Saturday 30 April 2022

The Field Is Set

With the NHL regular season coming to a close by tomorrow, there aren't any other surprises or comebacks that teams can make. The sixteens teams who will compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been set, and the matchups are known as those sixteen teams prepare to take the ice starting on Monday. There may be upsets, there will be victories, and there likely will be a surprise or two along the way, but having sixteen teams set to engage in the postseason also means that the Survivor: NHL Playoffs field is set as the sixteen listeners of The Hockey Show now know who stands in their paths when it comes to fame and glory!

Ok, so there isn't that much fame nor glory to be had, but we do have a few prizes to award our entrants starting on Monday. Who matches up against whom? Here's the field as it stands.

We'll have a full discussion of the matchups this week on The Hockey Show, but the good news is that there will be no exit interviews this week. That means that everyone is eligible for prizes thanks to the challenges that we've presented, and we'll keep an eye on who wins those challenges.

Just as a note, the "first" to do something will be the team/player who does it first chronologically. If the LA Kings post a shutout the same night as, say, the New York Rangers, it's very likely the Rangers won that challenge simply due to time zones. There's nothing we can do to change this, so be aware that we're going to watching clocks when it comes to prizing as well.

With the field set and knowing who is competing against whom, start getting your exit interviews ready. Take notes, watch games, read recaps, and figure out who helped your team succeed and who may have contributed to the losses. More than anything, though, let's have some fun with this as everyone has a shot at winning a prize. One of the sixteen teams shown above will win the Stanley Cup, and the one person who selected that team will be the "ultimate survivor" in the 2022 Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest on The Hockey Show!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 29 April 2022

Leaving The Pack

When travelling through deep snow, packs of wolves will travel in single file in order to conserve energy as the lead wolf cuts a path through the snow for the rest of the pack to follow. While some believe that the first three wolves at the front of the pack are the old or sick with them setting the pace, this is nothing more than a myth when it comes to how wolfpacks move, and it makes more sense to have stronger, fitter wolves at the front to meet any threats head-on as opposed to being back of those who would require assistance. In knowing this, one of the strongest wolves had her announcement made today as Saskatchewan Huskies forward Abby Shirley has decided that she's moving on from the game, and the Huskies women's hockey program loses a key player from their pack.

Abby Shirley was a force to be reckoned with on the ice as the 22 year-old dynamo was in the middle of every scrum, usually emerging with the puck for a quality scoring chance. She was usually a blur along the wing as the fourth-year forward could fly down the ice, and her speed helped her remain defensively responsible in the Huskies' scheme. She was coachable, she always seemed to be smiling no matter what the situation was that she found herself in, and she was a good teammate who helped the younger players while being a key contributor as a veteran player. Losing Shirley, who has one year of eligibility remaining, leaves a large hole on the Saskatchewan roster for next season after getting her degree and opting to move on.

It's hard to nail down just one or two things that Shirley does well. Her hat trick in Game One against the Bisons this season in the opening round of the Canada West Playoffs w is proof that she can fill the net, but she's so much more than that as she's a fierce forechecker, she plays extremely well in her own zone, she has soft hands when it comes to shooting and passing, and she is exceptionally strong on her skates. She had five goals and four assists in 18 appearances this season, finishing her four seasons with 17 goals and 20 assists in 91 contests while helping Saskatchewan to a pair of National Championship appearances where they finished in fourth- and third-place.

While there are candidates on the Saskatchewan roster who can step in and take Shirley's spot, I'm not sure the Huskies will ever have another Abby Shirley skating for them. Losing her and Bailee Bourassa in this offseason means a large chunk of the Huskies' offence will need to be replaced, and there will be a leadership void for a few weeks before someone steps up to claim those opportunities. No one is asking anyone to replicate what Shirley did (nor Bourassa for that matter), but the Huskies will have to find someone who can wear letters while hoping that those players can turn excellent leaders and solid, well-rounded players like Shirley and Bourassa.

It's always hard to see good players leave before they fulfill the full amount of eligibility available to them, but I can't deny that life moves on and time waits for no one. Abby Shirley is taking the plunge into the next chapter of her life, and there's no fault in her doing that. It just sucks to see that her time on Canada West ice is coming to a close so soon when we lost a full year to the pandemic. I have no doubt that Shirley has made the decision for her, though, and that's the most important part of this equation.

I wish nothing but the best for Abby Shirley as she begins the next chapter of her life away from Canada West hockey. She's going to be successful in whatever she does no matter where she lands because she's just a good person, and I've always found it hard to cheer against good people. She may be out on her own now, Abby Shirley is one lone wolf who will never walk alone thanks to the impact she had on her teammates, her coaches, and the city of Saskatoon who embraced her as a player and eventually became one of their own.

All the best, Abby. I hope this isn't the last time we see you dominating on the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 28 April 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 501

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is on the road tonight as we're down at BellMTS Iceplex for the 2022 Female World Sport School Challenge! A handful of games will have already been played by the time we go to air with the show, but we had a chance to sit down with the three graduatating players from the host St. Mary's Academy Flames as well as their head coach! It's always nice to get a chance to chat with the people who are driving this great tournament, and the Flames certainly have been gracious hosts over the decade that this tournament has run. We find out about the ladies who are moving on to bigger and better things after they compete this weekend!

We had some audio issues on tonight's recording that led to Jenna's headset microphone not working and one of the players having her sound greatly reduced. Because of that, it sounds like it was just Teebz doing the interview, but Jenna was certainly there as we met Presleigh Giesbrecht, Reese Chuback, and Tyla Turnbull of the St. Mary's Academy Flames! These three graduating players are all moving on to post-secondary opportunities, so we'll hear about those along with finding out how their CSSHL seasons went, some career highlights for them, getting ready for the 2022 Female World Sport School Challenge, and more! The ladies did have to get going prior to the end of the show, though, so head coach Larry Bumstead stepped in to finish off the show in their place! We chat about the growth of the tournament, the return of the tournment, Larry's prediction on where the Flames will finish, and a few other things! It's a busy show meeting Presleigh, Reese, Tyla, and Larry, so make sure you have your radio and phone at your fingertips at 5:30pm CT so you can hear The Hockey Show on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via!

If you live outside Winnipeg and want to participate, have no fear! 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! 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 chat with Presleigh Giesbrecht, Reese Chuback, Tyla Turnbull, and Larry Bumstead of the St. Mary's Academy Flames about their careers, where they're heading next, stats, growth, results, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: April 28, 2022: Episode 501

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Settling In For Hockey

The NHL might be kicking its post-season drive into high gear with the final few games of the season being played over the next few days, but I've been waiting for another tournament to start since it was announced. The 2022 Female World Sport School Challenge begins tomorrow and UMFM will be there to cover the event while calling the games on the UMFM Second Stream. Admittedly, we can't call all of them as we simply don't have that kind of broadcast power, but we'll have a pile of games on the UMFM Second Stream all weekend long including the gold medal game on Sunday morning! If you're looking for some great women's hockey action, BellMTS Iceplex is the place to be, but UMFM will bring all the action to those who can't be there!

It's going to be a busy few days from Thursday through to Sunday, so here are the games you'll hear on UMFM's Second Stream. Please note that all times are in Central Time, so adjust accordingly for your listening needs!
As you may notice, Thursday night shows the only game where we're supposed to potentially move to a different rink to call a game. This isn't set in stone at this time due to a few logistics, so the Flynn Arena game on Thursday between St. Mary's Academy and the Southern Alberta Hockey Academy may not be broadcast on UMFM. Finding a spot for a radio broadcast in a rink that wasn't meant for media broadcasts is the challenge we face there.

If you're coming down to BellMTS Iceplex to watch games, I highly recommend puchasing the tournament pass for $20. That will get you into any rink during the entire event, and it a far better deal than the $5-per-game entry that is being charged. Make it worth your while by getting the tournament pass and come to one game per day. It will pay for itself that way, and Sunday's gold medal game is part of the deal!

It should also be noted that the Friday night game at 8:15pm between St. Mary's Academy and Pembina Valley is the featured game where the sponsors and the supporters of this tournament are recognized. There's a full ceremony done before the game that includes the singing of the national anthem, and this game will see a fairly large crowd on-hand as St. Mary's Academy invites all of its students and faculty to the game. I would imagine that Pembina Valley will have their fans there as well, so we should have a loud and boisterous crowd to cheer on the teams on Friday night! This might be one of the games you don't want to miss!

Beyond that, UMFM will have a crew there who knows a thing or two about hockey. I've committed through the whole weekend once again, so my voice will be heard. Friday night will see Bisons men's hockey play-by-play broadcaster Jason Pchajek jump into the fray as he'll be on the microphone for that featured game between St. Mary's and Pembina Valley, and Jenna Thompson will make appearances throughout the weekend to add her perspective to the broadcasts! There may be other guests who stop by as well, so make sure you're listening to see who is chatting on the air!

For everyone who wants to see a professional women's hockey league in Canada, this is where the women who will fill out those rosters play. They all start somewhere, and this tournament has names that we'll likely hear for years to come as they move on to the next level of hockey in the NCAA or U SPORTS. If you enjoy watching the Canadian national women's team play, there's a good chance that one of the women who will make that roster in the next decade is playing at this tournament. Come and support them today so you can be one of those people who says, "I saw her play when she was still playing prep hockey!"

It should be another amazing weekend of hockey in Winnipeg at the 2022 Female World Sport School Challenge. I'm looking forward to working with the great crew of volunteers, the amazing staff, and all the players and coaches at the event while bringing you the action on the ice. HBIC will be using this space to keep everyone up to date on the action as well, so make sure you check back here for updates and information as to what's happening at the tournament!

We'll be on the air tomorrow around 1:30pm, so tune in then!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 26 April 2022

The White Bears?

I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole today when I was searching for some trademark information. Trademarks are an interesting thing in that they can be abandoned or expire, allowing others to potentially purchase the trademark and use it for their own purpose. There's usually some legal maneuvering required as those who owned the trademarks are normally less than enthusiastic to let someone else capitalize on the trademark they didn't renew. I'm not a trademark or intellectual property lawyer in any way, shape, or form, but the bear shown above was almost Minnesota's NHL icon!

Before we go any further, we need to dive into a little Minnesota history because you're probably thinking, "I don't recall many bears in Minnesota," but there is a city named White Bear Lake primarily in Ramsey County just to the northeast of Minneapolis that sits on a lake of the same name. Usually, city names will reflect something about the area, so perhaps this "white bear" phenomenon in Minnesota isn't too far-fetched.

Polar bears, as we know, are white bears, but the chances of seeing a polar bear further south than the Arctic circle are rare. We can discount the idea that polar bears once roamed Minnesota, but there is another apex predator from the Ursus family that stretched across the prairies and into the Rockies before their habitat was greatly reduced. That would be the grizzly bear whose range can be as large as 600 square miles, and they historically had a range that would take them right near, if not into, the Minnesota borders. With fur that can be as white as snow through rare genetic variations, the colours of a grizzly bear's fur could be mistaken for a number of colours including gray, yellow, and the aforementioned white.

There is a story on a historic marker in White Bear Lake that speaks of the legend of an Indigenous brave who rescued a maiden from a fierce white bear, so there has to be some sort of truth built into the legend, right? According to linked article written by Jackie Bussjaeger in the White Bear Press,
"St. Paul historian Fletcher Williams, who was the director of the Minnesota Historical Society in the 1870s, had conducted many oral history interviews. One of his interviews revealed that the Dakota word 'mahto' today translates as 'white bear,' but in an older form of the language, it means 'grizzly bear.' The journals of Lewis and Clark confirm that Dakota and Lakota people referred to grizzlies as 'big white bears.'"
The rest of Miss Bussjaeger's article speculates on other legends about bears, but it would seem that the Dakotan word's meaning for "grizzly bear" would make the most sense in terms of the evolution of the word to mean "big white bear". Being that I'm not a native Minnesotan, I honestly don't know how well-known the white bear legend is in Minnesota, but it seemed to be fairly popular when the expansion Minnesota NHL franchise was to be named!

During the process of selecting the team name, the fans were invited to submit names for the team back in 1997. While the sting of losing the North Stars still made fans in Minnesota a litte unhappy as they wanted "their team" back, Minnesotans were looking to embrace their expansion franchise in a big way. As a result the names that were submitted saw the various name suggestions pared down to six finalists: Freeze, Northern Lights, Blue Ox, White Bears, Voyageurs, and Wild. On January 22, 1998, the team was officially christened as the "Minnesota Wild", but one other name appears that it was nearly the choice of the franchise based on what was trademarked in 1997!

According to the information on October 7, 1997, the Minnesota Wild Hockey Club, Inc. filed a trademark application for the word mark "White Bears" on October 7, 1997 - more than two months before they announced that "Wild" would be the team name. Of the five names that were dismissed in favour of "Wild", only "White Bears" had a trademark filed for it. Could we have truly seen the Minnesota White Bears take the ice in the NHL?

Glen Andresen's article on the Minnesota Wild website seems to indicate that that reality could have played out on January 22, 1998!
"Before that night, the 'Wild' nickname hadn't existed. Majka, and a small group of Minnesota Hockey Ventures Group employees were led by branding consultant Corky Hall in a lengthy process of picking the nickname. From over 13,000 submissions (which, back then, came in the form of emails, letters and faxes) from Minnesota hockey fans, there was a lot of clamoring to resurrect the North Stars nickname. A trademark issue with the NHL made that an impossibility, so Majka and his group arrived at six finalists 'that had potential': Freeze, Northern Lights, Blue Ox, White Bears, Voyageurs and Wild."
If Wild wasn't the top name of the six finalists, it appeared that one of the other five would have been the top pick. And which was the only one to have a trademark filed by the hockey club? If you read the previous paragraph, you know it was "White Bears". Logic would dictate that one would only trademark a name that one intends to use, so it appears that the Minnesota White Bears were closer to being real than not!

Andresen's article goes on to clarify how Wild was selected when Minnesota Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka told Andresen, "It was a bit of a 'pick em' situation as we got to the end. We liked the marketing potential of 'Wild', so we went with it."

The rest, as they say, is history, but we're not done here. Glen Andresen's article also included mock-ups of the other names that didn't make the cut as designed by a Minneapolis Creative agency called Shinebox. Here's what they came up with for each name.
The Blue Ox in the upper-left leave me wanting a little more from the design as it feels like there's a lot of white space there. The Voyageurs in the middle feel as though the Los Angeles Kings got tangled up with the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms. The Northern Lights in the upper-right apparently were designed as Hypercolor jerseys (if you remember that trends from the 1990s) that changed colours as one's body warmed up or got colder. The Freeze in the lower-left feel more like a promotional jersey with a rather disappointing logo than an everyday jersey.

Those White Bears jerseys, though, are a thing of beauty. The description posted by Andresen reads,
"If you wanted a more traditional nickname, then it would have been the Minnesota White Bears. As Marty Havlat shows, the colors would have been anything but traditional. A cream color is mixed with an Atlantic blue. The logo is rather simple, but also very classic."
I love this colour scheme, although I'd push more for the cream colour featured on the Minnesota All-Star Game jerseys than the shade used by Shinebox. That being said, the Atlantic blue works well, the striping and colour blocks work nicely, and the aesthetic is pleasing. My only quibble? The WHITE BEARS should probably be WHITE at home. Call me crazy, but that just makes more sense.

In any case, the Wild are who they are despite them seemingly being close to being the White Bears. It's always interesting to hear what could have been had things gone a little differently, so hearing that we almost had the Minnesota White Bears invade the NHL doesn't seem as crazy as, say, the Minnesota town of Proctor - population: 3072 - seriously giving thought to adding its name as an NHL expansion city in 2015.

I'll just end this article with that Proctor fact. And white bears.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 25 April 2022

Quality Control Lawsuit

Since the NHL sold its soul to the Adidas corporation, I have long complained about the quality of the jerseys made by the German-based, worldwide sports equipment and merchandise producer. While they forced stupid marketing buzzwords down our throats since they put the Reebok logo on the back of the jerseys, the actual quality of the jerseys has suffered since leaving the watchful eye of CCM and its various companies. The quality control issues that Adidas has had for years, though, may come to a head later this year when a lawsuit in Florida forces Adidas to make changes.

Adidas is being forced to defend itself in a false advertising lawsuit based in Florida that alleges that the sportswear company "knowingly misrepresented what it constitutes as 'authentic' apparel, specifically as it relates to the quality of NHL jerseys." The lawsuit is challenging the term "authentic" as it claims Adidas has used "omissions, ambiguities, half-truths, [and] deceptive representations" to push jerseys as "authentic" despite them being anything but authentic, on-ice versions of the jerseys.

If you've worn a Fanatics-branded NHL jersey, you know that it feels like you're wearing a paper bag thanks to the poor quality of the design. In this writer's opinion, Fanatics, which holds the NHL licensing until 2032, has lowered the quality of hockey jerseys to a point where the shoddy craftsmanship used to make the jerseys should almost be considered counterfeit. Poor-quality silk screening of features and poorly gluing logos onto fabric is anything but "quality manufacturing".

AJ Strong of TealTownUSA wrote an incredible piece back in 2019 about the horrific products that Fanatics is selling, and I agree with every word he published about the lack of creativity, the complete unprofessionalism in the quality, and the overall disappointment that comes from any and all gear with the Fanatics logo on it. And just as Margot Robbie taught us about subprime loans in Adam McKay's The Big Short, "Whenever you hear the word Fanatics, think sh*t." The same advice holds true.

Because Adidas split the market into three different types of jerseys from the two that CCM had held true to for so long, terms and information were no longer clear as to what kind of jersey people were selling on the secondary markets. For those collecting gameworn jerseys and authentic, on-ice jerseys, one had to know what to look for in jersey's details in order to accurately purchase what they wanted.

The new slice into the market was the "official" jersey which had a number of the same features to the naked eye, but could only be truly distinguished in a more thorough examination. The dimpled shoulders, for example, look somewhat similar, but they are built entirely differently in that the authentic jersey has real dimples that are pressed in whereas the official jersey (retail, not on-ice) has two layers of fabric with the top layer having holes cut out to mimic dimples. For those buying jerseys, being able to see the shoulders up close would help to determine if the jersey was truly authentic or simply a mid-level retail jersey.

There are a few other details that differentiate between the authentic and retail jerseys, but let me be clear in saying that no one would ever confuse a Fanatics jersey of being "authentic" in any way. Remember Margot Robbie's words.

According to the lawsuit,
"The plaintiff asserts the differences between Adidas jerseys one can purchase online and those worn by NHL players lies in the material, stitching, and construction of the jerseys themselves. Mainly, the supposedly authentic jerseys are thinner, more fragile, and tighter than those worn by the pros."
Being that I own a number of authentic jerseys, I can certainly attest that a CCM jersey showing size 56 fits far better than the spandex-like size 56 marketed by both Reebok and Adidas. The Reebok authentic jersey also feels far less sturdy than that of the CCM models, and the CCM models feel more like a hockey sweater than the wetsuit-like clinging of the Reebok authentic jersey.

If this lawsuit forces Adidas to adopt a more traditional hockey sweater template, I'm all for it. If nothing else, though, challenging the quality of the jerseys sold as authentic, on-ice gear should hopefully force Adidas into producing something of decent quality once again. What CCM was producing in the early 2000s was perfect for the game of hockey. It wasn't broken in any way, so there was no need to change it despite all the rhetoric and buzzwords used by Reebok and Adidas.

At the end of the day, I'm hoping this lawsuit can restore some sanity to the merchandise world of hockey because the jerseys play such a big part in our being fans of the game.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 24 April 2022

Better Than Apple

While I'm not a cat like the pictured Stimpson J. Cat from The Ren & Stimpy Show, I was busy working on some electronic repairs this evening. After having bumped a table that caused my iPad to take an unplanned tumble, I was left with rather intricate shatter patterns on the display glass. A phone to call to the Apple Store proved useless as they said they wouldn't repair it due to the age of the iPad, so I opted to put my technological skills to the test by choosing to replace the broken glass myself. My order for one replacement glass screen arrived on Friday, and I set about to fix my iPad so it worked like new once again. And let me say right now: this is not a hockey-related blog aside from a few lines at the end.

The first step was removing the broken glass screen, and that actually was a lot easier than I thought it would be thanks to a common hair dryer. By heating the edges of the iPad, the glue used to affix the glass in place came off quite easily. From there, four screws to securing the LED screen were removed, and the two most important pieces of any tablet were now only connected via their ribbon cables.

I don't know what it is about Apple, but they must enjoy sadism because the atom-sized screws they used to hold the battery cover in place were quite annoying. After removing about 300 of them, the battery shield came off to expose the battery and all the electronic pieces protected by the metal casing. Three more atom-sized screws were removed from where the ribbon cables were hidden, and the connections were exposed to allow me to slide the glass screen's ribbon case out of its connector.

Because the LED screen's ribbon cable sat atop the connector for the glass screen, I removed the LED screen's ribbon cable for better access. After connecting the new glass screen and the LED screen, it was simply replacing the covers and the microscopic screws one by one. With the LED screen secured once again, I pulled the backing off the glue on the glass screen, and applied pressure down. A quick reboot of the iPad brought it back up to the unlock screen where everything worked, and my demonstration of how the Genius Bar is a total rip-off was complete!

Ok, that might not be entirely true, but what does bother a lot of people is Apple's refusal to allow people to customize or repair their devices. Apple's refusal to allow owners of those devices to repair them when needed has furstrated people for ages, so hearing that Apple had softened its stance on "the right to repair" sort of cracked the door open to potentially allowing people the option to seek repairs away from an Apple Store or an authorized reseller. Granted, the door is barely cracked open at all with Apple holding the cards as to what happens next, but progress is progress for now.

In my case, Apple has made it clear that the age of my device simply isn't worth fixing. Even if I had taken my iPad to an Apple Store or an authorized reseller, I likely would have been told "we don't have parts for your device" because it should be, in Apple's opinion, upgraded or replaced. Having the latest and greatest would be nice for everyone to behold, but there are a number of factors why I won't do that with the main one being that my iPad, while being older, still works for the vast majority of purposes for which I need it.

One of those reasons is to watch hockey as I generally can stream games out-of-market on my iPad with ease. While it's great to be offered a handful games in my market, seeing the blackouts on TSN and Sportsnet for games I'd rather watch than a Jets games doesn't really make sense in today's day and age for the various cable companies. With my iPad working, though, I can have the muted Jets game on TV while watching one of the out-of-market games on my iPad so I can be fully immersed in hockey action.

Undertaking the repair of a device like an iPad should be done with some care, and certainly I'd advise you to watch all the videos you can find on YouTube before starting any repair on a device that's out-of-warranty like an older model of iPad. I will say that you don't need a lot of technical know-how to complete the repair like I did, but there are some tools one will need that aren't widely available at every local hardware store. If yo have the tools and the technical know-how, though, you should be exercise your right to repair the device you own in similar fashion to changing the spark plugs on your car or replacing the heating element inside your stove.

What I do know is that I was watching the San Jose Sharks defeat the Vegas Golden Knights to potentially end the Knights' chances of making the playoffs on my iPad after fixing my screen. Count me in favour of people being able to exercise their right to repair the devices they own if they break or fail in some way.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 23 April 2022

Back-To-Back Freshman Trophies

There are rare times in the NHL where a player can be eligible for the Calder Trophy as the league's best first-year player for two consecutive years. Usually, teams will find a gem in a midseason call-up who goes on a scoring streak or backstops a team to a pile of wins, but the fact that it's rare means having a player win Rookie of the Year in two separate leagues is even rarer. That last player to be named as the best player in the NHL and AHL was Terry Sawchuk (1949 in the AHL; 1951 in the NHL), but we've seen the feat accomplished twice in the IHL as a Russian scorer did it last!

Sergei Samsonov left Russia in 1996 to pursue a North American hockey career after starring with CSKA Moscow's junior team for a number of years. People were already in awe of Samsonov's scoring prowess when the Russian junior team toured through Ontario where Samsonov scored 46 goals and added 37 assists in just 24 games against some of Canada's best young players. As a 16 year-old, he was elevated to the Russian Super League where he continued to score, recording 21 goals and 17 assists in 51 games. Every NHL team had their eyes on Sergei Samsonov's next moves.

August 22, 1996 saw him follow his North American dream as he signed a deal with the IHL's Detroit Vipers as a 17 year-old, following the same path that Petr Sykora had used in 1994-95 prior to the New Jersey Devils selecting him 18th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. If Samsonov had a big season playing in the International Hockey League, his draft status would go up, resulting in a better chance of getting a bigger contract in the NHL. The gamble he was taking would only pay off, though, if he had a big season.

"Sergei is inordinately talented and blessed with a great deal of pugnacity and courage," Vipers head coach Rick Dudley told the press. "He is a phenomenal package. Sergei is one of the most talented and exciting players in our game. The signing is a special treat for our fans."

While the financials for the deal to bring Samsonov to Detroit are seemingly lost in history, John Manasso's article on the Vipers states, "Dudley thinks it was for between $150,000 and $200,000". With the contract signed and Russia in the rearview mirror, Samsonov and his father moved to Detroit where the North American adventure for the Russian star began.

Vipers head coach Steve Ludzik had a number of obstacles to deal with when it came to Samsonov: he spoke limited English and the coach spoke no Russian, Samsonov played an entirely different style of game, and Samsonov had been the star in Russia no matter where he went. That was all different in Detroit where established players were getting top-line minutes while Samsonov watched from the bench and the physicality was ratched up a few notches from his junior experiences. The Vipers wanted to see their investment pay off, though, and it seems Ludzik found the key.

"He let me be who I was and go out and play and figure out some things later," Samsonov told Manasso. "There's a lot of thanks goes to him. He let me do things that 99 percent of the coaches wouldn't let."

It seemed pretty clear that whatever Ludzik was allowing Samsonov to do on the ice was working well for the Vipers as the soon-to-be 18 year-old opened the IHL preseason by scoring "five goals and three assists in four exhibition games for the Detroit Vipers in the IHL" as per the Chicago Tribune. If this was a preview of the season to come for Samsonov, it would appear the Vipers had themselves a breakout star on their roster!

The opening game against the Quebec Rafales, formerly the Atlanta Knights, on October 4, 1996 saw the Russian rookie look slightly nervous, but he led the Vipers with shots on goal in the game with six as the Vipers won 3-2. Whatever nerves were plaguing him through the early part of the season were gone by the end of October, though, as he led the team in points and was tied for the team's goal-scoring lead with five markers in 11 games. Playing alongside established scorers such as Peter Ciavaglia, Todd Simon, and Stan Drulia allowed Samsonov's game to really flourish.

By the season's end, the Vipers boasted no player in the top-ten of IHL scoring, but they were built differently than the Long Beach Ice Dogs and the Orlando Solar Bears - the only other IHL teams to break 100 points that season. Detroit would finish atop the standings with an incredible 57-17-8 record for 122 points, five better than Long Beach and ten better than division rival Orlando. More importantly, the Vipers were different because they played defence will filling their opponents' nets. When the 82-game schedule ended, Detroit had scored 280 goals - fifth-most in the IHL - but had only allowed 188 goals which was best in the league. Their 188 goals-allowed total was 42 goals less than the second-best Indianapolis Ice team, and Detroit was the favorite for the Turner Cup heading into the playoffs.

Samsonov had established himself as the top rookie by leading the rookie scoring race all season long. He would finish the campaign with 29 goals and 64 points, and that included two weeks where he missed games due to participating for Russia in the 1997 IIHF World Junior Championship. Russia would earn a bronze medal after falling to Canada in the semifinal by a 3-2 score, but would respond in the third-place game with a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic. Samsonov, for what it's worth, scored six goals and added one helper in the six games he played while being named as the tournament's top forward. Not too shabby at all.

In the Turner Cup Playoffs, Samsonov would help the Vipers down the Michigan K-Wings 3-1 in the opening round, defeat Quebec 4-2 in the second round, and eliminated the Cleveland Lumberjacks 4-1 in the third round. That would set up a best-vs-best in the Turner Cup Final as the Vipers met the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the best-of-seven series for IHL supremacy.

Game One of the final was a perfect example of why Samsonov's stock was on the way up heading into his draft year as Samsonov scored four times in a 5-3 victory to put the Vipers up 1-0 in the series. After losing Game Two 3-0, the Vipers travelled to Long Beach where they handed the Ice Dogs consecutive home-ice losses for the first time since October 1996 by 5-1 and 3-1 scores to sit one game away from championship glory. For the record, Samsonov scored his eighth goal of the playoffs and fifth of the final when he made it 1-0 in Game Four.

Game Five at the Palace of Auburn Hills saw this on June 15, 1997.
The Detroit Vipers won 2-0 as they defeated Long Beach 4-1 in their series, earning the Turner Cup and making Detroit the only city in hockey history to have two pro hockey championships won by teams in the same city in the same year after the Red Wings captured the Stanley Cup in 1997.

If you're watching closely, the names on the Vipers are impressive: #30 is Sergei Samsonov; #35 is Belorussian netminder Andrei Mezin; #14 is long-time NHL forward Wayne Presley; #29 is former Alberta Pandas defender Ian Herbers; and, #10 is former NHL sniper Jimmy Carson. That roster is... wow.

high Back to Samsonov, he would be named the Garry F. Longman Memorial Trophy winner in 1997 as the IHL's best rookie after leading all first-year players in scoring with his 64 points. It seemed that he had cemented his place as a legitimate first-round pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft after his performance with the Vipers, but some still questioned his skills. As written by Karen Crouse in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, New York "Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury called the IHL 'a gentleman's league' by way of dismissing Samsonov's numbers," but we all know how well Mike Milbury evaluates talent. For the majority of the NHL GMs in 1997, Samsonov was a player they hoped to draft if he fell down the draft board.

"We don't think Samsonov will be there," Florida Panthers GM Bryan Murray said to Crouse of his team's 20th-overall pick. "But if his number does come up, from the standpoint of his ability to play right now, the consensus is we'll take him."

Samsonov didn't have to wait long for his name to be called on June 21, 1997 in Pittsburgh as the Boston Bruins used the the third of the three first-round picks sent to them by the Hartford Whalers in the Glen Wesley trade to select Samsonov eighth-overall, seven picks after they had selected Joe Thornton first-overall. Samsonov would play the sixth-most games of anyone drafted in the top ten that season, and played 869 more games than Calgary's sixth-overall pick Daniel Tkaczuk. Mike Milbury and the Islanders, for what its worth, had the fourth- and fifth-overall picks in the draft, and they chose Roberto Luongo and Eric Brewer as Milbury stuck to his guns in not drafting Samsonov.

Samsonov found his scoring touch in the NHL fairly quickly with the Bruins after his one professional season in the IHL, and he would finish his first NHL campaign as the highest-scoring rookie with 22 goals and 25 assists in 1997-98. When the nominees for the Calder Trophy were announced, Samsonov earned votes on 93.15% of all ballots as he was named the 1998 Calder Trophy winner in the NHL, making him the only player to have been the best rookie in both the IHL and the NHL and the first player since Sawchuk to win a best rookie award in two professional leagues.

A lot of people knew how special Sergei Samsonov was, but it really was Rick Dudley who helped put him on the map thanks to taking a risk as the GM of the Vipers. Had he not taken that risk, who knows where Samsonov would have been drafted? More importantly, he likely wouldn't have the honour of being Rookie of the Year in both the IHL and NHL if Dudley didn't take a chance and the veterans on the Vipers didn't look out for him.

"I'd say to this day (Ludzik) and I talked about it but we think that Sergei Samsonov won us a championship because he was simply such a good kid," Dudley told Manasso. "He was 17 years old and they wanted to take care of him and they brought him along. It was very, very important for those guys that he succeed and get drafted as high as possible. All these things played into as probably a unique way."

I'm not sure we'll ever see what Terry Sawchuk or what Sergei Samsonov did in today's game. Most high-profile first-round picks aren't sent to the minor leagues any longer, and we'll never see an underaged star win the AHL Rookie of the Year award prior to being drafted. Sergei Samsonov was the last to do it in the IHL and NHL as former NHL star Ed Belfour won the Garry F. Longman Trophy in 1988 before winning the Calder Trophy in 1991. Samsonov, though, is the only player among him, Sawchuk, and Belfour to do it in back-to-back seasons!

There's a bit of cool history for a Saturday as two Manitoban goalies and a Russian sniper will likely be the only men in hockey history to ever accomplish this feat!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 22 April 2022

The Tournament Returns

We are officially six days from one of the biggest and best annual tournaments in this great nation in which prep school and AAA teams participate. While it took 2021 off due to the pandemic, the 2022 edition of the Female World Sport School Challenge is ready to roll from April 28 to May 1 at the BellMTS Iceplex in Winnipeg with twelve of the country's best teams coming to play. We normally don't see hockey of this level being played at this time of year unless AAA teams are getting set for the Esso Cup, but the tournament had to be pushed back to the end of April with some of the pandemic lockdown rules in effect in January when this tournament normally takes place. Regardless of when it happens, this is always a great tournament so make your way down to the rink if you can!

The field is normally sixteen teams deep, but, with the tournament going later in the year than normal, a number of the usual suspects won't be in Winnipeg next weekend. The Edmonton Pandas won't be there to try and repeat as champions. The Lloydminster Steelers won't be heading east as they've wrapped up their season. The Vancouver Island Seals are't coming, and the Thunder Bay Queens have also opted out of the tournament.

That doesn't mean there won't be competition next weekend from some of this country's best teams, so here's a quick primer on who is coming and who to keep an eye on if you're coming down to watch.

The Calgary Fire will head east to play in the tournament, and they always have a competitive team in all of the years we've seen them play. They have yet to make a FWSSC final in the times they've played, but they'll have a solid team in Winnipeg this year. Keep an eye out for sisters Laralee and Leighanna Rizarri, leading scorer Jennifer Shaw, and Adrian College recruit Ashlynn Stitt as they look to push to the Fire to new heights in this event. Kalle Hastman was the top rookie in the AFHL this past season as well, so opponents would be wise to watch for #15 on the ice.

The Westman Wildcats will make an appearance at the tournament fresh off their MFHL championship this season. Currently playing against the Notre Dame Hounds in the regional qualifer for the Esso Cup, the Wildcats look to continue their winning ways at the Iceplex where they defeated the Winnipeg Ice in the MFHL Final. Backstopped by MFHL playoff MVP Grace Glover and led by Callie Rice and Brooklyn Franklin, the Wildcats are playing some solid hockey at the right time of year. Regina Cougars recruit Kelsey Page, Minot State recruit Makenna Beard, and Assiniboine College recruit Emma Ramsey should all be in the Wildcats' lineup when they take the ice next week! Could this be their year for a FWSSC gold medal?

Formerly known as the Banff Hockey Academy before they moved to Medicine Hat, the Southern Alberta Hockey Academy will make its first appearance under its new name at the tournament. While Banff had moderate success at the event in previous years, SAHA went 11-14-1-2 this season to finish in tenth-place out of the twelve CSSHL teams in the U18 Prep Division. Téa Pearce led the team with 24 points while defender Kendal Davidson - a finalist for the CSSHL Female U18 Prep Top Defender Award - paced the squad with 11 goals. It's pretty clear that this women's program is trending upwards, so playing against some of the best teams in Canada will only further the squad's development for future seasons!

The Pilot Mound Buffaloes return to the FWSSC after playig in the last few events. Pilot Mound finished with a 5-18-0-2 record this season in the CSSHL to put them twelfth out of twelve teams, but there's a lot to like from this squad. Morgan Settee led the team with 18 goals and 27 points, Hailey Hojnocki was nominated as a finalist for Most Sportsmanlike Player in the CSSHL while notching 16 points, and defender Davanna Ditto scored five of her eight points with the extra attacker. Their record may not indicate it, but the Buffaloes could surprise a few teams at this year's event!

The Pembina Valley Hawks come into the tournament after finishing 14-14-0 this season for fifth-place in the MFHL. They fell to the Winnipeg Ice in the opening round of the playoffs, but it was a solid season on the ice for a number of Hawks. University of Alberta recruit Abbey Bourdeaud'hui finished the season as the fourth-highest scorer in the MFHL with 37 points while University of Jamestown recruit Annika Braun had ten goals and 19 points and captain Quinn McLaren was named as a MFHL First-Team All-Star defender. The Hawks shouldn't be overlooked in this tournament, especially if they find their scoring touch.

The Rink Hockey Adacemy - Kelowna comes into the tournament as the reigning CSSHL U18 Prep champions after defeating Delta Hockey Academy back in March. They boast ten players who scored 20-or-more points this season, and were led by MVP nominee and Clarkson recruit Sara Swiderski who, as a defender, finished the season with 34 points. Boston University recruit and CSSHL Top Defender nominee Brooke Disher had 33 points as a defender, Merrimack recruit Sophie McKinley had 31 points, and Brown recruit Jade Iginla - yes, she's this guy's daughter - had 28 points. This team can score, can defend, and looks like it might be a favorite to win the 2022 Female World Sport School Challenge!

The Edge School returns to the tournament after a few years away, and they have won this event in the past. Edge finished the CSSHL season at 12-12-1-3 to land in seventh-place, but defeated Northern Alberta and Delta in the playoffs. Kyla Mitenko and Raedyn Spademan finished the season atop the scoring list for Edge with 22 points, and they were backstopped by CSSHL Goaltender of the Year nominee Farah Walker who finished the season with an 8-5-1 record, a 2.46 GAA, and a .921 save percentage. Mount Royal recruit Jordyn Hutt had seven goals and 17 points, so it would be wise to keep an eye on her as well!

For the first time in the tournament's history, a team from Quebec will make an appearance as Stanstead College heads west! The JWHL team is one of two in the tournament, and the Spartans loaded with talent as Hungarian Emma Kreisz, who will play with the University of Minnesota, led the team with 19 goals while leading scorer and defender Gracie Gilkyson is off to Yale after scoring 34 points. Other players to watch include Goaltender Mégane Pilon who will head to Brown and defender Camille Richard who will suit up for U SPORTS national champion Concordia. At 24-6-1, Stanstead College could make a big impact in their first appearance at the FWSSC if the Spartans bring the same effort as they showed in the JWHL!

While the majority of the teams shown above come from outside Winnipeg, there are a few teams that will participate who call the Manitoba city home. The four Winnipeg-based team have one from each of the MFHL and the JWHL while two squads represent the CSSHL as they compete for the FWSSC gold medal next week!

The Winnipeg-based JWHL team is the Balmoral Hall Blazers who ended the season with a 19-12-1 record. Balmoral Hall was solid all season long in the JWHL, and they look to bring that game to the FWSSC. Led by University of Manitoba recruit Dana Goertzen and Trinity Western recruit Kara Yackell, they're solid from top to bottom. Goaltender Anya Epp is heading to UPEI next season, Oceane Asham will suit up for Minnesota State-Mankato, and Karolina Sykorova will skate for Lindenwood as the Blazers continue to see their players excel. Can they get back to the podium at the FWSSC? They should be in the running!

We already met one of the MFHL finalists, so let's bring in the other as the Winnipeg Ice will also play at the 2022 FWSSC! The Ice finished in fourth-place with a 15-10-3 record this season, and they went on an incredible tear through the playoffs. Led by University of Alberta recruit and MFHL First-Team All-Star Maia Ehmann with 22 goals and 42 points to finish second in league scoring, the Ice got strong contributions from soon-to-be University of Jamestown defender Brooklyn Balazovic, Ava Bergman who had 23 points, and 13-goal scorer Stephanie Jacob. If Laura Melizza continues her strong netminding from the playoffs, the Winnipeg Ice should be a favorite at this year's tournament to land on the podium!

One of the two CSSHL teams in the city, Rink Hockey Academy - Winnipeg enters the tournament after a 12-13-0-1 season that saw them finish in sixth-place in the CSSHL standings. They recorded a win over St. Mary's Academy in the playoffs, and they'll look to build on that at the FWSSC. Led by CSSHL MVP nominee Keara Parker and her 17 goals and 32 points, Rink got great contributions from Billie Baranyk with ten goals, defender Glory Plett with 24 points, and 2006-born Kate Nechwediuk with 26 points. Rink Winnipeg will be looking to hit the podium for the first time this year!

The St. Mary's Academy Flames are the host team for the FWSSC, and they finished the CSSHL season with a 15-10-0-0 record that placed them third in the league. The Flames boast four players who hit double-digits in goals - Reese Chuback, Tyla Turnbull, Charlotte Buffie, and Hannah Dennehy - and they'll need that scoring in short tournament. Mia Faseruk is a CSSHL nominee for top freshman after scoring six goals and 12 points, and Turnbull, an Adrian College recruit, is up for the CSSHL's Most Sportsmanlike Award after scoring 15 goals and 28 points. The hosts have a long legacy of medal finishes at the FWSSC, but this year they're looking to add some more gold to the trophy case after a number of silver-medal finishes!

If you're looking to catch games, seeing them live is the best way to go. The cost to get in is rather inexpensive - $5 per game or $20 for a tournament pass! As shown above, there are a pile of university-bound players who will be playing as they look to continue to hone their skills for next season and beyond, and this tournament always seems to have some incredible moments of hockey. Games can also be watched on HockeyTV if you're outside the Winnipeg area, and 101.5 UMFM will be broadcasting the games on its internet stream from the Subway rink throughout the entire tournament including the gold medal game!

It should be another great four days of action down at the BellMTS Iceplex and I'm looking forward to seeing these twelve teams bring their best as they look to capture a gold medal to cap off the 2021-22 hockey season! I hope you'll join us at the rink or on UMFM to hear the games as we find out which of the twelve teams above will be named the 2022 Female World Sport School Challenge champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 21 April 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 500

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the UMFM studios for a milestone show tonight as we broadcast the 500th show in history! We're very excited to have made it this far without being booted off the air or from the station, and we're glad that you could join us for this amazing achievement! Normally, special events call for celebrations, so we're going to do that tonight as well by offering up one of the best contests this show has ever devised as well! Make sure you're near the radio or an internet-connected device tonight because things are going to move fast starting at 5:30pm CT!

Teebz and Jenna invite you, listeners of The Hockey Show, to enter our Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest tonight! After being away from the studio for two years, we return tonight to resurrect one of our favourite things we do as sixteen radio listeners will call in and be entered into the Survivor pool! For those that may have missed it, the full contest details are here, so click on that link and get reading so you can be ready to call in tonight and enter. The phone number to reach us, if you want to be part of this fun and goofy contest, is (204) 269-8636, and the phone lines will be open after we explain the contest on the air. Prizes will be won, laughs will be had, hockey will be watched, and radio chatter will happen throughout this contest, so make sure you have your radio and phone at your fingertips at 5:30pm CT so you can hear and call into The Hockey Show on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via!

If you live outside Winnipeg and want to participate, have no fear! 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! 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 get sixteen people set up for the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Survivor: NHL Playoffs as we take your calls and see which teams are randomly chosen exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: April 21, 2022: Episode 500

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 20 April 2022

A Tangled Web

Spiders could be one of the world's creepiest animals to most people. It's hard to imagine warming up to a hockey team named for the arachnids, but there have been other insects and arachnids who have made homes in hockey such as the Fayetteville Fireantz, the New Mexico Scorpions, and the Rio Grande Killer Bees. ThunderBug, the mascot for the Lightning, and Stinger, the mascot for the Blue Jackets, are the two fuzzy insects that fans love, but spiders are a different breed altogether for a lot of people. When the IHL welcomed a new team to their league in 1994 in the Bay Area, I'm not sure anyone would have expected the Spiders to call the area home.

November 22, 1994 saw the IHL follow through on its expansion as it announced expansion in the west by awarding Dave Pasant, the former president and chief executive officer of the Jackson National Life Insurance Company, an IHL franchise for the cool sum of $6 million. The new IHL franchise would be the 18th team in the International Hockey League, and the new Bay Area team would join the South Division that included the Las Vegas Thunder, the Utah Grizzlies, the Phoenix Roadrunners, and the Los Angeles Ice Dogs.

The team moved quickly as they needed a name to begin selling the hockey idea to Bay Area residents. In December, the team had chosen to go with "Spiders" as its name, dismissing other suggestions such as "Seals", "Quakes", "Fog" and "Rush". According to Bruce Gate of The Examiner, this choice of name was due to one man - David Pasant.

"I've had a strange fascination with spiders since I was a little kid," said David Pasant, the 44-year-old owner of the Spiders. "They're scary."

Pasant also saw the tie-in for merchandising with the name, stating, "There's no question that a major revenue source is merchandising of your logo and all the spinoff products. Clearly, the Spiders look to merchandising the same way the Sharks did. It's also great because when people are wearing your jerseys or your hats, they're walking billboards."

With the team having a name, Pasant went to work in building the hockey side of the equation as he hired former Montreal Canadiens head coach and former Quebec Nordiques head coach Jean Perron as the Spiders' new general manager and head coach on January 11, 1995. Perron's experiences in winning the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986 seemed to point to him being an ideal candidate for the jobs despite having being an TV analyst for the game for five years before San Francisco came calling.

Perron began to put pieces in place by hiring Bruce Boudreau to be his assistant general manager and an assistant coach while pulling former Canadiens defenceman and 39 year-old Rod Langway out of retirement to be a player player-coach with the team. Langway had retired in 1993 after knee and shoulder injuries slowed the two-time Norris Trophy winner, but Langway accepted the position as his transition to retired life simply wasn't his cup of tea.

"It's really difficult being a player, getting out of the game and becoming a normal citizen," Langway admitted to Gate.

The team began selling tickets on June 21, 1995 as they secured the Cow Palace in San Jose as their home rink. The ticket prices ranged from $10 or less at the lowest price to $25 at the upper end of the costs. The Spiders announced that half of the 11,000 available tickets for each game would be in that $10-or-lower range, making Spiders hockey an affordable venture for families! Would the low prices pay off once the season started?

With Perron, Boudreau, and Langway in place, the Spiders appeared ready to assemble a team, but they needed an identity as well. In a rather upscale event for the IHL just two weeks before their first-ever game, Planet Hollywood was the site of the jersey unveiling as Langway and Hollywood actor Danny Glover donned the home and away jerseys, respectively, to show off the Spiders' logo and uniforms. Glover, it should be noted, wore the white jersey with red and black trim while Langway wore the black with red and white trim. I have to admit that there's something catchy about the way the uniforms look at first glance, but the jerseys lose some of their nuances when seeing them from afar. In any case, the team had official colours and jerseys, so all the Spiders had to do was introduce the fans to the new faces in town and win a few games.

When training camp opened on September 8, 1995, Perron had recruited 11 players from the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques including Langway and defenceman Normand Rochefort to join the four players the team announced on June 7 as their first players - Dave Maley, Dave Pasin, Alain Cote, and Mario Doyon. He also found himself with a pile of San Jose Sharks on his roster as players like Robin Bawa, Dale Craigwell, and Ed Courtenay all suited up for the Spiders. He also found himself a bit of a puck-stopping gem in goaltender Stephane Beauregard.

In working to get fans to the rink to see the new team, the Spiders announced that their September 23, 1995 preseason game against the Las Vegas Thunder would be free to the public! The Spiders were allowing anyone to come down to the rink to see the game for free and park their vehicles for free in an effort to show fans that the Spiders knew what a good time was at the rink. What I'm very sure about in this whole thing is how Spinner, the Spiders' mascot, seems far too scary for most little kids to appreciate. Pictured to the left, you can see that Spinner had four additional arms sewn onto the costume, but his incredibly angry expression makes it hard to warm up to him. I never saw Spinner perform, but let's hope that he was far more welcoming than the first impression he made.

"The Spiders want to bring affordable professional sports back to the fans. We are inviting the public to come to our preseason game for free and see first hand what a great product we are putting together," team president Richard Rogers told SFGate. I get that low ticket prices discusssed above might be a good incentive to come and see hockey while the team recoups some costs, but offering free admission and parking? It seems that Dave Pasant was giving away the goods a little too easily.

Thanks to a contract dispute with the Sharks, Sandis Ozolinsh signed on with the Spiders for two games to begin the 1995-96 season, and he holds the distinction as being the first Spider to score a goal in the IHL as he did so in the team's first regular season game on September 29, 1995 as the Los Angeles Ice Dogs defeated the Spiders by a 5-1 score that night. His two-game IHL stint with the Spiders was the second time he had played in the IHL after a 34-game run with the Kansas City Blades in 1991-92.

Just three games into the season, Bruce Boudreau was fired by Jean Perron in one of the most bizarre sequences of events I've ever heard. According to a report in La Presse, Boudreau was fired because Perron "was afraid of" Boudreau and "felt threatened". But there has to be more to this story, right? Well, Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog went down that rabbit hole with the following paragraphs:

Needless to say, Boudreau's stint with the Spiders lasted only three games in which the club was 0-1-2. I'm quite certain that Boudreau's career hasn't been derailed by this dismissal, so all's well that ends well, I guess.

Perron's choices for who he had on his roster were also eyebrow-raising at times. On October 4, 1995, the Spiders announced they had signed former San Jose Sharks enforcer Link Gaetz to a 25-game deal. Despite the article incorrectly identifying Perron as "Jean Fallon", the terms of the contract that Perron and Gaetz negotiated did get out eventually. Gaetz had agreed to a deal that saw him paid $500 per week with mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous meetings attendance as one of the conditions for his contract. After three games that saw Gaetz rack up 37 PIMs, he was cut loose by Perron.

Weird moments in personnel aside, there were some bigger moments on the ice. The Spiders recorded their first-ever win on October 11, 1995 in a 4-1 home win over the visiting Orlando Solar Bears. Greg Bullock scored the team's first game-winning goal in the third period of that contest. They'd follow that game up with another first as they won their first-ever road game by a 4-1 score over the defending Turner Cup champion Utah Grizzlies which, coincidentally, marked their first win streak as well! They would put together a four-game win streak that was eventually stopped on October 26, 1995 by the Chicago Wolves, leaving San Francisco with a 6-5-1 record.

In a rather surprising piece of reporting, sixteen-year-old Slovakian hockey phenom Robert Dome, who would be drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins 17th-overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, scored a pair of goals for the Utah Grizzlies against the Spiders on October 28, 1995. Before we go on any further, imagine being a sixteen year-old playing professional hockey in a league that rivaled the AHL and against men who are literally twice your age or older. I don't know how this was allowed back then, but Dome became "the youngest player ever to sign a pro contract in a North American hockey league" when he signed a two-year deal on October 18, 1995. That's absolutely wild!

Back to the Spiders, the Peoria Rivermen were the first team to shut out the Spiders in their history when they scored a 3-0 win over San Francisco on November 15, 1995 as Jon Casey stopped all 23 shots from the Spiders. It took them a few months to pitch a blank scoresheet themselves, but the Spiders finally did it on April 11, 1996 when they recorded a 3-0 win over the Utah Grizzlies at home thanks to Stephane Beauregard stopping all 31 shots.

The losses, though, were piling up and the fans were far more enthralled with the NHL's Sharks than the IHL's Spiders as attendance began to fall. On any given night, rows of seats went unfilled as the Spiders battled their way through the IHL regular season. Perron's squad, led by John Purves' scoring ability, remained in the hunt for a playoff spot, though, and they would make it into the Turner Cup Playoffs on April 6, 1996 thanks to a Peoria loss that helped the Spiders make the promised land in their first season!

With a playoff spot guaranteed, it was a question of where would the Spiders finish, and who would they play in the opening round? With a victory in their final game, the Spiders would clinch home-ice advantage in that series as the fourth-seeded team in the Western Conference where they would meet the fifth-seeded Chicago Wolves. I can tell you that the Spiders lost that game to Las Vegas, but still held onto third-place in the South Division with a 40-32-10 record and the fourth seed in the West as they opened their first-ever playoff series against the Wolves.

The playoff action would have been great for the city had anyone noticed. Cracks were starting to form in the foundation that held the Spiders together as it was reported by Ray Ratto in SFGate that Dave Pasant had put the Spiders up for sale after losses climbed past the $7 million mark. It wasn't hard to see that the Spiders may be struggling financially with rows of seats available for as low as $5 per chair, but the future looked grim in terms of the Spiders surviving a second season after averaging just 4555 fans through 24 home games into January.

The Wolves and Spiders split the opening two games of their series in San Francisco before the series shifted back to Chicago. April 19 saw the Spiders win their first-ever playoff game by a 4-2 score over the Wolves before the Wolves regrouped and downed San Francisco by a 4-1 score. The April 24 game saw the Wolves push the Spiders to the brink of elimination in the best-of-five series with a 3-1 victory, so the Spiders needed to rally for a big road win if they hoped to send this series to a fifth and final game.

As they were preparing for the game, though, the news only got worse for the future of the Spiders. After meeting with the city in an effort to keep the Spiders in the Bay Area, a report by Tony Cooper of the San Francisco Chronicle was published that suggested that the Spiders would fold following the playoffs. Pasant didn't go as far as confirming the report, but he made it clear to Cooper that there were considerable changes coming for the franchise which including moving the team to somewhere other than the Bay Area. Clearly, this was a distraction the team didn't need while preparing for their biggest game yet.

In some better news, though, the Spiders were able to boast the 1995-96 IHL MVP as part of their roster as goaltender Stephane Beauregard was named the league's most valuable player on April 27 as voted upon by IHL coaches. Beauregard might have been a large part of the reason why the Spiders made the playoffs as he went 36-24-8 in 1995-96. He led the IHL with 1944 saves, and boasted a 3.09 GAA with a .903 save percentage and one shutout. For a season that saw Orlando's Craig Fisher score 74 goals and Chicago's Rob Brown amass 143 points, it seems that the IHL coaches noticed how important Beauregard was in helping the Spiders all season long!

The Spiders and their MVP suited up for Game Four on April 28, and they scored early to lead 1-0 thanks to Dale Craigwell. However, Chicago would find the equalizer in the third period to make it 1-1, and we'd need overtime to solve this one. Unfortunately for the Spiders, Chicago's Kevin Pozzo scored in the extra time to give the Wolves the 2-1 victory, eliminating the Spiders from the postseason.

While things still weren't looking good for the team's future in the Bay Area, it got a lot darker on May 17, 1996 when the San Francisco Spiders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In the story filed by Larry Stone of The Examiner, it appeared that "Pasant had an agreement in principle to sell the Spiders to Harvey Nathan, a Charleston, S.C., delicatessen owner who planned to move the team to Tacoma", but the deal fell through. Pasant was still talking about moving the team there, but other destinations that had been mentioned included Sacramento, Saskatoon, and Atlanta, but options for those places never materialized.

By June 24, 1996, the team had ceased operations altogether as Pasant simply wasn't willing lose any additional money. The IHL suspended the team's membership in the hopes that it may be transferred somewhere, but there simply wasn't a city or owner who wanted to assume the losses that the Spiders had shown in the Bay Area nor risk moving it somewhere only to have the franchise lose money in a new location. The team was almost transferred to downtown Victoria, BC in 1997 to begin play in 1999-2000, but the new, state-of-the-art facility planned for Victoria never materialized. As a result, the Spiders were disbanded for good, and the IHL itself would fold in 2001-02 after years of financial losses on the league's side. The AHL would absorb a handful of IHL teams into its league, and the rest were folded.

If there's one quirk that I haven't mentioned yet, it's the font used for the customization of the jerseys. The font used was fairly easy to read, but there's a lot to be disappointed with in that home jersey's number. As you can see on the Rochefort jersey, the wider numbers with the contracting outline make them fill the blank space quite nicely, but the Roy jersey's numbers leave far too much white space. The numbers themselves need to be thicker in terms of width, and they need a solid contrasting colour to draw the eyes to them - red, for example - and they need to follow a proper arch in the radially-arching scheme. The font in the image in the bottom shows the prototype Spiders font with the webbing incorporated into the number, but this was scrapped early on when the costs for this design became far too great.

For one season of hockey in 1995-96, the arachnids invaded the IHL and the Bay Area with their unique brand of hockey. There were highs, there were lows, there were cheers, and there were tears, but the San Francisco Spiders certainly had wrote an interesting chapter into hocey history. Could they have been a strong franchise with fan support? That's debatable considering the challenges that the IHL faced as a whole, but one thing is for certain: the Spiders certainly spun an interesting tale.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!