Saturday 31 March 2018

A Cool Initiative

If you're here for a hockey article today, I'm going to let you down softly as there is no hockey here today. I'm going to talk a little bit about a cool initiative of which I hope Americans will take advantage because I've never seen it done here. For you see, local libraries in the United States have begun to catalogue and share seeds that one can plant in their own gardens! I really like this idea, and I'm hopeful that libraries in Canada start to do it because I think it's a great way to really promote local plant species and species that grow well in our environment!

Katherine Davis-Young of Atlas Obscura dug into the story of American public libraries and their caches of seeds. The Phoenix Public Library system has seen a keen interest in the program, and I think it would catch on in other parts of the continent as well.
"The Phoenix Public Library first put seeds on the shelves at one of its branches in 2014. Franklin says they were immediately in high demand. Now the library distributes an average of 1,000 seed packets per month across nine of its 17 branches. Franklin says the program has proven to be sustainable with minimal costs — around $300-$500 to bring a seed-sharing program to a new branch of the library. And, Franklin says, the organizational tasks of offering seeds fit seamlessly with the library's existing cataloguing system."
For the cost of a few marketing dollars, the Phoenix Public Library has seen a big upswing in its interactions with the public, meaning that they're getting more foot traffic into its nine current branches offering the program. For a library, that kind of traffic is huge and it could give libraries the shot in the arm that they need in this digital age.

"It's innovative, it's different, it's another way for people to interact with the library," says Lee Franklin, the library's spokesperson. "It's been really well received."

Some branches of libraries across the continent may not have the startup money, and that's ok too. Rebecca Newburn, co-founder of the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in Richmond, California, has a way to take some of the cost off the top while being a sustainable resource at the library.
"Some seed libraries just give seeds away, while others rely on participants to grow a plant to maturity, capture new seeds, and contribute back to the collection. Many seed libraries are run by nonprofits, clubs, or school groups, but Newburn says public libraries, with built-in resources for community outreach and educational programming, have become the most common place to find these programs."

As a home owner, planting a garden can be time-consuming, but the rewards are entirely worth it. The costs of seeds occasionally makes me cringe, and I'm not always certain that what I plant will respond well to the conditions in my garden. If one could potentially test a few seeds for free, one could make better decisions about the plants, fruits, and veggies that one will plant in future years. With better output from plants who produce well, one can return viable seeds to the program to keep it running! To me, this is a win-win for both the library and the library cardholder as the library also has lots of books on plants for researching growing methods and harvesting!

Ok, that stuff about the library having books on plants seems really obvious, so let's get back into Miss Davis-Young's findings. Newburn told Miss Davis-Young that "the common goal of seed libraries is to educate people on the unique plants and specific needs of the region, be it high-altitude, humid, urban, or rural. But each seed library is a little different."

As I stated above, the libraries are holding seeds for conditions in their immediate areas. It wouldn't make sense to plant palm trees in the arctic just as it wouldn't make sense to plant succulents in the desert. By doing this, the seeds are able to evolve and adapt over time to different conditions, something of which Joy Hought, executive director of Tucson-based seed preservation nonprofit, Native Seeds/SEARCH, is seeing less and less thanks, in part, to large agricultural companies producing vast amounts of food.
"As plant species reproduce, new generations develop unique adaptations to different environmental conditions, resulting in diverse heirloom varieties. But when large companies control most food production and seed distribution, and work to hybridize and streamline agriculture, those regional differences can disappear.

"'I don't see us as competing against large industrial seed producers, we just want to make sure that biodiversity is still available to people,' Hought says. She also notes that, as climate change alters the environment, she hopes access to more varieties of seeds will prepare food growers to cope with extreme conditions."
It's funny that Miss Hought stated that because I've planted several species of tomatoes in my garden with varying degrees of success. The Roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes seem to thrive in my garden whereas species like the purple tomatoes haven't produced one piece of fruit. By working through these issues, I know what grows well in my garden for future plantings, but I wish I hadn't spent the time, garden space, and money on something that wasn't going to be viable. In any case, I now know for future gardens which tomatoes will thrive.

So I've talked up seed libraries for little bit, and you might be thinking that this is good idea for your own public library or perhaps a school library. Luckily, there's a how-to on starting a seed library from scratch that you should probably read. It's going to take some effort to get this going, but I'm pretty sure it will benefit many once it starts.

With the NHL having gone green in the month of March to promote sustainability, I may have waited until the last minute with this article, but I feel it should be shared. Sustainability doesn't just mean turning off a light or recycling plastic. It means re-using items that can and should be re-used. It means reducing emissions from cars, ice rinks, and other places that generate harmful gases that are released into the air. It means sustainability for the planet, not just humans, as we try to keep this world green on the ground and blue in the water.

One way we can help sustain humanity and, in turn, the planet? Planting and consuming more fruits and veggies.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 30 March 2018

A Good Wheaties Friday

To say hockey in Manitoba has been successful this year might be one the greater understatements you'll find on this blog. The Jets are flying high in the NHL, the Moose have turned frowns upside down with a solid campaign in the AHL, and the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team are national champions. There's one team that I don't really talk about a lot on here mainly because they play some two hours away, but the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings have decided they want in on this winning action as well!

The Wheat Kings, who came into their first-round WHL Playoff series against Medicine Hat as serious underdogs, came into tonight's game tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven with the Tigers after winning two-straight games to even the series. I would hardly say that the Wheat Kings hold an upper-hand after being outscored in the series thus far, but it seems that they may have figured out this Medicine Hat team as the Wheat Kings as looked to grab a stranglehold on the series tonight.

Down 2-0 in the second period, Brandon woke up in a big way and began to chip away at the Tigers' lead. It wasn't long before Colorado Avalanche prospect Ty Lewis scored his fourth goal of the playoffs to cut the deficit to one goal!
Ten minutes later, the Wheat Kings tied the game up as 2018 Draft-eligible prospect Luka Burzan deflected a Schael Higson shot past Medicine Hat's Jordan Hollett to make it a 2-2 game!
The third period opened with a quick goal, and it may have set the tone for the period. Connor Gutenberg finished off the two-on-one with Evan Weinger, and Brandon found themselves up 3-2 just 19 seconds into the final frame!
Schael Higson got in on another goal when his blast from the point was stopped by Hollett, but Linden McCorrister was on the doorstep to shovel the puck across the line while getting buried as Brandon jumped ahead 4-2 just 2:06 into the third period!
After Stelio Mattheos iced the game with an empty-net goal with just 40 seconds to play, the celebration was on as the wild-card seeded Brandon Wheat Kings downed the Medicine Hate Tigers by a 5-2 score to take a 3-2 series lead!
Nothing will come easy for Brandon as they as they return back to Dauphin, Manitoba's Dauphin Credit Union Place for Game Six as this home-away-from-home has really helped the Wheat Kings. It should be noted that Medicine Hat thumped Brandon 7-2 and 7-3 in Games One and Two, respectively, in Medicine Hat, so this series is far from over. If the adage of "you're never in trouble until you lose at home in the playoffs" is true, Medicine Hat literally has to win tonight to change the course of this series or they're watching from home for the remainder of the WHL Playoffs. Game Six goes Easter Sunday in Dauphin!

Can Brandon continue Manitoba's hockey success in the WHL? They're sixty minutes of solid hockey from making that happen! Go Wheaties!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 29 March 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 288

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with a show that literally is bursting at the seams with hockey chatter. Yes, we've been negligent in covering off some of the other stuff happening in the hockey world thanks to that incredible run by our own University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team, but how often can one be part of a national championship? Exactly. It doesn't happen often. Tonight will see Beans and myself start to play a little catch-up as we go over the biggest stories this week in hockey on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM!

Beans and I are going to rip through some of the bigger NHL stories including who has qualified for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs because we're getting set for the Greatest Radio Contest in the history of radio! Survivor: NHL Playoffs starts next week, so we'll go over all those details to get you set for next week's show! We'll also discuss some other interesting NHL news, some NCAA news, we'll toss out a congratulations to the best women's professional hockey team this season, and we have a very odd-but-heartwarming story that I'm quite certain shouldn't be a story because it's 2018, but it still somehow is. We'll go through all of this and more tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT!

I wanna listen to this, you exclaim! We hear you and, for you to hear us, we suggest that you 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! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain 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 go through the NHL Playoff situation, some NCAA stuff, a shout-out to a remarkable team, question society's headspace, chat about the Greatest Radio Contest known to man, and more on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the web stream!

PODCAST: March 29, 2018: Episode 288

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 28 March 2018

The Power Of The Fisherman

My gosh, that's still a magnificent logo to see. Save your hate mail for now, folks, because this is going to be an Islanders' Fisherman article, but not in the way you think. This logo, put to sea long ago by the New York Islanders, still pops up here and there for the club as they do retro nights and such, but I'm pretty certain that we'll never see it used by the NHL franchise ever again in any official capacity. There is one, place, though where the Islanders' Fisherman logo lives on, and I have to say I'm very impressed.

I'll take you to the tweet of the day, written by Camryn Brown, who found the logo in action.
Are you kidding me? A seafood business in Auckland decided to up and grab the Fisherman logo to use as their logo since I assume they're a bunch of fishermen? That is AWESOME! Granted, they didn't use the font that the Islanders chose, but the fact that the Fisherman is being used for an everyday logo by someone is pretty darn awesome.

Officially, I am a fan of Miro's Seafood. Their choice of logo is perfect!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 27 March 2018

TBC: Chasing The Dream

As life settles down after all that national championship business, I have begun to settle into my normal weekly routines once more. One thing that I am going to incorporate into that schedule, though, is more time for reading. Teebz's Book Club has been awfully quiet over the last number of months, and that will begin to change today. I have a stack of books I want to get through this summer, so reading will be given a priority whenever possible starting today. And what better way to start than with a review! Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Chasing the Dream: Life in the American Hockey League, written by Ted Starkey and published by ECW Press! If you want an honest look at the AHL, life in the AHL from a variety of staff and players, and a good examination of some of the teams, Chasing the Dream might be the book you've been needing to read!

Ted Starkey is a veteran sportswriter who has written a couple of books about the Washington Capitals in Red Rising: The Washington Capitals Story and Transition Game: The Story of the 2010–11 Washington Capitals. His work has appeared in the Washington Times, the Tampa Tribune, Newsday, and has contributed articles to USA Hockey, SBNation, AOL Sports, FanHouse, and the Buffalo Bills websites. He has covered a number of Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, and both the 2002 and 2010 Olympic Games. Mr. Starkey is currently the Internet News Manager for Newsday. He can be followed on Twitter via @TedStarkey.

Chasing the Dream may have a whimsical-sounding title, but the stories on the pages between the covers are anything but whimsical. Mr. Starkey goes inside the rink with seven AHL teams as he gets the skinny on how the businesses of these teams are run from both executives and players. There are stories of long bus rides, turbulence on airplanes, and three games in three nights from a number of AHL players, coaches, and broadcasters. It certainly isn't glamorous, but these men and women who told the stories to Mr. Starkey have passion for the game in spades!

What makes Chasing the Dream interesting is that Mr. Starkey does some in-depth reporting on seven of the AHL's most successful franchises in the Syracuse Crunch, the Hershey Bears, the Chicago Wolves, the Toronto Marlies, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and the Rochester Americans. Of those seven teams, I found the chapters on the Crunch and the Wolves very interesting as they find themselves competing with two famous sports institutions in the NCAA's Syracuse Orange and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, respectively. The reporting done on these sections not only involves speaking with players as to their reflections on the tams and cities, but there are discussions on the challenges and the success these franchises have had in their respective cities when it comes to financial success. Needless to say, the business of the AHL is one that I found out is very different for each team based on its location, its affiliation, and the goals of its owners.

The other chapters look at specific features that the AHL can boast such as the veteran players who have spent most of their careers at the AHL level, life on the road for Eastern teams versus Western teams, how every game is an audition for a potential NHL job or a future AHL job, the decline of fighting in the AHL as part of the overall trend in hockey, and the importance and significance of the Calder Cup to the players and the teams. The chapter in the future of the AHL and what it may hold is an outstanding piece of journalism, and I have to say that I enjoyed reading the opinions and reflections that a number of NHL players have on the AHL.

The chapter in fighting numbers declining in the AHL produced an interesting dichotomy as most were in favour of the numbers going down with respect to potential head injuries, but there are still some who see value in hockey fights. Mr. Starkey spoke to Bridgeport broadcaster Phil Giubileo about the declining number of fights in the AHL.
"For some of the league's announcers, fighting's fade isn't what they like to see. Giubileo, for instance, said he wasn't happy with the decrease. 'The fighting thing, it's disappointing to me, becasue it's something I really enjoy. If you ever go and watch some of my calls on YouTube, you'll notice that I really do enjoy calling hockey fights and a lot of that goes back to my time with the [UHL's] Danbury Trashers, when you spend more time calling hockey fights than hockey games. To me, fans get into it... the minor league fans like to cling to that, liking the rough, physical hockey that result sin punches thrown and altercations. I would see a fair amount of it in my first three or four years in the league. You don't see as much of [it] now.'"
The Danbury Trashers were a bit of an aberration when it came to fighting as the owners literally hired goons only to fight, so Giubileo may have been exposed to something that is not quite the norm in hockey. That Slap Shot mentality, as Mr. Starkey points out early in Chasing the Dream, is something that the AHL has evolved from when, the past, there were certainly the heavyweights that patrolled the rinks in the AHL. Today, the game is faster and better as teams have placed more value on skill and scoring than the pugilistic side of the game.

Overall, Chasing the Dream is an outstanding look at life in the AHL from all sorts of perspectives. From players to management to ownership to broadcasters, Mr. Starkey speaks to everyone who has made and is making the AHL a destination for players to develop and continue careers, a league whose reputation is growing as the best league not named "NHL", and a great place to see high-level hockey on a nightly basis for fans. While I would have liked to have heard about some of the challenges that the Pacific Division teams face, Mr. Starkey does an excellent job in examining what life is like in the AHL for a number of eastern-based teams. I thoroughly enjoyed Chasing the Dream, and the book absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Chasing the Dream at most bookstores across North America, and it's a great read for all ages who have an interest in the AHL!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 26 March 2018

Living In A Glass House

One league is defined as three nautical miles, but it seems that one league is all the rage today. If you've missed the yelling from the mountaintops, women's hockey has a movement swelling to try and bring the two bickering leagues together under one league to make women's hockey better. The sentiment is fine - it would produce better hockey and better players - but there are deeper issues that simply can't be solved by sitting in a conference room. Today, though, the women's hockey movement got a big audience when two sports broadcasters decided to take up the cause on their nationally-broadcasted television program.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sportsnet's Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro talking about why professional women's hockey isn't more popular.
I get what Tim and Sid are doing when it comes to trying to get this popularity of the women's game on the fast track. The thought, it seems, is that if one pumps NHL money into the women's game and NHL marketing into the women's game, the game is going to catch fire. The problem, gentlemen, is that the very network you're broadcasting on does the bare minimum to promote women's hockey.

Rogers Sportsnet holds the broadcast rights to both the Canadian professional women's league and all the U SPORTS Championships at the university level. That's 22 individual sports championships from the highest amateur level we have in the country and one professional league. Do you know how many women's hockey games from the two offerings were broadcast nationally on Sportsnet this season?

Lemme spell that one out for you, Sesame Street-style.

Rogers Sportsnet, who paid somewhere in the range of a zillion dollars to broadcast the NHL on its stations, aired just four games from the U SPORTS and Canadian professional women's hockey levels this season. In fact, they aired zero of the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship which took place in London, Ontario some 205kms west of Toronto, so really they aired only four women's hockey games from the professional level and none from the amateur level. As a national broadcaster and rights-holder to these events, are you seriously asking why the sport isn't more popular?

Let's back up for a moment here. I get that networks make money by selling advertising they can air in the form of commercials and hits during the broadcast. I get that Sportsnet is possibly taking a bit of a financial risk in airing women's hockey as they can't charge as much for advertising as they would for, say, OHL hockey or a poker tournament. I understand how the business works at its most empirical level, but Sportsnet holds the broadcast rights to these women's hockey events and they still won't show them. While it may not be as lucrative as a poker tournament - which is NOT a sport - the only way they become lucrative is to have more people watch.

And how do you have more people watch, you ask? Well, you could start by actually broadcasting more than four games per year.

Look, there are always going to be people who complain that there's no hitting so it's not exciting. For those Neanderthals, I give to you the PyeongChang Winter Olympics where that Canada-USA gold medal final not only featured hits like Poulin's to the right, but broke records for the broadcaster. Granted, Canada and the US have a heated and storied rivalry that may go unmatched in women's professional hockey, but even if there was a rivalry like that in professional women's hockey we wouldn't have known about it because Sportsnet broadcasts a mere four games all season long.

As the major broadcast partner for the Canadian pro women's league, why can't Sportsnet work a game into the Hockey Night in Canada scheduling in the afternoon? How hard would it be to go from women's hockey into Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sundays? They play only on the weekends, so it's not like there would be crews crisscrossing the nation in following women's hockey. Outside of Calgary, the entire league is played within a very small area of the continent. If Sportsnet can't send a camera crew down the road to London to broadcast the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship, do they have any right criticizing the two pro women's leagues when they don't send a camera crew to the MasterCard Centre located in Toronto more than twice per year?

You can't throw stones when you live in a glass house, and you as a broadcaster, Sportsnet, have a right to help grow this game. You signed up to broadcast the league's games, yet you do the bare minimum in promoting, marketing, and supporting the Canadian pro league. Until you take a real interest in broadcasting women's hockey at the pro and amateur levels, you have no right in dictating how a couple of leagues that have serious problems between them should be running their businesses.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 25 March 2018

The Thunder Rolls

If there's one thing that has surrounded me in the last month, it's success. It's not my success either, but rather the teams that I seem to be following. The Colgate Raiders in the NCAA lost in the NCAA Frozen Four Championship after I jumped aboard their fan-wagon this season in what was a season of overwhelming success and firsts for them. The University of Manitoba Bisons, as you're well-aware, won the 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship after their impressive season of firsts. Today, one of the Canadian professional women's teams I follow decided to cap their season off by winning their league's championship as the Markham Thunder downed Digit Murphy and her band of imported American and Chinese elite hockey players by a 2-1 score in overtime!

Look, I vowed never to write about a specific league again, and everyone will say I'm going back on my word. Maybe you're right. I did say that I would support the teams and the players, though, and that's where this blog is intending to settle in when it comes to the vow I made. This is less about the league and it's ridiculousness, and more about the Markham Thunder and their celebration in being the best women's team from that unmentioned league.

I also wanna give a quick nod to my good friend, Teri, who grabbed the photo at the top of the article. She'll be taking photos for the Markham Thunder next season, and I highly recommend you keep an eye on this up-and-coming photographer. She's gonna be big!

There was some surprise when American Megan Bozek decided to sign with the Thunder as there were two trains of thought in that she'd either sign with Toronto to play alongside friend Sami Jo Small or possibly return to the American professional beer league (full disclosure: that league is more ridiculous). Bozek, having been cut from the US Olympic squad in a rather surprising move, shocked everyone in her own right when she signed on to don the green-and-white.

While the Thunder got marginally better, you could sense that the confidence from this group was growing. I was lucky enough to take in a Thunder practice this season with Bozek on the blue line, and there was a palpable feeling of camaraderie within the Thunder ranks at the practice. While they were still battling for their playoff lives at the time, there seemed almost be a naivety about their situation which really took the pressure off the players.

Players like Melissa Wronzberg, Fielding Montgomery, Taylor Woods, Alexis Woloschuk, Megan Delay, Karolina Urban, and Jessica Hartwick may not have hit the scoresheet every night, but it was their play early in the season that helped buoy this club's standing as they found their footing. These foot soldiers went into corners, won puck battles, gave their hearts and souls to make plays, and sacrificed their bodies to block shots as they kept Markham in the running for one of the four playoff spots all season long. Make no mistake that these players who gave everything they had were vitally important in ensuring that the Thunder got their spot in the postseason dance.

There were some outstanding performances by players on the Thunder as well as Jamie Lee Rattray, Jenna McParland, Kristen Richards, Laura McIntosh, Nicole Kosta, and Nicole Brown did the bulk of the scoring up front while Dania Simmonds, Devon Skeats, Lindsey Grigg, and Kristen Barbara did some heavy lifting on the blue line. Combined with the efforts of the players in the paragraph above, this team started to find its groove towards the end of the season as they made a push up the standings towards the Vanke Rays. And by season's end, they had claimed the fourth and final playoff spot in the Clarkson Cup Playoffs.

GM Chelsea Purcell decided to welcome back the Olympians they desperately needed to compete with the highly-talented Canadiennes de Montreal, and the additions of Laura Stacey, Jocelyne Larocque, and Laura Fortino really bolstered the team in front of the all-world goaltending tandem of Erica Howe and Liz Knox. Two games later after staring down Caroline Ouellette, Hilary Knight, Emerence Maschmeyer, and the rest of Les Canadiennes, the Markham Thunder punched their ticket to the final with a 2-1 overtime win and a dominant 4-1 win over Les Canadiennes in Montreal.

But despite all the adjectives and praise I can heap upon this team, they still needed to beat a highly-touted Chinese Dream Team run by Digit Murphy and backstopped by Finnish Olympian Noora Räty.

Digit's Americans and the Chinese Elite wandered into a storm that they almost handled thanks exclusively to the pads of the Noora Räty. They were out-skated, out-shot, out-hustled, and out-hockeyed for most of the game including the eventual overtime period thanks to the score being deadlocked at 1-1 through sixty minutes.

The overtime period saw chances at both ends, but it was pretty apparent that one team was carrying the play. With 2:12 to play in the extra frame, we saw a champion crowned.
For the first time in franchise history, the Markham Thunder are your Clarkson Cup champions! I can't claim that I knew they were going to win as they went in as the lowest-ranked team of the four that played, but I can tell you that the growing confidence that I saw in this team in January simply went and ballooned with the two wins over Les Canadiennes and was carried into the final game against The Six Americans, the Finn, and the Chinese. Seeing this team add players of exceptional talent and character to an already good team helped build that confidence as they battled hard down the stretch, earned the trust of one another, and went into the playoffs as a unified force that captured the imagination of everyone in winning the Clarkson Cup!

Fred Shero, legendary coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, may have said it best when he stated, "Win today and we walk together forever." The Markham Thunder can certainly wear that motto proudly because they rose to the challenge and won today when it mattered most. This team, no matter where they go and what they do in their remaining lives, will always be known as the 2018 Clarkson Cup champions.

Well done, Markham Thunder, and congratulations on your Clarkson Cup championship! You can walk together forever as a team that seized its opportunity and embraced its destiny. No one will ever be able to take that from you!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 24 March 2018

Hockey's Impact On Football

It's hard to imagine football - NFL or CFL - without the first-down line being superimposed onto the field. Along with the first-down line, the football television crews also superimpose the line of scrimmage onto the field, but it's pretty crazy to think that the first-down line first appeared in 1998 - some twenty years ago! Now this isn't Football Blog In Canada, so why am I talking about first-down lines? Would you believe that technology came from hockey?

See that little glowing beam to the right? Fox Sports introduced the FoxTrax puck to help viewers in the United States track the puck on the ice. It was first used at the 1996 NHL All-Star Game as shown to the right, but let's just say that it was hated. David Hill, Fox Sports' top man, led the crusade to have the FoxTrax puck put into games, and electrical engineer Stan Honey made it happen. Being universally panned by hockey fans, it was retired after the first game of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals when Fox lost rights to broadcast the NHL.

See the similarities in the above images? If you're thinking that Fox simply transferred the technology to football, you'd thinking correctly. Ethan Trex from Mental Floss writes,
"According to Allen St. John's 2009 book The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport - Super Bowl Sunday, the first-down line actually emerged from the ashes of one of sports broadcasting's bigger debacles: the FoxTrax system for hockey, which was designed by a company called Sportvision. FoxTrax — which hockey fans no doubt remember as the much-maligned 'technopuck' that debuted in 1996 — employed a system of cameras and sensors around a hockey rink to place a little blue halo around the puck."
So you're probably thinking about how it went from what looked like a laser blast off a stick to a stationary line on a football field, but remember that the last time we saw the FoxTrax puck was in May of 1998. The NFL football season starts much later, and Mr. Trex writes,
Sportvision debuted its 1st and Ten system during ESPN's broadcast of a Bengals-Ravens tilt on September 27, 1998. A couple of months later, rival company Princeton Video Image unveiled its Yellow Down Line system during a Steelers-Lions broadcast on CBS. (Sportvision is still kicking, and ESPN acquired all of PVI's intellectual property in December 2010.)
How crazy is it that they transitioned the failed hockey technology to football in the span of five months? The technology is rather insane, but it has literally become an integral part of football broadcasts today, and how that line is created was derived directly from the FoxTrax computer system.

The FoxTrax system worked as follows as per its Wikipedia page:
"The puck emitted infrared pulses that were detected by cameras, whose shutters were synchronized to the pulses. Data from the cameras was transmitted to a production trailer nicknamed the 'Puck Truck', which contained SGI computers used to calculate the coordinates of candidate targets, and generate appropriate graphics on them."
All of that information brought back some memories of watching games with the FoxTrax puck, but the computers needed to calculate all the information being fed back to it was rather impressive.

To create the first-down line, Fox and ESPN have taken this technology to a whole new level.
"Long before the game begins, technicians make a digital 3D model of the field, including all of the yard lines.... These models of the field help sidestep the rest of the technological challenges inherent to putting a line on the field. On game day, each camera used in the broadcast contains sensors that record its location, tilt, pan, and zoom and transmit this data to the network's graphics truck in the stadium's parking lot. These readings allow the computers in the truck to process exactly where each camera is within the 3D model and the perspective of each camera. (According to How Stuff Works, the computers recalculate the perspective 30 times per second as the camera moves.)"
In other words, the preparation for each game literally takes place long before the broadcast even begins. The fact that the computers in the network's graphics truck recalculate the perspective 30 times per second make it a seamless animation to the eye - similar to cartoons! That's pretty impressive technology, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"When you watch a football game on television, you'll notice that the first-down line appears to actually be painted on the field; if a player or official crosses the line, he doesn't turn yellow. Instead, it looks like the player's cleat is positioned on top of an actual painted line. This effect is fairly straightforward, but it's difficult to achieve.

"To integrate the line onto the field of play, the technicians and their computers put together two separate color palettes before each game. One palette contains the colors — usually greens and browns — that naturally occur on the field's turf. These colors will automatically be converted into yellow when the line is drawn on to the field.

"All of the other colors that could show up on the field — things like uniforms, shoes, footballs, and penalty flags — go into a separate palette. Colors that appear on this second palette are never converted into yellow when the first-down line is drawn. Thus, if a player's foot is situated 'on' the line, everything around his cleat will turn yellow, but the cleat itself will remain black. According to How Stuff Works, this drawing/colorizing process refreshes 60 times per second."
That is rather impressive from a technology perspective, and it actually makes a lot of sense to keep things separate on the two color palettes despite it requiring a pile of work. But rather than having players cross through the line, they cross over it as if it's part of the field. Remember that the FoxTrax puck glowed no matter where it was on the ice - behind the boards near the camera, behind players, in the crowd. The technology wasn't set for two color palettes in the NHL, so this is an innovation that football broadcasts needed.

As Mr. Trex wrote in his piece, this cost to the broadcasters to have this technology originally in 1998 was somewhere between $25,000 to $30,000 per game with a staff of four people watching over five racks of equipment. Today, he notes, the entire operation can be pulled off with "[o]ne technician using one or two computers" and, according to Sportvision, "some games can even be done without anyone actually at the venue."

And to think this all started with a glowing puck.

There are innovations that cross over to other sports that have had major impacts, but it's hard to imagine football without the first-down line being superimposed on the field. Would football have found this technology if the FoxTrax puck remained in existence? It's hard to say, but you'd think it would have found its way into football eventually.

I guess it's true what they say: one league's trash is another league's treasure!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 23 March 2018

How Do You Stop This?

Luck? Psychic abilities? Magic? Honestly, Sidney Crosby has scored some incredible goals in his career, but I don't think Carey Price should be subjected to his otherworldly hand-eye coordination. Some have said he's no longer the face of the league with the emergence of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but every once in while in today's game Crosby reminds us all why he's still among the best in the world at what he does.

Let's go to today's example of why this is still true.
Like that's just not fair. Price tried to knock it out of the air using his stick, but Crosby got there first, bounced it off his stick and through the air across the crease to the glove side, and then whacked it home before Price could recover. Unless Price saw that coming using his unannounced psychic abilities, I'm not sure any NHL goalie would have been able to stop that.

Sometimes, you simple marvel at greatness. Sidney Crosby appears to be getting ready for the playoffs in his own special way, and that could mean trouble for a number of teams once more as they Penguins look for their third-straight Stanley Cup championship.

Until next time, don't keep your sticks on the ice?

Thursday 22 March 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 287

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back with a special show! Normally, we try to book guests who have amazing stories or careers that have taken those players down interesting paths, but tonight is something completely different. Beans and I often talk about the people behind the scenes for these amazing athletes, but tonight we're going to speak to two women who literally raised gold medalists. At the time, they probably didn't know they'd be gold medalists at some point in their lives, but they can now say their daughters are gold medal-winning hockey players!

Tonight, Beans and I are honoured, humbled, privileged, and proud to welcome into the studio Carla Sharman and Karen Taraschuk, the mothers of Alanna Sharman and Lauren Taraschuk! Alanna and Lauren won the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey gold medal in London, Ontario last week, and we got to meet Carla and Karen in London where they were cheering their daughters on to victory! These two ladies are exceptional people, and we're excited to speak with them about Alanna and Lauren as little hockey tykes, the costs and sacrifices that go into raising elite hockey players, and just how proud they are of their daughters. We'll hear about a great initiative from Carla during the show, and we may even have a surprise for them as well! Tune in tonight as we meet Carla Sharman and Karen Taraschuk and get their perspectives on the tournament in London where their daughters were crowned best in the nation!

I wanna listen to this, you exclaim! We hear you and, for you to hear us, we suggest that you 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! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain 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 will introduce you to Carla Sharman and Karen Taraschuk as we talk to the hockey moms about their daughters, life as hockey moms, the stresses and successes they've experienced and more on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the web stream!

PODCAST: March 22, 2018: Episode 287

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Why Is It "Suomi"?

This woman hasn't stopped since PyeongChang as Venla Hovi has been doing media appearances all week thus far after the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team captured the 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship. Venla, as you may know, also captured a bronze medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games this past February while representing Finland. The funny thing about Finland, though, is that all the Finnish national teams wear the name "Suomi" across their gear rather than Finland. Why is Finland not "Finland" in Finland?

I have often wondered this myself how a country like Finland calls itself something very different than what the rest of the world calls it. Well, it turns out that Finland DOES call itself Finland. You just have to know the story to put the dots together.

Amy McPherson of BBC Travel decided to find out where the Suomi name came from and why Finland isn't used by Finland on their uniforms.
"[Krista] Fransman explained that the name 'Finland' was not Finnish-born. In fact, the original Finnish alphabet didn't even contain the letter 'f', which was introduced to the language through borrowed words. One theory is that the name 'Finland' comes from the Old English word finna, a general term once used to describe people from Scandinavia. However, some historians believe its origins are actually Swedish, where the words finlonti and finlandi are believed to have been used as early as the 12th Century to describe the land that is now the south-western part of modern Finland."
That's interesting if the name "Finland" truly came from their neighbours in Sweden. There's a heckuva rivalry between the Scandinavian nations when it comes to most sports, but to have your arch-rivals provide your name that the rest of the planet uses? That's a new level of bulletin board material!

Miss McPherson pushed on in trying to find the origins of Suomi.
"'There is no certain knowledge about the real origin of the name 'Suomi',' said [National Museum of Finland] curator Satu Frondelius. 'One theory is that Suomi comes from word 'suomaa' which means 'swampland' in Finnish.' She noted that the south-western part of the country is home to numerous lakes, which could have looked like swampland to outsiders. 'Another theory is that the word comes from 'suomu', which means 'scale' [of a fish], suggesting that people in Finland wore clothes made out of fish skins.'"
I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone wear clothes made out of fish skins, but I'm pretty sure that society would need to discard their clothes regularly due to the smell. The idea of the swampland and people that live in and around those lands makes much more sense when you consider that explorers would have come from the south, but Miss Frondelius didn't really provide any hard and fast evidence of this being true.

Miss McPherson found one more theory.
"A third theory led me to Finnish Lapland in search of the Sami, a traditionally nomadic tribe of reindeer herders. According to Klaas Ruppel, etymology expert at the Institute for the Languages of Finland, some linguists believe that both 'Sami' and 'Suomi' derive from the same proto-Baltic word, źemē, which was used to refer to land or territory, and the people living on that land.'
Again, this seems like a more likely origin of the word "Suomi". People have always described the societies they have found by the lands and environments they're found in, and I would tend to believe an etymology expert when it comes to the origin of specific words.

Miss McPherson makes an important observation about the Finns towards the end of the article. She writes,
"While traditionally Finland's Sami identify themselves as Sami first and Finnish second, this connection to the land seemed similar to the importance Finns place on nature and their surroundings."
And she follows that point with another quote from her friend, Krista Fransman.
"'I think in this multicultural world, lesser-known languages such as Finnish enrich the versatility of the country's culture,” she said. 'Finnish is our language and 'Suomi' is the word for 'Finland' in Finnish. It is only natural for us to use the name of our country in our own language.'

"However, Fransman added, Finnish, or Suomi, identity wasn't something she spent much time thinking about. 'Being Finnish means I appreciate quietness, the space and the nature around us,' she said."
I found that last line very interesting as I've heard Venla Hovi talk about the space and nature in Winnipeg. Maybe Miss Fransman is right in that an identity should be something we can be proud of, but it's our work as a society that should define us as a nation. Finland, like Canada, is passionate about hockey, and both countries usually rate high on both the Environment Performance Index and on lists of the best countries to live in. I'd say both societies are doing a good job at being good societies when it comes to the important things that people value.

If Canada was named from the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata" meaning "village" or "settlement," I'd be inclined to lean towards the swampland theory or the Sami theory since it describes Finnish society of centuries past. Regardless of what the origins are, the people of Finland should be as proud of Venla Hovi, Teemu Selanne, and Patrik Laine as the people of Winnipeg are.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Pirates Move On

I'm a wee bit behind on this thanks to my involvement at the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship, but let's get caught up on another team that I follow thanks to friendship. The Danish Metal Ligaen is currently into its playoffs, and the Aalborg Pirates are in those playoffs as the second-seeded team in the Metal Ligaen after finishing with 95 points. They started those playoffs on March 9 against the Frederikshavn White Hawks in their best-of-seven series. Frederikshavn was the fifth-seeded team on the strength of an 84-point season, so this series looked like it might be fun!

Game One went on March 9 at Cool East Arena in Aalborg, Denmark. Aalborg's Julian Jakobsen opened the scoring at 17:10, and the one-goal lead would hold until 6:09 of the third period when Frederikshavn's Kristian Jensen found twine behind Tadeas Galansky to make it 1-1. Aalborg, however, would not be denied on this night as Peter Quenneville netted the game-winning goal at 14:06 with a shot that got past Thomas Lillie, and the Pirates would secure the 2-1 victory to take a 1-0 series lead.

Game Two moved to Nordjyske Bank Arena on March 11 as Frederikshavn played host to Aalborg. The home side would hit the scoreboard first as Cameron Spiro put the White Hawks up 1-0 just 5:09 into this game when he beat Tadeas Galansky. It would take until late in the second period, but Aalborg would get that one back when Christopher Frederiksen found the back of the net on the power-play at 18:55 to make it 1-1. Just 26 seconds later, Olivier Hinse beat Thomas Lillie to put the Pirates up 2-1 as they took the lead into the second intermission after outshooting the White Hawks 16-2 in the frame!

The Pirates would extend the lead at 14:26 of the third period when Pierre-Olivier Morin found space past Lillie to make it 3-1. The White Hawks would pressure the Pirates, and Mark Hurtubise would cut the deficit to one goal when he scored at 17:43. Even with Lillie on the bench for the final minute, the Pirates withstood the attack as the captured victory in Game Two by a 3-2 score to take a 2-0 series lead!

Game Three went back to Aalborg on March 13, and the home team found itself down after the first period thanks to Frederikshavn's Nick Olesen scored an unassisted goal at 13:54 past Tadeas Galansky. From the start of the second period, however, it was all Pirates. Kirill Kabanov scored 25 seconds into the middle frame, and Peter Quenneville would add two goals at 9:57 and 19:34 to make it a 3-1 game for the Pirates. They weren't done there, either. Olivier Hinse scored at 14:32 and Christopher Frederiksen closed out the scoring at 15:15 as the Pirates scored five unanswered goals to claim a 5-1 victory and a stranglehold 3-0 lead in the series!

Game Four would head back to Nordjyske Bank Arena on March 15, and this would be a highly entertaining game as Frederikshavn needed to win to stay alive while Aalborg was looking to close out the series. This game would be scoreless until early in the third period when Aalborg finally opened the scoring when Clay Anderson's point shot on the power-play eluded Thomas Lillie at 5:40 to give the Pirates the 1-0 lead. They would double the lead four minutes later when Henry Hardarson checked in with his first goal at 9:27, and it appeared the Pirates were on their way to a sweep.

But hold on there, sports fans. 37 seconds after Hardarson scored, the White Hawks got one back off the stick of Mark Hurtubise to make it a 2-1 game. Henri Heino would tie the game at 16:42 on the power-play when he beat Tadeas Galansky, and things got really out of control when Henrik Eriksson dented twine at 18:54 to give the White Hawks the 3-2 lead with 1:06 remaining in the game!

A late penalty to Hurtubise with 29 seconds left was all the fodder that the Pirates needed. Ten seconds after Hurtubise took a seat in the sin bin, Martin Lefebrve sniped a power-play goal at 19:41, and this game would be knotted up at 3-3 meaning we'd need some free hockey to find a winner! It was off to overtime in Game Four!

It would take 14:59 to determine a winner, but a winner was found. As the image at the top of the article shows, the Pirates would earn the victory off the stick of Martin Lefebrve to win the game 4-3 in extra time and sweep the White Hawks out of the playoffs!

I'll be keeping an eye on the Metal Ligaen playoff situation as head coach Brandon Reid has the Pirates rolling right now. The break between the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be good for letting the bumps and bruises heal, but the Pirates will now play for a medal of some colour as they are one of the four remaining teams. With a little bit of luck, we might be talking about a possible gold medal series in the near future!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 19 March 2018

What Do I Do Now?

It's the day after one of the best days of my life as a broadcaster, and I'm absolutely wiped still thanks to the late night arrival into my fair city and the early morning alarm clock for work. With the high of seeing the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team winning a gold medal starting to wear off, it occurred to me as I sat at work today that I now have a ton of free time on the weekends. There are no additional games until October, and the season is officially over with the gold medal victory. What do I do now?

I get that this happens every season to athletes and people associated with teams once their seasons are over. It's no surprise that some athletes struggle to fill their time productively while others hit the gym, do celebrity and charity work, and represent the team at various events. I've gone through this feeling a number of times myself after competing at high-level sporting events, and you kind of feel numb that the grind is over. That's how I feel right now.

To me, this is a weird feeling. If I were playing, I could see this being a feeling I might have. As a broadcaster, though, I've never expected to feel like there should be more after a season of travel and calling nearly forty university games. It's like an empty feeling that I'm sure will go away, but it feels pretty weird to be wishing my weekends coming up were spent inside a rink.

I do have some stuff I want to get done, and the time on the weekends will be good to accomplish some of those projects. I'm hoping to get one of those projects done this weekend with a little luck, so I guess that feeling will go away shortly. If it seems like I'm a bit of a busy-body, I like to keep my mind occupied when working at home. A couple of these projects will introduce me to new skills as well, so I want to be sure that I'm learning while doing something awesome. I'm all about acquiring new skills and abilities!

In any case, it's an early night for me. I desperately need some sleep as the bags under my eyes are suggesting, so I'll get cracking on this blog again tomorrow!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 18 March 2018

The Rundown - Week 20

If you've been reading the recaps from earlier this week, you already know that Manitoba went into yesterday's semifinal at the 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship against the Concordia Stingers. I'm not recapping the whole tournament here - that's why I did the work earlier this week - but I will recap the two semifinal games as Canada West had both their teams advance to the medal-round semifinal games. Saskatchewan would play the OUA's Western Mustangs while Manitoba battled the RSEQ's Concordia Stingers, and I'm going to be honest: this recap is coming to you very late, so it's going to be mostly video.

Semi-Final #1

I'm going to be honest in saying that I was pulling for an all-Canada West final with Saskatchewan meeting up with the host Western Mustangs. Call me selfish, but the Huskies and Bisons were looking to bring home hardware just as the Pandas and Thunderbirds did one year earlier. It's a conference thing at this point as the two Canada West teams banded together in the hopes of a rematch from the Canada West Final.

Things were pretty even in the opening period of the semifinal. Western did have a slight edge in possession and shots, but they caught a big break late in the period when Saskatchewan was called for a penalty. Instead, this happened off the draw in the Huskies' zone!

Danielle Nogier made a great play to strip the Western blueliner of the puck, and then she was off to the races where her shot under Carmen Lasis's right arm just got through and across the line for the shorthanded marker and the 1-0 lead. For Nogier, that was her first goal of this season, and it put the Huskies in a good spot heading into the intermission with the lead.

The second period seemed a lot like the first period, but Saskatchewan ran into some penalty trouble early in and midway through the period that cost them. April Clark and Alyssa Chiarello scored at 5:06 and 10:20, respectively, while on separate power-plays, and the Mustangs had a 2-1 lead with 30 minutes to play. Vance was solid throughout the game and Saskatchewan certainly played just as well as Western at five-on-five, but the Mustangs put up a very solid defensive game through the neutral zone to stifle the Saskatchewan speed. Despite having a few opportunities, it seemed more white jerseys were in the Mustangs' zone at all time compared to the Huskies.

The third period played out exactly as the final ten minutes of the second period did - a wall of Mustangs that continually sent the Huskies back into their own zone to regroup. Time and time again, the Mustangs simply closed off passing lanes, got into skating lanes, and angled off Huskies to the outside whenever they tried to cross into the offensive zone. Time became Saskatchewan's biggest enemy, and despite outshooting the Mustangs 9-4 in the final frame, the Huskies could not find the equalizer as they fell to Western by a 2-1 score. Carmen Lasis was excellent between the pipes again for Western as she stopped 24 shots in the win while Vance did all she could in a 24-save performance as well.

As a result, Saskatchewan would move to the bronze medal game while Western advanced to the gold medal game.

Semi-Final #2

Huge props go out to John Gaudes for all his hard work at the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship. The Bisons' social media guru had his cell phone out and his face buried in a laptop for most of the weekend in pulling together all the highlights for the Manitoba Bisons, so a major kudos to his hard work!

With that being said, the Bisons met the Concordia Stingers with the second berth to the gold medal game on the line. I'm not going to exaggerate anything here, but this was the best game of the tournament. These two teams played hard, left everything on the ice, and still needed extra time to solve their differences. Without further adieu, here are the highlights from the game!
With that, here are the post-game reactions from the Bisons. Jason Pchajek from The Manitoban is on the left, and his work all weekend long was outstanding. Give his articles a read when you're done here for more Bisons coverage!
The Bisons advance to the gold medal game with a 2-1 shootout win over Concordia. Yes, no one likes shootouts. I know this, so you don't have to comment on this portion. If it were up to me, I would have let these two teams play until someone scored. Like the four-overtime game against the Pandas in the Canada West semifinal, the U SPORTS National Championship semifinal was a game for the ages, and it just sucks that someone had to lose. Lauren Taraschuk made 21 saves plus two more in the shootout to secure the victory while Katherine Purchase stopped 27 shots in the loss.

As a result of this game, Concordia would move to the bronze medal game against the Huskies while Manitoba would advance to the gold medal final against the hometown Western Mustangs.

Bronze Medal

Based on Concordia's 8-1 victory over St. Francis Xavier and their incredible effort against Manitoba, there was already a buzz around the rink that the Huskies might be up against their most difficult test at this tournament yet. Saskatchewan, however, decided to really stretch their legs as they carried the play at times against the Stingers in the opening frame. Vance was still looking strong as she did all tournament, and Saskatchewan led 14-5 in shots through the opening period. The only problem? The teams were tied 0-0 heading into the intermission.

Consecutive penalties late in the first intermission to both Emma Nutter and Leah Bohlken for holding carried over into the second period, and that was the break that Concordia needed. Claudia Dubois buried a shot 39 seconds into the period to put Concordia up 1-0 on the five-on-three, and they were off and running. Concordia carried the play in the middle frame and looked much more confident with the one-goal lead. With the Stingers flying and getting more shots on Vance, it felt as if it would only be a matter of time before they doubled their lead, and with 1:32 remaining in the period, Sophie Gagnon did just that to send the Stingers into the second intermission up 2-0.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, Brigitte Laganire made it 3-0 at the 4:12 mark of the period for the Stingers when she found the back of the net, and Dubois would ice it with an empty-netter at 17:21 with Saskatchewan head coach Steve Kook opting to pull Vance with three minutes to play. Despite the four-goal deficit, I have to credit Saskatchewan for playing hard right through to the final horn. They could have coasted being down four goals with a couple minutes to play, but they made Concordia play the full sixty minutes. The results may not have been what they wanted in a 4-0 loss in the bronze medal, but they did Canada West proud with their efforts this weekend! Katherine Purchase helped the Stingers claim bronze with her 37-save shutout of the Huskies while Jessica Vance made 24 stops in the loss.

The Concordia Stingers are your 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey bronze medalists!

Gold Medal

The hometown Western Mustangs would be the visitors on the scoreboard thanks to the top-ranked Manitoba Bisons being their opponents in today's gold medal game, but don't let that trick you into any false sense of security for the Bisons. There was a capacity crowd on-hand at Thompson Arena which saw the majority of those fans cheering for the Mustangs. The two rookie netminders - Western's Carmen Lasis and Manitoba's Lauren Taraschuk - would head to the blue paint for their respective teams. The trash-talk and chirping between Radio Western's broadcast team and UMFM's broadcast team was done in fun, but both radio teams wanted to see their side win. Let's go to the video!
As you just heard from the U SPORTS webcast announcers, the Manitoba Bisons are your 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey gold medalists after downing Western by a 2-0 score! Lauryn Keen and Venla Hovi scored the goals, and Lauren Taraschuk delivered another 20-save shutout in earning the gold medal. Carmen Lasis was solid in a 23-save effort, but her team, like so many before, could not solve Taraschuk. To the post-game scrum!
In terms of sinking in, as Lauren Taraschuk stated, it should be sinking in right about now as it's late. Very late, in fact. The only thing that matters is that the University of Manitoba Bisons Women's Hockey Team is the 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey gold medal-winning team!

The Final Word

I'll be honest: I've never had a chance to call or follow a team through to ultimate end of a national championship. Just being around the Manitoba Bisons as much as I was this season, I'm damned proud of these women, the coaching and training staff, the game-day crew, the alumni, and the parents. This was one of the most fun seasons of hockey for me as a broadcaster. I am honoured to have called the games over the last few years for this squad as they matured, suffered some setbacks, accomplished some goals, set some records, and came out in this season looking virtually unbeatable.

I don't know if I'll ever call another one of these games. And quite frankly, it doesn't really matter right now. This one will live with me forever. The banner on the wall, the memories made, the trophy engraved, the medals hung around necks? Those are what matters. I cannot say enough good things about these Manitoba women, and it has been an incredible ride.

To all the teams at the tournament that we rarely see - Queen's, StFX, Saint Mary's, Montreal, Concordia, and Western - well done on your accomplishments this season. Of 37 U SPORTS women's ice teams, you're part of the eight best teams in the nation. 29 other teams aren't able to say that, and that's a heckuvan honour. To Concordia and Western, hold your heads high while wearing your respective medals because Manitoba had to go through two of the best to be able to say they're the top team. Nothing was given. You made these women earn their standing.

To the seven teams in Canada West - UBC, Alberta, Calgary, Mount Royal, Lethbridge, Saskatchewan and Regina - the race to the top begins anew in October. I realize that Manitoba has a target on its back now, and we're looking forward to the fun of playing in Canada's best women's hockey conference once more. Don't hold anything back next season because Canada West is now has consecutive gold medals, and we all need to make one another better to make it three-straight gold medals.

It has been a helluva season, folks. Thank you for following along all season long here on The Rundown, and stay safe until next season!

Until next time, enjoy the summer!

Saturday 17 March 2018

Game Day Saturday

There's an old saying that goes, "If you mess with the bull, you get the horns." Well, the Bisons weren't messing around last night with the Gaels as they laid the horns to them in what most would say was a full sixty-minute game from the top-seeded team. At the end of the mostly one-sided game, Manitoba skated to a 4-0 victory and advanced to the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship semifinal where they are now guaranteed to play for a medal. Which colour, you ask? Well, that will be determined in their game tonight. A win puts them in the gold medal game while a loss would send them to the bronze medal game.

Before we get to who they play, Manitoba looked every bit like the top-seeded team in this tournament in their opening game. Courtlyn Oswald scored the opening goal on a deflection as she redirected Alana Serhan's shot past Stephanie Pascal midway through the first period, and, if you'll excuse the pun, the Bisons were off and running.

A power-play goal by Alanna Sharman at 1:42, another solid deflection by Alexandra Anderson off a Sharman shot at 18:43, and a second power-play goal from Lauryn Keen on a beautiful snap-pass from Lauren Warkentin at 19:44 put the Bisons out in front 4-0, and it was virtually over with just one period remaining.

Caitlin Fyten spoke to reporters after the game about the importance of establishing the power-play early in this tournament.

"I think it's really important for us," she stated, "especially because coming before here, we didn't get a lot of power-play opportunities, so to get it rolling off this first game here is huge for us going forward."

The Bisons only had seven power-play opportunities through the Canada West playoffs, so to strike twice on three opportunities against the nation's best penalty-killing team shows that the preparation put in by the Bisons is paying off in big ways.

So the only question that remains is who are they preparing for this evening in the semifinal?

The RSEQ champion Concordia Stingers met the AUS finalist St. Francis Xavier X-Women, and this one was just as one-sided as the Manitoba-Queen's game. It was 2-0 for Concordia after one period - a not-insurmountable lead for StFX to overcome - but it was extended to 3-0 before Kate Gotaas scored at 7:14 to make it 3-1. Cue the comeback, right?

Five straight goals in the remaining 31 minutes of the game saw Concordia absolutely thrash the X-Women by an 8-1 score. And like the score, the possession numbers and shot total were heavily slanted towards the Concordia side. The Stingers brought their A-games to Thompson Arena last night, and they earned their spot in the semifinal after bouncing the other AUS team to the consolation side.

Tonight, as it stands, will see the Saskatchewan Huskies battle the hometown Western Mustangs in the 4pm ET semifinal while the Manitoba Bisons will grapple with the Concordia Stingers in the later semifinal at 7pm ET. Both games should be exciting, and we're already looking forward to a potential Canada West gold medal final!

Before we get too far with putting the cart before the horse, though, let's get you set for tonight's battle between the Bisons and Stingers. You can listen on your radio in the Winnipeg region on 101.5 FM as TJ and myself broadcast live from London starting with the UMSU Pregame Show at 5:30pm CT/6:30pm ET. If you're outside the Winnipeg region, you can use the UMFM app on your smartphone or tablet that is available for iDevices or for Android devices! If you're near a computer or laptop, you can catch the game via the website or via the UMFM Second Stream!

In other words, there isn't anywhere on this planet where you can't hear the Bisons and Stingers play tonight as this is literally the biggest game of the season for the Manitoba Bisons. Find yourself an audio-enabled device, and get your fill tonight as the Bisons look for a gold medal berth at the 2018 U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 16 March 2018


Normally, I'm against using internet acronyms while writing here on HBIC, but I think it's important that we highlight what went on yesterday at the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship in London, Ontario. In case you missed it, there were two games that happened yesterday while we awaited the opening game for the Manitoba Bisons - happening today at 3pm CT on all UMFM apps, websites, and radio frequencies - and one of those games involved our colleagues from Canada West in the Saskatchewan Huskies. The opening day of the tournament for Canada West proved exciting, so let's go over what happened while we watched from our broadcast perch in the sky.

First off, let me say right now that despite our ever-present rivalry with Saskatchewan, TJ, Jason from The Manitoban, and myself are pulling for the Huskies to win their half of the bracket so that we might have an all-Canada West gold medal final. The Huskies might be the seventh-seed, but I'm sure head coach Steve Kook is going to drive home the fact that his team has been disrespected all season when it comes to rankings, so I expect Saskatchewan not to care about where they're ranked or who is ahead of them.

In saying that, the Huskies met the Huskies in the first game of the tournament. No, that's not a misprint - Saskatchewan met the AUS champion Saint Mary's Huskies at 4pm ET yesterday as the two Huskies-named teams opened the tournament. The game started off a little slowly as both teams found their ways on the Thompson Arena ice while trying to solve the other's defences. It would be the Saskatchewan Huskies who struck first, and it was a beauty by Kaitlin Willoughby. I'll let the video do the talking for this one.
Can I just admit here and now that I am a fan of Kaitlin Willoughby? She's just so good! That goal, while looking fairly routine on the backhand, was a thing of beauty. Not only did she pull the puck around the stick-check of the defender to put the defender on her heels, but she caught Saint Mary's goaltender Rebecca Clarke moving and zipped the backhander up and under the bar whole moving away from the far post. That takes strength, skill, and the right amount of moxie to hit that shot where she did, and that's why Willoughby has been one of the best over the Canada West career.

Saskatchewan came out of the first intermission with the 1-0 lead intact, but it didn't last as Saint Mary's re-established a good down-low game to put the western Huskies early on. That allowed Caitlin Pejkovic to find position in front of the net where she deflected a point shot from Beatrice Harrietha past Jessica Vance just 1:44 into the period, and we were knotted up at 1-1.

The eastern Huskies continued to press, and they were rewarded once more when they caught Saskatchewan a little flat-footed at the offensive blue line. Laura Polak broke out of the Saint Mary's zone after blocking what appeared to be a pass from the point, and Breanna Lanceleve raced down the left wing to make it a two-on-one. Polak held the puck long enough until a passing lane to Lanceleve opened up, and she fed the Saint Mary's captain who buried it past Vance at 10:03 to give the AUS champions their first lead of the game.

"You look up and down our bench — they got two unanswered in that second period and our bench was pretty flat, they were chasing their players in our defensive zone," Steve Kook told reporters.

It appeared that the momentum was all on the Saint Mary's side, but a rather unexpected goal from a near-impossible angle changed the entire period. Abby Shirley found room past Clarke over her shoulder with 2:18 remaining in the second period, and these two teams would be tied 2-2 going into the second intermission in a game where Saint Mary's held solid possession numbers, but were even in shots with Saskatchewan at 26-26.

The third period was a tighter-checking affair than the previous two periods as neither team appeared to want to make a mistake that would cost them, but it would be a penalty that would prove costly as Saint Mary's Nicole Blanche was sent off for tripping at 10:03. Saskatchewan set up their power-play at the 11-minute mark, and they finally got a shot through to Clarke that was stopped. Abby Shirley picked up the rebound and found a wide-open Kennedy Harris in front of Clarke, and Harris ripped a shot through Clarke that put Saskatchewan up 3-2 with the power-play marker at 11:38.

Saint Mary's began to play with a lot more desperation as they needed a goal to try and drive this game to overtime, but it was Vance and the Saskatchewan defence that stood tall as they turned aside wave after wave of Saint Mary's attacks. Things got very interesting with 11 seconds left in the game as Saskatchewan's Rachel Lundberg took a bodychecking penalty, giving Saint Mary's an offensive zone start with six attackers on the ice, but Saskatchewan did what they do well in getting the puck to the boards, pinning it there, and eventually clearing the puck to earn the victory and the upset over the second-ranked Saint Mary's Huskies in a 3-2 win! Jessica Vance made 29 saves in the win to help Saskatchewan advance while Rebecca Clarke stopped 35 shots in the loss.

In the 7pm ET game, Western was all over Montreal in a 4-0 win, so Saskatchewan will advance to play the host Western Mustangs at 4pm on Saturday in one of the semifinal games. Saint Mary's and Montreal will move to the consolation side where they will meet at 10am ET on Saturday.

The good news is that Saskatchewan will play for a medal of some colour as they can finish no lower than fourth-place at this tournament, and that's a huge mark for a team that went unranked all season long. I don't care what anyone says, but I felt that Saskatchewan should have been ranked for the majority of the second-half of the season as they continually downed teams such as Alberta and UBC who were ranked in the top-five all season long.

Congratulations to the Saskatchewan Huskies on their victory, and one-half of the Canada West threats has made it to the medal round. The Manitoba Bisons will play today at 4pm ET/3pm CT against the Queen's Gaels, and that broadcast be heard live on 101.5 FM,, the UMFM Second Stream, and on the UMFM app! If you want to watch the game, head down to the University of Manitoba where the game will be viewed live at The Hub, and we'll shout-out to everyone listening and watching back in Winnipeg!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!