Friday, 31 May 2019

Incommunicado?

This trophy? That's the ECHL's Kelly Cup, the trophy given out to the winner of the ECHL's playoff bracket. It's legitimately the ECHL's Stanley Cup, and it currently is not under the ECHL's control. Yes, you read that correctly - the ECHL's Kelly Cup is not in the ECHL's possession as you read this despite the Kelly Cup Final between the Newfoundland Growlers and Toledo Walleye competing for it. If this seems rather unbelievable, it is. However, I assure you that this story is entirely true and valid, and I have no idea how something like this happens in a professional hockey league.

Former ECHL commissioner Patrick Kelly appeared this morning on the Fox Morning Blitz radio show on 1230 WCWA in Toledo, Ohio, and he told host Anthony Bellino that the Kelly Cup he had brought with him wasn't the original trophy. The segment starts at 3:26 below.
That's rather ridiculous that the Colorado Eagles, who played in the AHL in their first season in the "Triple-A circuit" this past year, have kept the ECHL's Kelly Cup after winning it in 2017-18 in their final ECHL season. As Kelly stated, "They still have it. I've never heard of this in the history of hockey. They won it two years in a row and one of their owners said, 'Fine. We'll keep it.'"

That's, uh... that's not how this works, Colorado. Sure enough, though, word of Kelly's comments on 1230 WCWA did get back to the Colorado Eagles today, and Colorado owner Martin Lind delivered what can be categorized as a flimsy defence for his team's refusal to return the trophy.

"The management of the ECHL has full knowledge of the situation with the Kelly Cup," Lind said. "We have made numerous attempts to return it. They have chosen to ignore our requests, therefore the Kelly Cup remains in Colorado. This is all that will be released regarding this matter."

Excuse me, Mr. Lind? What exactly is the situation with the Kelly Cup? If you made numerous attempts, why hasn't it arrived at the ECHL offices where it belongs? I find it highly unlikely that the ECHL would ignore the requests, so what is really going on here?

Perhaps we'll get some of these answers tomorrow as the ECHL held off on commenting on Mr. Lind's statement today, opting to release a full statement tomorrow. While there is no resolution tonight, updates will be provided tomorrow as we find out more. I know it's been discussed in jest for teams leaving leagues or folding that they should keep their league's respective trophy, but this is the first time I've heard of an actual professional hockey team holding onto a trophy that rightfully belongs to another league.

Only in minor-pro hockey, I guess.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 349

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the airwaves being broadcast by UMFM to talk a little puck! As you may be aware, there's this little thing called the Stanley Cup Playoffs that are running, and the final series is underway with the Bruins and Blues deadlocked at 1-1 after the Blues pulled off a little OT magic last night. The AHL Calder Cup Final is set as well as the Chicago Wolves will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to face the Checkers on Saturday night in Game One of the series! The ECHL's Kelly Cup Final is also happening, and it features a Canadian team as the Newfoundland Growlers currently lead the Toledo Walleye 2-1 in the series with Game Four scheduled in Toledo, Ohio tomorrow! Beans and I will get into this and more on the show tonight!

There's not a lot to say about the Stanley Cup Final yet, but the Blues changed their style to be more physical last night and it paid off with a win. We'll talk about this shift in style and why Boston can likely match the Blues' physicality. There was a new hire in Canada West as the Lethbridge Pronghorns women's team has a new coach at the helm, and further north we saw the Oilers finally name their head coach. There's some instability and some potential expansion plans in the KHL to discuss. Finland dominates the world once more, and it's likely not going to stop any time soon. And we'll talk about Seattle looking at Boise and Palm Springs as AHL franchise locations! It's another busy night on The Hockey Show, so make sure you join us at 5:30pm CT!

Speaking of joining us, 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 talk new style, new coaches, new teams, old problems, a new powerhouse, 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: May 30, 2019: Episode 349

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

If One Expands...

There was some interesting news that came out of a radio interview today in Seattle as 950 KJR, Seattle's "Original Die-hard Sports Station", had CEO Tod Leiweke from the Seattle NHL group on to talk about the progress being made with the team. It seems that 950 KJR might be where you want to tune your radio to or get hooked up via an internet stream if you're interested in Seattle NHL news because it seems that Dave "Softy" Mahler and Dick Fain may have an exclusive "Tuesdays with Tod Leiweke" segment where the CEO talks all things related to Seattle NHL hockey after replacing the previous "Tuesdays with Tip" as Dave Tippett was doing before his departure. I'll admit I hadn't tuned in before today, but I might make a regular habit after Tod Leiweke broke some news on their show yesterday.

The full segment is 19 minutes, but there are some interesting comments on all sorts of Seattle NHL news here from Tod Leiweke - AHL affiliate locations, names, colours, and more. Give it a listen, and I'll continue below.

There's a lot to process here, but let's focus on the one reason why this article is being written: AHL expansion. As you're likely aware, the AHL is the sole development and affiliate league for the NHL, so the two cities identified by Tod Leiweke would need some analysis to see if it's right for an AHL franchise. Those cities, if you didn't listen, are Boise, Idaho and Palm Springs, California.

We'll start with Boise where the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads currently play. The Steelheads currently play out of CenturyLink Arena in Boise which has a maximum ice hockey capacity of 5,002 fans, so the arena may be a little on the small side for AHL play. The 22 year-old facility opened in 1997 when the Steelheads played their first game as part of the WCHL, and has been the home of the ECHL franchise since their move to the ECHL in 2003. The Treasure Valley area of which Boise is a part has a population of about 710,000 citizens, and major companies in and around Boise include the J.R. Simplot Company, Micron Technology, and nearly two dozen call centers for businesses such as DirecTV, EDS, and T-Mobile, giving Boise strong corporate partners if the team lands there. The Steelheads have never played below 78.1% capacity of CenturyLink Arena since joining the ECHL, so it seems like the hockey following in Boise is strong.

Palm Springs, California is an interesting choice as an AHL locale due to their year-round population of 45,000, but the winter months see that number balloon to somewhere near 150,000 thanks to snowbirds and tourists. Being within 150 miles of all of Ontario, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego would make for a nice location as there are millions of people in that region and a high number of hockey fans who may be more willing to stay near Palm Springs than travel to see pro hockey. While there is no current rink for an AHL team to move into and begin play, there was an announcement of a 12,000-seat arena complex that would be built off Interstate 10 in July 2018, the main artery for Palm Springs, that would be suitable for hockey. Completion is slated for 2021, so this would be an almost-perfect timeline for a Palm Springs AHL club. If there is one concern, it's that Palm Springs doesn't have the corporate partners in town like Boise does, but this is southern California - I doubt Leiweke would have to look hard to find corporate support.

While I know a lot of people would love to see Palm Springs get the team, the choice will be interesting as the AHL has looked to cover the map very evenly. Their expansion into Tucson with the Coyotes and into Colorado Springs with the Avalanche have given them a strong presence in the Mountain Time Zone, and Boise's addition would give them another strong hockey city for Mountain Time road trips. On the other hand, the proximity of Palm Springs to current AHL cities such as Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, and Tucson doesn't hurt either when planning a road trip on schedules.

From everything written here, I don't see either city being significantly ahead of the other regarding demographics, corporate support, facilities, and location. This may simply come down to where Seattle wants to place its team and whether they want to bump a successful ECHL franchise in the Idaho Steelheads out of their current city. If I were a betting man, I'd say that Seattle will likely opt for Palm Springs considering a lot of divisional play will require players to be available for recall on the west coast near NHL cities such as Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Las Vegas on a moment's notice. Of course, I could also be wrong and they could opt for a stronger hockey market like Boise, so the analysis of these two cities may simply come down to dollars and cents for Seattle.

Regardless of where this new affiliate lands, we do know a few things about Seattle based on Leiweke's interview above: the team name and colours will be released sometime around December for what appears to be a Christmas marketing and merchandise plan, the team colours will not be like the current Seattle teams with neon green, blue, and silver, and the search for a GM in Seattle continues. That GM will be responsible for putting players into the Seattle system, and that likely means players will need to be prepared to play in one of Palm Springs or Boise.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Gone... But A Mess Still Lingers

Well, the shoe finally dropped in Bratislava, Slovakia yesterday as KHL squad HC Slovan Bratislava finally made their exit official from the Russian professional circuit. The seven years that the team played in the KHL saw them struggle in almost every campaign to make the playoffs, and it was clear from the beginning that there was likely going to be spending problems with how little they had invested in the talent on the ice. As the costs to run the team mounted, there were reports of players not being paid and the rumours of HC Slovan Bratislava's leaving the KHL seemed to be an annual summer story. That all changes now that they made it official.

Here is the tweet confirming the news above.
With the conditions not met for this upcoming season and despite barely meeting said conditions in the previous few seasons, this move likely should have happened long ago before yesterday. Nevertheless, HC Slovan Bratislava is now free to return to its previous spot in the Slovak Tipsport Liga, but they may not be welcomed just yet as you'll see below.

According to Patrick Conway over on Conway's Russian Hockey Blog,
"...the club still owes money to the city of Bratislava for use of the Ondrej Nepela Arena, and there are wage arrears to players to be paid as well (ex-Slovan forwards Jeff Taffe and Kyle Chipchura spoke out about the debts on the weekend). According to the reliable Igor Eronko, the club owes about seven million Euros to various parties, which is more than half of the KHL salary cap for a season. Furthermore, the front-office individuals who have drawn most of the blame for the current fiasco, namely club President Juraj Široký and Sports Director Oldřich Štefl, appear to be remaining in their positions, which will not please the Slovan fans (the kindest interpretation of events must still concede that the current mess came about on Široký’s and Štefl’s watch)."
In other words, there's a lot to sort through regarding the financial obligations that the club still owes from its KHL days. I don't know how that will affect a potential rejoining into the Tipsport Liga, but you'd think that the Liga would do its due diligence and ensure that HC Slovan Bratislava would be coming back into the fold debt- and obligation-free from its KHL days.

In any case, one thing is certain: there will be no Slovakian entry in the KHL this season. For a league that is reportedly looking at expanding to Dubai, one would hope that the KHL does its background checks and due diligence in ensuring that the costs of running a franchise won't lead to a similar fate for any new teams.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 May 2019

New Leader Of The Herd

There has been some major upheaval at the University of Lethbridge over the past year regarding the head coaching position for the women's hockey team. Michelle Janus was dismissed in January, Perry Shocker took over and coached the remaining games on the schedule as the interim head coach, and there's still the outstanding civil suit against Janus and the University by four players that has to be resolved. There seems to be good news finally coming over the horizon, however, as the University of Lethbridge made it official today in hiring a new coach for the women's hockey team, and he's a guy who has strong ties to the community and school.

Doug Paisley was introduced as the ninth coach in Pronghorns women's hockey history today by the school, and the new coach has a history with hockey in the city of Lethbridge. Paisley is currently the president of the WHL's Hurricanes, a position he's held for the last five years, and coaches the Lethbridge AAA Midget Hurricanes. He was the associate coach for three seasons with the Midget-A Female Lethbridge Barracudas, and spent two years as the head coach with the Major Bantam AAA Female Lethbridge Little Caesars team. In 2005-06, Paisley was an assistant coach with the Pronghorn women's program under former head coach Doug MacLeod.

The pedigree is strong with Paisley, and this hiring bodes well for the Pronghorns as they prepare for the 2019-20 Canada West season. Paisley brings a ton of experience in both the men's and women's game, and his work with Midget and Bantam squads show he is an excellent communicator and educator of minds who crave teaching. This was one of the factors that led to the University of Lethbridge hiring Paisley.

"Doug did an excellent job in the interview process and has proven himself to be a tremendous leader, great communicator and will be a great addition to Pronghorn Athletics and the University of Lethbridge. We are excited to welcome him back to the Pronghorn family," Athletics Director Ken McInnes told reporters.

Paisley was excited at the chance to return to the program.

"I am thrilled to coach at the U of L," Paisley stated. "I truly believe it is a great fit for both myself and the women's hockey program and I couldn’t be happier to once again join the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Women's Hockey Team."

After the Pronghorns battled all season long and were finally eliminated with a couple weeks to play in the season, there's hope that Paisley's coaching will push the Pronghorns into the playoff mix this season. With talented players such as star goaltender Alicia Anderson, incoming defender Brooklyn Palmer, forward Kyra Greig, and senior sniper Tricia Van Vaerenbergh, Lethbridge could be set to make their first playoff appearance since 2011-12.

Before we put the cart before the horse, though, Paisley will need to get in and restore the players' trust in their coach that was eroded so brutally at the hands of their previous full-time head coach. Paisley has the experience to take this squad to new levels that haven't been seen in some time, but he'll need to get the buy-in from players before anything can happen.

Here's hoping we see the Pronghorns take major steps forward. Doug Paisley has some work to do, so let's see how he rolls up his sleeves in Year One of his tenure.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Bow To Our Finnish Overlords

If anyone asks you what the greatest country in the world is, I'm going to take a page out of Jeff Daniels' script for Will McAvoy on Newsroom and tell you that whatever country you name is not the greatest country in the world. That is unless you say "Finland" because you'd be right on a vast number of measures: World Junior Hockey Champions, World Women's Hockey Champions (save your breath, Americans), World Men's Hockey Champions, Happiest Country On Earth 2019, and destroyer of the ever-popular "fake news". They profess their love of saunas, they have amazing cuisine, and they wear a name on their uniforms that doesn't translate to "Finland" in any form. If any of this seems peculiar, it might be time to question our own system of beliefs because whatever they're doing in Finland, everything seems to be right.

Finland's men's team dispatched an NHL-heavy team of Canadians today by a 3-1 score to claim the gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championship while boasting a single NHL player on their squad - defenceman Henri Jokiharju of the Chicago Blackhawks. They featured three additional players who play in North America in the AHL - goalie Kevin Lankinen of the Rockford IceHogs, defenceman Niko Mikkola of the San Antonio Rampage, and forward Juho Lammikko of the Springfield Thunderbirds. They also have four KHL players on their roster - forward Veli-Matti Savinainen of Kunlun Red Star, forwards Sakari Manninen and Marko Anttila of Jokerit, and defenceman Miika Koivisto of Dynamo Moscow. In total, Finland showed up in Slovakia with eight players from what are considered to be the top three leagues on the planet, and beat Canada by 3-1 scores to open the tournament and close the tournament.

Bow to your Finnish overlords, folks.

The last country to sweep the World Championship podiums was Canada in 2007. While some will point and say that the Finns didn't sweep the podiums after USA won the Women's World Championship this past April, you're right as far as the record books will say. The vast majority of the hockey world knows otherwise, though, and I'm still on the side that Finland was robbed of a rightful gold medal after playing a masterful game against the heavily-favoured Americans.

Whatever the Finns are doing on the ice, it's working in a big way.

Some will say that Jack Hughes is still the odds-on favourite to be selected first-overall by the New Jersey Devils at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, but you have to wonder if Kappo Kakko's performance at the IIHF World Championships has changed anyone's mind at the Devils' draft table. Kakko scored six goals and added a helper in ten games for Finland while Hughes didn't get the same ice-time as Kakko in amassing just three helpers. That's not to say that Hughes wasn't effective in his roles given to him by head coach Jeff Blashill, but it was pretty clear that the Finns brought Kakko for his offence while Hughes' exposure was more protected in his assignments. If you're the Devils, you may have to have a few longer discussions about what you need from the player who appears to be the next superstar alongside Hischier and Hall.

It became pretty clear that the Finns play with their heads up, play with speed, use positioning to find seams, and have enough skill to skate alongside any of the world's best at any of the tournaments. The positioning and speed seem to be their trademarks as the Finns at all three tournaments showed an uncanny ability to be where the puck was going before it got there as well as using their teammates to create openings and attack with speed with smart, precise passes. If the Finns are stressing the fundamentals of the game at all levels which it seems they are, this would be one of the major reasons why they're jumping past the "superpowers" to be on a level all their own in hockey.

The Athletic's Sunaya Sapurji took a look at how Finland was building its programs, and there is a lot to be said for how they're doing it considering all of the medals they've won in the last five years alone. As Sunaya writes, "there is no position-specific play until the age of 10" which allows all players to develop skills at all positions - even goaltending - until they're ready to take that next step in hockey, and every team regardless of level has a goaltending coach.
One of the keys to Finland's goaltending success is the fact that they have goalie coaches on every team — big clubs and small — at every age level. In addition to the coaches at the club level, there are also FIHA-appointed goalie coaches in each of Finland's eight regions that visit teams, run courses for coaches and help instruct goaltenders. And then, on top of that, there are two full-time FIHA goaltending development specialists who set areas of emphasis every season.

[Aki] Naykki, who is one of those two specialists, looks after the eight-to-13 age group and also goalies at the professional level. So even the smallest netminders in Finland get the same kind of attention as the pros. Between the regional coaches and the national ones, like Naykki and Niemela, there are always opportunities for club coaches and players to improve, ask for help or get new ideas. All visits from the regional and national instructors are free. There’s usually costs associated with the courses, but in most cases, the clubs pay for their coaches to attend.
That kind of training without the prohibitive costs associated with it is why Finland was seen as a goaltending factory for many years with players like Pekka Rinne, Noora Raty, Tuukka Rask, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Kari Lehtonen being a product of that system in the early days. Where Finland changed their system dramatically, however, was with their skaters, and this is likely the model that most other countries will be following sooner rather than later.
The same model exists for skaters, except that there are even more coaches and resources. In 2013, FIHA started providing the top clubs in Finland with a yearly subsidy to hire skill coaches to work specifically with children aged 10 to 14 — the prime time for skill development.

The bigger areas will have two regional coaches instead of one and they are all paid full-time by FIHA. Back in 2009, FIHA mandated that all national team coaches would be paid as full-time employees. That means those junior team coaches like [Tommi] Niemela are very hands-on with development, travelling across the country and visiting clubs — not just focused on their team or age group.
This is precisely what a national hockey program should do - build the grassroots programs and foster learning and development as players get older. It's not about just providing funding for programs with volunteers. It's about having that national network of coaches working full-time towards a common goal - in this case, hockey excellence - with players of all ages while mitigating costs and reducing prohibitive barriers for all kids. Can Canadians say that Hockey Canada does this effectively? Can Americans say that this is happening with Hockey USA? My guess for both questions is "not likely" because we don't have these systems and resources in place along the way.

Some of that is likely due to the size of our respective countries as Sunaya illustrates in the article.
The fact that Finland is a relatively small country, means that the FIHA coaches are able to move around and bring a consistent message and developmental game-plan to every club.

Naykki estimates he visits all the teams in Finland a total of 70 times per year (roughly three times per team). When he visits a team, all goalie coaches from the big club and the smaller ones in the area come together to go through the plan, get on the same page and ask questions.
This isn't something that would be hard to overcome, and I know Hockey Canada tries to work these distance and size problems by letting the regional and local hockey governing bodies act as representatives for Hockey Canada's messages and goals. There are questions as to whether this works effectively or not, but it's pretty obvious that Finland's smaller size with the same person delivering the message across the country is working well for them.

Here's where I buy into Finland's success because this next part is, to me, paramount in getting kids not only interested in the game, but staying in the game at all levels.
In Finland, fun is paramount for retention because they can’t afford to lose any of their 39,000 junior-aged players. There are far too many other options for parents and kids to spend their time and money. And, like every other hockey nation in the world, that money has become a problem in Finland.

"If I had a kid who was playing ice hockey as a goalie I don't know how I could pay for that," said Naykki. "It's so expensive and they're growing up so fast that you have to buy everything again almost every year. It's a shame but we've tried to build some systems for that too … our goal is to make sure hockey is for everybody not just for rich people."

Equipment isn't that much cheaper for skaters either, not to mention the club fees all players must pay.

To that point, FIHA has a fund which allocates roughly $2.2 million (Cdn.) to families who lack the financial resources for hockey. The club teams apply for grants on behalf of the children who need it and FIHA gives the money to the clubs to pay for things like registration and equipment. In addition, many former club stars who have gone on to play pro hockey, have set up bursaries for low-income children through those clubs.

Some of top-tier SM-Liiga teams also try to help out when they can. [Miro] Aaltonen's former club Karpat Oulu, for example, purchased numerous sets of goaltending equipment one year and distributed them to smaller clubs in Finland's north. Boston Bruins star Tuukka Rask has also donated gear to his former club team SaPKo in his hometown of Savonlinna.
The emphasis on fun to retain the lessons taught is an age-old adage that you may know better as "a lesson taught with humour is a lesson retained". This is entirely the right way to be teaching kids hockey as the emphasis on fun rather than winning moves the goalposts in the right direction in a team game. You can't win unless everyone is pulling in the same direction, so teaching the game with an emphasis on fun actually makes everyone better.

Secondly, the idea of having professional players dropping in on former teams is something that never happens in North America with the celebrity culture we pin on athletes, but it would be something great to see more of when it comes to teaching younger athletes. Getting these multi-millionaire players to start bursaries to go along with the money that corporations and Hockey Canada puts out in trying to reduce the always-rising costs of hockey and equipment would also help in immense ways when it comes to the prohibitive costs for some families. While I totally understand that athletes are free to use their money however they like, it would seemingly be a small sacrifice to make to help the next generations of players from places like Deloraine, Manitoba or Plano, Texas or any other town become the next Crosby or Matthews or MacKinnon.

Another key in what makes the Finns so good? They're forced to learn from their mistakes and build off their successes through open dialogue with coaches. It's less restrictive than a coach rolling out a system and getting four lines to adhere to it. Instead, the Finns are "placing emphasis on having players think for themselves — even if that means failing and making mistakes — allowing them to be creative while still playing within a system. There’s more discussion between player and coach as opposed to players just being told what to do and where to go," and the results are showing on the podiums and in the NHL Entry Draft. 23 Finns were taken in the draft last season, up from 15 the year before. There's a belief that Kakko could be selected first-overall, and it's likely the Finns see around two dozen, if not more, players selected this year.

It's fairly clear in watching the Finns dismantle the Canadians for three-straight goals to win the gold medal that there's something special going on in Finland with their hockey programs. It has taken years to institute this type of coaching and development throughout the Finnish system, but the payoff is bearing fruit at each and every tournament that the Finns play. And while I'm not suggesting that we have a referendum on Canadian hockey and Hockey Canada's impact, it might be a good idea for Hockey Canada to really start asking more of their member hockey organizations to adopt some of these teachings. We did it before when we saw how the Russians played the game as Father David Bauer emphasized more fundamentals, skating, and stick-handling, and it might be time to hold the mirror up once again and ask if we're as good as we want to be.

That answer is, of course, no. The Finns are as good as we want to be. And that's why maybe we should be listening to them not just on hockey, but on a variety of topics. They're the happiest people, they research and dispel fake news better than most, and they're the winningest hockey people on the planet right now. For a country who doesn't wear their name on their chests, they sure should have those chests puffed out with pride.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Hockey Night In Dubai?

It's hard to imagine that we'd find hockey in the middle of the desert, but if they can do it in Glendale, they likely can do it elsewhere as well. With the KHL in off-season mode, there's all sorts of news pouring out of the league regarding free agency and franchises, and there was some chatter seen on social media this week about the KHL taking long look at Dubai as being a place to where the KHL could expand. While this seems far-fetched at first mention, the more you look at the factors involved it actually seems like a shrewd expansion idea. If you're going to go big, KHL, go really big!

Dubai Nights

Dubai, which has found all sorts of wealth since the 1960s with discoveries of oil and gold within their borders, turned to foreigners to help extract these resources and, in turn, build the city and country into a place of extravagance. As a result of decades and generations of foreigners being responsible for the growth of this extravangance, Emiratis represent just 11 per cent of its total population.

Contained within the roughly-35-square-kilometer metropolis are 2,504,000 people as of 2016. According to reports, approximately 75% of this population total is male. On top of this, "as many as 10,000 Russian expatriates and overall above 55,000 Russian speakers from CIS (former Soviet Republics) countries live throughout the country, with the majority having made Dubai and Northern Emirates their home," according to Russia Today, so there is a sizable group of ex-pats who likely want to see their favorite sport played in their new homeland. Add in the fact that some "500,000 Russian tourists come to the United Arab Emirates every year," and you have the potential for having a very pro-Russian crowd at KHL games in Dubai.

If that wasn't enough, there are approximately 40,000 Canadians, 1500 Finns, 3000 Swedes, and over 50,000 Americans - 9,000 United States citizens in Dubai alone - that call United Arab Emirates home, so you'll likely get a few other ex-pat hockey fans going to games as well.

In short, there likely is a market in Dubai for hockey if someone wants to set up shop there.

According to the report that was filed with Sport Express, the expansion into Dubai would coincide with the building of a new arena with the potential first game coming in 2021-22. UAE Hockey Federation President Vladimir Burdun stated he spoke with many North American players about the possibility of moving to Dubai if or when the expansion happens, and it seems he has buy-in from those players.

For a country with a average daytime temperatures of 24°C in the winter, it would seem almost crazy to think that we're talking about hockey being played there, but both Glendale and Las Vegas seem to have no issues putting ice in buildings for those teams. Official KHL expansion plans into Dubai haven't been announced yet, but it seems like this is only a matter of time at this point based on the comments from Burdun and the demographics shown above.

W. P. Kinsella was right - if you build it, they will come.

New Owner, Familiar Name

For some time, the Jokerit club in Finland has had Russian interests holding the purse strings as they played in the Finnish Elite League and as they transitioned into the KHL. With the success of the team in the KHL, it became fairly clear that the success of finding good players and convincing great Finnish players to stay was solely on the shoulders of General Manager Jari Kurri who leveraged that Russian money into a solid franchise.

This week, though, it was announced that Kurri would take on a larger role as the Hall-of-Fame Finn became the new owner of Jokerit as well as being named Chairman of the Board for the franchise! The Edmonton Oilers legend assumes control of the club by becoming the sole owner at 100% ownership, so he'll not only direct this club in terms of its successes on the ice, but he'll be instrumental for its successes off the ice as well.

From the looks of it, Finnish fans approve of this new leadership and for the transparency from the club in putting the club back into primarily Finnish hands. Whether or not it pays off in the long-term will be seen down the road, but this moved seemed to be the right one for Jokerit Helsinki fans as their homegrown legend now can add to his legacy by possibly guiding the club to a Gagarin Cup.

Expanding Their Reach

The KHL has already announced that there will be games played in Europe this season after having sent Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and Dinamo Riga having played in England with Coventry, Nottingham, and Sheffield hosting the Russian clubs. Along with the games in England, the KHL also went to Zurich, Switzerland where Dinamo Riga hosted SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow, and Vienna, Austria was the home city for Slovan Bratislava as they were the home team against both SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow. With the success of those games, where would the KHL look to send their teams this year?

I'm not certain this is necessary based on the fact they usually send a team to the Spengler Cup, but it seems that Swiss city Davos will host Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Ak Bars Kazan in a regular season KHL game in December at Vaillant Arena, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. That regular season game will be the last one for Salavat Yulaev Ufa before they spend the next week playing in the Spengler Cup. Once done at the annual Swiss tournament, they will resume their regular season play in the KHL.

If the rumours are true, expect the KHL to look at a possible game or games in France and possibly a game or games in Italy after Italy's success at the this year's IIHF World Championship. Either way, getting a KHL game in the old barn at Davos will likely be a good opening event for the Spengler Cup, and it may give the KHL circuit a few more fans in the European city.

Lots of KHL news from this past week, so there's your updates from across the pond. While the KHL is providing second lives to players who seemed to have been squeezed out of an NHL job, the league should be given credit for expanding its reach across Europe and into the Middle East when the NHL seems to be willing just to offer crumbs to European and Asian fans of their league.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 May 2019

The Final Round

We started with sixteen teams, and we're now down to just two as the Stanley Cup Final features the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues. There have been all sorts of experts who have come out with predictions, what to watch for in this final, who the key players will be, and so on, so I'll leave it to them to help you in your attempts to win the HBIC Playoff Pool. What I will do, however, is post the spreadsheet you need to fill out and send back to me before Monday's opening game of the Stanley Cup Final. That seems like a fair deal, right?

Let's get the business end of the Stanley Cup Final done first: here's the new spreadsheet for final round. Same rules as before - rename it with your name AND ADD "R4" AT THE END, and then send it to me at this email address.

Just as we did in the previous two rounds, there are no player selections for each division. Your scorers that you chose at the beginning are your scorers for the playoffs, and, unfortunately, there are a total of zero players remaining in the pool selected by all competitors. In other words, you're going to have to rely on your prognostication skills in the Stanley Cup Final because there are no players from any entrant left. That likely also means that no saw Boston and St. Louis in the final, but that's another topic for another time.

Because the series starts on Monday, you'll have had loads of time to be able to get this spreadsheet in to me. I realize that it is Memorial Day weekend in the United States, but I'm not drawing up the schedule for the NHL. Do your best in getting this in to me. If you run into issues due to travel or something, let me know ASAP so we can make arrangements. Deal? Deal.

Finally, you may look at the scores and think that you have no chance in winning a prize. That may be true depending on the gap between your current score and top scores, but I can tell you that less and less people have seen sending in spreadsheets as this contest rolls on. In saying that, we also saw Richard D. destroy Round Three with an amazing score to put himself back in prize contention, so make sure you really think hard about game-winning goal scorers because they could vault you past someone or many people if you predict well!

Best of luck in the final, and we'll see who stands atop the mountain once the dust settles in both the Stanley Cup Final and the HBIC Playoff Pool!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 348

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight to send another couple of people home from Survivor: NHL Playoffs island. With the Stanley Cup Final set and the IIHF World Championships slowly being whittled down to the finalists, we'll go over all of that after sending home the two unlucky tribe members whose torches will be extinguished by Jeff Probst. Getting both Richard and John on the phone tonight should provide good chatter for the first half of the program, so make sure you tune in for a couple of exit interviews that should be entertaining!

As you can see, only Darin and Dianna remain on Survivor: NHL Playoffs island, and we'll send home Richard (SJS) and John (CAR) tonight after their runs came to an untimely end. Once those two have been sent back to the mainland, Beans and I will dig into the Stanley Cup Final and who we'd like to see hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of this series. We'll talk IIHF World Championship with the quarter-final games going today and how Great Britain and Italy shocked the world in the round-robin. We'll take a peek at the Memorial Cup and the action happening out in Halifax this week and into the weekend. We'll touch on the great work by the Blues in incorporating Laila Anderson into the team, and we'll touch on Ottawa's new head coach as DJ Smith was introduced today! It's another busy episode of The Hockey Show tonight at 5:30pm so make sure you join us on UMFM!

Speaking of joining us, 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 send Richard and John off the island before getting into who wins in the NHL, who lost at the IIHF World Championship, who's doing what at the Memorial Cup, who is Laila Anderson, who got hired in Ottawa, 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: May 23, 2019: Episode 348

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Possible Helmet Improvements?

With the summer approaching quickly, there are all sorts of activities that people will partake in that could possible involve a helmet - biking, baseball, football, and more. Being that this is a hockey blog, you know that I'm always interested in reading and learning more about the concussion and head trauma issues facing athletes with regards to their quality of lives, so I started down a rabbit hole today with the receipt of an email from a company called MIPS Protection. According to the email, MIPS Protection had acquired a company called Fluid Inside and all their related patent rights which include the pod seen in the lede photo!

I had never heard of MIPS Protection, but they seem to be a big player in bike helmet science and improvement, and their email today introduced me to another great Canadian-made product in Fluid Inside, a collaboration between Oblique Technology L.P. and the University of Ottawa in Canada. According to Fluid Inside's website, "Fluid Inside is engineered to enhance your helmet's ability to protect your brain by mimicking Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) – your body's natural protection". I'll admit that got me interesting in taking a deeper dive into Fluid Inside, so let's see what's under the hood.

We'll start in Ottawa, Ontario where the Neurotrauma Impact Science Lab sits on the campus of the University of Ottawa. Founded in 2005, "[t]he NISL lab at the University of Ottawa is a world-leading research facility for the study of sport-related head injury," and has partnered in research with other renowned institutions such as Harvard University, University College Dublin, Imperial College in London, England, and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. From the looks of it, the NISL lab has made some serious friends who have a major impact on medical studies and research, so the science presented by Fluid Inside is likely sound. According to the number of peer-reviewed publications that the NISL or its work has appeared in would validate this science.

With the scientific method being sound in the research done by the NISL lab, the "methodology allows NISL to define a series of sport-specific injury mechanisms, each of which has a different profile of impact variables, which in turn enables the analysis of the resulting stress and strain on brain tissue. This understanding of how head injuries occur has been applied in the development of the Fluid Inside™ technology." While that sounds a little jargon-y and marketing-speak-like, what the NISL lab does is perform "extensive physical 'crash-test' simulations of known injury scenarios," followed by "feeding the captured data into a Finite Element Analysis" which crunches the data down and shows how and where the impact conditions cause injury to the brain.

If video is more your thing, here's what they do at the lab.

As their parent company does, Fluid Inside focused on bike helmets for riders of all kinds, so this acquisition by MIPS Protection makes a little more sense now. So how does this come back to hockey if these two companies are the leaders in bike helmet technology that reduces the number of concussions and the amount of brain trauma suffered by bikers?

In the numerous research studies that they have linked on their website, the research done by the NISL lab and by Fluid Inside has been cited or used in two dozen studies! Among those studies that should be noted are the 2016 Annals of Biomedical Engineering study that looked at the "[p]rotective capacity of ice hockey helmets against different impact events," the 2014 Proceedings of the Ircobi Conference study that examined the "analysis of the protective capacity of ice hockey helmets in a concussion injury reconstruction," and the 2015 Sports Biomechanics study that looked at "defining the effective impact mass of elbow and shoulder strikes in ice hockey." These three studies alone would give a ton of evidence to prove that today's current hockey helmets don't quite make the cut when it comes to protecting against concussion-related and brain trauma-related incidents in hockey.

So what's being done, you ask, as you already know that concussion numbers are climbing and CTE-related deaths are on the rise? We go back to the lede photo of Fluid Inside's Fluid Pods that adhere inside the helmet at specific spots to protect the head during movement or traumatic events. Like the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds the brain in the skull, these pods, filled with a low-viscous, organic oil-based liquid, are designed to mimic the CSF as stated above. Instead of adding more foam or other products to stabilize the head from trauma, the Fluid Pods absorb the energy of a hockey hit and minimize the amount of trauma suffered by the brain by
dispersing this impact energy throughout the fluid system matrix.

Dr. Hoshizaki's research at the NISL indicates that hockey hits aren't as severe as a skier's fall or a biker flipping over the handlebars of his bike and the rotational energy of the hits seen in hockey is slower, but the brain is actually moving and spinning for a longer period of time due to the frequency of the hits throughout a game. Having the extra fluid inside the helmet via the Fluid Pods would mean the helmets have a little more give on the inside of the helmet during hits, allowing that fluid to absorb the trauma and protect the head a little more than just normal foam. While it won't solve the concussion problem altogether, could these Fluid Pods be a way to reduce the number of concussions and brain trauma?

"It's one small piece of it," Dr. Hoshizaki told the CBC in 2011. "Managing the behaviour and play on the ice is another important part, and education so players understand how important and serious a concussion is."

That's an important point to emphasize, and I'm glad that Dr. Hoshizaki isn't suggesting that this is a be-all, end-all solution. In combination with the findings of Ken Dryden and his push to outlaw all hits to the head, this Fluid Pod helmet system could go a long way in cutting the number of concussions that are currently seen. Without a change in behaviour and play on the ice, though, no helmet on the planet - real or imagined - will save the brains of players who entertain us nightly.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to the NHL finding an effective way to cut the number of concussions and hits to the head. When the guy in charge is saying stuff like this...
... the chance of seeing just how effective this helmet could be in reducing impact head trauma from normal hits will never be fully known. And that's a shame because Gary Bettman's continued belief that violent hits to the head is entertainment is now taking money out of the pocket of a company doing real, effective work in trying to reduce concussions.

At the end of the day, I'm highly optimistic for MIPS Protection and Fluid Inside in their work to reduce concussions in a number of sports. It just seems like NHL hockey won't be one of them.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Blues Got A Bigger Boat

I've never seen Roy Scheider wear any St. Louis Blues merchandise, but it's pretty clear that the Blues went out and got a bigger boat following the Game Three "Hand of God" pass that Timo Meier pulled off in overtime. It took six games, but we know who will take to the ice in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday as the St. Louis Blues will travel to Massachusetts to tangle with the Boston Bruins on TD Garden ice!

With that being said, the scores have been updated for the third round of HBIC Playoff Pool, and I have to say that things are getting mighty interesting with the movement in the pool standings. With only a handful of contestants having skaters left to pick them up additional points, it really came down to who could predict the series the best. The average score for the round from predictions alone was seven points with the median score at eight points (four entrants scored eight points this round), but the highest point total for predictions came from Richard D. who put together a 14-point round! Along with his choice of San Jose's Joe Pavelski as one of his skaters, he closed out the round with a total of 17 points! Well done, Richard!

On the flip side of the coin, with the Sharks now eliminated, there are no skaters left for any entrant for the Stanley Cup Final. That means that the final standings will be solely based on predictions since no skater can affect the outcome other than those playing in the final. Game-winning goal scorers are going to be your go-to if you need to make up ground, so study up on who has been doing all the lamp-lighting and we'll see how this final round concludes!

With that, here is the link to the scoreboard. The final spreadsheet will be available on Friday, May 24 for download, so do your research, listen to the experts (if you think that helps), and make your predictions boldly in a few days!

As for the prizes, it's been a buys week thus far, but I will post the images of the prizes before the start of the Stanley Cup Final. There are some good prizes that I've accumulated, and it appears the top-three finishers will be on-track for some prizes. That being said, I'm always out there looking for more cool stuff, so there may be more by the time I get the images posted. If you're wondering, there is an NHL jersey up for grabs in the prize bag, so make sure you check in this weekend for the prizes!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 20 May 2019

Holiday Monday

It's a holiday Monday here in the Great White North as we observe Victoria Day. It's actually only observed in Canada and Scotland, but it began as a celebration to honour Queen Victoria's birthday who ruled over the British commonwealth for 63 years, seven months and two days! Upon her passing in 1901, the Canadian parliament took to action and renamed the day of her birth as "Victoria Day". It wasn't until 1952 when the government made Victoria Day on a holiday on the Monday of the week of her birthday, officially giving Canada a long weekend in May. The ironic part is that Quebec, who never really enjoyed falling under British rule, celebrated "Fête de Dollard" from 1918 until 2003 in place of Victoria Day until "Fête de Dollard" was replaced by "Journée nationale des patriotes".

After that quick history lesson on the day, I want to admit that I'm not actually fishing today. Instead, I am taking the day off to get some yard work done because the lawn is starting to turn jungle-like and a few weeks have sprouted from in between the interlocking bricks. That means they need to be pulled and some more sand needs to be applied between them to prevent weed growth and the movement of said bricks. All in all, it's a day outdoors for me that will likely end with some barbecuing and relaxing on the patio!

Enjoy your day where ever you are and doing whatever you're doing. I'm off the grid today, and I'm going to use my time wisely!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

A Canadian Innovation

You might be wondering what the above thing is and why it's on a blog dedicated to hockey. The item pictured above is called a BIPeR, and it was designed by a team of Montreal university researchers to be used as a puck for visually-impaired players! Hockey, to which most people will attest, is a highly-visual game where tracking the puck on the ice is the ultimate priority for players and fans alike. If you're visually-impaired, tracking the puck visually isn't an option, so how does one track said puck? The BIPeR is designed to solve that problem!

Visually-impaired hockey players often resort to using a tomato juice can or a steel container filled with small balls as a puck because of the audible sound it makes when it moves. It works fairly well when the puck is moving, but how does one find the puck while being visually-impaired when the puck stops moving?

Here's a Global News report on the sport to give you a better idea of how it sounds.

As you can see, the game is a lot noisier with the steel container. And that's where Gilles Ouellet, a blind hockey player and a Universite de Quebec a Montreal employee, put his thinking cap on and went to work in creating a better puck for his sport. Along with a team of researchers, they created the above prototype consisting of a shock-absorbent plastic shell with a battery-powered circuit board that powers sensors that analyze puck movement and transmits the data to a buzzer which makes sounds up to 120 decibels - as loud as a thunderclap!

Steve Vezeau, one of the researchers on the project, said the BIPeR puck has a lifespan of about three games compared to using five tomato juice boxes per game or having steel containers that generally last up to two games. From the looks of it, this puck may change the entire way visually-impaired is played across the world!

"It's going to make the game faster and more interesting," Ouellet stated to The Canadian Press. "And because the puck makes noise when it's in the air, it'll help goalies make more saves."

In a cool related piece of news, by creating the BIPeR puck at the Universite de Quebec a Montreal, the research team won the Impact Award of the Innovation Idea contest at UQAM! How cool is that?

The prototype seems very promising, and the team will need to find a company or partner to mass-produce the pucks for use across the world. The above prototype was financed in part by USA Hockey while the team dreamed and designed it, but USA Hockey likely won't fund the mass production of these pucks. Maybe they can take the two-hour trip to Sherbrooke, Quebec where Inglasco is located? Inglasco, as you may be aware, produces pucks for the NHL, AHL, ECHL, Hockey Canada, and Hockey USA, so this would seem like a logical partnership with firm Canadian roots!

Regardless of what the next steps are, the fact that Canadians are working to make the visually-impaired game better is something of which all Canadians should be proud. While visually-impaired hockey isn't huge in Canada yet, there are teams in Montreal, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver and a dozen teams play in the United States. If the goal for USA Hockey is to organize a nations cup next May with teams possibly from Finland and Sweden joining the event, this puck will go a long way in making the game better and potentially more popular for all fans alike.

While there have been other attempts to make a puck that plays like an actually hockey puck while incorporating some sort of audible element, here's hoping that the BIPeR puck finds its spot on the international stage as the puck of choice by all visually-impaired players!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Just Won't Go Away

It seemed as though all the legal problems that the Ottawa Senators had faced over their arena debacle and the Randy Lee situation had passed. The arena deal is still being negotiated quietly as far as the Senators want anyone to know, and Lee pleaded guilty to the harassment charge brought forth by a 19-year-old male hotel shuttle driver in Buffalo back in December. For the first time in months, it seemed as though the Senators weren't making the news for all the wrong reasons. That is, until yesterday when another lawsuit was dropped on them by that same 19-year-old male hotel shuttle driver who now feels that more people were responsible for causing the entire ordeal with Randy Lee.

According to the new filing, the Ottawa Senators hockey club, Randy Lee, and the bar and grill restaurant known as 716 are being sued for negligence for unspecified damages as the defendant alleges that "the team was aware of Lee's alleged history of lewd behaviour and didn't do enough to stop it" while "the owners of the sports bar and grill should share blame because employees there continued to serve drinks to Lee after he was visibly drunk".

In the new lawsuit, the plaintiff "was injured externally, internally and permanently in and about the head, body, limbs and nervous system so that he became and will continue to be disabled and will continue to suffer pain, discomfort, disfigurement, distress and psychological adjustment, distress and trauma." I somehow think that there a ton of claims in the above sentence that are demonstrably false when it came to having Randy Lee touch the shuttle driver, but if you're going to go for broke in this lawsuit, just claim everything, I guess.

The Sportsnet report linked above states that Lee's lawyer, Paul Cambria, had yet read the lawsuit and declined comment. Dennis Vacco, and attorney for the Ottawa Senators, said that the hockey club would "vigorously fight" this lawsuit, calling it a "frivolous" civil complaint.

I'm not a judge or lawyer, but I have to agree with Vacco in that this lawsuit seems a little far-fetched when you consider the allegations of distress that are made in the filing. The burden of proof will lie with the defendant to illustrate the various injuries and the ongoing distress he claims he will exhibit, but this whole lawsuit seems like a money-grab.

After everything that the Senators have gone through over the last 24 months, here's hoping something finally goes their way because I really don't think this lawsuit has a lot of merit built into it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 17 May 2019

Halifax's Jerseys

With the 2019 Mastercard Memorial Cup beginning tonight in Halifax, the home squad will don some special uniforms to honour the military tie-in with the Memorial Cup. This year, the Mooseheads will auction off the jerseys they wear this evening to raise funds for the Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund which will be used for the care and benevolent support of Veterans and their dependents. It's always the one thing I look forward to in this tournament because these jerseys always have special meaning and usually look spectacular. Halifax's jerseys tonight did not fail.

The 2019 tournament will feature the WHL's Prince Alberta Raiders, the OHL's Guelph Storm, the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, and the host Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. To kick off each tournament, the host team wears a special jersey to reflect the heritage of the Memorial Cup's early beginnings as the Ontario Hockey Association Memorial Cup, an award that was instituted in memory of the many Canadian First World War soldiers that died fighting in 1919. The jersey program was started in 2008, and every host team since that time has kicked off the tournament on the Friday night by wearing a special jersey that honours a branch of the military.

These are the jerseys that Halifax took the ice in tonight. As per the release by the Mooseheads, "[t]he jersey pays tribute to the Nova Scotia Highlanders (NS Highrs) by proudly displaying their hat badge as our front crest. The NS Highrs are one of only two units from the Maritime provinces that took part in the Landing at Normandy on D-Day in 1944 during World War II. This year marks the 75th anniversary of that event." The words on the top of the circle surrounding the crest read "Siol Na Fear Fearail" which is the motto of the Nova Scotia Highlanders and translates to "Breed of Manly Men". While the Mooseheads don't normally wear blue or boast about their manliness, they looked good against the green-and-white of the Prince Alberta Raiders who drew the opening game against the Mooseheads tonight as the 101st Mastercard Memorial Cup began.

As you can see by these celebrations, the Halifax Mooseheads were in a good mood tonight as they opened the 2019 Mastercard Memorial Cup with a 4-1 win over the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders. The round-robin portion of the tournament continues all week as the OHL's Guelph Storm and QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies battle on Saturday in their first games. While we won't see these jerseys worn again, you can get one via the CHL auction page if you like them. While they're out of my price range, I'm a fan of these Halifax jerseys!

Well done on continuing a great tradition at this tournament, Halifax! Hopefully, these jerseys will raise a ton of dough for the Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 347

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with four more exit interviews to conduct after the second round of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs ended and four more teams were cast off Survivor: NHL Playoffs island! There was also a "Hand of God" moment in the NHL that needs to be discussed because everyone seems to have an opinion on how the NHL gets everything wrong, so Beans and I will break down this moment in the only way we can: BAN EVERYTHING! Ok, maybe not that extreme, but we'll discuss it!

Tonight, Beans and I will get the boats to the mainland ready for Teri (NYI), Derek (CBJ), Travis (DAL), and Jared (COL) as these four entrants will be cast off Survivor: NHL Playoffs island. Once we get through those four exit interviews, we'll discuss Timo Meier's hand pass, the NHL video review process, and how each of us would fix it. We'll look at Germany and Switzerland equaling Russia's efforts at the IIHF World Championship with these three teams remaining perfect through the opening four games. We offer our thoughts on Ralph Krueger returning to the NHL. We'll talk about the announcements from the Hockey Helps The Homeless press conference on Tuesday, and we'll wrap it up by discussing the results of the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship! It should be another entertaining show, so we hope you can join us at 5:30pm CT!

Speaking of joining us, 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 run through four exit interviews with Teri, Derek, Travis, and Jared before chatting video review and how to make it better, the World Championship, a new coach in Buffalo (again), the Hockey Helps The Homeless press conference, the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship, 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: May 16, 2019: Episode 347

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Recurring KHL Story

It seems to pop up at least once during the hockey season and almost always in the off-season, but the annual announcement that the KHL's Slovan Bratislava team is in financial trouble has resurfaced yet again. The Slovakian hockey club always seems to have rumours swirling around it regarding meeting payroll during the season only to move into will-they-or-won't-they-play-next-season territory after the Gagarin Cup has been awarded. Well, it's May 15, so we're into the latter option that seems to suggest that they won't play in the KHL next year.

According to a Sport Express story filed yesterday, they report that "there is a high probability" HC Slovan Bratislava will not take part in the 2019-20 KHL season after a new owner who had bought into the club "found the team funding too expensive". While nothing regarding the club's status will be decided until the KHL's Board of Directors meet on May 29, it seems all but certain that Bratislava may have finally used up the remaining lives it seemed to have.

HC Slovan Bratislava was accepted into the KHL in 2012 for the start of the 2012-13 season. During that campaign, it was apparent that HC Slovan Bratislava wasn't going to be a big spender in any season despite their early successes in the KHL. In that season, they were the 13th-best team in the KHL despite being 27th-overall in spending on payroll. While they may have "Moneyball-ed" their way into the playoffs that year, the money issues were catching up to the overall hockey performance on the ice.

In 2016, Sport.sk reported that HC Slovan Bratislava hadn't been paying its players as they struggled to meet payroll obligations. Players had discussed the possibility of not playing the games scheduled until they were paid, but they did play as payroll obligations were met despite the pay for some players being extremely overdue.

There was talk early this year of a new European league starting, and I suggested that HC Slovan Bratislava might be wise to keep an eye on this possibility where costs and expenses would be lower. I had mentioned that their history in the KHL included qualifying "for the playoffs only twice and were swept in the quarterfinals on both occasions. In their seventh season this year, they are dead last in the Western Conference, 17 points back of Vityaz, and" missed the playoffs for a third-straight year. Needless to say, missing out on playoff payoffs doesn't help the bottom line.

Of course, Slovan Bratislava issued a statement that denied all reports of them not being a part of the KHL next season, but one can only wonder how long the KHL is willing to stand by the Slovakian club while they pile up the losses in the standings and at the bottom line.

At this point, the question may not be if Slovan Bratislava leaves the KHL, but when.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The First Five

It was a special afternoon as people from the hockey world meshed with the media and a great charitable cause, and the two men pictured - Dave and Wayne Babych - were at the forefront of these worlds meeting. Each of these respective worlds played a part in the first press conference for the Winnipeg tournament of the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament that will happen in the Manitoba capital on December 5 and 6, 2019. There were smiles and laughs seen at the press conference and there was a lot of great information presented as the event officially kicked off this afternoon!

If you caught The Hockey Show a few weeks back, we featured Executive Director Ryan Baillie on the show where were discussed all things related to the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament happening in Winnipeg as the efforts to get this great initiative off the ground were just starting. Today was the official kick-off where it was announced that not only is the tournament coming to Winnipeg, but the tournament is already sold out when it comes to getting ten teams involved! That's massive news, and it goes to show that Winnipeg's love of the game combined with its charitable beliefs can help a great cause like Hockey Helps The Homeless benefit greatly.

The goal for Winnipeg was set at $100,000 in its first year with the proceeds going to three amazing causes in Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), Red Road Lodge, and Willow Place. The press conference took play at the Resource Assistance for Youth drop-in center, and it's where Wayne Babych was the announced as the first player to commit as one of the professional players for the Winnipeg tournament followed almost immediately by the announcement that his brother, Dave, would be joining him as the second professional committed to playing with the amateur teams.

"I really enjoy this community," Dave Babych, a Winnipeg Jets defenceman for six seasons, told the crowd on-hand. "When Ryan asked me to co-host with Wayne, how do you say no? It was an automatic. I live in North Vancouver and I think I've played in the tournament there for 10 years, and every year, I don't know how it happens, but it just gets better and better, and more money's raised.

"We have the easy part," he continued. "We just show up and play. Of course, we believe in what it's all about. Hopefully, we entertain. We might not entertain on the ice, but in the dressing room and after because some of our skills... we think we're going fast but we know that's not true."

Wayne, a 54-goal scorer with St. Louis who now lives in Winnipeg, echoed his younger brother's message. "I'm so excited to be a part of this. We've had some guys from when I played where they've become homeless. I drive through the city now and I look at people and I've never had an avenue of how I could help. I see people standing and asking for money at the corners. I do what I can. But this gives me an opportunity to help out the way I can.

"Hockey was my life, and having Ryan and his group coming here, I'm so glad to be part of this. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to do everything to get into shape for this."

Among the assembled crowd at the press conference were two other Winnipeg-based players who are excited to join a new amateur team on HHTH Draft Night on December 5 as both Trevor Kidd and Frazer McLaren were announced as the third and fourth players who have committed to playing. It was announced a little later that former Winnipeg Jets forward Laurie Boschman would be returning to the city for the event as well!

Now if there's some question about "star power" - getting that superstar player who is beloved by the entire community - that is being addressed by both HHTH and the player recruitment team. The key for any player to be recruited is to go through the "vetting process" or, as Ryan Baillie describes it, the "do they get it" process. They don't have to be a Wayne Gretzky or a Bobby Orr - admittedly, those two would be awesome to have - as long as the players understand the cause of Hockey Helps The Homeless and why their inclusion at these tournaments makes them special.

For lack of a better term, they are the "eye candy" that helps drive teams to raise more funds to be able to select the player they want on Draft Night. The team that raises the most money is given the opportunity to select first-overall from all the professional players who are playing in the tournament. The second-highest fundraising team gets the second pick, the third-highest fundraising team gets the third pick, and so on. The players, for their part, are the entertainers for the tournament at that point, sharing stories and laughs with the team that selected them while trying to help them perform well at the tournament.

If we circle back to that star-power factor, there are a number of names that are still trying to coordinate their schedules to make their attendance at the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament in Winnipeg work, so expect announcements in the coming months of additional pros whose names are quite familiar to hockey fans in Winnipeg. As it stands right now, Dave Babych, Wayne Babych, Trevor Kidd, Frazer McLaren, and Laurie Boschman are the first five to commit to the tournament, and I'd be pretty stoked to have any of these guys sitting on the bench as well as telling hockey tales in the locker room.

We're six months away from raising $100,000 or more to help the 1500-or-so homeless people in Winnipeg who sleep outside in the heat, in the rain, in the cold, in the snow, in the wind, and in the darkness every single night. We have ten teams who are raising funds, and I'm sure you likely know someone or a company who wouldn't mind a little advertising in exchange for a donation to this great cause. If you do, check out Hockey Helps The Homeless or email one of the two co-chairs of the Winnipeg event in Viola Bauer and Brenda Bourns.

Every dollar raised at this point is dedicated to Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), Red Road Lodge, and Willow Place, three amazing centers in Winnipeg that are helping men, children, and youths get off the streets in a city where winters are unforgiving and unrelenting in their forecasts. I'm proud of the work these centers are doing, and I'm proud that Hockey Helps The Homeless, Wayne Babych, Dave Babych, Laurie Boschman, Trevor Kidd, and Frazer McLaren are lending their support and expertise in an effort to end homelessness in Winnipeg.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 13 May 2019

Three Medals?

It's rare that one team can medal twice in the same event. I've seen two teams from the same club or country win medals in the same event, but never the same team winning two medals. If you take a glance at the lede image, you'll see that Manitoba won a bronze medal, a silver medal, and a gold medal despite entering just one men's team and one women's team at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship taking place in Whitehorse, Yukon. How is this possible, you ask? Read on for the surprising answer on how this was accomplished!

First, I had mentioned on Saturday on this very blog that Manitoba was one of three provinces with a chance to bring home two medals. As shown, the original schedule looked something as follows:
Everything seemed to be going as planned as the morning games were played. The Ontario women downed British Columbia to earn the bronze medal, and the Manitoba men's team followed up that effort by beating the British Columbia men's team to capture their own bronze medal. The gold-medal women's game saw Saskatchewan play extremely well in defeating Manitoba, and it seemed we were all set for an Alberta-Saskatchewan showdown.

Except the schedule changed.
Wait, a second. The Manitoba men who won bronze earlier in the day were now going to play Saskatchewan for the gold medal? How did this come about? What happened to Alberta, a team that had beaten Manitoba twice on two previous days?

The live stream of the final offered no answers as the broadcasters didn't even mention it from my skimming through the game quickly. It seems that Alberta just fell off the map and Manitoba was granted the chance to play for their second medal of the day. I posed the question today on Twitter in an effort to find answers, and Josh Schroeder (@jdschroeder) provided me the answer following his search of the NAHC Facebook page! His find was the following message posted to the social media platform (click it to read it).
According to the letter, Team Alberta's plan to leave on Sunday afternoon prior to the gold medal game at the 2019 NAHC was their own decision, and they made no attempt to resolve the problem after qualifying for the gold-medal game. In fact, from what the letter says, it sounds as though Team Alberta lobbied to have the gold-medal game time changed as opposed to them making alternate travel plans. The NAHC Working Group and the Provincial Territorial Aboriginal Sport Bodies (PTASB) decided that the tournament games would remain as they were, and Alberta was removed for the tournament.

First off, major kudos to the NAHC Working Group and the PTASB for sticking to their guns. As they stated, the tournament schedule was posted in November 2018, giving Team Alberta more than enough time to secure proper travel arrangements. The two groups also worked with tournament partners to try to help Alberta remain in Whitehorse for the gold-medal game, but it seems that Team Alberta wanted no part of that solution. Again, I want to commend the NAHC Working Group and PTASB for not giving in to Alberta's demands because, quite frankly, they caused this problem and did little to resolve it.

Second, who does Alberta think they are? They're no more important than any other team, and it's not like they were coming in as a powerhouse or defending champion. In fact, they played and lost in the relegation round at last year's tournament, so they have no more right to ask for a change than any other team. Just because you're inconvenienced due to your own travel plans and ignorance, Alberta, doesn't mean you can force the rest of the tournament to change its entire medal-round schedule. Even if you were the defending champion, that demand still wouldn't be considered. You're not that important.

Third, well done, Manitoba, for stepping up and seizing the opportunity. Having already won bronze, the Manitoba men decided to abandon that medal and play for the gold medal against Saskatchewan, hammering their neighbours to the west by a 6-1 score to claim the gold medal. I don't know how long the Manitoba men had to prepare, but they came out guns a-blazing in posting a 3-0 lead in the opening frame to carry them to the 6-1 win.

As a result, the final standings at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship were:
WOMEN: Ontario
MEN: British Columbia

WOMEN: Manitoba
MEN: Saskatchewan

WOMEN: Saskatchewan
MEN: Manitoba

It's rare that a one team can medal twice in the same event, but Manitoba did just that yesterday. While they abandoned the bronze medals to play for the gold medal, the fact that they even got a shot at winning the gold medal is rather astounding considering what Alberta did. When opportunity knocked, though, Manitoba seized it. Because of Alberta's poor planning and lack of any reasonable thought, Saskatchewan and Manitoba now will return home with one gold medal-winning team and one silver medal-winning team when it appeared only one province has that opportunity on Saturday and into Sunday morning.

Congratulations to all the teams, except the Alberta men, who participated at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship with special mentions going to Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba for winning medals! You did your provinces proud, and you should take an immense amount of pride in what you accomplished!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!