Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Great Honour For A Great Man

While the kid on the right in the image is still writing his name into the Winnipeg Jets' history books with his offensive talents, the man in the middle giving him instructions likely needs no introduction to hockey fans in the Manitoba capital. The late, great Dale Hawerchuk is, and always will be, held in high regard both on this blog and in Winnipeg for his abilities both on the ice and behind the bench, and for his love of the game, and the city of Barrie, Ontario announced that they will be honouring him by renaming the entrance to the Sadlon Arena in honour of Dale Hawerchuk.

It's no secret that the OHL's Barrie Colts saw an upswing in their fortunes with the hiring of Dale Hawerchuk as the head coach. Besides preparing a number of former Colts for NHL careers including Mark Scheifele shown above, Hawerchuk helped the Colts to an overall record of 305-269-38 under his watch while making the playoffs seven times and capturing four Central Division titles in his nine seasons behind the bench. The Colts also won the Eastern Conference championship in 2013.

With their fortunes significantly improved with Hawerchuk guiding them, the Colts became one of the destination clubs in the OHL for players to play. Among the talent that has gone through Barrie under Hawerchuk's watch includes the aforementioned Scheifele, Vancouver's Tanner Pearson, San Jose's Kevin Labanc, Florida's Aaron Ekblad, and Carolina's Andrei Svechnikov. All are having pretty significant hockey careers at the NHL level, and Dale Hawerchuk and the Barrie Colts have a hand in that.

In the announcement today, Barrie Council unanimously approved renaming the entrance of the Sadlon Arena, seen to the right, in honour of Dale Hawerchuk and the many days and nights he spent there with the Colts. The city will work with the Colts to install signage to reflect the new name of the entrance, and an unveiling date for the newly-named entrance will be announced in conjunction with the Colts as they plan to announce more honours for Hawerchuk.

If you were hoping that perhaps the Colts and the city of Barrie would honour Hawerchuk by naming the rink after them, that's not going to be possible after the city struck a $1.7-million deal with Sadlon Motors for the naming rights on the former Barrie Molson Centre in 2019. The naming rights agreement is a ten-year pact between the city and the well-established Barrie-based business, and the deal allows for an additional ten-year extension to be made if both sides agree to it at the conclusion of the initial ten-year deal.

It seems pretty clear that Sadlon Motors saw no issue with Hawerchuk being honoured since they own the naming rights for all city-owned interior and exterior signs at the arena, and it's nice to see a business with such strong local roots recognizing the efforts made by Hawerchuk in his nine seasons with the Colts. While I dislike the business of arenas and teams selling naming rights on buildings, I'm inclined to let Sadlon Motors off the hook on this one because of its strong community connections.

Seeing the city of Barrie honour Dale Hawerchuk with this move shows how much the community of Barrie cares for the memory of Hawerchuk and how much he meant to their community. While it may not be the renaming of a street or a statue outside the arena, every hockey fan coming in to cheer for or against the Barrie Colts will pay their respects by walking through the doors named for one of the greatest men to ever play and coach the game of hockey.

Well done, Barrie. Dale Hawerchuk would be proud.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 10 May 2021

Dumbest Name In Hockey

If you're a fan of the New York Islanders, you're likely also a fan of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers who play an hour north of the Barclay Center where the Islanders call home. It's an easy commute of the Islanders need to call a player up while on a homestand, but the players they'll be calling up next season won't be Tigers. The logo you see to the left is the new logo for the Bridgeport Islanders, the rechristened name of the Tigers, who will reinforce the Islanders' presence in Connecticut or something moving forward. The AHL team, like the Binghamton Devils who will become the Utica Devils, will now have the same team name as its NHL affiliate.

This has to be the dumbest rename in the history of hockey simply due to geography. Using Google maps, let's take a look at the satellite image of Bridgeport, Connecticut and the surrounding area.
What don't you see in that image? If you said "an island", you're today's grand-prize winner! Bridgeport does not have an island upon which the AHL team plays which makes this "Islanders" name rather confusing. How can a team be the "Islanders" without actually being on an island? That's like calling a team based in the United States by the name "Canadians". It makes no sense.

For those asking, the "Bridgeport Sound Tigers" name incorporates a few very smart ideas. First off, the team is located in Bridgeport, so there's no trouble figuring that part out. The "Sound" part comes from the city being located on the estuary known as the "Long Island Sound", and the New York Islanders play on Long Island which allows for a direct link between the NHL and AHL club with this addition to their name. The "Tigers" part of the name comes from the main attraction at Bridgeport's Beardsley Zoo, but also brings forth a little history as PT Barnum, the circus magnate, was once mayor of Bridgeport.

In short, the "Bridgeport Sound Tigers" name tied in civic, historical, geographical, affiliate, and cultural links in one team name. There aren't a lot of teams out there that can claim that, but the Tigers certainly had that going for them. The logo was, at worst, a fairly rudimentary depiction of a tiger, but there was the imagery of water around the exterior border of the tiger image which ties the logo back to the estuary's imagery as well. In short, the menacing tiger logo worked well for a minor-pro hockey team, and the elements of the team name were included in the logo to wrap everything up in a nice little package.

The logo at the top of the page? I'll let the Islanders' marketing team explain the imagery because there's all sorts of grasping at straws happening here.
You can be forgiven if you didn't immediately recognize the traditional "NY" posing as the hockey tape because that "Y" is missing the hockey stick normally found in the NHL Islanders' logo. It's literally half of a "Y"... meaning it's not a "Y" at all. If anything, it looks like an "M" which could stand for "mistake" or "miss" because I'm not sure that "NY" comes close to pulling its weight.

The stick "B" makes very little sense other than to include a hockey stick somewhere in this logo that doesn't completely overshadow the "B". The NHL Islanders also grasp for a straw in turning Bridgeport into "bridge" despite the city being named for the bridge that crosses the harbour. Stating that the AHL club will be the bridge for future generations of New York Islanders hockey feels less like a clever use of imagery and more like stating the obvious. That's never good when playing off a city's name as the people of Bridgeport do have civic pride for their city's place in US history.

The "Colours of Champions" seems redundant considering that the Tigers already wore the same colours of the New York Islanders. What makes this claim a little more puzzling is that they've only played for the Calder Cup once in 2001-02, and only have two division championships to boast in their twenty-year history. For the NHL Islanders to impose their own championship status from forty years ago onto the AHL Islanders who have missed the playoffs ten times and haven't won a playoff round since 2003 is just tacky.

So to recap:
  • No island.
  • No civic, historical, geographical, affiliate, and cultural links tying Bridgeport to the new logo.
  • A terrible use of "NY" to try to link the two teams.
  • Brutal incorporation of "bridge" in Bridgeport.
  • Zero championship history for a team that already was wearing orange and blue.
Can someone explain to me why are they called the "Bridgeport Islanders" again if not for the NHL club's own vanity? Why wreck a smart team name and logo when changing the name was neither wanted nor needed?

With the logo feeling like a grade-school redesign and the name making absolutely no sense, this is a total failure by the New York Islanders to establish some sort of stronger connection to their AHL affiliate. If nothing else, they've completely made the community of Bridgeport irrelevant in their own logo which means that it's harder for casual fans to buy into the ideas and imagery presented by the new logo.

For a team who sported the Fisherman that was universally panned, you've officially done it again, New York Islanders. Congratulations on the grade of "F" for this logo.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 9 May 2021

QMJHL Playoff Series In Jeopardy

For weeks now, Jenna and I have been mocking the QMJHL on The Hockey Show for its insistence on completing its season, including playoffs, for what appears to be reasons of pride. Pride, as we know, is one of the seven deadly sins, and, while I'm not a religious person at all, you just hope that no one gets truly sick or worse from the QMJHL'S insane decisions to play out the season. With four playoff series underway in Quebec after having moved the Maritimes Division Final out of PEI and New Brunswick, it seems that one playoff series may be over before it had barely started as COVID-19 seems to have reared its ugly head again in the QMJHL.

According to reports out of Quebec today, the Rimouski Océanic are being investigated by Quebec Public Health authorities as there's a possible outbreak among team members. Rimouski, who is playing the Val d'Or Foreurs in their third-round series, has had their series halted until this investigation is resolved, leaving both the Océanic and Foreurs in limbo for their series as they wait for tests to be returned.

UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE! SCROLL DOWN!

If the test returned show positive results for COVID-19, the two teams will be shut down for fourteen days for precautionary reasons in order to get through the COVID protocols. If the tests returned show negative results, the series will be resumed with the Foreurs leading 2-0 following a 6-2 win on Friday and a 3-0 win last night.

Assuming there is a positive result returned, the fourteen-day quarantine period will essentially end the playoffs for these two teams as they wouldn't be able to resume their series until May 23, nearly a week after the three other series had finished. Of course, if there is a larger outbreak through contact between players, that May 23 date would be pushed back even further.

With only three winners advancing from the four series in that scenario, there would likely be a three-team mini-tournament played between the remaining teams to determine who wins a rather meaningless President Cup. With Charlottetown up 2-0 over Acadie-Bathhurst in the Maritimes Division Final being played in Shawinigan, they're halfway to a berth in whatever the final format will be. Chicoutimi holds a 1-0 lead over Quebec while Blainville-Boisbriand leads 1-0 over Victoriaville in the other two series.

Does it really matter to anyone if these kids finish the playoffs if Rimouski and, by contact tracing, Val d'Or are eliminated via COVID-19? The QMJHL has battled COVID-19 all season and lost on a number of fronts with three teams playing less than 30 games, an entire province in Nova Scotia preventing its teams from participating in the playoffs, and both New Brunswick and PEI preventing the league from holding the Maritimes Division Final there? What's the point of all this besides pride at this point?

Like the little bomb blowing up at the top of this article, this COVID-19 situation with Rimouski could blow up the playoff dream of having a of "final four"-style tournament for the QMJHL to crown a winner very easily. With no other options available, I can't see the QMJHL asking the three teams who win the other series to wait for Rimouski and Val d'Or to finish up in what has been an already-crazy season of delays and schedule changes.

Rimouski, who finished the season 13-22-4 and had already eliminted Shawiningan - fifth-overall in terms of points percentage - in the opening round of the playoffs, would now technically eliminate the second-overall team in Val d'Or in the second round despite having only played two games in said round assuming that the series is cancelled. Normally, any fifteenth-overall team by points percetage taking out two of the top-five teams would be the stuff about which underdog legends are written, but this year sees it as a footnote on QMJHL that has been ravaged by the pandemic. Health and safety be damned, though, because the QMJHL will finish this season despite all the hardships it has put its teams and players through over the course of this mad, mad season.

Let me be clear as I wrap this up: I hope the tests come back negative because no one should have to suffer through the effects of COVID-19. If they do come back negative and the teams resume play, it won't stop me from criticizing the QMJHL's idiotic pride to complete a season just as it won't stop me from chastising the teams who aren't more careful in ensuring their own COVID-19 safety. However, if tests come back negative, it needs to be said that a close call such as this one should serve as a lesson to the teams and players of the QMJHL.

That lesson? No one has ever choked when swallowing one's pride.

MONDAY UPDATE: As per the QMJHL, the test returned were negative for the Océanic, so this series will resume on Tuesday with the Foreurs leading 2-0 in the series. All officials working the series will be able to resume their duties as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Real Problems In Hockey

As a broadcaster for women's hockey, I've been witness to people disregarding women's hockey for years. The legitimacy of women's hockey can't be disputed if viewership during the Olympics is any measure, but it becomes harder to digest the reasons people delegitimize women's hockey when it comes to professional leagues or at the amateur level. If asked, I surely would be biased in my views thanks to my work in and around the game, so reading the findings of a new Angus Reid Institute poll simply make me shake my head.

There's a growing push to change the culture of hockey to make it more inclusive for all people, but the basic acceptance of women's hockey still seems to be a looming problem in the game. According to the recent data collected by the Angus Reid Institute, "more than half of those who have played or coached youth hockey (56%) say they perceive the treatment of women and girls by young male hockey players as misogynistic or disrespectful."

MORE THAN HALF of youth male players. In 2021.

What makes this worse is that the number "increases to 63 per cent among those who did not play but identify as having spent time around the game cheering on a close friend, family member, or partner."

Who are teaching young male hockey players these things? Clearly, this has to be environmental because boys aren't born with a prejudice against women's hockey. I think you know what I'm alluding to, and it comes down to what they hear and see from parents, coaches, and role models. I don't know what the demographics were in terms of who was polled from where, but knowing that more than half of those polled see misogynistic or disrespectful treatment of girls or women in the next generation of men's hockey stars means we are failing these kids, both girls and boys.

This is easily correctable for most people, but it requires someone to call out these behaviours so that we can teach our young male hockey players to do better. With practices and games closed to most people this season, it means we, as a society, have some work to do, but we start by putting women into positions where they have a direct impact on these players whether it be coaching or managing. Putting women into these positions doesn't allow for the misogyny to creep in where players are questioning the credentials of these women when it comes to experience and knowledge.

Beyond that, it requires our coaches and managers to start recognizing that skill and knowledge should outrank gender when it comes to hiring women for these positions. As much as we lament the "old boys' club", it does exist at every level in hockey, and it's breaking that narrow-minded thinking that allows great coaches such as Kori Cheverie to step behind the bench of the OUA's Ryerson Rams men's team and Florence Schelling to occupy by a general manager's chair. The ability to do the job shouldn't be based on gender when it comes to earning wins and losses.

This poll data is an indictment of our game, Canada. We need to be teaching our young men to be better people, and having them disrespect women and girls isn't remotely close to that. The solution for this is found in every community club, every minor hockey program, every amateur hockey association, and every household where hockey is played, watched, discussed, and dreamed about as a future.

The Angus Reid research didn't stop there when it came to the indictments, though, as they went into other topics that might make Canadians do a little reflection. The other poll results show:
  • Racism is a problem in the game with "58 per cent among those who identify as a visible minority" saying it exists, some "nine points higher than Caucasian respondents (49%)".
  • "[T]wo-thirds of Canadians (64%) who coached or played youth hockey say the game culture has a problem with players bullying kids outside of the rink."
  • "88 per cent of Canadians say that organized hockey is too expensive for lower-income people to play."
  • "62 per cent of Canadians have at least one connection to youth hockey, be it playing themselves, someone close to them playing, or watching the game at the community level as a supporter."
  • "Nine-in-ten (93%) Canadians say hockey provides a sense of identity and community in this country, while 87 per cent say it teaches good qualities such as hard work and dedication."
The last two points show how engrained this game is on our society with 62% of people having a connection to youth hockey while 93% derive some sort of identity from the game and 87% believe it teaches qualities like hard work and dedication. I'm not here to debate these numbers, but it goes to show how hockey really does play a role in a vast number of Canadians' lives.

In saying that, look at the other three points - racism is present, bullying is present, and it's way too expensive. Hockey can't be for everyone if racism, bullying, and economic inequalities keep people from enjoying the game, so we, as Canadians, need to be better by holding each other accountable when instances of racism, bullying, misogyny, and disrespect are seen in youth hockey so that the game gets better as these players mature.

It will take communities and corporate entities to ensure that economic inequalities are removed to allow more players into the game, and that starts with ensuring that kids who can't afford equipment can get it. It starts with making sure that ice times are affordable to all teams regardless of socioeconomic statuses. It starts with inviting underprivileged kids to games and letting them experience the cold rush of air hit their faces as they enter the arena, the rattle of the glass when players crash into the boards, and the thrill of hearing the horn and cheers when a player scores.

If hockey is for everyone, let's start correcting the problems that keep everyone from enjoying it. Without doubt, there will be hard discussions when it comes to these topics, but they're discussions that need to be had based on the Angus Reid Institute's findings. We aren't doing our youth hockey players any favours by allowing these behaviours to continue, so it's time to sit down, examine every program, and ensure that hockey is inclusive for all at every level.

Hockey is a tough game as it is. Having additional roadblocks such as racism, bullying, misogyny, and disrespect are enough to turn some kids away entirely despite how much they love playing. If we want to remain as one of the best countries in the world when it comes to hockey, we can use all the help we can get and having kids walk away because of racism, bullying, misogyny, and disrespect means we're limiting our chances of success.

We can be better, Canada. Let's get to work.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 7 May 2021

Back To Stage One

Maybe it's a good thing that hockey season for most non-professional teams in Manitoba is over because the province came out with new provisions today after case numbers rose once again in the Keystone Province. As expected, there were lockdowns and harder restrictions put in place in order to reduce the numbers once again, and these lockdowns will once again affect the amateur athletes that call this province home. If you're looking for a bumbling government who has fumbled the handling of this pandemic time and time again, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the province of Manitoba!

I know this isn't Politics Blog In Canada, but Manitoba made a decision today that once again affects thousands of people who had plans this summer, but those plans are now on hold until the government gets its act together.

According to the new rules passed down at 6pm CT today, the province of Manitoba will now see organized teams sports, both at indoor venues and on outdoor fields, shut down for at least the next three weeks as Manitoba moves into its new lockdown. That means there are no sports whatsoever being played, and we already know a lot of kids play softball, soccer, and summer hockey. After having an entire winter season cancelled at both the school and amateur levels, this feels like the government is just piling on at this point.

Don't get me wrong: we need to beat COVID-19. This has gone on much longer than it should have, and the worst part is that everyone seemed to see this third lockdown coming for Manitoba excpet those who actually enforce the lockdowns. We've watched as British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes have struggled to contain this third wave, and our government in Manitoba kept telling us that we needed to be vigilant in protecting ourselves.

As case numbers began to rise, Manitoba would have been wise to read the Nova Scotia playbook and shut down earlier than they did. Dr. Brent Roussin, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, even allude to this in a March interview when he stated, "I think that's probably something we'd have to consider earlier on."

What a tangled web one has weaved.

With the announcement of the three-week lockdown, no sports will be played in Manitoba by anyone of any ages until the start of June. If the case numbers haven't dropped to an acceptable level by then, expect the lockdown to be extended further which will seriously impact seasons across all summer sporting activities.

For a guy who has been enshrined into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame both as an individual and a team member, you'd think that Premier Brian Pallister would be a little more congnizant of the effect that shutting down all sports would have. I get that we're in the midst of a pandemic, but had Roussin and Pallister simply locked down earlier as Roussin said he should have considered summer sports would have been far less affected by a decision that should have been made three weeks earlier.

To all who play softball, soccer, football, slo-pitch, and summer hockey among the vast number of team sports that this affects, I feel your pain. I usually spend my summer evenings playing and umpire slo-pitch, and it's a blast to be out on the field, having some laughs, and playing the game. That will be put on hold until future notice now because the government of Manitoba simply can't get its act together when it comes to doing the intelligent thing they already had in their playbook as per Dr. Roussin's own words.

If the adage "those who do not learn history are condemned to repeat it" is a self-fulfilling prophecy, this Manitoba government is stuck in its own version of Groundhog Day when it comes to repeating the same mistakes over and over and over. The only problem is that the people of Manitoba are the one who are paying for those mistakes.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 450

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight as Teebz and Jenna reconvene for a chat about the fastest game on ice. There has been some good news this week from a few places, but the obvious topic we have to cover is the Tom Wilson craziness that happened on Monday and Tuesday, and why the NHL's response to the incident was wrong. There's also some Canada West news about the upcoming schedule for the 2021-22 season, and you'll want to hear this because Canada West is making some adjustments to the hockey season this winter. It's a big show, so let's break this down!

Look at this clown. Teebz and Jenna have a discussion about Tom Wilson's antics on the ice on Monday and the fallout of the NHL's response to what happened in that game with examples of similar situations and why the Department of Player Safety missed an opportunity to draw a line in the sand as to what's acceptable behaviour from the players. Beyond that, the two hosts also send out congratulations to Peyton Krebs for his first NHL game and first NHL point, discuss Milan Lucic waiving his no-trade clause for the upcoming expansion draft, chat about Abbotsford officially becoming the new home for Vancouver's AHL franchise, send out some well-wishes to former Manitoba Moose defender Maxime Fortunas who announced his retirement this week, shout-out to Collin Shirley for his ECHL debut and his first professional goal, ridicule the QMJHL for their latest decision, talk about a potential August PWHPA stop coming up, and there's a solid examination of the Canada West hockey season. We cover a lot on tonight's show, so make sure you tune in on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com at 5:30pm CT!

We're still looking to help St. Adolphe so they can bring hockey back in October. The St. Adolphe Community Club has started a crowdfunding effort on Amilia to help raise some money. The cool part is that if you donate $50 or more, not only are you helping St. Adolphe reach their goal so they can make repairs, upgrades, and improvements, but you'll also receive a tax receipt as well! Make sure you check out their website, their Facebook page, and follow both the St. Adolphe Twitter account and Instagram account for all the lastest news on their fundraising efforts and the repairs to the rink!

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 or Google Play 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 discuss bad decisions, missed opportunities, first games, first points, last games, new homes, forced moves, upcoming schedules, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: May 6, 2021: Episode 450

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

It's hard not to like Marc-Andre Fleury. The guy just seems to be one of the nicest guys to ever have played in the NHL, and he seems to truly appreciate the effort that people take when it comes to honouring him. I know there are hockey teams who have been beaten by Fleury in big games who may feel differently about Fleury the hockey netminder, but the man inside the mask seems truly down-to-earth while being a ton of fun when it comes to his personality. Fleury is the kind of person we need more of in professional sports, so seeing him pick up a new honour for his work only makes his win tonight that much better. And he'll be the last guy to point at his own stats rather than crediting the teams in front him for helping him achieve this honour.

Fleury started the evening tied with Roberto Luongo at 489 wins in his career as a goaltender in the NHL, and, with an Alex Pietrangelo game-winning goal in the 3-2 Vegas win, Fleury ended the evening with 490 wins to move into sole possession of third-place all-time in wins for an NHL goaltender. He still trails second-place Patrick Roy by 61 wins and Martin Brodeur's 691 wins seems untouchable based on Fleury's age, but for Marc-Andre Fleury to be among names like Brodeur, Roy, Luongo, and Belfour proves that he's one of the best to ever have tied the pads onto his legs.

Again, Fleury would be the first to credit his teammates for helping him earn that number. 375 of his 490 wins happened over 13 seasons with the Penguins, and it's only gotten better since joining the Vegas Golden Knights as he's averaged 29 wins per season in his four seasons in the Nevada desert. He's played in Winter Classics, Stanley Cup Finals, and a host of other big games for the Penguins and Golden Knights, and he's never lost that trademark smile of his despite the ups and downs of his NHL career.

"He's always there for his friends, his family," Sidney Crosby told William Ramirez of Knights On Ice. "You can talk to him about anything, whether it's hockey or life in general, I think he's just an easy guy to talk to.

"He really, genuinely cares about every single guy, whether you're a first-year player or you've played with him for multiple years, he just wants the team to win."

Winning is something he's done often as his numbers show despite his abilities often being questioned after stumbling in one playoff game or "looking off" in the regular season. Through it all, though, Fleury never went to the media and demanded that he start nor did he throw a tantrum when being told he was being relegated to the back-up role. He quietly voiced his unhappiness with the decision, but remained a team-first guy.

"Certainly he was disappointed that he wasn't starting in the next series after playing so well in the first two rounds," then-Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told Sports Illustrated's Matt Larkin about Matt Murray taking over for Fleury in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "Quietly, he said that, but certainly not to the point where he was creating any issues. He's the best team player in pro sports the way he's handled everything here."

It's not often one finds a professional athlete whose humility might be better than his athletic ability, but it's pretty obvious that Marc-Andre Fleury is quietly confident in his abilities even when doubters are screaming the opposite. However, the likeable netminder isn't naive as he told Larkin that he was aware of who was ahead of him on the all-time wins list back in 2018 when he moved to Vegas.

"Yeah, I took a look at it," he said. "It's pretty cool. I've been lucky to play with a lot of good players and win some games. I want to keep winning, not to get up there, not to get No. 3. I just want to win so our team's successful, to get in the playoffs and have success in the playoffs. That's what matters."

Here's a guy whose greatness is being acknowledged with his body of work and statistics in the NHL, and he's deflecting it back to team success and winning as a team. This is why Marc-Andre Fleury is so well-liked by players, coaches, management, and staff in the NHL - he's never made it about himself when it comes to success.

It's refreshing to read just how humble Marc-Andre Fleury is as a player and person, but I'm going to buck the trend here and celebrate what Fleury accomplished tonight because 490 wins at the NHL level is mighty impressive. Congratulations, Marc-Andre, on all of your success that has come through a lot of team success, and I wish you many more wins in the future.

Honestly, it sincerely couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Until next time, keep yout sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

May The Fourth

According to the calendar, it's May 4 today which means it's a big day if you're a Star Wars fan. Personally, the three movies that were made in the 1970s and early-1980s were good enough to stand on their own over the course of time, but my feelings on every movie that has spawned since The Return of the Jedi aren't important here. What is important is that we have a little fun today with some Star Wars-inspired creativity on behalf of Canada West and the great hockey programs seen there.

One of the great things that the Star Wars franchise does in every movie is each movie leading off with the iconic music and text setup of where the story begins. You know exactly what you're getting into in terms of the story, and the music sets the stage for what you're about to see on the screen. Before we get going too far here, though, I should lay down a disclaimer and say I own none of this, and that all rights to everything Star Wars belongs to the Walt Disney Company.

In disclaiming that, what if we made a scrolling text introduction like we see in Star Wars for the upcoming season of Canada West hockey?
How's that for a little "May The Fourth Be With You" fun? Personally, I'm excited for the upcoming season. While we still have a ton of work to do in reducing case numbers across western Canada, the fact that there's real hope and opportunity for a season to begin in October has me fired up for some live hockey after the rinks have sat quiet for far too long.

I had planned to make up all the various logos as Canada West teams before realizing that there aren't good examples for a handful of teams. For example, there were no dinosaur logos in Star Wars, so the Dinos would have needed a lot of creative liberties to exist. Instead, I opted for the scrolling text and the iconic music to get us ready for another Canada West season!

Besides, when you have Baby Yoda as a fan, you already have an edge on every other team!
Until next time, may the Force be with you!

Monday, 3 May 2021

All The Highlights A Blog Can Handle

It's not often that I post video highlights two days in a row, but you know a goalie goal will always get a video clip out of me. Today, though, we don't have a goalie goal to see. Instead, we have a couple of other fantastic moments that should be seen because they warrant a little recognition! There are some good stories that need to be shared that happened over the last 24-hour period, and there's one rather ugly incident that should have a player sitting out for a long, long time. We'll look at all of that today using video clips!

The First Of Many

I had mentioned on Friday that former University of Saskatchewan sniper Collin Shirley had signed with the ECHL's Allen Americans and appeared in their game that night where he recorded just two minutes in penalties. I had mentioned that I hoped Collin would have success with Allen, and it seems he's fitting right in based on this highlight he produced last night!
We saw Collin Shirley score a pile of goals in Canada West like that where he gained a head of steam before showing his soft hands to light the lamp! Shirley's first ECHL and first-ever professional goal comes at the 1:11 mark of the first period where he scored, unassisted, on Wichita Thunder goaltender Hayden Lavigne on May 2, 2021! How cool is that?

While Shirley didn't factor into any additional scoring or penalties in this game, he's now 2-0 with the Americans as they downed the Thunder by a 4-3 score in overtime in this game, moving the Americans to within five points of second-place Wichita with three games in-hand. With the conference being decided by points percentage thanks to Fort Wayne's lack of games played, Allen can make up some ground on Wichita as they welcome the 25-24-8 Tulsa Oilers to Allen, Texas on Wednesday before meeting with Wichita again on Thursday.

Those two wins would move Allen into second-place in the conference based on points percentage, so it's a big week for Collin Shirley and the Americans in trying to earn a better playoff seeding. HBIC will be cheering for the Americans on both days! Congratulations, Collin, on scoring your first professional goal!

The Solo Lap

Peyton Krebs has been an impressive player with the WHL's Winnipeg Ice in his time with the club, and his short stint with the Henderson Silver Knights showed that he wasn't going to be intimidated in moving up to a higher level of hockey. He recorded one goal and four assists in five games with the Silver Knights, so the point-per-game-in-the-AHL Krebs looked like he had a bright future ahead of him.

With the WHL gearing back up, however, he had to be returned to the Winnipeg Ice due to the AHL-CHL agreement for players under the age of 20. Krebs came back, though, and showed his true professionalism by playing lights-out hockey, scoring 13 goals and adding 30 helpers in just 24 games! In some games, he truly was a man playing amongst boys!

The WHL season has come to a close, though, and the Vegas Golden Knights wanted a closer peek at their first-round pick from 2019, so they called him up and he played in tonight's game between the Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild! Here's Krebs taking the solo lap as the rookie as per tradition in the NHL!
Gotta love how Krebs went out on the ice and got down to business! We weren't done with Krebs yet, though, because the rookie lap is one thing, but how about scoring your first point in your very first NHL game? Krebs can claim to be a point-per-game player in both the AHL and the NHL now because he got in on the scoring in today's game!
That is a big-league pass from Krebs as he goes cross-ice to hit Alex Tuch in flight, and Tuch finishes off the play with a beauty of a shot under the bar to give Krebs his first NHL point! Officially, the play sees Tuch score his 18th goal of the season from Peyton Krebs and Nicolas Roy at 12:20 of the first period as Krebs has a new puck for his mantle!

With Vegas and Minnesota meeting again on Wednesday, might be we see a Peyton Krebs goal that night? HBIC will be watching! Congratulations, Peyton, on your successful NHL debut!

Ten Games

Tom Wilson has been suspended on five separate occasions for spans of two games, four games, three games, twenty games, and seven games for extremely questionable hits on rather defenceless players. If you're reading this and the first thing that pops into your head is "But Teebz...", feel free to launch your internet-enabled device out a window. He's likely going to be suspended again.

Tom Wilson lost his mind tonight against the New York Rangers, and this one should cost him in a rather substantial way. I'm not talking a handful of games; rather, this one should require him to get anger management training before he can return to the ice. Here's the video, and I'll run down the stupidity below.
Can I just say I hate Craig Laughlin's broadcasting? Outside of Jack Edwards on the Bruins' broadcasts, this guy is the biggest homer on the broadcasting circuit. That fact aside, here's a breakdown of what is seen on the video above:
  • Pavel Buchnevich falls to the ice in the crease where Wilson punches him once clearly in the back before Wilson is tackled by Ryan Strome to prevent Wilson from punching Buchnevich.
  • As more players pile on, Wilson gets free and throws a fairly weak punch at Strome who is at the bottom of the pile.
  • Artemi Panarin pulls Wilson off the pile which seemingly angers Wilson. Trevor Van Riemsdyk joins the fray as Buchnevich also re-engages while Adam Fox is trying to play peacekeeper in the middle of it all.
  • Brendan Dillon and Mika Zibanejad join the dance, and that allows Wilson and Panarin to break off the scrum.
  • It's at this point where Tom Wilson throws Panarin to the ice, driving his helmetless face and head into the ice, before punching Panarin in the face with his gloved fist while Panarin is trying to get up.
  • Panarin gets pushed back down to the ice by Wilson as the two linesmen jump on top of Wilson to try and end his reign of terror on the prone Panarin.
  • Zibanejad tries to get at Wilson as he's being held by the linesmen while Buchnevich does, but Wilson won't let go of Panarin who is trying to get up.
  • Nic Dowd jumps into the mix to try and pull Buchnevich off Wilson.
  • As the scrum begins to break up, Panarin almost gets to Wilson before the stripes skate Wilson out of the middle of the donnybrook. Cooler heads begin to prevail, but the damage has been done.
First off, there was no reason for Wilson to punch Buchnevich after he was already on the ground. That's just asking for trouble when you take a liberty like that, and Wilson had to know that. And since he does know that, he's the instigator for this entire melee through which the NHL's Department of Player Safety will have to sort.

Where this goes off is that Wilson instigated the fracas as I pointed out above, he took a swipe at Ryan Strome who was coming to help the defenceless Buchnevich, and he could have seriously injured Artemi Panarin who had come to help a defenceless Strome. What is it with Tom Wilson taking swipes at players who are defenceless and/or considerably outside his weight class? None of the players he punched in that one-minute highlight are even close to being classified as a roughian, yet Wilson punches three of them while they're down on the ice.

Four games and the entire first round of the playoffs. That's what he should serve. The Capitals have four games remaining in the season, and they're going to make the playoffs where Wilson should be forced to sit for the entire first round. Wilson's pocketbook isn't going to be ruined by the four games, but the Capitals will have to open the playoffs without one of their more relied-upon players.

Of course, the Capitals are 8-0-1 this season without Wilson in the lineup and they're 55-31-10 without him all-time, so perhaps the NHL suspending Wilson for this stupidity we saw tonight is a blessing in disguise for a team looking to win a few games in the playoffs. Regardless of those statistics, Tom Wilson's back to being stupid, and he should pay for that stupidity.

There's all the video from a fun 24-hour period in the hockey world! Congratulations go out to both Collin Shirley and Peyton Krebs for their accomplishments on the ice while Tom Wilson can spend some time wallowing in his own stupidity for the circus act he performed in tonight's game against the Rangers. My hope is that everyone is alright after that encounter, and here's hoping the NHL says "enough's enough" when it comes to those antics.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Goalie Goals Are The Best!

While the image to the left shows a goalie scoring a goal, that's technically not a goalie goal since the goalie won't get credit for scoring it on himself. Instead, it goes to whomever touched the puck last on the opposing team. But today's article isn't about own goals, though, because we've actually seen a goalie goal already this season, and now we have one north of the border as the QMJHL celebrated one on Friday in a playoff game between the Quebec Remparts and the Drummondville Voltigeurs! And the coolest part of the whole thing is that he actually has a tie to U SPORTS hockey!

With Quebec up 3-1 in Game Three of the best-of-five series which they led 2-0 over Drummondville, Drummondville pulled their goaltender with five minutes to play in the third period as they had to find goals to keep this series going. As you might expect, the puck came to Thomas Sigouin, the netminder for the Quebec Remparts, and he did this.
How cool is that? Sigouin made it a 4-1 game for the Remparts, but the night was hardly over. Drummondville would score with 1:33 remaining to make it a 4-2 game before Quebec iced it with 26 seconds to play with their fifth goal of the night.

What you just witnessed, folks, was a little history because Sigouin's goal was the first QMJHL goalie goal to be scored in a playoff game! I don't know if head coach Patrick Roy - yes, THAT Patrick Roy - will do anything special for his goaltender for achieving that little piece of history, but I'm hoping there's a plaque with the puck in commemorating the night. Sure, Quebec eliminated Drummondville on Friday, but we all got to witness a moment of history that can never be erased!

As stated above, there is a U SPORTS tie-in as well as Thomas Sigouin will play hockey for the Concordia Stingers next season! Sigouin, who played his first three seasons with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, will close the book on a four-year QMJHL career with the Remparts after the Phoenix dealt him to Quebec for a third-round pick in the bantam draft in 2022 this past summer. After going 14-9-5 for the Remparts following his three Sherbrooke seasons where he posted a 20-7-2 record, it seems that the Stingers are getting themselves not only a solid puck-stopper, but a guy who can shoot the puck as well!

Congratulations go out to Thomas Sigouin, the first QMJHL to ever score a goal in the playoffs! Here's to many great years with Concordia, and good luck in the rest of the QMJHL playoffs!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Stellar Recruits - 2021 Edition

Just as this blog did last year, it's time to take a look at the recruiting classes coming into each Canada West institution this season to play women's hockey. The image to the left is a solar flare, a rather unique event in space, where a star emits a large quantity of energy that normally affects the surrounding system. Like these stars giving off this energy, the nine Canada West schools are hoping the players they've recruited can do the same both in the classroom and on the ice when they come to those schools this September. We'll see new stars born on the ice this winter, and these are some of those names you'll hear often!

Make no mistake that Canada West women's hockey is only going to get more competitive this season. With a number of fifth-year players deciding on whether to move on or play out their fifth and final season of eligibility, there will be hard decisions made this summer that will affect each of the nine teams moving forward. We've already seen some players move on as they pursue careers and further education opportunities, and that opens doors for some of these recruits to step in and compete for jobs. Competition is good in every scenario, so expect teams to look different when the season opens in October 2021 than when we last saw them in 2020.

With the world in full shutdown mode for most of women's hockey, statistics on the information below will come from the 2019-20 season for most of these players. Obviously, we could have seen those numbers change depending on the opportunities these players may have found in their 2020-21 seasons with their teams, but we're not here to speculate or play the "what if" game. We'll use the 2019-20 stats for these players because it's the last complete season they played that has stats for all.

As you read through these, the "Current" is the last team or current team they played with while "Prv." is the province or state where that team is found. You'll also notice a few bolded, yellow or red names. Those are players who transferred in from other institutions and have already used up part of their five years of eligibility are in yellow while players who transferred in, but still have all five years of eligibility available, are in red.

With that information, here are all the players joining the nine Canada West teams in 2020-21.

Canada West Recruits

Alberta Pandas
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Sage Taylor
Edmonton
AB
F 7 10
Raegan Yewdall
Winnipeg Ice
MB
F 17 17
Kallie Clouston
Rocky Mountain
AB
F 4 7
Natalie Kieser
St. Albert
AB
F 3 7
Elle Boyko
Northern Alberta
AB
G 1.37 .948
Tessa Ross
Red Deer College
AB
D 1 2
Abby Fonteyne
Red Deer College
AB
D 0 1

As Howie Draper rebuilds on the fly with the Alberta Pandas, he has added some really good talent over the last two seasons. Yewdall has all sorts of speed to burn and can finish as well as anyone, and goaltender Elle Boyko will give him another exceptional netminder on which he can call. Taylor, Clouston, and Kieser will all be given chances to fill roles for the Pandas while the two transfers from Red Deer College in Ross and Fonteyne have four years of eligibility left where they can settle in on the Pandas' blue line.

Calgary Dinos
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Brette Kerley
Northern Capitals
BC
F 18 8
Nicole Black
St. Mary's Academy
MB
D 0 2
Grace Elliott
Greater Vancouver
BC
F 27 23
Ella Howard
Bluewater
ON
G 2.04 .918
Sydney Mercier
Saskatoon
SK
F 9 10
Bridget Rezansoff
Saskatoon
SK
D 5 3

Danielle Goyette has all sorts of goal-scoring at her disposal as the 2021-22 season opens. Kerley led the Northern Capitals in scoring, Elliott was one of the top goal-scorers for Greater Vancouver, and Mercier has the hands to really be dangerous at the Canada West level. Black and Rezansoff don't score much from the blue line, but they have great defensive awareness when on the ice as Black uses her big frame to knock pucks off sticks while Rezansoff jumps into the offence where possible. The Dinos jumped back into international waters by landing goaltender Ella Howard out of the Bluewater Hawks program where Howard played after backstopping Team Great Britain at the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship Division-1B in 2018! Howard, it should be noted, will be the first British-born netminder to play at the U SPORTS level!

MacEwan Griffins
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Sydney Olsen
Edmonton
AB
D 1 11
Hailey Maurice
Fraser Valley
BC
F 21 17
Jocelyn Elliott
Rocky Mountain
AB
D 3 8
Joie Simon
Yellowhead
MB
F 27 13
Claire Hobbs
Rocky Mountain
AB
F 3 3
Caroline Gosling
Edge School
AB
G 2.29 .911

Lindsay McAlpine is really making the Griffins into a scary team long before they play their first game in Canada West. Adding Maurice and Simon gives her two more exceptional goal-scorers while Olsen, Elliott, and Hobbs likely will be the core of her future blue line with their skills and abilities. Gosling is a bit of interesting pick-up as she'll have to redshirt this season after transferring in from Concordia University where she also redshirted, but her height is what stood out to me as she's listed at 5'1", making her one of the smallest netminders in Canada West!

Manitoba Bisons
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Ashley Keller
St. Mary's Academy
MB
F 10 9
Miressa Mäkelä
HIFK
FI
F 12 8
Jessica Haner
St. Mary's Academy
MB
F 7 7
Julia Bird
Winnipeg Ice
MB
F 16 17
Bailey Fiala
Calgary
AB
D 2 4
Rachel Gottfried
Winnipeg Avros
MB
D 8 26
Emily Shippam
St. Mary's Academy
MB
G 2.38 .896

Jon Rempel continues to add all sorts of talent to his roster as he looks to get the Bisons back to championship form. Keller has all sorts of skill to control the middle of the ice, Haner is all sorts of dangerous with her speed, and Bird is a solid play-maker who can start or finish plays. Fiala is a solid, no-nonsense defender who moves the puck well while Gottfried brings a booming shot, great vision, and a bag of physical play to the blue line. Adding Shippam gives Manitoba the odd situation of potentially having five goalies, so I'm not sure what the plan is for the Bisons with all those netminders. Like Calgary, Manitoba dips back into international waters as Miressa Mäkelä comes over from Finland where she was one of the younger players on the squad, but she's 21 so she might be more physically ready for the grind in Canada West than her rookie-class peers.

Mount Royal Cougars
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Abbey Borbandy
Rocky Mountain
AB
D 2 8
Jori Hansen-Young
Westman
AB
D 11 20
Aliya Jomha
Edge School
AB
F 15 30

A very quiet offseason of recruiting for Scott Rivett saw the Cougars add some major scoring in Jomha, some puck movement from the blue line in Borbandy as the second sister act at Mount Royal takes flight, and they get some size and a booming shot out of the nearly six-foot Hansen-Young. Rivett knew what his squad needed, and he certainly went out and found players who can contribute immediately in the Mount Royal lineup.

Regina Cougars
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Jordyn Blais
Battleford
SK
F 7 6
Makena Kushniruk
Saskatoon
SK
F 10 8
Trinity Grove
Winnipeg Avros
MB
F 30 24
Kaylee Dyer
Regina
SK
F 6 5
Natalie Williamson
Westman
MB
G 1.29 .942
Charley Lindberg
Westman
MB
F 19 15
Shaylee Scraba
Westman
MB
F 20 15
Olivia Leggett
Regina
SK
D 6 10

It was known that Regina lost three of their best players last season, and two more announced this past week that their time was done with the Cougars as well. As a result, Sarah Hodges has been hard at work in the recruiting department. Bringing in two proven scorers who have chemistry together like Lindberg and Scraba was a great move, Grove has all sorts of offensive ability and speed, and she added a very good goaltender from western Manitoba in Williamson. Blais, Kushniruk, and Dyer all have the skills and talents to play at the Canada West level, and Leggett gives Hodges an excellent offensive threat from the blue line. The Cougars are coming in young this season, but they have loads of talent with which to work!

Saskatchewan Huskies
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Paris Oleksyn
Prince Albert
SK
F 15 11
Larissa Bohlken
Regina
SK
D 6 11
Bronwyn Boucher
St. Albert
AB
F 7 5

Steve Kook had a big recruiting class one year ago, so it was a quieter year for him this year as he recruited just three players. Both Oleksyn and Boucher will score goals while being defensively responsible in Kook's system while Bohlken will look to create the same magic from the blue line as her sister, Leah, did while with the Huskies. Kook didn't need to add a lot, but he brought in three good players who make the Huskies that much better.

Trinity Western Spartans
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Jordyn Matthews
Rocky Mountain
AB
F 4 2
Madisyn Smith
Winnipeg Avros
MB
D 5 16
Mabel Maltais
St. Albert
AB
G 0.99 .940
Brooke Legault
Rink Academy
MB
F 7 12
Kylie Perry
Red Deer Chiefs
AB
F 9 3
Jaidia Pisani
St. Albert
AB
D 1 8
Katelynn Fawcett
Barrie
ON
G 1.74 .943
Kyra McDonald
St. Albert
AB
F 4 8
Olivia Leier
Notre Dame
SK
F 5 8
Kailey Ledoux
Prince Albert
SK
F 7 9

Jean Laforest brought in another handful of players that includes good defenders in Smith, who battles hard and has a great first-pass out of the zone, and Pisani, who skates well and has great vision on the ice. Matthews, Legault, Perry, and McDonald all can score goals and set them up, but they never quit in their hustles and they battle hard for every puck. These traits shown by these rookies will push the current roster once again as TWU aims to grab a playoff spot. Like Manitoba, I'm confused by Trinity Western recruiting a fourth and fifth netminder, but there's no doubt that both Maltais and Fawcett gives Laforest all sorts of great goaltending options in the blue paint.

UPDATE: This is why I keep the options open when it comes to recruits as I missed two for TWU. Olivia Leier signed on with TWU after impressing Coach Laforest with her work ethic and coachability. There's no denying that the program at Notre Dame produced high-quality players, and it appears that Trinity Western has acquired another solid player! Kailey Ledoux comes into TWU from the Prince Albert program where she was a solid power forward with good hands. She'll be a force down the wing or in front of the net for the Spartans!

UBC Thunderbirds
Name Current Prv. Pos G/GAA A/SV%
Mya Healey
Northern Alberta
AB
F 8 10
Kailee Peppler
Prince Albert
SK
D 2 11
Mia Bierd
Edge School
AB
F 6 11
Annalise Wong
Fraser Valley
BC
F 0 3
Kayla McDougall
Stoney Creek
ON
G 1.67 .914

Graham Thomas went out and found some additional scoring and size as Healey comes in with both boxes checked while Bierd checks off the speed and skill boxes. Wong only played a handful of games for Fraser Valley, but she was in on plays with her aggressive style of play and relentless chase of the puck. Peppler skates smoothly and sees the ice well with her accurate passing. McDougall is another very good goalie who will set up camp in the UBC crease, and it's expected she'll push both Hiddleston and Hugens as the starter once Micklash's time with the program is over.

I think that's everyone based on the U SPORTS Letter of Intent list, the various websites with recruitment information, and the teams' social media accounts. If I missed someone, get in touch with me ASAP so I can make those adjustments to the lists, but I think this is a fairly complete document at this point. And if I did miss someone, I apologize!

I'm going to be honest when I say that the recruiting class from last season was quite exceptional. Adding this layer of recruits onto players who have yet to play a game at the Canada West level means that there is a lot to be excited about for this season. Not only do we have two new teams entering the fray in Canada West as the MacEwan Griffins and the Trinity Western Spartans make their long-awaited debuts, but there are a ton of talented players who will be competing for the Canada West Rookie of the Year Award at the very least.

Being able to call live hockey is something I've missed for a long time. Being able to see these teams put the kind of talent they've amassed over the last two seasons back out onto the ice is something I will not take for granted after not having set foot in Wayne Fleming Arena for eighteen months. I am excited to call games, I am excited be back, but I am most excited to see this next wave of stars invade rinks and dazzle us with their skills, abilities, and talents.

As much as I'm excited for summer, I have October circled on the calendar already. Canada West hockey can't come back soon enough for me!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!