Tuesday 31 July 2018

Manitoba Women's News

The woman to the left is from Manitoba, and her news today will kick off some Manitoba women's hockey news as we focus the spotlight on the Keystone Province. Halli Krzyzaniak has been keeping a pretty low profile since we found out that she had been a late cut on Canada's entry at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, but it was nice seeing her out and instructing at the Sami Jo Small Hockey Camp in Winnipeg last week. That's where we'll kick this article off after Sami Jo Small spoke about Halli in last week's interview on The Hockey Show where she revealed that Halli Krzyzaniak was most likely headed west.

Today, the Calgary Inferno tweeted out this announcement.
With that information, Halli Krzyzaniak is back in the game, and she joins what appears to be a powerhouse squad out in southern Alberta. As Sami revealed on The Hockey Show, the Toronto Furies were in the running to land Halli right until the very end, but Halli opted to pursue her medical career out in Calgary as opposed to Toronto.

I can't speak to the mental anguish that Halli was feeling after being cut by Team Canada, but she virtually disappeared from the landscape for a while. Whatever time she needed to heal those wounds, she's clearly ready to look forward to 2022 and the Beijing edition of the Winter Olympics as she jumps back into elite hockey.

I have no doubt that Halli Krzyzaniak will do extremely well as a member of the Inferno, and I'm already excited to see her play again.

Hockey Canada's summer just got a lot busier today as they unveiled their selections for Canada's National Women's Development Team and Canada's National Women's Under-18 Team camps. Of the 84 women invited to Calgary for these camps, there are a number of Manitobans who will be travelling west to see if they can impress the brass from Hockey Canada enough to earn the red-white-and-black of the Hockey Canada logo.

The National Women's Development Team camp sees goaltenders Kristen Campbell of Chater (Wisconsin) and Corinne Schroeder of Elm Creek (Boston University), defenders Jalyn Elmes of Brandon (UMD) and Kati Tabin of Winnipeg (Quinnipiac), and forwards Ashton Bell of Deloraine (UMD) and Ryleigh Houston of Winnipeg (UMD) all getting a shot at being a potential addition to the Canadian National Team in the future.

Campbell, Houston, and Bell seem to be the odds-on favorites to compete for positions on the National Women's Development Team, but I'd be missing the big picture if I counted Elmes or Tabin out of the game. Any of these women have the potential to make this team, but competition will be stiff with the likes of the Potomak sisters, Sophie Shirley, Daryl Watts, and Micah Zandee-Hart already have been given long looks by Hockey Canada. Competition is healthy for everyone, though, so expect the battles for positions to be intense!

The National Women's Under-18 Team camp sees goaltenders Raygan Kirk of Ste. Anne and Julianna Thomson of Winnipeg, defender Kennesha Miswaggon of Cross Lake (and who was a guest earlier this year on The Hockey Show), and forward Olivia Cvar of Winnipeg all getting a shot at hitting the radar for future Team Canada teams with a solid performance at the U18 camp.

Except for Kirk, the remaining three of these young women were present at the Female World Sport School Challenge this past year, and all three medalled at the prestigious tournament. While Kirk's Eastman team may not have participated, she's just as capable as any of the other netminders of making this team. It seems that there will be one, if not two, Manitobans playing on the U18 team if my prognostications are correct. And if they're not, all money for these predictions will be refunded!

Despite the logo being from the mid-1980s, the Manitoba Bisons announced today that three players have signed on for the 2019-20 season despite the 2018-19 season having yet to get underway! I've always thought that these commitments to players years in advance seems a little like gambling when one considers a whole host of variables that can't be controlled, but these universities are looking for elite players to keep them at the top so getting good players signed early seems to be key! Without further adieu, let's find out who will be wearing the Bisons' brown-and-gold come September 2019!

Defender Camille Enns of the Eastman Selects is the first of the three new recruits. Enns was named as the most sportsmanlike player in the MFMHL last season, and was named to the second team all-star squad. In 29 games with the Selects, Enns tallied six goals and ten assists, tying her 17th-overall in scoring and sixth-overall in defender scoring. Enns should be a good fit with the Bisons with her physical edge and her puck-moving abilities.

The second player of the three announced for the 2019-20 season is Halle Edwards of the Central Plains Capitals. Edwards tied for the lead in scoring on the Capitals this season. In 29 games, she scored 13 goals and added another 13 assists to tie for eighth-overall in scoring in the MFMHL, and she has outstanding stickhandling abilities. She has worked hard on her game to become a more consistent two-way player, and that bodes well for the Bisons who always seem to find skilled, responsible centers.

The third player of the three announced today who will join the Bisons in 2019-20 is forward Kate Gregoire of the St. Mary's Academy Flames. Gregoire recorded nine goals and 14 assists in 21 CSSHL games last season, good for 14th-overall in league scoring. She was an integral part of the Flames' scoring last season, helping them win the Female World Sport School Challenge. Her tenacity and speed should make her a dangerous threat for the Bisons when she arrives.

And just for good measure, folks, here's another former Bison and current Manitoban who is celebrating her birthday today! Desiree Scott of the Canadian National Women's Soccer Team will be blowing out 31 candles and unwrapping gifts today as she celebrates her big day! She's an incredible ambassador for the game, a proud Manitoban and Canadian whenever she's called upon to represent the country, one heckuva soccer player, and an even better person! Happy birthday, Desiree, and best of luck this season with the Utah Royals FC! We're always cheering for a Bisons alumna in any situation!

It was a busy July 31 for Manitoba-born women and announcements about them. If nothing else, this article is evidence that the hockey community in Manitoba is producing outstanding female hockey players (and soccer players)! Well done, ladies!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 30 July 2018

A Forever Icon

The image to the left, taken by NBC Sports, might be one of the last times we were lucky enough to see Jarome Iginla in a professional hockey uniform because Jarome Iginla officially retired today in front of friends, family, and former teammates in Calgary. He will certainly be a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame inductee when the three-year waiting period elapses after all the success he had on the ice in junior hockey, the NHL, and on the international stage. And after watching his retirement speech, I'm pretty sure he'll be in constant demand on the public speaking circuit if he chooses to do that in his retirement days.

There aren't enough words to describe how good Jarome Iginla was. I could list all his stats, but he's one of those guys who personifies the statement "he's a better person than he was a player". In saying that, I'm not going to try and write out my feelings. Instead, here is the man himself behind the podium.

Iginla holds the Calgary Flames records for games played (1219), goals (525), points (1095), even-strength goals (351), power-play goals (161), game-winning goals (83), and shots (3992). He suited up for the Flames, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Los Angeles Kings. He twice won gold medals at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the Calder Trophy in 1997, the Lester B. Pearson Trophy in 2002, the Maurice Richard Trophy in 2002, the Art Ross Trophy in 2002, the Maurice Richard Trophy again in 2004, the King Clancy Award in 2004, and was a six-time NHL All-Star.

He was involved in charities such a KidSport. As per Eric Francis, Iginla went out of his way at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City when he met four Calgarians who were sleeping in their car while attending the Olympic hockey games. Rather than let them rough it out in their mobile accommodations, Iginla secured them a hotel room for their stay. Of the countless days he spent at schools and children's hospitals, Iginla was always game to go to one more. He legitimately shone as a superstar on the ice, but was an incredible human being off it.

Enjoy your retirement, Jarome. You'll always be one of my Canadian heroes, and I hope that the next wave of superstars come with your humility, your kindness, and your leadership.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 29 July 2018

Tom Wilson Cashes In

If I were to tell you that Tom Wilson is worth as much to the Washington Capitals as Tyler Johnson is to the Tampa Bay Lightning, as much as Reilly Smith is to the Vegas Golden Knights, and as much as Brayden Schenn is to the St. Louis Blues, you'd probably call me crazy. However, the Washington Capitals have decided that Wilson is worth that much as they signed the restricted free agent power forward to a six-year deal worth an average of $5.17 million per season. Needless to say, the Capitals feel strongly about Wilson's contributions over the last season and decided to lock him into a deal they feel reflects Wilson's increased role with the team.

Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said in a release, "Tom is an invaluable member of our team and we are pleased that he is committed to sign a long-term deal at this point in his career. Tom is a unique player in this league, in that he plays a physical game, leads by example and contributes in every facet of the game. At 24 years of age, he is just entering his prime and we believe that he will only continue to excel and improve as a player."

Wilson saw his ice-time increase in former head coach Barry Trotz's system, and he responded by posting career highs of 14 goals and 21 assists. The caveat to those numbers, though, is that Wilson also posted a career-high of 187 penalty minutes - something that I doubt factored into the financials of this contract. If one wants to really dig deep, no player has more regular-season penalty minutes than the 806 minutes Wilson has been assessed since the 2013-14 campaign.

In a league where penalties can be the death knell for some teams, Wilson finished second in penalty minutes ahead of third-place Antoine Roussel by a whopping 61 minutes. At 24 years-old, there's still a lot of mileage left on Wilson's tires, but the shift away from hard-nosed power forwards to scoring power forwards is still happening. Washington is banking heavily on Wilson for what he brings today, but can Wilson change his game to keep up with the evolution of the game as a whole?

Playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov might have been a part of the reason for Wilson's uptick in numbers, so there's no denying that he can keep up with an elite centerman. Wilson will have to continue to produce at a rate somewhat like his playoff scoring if he wants people to view this contract favorably. If he falls back to a seven-goal, 19-point campaign like he had in 2016-17, there will be grumbling about the contract, especially when his modified no-trade clause kicks in starting in Year Three of the deal.

Some have compared this deal to the Milan Lucic deal with Edmonton and/or David Clarkson deal with Toronto when it comes to big, physical power forwards signing lucrative contracts, but I'm not sure those comparisons are just when you consider that Wilson is four years younger than Lucic when he signed his deal and five years younger than Clarkson when he signed his deal. Before we start tossing around bad comparisons, I'm willing to let Wilson play a season under this new deal and under a new coach before I casting doubts on the value of this deal.

All in all, it seems like a lot of money for a guy who has scored 104 career points in 391 career games, but Wilson does do dirty work so that players like Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and Ovechkin don't have to do. If he can stay out of the penalty box and off the suspension list while plugging 20 goals and 50 points, Wilson's deal might actually turn out to be pretty good value in a few years.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 28 July 2018

Linden Gone Again

February 6, 1998 was the last time that Trevor Linden left the Canucks by some means other than his own choosing after having been traded to the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, it seems that he has once again left the Canucks this week and there are some who are questioning whether his departure is as amicable as the team is stating the parting is. Either way, Trevor Linden is no longer the President of Hockey Operations, a title he assumed four years ago, for the Vancouver Canucks. In making this change, the Canucks have made it clear that they have a view of how they want the future to look, and it appears that one of the most popular players in team history didn't share that view.

As President of Hockey Operations, his boss was the only man whose opinion matters in the end: owner Francesco Aquilini. It was Linden, however, who was to chart the course to put the Canucks back on a winning track, and it was reported by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman that the direction Linden wanted to go was in contract to what ownership had wanted. Mike Johnson of Sportsnet.ca wrote,
Elliotte Friedman joined Sportsnet 650 to discuss the front office shakeup and after making a few calls he suggested Linden and ownership might not have seen eye to eye on the direction of the team’s current rebuild.

Friedman would go on to explain that one NHL general manager told him that at June's draft in Dallas, Linden had approached several teams that had gone through rebuilds and inquired about their respective processes.

"I think that was his plan. I think he wanted to keep going the same way and I do think there was a recent meeting where I'm not sure the vision was shared, and I think at that point in time it was recognized that it was time for a break," Friedman said. "I think Linden had a plan that he saw as he asked some other teams about how they went through their rebuilds and he presented that and I don't think he felt that the organization wanted to do it the same way."
Perhaps Linden wanted to expedite the rebuild process by trading some of the prospects they had in the pipeline to acquire pieces that would get the Canucks back into the hunt faster, but it sure sounds like he wanted to acquire more draft picks to amass more blue-chip prospects. Whatever the vision he shared was, it was not what Francesco Aquilini's ownership group wanted. With Linden unable to pursue this plan and not favouring ownership's preferred plan, it seems changes had to be made.

There's no doubt that Trevor Linden's time has produced very little to celebrate on the left coast as the Canucks missed the playoffs for three straight years while piling up prospects like Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Jonathan Dahlen, Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi, Kole Lind, and Thatcher Demko. While Horvat and Boeser have proven they can play at the NHL level, the remainder have some work to do when it comes to finding that consistency. The team recently re-signed Jake Virtanen, but it's hard to see him morphing into more than the checking forward he is, and there's little hope for a return by 6'7" defenceman Nikita Tryamkin as his NHL days had him look sorely out of place. And while no one is suggesting that any of the other players above have hit their ceilings, the Canucks desperately need a number of them to start taking steps forward to fill open roster spots.

GM Jim Benning has been plugging holes with the likes of Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller this off-season, but these signings won't do anything but add bottom-six depth to a team that doesn't really need anymore depth at those positions. If it were Linden's vision to continue to try and grab another high pick in next year's NHL Entry Draft, these signings would be in line with that vision. With Jack Hughes on the horizon as the potential top pick, it would give the Canucks another weapon in their holster as their young stable of players mature.

As Elliotte Friedman stated, "I think it comes down to a point where if you're not going to support it, you don't want to be there, and if you're not going to support it, ownership probably doesn't want you there. So, people can decide what that means but I do think both looked at each other and said, 'This is not going to work.'"

As it stands, Jim Benning has all the keys to the good ship Canucks now, and it will be on him to right the boat moving forward. If that means accelerating the process by dangling a prospect in a trade, so be it. But as fans of the Winnipeg Jets will tell you, the six years they waited for anything other than early tee times and two home playoff losses was entirely worth it with the run that the Jets went on this year. It may have been a long and painful road with a lot of questioning of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, but hope springs eternal in Winnipeg with all the youth they have in their system.

It seems like Trevor Linden was trying to replicate that magic in Vancouver, but had the curtain fall on him before he could finish the act because someone got impatient. If that's the case and there are moves made to try and expedite the process, it could be a long time before the Canucks return to prominence.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 27 July 2018

Contracts Demystified

If you missed The Hockey Show last night featuring Toronto Furies GM Sami Jo Small, you missed a doozy. Besides Sami giving another world-class interview about everything happening in the Canadian pro women's league, she actually went through the ins and outs of how contracts work in her league thanks to a Twitter questions from Randall Hall. Rarely, if ever, have we been given a glimpse into how the contract structure in women's hockey has worked, so let's go through what Sami said and piece together how players are paid.

According to Sami, there is a pay structure where time of service earns you a specific base salary. She stated, "A first-year player has to make $2000. A second-year player has to make $2500. And a third-and-above has to make $3000. So that's 'base salary' that it's called."

Starting with that information, we can now see how much money of the $100,000 annual salary cap is allotted to base salaries for each player and team based on their time of service. For example, last year's leading rookie scorer, Cayley Mercer, earned just $2000 in base salary for her efforts whereas the league's leading scorer in Kelli Stack, who played three seasons with the Boston Blades before joining Kunlun Red Star, made $3000 in base salary based on her three-plus years of service.

In saying this, one can figure out the base salaries for all six CWHL teams as they sign free agents and draft new players. Victoria Bach, who is a pre-draft signing for the Markham Thunder, will make $2000 in base salary this upcoming season while free agent Brooke Webster, who played for the Vanke Rays last season, will make $2500 in base salary as she begins her second season in the league.

Where there is a little more guessing is in the remaining amount of money where GMs can sweeten the pot for free agents and stars to play. The remaining salary cap money, as Sami stated, can be used by the general managers in any manner they wish. The Toronto Furies, as it stood last season, were paid pretty evenly across the board for base salary with the extra money going to attendance for team practices and events which got the Furies pretty solid buy-in from all players when it came to team functions.

As Sami stated last night, she estimates the Furies have a base salary structure of about $56,000 heading into this season, giving her some $44,000 to play with when it comes to sweetening some deals. She also stated that the remaining money will be portioned out to the women on the team based on their rankings of where she and her coaching staff believe they rank on the team in terms of skill, importance, usage, and other factors.

In knowing how the base salaries are set, we can now effectively look at the salary caps for the teams in future years and determine whether those teams who sign veteran players see more success per dollar spent or whether shrewd drafting, pre-draft signings, and overall chemistry result in championships.

If I had to guess, the latter would see better results, but with names like Stack, Knight, Chuli, and Bozek still being free agents, there might be some change in that opinion depending on where they land.

If nothing else, there's some hope from this writer that this explanation makes it easier to understand how teams are built when it comes to players earning their maximum values in a salary cap world. In the end for both GMs and players, it's the dollars that have to make sense when it comes to salaries.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 26 July 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 305

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, continues with the Summer of Interviews, but the show is officially on the road today as Teebz heads down to Gateway Recreation Centre to take part in a day of fun at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School! There are some major names from the women's hockey world helping Sami out this week, and her husband and Olympic sledge hockey player Billy Bridges is also at the camp! I'll sit down with as many of these legends as I can today before checking in at 5:30pm CT with our featured guest!

It is always a privilege to speak with this amazing woman, and I cannot express in enough words how grateful I am that she even gives me and this radio show some time. Tonight, Teebz goes one-on-one with women's hockey legend and new Toronto Furies GM Sami Jo Small about Commissioner Brenda Andress stepping down, former teammate and current legend Jayna Hefford being named as the interim commissioner, Hefford's comments and former teammate Hayley Wickenheiser's comments regarding the One League movement, the scuttling of the Vanke Rays after one season, Sami's goals for this season and beyond as the GM, any signings she'd like to announce (since our show has had a number of announcements already this summer), and I'll toss some Twitter questions at her! In other words, it's going to be another busy show!

"I wanna hear Sami! How can I listen?" you ask. Well, the easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally the 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 the 101.5 frequency on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website as well!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! 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 sits down with Toronto Furies GM Sami Jo Small to discuss the departure and arrival of a commissioner, the One League movement, the contraction of a team, her work as a GM, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 26, 2018: Episode 305
RESOURCES: Sami Jo Small Hockey School

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Radio Insanity

The man to the left is new Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon. Mr. Dundon came into the Hurricanes organization with a promise to do things differently. There would be new eyes who looked at the business and the franchise on the ice, and that means some of the old ways of doing things would be changed. Ron Francis was dismissed. Don Waddell and Rick Dudley were brought in. Head coach Bill Peters opted out of his contract. Rod Brind'Amour took over behind the bench. For as much as Dundon promised new eyes and methods, it sure seems like things are being done with an emphasis on "everything old is new again".

Where this insanity ratcheted up about a dozen notches was when it was reported by The News & Observer's Luke DeCock that longtime radio play-by-play man Chuck Kaiton would be leaving the broadcast booth after the Hurricanes "stood firm on its final offer to the broadcaster, which included what Kaiton’s agent, Lou Oppenheim, said was an 80 percent pay cut". I'm not sure about your situation, but would you be able to do your job and live your current life by taking an 80% pay cut in your salary? Didn't think so.

"I was hoping for a reasonable offer to stay but obviously the offer was an invitation to leave," Kaiton told DeCock. "That is how I look at it. I really was hoping we could make some headway. It's his decision to offer what he offered and it was quite a substantial decrease. It really basically told me they weren't that interested in keeping me. That's life. It's his team."

According to DeCock, "[t]he team's deal with WCMC-99.9 FM to carry the broadcast has no lucrative rights fee like its television deal, incurring six-figure losses while drawing what the team estimates to be fewer than 2,000 listeners per game in the absence of any official metered ratings. Kaiton's salary was a big part of that expense". It makes me wonder why Dundon wouldn't explore a path to get a better radio deal and move Kaiton to a new frequency if "broadcasters are employed by the team". As Kaiton stated, it almost seems like this was an invitation to leave.

"Radio is not a prudent financial decision," Waddell said earlier this summer, DeCock reported. "It's important, I think, to have it for the people that still want to listen to it, but it’s something from a business standpoint that doesn’t make a lot of sense."

Is that so, Don Waddell? Apparently, not only does Don Waddell know something about hockey, he's also in radio management. Let's just take a peek at why Don Waddell is so smart, shall we?

According to Dave Nagle of ESPNMediaZone as of March 2018, "ESPN Audio's content – the ESPN Radio Network's national talk shows and live events, affiliated local broadcast radio stations and podcasting – accounts for nearly half (46%) of all sports radio listenership in the U.S., according to the most recent 'Share of Ear' survey by Edison Research." Hmmm... ok, maybe that's an outlier of a statistic because of how big ESPN is. I'll give Waddell the benefit of the doubt here because it's not like sports on ESPN don't make money. Excuse my sarcasm.

Accordinf to Cork Gaines of Business Insider in 2015, "... media rights revenue is expected to reach $20.6 billion in 2019, compared to $20.1 billion for ticket sales." Radio is a part of media, so why isn't Waddell looking to get a better deal with a radio station as I suggested? That aside, perhaps Waddell might be a little behind the times when it comes to understanding how this whole media thing works, I guess.

As per Statista, "In spring 2017, the number of people who listened to a National Hockey League event within a period of 12 months amounted to 7.93 million." Nearly 8 million people in the US listened to some sort of NHL event via their radio, but "[r]adio is not a prudent financial decision"? Maybe Waddell should walk that statement back about radio not being a "prudent financial decision". If WCMC-99.9 FM is only averaging 2000 listeners per game and the Hurricanes have the third-lowest home game attendance in the NHL with the worst percentage of arena capacity, as per ESPN, the problem isn't radio. The problem appears to be the team the Hurricanes are putting on the ice because it sounds like no one wants to watch or listen to them play. That's directly on the shoulders of Dundon and Waddell.

As much as Chuck Kaiton is right in that Tom Dundon owns the team and can offer whatever he likes to his broadcasters, losing a guy who has called games for the Hartford Whalers and the Carolina Hurricanes since 1979 - some 38 years of experience and knowledge - will be a major blow to the coverage of the team. Chuck Kaiton absolutely deserves better than the insulting offer Dundon put forth, and I personally believe that Kaiton will find something bigger and better despite his devotion to the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise.

As for Don Waddell and Tom Dundon, enjoy the circus you're creating because everything you're doing seems to point to the Hurricanes being run by a couple of clowns.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Cracks In The Foundation

The arena you see above, with its rather impressive imagery on the front, is Arena Omsk in Omsk, Russia. The cost to build the arena that houses the KHL's Avangard Omsk team was somewhere in the range of $150 million, and construction began in March 2004 after designs by Austrian company AMR were accepted. While Avangard Omsk and MHL team Omskie Yastreby have been co-existing in the fairly-new arena since 2009, there were upgrades planned for the interior of the building that were sidetracked by a few discoveries of cracks in the walls and foundation.

From the Hawk.ru site, Avangard President Maxim Sushinsky stated,
"'Arena Omsk' is the house of the 'Vanguard', and for us it was extremely important to approach the new season in full readiness, including in terms of comfort and safety of our fans. In the off-season we started interior repairs and modernization of the engineering systems of the arena. In the course of these works, we encountered unforeseen difficulties, after which the necessary additional examinations were urgently launched. To implement these tasks, the best resources and specialists were attracted. I note that in previous years there were no complex surveys in the arena.

"At the moment, consultations and expertise are still ongoing. But since there is not much time left before the start of the season, the club must work through all the scenarios and alternatives. We will report how the situation develops."
Needless to say, Avangard Omsk may be without an arena if these "unforeseen difficulties" aren't resolved prior to the opening of the season when Lokomotiv Yaroslavl visits on September 2. Cracks in the foundation for any structure are a problem, but an arena would be catastrophic with the water getting into the cracks which would then freeze and make the cracks larger thanks to the expansive properties of frozen water. In other words, this isn't good by any measure.

If there aren't any ways to resolve these cracks in the foundation without spending millions to redo the arena floor, perhaps there's an innovative way to solve the problem. Global Synthetic Ice, a Florida-based company, makes synthetic ice surfaces that have rivalled real ice surfaces, and there seems to be a growing market for the synthetic ice. Could the KHL be the first pro league to feature a game on the synthetic ice? It's extremely unlikely, but it may solve Omsk's issue until they get the arena fixed.

This isn't the kind of news fans want to hear in the off-season, but at least Omsk found the problem and has committed to fixing it before it got any worse. Simply icing over the cracks could have made things exponentially worse! Where will the play next season if these repairs can't be finished in time for September 2? Your guess is as good as mine!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 23 July 2018

Your Taxpayer Dollars At Work

If you're a US citizen who pays taxes, your tax dollars go towards helping to fund the world's largest military service. Taxes also go to many other places, of course, but US taxes are directed, in part, to funding the military, its staff, and its operations. This isn't Economics 101, so you probably already knew that, but how would it make you feel to know that your tax dollars are going to professional sports franchises in the form of celebrations and honours for the various branches of the military that you already support? Yes, even though you've already poured in a ton of money to build that shiny new arena or stadium, your tax dollars are being given to franchises already owned by billionaires in honour of the military!

According to a 2015 report from US Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake entitled Tackling Paid Patriotism, there were a whole bunch of professional sports leagues and teams that benefited from some Department of Defence spending on getting the military a little more of the spotlight. The report goes over each of the "Big Four" sports and how much each team benefited from a Department of Defence contract. Hockey, as it stands, was not immune as six of the 24 NHL teams based in the United States got a little richer thanks to their military demonstrations from 2012-15.

Before we look at which teams were contracted by the Department of Defence to celebrate the military and all of its accomplishments, let me say that I have zero stake in this as a political speech. I'm not American, and I certainly don't identify myself as Democrat or Republican. It should be noted, however, that I'm writing this as a simple exercise in information - that American taxpayers should know that they're funding the military to pay professional sports franchises millions of dollars to trot out the flag and wear camouflage. This is the importance of democracy in that you should get a say where your money is being spent, and that say comes in the form of a vote. Aside from that, this article is merely an examination on how much money was spent by the Department of Defence to celebrate their military efforts in professional sports venues.

According to the report linked above, the Boston Bruins received payments from the Massachusetts Army National Guard in 2012 and 2013 totalling $280,000 for doing their patriotic duty by celebrating the military. What does $280,000 buy from the Boston Bruins? According to the report found on page 61, among the numerous items that were bought included "[r]ecognition of two MAARNG soldiers and their guests during each home game in November" for both years, "[a]ccess to one luxury box for 18 people and one executive suite for 25 people on military appreciation night" in 2013, "[f]our loge tickets to 10 regular season home games" in 2013, "[f]orty tickets for soldiers recognized during military appreciation month" in both years, and "[f]orty general tickets to Bruins home games" in both years.

If you ask me, that sounds a lot like the Bruins charging the Department of Defence for tickets for members of the military who are being honoured by the Bruins. In 2015, there was a Reddit thread that spoke of Jacobs accepting money for the Department of Defence celebrations, but it seems like the people commenting on that forum aren't bothered by the money being spent to buy tickets at the Bruins games. Rather, the one serviceman who does comment is bothered more by the lack of genuine support than he is the spending of taxpayers' money. To me, I'm not sure that this should be mutually exclusive.

The other teams included in Senators McCain's and Flake's report include the Carolina Hurricanes ($75,000 over three years), the Florida Panthers ($40,000 over two years), the Minnesota Wild ($570,000 over three years), the Detroit Red Wings ($41,500 over two years), and the Dallas Stars ($34,000 over two years).

The one that obviously stands out of these numbers is the amount paid to the Minnesota Wild as the Wild franchise pocketed over half a million dollars for virtually nothing in return.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that those military personnel that were honoured also got tickets to the game so perhaps those costs were rolled into one charge, but $235,000 for the same thing that the Bruins did for $150,000 shows that these contracts are negotiated independently with the individual teams as opposed to the Department of Defence having a blanket contract with terms it would like.

Further to the point above, if the Wild offer so little for $235,000 while the Panthers offer seemingly everything and the kitchen sink for the $20,000 they were paid, it seems like some teams do genuinely want to hold these appreciation ceremonies while covering costs for tickets and staffing while others are simply there to pad the owner's wallet. I get that business is business, but that's not the intention of these evenings where fans are asked to honour the men and women serving in the military on behalf of the team.

In total, the Department of Defence spent $1,040,500 with six US NHL teams to get varying degrees of military appreciation support. While the current US administration has proposed a budget of $681.1 billion in Department of Defence spending, $1 million spent on getting the servicemen and women a little recognition seems like a drop of water in the ocean. That is, however, still a good chunk of taxes that the government has to raise to do a little advertising that probably should be used elsewhere.

Bill Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who writes about the increased militarization of sports, told Howard Bryant of WBUR 90.9 in Boston, "I think our military has made a conscious decision, and that decision was, as much as possible, to work with strong forces within our society. I think our military made a choice to work with the sporting world — and vice versa. I think that's something that's in response to 9/11."

Was he surprised by how much money was being spent by the Department of Defence on military appreciation ceremonies?

"I hate to say it, but I wasn't completely surprised," Astore told Bryant. "But I was disgusted by it. Patriotic displays, they mean a lot more to me when they're spontaneous. But to learn that these had been paid for — that corporate teams, teams owned by billionaires, basically, were collecting money from the military. Paid for, obviously, by you and me, by the American taxpayer. Well, it was sad."

Maybe the serviceman on Reddit was right: the fact that these ceremonies aren't done genuinely as opposed to them being manufactured like a live-action advertisement may actually be worse than the payments for these ceremonies themselves. If there's one thing that I've learned in being the most civilian of civilians, it's that servicepeople take serving their nation very seriously. This was best identified in Rob Reiner's A Few Good Men where the two marines charged with the crime of murder explain to Lt. Caffey about "the code".
If there's one thing you don't do, you do not ignore the code. That's the entire foundation of what these Marines, and the servicepeople in the military today, believe in and entrust when it comes to their existence.

Nick Francona, son of MLB manager Terry Francona, is a retired serviceman, and his work with Major League Baseball has left a sour taste in his mouth when it comes to how these professional sports leagues and teams honour the military service personnel. Howard Bryant writes,
"... if you look at kind of the tone of what Memorial Day has become about, it's pretty gross," Nick says. "Even on the teams' official Twitter accounts — a flame emoji for, like, 'Look how hot these camo hats are.' And it's, like, 'Really, guys? That's the plan?' I mean, you can imagine how some of these Gold Star families reacted to that. They were not remotely amused.

"I might have asked the question 100 times and said, 'OK, if you're selling a $40 hat, how much of this is going to charity, and where is it going?' I think it's fair to say, if you're an average fan watching Major League Baseball, you're going to be, like, 'Man, these guys are really supportive of the military.'"
And that's the rub. It looks like professional sports leagues and teams ARE supportive of the military when they're actually just conducting business by selling the Department of Defence tickets, luxury suites, and private boxes. And I can't fault the professional sports teams for conducting business - they're businesses, after all - but I do fault them for not being genuine in their support of the military.

If there was a payment for tickets to a game for servicepeople and the team turned around and donated that payment to a charity for Veterans or military people, I'd say that's pretty genuine. But when you see the Minnesota Wild pocketing $570,000 over three years, this is nothing more than "paid patriotism" as the McCain/Flake report pointed out.
Unsuspecting audience members became the subjects of paid-marketing campaigns rather than simply bearing witness to teams' authentic, voluntary shows of support for the brave men and women who wear our nation's uniform … [I]t is hard to understand how a team accepting taxpayer funds to sponsor a military appreciation game, or to recognize wounded warriors or returning troops, can be construed as anything other than paid patriotism.
Let me be clear here: I am not saying that professional sports leagues or teams should stop honouring the men and women of the military who risk their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy. What I am saying is that the teams need to be more genuine in taking that large bag of money that the Department of Defence gives them and giving it back to the very men and women they are honouring in their ceremonies through charities that help servicepeople and Veterans. Otherwise, these teams should stop accepting the money - YOUR taxpayer money - and profiting off of it. If you're against giving taxpayer money to billionaires to build rinks and stadiums, you should also be against this suckling off the taxpayers' teat.

Ceremonies honouring our countries' bravest men and women shouldn't be financial windfall for pro sports.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 22 July 2018

5.5 Million Reasons Why

With the arbitration decision in the books, the Winnipeg Jets now have 48 hours to either accept or reject the arbitrator's decision of defenceman Jacob Trouba being worth $5.5 million for next season. I can assure you there are 5.5 million reasons why the Winnipeg Jets will re-sign the rearguard, but there needs to be a rational conversation about why the Jets and Trouba were some $3 million apart that led to them going to arbitration. This isn't a case of the team not wanting to pay a top-flight defenceman what he's worth, but rather it's a case of finding out what a top-flight defenceman of Jacob Trouba's abilities are worth from an independent party who will only look at the objective evidence presented at the arbitration meeting.

The Jets aren't saying that Trouba won't be a $7 million-per-season defenceman. On the contrary, I'm sure they'd be willing to pay that amount if Trouba and his agent, Kurt Overhardt, were able to present a convincing argument for the value they were seeking. The Jets, for their part, came in with an Olli Maatta-like number after Maatta and Trouba had been compared as equals during the last contract negotiation between the team and player. Some may say that the Jets low-balled Trouba with their $4 million valuation, but that's precisely how a negotiation works - the buyer starts low, the seller starts high, and the two sides meet in the middle. The arbitrator did exactly that with his $5.5 million ruling.

Everything that was said between the team and player will now carry forward as the Jets look to sign Trouba to a long-term deal to avoid going to arbitration next summer again. For Trouba's camp, there is all sorts of pressure on Trouba to perhaps hold off on signing anything and let the season play out. There's a risk that Trouba may have a year where he regresses, but there's a also a good chance his stock rises on a team that has sorts of upside, and that will mean a bigger pay day next summer for the blueliner.

Trouba, for what it's worth, is no Karlsson or Doughty, so the idea of him pushing for double-digits in salary seems ludicrous. However, that $7 million price tag could be attainable of Trouba has another year where he proves he cat eat big minutes, shut down some of the best stars on the planet, and continue to produce stats while playing five-on-five like he did this season. Trouba was an important cog in the Jets' successes this season, so the team would be crazy to not sign him as soon as possible to a long-term deal. As stated above, though, it would be beneficial to Trouba is he has another season like he did, and this is why the Jets should have tried to ink him long before the two parties got to this stage. Hindsight is always 20/20, though, so we can only look to smarter decisions in the future.

As it stands right now, the Jets have 48 hours to put a contract in front of him worth $5.5 million for next season. If they fail to do so or opt not to, Trouba becomes a free agent and is free to sign where ever he chooses. I'm guessing that if that happened, he wouldn't be signing in Winnipeg despite his wanting to stay after last season. There are exactly 5.5 million reasons why that contract should already be in the process of getting into Trouba's hands. Otherwise, the Jets will have a monstrous hole on the right side of their defence that #8 once patrolled.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 21 July 2018

Return Of The Quack

Everything old is new again. Well, for one season anyway. The Anaheim Ducks unveiled their alternate jerseys for this season, and they have used the opportunity to celebrate their silver anniversary as the franchise turns 25 years-old. Being that the franchise is a quarter of a century old, there's no time like the present to bring back something the current owners got rid of the moment the ink dried on the cheque written to Disney. This year, the Anaheim Ducks will turn back time on sixteen nights to become the Anaheim Mighty Ducks as a celebration of their 25th year in the league!

Let's break this down with the old Ducks jersey on the left compared to the new Ducks jersey on the right. The first thing that struck me is how off the colour is. The purple or eggplant is now black, and the jade is no longer jade. The new jersey would need to qualify that "jade" as a whole new colour when compared to the old jersey, so count that as a negative for the new uniform. If you can't replicate the colours, it's a fail, Adidas.

Seriously, what's the deal with the shoulder yoke on these jerseys? Not only is the faux-jade colour entirely distracting from the jersey and logo, but the little silver stripe that appears on either side of the collar only further serves to pull the eyes away from the logo. There is no need for a lace-up collar when the original jerseys never had them either. This entire shoulder area is just features for feature's sake when none of it was ever needed. And the addition of the current logo to the shoulder? Not needed either. I'm pretty certain no one will ever confuse the Mighty Ducks with any other franchise. This whole area is way over-the-top and unnecessary when it comes to design.

The striping on this jersey is all over the map, and I find it to be very cumbersome in the design. The angled hem stripe is in the vein of the original jersey, but the differently-sized stripes don't work when trying to create that angled look. These stripes, like the ones on the sleeves, feel forced in the size difference, and that's never a good thing. As you can see on the old jersey up above, there was a splash of with the sleeves ending in the jade colour to mimic the bottom of the old jersey. The new jerseys end in eggplant again, causing the sleeves to look awkward in their design. Some will say that the gloves will cover that up, but I'm willing to bet the gloves match the eggplant colour. Overall, I am not a fan of the striping on this jersey.

The font used by the Ducks appears to be consistent with their everyday font used on their home and road jerseys. The continuity is appreciated, and the font is easily readable on the backs of these uniforms. If there is a drawback, it feels a little crowded with the shoulder yoke pushing the name and number towards the angled hem stripes, but everything fits within the template provided. For those players with longer names - Jakob Silfverberg and Marcus Petterberg, specifically - it might be a bit of a squeeze horizontally to get those names on the jersey comfortably when looking at the twelve characters in "Mighty Ducks", but I'll let the Ducks' equipment managers worry about those details.

Overall, this jersey just has too many things happening at once for it to really make its mark. The old KISS idea - Keep It Simple, Stupid - would have worked wonders here. In any case, pre-orders for the 25th anniversary Mighty Ducks alternate jersey start Monday, July 23 at 10am at the Ducks' team store. Oh, and one more note for jersey collectors comes from Eric Stephens of The Athletic.
It seems the Mighty Ducks will be mothballed once again next season in favour of another orange alternate jersey. Get your Mighty Ducks circa 2018-19 jerseys when you can!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 20 July 2018

Letterkenny Picks Up Speed

If you haven't been paying attention, the work being done by Jared Keeso, Nathan Dales, K. Trevor Wilson, and rest of the cast of Letterkenny is really picking up steam! First, they were a YouTube sensation before finding a deal to develop the web shorts into a TV show on CraveTV. From there, they've now secured a deal to get into the American market by inking a deal with Hulu! The guys and gals from the fictional town of Letterkenny are certainly doing their part to take over the world!

If you've missed some of the press they've attracted over the last few weeks, don't fret because I'm going to drop some links on you that talk about the television show. In short, the show has been earning some good reviews from some big names in entertainment!

On July 6, Bill Brioux of The Canadian Press had his story picked up by eTalk, and there were some great quotations in the article as Letterkenny and its cast prepared for the July 13 debut on Hulu! According to the article, "American rapper T-Pain is a fan, as is filmmaker Kevin Smith"!

Where one should be focusing, though, is the amount of business coming out of Letterkenny. Brioux writes,
An animated spin-off series, Littlekenny, is heading to Snackable, Bell Media's free mobile video app. Toronto-based animation studio Little Blackstone Inc. is tasked with taking Letterkenny back to its roots, with Wayne and the others re-imagined as their schoolyard selves.

Montefiore says a feature film version of the series is also on the drawing board, but the challenge is fitting it into an already packed production schedule.
Besides beer, introducing a Letterkenny branded whisky is on Montefiore's to-do list. Since this is Canada, his marketing team has also explored the possibility of a marijuana tie-in.
In other words, the little town of Letterkenny is becoming a booming industry town! From being a funny web series on YouTube to moving into US television, feature films, and branded adult beverages, the growth of this show has been exponential thanks to a funny premise that came out of the heads of Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales.

Now you might be asking how the show is doing on US TV. After all, there have been Canadian shows that have failed to capture the imagination of the US market simply due to its unique Canadian aspects, but it seems that Letterkenny will find fans similar to how Trailer Park Boys had its following.

Reviewed by Alan Sepinwall in Rolling Stone(!), here are some of his findings.
Once you get past the head-scratching slang of our neighbors to the north – or get into it – this oddball show offers big laughs
But long before I figured out that Wayne's pet insult "10-ply" refers to someone who's soft, or could follow more than a fraction of what the hockey players or the skids (breakdancing meth-heads, led by Tyler Johnston's melodramatic Stewart) were saying, I recognized that Letterkenny spoke in the only dialect I needed to hear: funny.
This is a strange, simple, delightful show that kept surprising me throughout the two seasons available on Hulu.
The series has a lot of fun showing the intersection of this sleepy, isolated town and the allegedly more sophisticated world outside it.
Alan rates it three-and-a-half stars out of a possible five, but it's clear that the boys and Katy have found a fan in Alan with their quirks and goofiness. If Alan's review in Rolling Stone doesn't - excuse the pun - get the stone rolling for Letterkenny in the largest TV market on the planet, I'm not sure what will.

I can't say enough good things about Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales as people. They deserve the success they're finding with Letterkenny, and my hope is that they'll find enough time to get other projects off the ground. These two guys, along with the rest of the cast, have worked their butts off and deserve all the success they're finding.

Let's just hope that Americans "figgeritout".

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 19 July 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 304

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, continues with the Summer of Interviews on this fine Thursday, and this interview will be a little different as it will feature a one-on-one interview! Due to our guest's incredibly busy schedule, Teebz contacted her earlier today for tonight's interview, so it's not like any of the chatter will be outdated. It just simply won't be as live as it could be. Nevertheless, this is a big interview as we welcome a new guest to the show!

We at The Hockey Show are proud, honoured, humbled, and privileged to welcome an outstanding young woman from the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Mikayla Ogrodniczuk to the show! Mikayla was the Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service award winner this past season and a finalist for the U SPORTS Community Service award as she has spent tireless hours working on behalf of mental health initiatives in Vancouver and around British Columbia. Not only is she an outstanding community leader, but she maintains an incredible GPA, recently wrote the MCAT admissions test, and she's an incredible defender on the Thunderbirds' blue line. We're going to talk to her about all of her achievements in just three seasons at UBC, what she's going to do this season to continue her success, and everything else we can squeeze into the hour as we meet Mikayla Ogrodniczuk tonight! This is one woman who is going places in this world, so don't miss this show!

"I know Mikayla! How can I listen?" you ask. Well, the easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally the 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 the 101.5 frequency on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website as well!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! 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 introduces you to UBC's Mikayla Ogrodniczuk as they discuss mental health initiatives, the work Mikayla is doing in that area, her life, hockey, and more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 19, 2018: Episode 304
RESOURCES: UBC Athletes' Hub, Heads Up Guys

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 18 July 2018

A Major Change

While this might be the worst photo ever taken of Sean Fisher having gotten to know him over the last couple of years, Canada West women's hockey fans will need to get used to seeing Sean's face as he'll be the head coach for the University of Manitoba Bisons women's team this coming fall after it was announced that reigning Canada West and U SPORTS Coach of the Year Jon Rempel would be stepping back for a professional development opportunity. If this feels like a bit of a bombshell announcement, you're not wrong. There's no doubt that missing Jon Rempel will force the Bisons to change in some way or ways. In the interim, however, Sean Fisher will man the helm as the Bisons open their title defence of both the Canada West banner and the U SPORTS National Championship.

If you didn't receive the press release, it reads as follows:
Fresh off a U SPORTS national championship, Bison women's hockey will have a new head coach for the 2018-19 season. Bison Sports is pleased to announce Sean Fisher as the program's interim head coach, as Jon Rempel has received a six-month reassignment of duties to allow for professional development.

Fisher, an assistant with Bison women's hockey for the last four seasons, is looking forward to this new assignment. "The opportunity to lead our program for the 2018-19 season is pretty special, and it's a great professional development opportunity for me personally. We have a number of terrific coaches on our staff and I'm very excited to work with them towards the continued success of Bison women's hockey."

Born in Belleville, Ontario, Fisher ended a minor hockey playing career and began coaching in 2004 with the Sudbury Wolves AAA Bantam program and continued with the Nickel City Midget AAA program while attending Laurentian University. Upon graduation, Fisher began coaching women's hockey, spending three years with the Greater Kingston Ice Wolves.

A move to Winnipeg in 2012 led to more coaching opportunities before Fisher joined the Bison women's hockey coaching staff in 2014. He has been heavily involved in skill development, recruiting, practice planning, special teams, and video over four seasons.

Meanwhile, Bison women's hockey head coach Jon Rempel takes a coaching hiatus after the most successful of his 14 years with Manitoba in 2017-18. The U SPORTS Women's Hockey Coach of the Year, Rempel led the Bisons to a 19-5-3-1 regular season record, the program's third Canada West championship, and their first U SPORTS national championship. Over his career, he has been named Canada West Women's Hockey Coach of the Year five times (2004-05, 2006-07, 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2017-18).

"Jon Rempel has done a world class job of building this program, building the culture in our dressing room and has been instrumental in my development as a coach," said Fisher.

"The women's hockey program is a marquee program in Bison Sports and we are excited to have Sean at the helm for the coming season," said Gene Muller, Athletic Director of Bison Sports. "Sean is a known and respected coach in the program. He will be able to provide a measure of both continuity and newness to the program. We wish him and the players all the best for the 2018-19 season."
Ok, there's a lot to unpack in that release, so let's go through this piece by piece. In the end, you'll see that the Bisons are not be as close to disaster as it may first have seemed.

Fisher referenced the "terrific coaches" that already are part of the program, and these men and women will continue in their roles. Rob Voth, assistant coach, will still handle the defensive coaching with the rearguards, and there is real excitement with five returning starters, a returning seventh defender in Taryn Kokesch, and a rookie who appears to be prepared to accept a large chunk of responsibility in Brielle Dacquay-Neveux. In short, the defence is still in good hands with Rob Voth alongside Sean Fisher on the bench.

Behind the scenes, expect Addie Miles and Lisa Peters to continue their strong coaching and skills development with the players. We saw some players make great steps forward last season, and these two were at the forefront of those players making those steps. Gavin McHale will still work with Lauren Taraschuk, Devon Johnson, and the newest netminding recruit Erin Fargey, and there was no doubt how important he was in helping a freshman goalie in Taraschuk backstop the Bisons to a national championship. Strength and conditioning coach Shawn Preston will do what he does best in helping Manitoba be one of the fittest programs in the nation. In short, the coaching staff outside of Sean and Jon will remain in their roles to continue their work with the program.

From there, Fisher has worked in Jon's systems for the last four seasons, so it's not like there is a coach coming in who wants to change the entire system and institute brand-new concepts. In fact, Sean has an excellent grasp of Jon's system having been the video coach for the last few years, and that means continuity for the players. With Jon's system proved successful based on last season's results, there should be an easy transition for the players with Fisher taking the reins.

As for Jon's professional development, it's going to weird not seeing his steely glare from the back of the bench this season. In all honesty, Jon is an amazing guy whose insight into hockey is miles deep, and I just started to get to know him over the last few seasons off the ice where he's as funny as he is knowledgeable. Whatever he's doing for professional development, I was concerned that this was more of a hiatus for time off considering how devoted he's been over the last fourteen years.

That was worry was put to rest by Sports Information Officer John Gaudes, though, via email when he replied, "Everything is fine with Jon personally, it was a pre-meditated move on his part."

This summer has been nothing but bombshell announcements on The Hockey Show and on HBIC. From Toni Ross announcing her retirement from pro hockey to Fielding Montgomery announcing her sabbatical away from the pro ranks to Jon Rempel stepping back and allowing Sean Fisher to step forward, it's been a summer of big news in women's hockey already! What more can happen? Well, tune in to tomorrow's episode of The Hockey Show to meet an absolutely outstanding woman doing all sorts of amazing things off the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Hockey Plus Zombies?

While the Monroeville Zombies might be a street hockey team in the View Askew Street Hockey League created by film director and producer Kevin Smith, the team isn't exactly comprised of zombies. In fact, the name "Monroeville Zombies" is shown as a shirt worn by Canadian Seth Rogen in the Kevin Smith movie Zach and Miri Make a Porno released in 2008. The reason for this shirt is that the Monroeville Mall has several scenes for the movie shot there, and Kevin Smith paid respect with an homage to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, released in 1978, as that movie was shot at the Monroeville Mall as well. Dawn of the Dead is a zombie movie, so that's the tie-in. And View Askew, for those that aren't aware, is the name of Kevin Smith's production company, and that puts a nice little bow on that whole street hockey league explanation as all of those teams in the league are based off Kevin Smith movies. Clear? Clear.

Well, sort of. For you see, there actually is a movie coming to video-on-demand and DVD that deals with the very convergence of the hockey world with a zombie apocalypse! Kevin Smith isn't involved with it, but it appears to be a fairly zombie-centric hockey film!

I received an email this evening about a new film that will be released on August 17, 2018 as an indie feature produced by Sparrowhawk Pictures and directed by Wayne Johnson Jr. The movie is titled Ahockalypse, and it seems to be aiming to be a "ZomCom" classic as "[t]he Prairie Kings fight for the championship and their lives — all on the same night." Here's the trailer for the film.
As you can see, former NHLers Kelly Chase and Barry Melrose lend their talents to this film, and it looks to be a bit off-the-wall in terms of its appeal. That being said, it is listed as a comedy and horror on IMDB so don't go into it expecting a remake of Dawn of the Dead on skates or anything.

The stars of the film are most unknown to film goers with virtually none of the actors appearing in a mainstream role. And while you might think that's a negative in terms of me bringing it to your attention, I believe that this obscurity gives the film an advantage in that the actors cannot be compared to other roles they've had. If someone shines in his or her role in this movie, this could be the springboard to a bigger and better career in Hollywood!

The film itself was shot in Austin, Minnesota at the Riverside Arena where the North American Hockey League's Austin Bruins play. Executive Producer Craig Patrick is the co-owner of the Bruins and second Minnesota-based NAHL team in the Rochester Grizzlies, so location scouting was fairly easy from his perspective. Austin, which is about two hours south of Minneapolis, is a city of about 25,000 people and is home to Hormel Foods which famously produces spam, the meat product! If you're visiting, make sure you visit the Spam Museum!

If you're looking for the comedy outside the trailer, the Ahockalypse Facebook page provided this little doozy of an Easter egg.
All in all, I wouldn't expect Ahockalypse to contend for Best Picture honours at this year's Academy Awards, but it looks like a fun movie that might have some replay value. If i can get my hands on a copy of Ahockalypse, I'll write up a review here on HBIC and give you the Roger Ebert-esque breakdown on whether Ahockalypse is worth your time or should be avoided like a zombie virus. Either way, if you're interested in getting your hands on a copy, pre-orders for the DVD begin on August 1 with a video-on-demand release date of Ahockalypse on August 17! DVDs are estimated to arrive around the same time, so don't let this opportunity to get in on Ahockalypse die!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 16 July 2018

Post #4000

While Fox hasn't cancelled me, I'm actually pretty humbled by reaching my 4000th article here on HBIC. When I started this blog in 2007, I never expected it to go this long as a site with a daily entry about the major stories in hockey that caught my attention. I thought I might do it for a while, but it has become so much more than a blog. It's a community that includes a number of great people - contributors, contest entrants, and commenters - and I'm grateful for everyone who has helped me get to 4000. But I'm here with a bit of a reflection today on how we, as bloggers and reporters, write our stories.

"The worst thing about North American journalism is its insularity: the feeling that the United States is the world. And this is true even of the New York Times; nothing comes from the perspective of other places…" - Anthony Bourdain to Maria Bustillos.

As I settle in to write a piece that hopefully makes one think, I want to draw special attention to the late-Mr. Bourdain's comment regarding journalism and how we only provide our own perspectives. I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else who may write a story on any piece of news. While we try to be objective, we ultimately tell the story we want to write that we see, hear, and experience from our own point-of-view. It's in this point-of-view that we may miss the story altogether, especially when we write these stories from afar rather than being on the ground and in the mix where these stories are happening. Even then, our own perspectives can change the actual story that should be told.

I want to draw upon two specific examples that are happening in the world of women's hockey right now. Both have immense human-impact stories that will affect the players in a number of ways, yet these stories seem to be nothing more than footnotes if they're mentioned at all. By changing one's perspective, suddenly these stories take on a new angle that changes the entire premise of what is important.

The first story is regarding the removal of funding from Sweden's National Women's Team at the start of July. The Swedish Olympic Committee made the decision to cut off funding to the Damkronorna after some rather lowly finishes at major international tournaments. The end result is that fifteen female athletes are each losing approximately $8100 annually in funding that allows these women to train and prepare for future tournaments.

Now this may seem like a decision that is justifiable when one considers that Sweden has fallen from medal favorite at the Olympics to also-ran, and the team itself has finished at other tournaments off the podium and down the standings. Meredith Foster of The Ice Garden wrote a good piece on this decision and how it affects the program, but the program is nothing without the women and there was very little said about how this decision to cut funding affects the women who are expected to represent the national team in future tournaments.

It is expected that these players will still make time to train and prepare for upcoming events, but the issue becomes a little harder when they have lost a major chunk of money they used to supplement their regular incomes to pay for training, ice time, equipment, and anything else they need to compete at an elite level.

Working shift work or a nine-to-five not only reduces the amount of time for training that these women once had, but it makes traveling as part of Sweden's National Team significantly harder. Holiday time from work, leaves of absence, and finding creative ways to take time off work gets a little harder when these women have to work in order to pay rent, buy groceries, find ice time, buy equipment, and anything else that they need to compete.

No one seems to consider that these women were already giving a significant amount of time to the Swedish program in exchange for the funding they were receiving. Without that funding, these women need to find a way to replace that funding, and asking them to sacrifice the time they're using to make the money they need to pay their bills in order to train and play while wearing the Tre Kronor uniform is extremely shortsighted on the Swedish Olympic Committee's part.

But there has yet to be one follow-up on this story to find out how the women were handling the loss of pay. There is not yet a mention of whether the women were struggling to work, live life, and find the time to train for the national team. There isn't an examination of the effect on the women from an everyday-life perspective when that's where this story truly exists. The Swedish National Women's Team will still exist, but the question is in what capacity if the current team's players can't find a way to make it work?

Granted, it's only been two weeks since this story broke, but there should be some follow-up in the coming weeks to measure the effectiveness and the impact of this decision on the women of the Damkronorna. I say "should be" because I don't know if there will be despite my belief that this story should be followed to the end of the story.

I'm hopeful it will happen because any follow-up with the Swedish women affected by the Swedish Olympic Committee's decision and the fans who support this team changes the perspective of this story entirely from a money-performance issue to a real-life human impact issue. And that's important when trying to understand the struggle that women's sports face when it comes to funding, support, and long-term growth.

The second story is one that happened today. I'll preface it with this.
Yes, it's brutal that the Canadian pro women's league decided to contract the Vanke Rays, and that does mean less jobs for all involved. Some will undoubtedly move to Kunlun Red Star, but Mike makes a point in that six North American women will lose their "hockey ambassador" jobs that paid them a reported $100,000 annually.

The only problem with that sentiment?
The North American players can return to North America and find jobs. While it likely won't be for $100,000 annually, they can return and play hockey and work a job just like every other North American player currently does. The Chinese players on Vanke - a team that seems to have been contracted due to costs - don't have that luxury as very few will be invited to play with Kunlun, and most will likely have to go back to jobs that see them, like the Swedish players above, consider abandoning the idea of training and playing for their national team.

We're sending a dozen women back to the workforce in an oppressive-to-women China, and we should worry about the six North American players losing their hockey ambassador jobs?

Regarding this oppression, as recently as March 7, 2018, reports in China had women earning 22% less money annually than men with the average monthly salary of women being "6,589 yuan ($1,039), while that for men is 8,006 yuan" or $1197 USD. Further to this, Guo Sheng, CEO of Zhaopin.com, suggested that Chinese leaders should "consider moving up the starting age for school from 3 years old to 18 months old, which can help women put their main energy into work instead of looking after their little children" in order to assist women earn promotions in their chosen field. But those living wages earned by the North Americans sure stand out as the human impact story?

For the first time possibly ever in their lives, fifteen Chinese women were earning money by being exceptional in their field without competing with men for the same job. For the first possibly ever in their lives, fifteen Chinese women were on the largest professional stage for women of their calibre. For the first time possibly ever in their lives, fifteen Chinese women were traveling to North America to play hockey for their country rather than to seek new opportunities away from their country. And for the first time ever today, those opportunities were taken from them.

What do their futures hold? What do these women do when it comes to their hockey aspirations? How do they train to be part of the national team, and does that opportunity even exist now that they aren't playing professionally? We know what Brooke Webster, Emily Janiga, and Zoe Hickel are doing next season after they returned to North American and signed with North American professional teams, but the same cannot be said for Naixin Zhou, Minghui Kong, and Han Gao. Their futures are anything but clear when it comes to playing hockey.

These are the stories that need to be told. I'm not picking on Meredith or Mike in any way. They're reporting factual information and making conclusions based on that information, and that's an important part of the equation when it comes to telling the story. However, in this day and age of "grow the game," we may actually be seeing the game take steps back due to a lack of funding for women's hockey, and that's the piece of the story that seems to be missing from these specific stories.

Again, I'm hopeful there will be follow-ups regarding these two stories, but Mr. Bourdain's comment of "nothing comes from the perspective of other places" is something we seem to lose when telling these stories. As I stated above, I'm as guilty as anyone else for not following up on stories as vigorously as I should, but starting with article #4001 I pledge that I will do more human interest and human impact stories to give the full story when it comes to hockey-related matters. Not only will that pledge happen here, but it will also happen on The Hockey Show in order to bring an understanding of what people in the stories we feature are experiencing from their perspectives.

I have always wanted to tell hockey stories better. Today, I pledge to be a better story-teller.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!