-celebrity team that will be captained by Luc Robitaille.

By my count, that's five outdoor games for the NHL's all-time leading scorer. Is there anyone within two games of Gretzky at this point? I'm talking alumni or active players as well. I'm not sure anyone is close right now.

I'm happy that Wayne Gretzky is coming back to the NHL. He was a big part of this game during his playing career, and he was missed by fans after the debacle in Phoenix that involved him. Much like Dave Keon in Toronto, his absence was noticeable when it came to big events, so getting him back into some of these great events for fans is good for everyone. And while it might be weird seeing him in a Condors uniform, his work promoting hockey in California is entirely why Bakersfield and Ontario have teams.

Wayne Gretzky is good for hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

TSN Misses The Story

In my storage area, I still have boxes of old hockey cards. These cards are from around the time I was in junior high - middle school for all you new-age kids - when I was collecting my favorite idols in picture format on rectangles of cardboard. Admittedly, the hockey card market was once flooded by various manufacturers - Upper Deck, Topps, O-Pee-Chee, Score, Pro Set, and more. Certain companies had special cards, and various companies partnered with larger companies for promotional sets such as those found at Tim Hortons and at McDonald's. Needless to say, there were a lot of manufacturers who got out of the business once the demand began drying up, and this is one of those stories.

The staff at TSN's BarDown site posted an article about sports cards today, so I'll throw a stick-tap out to them for bringing this to light, but the video you'll see below was actually posted to YouTube on November 16. Filmed by a pair of videographers who call themselves Detroit EXP, it seems these two explorers wander into abandoned and seemingly uninhabited buildings in Detroit. In the video, they explore an old building that once housed the Cadillac Stamping Plant.

But there's more to this story. After the video - it's nearly 20-minutes long - read on for some additional information for which apparently TSN's crew never bothered look. If you only want to see the part where they discover the cards, skip ahead to the 16-minute mark.
It's actually some pretty incredible footage that these two urban explorers filmed inside the old stamping plant. Granted, they're technically trespassing, but their footage takes you all over what was once a thriving plant filled with workers.

The problem is that this story is old news. On August 20, 2015, Daily Mail in the UK ran a story with a headline that read,
According to the report, "[m]illions of the Topps cards were packed away in dust-covered crates, with thousands more strewn over the floor of the derelict building." The pictures on the Daily Mail article show way more detail and information than the footage from Detroit EXP as well. The article states that the cards are "from all of the Major League Baseball of the time as well as hockey cards from the NHL and Ontario Hockey League and even NASCAR". Sounds like a pretty good haul for those who can back a dump truck up and sell them as a packaged lot.

But the story doesn't end there.

Four days after the Daily Mail's story was published, Patrick McNamara from Daily Detroit picked up the story and dug really deep. McNamara contacted a gentleman named George Kruk who had his own sports card and memorabilia shop in Rochester. Kruk "identified the collection as one that used to belong to Hub Hemmen".

McNamara pressed on with this new information.
Hub (short for Hubert) Hemmen had passed away 2013. Hub ran a business called Hub's Tool and Machine on 9 mile, in Warren Michigan. In the Eighties, Hub's tool and die business suffered the fate of many others in the region, and the business failed.

According to Hub's son Greg, he was a wheeler-dealer type, and he knew that as the business began to fail Hub had gotten really into sports cards. The tool and die business had faded away but the space was used to store a large amount of cards.
Now we seem to be getting somewhere with this story. Greg and his father had become estranged, and Greg didn't know a lot about the cards stored in the factory. That led McNamara to pay a visit to "Major Automotive, LLC, next door to Hub Tool and Machine" where he spoke to Reginald, the Operations Manager of the automotive shop.

"His shop was filled to the top with cards. I remember when they were cleaning it out. It took weeks to get all the cards out," Reginald told McNamara.

But, again, the story doesn't end there.

McNamara followed up on a story done by CBS Detroit where a man named John Hemmen claimed his uncle had stored the cards in a warehouse. The warehouse at the time was owned by the Ivan Doverspike Company, a company that "reconditions and remanufactures used automatic screw and spindle machines". There is video of a user named therustymitten looking at this building from the outside as far back as July 14, 2009!
Imagine being that close to a major discovery and not even knowing it! This story could have been written six years earlier had "therustymitten" simply broke into the abandoned building. There's no proof that he or she didn't break in once the camera went off, mind you, but I'm quite certain he or she did not. Otherwise, this story would have broken long before 2015.

In any case, McNamara tracked down John Hemmen and spoke with him!
John Hemmen, cousin of Greg and nephew of Hub, used to work with Hub at the machine shop, and he remembers stowing the cards in the 90s. John had moved to Florida to find work when he saw the writing on the wall for the Tool and Die business.

In the 90s John had come back to Michigan for a two-week visit, as he did nearly every year, and his uncle Hub asked him if he could help him move some stuff out of one of his warehouses to a new location. Though on vacation, John agreed to help Hub, who had been like a father figure, and taught him the Tool and Die trade.

"He felt kind of bad, so Hub gave my wife some money to go shopping, and I spent 3-4 days hauling the cards from the warehouse to the plant," said John Hemmen.
And that's the story of how the cards got to the warehouse. Of course, you're probably asking why they're still sitting there and perhaps why didn't Hub sell them before he passed on? Well, John answered that question very succinctly: "Hub suffered from dementia later in life, and he probably wasn't able to keep track of all of his assets."

So the only question left to answer is who owns the cards now that Mr. Hemmen is gone? According to the laws of the land, the building's owner owns everything inside the abandoned factory. We know Mr. Hemmen didn't own the factory, so someone else is technically the new owner of a vast amount of sports cards. Mr. McNamara also identified this person, and the factory belongs to Bill Hults! And that, readers, is the end of this mystery of the crates of sports cards in an abandoned factory in Detroit.

I'm not sure why this is the second example in a week where major news outlets are only carrying a small piece of a story. Context and background play a massive role in telling a complete story, and by only giving half the story - as seen in the Gavrilov story from the KHL - or small crumb of a story as seen above, news outlets like TSN are doing a major disservice to its readers. I want to give huge credit to Patrick McNamara for solving this non-mystery over a year ago as his sleuthing work answered all of these questions in August 2015. He's the real hero in this story.

And I want to heap shame upon TSN for not being able to use a search engine to tell the real story that happened in Detroit with these sports cards. Whoever the "BarDown Staff" was that worked on this story need a serious lesson in investigative journalism and vetting of a story. Or at least how to use Google. But I guess sensationalism news generates great story clicks when all is said and done, right?

BarDown? More like LetDown.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Kicked To The Curb

By now, you've probably heard the news that Gerard Gallant was relieved of his coaching duties by the Florida Panthers on Sunday night. As shock and reactions took over social media and the various mainstream media outlets, many people weighed in that this is the new direction that the Florida Panthers are taking after they focused the front office on analytics and statistical breakdowns. While there's nothing wrong with this approach, firing your former head coach on a road trip is tough. Firing him prior to his leaving the opposing team's rink and not providing a way back to the hotel? That's low.

For a guy who has a 96-65-25 record in two-plus seasons with the Panthers, it's hard to argue with results. Gallant had led the Panthers to franchise-bests of 47 wins and 103 points last season, was a runner-up for the Jack Adams Award last season, and signed a two-year extension in the summer to stay with the club. It appeared that Gallant was going to be given a chance to work with the new management team after posting some great numbers with the youthful Panthers.

The prevailing thought from most hockey people closer to the NHL than I am is that Gallant and management had been at odds for some time over the personnel and makeup of the Panthers. Gallant reportedly wasn't happy when Erik Gudbranson was traded to Vancouver that netted them Jared McCann who is currently with the AHL's Springfield Thunderbirds. He was reportedly unhappy with the Logan Shaw-Michael Sgarbossa deal. Gallant seems to have wanted a grittier, tougher team while management wanted a puck possession, speedier team.

I guess we know which team we'll be seeing in the future.

Look, I've been in situations where management is right even when they're wrong. I've done the same thing that Gallant did in forging my own path and speaking out where I disagreed with the philosophy. Anyone who has been in that situation knows, however, that management's decisions are normally accepted as being the path to take while those who stray are often left behind just as Gallant was. Some in the workforce have coined the term "Adapt or Die" as a way to accept this solution when one finds one's self in a rather difficult position.

According to Dale Tallon, this decision to make changes happened two games ago. "We took everything into consideration at our quarterly meeting," he said, "and as a group decided to go in a different direction."

Rowe was much more upfront, stating "that management had planned to evaluate Gallant based on the entire six-game road trip before making any decisions, but 'after we collapsed in the second period last night, it came to a head a lot quicker.'"

It's hard to blame Gallant for the 10-11-1 record the Panthers currently have. He's been without Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, and Jussi Jokinen. Aaron Ekblad got off to a horrendous start to his season, but is beginning to turn the corner. James Reimer flubbed a number of saves against the Maple Leafs and has yet to look entirely comfortable playing behind the Florida defence. While it is Gallant's job to correct the mistakes once they've been witnessed, it's hard to blame a coach who is missing three of his top-six forwards, a blue chip defenceman who looked lost on the ice, and a goaltender who turned glove saves into goals-against.

In the end, though, hockey is a results-based industry. Team president Matt Caldwell laid it out very clearly to reporters.
"We're very proud of the season we had last year, a great turnaround year, made the playoffs for first time in a while, and we made a number of great moves this offseason. We had very high expectations for our season with Gerard Gallant as our coach...

"But as the management team came together at the 20-game mark, we've been unhappy with the inconsistent performance and just think we should be playing better at this stage of the season. We decided the change is necessary to move in a different direction."
So be it. Gerard Gallant is out despite the team being just two points out of a playoff spot and having a better record at the same point as last season. GM Tom Rowe, who has coached in the AHL and in Russia, takes over behind the bench, Dale Tallon shifts back to the GM role after Rowe announced he will focus solely on coaching, and the Florida Panthers move on.

Gerard Gallant will still receive the next two years' worth of pay if he so desires it. My guess is that there will be a lot of suitors lining up for his to coach their teams, and I suspect he'll be back behind a bench by the All-Star Game if he chooses to be. Gallant is a smart guy, a good coach, and a great person - something every organization desires.

However, like the photo above, Gallant got stuck holding the bag in this situation. It's truly a cutthroat industry in professional coaching jobs. Let's only hope the next team has the courtesy to book him a flight back to the city they call home.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Rundown - Week 8

This week's edition of The Rundown had all sorts of good match-ups on the docket as the three Canada West teams ranked in the USports top-ten looked to solidify their positions while fending off the other five teams in their quest to unseat the ranked competitors. Two of those ranked teams would find them squaring off against one another, though, so we'll work through the final games in November as the eight Canada West teams jockey for position prior to the Christmas break!

CALGARY at REGINA: Both teams were looking to right their ships after posting losses in three-or-more consecutive games. Calgary desperately needed to string together a couple of wins to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot while Regina needed wins to keep pace with the four teams ahead of them, if not pass them if they faltered. It would be the Dinos, however, who got off to a good start midway through the first period as Cheyann Newman followed her own shot to the net and batted the airborne puck past Regina's Morgan Baker to put Calgary up 1-0 at 9:52. That lead would last all of 29 seconds, though, as Jaycee Magwood dangled a defender before roofing a wrist shot on Kelsey Roberts that the goalie couldn't corral, and it was a 1-1 game.

A scoreless second period gave us no answer when it came to a winner, but the third period saw Regina strike early. Bailey Braden decided to go for a skate and she carried the puck from her own end into the Calgary zone and fired a shot from what looked like a nearly impossible angle, but the puck found its way behind Roberts for the 2-1 Cougars lead just 2:24 into the final frame. Exactly eight minutes after that goal, the Cougars used a power-play and a Kylie Gavelin shot from the top of the face-off circle to make it 3-1. Calgary would not go away, though, and Sasha Vafina's wrist shot at 12:57 found room past Baker to make it a 3-2 game.

Despite furious action from the Dinos, Baker and the Cougars' defence corps held strong in the final seven minutes to preserve the one-goal lead and the victory in this game. Baker earned the win with an 18-save performance while Roberts took the loss despite making 39 saves on the night.

CALGARY at REGINA: The second-half of the double-dip was a different story. Regina got on the board early when Kylie Gavelin deposited a rebound off an Alexis Larson shot for the 1-0 lead just 3:19 into the game. The Cougars would double their lead on the power-play when Jaycee Magwood on the left wing and streaking in on Roberts where she calmly zipped a wrist shot past Roberts at 16:31.

Magwood struck again in the second period when Bailey Braden got past a defender on the right side before centering to Magwood who waited for Roberts to flinch before denting the twine behind her at 4:05. It looked like this game might get off the rails for the Dinos, but a power-play at 4:43 was the panacea needed. Megan Grenon's point shot missed the net, but the rebound came out to Chelsea Court on the backdoor and she potted the easy goal to make it 3-1 at 5:16. Regina, however, would restore the three-goal lead at 18:13 when Braden picked up the face-off win from Magwood, and she would wire home a shot from the slot to make it 4-1.

Morgan Loroff would pull the Dinos within a pair with 3:15 to play as her high shot beat Jane Kish, but the Dinos would get no closer as the Cougars picked up another three points in a 4-2 victory. Kish stopped 17 shots in the win while Roberts made 28 stops in the loss.

UBC at MOUNT ROYAL: The top-ranked UBC Thunderbirds went into Calgary for a date with the Mount Royal Cougars looking to build on their impressive ten-game win streak. The Cougars, meanwhile, were looking for the upset in the hopes of keeping pace with the Regina Cougars while fending off the Lethbridge Pronghorns. The only problem? The #1-ranked UBC Thunderbirds.

A scoreless first period led to the second period where Mathea Fischer's deflection of a Kelly Murray shot finally broke the stalemate with 2:34 left in the period. Kudos to the Cougars for hanging tough with Canada's best team through 40 minutes.

Fischer picked up her second goal of the night when a shot from a tight angle on the power-play found its way behind Emma Pincott just 56 seconds into the period for the 2-0 lead. The T-Birds would use another power-play to make it a three-goal cushion. Mairead Bast's wrist shot found its way through the screen and past Pincott up high at 5:16, and the Thunderbirds were in control of this game. Despite some opportunities, the Cougars couldn't solve netminder Tori Micklash on this night as UBC picked up the 3-0 victory. Micklash stopped all 18 pucks sent her way for the shutout win while Pincott made 23 saves in a losing effort.

UBC at MOUNT ROYAL: After a solid road game the night before, UBC wanted the same effort on Saturday, and they certainly started well. They got things started just 1:31 into the game when Hannah Clayton-Carroll converted a rebound given up by Zoe DeBeauville off a Celine Tardif shot for the 1-0 lead. Mount Royal would finally solve Tori Micklash on Saturday when Rachel Piitz's shot was kicked out by Micklash to a waiting Sarah Weninger who easily potted the rebound at 7:14 to make it a 1-1 game.

Both Micklash and DeBeauville posted clean sheets in the second period, but the third period would see a winner emerge. Celine Tardif found Kathleen Cahoon open at the side of the net with a pass from the point, and Cahoon fed the puck across the crease to Logan Boyd who had little trouble in finding the net from that distance to give UBC the 2-1 lead at 7:45. Micklash held the fort the rest of the way as she picked up her second win of the weekend in the 2-1 UBC victory. Micklash made 24 stops on the afternoon while DeBeauville stopped 25 shots in the loss.

LETHBRIDGE at ALBERTA: I was going to build the importance of this game up for both teams, but when the puck dropped it was a one-team show. Amy Boucher opened the scoring at 5:22 of the first period to make it 1-0. In the second period, Kennedy Ganser scored at 3:50, Alex Poznikoff added a third goal at 14:16, and Boucher potted a power-play goal at 17:01 to make it 4-0. Throw in a shorthanded goal by Poznikoff at 12:12 of the third period, and that was all that Alberta needed on this night as Lindsey Post shut the door on the Pronghorns. Post made 17 saves in the 5-0 shutout win while Alicia Anderson stopped 35 shots in the loss.

LETHBRIDGE at ALBERTA: I'd like to say that this game was different, but the hits just kept on coming for the Pronghorns. Amy Boucher scored at 6:13 after serving a penalty. Boucher hopped out of the box and joined Alex Poznikoff on a two-on-one where Poznikoff went tape-to-tape and Boucher found the back of the net for the only goal of the first period as Alberta jumped out in front 1-0.

The second period was all Alberta as they completely dominated the middle frame. Autumn MacDougall scored on the power-play when she found the five-hole through Alicia Anderson at 13:43, and she added a second goal at 18:40 after taking a Poznikoff pass and ripping a shot past Anderson for the 3-0 lead. When the dust settled, Alberta had outshot the Pronghorns 15-1 in the second period.

Sarah Spence showed a flash of life in the third period for the Pronghorns as she beat Abby Benning with a great move before going high on Lindsey Post to snap the shutout at 1:24. However, the Pandas would answer once more just 70 seconds later when Poznikoff ripped a one-timer past Anderson off a MacDougall feed to make it 4-1. Post would hold the fort and the Pandas would skate to the 4-1 win on Saturday. Post stopped 14 shots in a fairly light afternoon's worth of work while Anderson made 35 stops for the second-straight day in the loss.

MANITOBA at SASKATCHEWAN: In what was anticipated to be the best games of the weekend, the seventh-ranked Bisons traveled west to Saskatoon where they met the ninth-ranked Huskies. These two teams were separated by a point in the standings, so these two games had all sorts of implications on the standings.

The Huskies opened the scoring 8:56 into the first period when Kaitlin Willoughby was sprung down the left wing on a breakaway. The speedy forward went stick side on the deke past Rachel Dyck to give Saskatchewan the 1-0 lead. The goalies took over for the next 45 minutes, but the Bisons would end the scoring drought when Venla Hovi's shot from the point hit the back of the net under the crossbar behind Cassidy Hendricks with 4:12 to play. Neither team would score again before the final horn, so it was off to overtime to find a winner.

The first overtime period ended with the two teams still locked in the 1-1 draw. It looked like the shootout was going to be necessary, but a late scramble in front of Hendricks saw Lauren Keen push a rebound across the goal line with two seconds to play, and the Manitoba Bisons claimed the 2-1 OT win! Rachel Dyck stopped 27 shots in the five periods of play for the win while Hendricks made 21 saves over 69:58 of play.

MANITOBA at SASKATCHEWAN: With the two teams tied in the standings after Manitoba's win on Friday, Saturday's game became even more important, and Manitoba got the scoring started early in the second period. After a scoreless first period, Charity Price found Jayden Skoleski in the slot, and her shot went stick-side on Cassidy Hendricks and into the net for the 1-0 just 50 seconds into the frame. Saskatchewan would respond near the midway point of the period. After some good pressure by the Huskies, Emilt Upgang's shot from the point eluded traffic and Rachel Dyck to dent the twine at 7:23, and these two teams would enter the third period deadlocked at 1-1.

It would be the Huskies who grabbed an early lead at the 3:40 mark. Bailee Bourassa's shot was stopped by Dyck, but Elizabeth Salyn pushed the rebound past a prone Rachel Dyck for the 2-1 lead. The Bisons continued to press for the equalizer, and they would find it with 5:55 to play in the game. Skoleski teed up another shot from the blue line, and this shot would find the wickets of Hendricks and just get across the line after she got a piece of it. With no other goals in the remaining time, we'd need overtime once more to decide things between the two prairie rivals.

1:06 into the first overtime period, Elizabeth Salyn was called for tripping, sending Manitoba to the power-play. 1:28 into the man-advantage, the game ended off a Karissa Kirkup snipe from the slot area to give Manitoba the 3-2 overtime victory! Rachel Dyck picked up her second overtime win in as many days, stopping 20 shots in the victory while Cassidy Hendricks was on the losing end of the result for the second night despite making 25 saves.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
37 49 22
28 42 21
vs MRU
27 32 27
24 35 24
vs SAS
23 34 35
Mount Royal
14 21 33
10 22 47
vs REG
5 20 46
vs UBC

I'm not gonna lie: UBC will probably take 13 wins into the Christmas break based on how they and Calgary have been playing. For the Thunderbirds, they had 16 wins all of last season in their CWUAA championship season, so it's very easy to see why they are the top university team in the nation. I'm not expecting much movement for Manitoba and Saskatchewan after two hard-fought overtime games, so expect the Bisons to remain seventh and the Huskies to remain ninth.

The playoff picture is beginning to emerge as we get ready for the last week of action in 2016. UBC will most likely have an opening-round bye and have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs unless they falter in the second-half of the season. I just don't see that happening. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Regina will all make the playoffs unless someone takes a serious nosedive in their second-half, but where they finish is still up for grabs when you look at the standings. It appears Mount Royal is headed back to the playoffs this season, but Lethbridge will certainly make a push in the second-half to try and knock the Cougars out of that sixth spot. Calgary has their work cut out for them, and they will most likely enter the Christmas break without a regulation win.

Get down to your local university for this weekend's Canada West women's hockey action! Three of the nation's best teams play in the four western provinces, and that means there will be great hockey all weekend long!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Sparks Sparks Suspension

It's been a while since Garret Sparks made news in Toronto, but the netminder is in the headlines once again. The only problem is that it's not for goaltending as Sparks was suspended by the Toronto Maple Leafs indefinitely for violating team policy. Team policy, to be fair, covers a lot of ground, but it seems that Sparks' indiscretion was over the use of social media as he said some rather unsavoury things via a Facebook group in which he's an administrator. As I'm sure we're all aware, it doesn't matter which social media platform one is on, there are trolls and those looking to disrupt civilized conversation. Garret Sparks got caught in that disruption.

"Management has dealt with Garret directly and will have no further comment at this point," a member of the organization said in an email to Rogers Sportsnet. I understand what the Maple Leafs are doing in deflating this situation before it gets any worse, and that's entirely within their right to do. Veteran netminder Jeff Glass suited up with the AHL's Toronto Marlies in his place when the team was on its recent roadtrip in New York and at home this weekend.

So, like many, you're probably asking what Sparks said that sparked this reaction from the organization. According to the Toronto Star, "Sparks is a frequent contributor to the website, with 20,000-plus members, many of them netminders from around the world", and it seems his exchanged may have occurred with members of a Facebook group on November 22. TSN's Kristen Shilton reports,
According to users in a Facebook goalie group for which Sparks is an administrator, members of the forum were mocking a disabled person and Sparks came to that person's defence by asking one of those in the forum where he lived and writing, "I want to go to open hockey with you, drag you out to center ice and beat you into a [expletive] pulp until you can’t run that [expletive] little mouth of yours. God, you sound like a 13-year-old girl."

When another member reprimanded Sparks for insulting women, he apologized and continued, "Girls don't even whine as much as this guy does."
Yikes. I'm not going to use the excuse that Garret Sparks is a 23 year-old man. Even the most youthful professional athletes know better than to make those kinds of comments in public. There is no excuse for threatening another person online or making statements about girls like Sparks did. At all. Period. End of story.

For those in that group that were mocking a disabled person, you deserve as much shame as can be heaped on anyone for your comments. According to a 2014 YouGov study, "28% of Americans admitted malicious online activity directed at somebody they didn't know." Everyone mocking this disabled person is now part of that statistic, and that means more than one-quarter of the American public has engaged in trolling. More than 1-in-4 people. Let that sink in for a second when you consider that Sparks is part of a website "with 20,000-plus members".

While Sparks did let the anger and emotion bubble to the top in this situation and I commend him for coming to the defence of someone who may not even be part of the group where he or she was being mocked, insults beget insults online. There is no excuse for the language and tone used by Sparks online towards one member of the group as an administrator or fellow group member, and there is absolutely nothing that can rationalize the comments he made about girls. None.

While it may seem like harsh punishment for a guy doing the right thing, Sparks went about it entirely the wrong way and he gave the Maple Leafs few options other than to send him home. The Toronto Marlies certainly don't need the sideshow of these online comments swirling around the team as they try to win games, so the Leafs did the right thing. Say what you will about his youth, his emotional response, or anything else, but he's a professional athlete with a microscope on him and these comments certainly would have warranted some backlash from the public had the Leafs let this one slide. They didn't, and they did the right thing in the end for the player and team.

Garret Sparks will learn from this. He's a smart guy with a bright future in hockey. Mistakes will be made, but we, as human beings, are supposed to learn from those mistakes. I'm quite certain Garret Sparks, when he returns, will have learned a great deal from this online interaction with a group of people who clearly have their own life lessons to learn.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 25 November 2016

What Really Happened

This handsome fellow is Andrei Gavrilov. You may not know him or his stats thanks to him playing in the KHL, but you've certainly seen the video of him in action today. The 29 year-old plays for Salavat Yulaev Ufa after signing a one-year deal earlier this summer, and he's hoping to claim Ufa's blue paint for the foreseeable future with some strong play. However, he probably won't include his play against Dynamo Moscow on his personal highlight reel after he casually took a break mid-play for a water break. Sports highlight shows seemed to have his water break on cue all day.

Here it is, once more, for those that may have missed it.
He may have been just a wee bit too casual with Moscow closing in on him on a 2-on-1. Gavrilov may have even caused the Dynamo Moscow's Maxim Karpov to fumble the puck sent across to him through his rather non-reactionary goaltending pose! In any case, there had to be a better reason for Gavrilov's impromptu water break than "I'm thirsty", right?

Well, there is. Seconds before this clip went viral, Maxim Mayorov had actually scored on Dynamo's Alexander Yeryomenko, but the referee didn't stop the play and Moscow grabbed the puck and went down the ice. This is where most of the sports highlight shows picked up the feed as Gavrilov appears to have believed that Ufa scored. He goes about preparing himself for play to resume at center ice with some water, only to realize that Dynamo Moscow had raced back down the ice for a scoring chance!

As you can see, though, Mayorov was credited with the second Ufa goal which, coincidentally, was the game-winner in a 2-1 Ufa victory over Dynamo Moscow.

Sometimes, a great story isn't really that great when full context is given. Mayorov's goal should have stood when he scored it and the referee should have blown the play dead. However, humans are falliable and he made a mistake. It happens. To have Gavrilov's casual water break recorded as some amazing piece of history is neither truthful nor correct. He simply assumed that the referee made the call and went about his business 200-feet away.

That's the story, and I'm sticking to it, folks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Hockey Show - Episode 218

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is going back to its roots tonight as TJ, Beans, and I sit down for some good ol' hockey talk. While we've been thrilled with our guests lately - did you miss Phil Aubrey's interview? - there comes a time when the three gents need to sit down and disseminate some of the news and stories pouring out of the hockey world. The Jets and Bisons suffered setbacks, the Aalborg Pirates and Brandon Reid keep on rolling, the are problems in the KHL, the rules for the expansion draft have changed slightly, and there's finally a name for that new team! All of this and more will be discussed tonight!

As stated above, we're going to talk about how the scoring has dried up for Winnipeg that has led them to an 0-4 roadtrip and saw them plummet in the standings, the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team and how they found out that speed kills, the Aalborg Pirates and how they continue to lead the Metal Ligaen under the guidance of Brandon Reid, the recent comments made by KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko about the league's current financial problems, some news rules for players with no-movement clauses in their contracts and what that means for the Las Vegas expansion team, and that new name for the Las Vegas team. If the hour allows it, we may also touch on Vancouver walking away from an Evander Kane deal, the craziness happening in the NWHL, and whether or not Patrik Laine should be the runaway leader for the Calder Trophy as per Sportsnet. That's one heckuva busy show! We might need to extend this to a second hour!

Ok, we won't go into a second hour, but we will be doing a similar show next week when we're live at The Hub Social Club! With no Jets game to follow the show tonight, we're officially turning December 1 into November 31 as the Jets and Oilers meet next Thursday! Come down to the University of Manitoba and enjoy some great food and beverages while you listen to our weekly hockey chatter. There will be prizes to be won as well, so join us at 5:30pm on December 1 when we broadcast live from The Hub!

Something else that should be at the top of your list when it comes to supporting the Manitoba Bisons is the Holiday Hamper food drive on now! The Bisons women's hockey team is putting together a pile of hampers for the less fortunate this holiday season, and they want your help! The team is looking for non-perishable food donations or monetary donations that will go to making up baskets of food for Manitoba families!

You can bring non-perishable food items or money for a donation to the upcoming weekend series against the Mount Royal Cougars on December 2 and 3, or you can contact Bisons forward Karissa Kirkup to arrange for a pickup! Karissa can be reached at 204-851-4886 or by email at This is an excellent cause, and it's one that TJ and I, as the voice of the Bisons, have supported already with a big donation! We'd encourage any and all people, businesses, and organizations to match our donation of $50 in non-perishable food to the Holiday Hamper drive! Thanks to all who donate, and to the Bisons women's hockey team for helping those that need a little help this holiday season!

Of course, if you're a proud owner of an iDevice or Android device and want to listen to The Hockey Show, you can easily listen to the show by downloading the UMFM app! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show!

You can also email all show questions and comments to! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have 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 back in studio tonight to chat all things hockey, so call us at 204-269-8638 (269-UMFM) to chat some hockey! You can also email, tweet, or drop a Facebook comment and we'll address those as well! Make sure you tune up 101.5 on your FM dial, listen online at, or download the UMFM app as TJ, Beans, and I run through all the hockey news, stories, and information on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: November 24, 2016: Episode 218

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Written Out By Zamboni

After what seems to be a number of serious articles, I need a light-hearted article to break up this constant serious tone. The man to the left may not be known to many, but that is actor, comedian, and radio host Jay Thomas. Thomas has accomplished many things in his life to date including stints on TV shows such as Mork & Mindy and Murphy Brown, made appearances in movies such as Mr. Holland's Opus and The Santa Clause 2, and has hosted The Jay Thomas Show on Sirius Satellite Radio since 2005. It was his stint as Eddie LeBec on Cheers, though, that thrust Jay Thomas into hockey and TV infamy.

Secondary characters are used in TV shows all the time to advance story lines or give main characters an interesting story arc. Jay Thomas' character, Eddie LeBec, was added the show in Season 5 as Carla's boyfriend. Carla, as you may know, was played by Rhea Perlman. One season later, the oft-seen LeBec married Carla, and it seemed as though Jay Thomas would be a mainstay on the Cheers set. Instead, Thomas was dismissed from the show in Season 8, and LeBec was killed off in a most unusual way.

When Carla married Eddie, he was earning a living by playing goalie for the NHL's Boston Bruins as part of the Cheers sports theme. His game began to falter, so he retired from hockey and joined a touring ice dancing show called "The Wonderful World of Ice". Eddie played a penguin in the show that toured from city to city. Everything seems pretty normal for a sitcom character, right? I mean, how many hockey stars in real-life move to a touring ice dancing troupe once his career is over? Exactly.

Everything was normal until a radio listener called into Jay's radio show and asked a question: "What is it like to be on Cheers?" Seems fairly harmless, right?

According to Ken Levine, who wrote shows for Cheers, it was anything but harmless.
He said something to the effect of "It's brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman." Well, guess who happened to be listening.

Jay Thomas was never seen on CHEERS again. To explain his departure we decided to just kill him, which led to one of my favorite episodes that David and I wrote, "Death Takes a Holiday on Ice". First off, we needed a funny demise. Eddie, by then, was working as a penguin in an ice show so we arrived at a Zamboni machine accident. (We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to use the name Zamboni but the company loved it.)

Then we needed (a) some comic spin for the story, and (b) something to discredit Eddie so the audience would ultimately be glad he was out of Carla’s life. The answer was at the funeral Carla learned that he was a polygamist, and had a second wife (who looked just like Carla). It was BIG LOVE going for big laughs. The episode earned us an Emmy nomination (and Emmy loss…I wonder if Jay Thomas was on the blue ribbon committee???)
According to, Thomas' comments were a little more harsh, leading to his dismissal after Perlman heard them.
When asked about kissing Carla on Cheers, Thomas noted he received combat pay for doing so. Soon after, rather than being added as a cast member like Bebe Neuwirth (who also made recurring appearances in seasons 6 and 7 before being officially joining the cast in Season 8), Thomas was done for good. He recalled:

I'm doing Cheers, having the greatest time of my life, and one day I get a phone call from Jimmy. I knew they were deciding [about] whether to add me or Bebe to the cast full-time, and I thought he was calling with good news. He said, like in a movie, "Are you sitting down?" And he goes, "Look, we're not going to have you back on the show. And it has nothing to do with Rhea."
Clearly, there are two versions of this story as Rhea Perlman has always maintained that she had nothing to do with Thomas' dismissal from the show, and that the direction of the story between Carla and Eddie was the reason for his zamboni demise. However, Ken Levine told, "Rhea came up to my office and she was furious — I'd never seen her like this. She said, "I want him off the show.'"

Judge for yourself, I guess, but Jay has told the same story over the years, and has even told the story on the Howard Stern Show. While there was no footage of the death-by-zamboni, it is still one of TV's most unique deaths of a character in the history of television. All of this happened on November 9, 1989 and people were still reeling over Eddie's death two weeks later!

While his character was killed off by a zamboni, Jay Thomas got bodychecked by Rhea Perlman thanks to his comments about the actress on the radio. And that's how he got iced!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Name For Its Team

Let's be upfront in this article: the delays in announcing Las Vegas' NHL team name annoyed me. For months, we're heard teasers and seen Bill Foley's group register umpteen trademarks for numerous fake team names with the promise that one of these names would be the final choice for the NHL's newest team. Tonight, the stage was set for the major announcement, five months to the day that the NHL delivered the news to Bill Foley that his beloved city of Las Vegas would be the NHL's 31st home. We finally arrived at this "historic" day, as it was described, where Las Vegas would finally have a professional sports team to call its own. Ladies and gentlemen, the NHL would like to present the 31st NHL team known as the Vegas Golden Knights!

Ok, maybe I got a little too excited in announcing that. I'm not sure how the name even relates to the city when it comes to the logo and Knights imagery. Apparently, Bill Foley thinks it's a great name for Vegas' NHL entry, and he explained how they arrived at the Golden Knights name to ESPN's Scott Burnside.
"We are now the Golden Knights," he said. "My whole idea was to create a logo and a name that was powerful, that would epitomize the warrior class. The knights are the epitome of the warrior class, the top of the line in terms of defending the realm, defending the unprotected. This is all part of the culture we want to create with the hockey team. And hockey players are warriors and they're team players, they're not individuals, they're playing together."
Even Tom Cruise is confused by Foley's statement, and we all know some of the crazy things Mr. Cruise has said in his time. To quote James Downey, the actor who played the principal from Billy Madison, "At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Foley never actually explained the "Golden" part of the Golden Knights. He never made it clear where the city of Las Vegas and knights cross paths when it comes to representing the city unless he's suggesting that the entire city's population is "the unprotected". And his explanation of the team name is actually a definition of what a knight is, not an explanation of how the team came to be named. As we know, he was set on naming this team the Black Knights in honour of Army, Foley's alma mater, but the school took issue with that. So this is the next best thing in his mind?

During his speech on-stage during the unveiling of the name and logo, Foley stated, "We want our team to be known for dedication, honor, strength, courage and a commitment to never give up - both on the ice and off. We want our team to be committed to teamwork, service to this great city and integrity in all things - and we wanted a name and logo that represented all of this and was unique to Las Vegas and our community. Vegas Golden Knights is that name."

Is it just me, or is "dedication, honor, strength, courage and a commitment to never give up - both on the ice and off. We want our team to be committed to teamwork, service to this great city and integrity in all things" the mandate for every single professional sports franchise on the planet? Again, there is no explanation for how "Golden Knights" even remotely represents Las Vegas other than they call the city home.

Of course, social media blew up once the name was announced.

@ESPN_NHL @LasVegasLocally @VegasHockeyNHL for locals, the "Las" not in the city name is off-putting. Only tourists call our city "Vegas".

— Chris Gotch(@chrisgotch) November 22, 2016

@ESPN_NHL Tourists go to Vegas. People live in Las Vegas. NV is the Silver State. CA is the Golden State. #nevervegas

— Trevor Hayes (@iamthayes) November 22, 2016

@ESPN_NHL @BringBackSonics @VegasHockeyNHL Just asking, how do the "GoldenKnights" reflect the culture or spirit of the region?

— Mike Barbre(@MikeBarbre) November 22, 2016

Ok, so the name could be better suited for both the city and the team. I agree with that. I think Foley and his team missed the mark entirely, but he spent the $500 million to call it whatever he wanted. That was an expensive price tag for a name that kids assign to their Create-A-Team option in the EASports' NHL video game series. The logo, however, looks good from the outset until you really start looking at it and realize that a number of cultures and fictional characters have worn a variation of the helmet chosen.
From left to right, that's Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Boba Fett (Star Wars), Magneto (X-Men series), and King Leonidas (300). Two of those characters come from ancient times while technically Magneto could represent the present day and Boba Fett is obviously from the future as we know it. The one bond all these men have in common? They all lost at some point in their movies. Now, I'm not foreshadowing anything, but I'm just stating a fact. Of all the helmets shown above, though, doesn't the Vegas logo look an awful lot like King Leonidas' helmet?

Fictional characters aside, the style of helmet depicted in the Golden Knights' logo has been used throughout history. There have always been modifications made to it - a shorter nosepiece, more cheekbone protection, the fusing of nosepiece to face protection - but this style of helmet is pretty generic throughout history. Knights in medieval times may have worn them, but they traditionally wore helms that featured greater face and head protection. For the most part, it was horsemen, not wanting to be weighed down by bulky armour, who wore the style of helmet depicted in medieval times. If there is one positive, the negative space created by the nosepiece and face protection does give the "V" for Vegas. It's not as good as the "H" created in the Hartford Whalers' logo, but it gets some kudos for that design feature.

Quibbles over the historical accuracy of the logo aside, the colour scheme also seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. According to the official release, the team colours are "steel grey, gold, red and black". According to the release, "[s]teel grey represents strength and durability", "Nevada is the largest producer of gold in the United States, it is a highly-valued precious metal and is a color seen in the Las Vegas terrain", "Red is from the Vegas skyline, the desert and the beauty of the Red Rock canyons; red is also a color associated with the readiness to serve", and "[b]lack represents power and intensity". There's a lot of marketing jargon in there, but that's how they arrived at those colours. Well, except for the red.
Thumbing through a book that displays the jersey color schemes for home and away, Foley pointed out the changes that had been undertaken even since September, including a band of red on both the jerseys and socks that was initially white. That was the brainchild of McPhee.

"George McPhee colored it in and said, 'What do you think about that?'" Foley said. "And it looked perfect. It makes the gray look more powerful."
Right. Forget the environmental damage that open-pit heap leach gold mines do in and around Nevada, red wasn't even a colour in the original design! To tag that with the marketing wet dream of "the Vegas skyline, the desert and the beauty of the Red Rock canyons" is nothing more than horse doody.

Look, I really wanted to like the Las Vegas team. I thought they missed a glorious opportunity in getting the trademarks for the CFL's Posse branding and transforming this team into an Old West-themed franchise that played in the "Wild, Wild West"-ern Conference. The in-arena concession stands could all be outfitted with Old West signs and themes, the penalty box could have had screen-printed bars across them as a little fun on the theme of an Old West lock-up, and the ushers and arena workers could have been dressed in Old West outfits as they did their jobs. I don't know if this idea had any legs when it came to the process that Mr. Foley took to arrive at the Golden Knights name, but it would seemingly fit the area, the city, and the team much better.

As it stands, I'm not sold on the name, especially with respect to how it represents the city in which the team plays. It seems that residents of Las Vegas aren't too thrilled either, but it will be up to them to make this venture work in the Nevada desert. For a team that couldn't get its debut video to play on two different attempts, though, it's off to a somewhat-rocky start as an NHL franchise.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Not Bad At All

Having lived through one outdoor game this season, I was hoping that the next outdoor game to be played in Canada would take on a rather historic look. The logo to the left is actually pretty classy when it comes to promoting the Centennial Classic, and it appears that the NHL is keeping with the heritage theme when it comes to these outdoor games in Canada. While I still think the Jets' look for their outdoor game might be the best jersey worn this season, the Maple Leafs and Red Wings are doing things right with their looks for the big game in The Big Smoke on New Year's Day!

Admittedly, first glance had me a little taken aback because I don't see anything too off-putting about these jerseys! They're clean with good contrasts, they've been kept simple without any gaudy use of the silver that the NHL has been incorporating into everything, and they look like a traditional hockey sweater. It's as if the NHL has been reading this blog!

All jokes aside, let's take a look at both uniforms a little more closely as we prepare for January 1, 2017.

This jersey design used by the Leafs is about as traditional as one can get when it comes to hockey jerseys. The middle stripe has been used for years by many teams, and the only addition the Leafs made was to outline the white with two small silver stripes that don't take anything away from the overall aesthetic of the jersey. The logo contrasts beautifully against the blue background, and I really like the off-blue colour used for the number to make it stand out as well. By reducing the use of the silver colour and utilizing the white as an outline colour, the numbering on the back looks sharp!

No. Just no. I still don't know why the NHL insists on putting messages of any kind on an area of the jersey that no one will see on the ice. While those three words mean a lot to the men wearing the jersey and every player who wore the jersey before them, it's entirely unnecessary. Stop doing it. And do the Leafs really need a lace-up sweater? These two trends need to stop sooner than later.

The Red Wings, at first glance, have a very clean white jersey. The logo pops well as it always does on the white jersey, and I like the simple striping. Yes, that silver stripe does look a little out of place, but I'll address this below. I cannot thank the Red Wings and the NHL enough for making this jersey with a normal collar instead of the lace-up collar. The jersey resembles a traditional sweater so much more with the rounded collar that the Red Wings are employing. If there is a drawback to the jersey, it's the NHL logo right below the collar as it looks sorely out of place on this rather clean and simple jersey. I get that's where the logo appears on all jerseys, but can we not make allowances for special games and jerseys?

That silver stripe, as seen above, contains all the years that the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. Again, this is something that will never been seen on the ice by fans, so why even include it? Better yet, could they not make the top stripe of the three arm stripes into this silver stripe so that the arm stripes match the two stripes on the hem? Everything looks a little bit off with that extra stripe on the arms, and they went and doubled that problem by tossing on this silver stripe. Sometimes, less is more.

Here's where the Red Wings fail the test. If the back of the jersey is as shown by the NHL Shop, there's a significant problem. The silver outline on the red numbers do nothing. Just go straight red and be done - less is more, remember? Secondly, that massive gap between the player's name and the number better not exist when these jerseys hit the ice because that looks awful. I'm quite certain that it will look appropriate, but we've seen the NHL Shop do some crazy things in the past. Knock on wood for this one, kids.

Overall, not a bad day at the office for the jersey designers. I hate to say it because I'm firmly in the ABT (Anybody But Toronto) camp, but I'd actually consider wearing one of these Toronto Centennial Classic jerseys. It makes my skin crawl to say that, but they do look quite fine. If there's one thing to look forward to when it comes to the big game on January 1, at least the two teams will look pretty spiffy on New Year's Day.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Rundown - Week 7

The Rundown makes its weekly appearance on HBIC, and this week would be slightly different after the ladies had a week off in honour of Remembrance Day. With the week break, momentum can be stifled, but players get an extra week to heal bumps and bruises and teams can regroup and work on some of the things that had faltered them in the first third of the season. Without dragging this out too long, let's hit the ice and see what happened in Week 7 of Canada West women's hockey action!

CALGARY at SASKATCHEWAN: Prior to the break, we saw the Dinos play well against Manitoba while the ninth-ranked Huskies continued to roll with a pair of wins over Mount Royal. This game would start in the Dinos' favor as Sasha Vafina put the Dinos up early when she cut to the middle and found the five-hole on Jasey Rae Book just 38 seconds into the game! That lead would only stand for three minutes, however, as Kaitlin Willoughby was sprung on a breakaway, and she made no mistake in beating Kelsey Roberts at 3:56. Despite some back-and-firth action, Calgary would escape the period with the lead when Chelsea Court's centering pass made it through the slot untouched and unseen by Book to end up in the far corner of the net at 16:16 and a 2-1 Dinos lead.

A scoreless second period would be followed by an incredible outburst of goals in the third period. Bailee Bourassa tied the game off a feed from Brooklyn Haubrich behind the net at 2:46 to make it 2-2. Leah Bohlken found a loose puck in front of the net on a scramble during a power-play, and her shot dented twine for a Saskatchewan power-play goal and a 3-2 lead at 4:12. The Huskies kept pouring it on as Lauren Zary followed up a Kaitlin Willoughby shot while shorthanded, and she converted the rebound at 6:40 for the 4-2 Huskies lead! Delaney Frey would cut the deficit to one goal when she went high on the glove-side past Book at 16:14, but Kori Herner would ice it for Saskatchewan when she scored with 35 seconds left to give the Huskies the 5-3 victory! Book picked up the win in making 16 saves while Roberts suffered the loss after making 19 saves.

CALGARY at SASKATCHEWAN: Saturday's game was far less colorful on the scoresheet. A scoreless first period between the Dinos and Huskies led to the second period where just one goal was scored. 9:07 into the middle frame, Rachel Johnson picked up a loose puck during a goal-mouth scramble while on the power-play, and she made no mistake as she buried it behind Kelsey Roberts for the 1-0 lead. From there, the two goalies battled one another in matching saves, and neither would give up anything. An empty-net goal by Kori Herner with a second to play gave the Huskies the 2-0 victory! Cassidy Hendricks made 18 stops for the shutout win while Kelsey Roberts stopped 42 of 43 shots in the loss.

ALBERTA at MANITOBA: Manitoba came in as the sixth-ranked team in the nation while Alberta was looking to find some consistency in their game. These two long-time rivals never really need any additional motivation to get up for these games, but only one team showed up for the first 40 minutes. Alex Poznikoff got the visitors on the board first when she redirected an Autumn MacDougall shot past Rachel Dyck at 7:02 to give the Pandas the 1-0 lead. We move to the second period where the Morin sisters got in on the act as Ashley's shot off Deanna's feed found room past Dyck at 16:20 for the 2-0 lead.

To say that Manitoba played 40 minutes of uninspired hockey would be giving them a compliment. They were out-skated, out-chanced, and out-worked by the Pandas, and it looked like the third period would continue that way as Hannah Olenyk took a pass on the right side, blazed down the wing with some incredible speed, beat the defender to the outside, and found room through Dyck for a 3-0 lead at 4:33. But that third goal lit a fire under the Bisons that we haven't seen this season.

Alanna Sharman became a one-woman wrecking crew as she teed up a slapshot that was ripped past Lindsey Post from the slot at 5:04 to make it a 3-1 game. Karissa Kirkup made it 3-2 when she converted a goal off a turnover while on the power-play at 7:04. Venla Hovi jumped into the scoring party as well as she one-timed a blast past Post off a great feed from Lauren Keen behind the net at 9:57, and suddenly the Pandas and Bisons were tied! While chances were seen at both ends through the remainder of the period, both Dyck and Post held their ground to send this game to overtime!

Both overtime periods would solve nothing, so the skills competition would be needed to find a winner. Both Regan Wright and Hannah Olenyk deked on Dyck and scored while all three shooters for Manitoba - Sharman, Kirkup, and Keen - opted to shoot only to see Post turn them aside. Alberta would grab the shootout victory and take this game by a 4-3 score! Post stopped 26 shots in the victory while Dyck made 19 stops on her side of the ice.

ALBERTA at MANITOBA: Did I mention that Alberta can skate? I'm not entirely sure about this, but they might be the fastest team on skates in USports right now. That speed was once again on display on Saturday as the Pandas and Bisons met in the second-half of this series. The only goal of the day was scored at 10:05 of the second period when the speedy Amy Boucher got a step on Eric Rieder, fought off the defender through the offensive zone, and went backhand-forehand to open up Amanda Schubert before sliding the puck through the open five-hole. Needless to say, that was a goal-scorer's goal by the leading scorer for the Pandas!

The rest of the game saw a few chances at both ends of the ice, but the Bisons could never truly neutralize the speed of the Pandas to setup in the offensive zone as they wanted. Because of this, Lindsey Post never really had a lot to worry about when it came to Manitoba chances. The one thing that should concern Bisons fans is the loss of Alanna Sharman. Sharman went to the bench last in the first period with what appeared to be an upper thigh injury, and she did not return. Her loss was noticeable as the Pandas took five of six points on the weekend with a 1-0 victory on Saturday. Post stopped all 23 shots she saw for the shutout win while Schubert stopped 19 of 20 shots in the loss.

LETHBRIDGE at MOUNT ROYAL: This game saw Mount Royal mount all sorts of offensive pressure on the Pronghorns. If there's one thing that the Pronghorns do well, it's allow more than 40 shots per game. They did it again on Friday, and it cost them. Mount Royal made the most penalized team in the CWUAA pay for a penalty as Reanna Arnold used the screen in front of Jessica Lohues to zip a wrist shot past the netminder for the power-play goal at 13:58 and the 1-0 lead.

After a scoreless second period in which the Cougars were relentless in outshooting Lethbridge 17-9, the third period saw both teams trade chances throughout the stanza. Mount Royal would double their lead at the 9:14 mark when Tianna Ko slid a loose puck under Lohues in a goal-mouth scramble. The Pronghorns would fight back with chances of their own and, with Lohues on the bench, Jodi Gentile's slapshot off a face-off win back to the point eluded Emma Pincott to make it 2-1 with 53 seconds to play! Despite some furious pressure at the end, the Cougars withstood the barrage and took this game by a 2-1 score! Pincott stiopped 29 of 30 shots in the win while Lohues made 42 stops in the loss.

MOUNT ROYAL at LETHBRIDGE: The second game in this home-and-home series went on Saturday in Lethbridge. Quite literally, this game was decided in one period. The Pronghorns got the home crowd to their feet when Jodi Gentile ripped a shot off a bank pass from Maddison Toppe that beat Emma Pincott at 14:07 for Lethbridge's first lead of the weekend. And then things went south in the second period.

The Cougars got goals from Tianna Ko at 5:23, Nicollette Seper at 6:37, Megan Carver at 16:25, and Sarah Weninger at 18:56 to stake Mount Royal to a 4-1 lead. All of the goals were the results of hard work. To scored on a two-on-one while Seper went to the net and cashed in a rebound. Carver simply outworked a defender to beat her and Alicia Anderson, and Weninger beat Anderson on a wrap-around after winning a puck battle behind the net. Anderson's night would be over after the second intermission as she was replaced by Jessica Lohues in the Lethbridge crease.

Aislinn Kooistra's shot just 58 seconds into the third period that beat Pincott looked like it might be the rallying point for the Pronghorns, but the hoem squad couldn't muster anything more as Emma Pincott shut the door. When the final horn sounded, the Cougars had won their second-straight game by a 4-2 margin. Pincott made 32 saves in the win while Alicia Anderson was changed with the loss after stopping 17 of 21 shots in 40 minutes. Lohues was a perfect six-for-six in relief.

REGINA at UBC: So how is the top-ranked team in the nation doing? Can the Regina Cougars end the eight-game winning streak the Thunderbirds are on? In one word, no. The two teams traded chances in a scoreless first period, but it would be penalties that cost the Cougars in the second period. Haneet Parhar was the recipient of some nice passing by the Thunderbirds during a five-on-three advantage, and Parhar's shot beat Jane Kish on the glove side at 13:46 for the 1-0 lead. With yet another Cougar in the penalty box, Alexa Ranahan found Nicole Saxvik open, and Saxvik beat Kish for the 2-0 lead.

Celine Tardif made it a 3-0 game with her first of the season off a nice shot at 6:57 of the third period before Kylie Gavelin poked home a loose puck on the power-play with a pile of players in front of Amelia Boughn at 9:29 to make it 3-1. Kathleen Cahoon scored into an empty net with six seconds to play, but there was no doubt that the Thunderbirds controlled this game once they scored the first goal. Boughn made 25 saves for the win while Kish stopped 19 shots in the loss.

REGINA at UBC: I don't know what it is about the officiating in British Columbia, but there were nine infractions called on Regina including seven-straight minor penalties. Manitoba had the same issue as Regina when they played in BC, and it carried over to Saturday's game where Regina was whistled for 11 more minor penalties!

UBC opened the scoring 15:50 into the game when Hannet Parhar deflected a Kathleen Cahoon shot past Jane Kish for the 1-0 lead. That lead lasted all of 3:43 when Jaycee Mahwood made her presence felt while shorthanded. Magwood skated the puck into the Thunderbirds zone and spotted a streaking Kylie Kupper. Magwood's pass was blocked, but she corralled the puck and zipped a wrist shot past Amelia Boughn for the Cougars' first shorthanded goal of the year and the 1-1 equalizer!

The second period would go scoreless despite both teams' best efforts, before power-plays took over in the third period. At the 3:52 mark, Nicole Saxvik tipped a Mairead Bast shot with the man-advantage that found its way behind Kish for the 2-1 lead. Kathleen Cahoon jumped into the scoring when her shot on the power-play beat Kish at 17:21 for the 3-1 lead. Regina wouldn't go quietly, though, as they used a late power-play to get a six-on-four advantage. Melissa Zerr deflected a puck past Boughn with 16 seconds to play, but it wouldn't be enough as the Thunderbirds hung on to win this game 3-2. Boughn stopped 17 shots in the win while Kish dropped a second-straight game despite making 31 saves.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
31 44 21
25 29 22
vs MAN
24 37 18
18 26 23
vs LET
17 27 31
vs CAL
Mount Royal
14 20 28
vs UBC
10 21 38
5 16 39

I expect there to be some movement in the USports Top-Ten as Manitoba suffered two losses and were really exposed by Alberta when it comes to foot-speed. I also expect Saskatchewan to bounce up the standings from ninth to possibly seventh or even sixth in the nation. UBC will remain on the top of the list as they handled Regina quite easily.

Calgary has yet to win in regulation, and it appears that their season might be sinking quickly if they can't string together a few wins before Christmas. With only four games and two weeks left before the Christmas break in Canada West action, every single team in the conference will be looking for points to set up the second-half of the season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Unwanted Star

If there was ever a villain in today's NHL, Evander Kane might be the best fit. Often in trouble with the law, it seems he's alienating fans and teammates when he's not saying things that land him in hot water. The Sabres are reportedly trying to move him and it sounded like there was interest from one team in particular in the Vancouver Canucks. Kane played junior hockey with the WHL Giants and spends his off-seasons the British Columbia city, and it seemed that the Canucks were willing to take Kane off the Sabres' hands for the right price. However, it seems the Sabres were asking a pretty penny for the troubled winger, and the Canucks balked at the deal that was rumoured to be on the verge of happening.

"The story is that they did call and there were some conversations and John Weisbrod, the assistant general manager of the Canucks, was on the scouting list on Thursday night in Buffalo, which sent us all to DEFCON one," Elliotte Friedman reported on the "Headlines" segment of Hockey Night in Canada. "The word is Vancouver was not willing to pay the price that Buffalo was asking."

You have to wonder who the Sabres were asking for when it came to a trade for Kane, but I'm guessing there were some good young players on their want list. Perhaps players like Olli Juolevi, Ben Hutton, or Thatcher Demko were targeted by GM Tim Murray as he looks to improve his woeful team, but the Canucks ultimately decided that the risk of taking on Kane, who has scored 30 goals just once in his career, wasn't worth mortgaging the future.

Well done, Vancouver, on using some common sense.

Evander Kane wore out his welcome in Winnipeg pretty quickly before GM Kevin Cheveldayoff orchestrated a fleecing of the Sabres to divest the Jets of Kane and his tomfoolery. Buffalo sent some decent pieces, some good prospects, and a pick to Winnipeg in a deal in which they have yet to see immediate returns. Kane and Bogosian cannot stay healthy while netminder Jason Kasdorf looks like he's be a serviceable netminder, but not the next Dominik Hasek. The gem of the trade, according to Tim Murray, was Kane, a player he'd coveted for some time.

The problem with Kane is that boasts about his goal-scoring prowess without delivering are the norm, he seems to be a bit of a paper player as he's on and off the injured list, and his numerous run-ins with the law off the ice have soured the vast majority of the league. He has his first 20-goal season last year since 2011-12, and he's on pace for... well, he only has one assist in seven games thus far. He's played in 65 games last season, only the second time since 2011-12 he's played in 60-or-more games in season. He got himself in a lot of hot water this summer with an incident at a Buffalo night club. Yet the Canucks had been rumoured to be looking at taking the winger in as far back as July 2016.

Kristina Rutherford wrote an excellent piece on Evander Kane that every GM should keep in their back pocket when looking at the winger. Kane is right in that hockey is an entertainment business, but Kane seems to revel in the fact that he thinks it's a reality show starring him. While none of the Jets said anything negative about Kane prior to the trade to Buffalo, Rutherford did get the following quotation from Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn,
... fans associate that wet track suit and those stacks of money with Kane. But if you talk to friends and teammates, at least half the picture’s not accurate. In December, Thorburn laughed when asked whether the money pictures posted to Instagram are a good representation of who Evander Kane is. "No, that's not who Kaner is," he said. "He's a very caring guy, a good friend to have. But he does wear his flashy suits, his sunglasses, his headphones. He puts on a show."
That last line is the most important one to remember: "he puts on a show." He may have natural charisma, but it's overshadowed by his need to be the center of attention. Kane might be a good teammate, but he'd be a great teammate if he devoted as much time to his work on the ice as his does to his showmanship off of it. He has the ability, but he's more concerned with the cameras and quotes that get his face on the news.

Million-dollar talent, ten-cent head?

This is the same guy who told reporters on Thursday after a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay,
"It must be a joke floating around the league: You score two goals against the Buffalo Sabres and you're going to win the hockey game," Kane said.

"We've got to have more guys that want to be a difference maker, want to have the puck on their stick. We've got to be harder to play against."
Quick reminder: zero goals, one assist on the season. You have no right to call anyone out when you can't do what you were brought into Buffalo to do. The Sabres are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, and Evander Kane is a major part of that problem. If he were the leading goal-scorer on the team, fine. But he has yet to light a lamp and he's calling out his teammates? This is why teams don't want him.

There is no doubt that the offensively-anemic Canucks need some goal-scoring. The Loui Eriksson experiment has yet to bear any fruit. The Sedins are struggling. Brandon Sutter, Jannik Hansen, Alexandre Burrows, and Derek Dorsett have yet to carry any of the load for the Canucks. Is adding a petulant 26 year-old who has been anything but a consistent scorer in the NHL the right answer? No, it's clearly not. Add in the selfish attitude and off-ice issues, and the Canucks are better off just walking away.

For a guy with no goals on the season, Kane better start making some goals off the ice for himself. His time in hockey might come to an end sooner than he thinks when his contract expires. I doubt there are many teams willing to put up with a me-first guy who has as many NHL goals as I do this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 November 2016

You Were Warned

As the news broke late last night about the NWHL cutting players salaries by a reported 50% in order to stay financially solvent, there was one thing that rolled through my head. As I sat here today reading report after report about what this means to women's hockey and the NWHL, one constant continued to work its way into my thoughts. While this news shouldn't surprise anyone if you've been following this league's questionable business practices, one gets the feeling that one reaps what one sows when the house of cards finally falls.

But don't say you weren't warned that this would happen.

I made a comparison in August of 2015 where I spoke of the CWHL-NWHL situation and how it seemed similar to what the NHL and WHA went through when it came to paying players big money in markets that really had no established fanbase. What the WHA did, however, is move the needle on player salaries, and it appears that the NWHL did the same thing with regards to women's hockey salaries.

But I wrote the following passage as a cautionary message.
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?
The sustainability of the league and its financial backing was never established, so the NWHL would only exist as long as there were "pennies from heaven", so to speak, that would keep this machine running. If the money dried up, as it apparently has, this league would struggle to stay afloat. Welcome to present day where money has dried up and the NWHL is making drastic changes to remain afloat.

The number-one reason that startups fail in the first year of operations? Lack of capital.

Don't say you weren't warned.

There have been many questionable business practices employed by the NWHL in its short existence as well. From contracts that never existed for arena usage to unpaid contractual agreements to simply walking away from valid and binding contracts, the NWHL seems to believe it operates in a world without consequences.

Has anyone bothered to ask why three of the four teams moved to new rinks this season? Did anyone bother to ask about why they changed merchandise manufacturers? The short answer is no. The reasons why no one asked will never truly be revealed, but having spoken to a number of people who have been left in the NWHL's wake is a sobering experience on how this league was being run.

I have reached out to the NWHL for answers to these questions repeatedly only to find zero responses to my questions. I get that the NWHL may not like some of the articles that have been written on this site, but not responding to emails that are asking for clarification of a situation is the opposite of transparency and makes it look like the league is hiding something. It turns out that it has been hiding a very big secret.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Some of those who have a working relationship with the NWHL have excused the above indiscretions as "pretty normal". The problem with that statement is that it's the acceptance of a worrying trend shown by the league to not pay creditors and partners the money they are owed. The writers of the linked article attribute the missed payments to being typical "of youthful startups," but the league was already part-way down the rabbit hole when it came to backing out of established contracts and missing payments with key vendors. This was a major blip on the radar that caught the attention of many thanks to the anonymous email sent to various outlets, but few bothered to look deeper.

We can't just excuse the actions of Miss Rylan when it comes to her contractual obligations like some have. She took money from one investor before the relationship she had with him broke down and he began the process to seek compensation for his investment. She took money from another investor who was once a friend, and he is now seeking compensation for his investment after he was excused from the organization. She never made clear to four other investors what their investment in the league was worth regarding shares or ownership, and they have since settled and walked away from the league. There are at least two additional companies that are considering legal action to collect monies owed to them.

This is a worrying trend if Miss Rylan is seeking additional investors for her league. Why would anyone who can use a search engine even consider putting dollars into this league when it is clear that time and time again that this league nor its commissioner have any interest in honouring deals signed in good faith?

Don't say you weren't warned.

To hear Miss Rylan summarize this in her conference call today as the league falling short on some projections isn't even in the same ballpark as the tangled web she's weaved over the last two years. The sponsorship dollars from Dunkin' Donuts was laughable when it was lauded by most as a major turning point for the league. There have been no major TV deals signed by the league, and the lack of exposure outside the northeast US makes it hard to call this league a "national" women's hockey league.

If you've read this far, you're probably in the belief that I'm entirely against the NWHL. The truth is that I feel for the eighty-some players who will suffer with the decision by Miss Rylan to cut their salaries while she still sits atop the mountain without having to sacrifice any of her "hard-earned" dollars. For every Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, and Brianna Decker who earn sponsorship dollars and a bit of money from USA Hockey, there are players such as Morgan Beikirich, Rebecca Russo, and Maggie Taverna who are able to play hockey at a high level against some of the best in the world AND earn a little cash doing it. Those are the players I especially feel for because they had no doing in this latest revelation. They just want to play hockey.

I will go on record to say that I believe this setback is entirely on the shoulders of Dani Rylan, and she should be blamed for the financial mess in which the NWHL finds itself. To excuse what has happened is condoning her actions when it comes to not honouring contracts and obligations, and everyone who is reading this knows that is entirely wrong. Some 100 people will take the fall for her complete and utter ignorance of business ethics, and those are the people who will suffer the most if, and most likely when, the NWHL collapses.

People are only as good as their word, and Dani Rylan has shown that her word means very little when it comes to honouring contracts. The current situation the league finds itself in is the result of many poor decisions she made over the last two years. You can say that she made mistakes early on, but those mistakes became a pattern that she couldn't resolve once she began down that deep, dark hole. Lies begat lies as she built her empire on false promises.

Again, you can say Miss Rylan made mistakes, but that rationalization is not going to fly after two years of the same "mistakes" being repeated over and over again. You can say that perhaps she got in over her head with a lack of funding as Miss Rylan alluded to in her press conference, but the growing number of lawsuits being filed against her and the league isn't a money problem. In the end you can say whatever you want to try and rationalize the NWHL's decision to ultimately hurt its most marketable assets in its players, but there's really only one finality that should be reached when looking at the evidence above.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!