Thursday, 30 April 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 397

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the airwaves tonight with another interview that I was entirely excited to do since we never got to talk to this player during her time as a player. She's an exceptional athlete, but in doing the research on her I found that her work in the classroom might actually be cooler than her accomplishments on the ice! In all honesty, I'm a fan of hers, have been in awe of how good she's been in her Canada West career, and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to speak with her!

Tonight, I sit down with Lethbridge Pronghorns superstar netminder Alicia Anderson! Alicia's career is pretty incredible considering all she's done in the blue paint for a number of teams, and we'll talk to her about her time stopping pucks as a younger goalie, her recruitment and seasons with the Pronghorns, some of the ups and downs she experienced with the program, her long list of records she holds, and her work off the ice in the classroom as I feel she's going to be a name that Canadians will know in the near future based on her studies. As I said, I am honoured to finally speak with one of the best players that Canada West has ever seen come through the conference, and you can hear that chat tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM and UMFM.com!

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

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz goes one-on-one with Alicia Anderson as we learn about stopping pucks, playing for the Pronghorns, setting records, doing awesome classroom work, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 30, 2020: Episode 397

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Hiding The Real Message

The news of the demise of the Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey programs is still a fresh wound for many who were involved in the program and at the Canada West hockey level. Questions were raised about how the University of Lethbridge could simply cut two of the most popular athletic programs at the school with no consultation or opportunities to save the programs, and I wrote a particularly scathing article about the decision. While I won't take any credit for today's news, it seems that the University of Lethbridge has had a change of heart regarding the hockey programs and has soften their stance with the announcement today that a committee is being formed to look into the feasibility of future Pronghorns hockey programs.

According to the above linked University of Lethbridge release today, the committee will be led by long-time Pronghorns hockey supporter Dan Laplante who had recently committed monies for the purpose of scholarships for students who were coming to the university to play hockey. I have a feeling today's committee announcement was spurred in large part by Laplante's support for the programs, and I believe he's the right man for the job when it comes to exploring all options for the hockey programs.

The paragraph that concerns me the most about today's release is that it seems that the University of Lethbridge has zero concept of how athletic departments at post-secondary institutions work. The paragraph reads,
The U of L has undertaken past reviews of Pronghorn Athletics, focusing on program sustainability. The 2015 (and again in 2019) review of Pronghorn Athletics identified significant concerns about the sustainability of the institution's athletic programs. In an effort to stabilize the funding situation in 2015 and allow time to source external revenues, the University committed an additional $400,000 per year for three years and $350,000 in the fourth year (for a total investment of $1.55 million). Unfortunately, over that time, support for operations has not materialized.
This is concerning because the university isn't talking about "sustainability" or "feasibility" in this paragraph; rather, this is a statement about profitability. The university is still harping on the fact that it sunk $1.55 million into the hockey programs without looking at all the positives that came from that investment. As a school, they are recruiting STUDENT-athletes - emphasis on the student part - who will either contribute significantly at the campus level, at the community level, or both if the university is recruiting high-quality people. The university is an educational institution that offers athletic programs, not the other way around.

We'll start with some very important definitions you need to keep in mind when reading through this article and the statement released by the University of Lethbridge. They are:
  • Profitability: the state of yielding profit or financial gain.
  • Sustainability: the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
  • Feasibility: the state or degree of being easily or conveniently done.
It seems that, by definition, the programs were always feasible since they already existed up to a week ago. Sustainability and profitability are terms used when looking at revenue generation when compared to expenses, and this seems to be the goal that the university is seeking - make more money to either eliminate the needed subsidies or reduce them as much as possible. This is why a "feasibility committee" is a joke - the programs already existed!

It needs to be stated that this "sustainability" idealism that the university is seeking is nothing more than a pipe dream. In 2013, a USA TODAY Sports analysis found that "23 of 228 athletics departments at NCAA Division I public schools generated enough money on their own to cover their expenses in 2012. Of that group, 16 also received some type of subsidy — and 10 of those 16 athletics departments received more subsidy money in 2012 than they did in 2011."

Think about that percentage - 10.1% - when considering the amount of money that NCAA sports generates on an annual basis. Only one of every ten schools with athletics programs in the NCAA generated enough money to cover their expenses, and most large schools with notable sports programs are not covering their expenses even with subsidies from the schools or different levels of the government. As the study states, "Rutgers, for instance, spent $28 million more than it generated — a deficit it covered with about $18.5 million from the school and $9.5 million in student fees" - the athletics program was subsidized by funds that came from sources not recognized as contributions or revenue specifically generated by the athletics department.

In other words, the University of Lethbridge subsidized the Pronghorns hockey programs to the tune of $1.55 million over four years which would make them similar to virtually every other institution across Canada and the US outside 23 institutions. And that's where the paragraph I isolated is concerning - the school is looking for profitability from its hockey programs, not sustainability or feasiblity.

In clarifying the feasibility, sustainability, and profitability terms, today's announcement sounds like the university is passing the buck to the community when it comes to reviving Pronghorns hockey as per University of Lethbridge President Michael J. Mahon's comments in the release today.

"The resolve of many people I have talked with is strong," Mahon stated. "Recognizing this, the University will explore with the community the possibility of hockey programs returning to the University in the coming years — supported by a community-based funding model."

Did you feel that, Lethbridge? That was Mahon sticking it to the entire Lethbridge community in a big way. What he basically said was that if the community doesn't come through with major contributions to the hockey program's revenue lines, the university will claim the hockey programs are unsustainable based on the lack of profitability and, therefore, are unfeasible. He's essentially giving everyone false hope for the return of the hockey programs unless it's privately- or publicly-funded so that the university isn't responsible in any way for subsidizing losses sustained by the programs.

This is a cop out, folks. It's Michael Mahon and the University of Lethbridge putting the responsibility of having Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey entirely on the shoulders of the community of Lethbridge. The catch is that if the programs were to return, the University of Lethbridge would gladly accept any positives that are generated by the programs playing under their watch since they bear no responsibility for the costs nor are they assuming any risk if the programs struggle. If the programs return under a community-supported basis and struggle to generate the revenue necessary, the response from the university will be "we told you so" regarding the feasibility despite this being a revenue-generation problem that we already know exists at almost every athletics department across North America when subsidies are removed.

In giving this some thought, I went back to the provincial government's refusal to implement a sales tax. That money could help immensely in subsidizing the hockey programs, so why couldn't it be implemented on a micro-economical level in the city of Lethbridge as a 1% tax to help save Pronghorns hockey? The additional public support would still be a subsidy, but the money would go directly into funding Pronghorns hockey for the foreseeable future. That would fix the problem, right?

And then it dawned on me that it wouldn't. Kristi Dosh wrote an article for Forbes back in 2017 that laid out common misconceptions about the finances of college sports. In that article, she identified the fifth misconception as "Donations to athletics stay in athletics". That section reads,
At nearly one-third of the schools I polled back in 2012 for my book, the university took a specified percentage of each donation made to the athletic department.

Some indicated it was to cover university overhead, or because of partnerships and shared resources between the university and athletics development offices, but the fact remains that the amount you see on the reports submitted the NCAA may be anywhere from 2-12% less than the amount donated, as the reported number reflected the donation after the assessment in the situations I researched for my book.
Having studied the University of Lethbridge's financial statements from 2019 for the article I wrote last week about the demise of the hockey programs, I can tell you that there are no specific lines of accounting for athletics or the athletics department whatsoever. If Pronghorns Athletics receives a contribution from a donor, there's no guarantee it goes to the sport or the athletics department if there are no conditions attached to the contribution. Sponsorship revenue gets treated the same way - it all goes into the University of Lethbridge's general revenue line which the university can then use for whatever purpose it deems necessary. And as Miss Dosh illustrated, the universities in her poll were already skimming off the top for all donations as it was, so the athletics departments for those schools weren't getting the full donation amount they were promised. Based on how the University of Lethbridge feeds all revenue into one university-controlled revenue stream, should we expect anything different here?

What we're seeing here is the university washing its hands of any financial responsibility for two hockey programs that cost it money just like every other university with a hockey program. Instead, the unversity is telling donors, alumni, and sponsors to start contributing more money to the programs if they hope to see Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey ever again.

By shutting down hockey as they have, though, the university bought the committee a two-year feasibility study since they cannot re-apply for U SPORTS status for two calendar years. Yes, it's entirely irresponsible when you consider that 52 students, all the coaches, and all the staff are now left wondering what's next, but has the university ever acted responsibly if this is the moment they picked for a feasibility study?

If hockey is to continue at the U SPORTS level for the University of Lethbridge, this committee is going to have its work cut out for them because they cannot allow the University of Lethbridge to call the shots with regards to revenue generated by the hockey programs specifically for the hockey programs going forward. Basically, the publicly-funded institution is asking the citizens of Lethbridge to find enough money within the community to fund two hockey teams that the university will ultimately control of since they're administering the program. And they failed woefully at that task before, so why should they be trusted now?

If the community is going have a gun pointed at its head by the university when it comes to subsidizing the hockey programs specifically, the teams are no longer university teams. If the university doesn't have some sort of tangible subsidy going to the hockey programs - a stake in the game, so to speak - should they be able to reap any rewards, recognition, or benefits from the hockey programs? We already know that the university feels that the programs are unsustainable based on the amount of money they were contributing, so we know that the university feels the hockey programs are not feasible already.

If that's the case, why are we going through this feasibility exercise if the university has nothing to lose since they have made it clear they're not interested in funding the hockey programs?

If I seem cynical, I am. While I'm hopeful this committee finds all sorts of ways to revive the programs and take them to new heights, it seems that the institution who has the most to gain is asking for a no-risk guarantee. That's not how the world works. There is no reward without some risk, and the University of Lethbridge should not be allowed off the hook when it comes to subsidizing a portion of the costs in running hockey programs that has their logo on them if the committee determines that Pronghorns hockey is not only feasible, but can be sustainable as well.

You have to spend money to make money. You don't just get to take.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Strictly Worn For Spite

Today's trip into the jersey closet features a well-known redesign for a team that probably didn't need a redesign that happened to get very famous after they acquired Wayne Gretzky. The St. Louis Blues, in my opinion, looked fine prior to their 1994 jersey redesign that left us with the jersey you see to the left. If we press a little deeper into the history, you'll also note that this was the same time that the Blues began to change their strategy in all facets of their business, often using the offer sheet method as their chosen pursuit of high-end free agents and hiring one man whose decisions both as coach and general manager left the Blues reeling for years to come. Yes, it's an "Iron" Mike Keenan article today on HBIC, but not for the reasons you think.

I was cleaning out my inbox today of some exceptionally old emails when I came across one from the gentleman who originally owned this St. Louis Blues Petr Nedved jersey. After he sends me some best wishes about my acquiring the jersey, he added this note which reads, "I was a really big fan of Petr Nedved while he was in St. Louis, and Mike Keenan cost us a good, young player. I bought the jersey sometime in 1994 or early 1995 and added his name on the back. I wish he would have still be playing for us instead of the two slugs we got for Keenan." Of course, reading this email got me to thinking about why Nedved never wore the jersey and why this gentleman was so bothered by the loss of Nedved. Let's head down memory lane to see how this jersey came to be and how it got into my collection.

It's the timing, though, of everything that happened surrounding the Blues for one month - June 23, 1994 until July 24, 1994 - that makes the seller's email so compelling.

The Blues were one of a handful of teams looking to enhance their look in the 1990s, and they spent a full year working with Sean Michael Edwards, a design firm based in Manhattan, on this new look. In a release dated for Thursday, June 23, 1994, the Blues made their new look known to the world with an accompanying unveiling at the state-of-the-art Kiel Center. Appearing on stage that day were Brendan Shanahan, Curtis Joseph, Rick Meagher, and Bruce Affleck - no Petr Nedved to be found - as they modelled the new duds that St. Louis would wear for the 1994-95 season.

Everything seems to be business as usual, right?

If you recall, Mike Keenan was coaching the New York Rangers in 1993-94, leading the Blueshirts to the Stanley Cup with the likes of Messier, Leetch, and Richter as his stars. Following his successful win on Broadway, it seemed like the Rangers had some work to do in trying to keep their roster together, but I'm not sure anyone expected Mike Keenan to be heading out of town as quickly as he did when he claimed that the New York Rangers were in breach of his contract due to missed payments that were owed to him.

"I want to make it explicitly clear that I have not resigned from the position," Keenan told reporters at a press conference in Toronto on July 15, 1994. "This is difficult for me, but I felt I had no choice.... There were some specific parameters in regard to the contract, but the obligations were not fulfilled."

As anyone knows, the NHL wouldn't take kindly to this kind of public squabbling over in-house issues, but Mike Keenan went and made everything infinitely worse by signing a deal with the St. Louis Blues to become their head coach and general manager on July 18, 1994 - just three days after declaring he was a free agent for hire! If you're tracking the timeline, he declared the breach of contract on a Thursday and signed a new five-year deal with the Blues on Sunday before the NHL Offices had even opened!

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman didn't wait long after hearing that the Detroit Red Wings had also been inquiring about the services of Mike Keenan, and he asked that all parties submit their positions on the matter to him by Thursday, July 22 for review upon which, as lawyer-like as he could, he'd render a decision on the matter. Needless to say, this seems like Mike Keenan was doing everything he could to get of Manhattan for a richer, better deal in St. Louis.

Lo and behold, we got a decision on July 25, one week after Keenan had signed his deal with the Blues. The decision handed down by Bettman was as follows:
  • Mike Keenan was suspended without pay for 60 days and fined $100,000, and was eligible to return as head coach and general manager of the Blues on September 24, 1994.
  • The Blues were fined $250,000 for negotiating with and signing Keenan prior to his breach of contract claim being resolved.
  • The Rangers agreed to pay Keenan the $608,000 playoff bonus they owed him in exchange for Keenan repaying the Rangers a sum of $400,000 which was 80% of the signing bonus he received when he was hired in New York.
  • The Detroit Red Wings were fined $25,000 for speaking with Keenan.
  • The New York Rangers were fined $25,000 for filing a lawsuit against Keenan and his attorney. With the settlement, the Rangers agreed to drop the lawsuit.
  • As compensation for the Rangers losing their head coach to a rival, the NHL instructed the Blues to trade Petr Nedved to the Rangers for Esa Tikkanen and Doug Lidster.
If you're keeping notes at home, that last bullet point basically says the Blues were forced trade 22 year-old Petr Nedved to the Rangers for what amounted to be Mike Keenan, Tikkanen, and Lidster. Nedved, who had been signed to an offer sheet by St. Louis on March 14 which the Canucks declined to match, had only played 19 games for the Blues before the NHL forced him to report to the Rangers!

Now here's where things get really twisted. When Vancouver declined the offer sheet match that St. Louis has submitted for Nedved, the NHL was forced to award a player back to the Canucks as compensation since the Blues didn't have any first-round picks to use as compensation after they signed Scott Stevens to an offer sheet in 1990 which Washington declined to match, thus giving Washington all of St. Louis' first-round picks from 1991 until 1995.

Because the Blues didn't have first-round picks to offer up to the Canucks, the NHL awarded Craig Janney to the Canucks midway through the season (which now sounds like a totally insane thing to do) despite the Canucks asking for Brendan Shanahan as compensation. Janney, however, refused to go to Vancouver, so the NHL told the two teams to work out the standoff. In the end, Janney's rights were "traded back" to St. Louis in exchange for Jeff Brown, Bret Hedican, and Nathan Lafayette - all players who would play vital roles in helping the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup Final against Mike Keenan and the New York Rangers.

The cherry on top that makes this whole Mike Keenan-Petr Nedved mess a little funnier? The St. Louis Blues in 1994-95 under Mike Keenan would be ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the tournament in seven games. Petr Nedved, meanwhile, had a dreadful season in New York, scoring just 11 goals and 23 points in 46 games, and he was traded in August of 1995 with Sergei Zubov to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson.

Back to our unhappy email sender, I can understand his disappointment in seeing a player who scored 20 points in 19 games as a Blues centerman sent on his way without so much as season to get his feet wet. Keenan would go 75-66-22 over the next three seasons before being fired after 33 games in 1996-97 with only a second-round appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to show for the trouble despite having names like Hull, Gretzky, Turgeon, Pronger, MacInnis, Corson, Hawerchuk, Fuhr, and Steve Duchesne skating for him at one point or another. Nedved, who was the compensation for Keenan, may have been a better fit in St. Louis than any of the centermen they had over those tumultuous three-and-a-half seasons under Keenan.

So how did this spiteful NHL jersey land in my closet?

I acquired the jersey sometime in the mid-2000s off eBay as the seller was getting rid of a few sports pieces with the majority being St. Louis Cardinals stuff. The seller and I had a couple of back-and-forth emails about it before we agreed on shipping costs, and it was how that story got to me. His seeming hatred for the Blues sacrificing Nedved for Keenan was the reason behind the jersey, and I think it's a cool story about one person's fandom and how he basically wore his Blues jersey with Nedved on the back out of spite for Mike Keenan.

Incidentally, the two slugs as the writer called them - Tikkanen and Lidster - were decent in their times with the Blues, but, like Keenan, never helped the Blues to the promised land. Nedved had a couple of outstanding years with the Penguins before going back to the Rangers where he'd play out the majority of his NHL career.

One of the cooler things about the Blues' logo that I didn't know before acquiring the jersey was that they had the "St. Louis" sewn onto a swatch of fabric which was then added to the logo rather than embroidering it straight onto the note. I would have thought the embroidering would be easier, but I guess it wasn't?

Do you have a jersey in your closet with a player's name who never actually wore it? I know I've seen some "Selanne" and "Hawerchuk" Jets 2.0 jerseys out there, so there might be a few. I'd love to hear how you acquired that jersey or why you added that name, so post your stories in the comments!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 April 2020

Is This Considered "Vintage"?

I was chatting with a friend today about spring cleaning and donating clothes when we started discussing her collection of rather unique vintage clothing. In was in this discussion that she admitted that some of her vintage graphic tees were more recently bought, so she tried to determine what piece of clothing was her oldest garment. It got me thinking about what piece of clothing would be the oldest that I own, and I can positively say that the Pittsburgh Penguins jersey you see here would be the oldest piece of clothing I possess. While it's been some time since the Penguins wore the Robo-Pigeon design, the story of how I acquired it is still pretty vivid in my memory!

We'd have to go way back to the summer of 1996 shortly after getting my very first job at a golf course. I was working as much as I could as it wasn't lost on me that a few dollars can make a teenager's life much better, and it was at a local mall where I wandered by a Champs Sports store and saw the jersey hanging on a rack in the back.

If you know anything about me, I grew up a Pittsburgh Penguins fan as I took an immediate interest in this big French kid who seemed to score at will for the routinely not-so-good Penguins. With this being before YouTube and before the rise of out-of-market games aside from Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, I would watch every local highlight show to catch a glimpse of #66 doing what he did best in lighting lamps.

From there, my hatred for the Oilers thanks to seeing them decimate the Jets every year saw my interest in the Penguins grow when they acquired defenceman Paul Coffey and players from the Oilers in early 1987 in exchange for Craig Simpson and a handful of players. I began to learn about players such as Dan Quinn, Rob Brown, and Doug Bodger until Bodger was packaged up and sent to Buffalo for some hotshot goalie named Tom Barrasso. Kevin Stevens, Mark Recchi, John Cullen, and Zarley Zalapski became the nucleus around Mario Lemieux, and I was firmly a Penguins fan by the time I hit double-digits in age.

Of course, seeing Jaromir Jagr develop and evolve as a Penguin, the trade that brought Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson to the Steel City, the two Stanley Cups, Rick Tocchet, Larry Murphy, Joe Mullen, and Bryan Trottier along with some inspired coaching by "Badger" Bob Johnson and Scotty Bowman kept me cemented in as a Penguins fan.

Fast forward to the summer of 1996 after watching a crushing loss to the Islanders off David Volek's overtime goal in 1993, a move to the Northeast Division in 1994 where they were upset by Washington in Round One, seeing the life and fun of hockey crushed out of the Penguins by the Devils in 1995, and a stunning upset in the Eastern Conference Final to the Florida Panthers in 1996, and I had experienced enough heartbreak as a teenager to probably shift my fandom elsewhere.

I had had replica jerseys prior to finding this Penguins jersey, and I immediately noticed the difference in how they were made. The CCM pro jerseys were heavier, the logos were larger, the fight strap, and they had the cool CCM logo on the back hip. It became very apparent to me that I was holding a similar jersey to the one that Lemieux, Jagr, and Francis were wearing on the ice, and my teenaged brain immediately said "gotta have it".

What made this purchase possible is that this CCM pro jersey only set me back $100 plus taxes. For whatever reason, Champs Sports had marked it down, and I had stumbled upon it. At the time, the size-48 jersey fit comfortably, was warm like a sweater, and I could brag that I had a pro jersey of my favorite team - something none of my friends could boast.

I would eventually outgrow the jersey, but it's followed me through multiple moves over the last 25 years. It wasn't until 1999 that I got it customized with Lemieux's name and number as he's always been my favorite player. You might be asking why I waited, and it was because the fee that the NHLPA for active players at the time would have set me back somewhere near $75. Once Lemieux retired, that fee came off and the customization was basically half as expensive which was far more palatable as a cash-poor university student. With my favorite player on the back and me repping my team on my chest, I was excited to see the Penguins turn their slide into the NHL cellar around as soon as possible!

Of course, history shows that reality was much different than I had hoped as the Penguins' roster was decimated over the next number of years until Lemieux bought the team and the Penguins drafted guys like Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Fleury. A few Stanley Cups later, and the world as a Penguins fan isn't as bad as I imagined post-1993 after being crushed over and over again in the playoffs.

Looking back, though, I'm not sure I would have expected to have that jersey for the past 25 years. It hasn't been worn in many years, but it holds a special place in my jersey collection as my first pro jersey, the oldest jersey in my collection, the oldest piece of clothing I still own, and the jersey with my favorite player's name and number on the back.

What's your oldest jersey? Let me know in the comments, and we can have some fun with this one! I have other jerseys I'll be highlighting from my collection as the pandemic continues, so make sure you add your thoughts!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Captaining The Squad

If you're a follower of this blog, you know that I always love working the major four-day tournament here in Winnipeg known as the Female World Sport School Challenge. Seeing teams from across Canada come to the city and play in one of the toughest tournament in Canada is always fun, and we're normally blessed with rather amazing hockey from these future university women's hockey stars. What also makes this tournament stand out is there's usually a jersey quirk that we see from one of the teams. This one goes back to 2018, but check out the goalie's jersey above to see if you can catch the quirks.

That's Adrianna Brehm of the Minnesota Revolution hockey program in 2018. See if you can find the jersey quirks that caught my attention then that I apparently never mentioned on this blog.

Let's start with the obvious in that Brehm was wearing the captain's "C" on her jersey. Goaltenders have been named as captains before - Roberto Luongo most recently with the Canucks - but they rarely wear the letter on their jerseys. Apparently, the Revolution threw the rules to the wayside and decided to have their senior goaltender stand in as the captain!

Let's move to the next jersey quirk because I'm pretty sure this one was done out of respect, but it's still odd. The Minnesota Revolution, as you probably can tell, call Minnesota home. Minnesota is one of fifty US states, yet Brehm's jersey has a Canadian flag on the shoulder! This is the first time I've seen a team wear the flag of another country on their shoulder, and perhaps it was some league thing that required them to wear the flags of the two countries where teams played. Either way, it was weird to see a US-based team wearing the flag of another country.

The third quirk? Adrianne Brehm has never worn #29 in her career as far as I can tell for any team. She was listed in the 2018 FWSSC program as #32 for the Revolution, and she currently wears #32 for the NCAA Division-III Nazareth Golden Flyers. So how does she end up wearing #29? I assume there may have been some sort of jersey problem that she had at some point, forcing her to don the jersey of former Minnesota Revolution netminder Kennedy Blair who DID wear #29 and continues to wear #29 for the Mercyhurst Lakers! The nameplates, as far as I recall, were switched, but the numbers appear to be screened onto the jerseys, so Brehm wore #29 for at least one game at the tournament!

What makes Brehm being the captain of Revolution for the 2017-18 season is that when I was looking into her work with Nazareth College, the information to the left was listed in the opening line of her bio! It seems that Brehm may be the first netminder in all my hockey travels to hold captaincies at two different programs! Check out the image below!

Without a doubt, Adrianna Brehm deserves some mention here on Hockey Blog In Canada because she may eventually ascend to wearing the "C" one day for Nazareth. As it stands, she's the only goalie that I know of that has currently worn letters at the U19 level with the Revolution and now in the NCAA with Division-III Nazareth College. That alone separates her from her peers, and I think it's completely awesome!

I know this won't affect her, but I am now a fan of Adrianna Brehm, and I really hope she gets the captain's "C" at some point in her career with the Nazareth Golden Flyers!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

While Forrest Gump's best-known line from the film probably shouldn't be used in a professional setting, it seems overly suitable for the NBA's latest decision which will inevitably cause the other professional sports leagues to take notice of how this experiment goes. If you missed the announcement, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the NBA is planning on "allowing teams to open their practice facilities to players in cities and states where local governments have eased stay-at-home orders" on May 1, according to his sources. All I can do is sigh in disappointment and point out the blatant stupidity that this shows on the NBA's behalf.

This isn't Basketball Blog in Canada, though, so why should this matter? Well, the NHL has been putting together plans of their own to restart the season based on government rulings over when gatherings can begin to resume. As you may recall, Gary Bettman is a former NBA guy, and the NHL followed the NBA's lead in suspending the season following the positive COVID-19 tests in NBA players. It seems that the NHL is keeping an eye on the NBA more closely than MLB and the NFL, so this is why we should be concerned.

While I'm not a religious man in any way, it will be Sunday in a few hours so allow me to put this decision in a few religious contexts that will make more sense when we start breaking down why this allowing players to resume practicing is such a terrible idea. It won't occupy all seven sins that are out there, but I fear the NHL will commit a few of the Seven Deadly Sins because they simply can't help themselves.

PRIDE

We've known for some time that the NHL seems dead-set on completing the 2019-20 season even if it pushes the 2020-21 season into a shortened calendar situation. If you've been reading this blog since the pandemic started, I've basically been begging the NHL to simply abandon this idea and start preparing for the 2020-21 season. The reasons are many, but safety for everyone involved is the main reason why I'm going to continue to beat this drum.

The pride it takes to hold onto this idea that the season will end through competition rather than a decision is rather astounding to me. We've seen viruses explode in isolated Indigenous communities before where medical care is either absent or hard to obtain. Isolating the NHL players in an Olympic village-like idea sounds great on paper, but it takes just one case of the virus to spread like wildfire as we've seen and that's reason enough to rethink this whole "play it out" scenario that the NHL wants to see to complete the past season.

Historically, pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins because of its ability to lend itself to superiority. What the NHL needs to do is listen to all medical opinions from trusted medical sources such as the CDC, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, and the US Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Anyone else who has an opinion can be heard, but it should be vetted by these leading authorities.

With the majority of the world's leaders and medical professionals saying that opening businesses up to the public is still far too early, this should be an easy sin to escape. The NHL would be wise to abandon this thought of concluding the 2019-20 season while focusing on ramping up safety precautions at all 31 NHL rinks next season. That would be the responsible and intelligent thing to do.

ENVY

This is the old "if he can do it, why can't I" argument when it comes to the NBA's idea. While basketball is a physical sport, it has nowhere near the physical contact that hockey is built upon and that should be the top reason why envying the NBA is a terrible idea. From players crashing into each other and breathing in and around each other in close quarters to the many bodily fluids that end up on equipment and clothing, the NHL is literally begging for a player or staff member to contract the virus. If the NHL is willing to be liable for this happening because their envy of the NBA resuming practices, they deserve and are responsible for any and all of the fallout that may come from a player or staff member contracting the virus.

"But there haven't been any deaths in the NHL, Teebz," I hear you saying, and you're absolutely right. Let's keep it that way by not forcing the players back to the ice and the staff members to the locker rooms and behind the benches just because the NBA's foresight is that of the three blind mice. NHL players spit all over the place - this is an undeniable fact. We know that "spray" from sneezes and coughs spreads this virus. By putting them back in that environment, old habits will begin to resurface. Why are we even risking this?

Historically, envy seems to be the second worst of the seen deadly sins as only "pride weighs down the soul more than envy among the capital sins". Putting these two sins together - the desire to finish the season combined with sending players back way too early because the NBA is doing it - would be the most foolish and definitely the dumbest thing Gary Bettman has ever done in his time as NHL Commissioner.

That's not an opinion; that's fact.

THREE MORE

The three sins of greed, wrath, and sloth won't be as evidently clear as the above two sins, but they're still prevalent in this discussion based on what secondary decisions are made regarding how the NHL progresses. And the NHL may not be the one committing the sin here, but they will likely be the victim of at least one of these three sins.

We'll start with sloth because it has the widest scope of definitions here. Generally seen as the sin of "absence of interest or habitual disinclination to exertion," it may also be defined as "a failure to do things that one should do" such as when good people witness a crime, but do not intervene. It's this latter definition that I'm going to focus on because it comes directly from pride and envy.

The NHL isn't consulting with governments who are easing stay-at-home orders as to why that's happening when it's pretty clear that these states and cities haven't reached the recommended levels as set out by the American government. What's worse is that the second wave of the coronavirus, like the Spanish flu, is expected to be worse than the initial outset, so asking players and staff to willfully head back into close quarters this quickly would be willfully negligent, especially if there's another outbreak within NHL circles. Ottawa and Colorado already had players and staff go through this - why risk more?

Maybe the NHL is worried about its economic outlook? I find it nearly laughable that billionaire owners and millionaire players would be worried about their bottom lines by not playing, but this need to acquire more money is the definition of greed. Billionaires and millionaires worrying about money of any kind when there are millions in the US filing for unemployment insurance is a joke. While the likelihood of playing in front of empty arenas is almost certain, hearing some owners already looking at ways to enable social distancing in their arenas and stadiums is extremely concerning. The greed is real here despite medical experts expressing serious concerns about fans gathering in arenas.

A lot of these decisions will lead to wrath. If anything goes wrong if the NHL decides to get the season underway once again will lead to fans, sponsors, players, and staff being angry for the decision to restart. Anyone who contracts the virus through gatherings that include an NHL game will unlikely be angry for that result. And if we're talking about the American legal system be prepared for lawsuits if the NHL decides to resume, forces people to return to the rinks, and someone gets sick or worse.

As I said above, I'm far from being religious in any way, so these interpretations may be way off-base. What I do know is that the NBA opening up practice facilities in specific cities isn't going to help the situation. The NBA opening practice facilities doesn't help the health of either country, doesn't help restart the economy, and doesn't help the overall control of the spread of this virus. It's simply the craving to return to normalcy which no longer exists.

Adam Silver would be wise to keep his players and coaches and facility staff at home until things are better in all NBA states. Getting a vaccine introduced to the general public would really help his cause, but we're still holding out hope for that to happen right now. Either way, rushing back just because a few governors and mayors are wanting stay-at-home orders removed is the definition of stupid.

That's a definition Gary Bettman would be wise to remember.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Heading Home

There aren't many women out there who can boast a roster of teammates and international hockey stars such as Florence Schelling, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hayley Scamurra, Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner, Hayley Wickenheiser, and Iya Gavrilova, but the young woman to the left skated alongside all of these amazing players at various points in her professional career without ever donning an international hockey jersey. While I believe she retired far too early, she went on to help get a solid U SPORTS women's hockey program off the ground in New Brunswick with the revival of the Varsity Reds women's hockey program returning to AUS hockey. Today, however it was announced that Brittany Esposito, pictured above, is leaving UNB and heading back home to Alberta for new opportunities!

Esposito always stood out to me during her time in the CWHL as one of those players who busted her hump no matter what role she was given when she tapped on the shoulder and sent over the boards. She was an extremely effective member of the Calgary Inferno during her four years with the club, notching 36 goals and 47 assists in 93 career contests, and she was a member of the Inferno's 2016 CWHL Clarkson Cup championship squad. However, it was her effectiveness not only in the offensive zone that caught my eye, but how she backchecked hard, was responsible with the puck, and helped teammates find success with her vision on the ice.

Her career with the Northeastern Huskies in the NCAA was just as successful from a personal standpoint as the Business major finished her career tied for 20th all-time in Huskies scoring, racking up 47 goals and 62 points for 109 points. She was a Hockey East All-Rookie selection in 2009-10, was named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team each season she played, and was a Hockey East Second-Team All-Star in 2013-14 in her senior season. Her ten game-winning goals in her season helped the Huskies to a 13-6-2 record in her senior campaign, but what stood out to me was her importance to the team when she was rolling as Northeastern was 11-2-0 when she recorded a point versus an 8-12-2 record when she didn't.

Perhaps even a bigger highlight? Esposito scored the first goal in the first women's college hockey game ever played outdoors when she did it at Boston's Fenway Park on January 8th, 2010. Despite this being a pro-UNH video, check out the goal scored by Esposito just 1:29 into the game. Laser of a shot!

Ok, so we know that Brittany can play, but it was her next step in accepting an assistant coaching position under head coach Sarah Hilworth out at the University of New Brunswick where I feel she may have had a bigger impact on the game. Hired in June of 2017, she'd be a big part of getting the UNB Reds off the ground and back to a competitive level within the hotly-contested AUS standings.

"One of my best friends, Sarah Hilworth, interviewed for the head-coaching job at UNB and asked me to be her assistant coach," Esposito told Mark Staffieri. "I have been her assistant coach in a few different tournaments and we work well together, there is a lot of trust and respect."

Bringing her work ethic and knowledge behind the bench to the Reds, it seems that whatever Hilworth, Esposito, and Pamela Pachal were teaching the Reds in Year One of their rebirth was working as they guided the expansion squad to a semifinal berth in the AUS after defeating UPEI in the AUS quarterfinals!

Year Two went just as well as UNB would down St. Thomas in the opening round before falling to the Saint Mary's Huskies in the AUS semifinals, but there were some great steps forward made by the program as Ashley Stratton finished third in goals and second in points! This Reds team looks like they're going to challenge for an AUS title in the next couple of years as the 17 freshman from Year One mature and get better, but a lot of credit goes to the coaching staff - Miss Esposito included - in building a competitive roster from the get-go!

And that's why the news was a little shocking to me today when the UNB Reds announced that Brittany Esposito was leaving the program for green pastures back home in Edmonton. While I'll never fault anyone for wanting to move closer to home and being closer to family considering the amount of time she's spent out in the eastern time zone over her career, I was hoping to see Esposito potentially move into the head coaching role at some point. That hope certainly isn't gone as she may find the chance back in Alberta, but I thought UNB might be a good fit for her based on the success they've had thus far.

"I'm so grateful for my time with the Reds," said Esposito. "I gained valuable work experience, but more importantly, had the opportunity to work with a delightful group and to help start a program that has a very bright future both on and off the ice.

"Although I'm not sure what is on the horizon career wise, I know I will always be involved in hockey, whether through work or volunteering."

Selfishly, I know Manitoba isn't in Alberta, but I'd love to see her join the Bisons and Hockey Manitoba if there was an opportunity. However, I get the family component of this move and how that makes sense for her. There may be opportunities with either the Pandas or the MacEwan Griffins next season if she wants to hop back in at the U SPORTS level, and there are a ton of smaller teams in the Edmonton region who would benefit from a coach with Brittany Esposito's experience.

While her career on the east coast is done for the foreseeable future, the fact that Brittany Esposito wants to remain in hockey is a good thing for this game. She's passionate, intelligent, and has built a solid resumé that can take her anywhere, and I'd imagine she won't be a free agent for long. I look forward to seeing what's next in her career!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 23 April 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 396

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a non-interview show! After the last few weeks with some amazing guests, we need to go over some of the stories that happened in the hockey world as Jason Pchajek and I sort through some of the bigger hockey stories lately. If you know anything about Jason and I, it's that we're big U SPORTS and Canada West hockey guys, so you can imagine on which topic we'll spend most of time this week.

After everything that has been said and done over the last couple of days regarding the University of Lethbridge, the image to the left seems appropriate when it comes to the men's and women's hockey programs at the school. With that being said, Jason and I discuss how and why this decision was made and who may be to blame for this mess. For those of you who read the article that I wrote a couple of days ago on the matter, we pick through that and try to make sense of how this all came about. We also chat about the inevitable conclusion of the Winnipeg Jets-Dustin Byfuglien saga and what it means to each of us, Bill Peters being hired in the KHL despite him needing to still make amends, and we try to figure out why the NHL would want to hold a draft before declaring an end of the season. On a more personal note, Jason also updates us on what's next for him after his time with The Manitoban newspaper came to an end! It's another big show, so make sure you tune in tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM and UMFM.com!

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

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason try to figure out how and why the Pronghorns no longer exist, how much Dustin Byfuglien meant to the Jets and the city of Winnipeg, how Bill Peters was hired in the KHL, and how the NHL can possibly draft players with a season hanging in the balance exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 23, 2020: Episode 396

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Why Now?

In these times of an economic slow-down thanks to a still-prevalent virulent pandemic, you'd have to expect that any business expanding would be a ludicrous, if not insane, decision. With the border closed across the length of the Canadian and US property lines, expanding internationally would be doubling down on that insanity. And yet the NWHL, in its infinite wisdom, decided to announce the expansion of the league into Toronto as they make their first foray into Canada.

Johanna Boynton, a Harvard-educated woman, successful businesswoman, and part-owner of the NWHL's Boston Pride, has decided to plunk down the ownership stake in the Toronto franchise. Along with Boynton, the reappearing act of one Digit Murphy will make its debut in Toronto as the President of the club while minor-league baseball owner and long-time baseball guru Tyler Tumminia will serve as the team's Chairman.

But why now? Why is there a rush to get into Toronto when there's no competition?

They enter the market with no arena deal made, so it's hard for me to get excited when I don't even know where they're playing. If you've visited Toronto, you know it can be a headache just getting from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, so they may find that their pull for fans will be tougher if they aren't in a central location. Having been to where the Toronto Furies played their games, it was a long way from the downtown area of Toronto, but they managed to pull in decent crowds for games with names like Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse on the roster.

The NWHL doesn't have that star power. The first five players signed by the unnamed Toronto NWHL franchise are Shiann Darkangelo, Taylor Woods, Kristen Barbara, Emma Greco, and goalie Elaine Chuli. Chuli and Greco played most recently for the Furies in the CWHL while Barbara and Woods played for the Markham Thunder and Darkangelo played under Digit Murphy with the Kunlun Red Star, but finished her CWHL career with the Furies.

Of all of the players, Darkangelo likely is the biggest name as she was part of the American team that won the 2016 IIHF Women's World Championship, but her name won't draw casual fans from the market like a Poulin, Spooner, or Knight did. While there's hope within the NWHL circles that they can maybe woo a star or two back to the league, Marie-Philip Poulin made it pretty clear that she won't be playing in that circuit any time soon.

"I don’t know if it's professional," she told Andi Petrillo in a CBC interview. "There's a reason why many of us are not playing in that league."

Again, it leads me back to the question: why now?

I've listened to the interviews and read the answers these three women - Boynton, Murphy, and Tumminia - have given about the league, and they keep going back to how the NWHL has a plan to be sustainable in three to five years. While I get that startup costs and building the league's infrastructure will set them back in the early stages of the league, spending another three years of working towards sustainability seems like an awfully long time for a league who has yet to return a penny to its shareholders.

If there is money to expand to Toronto, why isn't the league sustainable? If the league is just allowing Boynton, Murphy, and Tumminia to set up the franchise however they like, perhaps there is minimal league cost that has to be incurred. But because the league is a private entity, there is no way to check on procedures for expansion, the costs that the league incurs, the franchise fees charged by the league, and more.

I get the league has no obligation to answer any questions I have - I'm still blocked on most social media channels by them for asking questions previously - but there has to be some semblance of a procedure and a transaction for this to happen. Seattle isn't just joining the NHL; rather, they went through a long vetting process, paid an exorbitant amount of money to join the league, and have met the requirements for expansion set out by the league. With the NWHL still operating behind a curtain like a Wizard of Oz, how do they expand if they're not sustainable?

Again, why now?

What bothers me more is that if there is money to expand to Toronto, why isn't Boynton asking Dani Rylan to up the salary cap for the teams currently in the NWHL? Top players will still make a maximum of $15,000 in base salary, and the NWHL is now rolling out another franchise that will incur $150,000 USD of salary cap usage. Are we ever going to see any player in the NWHL earn a liveable wage in the next five years? The next decade?

This is the push that the PWHPA are on - make hockey the primary job for these women where they're paid a liveable wage - and everything the NWHL does seems to push against this idea. If the league is yet to be sustainable, the goal of paying the players a liveable wage seems like nothing more than a fantasy.

Why is anyone in favour of this?

Look, I've had my problems with how this league is run and some of the stuff that they've done over the years, but expanding into Canada where everything is 30% more expensive when earning Canadian dollars makes no sense from a sustainability idea. If every dollar spent in Canada is worth 70-cents on the bottom line, this endeavour is going to cost the Toronto franchise a lot more money and require a helluva bigger effort to make the same dollars as the Whitecaps do or the Beauts do who earn 30% more revenue simply by being on the US side of the border.

While the sentiment and the intentions are, I believe, good here, this seems like the worst time to be peddling an expansion team when there's no guarantee there will be hockey at all. Drumming up support for a brand-new women's hockey team that has zero star power in a city where they still miss the team from the league that competed against the NWHL at a time when hockey is legitimately the least of people's concerns makes it an even worse idea.

So why now? What was the rush?

I'm not certainly that anyone will ever get that answer.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Extinction Of The Pronghorns

The news yesterday was like the sound of a hunter's gun on the prairies, and the results were just as deadly. If you missed the news, the University of Lethbridge announced that the men's and women's hockey programs would cease to exist as the school faces budget shortfalls after the province of Alberta announced there would be no new funding given to Alberta institutions and each school would be required to get its individual affairs in order by reducing unnecessary spending. If this is a shock to you, there are a number of fairly-obvious factors that have led to this point in time, and none of them are the fault of the players. So settle in, folks, because today I want to talk about the extinction of the Lethbridge Pronghorns.

A Pound Of Flesh

In 2019 after four years of New Democratic Party leadership, Alberta voters swung hard to the right for a variety of reasons and elected the United Conservative Party to be their new leaders for the province. The leader of the UCP, Jason Kenney, assumed the role of Premier for the Province of Alberta, ushering in conservative planning for the next four years.

Kenney and his team delivered the budget on October 24, 2019, and it became strikingly clear that the services and goods that Albertans had grown accustomed to receiving were either changing drastically or being eliminated all together. As Tyler Dawson wrote in The National Post on the same day,
"Significant changes are coming in some areas, in particular, to post-secondary education: a 12-per-cent funding cut — found via unspecified 'departmental efficiencies' and reducing government grants to post-secondary institutions — will save an expected $1.9 billion; tuition rates, meanwhile, will be allowed to increase by seven per cent per year as the freeze is thawed."
A 12% funding cut sounds small, but when one considers that it's $1.9 billion in projected savings it becomes a huge problem for the institutions affected. Cuts to any programs - whether in the classroom, in a sporting venue, or elsewhere - will have ripple effects down the line, so there would need to be some serious thought put into these cutbacks by the respective institutions as it pertained to them.

Kenney's measures, though, wasn't the first time that operational costs of universities in Alberta were being questioned. Back in 2017, Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt pointed out that university and college executive compensation is "way out of line with the rest of the country". Janet French of the Edmonton Sun noted in the linked article that University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor Michael Mahon's "base salary was $482,431 in 2016-17, and his total compensation was $707,000" while colleagues across the nation earned lower base salaries and lower overall compensation for the same position at other Canadian universities.

Wait, I can hear you saying, how can Canada's self-proclaimed richest province - the one that MacLean's Jason Markusoff identified in February as having "largest economy, highest incomes, lowest tax rates, and — though sometimes Conservative leaders were too bashful to talk about it — the richest and most generous public sector, with competitive pay for doctors, nurses and teachers" - see $1.9 billion slashed from its post-secondary funding amidst the machete work done by the UCP to the overall Alberta budget, and not lose things that they held so dear?

Here's your pound of flesh, Alberta.

As Mr. Markusoff notes in his MacLean's article, "Alberta would reap at least $14.4 billion in extra income if its tax rates and programs matched those of Ontario, the second-least-taxed province in Canada. It would have $22.9 billion more if it had Quebec-level taxes."

Consider what you would have, what you could do, and what would be saved with $14.4 billion of extra income. Yes, we can all agree that provincial sales taxes and other programs may put a dent in your wallet a little more when it comes to day-to-day spending, but the overall effects are that you have fully-funded universities, more money for necessary capital and infrastructure spending, and the ability to withstand economic slow-downs such as the one we're in right now.

Now imagine what you could do with $22.9 billion.

Why is that important? There's one man who doesn't believe provincial sales taxes will help the Alberta economy. He currently sits in the Premier's chair in the Alberta legislative buildings.

The Fallacious Statement

I'm not going to post the long-winded statement about the cutting of the Pronghorns men's and women's teams here, but you can read it in full via this link if you like. I'll go over the highlights here.

Let's start with the obvious fallacy made in the opening sentence which is a false dilemma. The statement reads,
"Facing three successive years of significant reductions to its operating grant, the University of Lethbridge has discontinued its men's and women's varsity hockey programs."
This is a false dilemma because there is more than one option for mitigating the reductions to the operating grant. They could raise funds, acquire more sponsors, find additional donors, or use any number of deficit-reducing methods in combination to make up the reductions. The fact that the school starts off this statement with an obvious logical fallacy doesn't set the rest of the argument up well.
"The University implemented a number of budget strategies to deal with the first reduction (2019/20 budget) in November 2019, which included 19 positions being discontinued and then eliminated an additional 42 positions across several departments in March 2020 (in response to the 2020/21 budget balancing requirements)."
Wait a second here. The school introduces a red herring in that they were eliminating positions they felt unnecessary, not cutting entire programs or sports from the school. One does not necessarily lead to the other, so this talk is nothing more than setup for "difficult decisions".

In fact, Demetrios Nicolaides, the current Minister of Advanced Education, told Dean Bennett of The Canadian Press in January 2020 that he was "urging them to immediately freeze hiring and stop spending on travel and hosting" in order to "find savings wherever possible". He didn't say "scrap sports programs"; rather, he told schools to stop spending on frivolous things.

In response to Minister Nicolaides, the University of Lethbridge stated via email, "We are currently working toward a balanced budget that will be presented to the board this spring. To date, the University has implemented many of the measures mentioned in the letter including restrictions on replacing vacant administrative positions."

If the school was working towards a balanced budget with the hockey teams included, axing the programs at the last minute to balance the books is wildly irresponsible and wholly reprehensible. While I get that the school had already cut 61 positions from the budget, there are still some people earning healthy six-figure salaries that could certainly live comfortably on a little less. I'll get to that part in a second, though.
"The Pronghorn hockey programs have been a source of great pride for our athletes, students, alumni, donors, sponsors, the campus community and supporters throughout southern Alberta. I know this news will significantly impact everyone associated with these programs."
Thanks, Captain Obvious. I really like how you acknowledge the civic pride the teams brought the school and community, but believe that cutting programs that appeal to all these people is the best course of action. That's the text equivalent of a face-palm.
"The men's and women's varsity hockey programs have been an important part of the University's athletic history, developing hundreds of student-athletes, multiple Canada West and U SPORTS all-stars and spurring a number of community outreach initiatives. In addition to hockey camps, minor hockey team sponsorships, participation in athletes-in-school reading and anti-bullying programs, a number of former Pronghorns have emerged as coaches and leaders in southern Alberta minor hockey organizations."
Allow me to translate: "We've done some really good things, but we've decided that the cost of doing good for our students and community is a price we're not willing to pay any longer. I hope that's ok. Signed Moron-In-Chief Michael J. Mahon".
"Measuring the impact of university athletic programs goes far beyond winning percentages, and our hockey programs have played a very important role in the development of minor hockey in southern Alberta," says Mahon. "It is not lost on us what a significant loss this is to all those who have benefitted from the Pronghorn programs over the years."
Yet you cut the programs. I'll let Jim Downey handle this response.
Following the 2015 review, the University contributed annually an additional $400,000 for three years and $350,000 in 2019-20 ($1.55 million total) in seeking to stabilize the financial situation for Pronghorn Athletics and allow time to source external revenues to contribute to the operations. Unfortunately, external revenues for operations have not materialized and with the unprecedented budget reductions imposed upon the University, there is little choice but to reduce expenditures.
According to the 2019 University of Lethbridge financial statements, the institution set aside "10-12% of the University's annual operating budget to fund strategic priorities, capital projects and one time cash needs that may arise". The Operating Activities of this reserve currently sits at just over $30 million and grew from $24 million in 2018. If you're investing $350,000 - 1.2% of the operating reserve - while growing it by $6 million, it would seem that the investment isn't causing the school any harm financially whatsoever. In fact, one could say that the hockey teams would fall into "strategic priorities" when you consider all the civic pride and good the programs were doing in and around Lethbridge, but maybe I see things differently, I guess.

You could also argue that the "Student Experience" line found in this section would apply since 52 students who were brought to the school specifically for hockey would be affected by the cut of their programs, but, again, maybe I see things differently.

On top of that, if your recently-terminated Athletic Director, Mr. Ken MacInnes, wasn't generating external revenues for the athletic department as you wanted or needed for the athletic department and teams, shouldn't that have been addressed at some point in the five years he occupied the office? Secondly, Mr. Mahon, wouldn't that also fall upon you to ensure that there are opportunities for the athletic department to share in external sponsorships and advertising options?

There seems to be a woeful amount of mismanagement happening here, and it's 52 players, coaches, and staff who are now paying for that woeful mismanagement.
"This is not a rash decision and it's the last option we want to pursue, but it's also necessary to ensure the viability of the University and the sustainability of Pronghorn Athletics," says Mahon. "It is unusual for a school of our size to fund as many teams as we have. My hope is with a concentrated focus on remaining Pronghorn programs, we can continue to provide our student-athletes with a robust and meaningful experience."
There is so much baloney pouring out of this statement that Mr. Mahon could open a butchery.

First, if it was the last option as stated, why was it the only option proposed and executed? Players weren't told until reportedly 30-45 minutes before the announcement nor were they asked to try and save their programs. Donors and alumni weren't contacted. Nothing about this says "last option" and goes directly back to the false dilemma fallacy at the start where this is the only option considered. If you're going to spew this much crap, the least you could do for everyone is give us a courtesy flush.

Second, with hockey included, you had nine varsity sports for an enrolment of around 9000 students. Maybe that doesn't work for you because you can't do math, but your argument of "school of our size" not being able to fund varsity sports doesn't hold an ounce of water.
  • The University of Brandon in Manitoba has about 3500 students, and it supports six varsity teams.
  • Thompson River in BC has about 9500 students, and they have eight varsity teams.
  • The newly-joined Trinity Western University in BC has about 4500 students and boasts 14 varsity teams including men's and women's hockey.
  • Nipissing University in Ontario has 5000 students and boasts 14 varsity sports including men's and women's hockey.
  • Ontario Tech has 10,000 students and boasts 15 varsity sports including men's and women's hockey.
  • Bishop's University in Quebec has 3000 students and boasts nine varsity sports including women's hockey.
  • Mount Allison in New Brunswick has 2200 students and boasts 11 varsity sports including both men's and women's hockey.
  • St. Thomas University in New Brunswick has 2000 students and boasts 13 varsity sports including both men's and women's hockey.
In fact, virtually all of the AUS schools have lower enrollments, more varsity teams, and feature a ton of men's and women's hockey teams. It might be time to stop spreading statements that any high school freshman could disprove with access to Google.

Time To Make Cents

I think it's time to show a few cards because someone here is playing with aces up his sleeve.
This would be the posted salary numbers for the five executives named in the 2019 University of Lethbridge financial statements. If we draw our attention to the "President" line - aka Michael J. Mahon's line - we can see that he brought home a base pay of $440,000 and total compensation of $740,000, an increase of $16,000 from his 2018 compensation of $724,000. Included in that line is $30,000 for a "housing and research allowance" which seems ridiculous when he's already making nearly half-a-million dollars, and the tiny "Note 5" is recorded as "Automobile provided, no dollar amount included in other non-cash benefit figures" which, again, seems ridiculous for a guy who makes $440,000 annually.

Has he done the right thing in reducing his salary when it comes to budget cuts? According to Gerry Moddejonge's article in the Edmonton Sun, Mahon took a "30 per cent pay cut this year" which would mean he's only bringing home $308,000 as opposed to his $440,000 salary if there were no increases between 2019 and 2020. The $132,000 in savings is a nice start, but he could do a lot more by coughing up that $30,000 housing allowance and asking the four other executives to match the salary cut of 30%. If they did, these five executives would go from a combined $1.711 million annually in base pay to $1.2 million - a $500,000 savings which would not only cover the university's investment of $350,000 in 2019-20, but leave $150,000 to use for whatever means necessary.

Combined with the operating reserve monies and the scholarship monies donated by Dan Laplante, the Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey programs could have built something amazing.

A Failure Of Leadership

It was February 29, 2020 when Nick Kuhl of the Lethbridge Herald spoke to University of Lethbridge President Michael Mahon. On that day, he stated,
"Part of what we will have to do as an institution is look from a transformational perspective at how we do our business with a different funding landscape. So looking at maximizing other funding sources, including looking to fundraising, looking to partnerships outside of the university — looking at how we recruit our international students. These are all things we are already looking at, but this (provincial cut) certainly gives us motivation to go further to look at external funding sources.

“This is a challenge before us,” he acknowledged, “but I am very optimistic that as an institution we will find a way forward and continue to evolve as an academic institution.”
Has any of that been done? Are there no Lethbridge businesses who would specifically fund the hockey programs in order to keep them viable? Has anyone even bothered asking?

These are the questions that need to be asked of Mr. Mahon. He's on record as saying that this is their plan to resolve some of the financial diffculties, but has any of this been executed prior to cutting the hockey programs as a cost-saving measure? With no details released on how this would be achieved or what the plan's details were in light of cutting the hockey programs, I think it's fair to say that Mr. Mahon hasn't done what he said he was going to do over the last 50 days.

Nice job, boss. Solid effort. Excuse my sarcasm.

Biggest Clowns In This Circus

You might be asking how I know this move to cut the programs was a cost-savings measure.

Here's a quick tip for everyone: don't have conversations in public that you don't want out in public.
"We're shutting it down, but it's not coming back."

I respect that hockey costs the school $1 million per year. Again, it's expensive, but what measures were taken to try and reduce costs? Was anything done outside of hoping "some UofL grad" invents the new widget? All signs point to no, so why am I even asking the question? This was pre-planned from the moment that Mahon couldn't balance the budget, and the hockey teams were the easy, low-hanging fruit to kill.

Speaking of which....

History Repeats Itself

It feels like we did this before when the University of North Dakota axed the women's hockey program after a budget shortfall by the state of North Dakota. North Dakota asked institution to cut $32 million from its budget, and they made the insane decision to cut women's hockey which still irks me to this day.

It seems like Lethbridge took a page out of the UND playbook because the students were notified less than an hour before the announcement went out, they were sent an email with the details because face-to-face meetings allow for tough questions to be asked that no one has the testicular fortitude to answer, and there were no options given to try and save the program. I don't know what it is about these administrations at the schools, but it seems none of them have compassion or empathy for the students they claim to care about and respect.

And then Lethbridge goes and says, "Hold my beer," and cuts the men's team as well. Congratulations, University of Lethbridge. You might just be the worst school for student relations on the planet.

And Then There Were Nine

It seems that Pronghorns hockey at the University of Lethbridge is dead as far as the university is concerned. I'm sure I could sit here and suggest a myriad of ways to try and fix this, but it seems like those who are making these decisions don't want it fixed either.

I get that Pronghorns hockey had struggled in recent years. The men and women both finished at the bottom of the Canada West Conference standings this year, and it had been some time since either found any success in the playoffs when they did make the postseason. This lack of success shouldn't have led anyone to the conclusion that the programs should be cut from existence at the institution, though.

Because of what appears to me to be some baffling mismanagement and incredible laziness, there will be nine teams in Canada West next season on both the men's and women's sides of the coin. I feel for the players, coaches and staff in this time because you definitely deserved a better fate, but that opportunity will not be given after management felt that your teams threatened the "the viability of the University and the sustainability of Pronghorn Athletics".

As I sit here now after writing all that I did, I think of the young men and women who pulled those Pronghorns jerseys on over their gear and realize that they might be better off not playing and representing a school like the University of Lethbridge.

Not once at any point this season or any other season did they ever give up when it came to their efforts on the ice or representing Lethbridge proudly. Not once can I ever say that the "give a damn" level dropped in all the games that featured the Pronghorns that I am proud to say I watched and called. Never once do I recall them declining an interview or being unwilling to talk about the team and the school. As far as I can tell, they never gave up on each other nor did they ever stop being proud of being Pronghorns.

Until, that is, yesterday when you gave up on them. When you told them that their efforts don't matter. When you told them that money is more important than their educations. When you told them that you're not even willing to fight for them. When you told them they don't matter.

If they don't matter to you, Michael J. Mahon, despite all the great things you admitted they did in and for the campus and community, then you never deserved to have these classy individuals make up the Lethbridge Pronghorns men's and women's hockey teams. And while you may save a few bucks after cutting the programs, you'll never get to experience all the good these players will do and all the things they're going to accomplish both on the ice and in life.

You just killed hockey at the University of Lethbridge for good. When you look in the mirror tonight that you bought with your six-figure salary at your paid-for-with-a-home-allowance house, I hope it was worth it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 20 April 2020

Heidi Stevenson And 17 Others

This news seems to have filtered far and wide, but 23-year veteran RCMP officer Heidi Stevenson, seen to the left, was killed yesterday as part of Canada's worst mass shooting in the country's history. HBIC does not exist without a heart; rather, this is a tragic and sad moment for our nation, for the families of the 18 victims, and for the Nova Scotia RCMP who lost a sister yesterday. While there has yet to be any explanation for the shooter's intentions, his name will not be mentioned once here because he doesn't deserve any sort of recognition for what he did. Instead, today's article is about the 18 people who had their lives tragically cut short through no fault of their own, and to recognize and thank the men and women, like Constable Stevenson, of law enforcement departments across this great nation who give us reason to feel safe.

According to reports, the gunman who took the lives of these 18 people was wearing a police uniform and driving some sort of vehicle that was made to look like am RCMP cruiser. It takes a special kind of coward to wear the uniform of the people we entrust to keep us safe and use that trust against us. That makes my blood boil because that trust that we're supposed to have for these brave men and women who keep us safe will now be eroded for those people in Portapique and elsewhere in this country.

For the families of the 17 victims not identified as of yet, I hope and pray you find some closure in this tragedy no matter how long it takes. This was a senseless, cowardly act of violence, and I want to extend my heartfelt, sincere condolences for your losses. No one should have to suffer this kind of loss for what appears to be a gutless act of violence. May your loved ones rest in peace knowing the immense amount of love you've shown them.

To the Stevenson family, your loss will never be recouped and I am truly sorry for that. A husband and two sons will mourn forever over the loss of their mother, and that's painfully heartbreaking to know. I want you to know that your mother and your wife is a hero in the eyes of this writer. She was investigating the circumstances of this cowardly killer, and I hope she's bestowed the highest honour she can possibly receive as an officer because she was one of the good ones. While the words "stay strong" will ring hollow today, celebrating life in her memory, her values, and her teachings will always keep her spirit alive. May she rest in peace as a true hero.

Heidi Stevenson is a hero. She always will be a hero. Her partner, who was injured and is in hospital, is a hero. In saying that, I proudly want this candle to burn for all eternity in her honour and in honour of the brave men and women across this great nation who wear the badge and keep us safe. Thank you for being everyday heroes.

Until next time, honour the 18 victims by holding your stick high!