Wednesday, 31 August 2022

An Interesting Case Study

If there's one thing I don't do often, it's watch television. It's not that I wouldn't want to do that on nights where I feel less energetic, but the quality of programming on most television networks is rather brutal. Outside of a couple of shows that I watch regularly, though, I have fallen under the spell of Welcome to Wrexham, the documentary starring Ryan Reynolds and Ron McElhenney about their purchase and running of Wrexham AFC in Wales. I find it fascinating in seeing two American men inject themselves into a Welsh town's passion while trying to ultimately do good by raising Wrexham AFC's fortunes and, eventually, status in the football world.

Being that we're only three episodes into the FX series, there's likely still a lot to see and learn about the Wrexham club, but it also dawned on me that this examination of Wrexham could be done at the university level when it comes to achieving NCAA Division-I dreams for teams. As much as I'd love to see it happen at the U SPORTS level, there may not be enough drama and intrigue as the U SPORTS level is the top level of university hockey in Canada.

When you think of the NCAA, there are different levels played within the NCAA umbrella as Division-1 is simply the highest level one can achieve as a program. There are 84 men's teams and 72 women's teams at schools that currently ice NCAA Division-III teams, and we're always hearing about teams who are applying to become or have been granted NCAA Division-I status. Most recently, teams like Long Island University (2020) and Arizona State University (2016) joined the men's while Stonehill College joins the women's ranks this season after Long Island University joined in 2019.

How cool would it be to see a school like Stonehill College get the phone call from the Northeast Conference's Council of Presidents where they were invited to join the conference at the NCAA Division-I level? Beyond that, we'd get to see the inner workings as the women's team joined the New England Women's Hockey Alliance for the upcoming season, the discussions surrounding hiring coaches and recruiting players, the efforts in raising the profile of the program, and more. It would be similar to the Wrexham documentary as the school is basically starting from scratch and learning how to navigate the NCAA Division-I environment!

As we begin the season, we'd get to see wins and losses suffered by the Stonehill teams, how they handled those ups and downs, a bird's eye view into the operations of two NCAA Division-I hockey teams for both the men's and women's programs, fan reactions to the teams, opposing teams' reactions to the new teams, and more. It would be a real eye-opening look at the amount of effort that goes into getting brand-new NCAA Division-I teams off the ground and having them climb the standings and national rankings board each week.

Personally, I could see there being multiple "seasons" of footage based upon which teams are followed. If a network were to follow Stonehill College for the first season in showing how teams get started in the NCAA hockey world, the second season could follow a well-established set of programs like the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, or Clarkson University. The level of intensity for the established programs will be much higher as expectations to win are obviously much higher, but that would present a whole other set of successes, despairs, and drama as well.

There could be a season where the NCAA National Champions are followed as they play the following season with targets on their backs as the top team in the nation. That would be interesting because once a team wins, there's an expectation to win again. That's not always realistic, mind you, but the expectation is that winning once is nice, but winning twice is better.

In spitballing this, it could be done in Canada as well. As we know, MacEwan and Trinity Western were added to Canada West while the RSEQ welcomed Bishop's last season for their first seasons of play. While they had varying degrees of success, it would have been very cool to see the inner workings of each program as the neared their first games, recorded their first historic moments, and played through their seasons for the first time in their respective conferences.

If you want to raise the profile of university hockey in the US - and most certainly in Canada - there needs to be something to draw people in when it comes to generating interest. Having a documentary series that draws on how the teams operate, what it takes to win at the university level, the many hurdles teams have to cross before hoisting the trophy, and everything that happens in between will give people better insight on what goes on inside athletics departments, hockey programs, and arenas at universities. It might also give students better insight on some of thew programs as well.

I admit this may not be captivating television for everyone, but I'd watch it just as I watched the Capitals and Penguins 24/7 series on HBO leading up to the Winter Classic and how I'm currently watching Welcome to Wrexham on FX. I love seeing the dialogues among teammates, coaches, and management as we pull the curtain back on the day-to-day operations of the team. Seeing that happen at the university level provides some transparency and understanding why teams may be more successful than others, so count me in if someone were to take this idea and run with it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Adjectives Are Not Nouns

If there's one thing that's fairly consistent among major sports organizations, it's that the team name, no matter what league and what sport, generally are nouns. It's easy to see why this would be as most sports organizations want physical things as their representatives when it comes to logos, mascots, and branding. For a university as rich in broadcasting history as Toronto Metropolitan University - formerly Ryerson University - you'd think they'd grasp this concept when rebranding their sports teams, but they decided to rebrand in an incomprehensible way. You may even say this rebrand was "bold".

The very first sentence in the release TMU put out on Monday states succinctly, "The Ryerson Rams are now the TMU Bold."

As you're processing that astounding rebrand by TMU, let's run down the reasons why "Bold" is perhaps the worst name in all of sports teams history, let alone university sports in Canada. The only noun form that "bold" takes is when referring to typeface in terms of WORDS BEING HIGHLIGHTED IN BOLD. Even then, the usage of the word only makes sense when describing the typeface, so it's an attibutive noun - a noun which modifies another noun.

This isn't some team name like "Jets", "Bulls", "Lightning", or "Orioles". All of those things conjure an image in your mind of what the team's main identity is. "Bold" gives you no sense of any sort of branding or mascot in any way, shape, or form, yet TMU is going to play under this name for the foreseeable future. It makes you wonder who came up with this idea and who approved it.

What makes this harder to fathom is that there was a committee who reportedly engaged the TMU community to come up with this name. In the release, they write,
In an extensive two-phased process, TMU received 4,800 contributions via surveys. In May, the university received 2,100 responses to an initial survey and open call for suggestions. In July, a shortlist was published, which resulted in an additional 2,700 survey submissions and email responses.
These surveys followed some rather basic guidelines that included being appropriate for all sports teams regardless of gender or sport, being representative of the TMU experience and/or history, and being representative of positive qualities, ideals, or associations that align with TMU. All of these goals seem pretty easy to hit with respect to new branding, so I'm still puzzled how "Bold" was even in the shortlist.

According to reports, the shortlist in June included Bold, Meteors, and Towers - all things I immediately never think of when thinking about Toronto and TMU. I get "Towers" for the CN Tower, but that's a rather terrible name. I have no idea how "Meteors" even related to TMU or Toronto in general, so I cannot explain how that got to the shortlist. And "Bold" is awful because I don't think of TMU or Toronto as bold in any way, shape or form, and the word is an adjective, not a noun.

“Boldness is a core value of our university. It is shared by our students, reflected in our approach to learning and research, and demonstrated on the court, the field, and the rink by our athletes,” president and vice-chancellor Mohamed Lachemi stated in the press release. If you notice, the word "boldness" - a noun! - shows up in his statement, and not once is the adjective "bold" written. We'll hear about how bold the TMU teams are until the cows come home, I'm sure, but being bold is far different from being THE Bold.

What makes this name even harder to explain is that Egerton the Ram, which had been the university mascot since 1961, was retired in this rebranding, forcing the school to reconsider how they will be recognized by fans. Picture "Bold" in your mind - do you see a falcon? That's the new animal form for the Bold in this rebrand, and it was one that was suggested a number of times by the TMU community during the committee's survey period, leading me to ask why wasn't "Falcons" chosen as the new name?

"It was clear from the feedback that our community wanted the TMU mascot to be an animal with local significance, with a level of sophistication and something that would connect to the team name," Jen McMillen, vice-provost for students, stated. "Falcons are as bold as they come. They are fast and fierce, they are good critical thinkers, they are strong. These are all qualities that align with boldness, and represent many qualities of TMU student-athletes."

Hold on a second here. If Falcons checks all the boxes - local to Toronto, represents both the athletes and students who attend TMU, and appropriate for all sports teams regardless of sport or gender - why are we even discussing "Bold"? The TMU Falcons literally makes too much sense from a sports fan's point of view, so how the heck did we land on "Bold"?

McMillen likened the name "Bold" to the NHL's Minnesota Wild in an interview with Sportsnet, but I want to make one thing clear: I can sit out in the wild and be immersed in all sorts of imagery from trees to animals to creeks and rivers to the sky. I can't sit in the bold because that doesn't exist. And, coincidentally, all of those things make up the Wild's logo, so you're really making a false equivalency here, Miss McMillen. Your comparison fails on that level alone, so let's not liken an adjective to a noun in how they're used.

Honestly, if I was searching for "TMU Bold" online, I'd expect to get search results for a font that I needed, not a university athletics department. I know that TMU will want people to start using the new name, but this blog will not. It's ridiculously bad, and Falcons just makes more sense to me. If and when there are stories about the Bold, you'll only see TMU used here because it's not a team name. It's an adjective.

Just because it sounds cool doesn't mean it is cool. Jeff Goldblum's argument in Jurassic Park stands as the test for this name, and, quite frankly, Ian Malcolm's logic wins again.
Best of luck with your "Bold" decision, TMU.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 August 2022

Hockey Blog In Canada West Women's Hockey

As you're likely aware, I might be the only person who has the only blog that offers regular Canada West women's hockey coverage. I'm quite proud of the fact that a number of players, coaches, and teams come here for some Canada West news, but I'm still an outsider for the most part because I'm not working for the local university's athletic department. Having the freedom to opt out of writing puff pieces is something I'll never surrender, and I still want to tell the stories of a number of individuals and teams where they're doing amazing things on campus and in their communities. All in good time, I suppose.

I tend to believe the Oscar Wilde statement of "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." In sports, you want to have people talking about you because that shows there's an interest in what you're doing on the court, the field, the ice, or wherever you're playing your sport. When people stop talking about you, there should be some worry because it usually means interest is fading or there's a serious problem with public opinion about your organization.

Normally, a sports organization uses its marketing and public relations teams to send out messages and stories to the press, but it's rather shocking that Bisons Sports has been silent about the women's hockey program and their efforts playing against a few European national teams to date. If you're not aware, Bisons women's hockey is currently in Europe playing games as they prepare for the 2022-23 Canada West hockey season.

As shown above, they played a pair of games against the French National Women's Team in Strasbourg, France followed by a visit with the Dutch National Women's Team today in Tillberg, Netherlands. The French squad earned a promotion back to the Women's World Championship by winning the Division-1 championship earlier this year, so they're likely a solid team who play well in all three zones. The Dutch team finished last in the Division-1 championship earlier this year, but it was only their second time playing at that level so it was a learning experience for the Oranje against some of the better teams in the world. Needless to say, the 12th-ranked French team and the 19th-ranked Dutch team would be a challenge for the Bisons as they looked to establish their presence on the world stage.

Let's start with the game played in Strasbourg against the French National Team on Friday. The Bisons actually got on the board first, but former Montreal Carabins forward Estelle Duvin made her presence felt with a pair of goals to close out the period as France went into the break up 2-1. Manitoba would tie the game in the second period, but the Frenchwomen responded once again as Carlton Ravens defender Lucie Quarto scored her first goal for her country as she put France up 3-2. Anaé Simon would make it 4-2 before the intermission as France double the lead they had at the first intermission, leaving the Bisons with work to do entering the final frame. They wouldn't find that needed boost, though, as Simon scored her second of the game to round out the scoring as the 12th-ranked team on the planet in Team France downed the Bisons by a 5-2 score.

The hosts certainly were less hospitable on Saturday when the Bisons returned for the second-half of the back-to-back with Team France in Strasbourg. Picking up right where they left off from Friday, the Frenchwomen scored often on Saturday as well. There was no score through the first period which seemed to bode well for the Bisons in playing a sound defensive period, but Estelle Duvin scored five minutes into the second period, former Northeastern Huskies forward Chloé Aurard added a second goal 30 seconds later, and Duvin added her second goal later in the frame to make it a 3-0 game. Aurard added her second goal in the third period, Duvin notched the hat trick with her third goal of the game, and former MoDo star and former Montreal Carabins star Lore Baudrit, named as France's new captain days earlier, rounded out the scoring in this game as Team France downed Manitoba by a 6-0 score.

If you're asking, Team France didn't post the boxscores for who scored from Manitoba nor how the goaltending splits went, so I can't give you much in the way of stats in either game outside of Team France talking about their own players. Because I can't find any video or any recaps of the games anywhere on the internet, we're left without knowing who did what for the Bisons in those games. C'est la vie in the world of hockey friendlies, I guess.

The Bisons moved to the Netherlands for today's game against the Dutch National Women's Ice Hockey Team, and the 19th-ranked team on the planet was playing a little shorthanded when it came to the contest today. According to reports, a number of the women who make up the national team had already moved to their respective club teams across Europe, making them unavailable for today's game. The Dutch dressed just 14 skaters and two goalies, but that didn't take the wind out of the Dutch squad's sails, though, as that group went toe-to-toe with the Bisons!

The Dutch were able to skate with the Bisons through the opening frame, and they broke the draw when Nicky Tjin-A-Ton found room past Meagan Relf to make it a 1-0 game at the 17:37 mark. The Bisons would rally, though, as Kate Gregoire would even the score when she beat Eline Gabriele at 19:08 with Sarah Dennehy and Rachel Gottfried earning helpers on the play. The 1-1 score would carry into the second period where Brenna Nicol put the Bisons up a goal at 1:40 when she beat Gabriele with Kylie Lesuk and Jena Barscello picking up assists. Less than four minutes later, rookie Dana Goertzen found room past Gabriele with her shot at 5:25 as the Bisons claimed a 3-1 lead with Trechelle Bunn recording the helper. Savine Wielenga, who plays for Brynas in the SDHL, would find twine behind Relf at the 8:30 mark to bring the Dutchwomen back within a goal.

The 9:45 mark of the second period saw both teams swap netminders as the Dutch squad brought in 19 year-old Emma Fondse to replace Gabriele while the Bisons saw Kimmy Davidson take the crease after Relf's solid outing. The final 30:15 of the game saw these two netminders dual in a battle of clean sheets with neither goalie giving up any further goals. In knowing that fact, the Bisons claimed victory in Tillburg with a 3-2 victory over the Oranje!

If you're looking for the boxscore on this one, the Dutch Ice Hockey Federation's page has it here, and it seems the Bisons were guilty of a few infractions as well as they racked up six minor penalties for 12 minutes of time in the sin bin, but it seems the top-ranked penalty-killing squad from last season was doing a good job at getting ready for this season as they killed all six infractions off including 31 seconds of 5-on-3 action. Perhaps a little concerning is the oh-fer-two showing on the power-play, but it's not even September yet as the Bisons still have lots of time to work on that aspect of their game.

I can say that the two forwards that Jon Rempel recruited seem to be doing their part as goal scorers for the Bisons. Dana Goertzen, as mentioned above, had the game-winning goal against the Dutch squad as per the boxscore, and a social media post revealed that Norah Collins also scored a Bisons goal on the European trip, which could possibly be one of the two goals against the French team. It seems the rookie class for the Herd are fitting in quite nicely when it comes to bulging twine so far!

There will be one last stop this week as the team moves to England where they'll land in Bracknell for a game against the Queen Bees. The Queen Bees aren't a team should be taken lightly as they play in Women's Elite League where they are the six-time defending champions of the Women's Elite League. Among the many great things the Queen Bees have done is that they have expanded their hockey reach in England since being founded in 1987 as they now run the Women's Elite Queen Bees team, the Fire Bees of the Women's Premier League, and the Ice Bees of the Girls U16 South League. Being that they're as successful as they are, they supply a vast number of women to Great Britain's National Women's Ice Hockey Teams including eight players who suited up for the Olympic qualifying games in 2022.

Among those to keep an eye on in this game, assuming all have returned from last season, would be leading goal scorer and overall scorer Rachel Cartwright who had 23 goals and 33 points in 18 games last season. Katherine Gale and Chrissie Newman had 15 goals apiece as well, so they'll be lurking in the Manitoba zone in Thursday's game. Ellie Wakeling and Abbie Sylvester led the blue line in scoring with 22 and 21 points, respectively, so they'll play a role in the Queen Bees' success against Manitoba, and I would assume that Naomi Healey will return to backstop the Queen Bees after a successful campaign where she posted a .915 save percentage and four shutouts in 13 games.

I struggle to understand why the Bisons haven't posted any of this information on the Bisons Sports website nor have they had any players write a journal of some sort about their experiences in Europe. You would think that this could generate some real chatter among parents, family, friends, and fans of the program, but I guess I'll have to make up the difference on this blog once more. Being the place to get Canada West women's hockey news isn't something I started this blog to be, but it's evolved into that with the coverage Bisons Sports is giving in to its women's hockey team.

The Bisons will come home and get set to play the Saskatchewan Huskies in Yorkton, Saskatchewan on September 17 and 18 - also not on the Bisons Sports website - as they get set for the 2022-23 season. Beyond that, I haven't heard of any other games being scheduled for the Bisons, but I'd expect at least a couple more before they open their season following a bye week in Vancouver against the defending Canada West champions in the UBC Thunderbirds. We'll see how everything stacks up before then, but you know where to find news about the Bisons if you're seeking it.

Since they won't do it on gobisons.ca, check back on HBIC for updates as it seems this is only place to find them!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Remodeling HQ

For months, I've been working on the same project at HBIC Headquarters as painting was started on the weekends back in May. I can officially say that today is the last day any wall or ceiling will be painted at HBIC HQ as the job is done! There was a lot of work to be done - patching walls, moving wall-mounted devices, fixing mistakes left by the previous owner - but it's finally done and I'm quite happy about the results! Four months of weekends used for painting and renovations have now paid off!

I have to give a nod to my parents who have been there from the splotch of mud on the wall to the final drop of paint used to colour them, and they've helped move the project along by being a second and third pair of hands. While there were some struggles at times in terms of "do it this way" versus "I've done this a thousand times", the end results are looking spectacular and my weekends are back to being mine! Let me say it one more time: major thanks to the parental units for their help on this project.

Some of you may have noticed that the updates on this blog would lag behind sometimes, and now you know the reason why. There are still more projects to be accomplished before I can call HQ "completely done", but one of the bigger projects - painting two floors of walls and ceilings - can be crossed off the list. Finally.

That being said, there some more renovations happening at Wayne Fleming Arena and, if you happened to glance at both schedules for the Manitoba Bisons and WHL's Winnipeg Ice, it appears that it won't be open to the public until November. The Ice open their 2022-23 schedule with thirteen-straight road games beginning on September 24 in Brandon against the Wheat Kings before finishing the month away from Winnipeg on October 28 in Brandon. The Bisons, meanwhile, are playng October home games out of the The Rink facility at 57 South Landing Drive in Oak Bluff just off McGillvray Boulevard.

Why the long road trip and temporary home for the two teams? Well, there is considerable work being done on the side of the rink where the benches are situated. The WHL has mandated that all WHL clubs use two ice resurfacers during intermissions to allow for more time for the water to freeze, so that's one of the changes being made as the ice resurfacing area simply didn't have the square footage needed to have two ice resurfacers in it. That's one of the changes you'll see this season.

The other major change is that there won't be any high-fives for players heading onto or coming off the ice this season as the dressing rooms for the Ice, Bisons, and their opposition have been moved over to the bench side of the rink. This change will give both squads proper-sized dressing rooms suitable for WHL and U SPORTS programs, but it also means it's easier for training and medical staff to tend to injuries with the dressing rooms right next to the benches while equipment staff no longer have to lug equipment all over the rink for the respective teams.

Aside from that, there will be an updated pressbox for the media to work in while a handful of other improvements to the sound system and speakers that hung above the pressbox are also happening. Expect the Ice to have more branding in the university rink they're apparently never leaving since they're paying for the upgrades to meet WHL standards with the Bisons playing second fiddle to the WHL club in their own barn when it comes to a presence in the rink once again.

It was a summer of renovations both at HBIC HQ and at the home for both the Bisons and Ice, and we'll see how things look once the doors to Wayne Fleming Arena open in November. If the renovations at the rink turn out as well as the one around my headquarters did, it should be a snazzy-looking rink when the teams and the fans return to Wayne Fleming Arena. Let's hope there are championships to celebrate after the new additions this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 August 2022

5500

Today's entry on Hockey Blog In Canada is #5500. It's not normally a number that's celebrated, but, sixteen years after the first post in January 2007, I feel like any major milestone is something to accomplish now. I don't know if I can see anything I haven't seen and I know there's a pile of stuff I don't know, but I've been writing for sixteen years to this point and the same stories keep repeating themselves: affiliations changing, uniforms changing, and people criticizing the 3-2-1-0 points system to decide games.

Ok, maybe that last one doesn't happen as often as I'm making it out to seem, but it seems the same problems exist in 2023 as they did in 2007 when I started writing this blog. There are still issues within the game that hasn't been solved over that time, and the people who are watching over the game haven't really changed all that much. As a blogger, I have little power to change that, but I feel like I should still be holding people accountable for their actions.

I'll continue doing that, but today's not the day for calling people out. I'm working my tail off in trying to finish up some renovations, so entry #5500 will be all about 55, 50, and 00. There aren't many players who wore #00, but there have been many who wore #55. 50 seems to be an odd number altogether, so let's figure out who the best players were in the NHL that wore those numbers.

There are the only two men to wear #00 - New York Rangers netminder John Davidson and Buffalo Sabres goaltender Martin Biron. Davidson played 301 NHL games, posting a 123-124-39 record on the strength of a 3.52 GAA and an .883 save percentage. Biron played 508 NHL games, posting a 230-191-52 record on a 2.61 GAA and a .910 save percentage. It should be noted that Biron won both the Aldege Bastien Memorial Award and the Harry Holmes Memorial Award in 1999 as a member of the Rochester Americans, and was part of the 1997 Canadian World Junior Championship team that won gold.

Best #00: It seems fairly obvious that it's Biron.

Shockingly to me, there have been 73 players that have worn #50 in an NHL game. I didn't actually think the number was that high, but that's a big number. Some of the other notable players to wear the number are St. Louis Blues netminder Jordan Binnington, journeyman goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, and one season of Trevor Letowski in Phoenix. Kristers Gudlevskis wore #50 with Tampa Bay for three total games, but that's hardly an NHL career in that number. Let's focus on the two men who were teammates at one point, but both who wore #50 in their careers for a number of years.

Corey Crawford gets the obvious nod in Chicago as #50, but Antoine Vermette wore #80 while playing 19 games and winning a Stanley Cup in 2015 with the Blackhawks. Both men were drafted in the second round - Crawford at 53rd-overall in '03 by Chicago and Vermette at 55th-overall in '00 by Ottawa - so it's clear both men were valued assets coming out of junior hockey.

Vermette played for five different teams over his career with appearances in 1046 NHL games with the Senators, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Blackhawks, and Ducks where he scored 228 goals and 287 assists while being one of the elite faceoff men in the game. He helped the Blackhawks win the 2015 Stanley Cup, and won the QMJHL championship in 2002 with Victoriaville.

Crawford played 488 NHL games, posting a 260-162-53 record in those games on the strength of a 2.45 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He was only a member of the Blackhawks, playing 13 seasons in the Windy City. He won two Stanley Cups and two William M. Jennings trophies as a member of the Blackhawks, and also helped Canada win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Best #50: I like Vermette, but it's hard to ignore Crawford's successes.

We've seen 127 men in the NHL wear #55. That total includes players like Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele, Chicago Blackhawks winger Eric Daze, Montreal Canadiens defender Danny Markov, Detroit Red Wings defender Niklas Kronwall, and the above-pictured Ed Jovanovski who wore three team's jerseys in his career. All had great careers wearing #55, but there are a few who are have done more. And as much as Keith Primeau may want to be in the discussion, he did his best work wearing #25 in Philadelphia.

One of the players who wore #55 who needs to be included in the discussion is Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar played for six teams in his career after being selected 14th-overall by the Washington Capitals in 1992. He was one of the highest-scoring defencemen in his time, amassing 220 goals and 591 assists in 1301 NHL games as he was the first Russian defender in NHL history to score 200 career goals. He helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the 2009 Stanley Cup, and has earned a bronze medal and a silver medal at the Olympics.

There's no denying that Larry Murphy has to be in the discussion. Murphy was selected fourth-overall in 1980 by the Los Angeles Kings, and set the record in 1981 for assists and points by a rookie defenceman in the NHL with 60 and 76, respectively. He played twenty NHL seasons for six NHL teams, amassing 288 goals and 929 assists in a then-record-for-defencemen 1615 games. Murphy found success wherever he played as he won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in '91 and '92 followed by back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in '97 and '98. He won a Memorial Cup with the Peterborough Petes, helped Canada win the 1987 Canada Cup, is fifth all-time in defencemen scoring, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.

Best #55: Gonchar was fantastic, but Murphy's career was incredible.

I thought it would be best to have some fun on this 5500th entry on HBIC. Perhaps I'm wrong about Biron, Crawford, and Murphy, but I'm willing to listen to other choices people may have as to who was the best to wear #55, #50, and #00 in their NHL careers. Feel free to leave a comment if you have other players I should consider, and we can discuss who wore the number best. We'll keep the articles coming with #5501 tomorrow, but here's to 5500 articles written.

Let's see for how long this keeps going.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 August 2022

Walking Away

When it was announced that former NHL head coach Mike Babcock was joining the Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team as their head coach following Dave Adolph's departure from the program, there was some excitement that Babcock's presence would help to elevate U SPORTS and Canada West hockey in a big way. Saskatchewan had a good season at 12-7-1-0, but they never seemed to find the magic needed to leap ahead of teams such as Mount Royal and UBC. After being upset in the first round of the Canada West playoffs by Calgary in three games, there was a feeling of unfinished business in Saskatoon after it felt like the Huskies fell short of the expected goal.

It was a bit of shock yesterday, in knowing that there may be unfinished business, that Mike Babcock announced he was resigning as head coach of the Huskies. The former Mighty Ducks, Red Wings, and Maple Leafs coach will leave the coaching dutied to Brandin Cote, the man Babcock helped select to eventually succeed him. Cote likely didn't expect to succeed him in Year Two, but here we are with Cote at the helm and Babcock moving to new opportunities.

You may be asking why this happened just as we were yesterday on The Hockey Show. Today, we got our answer from Mike Babcock thanks to an interview on AM 680 CKOM in Saskatoon.

"We always said we were going to retire at 60 and I'm 59, so basically that's what it is," Babcock said during the radio interview. "Now, if things change, I guess they change, but surely that's not our plan.

"Believe me, we've talked to lots of people about opportunities and enjoyed those conversations. In the end, we feel this is best for us and best for our family and so that's what we’re doing."

If that reason sounds a little fabricated, I assure you that it's not.

Back in September 2021, he spoke to David Singh about the Huskies opportunity where he told Singh, "I've always planned on retiring at 60. I'd have to work fast. You know, if you go back to the NHL, you're going back for five years."

April 29, 2023 will be Babcock's 60th birthday, so it wouldn't have been surprising if he came back for one more season with the Huskies. In his discussion with Cote about the change, it seems that Babcock isn't worried about the program with Cote in charge.

"I'm excited for Brandin and his family. He is prepared to be a highly successful coach," said Babcock. "I believe he will elevate the Huskies play and profile even further. I look forward to seeing him continue down the path of what promises to be an incredible career."

Whatever people feel about Mike Babcock and what he's done in the past, it seems that he's leaving the game on his own accord with his head held high. There has been behaviour in the past that likely will be discussed when his name is mentioned, and I can certainly say there were moments from his one season coaching the Huskies that will land on both sides of the ledger when it comes to his successes and failures both on and off the ice.

I'm not here to celebrate nor denigrate Mike Babcock on the day of his stepping away from the game, though. I simply feel like Mike Babcock's presence in Canada West hardly moved the needle when it came to drawing attention to Canadian university hockey. I don't understand why there wasn't more done to have Babcock promote the game, but it seems that wasn't a priority for any party who had a stake in that opportunity. This seems like an opportunity lost with Babcock walking away from the game yesterday.

For Babcock, though, he's moving into a new chapter of his life where hockey isn't at the forefront. When asked what would define his career by Singh in his interview, Babcock stated, "This is what the measure for my wife and I is: The impact our kids have on society. So, when someone sits down one day and says, 'What matters to you?' I'm not going to say the Stanley Cup or Olympic gold medals. I'm going to say my kids. And maybe one day their successful marriages and their grandkids and all those. That's what matters to me. That's the measure of me as a man, not this other stuff."

That's the kind of answer that one would expect from someone who is ready to move on from the game. As he prepares to move on, Babcock says he will enjoy hunting, skiing and spending time with his family - something that he hasn't been able to do a lot of as he moved around the country for coaching opportunities. He'll likely spend more time in Michigan, visit his kids more often, and spend more time with his wife doing the things they enjoy.

In other words, he'll be retired. Just as he planned all along.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 August 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 518

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight as we begin a major international tournament in Denmark! Teebz and Jason aren't in Herning where the 2022 IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship is being played, but they'll have all the information you need to know about Day One of the tournament tonight! There are a pile of other stories that need to be discussed as well, so get settled in for a lot of hockey chatter on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT!

We'll see if Canada and the US are the two teams shaking hands following the gold medal game in Denmark in two weeks, but Teebz and Jason will go over all the highlights and news from Day One of the tournament while drawing attention to a few key pieces of information one should know while watching the event. In addition to that tournament, our hosts will discuss Hockey Canada's ongoing idiocy when it comes to tripping over their own landmines, the status of the investigations into the crimes committed in 2018 and 2003, and the final tally from Edmonton's recent hosting duties. They'll talk about the 2024 World Cup of Hockey, Carey Price's future, signings in Carolina and Vegas, a player who won't return to Columbus, and a pile of other stuff as we close out August on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT 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 chat women on the big stage, ongoing scandals in the news, futures for big-name players, big decisions made by players, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: August 25, 2022: Episode 518

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

The Colours Of Hockey?

According to the Pantone Color Matching System, there were 2161 distinct colours as of 2019. In knowing that, there are literally hundreds of colour combinations that one could use when designing hockey uniforms that would be distinctly different from any other team. Some colours will look remarkably the same as others due to slight changes in colour profiles, but the overall message should be that there are still hundreds of individual colours and exponentially more combinations that a team could use in coming up with a unique colour scheme for its franchise. Right?

We'll start in the WHL where the Portland Winterhawks revealed their new look today. They introduced the new logos last season, and the jerseys followed this summer to complete the new identity.

Before we get to my thoughts, I should note that this is the first time in Portland's 46-year history that they have their own unique identity. The original jerseys were very Chicago-esque thanks to a deal made between the owners of the Blackhawks and Winterhawks that saw the Winterhawks obtain a used set of Chicago Blackhawks jerseys in their first season of play. Eventually, the tomahawk-crossed "C" on the shoulders were replaced by the tomahawk-crossed "P" for Portland, and the Winterhawks stuck with the Chicago look until their rebrand last year.

Clearly, this is a major mark in the Winterhawks' history, so it seems obvious that the best options to forge a new identity are black and white. Excuse my sarcasm in that previous statement, but the Pacific Northwest is a region rich in colours and the Winterhawks chose their base colour for their dark jerseys to be black? Why black of all the options available?

According to the marketing rationale, "The dark jersey introduces black as the main color, allowing our primary logo to stand out as was intended when it was created" which seems like a fairly weak reason for choosing black. Other dark colours would achieve the same effect, yet black was the choice made. Other than that, no other reasons for a black jersey were given. No one will call it a mistake with the rebrand for the franchise, but I personally believe that the Winterhawks could have done better.

The "squall gray" colour that was added to the colour scheme is new, and we'll likely see an alternate jersey in that colour in the future for the Winterhawks. Personally, I don't hate it, but the base colours for the jerseys for the Winterhawks are literally black, gray, and white. We go from a stellar logo with all sorts of creativity built into it to the most bland and boring colours for hockey teams. That's quite the dichotomy in approaches to your identity, Winterhawks.

If there is one unique aspect I do like about the Winterhawks' new look, it's the font they use for the numbers on the back of the jersey. It follows the same font they use in the wordmark for the team name, and that kind of continuity is important when establishing an identity. It doesn't appear that the added colour to the numbers is embroidered based on the image to the right, so I'll be curious to see what the cost of this font setup is. If the added splotch of colour is cut out of the top layer of the fabric, expect the costs for customization to go up with the chances of individual numbers looking different if the cuts are made by hand. That might result in pricey customizations.

Overall, I still like the new logo that the Winterhawks are using, and the fonts are easily read. While they've opted to move away from Blackhawks red, they completely missed the bus when it came to all the other colour options they could have chosen. I'll never like the black jerseys and the new colour is nothing special, but the lgoo really does save the overall look of these jerseys. If we're ranking these jerseys on the GOOD-OR-DUMB options, they actually fall into the GOOD category for me by the slightest of margins. Again, I do like that logo, so the Winterhawks should continue to push that identity.

We're not done there, though, as we head ten-and-a-half hours south down the coast to San Jose, California where the San Jose Barracuda introduced the third jersey of the set they'll wear in 2022-23 today. If you missed the first unveilings, April 28 saw a rather ridiculous black jersey introduced while July 29 was the day the Barracuda introduced their new white jersey. With just a dark jersey remaining in the set to be unveiled, what would this design look like for fans?

Here is the "dark" jersey for the 2022-23 San Jose Barracuda.
Like the white "Ice" jersey, this gray jersey is called the "Steel" jersey. Honestly, these special names are really dumb and whoever is responsible for them should end the insanity. It doesn't matter what name you give a white jersey or a dark jersey when the stripes are still completely out of whack. Does no one see this?

I don't have a problem with the Barracuda moving away from the teal and using it as a shoulder yoke colour. If the Barracuda want to go with "steel gray" over teal, that's their choice. It creates more separation between them and the NHL's Sharks, and that should be the intention when it comes to growing the Barracuda's slice of the sports market in San Jose.

The font is legible on the jersey as well, and that's good for sitting in the nosebleed seats if one chooses to do so. Not that you'd need to do that since San Jose has one of the worst attendance records in the AHL, but the option is there if one wants it. I do question why they didn't follow the white jersey's contrasting name colour, though, as that continuity would work nicely across both jerseys. I guess I expect too much when it comes to design elements on uniforms.

These jerseys will work as "dark" uniforms just as well as they'll work as "white" uniforms. I can see San Jose wearing these in a number of different situations, so the versatility may prove useful. I just wonder where the creativty has gone in San Jose as both the Sharks and Barracuda seemingly have no one willing to make a splash with a unique, new look. Please excuse the pun.

If there's one good thing for these "Steel" jerseys, they have the logo on the front with the "SJ". Wearing one's primary logo is key for building an identity, and the Barracuda will sport the angry fish on their chests for one of their two main jerseys. Granted, the stupid "SJ" is still there as well, but at least the Barracuda have an identity in these jerseys.

The world isn't seen in blacks and grays, and hockey teams need to start realizing that. We have colour TVs for a reason, so let's start living life in colours once again. Hockey has red lines, blue lines, white ice, black pucks, and colourful personalities, so there's no reason for jerseys to be bland and lifeless.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Setting Standards To Absolute Minimum

There's absolutely no doubt that Hockey Canada has taken a beating over the last few months thanks to their inability or their unfathomable refusal to do the right thing. We've seen them beat up by Members of Parliament, the court of public opinion, and reporters for their response to being caught paying out huge sums of money for sexual assualt and sexual misconduct allegations from registration fees they collected, and it came to light yesterday that they were spending more money on things like travel, accommodations, and meals like they had won just won the lottery. Obviously, someone needs to pay the bill for this lifestyle, so the report filed by Susan Krashinsky Robertson and James Bradshaw in The Globe and Mail today may be the first signs of cracks in the Hockey Canada money bin.

While the above link is unfortunately paywalled, Robertson and Bradshaw reported that "Hockey Canada recently approached some of its largest sponsors to gauge whether ousting some top executives and board members would be enough to win back their support – and sponsorship dollars – amid an ongoing sexual-assault scandal."

That silence you hear is the sound of me being baffled that Hockey Canada would have the audacity to beg its sponsors to come back when they've done nothing to indicate nor exemplify change at a number of levels. According to Robertson and Bradshaw, I'm not the only one baffled as they wrote, "So far, the sponsors who were contacted have not changed their positions, according to the sources, whom The Globe is not naming because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive conversations with business partners. Some said the departures on offer would not be sufficient, and that wholesale change to Hockey Canada's operations is needed."

As I've been stating all along in these proceedings, we need to see heads roll. Promises to make changes and vows to improve culture mean nothing when the public's trust in the organization has been shaken to its core. Actions speak louder than words so, if Hockey Canada is serious about changing the culture, those who instilled and grew the culture that needs changing need to be dismissed. It's really that simple when it comes to starting this process, and I struggle as to why Hockey Canada can't seem to get that message.

Hockey Canada calling up their main sponsors and begging for money and/or support reeks of desperation, and, as stated, it might be the first time we see cracks in the foundation. Hockey Canada will host another World Junior Championship in December, and we already know that the cost of holding one of these tournaments in Canada is expensive. It seems that the recent tournament in August may have left the coffers a little short, so Hockey Canada may have resorted to some corporate begging of its sponsors when it comes to having the necessary funds on-hand for the December tournament.

Of course, this is only speculation, but what does this act of going to one's sponsors - sponsors who have demanded changes, may I remind you - and asking if what's been done is good enough for them to re-invest their money say about the leadership at Hockey Canada? What standards are Hockey Canada laying out when it comes to making changes? Is "bare minimum" what was demanded from the organization or are the public, sponsors, and government not making it clear that necessary changes include the dismissal and re-organization of Hockey Canada?

You don't get rewarded for doing the absolute minimum in any situation. That's not how any normal, societal reward system works. If Hockey Canada had made wholesale changes by this time, I can see a number of sponsors agreeing to go back. It may not be all, but some is better than none, right? But if one has done nothing except agree to be part of a larger governmental oversight and publish a job advertisement for a new culture-based role, that's not quite hitting the "bare minimum" ask that the public, sponsors, and government made either.

No one has been fired. Michael Brind'Amour, the former chair, stepped down with months left on his term, but no one else from the Board of Directors has stepped away from his or her role. Nothing has changed other than Hockey Canada wasting oxygen on talking about meaningful change and examining what can be done. If you do nothing after making repeated promises, why should you be expecting to be rewarded for that effort?

Again, this failure of leadership comes from a lack of responsibility and lack of accountability. It starts at the top and trickles down through to executives who have tarnished Hockey Canada immensely through their actions. With no evidence produced as of yet to prove the culture is changing, you don't get benefit of the doubt when it comes to actions. Having the gall and nerve to ask sponsors if Hockey Canada has done enough yet in order to receive monetary support is disgusting on its surface and completely ridiculous at the heart of the matter.

I'd be ashamed if I were Hockey Canada. It just seems like they're willing to hold onto the status quo when everyone else is demanding so much more from them in order for them to be better and do better. The hardest part is that they're clearly hearing what everyone is saying, but they aren't listening to the message being sent. If they were, there would be vacancies on both the board and on the executive team at this time. Only then could Hockey Canada say that they've started the process, so it's clear that they simply aren't listening.

Minimum standards only exist for those that don't care nor are willing to be better, so I commend Hockey Canada's partners and sponsors for sending a strong message that the expectations set were clear and Hockey Canada has not achieved anything close to those expectations. We need to hold them to a higher standard, maybe even an impossibly high standard, in order for them to receive any reward for making changes. Only at that point should they be able to ask if the effort was good enough.

Author M. Sosa wrote, "If they're doing the bare minimum and you keep settling for that, that's all they'll keep giving you." Now is not the time to settle and be happy with Hockey Canada's promises. Until their actions speak louder than words, Hockey Canada's leadership has failed again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 August 2022

Free Gift Just For Joining!

I have to give Bell Media's Rick Westhead some serious credit because it seems like he's a hungry dog holding onto a piece of meat when it comes to the Hockey Canada scandal that is ongoing. Rick, as you likely know, has pulled back layers of cover to expose some of the worst parts of Hockey Canada, and he continues to do so today. Westhead, through TSN, reported today that NDP MP Peter Julian wants to sit down with Hockey Canada executives and board members once again after a former Hockey Canada board member told Julian that "senior staff and board members receive gifts and other perks with little oversight or transparency."

That bombshell, found in this report, absolutely should be reviewed, investigated, and scrutinized by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage because it's hard to justify anyone receiving perks such as free gifts or unlimited spending when there was so much misconduct happening elsewhere in the organization. Accountability is apparently something that Hockey Canada has never mandated from its executive team nor its Board of Directors, so kudos to MP Julian for wanting answers and to Westhead for once again bringing another misstep to light.

Julian was quick to point out that this new wrinkle in the committee's effort to make Hockey Canada accountable was not just to knock the besieged organization down another peg or to embarrass it further.
"This is not about dragging Hockey Canada through the muck," Julian said. "It's about acountability and transparency. We've had a lot of stonewalling by Hockey Canada, and we haven't gotten the answers Canadians are asking for. We are hearing from minor hockey associations and parents who are concerned about the use of their registration fees for purposes that have nothing to do with effective management of hockey.

"The allegations I've heard about high-priced wine, gold rings, and luxury accommodation are concerning. This whistleblower is providing important information. The committee needs to hear from them, and Hockey Canada has to come clean with what it's been doing with registration fees and why they have not invested in stopping sexual assaults."
This is going to be critical in examining how the Hockey Canada board members and executive team were accountable when it came to spending and gifts in light of all for which they're currently under the microscope. The current Chair of the Board, Andrea Skinner, was a member of Hockey Canada's Finance and Audit Committee, and there might be a number of questions she'll have to answer about the lavish gifts and excessive spending Hockey Canada reportedly was doing for a number of years with little to no oversight from anyone.

We're all a little sickened by corporations who demand a government bailout for a failing business model only to see those businesses turn around and dump a multi-million dollar severance package on an outgoing executive. You've seen the stories on the news and - be honest - it sparks a ping of rage in you in seeing someone walk off with money they didn't earn or deserve.

Here's where Hockey Canada's story gets a little more sickening: they were paying off one-to-two sexual assault or sexual misconduct allegations annually for five to six years, as per CEO Scott Smith in his testimony, while the former board member who spoke to Westhead stated that "they and other board members have received gifts from Hockey Canada such as large-screen televisions, home theatre systems, iPads, and luggage. The board member also said they and other executives and board members have attended dinners at five-star restaurants that were paid for by Hockey Canada."

The only accountability that Hockey Canada had, it seems, was to reward those who kept their mouths shut about the crimes alleged and the pay-offs needed to cover them up.

"When you are on the board of Hockey Canada, you live the high life," the former board member told TSN. "You have a credit card and can spend thousands of dollars every month to wine and dine. You stay at the best hotels when you travel for the federation, and you're invited to attend parties in the hotel's presidential suite where the board chair stays."

"I've been at [Hockey Canada] restaurant tables... where the table has been packed with wines that cost $150 per bottle. Spending thousands on a dinner was no big deal."

Remember, folks, this is an organization taking money from the federal government - your tax dollars at work! - and from its member associations in terms of player fees, and they're spending like there's no limit on anything. The re-investment of your dollars should be going into programs and innovations, not to five-star restaurants and first-class accommodations for board members. This is why answers are needed about this new wrinkle, and it's my hope that MP Julian gets some.

Imagine the funding that women's hockey could have at levels below the national team. U SPORTS hockey could be huge. Grassroots tournaments could be bigger and better-funded. Coaching and mentoring programs could be expanded in a major way. A larger contribution from Hockey Canada could be made in starting and running a women's professional league. The possibilities are endless.

How about sledge hockey which we know is significantly underfunded thanks to my chat with Billy Bridges on The Hockey Show a few weeks ago? Enrollment is down, leagues are shrinking, players have less places to play, and Hockey Canada has barely blinked. The women's para team faces the same issues as the men do, but they have even less resources from which they can draw. How is this even close to acceptable?

Terry Ledingham, a Hockey Canada board member from 2010-2015, gave Westhead even more disturbing comments about how little the Hockey Canada Board of Directors knew during his time.
"[During my time on the board] there were a lot of questions that were not asked that we should have asked," said Ledingham, a 75-year-old retired electrician in St. Albert, Alta. "We should have asked why we were paying out claims related to the abuse of Sheldon Kennedy and Theoren Fleury and other players connected to the Canadian Hockey League and letting the CHL sit in the back row with its arms crossed and not be held more responsible.

"I didn't know how much we paid out in claims for abuse. I didn't know. I didn't ask. I only knew we were taking money from every player registration, and we were told it was going to all claims, including when players had accidents, like when they went into the boards badly and became paraplegic. I could have asked more about what our executives were paid. I had no idea until this testimony in Ottawa that Hockey Canada officials were making huge bonuses when we won tournaments."
At this point, I don't know if anyone on the Board of Directors or the executive team at Hockey Canada should be trusted without there being some doubt about their testimonies. Hearing about free gifts, unlimited spending, and lavish bonuses being given or paid to people whose primary objective is to govern the game and enhance Canadian hockey at all levels is absolutely abhorrent, and I'm not interested in any testimony or statement that doesn't start with "I'm sorry".

This is a moment of reflection for everyone sitting in the board room and in the offices of Hockey Canada to look into the mirror and ask the person staring back what they could have done and will be doing differently to ensure the corruption of the country's hockey governing body never happens again. If money is the root of all evil, the spending and gifting that Hockey Canada was doing with money that should have been used to better the game is the resulting rotten tree that sprouted from that root.

The comments from Hockey Canada spokeswoman Esther Madziya in Westhead's report are absolutely useless as well when it comes to defending or rationalizing the spending done by Hockey Canada. Telling Westhead that gifts can come from a number of sources without having those sources disclosed to the board is a huge red flag, and having all these expenses for travel and food that clearly fall outside of a per diem situation means that all the oversight on spending that Madziya claims is in place isn't there. This is simply more lip service in an effort to cover Hockey Canada's behind.

I cannot stress how important it is for MP Julian to get some answers on Hockey Canada's operations at this point. We already know they completely mishandled registration fees paid for by you and I, and now it seems like any budgeting that they were supposed to be doing to help the game within Canada's borders was being spent on food, hotels, travel, and, potentially, gifts for people.

Hockey Canada is broken in so many ways at the executive and board levels. It might be time to admit that this country's governing hockey body needs to start over with a clear and concise mandate on what the purpose of Hockey Canada is in this country. As it stands right now, I'm not sure they're even in the same arena as that purpose.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 August 2022

A Touch Of History

I'm in the midst of renovations once again on HBIC Headquarters, so keeping a finger on the pulse of the hockey world has been a little more challenging than normal. That being said, I still do occasionally check social media for a quick update on what's happening. It was there where I discovered the tweet you'll see below that led to this article being written as I think it's an amazing bit of hockey history that deservedly needs a little more context to the story. Like the picture above, let's bring this story to life by filling in a few key details about the image found in the tweet!

We'll start with the tweet put out by The Hockey Samurai because it's a beauty. If you're on Twitter and not following The Hockey Samurai, I highly recommed you do as the posts on that account are fascinating.

The historical aspects alone in this tweet needed some context, but that's an incredible image that The Hockey Samurai posted. If you're familiar with Winnipeg, you may be asking "where is this Shea Amphitheater" considering this image is now mor than a century old. Winnipeg has, indeed, changed since 1912 when it comes to some famous buildings and structures, so the location of this venue may look entirely different now.

Before we get to where, the structure itself is rather incredible. As pointed out by The Hockey Samurai, the box where the band was seated is pretty incredible, but Shea Amphitheater doesn't really look like any historic hockey rink when looking at the bigger picture. Usually, seats would surround the rink with people sitting behind the nets, but it's pretty clear that wasn't the case in 1912. So what gives?

Well, Shea Amphitheater was constructed between 1908 and 1909 by architectural firm of Pratt and Ross for horse shows in the city! During winters when horse shows paused, the venue was flooded and used as an indoor skating facility where hockey games were often played. The rink itself was an odd size compared to what we see in the NHL as it measured 220 feet in length by 86 feet wide - twenty feet longer and a foot wider by today's standards!

What made Shea Amphitheater unique, though was that it was, for a short time, the only artificial ice surface between Toronto and Vancouver following the 1919 renovation that was undertaken inside the building to increase seating from 5000 to 6000 seats. The extra seats were vital to the amphitheater's survival as it began to be the epicenter for a lot of Winnipeg's events - horse shows, rodeos, gardening shows, public concerts, festivals, boxing matches, Shriners shows, and more!

Of course, hockey was the main event in the winter with the amphitheater being the official arena for a number of hockey clubs as early as 1910 including the aforementioned-in-the-tweet Winnipeg Victorias. The Winnipeg Monarchs, the 61st Battalion, and the Winnipeg Falcons, who won the first Olympic ice hockey gold medal in 1921, all called Shea's Amphitheater home throughout its time as a hockey venue in Winnipeg.

The Heritage Winnipeg website features a blog about Shea's Amphitheater, and it mentions some rather incredible hockey moments that happened in Winnipeg before the likes of the WHL or WHA rolled into town.
"By the 1930s, teams were now at the Amphitheatre vying for a chance to win the Memorial Cup. Junior championship games were also held at the Amphitheatre, drawing in local teams like the Elmwood Millionaires, St. Boniface Seals, Portage Terriers and the Brandon Wheat Kings. Sometimes even professional teams paid a visit, even though Winnipeg lacked their own professional hockey team at the time. It was not unusual, recalled Vince Leah in 1955, for teams to line up outside the building in freezing weather just for a chance to get tickets to an exciting championship game. In 1949, tickets for a sudden death match between Brandon and Montreal were on sale for only 22 minutes, and many hockey fans had been waiting outside for over twelve hours for a chance to buy them. The police were called to manage the disgruntled crowds."
As the Heritage Winnipeg site states, the amphitheater was flagged for fire safety concerns with it being called "one of the most flammable buildings in Winnipeg". Thankfully, the old barn never caught fire, but the city did tear down Shea's Amphitheater in 1955 when the city opened Winnipeg Arena for hockey on the edge of the St. James neighbourhood beside Winnipeg Stadium. One of the first indoor artificial ice rinks in Canada was no more.

To take this one step further, though, The Hockey Samurai did a great job in unearthing this photo, but we need to credit the photographer as well. The Heritage Winnipeg site has this information at the bottom of the image, and it seems that "Lyall Photo" is who is credited with capturing the image! For those asking, this image is publicly displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame as well!

As for the game shown above, this was the second series of games contested for the Allan Cup in 1912. The first challenge saw the defending Manitoba Hockey League and 1911 Allan Cup champions in the Winnipeg Victoria defend their Allan Cup title against the Calgary Athletic Club in a two-game series at Shea's Amphitheater. Winnipeg won both games - 11-0 and 8-6 - to capture the two-game total-goals series at a 19-6 score to hold onto the Allan Cup through this first challenge.

The next challenge came from the Toronto Eatons as they travelled to Winnipeg, and they too were sent home empty-handed as the Victorias defeated Toronto 8-4 and 16-1 to win that two-game series by a 24-5 count in total goals. Ironically, the Victorias became the 1911 Allan Cup champions after the Toronto St. Michael's Majors refused to play the Victorias after being challenged, and were stripped of the Allan Cup as it was awarded to Winnipeg. Winnipeg would defeat the Kenora Thistles in a later challenge in 1911 to retain the Allan Cup prior to defeating Calgary in 1912.

A final challenge was issued by the Regina Capitals in 1912, and that game was played at Shea's Amphitheater as well. In a single-game challenge, Winnipeg downed Regina by a 9-3 score to retain the Allan Cup. With no further challenges against the Winnipeg Victorias made in 1912, the Victorias were crowned the 1912 Allan Cup champions!

I want to give a big stick-tap to The Hockey Samurai for posting this photo on Twitter for all to see, and I hope this quick look back at the story behind the photo gave a little context to what was happening in and around the hockey world at that time to lead to the Eatons and Victorias playing in a place called Shea's Amphitheatre.

For those asking where this rink was, the location of where Shea's Amphitheater used to stand is now part of the parking lot for the headquarters of Canada Life in Winnipeg on the corner of Broadway and Osborne. Canada Life, originally Great-West Life, built their building in 1960 after the Osborne Stadium came down shortly after Shea's Amphitheater had been demolished. And, to bring this full circle, Canada Life now holds the naming rights for the NHL arena in Winnipeg as the Canada Life Centre is located on Portage Avenue and Donald Street!

There's always something that can be discussed from the records of hockey's past, and this was a good one that showed the importance of a new rink to establish and help a hockey community thrive when there were so few indoor artifical rinks. As we've seen, the Allan Cup, the Memorial Cup, Olympic champions, and other great teams all skated there, and this is why I love hockey history.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Stating The Obvious

The gentleman to the left is the character "Captain Obvious" from the Hotels.com set of commercials. I'm not here to discuss his work, but it seems that he may have been hired by the IIHF after listening to their reasons for what is likely one of the worst Canadian-hosted World Junior Championships in modern history. Maybe ever. Attendance was down. Viewership was down. Interest was down. As a result, profits were down. Let me just state this for all who are reading: it was also all deserved.

According to IIHF information, the average attendance per game at the 2022 World Junior Championship was just 1525 fans. Canada clocked in at 4400 fans per game, but it's pretty clear there were great sections available for anyone who wanted to go. As stated here and on The Hockey Show, there would be no coverage whatsoever from this corner of the hockey world, and I stuck to that promise because holding a tournament like this in August was beyond stupid. Adding in that olding it in Canada in conjuction with Hockey Canada was completely inappropriate, and you could see why my interest was at an all-time low.

IIHF Luc Tardif held his tournament-ending press conference with reporters, and he admitted that the tournament ran into a number of issues regarding times, ticket prices, and the scandal following Hockey Canada.

"We knew August was not the best time and we did not expect the attendance that we do usually," he told reporters before the gold-medal final today. Tardif, playing the role of Captain Obvious with that statement, likely should have accepted that the 2022 tournament wasn't going to be saved after COVID derailed it in December and January, but the IIHF never quite reads the room as they should.

Other IIHF executives weighed in with their thoughts on this edition of the tournament as well.

"(The IIHF) does not set the prices," tournament chair Henrik Bach Nielsen said. "I do not know if the prices were set as normal world juniors and there was no reaction to this. Personally, coming from Denmark, $50, $60, $100 for one of these games? Yeah, that's a high price."

That price would be set by the Oilers and Hockey Canada who were looking to make up for the shortfalls they were experiencing at this tournament. Reported prices of gold medal tickets prior to game time were $210 - an absurd amount of money at any time, let alone for a summer hockey tournament. Because there was already little interest going into the tournament, the warning flags regarding the problems this tournament was going to face were present, but it seems that everyone chose to ignore them.

Hockey Canada issued statements that indicate a complete ignornance of how little this tournament meant to everyone.

"First, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed this tournament to August," the organization said in a statement. "And second, there is understandable scrutiny from Canadians of Hockey Canada and the culture of hockey."

Let's just break that statement down because there are a couple of flaws in that rationale. Yes, the tournament was delayed due to COVID, but it certainly didn't have to be delayed until August. In fact, it didn't have to be played at all after being cancelled. We could have simply askterisked the record books just like we did for a number of other IIHF tournaments and moved on. Knowing that there was a better-than-good chance that this tournament was going to fail by IIHF-tournaments-in-Canada standards, not holding it and simply looking ahead to the 2023 tournament would have likely been the better course of action by the IIHF.

The understatement of the "scrutiny" by Canadians shows just how much Hockey Canada hopes to downplay the toxic cultural issues they have within their organization. The problems still exist, the investigations still continue, the players responsible still have not stepped forward, and no one from Hockey Canada has lost their jobs despite the mounting evidence that Hockey Canada was not only aware of the problems, but helped cover up those problems. The very nature of having Hockey Canada try to profit from the tournament that has thrust them into the spotlight for their failures not only seems wrong, but downright criminal. Until heads start rolling, the "scrutiny" can, will, and should haunt Hockey Canada.

To recap, no one was really wanting this tournament in August, but the IIHF and Hockey Canada went ahead and played it anyway. They killed interest from both hardcore and casual fans by pricing tickets astronomically high, so attendance waned even further. Beyond that, scrutiny towards Hockey Canada over the investigation into the organization for many acts of misconduct drove away sponsors, television viewers, and fans alike.

If this tournament moves back to December and January, it should get better. If heads roll at Hockey Canada, it should get better. If ticket prices were so exorbitant, it should get better. If the IIHF and the organizing committee for future tournaments can see all three things are done in unison, this tournament should return to the prominence it enjoyed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps Bach Nielsen said it best at the press conference when he stated, "This is one-time, here in Edmonton with this situation in August. So I don't think we have any plans to change the world juniors. We just need to come back to normal."

Normal: what a unique concept in the sport of hockey. The IIHF should look into making more things like that if possible.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 August 2022

The Cost Of Price

It was a tough pill to swallow on Thursday for Montreal Canadiens. Acquiring Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames will certainly give them more depth for their forwards this coming season, but having general manager Kent Hughes all but confirm that Carey Price's career is over means that one of the greatest goalies of this generation likely won't get to finish his career on his own terms. Price is still suffering from the same knee injury that kept him out of all but five games last season, and he certainly didn't look like himself in a couple of games. If Price is unable to play this season, we may start talking about his career in the past tense rather than with hope for the future.

The 35 year-old is signed through the 2025-26 season where it was assumed that the Canadiens may have been able to rebound from a few lacklustre seasons thanks to smart drafting and shrewd roster moves. Marc Bergevin, the man who orchestrated Price's $84 million, eight-year deal, is no longer with the Canadiens, and it seems that Kent Hughes is in the unenviable position of having to decide what to do with a goaltender seen as a fixture in the Montreal nets.

Price still has to report in the fall for a physical which he'll likely fail, and that will allow Hughes to find some salary cap relief as Price will be placed back on LTIR. With the Canadiens currently more than $6 million over the cap ceiling, they need that relief desperately. Beyond that, Kirby Dach still sits without a contract as a restricted free agent while goaltender Cayden Primeau - the only netminder in Montreal's system as a prospect - also is unsigned.

Price was a fantastic option for many years for the Canadiens, but ignoring the potential players who could have stepped in for Price had he been injured (like he currently is) is a failure that the Canadiens easily could have avoided. Emmett Croteau was taken in the sixth round this year, Joe Vrbetic was taken in the seventh round last year, Jakub Dobes was taken in the fifth round in 2020, and Frederik Dichow was taken in the fifth round in 2019 since Primeau was drafted in 2017. None have signed, it seems, but I find it odd that the Canadiens haven't produced an NHL-calibre goaltender since Price in 2005.

For those asking, Zach Fucale played four games in the NHL as the only goalie to even appear in the NHL as a Canadiens goaltending draft pick since Price! And he didn't even play those games in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge!

One has to wonder if the luxury of having a game-changing netminder standing in the blue paint caused the Canadiens to shift their focus away from drafting goalies in rounds higher than the fourth-round, but selecting just one goaltender in Rounds One, Two, or Three of the nine goalies they chose since Price was picked in 2005 shows a glaring problem with the management and scouting in Montreal's system. They're not the only team to fall into this trap - Winnipeg seems destined to follow a similar path - but it's one that should have been addressed with the cap space the Canadiens once had before taking on a number of contracts this summer.

As we know, that didn't happen, and the Canadiens stand on the precipice of the 2022-23 season with Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault as their tandem which didn't exactly pan out one year ago. That's not to say that neither are capable of grabbing the reins and going on a crazy run that would defy all statistical trends, but the likelihood of that happening seems far closer to the same number of games Price will likely play for the Canadiens this season: zero.

There's no doubt that the Canadiens were blessed by having Carey Price guard their net for a long time. The problem, though, is that there's a cost to that blessing in that it kind of lulled the Canadiens into this false sense of security that Price wasn't going to falter or be seriously injured as the Canadiens used trades and draft picks to upgrade their roster elsewhere rather than having security net in case something catastophic happened to Price. Having failed to address this issue combined with their salary cap issues, the Canadiens can't do much to fix the problem unless they overhaul their roster again.

Having a goaltender provide consistent all-world netminding night in and night out isn't something many teams can boast. Montreal could for a while, but they failed to account for any sort of problem that may derail that luxury. They didn't draft another highly-ranked goaltending prospect, they failed to develop one, and they have yet to be able to find one on the trade market or via free agency. This has been an issue since Jaroslav Halak played in Montreal, and none of Peter Budaj, Dustin Tokarski, Mike Condon, Ben Scrivens, Al Montoya, Antti Niemi, or Keith Kinkaid made the cut. Allen and Montembeault will get another shot by default this season, but I'm not holding my breath on either of them being the saviours that Canadiens fans are seeking.

Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens have seen some amazing highs, some incredible achievements, and set some great records, but every player's timeline is finite. The Canadiens should have seen this coming as Price got older, and they should have been planning for the inevitable end of his storied career at some point by drafting or finding a suitable replacement for Price so the legacy of amazing goalies in Montreal could continue.

Instead, they squandered draft picks, wasted cap valuable cap space, and made trades for players who could never measure up to what Price did in the crease for the Canadiens on a nightly basis. Take nothing away from the goaltenders listed above as they did their best and that's all that can and should be asked of them, but this problem was one created by Marc Bergevin and has yet to be solved by Kent Hughes. Until Hughes figures out where to find the next franchise-altering netminder, the Canadiens will find themselves likely struggling in the standings as Price rehabs his kneee injury from afar.

For all the good that Price did on the ice for the Canadiens, his incredible play somehow forced Canadiens management into forgetting how to do their jobs effectively. That's the cost of having an incredible talent like Carey Price.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!