Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Silver-American Dino?

That fun little graphic to the left says a lot about Ryan Gagnon, the former Calgary Dinos defender, who is on the move in his professional career! As you can see, Ryan was named as a Canada West first-team all-star in his final season wearing Calgary red while captaining the Dinos men's hockey team. It would be the second time that Gagnon has been named as a Canada West all-star selection in his university career to go along with the all-rookie honours he earned when he landed in the Alberta city in 2017-18 following a successful five-year run in the WHL with the Victoria Royals. Where is he headed next? Let's find out!
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It happened a week ago, but Ryan Gagnon is headed to Allen, Texas where the Quesnel, BC native will join the ECHL's Allen Americans after signing a deal to join them! No details were released by the Americans regarding length of the deal or financials, but Gagnon will suit for the two-time Kelly Cup champions this year and try to bring home a third championship following their wins in 2015 and 2016.

The 26 year-old quietly might be one of the best signings coming out of Canadian university hockey for an ECHL team this season as he was effective at both ends of the ice for the Dinos. He recorded two goals and a team-high 13 assists in just 18 games in his final season with the Dinos, upping his best university point total of 14 in 2019-20 when he played in ten more games. In 99 Canada West games, the mobile rearguard scored eight goals and 32 assists while being a reliable defender for the Dinos program.

Those abilities were honed in the five years he played with Victoria in the WHL. He wore both the assistant captain and captains marks in his final two years playing in Victoria, and his 2015-16 season total of five goals and 20 assists was his best in the Western League. In total, Gagnon played in 320 WHL games where he recorded nine goals and 57 assists while his leadership and defensive abilities earned him an invite to the Arizona Coyotes Prospect Camp in 2017. Clearly, Gagnon can play if an NHL team wanted a look.

Perhaps one of the biggest honours that a player can receive while playing U SPORTS hockey is an invite to the U SPORTS team that plays against the Canadian World Junior players every year. Gagnon was part of the 2021 squad that skated against Canada's best junior players, but registered no points in the two-game series against Canada's top U20 players. Nevertheless, the Dinos' blueliner showed that he belongs among the best at the university level, and capped off a successful season with the all-star nod from the conference.

While Allen will be a new opportunity for Gagnon, he may have a chance to skip the Americans altogether as Gagnon was named to the 2022-23 training camp roster for the AHL's Henderson Silver Knights a couple of days ago! There's no guarantee that Gagnon will make the jump from Calgary to Henderson, but an invitation means someone wants to have a look at Gagnon and that's a good sign! Gagnon will still need to work as hard as he ever has if he has a hope of being on the Silver Knights' radar, but, if the worst case scenario is heading back to north Dallas following an AHL camp, Gagnon should arrive in Allen ready to go for a long ECHL season!

When people say that Canadian university hockey is often forgotten about, there's some truth to that. Seeing guys like Ryan Gagnon, Rylan Toth, Keaton Jameson, Zach Sawchenko, Derek Ryan, and others find their way into the system and then move up the ladder should be enough proof that one can play Canadian university hockey and still have a fairly decent career in the professional hockey ranks. There may not be multi-million dollar contracts handed out, but these are men who have their educations and know how to work hard. Both of those things should be attractive to any potential employer including professional hockey teams.

As it stands, Allen is showing a total of five defenders on their team roster for 2022-23, so Ryan Gagnon should get an opportunity to skate in a number of games assuming he doesn't land on the Henderson roster. Both he and Lord-Anthony Grissom are the new kids on the Allen roster, so it would seem that Gagnon may have a shot at being in the top-four if he can outperform one or two of the other defencemen that Allen has signed. Without saying it out loud, it looks like Ryan Gagnon might be an ECHL regular this season if he can continue to play at the high level he showed back in Calgary.

From here, the opportunities are endless as a good showing in Henderson may make Gagnon a wanted man by that organization. That could mean a signing in Henderson or potentially a move to Savannah at some point, but a good season with the Americans will have minor-professional general managers seeking Gagnon for their teams next season and beyond. I expect Gagnon to play as awell as he did in Calgary while adjusting to the speed and game in the ECHL, but, knowing what I know and saw from him last season, I don't think he's going to have much trouble.

Congratulations to Ryan Gagnon for his first professional deal in signing with Allen, and here's hoping he blows everyone away at Silver Knights camp and jumps into the AHL right out of Calgary!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 3 October 2022

What Hasn't He Done?

Imagine being this guy for a moment. That, of course, is hockey legend Jaromir Jagr, and if one looks back on the career he's carved out playing the game of hockey there isn't much he hasn't done. He's got his name on the Stanley Cup twice, he's been the NHL's top scorer five times, he was the league's top player once, and he was voted by his peers as the best of all the players three times. He's been an Olympic gold medalist after helping the Czech Republic win in 1998 in Nagano, and he won a pair of IIHF World Championship gold medals in 2005 and 2010 to etch his name into history as a member of the Triple Gold Club. He owns a hockey team in Czechia, and he's a member of the Czech Hockey Hall of Fame. Oh, and he's still playing professional hockey.

If you're Jaromir Jagr, there aren't many accolades left that he can win or earn, so playing at the age of 50 for the club he owns, Rytíři Kladno, is nothing more than a way to stay in shape and have fun, it seems. But after playing at the highest levels of hockey for some 35 years of his life, Jagr admitted that his desire to stay in the game wasn't what it once was, and that he may step away for good this season in an interview with Miroslav Horák of iSport.cz.

Using Google Translate to translate the Czech interview to English, the following questions were asked by Horák to Jagr after Sunday afternoon's game between Mladá Boleslav and Rytíři Kladno which Boleslav won 4-0. The questions are bolded, and Jagr's answers follow.
"How long can you last on the alternator? Is your return to the ice imminent?"

"It's certainly not close. To be honest, I don't even want to go back. If the Winter Classic I promised was held, I'd probably have to force myself to go play. Otherwise it doesn't pull me back. Actually, I don't have the motivation, I don't feel like it."
The translation here messes up the question a little, but Horák basically asked Jagr how long he planned on remaining on the bench (alternator?) rather than dressing as a player. Jagr's answer seems very straightforward in telling Horák that he's simply not feeling any motivation to return to the ice. That's not a good sign if you're hoping Jagr would continue to play.

Horák follows up with another question to Jagr.
"Do you miss playing?"

"At all. I like hockey, but it's hard work. Physically very demanding. I spend a lot more time in the winter than before, mainly because of organizational things. Before the season we were a bit stressed, we had to deal with a lot of issues to even manage the first game. Even if I wasn't the owner and only had hockey to work with, I would still have to handle the problems of playing and coaching. Just focus on hockey. This is more or less impossible. Or I'd have to stop doing the club altogether, which I don't think would help."
Again, Google Translate isn't the best option as "Vůbec" is the statement for "Not at all", not "At all". If we're reading this correctly, Jagr tells Horák that he's had to spend more time simply sorting out a number of issues with respect to running a team, let alone coaching and/or playing. At the end of the day, it sounds like Jagr wants to reduce his workload by reducing the number of hats he has to wear, and that may mean hanging up the skates is the option towards which he's leaning.

Horák continues his line of questioning.
"Are you running out of concentration and energy in your head for a comeback?"

"It's hard to explain. At my age, playing at any level is challenging. Prepare, motivate. Not to mention the need for rest. Thanks to the time spent in the winter and meetings between nine and two in the afternoon, I don't have time to solve myself. Going to train tired then, I physically wouldn't do that."
This might be the most telling of answers that Jagr gives in that he states he works all day in running the club and doesn't want to train or go play in the evening if he's already tired. I'm not saying Jagr's age is catching up with him, but it sounds like Jagr simply doesn't have the energy or drive he once did.

Horák asks his most direct question of Jagr at this point.
"Are you more likely to not play at all?"

"It's possible. Like I say, I'll see how it goes with the Winter Classic. Maybe I'd get a kick out of it, but I don't even feel like it at the moment."
I hate to say it, but Jagr sounds like he's done. That answer makes it almost certain that he won't play this season or, perhaps, ever again. If he doesn't want to play in the biggest game of the season, I'd guess that's he's done.

Horák asks a couple more questions before finishing with a statement that Jagr not only agrees with, but allows him to assess where he is when compared to other players.
"You are extremely honest with yourself."

"I've always tried to be. When I was playing, I used to feel like I was giving it a go and I was getting the hang of it. Now I know I couldn't do it. I'd have to be really extreme to tell myself I'd try. But I don't know if it makes sense to me at the moment."
If he's already used the past tense to describe his playing days, that sounds like a man who has made a decision without publicly revealing it. If Jagr chooses not to lace up the skates this season, it almost sounds like he's already accepted that his playing days are over.

Honestly, though, if we're asking what more Jagr could do, the answer truly is nothing. He's been a winner at almost every level, he's played all over the world, and he's proven that age is just a number by playing until he was 50. If Jagr came back for one more season, it accomplishes nothing other than saying he played one more season. Leaving at 50 seems like the right time for him to make an exit.

If Jagr doesn't play another second of hockey, we've witnessed one of the greatest hockey players of all-time play this game for more than three decades. Waive the mandatory three-year waiting period for the Hockey Hall of Fame because, like Gretzky or Lemieux or Orr or Howe or the six others who have received this honour, there will never be another Jaromir Jagr. Ever.

What hasn't he done? The right answer is officially retire.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 2 October 2022

The Rundown - Week 1

With the cooler air upon us and the leaves changing colour, that can only mean that hockey is starting across the northern hemisphere once again. Canada West enters its second season of nine-team action with eight of those teams playing on the first week of action. UBC kicks off the season as the defending Canada West champions while Saskatchewan enters the season as the defending U SPORTS National Championship bronze medalists. There are new faces that dot the lineups across the four western provinces who will compete for glory, and two of these teams will represent Canada West in Montreal at the National Championship this season. Determining which of those teams started on Friday, so let's get another Canada West women's hockey season underway here on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: The MacEwan Griffins were in Regina to play the Cougars as both teams opened their 2022-23 schedules. MacEwan, who finished in eighth-place in 2021-22, were looking to move up the standings and be in the playoff mix while Regina, after earning the sixth and final playoff spot last season, needed to continue to take steps forward. Both teams had a pile of new players this season, but it would two familiar names standing 200-feet apart as Brianna Sank got the start for MacEwan while Arden Kliewer started for Regina!

Regina came out strong in this one as they controlled the action for most of the opening frame. Three-straight penalties through the game's opening ten minutes saw Regina playing a lot of hockey with the player advantage, but they couldn't capitalize on those chances. They would capitalize, though, when Paige Hubbard spotted Jenna Merk alone in the high slot from behind the net, hit Merk with the pass out front, and Merk wired a high shot past Sank at 14:05 to put the Cougars up 1-0 on Regina's first goal of the season!

Despite having another power-play minites later, Regina could not find the twine again in the opening period, and we'd move to the intermission with the score 1-0 in favour of Regina and the shots showing an 11-5 advantage for the Cougars as well.

Penalties would continue to break up the flow of this game as Regina was whistled early for an infraction in the second period before MacEwan handed two more power-play chances back to the Cougars. Regina would finally find the back of the net on their sixth power-play opportunity of the night when Olivia Leggett, fresh off the bench, wired a shot from the high slot that Sank stopped with the left pad, but Jenna Merk was standing on the doorstep to poke the puck past Sank for her second goal of the game, the season, and her career to give Regina the two-goal lead at 7:06!

The teams would again trade power-play oppoertunities later in the period with no success for either side, so we'd move to third period with Regina holding the 2-0 lead and a 23-10 edge in shots!

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but MacEwan got into penalty trouble early in the final frame as Regina went to work on a five-on-three power-play at the 5:27 mark. Jenna Merk would be in on this goal as well as her shot from the top of the umbrella would be stopped by Sank, but Olivia Leggett got a stick on the puck to get it past Sank to score the power-play goal after Sank was unable to secure the rebound at 6:54 to push the score to 3-0 in the Cougars' favour.
After finally shaking their sin bin parade route, the Griffins rallied to beat Kliewer when Makenna Schuttler at 12:36 for MacEwan's first goal of the season and her first Canada West goal, but Kliewer would close the door the rest of the way in leading the Regina Cougars to the 3-1 victory over the MacEwan Griffins. Arden Kliewer made 13 saves for her first victory of the season while Brianna Sank stopped 30 shots in the loss.

It appears we're going to have another season of "teams who refuse to make highlight packages", and the Regina Cougars are the first offender. It's been 48 hours since this game was played, so what gives? Get on it, Regina. I am not posting individual clips all season.

SATURDAY: The undefeated Regina Cougars took to the ice on Saturday looking to extend their one-game winning streak to start the season while the MacEwan Griffins were looking to snap their season-starting losing streak of one game. All jokes about records aside, both teams looked to claim victory today as Brianna Sank got her second-straight start for the Griffins while Natalie Williamson was in the blue paint for the Cougars for her first start of the season!

A much more focused MacEwan Griffins squad took to the ice in this game as they were the more aggressive team to start this game. Their early pressure on the Cougars saw them capitalize as Aryn Chambers beat Williamson with a shot at the 8:37 mark, and the Griffins had their first lead of the season at 1-0. Regina's attempt to respond would be thwarted thanks to a couple of infractions called against them, and we'd head into the intermission with MacEwan up 1-0 and leading 14-7 in shots.

The second period was played somewhat more evenly as both sides traded two power-plays opportunities each with nothing to show for any advantage on scoreboard, but there would be a goal scored as Claire Hobbs found some space to put a puck past Williamson at 17:05 for her first Canada West goal, and the Griffins claimed a two-goal lead heading into the third period after holding a 25-14 edge in shots through 40 minutes.

Old habits seem to die hard, though, and MacEwan fell into penalty trouble once again midway through the final frame as Regina played with the advantage for nearly eight-straight minutes. Regina could capitalize early on their first power-play of the period when Hannah Pennell's long shot from the point beat a screen Brianna Sank at the 9:27 mark for her first Canada West goal, and it was a 2-1 game.

That result lasted for all 55 seconds when Heather Fiske got a stick on Rachel O'Toole's point shot to redirect the puck past Sank at 10:22, and we were tied at 2-2!

Further power-play time didn't get Regina any additional goals, and MacEwan withstood playing most of this period in their own zone. Time for some free hockey as this game went to overtime tied 2-2!

It wouldn't take long to find a winner in the four-on-four portion of overtime as Mila Verbicky netted the game-winner just 1:40 into the extra time as the MacEwan Griffins bounced back with a 3-2 overtime win over the Regina Cougars! In a bit of a coincidental moment, both of Verbicky's goals in a MacEwan jersey have been game-winners, so it seems like having her on the ice late in tied games might be beneficial! In any case, Brianna Sank earned her first win with a 23-save effort in 61:38 of work while Natalie Williamson suffered the overtime loss despite making 27 saves in 61:31 of time.

Again, a lack of highlight packages from the Regina Cougars is baffling. The last time that the Cougars posted a YouTube hihglight package for women's hockey was January 25, 2020. Did we just forget how to make highlight reels over the last two seasons? Are we on some sort of highlight strike? Let's get the video going, Regina.

FRIDAY: The first home-and-home of the year was played between the Mount Royal Cougars and the Alberta Pandas in Edmonton. Mount Royal finished as the first-place team last season in Canada West play while Alberta was the third-place team. These two teams renewed their rivalry on Friday as Kaitlyn Ross started for the Cougars while Halle Oswald was between the pipes for the Pandas.

The Pandas are always tough when playing at home in Clare Drake Arena, and they were intent in getting pucks on net early. However, an early penalty would set them back a goal as Tatum Amy's long shot through traffic in front of Oswald found twine on the power-play at 7:33 to put the Cougars up 1-0! 2:17 later, though, the Pandas would equalize when Megan Wilson dropped a pass to Abby Soyko who made a nifty move to get by Kiana McNinch before going five-hole on Ross with a quick shot to tie the game 1-1 at 9:50 as she notched her first Canada West goal! A late power-play in the period for Mount Royal yielded no further goals as we headed into the intermission tied 1-1, but with Alberta up 11-7 in shots.

The Cougars seemed to come out with a little more fire in their skates to start the second period, but a penalty would slow them down. The game showed some elements of physical play along with good opportunities and better goaltending, and the end result was that the 1-1 stalemate remained despite two power-play opportunities for Alberta and one for Mount Royal. Those two power-plays did allow Alberta to double their shot total, though as they went into the third period holding a 22-12 edge in shots.

Early in the third period, we got to see a little Willan magic as the Pandas sniper went give-and-go with Payton Laumbach before finishing with a forehand-backhand over the outstretched right pad of Ross, and Willan's marker put Alberta up 2-1 at 2:38! Mount Royal would push the offence as they needed to find a way to even the score, and it looked like Aliya Jomha may have midway through the period, but the clang off the iron said no. Late in the period with Ross on the bench for the extra attacker, Mount Royal held the line and found Ava Metzger on the left side who slapped a puck towards Oswald where the puck ricocheted off an Alberta player in front and ended up behind the goal line to tie the game at 2-2! The credit for the goal went to Ava Metzger who records her first Canada West goal with ten seconds to play! That means we'd be heading to free hockey on the first night of the season!

The first period of free hockey saw no one score, so the four-on-four went to three-on-three for another period, and we'd see a winner here when Cassidy Maplethorpe broke away from the pack, skated in alone on Ross, nearly lost the puck, but was able to pull it to the backhand for the winner at 2:40 as the former Brock Badger scored her first Canada West goal at 2:40 of double-overtime for the 3-2 Alberta Pandas win over the Mount Royal Cougars! Halle Oswald earned the win in 67:08 of work as she stopped 22 shots while Ross took the double-overtime loss in 65:25 of work despite making 31 saves.

The Pandas have highlights! Here are the game's big moments!

SATURDAY: While both teams came away with points on Friday, I know that both teams prefer clean wins as opposed to giving away points. We'd move to Calgary for the back-half of this two-game series, and I expected both teams to come in with a sense of business to be completed on Saturday as the same two netminders stood 200-feet apart - Halle Oswald for Alberta and Kaitlyn Ross for Mount Royal.

Full disclosure on this game: I was nowhere near an internet connection in order to stream this game, and I have yet to watch the replay. As a result, this recap is being done in minimalist fashion because Mount Royal doesn't believe in posting clips or highlights of their teams. Or something like that.

Courtney Kollman scored on the power-play unassisted at 12:58 to give the Cougars the lead. They'd double that lead in the second period when Emma Bergesen found the back of the net off a blast from the point on a power-play as well, and it was 2-0 Mount Royal at the 15:51 mark of the middle frame. Aliya Johma would score at 12:20 of the third period to put Mount Royal up 3-0. It looked like Alberta got one back, but the officials determined that the puck had been directed past Ross by a high-stick, and it was waved off to keep the game at the 3-0 count.

In a sequence that needs explanation, Emma Bergesen scored on Alberta's empty net at 17:17 for her second goal of the game, but was also assessed a cross-checking penalty at the same time as per the scoresheet. Was the penalty assessed after she scored? Was Bergesen the last to touch the puck before Alberta misplayed it their own empty net on the delayed call? Whatever the case may be, Bergesen tallied the fourth Mount Royal goal on the night to make it 4-0 before Taylor Kezama's high shot on the power-play found room past Ross to snap the shutout with 2:09 to play. Alberta would get no closer, though, Mount Royal skated to the 4-1 victory over the Pandas! Kaitlyn Ross made 16 saves for her first win of the season on this night while Halle Oswald stopped 25 shots in the loss.

As stated above, there are neither highlights nor clips posted on social media that I can sew together as a highlight package, so I'm not exactly sure what Mount Royal is doing this season. Get it together, MRU, as I want to showcase your stars! You should too!

FRIDAY:Last season's Canada West champions, the UBC Thunderbirds, finished in second-place in the regular season while the Calgary Dinos were the seventh-place team. Both teams were looking to improve on those standings as they met for the first time in Calgary. UBC opted to start Elise Hugens while Calgary went with Gabriella Durante in the season opener!

We didn't have to wait long for last year's points leader to get on the board. Just 2:04 into the game, Hannah Koroll intercepted the puck in the neutral zone, stepped across the blue line, and passed across the ice to Chanreet Bassi who went high with a backhander that I'm sure Durante wants back, but Bassi lit the lamp with the shot to give UBC the early 1-0 lead! Calgary didn't need much time to respond as Jolie Nafziger spotted Brette Kerley out front, but her shot was stopped only for the rebound to bounce to Rebecca Clarke who buried it behind Hugens at 5:51 to make it a 1-1 game! 2:29 later, Clarke was fired a shot from the top of the circle that Hugens stopped, but her long rebound came to Nafziger who outwaited Hugens before going high on the netminder for her first Canada West goal to make it a 2-1 game in favour of the Dinos! The good news is we were all able to catch our breath after that as the scoring trailed off in this period despite UBC having a power-play, but we'd hit the intermission with Calgary up 2-1 and leading in shots by a 10-9 count.

The second period slowed down as both teams decided to spend some time visiting the sin bin. UBC was whistled for three infractions while Calgary was called for two penalties, but it was the last penalty against UBC that saw the Thunderbirds capitalize on a mistake. Mia Bierd threw a puck at Durante that she easily gloved, but it appeared she wanted to play it. The unfortunate part is that as she pinned the puck to the ice, the puck popped loose and Bierd, who followed her shot to the net, was able to sweep it past Durante on left side for a shorthanded goal and her first Canada West regular-season goal at 19:00 to tie the game at 2-2! UBC's goal would be the only one, and we'd go to the third period tied at two goals apiece and UBC holding a 23-22 edge in shots!

Just as they did last season, UBC used the third period to put their opposition away. A low shot by Ireland Perrott that, in this writer's opinion, Durante should have had made it 3-2 for UBC at 6:21 before Perrott doubled her goal total by winning a battle in front of Durante to chip home a rebound on the power-play at 16:29 to make it 4-2 for the Thunderbirds. Cassidy Rhodes would ice the game with an empty-netter - her first Canada West goal - as the UBC Thunderbirds downed the Calgary Dinos by a 5-2 score! Elise Hugens made 28 stops for her first win of the season while Gabriella Durante stopped 26 shots in 57:29 of work in the loss.

The Dinos are on their game with highlights early in the season!

SATURDAY: UBC looked to capture another regulation win on Saturday to make a perfect, four-point weekend while the Dinos needed to respond with a win of their own to keep pace with teams in Canada West. UBC knows the importance of wins when it comes to playoff standings while beating the Canada West champions would also send a statement that the Dinos, under head coach Carla MacLeod, were going to be a different team this season. Kate Stuart, the former Boston University netminder, got the call for the Thunderbirds in this game while Gabriella Durante was looking for a bounce-back game after Friday's loss.

This game had a different feeling to it as the Dinos seemed to be intent on controlling puck possession to limit the chances that the T-Birds had. UBC was still going to get their chances, of course, but it seems like the Dinos were far more controlled in their pace and play wth puck retrievals being much better on this day. Aside from one power-play that UBC received, there was no other ink on the scoresheet for the first period as the teams remained tied at 0-0 with UBC holding a 10-7 edge in shots as we entered the second frame.

The ice had barely frozen before the first goal was scored. Elizabeth Lang's shot from the point was redirected in front by Sophia Zuck for Zuck's first Canada West goal as the Dinos were on the board just 38 seconds into the period! Zuck liked that first goal so much, she camped out in front of Stuart again and was set up by Sydney Mercier on a feed out front that Zuck banged home for her second goal at 9:50 to put the Dinos up 2-0! The Dinos would get themselves into a bit of penalty trouble, but come away unscathed as they carried the two-goal lead into the second intermission as they held a 21-20 edge in shots!

The third period saw the Thunderbirds needing goals, but Calgary stuck to their game plan as they looked confident. Not lost on this writer was the newly-minted Clarke-Kerley-Nafziger line as Kerley carried the puck down the right side before feeding Clarke at the left post for the easy tap-in as the Dinos extended their lead to three goals with 4:37 to play! That would be more than enough offence for Durante on this night as she closed the door on the Thunderbirds, recording the season's first shutout, as the Calgary Dinos beat the UBC Thunderbirds by that 3-0 score! Durante was brilliant on this night in pitching the 28-save shutout for her first win while Kate Stuart suffered the 27-save loss in her Canada West regular-season debut.

More highlights? You betcha! Calgary's got them!

FRIDAY: The last time that the Saskatchewan Huskies spent a weekend in Langley, BC, the Trinity Western Spartans won their first-ever Canada West game. Since then, the Huskies went on to be Canada West finalists after finishing in fifth-place and captured the U SPORTS National Championship bronze medal while TWU finished in ninth-place with just two wins to their name. In other words, a lot has changed since that historic first win, and both teams were seeking their first wins as they met once again in Langley. Camryn Drever was Saskatchewan's choice for their starting netminder while Mabel Maltais got the nod for the Spartans to start the season.

Saskatchewan added a number of solid offensive players this season, but Langley may just be the green-and-white's kryptonite as they couldn't find the back of the net in the opening frame despite having a pair of power-plays. Trinity Western had a power-play of their own, but the 0-0 score would stand tall after 20 minutes of play with the Spartans holding an 11-8 advantage in shots.

Mallory Dyer would break the stalemate 6:28 into the middle frame when her shot beat Mabel Maltais to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead, but the Spartans continued to push for an equalizer. They'd get one when a long shot on Drever late in the period trickled loose for Kyra MacDonald, the original shooter, that allowed her to sweep it into the yawning cage to tie the game at 1-1 at 18:22. Four penalties called on Trinity Western did slow the home team down, but it was 1-1 after 40 minutes with Saskatchewan holding a 23-17 edge in shots.

An early power-play in the third period was killed by Trinity Western before Saskatchewan negated a second power-play with a penalty of their own. A power-play for the Spartans was an opportunity missed as the 1-1 deadlock continued midway through the frame. We wouldn't see another lamp lit, in fact, until there was 1:08 remaining as Trinity Western held the blue line to keep the puck in before Jordyn Matthews fed McKenzie Mayo who teed up a shot high glove-side on a screened Camryn Drever for her first Canada West goal as Trinity Western took the 2-1 lead! 68 seconds later, there was celebrating to do as the Spartans opened their season with a 2-1 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies! Mabel Maltais was solid in stopping 29 shots for her first win of the season while Camryn Drever was on the losing end of a 24-save effort.

Trinity Western has this habit of only showing their own team's goals when they put together highlight packages, and it appears that trend will continue this season as Mallory Dyer's goal is not in the highlight package below. Highlight packages contain both teams, TWU, so let's correct this here and now before you play another home weekend series, mmmkay? At least they have some highlights, though.

SATURDAY: For the first time in their short Canada West history, the Trinity Western Spartans were above .500. Would we see them move to two games above .500? The Saskatchewan Huskies would have something to say about that as they looked to move back to .500 with a win in the second-half of this two-game set in southern BC. Colby Wilson was in the Huskies' net for this game while Kate Fawcett got the start for the Spartans to try to extend their winning ways!

The only problem? Nothing happened in the first period. No goals, no penalties, and no fights (thankfully). It was just shots and saves as we closed the period the same way we opened it at a 0-0 tie. Saskatchewan did hold an 8-7 lead in shots, though, so perhaps they could build on that?

Things appeared to be the same until we finally saw Trinity Western whistled for the first penalty of the game, and it didn't take long for Saskatchewan to make them pay. Ten seconds after Amy Potomak went to the sin bin, Kara Kondrat converted a Brooklyn Stevely pass into a power-play goal with her shot that beat Fawcett, and the Huskies had the 1-0 lead 7:57 into the middle period. Saskatchewan would get another power-play opportunity that was killed by the Spartans before the Spartans got a four-minute power-play thanks to a check to the head, but they too would come away empty-handed. One last power-play for the Huskies went with lighting a lamp, so the 1-0 lead was intact with the Huskies holding a 24-16 lead in shots.

Saskatchewan would get their legs going after an early infraction in the third period as Bronwyn Boucher found the back of the net at 5:28 to make it a 2-0 game for Saskatchewan, and that would become a three-goal lead at the 13:00 mark when Emily Holmes found room past Fawcett. It was a very Saksatchewan-like win in their efficiency and effectiveness as the Huskies earned the 3-0 victory over Trinity Western! Colby Wilson earned her first win and third career shutout with a 28-save clean sheet while Kate Fawcett stopped 28 shots in the loss.

In knowing that Trinity Western only posts highlights of their own goals, what do they do if the Spartans are blanked on home ice? They do nothing! Of course, that means there are no highlights whatsoever, so it was a light weekend of work for the TWU sports department.
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
Mount Royal
3 6 4
vs TWU
3 5 4
2 4 6
2 5 5
2 4 5
vs ALB
2 2 2
vs CAL
Trinity Western
2 2 4
2 5 5
vs MAN
0 0 0

The Last Word

There isn't much to say after one week of play. Some people will point to upsets between teams that were separated by a gap in points last season, but this happens every year. It takes time for teams to find chemistry and timing, and regular season games are played at a different level than preseason and exhibition games. The points still matter, mind you, but seeing all eight teams record points with no one getting blown out is a good sign.

We'll see how next week's slate of games go as the Regina Cougars watch the rest of the conference battle while the Fluffy Cows get their first action after watching the Thunderbirds hang the Canada West championship banner in their barn. Having teams play close games all season long would be ideal as the races for playoff spots will heat up, but there's very little by which one should be bothered this week while having a lot to celebrate after watching a pile of new additions to squads score their first Canada West goals and points. Congratulations to all those players!

Oh, and if you're asking who the Fluffy Cows are, the full explanation is here.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 1 October 2022


For those that aren't aware, Hollywood movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer is part of the majority co-owners of the NHL's Seattle Kraken. Bruckheimer made his fortunes making Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows such as the CSI franchise, the US version of The Amazing Race, Top Gun, Bad Boys, Beverly Hills Cop, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise where one can spot the legendary kraken in the second film of the franchise Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. If you notice, the list of movies above didn't contain the Dreamworks-produced Trolls animated movie because, simply, Jerry Bruckheimer had nothing to do with it. Today, however, the Kraken and one specific troll were smashed together in a way that not even the most ridiculous movie plot can explain or rationalize.

If you think of all the maritime imagery you've ever seen in your life, I would bet "troll" doesn't even make the cut. Whether it be pirates, fishermen, mermaids, fish, whales, starfish, octopi, Davy Jones himself, boats, seagulls, puffins, sharks, or any other creature tied to the sea, never have I imagined a troll being part of that set of images whether real or imagined.

In thinking about all those images, the Seattle Kraken introduced their first-ever mascot today, and it's... something.

That is Buoy, the new troll mascot for the Seattle Kraken, and, assuming you're like me, you're probably asking, "How on earth does the Kraken have a troll as a mascot?" Let's find out.

First, to the video they use to try and explain this troll.

One might need a little history lesson on this troll sculpture that the kids were sitting on at the end of the video. Known as the "Fremont Troll", "The Troll, or the "Troll Under the Bridge", it's an actual sculpture found at North 36th Street at Troll Avenue North, under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge sculpted by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead from Norwegian folklore. The troll holds a Volkswagen Beetle in its left hand as if it had just swiped it from the roadway above. It was sculpted as way to rehabilitate the area following Freemont's problem of homelessness, garbage dumping, and drug use in the area.

In short, it wasn't made for kids, it certainly doesn't get people excited, and it doesn't dance and skate. It is, however, a Seattle landmark as the mayor stated, so one out of four requirements for this new mascot was met. The sasquatch will remain with the Sonics.

According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, "The Kraken's mascot has been 18 months in planning and nearly launched after last Christmas. But the NHL schedule had been paused due to a COVID-19 resurgence, prompting the team to hold off."

If I'm doing the math, the Kraken have been planning a sea-troll as a mascot for 18 months, and they didn't bother to do any market testing or surveys about what the fans thought the mascot should be? How does one land on "troll" to represent the Kraken?

"There was a long list of names that we looked at," Lamont Buford, the Kraken's vice president of live entertainment and game presentation, told Baker. "We looked at the Seattle area, we looked at the water, we looked at our brand. And just like a buoy floating out on the water, it just happened to pop up and we stumbled on it."

That might be one of the worst rationalizations I've ever heard for a mascot, but, again, Buford touched on "the Seattle area" as one of the factors that led them to the troll. As Baker wrote, "[t]he team liked the way the name sounds when chanted, the troll links to Seattle pop culture and the mascot's approachable look."

I will admit that "Boo-Wee" as a chant might work well, but I don't know how often a crowd at a hockey game chants the mascot's name outside of Philadelphia where Gritty has taken on a life of his own outside of the team. I also can't deny that the troll itself feels more like it belongs on the live-action version of Trolls the movie than a hockey team, but that means that kids will likely gravitate towards it rather than fear it. That's the hallmark of a good mascot.

The random facts for Buoy include that he's a "sea-troll who lives in the caverns of Climate Pledge Arena", his "favorite meal is Shark with Maple Leaf seasoning", he "once jammed with Mudhoney at The Crocodile", and he "pays tribute to the deep sea creature with unique touch of magic in his hockey hair flow". If you're asking what that is, check his right ear where there's a tentacle growing from behind his ear. Buoy will wear jersey #0, and is also said to be a nephew of the Fremont Troll, but I honestly can't see any resemblance between the two trolls.

"I think fans want a mascot," Kraken chief marketing officer Katie Townsend said to Baker. "It's also great for us to have a brand ambassador who... can be a representative for our brand at hospitals, community visits, with our corporate partners."

The New York Rangers go back to being the lone NHL team without a mascot after the introduction of Buoy tonight. While I still question why a troll is the mascot for the Kraken, the Kraken have made it clear that Buoy has strong ties to the Seattle area. The next thing we should be prepared for is finding out who the person is that won right to have the best troll job in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 30 September 2022

The Art Of Negotiation?

It was announced last night on The Hockey Show, but it needs to be repeated here: UMFM will not be covering Bisons Sports events for this season. The door remains open for the future from what has been indicated, but there will be no live broadcasts or replays of events heard on UMFM airwaves this season. This may surprise a lot of people considering that UMFM was "the home for Bisons Sports" on your radio dial, but it would seem that a business partnership that had lasted for more than two decades couldn't be extended for another season or two after the two sides failed to reach an agreement for broadcasts this season and beyond.

It's hard not to be a little cynical about how the negotiations went based on some of the things reportedly said during the meetings between UMFM and Bisons Sports, but the end result is that Bisons Sports will air exclusive broadcasts on the Canada West TV subscription service only. If you are either unwilling or unable to subscribe to Canada West TV, your chances of watching and/or hearing Bisons Sports broadcasts for football and hockey drop to zero. There will be no other way to catch those games.

If you're asking how this could happen, you're not alone. It's hard to process this kind of information after UMFM has been part of U SPORTS National Championship events, legendary Canada West games, and historical moments of all kinds, but Bisons Sports made it clear during negotiations that they believe they can provide higher quality broadcasts than UMFM. As a broadcaster, it's hard to rationalize how a university athletics department can know more about broadcasting than a radio station, but that seems to be their stance on the matter.

Over July and August, meetings happened infrequently, but there were enough discussions for UMFM to make several concessions in order to have the framework for a broadcasting agreement by the end of August. With little time before the university sports seasons start, everyone involved with the UMFM side of things began to prepare for the football and hockey seasons with the UMFM general manager meeting with Bisons Sports one last time prior to the seasons starting for a production meeting about the broadcasts.

The only problem was that the production meeting involved zero production notes as Bisons Sports informed UMFM that they had shifted their stance on the agreement and had decided to produce the broadcasts on their own without UMFM's involvement. As a result of that decision, the opportunity for UMFM to carry games on its airwaves disappeared. That's how we arrived at where we stand today in having no games being aired on UMFM.

What's Next?

The most obvious change for me will be that I will no longer be a part of Bisons women's hockey broadcasts thanks to Bisons Sports' decision to continue to treat me as a criminal for criticizing the program via The Rundown on February 6, 2022. I will not apologize further for stating what was obvious to most observers last season, and my objective to offer informative and impartial information to readers about the nine Canada West programs will not be sacrificed for any reason. I try to stick to that principle of objectivity since nine teams' worth of players, parents, and fans could possibly read the recaps posted weekly.

And let me be clear: I'm not writing the recaps for page hits and UMFM doesn't subscribe to a radio ratings service, so there isn't a financial reward for me as any sort of motivation to be controversial. Instead, it's always been about, and always will be about, being informative and impartial. The colour of the jersey and the logo on the front doesn't matter to me. If you play well, I'll state that. Conversely, if you play poorly, that too will be said. You may not like that someone said or wrote something critical, but if your sport is played in front of fans who paid for tickets you're open to public criticism. If you don't like being criticized, listen to Ray Ferraro's famed advice: "play better".

The Fallout

In summary, due to their incredibly poor business ethics in failing to honour an agreement made in principle, Bisons Sports is dead to me. That means no more stories or facts shared about Bisons players nor will there be any features produced by me for use on the broadcasts since I'm no longer part of those broadcasts. You will not see another story about a current Bisons player or the team itself on this blog outside of The Rundown, and the effort given towards Manitoba on those recaps will be minimal at best. In fact, starting right now on this article, any reference to or about the Bisons on The Rundown will now be made by their new moniker, the "Fluffy Cows", as shown above, and nothing will change that moniker in the future.

Beyond that, The Hockey Show will devote a total of zero seconds of coverage for the Fluffy Cows until the end of time. That includes interviews with players and staff along with stories about the players and teams - none of it will be mentioned, discussed, or referenced. I'd advise you not to tune into the show expecting to hear about the local university men's and women's hockey teams. It simply will not happen.

For the record, alumni and former staff of the Fluffy Cows will certainly still be welcome, but anyone involved with either team - men's or women's hockey - from this date forward officially will never be given another breath on The Hockey Show. There will be no social media hits for the teams either. If the worst thing about being talked about is NOT being talked about, we're going to test that theory until the end of time.

For all other players and teams who want their stories told, nothing changes there. I'll be happy to promote your efforts, teams, schools, and anything else you want promoted. I'll still marvel over your highlights, skills, and talents, so expect to see the same coverage as before at the very least. That doesn't change.

The Last Word... Ever

If the Fluffy Cows feel that they can do better broadcasts than we can at UMFM, they're welcome to that opinion. I'm not here to tell them how to run their business and I wish them well in following this path, but having this writer's support is an all-or-nothing venture. If they feel that the free marketing we provided on UMFM and this blog was worth nothing, that's precisely the amount of free marketing I'll provide forever more: nothing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 29 September 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 523

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with an annual tradition that often proves that anything can happen as the Canada West Hockey Preview Show is upon us! For one night, we'll spare you of Hockey Canada's madness and other goofy NHL preseason chatter in order to focus on the western conference of U SPORTS hockey. With UBC raising a banner for women's hockey and Alberta raising yet another banner for men's hockey, can they replicate the success they had one season ago? We shall discuss!

With the Canada West Coach's Poll results revealed on Wednesday, Teebz and Jason will compare their own notes in determining placements to that of the coach's poll as the two hosts try to figure out who finishes where. The hosts will talk about who is playing where this season as recruiting classes were large for some programs, they examine preseason results to validate their beliefs, and they'll come up with placements for all nine teams in both men's and women's hockey as the nine Canada West schools look to add a National Championship banner to the rafters of their respective arenas. And just because we like to drop teasers, there will be a major announcement at some point during the show that may be of interest. It may not affect everyone, but it needs to be brought to everyone's attention. All of that will happen tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT so we hope you join us on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com!

If you live outside Winnipeg and want to listen, we have options! The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online so you cnn call in for the contest as well. 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 have a major announcement as well as breaking down the Canada West Conference for both men's and women's hockey as we try to figure out who will finish where based on recruiting classes, results seen this season, and departures from the programs on the annual Canada West Hockey Preview Show heard exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: September 29, 2022: Episode 523

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

An Expensive Mistake

There's no denying that mid-1990s Jaromir Jagr had some of the best hair in hockey history. Look at that glorious mane to the left! That's one of hockey's best mullets of all-time, and I'm not sure there's another that has even been close in recent memory. While we marvel at Jagr's flowing locks, I do want to point out that the jersey he is wearing is the original diagonal-name jersey that the Penguins wore in the 1990s. Easily identifiable by the robo-Penguin on the shoulder, the black jersey with "Pittsburgh" spelled out diagonally on the front was used by the team from 1992 until it was retired following the 1996-97 season. I have one of these jerseys in my closet, and it looks phenomenal with the customization as it just has that traditional black-and-yellow Penguins jersey from Lemieux-Jagr era. Toss in a solid mullet like Jagr's flow, and you're ready for a Penguins game.

Why I bring this up today was due to a recent viewing of a jersey being sold on a website. The image below is for the jersey that's up for sale, and I'm sure you'll notice there's a very significant difference between what Jagr is wearing above and what's shown below.
As you can quite clearly see, the numbers on Jagr's jersey at the top are yellow with the white outline - two-colour numbers as the pros say - while the jersey in question has the colour scheme reversed and in three-colour twill (white on black on yellow). Clearly, there's an error here, but the error made is actually a lot more expensive than you may think due to something you can't see immediately.

If you inspect the number closely, you'll see a design on the white portion of the number that looks like a series of V-shapes aligned closely together. This type of twill fabric is known as "arctic twill", and it was used by a handful of NHL teams during the 1990s to add another layer of depth to the numbers. Personally, I found it hardly noticeable whule watching from home or in the stands, but teams used it to catch the light a little more to make the numbers stand out. Was it effective? That part is debatable, but what isn't debatable is that the cost of arctic twill fabric was considerably more than the regular tackle twill we're used to seeing.

You may be asking how such an egregious error could be made, and I'm not sure myself. What I do know is that the Penguins' alternate jersey during this time, pictured to the left, used this fabric for its numbering and lettering, so it would appear someone got the wrong specific uniform font applied to the wrong jersey. Whoever walked away with this jersey with the wrong lettering also paid considerably more for the customization thanks to the arctic twill used for the numbers and letters, so mistake hurts twice in that the it's wrong and it was a larger hit to the pocketbook.

That part that makes me sad is that this is an original CCM jersey with all the proper tags and identifiers that has essentially been ruined because someone either choose the wrong font for the jersey or someone messed up and put the wrong font on the jersey. Finding original CCM jerseys of the diagonal-name Penguins jersey in what appears to be great condition is getting harder and harder, so seeing this one made virtually worthless hurts the jersey collector in me.

I can tell you I will not be buying this jersey. The error is one thing, and I completely get that a person who doesn't follow hockey closely may never know that this jersey was covered in wrong. That's part of the "caveat emptor" warning that Romans had, and it certainly applies to buying anything online. The second reason, though, makes it easier to dismiss this jersey outright, and that's the asking price.

That's a ton of dough to buy someone's mistake, and it simply would not be worth the effort to correct that error. Personally, the person selling this jersey should be embarrassed, so don't fall into his or her trap and spend your money on someone's expensive mistake. This jersey should remain available until the end of time thanks to the cost and the error.

Caveat emptor as always, folks!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Read The Room

No one will ever accuse hockey people of being smart, especially if one is involved in men's hockey. We've seen and heard a number of jaw-dropping statements from Hockey Canada over the last few months about the sexual assault scandal the organizations finds itself embroiled in, so you'd think that other organizations would learn from the landmines set off by Hockey Canada. MoDo, playing in the SHL, Sweden's top hockey league, should be one of those organizations, but there may be a lot of questions about their moral standing after they released a statement today about a player under contract with the team.

Unbeknownst to them at the time, MoDo signed a player this summer for their junior program who had been charged with sexual abuse. MoDo CEO Johan Widebro said on August 31, "Unfortunately, we had not been aware of the situation before, but we received information about this on Wednesday. We of course take the situation very seriously and are now taking the necessary measures."

The only measure that MoDo took, it seems, was "to suspend the player in question from training and matches until further notice" which seems like the very least that MoDo could do. Earlier today, HockeySverige.se reported that "[o]n Tuesday, MoDo announced that the player has now been convicted of sexual assault in the district court. According to Örnsköldsvik's Allehanda, the junior player must serve 110 hours of youth service and also pay SEK 25,000 to the plaintiff."

Charged and convicted seems like a clear message for MoDo to distance themselves from this player, but Widebro spoke again today about the situation, stating, "If the judgment becomes final, we will break the contract with the player."

Let me be clear here: read the room, MoDo. Your player was charged and convicted by a court, so terminate the contract. Regardless of whether or not an appeal is filed, the fact that the organization is willing to stand by a player convicted of sexual abuse doesn't cast MoDo in a great light. I don't care if this player is the next Peter Forsberg or a long-lost Sedin sibling - he's guilty of a heinous crime, so do the right thing and just end the contract with prejudice.

You would think that MoDo's CEO would be up-to-date with the Hockey Canada ordeal, but it seems hockey is learning nothing about how to change the culture and be better. For an organization with a prominent women's program at both the junior and senior levels, you would think MoDo would do a better job in believing their own statement they issued on August 31 that read, "MoDo Hockey would like to emphasize that the club distances itself from all forms of harassment, bullying, violations and special treatment."

I guess this is another "do as I say, not as I do" situation because it sure seems like this convicted junior player is receiving some special treatment regarding a serious criminal violation in having his contract protected by MoDo. Sweden's laws are some of the stringent on the planet regarding sexual assualt and sexual abuse, so the chances of having this conviction overturned seems very unlikely. It could happen, but I can't see it happening.

Read the freaking room, MoDo, and do the right thing in this case.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 26 September 2022

New Cities Emerge

You may be aware that the IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship is played in Europe. It makes sense for this as most of the teams are from Europe, but also because most NHL rinks are in use during the month of May for a variety of things including the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since the IIHF likes to announce host cities well ahead of their time of hosting the event, having question marks about where teams will play wouldn't work well when it comes to rinks and hotels. Because of these reasons, having the tournament in Europe works best, and it seems to do very well in traditional hockey markets like Stockholm, Berlin, Prague, and Helsinki. The only problem with those cities is that they have a deeper history with hockey whereas the IIHF should be looking elsewhere to continue to grow and strengthen the game in countries who are emerging on the international stage.

The 2027 IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship doesn't have a host city yet, but there are three countries who have applied to host the tournament in Germany, Kazakhstan, and Norway. Each of the countries who has applied has its strengths and drawbacks when one considers the applications, but let's take a look at which country may have the best shot at hosting from this writer's perspective.

As per the IIHF's release, it would seem that Germany is applying without releasing which cities would actually host the event. The IIHF's Martin Merk writes,
"Germany applies for the 2027 edition with venues to be announced later following the end of the national bidding process. Germany hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship eight times since 1930. Most recently Germany hosted in 2017 in Cologne together with the French capital of Paris. The last time Germany hosted the event alone was in 2010 when games took place in Cologne and Mannheim, with the opening game in the football stadium of Gelsenkirchen that at that time set a world-record attendance for an ice hockey game."
Ok, so Deutschland has held the event twice in the last fifteen years which is more than both Kazakhstan and Norway combined. I'll give Germany credit in that they have amazing venues - Berlin's Mercedes-Benz Arena was built in 2008 and seats 17,000 people while Hamburg's Barclays Arena was built in 2002 and holds 16,000 people - and Germany is central for a number of nations who may be playing in the 2027 World Championship. Certainly, this application should be considered, but I'm not sure it's the best place for the 2027 edition of the tournament.

Merk chimes in on Kazakhstan's application, writing,
"Kazakhstan has never hosted a top-level IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship before but has two large facilities in its bid with the 11,400-seat Barys Arena in Astana and the 12,500-seat Almaty Arena in Almaty. The Barys Arena is home to KHL team Barys Astana and hosted the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A. At that event, the Kazakh team earned promotion to the top division and has stayed there ever since. The Almaty Arena was opened for the 2017 Winter Universiade, where they hosted the ice hockey tournaments."
The Kazakhstan application is an interesting one considering they have a brand-new facility in Almaty, they have hosted a couple of major tournaments successfully, and they have a team that is showing some mettle on the international stage. The venues aren't as large as those in Germany, but that shouldn't sway the IIHF. What may sway them, though, is that Kazakhstan isn't exactly the easiest country to visit at the moments thanks to Russia's stupidity in Ukraine. That might be the biggest drawback for Kazakhstan in hosting the 2027 version of the annual tournament.

Perhaps the most interesting of the three applicants is the one from Norway as the Norwegians seem to love their hockey despite never being seen as a hockey nation. Merk writes,
"Norway is aiming for its third top-level IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice after hosting in Oslo in 1958 and in Lillehammer, Oslo and Hamar in 1999. The 2027 bid is planned in new locations and facilities. The Norwegian Ice Hockey Association is working on the details of the bid with Baerum and Trondheim as cities. In Baerum outside of Oslo, the Telenor Arena, an indoor football stadium, could be converted into a 14,000-seat ice arena. In Trondheim, the 8,600-seat Trondheim Spektrum was built in 2019 on the site of an old sports hall."
I find Norway's application to be the one that appeals the most due to a couple of factors: time since last hosting an IIHF event and the introduction of the game into new locations that will have new facilities. Beyond that, Norway is a country whose women's team is starting to make moves in the international scene, but they need some reinforcements. While the men have made appearances at both the Olympics and the World Championships, the Norwegians need a push for both programs.

Norway, as per the IIHF, has 10,270 players registered for hockey with just 1360 of those players being women. Take nothing away from the players who are already enrolled and playing because they're doing their best, but it's hard to compete when places like Japan, Switzerland, France, and Germany have a bigger pool from whom they can choose. Great Britain's female enrolment isn't as high as Norway's is, but their total registration is higher which may explain why their men's team has seen more success recently than the Norwegians have. If the IIHF is going to gorw the game, this would be a good start.

You may see that Norway had better registration numbers overall and, specifically, in the women's game than Kazakhstan, but there a likely a number of other factors that contribute to those numbers - socioeconomics, culture, and weather, for example - that the IIHF nor the local hockey governing bodies can control. For a nothern country like Norway to be comparative in its numbers to that of neighbouring Sweden and Finland or similarly-populated Denmark, it needs to really grow its game. The IIHF exposing the game to more people there may help.

Oslo, Norway sits at or about the same line of latitude as Stockholm, Sweden, yet Norway has 49 outdoor rinks and just three indoor rinks to Sweden's 363 outdoor rinks and 34 indoor rinks. Again, Sweden is a hockey nation which no one is denying, but Norway could easily be one as well if they simply had the facilities to teach and play the game. Exposure to the game at a high level will help, but the IIHF could wield its power in bringing its resources to the Norwegian people and the Norwegian Ice Hockey Association at the same. This attacks the problem from both ends of the spectrum as it may increase enrolment, but also gives the Norwegian Ice Hockey Association additional tools to attract people to the sport.

You may disagree with me on this one, but I really hope the IIHF chooses Norway's application to host the 2027 IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship. There's a chance to really improve the game within Norway's borders both in numbers and level of play, but the IIHF has to show that it's willing to make that effort. We know the Kazakhstan team and the German team are flirting with being regulars on the top international stages in both the men's and women's game, so the IIHF should be looking to make that push with new countries now.

If you're asking, the 2023 tournament will be split between Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia from May 12-28, 2023. Following that, the IIHF makes stops with the Men's World Hockey Championship in Prague and Ostrava, Czechia in 2024, Stockholm, Sweden and Herning, Denmark in 2025, and Zurich and Fribourg, Switzerland in 2026. They'll likely see good crowds in those cities and venues for the action, but the game needs to reach further than the same six countries who always seem to host the tournament.

Do the right thing and invest in Norway, IIHF. You have a heckuvan opportunity with this application to make real inroads with the Norwegian people, so take the first step and award Norway the 2027 IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship. If you plant the seed today, you may be amazed with how quickly it grows into something incredible.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Canada West Alumni Update

Being that it's hockey season once again and that I do a weekly recap on all things Canada West right here in this space on this day as that season progresses, I figured it might be time to start practicing that effort once again. There are preseason games being played in Canada West right now that matter zero in the grand scheme of things, but there are great efforts being seen in professional leagues - specifically the SDHL - right now by former Canada West players. It was an honour to watch them skate in Canada West and I'm still blown away by their skills at the professional level, so I plan on keeping tabs on these players all season long whether they play in the SDHL, PWHPA, or the PHF.

This would be a good time to remind everyone that The Hockey Show will run its annual Canada West Preview Show for both men's and women's hockey this Thursday where Jason, myself, and possibly a guest will give our thoughts on how the nine respective teams will do for the upcoming season. Like any predictions made on the show, nothing is guaranteed, we're likely more wrong than right, and our money-back guarantee is always in place for listening. It should be a fun chat, though, so tune in for that if you're interested in our thoughts and a big announcement!

All that aside, there were games played in Sweden this week where a number of Canada West players and a coach were involved. Let's take a quick peek at those alumni!

Former Saskatchewan Huskies forward Danielle Stone has yet to dress this season for HV71. The team pushes on without her, though, as HV71 defeated SDE in a shootout by a 5-4 score on Saturday before dropping a 3-1 decision to AIK on Sunday. As it stands, HV71 sits in eighth-place with four points off an 0-2-2-0 record. They'll visit Djurgårdens next Sunday.

Leksands was in tough against perennial powerhouse Lulea/MSSK on Saturday, and the 4-0 final in favour of Lulea reflected that disparity between the two teams. As a result, former Mount Royal Cougars forward Anna Purschke was still looking for her first point while former MRU Cougars coach Jordan Colliton was still seeking her first win. Sunday saw Leksands hosting MoDo, but a late goal in overtime sunk Leksands once more as Modo prevailed by a 2-1 score.

Purschke wasn't in on the Leksands goal in this game, so she still seeks her first professional point. Leksands sits in ninth-place with an 0-1-0-2 record with two points, but they won't play again until October 8 when they host Linköping as both Purschke and Colliton look to earn that elusive first win of their professional careers!

MoDo was visiting Brynäs on Saturday, and it didn't seem to go well for the ladies from Örnsköldsvik as Brynäs hung a 4-0 loss on them thanks, in part, to former MoDo netminder Klara Peslarova pitching a shutout for her new team. MoDo would bounce back as they visited Leksands on Sunday, and that late overtime goal scored by MoDo was tallied by former Regina Cougars sniper Jaycee Magwood!

Magwood's second of the season would allow her to remain at the top of the scoring leaderboard as her two goals and five assists is tops in the SDHL! MoDo, meanwhile, is in a five-way tie for second-place with six points, but they own a 1-1-1-1 record on the season. MoDo visits SDE in their next action on October 1.

SDE has a pile of Canada West alumni playing, and a few were involved in the 5-4 shootout loss suffered at the hands of visiting HV71 on Saturday. Former UBC Thunderbirds forward Hannah Clayton-Carroll had a pair of goals to give her four on the season while former UBC Thunderbirds forward Mathea Fischer picked up an assist on Clayton-Carroll's fourth goal. Lindsey Post was in net for this game as she drops the skills competition decision despite making 27 stops on the night.

Sunday's game also needed extra time as SDE welcomed Göteborg to town, and it would be Mathea Fischer who would shine in this game as her power-play marker in overtime sealed the 2-1 victory for SDE!

The results of the weekend saw Hannah Clayton-Carroll move into second-place in goal-scoring in the SDHL with her four goals, two back of leader Emma Nordin of Lulea/MSSK. Clayton-Carroll also sits two points back of Jaycee Magwood in overall scoring as she's tied for third-place in the SDHL with five points. Lindsey Post moves to 1-0-1 on the season with a 2.40 GAA and a .914 save percentage in her two appearances. SDE is one of those five teams tied for second-place with six point as they own a 1-1-1-1 record. SDE will play in Brynäs on Wednesday before hosting MoDo next Saturday on October 1.

For those wondering, I had made a comment last week about how Mathea Fischer didn't receive credit for two assists she clearly made on Wednesday when SDE defeated Djurgårdens by a 2-1. Well, I'm happy to report that the SDHL went back and looked at the video evidence. As a result, Fischer was credited with two assists in that game she previously hadn't been, and she now sits with four points on the season!

There's a quick update on who did what in the SDHL with respect to Canada West alumni. I'll keep an eye on the action over in Sweden to see what's happening where and who is making Canada West and their former programs proud. All of these women deserve some of your time, though, so make some time to watch the SDHL!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!