Tuesday 31 August 2021

World Champions

While I won't say that this should have been expected, the US streak of gold medals at the IIHF Women's World Championship has been halted by Canada after their thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over our neighbours to the south. Canada, who also defeated the Americans by a 5-1 score in the preliminary round, wasn't at their best in the early part of this game, but they pulled up their socks, went to work, and battled to the next-goal-wins overtime period where the Golden Girl of Canada, Marie-Philip Poulin, did her thing as Canada stands atop the podium once more.

Let's go to the Poulin moment because this only adds to her legend status. This woman will appear on Canadian money one day. She deserves her own wing at the Hockey Hall of Fame at this point as that's the third golden goal against the Americans in her career, and she still has a ton of hockey to play. And that pass from Jenner? That should be shown to every player at every level of hockey because that's tape-to-tape on the fly in motion that sent Poulin in on the partial breakaway. That's simply outstanding hockey from two of Canada's best players ever.

With the tournament now over and hockey reporters reflecting on what they believe to be a growing chasm between the North American teams and the rest of the world - something I addressed briefly yesterday - the focus now shifts to Beijing where the 2022 Winter Olympiad will take place. There were some changes to the world rankings that will affect the tournament and there are still spots to be filled by teams competing in the Olympic qualifying tournaments, but the stage is nearly set for the Olympics.

I bring the Olympics up because of what Carla MacLeod stated in the postgame report about Team Canada. If I may paraphrase her, MacLeod said that Canada's growing confidence in themselves, specifically after the preliminary win over the Americans, changed their mantra from "Can we win?" to "We believe we will win". For women who have been competing at the highest levels for the longest time, you'd never think that they'd have a lack of confidence against an opponent with whom they match up so well, but it would seem the Americans had put a very large crack in the confidence of the Canadians in that it affected their mental game more than they seemed to have let on.

We, as fans, often hear about how a player loses confidence in one's self when going through a stretch of poor play or bad luck, but to know the Canadians came into this tournament asking themselves if they could beat the Americans is a whole other ball of wax. Considering the last major tournament that the Americans had won was the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, it might be unerstandable if the Canadians knew they were going to be tested. But to hear that they questioned their own abilities when comparing themselves to the Americans going into this tournament has me a little rattled when it comes to cheering on my hockey heroes.

The Canadians, though, found the extra gear they needed in that preliminary game to restore the confidence that had been eroded following the repeated losses to the Americans. We hear terms like "playing the right way", "doing the little things right", and "attention to details" when it comes to big wins like the 5-1 victory over the Americans, but it appears that the game was a huge shot of confidence for a team that just couldn't find a way to defeat the Americans in gold medal games for the past few years. It changed the mindset from "can we" to "we will" because they played the right way, paid attention to details, and did all the little things right.

If this win leads to renewed confidence for Canada as they head to Beijing, there's a good chance that we'll see a rematch of tonight's final in Beijing when it comes to the gold medal game. With a Canadian squad believing in themselves once again, they may be a force at the Olympic tournament once again, and that should mean that the country will tune in to watch them attempt to reclaim gold from the Americans just as they did tonight.

Enjoy the victory, ladies, and congratulations to the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championship gold medallists in Team Canada! To the Americans, we'll see you soon, and we expect another exciting finish in that one. To the Finns who captured the bronze medal, we see you coming again, and we'll be ready for that battle. To the rest of the field, the biggest stage is the Olympics, and we'll be awaiting those games too.

See you all on February 4, 2022!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 30 August 2021

Some Unfamiliar Foes?

For the umpteenth time in hockey history - all but for 2019, if I recall - two very familiar foes will square off for IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship supremacy in what figures to be a quick, exciting game after having the women sit on the sidelines for far too long. Canada defeated an plucky Swiss team that refused to go quietly into the night while the Americans delivered another heartbreaking loss to the Finns who couldn't match the magic they created in Finland back in 2019 when they upset the Canadians in the semifinal. What may differ in this gold-medal final from past finals is that there is entirely a new cast of characters contributing for both teams, and we're starting to see some players that seemingly were stuck in neutral in their careers take big steps forward.

Before we talk about a few players who have stepped into the spotlight, this entire tournament goes back to what Jason and I were talking about on The Hockey Show this past week where the Canadians and Americans have had little trouble scoring goals when needed, yet every other team has struggled to dent twine on the two superpowers. Both the US and Canada shut out their opponents in semifinal games, and the shots-on-goal were decidedly in favour of both the North American squads.

This isn't to say that the Americans or Canadians got exponentially better during the long layoff, but the number of retirements and players who moved on from the rest of the world following 2019's tournament certainly has changed the balance of power. While Canada and the US can fill those voids with good, young players from the NCAA and U SPORTS regularly, there are less international players who can fill the voids left by veteran stars on other international teams. The IIHF needs to be cognizant of this issue, especially heading into Beijing for the Olympics in 2022 where it seems pretty obvious that Canada and the US, if nothing changes in six months, will play for the gold medal there as well.

That's what brings me to today's chatter in that Canada and the US have seen some players step up and deliver big tournament performances despite all the stars surrounding them. Yes, Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight are there. Yes, Natalie Spooner and Kendall Coyne Schofield are getting their points as well. However, the success of these teams in this tournament has had a lot of newer names contributing.

Again, it should be no surprise that names like Knight, Decker, and Coyne are leading the way for the Americans. It might be more of a surprise to see two defenders in Lee Stecklein and Megan Keller in the mix among the top US scorers after they were often seen as less of a threat than defenders like Monique Lamoureux-Morando or Megan Bozek in the past.

Stecklein, at 27, and Keller, at 25, have been playing at the international level long enough that they know what it takes to win at this level. The fact that they're playing on the top pairing and logging the most minutes shows the coaches trust their defensive play, but the offence they're adding to the potent US attack can't be overlooked. Their eleven points in six games is the same amount as the other five US defenders combined, and their three goals is two more than the other five defenders combined. Needless to say, the Canadians should expect a lot of Stecklein-Keller in the gold medal game tomorrow.

Perhaps the other major star to break out for the Americans is not Abby Roque, who took the US portion of the PWHPA tournament by storm, but Grace Zumwinkle who has had a heckuva 2021 thus far. Back in March as she was lighting the lamp regularly for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Zumwinkle was named a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmeier Award. Her 17 goals were second in the nation at the collegiate level, and it put her squarely into Hockey USA's focus as a legitimate goal scorer based on seasons of 17, 25, and 25 goals in the previous three campaigns. Needless to say, Zumwinkle knows how to find the net.

She's carried that lamp-lighting skill with her to Calgary where she leads the US roster in goals with four, but there's a second player who is hot on her heels with three goals and has seen her USA Hockey dreams renewed with an excellent camp and a solid tournament as well. That would be Alex Carpenter who was cut prior to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics from Team USA, but Carpenter is back with some fire under her skates as she looks to reclaim a spot on the Olympic roster. Scoring three goals and playing solid defensive hockey will help her case, and it appears she's likely headed for China based on her performance at this World Championship.

If you've been watching the World Championship via TSN's broadcasts, you've likely heard Cheryl Pounder talking about the "eight new faces" over and over again for Canada. There's no denying that there is an influx of new talent on this Canadian roster - something I've been begging for now for years - as Canada aims to end the US's five-year grip on the gold medal, and we're seeing a handful of younger players step up in a big way.

While she's been a mainstay on the team for a few major tournaments, Mélodie Daoust is starting to resemble the same type of player Danielle Goyette was - confident with the puck, pinpoint passing, and a nose for the net. Daoust was always an exceptional player, but there were tournaments where she played and no one noticed her presence. That's changing in a big way in Calgary, and there's a lot to be excited about if Daoust can bring that same approach to the game in Beijing. Whether it's being a mom or being more comfortable with herself or simply finding linemates that allow her to play to her strengths, this is the best that Daoust has played in recent memory and head coach Troy Ryan needs to squeeze every last ounce of that play out of Daoust for as long as he can as she leads the tournament in scoring with six goals and 12 points!

We'd be missing a big mention if Sarah Fillier wasn't on this list, but it's not because Fillier is all over the scoresheet. Her three goals and two assists are respectable for a first-time player by any measure, but it's how she plays the game that has really seen her turn heads. She's been a force in the face-off circle and she's allowing her wingers to elevate their games in a big way. She fits on multiple lines as her skills compliment those around her, and she's proving that she needs to have opponents' eyes on her with her speed and hands.

Jamie Lee Rattray, a player I felt Canada has overlooked for far too long, is proving her worth with her gritty play along the boards and in front of the net, and she's got a scoring touch that was seen often in the CWHL. Rattray has three goals and an assist, but her line is more of a "grind line" where she and her linemates simply wear down opponents. The key is that she's good at this - she's a tough player to move when she digs in, she fights for every inch of ice, and makes life hell for defenders and goalies. Every team needs a player like this, and Rattray is the type of player Canada has needed in its lineup for some time.

Finally, let's not overlook the adds on the blue line where Brigette Lacquette, Meghan Mikkelson, and Micah Zandee-Hart once patroled. In their places are players like Ashton Bell, Jamie Bourbonnais, and Ella Shelton which has given Canada a different look with their abilities to jump up into the offence, play with speed, and cut off opposing forwards with their footwork. That's not to say that Lacquette, Mikkelson, nor Zandee-Hart weren't able to do this, but these younger defenders seem to bring the best of both the offensive and defensive worlds to the ice in Calgary in this tournament.

While we still cherish players like Poulin, Knight, Spooner, Decker, Hiirikoski, and Sosina, there are new players emerging as stars on the international scene, and you'll likely hear their names in both the bronze medal and gold medal games tomorrow. The changing of the guard, so to speak, hurts some teams more than others, but quality and the talent of the kids who are filling those voids can't be overlooked.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 29 August 2021

The First Team To Do So

I'm quite certain this flew under the radar here in North America, and it likely didn't catch much of the news ticker anywhere else for that matter despite it being a pretty massive step forward in men's professional hockey. Örebro, where Friend of The Hockey Show Jared Aulin played, might be the first men's team on the planet to do something for women that, frankly, should have been done long ago. It has little to do with hockey, and everything to do with being a woman for those women who may work in and around the arena on a daily basis. And now that they've done it, I'm starting to ask why other teams hadn't done this before today.

Örebro Hockey, as a member of the Swedish Elite League, has taken a major step forward in becoming the first club in Sweden to offer its female employees and female players free menstrual protection through a company called Period Packs. Partnering with the Örebro-based female protection company seems like a no-brainer, especially when one considers how many women likely work in and around the game when it comes to both Örebro Hockey and the Swedish Hockey League itself, but it's a major step forward at any and all arenas I've ever seen.

It should be noted that Period Packs founders Amanda Mattsson and Lova Svensson recently received the award as Entrepreneur of the Year in Örebro after their company started in 2019 and has now grown to six staff members. According to Period Packs' website,
"We strive to increase the accessibility of sanitary protection in toilets at work sites, schools and in the public room. We do this by providing our customized dispenser, adapted for sanitary protections. We sell the dispenser to companies who in turn offer their female coworkers a container filled with free sanitary protection.

"We are solving a problem affecting half of the world's population. We, like most women, have been without sanitary protection in times when we needed it the most. Our vision and goal is to make sanitary protection in bathrooms as natural and accessible as toilet paper and soap!"
As a guy, I'll be very honest in never even thinking about this part of life when suiting up for a game or practice, but it seems more than apparent when Period Packs frames itself as "half the world's population". Obviously, I've never been inside a women's washroom being that I'm a dude, so I can't say whether other arenas are doing this. What I do know, though, is that Örebro Hockey will have the tampon dispensers installed at their front office location and at the women's team's locker room at Trängen.

Very cool, Örebro. Count me in as impressed with this move.

You might be asking what these dispensers look like, and I have to say that they're sleek while being somewhat discreet in terms of what they hold. As you can see in the images, there are two dispensers per wall unit, and one would push to dispense a free tampon if needed. By pressing the front dispenser, it's very much "as natural and accessible as toilet paper and soap".

There might be a segment of the population reading this thinking, "Who cares?", and that's fine if you have that opinion. If you follow this blog, HBIC makes no apologies for celebrating the accomplishments and achievements of women in the sport of hockey, and this move by a men's team in Sweden is one of those moves that makes me realize that I sometimes miss the forest because of the trees. As a guy, this is something you simply don't think about when getting ready to play or coming off the ice, and I'm glad to see Örebro stepping to the forefront when it comes to something like this.

If it leads to more SHL teams doing the same thing, that's even better. If that leads to more leagues doing it, we're on the right track. This is one thing women shouldn't have to worry about when working at the rink or playing the game on the ice. Örebro Hockey has my full respect for doing this, and let's hope they're the first of many teams to make this move to make the rink a little more inclusive.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 28 August 2021

That's A Lot Of Dough

If your name is Jesperi Kotkaniemi and you played with the Montreal Canadiens last season, you should have a massive smile on your face thanks to the Carolina Hurricanes. In a rather stunning move, the Hurricanes offered a one-year offer sheet contract to Kotkaniemi for $6,100,015 with a signing bonus of $20. As you may recall, Marc Bergevin put an offer sheet in on Sebastian Aho back in 2019 which forced the Hurricanes into matching to keep his rights, and this move to lure Kotkaniemi away from the Canadiens reeks of revenge. However, all's fair in love, war, and hockey business, it seems, so the Montreal Canadiens are now on the clock when it comes to their former third-overall pick. I'll explain some of the trolling that Carolina did below, but it seems the Hatfields and McCoys are officially living in Montreal and Raleigh.

We'll go back to 2019 when Marc Bergevin, desperate to add some good, younger talent to the Canadiens, targeted Sebastian Aho of the Hurricanes who were in a bit of a tight spot with regards to their salary cap situation. The Canadiens offered a five-year deal worth $8.454 million annually. This irked the Hurricanes quite nicely, but the Hurricanes ponied up the dough and matched Montreal's offer for Aho.

It would seem that the Hurricanes filed this under "future revenge" because their offer is worth $6.1 million plus $15 as Kotkaniemi wears #15 on the ice. The $20 signing bonus seems to refer to Sebastian Aho as Aho wears #20 on the ice for the Hurricanes. In short, this offer sheet has all the ingredients for vengeance served cold in the pettiest of ways despite it being wholly entertaining for hockey fans. Let it be known that offer sheets - once a tool for GMs to use - are now simply being used by NHL general managers to one-up each other in gamesmanship.

If the Montreal Canadiens really wanted to make this interesting, they'd simply take the first- and third-round picks that Carolina would be forced to give up next season through the offer sheet process. It would handcuff the Hurricanes from making any additional roster moves this season unless they unloaded some talent as well. The two picks would bolster Montreal's 2022 NHL Entry Draft position as they'd end up with a pair of first-round picks and three third-round picks along with the cap room they'd save in not matching the Kotkaniemi offer.

If I'm Marc Bergevin, I am seriously giving this some thought with the likes of Elias Petterson still unsigned as a restricted free agent, Jack Eichel being available for a trade in Buffalo, or some other potential deal that would improve the Canadiens immediately. With Nick Suzuki likely penciled in as the top center for now, it would seem that Montreal may have some options if they were to let Kotkaniemi walk.

What makes this offer sheet hard to fathom from Carolina's point of view is that Kotkaniemi hasn't proven that he's worth $6 million per season, let alone one season at that value. His five goals and 15 assists last season are rather underwhelming, but he did show flashes of brilliance in Montreal's system in the playoffs. Does that warrant a huge raise for one season? If Kotkaniemi doesn't or can't eclipse his 2018-19 numbers of 11 goals an 34 points, why would Montreal take that chance?

At this point, I'm leaning towards taking the picks from Carolina in a one-year deal. Kotkaniemi would still be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the Hurricanes' deal, so they'd have to qualify him in order to keep him and that's another large chunk of change that Tom Dundon, owner of the Hurricanes, would have to spend. Otherwise, Kotkaniemi would be a free agent and Montreal could circle back and re-sign him if they wanted him back. Those two picks, though, would help Montreal immensely in building for another Stanley Cup run, so Bergevin would be wise to think long-term here rather than short-term.

At the end of the day, this revenge offer sheet really makes no sense from the Hurricanes' point of view other than to mess with the Canadiens and Marc Bergevin. Because they didn't offer term on the offer sheet, though, this may blow up in their faces as a one-year deal doesn't really handcuff the Canadiens whatsoever. We already know that Tom Dundon watches his nickels and dimes carefully, so what exactly was the point of this other than pure pettiness over Bergevin trying to improve his club at the expense of the Hurricanes in 2019?

If Bergevin doesn't match, the joke's on Tom Dundon and the Carolina Hurricanes. They'll have overspent for one season on a kid who likely will play bottom-six minutes for the Hurricanes, and that's likely going to be fine with the Canadiens as they use those two picks that the Hurricanes surrender to make themselves better.

Sometimes, it pays off to think things through a little. Let this be a lesson for all NHL general managers who want to play petty games in the offer sheet world.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 27 August 2021

I Know That Model!

Holy cow, I know the model on the right! That's former Bisons defender Erica Rieder, and she was chosen as the representative from MoDo's women's team to model the new uniform that MoDo will be wearing this season during the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association which oversees the SHL and the SDHL! This is a big year for the Swedish domestic leagues as the first championship was awarded by the Swedish ice Hockey Association in 1922, so the leagues are celebrating that mark!

As seen above, both the men from the SHL and the women from the SDHL will be celebrating this historic season for which the Swedish Ice Hockey Association awards championships. If we jump back to the 1922 final, IK Göta won the first Swedish Championship over Hammarby IF by a 6-0 score. I would expect to see lots of historical information this season about the leagues, the teams, and everything Swedish hockey as the seasons get underway on September 11 for the MoDo women and on September 24 for the MoDo men.

According to the details on this page on the MoDo site, the jerseys are made in the Czech Republic and will be different than past jerseys as they will tighter in the same trend that NHL jerseys have gone. The material used for the jersey is lighter in weight than before "which makes the jersey easier to wear, says Thomas Wågström, material manager for the men's team."

I would contend that the weight of the uniform makes very little difference in how players play on the ice, but I have no frame of reference since I don't own a MoDo jersey from any era. In any case, I'm skeptical on the jersey's manufacturing playing a role in wins and losses this season, but there's no denying that the players from MoDo will look good as they play.

If you're looking at those uniforms and thinking, "There are a ton of ads on those jerseys," you're not wrong. There are eleven companies advertising on the front of the women's jersey comprising a total of 18 ads that don't include the manufacturer's mark on Erica's gloves. The men also have eleven companies advertising on the front of their jerseys, worn by MoDo player Mikkel Aagaard, comprising a total of 16 ads not including the manufacturer's mark on Mikkel's gloves. When the logo starts to get edged out by advertising, there may need to be a discussion. And wearing the captaincy letters on the ribs as opposed to the shoulder is a little crazy.

What I do know is that Erica looks good in that MoDo jersey as a professional player, and I wish her as much success as she and MoDo can find this season. My early research also has former Bisons defender Alexandra Anderson returning to SDE in Sweden as well, and it would seem that SDE is building their own Canada West all-star team based on the number of former Canada West players they have on their initial roster. We'll see if that holds true through to September 11 when the season starts, but rest assured that I'll have articles on how the U SPORTS players are doing over in Sweden just like last season.

While all the teams will be wearing a 100th anniversary jersey of some sort, I needed to draw attention to the model selected by MoDo in their images. We're still super-proud of all that Erica accomplished while wearing the brown-and-gold at the University of Manitoba, and we'll be cheering her on this season as MoDo looks to capture an SDHL championship!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 26 August 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 466

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight sans Jenna as she's in Edmonton getting smarter. It won't be long before you can hear her again, though. As stated last week, she will be doing the colour commentary for the MacEwan Griffins, so you can hear her on all the Canada West TV broadcasts that the Griffins do from their rink in Edmonton. Tonight, I am pleased to have Jason Pchajek return to the show as he and I will break down some major hockey stories, so let's get to this!

Get yourself settled in and comfortable because Teebz and Jason are going through some hockey news. They celebrate Jason's and Evan's return as the broadcast team for Bisons men's hockey before discussing the records set by Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker, and why those records should be celebrated by more hockey fans when you consider what they've accomplished. They chat about how women's hockey on the international stage has seen quite a number of players move on from the game, and that's created some competitive imbalances in the game again. Teebz brings up the terrible job that the TSN broadcast team of Rod and Cheryl are doing, and Jason has thoughts. Both hosts tackle the subject of Mitchell Miller being signed by the USHL's Tri-City Storm and why that's a terrible idea. They close out the show discussing the Arizona Coyotes' arena problems and why a specific Texas city would make the most sense if the team was forced to move. We go through all of these stories in detail, so make sure you tune in 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 Jason talk achievements and longevity, retirements and imbalance, putting the required work in to get better-than-mediocre results, apologies and second chances, poorly-run franchises and potential new homes, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: August 26, 2021: Episode 466

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Not Her Loss

While she hasn't secured a spot on the team just yet, the goaltender to the right is making an impact at the Gatineau Olympiques camp in a big way. That's Ève Gascon in between the pipes from this past week's QMJHL preseason action, and she has yet to look out of place against major junior male players. A week ago, I wrote about how she earned this opportunity with the QMJHL team, and she's proving that Gatineau was wise to take a chance on her as she's played exceptionally well in the limited time she's been given.

Before we start handing her the keys to the arena, though, let's look at her performances from the past week. After all, my opinion of how she played may have differed greatly from other, wiser people in the game of hockey, so it's good to get several reputable sources to weigh in on how Gascon has fared. Let's dig into these games.

On August 19, Gascon took to the Olympiques net wearing #30 as the starter. Both teams were playing their second preseason game and players were still competing for roster spots, so there was some uptempo play. Gascon may have impressed a number of people because she denied 13 Blainville-Boisbriand Armada shots in the opening frame, including a two-minute power-play, to help Gatineau earn a 1-0 lead through twenty minutes. Needless to say, Gascon looked sharp in her first action of the season.

As you likely know, teams will swap goalies in the middle period so both netminders get action, and the Olympiques did that at the 9:14 mark of the second period. Moments before that whistle, Blainville-Boisbriand scored on Gascon while on the power-play as she surrendered her first QMJHL goal-against to Alexis Bourque at 8:21 of the second period. As she skated off the ice following the goalie swap, Gascon and the Olympiques were tied 1-1 with Gascon having stopped 19 of 20 shots she faced.

When the final horn sounded on this game, the Armada had scored four times on the other Olympiques netminder to earn a 5-1 win. Gascon's debut, it seems, impressed a vast number of people.

Gascon told reporters after the game, "I was more excited than stressed. I know I can play here, I showed it in training. It goes well. I was excited to make the first stop. Once it was done, I was confident."

Olympiques head coach and general manager Louis Robitaille added, "At the end of the first period, she made two or three big stops on the penalty kill. Overall it was a great performance. For the rest, we will see from day to day. She can only be satisfied with her performance."

Clearly, Gascon impressed the guy who brought her into camp with her performance, but one game does not make a career. Let's jump ahead to tonight where Gascon was dressed once again, but wearing #37 in her second game with the Olympiques. She began the game on the bench while Rémi Poirier got the start against the Drummondville Voltigeurs, and she would join the action at the 9:31 mark of the second period with Drummondville leading 2-0. This score will be key in a few moments.

Gatineau would score four minutes after the goalie change to make it 2-1, but Gascon would surrender a power-play goal at 17:35 of the middle frame to Daniel Agostino to put the Voltigeurs up 3-1. Gatineau would get one back before the horn ended the period, and we'd move to the third period with Drummondville up 3-2.

There were no additional goals scored in the final frame byu either side as both Gascon and Drummondville's Riley Mercer did their jobs well in keeping scorers from denting twine. At the final horn, Drummondville had captured the 3-2 victory, but it was the stats line that caught my attention because of one letter. Here's that stat line.
According to the QMJHL, Ève Gascon recorded the loss for Gatineau tonight despite her entering the game while trailing 2-0 and Gatineau never tying the game up. The rules of hockey state that a goalie who replaces the starter can't be the goalie of record unless his or her team ties the game or takes the lead before losing the game. In other words, Rémi Poirier should be the goalie of record in this one because of the hole that Gatineau was in when he was replaced - a hole, might I remind you, from which they never recovered.

That statistical error aside, Gascon's performances in the two games likely warrants her a longer look if Gatineau is truly aiming to have the best goaltending they can this season. Here are the stats of the seen goalies in Gatineau camp as cuts likely loom this week with the Olympiques needed to pare down this list. And, by the way, I fixed the stats error on this image.
It seems pretty clear that the one goalie who has played the most - Ève Gascon - while putting up the second-best GAA and the third-best save percentage while only surrendering two goals on the power-play when Gatineau was playing down a man should likely be asked to stick around once cuts are made. Call me crazy, but I told you that she earned the opportunity with Gatineau, and she seems determined to prove to everyone that this is about talent and skill and not some publicity stunt or PR move by the team.

The key here is that Gascon likely will not play with the Olympiques this season even if she was named their starter. She has a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and I suspect she'll take that opportunity to not only further her hockey career by playing for one of the best Division-1 programs in the US, but to get an education at an excellent school. I should remind everyone that it's not out of the realm of possibilities that Gatineau tries to convince her to stick around, but I sense that the opportunity for a free education while playing women's hockey for the first time at any level will be a challenge that Gascon won't turn down.

Based on her play in Gatineau in the preseason, though, one has to wonder how she'd do at the QMJHL level for a full season. She's certainly earned that speculation based upon how she's played for the Olympiques thus far.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 24 August 2021

UNB Wants You!

Having never been to the University of New Brunswick campus in all my travels, I can assure you that it is on my bucket list of places to visit when it comes to seeing hockey games. As you may well be aware, the UNB Varsity Reds men's hockey team is a juggernaut annually as they normally either win the AUS or finish the season as a finalist which means there's virtually always a U SPORTS National Championship berth awaiting them. The women, for what it's worth, were re-established not long ago, and it appears that Sarah Hilworth and her staff are aiming to equal the men's rich history of hockey success. This isn't a recruiting article for the team proper, though, but it still would count as "recruiting" in loose terms of the definition.

Currently on sale through the UNB Store are the above images as cardboard cutouts to be placed in seats this year at all UNB home games at Aitken University Centre! With COVID affecting the number of fans that can attend games, the Reds are looking to fill the seats with as many fans as they can with both in-person support and in-cardboard support!

While some may scoff at this idea of filling the stands, this is quite possibly one of the best money-making ideas that we've seen thousands of times before. The Reds aren't inventing the wheel here, but they are trying to capitalize on it. That's never a bad thing when it comes to Canadian university sports programs because we already know that some have more financial advantages than others. For the Reds to jump in and make this happen for the upcoming sports seasons just seems like an obvious idea that needed to be made real.

And it real it will be as you can buy a cardboard cutout of yourself in an authentic Reds uniform for $50 CDN! You'll earn a seat at the games, you'll help to fill the rink, but most importantly you'll be helping a university program raise a ton of money so they can continue to produce exceptional hockey teams in an effort to be the east coast's first choice for hockey players looking to get an education.

All three jerseys that the Reds wear are available for your cutout to wear. The best part is that once this 2021-22 season is over, the Reds want you to pick your cardboard self up or they can ship it to you for $25! How great would your rec room look with you in your Reds jersey in it? I'm thinking this would really up the rec room game for many hockey fans!

All jokes aside, this is a great way to help a fantastic university hockey program out while not spending boatloads of cash. If, for nothing else, do it for that reason. I'm already planning on getting one so I can virtually sit in the stands at Aitken University Centre and take in a few AUS hockey games this season!

Does that count as "seeing a game" if you're there, but not physically there?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 23 August 2021

Gone Too Soon

I didn't know Jimmy Hayes which is to say that I only knew him from highlights and hockey stats. I didn't know him as a person, as a father, as a husband, as a brother, as a son, nor as a teammate, but losing anyone at the age of 31 when it's expected he'd be in the prime of his life is a difficult time with which one has to deal. When it was announced that Jimmy Hayes had passed away today, I found myself thinking it couldn't be true due to how young Hayes was, but it was confirmed by several sources which leave me with a ton of questions.

Hayes made his debut with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011 following a 2010 trade with Maple Leafs who selected in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He was moved by the Blackhawks with Dylan Olsen in 2013 to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Kris Versteeg and Philippe Lefebvre. He ended up in Boston in 2015 after the Panthers swapped him for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard's contract. He'd sign in New Jersey as a free agent in 2017, and end up in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization as a free agent in 2018.

His 2014-15 season with the Florida Panthers was his most productive as he scored 19 goals and added 16 assist for 35 points in 72 games. While injuries would limit him in other seasons in terms of the number of games he played, when Hayes was on his game he was an effective NHL player. His 54 goals and 55 assists in 334 NHL games total proves he had the goods to be in The Show.

A vast number of former teammates of Hayes expressed his love of the game, his presence in the locker room, and how much they'll his jovial nature in making things lighter around the rink. It sounds as though Hayes was one of those guys everyone just loved having around because of his personality, and those are the guys that seem to be the hardest to replace when they move to new teams. No matter what team he was on, players and coaches seemed to enjoy Jimmy Hayes' presence based on a very unscientific social media poll done by me.

What makes this harder for me is that Hayes, while being so young, leaves behind his wife, Kristen, and two young sons. The loss that they're suffering through at this moment will be bigger than anything I've experienced, and my heart and thoughts go out to them today in this most difficult time. Hayes was just 31 - his greatest adventures with Kristen and the boys were just getting started.

Rest in peace, Jimmy. We barely had time to get to know you, but you accomplished so much in such a short time. You were an NCAA champion with Boston College, you played the in NHL under the bright lights, and you were respected for being a genuinely good person in and around the rink. It's never good to lose someone like that from the game, but Heaven's hockey team just got a whole lot better with you added to the squad.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 22 August 2021

TMC: 1st Year Checking

It's been a fairly rainy day in the area around HBIC Headquarters, so I needed to find something to do today that would keep me occupied. The rain today thwarted my original plans of gardening and yardwork that needs to get done, so I'm using this rainy day to get caught up on something that I needed to watch a while back. Teebz's Movie Club is returning with a review on the Vimeo documentary 1st Year Checking, a documentary produced and directed by Michael Messner that tackles the age-old question as to whether bantam-level boys' hockey is the right time to introduce bodychecking in hockey. This isn't an easy question to answer by any means, and there are lots of opinions from many different people involved in hockey. Mr. Messner examines all the sides to this question in 1st Year Checking through the eyes of his own son and teammates who are beginning their first years of bodychecking.

The documentary, it should be noted, was filmed in the United States where USA Hockey has allowed hitting to begin at the bantam level of hockey which would be for boys entering their 13th year of age (so technically still 12), 13 years-old, or 14 years-old. As you're probably well-aware, the difference in sizes for boys at that age can be enormous, and Messner's son, Grayson, is one of the smaller boys who will be starting bodychecking. Needless to say, there is a vested interest in this documentary by Michael Messner when it comes to exploring this topic.

I won't lie that there is a lot of information in 1st Year Checking. Facts hit you from every angle, if you'll excuse the pun, as to why hitting at the bantam level may be good or bad. One of the facts that stood out to me was that players are three times more likely to suffer a concussion in their first year of hitting than any other year. That stands out to me because concussions affecting the brains of 12 or 13 year-old players may lead to earlier problems in life when it comes to long-term effects on things like short-term memory and headaches.

We often see players who get checked hard in a game and struggle to get back to the bench, but the coach sends them back out after asking "Are you ok?" and the players answer yes because what else are they supposed to say? Mr. Messner recognizes this as he coaches Grayson and his teammates on the Pittsburgh Vengeance that he, too, fell into the same trap of taking a player's word or his parent's word over doing the sensible thing and having that player tested for a concussion. As Mr. Messner states in 1st Year Checking, "What I learned about myself as the year progressed is that I am your worst nightmare as a coach because when I'm taking your kid through his first year of checking, I see my main job as turning your player from a boy into a man at age 12 and 13."

That's not to suggest that Mr. Messner is a bad coach by any means. He enrolled Grayson into a hockey checking clinic so that Grayson could learn the nuances of delivering hits, receiving hits, and the reasons why checking is used in hockey. It appears several other teammates of Grayson also took hitting clinics to learn these lessons as well. It's one of the things that Mr. Messner stresses early on in 1st Year Checking - learning how to hit will allow players to overcome that fear of being hit, but it doesn't completely kill it as you'll see in the documentary.

That's what makes 1st Year Checking so riveting - the story is told through the experiences of Grayson and his teammates as they venture into their first of bodychecking. Mr. Messner asks about whether they are scared or nervous, and the boys try to put on brave face. They experience their first hits and, for some, their first injuries from hits. Mr. Messner asks them to be honest about their feelings, and it's pretty apparent that some are more ready than others when it comes to throwing and taking hits. Filming the documentary in this style makes it harder to ignore some of the messages built into the arc of the story.

What I like about 1st Year Checking is that Mr. Messner doesn't preach about his stance on hitting. He simply presents all the facts that one should consider when entering the first year of hitting in hockey. From the fear of being crushed against the boards to the injuries that come from hitting to the surging confidence of throwing a big hit, there is a range of emotions shown by Grayson in Mr. Messner's documentary and those emotions affect how he plays the game in each and every game.

The facts presented, though, can't be disputed. What Mr. Messner allows the viewer to do is to take note of the facts presented among the anecdotes about Grayson and his team, and the viewer can decide for him or herself whether the risk of bodychecking at the bantam level is acceptable. Mr. Messner never once says "this is wrong" in his film; rather, he weaves the good and the bad about bodychecking at the 12 year-old level while adding expert testimonials, and it's up to the viewer to judge for one's self.

Overall, I really enjoyed Mr. Messner's presentation of the facts while following Grayson's and the Pittsburgh Vengeance's progress throughout their first season of hitting in 1st Year Checking. There is a lot of information to process through the 83-minute film, but it doesn't overwhelm or talk down to the viewer. It's a no-nonsense look at a parent's view, a player's view, and expert opinions on hitting at the bantam level. Ultimately, Mr. Messner highlights the dangers of hitting at this level, but it's up to the viewer to weigh those risks against the fun and excitement of hockey in the bigger picture and whether the kids will be ok when it comes to the risks of bodychecking at age 12 and 13.

Teebz's Rating: ★★★★★

Please note that this is a Vimeo On-Demand film, so it needs to be rented. The cost is $14.54 CDN to watch this film over a 24-hour period, but I assure you that it's worth it if you have a child nearing the age of bodychecking. It will really open your eyes as to what to watch for and what to question when it comes to safety as well as giving you a better idea about some of the risks and benefits in hitting at a young age. Check it out when you can as my rating says it's recommended!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 21 August 2021

This Seems Anti-Intelligent

If there's one thing that I'm certain of in this brave, new world where COVID-19 seems to be able to outsmart humanity more often than not, it's that common sense simply isn't common any longer. One would think that hockey teams would be doing everything humanly possible to ensure the safety of the players, coaches, staff, arena staff, and fans if a team was planning on opening its doors to fans in any capacity this season, right? Well, it seems that hockey in the southern United States of America is going to do its own thing when it comes to welcoming fans back to its rinks, and this should scare a lot of rational, intelligent people.

Last week, the SPHL's Huntsville Havoc, who have enjoyed the leading the league in attendance for the past five season, announced that they will open the doors to full capacity on October 15 once the season starts. In their announcement to the world, there was no mention of vaccinated fans, fans who have tested negative for COVID, or anything along those lines in terms of who will be allowed through the turnstiles. One has to wonder if Huntsville Haoc games will be full-on superspreader events in Alabama for season.

Huntsville, which resides in Madison County at the northern part of the state, is currently in a red zone state where the current rate of infection among 100,000 people sits at 325.8 and the total positivity rate comes in at 18.3%. And while that's less than Alabama as a whole when it comes to their overall numbers, those numbers are still woefully terrible when talking about allowing people into the Von Braun Center for hockey games. What makes this worse, though, is that Madison County is the highest vaccinated county in Alabama at 36%, meaning that if fans come from other counties they are likely unvaccinated.

I've scoured every news site and blog concerning the Havoc to see if the announcement just conveniently omitted the parts about being vaccinated or showing a negative test, but it would appear that was never a concern as none of those sites mention it once. In a state where there are over 250 new cases per day, the chances of catching COVID-19 at a Havoc game seem rather high, especially for the unvaccinated in the crowd.

With Huntsville averaging just under 4200 fans per game at the Von Braun Center and with a positivity rate of 18.3%, that would mean that, in theory, that some 770 people walking through the entrance gates could be carriers of the disease. With Alabama having 47% of its population with one shot and just 36% of the population with two shots and fully vaccinated, the chances, as stated above, are better than good that COVID-19 will infect fans at the Von Braun Center.

I struggle with this approach of allowing any and all fans back inside the VBC because of how close quarters everything seems to be in minor-pro rinks. Whether it's sitting close together in the stands or squeezing by people on the concourse, there are always space limitations inside rinks. This holds true for the Von Braun Center as well, so allowing unvaccinated fans into the game in a state where vaccinated people are in the minority seems truly dumb.

However, if that's what the Havoc are choosing to do to continue this meaningless run of "highest attendance in the SPHL" that not one person cares about outside of the Huntsville front office, that's their battle to wage with the virus. As we know, it cares not for attendance records or sporting events or your thoughts on vaccinations. All COVID-19 wants is a warm body where it can settle down, reproduce a bazillion times, and send those viruses out to other hosts. And if it kills a few people along the way? That's just collateral damage to an uncaring virus.

If the Havoc were smart, they'd be holding vaccination drop-ins where people can get two free tickets to games if they come to the Von Braun Center to get a vaccination. This would do nothing to disrupt their precious attendance records, but it may also prevent a dip in attendance if people start getting sick from attending games. Vaccinations for tickets would be a heckuva promotion, and it would prompt Havoc fans to get their tickets while remaining safe from serious virulent effects for the entire season.

Call me crazy, but that just seems like a win-win to me. Of course, I'm not the one desperate for a sixth-straight attendance mark by allowing anyone through the door. And in making this decision and not qualifying it by saying that people need to be vaccinated to attend, it appears that the Havoc, whether they wanted to or not, have given season tickets to COVID-19 as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 20 August 2021

It Was Just Sitting There

As you may know from reading this blog, I'm a big fan of minor-league teams breaking away from their NHL affiliates and having their own names, logos, and branding that is unique to those teams. There is hockey history in every town, outpost, and village across this great land, and I feel that AHL and ECHL teams should be tapping into that civic factor when it comes to establishing themselves in those communities. The Utica Comets, under the watch of the Vancouver Canucks, did that as the "Comets" name has special meaning in Utica and surrounding areas, but I think the New Jersey Devils missed out on a big opportunity here.

I'm not here to fault the Devils for allowing continuity of this name to exist. It makes sense when one considers that Utica is in the Mohawk Valley area where the old Clinton Comets of the Eastern Hockey League and Mohawk Valley Comets of the North American Hockey League. This franchise produced some big-time NHL names such as Ed Giacomin who tended nets in the NHL, and Pat Kelly who would coach the Colorado Rockies and founded the East Coast Hockey League that is now just the ECHL. Needless to say, the franchise owners did right by choosing a name that has deep roots in the community.

The Canucks affiliated with the Utica Comets, and they used their colours to brand the team while the players on the ice wore modified Vancouver Canucks-style uniforms with the Comets' shield logo on their chests. It wasn't particularly creative or fun, but the uniforms worn by the Comets got the job done as far as AHL standards were concerned.

With the Canucks moving their AHL affiliate to Abbotsford, the Comets swapped NHL affiliations when the New Jersey Devils moved their affiliation from Binghamton to Utica. There was hope that they'd have a little fun and possibly bring back one of the classic minor-league logos of all-time, but the image above shows that the Devils aren't going to pursue that opportunity and, instead, just swapped the Vancouver colours out for their own. Which is a pity because they had such a glorious opportunity sitting there waiting for them, and we'll get to that in a minute.

Is it really a new era if all you do is swap out the Vancouver stuff for New Jersey stuff? As you can see, the Comets aren't doing anything special when it comes to their uniforms. All the Devils did when it came to this rebrand was swap colours and change the sweaters out for their own. I don't understand how teams can be so lazy as to not even brand the minor-league affiliate in their own way so that there's separation between the AHL and NHL clubs. Perhaps if Lou Lamoriello was still running the Devils, I'd be more willing to accept these "changes" to the Utica Comets because Lou was always against the idea of alternate uniforms and doing anything fun with his team's look, but this is supposed to be a "new era". How about attempting to live up to those words?

If they're not even going to try to be unique, then the Devils missed out on bringing back the Utica Devils in their full glory with this affiliation. That logo is a glorious sight to behold, and the history in Utica saw the Devils have their AHL affiliate play there from 1987 until 1993 before the franchise was bought by the Calgary Flames. Players like Martin Brodeur, Chris Terreri, Craig Billington, Bill Guerin, Eric Weinrich, and Paul Ysebaert all cut their teeth at the AHL level with the Utica Devils, and the history of the team there, while not as rich or storied as the Comets, still holds a place in people's hearts.

This is one of those times had the Devils opted to go back to the jersey and logo above of the Utica Devils that I wouldn't complain about the AHL and NHL affiliates have the same name or look because there's history there. While I'm still not a huge fan of it, it's far more palatable that the Abbotsford Canucks or the Bridgeport Islanders. Those are just dumb because there's zero historical value and zero reason why those teams couldn't have been so much more.

That's kind of the same feeling I have for the Utica Comets - there was a chance to do something special here, and I feel like the Devils could have done so much more, especially having the old Utica Devils logo just sitting there.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 19 August 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 465

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a special show as Episode 465 marks the last show for the always-entertaining Jenna before she leaves for a new adventure in Edmonton! There's some great chatter about what she'll be doing out in the Alberta capital, but tonight's show was entirely planned by Jenna in terms of topics and discussions before we send her off to greener pastures! It's a fun show with some great topics, so this is one you'll want to hear, especially if you want to know what the future holds for Jenna!

Of course, since it's her last show, Teebz and Jenna start with the news about Jenna leaving and what her future plans are once she gets to Edmonton. They do get into some hockey topics after that, and they begin by discussing the invitation extended to Ève Gascon to join training camp for the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques, how Gascon could potentially play for Team Canada for a long time, and the gold mine of goalies coming out of Quebec. They tackle more Robert Morris University hockey updates as there's all sorts of new twists and turns in that story, they discuss universities mandating vaccines for on-campus activities, they chat about the University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey team getting a new head coach in Carla MacLeod, they are fascinated by Polish javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk, and Jenna gets fired up for the last time about sponsor ads on NHL jerseys. This was another fun show with Jenna, and The Hockey Show and I will miss her laughter, her bleeps, and her chatter on the show as moves on to Edmonton for new opportunities. Make sure you tune in at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com for a very special show!

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, for the last time in the foreseeable future, discuss goalies and school, messes at schools, vaccines at schools, new coaches at schools, amazing generosity, unfathomable greed, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: August 19, 2021: Episode 465

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 18 August 2021

My Day Tomorrow

If there's one sport I'll never find myself playing at any point in the future, it's golf. It's not that the sport is bad or anything, but I simply don't have the passion for it like I once did many moons ago when I worked at a golf course. Golfing daily made me a decent player on the links - I had solid distance on drives, and my short game and putting were worked on regularly so that championships could be won. Drive for show and putt for dough, right? The only catch was that I never played for any championships, and my decade of golfing excellence (purely subjective) was erased by other activities in the summer months such as baseball and basketball where I could be part of a team with my friends.

The kid in the picture above? That likely would be me today. Even with the target being ten times the size it should be, I'd still struggle to hit the bottom of the cup. Thankfully, I won't have to worry about that tomorrow.

As the season nears for Canada West team, so do the fundraising opportunities as all teams across the Canada West landscape look to return to the ice without any financial barriers holding them back. Tomorrow will be the first big fundraiser of the year for the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team, and I've been invited to do a little emceeing and to have some fun on the course with a sold-out field of teams as the First Annual Bisons Women's Hockey Golf Tournament takes place!

Bridges Golf Course is where this event will be taking place, and I'm excited to get out there. Again, not to golf because I wrote that sport off long ago, but rather to see everyone - players, parents, sponsors, staff, coaches - because it feels like it's been about a thousand years since I've seen any of these people. As the old saying goes, you never know what you've got until it's gone, but I think it has such greater meaning after having a season cancelled and being unable to get into rinks to watch high-level hockey.

As for what I'll be doing specifically, I'll be emceeing the event after the final putts are made and that should be a good time as we hand out prizes and recognize some of greatest golfers to enter the field tomorrow. I'll also be taking a few photos as a secondary cameraman alongside Bisons Sports' illustrious photo-documentarian John, and I'll be handing out some freebies to people who need a few golf tees compliments of UMFM and The Hockey Show.

More than anything, though, I want to get out and meet everyone. I want to talk to everyone. I want to feel the lush grass below my feet as I walk along a fairway or two. I want to watch clouds of sand go up as amazing bunker shots turn into phenomenal approaches. I want to see smiles and laughs as friends needle each other over duffed shots and terrible putts. More than anything, though, I just miss these amazing people and I can't wait to see everyone again!

In saying that, I'll be off the grid most of the day as I work the event and attempt to make people laugh and smile through free golf tees and some jokes. While I doubt that there will be any monstrous hockey news about which anyone will contact me, just know that I'm not going to answer as I spend a day in a beautifully-manicured park that sees people chase little white balls.

And I'll love every single second of it because I miss the interaction. Golf may not be a team game very often, but I've missed being around the Bisons as we inch towards this season and the team begins to take shape. This will finally restore a little sense of normalcy in meeting everyone at the golf tournament tomorrow in anticipation of the October 15 season-opening and home-opening game at Wayne Fleming Arena against the Calgary Dinos as I know that there are a lot of people who have been waiting for hockey to return.

It's going to be a good day on the golf course tomorrow among friends on a team I've missed so much!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 17 August 2021

My Rage Burns Hot

As much as I'm hopeful that the NHL will do the right thing, the league constantly and consistently disappoints me in so many ways. Whether it's the league playing passive regarding all the legal issues in various cities or the league doing stupid things when it comes to the look of players on the ice, the NHL is finding new ways to let me down and force me to dislike it. Today's news is no different as the announcement has lit a fire within me that likely won't subside for a while assuming it ever will.

The NHL announced today that the league will allow teams to put sponsor patches on jerseys beginning in 2022-23 after the board of governors unanimously approved the move. Let that sink in for a moment - sponsor ads on NHL jerseys. I believe the following image sums up my feelings nicely.
Outside of greed, what could possibly drive a unanimous vote for sponsor ads on jerseys when there are some teams who won't even wear an alternate jersey to generate additional revenue? Outside of greed, what would the underlying reason to put someone else's logo on an NHL jersey? If you have a reason, speak up now.

According to this CBC report based on a report by The Associated Press, sponsor ads on jerseys will be "3.5 x 3 inches" in size. The location wasn't revealed, but you have to expect it will be in a prominent place such as a shoulder so that the sponsor ads can be seen clearly by fans in the stands and on television. That will be the driver as teams will be permitted to negotiate individually with businesses for that sponsor ad money.

For those asking, the NBA, who started their sponsor-ads-on-jerseys campaign in 2017-18, has reportedly raked in some $150 million since instituting the program. The NHL isn't dumb as a copycat league, so it's pretty clear that a nine-figure number would appeal to all the suits sitting in the Board of Governors meeting. I'm not sure if any of those suits can do math, though, because that would mean tha NBA has scored $30 million per season for five seasons which means each team earned an extra million bucks over those five seasons.

An extra million bucks is a pittance in the grand scheme of an $82.5 million payroll, so why are ads being forced onto jerseys if the return is so little and fans seemingly don't want to see it?

The business of hockey is killing the sport and purity of the game. Jerseys in the NHL are sacred, holy ground where no ads should ever appear for any reason, but apparently that means nothing to the 32 men running the league. If it's not nailed down, it can apparently be sold to the highest bidder in the NHL. Jerseys on ads will happen next season, and I'm expecting a very cold weather forecast for hell.

This league disappoints me in so many ways. Here is yet another prime example on display.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 16 August 2021

Another Quebec Goalie Gem

There will always be someone in the crowd who will try disparage a player's achievements when they're invited to play on a bigger stage if that person doesn't feel they've earned it. Usually, these people who are doing the disparaging are ill-informed, wrong, or both, so it's important to know that all teams at all levels vet players more than your average hockey fan. In saying this, Ève Gascon, pictured above, has earned an invitation to training camp for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League starting on Monday because she is an incredible goaltender.

Yes, that pronoun is correct - SHE earned an invitation, and SHE will attend the camp looking to make the QMJHL team based on her talents in stopping pucks. For anyone to suggest anything otherwise, your opinion holds no water nor will it be considered informed because the Olympiques wouldn't extend an invitation if they didn't think she could make the team.

While making the team likely won't be at the top of the list for Gascon based on her commitment to join the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs women's team in 2022, the fact that she's going to have a shot to make the Olympiques out of training camp proves that her options are wide open when it comes to her future. She's played on boys' teams her entire life so taking the next step in her career to the major junior level shouldn't faze her. If she chooses to follow her commitment to UMD, she'll be playing against women for the first time in her career, but that too shouldn't change the way she plays the game. If anything, she may be more than ready to stop pucks at the NCAA level.

She was the first girl to play full-time in the boys' AAA midget league in Québec where she suited up Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix over two seasons. People will point at her stats there and say she wasn't very good, but Collège Esther-Blondin wasn't very good overall. Instead, she earned a spot on the roster through her play and her determination.

"She wasn't in our plans," admitted head coach Paulin Bordeleau. "We had a goaltender coming back from the year before, and I would say we had two other prospects that were ahead of her at the time."

Undeterred by the depth chart, Gascon not only played her way onto the Phénix where she was the starting netminder, but she also went and tended nets at the U18 Women's World Championship where she was rather excellent in helping Canada earn a silver medal with only an overtime loss to the Americans in the gold medal game. You don't attract Hockey Canada's attention because you're not a good goalie, so let's add that feather to Ève Gascon's cap because she's definitely on Hockey Canada's radar.

She was selected 13th overall by the Collège Français de Longueuil in the Quebec Junior Hockey League, becoming the second girl to be selected in that draft after Ann-Renee Desbiens was the first to do so. She became just the third female to appear in a QJHL game, following in the footsteps of Charline Labonté and Manon Rheaume as the others.

The fact that she's boys' hockey over girls' hockey doesn't matter for Gascon as she has stated time and again that "the priority is development" in the highest-calibre league available to her. Gascon will now take her talents to the QMJHL for a few weeks before heading to the NCAA where she prepares to take the next steps in her career. Where she goes from here will be up to her, but the UMD program is one of the best in the NCAA and her progress there will likely see her ascend through the depth chart on Hockey Canada's lists as well.

It's far too early to suggest that she'll end up like Shannon Szabados who played professionally in the SPHL, but there's also nothing stopping her from doing so if she has the talent to make any squad for which she wants to play. For now, though, she's stop pucks from some of the best Quebec-born players on the Gatineau roster as she prepares to make the jump to Duluth where she battle for the starting spot as she looks to backstop the Bulldogs as a freshman.

Let's not discount this invitation by the Olympiques, though, as some charity thing for a goalie who has shown a knack for playing with the boys. Again, the Olympiques could have invited any number of male goalies to training camp for a shot at making the team, but they chose to extend the offer to Gascon who could very well make the roster based on talent alone. And for Gascon, she's taking this opportunity to continue to get better with her sights on 2026 and the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo where the next Winter Olympics will take place.

If you'll notice, every single goaltender named in this article has played with the Canadian Women's National Hockey Team at the Olympics. Rheaume was there in 1998. Labonté played for Canada in 2006, 2010, and 2014. Szabados suited up in 2010, 2014, and 2018. Desbiens wore Canada's colours in 2018 in Pyeongchang. All three of the Quebec-born goalies had major impacts on the Canada National Team, and all four won medals at the Olympics. That's exactly the legacy that Gascon wants to establish for herself, and having her play at the QMJHL level - even just at a training camp - will give her more exposure as to what she needs to do to be even more successful.

"I don’t want to be biased, but I feel she is the next one," Labonté told Hockey Canada's Quinton Amundson. "She is taking it step by step, but everywhere she has been she has been successful."

Labonté, who has been mentoring Gascon, added, "She reminds me of myself at that age. I know exactly what she is going through. She is a quiet yet confident person. She doesn't want the spotlight. She wants to play hockey and wants to go as far as she can, but the fact that she’s that good and is making history brings her all the media attention, and she has done very well with that.

"Sometimes I can’t believe I am talking to a kid. She is much more mature than that."

To have a former Olympian and an Olympic gold medalist describe you like that is quite the honour, so don't even try to discount Ève Gascon's achievements. If her trajectory continues on the same path her current success has found, we're likely going to be talking about her achievements for a long, long time. Whether those come in a Bulldogs uniform, a Canada uniform, or any other uniform remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Ève Gascon earned this opportunity with the Olympiques.

Ève Gascon is yet another diamond from the goaltending mine in Quebec that has produced a number of great Canadian netminders in both men's and women's hockey. Whether it be names like Roy, Fleury, or Brodeur on the men's side or Rheaume, Labonté, or Desbiens on the women's side, it seems that Ève Gascon is determined to add her story to those legendary goalie careers!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 15 August 2021

What Is Gold Worth?

Let's be honest here when we look at hockey in the USA. We can talk about all the great players that the US is producing for NHL purposes, and we can cite years that the US has won the World Junior Championship. Those players and teams won't be debated about how good they were, but if we're talking about greatness over an extended period of time there's no denying that the USA Women's National Hockey Team has been the most consistent when it comes to winning medals since the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games where USA captured gold for the first time. Since then, there have been gold medals at every level, so one has to ask what gold is worth to USA Hockey after everything that the US Women's National Team has done?

It was announced today that the US Women's Team signed a new one-year deal with USA Hockey last month that will see the new terms of the deal in place until August 31, 2022. This comes on the heels of the four-year pact they signed with USA Hockey in 2017 following their near walkout on the IIHF Women's World Championship that year over what the women felt was significant differences between how they were compensated for their efforts compared to the men.

If we go back to the 2017 battle, there were definitely some significant differences that the women not only brought up, but saw that USA Hockey fixed for them and for future generations. They involved lawyers from Ballard Spahr who were able to advise them and be involved in the process, and the impasse was solved in the eleventh hour, resulting in the women returning to the ice for the start of the IIHF Women's World Championship where they won the gold medal.

Ballard Spahr was involved in the process again this year for the negotiations, and another deal was struck so the women can participate at both the IIHF Women's World Championship this week and at the 2022 Beijing Olympics next February while being compensated for their efforts once again. Needless to say, this is vitally important for USA Hockey if they hope to see more success and corresponding medals coming home due to that success.

Emily Kaplan of ESPN reports,
"According to documents obtained by ESPN, players on the women's national team can earn up to $126,750 over the next year should they win gold at both the 2021 world championships and the 2022 Beijing Olympics. If the team wins a silver medal at both events, each player will receive $105,500. That money is made up of stipends and bonuses, paid out by both USA Hockey and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee."
If you ask me, that seems like a reasonable amount of money to be paid by the two organizations for winning medals at both events, but you have to wonder just how much a gold medal is really worth to USA Hockey when you consider Kaplan's reporting of "[t]he USOPC will also pay the players a $7,500 bonus if they win gold at the world championships. USA Hockey doesn't give out a bonus for world championship results."

It seems hard to fathom that USA Hockey doesn't pay a bonus for IIHF World Championship results considering this is the biggest women's hockey event annually from which we usually see USA Olympic team members discovered and where roster spots are determined. Indeed, this year's World Championship will determined USA Hockey's Olympic roster for Beijing, yet USA Hockey doesn't reward the players for their results in proving they're the best in the world each year.

When you consider that Kaplan's sources also noted that "women's national team players gave 15% of their salaries back to USA Hockey for three months during the pandemic as a sign of good faith," you have to wonder what gold is worth to USA Hockey considering all the medals that the US Women's National Team has won both at the World Championships and at the Olympic level? At what point do we see some "good faith" from USA Hockey where it rewards these women who haven't played a meaningful international game in some 860 days for their abilities to step on the ice and return home with hardware against the best that the planet has to offer?

Personally, it seems like USA Hockey is getting off pretty easy when you consider that the American women will be playing for their sixth-straight IIHF Women's World Championship gold medal when the tournament kicks off in Calgary on Friday, and this comes on the heels of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic gold medal where the American women finally returned to the top of the podium. Again, it's hard to believe that their annual rite of winning gold isn't worth more to USA Hockey, but perhaps this will change before we see players like Hilary Knight, Alex Carpenter, Alex Cavallini, and Amanda Kessel retire.

These are women who fought for everything they've earned from USA Hockey thus far after the fiasco in 2017. From a per diem to child care expenses to housing allowances, all of the things that we, as fans, may take for granted had to be demanded and negotiated with USA Hockey which, to me, seems rather incredible that they weren't already in place. And while being paid for Olympic medals is nice, that bonus only happens every four years from the organization whose logo is worn on the chest of these women who consistently return results.

So again, it begs the question: what is gold worth to USA Hockey? Because if you were to ask me, it seems like USA Hockey is buying gold medals at pennies on the dollar despite every dollar fought for and earned by the women who play for the US Women's National Hockey Team.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 14 August 2021

Utterly Underwhelming

Things have been moving down in the SPHL ranks as the Vermilion County Bobcats prepare for their first season of play after being granted an expansion franchise earlier this year. They've hired front office staff, they've hired a head coach, they've done an expansion draft, and they're out signing players, so the Bobcats are certainly putting rubber to road when it comes to being ready for the season-opening game. They have a logo and the alternate logo seen above, so they're almost ready to ice a team. All they need to do is come up with an exciting uniform set, and the Vermilion County Bobcats would be an official team!

To unveil their road uniforms, the Bobcats decided to engage another local professional team on July 30 as the Danville Dans, a Prospect League baseball team, welcomed the Bobcats in a special doubleheader night! During the first game, Bobcats owner Ellen Tully unveiled the uniforms as shown to the right, and they're very plain? What exactly happened here that caused the Bobcats to abandon all logos, specifically the one above, for two letters of the county where they play? Why do teams insist on not using their logos aftet they've spent money to have design teams come up with logos that are supposed to be the image and branding of the team? Why do these jerseys suck entirely and look better suited for a Sunday night beer league team than a professional hockey team?

In a quest for an explanation, I discovered the following graphic.
I'll break down each point here because it feels like the Vermilion County Bobcats are trying way too hard to make these jerseys sound special. Newsflash to those who have read this far: they're not.

The tri-coloured collar is a very 1990s-era idea as most NHL teams wore the tri-coloured colours. Just on the jerseys in my closet alone, I count the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins using three colours on their v-neck jerseys, so let's not go bananas over a hockey fashion trend that lived and died once already.

The "alternate VC logo" could have been infinitely better by using the alternate logo above where the scratch marks form the "VC" for Vermilion County. Instead, we get a cheap block letter "VC" that doesn't even suggest that this team is the "Bobcats". For all I know, VC could stand for Ventura County, Vatican City, or Very Confusing. The last one seems to fit best for this jersey.

They point out that the stripes form a "V" for Vermilion County, but this seems like an awfully big stretch for a jersey design when you have the "VC" above it signifying Vermilion County. We get it - this team plays in Vermilion County. You have that on the front of the jersey twice now. All you're missing is the fully written-out Vermilion County. Here's an idea: what is the team name because I see that nowhere?

The stripe colours being "a nod to both modern Illiana area pro hockey and the proud history of manufacturing in Vermilion County" is entirely confusing. The cloest major center to Danville is Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Indianapolis Ice of the IHL wore blue and black while the Indiana Ice of the USHL wore various shades of blue. The Danville Dashers played in the Frontier Prospects Hockey League, but they wore orange and black. There are no other professional hockey that come close to straddling the Illinois-Indiana border, so the red-white-and-black seems like a desperate play to ride the coattails of the Blackhawks and IceHogs. I should point out that the Bobcats have no affiliation with those teams.

The manufacturing portion of the colour scheme seems to be pointing directly at Danville Manufacturing which makes sheet metal aerospace components. There are other manufacturing businesses in and around Danville, Illinois, but the silver colour would be directly related to the colour of sheet metal when most people think of sheet metal. I'm not sure why silver gets more prominence than red on these jerseys, but I didn't design them. If I had, they'd be better.

The dual-colour block font numbers do match the "VC" on the front, I was hoping to see something unique on the back to give the jersey a little life. Like the Moncton Wildcats who use the cat scratch on the back of the jersey, could the Bobcats not have done something like that? Something to make this jersey more fun? Do something to stand out, Vermilion County, because these jerseys are rather boring.

Perhaps the Vermilion County Bobcats aren't interested in selling many jerseys as part of their merchandise because if I wouldn't want to wear one of these in the stands if they had these in their shop. This jersey is the most "vanilla ice cream" of any of the jerseys I've seen in the SPHL, and I can't think of another team who didn't at least to attempt to make a splash with their jerseys in Season One of their existence. If the Bobcats aren't going to be the best team on the ice, they should at least be fun. That would include a fun set of jerseys, and this road jersey is anything but fun when you look at it. Worse yet, they made the Danville Dans wear a baseball-esque version of their jersey in Game Two of the doubleheader which looks just as boring as the hockey version. At least we know that the Bobcats will be consistent when it comes to bad road jersey designs no matter what sport with which they're involved.

If there's one bright spot to these jerseys, it's that the Danville Dans won their game while wearing the Bobcats-themed jerseys by a score of 3-1 over the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp - that's a heckuva name! - that night. I guess the Bobcats can claim a win thanks to a Jonathan Thomas three-run homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Dans the lead and, eventually, the win!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!