Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Building A Better World

With the Pacific Northwest suffering through has been the hottest days ever seen in Canada in the history of recorded temperatures, it would seem that climate change is very real. Some will continue to deny that climate change even exists which will see me mock those people, but it's pretty clear that the 21st century is seeing some monumental shifts in the weather patterns from what we saw two or three decades ago. The effort to change our futures so that we get back to more moderate seasonal temperatures begins at home. In the case of Lego, that means brick by brick.

In case you haven't noticed, this isn't a hockey story at all, but there is a hockey tie-in at the end. Please read all of this to see how hockey can make a difference before the article concludes!

Lego, as you're likely very aware, has endured for decades while other toys have disappeared thanks to its ingenious interlocking brick system. Those bricks are made of plastic - something that is choking our planet to death due it not being biodegradable. Canadians alone generate 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year with 2.8 million tonnes of that waste ending up in landfills. Just 9% of that plastic waste is recycled each year as per Oceana.

Lego is rarely thrown out as people have found secondary markets to sell Lego sets on as well as handing it down from generation to generation. Again, the toy has stood the test of time, and people rarely dispose of Lego bricks by discarding them. In knowing this, Lego's next steps might be some of the most impactful steps taken by one company when one considers for how long people hold onto their Lego sets.

According to a decree they published today, Lego stated that they will "make LEGO bricks from sustainable sources by 2030 without compromising quality or safety" while investing "up to USD 400 million over three years in various sustainability initiatives, including in phasing out single use plastic in all its product boxes by 2025". One of the ways that they'll do that is by collecting plastic bottles that are not recycled as much as the beverage companies want you to believe, and they'll turn those bottles into new plastic bricks used in their Lego sets!

According to Lego, "A one-liter plastic PET bottle provides enough raw material for 10 2 x 4 LEGO bricks" which is an incredible feat if they can make this work.

"Experimentation and failing is an important part of learning and innovation. Just as kids build, unbuild and rebuild with LEGO bricks at home, we're doing the same in our lab," Lego Group Vice President of Environmental Responsibility Tim Brooks said.

Imagine the vast amounts of plastic that could be removed from the ocean, from waterways, and from landfills if Lego can perfect this process. And while some kids don't find playing with Lego bricks very fun, it might be time to re-invest in some imagination and some creativity by introducing kids of all ages back to Lego in order to help them recycle as much plastic as possible.

What makes this incredible is we're seeing new and unique companies do rather amazing and innovative things to reduce plastic in environments across the world. Switzerland, for example, outfitted its National Men's Hockey Team at the Swiss Ice Hockey Challenge with jerseys made from recycled plastic through Waste2Wear. Mint Hockey in Minnesota makes shooting pads from 100% recycled plastic. Hub1916 Sportswear is selling an undershirt made from 14 plastic bottles. And, of course, we've seen the NHL dabble in recycled plastic jerseys and the KHL has tested them out as well.

What needs to happen is for these companies to find ways to not only recycle the plastic into new things as they've done, but have a sustainable return policy where people are credited for returning the product to be recycled once more. For example, the shooting pads will eventually wear out through use, and Mint Hockey should offer a credit for a new one if the old one is shipped back. Creating a self-sustaining market for one's own product ensures repeat business, and that's the goal for all businesses - customers who come back again and again.

On the other side of the coin, we need groups like CCM, Bauer, Nike, and Adidas to really step up and start driving this idea of turning old, discarded plastic into something new. They have the financial means to make something like this happen, and it would make a huge impact on the world if they started cutting into the tonnes of plastic waste seen each year on the planet.

Granted, we could and should demand that companies stop using plastics in a lot of their products, but we still need to remove a lot of the plastic we've already produced and discarded from the planet. Having companies like Waste2Wear, Mint Hockey, Hub1916, and Adidas producing new items that won't be discarded as quickly with the backing of some major players like the IIHF, NHL, KHL, and other leagues will make a difference moving forward. It won't solve the problem entirely, but any solution that gets us closer to being plastic neutral is better than doing nothing at all.

If Lego is doing it brick by brick, if Waste2Wear is doing it team by team, and if Hub1916 and Mint Hockey are doing it player by player if and when someone buys their products, it's time for the big players - Adidas, Nike, the NHL, the IIHF, and others - to back these efforts. Good neighbours remind one another to recycle, so let's see these multi-billion dollar businesses act like good corporate citizens for once.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Quick News Hits

The NHL Awards were handed out tonight despite them being done weeks before leading up to a few of the major awards being presented tonight. The NHL usually turns their Awards Night into an Oscars-like affair with moies stars, musicians, and all walks of celebrities doing their part to extend the show into a three-hour extravaganza that really could be pared down to an hour at most. With the pandemic affecting large crowd sizes over the last two seasons, the NHL has presented the trophies virtually, and I'm actually appreciating this setup more than their star-studded evenings.

While it might be fun to see celebrities talk about hockey players and make hockey-based jokes for a while, I personally don't care about all that filler. Show me the nominees, the winner, and the voting cards of how those winners were determined. That's the stuff where greater debate can be found, and social media loves dissecting the voting on each trophy. The entire event could take place in an hour.

I can hear you all snickering as "old man yells at cloud", but I don't care if D-List Celebrity is presenting whatever trophy brought to me by Corporately-Sponsored NHL Partner. Just award the trophy to the player that earned it, let them thank their teammates and coaches and family, and on to the next one.

If I wanted to spend three hours rolling my eyes at people patting themselves on the back, I'd just watch Gary Bettman's State of the Union speech on repeat.

Buffalo Found Their Man

The Buffalo Sabres interviewed a pile of people and did their due diligence in their efforts to find a permanent head coach, and it appears that the best man was already at the helm as Don Granato was named the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres after being the interim head coach following Ralph Krueger's dismissal last season.

There's no question that the Sabres played a better game overall under Granato's guidance, and there has to be some hope that Jack Eichel is happy with Granato's hiring to be the permanent guy. I can't see the Sabres hiring a guy for which Eichel didn't care if they're hoping to bridge the chasm between the team and the star player, so here's hoping that Granato finds a way to get the Sabres playing some inspired hockey so Eichel can have his shot in the playoffs.

It should be noted that the Sabres were Buffalo went 9-16-3 under Granato in a season where they finished with a 15-34-7 record. Players such as Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson, and Rasmus Dahlin looked much more comfortable in Granato's system than they did under Krueger, but the dissent among Eichel and Sam Reinhart can't be ignored. If Kevyn Adams doesn't move those two players, it will be up to Granato to get them to buy into his systems as the Sabres look to snap a decade-long run of missed postseasons.

Congratulations to Don Granato for taking what some may say is currently the hardest job in hockey. Being the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres doesn't come without some major challenges.

Winkler Found Their Man

Speaking of Buffalo, former Sabres defenceman Justin Falk has landed himself back in hockey in a big way as the Snowflake, Manitoba native was named the new General Manager for the MJHL's Winkler Flyers! The former Swan Valley Stampeder gets the big chair in Winkler in the circuit where he was first noticed, and will work to see more players make The Show like he did!

Falk is no stranger to the Flyers organization as he served as the Assistant GM and Assistant Coach since March 2021, and he's certainly familiar with the expanding Manitoba junior league having played in it. That experience saw him land in the WHL with Calgary and Spokane before he turned his solid play there into an 11-year career in the NHL and AHL.

The Flyers boast alumni such as Ed Belfour and Travis Sanheim as NHL players who played in the organization, and it will now be on Falk's shoulders to find the next impact players who may see the same success as he, Belfour, and Sanheim found. Falk has a ton of contacts in the hockey world, so this new role with Winkler may suit him very well while helping the Flyers contend for a Turnbull Cup!

Congratulations, Justin Falk, on your new role!

New Affiliation - Part One

The Seattle Kraken, currently getting themselves ready for a busy off-season prior to their inaugural season, announced today that they have affiliated themselves with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers presumably until Palm Springs is ready to host an AHL team. The Checkers are currently affiliated with the Florida Panthers, so one might wonder how this cross-country affiliation will work when the trend has seen NHL teams wanting their AHL affiliates closer.

Regardless of distance, there's some familiarity there as Rob Francis was the GM for the Carolina Hurricanes when they were affiliated with the Checkers, so it makes sense that he'd turn to a team he knows can develop players like the Checkers do when seeking an AHL partner for the 2021-22 season. The Checkers graduated a number of players to Carolina before their affiliation switched, so this makes sense in the bigger picture.

It may not be the most ideal situation for the Kraken, but it should work well for Seattle until Palm Springs is ready for the "Baby Squids" to invade that city.

New Affiliation - Part Two

The New York Rangers announced today that they have a new ECHL affiliate as they've partnered with the Jacksonville Icemen starting in 2021-22! The Icemen were bolstered with the Rangers sending their ECHL players to Jacksonville last season after Maine opted out of the season, so the Rangers simply went ahead and made it an official thing with their players already in the Florida ECHL city.

It seems like a bit of a pain to shuffle players between the Hartford Wolfpack and the Icemen considering the distance, but the Rangers seem to believe it will work. Whatever growing pains there might be likely can be absorbed by the Rangers as they have a number of young players already on their roster as they build for the future, so this may allow both the Wolfpack and Icemen to really start developing the next wave of good young New York Rangers.

New Duds For The Rivermen

The SPHL's Peoria Rivermen have decided to modern their looks for the home, road, and alternate uniforms for the upcoming 2021-22 season, and they did a pretty decent job!
Honestly, I like these despite the red and navy blue uniforms feeling a little like the Florida Panthers. The white uniform feels a little like the Nashville Predators' Winter Classic uniform, but all three work pretty well when it comes to a classy minor-league team's set of uniforms. Thumbs up from me, Rivermen!

So there are some quick hockey stories and one opinion about the NHL Awards to digest. It's not fancy, but these news stories were quick hits based on their brevity in the hockey world. Keep your ear to the ground, folks, but we're getting closer to the expansion draft, free agency, and more!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 28 June 2021

Two Weeks Of No Ice

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know that Summer Olympiads cause this blog to shift in another direction. The Tokyo Olympic Games start on July 23 this year as the 2020 Summer Olympiad will finally take place in Japan, and the Summer Olympics always feature field hockey as one of the sports played at the Games. It's one of the more exciting sports at the Summer Olympics, and there's always some intrigue and drama in the games, especially when the world powers in the sport compete against one another. Canada's national men's team has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, so I'll be keeping an eye on these games just as I've done for past Summer Olympiads! There will be previews as we near, so stay tuned for those!

Both the men's and women's events will be played out of the Oi Hockey Stadium, a 15,000-seat venue in the southern portion of Tokyo and just north of the Haneda Airport. Field hockey pitches have relatively little shade and Oi Hockey Stadium is no different as the temperatures in late July in Tokyo often climb above the 30°C mark. Teams will need to be aware of this when they take the pitch, but fans should also ensure they have lots of water on-hand in order to cope with the potentially searing heat.

Canada is sending its men's team after qualifying against Ireland in the most unbelievable way, and the UBC Thunderbirds are sending a pile of players to Tokyo with the Canadian squad. It should be noted that I had mentioned that there were only three Canada West field hockey teams and all three were women's teams. That technically is true of interuniversity play, but the UBC men's team competes in the Vancouver Men's Field Hockey League against teams such as the University of Victoria, Burnaby Lake FHC, West Vancouver FHC, the Vancouver Hawks, and the Surrey Lions FHC to name but a few. With strong showings annually in the VMFHL, UBC is well-represented on the Canadian team!

Here is the roster that will represent Canada in Tokyo at the Summer Olympics! Position, league team, and the number of appearances internationally for Canada are all shown on this chart.

TEAM CANADA
Name Position Team Caps
Antoni Kindler
Goalkeeper
West Vancouver FHC 98
Brendan Guraliuk
Midfielder
UBC 7
Brenden Bissett
Midfielder
Vancouver Hawks 139
Fin Boothroyd
Midfielder
UBC 23
Floris Van Son
Forward
AMVJ 35
Gabriel Ho-Garcia
Midfielder
Burnaby Lakers 133
Gordon Johnston
Defender
Vancouver Hawks 179
James Kirkpatrick
Midfielder
West Vancouver FHC 100
Jamie Wallace
Forward
UBC 46
John Smythe
Defender
Vancouver Hawks 121
Keegan Pereira
Forward
India Club 182
Mark Pearson
Forward
West Vancouver FHC 277
Matthew Sarmento
Forward
Vancouver Hawks 121
Oliver Scholfield
Forward
Vancouver Hawks 71
Scott Tupper
Defender
West Vancouver FHC 315
Sukhi Panesar
Midfielder
United Brothers 74
Taylor Curran
Midfielder
West Vancouver FHC 185
David Vandenbossche
Goalkeeper
Gantoise 2
Dave Carter
Goalkeeper
Vancouver Hawks 194
Brandon Pereira
Defender
United Brothers 61

If you're asking what the colour coding and italicized names means, italicized names are reserves. Yellow are traveling reserves while red are non-traveling reserves. All of them helped, in some way, Canada to reach its second consecutive Olympic field hockey tournament since doing so in 1984 and 1988, and I will respectfully recognize them for their efforts!

It should also be noted that every single player except for two call the province of British Columbia home. There is not a single player from the other nine provinces or three territories on the field hockey squad, proving just how dominant BC likely is at the sport within our own borders. The two men who aren't from BC are Floris Van Son who hails from Netherlands and David Vandenbossche who calls Belgium home. I should also make note that head coach Pasha Gademan and assistant coach Craig Sieben are both Dutch as well while assistant coach Andre Henning is German!

These are the men who will proudly wear the maple leaf on their chests in Tokyo from July 24 to August 5 at the field hockey competition for Canada, and I'm excited to see them make a little magic like they did against Ireland in qualifying for the Olympics. Winning a medal won't be easy based upon the field who qualified for Tokyo, and Canada would be considered a longshot to reach the podium. That being said, anything can happen and it's why they play the games, so making the dance is the first step in reaching those Olympic dreams for these men!

I'll be cheering when the tournament opens, so here's hoping we see some great moments from Team Canada! GO CANADA GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Gretzky's Six Degrees In '93

As the Montreal Canadiens prepare to battle for the first time since 1993 as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night, there have been countless comparisons between this year's squad and the 1993 Canadiens team that stands as the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. In thinking about that 1993 series where Les Habitants met the Los Angeles Kings, it's rather remarkable how many fingerprints Wayne Gretzky had on that Stanley Cup Final. As we know, Gretzky played in the final series against the Canadiens, but his fingerprints are all over that Canadiens team as well!

This story actually starts while Wayne Gretzky was still a long-term part of the Edmonton Oilers, so I'm going to take you through a winding path that will stretch across nine years of hockey information where Wayne Gretzky's name appears over and over again with all points leading to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. It's not six degrees of separation here, but it's rather amazing how many players played in the 1993 Final who were much closer to Gretzky in terms of degrees of separation.

We'll start back in 1984 when the QMJHL's Hull Olympiques are being coached by a former police officer by the name of Pat Burns. Burns was looking to take an Olympiques team who had missed the playoffs back to the playoffs and possibly beyond the first round - a place that had never been since becoming "Les Olympiques" in 1976. In his efforts to do so, Burns finds himself a new superstar around whom he can build a team. Luc Robitaille, Joe Foglietta, and Sam Lang lead the team in scoring as the top-three scorers, and the new first line looks promising.

However, a massive bombshell rocked the Olympiques on November 30, 1984 when Le Journal de Montreal reported that there had been talks with a group involving Wayne Gretzky as they city of Hull looked to divest themselves of municipally-owned team. While it certainly didn't affect their play on the ice, fans in the Hull region took notice that The Great One could possibly own their team, bringing with him the eyes of the world as #99 began his foray into hockey ownership and management.

Despite the massive news story, the talks seemed to be very early in their progression in November, and the team still had a season to complete. Burns and his top line of Robitaille-Foglietta-and-Lang would lead the Olympiques to a 33-34-1 record that saw them qualify for the QMJHL playoffs, but they would fall in five games to the Verdun Junior Canadiens who boasted two key players in Claude Lemieux and Jimmy Carson.

Once the season ended, talks ramped up, and it was in the summer of 1985 when things were finalized. On Wednesday, August 7, 1985, Wayne Gretzky was officially named as the new owner of the Hull Olympiques, reportedly paying $175,000 for ownership of the QMJHL franchise. Almost immediately, Gretzky makes an impact on the Olympiques as he invited 16 year-old Cam Russell to play for the team. Russell, it should be noted, didn't play in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, but did play in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Luc Robitaille is a star once again this season, finishing with 191 points, but there are a number of players who provided excellent depth for the Olympiques this season as they improved greatly from the year before. Under Burns' guidance, the Olympiques finished with a record of 54-18-0 and won the QMJHL Championship with several key contributors outside of the Robitaille line. Among those players was Benoit Brunet, and Stephane Matteau was also a part of team as he played with the Blackhawks in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final before helping the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1994!

The Olympiques would advance to the 1985 Memorial Cup in Portland, Oregon where they would lose in the final to the Guelph Storm in a weird scheduling quirk that saw Hull finish their semi-final game at 11pm before playing the Memorial Cup Final at 11am the next morning. The 6-2 loss likely had more to do with fatigue than the way the Olympiques played, but no one ever said hockey was a fair game.

The 1986-87 saw the Olympiques take a step back as Luc Robitaille found himself on the Los Angeles Kings' roster. Benoit Brunet stepped up in a big way for Pat Burns in this campaign with 110 points to lead the team. The Olympiques would finish the season with a record of 26-39-5, but would lose in an opening round mini-tournament that saw them go 4-4 against the Laval Titan, the Longueuil Chevaliers, and the St. Jean Castors. Perhaps the biggest loss for the Olympiques was the announcement that Pat Burns had been hired by the AHL's Sherbrooke Canadiens. The coaching search would begin.

Under a new head coach by the name of Alain Vigneault - who coached the 2011 Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final - in 1987-88, Hull came out and lost six of their first ten games before regrouping and dominating the QMJHL for most of the season with players like Benoit Brunet, Martin Gelinas, Stephane Matteau, and Cam Russell all playing significant roles. A late-season trade with Granby saw the additions of Stephane Quintal and Andre Racicot. Of all of those players named, only Quintal failed to appear in a Stanley Cup Final, so this Olympiques team had a number of great players on the roster in going 43-23-4 and winning the QMJHL's President Cup!

The 1988 Memorial Cup would be played at the Centre Georges-Vézina in Chicoutimi, and things wouldn't go as well for Hull in this appearance as they dropped their first two games against Windsor and Medicine Hat before beating Drummondville, the QMJHL runner-up, again. That led to a semi-final appearance where Medicine Hat downed Hull once again, and the Olympiques would head home empty-handed once again.

Before we get too far down the road, it should be noted that the head coach for the Memorial Cup-winning Medicine Hat Tigers that season was none other than Barry Melrose. Yes, THAT Barry Melrose.

If you're looking for more Olympiques news, there won't be much after this moment, but there was a significant moment in the NHL that affected the Olympiques. On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley to Los Angeles for Jimmy Carson (mentioned above!), Martin Gelinas (mentioned above!), a handful of picks, and cash in a deal that shook the NHL landscape. With Gretzky playing alongside his former junior star in Luc Robitaille, the Kings look like an entirely different team in the 1989 playoffs under Robbie Ftorek as they pulled off a dramatic seven-game victory over the Edmonton Oilers before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the Calgary Flames in Round Two.

After running training camp in Hull to delight of many people in the area to start the 1989-90 season, Gretzky and the Kings under the coaching of Tom Webster upset the Calgary Flames in the opening round of the playoffs, but are swept by the Oilers in the second round as the Oilers would claim the Stanley Cup. Needless to say, there was still work to be done in the City of Angels.

The 1990-91 Los Angeles Kings finished atop the Smythe Division standings once more as they looked ready for a deep playoff run, but they would run into the Edmonton Oilers who once again thwarted their efforts in a 4-2 series win in Round Two. Four of the games in that series would go to overtime, and the Kings would finish 1-3 in those games as the free hockey didn't benefit them.

The 1991-92 season saw the Kings finish second in the Smythe Division only to face the Edmonton Oilers once more in the opening round of the playoffs. And just as the Oilers had done in the previous two seasons, the Kings' season ended at the hands of the Oilers. The Oilers would move on after dispatching the Kings in a 4-2 opening-round series win, and the culmination of those losses would cost Tom Webster his job as head coach. The Kings would hire Barry Melrose in his place as they prepared for the 1992-93 season.

The start of the 1992-93 season would also see the Hull Olympiques sold by Gretzky to a group of local businessmen as Gretzky moved on from the ownership idea. With him no longer having to oversee the business of the Olympiques, it seems a refocused Gretzky was ready to dominate once again.

One of the players that was traded to acquire Gretzky was reacquired by the Kings that season. Jimmy Carson rejoined the Kings on January 29, 1993 after being packaged with players from Detroit for Paul Coffey and a few players as the Kings looked to add more firepower for the playoffs. As stated above, Carson played for Verdun who eliminated the Olympiques in the 1984 QMJHL Playoffs.

If you put all of those names together, the 1993 Stanley Cup Final saw Luc Robitaille, Benoit Brunet, and Andre Racicot all come from the Hull Olympiques program while owner Wayne Gretzky skated for the Kings in the Final. Indirectly, Jimmy Carson of Verdun and Martin Gelinas of Hull were part of how Gretzky got to the Kings, Barry Melrose coached the Kings after helping Medicine Hat defeat Hull in the 1988 Memorial Cup, and Jimmy Carson returned to the Kings to play in the Final. Pat Burns, it should be noted, was coaching the Maple Leafs who Gretzky and the Kings defeated to advance to the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal!

Can any one major junior team claim three former players and a former owner in one Stanley Cup Final while having one of its former players traded for that former owner? I'm going to say "no". As in there's zero chance that it ever happened.

Not including all the players in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final and the two players in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final that either played for or played with Wayne Gretzky on the 1993 Los Angeles Kings, it seemed that whatever was in the water in Hull during Gretzky's ownership days was a little magical when one considers how Hull, Quebec connected seven people directly in that Stanley Cup Final. I don't know if this year's final has those same confluences among teammates and opponents and coaches and owners, but it's pretty amazing how the hockey world is connected.

And just like in 1993, GO HABS GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Russian Women Expand

If you're like me and aren't fluent in Russian, this might be the easiest way to get some info on this new logo and the latest news from Mother Russia. I had made mention about a month or so ago on The Hockey Show that the Russian Professional Women's Hockey League had announced that a team from Yaroslavl had indicated that they wanted to join the league, and that the league was considering the application very seriously as of May 19, 2021. There was still a lot of work to be done at that time, but it appears that this new team from Yaroslavl will begin play in the 2021-22 season!

At this point, there isn't much known about the status of that application for the Yaroslavl Ice Wings (Ледяные Крылья) to join the Russian Women's League as that application along with an expansion application for the Chelyabinsk White Bears (Белые Медведицы) will be voted on at the KHL Board of Directors meeting in July. What we do know is that the Ice Wings created the logo shown in the lede photo for play in 2021-22. It should be noted that the Ice Wings will fall under the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv structure while the Chelyabinsk team will fall under the same umbrella as the KHL's Traktor Chelyabinsk squad.

The logo above, known as "Ptitsa" was voted on by fans of the team on social media. Personally, it's not a revolutionary logo by any means, but it's certainly accomplishes what a logo should do: provides a clear image of the brand while being unique within the league's membership. If the colours shown on that logo's image are to be believed, it seems the Ice Wings will go full arctic-coloured imagery with the blues and whites. Needless to say, it all works fairly well together.

The voting was posted on the Ice Wings' Vkontakte page, and the results are below. It was actually a lot closer between the five finalist logos than I would have guessed, but the team made this decision based on just 340 votes!
Don't ask me how the helmeted logo ended up in third-place, but it seems we may have had the "Ice Knights" in place of the Ice Wings had that logo won. In any case, I feel like the best logo of the five did win, and now the real work begins as the Ice Wings need to assemble a team for the start of the season.

According to this article, the Ice Wings held an open tryout on June 17 as they looked to build a roster for next season. Of those who came to Yaroslavl for this open tryout were four goalkeepers, eight defenders, and fourteen forwards of varying skillsets and talents, but this list of players will be important as the Ice Wings are also building a youth team - aka farm team - at the same time they're organizing the professional team.

21 year-old goaltender Daria Lavrukhina was one of the four netminders in the camp, and she probably will be on Yaroslavl's short list of candidates from this camp who will be invited to the main camp. Lavrukhina played two games with SK Gorny in 2019-20, posting a 1-1-0 record with a 3.60 GAA, but she played her youth hockey in the Yaroslavl region. She could be a good way to draw fans in to see the new team as the local kid protects the net for the Ice Wings.

It would appear they do have a head coach in place who is overseeing these proceedings as Artur Nadrgulov was running the open tryout. From his comments, seven players were chosen to sign contracts with the Ice Wings while six players received initations to training camp that begins on July 10. None of the players who signed were named at the time, but it seems the Ice Wings' roster is starting to take shape!

The addition of the two new teams will push the total number of teams in the Zhenskaya Hockey League to ten. With the creation of the ZhHL, women's hockey in Russia has improved greatly to the point where Russia is emerging as one of the potential medalists in Beijing at the 2022 Winter Olympics - a clear sign that an organized, well-funded women's professional league that allows women to play hockey as their profession not only improves the game domestically, but on the international stage as well.

I don't credit Russia for much, but they are doing women's hockey right. North American and European countries should be taking notes on why the Russian women's national team has gone from also-rans to potentially dangerous in a short amount of time, and look to replicate that process within their own borders through the development and promotion of domestic women's professional hockey to improve their own national teams.

With the Ice Wings and White Bears preparing to join the ZhHL, there will only be more good women's hockey players developed by Russia in the coming years. That should worry the current the superpowers in women's hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 25 June 2021

End Their Careers

As I sit here tonight and having read what the management of the Chicago Blackhawks did back in 2010 in essentially covering up a massive scandal, I am sickened by these men. All of them. The act of the sexual assault is disgusting on its own, but for the Blackhawks to silence the accuser, refuse to investigate the accused, and eventually releasing him from his duties without consequence should, in my world, mean that anyone involved with the Blackhawks' front office during that time would never work in hockey again in any capacity at any level.

If you haven't heard, former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student and is now on that state's registry of sex offenders. In 2010 during the Westen Conference Final while working in the Blackhawks organization, Aldrich sexually assaulted two players who reported the assault to then-skills coach Paul Vincent. Vincent reportedly brought the information to Blackhawks' senior staff including both GM Stan Bowman and President John McDonough in order to have an investigation done based on these serious allegations, and the executives of the Blackhawks decided it would be best if the story went away rather than bringing in the police.

"I feel a weight has been lifted off of me," Vincent told TSN. "I will stand up in court and say what happened. I know what the team did to cover this up and coming forward was the right thing to do."

If this stands to be true - and by all accounts, there are many who can corroborate the story - everyone in the front office of the Chicago Blackhawks at that time should be banned for life from hockey for being covering this up, allowing Aldrich to continue to commit horrific crimes, and for lying about the situation. If you wanted a clear-cut case for "aiding and abetting", the Chicago Blackhawks should stand trial.

As per TSN's Rick Westhead, the timeline is pretty succinct. He writes,
"Vincent alleges that after the players approached him on May 16, 2010, in San Jose, he asked Blackhawks sports psychologist James Gary to follow up with the players and management.

"The following day, Vincent says he was called into a meeting with team president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, vice-president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, and Gary. Vincent said that he asked the team to report the alleged abuse to Chicago police. That request was refused, Vincent said."
If this is indeed what went down, McDonough, Bowman, MacIsaac, and Gary should be barred from hockey with prejudice. Those four men sat in the meeting with Vincent and made the decision to cover up the allegations against Aldrich without so much as considering an investigation, and that should cost them their livelihoods for the rest of their lives after Aldrich destroyed the lives of others.

Westhead does make it clear in the article that assistant trainer Jeff Thomas told Vincent who took action, and that Vincent informed both assistant coaches John Torchetti and Mike Haviland of the complaint and his stepping forward to raise concerns with management. In knowing that, it would seem that the number of people who knew and did nothing or were told to do nothing will only grow from here, and those people should also be banned from hockey.

It may or may not include people like former head coach Joel Quenneville, former assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, and former Blackhawks director of player personnel Marc Bergevin, but there will be others who had to know of Vincent bringing the allegations to management. It should be noted that both the Winnipeg Jets, where Cheveldayoff is now employed, and the Florida Panthers, where Quenneville is employed, refused to comment on the findings, instead referring Westhead back to the Blackhawks for comment. The Montreal Canadiens vice-president of public affairs and communications Paul Wilson emailed Westhead, stating that Bergevin claims he was not aware of the allegations at that time.

The past complaints against Aldrich that are coming to light now are rather disgusting, but they show the distinct pattern of a predator. Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney of WBEZ Chicago reported,
"One case involved a 16-year-old boy who told police that Aldrich picked him up at a county fair. The police report indicates that minor told investigators he and Aldrich went back to his apartment and engaged in 'sexual relations' that left him feeling 'uncomfortable with the situation.' No charges resulted from that case.

"Another instance cited in the report related to a troubled youth who at one point was housed in a juvenile detention facility. The young man, whose age isn't identified, told police he engaged in sex with Aldrich at his home and along the waterfront of a neighboring town, where Aldrich resides, according to the police report. No charges arose from that case.

A third case mentioned in the police report involved an alleged incident at Aldrich's house. A male, whose name is redacted, told police that he had known Aldrich since he was a freshman, when Aldrich was coaching. The male told police that at the gathering, Aldrich allegedly put his hand in the shorts of a girl beside him. The report said the male, whose age wasn't identified, 'stated that he became very upset by this and lost respect for Brad Aldrich.'"
Add to those complaints the two players from the Blackhawks, his resignation from Miami University on November 27, 2012 "under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult" as per the university's lawyer, and the 2013 conviction in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student, and it would appear that Brad Aldrich is no different than Graham James.

In knowing all this, the Chicago Blackhawks should be conducting sweeping terminations today. Instead, team spokesman Adam Rogowin told WBEZ in May that "the team was confident it would 'be absolved of any wrongdoing.'"

That statement doesn't appear to be holding up well, Mr. Rogowin. Whatever happens in this investigation, the Chicago Blackhawks have an ugly stain on them moving forward as long as any of the executives named above remain with the team in some capacity. Beyond that, for any player, coach, or staff member who has knowledge of what went on and doesn't step forward to condemn the Blackhawks' handling of this situation further should also lose their livelihoods because they're protecting the criminals, not the victims. I don't care about friendships, employer-employee relationships, or any other relationship they may still have with the Blackhawks, their silence is damning if they continue to maintain it.

Jenna and I have been saying for months on The Hockey Show that the NHL is a business first and humanity will also come second or lower for the league and its teams. It seems almost ironic that the unnamed Blackhawks player wrote to WBEZ the following statement: "Success and wins are valued more than people and they need to deal with the serious issues."

Hockey, at so many levels, is broken, and it's rotten to the core at the NHL's level. My hope is that this situation with the Blackhawks will be the point where the league, the teams, and the people in the game start to really look at what's important in making this game great so that changes can be implemented at the top levels and flow down to lower levels of hockey, but my idealism on this is likely nothing more than a fantasy with zero basis in reality. The NHL doesn't care about the morality of the game where there are dollars to be made.

Ban everyone from that 2010 Chicago Blackhawks' front office. Ban them for life, take their names off the Stanley Cup, make them ineligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame, and ensure that their involvement in covering up a sexual assault that led to further sexual assaults of players is a stain that can never be washed away. More news will break on this story, so be prepared to be disgusted even further by the Blackhawks and their executive team.

Based on what we know tonight, end their careers and any future career they may have or want in hockey. By taking everything from them, they may then realize the same pain and emptiness felt by the victims of a monster they were complicit in allowing to roam their hallways freely.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 24 June 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 457

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight to the airwaves of 101.5 UMFM with a big show! As you may know, Jenna's connection to the MacEwan Griffins has allowed to speak with some of the players already, and my desire to know as much about the team before seeing them in action next season has fueled that drive to feature more Griffins on the show. Tonight, we add another name to that list as we speak to a former Griffin who grew up in Winnipeg!

Tonight, Teebz and Jenna chat with former MacEwan Griffins defender Carley Jewell about her five years of university hockey! Before we get into the hockey, we explore Carley's immense talents in track-and-field and on the basketball court where she likely could have pursued university opportunities had she wanted, but we get into the hockey chatter shortly after. We talk to her about playing with the boys, playing with the Winnipeg Avros, being recruited by Lindsay McAlpine, winning an ACAC bronze medal in her rookie season, winning a gold medal in her second year, winning virtually everything possible in her third year, winning another gold medal in her fourth year, and coming as close to a gold medal as humanly possible in her fifth and final year all while discussing her career highlights and some of the memorable moments of her career! Carley also gives us a prediction on how MacEwan will fare in Canada West this year and what her future holds after graduating, so it's another fun and interesting show! Tune in to meet Carley Jewell and get all the details on her career at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com!

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 break down Carley Jewell's career as we learn about track-and-field, basketball, talking to her mom, helping MacEwan become one of the best ACAC teams of all-time, playing outdoors, winning medals every year, sports psychology, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: June 24, 2021: Episode 457

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Get Ready For Some Hockey!

February 8, 2020 was the last time I was in the broadcast booth at Wayne Fleming Arena alongside Kyleigh Palmer as we called the final game in the 2019-20 season for the Manitoba Bisons. The Alberta Pandas had defeated the Bisons 4-0 on that afternoon as they prepared for the Canada West Playoffs and, eventually, the U SPORTS National Championship. It's hard to imagine that it will have been some twenty months - 615 days to be exact! - when we take our places above the ice once more to call a Manitoba Bisons game, but we now know the who and the when for that next game as the 2021-22 schedule has been released!

If I told you that I had been axiously awaiting this day, you'd be right in calling me a liar because I have been dying to see the new schedule since Canada West announced the modified twenty-game schedule. With two new teams on the schedule, there was excitement to see when those teams might be visiting for the first time along with finding out who else would be making the trip to the Manitoba capital. Needless to say, we know thanks to the schedule released today!

The season opens on October 15 for all teams except Saskatchewan who get the bye in the first week with there being nine teams in the conference. Regina has the honour of visiting the MacEwan Griffins in that first weekend to welcome the Griffins to the circuit while UBC gets the first visit with their interprovincial rivals in Trinity Western on opening weekend.

The first battle between the expansion squads happens on November 26 as Trinity Western hosts MacEwan. Regina, Calgary, and Manitoba have no games in December this season as they have their bye weekends on December 3 and 4. And for the first time in conference history, the four Alberta teams will meet and crossover on one weekend as Calgary visits Alberta while Mount Royal visits MacEwan on Friday, November 5 before Mount Royal plays Alberta and Calgary plays MacEwan on Saturday, November 6! Outside of those schedule quirks, there are some key dates that I'm going to focus on for purely selfish reasons. In saying that, here is the home schedule for the Manitoba Bisons in 2021-22:
  • October 15-16: Calgary Dinos (Opening Weekend)
  • November 5-6: Regina Cougars
  • November 12-13: Conference Bye
  • November 26-27: Alberta Pandas
  • December 3-4: First-Half Bye Week
  • January 21-22: Trinity Western Spartans
  • February 11-12: Saskatchewan Huskies (Last Games of Season)
  • February 18-19: Second-Half Bye Week
I will say that I'm not particularly excited about what amounts to two games every two weeks, but c'est la vie with this modified schedule. Seeing good teams like the Calgary Dinos, Alberta Pandas, and Saskatchewan Huskies coming in will be worth the price of admission, and having both Regina and Trinity Western visit will give Manitoba ample opportunities to see how they measure up to those squads. Seeing Trinity Western here for the first time in program history is exciting, and I'm looking forward to talking about a lot of "firsts" that weekend.

Because I'm not particularly excited about the schedule, I think I'm going to modify the coverage for the Bisons this season. Namely, I think I'm going to make a road trip or two to provide additional coverage and watch and call more hockey! The road trips will likely be the two ventures into Saskatchewan on October 29 and 30 to visit the Huskies and on February 4 and 5 to visit the Cougars. More live hockey is never a bad thing, and we do have mobile broadcast units that will allow us to send the signal back to Manitoba!

If the road trips are due to happen, I'll make an annoucement for them as we near the season. As it stands for now, start organizing your calendar because there are ten nights where you're booked and expected for an appointment at Wayne Fleming Arena for a dose of hockey action! Vaccinations will be key if fans are going to be in the stands, so get that dose before coming to Wayne Fleming Arena for all the hockey goodness you can enjoy in one night!

Canada West hockey is back. It's been a long, long time since I could say that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Beijing Bound!

It feels a little weird to be writing about the Beijing Olympics when the Tokyo Olympics have yet to be completed, but Team Canada punched their tickets to China for the 2022 Winter Olympiad thanks to a big win over the Czech Republic today at the 2021 IPC World Championship! While the final score looked like Canada had no trouble with the Czechs, the reality is that this game was a good measuring stick for a country like the Czech Republic to see how far they may be from medal contention at major events. Take nothing away from the Czech Republic in this game, but Canada was on a mission as they become the first team to qualify for the Beijing Paralympic Games!

The score at the final horn showed Canada with a 10-0 win, but the Canadians are keeping themselves sharp in this tournament as they finish the preliminary round at 3-0 with wins over the United States, South Korea, and the Czech Republic while outscoring the three teams 20-1. Their top finish in the group moves them to the semifinal where they await the winner of the game between the Russians and the Czech Republic. Canada and the winner of that game will meet Friday.

If you're looking for a preview, the Russians are heavily favoured in that game after playing a tournament of which I'm not sure they should be proud. Russia never once held back in their efforts as they scored 34 goals in three games, trouncing Slovakia, Italy, and Norway in those matches. The Czechs, who have yet to score a goal in this event, might be overmatched before this game even starts, so I'd expect a Canada-Russia tilt on Friday. However, they play the games for a reason, so perhaps the Czechs can find their own version of Miracle in that game!

On the other side of the draw, Team USA awaits the winner of Norway and South Korea, and that game will be played Friday as well. Norway, who was once a powerhouse in the sledge hockey world, has seen their stock drop over the last number of years as players retire or move on from the sport. As a result, this tournament didn't go well for them as they managed to beat Italy and barely defeated Slovakia, but they were embarrassed by Russia in an 18-1 rout that saw the Russians not take their foot off the gas pedal. Needless to say, South Korea will challenge the Norwegians in their game.

There should be no surprise when it comes to the scoring lead for the tournament as Russia holds the top-six spots on the list thanks to their ridiculous scores, but Tyler MacGregor of Canada is definitely showing that he's a threat with the puck on his stick as he has scored seven goals in the event, one back of the leader. Liam Hickey and Billy Bridges both have six helpers apiece, so there's good puck movement on this Canadian team when it comes to setting up goals, and the depth of the Canadian team with Corbyn Smith, Auren Halbert, and Zach Lavin all chipping in offensively makes Canada a dangerous team.

Canada's Dominic Larocque will get the nod on Friday, and, assuming Russia wins, he'll be 200 feet from Andrei Kasatkin who has faced just five shots on net thus far (and allowed one goal). If Canada can get to Kasatkin with shots and second chances, there's a good chance they'll claim victory over a Russian team who has yet to face any adversity. Russia will be a formidable foe, but Canada has the talent to advance to the gold medal final against either Russia or the Czech Republic.

If there was some negative news today, it's that Canada's Rob Armstrong and James Dunn will miss the remainder of the tournament due to injury. Dunn played just one game, scoring one goal, before his injury while Armstrong also played in just one game, recording no points. While their losses hurt the overall depth for Canada, there are a number of good, young players that head coach Ken Babey can turn to in times like this.

"We were able to get our younger players some more ice time in the third period," Babey explained to The Canadian Press, "to hopefully give them some extra experience as we head into the medal round, and now we look forward to playing in the semifinals."

Winning the 2021 IPC World Championship gold medal would be a good first step on the way to Beijing. The cart can't be put before the horse, though, and Canada's game against whomever they face on Friday should be a good test to prepare them for future events. Whatever the results are on Friday and Saturday, there is one certainty: Canada will be on the ice in China in February!

Congratulations to Team Canada on their Olympic qualification!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 June 2021

Gone Too Soon

If you've been watching any hockey coverage today, you know that longtime NHL defender and executive Tom Kurvers passed away after fighting lung cancer for some time at the age of 58. The Minneapolis-born defenceman played eleven NHL seasons and one more in Japan before retiring from the game in 1996 after a rather impressive, yet largely undiscovered, career. He played for seven NHL teams, won a Stanley Cup, was often sought after at trade deadlines, and had a remarkable college career. He was a team-first guy in the NHL, though, and he carried that same attitude to the front office where he was seen as a mentor for younger players.

Kurvers was seen as highly-skilled offensive defender early in his NHL career thanks to his prolific scoring at the NCAA level with the University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs where he won the 1984 Hobey Baker Award after scoring 76 points in 43 college games. The Montreal Canadiens had selected Kurvers with the 145th-overall pick in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft as he came out of Bloomington Jefferson High School, so it's very likely that the Canadiens had no idea how good Kurvers was going to be when he announced he was going to college.

In 164 NCAA games, Kurvers scored 43 goals and 149 assists while earning 1983-84 All-WCHA First Team All-Star honours and AHCA First Team All-American honours. Needless to say, the Canadiens were anxious to see him graduate so he could join their team alongside other emerging young players such as Chris Chelios, Claude Lemieux, Mark Hunter, and Doug Wickenheiser as the Canadiens transitioned from one group to stars to the next.

Kurvers was a steady defender for the Canadiens, showing flashes of brilliance at the offensive end while being a reliable defender in his own end. He wasn't going to intimidate anyone physically, so he relied on smarts and skating to keep himself in the Canadiens' talented lineup. Following 75 games and 45 points in his rookie season in '84-85, Kurvers helped the Canadiens with a 62-game, 30-point season where the Canadiens downed the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup.

One game into the 1986-87 season, the Canadiens dealt Kurvers to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft that eventually was used to take Martin St. Amour. While the Canadiens got zero games out of St. Amour, the Buffalo Sabres received a dependable defender who bolstered their power-play. Buffalo would miss the playoffs in 1987, and Kurvers was on the move again in June as the Sabres swapped him to New Jersey for a third-round pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft.

Buffalo would use the third-round pick to select Andrew MacVicar who played a total of zero games for them, but it was in New Jersey that Kurvers began to show signs of what made him dangerous in college. In 56 games in 1987-88, Kurvers scored 34 points to help the New Jersey Devils make the playoffs for the very first time where they went on a run that saw Kurvers play a large role.

The Devils upset the Islanders 4-2 in the opening round before a wacky second-round upset of the Washington Capitals saw the Devils advance to the Wales Conference Final against the Boston Bruins. The Devils would push the Bruins to seven games in that series before falling 6-2 in Game Seven, but the series is likely best remembered for Jim Schoenfeld's tirade against Don Koharski in Game Three. Regardless, Kurvers had an outstanding postseason, registering 15 points in 19 games for the Devils as they made their first appearance in the playoffs a memorable one!

Kurvers turned in another outstanding season for the Devils in 1988-89 where he had 16 goals and 50 assists in 74 games, but the Devils fell short of the playoffs that season. Kurvers' play, though, had people interested, and the Toronto Maple Leafs decided that they were going to make a run at the Stanley Cup in 1990 by acquiring some offensive help on the blue line. For the second time in his career, Kurvers was traded after playing the opening game of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Kurvers from the Devils in exchange for a first-round draft pick at the 1991 NHL Entry Draft!

Kurvers never saw the success he had in New Jersey following the trade as he played with the Leafs, was traded briefly to Vancouver for Brian Bradley in January 1991, and was moved by the Canucks to the North Stars for Dave Babych in June 1991 who, in turn, flipped him to the New York Islanders for Craig Ludwig on the same day. He was a solid two-way defender for the Islanders in his time on Long Island, but his move to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1994 saw him play just 22 games. He'd finish his playing career in Japan with Seibu where he had 52 points in 1995-96.

Kurvers' career after playing the game is where things get very interesting. He was hired to do radio for the Phoenix Coyotes, but only spent one season doing that before he moved into a scouting role for the Coyotes. He worked his way through the scouting role in Phoenix to ascend to the role of Director of Player Personnel in 2005, so Tom Kurvers clearly had an eye for talent when it came to the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes.

Kurvers continued his climb in the NHL's front office structure by joining the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008 as the assistant general manager. He briefly held the role of interim general manager for the Lightning in 2009-10 before moving into the role of senior advisor to the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011 once Steve Yzerman was hired as the Lightning GM on May 25, 2010.

Kurvers would remain in the senior advisor role until an opportunity came up in 2018 for him to move back home. Kurvers left the Lightning for the assistant general manager position with the Minnesota Wild. Everything seemed to be going well for Kurvers until he received some news that shook his world on January 21, 2019.

"January 21 of '19, the diagnosis was non-small cell endo-carcinoma, small tumor on my right lung." Kurvers told Tim McNiff of The Hockey Writers. "And there were some other factors in the right lung, basically, you know, that emanated from the tumor and it'd moved to my left lymph nodes in my sternum, but that's it, it hasn’t moved beyond that."

That diagnosis was deemed inoperable, so it became apparent quickly that Tom Kurvers was going to have to fight for each and every day he could. He made the most of his days after the diagnosis by using his experiences to help others in the hockey world, specifically in front offices of teams.

"There are a lot of terrific people in the hockey world, but Tom stood out as the nicest, kindest and most humble," Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois told The Canadian Press. "He was grateful for all the good that happened in his life and was eager to give back. He was very generous with his advice and very insightful. I know Tom mentored many people throughout hockey, and I was privileged to be one of them."

When hired by Paul Fenton in 2018 as the Wild's assistant general manager, Fenton said, "I've had a relationship with him for a long time. We have always had a good relationship and looked at the game the same way, and I thought if I ever got a job he'd be the type of guy I would want in my front office."

It's fairly clear that Kurvers was a highly-regarded hockey guy who was making an impact in the game, so his loss today will be felt by many. I didn't know Tom Kurvers in any capacity aside from what I read on his hockey cards that I found in packages in the 1990s. I always seemed to remember Kurvers' Pro Set card with him on the Islanders as a card I'd see more often than I wanted when opening packs of hockey cards as a kid. It's funny what you remember about someone once he or she is gone, but that's what became a personal memory of Tom Kurvers for me: his Islanders' Pro Set hockey card appearing far too often for me.

I never mentioned it above, but that first-round pick that the New Jersey Devils received from the Maple Leafs for Kurvers? That pick turned out to be Scott Niedermayer who went on to an amazing career in the NHL as well. If you read that trade as a one-for-one, Tom Kurvers was as good as Scott Niedermayer!

Rest in peace, Mr. Kurvers. You were an excellent player who was underappreciated, and you carried that humble demeanor to your role as a hockey executive where you were appreciated by your peers and colleagues immensely. We lost a good man from the hockey world today, so here's to carrying on Tom Kurvers' lasting legacy of kindness, generosity, intelligence, and respect.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Tom Kurvers!

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Canada Comes Out Hot

You may not be aware, but there is a talented group of Canadians over in Ostrava, Czech Republic right now who are making Canada proud. The IPC World Championship started on June 19, and the Canadian lads came out of the gate fired up and ready to take on the world as they look to claim gold at this year's tournament. Always one of the favorites, there's no doubt that Canada has had time during this pandemic to work on individual skills, but getting together as a team and working as a unit in sledge hockey is another thing entirely, and that's where the continuity of this lineup will help as Canada moves through the preliminary stage!

Canada opened the tournament with arguably their toughest test as they met archrivals in Team USA in the opening game of their schedule. These two teams always have games where the physicality is high and the chances for scoring are low, so it as expected that we'd see a low score when the final buzzer sounded.

After a clean sheet in the first period where the US outshot Canada 4-1, the Canadians used the power-play to to make the Americans pay for some undisciplined play, striking twice in the frame. James Dunn scored at 2:03 and Tyler MacGregor scored at 9:35 to give Canada a two-goal cushion heading into the third period as the Americans needed a rally to get back in the game despite outshooting Canada 8-7 through 40 minutes of play.

Brody Roybal would cut the deficit in half just 57 seconds into the third period, but the Canadians would not surrender a second goal as Dominic Larocque held the fort in stopping seven of eight shots in the period to help Canada to the 2-1 win over Team USA! Starting the tournament off with a big win like that has to boost the team, and head coach Ken Babey liked what he saw from his squad.

"I thought it was a good game for our team considering we have not played in a long time," Babey said in regards to the 491-day gap between games. "We played well defensively and we were able to close [the United States] out for most of the evening. Our guys battled hard and blocked shots to preserve the win, and now we look forward to playing South Korea tomorrow."

Occasionally, we see emotional letdowns when teams come off a big win against a rival followed by a game against a solid, but less talented, opponent. Would we see that from Canada on Sunday morning against the South Koreans who seen great progress made with their program and who came into this game 1-0 after a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday?

Canada didn't wait long to take control of this game. Liam Hickey put the red-and-white in front just 21 seconds into the game, and Tyler MacGregor added his second goal of the tournament at 2:56 as Canada took the early 2-0 lead. MacGregor added a second goal in the frame on the power-play at 10:44, and Canada went to the first intermission fully in control with a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard and a 9-1 advantage in shots.

Canada's second period effort was a lot like their first in terms of the number of goals scored. Corbyn Smith at 2:05 made it a 4-0 game, and Liam Hickey added his second of the game at 5:39 to make it a 5-0 lead for the Canadians. With the score firmly in Canada's favour, the Canadians swapped goalies as Dominic Larocque went to the bench and Adam Kingsmill came out to guard the twine at 7:56, and he'd get a little more insurance off the stick of Auren Halbert at 10:03 as Canada took the 6-0 lead into the room through two periods of play.

Auren Halbert and Tyler MacGregor rounded out the scoring in the third period as Canada cruised to the 8-0 victory while holding the Koreans to just three shots on net. Needless to say, there was no letdown emotionally shown by the Canadians in this game.

"We had different players stepping up and had some guys come into the lineup that really helped us out," coach Ken Babey said after the game. "We played a solid team game and we created a lot of offensive opportunities that we were able to capitalize on."

Canada has the day off on Monday before resuming action against the host Czech Republic on Tuesday. As it stands, the Czechs are 0-2 in the tournament and have yet to score a goal. With a day of rest, Canada looks to be a rather formidable foe for the Czechs, so we'll have to see how that game plays out. All of the action and results can be found on the International Paralympic Committee website, so make sure you follow along as Canada goes for gold in Ostrava!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 June 2021

The Case For #6

When it comes to veteran defencemen in the NHL, it's a pretty safe bet that you know what you're getting when it comes to free agency. Usually, the guys who have all sorts of value to their teams are locked into new contracts long before free agency hits, but there will likely be a number of good defencemen on the market the free agency period begins on July 28 simply due to salary cap crunches. We've seen the Carolina Hurricanes allow Dougie Hamilton to explore options, but I might hold out to see if Ryan Pulock becomes available with the Islanders needing to sign a pile of key players.

Tonight's heroics aside, it's very likely that if any team lands Hamilton or Pulock, that team gets better with the addition. Both Hamilton and Pulock play big minutes, provide excellent play at both ends of the rink, rarely take penalties, and are often tasked to play against the other team's best players. Those are the kinds of things all coaches desire from their defencemen, so it makes sense that few are available.

In comparing the two, there's no denying that both will be paid handsomely following this season. How rich those final contract numbers will be will certainly depend on salary cap numbers among the teams vying for their services, but paying Hamilton more than Pulock seems like it would be a foolish move by any team based on the last three seasons of work these two men have recorded.

There's no denying that Hamilton is the more offensive of the two men over the last three seasons, having scored 42 goals and 79 assists in 184 games compared to Pulock's 21 goals and 68 assists in 206 games. If you're looking to generate offence from the blue line, your team's GM is likely looking at Hamilton more than Pulock for that offence. The only offensive category that Pulock where Hamilton is even with Hamilton is in power-play goals as both men have six in three years, so you know that Hamilton is driving the offence from the back-end for the Hurricanes.

However, the defence play skew wildly over to Pulock when defending one's own zone. Pulock actually has averaged more ice time than Hamilton - 22:24 per game compared to 21:30 per game - as Pulock became the anchor on which Barry Trotz leaned. It should be noted that Pulock blocked 393 shots to Hamilton's 218 - again, a Barry Trotz defensive requirement - but the willingness to block shots is transferable to new teams. And comparably, Pulock has just 44 PIMs in those three years compared to Hamilton's 121 minutes in the sin bin. If your best players need to be on the ice, Pulock averaging less than 15 minutes per season watching from the penalty box is a good option.

If there's any question as to which player your team goes after, the answer should be "both". If you miss on one, the other is still in play. Knowing what you're getting out of both of them, though, might be the big question because Hamilton may be at the top of his game at age 28 currently, but it's pretty clear that Pulock, at age 26, has been getting better with each season that passes. Here's Evolving Hockey's look at Goals Above Replacement between the two with a few comparisons back in March.
If we're using that chart from the 2020-21 season, it's pretty clear that Hamilton's numbers are among the NHL's elite defencemen, but Pulock's are better in some cases. If he continues to get better, Pulock will clearly become one of the NHL's best all-around defencemen. With him being two years younger, it would make sense to offer a longer deal to Pulock based on those improving numbers from year to year assuming his usage will be similar where ever he signs.

Among the other players that are around that 26-28 year-old range where Hamilton and Pulock are, the names include Ryan Murray (NJD), Adam Larsson (EDM), Brandon Montour (FLA), Jake McCabe (BUF), Jamie Oleksiak (DAL), Mike Reilly (BOS), and Cody Ceci (PIT). None of them are anywhere close to the level that Hamilton and Pulock play at, so there will be some big pay days this summer when it comes to teams looking for top defenders with Hamilton and Pulock leading the way.

Based on their seasons this year and over the last three seasons, there's no reason why they shouldn't get solid raises from their current deals from teams needing an infusion of talent on the blue line. Again, you need to know what you're getting with each because they are different players entirely in terms of how they play the game, but the overall is that there is an abundance of talent in either player who can make teams better.

In the end, I'd go with the younger player who is a better defender, but if you have a player who already is in that role, the more offensively-gifted player would be a smart choice.

If you're asking me, I'm now campaigning for a Pionk-Pulock pairing in Winnipeg as the top pair with Morrissey-DeMelo as the second pair. Having those four in the Winnipeg double-blue at my disposal would make the Jets a better defensive team overall while maintaining the offence from the blue line that these four bring. Add in the likes of Logan Stanley and Ville Heinola, and the Jets have a very capable squad come 2021-22.

Your move, Chevy. If Pulock isn't signed by July 28 by the Islanders, bring the Manitoba-born defender home.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 June 2021

The Bobcats Are Alive

The SPHL rarely seems to make waves in the hockey world, but today's story was something that was discussed on The Hockey Show a few months ago. The image to left is the new logo for the Vermilion County Bobcats, the newest expansion team in the SPHL. Expansion teams come with their own fun, but Vermilion County is special because the team is owned by a woman! Ellen Tully is the primary owner of the Bobcats, so this expansion franchise is not only shaking up the SPHL, but the SPHL boardroom as the league welcomes an owner who doesn't have an X-chromosome! Let's dig into the birth of the Bobcats as they've been busy since the calendar flipped to June!

Before we get into what the Bobcats have been up to, I want to point out how terrible that logo is. Bobcats have a distinct face, but the image above could be any housecat or any smaller species of cat since the defining features of the bobcat aren't so well-defined in the image. Usually, you see bobcats with the big flares of hair coming off the cheeks as seen to the right, but the Vermilion County Bobcats don't seem to pay that facial hair enough recognition. Also, why is the face so elongated on a small cat? I'm struggling to find any good in this rather poorly-conceived logo.

Regardless, the Vermilion County Bobcats are on their way following their first announcement on June 2 when owner Ellen Tully announced that Brent Hughes had been hired as the team's first head coach! Before you get excited thinking this is the guy that used to be part of the Winnipeg Jets, I'll end that dream by saying that this guy is not him.

This Brent Hughes spent most of his career in the Central Hockey League before jumping across the ocean to the EIHL where he finished his career. He was a player-coach in his final season with the Dundee Stars in 2011-12 before returning home to Toronto in 2012-13 where he coached in the GTHL and was an assistant coach in the OJHL. He became an assistant coach with the CHL's Brampton Beast before they moved into the ECHL in 2015 where he became head coach and the Vice-President of Hockey Operations for the Beast. 2016-17 saw him move to the QMJHL where he was an assistant coach for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, and 2020-21 saw him take a head coach position with the Espanola Express of the NOJHL. Clearly, Hughes has been around the coaching block a few times.

"Brent has incredible coaching experience at higher levels," Bobcats owner Ellen Tully made in a statement. "He knows what it means to be part of a family, taking care of one another, having each other's back. He embodies development, loyalty and commitment to the community, the youth and our Bobcats, all those things we look for (in a coach)."

While those traits are great and everything, coaches are paid to win hockey games. Expansion teams rarely are flush with talent and skill, so what is Hughes' plan for the expansion Bobcats?

"Fans are going to go home and say, 'that Vermilion team works hard,'" Hughes said of the team identity he wishes to form in Vermilion County. "We're going to play fast. I like the players that showcase their talents. We're going to be structured defensively, but we'll give some room for creativity as well."

While I like that answer, I wonder exactly how much creativity the boss will see when it comes to his squad since the expansion draft happened on June 9, and there were a lot of players taken whose goal-scoring talents may not quite be where the head coach needs them to be at this point when it comes to "room for creativity". Jason Tackett, the left-winger from Macon, might be Hughes' most-gifted player offensively, but there doesn't appear to be a ton of lamp-lighters joining the squad out of the expansion draft.

The players chosen by the Bobcats in their expansion draft include: Admittedly, there are players on there who I've never heard of despite them playing in major junior hockey in Canada or at a Canadian university, but this will be the start of what Hughes will begin to mold into the inaugural lineup for the Bobcats in September. There will be additional players signed and more attracted to Danville, Illinois for the team's first season, but I'm not putting my money on Vermilion County as a champion just yet.

What I am championing, though, is an SPHL expansion franchise owned by a woman that now has both a coach and players it can officially call its own. That's something to celebrate in a very male-dominated hockey world, and we might not be that far away from seeing a female owner hoist a championship trophy in men's hockey with the team officially having players who can score goals and stop pucks!

Congratulations to the Vermillion County Bobcats who now have the beginning of a lineup and a guy who can piece together a lineup! There's still room for a pile of other players, but the Bobcats are officially in business with these new players on the roster!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 June 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 456

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back with the usual cast of suspects on the show as Jenna returns and Teebz mans the pilot's chair! With everyone focused on the Stanley Cup semifinal series happening right now, we will not be doing that since there are a ton of hockey stories you likely missed if you were only tunnel-visioned in on the NHL. That means there will be no playoff talk on the show tonight because we're covering everything else in hockey!

No, Springfield isn't hosting the next Olympics, but Teebz and Jenna throw a shoutout to Sheldon Kennedy who celebrated a birthday and received the Order of Hockey in Canada, review the new logos for the MJHL's Neepawa Titans and the ECHL's Trois-Rivières Lions, they discuss the new name for the downtown arena that houses the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose, and Teebz drops a little new on the new MJHL team in Niverville that should be heard for people looking for opportunities in hockey. From there, the hosts discuss Switzerland's women's national team seeing a pile of player retire this week, a pile of U SPORTS and NCAA coaches descending on Penticton in July, the UNB Reds women's program stacking their team for this season, the University of Saskatchewan stealing from Manitoba, Augustana University looking to start a men's Division-1 NCAA team, Katey Stone being honoured by USA Hockey, and Aerin Frankel receiving more accolades for her past season. Needless to say, it's another busy show so tune in for all the details at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com!

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 logos and names, new team info, retirements, opportunities for players, attracting talent, honours, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: June 17, 2021: Episode 456

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!