Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 365

The Hockey Show, Canada' only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with the first show of Season Eight! It's hard to believe that Beans and I have been doing this weekly program for eight years already, but we're kicking off this new season with another set of interviews as we meet some of the players that were recruited by the Bisons women's hockey team for this season! While there won't be any cake, there definitely will be some snacks for the ladies who join us, so let's check out which players are part of Episode One in Season Eight!

These four ladies are the first to commit to The Hockey Show's annual "Meet the Kids" series we do, and Beans and I are proud to welcome - from left to right in the image - forward Samantha Sichkaruk, defender Camryn Gillis, forward Polina Goncharova, and defender Camille Enns to the show! We'll get the skinny on the careers thus far that these young women have built, hearing about growing up in Regina, Winnipeg, Moscow, and Linden, respectively, and we'll ask them all sorts of goofy, fun questions to bring out a little personality from each of them. The ladies returned from a road trip with the Bisons this past weekend as well, so we'll get their thoughts on how camp is going, how the weekend games went against Mount Royal and Calgary, and what it means to them to wear the brown-and-gold! Join us tonight as we meet the kids at 5:30pm CT!

How do you join us, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans chat with Bisons women's hockey rookies Samantha Sichkaruk, Camryn Gillis, Polina Goncharova, and Camille Enns about coming to Winnipeg, playing in Winnipeg, figuring out the campus, figuring out university hockey, 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: September 19, 2019: Episode 365

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

A Big Piece Of The Whale?

The city of Hartford hasn't had an NHL team for more than two decades, but the legacy of the Hartford Whalers lives on thanks to merchandising and, apparently, Tom Dundon's appreciation for the history of his franchise. It's always a little touching when someone finds a piece of the Whalers' history, and it seemed like a rather large dose of nostalgia fell upon a Hartford junk yard this week when the zamboni to the upper-left was sold a couple of weeks ago to scrapping business.

According to Corey Pollnow of WFSB Channel 3 in Hartford, "[t]wo Saturdays ago, a vintage Zamboni with a Whalers logo on the side was sold to a scrap metal yard in the north end of Hartford." That scrap yard is City Auto Parts on Fishfry Street, and that's where this mystery of the Whalers zamboni begins.
It seems the mystery doesn't yet have an ending, and the actual zamboni that the Whalers used is a different machine than the one currently sitting at City Auto Parts. Regardless, this is still a cool find, and I'm hopeful that it has a happy ending. Maybe Brian Ruben will get a chance to restore it yet?

Any artifact that keeps the Whalers alive in the city of Hartford is something that should be preserved. Hopefully, someone will find a way to purchase the zamboni and get it looking like new. It's a fun little story, even if the zamboni was never on the Civic Arena's surface.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Does EA Sports Use A Formula?

If there is one hotly-anticipated game that's released each year, it has to be EA Sports' NHL game. While NFL fans usually salivate over the latest Madden entry, the NHL games have been among the top-selling games each and every year. It's fun to see the hot rookies introduced into the game, and the new features always seem to grab the attention of gamers. However, I always struggled to understand how EA Sports came up with their player ratings each year because it seems like they kind of make it up rather than having some hard-and-fast formula on which they rely.

I might be entirely wrong, and I assume I am, but how does EA Sports differentiate a player rated 100 overall compared to a player rated 98 or 99 overall? How do they determine year from year what player ratings should be if they aren't factoring in real, measurable stats from the previous season? What is the formula they are using to determine these ratings?

I wanted to know this answer after seeing the work done on Hockey-Graphs regarding player ratings from NHL '93 to NHL 2005. As seen on the image below, Hockey-Graphs did a comparison of ratings given in 1993 versus the ratings that EA Sports handed out in 2005, and there's a pretty clear distinction between the two games.
As you can see, the distribution of ratings in NHL '93 was much more even in terms of the entire collection of players whereas NHL 2005 seems to have a very large amount (half of all players) rated between 71-80. In fact, if you look at the graph on the site linked above, there's no player rated 40 or lower in any NHL game after NHL '96.

Is EA Sports artificially boosting player ratings? Possibly. Some of that, as Hockey-Graphs also hypothesizes, is likely due to the NHLPA agreeing to have its players represented in the game. It's very likely that none of the players appreciated being rated particularly low, so I imagine that EA Sports cut a deal with the NHLPA to have most players rated 70 or better. It's easier to keep everyone happy that way.

It's here, however, where we start to see some of the cracks in this deal as there are no fewer than four players in NHL '98 rated 100 - Dominik Hasek, Sergei Fedorov, Eric Lindros, and Jaromir Jagr - while there were no fewer than three players rated 99 overall - Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy, and Pavel Bure.

Hasek won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 1997, so it's understandable to see why he'd be rated as the best goaltender in the game. Jagr finished sixth-overall in scoring, Lindros was 23rd-overall in scoring despite playing just 52 games, and Fedorov was 43rd-overall in scoring behind snipers such as Travis Green, Andrew Cassels, and Josef Stumpel.

Personally, it's hard to rank a guy like Fedorov in NHL '98 as a 100 overall if he's third on his team in scoring, some 22 points behind second-place and 24 points behind the leader. It's even harder to stomach when the guy who was second in scoring on the Red Wings - Steve Yzerman - was rated as a 76 in NHL '98. Yes, Fedorov did lead the Red Wings in scoring in the playoffs, but it's not like Yzerman fell off the map in helping the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 1997. How did EA Sports come to these player ratings?

To give you an idea how much the needle moved with regards to artificially improving player ratings, consider the plight of goaltender Bob Essensa. Essensa was mostly a journeyman goaltender who found success in Winnipeg before being discarded by the Red Wings following a trade. He bounced around as a backup netminder for a number of years, finding NHL work with Edmonton, Phoenix, Vancouver, and Buffalo.

In NHL '95, Essensa was a 51 overall with the Winnipeg Jets. In NHL '96 and NHL '97, he didn't even make the game before resurfacing in Edmonton in NHL '98 as a 58 overall. He followed that up in NHL '99 with a 56 overall before jumping up to 75 overall in NHL 2000. How on earth did Essensa make a 19-point overall improvement on his rating as a backup netminder with the Oilers?

Here are those three seasons of stats compiled by Bob Essensa.
In 1997-98, Essensa actually posted better overall numbers as he went 6-6-1 with a 2.55 GAA and a .913 save percentage which EA Sports determined would lead to a 56 overall rating, two points worse than one season earlier! And in 1998-99, Essensa went 12-14-6 with a 2.75 GAA and a .901 save percentage, but was rated a 75 in NHL 2000?!? Clearly, something is way off with Essensa's rating in 2000, but maybe it was just a one-off?

The issue with this is that it wasn't a one-off. Essensa's overall player ratings from 2001 until 2003 were 72, 76, and 70, respectively. Essensa's final rating of 70 was based on a season in which he went 0-5-0 in nine games for Buffalo while posting a 2.91 GAA and an .850 save percentage! How is he rated 70 for that season, but a 56 in NHL '99 when he statistically was superior in every category?

It seems that trophy winners received significant bumps in their ratings. After winning the Hart Trophy in 1994, Sergei Fedorov's rating jumped from 84 in NHL' 94 to 99 in NHL '95. After winning the Hart Trophy in 1994-95, Eric Lindros jumped from an 84 overall rating in NHL '95 to a 100 rating in NHL '96. Mario Lemieux was rated as a 100 overall in NHL '94 after winning the Art Ross Trophy in 1993. Jaromir Jagr went from an 87 in NHL '95 to a 97 in NHL '96 after capturing the scoring title.

Ironically, Nicklas Lidstrom won his first Norris Trophy in 2000-01 and the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP for the playoffs, and saw his player rating go from a 94 in NHL 2001 to an 84 in NHL 2002, the lowest he was rated by EA Sports since NHL '97. It seems, as far as I can tell, that his drop of two points in scoring between 1999-2000 when he posted 73 points and the 71 points he scored in 2000-01 was the impetus for the drop in his player rating of ten points. Yet when he scored just 59 points in 2001-02 and won his second Norris Trophy as the league's bets defender, Lidstrom received a 98 overall rating in NHL 2003.

Simply baffling.

So what does it all mean? It's very likely that EA Sports is simply another marketing tool for the NHL and the NHLPA. Players are given favorable ratings thanks to the number of players who play video games in today's NHL, and having half the NHL rated 71-80 as Hockey-Graphs showed means that there are very few players who fall into the "not very good" category that early NHL games had with their player ratings.

Of course, I could be wrong and perhaps there is some algorithm or advanced mathematical formula that gives EA Sports precise player ratings based on the individual skills and abilities that are rated for each player. If EA Sports does indeed have this formula, I could see them wanting to ensure it remains under lock and key so that others can't replicate their advanced math and build a player rating system of one's own.

In seeing the artificially-boosted player ratings as shown in the Hockey-Graphs images, I thought of a key line from The Incredibles uttered by Syndrome as he planned to market his technology as a "superpower" so everyone could be a superhero. He said,
While parity may be real in the NHL today, it shouldn't be among player ratings in the NHL series. The is simply no way that a 59-point season for Jeremy Roenick is the same as a 79-point season for Alexander Mogilny, yet both were rated as a 90 overall in NHL 2004 after posting those point totals in 2002-03. Frankly, that's just downright ridiculous.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 16 September 2019

Maybe Try Sportsmanship?

If there was one thing that I went to the penalty box for more than anything else in my playing days as a defenceman, it was when someone touched my goaltender. It's an unwritten rule that goalies are off-limits when it comes to bodychecks - intentional or not - and there's often a price to pay for those who decide to ignore that rule and bump the goalie. Or worse. On Saturday night, there was a clear instance of "worse" in a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League game between the visiting Yorkton Terriers and the Melville Millionaires. This play didn't tip-toe around the line. It was flat-out intentional with what appeared to be an aim to kill.

With ten minutes to play in the third period and the Millionaires leading 5-1 over the Terriers, the Terriers' Greg Mulhall chipped the puck past the Millionaires defenders while shorthanded and raced up the ice hoping to corral the loose puck. With no defenders standing between the net and Mulhall, Millioanires netminder Berk Berkeliev came out to try and clear the puck away before Mulhall could get there. What happened next is entirely abhorrent and disgusting.
Watch the clip again and notice that Mulhall doens't slow up, leans into the check, uses his arms to deliver the full blow, and Berkeliev's helmet go flying off towards his net. Ladies and gentlemen, that is one of the most brutal checks I've ever seen thrown not just at a goaltender, but by any player on another player. Needless to say, Berkeliev was hurt on the play, and it seems that one of the Millionaires tried to pummel Mulhall before the pile of players who followed landed on top of Mulhall and the Millionaires defender.

Mulhall, for what it's worth, received a game misconduct for what the officials deemed as intent to injure.

After Berkeliev spent the night at the hospital, details about his injuries were revealed today. According to Millionaires head coach and general manager Kyle Adams who spoke to CBC, "Berkeliev was knocked out and suffered a concussion, a cut in his upper lip that required eight to 10 stitches, another cut on the back of his head that required five stitches and some missing teeth". Adams added that he was released from hospital on Sunday morning, but was to head back to the hospital today "to undergo a CT scan of his brain Monday because of the concussion symptoms."

"You know, it was one of the dirtiest plays in hockey I've ever seen in all my years of playing and coaching," Adams told Kelly Provost of the CBC. I'd have a hard time finding any disagreement with that statement when you consider the damage that Mulhall did to Berkeliev with that hit. As stated above, goalies are off-limits for even incidental contact, so throwing a check like Mulhall did should warrant a considerable vacation from the game of hockey, if not more.

Today, the SJHL Discipline Committee did rule on the hit, and Mulhall was handed the longest suspension in recent SJHL history as he was given a 25-game suspension. According to SJHL President Bill Chow, one of the three people on the Discipline Committee, it was decided that Mulhall's hit wasn't a hockey play, prompting the long length of the suspension which should deter others from committing these reckless acts of violence.

"He made no intention to play the puck," Chow said to Provost. "He went strictly to play the body. And you got a goalie that's in a vulnerable position."

As per the CBC report, "Adams said he was satisfied with the 25-game suspension, but was hoping it was going to be even longer."

"To me, that was the minimum that he should have got," Adams said. "So I am pleased that this league did step forward and put a harsh suspension on the player."

What perhaps needs to be said here that wasn't said in the CBC story was that this game was already on the verge of chaos based on the penalties that were being handed out. Melville recorded 18 minutes in penalties, including a ten minute misconduct, while Yorkton committed six minor penalties in the opening period alone. The second period saw Melville take 14 more minutes, including a second ten-minute misconduct while Yorkton add 26 minutes in penalties that featured two ten-minute misconducts, one of which was assessed to Mulhall after he was called for roughing late in the period. And in the ten minutes leading up to the brutal check by Mulhall, Melville added 34 more minutes by way of two ten-minute misconducts and a game misconduct while Yorkton added another 19 minutes via a fight and a game misconduct.

In total, Melville committed 23 penalties for 143 minutes in penalties while Yorkton recorded 86 minutes in penalties on 20 infractions. Clearly, the officials were struggling to keep some kind of order in this game based on how these two teams were going at one another. I'd fault both coaches on that, so we need to be a little mindful of who is innocent here when looking at the big picture. There's no doubt that goaltender the hit that goaltender Berk Berkeliev is a clear match penalty, but it seems the rough stuff that had been happening all throughout the game may have been a prelude to this event. Again, that falls on the coaches to rein in their players so that we never get to a point where a player decides to throw a hit like one that Mulhall threw on Berkeliev.

Regardless of all this, I just hope that Berkeliev gets out of this with his senses intact and he can return to the game. Mulhall will have lots of time to reflect on his poor life choices while he awaits the 25 games to elapse if he's still on Yorkton's roster at that time. Kudos to the SJHL and President Bill Chow and the Discipline Committee for throwing the book at Mulhall for his poor decision that will cost Berkeliev a pile of time in his recovery from this brainless hit.

Actions have consequences, folks, and this suspension is a consequence that carries a heavy message.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Championship Post

I've been busy with slo-pitch playoffs all weekend as the team I play on is in the midst of trying to win a championship. While Friday's games were rained out, the sun was out yesterday and today, and I have the sunburn to prove it. That being said, the Castaways were working towards a perfect round-robin record with the hopes of gaining a berth in the final. According to some of the veterans on the team, the last time the Castaways won was ten years ago! Needless to say, there was some push to try and erase that drought without a celebration, and the team came ready to play yesterday. Would we see the same effort today?

Because of the rain on Friday, all teams that were scheduled to play against one another were given a tie. The team that we were supposed to play against likely was the best of the teams we were to face all weekend, so there was some disappointment in not measuring ourselves against what could be a finalist. However, the defensive effort on Saturday morning was rather impressive, and a rally in the latter stages of the afternoon game against a second team that had its heart set on being on the final pushed the Castaways to a 2-0-1 record through Saturday.

I can officially say the Castaways went 4-0-1 through the round-robin with two more convincing wins on Sunday. That effort earned us a berth in the final against the 3-0-2 opponent who we should have faced on Friday night. The Castaways hit well all weekend, but, more importantly, they used the "defence wins championships" mantra throughout the four round-robin games to advance to the final. Could that effort last for one more game?

For the first time in league history, the final ended with a shutout as the Castaways defeated their opponents by a 12-0 score! The drought is over, there were adult beverages consumed, and the trophy was hoisted by all the Castaways who can officially call themselves champions!

I'm not going to lie - I'm sore, I'm tired, I'm sunburned, and it's taken me considerable effort just to write this. But we won. And that's a pretty good trade-off for the muscle pain and exhaustion right now. With that, I'm calling it a day. I'll write something hockey-related tomorrow. Tonight, I'm basking in our victory and not apologizing for it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Never Seen That Before

As seen to the left, there's a moment in the movie Slap Shot where the police arrive at the dressing room of the Charlestown Chiefs to arrest the Hanson brothers. Reggie Dunlop, played by Paul Newman, eventually bails them out of jail, but it's something hockey fans rarely see happen. It seems, however, that the WHA - a league that always pushed boundaries - decided to do one better than what was portrayed in Slap Shot early the 1978 season when the Indianapolis Racers visited the Edmonton Oilers.

If the name Bruce Greig doesn't immediately strike you, that's likely because Bruce Greig's hockey career at the highest levels saw him play nine games in the NHL and just 60 games in the WHA. He had a long hockey career, but it was at lower levels than the NHL and WHA. Nevertheless, he did have a cup of coffee with the California Golden Seals and California Seals in the NHL before spending seven games with the Calgary Cowboys, 32 games with the Cincinnati Stingers, and 21 games with the Indianapolis Racers. It would be with Indianapolis where things took a turn for the weird for Grieg.

Without further explanation, I am posting the following newspaper clipping written by Terry Jones, Edmonton correspondent to The Indianapolis News, on Saturday, November 18, 1978. Click the image to read the clipping.
As stated in the clipping, the Edmonton police arrested the 24 year-old Greig during a stoppage in play while he sat on the Racers bench with 2:46 remaining in the third period. According to the report, Greig had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for allegedly assaulting a fan while he was a member of the Calgary Cowboys in 1976 while the Cowboys had been visiting Edmonton during the 1976-77 season.

Apparently, the Stingers never visited Edmonton during his 32-game stint in the 1977-78 season, so the Edmonton police made the arrest with Greig and the Racers visiting in November of 1978. After a scuffle that Greig and his teammates put up with the arresting officers, the Racers forward was led back to the dressing room where he was arrested as the final 2:46 was played out on the ice.

The warrant that the Edmonton police were executing apparently stemmed from a Calgary-Edmonton game on February 13, 1977 when Greig and teammate Peter Driscoll were sent to the penalty box after being called for penalties. Greig apparently threw a punch at an Oilers fan while sitting in the penalty box. The fan pressed charges for assault, and the Edmonton police finally caught up with Greig upon his return to Northlands Coliseum with the Racers on November 17, 1978.

While there aren't any online records to see if he plead his innocence or plead guilty to the charges, there is an ironic twist to this story as a June 7, 1979 story in The New York Times states that the merger between the NHL and WHA saw Bruce Greig claimed by the Edmonton Oilers as part of their entry into the NHL! Perhaps he made enough of an impact during his few visits to Edmonton that the Oilers wanted him playing with them as opposed to against them?

Whatever the reasons were, Greig never played in Edmonton again following his arrest on November 17, 1978. He played in the IHL with Toledo and Dayton in 1979-80, the EHL with the Salem Raiders in 1980-81, the CHL with Dallas before returning to Salem who joined the ACHL in 1981-82, followed by stints with Virginia and Carolina in the ACHL in 1982-83, the Mohawk Valley Stars in the ACHL in '83-84, and finally with the Spokane Chiefs of the WIHL in '84-85.

After retiring from hockey, Bruce Greig began powerlifting where he excelled at the sport. Grieg held several Canadian powerlifting records and served as the President of the Canadian Powerlifting Council which existed until 2010 when it was replaced by the Canadian Powerlifting Federation. Bruce and his estranged wife, Wendy, operated the Back Alley Gym in Okotoks, Alberta where it was popular among powerlifters and body builders. The gym closed in 2007 after Bruce Greig went through undisclosed personal problems.

Unfortunately, a car accident claimed Bruce Greig's life in 2008. At the time, Greig posted the tenth-highest deadlift of all-time at 308 pounds. He also held the Masters 40-44 age group and Masters 45-49 age group deadlift WPC World Records at 308 pounds as well. The 56 year-old was killed in a single-car collision near Nanton, Alberta, approximately 50 kilometers south of Okotoks. Funeral services were held in Nanton.

Bruce Greig may have led a more difficult life after hockey, but he holds a special place in hockey history after Edmonton police arrested him on the visitors' bench during the Indianapolis Racers' visit to Edmonton on November 17, 1978. If anyone asks if a player has ever been arrested mid-game, you now know the answer to that trivia question!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 13 September 2019

New Clothes!

With school having started, it was inevitable that there would be new clothes and new fashions seen at institutions across the land. The hockey world seems to follow this trend as it was a busy week for a number of teams in a few leagues when it came to new clothes! I'll admit that I have specific things I like when looking at new designs and alternate jerseys, and I'm usually swift to nail those that I don't like to the wall. Instead, I'm going to do something a little different today when it comes to the five jerseys we're going to see today.

When it comes to hockey fashion in past articles, I literally would explain why I don't like something with the hopes of gaining your understanding as to how I feel about the style or design of the uniform. Today, I'm simply going to use a couple of sentences to describe how I feel about these uniforms. Some will be good; other sentences will not be as positive. In the end, you'll know exactly how I feel about each one.

Calgary Flames - Heritage Game

You know when you put on a tailored suit and it fits right, and you feel like a movie star or a celebrity thanks to the fit? This is how the Calgary Flames should look all season long with their traditional design, sharp lines, and classic colours. Simply beautiful.

Winnipeg Jets - Heritage Game

The Jets may have corrected a mistake with this Heritage Classic jersey after introducing their "Aviator" alternate jersey. This jersey is how everyone remembers the Jets, and there should be a petition and some local support in having the Jets adopt this as their alternate jersey. Outstanding!

ECHL Jacksonville Icemen Alternate

Is there something in the water in the southeastern United States that prompts teams to abandon their city names and/or team names and opt for a nickname? The Icemen play in Jacksonville, not "Jax," and I have never heard anyone refer to Jacksonville as "Jax". This is beyond dumb, even for a minor-league alternate jersey.

Edmonton Oilers Alternate

The Oilers have had memorable alternate jerseys in the past - the Todd MacFarlane jersey and the WHA orange alternate - but this one is memorable for all the wrong reasons. I get that the Oilers are blue and orange, but this is neither innovative nor imaginative. I'd store these in black garbage bags inside a dumpster behind Rogers Place if I were the equipment manager.

NCAA Union College Dutchmen

For a school that had four jersey combinations two seasons ago, the introduction of a new uniform seems a little unnecessary at this point, especially if one considers the tuition costs to go to Union College. Nevertheless, this uniform is about as collegiate as one can get with the basic block lettering across a stripe that only extends across the chest, zero stripes anywhere, and an entire lack of a logo. Are the Dutchmen playing Division-1 NCAA hockey or intramural hockey this season?

At least we know that the Heritage Classic in late October will look good this year. The Oilers, the Icemen, and the Dutchmen likely should head back to the drawing board for some do-overs based on the efforts they turned in with these uniforms. How some of these uniforms see the light of day always baffle me, and these three teams have left me shaking my head once again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 364

The Hockey Show, Canada' only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with the first of what should be a number of shows where we meet the new players who will suit up for the Bisons this year. Beans is off tonight on a scheduled vacation from the show so it'll just be Teebz in the studio as the host, but he will be joined by another gentleman as we get to know him a little as he embarks on a new adventure in university learning and on the ice with the Bisons men's hockey team! He's been all over the map through western Canada already, though, so playing for the Bisons might feel like his days in the WHL!

Tonight, Teebz goes one-on-one with one of the new Bisons netminders as Tyler Brown makes his first visit to The Hockey Show! Tyler is a WHL graduate after spending his career with the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades after Regina recruited him from the MMJHL's Winnipeg Wild following a championship season there! I'll talk to Tyler about growing up in Winnipeg, his time at Dakota Collegiate, playing with the Winnipeg Warriors and Winnipeg Wild, moving to Regina and suiting up with the Pats, Pats coach and GM and former Winnipeg Jets coach John Paddock, a few key games where Tyler was a star, his trade to the Saskatoon Blades, moving home to join the Bisons, and more! There's a lot to go over with Tyler as we meet one of the goalies who will backstop the Bisons men's team this season, and I'm proud, honoured, privileged, and humbled to be able to sit down with him! Please join us at 5:30pm CT for the chat!

How do you join us, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz chats with new Bisons netminder Tyler Brown about how he got started in net, guarding the net for an MMJHL championship, being a WHL netminder, learning his craft under a former NHL coach, being traded to a new net, coming home to protect the nets, 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: September 12, 2019: Episode 364

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Boeser Goes Back To School

With NHL training camps getting underway, there are a handful of players whose attendance will be in question as these restricted free agents are still without valid contracts. Players like Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, and Brock Boeser have opted to skate elsewhere - for now - while their agents and their respective teams work out new deals. For Boeser, pictured to the left as a member of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, he's decided to take his workouts up a notch by heading back to his alma mater in preparation for camp if and when he signs a new deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

According to Cap Friendly's site, the Canucks have a total of just over $4 million still to spend before they hit the salary cap ceiling, and I doubt that's the total amount of money that Boeser is seeking from his employer after seasons of 29 goals and 55 points followed by 26 goals and 56 points. While Elias Petterson generated a lot of talk through some of his highlight-reel plays, Brock Boeser has been a model of consistency with the Canucks since jumping to the NHL from the NCAA ranks.

With Boeser returning to the University of North Dakota to step up his workouts with former coach Dane Jackson, the problem in signing Boeser seems to lie almost entirely on the Canucks' side as the amount of money left under their cap isn't close to the value that Boeser believes he's worth nor does it come close to what this off-season's market value seems to project Boeser getting. This gap in Boeser's ask and the Canucks' cap space seems to be the issue at the moment, and it sounds like neither is willing to move at this time.

The Canucks are likely overpaying on a handful of contracts - Loui Eriksson, TJ Miller, Brandon Sutter, Alex Edler, and Tyler Myers as examples - and this has caused their cap crunch as it stands with Boeser. While there may be some relief once LTIR contracts kick in, it's hard to imagine that the Canucks are in any shape to hand out long-term, high-value deals to players like Boeser when one considers that they already have nearly $59 million tied up for next season that doesn't see players like Jacob Markstrom, Troy Stecher, or Jake Virtanen signed beyond this season. Boeser's cap hit will eat into that $22 million of spendable cap space next season and beyond if the Canucks do sign him, so it's not like Jim Benning is out of the woods just yet when it comes to his cap crunch.

Perhaps Benning needs to convince Boeser that his pay day is upcoming, and ask the player to take less now for a bigger pay day later on. It's likely that a short-term, bridge deal will have to be signed for at least a season or two by Boeser with the cap problems that Vancouver currently has, but a promise of a bigger pay day down the road could convince the sniper to remain in Vancouver.

Of course, a GM is only as good as his word, and there's a chance that Benning may not be in Vancouver when Boeser's next contract negotiation hits, so this is a risk and a bit of a gamble that Boeser will need to weigh. I have full confidence in his abilities that the consistent goal-scoring and play-making will continue, and deferring the big pay out for some short-term small pay cheques might be a better idea anyway if the monies pouring into hockey-related revenue continue to grow.

Again, it's a risk, and it's now one that Boeser needs to weigh. The Canucks want him in their lineup on opening night, and every day that bleeds into the regular season only makes the cap crunch for the Canucks harder to stomach without moving a current player out. Ultimately, if Boeser's camp doesn't budge in its demands, that might be the only option for the Canucks, and who gets waived or traded for pennies on the dollar will be entirely based on Boeser's demands. That loss in talent could affect a number of things, so Boeser's camp needs to look at the bigger picture here before trying to force Vancouver's hand.

In the end, this is the same battle that Calgary is facing with Tkachuk, Toronto is facing with Marner, and Winnipeg is facing with Laine. Those teams have made it clear that they will, at some point, sign their superstars, but it's going to take some creativity from the teams to meet the asks of their players. For the Canucks, the little room they have below their cap ceiling will present challenges, but those challenges can be overcome with some honest and frank discussions with both the player and his agent.

For now, Boeser is a welcomed alumnus on the campus of the University of North Dakota. When he will arrive in Vancouver is an unanswered question for now, but the Canucks won't be as successful as they would be with him in the lineup. It's entirely on Jim Benning to find a way to get Boeser under contract over the next couple of weeks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Looking For Skaters

If there's one league that seems to be overlooked when it comes to high-quality, talented players, it's likely your local high school hockey league. While we've seen leagues south of the border explode in popularity in places like Minnesota and Michigan, high school hockey in Manitoba seems to be a bit of an afterthought when it comes to seeking out the talent that plays there. Getting more players into the high school game would help, and that means that more teams are needed to give more players a chance to lace up the skates. In what is fantastic news to this writer, the Winnipeg Women's High School Hockey League has opened its doors to a new team this year, and they're on the hunt for a few good players to help bolster the roster in the team's inaugural season!

Transcona Collegiate has submitted the paperwork, filled out the forms, worked out the details, and shook the right hands of those at the Manitoba High School Athletics Association for the MHSAA to permit the TCI Female Titans to begin play this fall, and the tryouts start tonight! They are seeking students for the team as they work to establish a roster for the upcoming season, and they're asking for help from anyone who may know a player or players who are interested in playing women's high school hockey this fall!

The tryout schedule is as follows:
If you know of someone who wants to play on a team this season, put them in contact with Transcona Collegiate's female hockey team on their Facebook page or via email! This is an exciting opportunity to write the first chapter in a team's history, so if you're thinking about playing or have considered playing but thought against it, now's the time to act!

You might be saying, "Teebz, no one ever plays university hockey after playing high school hockey in Manitoba," and you'd likely hear me scoff at that.

You may recall that Alexandra Anderson, former Bisons defender and current professional player for SDE HF in Sweden, was recruited out of West Kildonan Collegiate by Jon Rempel of the Manitoba Bisons. Brielle Dacquay-Neveux of the Bisons went to College Jeanne Sauvé. You may know that Annaliese Meier of the Calgary Dinos was a standout forward with the Sturgeon Heights Huskies before jumping to a prep school where her talents were noticed by Danielle Goyette in Calgary. Sophie Vandale of the PEI Panthers and Emilie Massé of the Bisons were teammates at Shaftesbury Collegiate before getting shots at the U SPORTS level. Devan Johnson, formerly of the Bisons, and Kaitlyn Nault, currently of the Bisons, played net for the boy's teams for the Stonewall Rams and the Garden City Gophers, respectively. Former Bisons standout Rachel Dyck was a star with the Shaftesbury Collegiate Titans as well.

Needless to say, high school hockey in Winnipeg has churned out a number of solid U SPORTS players for a number of teams, and it is a good place to be noticed if you know of a girl who dreams of taking that next step in playing university hockey.

Look, no one is expecting the TCI Titans to go out and win a WWHSHL championship this year. Those expectations would be highly unrealistic based on the names I listed above who came out of various high schools across the city. What I am saying is that there is talent at the high school hockey level in Winnipeg, and the Titans will provide another place for the talented, hockey-playing girls of Winnipeg to ply their trade and get better in an effort to possibly play at the U SPORTS level one day.

But you can't get to the U SPORTS level if you don't play. Transcona Collegiate is looking for players. They're looking for you, ladies. Go write some history with the school. And one day, you may be making history at the U SPORTS level as well!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 9 September 2019

Update On The Video

I have to hand it to the Lethbridge police on this one as they seem to have yesterday's craziness at the Crossings Ice Centre in Lethbridge under control in quick fashion. Normally, these types of investigations can drag on for a few days as police interview witnesses and people involved, but it seems the Lethbridge police force has already made decisions and is pushing forward. I don't know if they were spurred on by social media, but whatever the reason it seems they're already all over this case. Their statement about the incident at the Quest for the Cup 3-on-3 hockey tournament seems to indicate that they know exactly for whom they are looking.

From the statement released today,
Lethbridge Police have charged a 55-year-old male and additional charges are pending against a 36-year-old male after a referee and coach were assaulted Sunday during a youth hockey tournament.

On September 8, 2019 at approximately 2 p.m. police responded to a report of an assault at the Crossings Ice Centre along Mauretania Road. Investigation determined at the conclusion of the game, a 10-year-old male player was involved in a verbal altercation with a ref which escalated to the youth striking the ref twice with his stick and the ref pushing him to the ice. At that point a group of adults, including coaches and a relative of the 10-year-old player, came onto the ice. A coach from the opposing team was shoved to the ground and the ref was punched multiple times by the player’s relative and a second man before the altercation was broken up.

The relative was subsequently arrested without incident but the second male left the arena and police are attempting to locate him. Assault charges are pending against him.

The 10-year-old boy was examined by EMS and was not injured. The ref and coach both sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
I want to make something very clear here: I will not post the names of those who are being charged because all parties are innocent until proven guilty, and, secondly, I'm not here to shame the two people the Lethbridge police are charging. They know they did wrong, and the police are ensuring that they'll receive the appropriate punishment for their actions. The names are listed on the linked statement above, and that's as close I'll get to posting them here on HBIC.

The fact that both men are being charged with assault seems like the right thing to charge them with based on the video seen yesterday, and I am relieved to hear that those that were assaulted and the ten year-old player who swung his stick at the official are fine regarding injuries they may have sustained. There still needs to be something done about teaching the boy about respect for other players and officials, but that's not for the police to decide. They did their part in apprehending the two men who decided to take matters into their own hands, and I'm glad that these men will be punished for these actions.

It's just a game, folks. Let's keep it that way.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Folks, We Need To Talk

Ladies and gentlemen, for the many years I've been writing this blog I've tried to maintain that hockey is a game played for fun and exercise with a social aspect for the most part. Unless one if playing in the professional ranks, there is a grand total of zero reasons for anyone to lose his or her mind over anything as innocuous as a bad call, particularly at the minor hockey levels, but at any level that doesn't involve millions of dollars in pay. Even in that instance, there still are very few reasons for one to blow one's top. Today in Lethbridge, Alberta, however, things went from bad to worse to "are you kidding me" levels of stupidity that I'm struggling to comprehend.

I'll start with the tweet that brought the above image to life that happened at the eighth-annual Quest for the Cup 3-on-3 hockey tournament, a skills-development tournament, at Crossings Ice Centre in Lethbridge.
Watching that video play out as it did is sickening. Adding in the contexts of watching it happen at a 3-on-3 tournament after a player had slashed the official in question makes it worse. The "are you kidding me" part is watching a group of people barge onto the ice to confront the official in question and proceed to assault said official.

After doing some additional digging on social media, it turns out that a ten year-old boy in the tournament had indeed swung his stick and/or slashed the official in question, and the official responded by pushing the player to the ice. I would assume that was done out of self-defence, but I haven't spoken to anyone about the circumstances. Needless to say, that seems logical if the official was having a hockey stick swing at him. And here's where we'll start "the talk", folks.

I don't care who you are, what you do for a living, who you think you are or were, or what title you hold in life, there's a very simple rule in hockey that you never use your stick as a weapon. If you're a parent, this rule needs to be enforced from the get-go when teaching a young player to play, re-enforced as the child gets better, and re-enforced some more as the child moves through the ranks of minor hockey. Slashing in a game is a call made when someone gets a little too aggressive with their stick, but purposefully and intentionally swinging one's stick at another person will always be seen as a criminal act because there is only a single result that one is hoping for when swinging one's stick at another person: injury or harm.

With that ironclad, unwavering rule stated, whoever is the parent or are the parents of this ten year-old who committed the stick-swinging offence at the official has failed at the role of parenting. I'm reluctant to put this on the mother of the child because it seems out of step with how mothers treat their children in sports, but the parent or parents of this young man haven't done enough to instil the respect that an official commands on the field of play nor have there been consequences explained to that child when one decides to either disrespect the officials and/or swing one's stick maliciously. I don't want to speculate on why these things have been missed by the parent or parents, but there will likely be time to explain these things now after it was reported that Lethbridge police were called to the rink and are investigating the matter.

I do understand that some parents are protective of their children, and seeing the official put his or her hands on a child and push him or her to the ice may be cause for concern. It is not, however, a call to arms that results in people being pushed to the ice and officials being assaulted. There are procedures for reporting questionable conduct by officials, and this would be one of those times that one could perhaps question the official's behaviour. Albeit, questioning why an official pushed a stick-swinging child to the ice in self-defence likely isn't going to win anyone any points in the court of public opinion, but the fact is that there are procedures in place where one can speak to coaches, tournament organizers, and higher hockey powers if one is concerned about an official's conduct. There is no - read: ZERO - leeway that even remotely suggests that assaulting an official is an acceptable way to handle any perceived misconduct.

Folks, this needs to end here and now. This is ridiculous. It's a 3-on-3 "skills-development tournament," not some winner-takes-all NHL Draft for elementary-school students. Even if, in some perverse way, it was an NHL Draft for elementary-school students, this behaviour by these two men who assaulted at least two people on the ice still wouldn't be allowed, let alone go unpunished. I suspect that the boy who swung his stick does regret his actions, but the damage may already be done in that he likely will have a hard time finding his way onto any teams, let alone having coaches wanting to run the risk that another incident like the one above may happen with the boy's parent or parents watching from the stands.

If and when the Lethbridge police reveal the findings in their investigation, I hope these two people who took the law into their own hands get the book thrown at them for what they did to at least one other person on the ice and the official. While we may cheer for vigilante justice in the movies and on TV, it never works in the real world where there are real consequences for one's actions. And that's a good lesson to teach our children: every action or inaction we take has consequences, so think before acting. It's fairly obvious that neither the ten year-old boy nor the two people who jumped on the ice did very much thinking before they acted. And that has consequences.

Perhaps, in this case, severe consequences.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

That Was Easy

Normally in university hockey, a team plays its full season before the recruiting season starts. It's easier to know who is returning and who may be pursuing other options once the season is over. As we've seen with a couple of Canada West women's hockey teams, there have been unannounced departures from veteran players who haven't graduated, and those roles will need to be filled by the incoming recruits. However, with two new teams being added to the mix next season, it seems the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team has already made the decisions on who they want to join the squad next year.

We've had the pleasure of seeing her a few times already this preseason, but St. Mary's Academy Flames starting netminder Meagan Relf will join the Bisons next season after Amanda Schubert plays her fifth season of eligibility this year. Relf has been impressive thus far while playing with both Team Manitoba and St. Mary's, and the 5'10" goalie should be a good addition to the club with her athleticism and abilities. Relf previously played with the Eastman Selects team in eastern Manitoba, a team where U18 World Championship gold medalist Raygan Kirk and U SPORTS National Champion Lauren Warkentin both played, so she has some strong hockey roots as well. If good teams are backed by great goaltenders, it seems Manitoba has recruited another exceptional athlete.

Hanna Bailey of the Regina Rebels was actually recruited earlier this spring, but the Regina, Saskatchewan native won't attend the University of Manitoba until next season. Bailey comes to the school as one of Regina's more reliable scoring threats, notching 14 goals and 11 assists in 25 games in the SFMAAAHL last season as the leading scorer of the Rebels. The 5'8" forward brings some size, exceptional speed, and accurate hands to the Bisons, and will be another young sniper that Jon Rempel's squad will boast as they mature. She has played alongside current Bisons forward Samantha Sichkaruk for a few seasons in Regina, so there's hope these two can find chemistry again as they reunite in Winnipeg!

Continuing the player chemistry angle, the Bisons recruited forward Brenna Nicol from the Thunder Bay Queens! Nicol, a teammate of current Bisons Jamie Ricklefs and Molly Kunnas while in Thunder Bay, is a solid forward who doesn't mind doing a little dirty work to gain control of the puck. She goes to high-traffic areas, she competes in puck battles long the boards, she goes into the corners, and she often finds the puck on her stick. Nicol stands just 5'5", but she uses her speed and vision to find holes in the offensive zone. Having seen her compete at the Female World Sport School Challenge, there's no doubt that the Bisons are getting a spitfire of a player.

The Bisons went to western Manitoba to recruit Yellowhead Chiefs forward and Brandon, Manitoba native Jena Barscello. Jena was a force in the MFMHL last season with Yellowhead where she scored 16 goals and added 17 helpers in 28 games, finishing second in scoring on the Chiefs behind MacEwan University recruit Rylee Gluska. She was voted top performer for the Chiefs in the playoffs this past season after scoring three goals and seven assists in nine games, and shared the Team MVP award with Gluska. In 2017-18, Barscello recorded ten goals and 14 assists in 30 games. The 5'7" forward will be counted on for that clutch scoring as she joins the Bisons next year!

The fifth and final recruit for the Bisons for the 2020-21 season is another Eastman Selects product in Kylie Lesuk. Lesuk has been one of the most outstanding players for Eastman for the last few seasons, notching 17 goals and 22 assists in 46 games last season. Lesuk uses her size and reach well in the middle of the ice to generate offence, and uses her body to protect the puck along the boards. Lesuk's 44 points in 64 games in 2017-18 shows consistency in her game, and she'll reunite with former teammates Meagan Relf, Camille Enns, and Lauren Warkentin on the Bisons. She'll be a solid addition down the middle for the Herd.

It seems there will be little suspense on who the Bisons recruit this upcoming year with their announcement today. If there's one thing that's certain, the foundation for the next few years is being built in this season and the next, and that foundation looks solid. Whether or not the Bisons can replicate their success in winning a national championship from two years ago remains to be seen, but it seems inevitable that they will be in the discussion as these new players mature together.

Welcome to the Herd, ladies! We're excited to get to know you!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 6 September 2019

Keeping It In The Family

When Bill Wirtz's health was failing, it was a pretty easy assumption to make in knowing that his son, Rocky Wirtz, would likely take over the Chicago Blackhawks franchise. When Harold Ballard's reign of terror finally ended with his passing in 1990, the Leafs found new owners who began to work on restoring the club's former glory. With today's announcement that Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs had effectively signed over the Boston Bruins to his six children equally, it marks a significant change for both the NHL and the Boston Bruins moving forward.

First, this is a monumental moment for the NHL as the man who wielded the most power in the NHL has effectively stepped down. Jacobs learned a lot from the two men mentioned above - Wirtz and Ballard - while he was a younger man, and those lessons proved fortuitous as the Bruins morphed into a powerhouse in the 1990s before finally finding the right mix of players to capture the Stanley Cup in the last decade while being one of the NHL's best squads during that time.

What might be forgotten is that Jacobs was also the Chairman of the Board of Directors in the NHL, and his influence on the other owners when it came to NHL business matters was large. Jacobs, who was voted as the chairman in 2007, has presided over two lockouts in the NHL, and he has repeatedly sought options for owners that will earn them more money without committing more money to the hockey-related revenue streams. While some players and agents likely view Jacobs as an enemy of the NHLPA, there's no doubt that he helped owners make more money over the last decade than anyone before him.

In making this agreement to sign over the team to his children, the 80 year-old Jacobs will essentially allow Charlie, his youngest son, to continue running the Bruins as he has for the last five seasons. Charlie's experience should keep the Bruins near the top of the NHL's power rankings, but it may come with some softer stances on issues as Charlie, like Chicago's Rocky Wirtz, seems more in-tune with current times and technologies. Along with Charlie, sons Jerry Jr. and Lou and daughters Lisann, Lynn and Katie will now be responsible for the overall successes of not only the Bruins, but for all of Delaware North's Boston Holdings company which includes the Bruins.

There likely will be a vote at the next NHL Board of Governors meeting on who takes over from Jacobs as the Chairman, but speculating on who that may be at this time isn't important. What does matter is that the NHLPA has a week to make its decision on whether to opt out of the current CBA or not, and this news may change some minds as a more agreeable Board of Governors may emerge with Jacobs stepping down. The NHL has already voted to remain in the current CBA, so if the NHLPA does vote to leave it likely will be strictly about the amount of money being shared between the owners and players rather than there being an us-vs-them hardline stance from either side.

If you're a fan of hockey, Jacobs stepping down could mark a significant shift in breaking up "the old boys' club" of NHL ownership. While Jacobs' departure won't change things overnight, more labour peace and the acceptance of new ideas by the owners could lead to a more harmonious NHL and, in turn, hockey in general. Things like the Olympics, women in more prominent roles, and better cooperation among leagues should be goals each year, and the changing of the guard, so to speak, could lead to further partnerships and opportunities.

Make no mistake that the NHL is losing one of its most influential people. Jacobs is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder, and there's no doubt that the Bruins and the NHL benefited from his leadership. But as times change, so should the leadership of influential businesses like the NHL. Having Charlie Jacobs - a man credited with making the Bruins franchise more fan-friendly - take over the decision-making seat for the Bruins as a whole should lead to more great things from the Bruins.

Let's just hope that the NHL Board of Governors follows suit and looks to its new generation when electing a chairman.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 363

The Hockey Show, Canada' only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a pretty amazing show (if I do say so myself). Often, we feature guests who have a great story about themselves or their own hockey careers. Today, in our final interview in the Summer of Interviews™, we're going to go in a different direction where we talk to a woman who has put the weight of her nation on her shoulders and is carrying it towards an Olympic berth! This is an interview not to be missed if you ever wondered what it takes for a nation to become part of the IIHF, what it takes to start a national team from scratch, and how much work it is simply finding players to be part of a team in a non-traditional hockey nation!

Teebz sat down with the woman to the left as The Hockey Show is proud, honoured, privileged, and humbled to welcome Sally Tarabah, manager of the Lebanon national women's ice hockey team, to the show! I talk to Sally about emigrating to the US, finding hockey as the sport she loves, moving around the US and getting into hockey, and her work in starting up the Lebanon national women's team. It's in this portion where we learn about the tryouts she's held, the challenges she has overcome and is facing, what it takes for Lebanon to get into the IIHF to be a member and play in IIHF-sanctioned tournaments, and potential upcoming exhibition games. It's a great conversation with an amazing woman in Sally Tarabah, and you'll want to join us at 5:30pm CT for the conversation!

How do you join us, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz chats with Sally Tarabah about her career, Lebanon's national teams, their IIHF status, and the work that has gone into getting the national teams this far already before Teebz and Beans finish off the show with a conversation about the conversation, 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: September 5, 2019: Episode 363
RESOURCES: Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation (Facebook & Twitter), Sally Tarabah's email, Women's World Hockey Invitational tournament, WWHI email.
INTERVIEW: Sally's 40-minute interview isolated from the show.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

A Reduced Role

After Sportsnet's latest round of cuts to try and make their networking side of hockey broadcasts somewhat profitable, it was expected that the cuts were done from major hockey broadcasters. Apparently, that was not the case as NBC decided to get in on the act today with their announcement that long-time - and oft-criticized - analyst Pierre McGuire would be handed a reduced role this season, moving him off the A-broadcast team with Mike "Doc" Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. While there is a striking resemblance between Pierre and The Simpsons' character Kirk Van Houten, I'm not sure the reaction Kirk had when he was fired from the cracker factory would have been different from the one Pierre had when he found out about his change in roles.

According to The Athletic's Rick Carpiniello, NBC is replacing McGuire with former NHL netminder Brian Boucher on the A-broadcast team while Pierre will be moved to a secondary team for at least the first night of NBC coverage. Whether or not this is a permanent move will be determined, but I suspect that NBC might be shuffling the deck a little after some of the issues he caused with his poor choice of words over the years. If this is a subtle way of having him off the national early broadcast that is consumed by millions more in the eastern portion of North America in favour of a less controversial analyst such as Boucher without firing McGuire while still paying him his contractual salary, NBC might be doing the network TV version of "burying him on the farm" if I can borrow a sports cliché.

While some have hoped that this would be a permanent move, it seems that NBC is following the formula they used during last season's opening night broadcast.
McGuire has been a fixture on NBC hockey broadcasts since 2006 when he was in a part-time role, splitting time with TSN, and was made a permanent NBC employee in 2011 when the network bought the broadcast rights in the US. Personally, I can't see NBC not using Pierre in a more prominent role than just for west coast games on double-header nights. I have a feeling we'll still see the man with all the obscure knowledge on players more often than we won't, but it might be less often with Doc and Eddie than we previously saw.

In any case, the NHL's version of Kirk Van Houten hasn't been fired like the cartoon version was, but it seems NBC is reducing his impact on viewership by reducing his visible hours on TV. I'm never going to celebrate anyone being fired or pushed closer to unemployment, but clearly NBC recognized that a change was needed. We'll see how Pierre McGuire handles his new role this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Get Well Soon, Ducky

He's one of those guys who lives beyond his playing years in the city of Winnipeg. When we think all-time greatest Winnipeg Jets, names like Selanne, Numminen, and Wheeler come up, but no one - no matter their age or hockey fan level - forgets to include Dale Hawerchuk. The man was the city's first true NHL superstar, giving us a player who picked up the torch left behind when the WHA was absorbed by the NHL. He wowed crowds with his skill and speed, and was truly an all-star both on and off the ice. If there was a guy who deserved a Stanley Cup in his career, it might be Hawerchuk after battling the Gretzky and the Oilers and the loaded Calgary Flames teams throughout the 1980s. Hearing today's news makes me want a Stanley Cup less for Hawerchuk and wanting more for good news regarding the hockey legend.

The OHL's Barrie Colts, where Dale Hawerchuk is the head coach, announced today that Hawerchuk is taking a leave of absence for the entire hockey season for health reasons. No details were given about what health issues may be plaguing Hawerchuk, but it doesn't really matter. No one wants to hear that news about anyone, let alone a hockey hero to thousands in Winnipeg and many more outside the city.

"We are a tight and close family here and it's difficult to have to make announcements like this," team president Howie Campbell said in a statement. "Dale is facing some health issues and will be taking the time he needs to deal with that situation. Our best wishes and thoughts are with Dale and his family during this difficult time.

"All of us want to see Dale back as soon as possible and we look forward to that day."

The 56 year-old Hawerchuk is the longest-serving head coach in Barrie Colts history as he prepared to enter his tenth season behind the bench in Barrie. The Hockey Hall-of-Famer has led the Colts to the playoffs in six of nine seasons he's coached, winning the Central Division title four times, and has a 305-269-38 record as the Colts' head coach. Under his tutelage, players such as Mark Scheifele, Tanner Pearson, Kevin Labanc, Brendan Lemieux, and Andrei Svechnikov have been drafted into the NHL and seen success on their respective NHL clubs.

Whatever the health issue is or issues are, I want to wish Dale Hawerchuk nothing but good health and a quick recovery in the battle he's facing. The man is an icon in Winnipeg still, and his presence at Winnipeg Jets games and around the club always is celebrated by the team and fans alike. I would like nothing more than to celebrate a clean bill of health for Dale Hawerchuk more than anything else at this point in his career because he truly is one of the good people in the game.

Get well soon, Ducky. You have all of Manitoba pulling for you.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 2 September 2019

Last Long Weekend Of Summer

With it being Labo(u)r Day across North America today, there are a vast number of people not at work. It should also be noted that this is the last official long weekend of the summer, and it is the weekend that signifies a dreaded day for most kids and young adults in that school officially starts this week. All of that aside, this is the last long weekend for me until Canadian Thanksgiving which never actually feels like a long weekend with all the family stuff that happens. In saying that, I'm officially making this my last day off until Turkey Day weekend and beyond!

I needed a day off after a busy summer, and I put it to good use as I got some much-needed work around the house done, bought groceries so I can actually have healthy meals, and did enough laundry to make most laundromats proud. In short, today's absence from the grid was more necessary than wanted, but I still wanted a day off nonetheless. With little happening on the hockey front here in the dog days of summer, today seemed like the best time to make that happen.

There's a lot happening on The Hockey Show this week as we welcome a very special guest to the show that closes out our Summer of Interviews series. I won't reveal all today, but I feel very grateful that she shared her story with us, and I'm hopeful that a lot of people tune in because it really is a great story of turning a dream into reality. We'll also remind everyone of where we'll be on upcoming dates so you can see how we do this radio thing live and in-person, and Beans and I are always looking to get out into the community for your events and games. Feel free to reach out here if you like, and we'll do a little chatting to see if The Hockey Show can visit your rink or event this winter!

All in all, I needed a day off, and I took one. See you tomorrow, readers.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 1 September 2019

It Happens Every Year

It seems to be an annual thing in the KHL. Every single year, usually early in the season, there's a goaltender who is victimized by a goal when the shot comes from beyond center ice. Normally, these goaltenders who suffer these goals are fooled by a bad bounce that allows the puck to elude them, but we've seen another example today of how KHL goalies need to be more mentally prepared early in the season when it comes to stopping 200-foot shots. Honestly, this should never happen at the professional level, especially in Eurasia's top league that claims to rival the NHL.

We visit Moscow's CSKA Arena where CSKA Moscow was hosting Avangard Omsk in today's first day of KHL regular season action. With the two teams tied at 1-1 early in the second period, Avangard defenceman Maxim Chudinov, a Boston Bruins 7th-round pick from 2010, came out from behind his net and looked to get the puck in deep for his forwards by firing the puck down the ice. Normally, this would be icing, but Chudinov's shot was directed towards Lars Johansson in the CSKA net. With Johansson playing it, Avangard could hopefully recover the rebound and setup in the CSKA zone. Except that rebound never happened.

Here's what did happen.
While the puck did flutter like a knuckleball near the CSKA blue line, Johansson had 180-feet to line that puck up with his body and pads. Instead, it found the seam through his wickets and Avangard had a 2-1 lead. That's simply awful.

It should be noted that Avangard won the game 3-1, making Chudinov's goal the game-winner. It should also be noted that Cody Franson - remember him? - scored the other two Avangard goals today. CSKA will likely recover from this early setback in the 2019-20 KHL season with ease, but that's not how Lars Johansson wanted to start his season and may prompt CSKA to play starting netminder Ilya Sorokin more often. Yikes.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Talent On Display

When the UBC Thunderbirds agreed to a pair of games against the NCAA's Wisconsin Badgers, they knew they would be in for a battle with one of the most talented rosters in the NCAA. Granted, the Badgers had yet to play a single minute of hockey together prior to this two-game exhibition series due to NCAA rules, but there is enough talent on this Badgers roster that overcoming this detail shouldn't be a problem. As we saw last night, that's exactly what happened as the Badgers handled the T-Birds with relative ease in their first organized game of the season.

If there was a surprising factor that went into Friday's game, it was that both teams came out and played a fairly chippy affair. Understandably, UBC can't match the talent level that Wisconsin boasts, so they would need to play a more physical game to slow down the talented Badgers. The fact that the Badgers responded in kind shows that Wisconsin has the ability to adapt its game to whatever style its opponent plays. It still needs to be seen if the Badgers can play a physical game in the NCAA while scoring enough to win, but they did that well on Friday night.

Cole Caufield scored his first NCAA goal on the power-play in the first period, highly-touted prospect Dylan Holloway added a power-play goal of his own in the second period, and Jason Dhooghe scored early in the third period to lead Wisconsin to the 3-0 victory. Daniel Lebedeff stopped all 26 shots he faced in recording the shutout of the T-Birds. K'Andre Miller, who led all players with 14 penalty minutes, picked up an assist while Alex Turcotte was held off the scoresheet.

Holloway, who was drafted by the WHL's Winnipeg Ice, looked very good in his first NCAA action, recording eight shots on the night as he was one of Wisconsin's most dynamic players. He found room to shoot all night, getting into open positions to take passes and getting his quick release engaged. For a player who had 101 points in 49 AJHL games last season, getting into a regular routine with four practices and two games per week should only see his stock rise as the season progresses. His work over the summer was clearly evident tonight.

"Something with my skating just clicked last year," Holloway told Ben Kuzma of The Province of his game on Friday. "I've been working on it and I just felt faster and that helped quite a bit because I was able to see plays and make plays."

UBC head coach Sven Butenschön liked the way his team started the game, telling Salomon Micko Benrimoh of The Ubyssey, "I think we were right there, I mean, we were just lacking you know, any kind of offensive punch. I don't know how many scoring chances we had. So I think we fared fine against them, you know, defensively and physically, but we just lacked a bit of offense tonight."

UBC trailed 30-13 in shots after 40 minutes of play, but only trailed 2-0 on the scoreboard off the Caufield and Holloway power-play goals. A big reason for the T-Birds only being down a pair of goals was the work of goaltender Rylan Toth who withstood a pile of chances generated by the Badgers including a breakaway and a handful of odd-man rushes. Toth was spectacular over the entire game, and his efforts will not go unrecognized here after denying 35 of 38 shots he faced, a lot of them being of the high-quality variety.

Brett Clayton and Carter Popoff recorded ten of the 26 shots that UBC had in the game, but it was clear that the Thunderbirds just couldn't find the required next gear to give Wisconsin fits in their own zone. Being that this was UBC's first game of the season, there's no surprise that the chemistry is still being formed, but they'll need to be better in tomorrow's game if they hope to build on these experiences for the 2019-20 Canada West season.

Butenschön believes that the Thunderbirds will respond with a better game tomorrow if they make a few adjustments. He told Salomon Micko Benrimoh, "Moving the puck faster, getting it on your forehand [and if] you see an open guy, move it right away. If you get the puck in the offensive zone and you have a lane to the net, take it to the net, shoot it because as soon as you start stick handling, everything shuts down. So I think if we just play a little bit faster, move the puck faster, we'll generate more offense."

The second game in this two-game series goes tomorrow at 3pm PT at Father David Bauer Arena at the University of British Columbia. Get there early to grab a seat as the last time you'll see an NCAA team in Canada this season happens then!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!