Sunday, 28 February 2021

A New Project

It's the final day of February, and that means spring is right around the corner. Normally, there would have been trade chatter with the NHL trade deadline changing teams' fortunes, but not this year as everything is re-aligned. With no trade deadline madness and a new month starting, I want to start a fun project that will run throughout March. It's one that I'm hoping you'll participate in because it should provide some great discussion points, but I'm hoping we can peek inside your closets and get the stories behind your favorite hockey jersey!

Everyone has a favorite jersey. I have a few that I prefer wearing over others, but everyone has one as a hockey fan. It might be a rather normal jersey that doesn't have a remarkable story. It might be an off-the-wall jersey that everyone asks you what team it is. Maybe it's a jersey with your favorite player on the back. Maybe it's something so far out there that you just love it for its unique aspects. Any and all of these reasons would qualify you to be part of this project!

As an example of what this project will look like, I posted a story back in April 2020 of a Petr Nedved St. Louis Blues jersey I own. The jersey itself isn't a favorite of mine, but the story of the person who owned it is pretty funny, and the explanation of how everything went down in the NHL to result in him getting Nedved on a jersey he never actually wore is even more mind-blowing. Fun stories about your jerseys are what I seek, and I can fill in some details about the player or team below the story.

I won't deny that I have a closet full of weird and crazy jerseys. From the New York Islanders' Fisherman with #11 Kasparaitis jersey and all the approriate patching to a Florida Panthers #34 Mathieu Biron jersey, from an NHLPA red jersey worn by the Americans at the NHLPA 4-on-4 Challenge in Hamilton during the 1994 NHL Strike to a St. John's IceCaps Aaron Harstad alternate jersey, there are a handful of stories of how I acquired these, why I acquired these, and what makes them unique in my own mind.

On the surface, you're probably thinking, "Dude's got a terrible hockey jersey collection." You're not wrong, but there are some I wanted, some I added purely for the uniqueness of the jersey, and others because they're simply never going to be worn by anyone else on the planet except those specific players. It's a collection that makes my closet of jerseys higly unique!

I'm not here to debate the "it's a sweater, Teebz" crowd either. When jerseys moved away from wool and knitting to mass-produced heavy polyester fibres, the terms became interchangeable. With the "innovations" that Reebok/adidas keep making, they're no longer "sweaters" in the traditional hockey sense so I use either term with "jersey" being more applicable to the construction of the garment. Sweater is fine; jersey is just as acceptable. If you use the term "sweater" in your submission, I'll do the same for aesthetic reasons.

If you want to get in on this fun, please email me a front and back picture of your jersey with the story about why it's your favorite jersey. If you're not using the link above, email to "cdnuniguy@gmail.com" with the subject "Jersey Project" since you might do this off your phone which has a camera to capture those images of your jersey.

Let's have some fun this March by checking out our favorite jerseys here on HBIC!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 February 2021

A Big Weekend

I'm not sure about you, but I'm pretty pumped for a weekend of women's hockey live from New York City. Normally, I'd be knee-deep in Canada West women's hockey playoffs and looking at results from across the country when it came to the U SPORTS National Championship which was supposed to happen in Montreal, but this year, as you're very aware, has been anything but normal. Seeing the best women's players on the planet gathering at Madison Square Garden for a couple of games of high-intensity hockey is what I've been craving for a while now, and that will be delivered today and tomorrow!

First, however, there's some business to address before we settle in for the games. As you may know, the PWHPA is working towards finding a future for women's hockey where women can be professional hockey players as an everyday job without having to work other full-time jobs. While they're aligning themselves with NHL teams such as the New York Rangers, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, there's still work to be done on the professional women's hockey league front before anyone starts celebrating.

These ladies are pursuing their respective careers currently, and none of them have "hockey player" as their primary job despite a lot of them playing on Olympic teams and getting their educations paid for through athletic scholarships. There needs to be a future where hockey can be a full-time profession, but, right now, all we can do is support them as best as we can.

That's where you come in because you can make an impact! If you missed the social media posts, the PWHPA is selling player jerseys where 50% of each sale goes back to the respective player you get on the back of the jersey while the other 50% goes into a pot to be distributed among all the players! Not only that, but if you choose to not have a name on the back, 100% of those funds go into that collective pot to be split among the players! On top of that, the PWHPA store has a ton of player-centric merchandise and PWHPA merchandise for sale too!

Of course, you might be saying, "Teebz, you should put your money where your mouth is," and that's entirely fair. I shouldn't ask you to spend your hard-earned dollars if I'm just going to talk the talk and not walk the walk. Except the image above is from my order for a Team Scotiabank Calgary jersey with #27 Jordy Zacharias on it. I'm proud to support the former Bisons forward after all the interviews and time she gave us throughout the years on The Hockey Show and Bisons Sports broadcasts, so this was an easy decision for me when it came to supporting Jordy's dream!

If you're a Canada West women's hockey fan, there are other options as well. The Scotiabank Calgary team will see Brigette Lacquette (Manitoba) wear #4 , Kaitlin Willoughby (Saskatchewan) as #17, Iya Gavrilova (Calgary) as #88, and Alex Poznikoff (Alberta) as #16 when they play. Maybe you're more into the Sonnet Insurance Toronto team who features a ton of CWHL and Olympic stars like #24 Natalie Spooner, #19 Brianna Jenner, #20 Sarah Nurse, and #47 Jamie Lee Rattray among some of my favorite players like #10 Shannon Stewart, Winnipegger #48 Alexis Woloschuk, and goaltenders #27 Erica Howe and #34 Amanda Makela. The only drawback is that Team Quebec's jerseys weren't ready for this release, so if you're looking for a Marie-Philip Poulin, Melodie Daoust, Ann-Sophie Bettez, or Genevieve Lacasse jersey, you'll have to wait a little while longer.

Of course that brings us to the two teams playing tonight in Team Minnesota and Team New Hampshire and who could be worn on the back of those jerseys. If you're a Team Minnesota fan, you may want to invest in a jersey featuring Winnipegger #28 Ryleigh Houston, Finnish goaltending legend #41 Noora Raty, US Olympian #21 Hilary Knight, or Wisconsin Badger standout Abby Roque. Team New Hampshire features their own star-studded lineup for your jersey selection as you'll see goaltender #33 Alex Cavallini, #13 Brianna Decker, #28 Amanda Kessel, and Ohio State standout #23 Jincy Dunne wear the white jerseys tonight.

Of course, those players in the paragraph above are just a small sample of the players who will be on the ice at Madison Square Garden tonight, so you're probably asking how you watch them play. The good news is that CBC is the official streaming partner of the PWHPA this weekend, so tonight's game will be featured on the CBC streaming platform at 6:30pm CT/7:30pm ET!

The bad news is that if CBC airs this game with the choppiness of the U SPORTS National Championship last season, it might be the last chance for CBC to be the official anything of the PWHPA. There's nothing worse than watching a buffering stream of live hockey, so tonight's game should give U SPORTS hockey fans a good idea on whether or not CBC has fixed their streaming platform for future U SPORTS events. Keep an eye on this one as the night progresses and more and more people tune in!

Of course, tomorrow is the big night for women's hockey across network TV as Team Minnesota will face off against Team New Hampshire live on the NHL Network in the US and Sportsnet in Canada at 7pm ET! Having women's hockey back on network TV in both Canada and the US is exciting, and I'm pumped for it despite the Canadian teams not participating. At this point, seeing the PWHPA getting its shot on television is long overdue in my mind, and I'm expecting a heckuva game from the two American squads!

If you can and it's within your means, please support the women of the PWHPA. If you support the other women's league, that's good too, but they pay less back to the players when it comes to merchandise sales. In the end, though, you're supporting women's hockey one way or another, and that's the goal of all this - support the women who are pushing for professional hockey as a primary job. If men can dream about playing pro hockey, women should be able to have the same dream.

Enjoy the games this weekend, folks. I know I will!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 February 2021

TBC: One To Remember

I'm not going to pretend that there was ever a single solitary moment that I'd score an NHL goal. I knew it wasn't in the cards for me, but that didn't mean I couldn't imagine what it was like. There are lots of players who fall to the wayside for a number of reasons who never score an NHL goal, but to get one goal at the NHL level is a special moment. Today, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review One to Remember: Stories from 39 Members of the NHL's One Goal Club, written by Ken Reid and published by ECW Press. 39 former professional hockey players share their stories about the one moment when the spotlight was on them as their names were written in ink on the NHL scoresheet for the only time in their careers, and it's a heckuva read when you consider everything these men went through in order to make that moment happen!

I needed to update the Ken Reid biography from the previous books he wrote, so I went and found Ken Reid in disguise for the picture! Jokes aside, the book's jacket reads, "Ken is the co-anchor of the weeknight prime time edition of Sportsnet Central on Sportsnet. He has covered the Olympics, the Super Bowl, multiple Grey Cups, and has appeared on Hockey Night in Canada. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons." On top of those accolades in Ken's career, he was often seen on Tim & Sid, and is a successful author with a number of books to his name including a few that have been reviewed here such as Hockey Card Stories, One Night Only, Dennis Maruk, and Hockey Card Stories 2!

One to Remember is a story of sacrifices, struggles, overcoming the odds, and finally putting one's name in the books in the story called hockey. Reid speaks with 39 players who fought, battled, and chased a dream to play in the NHL and to score at the NHL level only to see that goal total stop at one single goal. However, each of the 39 men interviewed by Reid has a unique story on how their goals happened - deflections, slapshots from the boards, goalie goals, one-timers, snipes that went bar down - in this rather entertaining book!

What makes each of the stories unique is that the 39 men all took different routes to scoring that first NHL goal. A lot of the stories in One to Remember are about toiling in the minor leagues while waiting for that big break, but Reid breaks his book down into chapters that find similarities between the 39 stories such as "Family Ties", "The Wrong Era", and "Higher Education". As stated above, each story is unique, and these stories reveal that there are a number of paths to realizing an NHL dream.

What shouldn't be forgotten, however, is that each of the men in One to Remember worked hard at every level of hockey they played as they waited for their big break to get a shot on NHL ice. As an example, Alain Nasreddine's first NHL goal came at the age of 31, not at 19, 20, or 21 years of age, so it shouldn't be forgotten that the effort to make the NHL isn't based on draft status or point totals. Working hard at every hockey level for each of the 39 men in the stories paid off more than the point totals they accumulated or the highlight reels on which they appeared. It's a good lesson to keep in mind for every hockey player at every level.

One of my favorite chapters in One to Remember are the goalie goals because of how rarely they happen. Having been lucky enough to see him play in person, there's a story from former NHL goalie Chris Mason in the book from his moment with the Nashville Predators when he scored. I won't reveal the story, but there is a neat note that Reid includes in his section. It reads,
"Five years earlier in an American Hockey League game, Mason scored a goal for the Milwaukee Admirals against the Utah Grizzlies. And just like his NHL goal, his AHL goal was not a classic either. It was the same type of play."
Reading that had me scouring Youtube for a glimpse of this goal, but it also makes him the lone goalie to score in both the AHL and the NHL. There have been other goalies who have scored in two different leagues, but Mason is the only one to do it in both of those leagues. And he tells the story of his NHL goal in One to Remember!

Overall, One to Remember is a great book about 39 players whose cup of coffee saw them reach a dream each of them had in scoring an NHL goal. While it was certainly a thrill for all of them to play in the NHL, the excitement and pride each take in their NHL goals differs but all of them are exceptionally grateful for the moment. In hearing their stories of hard work and stick-to-it-ness, though, Reid gives readers a good sense of how hard it is just to make it to the NHL, let alone scoring, and that can't be ignored as the overall arc in each of the 39 stories. Because of this, One to Remember is entirely deserving of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

There are a few moments of adult-based language in One to Remember when the players are telling their stories, so this book would be recommended for teens and older based on the PG-rating for the salty language. That being said, a lot of these players are older so it may be better for adult hockey fans to pick this book up due to the age of the players Ken Reid interviewed. What shouldn't be lost on anyone, though, is that the hard-work message by each of the players should apply to every up-and-coming hockey player! Look for One to Remember at your local bookstore or library!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 February 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 440

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with another incredible guest whose hockey story is awesome, but her classroom work might be better! I feel extremely privilged when we can have guests on who tell us about their amazing careers, but I feel like this guest's story has many chapters left to write based upon where the future is leading. If there is one drawback, Jenna, after acing her exams, was back to work to make a little money so she wasn't able to make this interview, but she'll be back next week. In saying that, let's dive into this guest's story!

The woman you see to the left is our guest tonight, and that's Regan Wright! Regan graduated from the Alberta Pandas last year after spending five seasons patrolling the wing for Howie Draper, and we'll learn all about her career tonight! Teebz chats with Regan about growing up in Calgary, playing for Team Alberta, putting her name on the map with the AFHL's Calgary Fire, a pile of accolades and achievements, playing for Coach Draper and the Pandas, winning a U SPORTS National Championship, and the one thing that may surprise most people about her. Perhaps more interesting to me was learning that she's basically been a genius since childhood, her efforts in the classroom on a project she did had a major effect on a Canadian landscape, and how those good marks and hard work have led to a new challenge! Regan gave an exceptional interview, and she's definitely going to be someone to keep an eye on in the future based upon this one-hour chat. Make sure you tune in on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com at 5:30pm CT to hear our talk!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's 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, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store. 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 Regan Wright as we talk Pandas, Fire, milestones, bison, injuries, field hockey, winning a national championship, missed opportunities, a very bright future, , and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: February 25, 2021: Episode 440

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The Fall Guys

In the hockey world, it's a known fact that one can't fire a team of players, so the coach is always the fall guy when the wheels come off. Good coaches are sacrificed as a wake-up call for underperforming players in the hopes of righting a sinking ship, and there's often a bump in performance for these players as they look to impress the new coach while trying to shake whatever funk they're in. Today, the metaphors gave way to Montreal Canadiens' GM Marc Bergevin firing head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller in order to save a team free-falling down the North Division standings.

When the Canadiens face the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow, Dominique Ducharme will be the head coach while former Laval Rocket assistant coach Alex Burrows assumes the assistant coach role with the Canadiens. The lack of practice time with the squad means very little will change in terms of systems and styles, but it seems that there may be some roster shuffling involved for Ducharme's first game as the head man for one of the NHL's most storied franchises.

The Canadiens were 2-4-2 in their last eight games after getting off to a rather impressive 7-1-2 start, but after watching the aforementioned Jets and the Edmonton Oilers nudge Montreal into playoff peril thanks to that eight-game slide Marc Bergevin felt that something needed to be done to right the good ship Canadiens. Cue the firings.

"I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we worked together," Bergevin said in a statement released by the team. "I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard."

Apparently not in high enough regard to fix this struggling team following a 5-4 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators, yet still holding a winning record and a playoff position in the North Division. Apparently not in high enough regard to look at his $10.5 million goaltender's mediocre statistics and demand more from him. Apparently not in high enough regard to ask why a defenceman - Jeff Petry - is leading his team in scoring despite adding a pile of high-priced talent this summer.

While Marc Bergevin should be lauded for getting Jake Allen, Tyler Toffoli, and Josh Anderson based on how they've played, this team is a reflection of bad deals and poor signings from seasons past. There is far too much money skating for this roster nightly that aren't performing close to the money they're being paid, and it seemed like Claude Julien was doing all he could to try and find combinations to make these underperforming players successful.

One can look at the playoff success, or lack thereof, as a potential reason for the firings today. With the team plummeting down the standings, missing the playoffs was not an option for the Canadiens this season after all the off-season moves by Bergevin, so changing the voice in the room might be the impetus needed for the players to snap out of their current slide. While it seems unlikely that Ducharme's voice will be that catalyst, time will tell if this move was wise by Bergevin.

One thing is certain, though: the GM will not stand idly by as his team slides down the standings.

With the Jets in the comforts of home and playing fairly well, tomorrow's game will certainly be a challenge for the struggling Canadiens. They're going to need good goaltending and some opportunistic scoring if they hope to end this skid against a team neck-and-neck with them in the standings. A split in these two games would be seen as a positive right now for what appears to be a rather fragile Canadiens team.

If the Canadiens fall in both games, they'll play the Senators at home before welcoming the Jets once again for another two game set. Dropping eight points to the Jets would be catastrophic to their final standing in the North Division, so the Canadiens need to figure this out in a hurry if they're going to make a run for the North Division crown.

Normally, you'd trust Claude Julien's veteran coaching voice to find the path out of this jungle that the Canadiens are in, but that responsibility falls to a guy who has been a head coach at the QMJHL level as the pinnacle of his coaching career. It's a tall task, and it might be a gamble that wll eventually cost Marc Bergevin his job.

That's the risk you take in making coaches the fall guys.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Women Get Centerstage

It's 2021 and I'm writing this article like it's a major achievement in network broascasting, but this should be a reflection of how far we still have to go in normalizing women's sports on network television. The three networks shown above - Rogers' Sportsnet, the NHL Network, and ESPN - are all making pushes for women's hockey as announcements broke today from all three networks. Let's dive into the news that we saw today because this, in all honesty, should be the start of something amazing when it comes to women's hockey.

We'll start with the professional ranks where the PWHPA is preparing to hold two games this weekend at Madison Square Garden. As per the release today by the PWHPA, the Sunday, February 28 game featuring the Team Minnesota group against the Team New Hampshire group will air live on the NHL Network in the US and Sportsnet in Canada at 7pm ET! For those who may be busy, MSG Network will re-air the game on Monday, March 1 at 8pm ET!

Having these games on network television is a strong showing from the NHL's partners in their interests in the NHL games. Besides the New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden hosting these two games being played by the women, two networks who carry NHL games are coming together to show women's hockey without worrying about profitability or the bottom line for their respective businesses. For once, women's hockey is being given a level playing field when it comes to TV exposure by these networks.

"We're looking forward to taking the ice at Madison Square Garden for the first time in women's pro hockey history," Hilary Knight stated in the release. "This partnership with the New York Rangers, NHL Network and Sportsnet is so much more than that. It provides us with a platform to demonstrate just how exciting women's hockey can be. The visibility it provides is why we launched the Dream Gap Tour in 2019."

The women in the PWHPA have been playing under the radar for the most part. There have been bigger weekend events in Toronto in Canada and in a handful of places in the US like Tampa Bay, but the visibility of seeing the PWHPA players has been difficult because there haven't been simple ways to find those games to watch. With the announcements that Sportsnet and the the NHL Network are stepping up to cover women's hockey coinciding with the announcement that NBC Sports will air the March 6 game live on NBCSN at 3pm ET that day, we're legitimately on the precipice of having women's hockey televised regularly if these broadcast partners stick with investing in the women's game.

Before we go off celebrating in the streets, there's still another announcement that was made today concerning the four-letter US sports cable network, and this one excites me as much as the one above does. ESPN, who has pretty much avoided hockey for years when it comes to live broadcasts, announced today that they have entered a multi-year agreement with the NCAA to air the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship - better known as the Frozen Four - starting in 2021!

"We are excited ESPN will broadcast the 2021 NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship," Anita Brenner, Deputy Director of Athletics at Cornell University and Chair of the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Committee, said in the release. "ESPN will provide the broadest access to the championship in its history, and we are honored to showcase these student-athletes, among the best players in the world."

For years, it was lamented that the women's championship was relegated to online streams or no coverage until the final at all. While this is an increase of three women's games per season on ESPN and doesn't seem like much, it also should be viewed as the first domino to fall when one considers that ESPN is working to get back into the NHL scene behind the scenes. Having NCAA women's hockey on a larger platform like ESPN - even if it's only the final three games of the season - is better than none at all when it comes to exposure.

The catch is that ESPN also included what seemed like a teaser for expanded women's hockey coverage in the future, stating, "The Frozen Four, in addition to culminating the 2021 season, also signals the beginning of a new, multi-year rights agreement for NCAA women's ice hockey coverage on ESPN."

If they do cover more games or possibly have a featured game each week, that would go miles in getting women's hockey on the map thanks to ESPN's broader footprint on the television landscape compared to the Big Ten Network. While BTN was always a solid choice for women's hockey thanks to schools like Wisconsin and Minnesota playing in the Big Ten Conference, having the wider coverage of ESPN will allow for, hopefully, more teams to be seen and more athletes to be watched. And that's the point of all this, right?

It was a big day for women's hockey in 2021 when it comes to smashing through that network broadcast glass ceiling. It will ultimately be up to the networks to decide whether or not they'll want to continue with this effort, but investing in women's hockey at the ground-floor level seems like the smart thing to do. I'm no CEO or anything, but having that feather in your cap when the NHL is quietly exploring a women's professional league seems like a good thing to have.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 February 2021

TMC: Tough Guy

While waiting for the Lake Tahoe outdoor games to commence or resume on the weekend, I went off in search of something hockey to watch because there was an entertainment void in my life at that moment. I went searching for said hockey entertainment on the ol' Interwebs, and I found a film that not only captured my attention but really spoke to me regarding the subject. In saying that, Teebz's Movie Club is proud to review Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story, directed by Geordie Day. I actually reviewed the Tough Guy book way back in 2012, so settling in for this film on Probert's life had me intrigued. But rather than being entertained, the film takes a hard look at Bob Probert's life, the people who tried to help him, the people who enabled him, and the people missing him after he tragically passed away on July 5, 2010.

The names you'll see in Tough Guy who made their careers in the NHL are very recognizable: Tie Domi, Troy Crowder, Joey Kocur, Colin Campbell, Don Cherry, and Chris Chelios to name a few. These men pull no punches, if you'll excuse the pun, on the kind of player Bob Probert was, how good he was, and how his addictions and dependencies changed him and affected him on the ice is rather eye-opening. Everyone knew that Bob Probert was tough, but he could score goals and make plays when given the opportunity. These men saw the good in Probert when it came to him playing hockey, but it was the other side of the coin they could get him to reconcile.

There are other people, though, who sit down for the documentary to talk about the impact that Bob Probert had on them, and they include his wife Dani Probert, his mom Theresa Probert, his brother Norm Probert, and his three daughters Brogan, Tierney, and Declyn. To hear some of these people talk about Bob Probert's loving nature, his caring parenting, his love of his children, and his devotion to his family is endearing in that you forget how feared he was on the ice. However, it was his absences due to drinking and drug use, his repeated arrests, and his repeated relapses that shook these people he loved so much. It's this portion of the film that is hard to watch.

Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story does an excellent job in telling a story that not many wanted to hear about Probert. There are no corners cut when it comes to Probert's brushes with the law and his repeated alcohol- and drug-fuelled episodes as Geordie Day digs into the these moments, and it's hard to see a guy with so much potential struggle to get himself right, particularly early in his career.

There are moments of happiness, though, where you see him at the 1988 NHL All-Star Game, see him dancing joyfully with his kids, and his wedding, but those seem to be few and far between when it comes to everything else he dealt with in his life - the legal troubles, the constant fighting in the game and keeping an NHL roster spot, and the never-ending number of enablers who allowed him to relapse despite him trying to right his life. Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story might be less about Bob Probert's failures and more about the failures of the system that was supposed to help him find his way out of darkness.

One of the interviews in Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story involved former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach and current NHL executive Colin Campbell. Campbell spoke of how the Red Wings saw Probert as a commodity rather than a person when it came to what he brought to the team.
"We were selfish, too. We knew how good Bob was and how he could help us, so we didn't fix it the way we really had to fix it. We wanted him to clean it up in two weeks. He spent a lifetime getting the way he did, and we thought we could fix it up in seven-to-ten days."
Admittedly, the Red Wings attempted something that rarely was done back then in seeking help for Bob Probert, but Campbell's description of the help they sought was more pills and medication to treat the addiction rather than treating the person. The Red Wings reaped the popularity of their star player, but did the bare minimum to help him through his well-known and well-documented addiction problem while they filled seats, sold merchandise, and peddled concessions at games.

If you've read the book, Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story in movie form is just as compelling and certainly will give you a great look into Bob Probert's far-too-short life and career in the NHL. If you haven't read the book, Tough Guy is a must-watch for what Geordie Day shows you in the many interviews, news clips, and documents presented in the film. It's not glamourous or fairy tale-like in any way, but the reality wasn't either for everyone involved in the film. You get that sense while watching Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story, and it's this realism and gravity of the situations that make this film an excellent watch about a flawed man who was loved so dearly by fans and family, feared by his opponents, and whose life ended far too soon.

Teebz's Rating: ★★★★★



Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Full Circle

1994 was the last time Mike Babcock walked the halls of arenas in Canada West hockey. He coached the Lethbridge Pronghorns in one of the most surprising seasons of Canadian university men's hockey as they went 34–11–3 en route to shocking the nation by hoisting the CIS National Men's Hockey Championship trophy in the program's eleventh season which had never seen it finish above .500 in any season previous. They were ranked first-overall nationally in December 1993 after amassing a 13-3-0 record in conference play, raising eyebrows from many who only knew of Lethbridge as a program where opponents worked on special teams. A few months later, after defeating UBC and Calgary in the Canada West playoffs, these Pronghorns embraced destiny and downed Acadia in the CIS semifinal before meeting Guelph at Maple Leaf Gardens for the final. The rest, as they say, is history following a 5-2 victory for the University of Lethbridge.

You may be wondering why I'm waxing poetic about a team that no longer exists and a coach whose mere existence in the hockey world makes people cringe, but it was announced on Saturday afternoon with an official release later in the day that Mike Babcock, Olympic gold medal-winning and Stanley Cup-winning head coach, would be taking over the head coaching duties for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team on a volunteer capacity for two seasons once current head coach Dave Adolph officially steps aside for retirement on May 1.

As I wrote the above paragraph, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, Canada West and Canadian university hockey can certainly use a celebrity boost in a big way when it comes to attracting media attention outside the walls of the schools' respective athletic communications people. Mike Babcock brings that celebrity factor in a big way, similar to how Hayley Wickenheiser did for the women's game when she joined the University of Calgary Dinos. Mainstream media paid attention to what these stars did, and this will certainly help Canada West and the Canadian university game gain some additional eyes from those who control the amplifiers.

On the other hand, though, I'm not really excited to see the "Mike Babcock Redemption Tour" ride through Western Canada as the long-time coach looks to repair his image following some high-profile gaffes at the NHL level. His interview with Pierre Lebrun wasn't the best when it came to showing remorse for his actions that ultimately led to his demise in Toronto with the Maple Leafs, and many people questioned how a guy whose lustre was so tarnished over his alleged actions could land a job with NBC Sports or a volunteer consultant coaching position with the University of Vermont considering what people knew.

I know people reading this article right now are polarized on either side due to what they know about Babcock. Yes, his list of accomplishments are impressive and it's hard to ignore those credentials when Mike Babcock expresses an interest in coaching his hometown team. However, his means of earning those accomplishments raises eyebrows and casts a dark cloud over some of the accolades he's reaped. People don't forget those missteps, particularly when they affected many players, so the decision by the University of Saskatchewan to hire Babcock hopefully came with some in-depth vetting that went beyond the trophy case.

By coming full circle back to Canada West hockey and to a program like the Huskies, which has seen enormous success without a U SPORTS national championship banner, there's an expectation that Babcock will recreate the magic he brought in 1994. I can't say that will happen due to the way the game has changed over the last 27 years, but there will still be an expectation from the players and the coaching staff every time they step on the ice: bring your best and work your hardest. The Huskies have never been short on talent, but I'm going to assume they'll be expected to give every last breath they have for sixty minutes so they don't suffer another quarterfinals loss to a lesser team like they did against the Western Mustangs in Halifax in 2020. Anything less wouldn't be acceptable under Mike Babcock's watch.

In 2017 before the Leafs played the Washington Capitals in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt filed a great story about Mike Babcock's time with the Lethbridge Pronghorns. It's a fantastic write-up about the 1993-94 year that shocked the Canadian university hockey landscape, but one line stands out from that entire story to me, and it's how Mike Babcock described his coaching efforts that season with the Pronghorns: "'The best job I've ever done,' he says. 'By far. Not even close.'"

The Huskies are hoping that line gets updated for the 2021-22 season when they take the ice, but it might also be a line that Mike Babcock can use if he seeks future NHL coaching positions. If he leads the Saskatchewan Huskies to a national championship banner without any player or school complaints of questionable conduct, that's a step in the right direction on that "Mike Babcock Redemption Tour" for his professional career. If he grants interviews, makes himself part of the university hockey community, and goes out of his way to help the players become better people and the best students they can be, that's a big step in the right direction as well.

There's a belief in sports that winning quiets the complainers and everyone's happy when things are going well. There's some truth to that statement, but it's a little different when it comes to Mike Babcock's past transgressions. There will still be microscopes following his every move until he can earn the benefit of the doubt again, but he also deserves a shot at establishing his presence with the program as well.

On top of that, with media hovering over every practice and game where Mike Babcock is early in the 2021-22 season, he can do wonders for the University of Saskatchewan and Canadian university hockey by leading the Huskies successfully while talking up how good the hockey is. After all, he helped save the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns once by showing everyone "[t]he best job I've ever done" with that national championship run in 1994.

In this case in 2021, he can help the Canadian university game as a whole and help himself if he can conjure the same magic while standing behind the bench for his hometown university team.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Longest Intermission Ever?

It's days like today in Lake Tahoe that one would normally find kids of all ages out on outdoor rinks locally with a sweater and a jersey on as they tear up and down the ice. The warmth of the sun is usually a nice invitation after a cold winter, and absorbing that warmth while the lactic acid burns in one's legs is how afternoons on the outoor rinks are enjoyed. However, the warmth of the sun does make the ice softer, so one has to watch the edge of the rink and the lines that are embedded in the ice because, as players, we normally find danger there when it comes to ruts, cracks, or melting of the ice at those points. For a league like the NHL who pushes their ability to create the magic around outdoor rinks, you'd think they'd know a little more about how rinks are affected by sun considering all the glorification of these grassroots moments they employ.

By now, you're likely aware that the NHL isn't playing the two scheduled games in Lake Tahoe this weekend during the afternoon on either day because the sun has posed a problem with the heat it's bringing to the area. The logo at center ice and the lines were starting to melt faster in the warmth of the sun thanks to their darker colours absorbing the heat faster, causing the ice to crack and develop ruts easier. Being that the playing surface was deemed unsafe, the NHL agreed to pause the game between the Vegas Golden Knight and Colorado Avalanche at the end of the first period with the Avalanche leading 1-0. The game will resume at midnight ET.

Yes, midnight. It won't be the first game to cross into a new day, but it will be the most memorable because the NHL couldn't play in fairly favorable outdoor conditions. Sometimes, the comedy writes itself.

Forget that back on January 3, I wrote, "Since Lake Tahoe's February temperatures average a high of +7C and a low of -3C, something tells me that the NHL won't be able to play their games on the lake as they may have wanted" which seems prophetic today since the NHL couldn't even play on artifical ice, let alone the picturesque lake featuring sailing boats on it today next to ice surface.

I'm not here to play "I told you so", but the NHL has seen something like this before when they tried to play a Heritage Classic game in Winnipeg on October 23, 2016. The league postponed the game due to sunlight and player safety in that outdoor event for the very same reasons they postponed today's game, so one would think this would have been addressed sooner. But apparently not.

As a general rule, we know that colder arenas produce better ice for skating and playing. Hard ice makes for less ruts and chips from skates, so passes and play move faster. With the NHL insisting on playing outdoor games in sunbelt cities, we've seen terrible ice conditions at a number of these outdoor games where the players begrudgingly admit they enjoy the event despite the ice playing a factor in the speed and, ultimately, the outcomes of these games.

With today's nine-hour intermission between the first and second periods, there's hope that the ice surface will be ready for NHL abuse once the game gets underway for the middle stanza. With no fans watching this game, the lineups for the bathrooms were already solved, but I'm sure that a nine-hour break between periods would have solved that problem too. Let's just not make this long break a habit when it comes to outdoor games.

What should become habit, though, is the NHL using its collective intelligence to understand how the sun works in months named "October", "November", or "February". The autumn sun can still be extremely warm as is the spring sun as the latter part of Februarys begin in what has been an exceptionally warm winter across North America. While the NHL will never be able to control the weather, they can use historical data, predictive modelling, and current knowledge to make more accurate predictions for their outdoor games. Some would call this "analytics" in a sense, but I'd call it something else entirely.

The best way to describe it would be "good business strategy", especially when it comes to marquee events like outdoor games. It's pretty clear that the last thing the NHL wants is this kind of egg on its face in the future, cooking in the warm sun.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 February 2021

Downsizing

The building to the left is the BellMTS Iceplex at the furthest point west in the city of Winnipeg, bordering on a small community named Headingley. While none of this geographic information is very helpful at the moment with Manitoba's current Return to Play situation preventing indoor practices and games for minor hockey, the BellMTS Iceplex will start being a lot busier thanks to a decision made today by True North Sports and Entertainment based upon the NHL's new COVID-19 protocols as the AHL's Manitoba Moose will call the BellMTS Iceplex home for the foreseeable future once they return from their four-game road trip out in Laval, Quebec.

According to a report from Global News' Abigail Turner today, "[t]he team told Global News the move is due to the enhanced NHL protocols that were announced late last week" and that "the team highlights that COVID-19 is an evolving situation, making their decisions fluid."

While there is no doubt that this move likely wasn't expected by the Moose, the decision to move the Moose to the practice facility and out of the BellMTS Place in downtown Winnipeg means that there are zero AHL teams playing in NHL barns this season after the San Jose Barracuda moved to the new Solar4America Ice in San Jose. Manitoba was the only squad to share a home with an NHL team, but that arrangement has been put on hold thanks to the pandemic.

If you're in charge of finances for True North Sports and Entertainment, this move may benefit the organization as well. The costs involved with having to have BellMTS Place up and running for AHL games was likely higher or similar to what is when the Jets play, so the move to the smaller, less technologically-endowed BellMTS Iceplex likely means costs go down for the Moose which will save TNSE some dough in the long run. With no fans allowed in either building yet, the cavernous BellMTS Place downtown was more space than the Moose would have ever needed for this season.

The end result is that with no fans in the rink, this swapping of home rinks for the Moose won't really move the needle aside from the Moose equipment manager not having to worry about hauling everything between two rinks. Having worked inside the BellMTS Iceplex doing radio, there are ample spots to setup and broadcast, and I'm sure the camera angles for the webcast feeds will be sorted out very quickly. In short, it will look different, but it won't affect how the Moose play in any way.

I am curious what the Moose have planned for their graphics and video teams since there are no video boards at the BellMTS Iceplex. The benefit of the Jumbotron at BellMTS Place was that it could be used for a wide variety of purposes when it came to graphics and video, but the BellMTS Iceplex just has standard scoreboards: two scores, time, penalties, and not much else. Perhaps there will be a video board installed for replays at one end of the ice?

The too-long-didn't-read portion of this story is that the Moose are heading to a smaller facility away from the where the Jets play due to the NHL's COVID-19 rules that were enhanced by the NHL a week or so ago. They'll lose some NHL amenities in doing so, but they're working with the Jets within this fluid and oft-changing pandemic situation. Personally, as long as the Moose keep winning, I'm not complaining about this move out to the Winnipeg suburbs one bit.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 439

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, puts the band back together as Jenna makes her triumphant return to the program after writing exams, and she has one exam result already that we'll discuss! It was a pretty newsworthy week in the hockey world with a big COVID-19 report from ESPN, the Arizona Coyotes being dissected by Katie Strang of The Athletic, and a pile of other stories that were filed. Teebz and Jenna jump into these, so let's get this going!

It's a busy show tonight as Teebz welcomes back Jenna and we get Jenna's exam results - SPOILER: she's smart - before the duo discuss the ESPN COVID-19 report in depth with respect to dates and player reactions. They transition to the Katie Strang report about the Arizona Coyotes that raises a ton of questions about how business is being done in the desert. There are PHWPA updates and SDHL updates on the women's hockey scene that include some include some incredible stats by former U SPORTS players. They talk about the San Jose Sharks FINancial campaign, the Toronto Maple Leafs and their epic collapse, Alex Galchenyuk playing for his 263rd team in the last 18 months, a rather terrible moment of history for the Buffalo Sabres, a few recruiting notes as the Manitoba Bisons get strong, and a homecoming for a former Manitoba Bisons forward. As stated above, it's a big show with lots of topics, so tune in on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com at 5:30pm CT!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's 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, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store. 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 Jenna talk pandemics and players, economics and threats, women and achievements, money and GMs, losses and futility, homecomings and new homes, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: February 18, 2021: Episode 439

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

The Show Must Go On?

That's a pretty spiffy logo for this weekend's games, right? The Lake Tahoe outdoor event happens in front of zero total fans this weekend as the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche will tangle while the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers will engage in the second game. With three of these teams coming off COVID protocols in the NHL - Minnesota, Colorado, and Philadelphia - this presents all sorts of interesting dynamics for Boston who haven't been hit by the virus yet. The drama surrounding this weekend's games is already high, and we haven't seen a puck on the ice yet.

Further this, Philadelphia is apparently playing their backups tomorrow in New York thanks to having six players still sidelined due to COVID protocols, and those on the sideline include star players such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Travis Konecny along with Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Justin Braun. If Philadelphia is going to bring the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to play the Bruins, what's the point?

Word out of Philadelphia today is that the team skated 24 players in practice, up from 16 on Tuesday when some were still going through quarantine. However, there's no guarantee that the likes of Giroux, Voracek, and Konecny will be taken off the league's COVID-19 quarantine list before the weekend, but the thought is that the NHL is "encouraging" the Flyers to make the best of it so they can participate in Lake Tahoe for this outdoor hockey spectacle. If they can survive the Rangers on Thursday, it the seems the thought is that they'll be fine to take the ice against the Bruins.

Some have whispered quietly, though, that had Lake Tahoe not been on the schedule for the Flyers, they would have been given more time to recover. Philadelphia's games against the Washington Capitals were postponed back on February 9 when three players tested positive and there was fear that contract tracing would reveal cases which is exactly what happened.

Compare that to the New Jersey Devils who had seventeen players on the COVID quarantine report at one point, and played their first game on Tuesday after being off since January 31. The Flyers get a week to try and put a lid on their COVID outbreak and still have marquee players on the quaratine list, but the Devils get more than two weeks? How is that fair for the Flyers when it comes to winning games if their best players can't play, but they're being forced to play because the NHL has their outdoor spectacle to fulfill?

I don't doubt that the Flyers want to play in the outdoor games this weekend. It sounds like it's going to be an incredible visual event, but the Flyers aren't a traveling hockey show. They're a professional hockey team whose goal is to win the Stanley Cup. If they lose games because they're either choosing to or being forced to play (or a combination of both) and don't win the Stanley Cup this season, you have to wonder if this entire ordeal was worth it when they could have had more time to recover had they opted out of Lake Tahoe.

We already know how heavily the NHL relies on the outdoor games as major cash-printing operations. People flock to the stadiums and venue where they're being held, and the seating capacity at those venues are at least double of what an NHL arena holds. The merchandise, the concessions, the parking, the fanfests before and after the games, and all of the offshoot sponsorships for that one weekend is a dump of money into the NHL's coffers.

If I were a Philadelphia fan and had this event been open to fans, I likely would have tried to go. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful area that deserves to be hiked and explored, and seeing the Flyers play there would have been an excellent trip. We know fans aren't going, but had I forked over all that money to go and stay and watch only to find out that Giroux, Voracek, and Konecny might not play would chap my rear end something fierce. I want to see the Flyers' best players in that setting against the Bruins' best players.

I know that this is the NHL and that "the show must go on", but would you pay top dollar to see The Beatles play if John, Paul, George, and Ringo didn't take the stage while four unknown blokes from London did?

It seems the NHL is hellbent on having this game between the Flyers and Bruins no matter the cost to players' lives or well-being, and it's pretty easy to see that this is yet another high-profile event where making money is given a higher priority than the players or the spirit of competition between the teams. I feel like I should be disgusted by this, but the NHL has soured my appetite for these spectacles long ago so I'll just watch and pretend I'm interested, I guess.

Maybe the Flyers' taxi squad can down Marchand, Bergeron, and the boys on the weekend with a spirited effort in Lake Tahoe. We've seen plucky squads pull off upsets before, and this might be one of those times. At the end of the day, though, asking the Flyers to "play through this" is just tactless and cruel when other teams have been allowed to use as much time as they needed to get through COVID-19 problems.

But the show must go on, right?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Two Letters And A Storm?

You might be wondering why I posted what appears to be a beer league jersey on HBIC, but this jersey saw professional hockey action in the SPHL over two seasons. The Pee Dee Cyclones played in the SPHL from 2005-07 where they didn't exactly wow crowds or win over the hearts of their community they called home in Florence, South Carolina. The logo is rather underwhelming for this jersey worn in 2005-06 in their first season in the SPHL, but they would modernize it for the second season. The only problem was that season would be their last near the Pee Dee River watershed from which they drew their name as the team would move to Winston-Salem, North Carolina as the Twin City Cyclones for the 2007-08 season. Today, though, is the story of the Pee Dee Cyclones!

As stated above, there was nothing remarkable about the Pee Dee Cyclones as they managed to win just 16 games in both seasons while posting sub-.400 win percentages in both campaigns. Aside from one less loss that resulted in one additional overtime victory in 2006-07, the Cyclones posted 39 points and 40 points in those two seasons of 56 games each, and only one resulted in a playoff berth.

Pee Dee finished in sixth-place out of seven SPHL teams in 2005-06 with those 39 points on a 16-33-6-1 record, seven points better than the Ron Duguay-coached Jacksonville Barracudas. In a rather inexplicable playoff year, Pee Dee finished 28 points behind the fifth-place Huntsville Havoc, but ended up with a playoff bye through the first round of the playoffs.

How this was possible is anyone's guess as there is a distinct lack of information on the situation, but they would play the other team with a bye - the first-place Knoxville Ice Bears - in Round Two where they would would win Game One by a 5-4 overtime score before Knoxville hammered them 7-1 the next night, beat Pee Dee 3-1 six days after Game Two, and took a third-straight game by a 6-3 in the second-half of the back-to-back set. Knoxville would advance to the final after downing Pee Dee 3-1 in their series before Knoxville beat the Florida Seals to win the SPHL Championship.

Edan Welch's 37 goals were second-best in the SPHL in 2005-06 while his 69 points were eighth-best in the circuit. The problem was the 25-point drop-off from Welch to second-leading scorer Joel Petkoff as Pee Dee didn't have much firepower beyond Welch. Petkoff was the only other player to hit the 20-goal plateau, and he and Welch were one-third of all six of the Pee Dee players who hit double-digits in scoring.

Welch, it should be noted, spent four years with the AUS' St. Thomas University Tommies before playing a number of seasons in the SPHL. Welch never was the prolific scorer at the Canadian university level, amassing just 15 goals and 26 assists in 91 AUS games, but he broke out in a big way in the SPHL where he was a point-per-game player throughout his career.

Other players with Pee Dee that year who played for a U SPORTS team include winger Geoff Rollins (Saskatchewan), and goaltenders Kelly Shields (Brandon) and Mark Cairns (Acadia).

The 1450 fans that the Cyclones attracted were the lowest by a considerable amount compared to the other six teams, and that is a death knell for a minor-pro hockey team that relies heavily on ticket sales to stay afloat. The Cyclones decided to make some changes to try to attract more attention in the off-season.

The Cyclones unveiled a new logo that modernized the team from the wacky bird and cartoonish lettering logo to the new, sleek Cyclones. The jersey colours remained the same in that they remained wearing red-and-white on the road and white-with-red at home, but the new logo is considerable upgrade from their 2005-06 image. While the new look was generally liked by the hockey community, the fans needed to flock to the Florence Center to see the Cyclones play in order to keep the Cyclones out of red ink and on the ice in South Carolina.

The team made changes in order to boost the offence, but the same leaky goaltending was the Achilles' heel in this season. Despite scoring the second-most goals in the SPHL in 2006-07 with 225, the Cyclones also surrendered the most goals in the league - 42 more than second-worst Jacksonville! Needless to say, the 16-32-7-1 record that the Cyclones posted was a one-point improvement, but it was the worst record in the league as the Cyclones finished seventh out of seven teams, not including the Florida Seals who folded on January 4, 2007.

As a result of their seventh-place finish, the Cyclones missed the SPHL playoffs in 2006-07 and recorded another terrible year of attendances. Mike Richards, who had coached the team through the first season and into the second season, was relieved of his head coaching duties after starting the 2006-07 season 9-23-5-1 and was replaced by Chris Crombie who went 7-9-2-0 in the final 18 games. They just ran out of games after making an exciting run at the end, and that would be the final games seen in Florence, South Carolina due to the poor attendance and the economic downturn in the region at that time.

Allan Sirois led the team with 78 points - tied for fourth-most in the SPHL - and was one of three Cyclones players who scored 30+ goals in 2006-07. His 30 goals saw him finish tied for eighth-most in the SPHL while his 48 assists tied him for fifth-most in the league. Daryl Moore lead the team with 33 goals which landed him at fourth-most in the SPHL that season, and Edan Welch - who had the breakout season one year earlier - showed his playmaking skills by leading the team with 58 assists, finishing one behind the leader to be second in the league in helpers, and finishing second in team scoring with 75 points which was good for sixth-most in the SPHL.

As alluded to above, though, the goaltending wasn't a highlight as Guy St. Vincent played 30 games for the Cyclones while sporting a 4.84 GAA and an .880 save percentage while posting an 8-15-4 record. Brad Buss played 19 games to post a 3-11-1 record with a 5.08 GAA and an .860 save percentage, and Len DiCostanzo got into 16 games to record a 5-4-2 record with a 3.98 GAA and an .885 save percentage. When your team goals-against average is in the high-4.00 range and your save percentage hovers around .880, success is likely not going to come easy.

Welch and Rollins were back as part of the U SPORTS alumni for 2006-07, and they were joined by defenceman Kevin Harris (Regina), winger Scott Corbett (York), and goaltender Guy St. Vincent who played one lone game for the University of Manitoba.

With the team struggling on the ice and at the box office, the Cyclones couldn't come to an agreement with the Florence Civic Center to play games there, and they would eventually relocate to Winston-Salem, North Carolina where they were named the Twin City Cyclones. The logo would remain the came, but the "Pee Dee" would be replaced by "Twin City" to represent their new home city. The Cyclones would last for just two seasons in Winston-Salem before they folded in 2009.

The Cyclones lived up to the adage "here for a good time, not a long time" with their two SPHL seasons as the Pee Dee Cyclones, and it was clear that they probably should have worked on their game a little more while they were in Florence as that pair of 16-win seasons didn't do them many favours. It is cool, though, to see all the U SPORTS alumni who skated in the league during that time, and the Pee Dee Cyclones boasted their own Canadian university players during that time!

The SPHL today is still a landing spot for Canadian university players who are breaking into the pro game, so keep your eyes on those teams including the new SPHL franchise for 2021-22 in Savannah, Georgia who may come scouting at a university arena near you!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 15 February 2021

A Non-Hockey Day

It's a holiday for several provinces in Canada today, and I'm going to use this day to accomplish some stuff I want to do. It should be noted that the AHL got underway this past weekend in cities across Canada and the US, and there's hope on this side of the keyboard that they have learned from the preseason problems and the NHL's problems that avoiding COVID-19 is a bigger job than just "being careful". As we saw in the Henderson-San Jose game that was cancelled, this effort to keep players and staff safe requires foresight, planning, testing, careful evaluations of results, and a repeat if a positive test is found. My hope is that the short AHL season won't be derailed, but hope won't get anyone far if proper measures aren't take for safety.

One of the things I'm doing today is turning off my phone. It's so easy to be attached to one's phone with all the apps and texts that one may receive, so I'm turning it off for most of the day today while I pursue other interests. I will turn it back on for the Jets game tonight against the Oilers because it's a comedy festival on Twitter whenever the Jets play, but I'll keep it off for the vast majority of the day.

In saying that, I am cracking another spine on a book as I dig into another author's great work. No previews on what title I've chosen, but this author does have other works on HBIC that I've reviewed in the past. If his newest tome is as enjoyable as the last ones I read, I'm in for a fun read once more! Watch for the review soon!

I also dove into the culinary scene yesterday, so I want to continue on that path today as I made all sorts of stuff to enjoy as this cold weather snap continues. If there's one benefit to cooking and baking while it's frigidly cold outside, it's that the kitchen stays warm with the oven on. I can't say I'm not enjoying that, but the cookies and food that I've been making are keeping me happy. Good food, it seems, soothes the soul!

Where did this cooking urge come from, you ask? I happened to watch Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy on Sunday, and watching him sample all sorts of good food make me yearn for some of my own. The spaghetti alla nerano he eats towards the end of the episode looks so good and really puts a nice spin on what zucchini can be used for, so I have to say that Tucci inspired me to put my chef's hat on... despite me not being a chef.

In any case, that's my day today. I'll watch hockey tonight when the Jets and Oilers meet in the Alberta capital, but I'm taking a day off from the hockey world to indulge in some other things I enjoy doing! Enjoy your day, folks, and we'll get back at it tomorrow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 14 February 2021

SDHL Updates

If there's one professional women's hockey league I'm keeping an eye on this season, it's the SDHL thanks to the vast number of former U SPORTS players currently suiting up for the SDHL's teams. While it's a bit of a hike from my current locale, there are a dozen players I've seen play at the U SPORTS level playing right now as well as a handful of other players who have had roles with the Canadian National Team program or the CWHL at times. I'm always interested in seeing how the former university players are doing, so today's article is all about how things are going in Sweden for the women who used to play Canadian university hockey!

We'll start with the standings because there are really three levels of teams currently battling for SDHL supremacy. As it stands, there are two elite teams, four contenders, and four with slim chances at either making the playoffs or making noise in the playoffs. Considering that the season will end on February 26, there isn't a lot that some of these teams can do to improve their standings considerably, so the only movement one might see is within those levels of teams. And even that seems a little far-fetched in some cases.

The Elite Level is occupied by first-place Luleå/MSSK who boast a rather incredible 30-2-1-1 (W-L-ETW-ETL) record for 93 points on the season and won't be caught by anyone. Joining them in the Elite Level is second-place Brynäs who sport a 27-4-1-2 record for 85 points. Luleå/MSSK is the best defensive team in the SDHL having given up just 49 goals while Brynäs is the best offensive team in scoring 160 goals on the season. For those wondering, Luleå/MSSK has a home-and-home wtih MODO to finish the season while Brynäs has home games against Djurgården and Leksand to close out their campaign. They will be seeded as the first- and second-place teams, respectively, when the playoffs begin.

The Contender Level sees HV71 lead the way in third-place overall with an 18-8-4-2 record for 64 points. Chasing them are fourth-place Linköping who sport a 17-13-3-2 record for 59 points, fifth-place Djurgården with a 16-12-3-1 record for 55 points, and sixth-place MODO who have a 15-15-3-1 record for 52 points. Nothing is written in stone here as there could be movement among these teams before the end of the season.

HV71 can lock up third-place that will see them on the road for their final four games against Djurgården, SDE, AIK, and Göteborg. Meanwhile, Linköping will close out the season at home against Djurgården, so Linköping cannot catch HV71 based on math. Djurgården closes out its season with a home game against HV71 before playing their final three games on the road against Brynäs, Leksand, and Linköping, meaning there's a very good chance that final game will determine the fourth- and fifth-seeded teams. MODO, as stated above, closes out its season with a home-and-home against Luleå/MSSK.

The Slim Chance Level sees SDE sitting in seventh-place with a 9-19-3-3 record for 36 points. Following them are AIK who sport a 9-20-0-5 record for 32 points, Leksand who have a 5-26-2-1 record for 20 points, and Göteborg who sit in tenth-place with a 3-30-0-2 for just 11 points. It would appear that both SDE and AIK will make the playoffs while Leksand and Göteborg will not based on math. Unless something dramatic happens like a forfeiture of points, neither have enough runway left to catch either of SDE or AIK.

SDE will close out the season at home against HV71 before playing on the road against AIK. AIK plays at home against both HV71 and SDE. Leksand will play out the stretch by hosting Djurgården before heading out on the road to play Brynäs. Göteborg has one final game this season as they'll play host to HV71 on February 26.

I was going to do a long piece on individual stat for the U SPORTS players, but, instead, I'll post the scoring race among the U SPORTS players with a couple of notes for each. I think this is an interesting way to look at the stats before the end of the season in a couple of weeks, so here are the top former U SPORTS scorers in the SDHL! As a note the ranking at the end of the stats is each player's individual team ranking among scorers on her team.
  1. Danielle Stone (HV71) - 18 goals, 13 assists for 31 points (4th).
  2. Jaycee Magwood (MODO) - 15G, 11A for 26 points (2nd).
  3. Marion Allemoz (MODO) - 11G, 11A for 22 points (3rd).
  4. Erica Rieder (MODO) - 9G, 13A for 22 points (4th).
  5. Sarah Bujold (DJUR) - 12G, 9A for 21 points (3rd).
  6. Kelty Apperson (SDE) - 7G, 10A for 17 points (2nd).
  7. Hannah Clayton-Carroll (GOTE) - 7G, 7A for 14 points (1st).
  8. Kelly Murray (SDE) - 5G, 8A for 13 points (6th).
  9. Lore Baudrit (MODO) - 5G, 5A for 10 points (10th).
  10. Celine Tardif (LINK) - 2G, 8A for 10 points (10th).
  11. Alexandra Anderson (SDE) - 3G, 2A for 5 points (11th).
  12. Mathea Fischer (DJUR) - 1G, 1A for 2 points (17th).
  13. Megan Eady (SDE) - 1G, 1A for 2 points (17th).
  14. Betty Jouanny (AIK) - 1G, 0A for 1 point (14th).
That's a pretty impressive list for the former U SPORTS players when it comes to total points in the SDHL this season! Having five players with 20+ points and four players with 10+ goals is a heckuva showing from the ladies who played Canadian university hockey, and they should be proud of their efforts!

Some interesting notes I should note include the following:
  • Lara Stalder of Brynäs will win the scoring title as she sits with 79 points on the season, 15 points better than Michela Cava of Luleå/MSSK. Her 30 goals also leads the league, but she's only two ahead of Cava in that department. Stalder holds a nine assist lead over teammate Katerina Mrazova when it comes to helpers.
  • Danielle Stone, who once held the goal-scoring lead, sits in sixth-place, but trails eight other women thanks to a few ties. She does have four games to improve her total still, so I'm pulling for her to leap past a few players ahead of her with a few great games to close out the season.
  • Sidney Morin of HV71 is the top-scoring defender with 16 goals and 38 assists for 54 points. Erica Rieder, it should be noted, is tied for sixth in scoring by defenders, and sits five points back of third-overall in defender scoring Maja Nylén Persson of Brynäs.
  • I'm not certain that this is an error, but, according to the SDHL stats page, Morin leads the SDHL in shots on goal at 234 while Luleå/MSSK defender Jenni Hiirikoski sits third-overall with 161 shots on net. Linköping Carly Bullock sits in the middle of the two defenders with 181 shots this season. For the record, Jaycee Magwood has the most shots this season for MODO at 130 while Erica Rieder is second with 106 shots.
  • Hannah Clayton-Carroll leads Göteborg in goals, assists, and points, and has one of the three game-winning goals for the team.
  • Former Canadian Olympian Jennifer Wakefield leads the SDHL in PIMs with 90 for Linköping. Surprisingly, SDE's Kelly Murray is third-overall in PIMs this season with 53.
  • Jaycee Magwood sits in second-place in the SDHL for game-winners with six to her name.
  • Danielle Stone of HV71 leads the SDHL in power-play goals with ten. Magwood is in second-place on that list as well with eight goals on the advantage. Sarah Bujold has four power-play markers for Djurgården.
I didn't forget about the lone goalie who played in U SPORTS that is backstopping an SDHL team either. Lindsey Post is currently guarding the twine for SDE, and she has a 10-19-3 record this season for the club. SDE has struggled, but Post's numbers are still respectable as she sits eighth-overall with a 2.67 GAA and sixth-overall with a .911 save percentage while playing the most minutes in the SDHL at 1772:01 - more than 200 minutes more than second-place Klara Peslarova of MODO! SDE will need her to continue to be good as they enter the playoffs against one of Luleå/MSSK or Brynäs!

There are your updates in the SDHL with two weeks to go in the season. There's still lots of time for a few teams and a handful of players to do some damage based on their schedules, and I'm excited to see some of the final numbers for the former U SPORTS players once the season ends. As it stands, it appears that only one of the former U SPORTS players won't play in the playoffs as Hannah Clayton-Carroll's Göteborg squad will play in the relegation playoff series against Leksand.

It's not quite Canada West or U SPORTS hockey, but the SDHL features a pile of players that played at the Canadian university level, and it's always fun to catch up on their seasons as the SDHL campaign progresses. Good luck to all the teams and players, and we'll check back in a couple of weeks to see what the final tallies are!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 13 February 2021

TBC: Beauties

With life on the prairies being as frigid and frozen as it is right now, I began another dive into a book that I've been wanting to read for some time. I'm a big fan of James Duthie's work on TSN and I am still eternally grateful for the interview he gave The Hockey Show back in 2015. His books have been funny, informative, and great reads in the past, so Teebz's Book Club is proud to review the next book in author James Duthie's works in Beauties: Hockey's Greatest Untold Stories, written by James Duthie and published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Seeing how many players contributed stories for James Duthie's new book had me wanting to read these tomes, and his ability to frame these stories with relevant information and knowledge proved my decision to hibernate with a good book to be a smart one.

You already know James Duthie from his hockey work on TSN, but there's a lot more to James Duthie than just his TV work. As the bio on the dust jacket reads, "James Duthie covers hockey as well as the Grey Cup, Super Bowl, and Masters Tournament on TSN. His entertaining and sharp=witted style make him a fan favourite across Canada and one of the most-followed media personalities on Twitter. Duthie's natural charisma and extensive history in sports broadcasting allow him exclusive interviews with some of the biggest stars in sports and entertainment. His work has earned him multiple awards, including eight Canadian Screen Awards and the Sports Media Canada Award for Outstanding Sports Broadcasting." I have been lucky enough to review The Guy on the Left here on HBIC, but James has also penned The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys and was a co-author of The Call Me Killer. James and his family live in Aurora, Ontario.

Beauties is one of those hockey books where readers will have no problem crushing it over a weekend or on a plane while travelling. There are so many good stories from players and people in hockey that James Duthie has collected that make the read is easy, entertaining, and interesting. If you're doing the count, there are 57 official stories (and one additional one by Roberto Luongo in the foreward) in the book, and I can't say any of them are snoozers in any way.

There are a handful of stories in Beauties that will tug at the heart strings a little, though, and I want to point these out because not all stories from hockey are funny or goofy. In three separate stories, one will read about Laila Anderson who inspired the St. Louis Blues to be more, Jonathan Pitre whose story inspired a number of hockey people to reflect on their own lives, and Chris Beaudry whose life was torn open by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. It's hard not to be emotional reading how these people overcame challenges in their lives with hockey playing a major role in those stories. Good writing will grab you in stories like this, and James Duthie does a good job in capturing the emotions of the stories.

While I won't repeat any of the stories James includes in the book here - buy a copy of Beauties! - I will post a short clip of Roberto Luongo's foreword that should entice you to pick up Beauties from your local library or bookstore. Luongo writes,
"A few nights later, we are having our season-ending party at a place on Kits Beach in Vancouver. It's right on the corner of a street. And I am sitting at the corner table with a bunch of the guys, having a few beers. A fire truck drives by, and one of the firefighters yells, "Hey, Luongo!" and throws a roll of toilet paper on my table.
That paragraph doesn't tell you much about Luongo's night or what happened in the story he told, but you can probably imagine that there's a heckuva tale behind the toilet-paper-from-a-firefighter teaser that I posted. How will you find out? Get your hands on a copy of Beauties today!

Overall, Beauties is an outstanding read about tales that one likely wouldn't hear outside the arena in which these players and people work. Some will make you laugh, others will evoke emotional responses, and more will have you shaking your head, but Beauties does an excellent job in pulling back the curtain on your favorite hockey pros and revealing some of the more memorable moments of their careers. Because of this fun and emotional look at the game that James Duthie presents on the book's 301 pages, Beauties is absolutely deserving of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

There are a few moments of language used that wouldn't be suitable for kids, but the vast majority of the stories told are fairly tame. Because of this PG-rating that Beauties would hold, this book is recommended for teens and older, especially since a lot of the player names would be recognizable to younger readers. Look for Beauties at your local bookstore or library today!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 February 2021

Hockey Season Is Done

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League took it upon themselves tonight to cancel all games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs for the 2019-20 season, thereby ending the season for all its member teams. There seems to be a lot of anger among those teams when every other league in the province has already absorbed this news from their own commissioners, so I'm confused as to why the MJHL teams seem so angry. Not playing is definitely not good for anyone, but neither is COVID-19. I struggle with the outrage seen on social media tonight when hockey players of all ages not playing professionally are now in the same boat in terms of seasons being done and, for some, careers at various levels being done.

As stated above in the opening paragraph, I get that everyone wishes they were playing. Whether it be the MJHL, the MFHL, the MWJHL, Canada West, high school hockey, or your local Timbits hockey, no one is playing indoors this season as per the province of Manitoba's health and safety guidelines for this pandemic. Holding onto this dream that somehow the province would reverse its decision and allow MJHL teams to play seemed foolish at best, but, as the saying goes, it's the hope that kills you.

We've seen cancellations across western Canada from governing hockey bodies, and it seems like a pretty intelligent decision based on the COVID-19 statistics and feedback being seen in leagues playing elsewhere. The NHL, for example, has suffered setbacks in its scheduling thanks to the pandemic, and Marco Rossi's struggles with COVID-19 have been well-documented. Head coaches who were exposed got it. On-ice officials got it. Oh, and that new variant of coronavirus that's more transmissable? It's here in Canada and it's already doing what it does best.

Remind me again why the MJHL thinks it's special and should be playing? I can do this all day if you want.

You can tell me about all the safety precautions that the MJHL was proposing to keep its players and staff safe, but it's pretty clear that, after a year of dealing with this virus, we should be smarter than this. We know that research is showing that the lack of ventilations in hockey arenas combined with the cold air allows the virus to be spread easily in arenas. Knowing how old and how cold some of the MJHL rinks are in Manitoba, this seems like a perfect scenario for an outbreak based on the research.

It seems pretty selfish to me for the MJHL to demand hockey be in session for only its league and for no one else. There are men and women in university who may not be able to return to play their final seasons just as the MJHL is making clear about its players. The same goes for the women in the MFHL and MWJHL who both have age limits for their players who won't get a shot at showcasing their abilities in their final years of eligibility at that level. Kids at all levels are missing a year of on-ice learning and development, yet the MJHL is crying foul over their league not being able to play, at most, a month or two of games.

I hate to break it to you here, MJHL, but you're just like everyone else not playing this winter. Every single league, every coach, every player, and a lot of the parents have wanted hockey back for their kids just like you want hockey back for the players in your league. As shown above, hockey has been affected time and time again by COVID-19, and it seems like we should listen to doctors and want to err on the side of caution when it comes to COVID-19 based on scientific findings.

Let's stop worrying about a month or two of hockey and get ourselves ready for September when hockey can make a triumphant return to the rinks. While I empathize with those players who may not play another season of high-level hockey after this pandemic-filled nightmare of a winter, the best thing and the right thing to do is to ensure this doesn't happen next season in any capacity. That means preparing now for the 2021-22 season rather than bemoaning the fact that starting or resuming a season in February won't happen.

The hockey season in Manitoba is, for better or worse, done for any player not wearing a Jets or Moose jersey. There's no turning back time or rewinding the tape on that fact, so we need to look to the future to ensure that not only does hockey start in September, but we can play through to February next season without any stoppages or hiccups in the schedule.

It leads me to think about a moment in the amazing sitcom Ted Lasso with the titular character being played by Jason Sudeikis. His words ring true about this moment of disappointment in that we can be sad. We can be angry. But there's nothing worse than being sad or angry, and being alone. MJHL players, coaches, and staff aren't alone in this, and we need to remember this moment so we can all move forward together. Here are Ted's words about how to deal with this moment.

Let's all be goldfish today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!