Tuesday 31 May 2022

Have We Hit Rock Bottom Yet?

Having seen the loss of an NHL team once in my life, there are some key checkpoints that one looks for when it comes to desperation over saving a team. When all the marketing ideas have run, one of the things a team will do is collectively ask its fans to come out en masse to convince politicians and investors that there is a market for hockey in whatever city is holding the rally. Rallies, for the most part, do little to sway anyone's thinking as fans in Winnipeg, Hartford, Atlanta, and Quebec City will tell you. In saying this, I found it quite puzzling that the Arizona Coyotes are now calling for their fans to contact the City of Tempe in their effort to get an NHL-sized rink in the Arizona community.

The website linked above makes all sorts of claims that are, at best, laughable in their sincerity, but let me clear in saying that flooding the City of Tempe's Procurement Administrator's inbox with demands for an arena in Tempe literally is the wrong way to go about this endeavour. The last thing Michael Greene wants to see when he's trying to do is job is a thousand emails riddled with spelling mistakes or assumptions about the arena proposal, and I can certainly guarantee you that, if you sent the stupid blurb that the website told you to send, I'd be deleting every single one.

This is simply another ploy by billionaires to put pressure on the people who are supposed to look out for Tempe's best interests, so let's cut through the crap of the statements made on the "Get Involved" website by addressing each statement's falsities.

1. "The Coyotes will be the first-ever privately financed arena in Arizona".

This statement is only partly true as the "city sales tax revenues to help pay for $200 million in additional costs, including infrastructure work" as per this article by The Associated Press. While the building and the surrounding commercial properties would be funded by the Arizona Coyotes' owners, most notably by Alex Meruelo, the infrastructure to support the arena will cost people in and around Tempe a hefty price tag through sales taxes.

Let me put it to you this way: that's $200 million either raised by new or increased sales taxes or it's $200 million diverted from projects currently funded by the sales tax revenues. Are you willing to see streets and schools and sewers receive less funding for repairs and upgrades in order for the Coyotes to have more streets and sewers in and around their proposed development?

Ask Calgary about infrastructure costs and how they derailed their new arena project. These aren't fixed costs as the materials to build these new infrastructure pieces constantly change. $200 million might be just an estimate, and the price tag could be much, much higher as the Flames and the City of Calgary found out.

"They are very much just a money pit for taxpayers," Pat Garofalo, director state and public policy for the American Economic Liberties Project, a non-profit group that frequently analyzes public subsidy deals while advocating for greater corporate accountability, told Investigative Post about new arenas and stadiums.

2. "The project will bring 6,900 new permanent jobs to Tempe".

This is beyond false in its sincerity, and I cannot stress that there will be very few permanent jobs created in any way for people in Tempe.

"The big ripple effect issue is that you don't have continuous employment except for security guards and groundskeepers," Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a national subsidy watchdog group, told Investigative Post.

He's not wrong in his assessment as most of the jobs currently held by employees of the Coyotes won't change or be opened up with a move to Tempe from Glendale, and the vast majority of new jobs seen will only require gameday and part-time staffing. If you're going to include the commercial properties around the proposed arena, the return on investment may never be realized.

"A lot of people think you can build a $250 million arena and watch everything turn from a cesspool to rose water," Steve Hyman, general manager of The Mark of the Quad Cities in Moline, Illinois, told the Sports Business Journal. "But if you do nothing but wait for the ripples of that cesspool to reach the shoreline, it will never happen. You have to push, pull, punch and squeeze to make it work. You have got to have serious private players."

If you think the Coyotes are going to be out lobbying for businesses to move in next to them, there's a reason why they've lost money nearly every year since moving to the desert.

3. "This project will finally clean up an old landfill – 1.5 million tons of trash".

Again, this is only partly true in its sincerity, and I really caution everyone reading this article that the Coyotes are opening a can of worms that will only end up costing millions of dollars to fix. Henry Greenstein's August 2021 article in the Phoenix Business Journal tabbed the remediation costs of the proposed arena location to already be $70 million as of June 2021. As you know, it's now June 2022 and the price of everything has gone up.

As I wrote in my article about Calgary's remediation costs using the Tempe information, "[t]here are all sorts of environmental issues that can arise from digging up landfill items" and I cited Tim Kellison from the Phoenix Business Journal who stated, "What tends to occur is an underestimation of just how badly the land is contaminated, and as a result, how much it will cost to actually do a good job cleaning up the site in a way that conforms with numerous environmental regulations."

Kellison used Tropicana Field's remediation costs in Tampa-St. Petersburg as an example where the costs tripled from the original estimate. If that $70 million price tag triples - and it almost certainly will be more than the estimate - and the Coyotes aren't willing to cover it, you know who they're coming to for money, right? With $200 million already on the books for infrastructure upgrades, how much more can the Coyotes squeeze out of the City of Tempe and its citizens?

4. "Nearly 2 billion dollars of private investment to Tempe".

This is entirely true, but it's written deceptively. Because the cost of the arena project is already tabbed at $1.7 billion, that's conicidentally "[n]early 2 billion dollars of private investment" already committed to Tempe. See the problem?

But let's take this figure one step further with a line from the Investigative Post article about Buffalo's new NFL stadium that reads, "[S]pending upwards of $1 billion on a new NFL stadium will result in more revenue for the league and team, and an increase of the franchise value for the Pegulas."

It's private money being invested, so who do you think will benefit from the new arena the most? Hint: not the people or the City of Tempe. All this new arena does is make the Coyotes more expensive when Alex Meruelo wants to sell the franchise to some other mindless investor desperate for a sports franchise in his portfolio. This "[n]early 2 billion dollars of private investment" serves no public interest for the City of Tempe in any way, shape, or form.

5. "NO taxpayer dollars are at risk".

This is a flat-out lie. The costs of the infrastructure upgrades around the arena project are already taxpayer-funded, and those costs will only increase as infrastructure costs go up and the project evolves. Beyond that, there's another major issue that should be addressed before a private business such as the Coyotes start making ludicrous claims like the one above.

Henry Taylor, director of the University at Buffalo's Center for Urban Studies, told the Investigative Post that "he finds it interesting that some of the same public officials who shy away from borrowing money or raising taxes to tackle problems like poverty appear eager to do so to benefit a professional sports franchise" while Henry LeRoy told the Investigative Post, "There are obviously so many other better things Buffalo could do with that much money."

Stating that there are no taxpayer dollars at risk is not only a lie, but it's also entirely deceptive in that the proposed taxes to pay for the Coyotes' arena project would actually have a greater benefit to Tempe if they were used to tackle things like infrastructure, education, and poverty.

If we need evidence of this, the Investigative Post makes it clear, stating, "From a return-on-investment standpoint, economists and researchers almost universally agree that stadiums are unlikely to generate anywhere near the level of tax revenue needed to offset the public subsidies tied to their construction". But there's no risk for taxpayer dollars, right?

6. "This project is an economic generator of $215 million of net new taxes for Tempe over the next 30 years".

This is simply more rhetoric to mask and deceive. As shown in the Sportsnet article, Tempe citizens will be shelling out $200 million in new or increased sales taxes to cover additional costs as dictated by the arena proposal. If the figure stated by the Coyotes was even remotely true, that means that the City of Tempe generated $500,000 per year in net new taxes since the $200 million "investment" in the infrastructure around the arena project only benefits the arena project. For $15 million net new tax dollars ($215M minus $200M) earned over 30 years, is that really an investment you want to make if you live in Tempe?

Let me repeat from the Investigative Post article, "From a return-on-investment standpoint, economists and researchers almost universally agree that stadiums are unlikely to generate anywhere near the level of tax revenue needed to offset the public subsidies tied to their construction."

As Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll wrote in a Brookings article,
"In every case, the conclusions are the same. A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus."
In other words, the Coyotes are lying to your face.

7. "Coyotes are incorporating inclusive areas for people with varying abilities".

Yay for the Coyotes being able to read the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design? By law, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 made it a requirement that all facilities being built have to be accessible for all people, and all building permits received by a state, county, or local government must adhere to the law.

Congratulations, Coyotes, you know how to read. I guess this counts as true?

8. "Sport brings people together, building community bonds and local pride".

There's the old "civic pride" argument by the Coyotes. You can certainly be proud of the Coyotes and cheer for the Coyotes and root for the Coyotes as much as you want, but there is absolutely zero reason for you to absorb the costs that only make a billionaire richer. In no way, shape, or form should Tempe citizens be paying for anything more than tickets, parking, and concessions when it comes to the Coyotes. Anything more is simply a disgusting rich billionaire taking money from your city's coffers.

Quite frankly, I am sick of constantly pushing this narrative that billionaires shouldn't receive one penny of public money, but it needs to be repeated over and over and over again so people don't forget that new arenas do nothing for their communities except make a ton of money for the guy who claims ownership of the new arena.

This has been documented time and time again as well. From John Oliver's exposé on HBO's Last Week Tonight to the Investigative Post article, from the Brookings report to articles written by yours truly on HBIC, from Medium's 2017 article to The Conversation's most recent look at the phenomenon, there is a mountain of evidence that public money should never be used for any part of a stadium, tax incentives for building arenas or stadiums always end up costing cities more than they collect, and pressuring city officials with fallacies and false statements as the Coyotes have written on their "Get Involved" website just make everyone look incompetent.

I hate to say it, Tempe citizens, but your potential new neighbours are already asking you to lie to the City of Tempe's Procurement Administrator with their inane reasons listed above, and that seems to be pretty unneighbourly when it comes to being good neighbours. You can watch the proceedings of the City Council hearing where the Coyotes will present their project via this link on Thursday at 2pm MT, but I would sincerely ask that you email your city councillor and insist that taxpayer money not be used in any way, shape, or form for this new arena.

Begging is a new low for the Coyotes, but Daniel von Bargen's line from Super Troopers may sum up this entire decade-long Arizona debacle known as the Coyotes quite succinctly in its brevity.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 30 May 2022

Down To Four

The image to the left is the final handshake line from Round Two of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so that means four more teams have been eliminated from the postseason. Of course, that means we'll be busy on The Hockey Show again this week as there will be three additional exit interviews to do after Jason did his this past week for the Florida Panthers after their quick exit from the second round. St. Louis, Calgary, and Carolina have all been sent home since Thursday, so we'll chat to three more people about their teams' playoff showings as the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest continues on the show!

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a quick look at who will play in the Western and Eastern Conference Finals along with the four Survivor entrants who are still alive and competing for the Vegas Golden Knights Reverse Retro jersey!
Jenna, who co-hosted the show and received an entry on her last days in Winnipeg, will square off against Matt C. as the Oilers and Avalanche meet in the Western Conference Final. On the other side, Sydney B. is holding strong with the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, but they'll have their hands full with Bryan S.'s upstart New York Rangers. If you're expecting some amazing hockey, you're likely right as McDavid and MacKinnon square off in the west while goalies rule between Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin in the east!

With those four teams advancing, it means that three people will see their time on Survivor: NHL Playoffs island come to an end. Dave W., whose St. Louis Blues earned him a pair of prizes on challenges, will be sent home. Danielle F., whose Calgary Flames looked every bit the part during the regular season, was snuffed out as well. And Ethan M., whose Carolina Hurricanes simply could not win on the road and lost their first-ever Game Seven since moving to North Carolina, will return to civilization as well.

It's hard not to be entertained with this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now we enter the third round with the possibility of having two of the best players going head-to-head while their supporting casts add a pile of goals as well. On the other side, the league's most consistent goaltender for the last five seasons will stand 200-feet from perhaps the best young goalie in the league while their teams score, grind, hit, and skate as well as anyone still playing hockey.

We'll see if Bryaden Point is back for Tampa Bay. We'll see if the goaltending in the Oilers-Avalanche series can stop more than 50% of the shots they face. We'll see if Evander Kane's goal-scoring streak continues. We'll see two teams emerge from these series as Stanley Cup finalists, and that's the payoff for Round Three.

If you're Jenna or Matt or Sydney or Bryan, you have a one-in-four shot at winning the jersey you see to the left. Granted, it's not exactly the same as there's no customization, but the jersey shall be delivered to the winner of Survivor: NHL Playoffs. We've already seen good teams fall - Florida, who won the Presidents' Trophy, and Carolina, who was third-overall this season - so all you can do is hope your team plays well this round to increase your odds of winning from 25% to 50% with a berth in the Stanley Cup Final! Edmonton and Colorado will kick the fun off tomorrow night in Denver while Tampa Bay will be in New York City for Game One of the Eastern Conference on Wednesday as the Stanley Cup Conference Finals get underway!

Make sure you tune into The Hockey Show this Thursday at 5:30pm CT to hear three more exit interviews as the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest continues!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 29 May 2022

Summer Concert Season

As we get closer to June, it's very likely that the outdoor concert season will begin in North America with various festivals and outdoor venues being populated for musical events once again. I'm already aware of a couple of events that will happen locally near me, so expect to see and hear musicians of all genres announcing events and appearances soon if they haven't already. What shouldn't be forgotten is that arenas have been open to crowds for some time, so that means we've already seen musicians and musical acts roll through cities as those artists got a jump on the concert tour schedule. In saying that, HBIC brings you yet another edition of Musicians in Jerseys with the full image gallery linked here.

The rules for this exercise remain the same: jerseys must be held or worn by an artist or group for the picture to qualify. I have seen lots of jerseys that were made for artists that were photographed on their own, and those don't count because the artist has to acknowledge the jersey's existence rather than just being collected by a stagehand. T-shirts, jackets, golf shirts, and ballcaps don't count either - jerseys are the only clothing that do count unless it's some extremely weird occurrence.

Let's dig into this because the last year of touring will make this a fairly robust entry!

We'll start in Glendale where the Arizona Coyotes were handing out jerseys. Country pop duo Dan + Shay got jerseys of their own. Snoop Dogg is officially part of the Coyotes now as he has both logos the Coyotes use. Ice Cube has his own jersey. And Warren G got a jersey as well. It will be interesting to see if any of these artists play in ASU's new arena in the coming years, but I can't see any of them playing to just 5000 people.

Panic! at the Disco stopped by the Honda Center prior to the pandemic and picked up a few Anaheim Ducks jerseys before their concert.

The Chainsmokers invaded Buffalo with their brand of EDM-pop which earned them a couple of Buffalo Sabres jerseys and a meeting with Jack Eichel. Chris Janson is an American country music singer from Missouri, but he also got a Sabres jersey with an appearance in Buffalo. The Foo Fighters picked up some Sabres jerseys in pre-pandemic times. I'm unfamiliar with rapper Jake Miller's music, but the Sabres were happy to have him wearing their colours.

It would be an honour to have Erikah Badu wear my logo, so the Chicago Blackhawks should be honoured by her having their jersey. Kane Brown is a country-pop singer who got himself a framed jersey from the Blackhawks. Durk Banks is better known by his rapper name Lil Durk, and he got a Blackhawks jersey during a stop at the United Center. Rapper Nas also came through Chicago and earned a Blackhawks jersey. We already knew Billy Corgan was a Blackhawks fan, but he brought the rest of Smashing Pumpkins with him this time. Country singer Thomas Rhett Akins is part of the Blackhawks musical acts. And R&B singer Trey Songz can add his name to the Blackhawks roster as well.

DJ and EDM/hip-hop artist Eloq showed up for a concert event in Denver sporting a Cale Makar Avalanche jersey. And we can cross another team off Taylor Swift's NHL jersey list as she adds the Avalanche to her closet as well.

The Blue Jackets were an interesting case because they used to hand out customized robes to musicians to relax in after their shows, but they've now started giving out jerseys, it seems. That's because Ed Sheeran was in one, Fallout Boy got their own jerseys, and Twenty One Pilots wore a jersey of their hometown team at concert.

The Dallas Stars added One Direction to their musical talent, and followed that up by having Jamie Benn deliver Snoop Dogg his own jersey.

The Detroit Red Wings got some Uptown Funk thanks to Bruno Mars. Former Red Wings great Pavel Datsyuk played host to Mike Posner and Big Sean on a collaboration they did together as well.

Thomas Rhett Akins was touring at some point because he landed in Sunrise where the Florida Panthers welcomed him. And for the second time on these lists, Mexican musician Marco Antonio Solís makes an appearance as the Panthers welcomed him as well!

Los Angeles is always a popular tour stop for bands, and Harry Styles made sure to wow his crowd in a Kings jersey. Rapper Conway the Machine was spotted wearing a retro Kings jersey as well!

Thomas Rhett Akins is building himself a nice closet of hockey jerseys as he added a Minnesota Wild jersey at some point. The Wild also added some clothing for Shawn Mendes during his stop. Shania Twain got herself a Wild jersey. Luke Combs added a Wild jersey to his wardrobe. American R&B singer Khalid is on the Wild roster. John Mayer made a pre-pandemic stop for a Wild jersey at the Xcel Energy Center. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill each got their own Wild jerseys during a stop. Chris Stapleton added another Wild jersey to the country music ranks. All the members of Bon Jovi got their own Wild jerseys. And in a weird twist, both Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder were given jerseys with Prince's name and symbol on them.

The Montreal Canadiens welcomed My Chemical Romance to the Centre Bell, and Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Sean Combs was wearing the bleu-blanc-et-rouge before it was cool!

Nashville has a reputation as "the Music City", so it's no surprise that the Backstreet Boys stopped at Bridgestone Arena and got Predators jerseys a while back. American contemporary Christian music band MercyMe received a Predators jersey during their stop. Heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch lead singer Ivan Moody repped the Predators in their concert. Mumford and Sons received their Predators jerseys during their stop. Country music band Midland brought out the Smashville jerseys during their stop in Nashville. There should be no surprise that Thomas Rhett Akins is back in another jersey. Pat Monahan of Train was decked out in Predators yellow. And the Zac Brown Band received Predators jerseys for the entire band!

The New Jersey Devils welcomed Bow Wow to the Prudential Center on his tour.

Mark LaBelle is doing the vocals for Dirty Honey while wearing guitarist Henrik Lundqvist's New York Rangers jersey during a recent set in the Big Apple.

Khalid picks up his second jersey on this list as he made a stop at Wells Fargo Arena where the Flyers decked him out in orange-and-black.

The Pittsburgh Penguins saw Panic! at the Disco's Brendon Urie wearing their colours while Ed Sheeran donned a Penguins jersey during a recent concert at PPG Paints Arena.

We'll jump back to the 1990s when both the San Jose Sharks were the tops in merchandise sales and SWV - Sisters With Voices - were at the top of the charts. Why not combine the two?

The Kraken have been adding musical talent all season long. Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie donned the Kraken jersey. Rapper Jack Harlow is a Kraken fan. 11 year-old Nikhil Bagga was born and raised in Kraken country. You can laugh about this artist, but Shaquille O'Neal's rap career produced at least four albums for the new Kraken fan. And while he may own a portion of the team, there's no denying that Macklemore is a fan of the Kraken in all its colours.

The Enterprise Center played host to Bow Wow who got himself a St. Louis Blues jersey!

The Maple Leafs had a few bands roll through Scotiabank Arena since it opened. My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way picked up a Leafs jersey during their stop. Sandy Beales of One Direction also has a Leafs jersey. And the Barenaked Ladies cheered on their home team in their own Leafs jerseys before a game!

The Vancouver Canucks can add Chris Stapleton to their musical roster while Ariana Grande picked up a jersey a while back during her stop!

The Vegas Golden Knights jumped on the K-Pop train when they gave Suga from BTS a jersey while he was at T-Mobile Arena. They also saw rapper Desiigner join the kingdom, and rapper Lil Jon completed his home-road set with a white Golden Knights jersey.

Dierks Bentley played the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in a jersey, and both Jon Jones and the Eli Young Band were in attendance for that Nashville All-Star Game in jerseys as well. Drake gets his second entry in the All-Star Game section after he wore a 1980-81 NHL All-Star Game jersey with Gretzky on it!

Scottish-born Canadian tenor John McDermott sported a Team Canada jersey in an appearance while Snoop Dogg wore a Tampere Ilves jersey during a concert!

Dean Brody picked up a new Manitoba Moose jersey after a stop in Winnipeg, Slipknot drummer Jay Weinberg grabbed a customized Moose jersey during his stop, and the Foo Fighters received older Moose jerseys when they stopped in the Manitoba capital many moons ago. JoJo Siwa stopped in Bridgeport where she received a bedazzled Sound Tigers jersey, and followed that up with a stop in Syracuse where the Crunch gave her a Crunch Pride jersey! Papa Roach found himself in a Rocket jersey during his stop in Laval, Quebec!

Macklemore shows up with some more Seattle hockey gear as he's seen sporting a WHL Seattle Thunderbirds jersey!

JoJo Siwa earned herself a University of North Dakota jersey after stopping in that state to entertain her fans there!

Finally, Snoop Dogg will close this article out with an appearance in an IHL Long Beach Ice Dogs jersey from a few decades ago.

As you know, this isn't a one-man operation. Any and all images you collect from concerts, in the general public's eye, or from where ever you may discover them where a musician is wearing a hockey jersey, feel free to send those photos to me and I'll credit you accordingly for the find!

Enjoy the music this summer, folks, and have fun at any and all concerts you attend!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 28 May 2022

From Road Warriors To Roadkill

There's a saying in the NBA that goes something like "No playoff series truly begins until the road team wins a game", and it appears that the Carolina Hurricanes are testing that theory entirely as they went into Madison Square Garden looking to win their first road game of the playoffs, but will head back to Raleigh, North Carolina tied 3-3 in their series against the New York Rangers. It's hard to explain Carolina's inability to win anywhere by PNC Arena this spring, but tonight's loss was the sixth-straight playoff road game that they lost in this postseason, and one has to believe that if the Hurricanes want to play in the Stanley Cup Final, they'll need to figure out their woes on the road.

What makes this dubious record where the Hurricanes became the first team in NHL history to start a postseason 0-6 on the road hard to fathom is that the Hurricanes were tied for the most road wins in the regular season this year with 25 wins away from PNC Arena. 20 of 24 of those wins came in regulation time while another three were won in overtime, so it's not like the Hurricanes struggled on the road this season whatsoever.

Their road goal differential was +29 and they scored 3.46 goals-per-game on the road while giving up 2.76 goals-per-game, so they were playing quite well when in white. Sebastian Aho was the most lethal Hurricane away from Raleigh with 23 goals and 38 points including 15 even-strength goals and 26 even-strength points. Five more players were in double-digits in goals, so it appears that Carolina was set and ready for winning on the road in the playoffs.

Where Hurricanes struggled, though, was in the crease as Fredrik Andersen was the guy who did the most damage while wearing white. Andersen was 17-8-1 away from PNC Arena while Antti Raanta was just 5-3-3 away from Raleigh. Combined with Pyotr Kochetkov and Jack LaFontaine, Carolina goaltenders not named Andersen were 8-4-3 outside of North Carolina.

As it stands, Raanta is now 0-5-0 while Kochetkov is 0-1-0, and their stats have exploded in the wrong direction. Raanta went from a 2.87 GAA and a .900 save percentage in the regular season to a 3.96 GAA and an .872 save percentage in the playoffs. Not all of those numbers can be placed squarely on Raanta's shoulders as his defence has to help him out, but it seems like everyone on the Hurricanes' roster has forgotten how to play hockey while wearing their white jerseys.

Jordan Staal leads all Hurricanes in scoring on the road with one goal and two assists. Aho, who led the team in regular-season road goals, has just two assists. Jesper Fast, who was one of the players with a double-digit road goals total, has yet to record a point. The team has scored just one power-play goal on the road in the playoffs - a 4.2% conversion rate compared to their 19.6% success rate in the regular season. If it can go wrong for the Hurricanes on the road, it seemingly has and is continuing after tonight's 5-2 setback to the Rangers.

Game Seven will be played on Monday at PNC Arena in Raleigh where the Hurricanes are 7-0, so they need this playoff trend to continue for at least one more game. If that's not a trend they want to lean on, perhaps they can lean on history as Carolina has never lost a Game Seven at home and have won six-straight Game Seven games, and its last Game Seven loss came three decades ago while they were still the Whalers. The Hurricanes have also never lost a series after leading 3-2 in the series, going 9-0 in those series.

The only thing they need to remember is that the Rangers are 7-1 in their last eight Game Seven games, and it's been 13 years since the Rangers dropped a Game Seven on the road. That loss was a first-round seven-game series against the Washington Capitals in which Sergei Fedorov scored the game-winner in a 2-1 Game Seven victory after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit. Needless to say, that's not the story being written here.

If you're a Winnipeg Jets fan, you may be cheering for the Rangers on Monday as a Rangers win will give the Jets a second first-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft this summer thanks to the conditional second-round pick the Jets received for Andrew Copp. The condition on that pickstates that the second-round pick upgrades to a firsr-round pick if Rangers win two playoff rounds and Copp plays 50% of those games. Copp, as we know, has played in more than 50% of the games as he's dressed for every playoff game, so Jets fans might be cheering for the Rangers on Monday night.

Of course, maybe you're of the mind that all the numbers go out the window in a Game Seven. It's all about winning - winning each period, winning each shift, winning every puck battle, winning every face-off. Stats means nothing in a one-game, winner-takes-all contest unless we're talking about the score, so score more than your opponent and you'll be fine. The rest will take care of itself, right?

There's no Mr. Game Seven in Justin Williams on the Hurricanes roster this year. There's no Stéphane Matteau on the Rangers rosterm for an overtime wraparound. We may see a new hero emerge in Game Seven this year, but we shouldn't forget that Max Domi and Artemi Panarin both have Game Seven game-winning goals already in these playoffs. Perhaps these two teams will look to them for a clutch goal to move them to the Eastern Conference Final!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 27 May 2022

Oil Kings Ice The Ice

It's always a tough moment when a team loses in the playoffs, but when two good teams meet in a series and one has to go home, it stings a little more when there are ties to one of those very good teams. The WHL's Winnipeg Ice has an incredible regular season and appeared to be making plans for Saint John, New Brunswick when they ran into a team who had battled them hard all season long in the Edmonton Ice Kings. The top-two teams in the WHL met in the Eastern Conference Final with the winner advancing to play the winner of the Seattle-Kamloops series, and this was one of those unstoppable forces-immoveable objects series. Who would flinch in this new version of Edmonton-vs-Winnipeg? We got our answer tonight.

After splitting the games in Winnipeg, Edmonton rattled off three-straight wins in their home barn with the WHL playing a 2-3-2 series, allowing them to eliminate the Ice of a 7-1 blowout tonight in a game that went off the rails in 55 seconds for the Ice in the first period.
Down by four goals after a period, the writing was clearly on the wall for the Ice that tonight's game may be their last this season. Forty minutes later, the Oil Kings had eliminated the WHL's best team in five games as Edmonton will play for the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time since 2014.

If you're reading this, the results between these two teams shouldn't be a surprise. Edmonton was 3-1 against the Ice this season as the 111-point Ice only won the December 11 game in Winnipeg between the two teams. That was the only regular season game between the two teams where the Ice scored more than three goals against the Oil Kings as the 104-point Oil Kings continued their dominant play against Winnipeg all season long.

The October 29 game in Edmonton saw Dylan Guenther was a goal and as an assist as the Oil Kings rallied in the the third period to erase a 1-0 lead and win 3-1. Jake Neighbours and Jacon Boucher both had a pair of assists, including on the game-winning goal by Kaiden Guhle, as the Oil Kings downed Winnipeg at the Ice Cave on December 8. Edmonton would rally at home once again after falling behind 2-0 on February 21 as they scored five goals between 16:02 of the first period and 15:48 of the second period en route to a 6-3 win. No matter how the Ice drew up their game plan, it seemed the Oil Kings had a response in those games.

Due to the distance between the two teams, the WHL opted to play this series in a 2-3-2 format as the Oil Kings hosted the Ice for Games Three, Four, and Five, and that distance may have played a factor in not to getting back on the bus for the drive to Winnipeg.

"Obviously that's a big motivation factor going into that game, avoiding that road trip," Neighbours said to Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun. "At the same time, I think we were a desperate team and wanted to close it on home ice for our fans. We talked about having good starts all series, and I thought we did and it was about time we put a couple in, in the first few minutes."

Neighbours' two goals in eight seconds was one second off the WHL postseason record shared by Bill Derlago (Brandon - 1978), Ron Sutter (Lethbridge - 1983), and Joachim Blichfeld (Portland - 2018) while the three-goal outburst in 55 seconds by the Oil Kings broke the WHL record that the Ice set earlier this year for fastest three goals by one team when they did it in 57 seconds against Prince Albert. That three-goal lead became a four-goal lead before the period ended, and the concern shifted from getting a lead to protecting a lead.

"It was good, sometimes that"s what you worry about, you get a lead and guys think it's going to be easy and then you have a tendency to take your foot off the gas," Lauer said to Van Diest. "But credit to the guys, we've talked about situations like this before, we've been in situations like this before and I thought our guys maintained a good level of play."

The Oil Kings now await the winner of the Kamloops-Seattle series that Kamloops leads 3-2 after a 4-3 overtime win tonight. Game Six will be played in Seattle on Sunday with a potential seventh game, if needed, scheduled in Kamloops on Tuesday. The Ice will head back to Winnipeg with questions that have no answers including "why couldn't we beat the Oil Kings this season" while they regroup for next season despite putting together an amazing regular season this year.

One would hope that the players who aren't aging out of the WHL will return to the Ice to finish off what seems like unfinished business this season, and it will be up to head coach James Patrick to tap into that fire that burns after an unplanned playoff exit.

The Oil Kings, sitting at 12-1 in these playoffs, now await the fifth- or the seventh-best team in the WHL with the Ed Chynoweth Cup and a berth in the 2022 Memorial Cup on the line. With the two conferences not playign against one another, there is no record we can rely upon for a quick preview of the Oil Kings against either Western Conference finalist, but Dylan Guenther is fifth in WHL Playoff points and second in goals, goaltender Sebastian Cossa is fourth in GAA and is tied for the lead with three shutouts, and Carter Souch is tied for second in first-goals scored in these playoffs.

In other words, the Oil Kings are going to be a tough out for both Kamloops and Seattle as they play a strong team game, have exceptional depth scoring, are highlighted by outstanding goaltending, and are good on the special teams. Edmonton will also have home-ice advantage in the next round, so that's one more obstacle for the Blazers or Thunderbirds to overcome which won't be easy.

If they need any proof, just ask the Winnipeg Ice who had no answer for the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 26 May 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 505

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back at the studio tonight as Teebz and Jason have a pile of news to go over on the program! For it being May and having everyone getting ready for summer, it seems like the world of hockey is still in news-making mode as there are a ton of stories for us to discuss tonight! With everything happening, it'll be a busy show so make sure you're ready to roll at 5:30pm CT!

As stated above, get yourself ready for some hockey news because Teebz and Jason have some stories. There are a couple of exit interviews to be completed today as more teams are moved off Survivor island in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest with Los Angeles from last week and Florida from this week making the long trek, the IIHF World Hockey Championship begins sending teams back to their respective countries as the medal round gets underway, and the AHL and WHL playoffs continue with Canadian teams vying for victory! Beyond that, Teebz and Jason will discuss Jaromir Jagr's car accident, the NHL playoffs, what happens to non-champion "champions" gear, the first female skater selected to play in the WHL, the PWHPA's potential new backers, and the new contest for June I keep teasing in this space! As stated above, it's another busy show so make sure you're tuned in at 5:30pm CT so you can hear The Hockey Show on 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 talk playoff exits, playoff drama, accidents, making mistakes, making history, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: May 26, 2022: Episode 505

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Remember Me?

The player's face to the left might be somewhat familiar to you, but you'd be excused if you had forgotten it was James Neal. Neal's been playing in Springfield, Massachusetts since the turn of the calendar as the Blues waived the veteran winger on January 2, 2022. He cleared waivers on January 3, and the Blues sent him to their AHL affiliate in the Springfield Thunderbirds at that time after scoring just two goals and two assists over 19 games with the Blues this season. Playing in his first AHL games since suiting up with the Manitoba Moose for five games in the 2008-09 season, would James Neal have an impact on the Thunderbirds' season? Would his veteran presence help the kids? Can he rediscover his scoring touch that seemed to elude him in stops with the Flames and Oilers?

Neal would take some time before reporting to the Thunderbirds, but it's a good thing he did because it seems like he's rediscovered the fun in game. His first AHL in 13 years would be in Hartford against the Wolfpack on February 11, 2022 where he scored a pair of goals in a 4-2 Springfield win. It seemed like the old James Neal who could light the lamp from all over the ice was back.

"A lot of guys were probably shocked that I would come down to the AHL," Neal told Ryan Smith. "But I felt like it wasn't time to throw the towel in. I feel like I can still be an impact player with the way I've played in the (Stanley Cup) playoffs. I feel that the Blues are Stanley Cup contenders."

Neal would have a solid season in Springfield, scoring 14 goals and 26 points in 28 games for the AHL club while helping Springfield to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division. He logged a pile of ice-time alongside Sam Anas and Matthew Peca, and he recorded a hat trick against the Hershey Bears on March 4 - the first AHL hat trick of his career - with the winner coming in overtime. With Nathan Walker being recalled to St. Louis, head coach Drew Bannister awarded Neal with the assistant captain's "A" on March 25, a letter he's been wearing since that day as the Thunderbirds have leaned on him for leadership as much as they have for offence.

"It’s been easy," Neal told the AHL's Patrick Williams of the adjustment to his new team. "The guys are great. The coaching staff has been really good. It's been an easy transition and fun playing."

Springfield entered the playoffs as the second-seeded team in the Atlantic Division, matching up with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Neal recorded an assist in Game Two's 6-2 victory and a second assist in Game Three's 7-6 victory as the Thunderbirds swept the Penguins out of the playoffs. Neal wasn't on the scoresheet much, but he was doing the little things right: solid defensive awareness, playing on the doorstep on the power-play, and finishing checks. They'd need that effort going into the next series against the first-place Charlotte Checkers.

Neal had no points in Game One as the Thunderbirds skated to a 6-0 win, but he'd be a major factor in Game Two as the Thunderbirds looked to put a stranglehold on the series with a second win.

James Neal tips home Brady Lyle's point shot on the power-play with 4.4 seconds to play as Charlotte's Zac Dalpe was sitting in the penalty box for roughing, and the Thunderbirds prevailed in a 4-3 victory to go up 2-0 in the series against the Checkers. It was Neal's first goal of the playoffs and his second point of the night after he assisted on Lyle's second-period power-play goal, and it seems the Thunderbirds got a big performance out of Neal when they needed it after they were outshot in this game by a 50-23 count!

With Game Three set for Friday, there's a good chance that James Neal will play in the Eastern Conference Final. Neal's been to two Stanley Cup Finals, but has yet to capture a Stanley Cup in his career. At 34 years-old, he may not get many chances to win beyond this season, so it would be nice to see Neal win after missing out twice in his career. For a guy who has scored 296 goals in 869 National Hockey League games along with 33 more goals in 110 postseason games, scoring his first goal in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs couldn't have come at a better time.

"For some reason, I don’t think we had our legs tonight because we were a little off," Neal said to Christopher Berry of MassLive.com. "With that being said, timing, goals, and staying with it proved vital."

Winning at any professional hockey level takes players to step up in various ways, and it seems the Springfield Thunderbirds have players who are doing so in spades this spring. James Neal is one of those players, and he's proving that it's a mistake to forget about him in these Calder Cup Playoffs!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 24 May 2022

From Tragic To Hopeful

If you're a reader of this blog, you've likely heard of the Patriotes du Cégep St-Laurent thanks to their men's team. That's the team that female goaltender Ève Gascon plays for normally, but this article isn't about the men's team who skates at Cégep St-Laurent. Instead, this article is about the women's team who skates for St-Laurent. More accurately, I should rephrase that as how they did skate for the Patriotes because the women's program has been suspended by the school for reasons that seem hard to believe and explanations that will leave you scratching your head. Buckle up for this one, folks, because we're in for a bumpy ride.

According to several outlets last week, the Patriotes du Cégep St-Laurent women's team has been "put on pause", as the CBC described it, after the school claims that it is experiencing "difficulties recruiting enough players" in a hockey-mad province like Quebec. Reading that opening paragraph alone had me asking all sorts of questions, so let me be clear: recruitment was never a problem.

Les Patriotes du Cégep St-Laurent are a storied program that has seen many NCAA, national, and international stars play on the same ice as the women do today, and the suggestion that a program like the Patriotes cannot find recruits or coaches who want the opportunity to participate at that level is laughable. Sure, there will be less successful years just as the extremely successful ones, but that happens with every club just as it did with the Patriotes women's team this year where they struggled.

That's why the suspension of the program was so surprising in its announcement.

"We are not making this decision lightly," said Danielle Malkassoff, director of student services and communications at the Montreal CEGEP. "We prefer to take one step back and then two steps forward." She also added, "Women's hockey is not dead. It is part of our DNA."

That's quite a strange statement when it comes to suspending a program, but let's look at the pieces of the puzzle that led to this bizarre announcement on May 13, 2022.

As we know, COVID-19 derailed an entire season of hockey for the entire country at the amateur level. Coming out of that cancelled year, vaccinations were required for coaches and players to return to the rinks, and Quebec was no different. That saw the first domino fall as head coach Dany Brunet chose not to be vaccinated, so the school had to let him go and find a replacement - a task not made easy thanks to a season already getting underway and the looming pandemic threat still present.

By midseason, Alexandria D'Onoforio had taken over as the head coach, and the former Concordia Stingers forward looked to push the program forward. At 27 years of age, D'Onoforio may have been in over head a bit as her only experience coaching came from U18 AAA teams, but her and the team pushed forward through the remainder of the season. When the dust settled, St-Laurent had won five games while playing under some rather uncertain circumstances.

Perhaps D'Onoforio wasn't the right candidate for the job based on results alone, but St-Laurent felt it needed to make a change as both D'Onoforio and assistant coach Léa McIntyre were fired from their positions. Again, one could understand this had D'Onoforio been working under more normal circumstances, but the decision made by Hugo Lamoureux, the CEGEP's athletic director, to make this change. His reason for the change, though, should have him on the unemployment line as well.

"We basically got a phone call saying, 'Sorry, we're going in a different direction. We've decided to go with a male head coach,'" D'Onoforio told CBC's Jay Turnbull. It's not like Lamoureux had a head coach lined up, but that he simply wanted a man to coach the team instead of a woman as CBC "confirmed with current players on the Patriotes' roster, as well as two other coaches, that Lamoureux said he was looking specifically for a male to coach the women's team."

Yikes. But he wasn't done there.

"In his mind, the perfect team would have a male head coach," assistant coach Alexandra Boulanger told Turnbull, prior to her promptly resigning. "He preferred that. He found it easier to communicate with a male."

Misogyny much there, Monsieur Lamoureux? As word of his comments spread throughout the team, strength and conditioning coach Emmanuelle Blais and assistant coach Alexandra Labelle also resigned from the team, leaving the Patriotes women's team with no coaching staff whatsoever. It's hard to recruit and build for a future when the people responsible for doing so have all been fired or have resigned because Hugo Lamoureux can't work with women. It would be a pile of hard work to replace all those people all the summer and recruit good talent, so St-Laurent picked the easiest option present: suspend the team.

Before we go on, the coaching staff on the Patriotes' bench was impressive as Boulanger played for both the Carabins de Montreal and the Concordia Stingers; Blais was a star with the NCAA's University of Minnesota-Duluth before suiting up with the CWHL's Montreal Stars/Canadiennes; and, Labelle was a standout with the University of Montreal before joining the PWHPA. That's a rather star-studded staff to have available, so it's hard for me to understand why Lamoureux would want to alienate them through his idiotic comments, but that's not for me to answer.

The CBC wanted an answer, though, but "Lamoureux did not return messages to CBC". That's probably because he has a gag order imposed by Malkassoff, but she also reiterated that "he will keep his job as athletic director" because he "simply chose his words poorly and didn't express himself properly".

Wow. That's a heckuva statement to make in the wake of what he told D'Onoforio and McIntyre. Nearly two weeks after he "chose his words poorly and didn't express himself properly", there still hasn't been an apology for that poor choice of words. It makes you wonder if we're heading down another North Dakota-Lethbridge-Robert Morris road with the Patriotes du Cégep St-Laurent.

"I feel abandoned," architecture student and Patriotes defender Mégan Miron told Turnbull. "I feel like the CEGEP didn't push. They're just saying they're sorry but they didn't do everything in their power to help us."

I would say Miss Miron's assessment is entirely accurate because there is simply no way we should be letting opportunities for girls to participate in high-level sports fall to the wayside. For some like Mégan, this may spell the end to their hockey dreams. For others, they'll have to be chased elsewhere as St-Laurent sorts itself out. At the end of the day, this feels like another tragic loss for women's sports.

Parents and hockey fans banded together to decry the decision made by Cégep St-Laurent. Players went to the media and wrote letters to the government who added their push in resolving this issue. The media shone a light on this story, and suddenly St-Laurent found themselves under intense scrutiny. You'd like to think that the pressure they felt forced St-Laurent to reconsider their actions.

Well, our story takes a happier turn right here as, according to Simon Olivier Lorange of La Presse, the Minister for Education and responsible for Sports and Recreation, Isabelle Charest, met with Hockey Quebec and RSEQ to to keep Division-I at their current seven-team division status if the team was ready to go in September. There had been plans to reduce the field, but that's now been swept off the table as Quebec looks to keep girls in the game thanks to the recent Committee on the Future of Quebec Hockey report.

Beyond that, former Patriotes head coach Daniel Continelli offered to return to the school to coach the team once again, thereby fulfilling Lamoureux's sexist need for a male head coach. Continelli coached the team in the early-2000s, setting them up for years of success as he put the program on the right track. Getting him to come back on his own without being sought out shows that he's not willing to watch a program die into which he sunk eleven years of his life.

"He really loves the Pats; he told us it was his goal to come back one day and coach us," Mégan Miron said to CBC's Sabrina Jonas. "He wants the girls to be treated the same as the guys at the Pats, that we're on the same level."

Malkassoff welcomed him back immediately as the two set out to fix the wrongs done this month, and that began with an apology from Miss Malkassoff to the players for the turmoil and problems they had caused with the announcement.

Players, understandably, weren't entirely trusting, but twelve players committed to returning to the Patriotes for the 2022-23 season with five needing time to decide on their futures. Those twelve players who did commit represent a large chunk of the player requirements - 14 skaters and 2 goaltenders - the team must fulfill in order to play next season.

As of this past weekend, the Patriotes had the required sixteen skaters, and have since upped the number to 18 women who want to play at Cégep St-Laurent next season! Continelli was even looking to up the number a little more, stating, "Next step is to try to find one to two more players to improve the team."

The Patriotes have a coach, they have the required number of players needed to compete, there appears to be active recruitment happening, so let's make it official: les Patriotes du Cégep St-Laurent will play hockey in 2022-23 after two weeks of hell! On-ice training will resume this week, and it seems that, for once, the right thing was done rather than allowing a school to take the easy way out of a situation. I can't say whether the Patriotes will be in jeopardy in the future, but one former NHL player made it clear that support for the Patriotes is needed.

"If you have a women's program, you have to put in the proper resources to attract good players," MNA Enrico Ciccone, the Liberal critic for sports, recreation and healthy living, told CBC. The Marquette-elected Member of the National Assembly of Quebec played 374 NHL games, but he's been an active member of Quebec politics since winning his seat in 2018.

"It's still ironic to submit a report [on the development of hockey in Quebec], and a week later, we lose a program," he stated to CBC Radio-Canada. "We must be in addition mode, we cannot subtract. There is significant funding to be done."

No one will deny that there is work to be done. St-Laurent really needs to repair the trust that the players had for the program and school. Daniel Continelli needs to rebuild a program in disarray. The players need to show up and work harder than ever before. And the fans, school, and parents need to support the team as often as they can by showing up and lending a hand in any way possible. This won't be easy, but the first step was keeping the program alive and that's been achieved.

Here's hoping the Patriotes come out in 2022-23 and surprise everyone. There are good people working very hard to keep this opportunity alive not only for themselves, but for future generations as well. There will always be challenges when it comes to running elite-level athletic programs at the collegiate and university levels, especially in today's day and age, but the last option of suspending or shutting down a program should only be selected when every other option has been exhausted.

I'm happy for and proud of the Patriotes and all the players who will suit up in 2022-23 as they can already hang a "W" on the board after defeating their biggest opponent yet - their own administrators!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 23 May 2022

Heading North

It might be a holiday Monday in Canada today, but there's certainly no shortage of news coming out of the hockey world. In rather surprising news for this summer, it seems the Calgary Flames have hired moving trucks to head down to Stockton, California where they'll start packing up the gear for the Stockton Heat who will move to Calgary for the 2022-23 season. After years after hearing about how important western expansion was for the AHL as a whole, we're now seeing at least one team leaving that scene while a second California team is rumoured to be considering its options as well. Whatever the case may be, the Heat will make the move north this summer as the hockey scene in Calgary gets a little more crowded with the arrival of an AHL team that appears it will play out of the Saddledome until further notice.

One has to wonder what the Flames are thinking outside of the bottom line on their financial statement. I say that with no disrespect to the Flames as this is the same group of owners who couldn't be bothered to spend a few extra million dollars to build a state-of-the-art arena which could have facilitated an extra team playing in Calgary. Rather, I say this because it's clear that spending money on an investment like the Calgary Flames is something that the owners of the Flames simply don't like doing.

For those who don't know, Calgary sits as the second-furthest NHL team from its AHL affiliate in terms of distance. Stockton is approximately 1291 miles (2078 kilometres) from the Alberta city, so recalling players when needed in a pinch becomes a lot harder when there's a five-hour flight plus added travel time on the ground between the cities. Recent trends have seen NHL franchises move their affiliates closer through relocation of the AHL affiliate, purchasing and relocating an AHL team to create an affiliation, or simply signing new deals with existing AHL teams to move the prospects closer to the NHL city so we shouldn't really be surprised by this move, but it's the cold callousness of ripping a team away from a community where it had established roots and ties that I'm questioning in this decision.

The people of Stockton deserve better than to have the Heat ripped from their hands without any explanation or reason outside of "it's too far". Syracuse and Tampa Bay make it work, so I struggle to understand why Stockton and Calgary can't make it work. The Heat are getting set to play in the opening game of the Calder Cup Pacific Division Final after a successful regular season, and this bomb was dropped on the city by the Flames. Why would anyone want to go and support a team that will be packing up all its worldly belongings in a few weeks to move away forever?

Let's cut to the chase on this one: the fans and the businesses that supported the Heat never mattered to Calgary. After the Heat spent the COVID-19 year playing and practicing in Calgary, the Flames had all the evidence they needed in how convenient it was to have their AHL affiliate in their backyard. Forget the fans who have made the trek to Stockton Arena, built in 2005, and the sponsors who opened their wallets to support the team in the California city. They don't matter when it comes to the bottom line of the Calgary Flames, apparently.

Instead, the Heat will move north to Calgary to be closer to the Flames in case management of the Flames forgets who is on the Heat's roster or something. They spew lines about "better scouting" and "better development" with the Heat being in the Flames' backyard, but the Heat were playing in Stockton without a lease after the team's initial five-year lease at the Stockton Arena expired in the 2019-20 season. Rather than entering into another expensive lease agreement, the Flames simply decided to move the AHL team home.

"Ultimately, we made the decision and if you look across the league there are a number of teams in the last 10 years that have moved their farm team closer to their NHL team," said Heat general manager Brad Pascall. "We just felt your development plan can be even stronger by having it closer. The best way to summarize it is organizational synergies become that much stronger and ultimately that's the reason for the move."

Somehow, Pascall's theory on development doesn't hold water when one looks at recent Stanley Cup winners. Let's take his ten-year window that he gave and look solely at the distances between the NHL teams who won and their AHL affiliates.
  • 2021: Tampa Bay Lightning - Syracuse Crunch = 1100 miles
  • 2020: Tampa Bay Lightning - Syracuse Crunch = 1100 miles
  • 2019: St. Louis Blues - San Antonio Rampage = 905 miles
  • 2018: Washington Capitals - Hershey Bears = 98 miles
  • 2017: Pittsburgh Penguins - WBS Penguins = 224 miles
  • 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins - WBS Penguins = 224 miles
  • 2015: Chicago Blackhawks - Rockford IceHogs = 78 miles
  • 2014: Los Angeles Kings - Manchester Monarchs = 3020 miles
  • 2013: Chicago Blackhawks - Rockford IceHogs = 78 miles
  • 2012: Los Angeles Kings - Manchester Monarchs = 3020 miles
  • 2011: Boston Bruins - Providence Bruins = 42 miles
Pascall can make the case that having the Heat closer to Calgary will help the development plan they have, but the distances above prove that proximity simply doesn't matter. Tampa Bay is currently in the hunt for its third-consecutive Stanley Cup, and the Lightning sit a long way from Syracuse, New York. Call me crazy, but maybe the developmental plan is more about the coaches, players, and staff in that AHL city than the proximity to the NHL team?

Let's review our findings: moving the AHL affiliate closer to the NHL team makes emergency call-ups easier and faster, there's financial incentives to moving the affiliate into a building the NHL team owns, and there's zero correlation between distance and development in an NHL's system. It's not hard to see that this move will save the Flames considerable money, so why not just be honest about it?

I guess we shouldn't be surprised when it comes to the Flames refusing to spend money. They did it in 2007 when they moved the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights to Moline, Illinois. It was entirely about money when the Flames' AHL affiliate jumped from Glen Falls, New York to Abbotsford, BC. They cried poor again and again and again when it came time to build a new arena, and then cancelled the entire project when costs went up and the city of Calgary forced them to eat those costs.

I don't want to say there's a trend forming here based on all those stories linked above from past years, but it seems that any organizational changes from the Calgary Flames should prompt one to follow the money. Time and time again, the Flames have said the right thing when it comes to the soundbytes, but their actions show an entirely different context. Perhaps that's their investment strategy, though, because talk truly is cheap.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 22 May 2022

Clothes Fit To Be Destroyed

If one were to enter HBIC Headquarters this afternoon, one would have to excuse the layer of dust that's occupying the house. I spent the majority of the last two days patching, mudding, spackling, and repairing some of the worst handyman "fixes" performed on drywall. After making things right with the putty jobs, sanding was needed to ensure a smooth finish on the walls prior to painting. That sanding resulted in the dust which is quite literally everywhere. What isn't everywhere, though, is the clothing produced by the NHL for the losing finalist in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so I was thinking today about where does all this clothing go?

If you have one of the shirts to the left, you might be wearing something that was never meant to see the light of day. According to a Chris Johnston report on Sportsnet back in 2015, Reebok and the NHL work extremely hard at ensuring that none of the losing team's "Champions" merchandise makes its way into the sports merchandise world. Yes, you can still get one on those make-your-own-tees sites - full disclosure: the pictured t-shirt is from Tee4Sports - but anything produced by Adidas or Reebok or CCM wouldn't make it into the hockey section at your local sports store.
"At the conclusion of the championship series, the losing team's merchandise is brought back to the NHL office and eventually returned to Reebok to be destroyed. There is also an option to have it sent to developing countries, but it's not common practice because of how small the shipment is."
With Adidas, who now holds the NHL merchandise contract, destroying all the championship gear for the team that falls in the Stanley Cup Final, there's virtually no chance that any of the gear will ever be worn by anyone on the planet unless someone smuggles something away from the NHL Offices or Adidas.

Johnston also points out in his article that "[r]etailers and the teams have the option to order apparel ahead of time so that they can begin selling it immediately after the Stanley Cup is presented", and we usually see teams advertising that they have "champions" gear within 24 hours of winning the Stanley Cup. This seems like a common thing nowadays as people want their gear as soon as possible, so how is that handled?

"Typically they play it pretty close to the vest but it's a competitive advantage for them if they can beat someone else into the market," Brian Jennings, the NHL's executive vice-president of marketing, told Sportsnet. For everything ordered, one would have to believe that the NHL and Adidas would also be able to recall the merchandise and refund the purchase made by the retailers and the losing team. Having worked in a sports store in a previous career, I can honestly say that rules were followed to the letter when one held an agreement to sell NHL gear, so I would assume that there would be a "DO NOT SELL" order on all champions-branded clothing before a specific date and "ONLY IF" that specific team wins the Stanley Cup.

At the end of the day, getting your hands on a t-shirt for the losing team's championship is nearly impossible at this point, but other leagues have partnered with non-profit organizations to distribute their losing team's championship gear in places where clothing is needed.

As per Mental Floss, Good360, based in Alexandria, Virginia, partners with the NFL as they handle excess consumer merchandise and distributes it to those in need overseas. From Mental Floss's article,
"Good360 took over the NFL's excess goods distribution in 2015. For almost two decades prior, an international humanitarian aid group called World Vision collected the unwanted items for MLB and NFL runners-up at its distribution center in Pittsburgh, then shipped them overseas to people living in disaster areas and impoverished nations. After losing Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Arizona Cardinals gear was sent to children and families in El Salvador. In 2010, after the New Orleans Saints defeated Indianapolis, the Colts gear printed up for Super Bowl XLIV was sent to earthquake-ravaged Haiti."
In short, there's a good chance that false NFL champion clothing can be found in locations around the globe while the NHL chooses to destroy its non-champion "Champions" clothing. I don't fault the NFL for allowing this clothing to be distributed to those in need, but it may result in a lot of questions if that clothing ever found its way back to North America.

In any case, it seems that any clothing for one of the remaining eight NHL teams who fails to win the Stanley Cup will be produced, but won't make it into anyone's hands who may want some sort of collector's item. Personally, making them impossible to obtain helps keep the NHL's history intact when it comes to their retail merchandise, but I'd like to see the NHL's humanitarian efforts do a little more when it comes to helping nations in need.

I'm not one to celebrate a Stanley Cup with a "champions" piece of clothing unless I was involved with the team, but getting my hands on a non-champion "champions" t-shirt is a dream, like the Stanley Cup dream for that team, destroyed.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 21 May 2022

Pirates And Knights: Oh My!

You might be excused if the title of this article took you back to your childhood days where you may have played with Lego. Lego, as you may know, has both pirate-themed sets and knights-themed sets, but this article has little to do with the Danish construction toy. As the image above indicates, the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights and the AHL's Henderson Silver Knights failed to bring aboard a bronze-named team, but they are affiliating themselves with the ECHL's Savannah Ghost Pirates for next season!

The ECHL expansion team announced the new affiliation with Vegas and Henderson on Friday at an event that saw everyone excited about the news. Vegas, it should be noted, had an affiliation with the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets that had expired, and Vegas decided to move their affiliation from Indiana to Georgia in aligning with Savannah. No reason was given for the change.

"Vegas, baby, Vegas!" Ghost Pirates Director of Community Relations and Game Presentation Bryan Sklover said in his speech. "You have no idea how hard it's been to keep that secret, in this city of such friendly people who are [saying], 'Oh, just tell me. It's no big deal.'"

It was a big deal for the expansion franchise as they now will see players like goaltender Jiri Patera, forward Mason Primeau, and defenceman Connor Corcoran begin their journey to the NHL ranks in Savannah, Georgia as opposed to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Having that boost in terms of players who can help sell a few tickets in Savannah is something all ECHL teams want, but all three of the players mentioned above have already suited up in both the NHL and AHL as the Golden Knights have been known to shuffle players through their system.

"They have a winning culture," Andy Kaufmann, the team's CEO and majority owner, said of Vegas and Henderson to Nathan Dominitz of the Savannah Morning News. "We wanted to have a head start. We didn't want to have like a typical expansion, 'give us a few years to build.' We want to win right away."

When it comes to selling tickets, though, Ghost Pirates president Bob Ohrablo made an impressive announcement about ticket sales at the announcement yesterday that should have everyone excited for that Saturday, November 5 home opener. As per his announcement at the event, "[t]he team says it has already sold out all of its club-level section season tickets, as well as seven of its lower bowl sections"! That's a lot of seats already sold to watch hockey in Savannah ayt the brand-new, 9500-seat Enmarket Arena before they even have their first player signed!

The Ghost Pirates did make a major hockey operations announcement at the affiliation event, though, as they introduced former Union men's hockey head coach Rick Bennett as the first head coach in franchise history! Bennett amassed a 194-134-45 record in eleven seasons as the Dutchmen's head coach, but his sudden resignation from Union College in January "after a week-long investigation into how he coached the team" left a lot of questions unanswered. The investigation was prompted by an anonymous email received by Union College Athletic director Jim McLaughlin, but it seems to have had no effect on being hired in Georgia.

According to the agreement between the Ghost Pirates and the Golden Knights, "the Ghost Pirates' team operations will be run by the Golden Knights' hockey management staff" meaning that Bennett's hiring was done by the Golden Knights. Kelly McCrimmon seemed pleased in hiring Bennett, stating, "We are excited to lead the hockey operations and have a proven developer of talent as a head coach in Rick Bennett."

It seems that the stars are aligning nicely for the Savannah Ghost Pirates as they have a solid logo, great colours, a fantastic affiliation, good ticket sales, a smart head coach, and a handful of players who will be heading to the Georgia coast. There's still five months before they play their first regular-season home game in the ECHL, but there's a lot to be excited about in Savannah as things look peachy in Georgia for the newest ECHL team.

You might just say that everything is golden for the Ghost Pirates!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 20 May 2022

She Is The First

It's not often that women get mentioned during the bantam drafts in the Canadian Hockey League, but we've seen a handful of women who have made impacts in the CHL including Charline Labonté, Manon Rheaume, Shannon Szabados, and Ève Gascon. These women share a common position as netminders, and there's no denying that goalies, whether male or female, can have a big impact on the game. What we don't see, though, are girls being drafted at positions outside the crease, but that all changed on Thursday when the WHL's Vancouver Giants made a bold decision late in the WHL Bantam Draft by selecting 15 year-old defender Chloe Primerano as the first female skater in the Canadian Hockey League!

Chloe Primerano skates for the Burnaby Winter Club U15 Prep Team where she plays alongside the boys! Normally, I have my ear to the ground for any and all female players who are catching eyes for the university level, but Chloe's age means I didn't know a lot about her before yesterday's selection by the Giants who chose Primerano 268th-overall in the 13th round of the draft!

In doing some preliminary research, Primerano looks like she's a solid defender who plays well at both ends of the ice as she's amassed 19 points in 30 games against the boys, putting her as the second-highest scorer on the blueline for the Burnaby Winter Club U15 Prep Team. She may only have two goals this season, but that's offset by the fact that she's only been assessed one minor penalty all season long!

Her selection by the Giants got her a little national attention as well as the guys from Hockey Night in Canada spoke to the potential Giants defender about being drafted into the WHL!
I'm not gonna rip on her favorite player, but she looks considerably better with the puck than Duncan Keith does in his current form. Either way, though, here's hoping that she can skate in a couple of preseason games to see if the WHL game is what she wants to pursue because it seems she has the talent to be a solid player if everything works out!

I can already hear some people saying, "Yeah, but Teebz, there's bodychecking by some big dudes in the WHL," and I'd agree with that assessment. You can legitimately say that players like Jamie Benn, Milan Lucic, and Dion Phaneuf all played in the WHL before having successful NHL careers, and none of those guys shied away from throwing a hit in their junior days.

We often forget that there were guys who could skate well and move the puck without being overly-physical, though, so one has to remember that Scott Niedermayer, Patrick Marleau, and Cliff Ronning did their best work while skating with the puck rather than while they were knocking players off the puck. If Chloe Primerano can avoid big hits like a Niedermayer or Ronning, she should do well as a puck-moving defender while being somewhat smaller than the handful of beasts who skate in the WHL!

What may interest people is that the SDHL, the Swedish professional women's league, announced today that they'll introduce hitting as part of the game next season. Before everyone gets excited, there will be some limitations placed on the ladies in the SDHL in terms of what hitting will be permitted and what will not as this new element to the game is evaluated in Sweden. Open-ice hits will not be allowed under the new rules, but checks along the boards will be.

"We have allowed more physical play in SDHL the last four seasons with good results," Morgan Johansson, project manager for Project Zero Vision, stated. "It is difficult to say without facts on the table that more physical play means fewer concussions, but now we have that basis. It feels incredibly exciting that Swedish ice hockey can be pioneers in introducing tackles in women's hockey."

As a hockey purist for the women's game, I'm torn about this, but the findings on concussions in the SDHL and the reduction in the number of concussions with increased physicality might be worth a season of hitting. Either way, though, there seems to be more and more women who want hitting as part of the game, so we'll see where this new wrinkle in the SDHL takes us, especially as the season progresses.

With Chloe needing to figure out the bodychecking in the WHL, perhaps she'll have an edge on other players if she ever moves on to play internationally for Canada in the women's game. For now, though, it's pretty exciting to see a skater drafted in the WHL Bantam Draft as the gaps between men's hockey and women's hockey closes a little more with the Giants making this pick. And while there's no guarantee that Chloe Primerano will skate for the Giants regularly, simply getting out there for a shift in a WHL game smashes yet another ceiling for all women in the game.

Congratulations, Chloe, and we're cheering for you as you begin writing the next chapter in your hockey story!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!