Wednesday 31 July 2019

Seawolves And Nanooks Threatened

We hear about climate change on almost a daily basis and the effects of that climate change on the environment and communities of the north. Like what would happen to this University of Alaska-Fairbanks logo made of ice through climate change, it seems that the institution's ability to be a leader on the world stage for academics and athletics may be melting away after announcements of budget cuts were made earlier this year that will see the University of Alaska suffer greatly. Not only is this announcement a major problem for the school, but the cuts were implemented on July 1. Like climate change, the need to act now is upon the regents of the University of Alaska, and it sounds like the hockey programs at the various campuses across the state may be amalgamated into one hockey program.

For those that aren't aware, the University of Alaska is broken into three main campuses that offer their own accreditation for a student's selected subject of study. Each of these three main campuses also has specific satellite campuses that aid in reaching students in smaller communities. In total, the University of Alaska system has 19 campuses that server more than 30,000 students with degrees offered in approximately 400 subjects. Among the departments that have brought the University of Alaska notoriety are the geography, wildlife biology, and atmospheric science departments.

Why am I writing about this, you ask? The University of Alaska has seen its budget cut by 41% - nearly $136 million! - that has forced the University of Alaska Board of Regents to make some tough choices which, of course, has put the various sports that operate at the University of Alaska directly into the crosshairs when it comes to cuts. As it stands, the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks could be amalgamated into one team after the Regents voted to merge three separately-accredited institutions into one accredited university with multiple locations this afternoon.

With two Division-1 men's hockey teams, there will likely be cuts to one or both programs that may see one of the programs eliminated entirely if the school does simply become the University of Alaska. Under that umbrella, there wouldn't be an option for two D1 men's hockey programs, so something would have to give. Does that mean that either the Nanooks or the Seawolves are on the verge of demise? Does the school rebrand altogether?

Those questions may be premature based on the debate among the Regents today. While the discussion is still on the table as to what the next steps are when it comes to becoming the University of Alaska proper, there are already proposed budget cuts that have been submitted from each of the three main campuses. Athletics, unfortunately, does take a hit on each of these proposals.
In Tegna Hanlon's tweet, the Anchorage campus (UAA) where the Seawolves call home has proposed a $4 million budget cut - half of their funding - to all athletics. The Fairbanks campus, where the Nanooks call home, have zero cuts in their proposal, but they do call for increased private support of their athletic programs by $750,000. While the two campuses are taking a different approach in how they achieve their financial goals for athletics, the fact that Fairbanks hasn't implemented cuts to their athletic program seems to indicate a commitment to their D1 hockey program.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong on this as well.

What I do know is that if this movement towards making the University of Alaska into one large, state-wide campus is the path the Regents have chosen, it's likely 20-25 men will have their hockey careers ended and dozens more staff and volunteers will no longer be involved in the game. That's not fair to those men and those people who work behind the scenes, so I'd hope that the University of Alaska will continue to honour scholarships granted after making the choice to, theoretically, cut a Division-1 men's hockey program. That would be the right thing to do, but I'm also not staring down a $136 million budget shortfall.

The University of Hawaii went through a major restructuring following budgets cut to their funding, and they went through some tough times. It's like that the University of Alaska will suffer the same problems that will see the school be forced to hike tuition costs and eliminate supplementary positions for staff. It may have to consider letting its Division-1 hockey program(s) move to the ACHA in order to save money on travel costs alone when one considers that the closest WCHA team to the state of Alaska is Bemidji State in Minnesota while the furthest would be in Huntsville, Alabama.

If you were wondering, there are 4037 miles between Fairbanks, Alaska and Huntsville, Alabama. The Divison-2 ACHA has teams that are almost exclusively played on the left side of the Rockies, and that would significantly reduce the travel costs normally associated with a Division-1 hockey club. This won't take the sting out of losing one of the two Division-1 teams currently playing in Alaska, but at least it isn't losing both teams in order to keep the university solvent.

Much like what happened in North Dakota with the women's hockey program falling a massive shortfall in state funding, it appears that at least one Division-1 men's hockey team will face the axe in the near future. It could be two, but I suspect that at least one of the two will survive as a lower-division NCAA team or even as an ACHA team.

It's never good when one speaks about the potential of losing a good hockey team due to budget shortfalls, but universities are places of academia first and athletics second. Or third. Or maybe even lower on the list. Athletics do bring schools a sense of notoriety and can add to the school's revenue depending on successes, but we can't forget that universities do more good with the degrees they award in their classrooms than the banners they hang up in their sporting venues.

No one will be happy with the outcome of these cutbacks, restructurings, and re-allocations. The University of Alaska will likely find itself struggling in the next few years as shown above, but they'll figure out how to make things work. And while both the Nanooks and Seavolves have legacies of great hockey, the new team - if that is what ultimately is decided for these two teams - will have a chance to write a new chapter in Alaska hockey history.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 30 July 2019

If You Build It...

The rationalizations and justifications for building a brand-new arena for the Calgary Flames with $275 million in public funds and very few details while simultaneously cutting $60 million from the budgets of transit, police, and fire protection in Calgary are done. The Flames will get their money from the city after city council voted 11-4 in favour of the tentative agreement struck by the city of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment.

While I truly believe in not using public funds to pay for buildings that are used almost exclusively to generate money for billionaires, it's clear that Calgary city council believes differently than I do. They have that right, and I can't hold it against them. Voters in Calgary certainly can, though, and I emphatically implore each and every citizen of voting age to really hold their councillors over the fire if there's even a slight uptick in crime rates, poorer service on public transit, or slower response times from firefighters and paramedics in that city.

While there is certainly reason to be overjoyed if you're a hockey fan in the city of Calgary, this simply doesn't feel right. I'm sorry that Calgarians are being represented by a number of cowards who voted to cut services while providing money to billionaires, but the ball is squarely back in the court of the voters now if things don't go well in Calgary with less services. Remember this when the campaigning for city council seats are up for grabs in the next municipal election.

For now, break out the shovels, Calgary. You're getting a new rink.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 29 July 2019

A Lot Of Money For A Long Time

If there's one thing that NHL general managers should have learned by this point in the salary cap era, it's that long-term, high-priced contracts often come back to bite the team in the rear end. It's not to say that there haven't been good long-term deals signed as those for Crosby and McDavid are looking better and better each and every year. With goaltenders, though, there are a maybe one or two good examples and a pile of bad examples when it comes to big money, maximum term contracts. The jury is now officially out on the Tampa Bay Lightning after they committed eight years at $9.5 million annually to goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Technically, the Lightning signed Vasilevskiy to a contract extension as he'll play one more season at his current $3.5 million annual salary before the big-money deal kicks in. The deal, when it finally starts, will make him the third-highest paid goaltender in the league behind only Florida's Sergei Bobrovsky and Montreal's Carey Price. Needless to say, the Lightning have weighed the odds on their netminder, and they believe the 25 year-old has a lot of good hockey left before age begins to catch up to him.

Vasilevskiy is a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist and a one-time winner, so he carries a little leverage when it comes to his salary demands. Winning the Vezina Trophy is reflective of the work put in by the netminder over the course of a season, and there was no doubt that Andrei Vasilevskiy was the best goaltender for 82 games last season. While he and the Lightning faltered hard in the playoffs, there is no doubt that the Lightning were the best team on ice from October until April with Vasilevskiy backstopping them to an all-time record-tying win total.

When compared to goaltenders around the league, John Gibson's season last year with the Ducks was slightly better for personal statistics despite the terrible team that skated in front of him. Gibson is signed for eight years at $6.4 million per year, and he likely takes a better overall team to the playoffs based on how he played last season. Based on how Vasilevskiy played last season, worrying about making the playoffs should be nothing that Tampa Bay even spends a nanosecond thinking about with their current roster.

Where Gibson has shone, though, there have been others who haven't. New Jersey's Cory Schneider signed a seven-year, $42 million deal in 2015, and his game disappeared sometime in the summer of 2016. Connor Hellebuyck had an incredible season in 2017-18 with the Winnipeg Jets where he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy and, as a result, signed a six-year deal for $6.16 million annually before his game went south in 2018-19. Jonathan Quick's deal with the Los Angeles Kings was for ten years and $58 million, and the Kings can't convince anyone to take that contract off their hands. Clearly, there's some risk in signing young goaltenders to these deals when the body of work they've turned in is rather short.

Where Tampa Bay may benefit if Vasilevskiy falters is in the structure of the deal they made. He is paid $34 million of the $72 million owed in the first three seasons, and has a full no-movement clause until 2025-26. However, when the no-movement clause moves to a modified NMC in the final three seasons of the deal, Vasilevskiy has to provide a list of teams to which he could be dealt. If that were to happen, there are $10 million in bonuses owed over those three seasons while the base salary is just $13 million. Narrowing it even further, the final two seasons of Vasilevskiy's deal could see him traded in the summer of 2027 after his $3 million salary bonus has been paid, leaving the team trading for Vasilevskiy on the hook for a single $3 million bonus payment and just $8 million in salary over those two seasons.

What does it all mean? Well, the Lightning have their stopper signed for the prime years of his career while setting themselves up with an escape route if something goes off the rails with Vasilevskiy. Andrei Vasilevskiy signed a deal that takes him through to age 34 where he'll likely never have to worry about money again, so he got what he wanted out of the deal as well.

The one risk that still exists is the possibility of Vasilevskiy's game falling off sooner than expected like Cory Schneider's did. However, Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois feels that this signing only reinforces what he knows about his goaltender.

"Since joining the organization Andrei has shown unmatched work ethic and professionalism both on and off the ice," BriseBois said in a statement. "We look forward to him continuing his career in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future."

I don't foresee Andrei Vasilevskiy changing anything about his game or his work ethic when it comes to preparation, so there's a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to this signing if one is a fan of the Lightning. As long as Vasilevskiy continues to do what he did so well for the last few seasons, this deal might look like a steal when all is said and done.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 28 July 2019

The Drama Continues

Oh, what a tangled web that has been woven. The man to the left is Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and his public ratings have nosedived faster than the hopes of Flames fans during last season's playoffs. After approving a tentative deal for a new arena for billionaires who own the Calgary Flames that would cost the city $275 million after he and Calgary city council cut $60 million from essential services such as police, fire, and transit, residents in Calgary are a little hot under the collar about where their tax dollars are going.

This isn't an economics blog, but I've stated my opinion, helped by John Oliver, on this blog before. Public funds should never be used to fund public stadiums and arenas because the city almost never sees the return promised by the billionaires. There has not been one professional sports franchise owner who has gone bankrupt while the city in which they play flourishes with cash to spend. Remember this as you read through this piece.

We'll start with the timeline because this saga has been going on for far longer than it should have simply because the Flames refuse to pay for their own home. There have been years of negotiations, name-calling, finger pointing, and hurt feelings on both sides as the city of Calgary and the Calgary Flames argued over how much public money should be up for grabs when it comes to a new arena.

Back in 2017, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman happened to drop by the city for a speech in front of the Calgary Chamber where he uttered, "It is not an overstatement to say the future stability, viability and continuity of the Calgary Flames, and perhaps the city of Calgary, rests on the achievement of CalgaryNEXT."

If you chortled reading that, you weren't alone because Mayor Nenshi held firm and refused to bow to the requests of the Flames to sweeten an arena deal with public funds. A Mainstreet Research survey in May 2017 showed that "[m]ost Calgarians would support the city getting involved in the construction of a new arena to replace the Saddledome — as long as it doesn't increase their taxes" and, I suspect, see current services cut dramatically. That latter is happening in Calgary, and this comes after many Calgary residents saw a spike in their property taxes in May. In other words, the citizens of Calgary not only are being taxed more, they're getting less services in return after the cutbacks.

Does it still seem right to give $275 million to a group of billionaires?

Back in 2017, the Flames proposed that the city pay $225 million towards a new arena while the city countered with $185 million being offered. The Flames balked at the city's offer while the city rejected the Flames' proposal. So why would Nenshi agree to a $275 million price tag - $90 million more than in 2017 - at this stage of the game?

As part of the deal, the Flames will invest $75 million over 35 years to local sports charities rather than paying the city rent for use of the new arena while the city gets 2% of all revenues generated over the first 35 years. The ticket tax that is included in the deal would amount to approximately $155 million which will flow directly into the city's coffers, but you'd have to think that the property taxes and rent that the city would generate from where the arena and entertainment complex is situated would be worth more than $4.5 million annually, especially if you factor in that the city just raised the property tax rates on businesses. According to a Canadian Press article, "the city says the projected return to Calgarians is $400.3 million over the course of the 35-year agreement with the Flames."

This is where we caution everyone and pump the brakes a little because a ROI (return on investment) of $125.3 million would be a pretty sound investment for the city. However, University of Calgary associate economics professor Trevor Tombe cautions that number isn't even close to being accurate.
"A dollar in 35 years is worth a lot less than a dollar today. Inflation alone eats away half the value of that dollar over the course of three and a half decades.

"They're not at all incorporating these issues around the time value of money. It is just Finance 101. This is not how you do it."

He also points out a $47-million net loss on the project wasn't made public at the news conference last Monday, and that information only came to light when administration was pressed by councillors later that night in chambers.
Hold on a second. If there's a potential $47 million net loss on the project, that's a major difference from the projected $125.3 million that the city calculated. In total, the loss could be as much as $172.3 million if the projection isn't realized and the loss is. That legitimately makes this arena deal a major gamble for the city and leaves the Flames with little risk whatsoever. Did anyone tell taxpayers that they're on the hook for the $12 million needed to demoish the Saddledome or the millions of dollars needed to improve the infrastructure in the area to accommodate the new arena and entertainment complex? Those details are kind of important when it comes to how taxpayer money should be spent.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, this isn't how this works, Calgary. And as David Staples of the Edmonton Journal wrote very succinctly,
I need to stress, though, that I can't be 100 per cent sure of the Calgary cost-sharing arrangement. The City of Calgary has released all kinds of details crowing about the benefits of the new deal, but appears to be short on crucial details around the arena's financing. That's a huge problem for anyone, and especially Calgary citizens who are trying to form a credible opinion about the project in a short amount of time. The public only found out about this deal on Monday.
According to reports, the vote for this proposed arena and entertainment complex will happen on Tuesday at city council, and it seems a number of councillors feel like this vote hasn't been given the proper time to be fully vetted. Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas has read through the proposal, and he believes that this deal misses the mark.

"I think it's the Olympics all over again," Farkas told CTV's Jordan Kanygin, referring to the city's exploration of a 2026 Winter Olympic bid that ultimately was defeated. "We have the rushed timeline, the broken promises to consult and I think it really shows that council isn't listening to Calgarians."

I go back to Staples' article in the Edmonton Journal who quotes Edmonton Mayor adviser Chris Henderson in writing,
Henderson noted that Edmonton benefitted from a long and thorough debate with the public. "Sometimes it was a bit painful, but looking back today, it was measured and relatively comprehensive. This is something you need measurable discussion with the public on. Rush this decision and any issue with the deal or the building and the public will point back to this moment in particular. Is the (Edmonton) arena deal perfect? God, no. Did it benefit from a generally exhaustive public discourse? Yes, looking back, it actually did."
There's the key in all this. The citizens of Edmonton were included in the discussion on how their tax dollars were being spent, and ultimately they accounted for 47% of the $483.5 million project to build McDavid's palace. There were some contentious moments throughout that arena debate, but the details were always clear as to who was paying for what and how much each party was investing. The devil is in the details, so to speak, and these details need to be explained and heard by the people of Calgary who appear to be on the hook for a lot of money to make this arena a reality.

Edward Nixon, president of Toronto-based EN Consulting Group, told Sammy Hudes of the Calgary Sun that it's "unusual" for a project of this size to have such a short window for structured public consideration.

"I am surprised," he said. "I don't live there... but it strikes me as not being consistent with best practices."

When city councillors, advisers in other cities, and presidents of consulting firms think this vote is happening too quickly without the right amount of public input, doesn't that set off bells and warning lights for everyone? And what happens if city council comes back with a negative result or wanting a better deal for the citizens of Calgary based on Councillor Farkas' comments at the vote on Tuesday?

"We're not renegotiating," Ken King, vice-chair of Calgary Sports and Entertainment, told the Calgary Sun's Rick Bell. "We are not re-trading the deal. You can't say: OK, we’ve agreed to this, now let's see how far we can push the other party. It is what it is. If we put in more money, they'd be happier. If they put in more money, we'd be happier. It doesn't work that way. An agreement is an agreement. You do not re-trade a deal."

Look, I'm just a blogger. I don't have a say in the vote one way or another, but it seems like Calgary city council and Calgary Sports and Entertainment are trying to fast-track this project. Calgary city council and Mayor Nenshi might be looking at this arena and entertainment complex as way to revitalize the area where it's being built, possibly leading to an economic upturn in Calgary and potentially extending the political careers of councillors and the mayor alike. It's a gamble, but none of those people will be an elected official when the 35-year deal expires and the finality of the return on investment is known.

I guess what I'm saying is that if this arena deal gets passed by city council on Tuesday while your fire, police, and transit budgets are slashed without you, citizens of Calgary, having any official discussion about how your tax dollars are spent in a time where that discussion absolutely should happen, you should really take a long look at your representation at city council. I'm not saying Jeromy Farkas is right, but it does seem that your councillors aren't listening to their constituents about what matters most. When three separate entities are on record saying that the public consultation period on a project as sizable as this one is too little or "unusual" and "not being consistent with best practices," you might want to ask yourself if this is good for the city of Calgary or if it's good for the city councillors of Calgary.

In the end, I'm still entirely in the camp that the use of public funds to finance the arenas or stadiums used by billionaires is a bad deal for the taxpayers who funded the project.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 27 July 2019

Flames Need His Fire

If there's one thing that can derail a hockey season quickly for both a team and a player, it's inconsistent goaltending. The Flames suffered through this last year at time with Mike Smith, and it led them to pursue a different path with their netminding this season. After inking Cam Talbot to a deal in free agency, they turned their attention to their more reliable netminder in RFA David Rittich, and the two sides came to an agreement today with Rittich signing a two-year, $5.5 million deal. When Smith faltered last season, it was Rittich who stepped up and played extremely well, and the Flames are looking for that consistency from the 26 year-old this season as he is likely the starter for Calgary unless Talbot outplays him in camp.

Rittich played 45 games for the Flames last season, and was a large part of the reason why Calgary won the Pacific Division. He posted a 27-9-5 record with a 2.61 GAA and a .911 save percentage - the best numbers of his short NHL career thus far. There was some concern that Rittich may have ran out of gas later in the season, though, but the Flames see the potential of the Czech goaltender after signing him to a new deal. With Rittich undergoing a more rigorous training regimen this summer, he's hopeful that his numbers don't dip like they did last season while playing more minutes.

"I would like to play more than last year, but it’s up to how I play," Rittich told Eric Francis of Sportsnet. "I'm working really hard so I think I can play more than 60 games."

If all advanced metrics are correct, playing more than 60 games likely won't be needed unless the Flames go deep into the playoffs - something they were expected to do this past season. Part of the reason that expectation was assigned to the Flames was due to the play of "Big Save Dave", a nickname that Rittich earned with his play throughout the season. He'll need to fall into that persona again for the Flames to make a deep run this season.

"In my head, I just want to be better than last year – I want to be stronger and faster, that's my progress," he told Francis. "If you look back three years, every year is better and that's how I want to work. I just want to be better this year than last year."

With Rittich and Talbot penciled in as the tandem to start in Calgary this year, the Flames have significantly less money tied up in their netminders than other teams. If they get the same production out of Rittich as they did last year, they've found real value in that position. They'd just need Talbot - who struggled with Edmonton and Philadelphia - to find his game once more. If he does, there's a good chance that the Flames could win the Pacific Division for a second year in a row with both goaltenders costing the Flames a mere $5.5 million this season - less than what they're paying Milan Lucic.

With their goaltending stabilized, the Flames look like they're just about ready for the season. Rittich gives them a quality starter and should be the goaltender that gets the call most nights. If he can turn in another .674 points percentage rate as he did last year, the Flames will be in a good position for that deep playoff run in 2019-20.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 26 July 2019

Focusing On The Right Thing

The young lady covering the puck made a big impact on her team's success at the 2019 Female World Sport School Challenge. While Haileigh Craig, a University of Alberta-committed player, scored the overtime winner to capture the gold medal at the tournament, Bella McKee was undoubtedly one of the best players at the tournament as she backstopped the PMW Lloydminster Steelers to the ultimate goal. McKee is headed to Union College in Schenectady, New York this fall, and she'll be one of the Dutchwomen working to win an NCAA championship. Where she might make a bigger impact for a longer period time, it seems, is in the classroom as she has already chosen her field of study.

"Academically, I want to make sure I reach my goal of finishing with a degree in neuroscience, so I can transfer back to Canada and take an after-grad in Education," McKee told Jamie Harkins of MeridianSource about her plans for college. Yes, you read that correctly - neuroscience! WOW!

McKee's goal is rather awesome when one considers that most freshmen don't have to choose a major at this point. She hasn't even moved to New York yet, and she's talking about graduating and coming back to Canada to pursue a post-graduate degree in Education, so you know that Bella is likely committed to her work in the classroom as much as she is to her work on the ice.

When we talk about student-athletes, especially in the NCAA, there's a belief that some students take easier courses to maintain their academic eligibility in order to play Division-1 sports. While I don't want to stereotype anyone, this seems to happen most often in NCAA D1 football so that teams can continue to win versus seeing their students win in the classroom. I'm not here to name names or point fingers, but the term "student-athlete" is legitimately the order of importance for these young men and women coming to school. In saying this, students need to do their parts in demanding more from their schools and coaches if there are "recommended courses" one should take.

I used Bella McKee as an example because neuroscience is legitimately a tough subject for anyone to tackle. The NCAA academic eligibility requirements that students must adhere to in order to remain athletically-eligible are:
  1. By the START of sophomore year, you must:
  • have a cumulative GPA of 1.8
  • have completed 36 units
  1. By the END of sophomore year, you must:
  • declare a major
  1. By the START of junior year, you must:
  • have a cumulative GPA of 1.9
  • have completed 72 units (40 percent of your total degree requirements)
  1. By the START of senior year, you must:
  • have a cumulative GPA of 2.0
  • have completed 108 units (60 percent of your degree requirements)
  1. By the START of a fifth year, you must:
  • have a cumulative GPA of 2.0
  • have completed 144 units (80 percent of your degree requirements)
Clearly, the NCAA expects a student to not only focus on their studies, but actually improve on their classroom performance - albeit marginal improvements - by the time the student is a senior. The requirements for completion of the degree makes it so the student can't forego classes that would be required for a degree while playing sports, and that's an important requirement as well. It means students have to go to class, perform well, and work hard off the ice, field, court, or whatever surface on which the student plays.

For U SPORTS athletes, the eligibility rules are a lot more straightforward as U SPORTS takes the "student" part of student-athlete very seriously. To remain academically-eligible in U SPORTS, students must adhere to the following as per U SPORTS' Eligibility rule
A student-athlete who successfully complete a minimum of three full courses, or six half courses, or eighteen semester hours during the academic year at a degree granting institution, is for the purpose of this rule, a student in good standing for that academic year, unless there are circumstances within their academic program which would warrant an exception to this ruling and in which the university continues to declare this individual a full-time student.
That paragraph establishes the minimum requirement for students to be academically-eligible for U SPORTS participation. The "good-standing" portion means the student has passed the courses chosen without any objection from the school. There are still all sorts of clauses and exceptions and additional rules regarding eligibility in U SPORTS depending on different sports and situations, but the above rule is hard and fast regarding what is expected of students in Canadian universities.

With both the NCAA and U SPORTS putting a price on academics in order to play sports, students are expected to work as hard, if not harder, in the classroom than out of it. With Bella McKee choosing neuroscience as her field of study, she's already aiming high for her academic goals, and it's encouraging to see her not only chase her dreams on the ice, but off it as well. If she's as good as she is on the ice, the medical science of the brain will see major advances and discoveries thanks to Bella's work.

Here's hoping Bella McKee wins an NCAA championship on the ice while advancing brain science off it. I know she's talented enough to do both, and I look forward to seeing her kick butt in the classroom and in the blue paint!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 25 July 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 357

The Hockey Show, Canada' only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is out on the road today as Teebz visits Gateway Arena where the 2019 edition of the Sami Jo Small Hockey School is being held! For those that haven't attended one of Sami Jo's week-long camps, this is a fun, educational, and engaging camp where female hockey players of all ages and skill levels get to learn from some of the best people and coaches in the game! Not only do the young ladies learn from some of the best, but there are off-ice components, a sledge hockey afternoon, and scrimmages within their age groups and skill levels! It's a great camp, and I highly recommend checking it out if you can!

Today, we're lucky enough to sit down with three incredible women who have amazing careers in hockey and are doing exceptional things off it! In the first half of the show, we meet Alex, seen on the right, and Paige McArthur, on the left, who hail from McDonald, Manitoba. The twins played with the Pursuit of Excellence program in Kelowna before returning home to suit up with Central Plains Capitals of the MFMHL last season. Next season, Alex is off to the AUS with Dalhousie University while Paige heads south to Worcester, Massachusetts with the NCAA's College of the Holy Cross! I talk to Alex first and then to Paige as we hear about their blossoming hockey careers!

In the second-half of of the show, I talk with Clarkson Cup champion and long-time hockey icon Jenelle Kohanchuk about her career, her retirement from hockey, what she's up to now, and what her future holds. It's an interesting conversation with one of the best Manitoba-born players to ever don the skates, and she tells us whether or not there may be a return to the ice for her if and when the new women's professional league gets off the ground! It's another jam-packed show tonight, 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! 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 sits down with Alex McArthur, Paige McArthur, and Jenelle Kohanchuk to discuss their careers, their futures, hockey, life and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the web stream!

PODCAST: July 25, 2019: Episode 357
RESOURCES: Sami Jo Small Hockey School, Evolution Hockey

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Strong Bench Leaders

If there's one thing that all championship teams have, it seems there's a strong set of coaches who work together fairly seamlessly behind the bench. When we think of championship coaches, names like Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Al Arbour, and Toe Blake likely stand out, but these men also had a strong support staff of assistant coaches who helped them get more out of the teams they coached. It was announced a week ago that the man to the upper-left would take over one of the WHL's storied franchises this season, and the rest of his staff was announced today!

Former NHLer Dave Lowry gets the nod to steer the ship for the Brandon Wheat Kings this season, replacing David Anning after three seasons as the head coach in the western Manitoba city. Lowry has extensive hockey experience as both a player and as a coach, playing with the OHL's London Knights before graduating to the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks in 1985-86. 19 seasons after he started his career, Lowry hung up the skates for a suit as he joined the WHL's Calgary Hitmen as an assistant coach one season after retiring.

Lowry assumed the head coaching job of the Hitmen in 2008-09 where he led the squad to a 59-9-4 record before falling in the WHL Final to Kelowna. His work with the Hitmen saw him promoted to the NHL as he joined the Calgary Flames as an assistant coach for three seasons, but returned to the WHL as the head coach of the Victoria Royals in 2012-13. It was his five seasons in Victoria that really put Lowry on the map as a great tactician with solid understanding of the game as he never posted a losing record in any season and coached the Royals to the playoffs in each season while compiling a 209-124-27 record. After taking an assistant coaching position with Willie Desjardins and the Los Angeles Kings last season, Lowry now returns to the WHL to coach the Wheat Kings.

"I'd like to thank Kelly McCrimmon and Darren Ritchie for the opportunity to coach the Brandon Wheat Kings," Dave Lowry said in a statement. "I look forward to returning to the WHL and working with these athletes, developing them as players and individuals.

"I'm excited to get to Brandon to sit down with the Hockey Operations staff and make preparations for the 2019-2020 season. My wife and I look forward to joining the Brandon community and continuing the winning Wheat Kings tradition."

With their head coach secured for the season, GM Darren Ritchie and Lowry sat down to build the coaching staff, and there are some familiar names that will join Lowry on the bench if you're a Wheat Kings fan.

Don MacGillvray will return as an assistant coach under Lowry, and this is a great re-hiring by the Wheat Kings for continuity and intelligence. MacGillvray spent the past three seasons in Brandon, and has coached at all levels of amateur hockey in Manitoba. MacGillvray spent a lot of time in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with Portage, Neepawa, St. James, and the Winnipeg Blues as well as spending time with the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders and three seasons as head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons. MacGillvray was named CIS Coach of the Year in 2008 with the Bisons, and won an MJHL championship with the Portage Terriers while being named as the MJHL Coach of the Year in 1995, 2005, 2012 and 2013.

"I'm excited to be back with this club and have the opportunity to work with an experienced coach like Dave," MacGillivray stated. "I am looking forward to the challenge of working with this group again."

Ensuring that pucks stay out of the Brandon net will fall to Tyler Plante, a former Wheat Kings goaltender, who returns as the goaltending coach for Brandon for his fourth season. Plante played in Europe, the ECHL, and the AHL over nine seasons and counts current NCAA women's hockey champion Kristen Campbell of the Wisconsin Badgers as one of his goaltending protegés!

"Tyler has a great relationship with our goalkeepers and that should benefit both of them this coming year," Ritchie stated. Plante will be working with Golden Knights draft pick Jiri Patera who begins his second season with Brandon after going 22-20-2 with a 3.31 GAA and a .906 save percentage, and Ethan Kruger who enters his second season after going 8-7-2 with a 3.60 GAA and an .890 save percentage. It's clear that Tyler has some work to do with these two young goalies, but he'll get to build on his work that he started last season. That continuity is vitally important in the growth of any goaltender.

The last man standing behind the bench this season, but certainly not the least of any of these men, is former Wheat King player Mark Derlago. Derlago scored 162 points in 229 games with the Wheat Kings before suiting up in the AHL, the ECHL, Europe, and Asia for eight seasons. After retiring from the Esbjerg Energy in the Metal Ligaen, Derlago returns to the place he found the most success as the second assistant coach in Lowry's staff.

With Derlago's experience at the WHL level and the pro levels, he'll be a great resource from whom the Wheat Kings players can learn. He's been in their shoes as a player, and likely has seen nearly all situations that a WHL player can face. Having a younger coach who has been through these paces will be better for the players than perhaps hearing it from the elder Lowry and MacGillvray, so adding Derlago seems like a wise move for a younger team.

While the Wheat Kings are still short a Director of Scouting, the coaching staff is ready for training camp in late August, and will likely demand excellence from their players both on and off the ice as they work to build professional hockey players and outstanding individuals. We'll get our first look at Dave Lowry and his staff in action on Friday, September 6th as the Winnipeg Ice visit Westoba Place, but I suspect these four men and their teaching of the game to these players will improve upon the 31-29-8 record from last season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Hawks Go Adidas

I grew up knowing the University of North Dakota's sports teams as the Fighting Sioux. I understand that changes had to be made to be respectful towards entire communities of people, but the Fighting Hawks name still doesn't sound right to me. Nevertheless, I am willing to change with the times despite my Fighting Sioux ball caps I still wear. However, there was a major change with the Fighting Hawks today as they moved to a new jersey manufacturer in adidas for the first time in the school's history.

The Hawks last made a change three years ago when the officially changed the team name and reflected that on their uniforms by simply using "North Dakota" on their uniforms. The Fighting Hawks logo was also added at that time, so the actual design of the jerseys as far as the school's name and logo is largely unchanged. When it comes to branding, allowing a logo to stand the test of time is always better than not.

The changes seen today on the adidas uniforms above are mostly colour swaps and striping changes. The green uniform went from a white-black-white stripe on the sleeves to adding green in the middle and being surrounded by white and black. The white piping on the green uniform that separated the jersey and the shoulder yoke is also removed. Perhaps it's just the lighting, but that green on the new adidas jerseys seems a little more subdued as well when it could be argued that North Dakota had one of the nicest jerseys in hockey with that bolder green shown to the right in this writer's opinion.

The white jerseys are nearly the same as last season's look as the striping has only changed in size rather than in colour or pattern. The white jersey also ditched the shoulder yoke piping. The clean and crisp look of the white jerseys that North Dakota wears can't be understated - these are rather amazing when you see the team on the ice. I cannot understate how good white jerseys look, especially for the home team. The fact that North Dakota left their home uniform virtually unchanged is the smartest fashion design move they've made.

And then we come to the black uniform that North Dakota claims is their "lucky" jersey and is only worn for big or important games. If you know me, I dislike all black alternate uniforms when the colour isn't an actual colour in the team's scheme, and I'll double-down with North Dakota's black jersey with having a green uniform as beautiful as it is. However, history seems to have the upper-hand on me here. As written by Brad Schlossman in the Grand Forks Herald,
The black jersey, which UND has traditionally worn for big or must-win games, is more solid black than the most recent version. UND has removed the green shoulders and the striping across the bottom.

It now looks much more like the version UND started wearing in 2006-07, when the black jerseys became the team's good-luck charm. UND repeatedly won in that black jersey and wore it all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals, where it lost to Boston College. That jersey was provided by Nike.
With Schlossman highlighting the changes to the black jersey, I have to give this new alternate uniform a thumbs-down as they took more colour off it. Honestly, the black uniform shown at the start of this section looks great with that sharp green. Now it's gone. And I'm disappointed.

Overall, there aren't massive changes to any of the uniforms with adidas becoming the outfitter for the University of North Dakota. As the apparel company gets deeper and deeper into hockey, expect to see more teams being outfitted in adidas uniforms than not. If the transitions result in very little changing to the over aesthetic of the team's look, adidas is doing things right.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 22 July 2019

It Went Nowhere

Bob Hartley is fairly well-known in NHL circles thanks to five seasons in Colorado, five seasons in Atlanta, and five seasons in Calgary. He spent time in Zurich in 2011-12 where he led Zurich SC to a Swiss League Championship, and he does have a Stanley Cup to his name. It's no surprise that he found employment in the KHL after no NHL team called him once he was relieved of duties in Calgary in 2015-16, and Hartley spent his first season in Russia as the head coach of Avangard Omsk. It would be in Omsk where he led the Avangard squad to a Gagarin Cup championship series, but things went a little off the rails when RUSADA dropped by for drug-testing.

If we jump back to the April 28 article written here on HBIC, the details included Hartley and the Avangard Omsk team doctor preventing RUSADA from running drug tests on selected players, and that the player who was chosen by RUSADA snuck away before being tested. If Hartley and the others named in this RUSADA report were found to be guilty, the IIHF suspension could be up to four years in length and would be upheld by the KHL. So yeah, it's a little serious.

Today, however, it was revealed that RUSADA had dropped the charges against Hartley, team doctor Dmitry Batushenko, and forward Denis Zernov after they completed their investigation into the incident with Avangard Omsk. While there were no details about what was found or not found in this investigation in the report linked above, it seems that of which Hartley and his colleagues were accused didn't happen. If you're a fan of Avangard Omsk, this is good news after the success that Omsk had under Hartley this past season.

Deputy Director General of RUSADA Margarita Pagnocca did make a statement that I loosely translated into English. Please note that the following is not a direct translation of the statement made.

"RUSADA has made the decision to drop the charges on head coach of Omsk Avangard Hartley and head of the medical team Batushenko who were charged with violating the anti-doping rules after the club and the Federation of hockey of Russia was notified by an official letter. However, the offensive attitude of the coach and doctor to the doping officers should not go unpunished. RUSADA recommends that the club and the ice hockey Federation of Russia to bear against Hartley and Batushenko disciplinary measures," Pagnocca stated.

"The incident highlighted the fact that employees of Avangard have certain gaps in knowledge of anti-doping rules. In particular, they do not know the details of how to undergo the procedure of notification to the athlete under doping control."

I'll give credit to Pagnocca for calling out the behaviour of Hartley and Batushenko if they showed an "offensive attitude" towards the RUSADA officials, but suspending these two men for four years over that seems a little harsh. I also will credit Pagnocca for calling out the Avangard team for not properly informing the team on anti-doping rules, but doesn't it seem like this entirely incident could have been totally avoided if cooler heads had prevailed?

In any case, Hartley won't be suspended for four years and can continue working for Omsk in the KHL and for the Latvian national team on the international stage. Being labeled as an "international doping cheat" wouldn't have looked good on his resumé if he ever needs to apply for another job.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 21 July 2019

That Fell Through Quickly

Mikko Rantanen is currently in the same boat as a dozen other high-profile, young stars in the NHL as he's a restricted free agent without a contract. It is virtually impossible for any other team to swoop in and sign him to an offer sheet with the cap space that the Colorado Avalanche have, but anything is technically possible. As Rantanen spends his summer without a contract, there are whispers of options that he may have if he and the Avalanche cannot come to some sort of agreement. Do these whispers hold any water? Are there actually options out there for him if he and the Avalanche can't come to some sort of resolution?

News broke yesterday that there was some interest from the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan in signing Rantanen if he was interested in coming to the NHL. Ak Bars Kazan acquired his rights on Thursday from Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, and the rumour mill started to turn. Sports-Express writer Igor Eronko went to Twitter where he posted the following:
Interesting if not provocative when it comes to Rantanen's situation in the Mile High City. The fact that Eronko dropped the escrow comment and the tax rate comment made this rumour seem far more real than not.

But that sound you're hearing is the sound of brakes screeching because Eronko might have jumped ahead of this story.
As Alvis Kalnins wrote, there is zero truth to Rantanen jumping to the KHL this season and it seems that Ak Bars Kazan is not even close to making any sort of pitch for him to join the club. While Kazan will hold his rights in case of a work stoppage in the NHL in 2020, I would expect to see Rantanen in the burgandy-and-blue of the Avalanche when the season starts. In fact, I guarantee it.

According to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, not only will Rantanen be back this season, but will be in Colorado long-term as the team's highest-paid player. I'm pretty certain that the $4 million that Kazan is offering is nice, but there's a better-than-good chance Rantanen will sign for at least $8 million annually with Colorado which certainly trumps the offer from Kazan in every way.

For a guy who is nearly a point-per-game player in his career, there's no way the Avalanche will let him walk away from what is regarded as one of the top lines in the NHL. The only question that needs to be answered is how much will it take to put him back in that spot. Whatever that number is, it will not be matched in any way by any KHL club.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 20 July 2019

Time For A Change

No, I'm not quitting this blog despite the popularity of the idea. It's been over twelve years since I started this blog, and over the years I've heard countless people tell me that I need to update the blog banner at the top. Whether it be "the logos are wrong" or "that team no longer exists," there were at least a handful of people each year who contacted me to let me know that my blog's banner was a little outdated. While I'd never publicly agree, it was true - the banner was outdated with the likes of the Atlanta Thrashers logo and the lack of Vegas' logo being the obvious two changes needed. As I promised earlier this summer, changes were coming to this space, and one of them was enacted today with a major change.

If you follow the advice in the lede photo, you'll likely notice a new banner! The new banner is actually a GIF of four separate banners that I've tied together to make one complete banner. You can view the four banners as they cycle through on their rotation. You can probably decipher what each banner is, but I will explain how I came to including the 64 teams shown on the banner.

The first banner is all the NHL Western Conference teams with the Pacific Division on the left half and the Central Division on the right half. As you can see, things worked out pretty nicely with Seattle named as the 32nd NHL team, and I've included the colours of their current website as their team colours on their name bar. Could that change? Possibly. They also won't be part of the Central Division, so expect the banner to change slightly within the next two seasons. When Seattle and the NHL make their changes, I'll go back and update the banner.

The second banner is all the NHL Eastern Conference teams with the Atlantic Division on the left half and the Metropolitan Division on the right half. There's no real science here other than sixteen teams fit nicely on the banner.

The third banner on the rotation is all the long-term and successful WHA teams or the more interesting WHA teams. New England, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton are all included as they moved into the NHL during the NHL-WHA merger, and the Houston Aeros, Cincinnati Stingers, Chicago Cougars, and San Diego Mariners were included due to their short-term successes and attraction of NHL players. Indianapolis, Birmingham, Minnesota, and Cleveland were included due to their hockey histories in the WHA, and Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and New York were included due to personal interest. I had considered other Canadian franchises such as the Ottawa Civics, the Ottawa Nationals, and the Toronto Toros, but they were bumped by these other teams.

The final banner might be one that confuses most, but it's 2019 and there's absolutely zero chance I'm excluding professional women's hockey from this blog considering that I write about it often. The teams seen on the fourth banner made up the original National Women's Hockey League and the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The seven CWHL teams - including the Vanke Rays before they merged with Shenzhen - are all included on there along with some of the more memorable teams from the NWHL - Brampton, Burlington, Edmonton, Manitoba, Minnesota, Mississauga, Ottawa, Quebec, and Strathmore. While the league may not be around anymore, just as the WHA left us memories, so did the original NWHL and CWHL.

If you're asking why teams from the new NWHL aren't listed, there are no Canadian franchises in that league. This is Hockey Blog In Canada. If there are no Canadian teams, there's no inclusion. That's how this blog works.

There are Canadian-based franchises on each of the banners with Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg/Manitoba being represented on three of the four banners. The Eastern Conference has the least amount of Canadian teams with just three, but the women's hockey banner has twelve of the sixteen spots occupied by Canadian franchises. If things were to change in the NHL or if a new professional women's hockey league starts up with Canadian franchises, the banners may change. Until then, this blog's banner has been updated for the first time in over twelve years!

This won't be groundbreaking news to anyone but me, and maybe I'm the only person who cares. However, this is one of a handful of changes that are still planned for this blog, so expect to see more before the new NHL season starts.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 19 July 2019

Still Pitching

I have to give the ownership group of the Calgary Flames a little credit: they're persistent. If you haven't been following the saga happening in the Alberta city, the Flames have been trying to negotiate, demand, blackmail, and extort the city of Calgary into building them a new arena. Opened in 1983, the Scotiabank Saddledome is one of the oldest buildings in the NHL currently, but has been retrofitted and updated a number of times since it opened 36 years ago. Today, however, it was announced that the Flames will sit down with Calgary city council once again as a tentative deal has been reportedly reached between the two sides.

Look, I'm going to preface this by linking back to articles written in 2015 about the use of public funds to build new arenas and stadiums and in 2017 about the Flames' current ownership situation and why they shouldn't get a sweetheart deal to exist. Both articles are still applicable today when it comes to building this proposed new arena, but it seems that deals were sweetened and palms were greased just enough for both sides to come to this agreement.

Where we should toss a few grains of salt onto that above paragraph, however, is that it seems someone is finally listening to the arguments being made about the use of public funds to fund the sport paid for by billionaires.

"I look forward to continuing conversations," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters today. "I know a lot of folks have been working very hard to see if there is something there that meets the criteria that we've talked about — the most important criteria, of course, being public money must have public benefit. And I really look forward to seeing where people are at."

Yes, you read Mayor Nenshi's words as he stated them - "the most important criteria, of course, being public money must have public benefit." This is a massive shift in the discourse for any new stadium or arena negotiation, and it's the right call by the Calgary Mayor. Perhaps this is the first step in a major shift towards having billionaires stop asking for tax breaks and handouts when cities, states, and provinces cannot afford to be sacrificing millions of dollars that could be used elsewhere to help social needs? Wouldn't that be something?

According to the report, this "new arena is projected to cost between $550 million and $600 million, according to estimates provided by CMLC. The projections are based on an 18,000-seat arena with retail space, a community rink and 40,000 square feet of underground parking," making this new entertainment district in Victoria Park a center that will bustle with people and events. While I'm not against the idea of including retail space or underground parking, I do fear that there may be congestion in the area on game nights or event nights depending on how the city of Calgary and the arena project team work out the infrastructure for moving people out of the underground parking quickly.

If there is one thing that won't please a segment of the population, the animal rights activists will likely be disappointed in that this arena deal will likely ensure the long-term viability of the Calgary Stampede considering the land in question is owned by by the Stampede. They're not going to shut down the Stampede when it seems to be on-tap to benefit from the sale of this land, but I'd like to see these activists continue to demand better treatment and care of the animals involved in the Stampede's events.

Another segment of the population that likely won't be very excited about this deal depending on the details? The people of Calgary. At the meeting on Monday, one of the topics that is scheduled for discussion is a vote on a $60-million cut to municipal budgets. If there's a pile of public money involved in this arena deal, you can bet that the people of Calgary will be heated.

"Heads are going to explode over this because you had the property tax revolt a month ago and now you're dealing with service cuts," said Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt told Meghan Potkins of the Calgary Herald. "I'll be interested to see the breakdown around support for this because there are all sorts of fiscal conservatives on council who want lower property taxes and they believe that services should be cut — but also want money thrown into an arena."

This is precisely why the use of public funds to build an arena shouldn't even be on the table nor should there be any sort of tax break on property taxes. The building of this arena would generate millions of dollars in property taxes which could go towards reducing property taxes for everyone else, but those monies could also be a huge boon for the services that are on the table to be cut. Either way, the city of Calgary can't play both sides of the fence here in reducing services while offering monies or tax breaks that will take money out of their coffers. If there was a revolt before this deal was reached, there could be chaos if a large swath of money goes into funding this new arena-and-shopping complex.

"It would be very cowardly for us not to engage Calgarians in a meaningful way when we're talking about potentially hundreds and millions of dollars of public money going to one private business," Councillor Evan Woolley said to Potkins. "We have seen significant challenges in terms of tax increases on all of our small business community and so how we rationalize giving hundreds of millions of dollars to one business while letting every small business in the city suffer with the tax burden that we've put on them is unacceptable."

While an agreement has been reached tentatively, it sounds as though citizens of Calgary should - and if Councillor Woolley has any sway, will - get a bigger say in how their tax dollars are being spent if they're seeing services cut while funding a billionaire's wants. Politically, this could end some people's careers if they vote with their civic pride versus the wants and needs of their constituents, and the voters in Calgary should remember this when the next mayoral and city council elections take place. At the end of the day, not everyone is a Flames fan or a hockey fan, and their services will cut just like everyone else's if these cuts happen. That's a fine line for politicians to walk when promising millions of tax dollars to a billionaire.

At the end of the day, this deal is only tentative. While it's promising to see the city and the Flames come to an agreement after months and years of battles and negotiations, it may still be further away than it appears if the people of Calgary see $60 million of services cut while millions of dollars are spent on new retail and hockey complexes.

Selling this idea to the citizens of Calgary might be the hardest sell of all.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 18 July 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 356

It's been a pretty busy month, hasn't it? And we're just past the halfway point! If you've missed some news stories, don't fret as The Hockey Show, Canada' only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with all of the news, info, stories, and highlights you may have missed! Can we squeeze everything into one hour? Beans and I will certainly try, and we may even bring a guest along for the ride tonight depending on scheduling! What I do know is that we have a lot to go over, so let's not waste any time!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans go over everything that's happened since the NHL Entry Draft back in June as we take a one-week break from the Summer of Interviews. That means we'll talk about the draft and who did what, all the free agent signings, all the trades, and any other player and personnel moves from across the NHL and around the world. We'll also look at some key stories that have news you need to know, some changes to the sport we follow so closely, and some weird and wacky stories that may have climbed into the news. We also have some previews of upcoming shows, and we'll talk about some things The Hockey Show will be involved in as the dog days of summer give way to the autumn season shortly! We're not worrying about that stuff just yet, though, so join us tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM to hear all the news!

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! 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 go over all the hockey stories that made the news, should have generated more news, were missed by the news, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the web stream!

PODCAST: July 18, 2019: Episode 356

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Wednesday Quick Hits

There was a lot of little newsworthy notes put out today by various media outlets, so it's time to do a little compiling of all these stories. It's not just going to be NHL coverage today as there are stories from the WHL, some U SPORTS news, and more. On days where there is a lot of small news stories being generated, I usually pick one and expand on it if you've been following this blog for any length of time. Normally, there's something I feel needs more in-depth examination, but today's multiple quick hits really are just information hits that require neither explanation nor examination. With that being said, let's get into it.

  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: Newly-signed free agent defenceman Anthony Bitetto will wear #2.
  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: Newly-signed free agent forward Mark Letestu will wear #22.
  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: I've never seen anyone with one of his jerseys, but defenceman Dmitry Kulikov will swap his #5 for #7 this season.
  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: Sami Niku, who wore #83 with the Jets, opts to go with #8 this season with the big club just as he wore with the Manitoba Moose last season. Of course, Jacob Trouba of the NY Rangers wore #8 last season with the Jets.
  • PAPERLESS: The University of Alberta announces today that all Golden Bears and Pandas game tickets will be completely digital through an agreement with Ticketmaster. The agreement will also provide key metrics for the institution when it comes to ticket sales. This partnership is the first of its kind for a Canadian university.
  • EMOJI ME: As you can see to the right, there was some quiet celebration at Bisons Sports at the University of Manitoba as their social media team discovered that a Bison emoji is included in the new emoji proposals for Unicode 13.0. If you're really interested, you're welcome to read the entire proposal for the Bison's inclusion in the emojis.
  • SWISS TIME: Former Oiler, Canuck, and Bruin Ryan Spooner has decided to head over to the Swiss League to continue his career as he signed with HC Lugano. Spooner appears to be the replacement for Lugano regarding the recently-departed Maxim Lapierre from the club.
  • OFF TO CHINA: David Bondra, son of former Capitals great Peter Bondra, agreed to a tryout contract with the KHL's Kunlun Red Star. The junior Bondra played with Poprad in the Slovak Extraliga last season after a rather non-descript four years with Michigan State in the NCAA.
  • LANDING IN PHILLY: The Philadelphia Flyers announced that former NHL player Chris Stewart, who played with the EIHL's Nottingham Panthers, will come to camp on a tryout agreement as well. Stewart last played in the NHL in 2017-18 with both Minnesota and Calgary, amassing ten goals and six assists in 54 games. He has 321 points in 652 career NHL games.
  • INTO THE NEST: The AHL's Bakersfield Condors announced a one-year contract today for former Winnipeg Jet Anthony Peluso. Peluso, signed by the Flames last season, appeared in just four games with the NHL club and spent 35 games with the Stockton Heat where he scored three goals and added five helpers. The 30 year-old has played in just six NHL games since 2015-16, and it appears he'll be a full-time Condor this season after putting his signature on this contract.
  • NEW SCREENS: The Brandon Wheat Kings announced that the Keystone Center will be getting a brand-new video scoreboard in time for next season. Their current scoreboard was installed in 2010 prior to the Memorial Cup, but this new one will have 9'x16.5' video boards on all four sides along with a free floating LED video ring. The scoreboard will be able to be retracted into the rafters easier to allow for additional shows to call the Keystone Center home this year and in future years. Looks like both Manitoba-based WHL teams will have new scoreboards above their rinks!
  • MIC'D UP: KHL referees will follow the same protocol as NHL referees next season as they'll be required to announce their decisions via microphone over the public address system. No word yet on which Russian official will play the role of Wes McCauley in the KHL.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA BAN: KHL officials will also be banned from using social media next season. While there weren't any incidents this season that I can recall, I suspect this may have to do with officials moving into a higher-profile role within the game next season.
There are all the quick hits from the last couple of days that really are just small snippets of information as opposed to bigger stories.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

If The Rumours Are True...

There's still a full season to be played before the Seattle NHL franchise gets to make some real noise, but there was a groundswell of rumours today that the newest NHL team will name its first general manager as former Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis. Francis is an interesting choice if the rumours are true due to the fact that he doesn't have the resumé or the experience of George McPhee when he was named as the new GM of the Vegas Golden Knights, but Francis has contacts in the NHL world still and he was working with Hockey Canada for the senior men's teams. Clearly, he's still plugged into the game on the managerial front, so this could be a very savvy selection if and when the announcement is finally made later this week.

After Seattle landed Alexandra Mandrycky as director of hockey administration at the NHL Draft in June, it was expected that Tod Leiweke and Jerry Bruckheimer would spend the next couple of months going over who they wanted for the general manager position with input from Mandrycky. Clearly, they didn't need a couple of months after Elliotte Friedman broke the news today via Twitter.

There will be detractors who may call into question the lack of success that Francis had as the man in charge in Carolina. There's no denying that the Hurricanes weren't as successful as one may have hoped when he was unceremoniously dismissed by Tom Dundon, but Francis was quietly putting the pieces in place for the Hurricanes to turn the corner. Rome wasn't built overnight and the Hurricanes didn't win the Stanley Cup this past season, but Francis did a good job in moving out aging stars and expensive contracts for younger, emerging players while opening cap room. That shouldn't be overlooked.

He also helped to put the structure in place for the Charlotte Checkers to succeed as many of the picks made by Francis over his four years at the helm in Carolina played integral roles in helping that franchise win the Calder Cup. While Sebastien Aho didn't need the AHL seasoning, players like Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean, and Alex Nedeljkovic were instrumental pieces of that Calder Cup championship, and the Hurricanes are slowly working pieces like Warren Foegele and Martin Necas into the everyday lineup.

Not everything that Francis did was rainbows and butterflies. There was the obvious miss with Scott Darling's contract, gambling on the solid backup campaign he put up in Chicago to continue in Carolina with an increased workload. That didn't happen, and the Hurricanes suffered with Cam Ward playing an equal number of games as Darling with more success. He allowed Eric Staal to walk as a free agent when it was pretty clear that Staal still had gas in the tank, but the goaltending conundrum in not being able to move Cam Ward while not being able to reel in a solid free agent goalie dogged Francis' tenure in Carolina.

The reason that Francis may thrive in Seattle is that he'll have the reins taken off when it comes to building a team and spending money. Francis, as stated above, has contacts throughout the hockey world thanks to his work in the NHL and with Hockey Canada, and it's very likely that he'll use the next year studying rosters from across the globe in finding elite talent. While the sentiment may be that Seattle won't have the same calibre of players available from which Vegas chose, there will likely be talent that Francis can select for a competitive team out of the gate.

Make no mistake that this hiring is a good one in this writer's opinion. Francis knows the game well, has learned from some wise men, and is continuing to hone his craft. He's worked for a team that operated on a shoestring budget, and now the purse strings are open and the money can be spent. While I don't believe that Francis will sacrifice smart spending in exchange for free-wheeling spending, Francis listens to his scouts when it comes to the drafts and does his homework when it comes to finding NHL-ready players.

This is a sound hiring for the team located on Puget Sound.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 15 July 2019

T-Birds Tangle With Badgers

The wildlife on Vancouver Island is pretty diverse with a number of notable animals calling the west coast home. Among those are the majestic bald eagle, the industrious beaver, raccoons, black bears, black-tailed deer, sea lions, otters, and grey wolves. One animal that isn't part of that ecosystem? The badger, but the city of Vancouver and the campus of UBC better be ready because there will be an influx of Badgers heading to that area on August 30th and September 1st this year.

For the first time in six years, the UBC Thunderbirds men's hockey team will face an NCAA opponent in the preseason, and they've opted to tangle with one of the mightiest foes the NCAA has to offer in the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers are no strangers to success as they are six-time NCAA National Champions and have made 12 Frozen Four appearances. What UBC head coach Sven Butenschon is hoping to do is foster that winning success in Vancouver after recruiting eight new players by playing one of the best collegiate teams on the continent.

"It will be very interesting to see how the new guys adapt," Butenschon told UBC's Jeff Sargeant. "It'll be important to get a lot done in that first week of training camp leading up to playing the Badgers."

Wisconsin, who play in the uber-competitive Big10 conference, went 9-10-7 in conference play last season and 14-18-5 overall. They were good at home, going 9-7-1, but atrocious on the road where they amassed a 5-11-3 record. This team can't be taken lightly, however, as they still feature some incredibly-talented players and have a sharp mind behind the bench in former NHL great Tony Granato. They scored the third-most goals in Big10 overall play with 113, so they will dent twine when given the chance. This is going to be a great test for the UBC Thunderbirds as much as it will be for the Wisconsin Badgers.

"It's a huge honour for us, we've been working on this for a long time now," Butenschon said to Sargeant. "To get an NCAA powerhouse like Wisconsin is going to be super fun and the fact they have (Alex) Turcotte and (Cole) Caufield, two high picks from this year's NHL draft, there will be a lot of fans in Vancouver that can get to see what some of the future holds."

Outside of Turcotte and Caufield, there will be some additional players that UBC fans may want to see. Ben Helgeson is headed to Wisconsin after a solid BCHL campaign with the Vernon Vipers where he had four goals and 13 helpers in 51 games. Dylan Holloway, who starred with the WHL's Everett Silvertips, has committed to the Badgers following a trade to the Winnipeg Ice. Jesper Peltonen, the son of former NHLer Ville Peltonen, and K'Andre Miller, the 22nd-overall pick by the New York Rangers in 2018, should hopefully also be in the lineup on at least one of the two nights Wisconsin plays UBC.

UBC, who finished in fourth-place last season with a 14-14 record, will be looking to continue to improve after finishing the season strong. With eight new recruits, there is optimism in Vancouver over how far this Thunderbirds team can go with some of the changes in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but they'll get their first good test against a Wisconsin team that is also looking to grow together.

"UBC is a great program, and going to a hockey mecca, where some of our guys were just picked in the NHL draft, is going to be a great experience to kick off the year," Tony Granato stated. "We're young, so we are always looking for team bonding experience to get to know each other and to have some fun."

For those looking to catch the Badgers in Vancouver, Game One of the two-game series will be played on Friday, August 30th at Father Bauer Arena with a 7:00pm PT puck drop. The rematch goes at 4:00pm PT on Sunday, September 1st at Father Bauer. Tickets will be available at the door only and admission will be by donation with a suggested price of $5 each. It's literally the best hockey you'll see in August, so get off your wallets, Vancouverites, and go see the Wisconsin Badgers battle your hometown UBC Thunderbirds!

From the words of both coaches, it sounds like this preseason two-game series will be a good experience for both squads as they look to kick off the 2019-20 season with some fun, some strong play, and some good team bonding. Maybe the Badgers will make these trips out to Canada West more often? It would be nice to see!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!