Monday 31 July 2017

Beyond Its Normal Borders

Having witnessed a few of these over the course of time, the KHL usually enjoys holding their annual All-Star weekend in a major Russian city. There are many reasons for this, among them the facility is usually modern, the crowds are large, and there's a good chance a TV crew will be on-hand to cover the game's action. We've seen the game played in Moscow, Sochi, and, most recently, in Ufa, but it seems that the KHL All-Star Game will once again include one of the cities outside its Russian borders as Astana, Kazakhstan joins Riga, Latvia and Bratislava, Slovkia as the non-Russian cities to host the game. To say this is a big move may be understating how large an opportunity this is for Astana and the entire Kazakhstani region.

The above logo is the logo for the 2018 KHL All-Star weekend which will once again not only include the KHL's biggest stars and best players, but will also bring back the Youth Hockey League and the Women's Hockey League for another weekend of hockey action for all people of all ages and genders. The logo, designed with traditional Kazakh ornamentation and the blue and yellow colours of the national flag, is representative of not only the strong support of the Barys Astana team, but the growing hockey population in Kazakhstan as a whole.

Kazakhstani citizen and current Barys Astana forward Nigel Dawes stated, "I am very glad the KHL chose Astana as the venue for next year's Week of Hockey Stars. The city deserves the honor and so do the supporters, as they are among the best hockey fans in the entire League. It will be a great opportunity for people from different countries to come and visit the beautiful city of Astana and to experience the incredible positive emotions in our new ice palace. There are not many arenas as good as the one built in the Kazakhstan capital, and I hope that once again I will be chosen to participate in this wonderful festival of hockey."

While jerseys have yet to be unveiled, I'd expect the blue and yellow colours to be two of the four jerseys introduced with a white and possibly a black jersey for the remaining two teams. This would seemingly give enough contract among the teams to prevent any confusion while the four All-Star squads battle for the right to call themselves "champions". I think there's opportunities to accent each jersey with the four colours as well, but it will depend on design as to how those accents are applied. From an educated guess, though, I'm thinking those are the four colours used.

Dynamo Moscow defenceman Ilya Nikulin was quick to point out the amazing city and the modern arena as reason to be excited, saying,
"I was really pleased when I heard that Astana had won the right to stage the All-Star Game. The packed schedule in the Championship means we usually only see these cities from the windows of the team bus, but even then it is impossible not to notice how beautiful and modern a city is Astana. This, plus their superb stadium, means they have the two main ingredients needed for a memorable festival. Kazakhstan is a Republic whose people love their hockey and are keen to attend the games. Astana is sure to try to create something unexpected for the fans and guests - I've no doubt there will be surprises. Each year, the All-Star Game introduces something novel and innovative, and the 2018 event will be no exception. Perhaps the surprises will have some connection with Kazakhstan culture, but in any case, I'm sure it will be interesting. Astana has all that’s needed to stage the best All-Star Game of all, and if I am selected, it will be a pleasure to take part in it."
All in all, I'm excited for Astana to be hosting the tenth edition of the KHL "Week of Hockey Stars" - their name, not mine - this January. It will be a while before players are selected and teams are divvied up, but the city and its fans should be revved up for this game when it finally arrives. I'm hoping a strong Astana contingent is represented with names like Dawes, Kevin Dallman, and Roman Savchenko who both play for Barys and represent Kazakhstan as citizens. Nothing lends to immediate growth as the validation of one's countrymen as stars, and the inclusion of these players should help bump a few more kids into hockey in Kazakhstan if they play in the game.

While the KHL isn't necessarily in the "grow the game" business, having the KHL All-Star Game in Astana may be very beneficial for hockey growth in Asia. With China heavily invested in getting its teams ready for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, this could be the shot in the arm that the Kazakhstan team needs if it wants to get back to the biggest stage in hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 30 July 2017

Why We Should Celebrate Steadman

The woman pictured to the left might be one of the brightest coaches in the Canada West conference, and certainly one of the few in U Sports women's hockey across this great land. Sarah Hodges coaches the University of Regina Cougars women's program and always has competitive teams, even in years where she's rebuilding the program with younger women. It's one of the reasons we like seeing her team come to town because she always seems to ice a team that will give it's last breath to succeed under Miss Hodges.

On the other hand, it's a bit disheartening to see her, Michelle Janus, and Danielle Goyette as the only three women's coaches in a conference of eight teams. Further to this, the numbers don't get much better when looking across the nation at the other three U Sports conferences nor does it get any better in the United States when it comes to the examination of women being coaches of any kind in team sports as The Atlantic's Linda Flanagan reported two days ago. Her examination of this topic is excellent, and I'll relate this back to hockey down below after we talk a little about the lack of women as coaches at all levels of team sports.

Miss Flanagan uses a very poignant off the start of the article to make the point that she drives home throughout the article. She wrote,
"Moriarty estimated that as many as 20 coaches guided her various sports teams before college. What united all her head coaches, across sports, was gender: All were male."
This isn't some exception to the rule when it comes to team sports and women's sports. Men are being hired as coaches for women's teams, and it was pointed out in one rather poorly-written article that there are no women coaching women's teams in one professional hockey league. Rather than asking the question of why, the writer of the linked article used a quote from Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchings that read, "You can't want to be something there isn't." I believe that statement of there not being "something" to be a lie, and Miss Flanagan's research into this subject proves that while the jobs are certainly there, there are a number of factors that continually hold women back from coaching positions.

Title IX was supposed to bring equality for women's sports to the forefront in American universities as more women athletes would be able to pursue their sporting aspirations with the law. Miss Flanagan, however, points out that Title IX was a boon for women athletes, but was the cause for women coaches to see a massive drop in their numbers.
"Much attention and worry has been devoted to the decline of female coaches at the collegiate level since Title IX was passed in 1972. This landmark legislation prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in all educational programs that receive federal funds, and its passage compelled colleges to ramp up the number of athletic teams for girls to stay on par with what they offered boys. While nudging a record number of girls into athletics, Title IX also contributed to an unexpected and steady drop in the number of female collegiate coaches of women's teams, from 90 percent in 1972 to 43 percent in 2014. In response to Title IX, many colleges combined male and female athletic departments, which in turn often meant that men now oversaw women's teams; the law also meant pay parity for women's-team coaches, the now-lucrative salaries attracting male coaches to female sports. These phenomena, among others, pushed women out of college coaching."
Nearly half of the coaches who were running women's programs in the NCAA were replaced by men in 42 years. That's a massive drop in the number of women coaches, and it's a trend that has yet to reverse itself.

Now you may be saying, "Well, let's get more women coaching at the grassroots level and that will change." That's a very simplistic view of the problem, but it would be a good place to start in terms of developing coaches who could possibly move up. However, Miss Flanagan's research shows that the grassroots movement is the very epitome of the problem.
"What's gained scant notice is the even greater scarcity of women coaches in youth sports organizations and secondary schools. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, one of the few national organizations that carries out research on youth sports, only 27 percent of the more than 6.5 million adults who coach youth teams up to age 14 are women. Scarce data of any kind is collected on coaches, but a 2014 report on high-school coaches in Minnesota found a similar discrepancy: Across the state, just 21 percent of high-school head coaches, and 28 percent of assistant coaches, were women. The same study found that 42 percent of girls' teams, 2 percent of boys' teams, and 21 percent of co-ed teams were headed by a woman. As for assistant coaches, the numbers were similarly small, except the all-boys' teams had no female assistant coaches at all. Enormous numbers of children experience this imbalance in athletic role models: The Aspen Institute's Project Play surmises that up to 57 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 play team sports annually, even if it's just one season a year."
It's as simple as this: if women aren't coaching at the grassroots level, they aren't going to be hired by reputable programs as coaches with no coaching experience. The numbers that Miss Flanagan found are astounding as they are unbelievable, but they are numbers that are overlooked all the time. Head down to your local soccer fields and do a brief survey on all the coaches. I would guess the coaches in minor soccer regardless of the age of the players are predominantly, if not entirely, men.

Now you may be wondering if there's some sort of sexism playing a role in having men assume coaching roles for children's team sports, and that may be true when it came to the turn of the century when, in quoting Miss Hutchings, something wasn't there. There were no major women's sports, and there was generally just the Olympics where only the best women athletes represented their countries in a handful of sports. However, Title IX should have spawned more high-level female coaches than what we see today, especially in hockey, and Miss Flanagan examines this point as well. She writes,
"Why so relatively few women decide to coach for high-school or youth sports teams is unclear. After all, thousands of girls who grew up playing sports under Title IX are qualified to coach, and many are parents themselves. But the management of such teams, all of it volunteer, typically splits along gender lines. According to a 2009 study by the sociologists Michael Messner and Suzel Bozada-Deas, men typically coach, and women typically serve as 'team moms,' organizing the snack schedule, managing logistics, and collecting money for coaches' gifts, among other administrative work. In the researchers' view, this imbalance stems from 'institutional gender regimes' that divide the work between men and women based on traditional roles. The well-documented gender gap in confidence may also be part of the answer. And some mothers who might otherwise enjoy leading their child's athletic team are vetoed by their offspring."
In reading this, I see this delegation of jobs far too often to deny the plausibility that typical gender lines don't exist. Both men and women play sports at high levels today, and even beer-league parents have enough knowledge of the game to coach children's sports. Instead, there seems to be a "management" role given to mothers while fathers take the higher profile position of coach. I get that we're still less than 100 years out from World War II when we asked women to man the factories and build amazing things, but the progress seen in the last 50 years among equality should have found its way into some progressive homes by now.

If there aren't any women coaching any sports, why would women strive to be like those role models and mentors? This has been proven by science and statistics that, as Miss Flanagan points out, women who are coached by men are less likely to pursue coaching positions.
"Naturally, the lack of female coaches also signals to girls that coaching is not a career option that's open to them. If the overwhelming majority of coaches they encounter are men, young women would logically conclude that sports and coaching are better left to the males. And the research bears that out: Girls who were coached by men were less likely to pursue coaching careers than those led by women. 'When you only see men in positions of power, you conclude 'sports are not for me',' said Nicole LaVoi, the co-director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota."
I don't know how much clearer these facts are when it comes to getting women involved in coaching the games they enjoy playing and watching. And this isn't some study where the results are invisible to the naked eye or the ignorant mind. One just needs to look around and see that there are very few women's coaches at high levels or the grassroots levels. If it isn't obvious, I'm not certain you watch sports.

That being said, if one does watch sports and there are women coaching, there are certainly differences in the way men and women coach in terms of messages, style, and overall aesthetics. That's not to say there aren't men who are exceptional women's coaches, but men generally run teams in a far more "top-down, 'command and control' style," as per a 2013 symposium at Harvard Business School on women leaders cited by Miss Flanagan. According to the same symposium's findings, "women have a 'more participative, androgynous, and transformational leadership style'" which, to me, would be much more beneficial when it comes to the developing minds and bodies of children and adolescents. In reading this, I have to say that I have begun reviewing my own coaching style because I tend to lean towards the top-down view. Is that because I've learned that behavior from my previous coaches in sports? Is that some sort of style I've developed? Either way, this has made me step back and take a really good look at how I coach other people.

Miss Flanagan presses on after noting these differences in coaching to look at the effects of coaching on athletes. She writes,
"Risa Isard, the senior program associate at the Aspen Sports & Society Program, wonders if the scarcity of female coaches at younger levels helps explain why girls still trail the number of boys who start and continue playing — even though more girls play sports today than ever before. By age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys, just at the time when girls stop speaking up and asserting themselves. And non-participation has a health consequence: Compared to girls who play sports, inactive females have worse grades, graduate from high school at lower rates, and are more likely to become pregnant. 'Girls respond well to female coaches, and good coaches keep kids in sports,' Isard said. Thus, the shortage of female coaches has a potential health consequence for those girls who connect better to fellow females, and who opt out or quit when women coaches are absent."
If that's not the best reason for encouraging women to pursue coaching, then I'm not sure what is. Having women participate in sports is one thing, but when you see that women who don't participate in sports literally are worse off than their sports-playing counterparts, one would think that we'd be recruiting women to coach every sport that is played yet the research shows that isn't happening at the grassroots levels nor are we seeing it at the higher levels such as the NCAA. If one isn't cultivating and growing the number of women in coaching from the grassroots levels and helping them ascend to higher levels of coaching, where do we find female coaches who can mentor and teach our next up-and-coming women?

Here's the point in all of this. I took a ton of heat over a tweet when Kelley Steadman decided to call it a career in professional women's hockey. I wrote,
There were a number of complaints about the lack of female coaches in the American professional women's league as I pointed out at the top of this article, and I decided to send out that tweet on July 6 as a wake-up call. Would it be great to see Kelley Steadman on the ice and scoring goals? Absolutely. Take nothing away from her accomplishments and achievements in her two seasons of professional women's hockey. She's an outstanding player and a phenomenal athlete who deserves every bit of recognition and praise sent her way for what she accomplished in hockey. Her retirement took a good player off the ice, but the short-sighted view on the state of women's hockey - perhaps even women's sports - is why I sent out that tweet.

Kelley Steadman's impact on hockey will be much greater as a high-level coach on one of the premiere NCAA teams than what she did on the ice. She has an incredible hockey mind, she sees and plays the game at a high level, and she's joining an excellent program at Mercyhurst where she'll influence generations of women's hockey players as they move through the program. If she decides to leave and move to a new program at some point, that too will benefit women's hockey much more than she's being given credit for and her work at hockey schools as a coach can and will inspire girls and young women to continue to pursue their dreams.

I don't know if Kelley Steadman had been coached by men throughout her hockey career. I know that Hockey Canada has made it a point to try and put women in charge of the women's program, starting with Melody Davidson and, most recently, with Laura Schuler at the helm. Schuler spent time as a player in the NCAA at Northeastern University under Don MacLeod who helped build that program into a powerhouse throughout the 1980s and 1990s before moving to the University of Toronto where she played under Karen Hughes. She played with Team Canada under Melody Davidson and Shannon Miller, culminating in a silver medal at the Nagano Olympics. Once she retired from the game after being cut from the 2002 Canadian squad, Schuler decided to get into coaching. This article from The Globe & Mail in April 2016 speaks about Schuler's experience and influences in terms of getting into coaching.
More doors were opening for female coaches when Schuler was cut from the 2002 Olympic squad. She established a women’s hockey program at University of Massachusetts-Boston before heading to her alma mater Northeastern, where she coached for five seasons.

Wanting experience in a top NCAA women's program, she joined Miller at Minnesota-Duluth in 2008 as an assistant. The Bulldogs had just won their fourth national championship.

"To be mentored," Schuler said. "It was a tremendous opportunity to be able to go and see how an elite program was run. Just to see the insides of it and how Shannon ran things."

Minnesota-Duluth jettisoned the Bulldogs' all-female coaching staff at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.

"Obviously that was a tough situation to be in," Schuler said. "To see a whole staff go is always tough, especially when they're all females."

Schuler, who was Canada’s assistant coach at the 2015 world championship, hopes her ascension to head coach this year sends a more inspiring message to women in the profession.

Schuler counts Miller and Melody Davidson as significant influences on her coaching career.
Having two strong female coaches helped Laura Schuler follow her dreams and head back to the Olympics as a coach. Without Davidson and Miller mentoring Laura and showing her the ropes, would we even be talking about her as Canada's bench boss? The statistics presented above by Miss Flanagan say that it would be unlikely, and part of the reason she followed her dreams once her playing career was over was directly because of Melody Davidson.
"She was part of that staff that released me and I'll never forget how she treated everybody," Schuler said. "She treated everybody fairly and made everybody feel so important.

"I knew those were things I wanted to be as I moved forward in my coaching career. When the two of us sit down and start talking hockey, for me, it's the best thing ever."

That's why it's important for Kelley Steadman to become a great coach after making her decision to walk away from the game. It's not about how many goals she scores or how many points she accumulates. She can reach many generations of women as a coach who might be the next greatest player. Even if Kelley doesn't get a generational player to work with in her time at Mercyhurst or wherever her path takes her, her influence over thousands of young players will be felt throughout the women's hockey world. She's now a coach, a mentor, a teacher, and a counselor to many women who may one day represent their countries on the biggest stages.

Al Pacino's Lt. Col Frank Slade said of Chris O'Donnell's Charlie Simms character in Scent of a Woman, "Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy's future in your hands, committee. It's a valuable future. Believe me. Don't destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It's gonna make you proud one day, I promise you."

He may well have been describing Kelley Steadman's future as a coach because all I see on the horizon is greatness. Putting exceptional people behind the bench is just as important as putting exceptional people on the bench, and it's something everyone who has never played the game should remember. Without great coaches and great mentors, we'd never see the next exceptional player. That's why the sky's the limit for Kelley Steadman in her new role.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 29 July 2017

Binghamton's New Devils

The above logos and word marks are what you'll see next season as the AHL's Binghamton Devils take to the ice for their first AHL season. While not an expansion team, the newly-relocated Devils franchise have a bit of a minor-league feel to them with the cartoonish logo, but that's alright with me in terms of being an AHL presence. The Devils also unveiled their new jerseys - still made by recently-sold CCM - and they'll look a lot like their NHL affiliate in the New Jersey Devils.

As seen above, the jerseys look identical to those of the newly-designed, Adidas-wearing NHL Devils, giving some continuity to the franchise. While there is no tie to the city of Binghamton on the jerseys aside from the tiny word mark under the secondary logo on the shoulders, the logo is endearing enough to get people behind the team. I don't know if there were any focus groups done on the logo, but my younger self wouldn't be against wearing that logo. Heck, my today self thinks it's just cool enough to support, and I'm no Devils fan whatsoever.

"We are excited to reveal this new logo that will establish a new era for hockey in Binghamton. The Binghamton Devils logo honors the three-time Stanley Cup winning heritage of New Jersey while creating a fresh, new brand look for the AHL and our AHL jersey partner CCM," said Daniel Cherry, New Jersey Devils chief marketing and innovation officer, at the press conference. "These new marks are original and unique to Binghamton, giving our Devils fans a team to proudly call their own."

I'm not sure how this logo "honors the three-time Stanley Cup winning heritage" of the New Jersey Devils outside of wearing the same jersey template, but the Devils have been using the name "Devils" on their AHL teams since their days in Trenton. If that's what was meant, just say that without all the marketing speak. And, not to play Captain Obvious, but these marks are definitely "original and unique to Binghamton" being that they've never called Binghamton home before. But hey, keep spinning those marketing diatribes.

Without focusing on the chief marketing and innovation officer's ridiculous comments, I think this logo works well for the intended market demographic. The logo is fun while still being true to the team's name, and that's important. One of the key marketing aspects that Daniel Cherry should work on is making this logo into an emoji since it virtually is one already. That would be something the technologically-savvy demographic fans would embrace quickly, hopefully attracting them to the rink as well.

At the end of the day, the Binghamton Devils get a 👍 from me!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 28 July 2017

Your New Team Is A Letter

If I were this Senators logo to the left, I'd be a little peeved too. The Belleville Senators unveiled their logo today, and it doesn't include the angry Roman to the left. In fact, it doesn't contain any Roman imagery at all. No, Belleville's logo won't look anything like its NHL affiliate nor look like its previous incarnation that called Binghamton, New York home. Instead, the Ottawa Senators' braintrust decided to give their AHL affiliate one of the most generic, most non-team-specific logos in the history of the modern game. Belleville will, instead, get a logo that neither represents the team nor the Ontario city that they will call home. Suddenly, you have to wonder why the angry Roman above wasn't used when they didn't change the team name.

With the unveiling Tuesday, we got the image to the right as the new logo of the Belleville Senators. Yes, for real. Yes, that's the actual logo. No, I don't know why they decided on that. It's a little discomforting to know that there won't be a logo, but just a letter on the front of the jersey. Now some will say that the Senators use just the letter "O" on their throwback jerseys, but those jerseys were representations of the jerseys the Senators wore in the 1930s. The Senators have no history in Belleville, so why would they design a jersey that doesn't endear the team to the fanbase or city in general?

"Our goal was to create a symbol that is transcendent," Rob Mullowney, chief operating officer of the Belleville Senators, told reporters at the press conference. "Our fans will come from many different regions, backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles, and we hope to create a home for them all within our team. This emblem is intended to appeal broadly, no matter who is wearing it, how they are wearing it, or what they are wearing it on."

That's a lot of marketing speak for "we want to be generic" and that never works in sports unless you have a lasting legacy in the area. According to the AHL release,
"The singular 'B' was chosen to pay homage concurrently to the City of Belleville where the team will play its home games and the greater Bay of Quinte region where the they will draw the majority of their fans from. In its entirety, the logo also carries a distinct connection to the Ottawa Senators."
And that's an immediate fail because that "B" could also stand for Binghamton, Birmingham, Biloxi, or any other city starting with the letter "B". It's non-committal, it's completely devoid of any ties to the city or its fans, and it really would make me question as to the long-term future the AHL Senators have in Belleville if the logo doesn't even incorporate the community in which they play.

Oh, wait... according to the Senators, that was completely intentional.

"As much as the font and color scheme exude authenticity and the logo is designed to be timeless," Mullowney stated, "we also wanted it to be without attachment. We believe that our brand should be defined by our actions and will work relentlessly to ensure that the associations fans make with our team are both positive and well-deserved."

No offence, Mr. Mullowney, but that first attachment should have been the logo so that the association anyone could make - fans, opposition fans, non-hockey fans - would be with the city of Belleville, Ontario. Instead, the Senators decided on the generic "B" as they chose "to pay homage concurrently to the City of Belleville where the team will play its home games and the greater Bay of Quinte region where the they will draw the majority of their fans from". Instead, they don't pay homage to anything but the letter "B" with this rather uninspired, lazy logo.

There's a civic pride component that teams draw upon in order to attract fans and businesses from the cities and regions in which they play. Fan support is built on that civic pride through winning, representation within the community, and a feeling of ownership in the team. While Mr. Mullowney has a portion of this civic pride figured out by having the Senators' brand being defined by the team's actions, the first action should have been paying homage to the city of Belleville and the Bay of Quinte region with an appropriate logo.

Major failure on this one, Senators.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 27 July 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 253

The Hockey Show appeared to have everything was set for tonight. There was a guest booked, the opportunity to speak with someone rather amazing was on-tap as late as Tuesday evening, and then things kind of went off the rails. We'll keep trying to pursue this guest, but I have a feeling that opportunities to interview this fascinating person will be few and far between in the future. Due to these unforeseen circumstances, The Hockey Show is changing the show up a little tonight as it will be a potpourri of hockey news, stories, and chatter as we look at stories from around the globe. It should be another busy show tonight as we search the corners of the globe for all the greatest hockey news!

Teebz and Beans will get down to business tonight as there have been lots of developments on the international scene as Kovalchuk remains in the KHL, Markov moves to the KHL, Zaripov is banned from the KHL, Canada names its Olympic management team with a preliminary roster somewhat named as well, Connor Hellebuyck re-ups with the Jets and avoids arbitration, and we'll get an update on how much birthday cake Beans has eaten over the last few weeks! Oh, and I promised we'd give some stuff away, so we'll do that as well tonight as The Hockey Show has a couple of kid-sized prizes and some more adult-sized prizes to give to lucky listeners!

I wouldn't repeat it week after week if it wasn't important. Download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet! It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! 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 or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to up-to-speed there as well! 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.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans look at old Russians, returning Russians, banned Russians, potential Russian-beating Canadians, and an American with more money, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: July 27, 2017: Episode 253

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 26 July 2017

An Interesting Thought

I'll happily credit ESPN's graphic designers for the above image, but there was an interesting discussion that took place tonight between games that I was umpiring and it really had me thinking. Baseball is the only team sport that allows its players to have their own entrance theme. While one may be able to get away with that in boxing where it's very much an individual sport, football, soccer, basketball, and hockey don't allow for this due to the nature of their games. The discussion tonight was about walk-up music and the idea turned to hockey as one person suggested that he thinks it would be cool if hockey players had their own chosen songs for when they score goals.

Granted, nine walk-up songs is probably easier to manage than 20 goal-scorers' songs, but perhaps there would be a designated song per line of players since hockey is much more of a team-oriented game than baseball. The player that scores, if it's mid-change or on special teams, would have the song played in accordance to the line he is on that night just to keep things organized without having the music guy try to figure out who scored when he's sitting a mile away from the action in some cases. There was some debate on what happens if there's a missed deflection or a goalmouth scramble where there may be some question as to who scored, but generally you're just keeping four songs handy all night for goal-scoring celebrations.

Logistically, there would be a number of things to work out before this idea even got off the ground for teams, but let's push all that aside. Forget the line combos and the mixing and matching that teams do on the fly. Forget the fact that Ovechkin played on Washington's third line for a moment. It's time to have a little fun with this idea.

On the web form below, I want you to select three players from one team and form a "super line". From that super-line's three members, select a song for that line. For example, if I were to select the Arizona Coyotes and chose Domi, Duclair, and Strome, I'd need to come up with a song for them. I'd probably immediately assign The Black Keys' Howlin' For You to them since it fits the scenario. Maybe I select the Pittsburgh Penguins with Kessel, Crosby, and Malkin as my line. I could assign them The Heavy's How You Like Me Now? as their scoring tune. This will literally have infinite combinations and infinite possibilities, so I want to see what you have in mind.

I'll tally the results and post them at a later date, but I want you to have some fun with this post. Fill that form out and submit the song you wanna rock out to when your favorite player scores!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 25 July 2017

What A Dope!

In rather shocking and nearly unprecedented news today, the KHL announced a major suspension to one of its star players for failing a drug test last season. While there has always been suspicions of the Russians doping at major athletic events across the planet, this is the first significant suspension handed down by Russia's top league to a star player who has represented the country a number of times and has amassed a nice hardware collection from both international play and the KHL. As it stands now, Danis Zaripov will sit for two years as a result of the failed drug test, thereby making his newly-signed contract with Ak Bars Kazan virtually worthless.

I'll credit Russia for actually making an example out of a star athlete as they look to restore their crumbling reputation on the international sports stage. After Russia's track and field team was banned from the Rio Olympics and 119 Russian athletes in total were informed they weren't invited to Brazil due to widespread doping violations, the embarrassment felt within the Russian borders regarding their sporting heroes was never higher. According to Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber of Reuters, "The Russian government this month adopted a sweeping plan aimed at curbing doping, while President Vladimir Putin barred dopers and their coaches from receiving Kremlin grants." It sounds like this plan that led to this discovery in the KHL was not just going to be swept under the rug as Zaripov is the first major hockey star to be shown the door for a significant length of time.

As per the KHL, Zaripov's suspension will see him miss two years of action, and he is not eligible for reinstatement into the league until May 22, 2019 after one of his samples showed the use of "banned stimulants plus substances prohibited as diuretics and masking agents". This should also make Zaripov ineligible for international tournaments such as the IIHF World Championships and, most notably, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea as the KHL together with the IIHF, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and SportAccord's Doping Free Sport Unit administered 377 drug tests in the KHL last season. Of those tests, three suspensions were officially handed down as both Medvescak Zagreb's Derek Smith and Admiral Vladivostok's Andrei Konev were also flagged for doping. Smith will sit until September 2, 2018 for using banned stimulants while Konev will watch games from afar until November 19, 2017 for the use of banned stimulants.

Zaripov is the big fish in this catch, though, as the 36 year-old may have seen his career ended by this announcement. Sitting for two years without playing professional hockey will undoubtedly have an effect on the veteran Russian player, and it may be difficult for Zaripov to simply jump back into the KHL in 2019-20. The four-time Gagarin Cup champion told Reuters he would appeal the suspension. "I'm shocked," Zaripov said. "There's nothing else to say."

As much as Zaripov was shocked, I think the same could be said for the hockey community in general. Zaripov is a three-time World Champion and last participated at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Russia, but there was hope that with many NHLers not attending the Games in South Korea that Zaripov's name would be called once more for his country. Instead, he'll be watching at home like you or I as he's no longer eligible to participate.

You have to wonder how many other Russians will be named before all is said and done.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 24 July 2017

Backup Money

The Winnipeg Jets completed their off-season moves today by signing goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to a new deal before their arbitration date on August 1. Hellebuyck's contract is a one-year deal with $2.25 million, and the Jets' "goalie of the future" knows he needs a big season if there's any hope of him being a fixture in the blue paint in Winnipeg for years to come. With Steve Mason getting nearly twice that for the next two seasons, this contract is a curious one since it neither guarantees Hellebuyck will be here long-term nor does it pay him like a starting netminder in the NHL. I'm struggling with the end goal of this deal if it's not to allow Hellebuyck to prove he's worth Steve Mason money because it seems like he'll be playing behind Mason on most nights.

I'll give Hellebuyck credit in that he said all the right things to the media today, indicating how hungry he is to prove that he belongs in the conversation among the NHL's upper echelon of netminders.

"It's all on the line," the 24-year-old told reporters. "I learned a lot, got a whole lot better, but I have a whole lot more to give. I got more to offer than what I showed last year. I look forward to doing that this year. I'm going to have Mason here and I'm going to learn from him. I owe these guys my best every night."

Look, I appreciate Connor Hellebuyck's commitment to becoming and desire to be the best goaltender he can be. Honestly, that's all you can ask of a player, and the rest really is up to him or her to do whatever is necessary to become the best player he or she can be. But if one were presented with the following stats lines, which goaltender would you say is better after one full season as a starting netminder in the NHL?
I'm not going to reveal who those two stats lines belong to just yet because I want to remind everyone that Connor Hellebuyck's tenure as a starting NHL goalie is one full year. He took over for Ondrej Pavelec whose time in Winnipeg was worn woefully thin due to poor play, and Hellebuyck's inconsistent play gave his detractors enough ammunition to cause the Jets to seek help in the form of Steve Mason. That's not to say that he isn't ready, but maybe he needs someone more reliable than Michael Hutchinson who shoulder some of the load as Hellebuyck grows as a player and netminder.

The stats lines from above? The top one is from Carey Price in his first full season as a starter in the NHL. The second is from Connor Hellebuyck who, as we know, has just completed one full season as a starter. The two stats lines are nearly identical in all major categories: minutes player, goals against, goals-against average, and save percentage. One stat that isn't shown is points percentage - the number of points earned through wins and shootout losses - is also nearly identical with Price having a .538 pts% stat and Hellebuyck having a .500 pts% stat. Does that mean that Connor Hellebuyck is on the same path that Carey Price is in terms of being the best of the best who stops pucks? Not necessarily, but the similarities are there in that Price took a backseat at times to Jaroslav Halak in the season following his first full season as a starter just as Hellebuyck may take a backseat to Mason at times.

What it does mean is that Hellebuyck isn't carrying the load full-time because the coaching staff doesn't have faith in the backup netminder to spell off the starter and earn a win. Hellebuyck is more than capable of winning games most nights, so having a tandem that includes both Mason and Hellebuyck working together should benefit Hellebuyck's overall game.

“I view it as a good thing," Hellebuyck said when asked of Mason joining the team. "It's good for the team and it's going to bring the team some confidence in the net. I'm going to learn from him. He's a veteran guy who's been through the ropes. I'm going to take what I can from him. And you know what? It's going to push us both as goalies."

If the Jets are going to be successful against a number of improved Central Division teams and the rest of the NHL, they'll need high-quality goaltending from both netminders on the roster. If, for some reason, Mason stumbles or is injured, the Jets still have a very capable starter playing behind him. Hellebuyck has a new agent and strength coach this summer, and he feels the changes he's made to his game should benefit his this season. It's still going to be all up to him to put it together, but he's now playing for a contract.

If he plays as well as we've seen him play in some games with extended consistency, he could be looking at a very nice pay day next season when his contract needs to be renewed.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 23 July 2017

Journeyman To Stuntman

I was enjoying Sunday the best way that I could, and that included stretching the couch out as I watched a movie or two. One of the movies that I watched today was Pacific Rim, and I'm sure you're aware of the plot and cast who headline this movie. But were you aware that the man to the left, Mr. Jere Gillis, was in the movie? Not only that, but it seems the former pro hockey player has become a working stuntman in Hollywood with a number of appearances in major Hollywood movies! While he played an unnamed Spartan general in 300, he's been taking bumps and performing stunts in nearly 90 movies and even landed a role in Goon in 2011! Not bad for a guy who was considered a journeyman, but Jere Gillis played in a number of very interesting places as well!

Gillis came out of the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Castors program as a high-scoring left winger who scored 38 goals and 95 points in 1974-75, increased his totals to 47 goals and 102 points in his third year with the team, and then capped off his junior career 55-goal, 140-point campaign in 1976-77 that saw him lead the team in scoring ahead of some rather notable players such as Rick Vaive and Jimmy Mann. His work in Sherbrooke saw him drafted in the first round twice: the Canucks selected him fourth-overall in the NHL Entry Draft while the Cincinnati Stingers selected Gillis seventh-overall in the WHA Amamteur Draft.

Gillis would choose the NHL route and began his career in Vancouver where he had a fairly decent rookie season, scoring 23 goals and 41 assists. Unfortunately for Gillis, both those numbers would be career highs as he spent parts of three more seasons in Vancouver where he'd total 26 goals and 59 points before Vancouver traded Gillis and Jeff Bandura to the New York Rangers on November 11, 1980 for Mario Marois and Jim Mayer.

After having played just 11 in Vancouver, Gillis found himself as a bit of a utility player for the Rangers who used him sparingly to fill in for injured players and play certain roles that were needed in specific games. As a result, Gillis saw only 35 games of action in the Big Apple, scoring just ten goals and 20 points. He would begin the next season with the Rangers and see time in 26 games, but he only scored three goals and 12 points before the Rangers decided to trade Gillis and Dean Talafous to the Quebec Nordiques for Robbie Ftorek and an eighth-round pick in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft.

But hold the phone, folks. That trade to Quebec almost didn't happen as Dean Talafous retired after being told that he was being traded, having played just 29 games with the Rangers! Talafous announced his retirement on January 1, 1982 - two days after the Rangers and Nordiques announced their trade deal - throwing the whole deal into chaos. As The New York Times wrote on January 4, 1982,
Then, with no explanation from Coach Herb Brooks, or anyone else, Talafous was benched for four games. He decided, on the afternoon of the Rangers-Islanders game last Wednesday, to ask Craig Patrick, the general manager, what was wrong. Patrick told him he had just been traded, with Jere Gillis, to the Nordiques for Robbie Ftorek.

On New Year's Day, Talafous decided that he would retire rather than play for Quebec, a decision that has tangled the trade in confusion and led to a league decision enjoining any of the players involved from playing for any team while the league studies the deal. Quebec claims the retirement nullifies the trade; the Rangers insist the deal was made in good faith and is valid.
With both sides holding a different opinion on how this problem should be resolved, the NHL ruled that the trade could stand with the understanding that the Rangers and Nordiques would have to reach an agreement on a second Rangers player that was to be sent to Quebec by March 9, 1982. As you'd expect, the teams could not come to an agreement on a player, so an NHL arbitrator completed the deal by awarding Pat Hickey to Quebec on March 8, 1982 to finalize the terms of the deal. How crazy is that drama? Wow.

Getting back to the man of the hour, Gillis' arrival in Quebec City wasn't filled with fanfare, and he didn't spent much time in vieux Quebec. After just 12 games where he posted two goals and a helper, Quebec sent him to the AHL's Fredericton Express where he'd play 28 games, scoring two goals and adding 17 assists. Fredericton would miss the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs as the worst team in the eleven-team circuit.

Gillis would not spend another full season in the NHL after that demotion. He would play 37 games in two separate seasons for the Canucks in a second go-around with the team, but Gillis would spend time with Buffalo and Rochester where he'd help the Americans to the best AHL record and capture the 1983 Calder Cup, Vancouver and Fredericton, and Philadlephia and Hershey from 1982 until 1987. None of those locales would remain as a permanent home for Gillis, and he began to look elsewhere for opportunities.

With his career seemingly nearing an end in the NHL, Gillis decided to take his game overseas to Italy where he suited up for Italy-A's Brunico SG. He would join former Washington Capital Rick Bragnalo on Brunico, and Gillis would finish fourth in team scoring in 1987-88 with 20 goals and 36 points to help Brunico to a 15-18-3 record. In comparison, Kent Nilsson was absolutely crushing the Italian league, helping Bolzano HC to a 30-3-3 record while scoring 60 goals and 72 assists in just 36 games - and he finished second in league scoring!

Gillis hung up the skates following his season in Italy, but the lure of the game called him back as he decided to join the British Hockey League's Solihull Barons at the age of 31 in 1988-89. It seemed the time off may have recharged Gillis' batteries because he ripped off 46 goals and 47 assists in just 18 games with the Barons! Incredibly, the Barons still managed to go 9-21-3 to finish eighth out of ten teams in the British Hockey Leagues "Premier" Division - essentially, their ECHL level of hockey. Yikes!

Gillis would stick around for another season in Solihull where he'd add 50 goals and 35 assists in 30 games, helping the Barons to a fourth-place finish with a 16-15-1 record. He would lead the Barons in scoring by 31 points over teammate Jim Lynch, but his 85 points trailed league-leading scorer Gerard Waslen who racked up an impressive 116 goals and 201 points in just 32 games while also leading the league in penalty minutes with 149 PIMs! Who was this Waslen kid?!?

Gillis would move to a new BHL team the following season as he took his game to the Peterborough Pirates! His season wouldn't be long, though, as he only played six games with the Pirates before retiring from the game for a second time. In those six game, though, he tore up the league again by scoring 13 goals and adding four helpers. He still finished as the seventh-highest scorer for Peterborough despite playing one-sixth of the games that everyone else played!

The game still called to him, though, as Gillis remained in Britain to take a coaching job with the BHL's Telford Tigers in the top division. He had a great run in Telford that season, coaching the team to a 21-9-6 record, good for fourth-place in the top division! While hockey played a large role in his life for many years, it was in retirement in Quebec where GillisN discovered and converted to Scientology. Now, HBIC doesn't get into religion for the sake of everyone's sanity, but according to Gillis, "I made it to the NHL but Scientology has made me more successful. It has given me an understanding of life and relationships that cleared up a lot of 'advice' that I had before. And life is great!"

At the age of 39, Gillis decided to give the ol' hockey career one more kick at the can when he joined the Quebec Senior Professional Hockey League's Acton Vale Nova in 1996-97. That experiment lasted all of five games, and while he did record three assists Gillis walked away from the game for good after that stint. When all was totaled on his career, Gillis didn't have Hall of Fame numbers, but he played in a number of cities in countries around the world, got to see the world while he was playing hockey, and he even picked up a few accolades along the way. There's nothing wrong with that kind of career!

It is his second career, though, where's he's seen all sorts of success! Gillis might be one of Hollywood's most in-demand stuntmen as he's been working on major Hollywood films since 2002! Among his many credits are:
  • The Sum of All Fears starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
  • Shattered Glass where he was Hayden Christensen's stunt double.
  • The Day After Tomorrow starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum.
  • The Notebook starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.
  • Death Race starring Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson.
  • Pacific Rim starring Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba.
Honestly, his stuntman career might be more rewarding than his hockey career at this point! He's been a part of a number of blockbuster movies, he's even appeared in a handful of roles, and he's still working! For one of five NHL players born in Oregon, Jere Gillis has made an outstanding life for himself after hockey. He's a member of SAG, ACTRA, and UDA, so you know he's a professional.

Honestly, you won't see Jere Gillis' name on many major trophies or in a Hall of Fame for hockey, but his life off the ice is far more interesting after he found himself as a part of Hollywood's lore. With 90 movies to his name, he's worked alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood while playing against some of the best athletes the sport of hockey has to offer. How many other people on this planet can say that?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 22 July 2017

You're Not Naming Our Team

This port city on the coast of Casco Bay and just a stretch of water away from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia is Portland, Maine. Portland used to have an AHL team called the Pirates, but that team unfortunately no longer exists as the franchise was transferred to Springfield, Massachusetts following poor attendance in Portland. Regardless of what happened in the AHL, the ECHL decided not to pass up an opportunity to expand into a hockey market with rich history, granting an expansion team to Comcast Spectacor to play in Portland in the 2017-18 ECHL season. With that being said, Comcast Spectacor has turned to the public for some help in naming the new franchise!

I'm all for fans naming a team as long as that name is something respectable. For a coastal city like Portland, there could be a number of names that one could choose with a naval theme or a water-themed name and everything would be fine. The other option would be to name the team after something that makes Portland, Maine unique. It could be something from the city's history, a specific point of interest, or something that Portland is known for when speaking about the city. To me, a name like "Mariners" seems appropriate, but may be a little too elementary for this contest.

"We are looking for a team name that connects the team to the area and with the fans; one that best represents Portland, Cumberland County, Southern Maine, and the competitive nature of this region," Danny Briere, Vice President of Hockey Operations for Portland Hockey, said at the press conference on Thursday. "This is Portland's team, and we want Portland to name this team."

And apparently they are dead-set on letting someone from the Portland region name this team. I've taken the liberty of bolding a portion of the statement below, but this is the statement found on the Portland, Maine hockey website.
The winner of the Name the Team contest will win 4 season tickets to the inaugural season, a team signed jersey and participate in the ceremonial puck drop on opening night!

Winner must be 18 years of age and a resident of Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts. Submissions must be made by August 14, 11:59 PM
I guess my "Mariners" name won't be selected unless I decided to move to Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts.

Look, I get that you want a direct connection to fans in your region. There's nothing wrong with building support and community involvement through a "Name the Team" contest, and I wholeheartedly hope that people in that region take an interest and submit names. But why wouldn't they try to include more fans from additional regions who don't have a loyalty to any ECHL team and may find one with this new Portland-based franchise? I don't have any loyalty, and I'd love to win the team-signed jersey. If I won, I'd donate my season tickets to a children's charity in Portland so that more kids could attend games and I'd donate my puck-drop ceremony to that same charity where one of the children and his or her parents could take part in the festivities. If Portland Hockey Incorporated is going to exclude a major part of their fanbase - kids under the age of 18 - with this contest, I'd be more than happy to do my part to get more kids to their games.

I'm not saying that I know a heckuva lot of the history in the Portland area. I'm not saying I know anything about how to run a contest or how to market a hockey franchise. I do know that by excluding kids, the team may be cutting off a vast number of fans, both young and old, who will probably make up a large segment of the team's fanbase by excluding kids from the contest. No one says you have to select nine year-old Johnny's selection for the team name, but at least let the kids play when it comes to something fun like this! The buy-in from kids would be immediate, and that will rub off on their parents who will probably take little Johnny and Jenny to games to see their new team.

Here's hoping the Portland ECHL franchise gets a great name, comes up with amazing jerseys, and finds immediate success on the ice. The fans will play a major part in that success, especially early on when the name is chosen and logo is designed. Remember, Portland fans, Danny Briere told you, "This is Portland's team, and we want Portland to name this team."

But only if you're 18 or older. And live in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. And subscribe to Comcast TV, internet, and every other service they offer. And have voted in the recent election. And have seen a live hockey game in Portland. Anyone else want to place more exclusionary limitations on whose team this really is?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 21 July 2017

The Free Agent Pipe Dream

I'm not sure if he just likes seeing his name in the news or if he's somewhat serious, but it sounds as though the 2017-18 season will be Ilya Kovalchuk's last in the KHL as he's planning to return to the NHL in 2018-19 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. While this may catch the attention of some NHL GMs, you have to think that Ray Shero's comments about not having the opportunity to turn down deals for Kovalchuk this summer should be a cautionary flag for the Kovalchuk camp in the NHL's desire to see Kovalchuk return to North American rinks.

The fact that Kovalchuk will be a free agent means that a few GMs will kick the tires on what will be a 35 year-old winger. The issue that presents itself is that contracts given to 35 year-old players are fully guaranteed as per the CBA. For a player who reportedly has lost a step in the KHL as age has begun to catch up to him, I'm going to doubt that many teams will show up with bundles of money to sign the aging star when he's been out of the league for nearly six seasons.

That's not to say there won't be interest, though. For a guy who scored 32 goals and 78 points in helping SKA St. Petersburg win the Gagarin Cup, he has shown that he can still pull the trigger in the KHL and his play-making abilities are still there on the big ice. The critics, however, will point to the KHL and state that the game play is more akin to what you'd see in the AHL, so make of that what you will. There will be a few GMs who could offer a short-term deal who would want to see the sniper bag 25-or-more goals just as he did in nine of ten full NHL seasons.

As stated above, a few GMs called Shero about the availability of Kovalchuk via a trade earlier this summer, but Shero told Andrew Gross of he never received a trade proposal from any team.

"It was, 'I talked to this team, that team, do you mind following up?' Which I did, and like I said, I never had an offer I turned down," Shero told Gross. "He had to get a deal somewhere. That was step one. Nothing happens with him. That never happened, at least to bring to me for me to consider anything. So again whatever happened in that process, I don't know. It wasn't my business, it was theirs. I was ready for point B but never got there."

Now it would seem like Shero left it up to Kovalchuk to make a deal with another team which is find for Shero to do, but Shero also added in the Gross interview that he was under the understanding that Kovalchuk would become a free agent in 2018. "Yes," he stated, "that's been the understanding all along. Won't have to go through this again."

In hearing that, I could see why Shero fielded zero offers on Kovalchuk. If a team can wait one season until he becomes a free agent, there's no sense in dealing players or picks for a guy who may want to play elsewhere anyway once he hits unrestricted free agency. But even if he had found a deal and some team traded for Kovalchuk, you still have to do the due diligence and find out what you're getting prior to making the deal and possibly signing Kovalchuk beyond 2018-19. With teams having scouts everywhere across the world now, it might more prudent than ever to really know what you're getting when you see who Kovalchuk's linemates were last season as well.

Look, this isn't a debate about whether Kovalchuk is coming back to the NHL. He is, and that much we can be sure of from his statements today. What the debate is about is signing a point-per-game player in the KHL to a guaranteed contract in the NHL for some term. Anything more than three years is ludicrous when you consider the number of 38 year-old players in the NHL today, but you'd have to expect that at 35 years of age Kovalchuk would want three years to make it worth his while. And term will most likely dictate what he's paid as well since that contract is guaranteed whether he plays, retires (again), or simply sits in the press box watching.

If your GM is a cautious man, I could see him trying to buy low on this one for a shorter term with the promise that the next deal, if Kovalchuk can bring in good returns, would make up the difference. If your GM is gambling man, I could see someone plunking down a three-year deal for $4 million in the hopes that Kovalchuk immediately brings results.

If you're Kovalchuk, though, there may only be five or six teams you're willing to even listen to when it comes to trying to win a Stanley Cup. Those teams are usually near the cap as it is, so Kovalchuk may be forced to take less in order to win. Whatever the answer is, we'll know Ilya Kovalchuk's strategy next summer on July 1. Until then, there is an NHL season to play and a KHL season to play, and anything can happen between now and then.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 20 July 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 252

The Hockey Show is a little late in getting this up today as the last twenty-four hours have been extremely busy, but here we are nonetheless. Tonight, Teebz is flying solo in terms of our regular hosts as Beans is off conducting a little family celebration as a birthday is happening, so we'll toss out some good wishes on that front. He will be joined by a special guest host, though, and the two will spend some time discussing a wide-range of topics as The Hockey Show gets back to its roots! Oh, and if you like winning stuff, tonight's show will have a couple of cool prizes up for grabs!

Tonight, The Hockey Show is proud and privileged to welcome a man who has been heard on Bisons hockey broadcasts as The Manitoban's Jason Pchajek sits down with Teebz in-studio! Jason covers all sports at the University of Manitoba and outside the campus as well as contributing on several other non-sports stories during his time at the university newspaper! He's extremely well-versed in the ongoings of the hockey world, so we're honoured he can spend some time with us! Among the topics we'll be covering tonight will be the recent slate of signings by the Winnipeg Jets and whether that will be enough to vault them past the usual suspects in the Central Division for a playoff spot, why the Moose seem to be content with being eliminated from the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs by Christmas, CWHL expansion and relocation, the new recruits by the Manitoba Bisons men's hockey team, why this year might be THE YEAR for the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team, is Letterkenny the best Canadian comedy right now, the upcoming final season of 19-2 and what that drama means to Canadian TV, and we'll give away some clothing compliments of the Sami Jo Small Hockey School and Rebel Pizza! There's lots happening, so make sure you tune in tonight!

I wouldn't repeat it week after week if it wasn't important. Download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet! It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! 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 or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to up-to-speed there as well! 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.

Tonight, Teebz welcomes one of the upcoming-and-coming writers in Manitoba to the show as Jason Pchajek makes an appearance to talk hockey, Jared Keeso projects, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: July 20, 2017: Episode 252

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Another Pro Thunderbird

It's starting to become clear that a few pro leagues have decided to give U Sports athletes a shot at playing professional sports. The latest player to sign a professional contract is the University of British Columbia's Anthony Bardaro from the men's hockey team. Bardaro will forgo his fifth and final year of eligibility to join HC Asiago of the Alps Hockey League which consists of teams from Italy, Austria, and Slovenia. He'll join a squad that finished as a finalist for the league championship last season, and HC Asiago is getting one heckuva competitor from everything we've witnessed in Canada West Conference hockey play.

Bardaro was a major reason why the Thunderbirds made the playoffs last season in Canada West. He led the team in scoring with 14 goals and 30 points while appearing in all 28 games for the T-Birds, placing him fourth-overall in Canada West scoring. While Calgary eliminated UBC in the opening round of the playoffs, Barbaro added a goal and an assist in the two games the Thunderbirds played against the Calgary Dinos. In 110 U Sports games, Bardaro scored 36 goals and 102 points while adding another 14 points in 14 playoffs games. He was a major part of the T-Birds' offence, and he'll get to try and elevate those skills in Italy next season.

"I'm extremely excited to begin my professional hockey career in Italy," Bardaro told Jeff Sargeant of UBC Sports. "My time at UBC has been amazing and I cannot thank all of my coaches and trainers, the university, and the athletics department enough for everything they have done to help me reach this point in my career. I look forward to being a part of this program's alumni in the future."

The former Prince Albert Raider was an arts student at UBC while representing them on the ice, and joined the team after one-and-a-half seasons with the Prince Albert WHL club. In his final season with the Raiders, he served as an assistant captain while scoring a career-high 25 goals and 57 points. Prior to playing with the Raiders, he had spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Spokane Chiefs. His WHL career saw Bardaro post 90 goals and 200 points in 266 WHL games. He was named as a CWUAA Second Team All-Star this past season after posting CWUAA career highs in goals and points.

"You can't replace a leader like Anthony," assistant coach Kevin Cech told Sargeant. "But as with Derek Dun and Luke Lockhart, it proves the strength of our program here at UBC and that's a big reason why we've got new recruits and returning players who are looking forward to the opportunity left by those guys."

As mentioned by Cech, Bardaro makes three Thunderbirds that have signed pro contracts this off-season as Dun and Lockhart signed with the KHL's Kunlun Red Star in late June, providing evidence that U Sports might be the most overlooked league in North America when it comes to solid prospects. And while no one is saying that teams should abandon their traditional scouting methods, it might be worth it to send a few scouts to U Sports games. When Team Canada takes goaltender Jordon Cooke to the Spengler Cup, there may just be a wealth of talent that the pro men's leagues are ignoring.

I suspect Bardaro will do well in Italy as he and girlfriend Chelsea Kerley head to Mediterranean country. Kerley, a graduate of Washington State University in Spokane's Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program, has worked extensively with hockey talent in Vancouver at Factory Hockey where a number of well-known hockey players work out in the off-season. There have been no announcements about Miss Kerley being hired, but it seems short-sighted if HC Asiago didn't utilize her knowledge and skills for its players as well.

In any case, I wish nothing but the best to one of Canada West's best players in Anthony Bardaro as he embarks on a new adventure in Italy and the Alps Hockey League! He's going to make a name for himself over there!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 18 July 2017

US Pond Hockey Goes Sledding

Having been lucky enough to spend some time with Billy Bridges while he was working at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School, it became pretty apparent to me that sledge hockey still doesn't get the recognition that it truly deserves on both a local and national stage. Granted, it has made leaps and bounds over the last two decades thanks to players like Bridges, Brad Bowden, and Greg Westlake leading the charge for Canada on the international stage. We've seen the Norwegians, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Swedes all turn in solid programs over the past number of years as well, so the sport is growing with solid numbers and a fantastic following!

If one is looking to continue that solid growth, it helps if more people can take part in the game. Bridges had all the campers at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School give sledge hockey a try, and the smiles and laughter seen on the ice and after the sledge session was impressive as everyone seemed to love their experiences. But there still needs to be more exposure for the sport to grow, and one group that is taking a lead on that front is the US Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There was an announcement from the US Pond Hockey Championships yesterday as Jim Dahline sent out an update that came with a pretty important announcement for sledge hockey players. He writes,
"We have had sled exhibitions in the past, and it's a travesty that we haven't had a sled division. So this year, we're changing that. This is a first on the pond hockey circuit, and we're proud that USPHC will award the first Sled Championship in 2018."
That is OUTSTANDING! Well done, US Pond Hockey Championships. That's amazing news, and hopefully a number of excellent teams will play in this first edition of the tournament! With it being an Olympic year, there shouldn't be a pile of Olympic players there either, so there's a very good chance that a team of amateurs or semi-amateurs will capture that first championship!

I'd be very interested in returning to Minneapolis this February for the US Pond Hockey Championship, but that whole Super Bowl thing is a crowd with whom I really don't want to deal. NFL football fans are great, but the Super Bowl turns fans into fanatics sometimes, and I just wanna watch some pond hockey. Maybe I'll return in 2019 for the fun... and if I practice I could be on the ice on my sled!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 17 July 2017

The Early Days Of Broadcasting

I feel pretty lucky that I get to be involved in the radio broadcasts of hockey each winter thanks to the University of Manitoba entrusting me and my esteemed colleague, TJ Phillers, to be the voices of Bisons women's hockey. After a short meeting with TJ tonight about this season's broadcasts, I realize that we've pioneered a number of firsts for Canada West hockey broadcasts of which we're pretty proud. But they pale in comparison to the guy who really blazed the path for all broadcasters, including us, in Foster Hewitt.

Hewitt is a Hall of Fame broadcaster who spent forty years as the voice of Hockey Night in Canada. I've always been curious as to how he was selected as the man to be the voice of Canada's most famous sports program, and there's a CBC video documenting this very subject!
He turned a part-time reporting job into the world's first full-time play-by-play hockey broadcast which is amazing to me. I thought it was kind of cool that he used the telephone to make the first radio calls as we still use that technology today for some of our broadcasts! Seeing Hewitt's path from the seats to the gondola is pretty incredible as well, and the explanation for the gondola makes total sense. For a three-minute video, there's a lot of great stuff that Hewitt shares!

We lost Foster Hewitt at the age of 82 on April 21, 1985 due to throat cancer, but the voice of Hockey Night in Canada is still one of the most important people in hockey history for everything that he did to make play-by-play broadcasts a weekly program that millions would tune into on the radio. The gondola that he had made famous unfortunately succumbed to the pure stupidity of Harold Ballard when he removed the gondola in August of 1979 to make room for private boxes. The gondola reportedly went to an incinerator and was never seen again.

Where would we, as hockey fans, be today without Foster Hewitt and that gondola?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 16 July 2017

TBC: Leafs AbomiNation

I'm always one to throw a little shade on the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's just how we in western Canada view the Ontario city's NHL team. One thing I won't do is support the team in any way, so when I had a chance to acquire today's entry in Teebz's Book Club at a reduced price from the already-low price of $19.67 (nice poke at the team!), I jumped at that opportunity. It should come as no surprise that reading today's entry gave me some pleasure as the writers take a few shots at the Maple Leafs, so Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Leafs AbomiNation, written by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange and published by Random House Canada. To say that Feschuk and Grange pulled back the curtains on why the Leafs were mired in mediocrity since 1967 would be a bit of an understatement when it comes to this book.

From the Penguin Random House website, "Dave Feschuk is a sports columnist with the Toronto Star and formerly wrote for the National Post. He has been nominated for a National Newspaper Award, and his piece on the underdog's life of Wayne Gretzky's hockey-playing brothers was included in the anthology The Best American Sports Writing. Feschuk lives in Toronto." Feschuk has been with the Toronto Star since 2003 where he covers all sports for the newspaper, and seemingly was on Phil Kessel's bad side while he played in Toronto. There has been no word on whether the current Penguins winger and former Leafs winger has changed his opinion on Feschuk since being traded to Pittsburgh.

Also from the Penguin Randon House website, "Michael Grange is a sports reporter for The Globe and Mail and an award-winning magazine writer, writing in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for much of his 14-year tenure at Canada's national newspaper, the New York Times, and ESPN." Grange has since "joined Sportsnet in 2011 as a columnist for and regular contributor to Sportsnet magazine. During his time at Sportsnet, Grange has become one of the network's leading basketball analysts and regularly contributes to Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and Sportsnet Central."

Leafs AbomiNation goes directly at all of the misfortunes, poor hirings, bad trades, and inept management that the Leafs have exhibited since Keon and the boys captured the Stanley Cup in 1967. Names like Ballard, Stavro, Peddie, Tanenbaum, Ferguson Jr., and Quinn all get mentions within Leafs AbomiNation, but Feschuk and Grange point out that there have been smaller mistakes made by each of these men who have run the Leafs that have led the Leafs cleaning house and appointing a brand-new empire to rebuild the castle. Being that this book was published in 2009, a few points have long passed, but it's the examination of the ineptitude of eras of management that had me glued to the pages.

It's interesting that two men who work in and around the Maple Leafs for a living would embark on a project like Leafs AbomiNation, but they seemed to get input from almost all the subjects which they covered. Aside from those who have passed on, the authors allowed the men under examination to respond to the allegations of mismanagement with which they are associated. It didn't take the edge off the words that Feschuk and Grange wrote, however, as they ripped into management from every era that has contributed to the long-suffering that Leafs fans have endured.
Ballard's anything-for-a-buck lust knew few boundaries. Concerned about a loss in revenue from program sales when the NHL mandated that teams emblazon jerseys with the players' surnames, Ballard obeyed the ordinance to the letter: he saw to it that white letters were sewn on the backs of white jerseys, so fans couldn't possibly read them. He sold the Stanley Cup banners that hung from the Gardens rafters. He once made inquiries with the arena superintendent as to how many cucumbers would fit in the 30,000-gallon tank that held the mixture that circulated through the refrigeration pipes beneath the rink floor. "He said he wanted to make dill pickles to sell at games," rink manager Wayne Gilespie told the authors of the book Forever Rivals. "He'd dream up these schemes — anything to make a buck — then he'd forget about them."
While their fact-checking requires a little work - HBIC went deep into the jersey names in the past - both Feschuk and Grange bring to life stories about the Maple Leafs that seem almost implausible. Reports of John Ferguson Jr. turning down an opportunity to sign Fabian Brunnstrom long before anyone had heard about him is detailed in Leafs AbomiNation. Details on Pat Quinn's refusal to mentor Ferguson Jr. are written. The various interests of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan as the majority owners are covered, and winning a Stanley Cup isn't high on their priority list. The squabbling between various segments of ownership through the years, the poor trades and scouting the Leafs have done, and the complete mismanagement of the team from top to bottom are all covered by Feschuk and Grange in Leafs AbomiNation.

I like a snarky piece as much as the next person, but I'm surprised that both Feschuk and Grange haven't been excommunicated by the Maple Leafs after all they wrote in Leafs AbomiNation. The writing is solid and the chapters read well, but there are definitely some stories that probably shouldn't have been put into ink if one was worried about one's career. I credit both Feschuk and Grange for taking that courageous leap in making that happen, and it makes for a very compelling book as we learn about the dirty laundry hidden behind the boardroom doors at MLSE. For that reason, there's no doubt that I, as a fan of things going wrong for the Maple Leafs, happily award Leafs AbomiNation with the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Leafs AbomiNation at most bookstores and libraries across this great nation!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!