Sunday 30 April 2023

Just A Car Wreck

Following the Game Five loss to Vegas, Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness had a fiery response to how his team played in the series and, specifically, in the last game of the 2022-23 season for the Jets. He used words like "disgusted" and "disappointed" repeatedly in response to questions about his team's play, and it seemed Bowness may have been sending shots up the chain towards management as much as he was towards the lethargic and disinterested effort given by the Jets. The players didn't like their coach saying the things he did about them, so it's pretty clear they heard the message that Bowness was delivering despite Bowness walking it back one day later. Today, we'd find out if management heard the message as Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff met with the media.

It would be one thing for the media to sit and chat with Cheveldayoff if there was a clear message as to expectations for this season or any other season. The media could reflect on the expectations set by the general manager with respect to what he hopes to see his team achieve, and there could be discussion on how goals were achieved, how some may have been missed, and what needs to change for next season in order to take steps forward. After all, one of Chevy's most favorite lines is "it's a process", so if you're not moving forward, what does that say about your process?

Officially, after today's press conference, one could be inclined to call it a car wreck. Maybe a tire fire. Perhaps the term "blowing smoke" would suffice. Whatever the case may be, it would appear that Chevy's process is to don the rose-tinted glasses and see nothing but sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows with his team after the disaster they iced against Vegas.

"I'm not sure who predicted we were making the playoffs this year," Cheveldayoff glibly told reporters during his 43-minute word salad. "There's going to be one team that's going to be satisfied with their season this year. There's sixteen teams that would have given anything to be in that same situation as us."

Based on Cheveldayoff's delusional statement above, there are sixteen teams who would wanted to have played two home games - losing both of them as well - and cleaned out their lockers after spending the least time in the playoffs out of any of the teams that qualified. Does he really believe the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Calgary Flames would have been content with that outcome?

"We're not sitting here waving any banners or anything like that," Cheveldayoff said before doubling-down on his rose-coloured view of the team by adding, "But there's a lot of good people in that room that pushed this organization to a good place."

In mid-December, the Jets had the fifth-best winning percentage in the NHL and sat atop the Central Division. When the calendar flipped to January, the implosion that occurred was as inexplicable as it was painful to watch. To his credit, Rick Bowness tried every trick in the coaching playbook to end the bleeding, but the hemorrhaging never really stopped. It was bandaged for about week when the Jets won a couple of games with their playoff hopes on the line, but that wound was exposed by the Vegas Golden Knights once again.

"Good people" are usually more invested in fixing problems when they arise as opposed to waiting until the final week in the season to secure a playoff spot. I won't deny that there will be bumps along the way, but good teams made up of "good people in that room" identify those issues, fix them through practice and video sessions, and get back to playing effective, winning hockey. Rarely do "good people" look lost in their jobs for the better part of two months.

For a team who made a veiled threat about the long-term viability of this franchise in Winnipeg to its season-ticket holders a few weeks ago, it seems particularly odd that Kevin Cheveldayoff is preaching the benefits of simply making the playoffs with a cap-tight team. When Cheveldayoff was asked about accountability in his team, he instead deflected into how sixteen teams would want to be where they were. None of that addresses accountability in his team.

When Cheveldayoff was asked about the core of the team being together since 2018 with respect to the oh-for-five record they have in elimination games and losing seven-straight games on home ice since they went to the Conference Final, Cheveldayoff ignored the statistics and, instead, defended the players who "got us to five of six playoffs". Again, why is the standard simply making the playoffs? At what point does management look at the team and wonder why they can't or won't go deeper into the postseason?

When asked about a lower standard of winning being accepted in Winnipeg, Cheveldayoff spoke about the salary cap and how he's not able to build a dream team, but then blamed injuries for how the season finished. From what I've learned about sports, neither a salary cap nor injuries lead to setting a standard and reaching that standard annually. That's set as part of a team's culture, and it's hard to see that culture when the general manager just keeps blowing smoke.

As Scott Billeck wrote in the Winnipeg Sun, Cheveldayoff's "endless loyalty to certain players in the organization" that either won't be moved due to that loyalty or cannot be moved due to the loyalty shown via the contracts he's handed out "only compounded his team's problems". It was clear that there was a problem in the dressing room when Dustin Byfuglien left this team. It was clear there was a problem when Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic were traded. It was clear when Paul Maurice left unceremoniously. And it's still a looming issue that casts a tall shadow over this franchise.

Normally, culture starts with the man assembling the team. Kevin Cheveldayoff has had twelve years to put some sort of culture in place, but that's never happened. It's always come down to the players and, for a short time, the coaching staff he managed, and the internal friction between some of these factions is what led to big-name players either being traded away or leaving on their own. If there was a defined culture that had been installed by Cheveldayoff, perhaps we're talking about deeper runs than "sixteen teams that would have given anything to be in that same situation as us".

This Winnipeg Jets franchise is a car wreck right now, and I'm not sure if it's worth picking through the wreckage to see if there's anything worth salvaging when it comes to building a team for next season. There are bright spots that one hopes will be part of this team when they're able to take significant steps forward, but any opportunity to convince fans that this season wasn't like the others and won't be repeated next year was killed by the debacle that Kevin Cheveldayoff produced today.

The irony in all of this is that this current car wreck - the lack of standards, the lack of accountability, the inability to objectively judge one's performance - starts and ends with one thing: a Chevy.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 29 April 2023

Three Names Remain

As we know, the search for a replacement for the man to the left is underway in the Manitoba capital. That's Mike Sirant, the newly-retired head coach of the Manitoba Bisons men's hockey team, and his departure left a hole on the bench that would need to be filled by someone who brings a renewed vigor and philosophy to a team that last won a playoff game - not a series, but a single game - in 2017. The last time that the Bisons men's hockey program played beyond the quarterfinal round in Canada West was in 2014, so things are going to have to change from top to bottom if the Bisons want to chart a new course in Canada West. The question that needs to be answered is who is coach with the vision to do so?

From the information that I've collected, it seems that the Bisons won't be revolutionary in naming their new head coach as all three finalists, from what I've been told, are men. It would have been a major step forward in being a progressive institution if one of the finalists was a woman, but that's not happening at the University of Manitoba. For anyone hoping for the next Kori Cheverie, it won't be in Winnipeg as a head coach for the upcoming Canada West season.

The final three candidates bring all sorts of different backgrounds to the table in their playing and coaching careers, and all three men are Canadians who have ties to playing university hockey - two in U SPORTS and one in the NCHA. While their paths to reaching this point haven't crossed yet, the resumés of two men are certainly more decated than the third man. Where he may have an advantage, though, is familiarity.

From what I've been told, let's pull back the curtain and take a look at the three candidates whose resumés sit in front of the Athletic Director and whose visions for the Bisons may earn one of them a shot at standing behind the bench in Canada West in October.

Gordon Burnett

The first of the three candidates we'll review here on HBIC is Gordon Burnett. Burnett's playing career saw him move through the SJHL with the Melville Millionaires before landing in the NCHA with St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minnesota. The Regina-born defenceman played 104 games at the NCAA Division-III level, scoring 12 goals and 24 assists in his four-year span in Duluth. That led to an opportunity with the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL in 2006-07 before bouncing around the CHL and ECHL where he finished with 200 ECHL games and 87 CHL games to his name that saw him rack up 874 PIMs in seven professional seasons. Burnett earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business, Management, and Marketing in 2005 at St. Scholastica before adding a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Development. In 2021, Burnett earned a diploma from the University of New Brunswick in University Teaching and Education. Yes, there's a lack of U SPORTS experience in Burnett's past, but his connections to other leagues could be the "in" he needs.

For the lack of U SPORTS experience that Burnett brings, he does bring a strong tie to the WHL thanks to his seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Kootenay Ice and the Moose Jaw Warriors. From 2015-16 until 2018-19, Burnett worked alongside Luke Pierce and James Patrick behind the Ice bench in trying to build a Memorial Cup team, but the team ended up in the basement of the WHL's Central Division in three of those four years. In 2020-21, he joined a considerably better Moose Jaw Warriors team where he's been coaching as Mark O'Leary's assistant coach.

Burnett's dabble in Manitoba hockey saw him take the head coaching position of the MJHL's Winnipeg Blues in 2019-20 after the Kootenay Ice became the Winnipeg Ice, and he led them to a 24-29-7 record in his lone head coaching stint. The Blues made the playoffs, but were dispatched in the opening round before the playoffs were cancelled with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, Burnett brings a wealth of experience in terms of both his playing and coaching days, and his efforts with Hockey Canada likely means he has good ties across the country when it comes to sourcing players. As we know, a lot of WHL players end up in U SPORTS, so having ties to both the Ice and the Warriors means he may be able to attract some undrafted WHL talent to the Bisons. The only drawback that I can find on Burnett is that he has a lack of head coaching experience, but he's worked with some great coaches and players at the WHL level where he's likely learned a lot.

Jason O'Leary

The second of the three candidates is Jason O'Leary. O'Leary's career on skates started in his hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick where the defenceman skated for the Fredericton Canadians U18 AAA. After two seasons in the Quebec Provincial Junior Hockey League where he played just 29 games and one in the Maritime Hockey League where he played 36 games, O'Leary landed at St. Thomas University in the AUS in 1998-99 where he skated for four seasons. In 94 games at the school, O'Leary scored one goal and eight assists, but posted a whopping 200 PIMs as a member of the Tommies. In 2001, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Literature, and he followed that up by earning his Bachelor of Education degree in 2002. It's been 22 years since he last skated in U SPORTS, and he hasn't crossed into Canada West at any time, but his coaching experiences might make him the best candidate of the three finalists.

In 2018, O'Leary landed in Austria where he earned the head coaching job for the Lower Austria Stars U20 team while coaching both the Austrian U18 team at the World Division-1B Championship and the Austrian U20 team at the World Division-1A Championship. His two seasons in Austria didnt see him make the playoffs, but Switzerland's SC Langenthal liked him enough to hire him as an assistant coach for the senior and U17 teams and as a head coach for the U15 team.

In 2014-15, O'Leary was promoted to the head coaching position for SC Langenthal, and by 2016-17 he had captured a National League "B" title with Langenthal for just the second time in the team's history. That victory put O'Leary on the coaching map, and he was hired by the National League's Genève-Servette HC for the 2017-18 season as an assistant coach before joining EVZ Academy as a head coach in 2018-19. One season later, he was the head coach for the DEL's Iserlohn Roosters before being fired in 2021. Another short stint the SCL Tigers in the National League ended with O'Leary's dismissal in 2022, and he moved on to coaching the Ducs d'Angers in the Ligue Magnus in France where he's still behind the bench.

It seems clear that O'Leary has a passion for coaching, and his work with younger players likely means that he's able to adapt and find strategies that work at a variety of levels. Coaching in four different countries over eight years also means he's been exposed to a number of coaching styles, tactics, and systems used on the ice. I do question why he was dismissed in both Iserlohn and Langnau im Emmental in two consecutives seasons, but his varied coaching background outside of North American hockey makes him an intriguing candidate for the Bisons' head coaching position.

Jon Rempel

The third candidate really needs no introduction if you're a Bisons hockey fan as he's been behind the bench for the women's program for a long time. Jon Rempel is the third coach being considered for the head coaching position of the Bisons men's hockey program, and it's a bit of a head-scratcher as to how he made it this far in the competition when comparing his coaching experiences to the other two candidates. It makes sense if one is to believe that the University of Manitoba is adhering to the expression "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know," but I'm the certain the university is giving Rempel a long look as he's the only man to have brought a National Championship hockey banner - men's or women's - to the school. He's a tenured educator at the school already and will be back in a classroom this year, so this may be a candidate of convenience more than anything else. In the interest of impartiality, though, let's look at Jon's qualifications.

Jon spent time in the MJHL with the Selkirk Steelers for three seasons that also saw him make a brief cameo with the SJHL's Melville Millionaires. He played three seasons under Mike Sirant for the Manitoba Bisons where his eleven goals and 24 assists were eclipsed by his 205 PIMs. His play earned him parts of three seasons on the blue line with the ECHL's Baton Rouge Kingfish along with a two-game appearance in the AHL with the Portland Pirates where he recorded an assist. His playing career would finish in the British National League in 1998-99 with the Slough Jets where he'd help the team win the BNL championship. It should be noted that Rempel earned his Bachelor of Recreation Studies in 1999 from the University of Manitoba after returning to the school.

After earning his degree, Rempel worked as an assistant coach for the MJHL's Winnipeg South Blues, and spent a year as an assistant coach with the University of Manitoba Women's Hockey Team. In 2004-05, Rempel took over the head coaching duties for the women's hockey program at the University of Manitoba. In 16 seasons behind the bench, Rempel has guided the Bisons to six CIS/U SPORTS National Championships, returning home with three bronze medals (2005, '07, and '08) and a gold medal ('18). He's been voted as the Canada West women's hockey Coach of the Year five times ('05, '07, '15, '17, and '18) and U SPORTS' Coach of the Year once ('18) while compiling a 247-141-32 record in-conference and 377-229-41 record overall.

If you're noting the years above, most of Jon's success with the women's program came prior to the 2018-19 season where he took a sabbatical. Since returning, he's rebuilt the program with exceptional talent, but his squads have made the playoffs just once in three seasons, and haven't won a playoff game under his direction since 2018. Rempel knows success - the pinnacle coming with the National Championship banner in 2018 - and his current employment and tenure with the university would make him the easy choice to replace Sirant, but there should be a "what have you done for me lately" question asked of him. For a team that may mark ten years without winning a playoff round next season, Rempel's past performances don't necessarily guarantee future successes.

Who Gets Picked?

I can't answer that. I'm not the Athletic Director at Bisons Sports, but I'm sure this won't be an easy decision in any direction. There's a coach with solid WHL ties which is vital for any U SPORTS men's hockey program, there's a coach who has a ton of international experience and head coaching experience who has worked with players of all ages, and there's a coach whose trail of success with the women's program and whose commitment to the university can't be questioned.

While all three men bring unique qualifications to the program, all three also have Grand Canyon-sized limitations on their resumés. One has to wonder if there were calls made by the administration to find coaches who may attract players to the program on reputation alone - Tony Granato, Marc Savard, or Josh Green, for example - but I also know there's a teaching component that the University of Manitoba wants that will eliminate a number of coaches such as the three listed above. This might be the biggest hurdle for any coach who had thoughts about taking over the reins for the Bisons: one has to hold a teaching degree.

Since you asked, though, I do believe that both Burnett and O'Leary would bring a new perspective and new philosophies to the men's hockey program that have been sorely missing for the better part of a decade, and their enthusiasm in gaining the job to coach the Bisons should perpetuate through the players as they look to start their own eras in Winnipeg.

What I suspect, however, is that Jon Rempel will likely get job since he's already completely integrated into Bisons Sports, and the only change that would be needed would be for him to grab the men's schedule and walk down the hall to the men's dressing room. He already is well-versed in Canada West life, he's accustomed to the travel and work schedules, and he likely has been talking to Sirant about the team. It's seems almost too easy for Bisons Sports to appoint Rempel, but they do need to do their due diligence on both Burnett and O'Leary.

I guess what I'm saying is don't expect me to be surprised when the announcement is made. My experiences with Bisons Sports lead me to believe that if they can take the easy way out, they will. In other words, it's business as usual when it comes to the only men's university hockey program in the province.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 28 April 2023

A Scoring Change

Normally at this time of year, I'm knee-deep in watching the NHL playoffs while keeping an eye on the AHL and ECHL with the hopes of finding out who will be named to the national teams for the IIHF Men's World Ice Hockey Championship. It's also that point in the year when the summer creeps into my normal winter activities as umpire clinics for baseball and softball are being held and diamonds are being groomed for play this season. HBIC isn't diving into baseball in terms of breaking that game down, but baseball may play a much larger role on this blog this summer in occupying a considerable amount of time as I've decided to umpire less often and score games more often!

Officially, I'll be scoring games for professional baseball in my city as I accepted a position with the local minor-pro club to score games this season. There are fifty home games through the months of May, June, July, and August, and I'll be part of team that will be there whenever the lights are on at the ballpark. Yes, I'm excited for this opportunity, but it may affect my normal routine of blogging in the evenings.

My schedule when umpiring was to work one night per week from 6pm until midnight, so it meant that I was tired the next day and I was behind by a day when contributing a story to this blog. The good news is that it usually took me a day to get caught up on the blog, a couple of days to make up the sleep my body craved, and things would be back to normal.

The trade-off with this new scoring position is that I'll work more nights per week, but put in less hours on each individual night. Being home earlier means that my sleep schedule shouldn't suffer too much, but the nights spent at the ballpark will certainly eat into my available hockey-watching and blog-writing availability. It won't mean that I won't be posting something, but the long-winded pieces where I dive into specific topics may be fewer than before.

With regards to The Hockey Show, Jason and I may pre-record a few more shows for Thursday nights where I'm required to be at the ballpark, but that will be totally dependent on the scheduling upon which the team decides. The good news is that The Hockey Show will still air as scheduled with no interruptions. The bad news is that we may have to push Survivor exit interviews to a week later than normal based on scheduling.

Beyond that, don't expect to see a lot of baseball crossover into this blog space unless there's a distinct hockey tie-in that should be discussed. There won't be recaps, discussions, or highlights of things that happened at the ballpark because Hockey Blog In Canada is meant for hockey. If something hockey-related is found at the ballpark, I'll see what I can do about having a little fun with it. For example, getting to see Madison Willan, Kaitlyn Ross, and Carly Jackson on the diamond last season was totally awesome, so something like that is where you'll see baseball land on HBIC.

As for umpiring, I'll still do a few tournaments here and there on the weekends, but the facility where I used to umpire is officially closed due to the amount of renovations and repairs needed on the fields. The fields weren't terrible at this facility, but the costs in bringing them up to a standard where major national tournaments would land ended up being a seven-digit dollar amount that seemingly no one wanted to pay. As a result, my one night of umpiring disappeared, forcing me to consider other options.

It's funny how we urge kids to participate in different sports throughout the year in order to make them better athletes, yet we, as adults, often spend our summers attending coaching clinics and watching informational videos on how to make hockey better. Personally, I know I'm a blogger and my impact on the game is negligible - meaning zero - at best, but I've found that if I focus on hockey all year long I care less about it when it comes to pointing out the stupidity shown by some, the incredible plays made by some, and the excitement I have for the game when it comes to covering great stories.

Some may call that "burnout", and that could be true considering how long the hockey season extends now. Engaging in something entirely different than hockey thoughts, though, should allow me to reset that excitement level for the game. Thinking about scoring plays and rules in a different sport may also give me a better perspective on how hockey can improve its game as well, particularly when it comes to speeding things up like they did in baseball with the pitch clock.

Whatever the case may be, I'll be up in the pressbox at Shaw Park watching baseball for a lot of the summer this year. My expertise in colouring in small diamonds and figuring out how to score passed balls and two-base errors on two separate computer programs will be my trial-by-fire in the professional baseball scoring world. Hopefully, there's a way to fix mistakes because I'm sure I'll make a few, but I'm excited to watch baseball all summer long as I escape indoor arenas for a few months!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 27 April 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 553

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, hits the airwaves tonight with a show that was recorded earlier in the week thanks to our guest's busy schedule. Jason is off tonight, so it will be Teebz going one-on-one with our illustrious guest, and she's building herself quite a resumé when it comes to her work in and around the game of hockey. Whether it be work behind the microphone, work behind a computer screen, or standing in front of cameras, our guest tonight has accomplished more in her career than any I can recall at her young age and she's isn't close to being done writing her story!

Tonight, The Hockey Show is proud to welcome Daniella Ponticelli to the program, fresh off her recent work with TSN where she was calling games at the IIHF Women's World Championship in Brampton! Teebz chats with Daniella about growing up in a different part of the world, moving to Canada, finding her passion, jobs in and around broadcasting, her work as both an acrobat and on roller skates, finding her groove in doing play-by-play for sports, and her moves between Manitoba and Saskatchewan that have occurred often in her career! Honestly, Daniella's done more in her time than a lot of broadcasters get to do in a lifetime, so this interview might be one that future broadcasters want to hear! Daniella gives us all the details tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via!

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. 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 use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz goes one-on-one with Daniella Ponticelli as we chat about life, school, jobs, aerial acrobatics, hockey, football, flat tracks, lacrosse, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: April 27, 2023: Episode 553

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Four-Straight Home Games?

April is a weird time in Canada when it comes to weather. It can be sunny and double-digits on the positive side of the thermometer during the day before plunging below zero at night. Various snowy and icy storms look to strike one last time before winter releases its grip on the Canadian landscape, and it seems that two ECHL teams were affected by Old Man Winter one more time as one Kelly Cup playoff series was postponed last night.

According to reports, the Newfoundland Growlers were looking to return home after taking a 2-1 series lead over the Adirondack Thunder only to end up in Montreal "due to adverse travel conditions" that caused flights to be cancelled from flying into St. John's. The delayed game will be played on Thursday with Game Five being rescheduled for Sunday.

What makes this scenario unique is that if this series goes the distance, Games Six and Seven would also be played at the Mary Brown's Centre in St. John's, giving Newfoundland four-straight home games in the playoffs! If that seems a little unfair, the first three games were played in Glens Falls, New York - another quirk rarely seen in the playoffs! The ECHL makes these adjustments due to some of the flights in and out of cities, so we may see more scheduling fun if Newfoundland advances.

With the team stuck in Montreal as they waited for the St. John's airport to re-open to flights, Growlers broadcaster Chris Ballard said the team was "spending some quality time together and getting some down time" in preparation for Game Four tomorrow night. I'm not certain if they need it, but getting a little more rest and relaxation before jumping in a pivotal fourth game could prove beneficial. Of course, Adirondack may be have done the same, so we'll see which team comes out ready for the game on Thursday!

It should be noted that Newfoundland went 6-5-0 against the Thunder in the season series while Adirondack was 5-4-2, so that 2-1 series lead by the Growlers seems to be following the script. Pavel Gogolev led the Growlers in the head-to-head matchups with nine goals and 16 points while Harper led the Thunder with eight goals and 16 points - both teams need those guys and a few more to step up in order to advance to play the winner of the Reading-Maine series. That series is tied 2-2 with Game Five going tonight!

It should be noted that the Growlers eventually did land in St. John's on Tuesday, so it seems both them and the Thunder will get a chance to practice today before the series resumes tomorrow. I suspect the crowd at Mary Brown's Centre might be a little more raucous than a Tuesday night, so this new schedule could benefit the Growlers in a big way. If they can find a way to win the next two games, those potential four-straight home games just becomes the stuff of legend in the ECHL's lore.

I'll be cheering for the Growlers from afar as they look to capture their second Kelly Cup in franchise history. They'll need a solid effort against Adirondack if they're going to close out this series, so we'll see how this playoff series plays out over the next few days. After all, it could all be over by Saturday if the Growlers get the results they want, and that would certainly help their chances when it comes to winning another Kelly Cup!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Why Not Fund It Entirely?

There had been quiet whispers coming out of Calgary that the city and the owners of the Calgary Flames were nearing a deal for a new arena to house the NHL team. If you're a regular here at HBIC, you probably aware that I've written a number of articles about the stupidity by the city of Calgary when it comes to spending public funds on a new arena for a billionaire, but you're going to get another one today because it seems the financials have been worked out between all the parties and there will be a new arena in Calgary at some point in the future.

Aside from all the links in the preceding paragraph, there seems to be a lot of people who are quite happy about this development, and I have to ask why they'd feel that way when the Calgary Herald's Brodie Thomas and Jason Herring identified that the "$1.22-billion deal to replace the Saddledome" sees the city of Calgary spending "$537.5 million, representing nearly the entire cost of the deal struck in 2019. It is covering 44 per cent of the new deal."

One has to wonder what caused the costs to rise from $650 million in December 2022 to $1.22 billion in April 2023 - in five months! - when it comes to this deal, and why Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who was unwilling to spend $19 million on building roads and sidewalks and in remediation for the proposed arena site, suddenly had a turn of heart in pledging $537.5 million of Calgary taxpayers' money to help the Flames get their arena - an amount that is nearly double of the $275 million pledged by former Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Perhaps what should worry Calgarians even more is that the $1.22 billion price tag is the cost today for the new Calgary event center, but Gondek was quick to remind everyone at the announcement that "[t]here are no preliminary designs or timelines for construction at the early stage of the deal". If there are no timelines or details on what's being built outside of an arena for the Flames, what exactly did the city agree to fund? And how did they arrive at the $1.22-billion figure? This entire deal seems insane at this point.

With the city coughing up $537.5 million from their fiscal stability reserve for the arena - something that the reserve was NOT designed to cover - the remaining $700 million would come from the Calgary Flames and the Alberta provincial government. According to the details, the Flames are spending "$356 million for the deal, with much of that coming yearly over the next 35 years" while the Alberta government will spend "$330 million toward the project" with its money covering the costs of "infrastructure and land costs, as well as demolition of the Saddledome".

In other words, two levels of government are spending monies both irresponsibly and with zero chance of return while the Flames get out of their 50/50 split for the costs of a new arena. Let's not forget that the Flames had already pledged to invest $75 million over 35 years to local sports charities rather than paying the city rent for use of the new arena in the original deal, so their $356-million bill is more like $281 million with more than $2 million in charitable tax write-offs annually. Again, I have to ask why is so much public money being used to fund an arena to make the owners of the Flames richer than they already are?

Danielle Smith, Premier of Alberta, was also quick to point out at the announcement today that the $330 million she pledged was dependent on her UCP party being re-elected in the upcoming provincial election. As written by Thomas and Herring, "Smith presented that as a possible 'hurdle' in getting the deal across the finish line."

"That’s why on May 29, I'm hoping Calgarians give our UCP government a clear mandate to proceed with this arena deal," she proclaimed in a desperate attempt to win Calgarian support for her party. As of last week, the Calgary Herald reported that an "Angus Reid poll, conducted from March 6 to 13, found that among Calgarians, 46 per cent of voters plan to cast their ballot for the UCP, while the NDP have 43 per cent support — a margin close enough to be considered a statistical tie."

The vote will happen on May 29, and it appears that Smith is using an oft-played card from conservative leaders - spend! Spend! SPEND! - to try and sway voters in Calgary, specifically in the 18-34 years-of-age demographic. Perhaps we need a little review of Smith's politics because she doesn't seem to have any issue spending money to gain votes when she's in charge. When she wasn't Premier, though, things weren't as rosy as Smith, leader of the opposition Wildrose Party in 2012, stated to reporters, "We would not provide funding to a new arena in Edmonton," adding she would be open to "working with the teams to develop a branded lottery."

Does anyone in politics in Alberta have a clue what they're doing?

Let's review this deal as it was announced in point form:
  • The Flames and the city of Calgary agreed to a $1.22-billion deal for a new arena and events center that has neither a timeline nor a construction plan. Where this figure came from is hard to determine, but it's nearly double the $650 million price tag on the arena deal back in December 2022.
  • The city of Calgary agreed to pay $537.5 million of this made-up figure of $1.22 billion which is precisely 195% of the $275-million amount at which former Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city would cap its maximum investment. This $537.5-million figure is just $262.5 million more than what Nenshi had pledged, and it's considerably more than the $19-million cost overrun in infrastructure and remediation that Gondek balked at paying in the original deal.
  • The Calgary Flames, originally on the hook for 50/50 in costs in the previous deal, pledged $356 million in this new deal - LESS THAN THE AMOUNT they were supposed to pay in the $650-million deal that fell through. The billionaires are actually paying a smaller percentage than they were before when they'll have three teams - the NHL's Flames, the AHL's Wranglers, and the WHL's Hitmen - playing in the arena they'll be using almost exclusively and benefitting from entirely.
  • The province of Alberta, who committed nothing in the previous deal, will spend $330 million in the new deal. I know people in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, and Lloydminster will grow to appreciate their investment in Calgary's new arena they may never see or use.
  • Danielle Smith, currently in charge at the provincial level in Alberta, has decided to toss $330 million at Calgary as a political football in the hopes of winning votes when, in 2012, she was completely against using provincial monies for Edmonton's new arena.
If this entire deal sounds idiotic, you and I are thinking the same thing. Personally, I'd be voting against Danielle Smith just to scuttle this deal and her $330-million commitment because I firmly believe that there should be no public monies used to build arenas, and having both the city double their investment while the province jumps in with both feet is so far past stupid that it's bordering on ludicrous. This might be the stupidest deal in all of sports.

$867.5 million of public money will be used to build an arena and events complex in which the Flames' owners will largely benefit. N. Murray Edwards, chairman of the Flames, is worth $2.6 billion and is the 32nd wealthiest Canadian, and he and his partners will only pay $356 million for their shiny new arena in which three teams will play while the people of Calgary and Alberta pour nearly a billion dollars into this project. I don't care what your feelings are towards the Flames because this deal is only a deal for the owners of the Calgary Flames. As stated many times on this blog, the return-on-investment that cities see after dumping public monies into stadium deals are never realized.

With the ink still fresh on the deal tonight, it seems that the fate of $537.5 million of monies earmarked as a "contingency fund for operational emergencies, urgent or contingency capital expenditures, and to compensate for unplanned revenue reductions with significant financial impacts" along with $330 million contributed to Alberta's coffers from people across the province will be decided by voters on May 29. The chances of my vote ever landing in a UCP box for Danielle Smith just went from laughable to not-on-your-life, but I don't live in Alberta.

Kill this deal by voting Smith out of office, Albertans. And when the time comes for Gondek's mayoral campaign, vote her out with the same vitriol, Calgarians. This deal is one of the worst I've ever seen since I started writing this blog, and the nearly-$900 million your elected leaders have chosen to spend on this project will never be recouped in your lifetime, your kids' lifetimes, or their kids' lifetimes. Fiscal responsibility simply isn't en vogue, it seems.

For a province that has cut teaching positions, plunged healthcare into a two-tiered system, and allowed infrastructure projects to either pass by or remain crumbling, you have a chance to use your vote to send a clear message to the elected leaders in Calgary and in Alberta. If nothing else, you have a chance to save nearly a billion dollars in tax monies from being spent on a billionaire's new toy, so it's time to call "BULLSH*T" and do what's right in this case.

Even if it seems unpopular.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 24 April 2023

Cale Hunter?

The image to the left is the moment where Cale Makar's 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs may have ended. In tonight's game just before the midway point of the first period, Seattle was killing a penalty. Jared McCann, Seattle's 40-goal scorer this season, was on the ice, and he had a chance to breakaway. Makar gave chase, McCann's shot went high and over the glass, and then the moment to the left happened. It's one thing to finish a check during a play, but the referenced play was over from both players' perspective and, as you likely know, throwing hits long after the play is over is an unwritten rule in hockey, and the result will like be that Makar misses at least a few games, if not a large chunk, of this year's playoffs and/or a portion of next season.

Let me go on record and say that I've never seen Cale Makar play dirty, but I also don't get to see a ton of Colorado Avalanche games. Maybe he has a bit of a mean streak in him that bubbles to the surface occasionally, but I can't say that I remember seeing a time where he did something egregiously dirty. Hacks and whacks will happen, but throwing a late hit? That seems very un-Makar-like.

Let's watch this sequence as it happened in real-time.

It doesn't look like Makar had any intention of ever playing the puck regardless of where it landed as he pushed McCann immediately after the shot before pasting him into the boards seconds later. There wasn't a whistle during the sequence, so one might be inclined to give Makar the benefit of the doubt, but every other player on the ice, including McCann, had slowed up in seeing the puck go up and over the glass into the netting. Makar, instead, angles McCann to the boards for a hit that is clearly interference - the puck is nowhere near the hit - and definitely late with the possibility of leaving McCann injured and missing time in this series.

I jokingly titled this article to reference the Dale Hunter hit that Hunter threw on an unsuspecting Pierre Turgeon after he scored, but the only difference is that Turgeon scored on the play. There was no whistle after Turgeon dented twine, and Hunter clearly knew the play was over. I'm not saying Makar will get a 21-game suspension like Hunter did, but it seems very obvious that there has been a heavy precedent set for late hits on unsuspecting players.

What I do know is that the two-minute minor penalty assessed to Makar won't suffice in the eyes of the Kraken, and the Avalanche will do everything in their power to profess innocence for Makar on the play. Where this will land is likely with a suspension, but the length will probably only be a game. Seattle fans will want more, but the Department of Player Safety is anything by consistent.

I'm not here to disparage Makar's game in any way, but this kind of hit can't be tolerated. It's late, it's totally unnecessary, and it may have taken one of Seattle's best players out of the series. If this gets a one-game suspension, that's understandable, but I'm hoping it's three games just to send a message that throwing a hit on an unsuspecting player won't be taken lightly.

It's on you now, Department of Player Safety.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 23 April 2023

Starring For Finland

I'll be very honest in saying that I'm still troubled by the trade that led to Patrik Laine no longer playing home games in Winnipeg. I understand that the NHL is a business and that players - even Wayne Gretzky - can be traded, but it was hard for me to comprehend why the Jets would want to move an elite goal scorer who wanted to be in Winnipeg. If players want to live in a city that's better known for brutal cold and its harsh winters, it would seem that the Jets would want to hold onto those players like they were their own children, but, as we know, Laine was shipped off with Jack Roslovic to Columbus in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Since the deal went down, Laine has yet to play in the playoff for the Blue Jackets, and his average of 52 games per season hasn't quite lived up to the billing that the Columbus Blue Jackets may have thought they were getting. In 156 games for the Blue Jackets over three seasons, Laine has 58 goals and 71 assists so he's still scoring, but I imagine GM Jarmo Kekäläinen may have thought he'd get a little more out of the Finnish star.

Perhaps Laine just needs a few comforts from home to get him back to his high-scoring ways. That could happen next month as the Finnish sniper has decided to play for Finland at the 2023 IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship in Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia. As you may know, Laine is from Tampere originally, so this could be the opportunity for him to rediscover what made him the second-overall pick in 2016. Playing in front of friends and family always fires up players, and Laine will have all of them cheering him on.

Let's not forget that Laine went to the World Championships in 2016 as an 18 year-old, and he was named the tournament MVP after scoring seven goals and five assists in ten games. Granted, he's older and wiser now where he may pick his spots a little better, but there's no doubt that Laine still has the gift of denting twine and I'm pretty sure the Finns are going to try to have him show that talent whenever he's on the ice. It could be exactly the kind of start to his summer training that will benefit the Blue Jackets in 2023-24!

One has to think that Nashville's Juuse Saros will be guarding the Finnish net in a few weeks, and we may see the likes of Arizona's Matias Maccelli, Pittsburgh's Mikael Granlund, St. Louis' Kasperi Kapanen, and Montreal's Joel Armia joining Laine up front. On the blue line, Calgary's Juuso Välimäki, Detroit's Olli Määttä, and Philadelphia's Rasmus Ristolainen would all be near the top of the dept chart for the initial roster being put together by Finland. Depending on what happens with Florida and Carolina in their series, we could see some other big names join Finland for the start of the tournament as well. We could very well have a star-studded Finnish team when the tournament begins!

Having Laine playing in his hometown alongside guys he grew up with and played with throughout his formative years could be the catalyst in unleashing the Laine that Winnipeggers had grown to appreciate in 2016-17 and 2017-18 when he scored 80 times in those two seasons. Laine was also throwing heavy checks as his physical game emerged, and his defensive game was just starting to show returns before the Jets packaged him up for Dubois. Again, I feel like the Jets franchise gave up on a guy who just loves scoring goals way too quickly, and he seemingly never found his stride in Columbus since the trade.

If nothing else, I just want to see the big smile and the fist-pump he always gave after every goal as the fans in Tampere shower their NHL star with praise for his goal-scoring talents. A happy Laine is a Laine havin fun on the ice, and that usually means he's scoring goals. While teams like Sweden and the US may not want to see that as they'll be playing in the same pool at the World Championship, getting Patrik Laine scoring once again is good for Laine, good for the NHL, and good for the game.

Scoring goals is hard enough at any level, let alone the NHL, but Patrik Laine has shown he has the talent in spades. It may be in hiding right now as he navigated Columbus' system, but getting to bury pucks with his national teammates will go a long way in helping both Finland and Columbus try to achieve their ultimate goals: winning a championship!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 22 April 2023

Pizzas Are Delivered Faster

I have no idea what the numbers were on last night's Edmonton-Los Angeles game when it comes to viewers, but it appears that we had about a million hockey officials watching the game if my estimates are correct. I was one of the people watching late in last night's game when the Kings' Trevor Moore scored to end the game. Or so we thought as the officials went back to look at one specific play that could have erased the goal had the call gone in Edmonton's favour. The goal wasn't overturned, thankfully, but the discussion on social media ranged from calm and analytical to believing some sort of conspiracy was at play.

Forget the build-up to the play. Let's just look at the replay that was debated for over five minutes last night. Does LA's Gabe Vilardi touch the puck with a high-stick? Feel free to make a call here.
Both TNT and Sportsnet showed just about every angle they could find for this play as the debate raged between in-studio analysts, but the call on the ice was that the evidence was inconclusive whether Vilardi made contact with the puck. With no clear evidence, the goal on the ice stood as the overtime game-winner as the Kings prevailed 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead over the Oilers.

Honestly, did anyone not named Connor McDavid even see this play in real time? McDavid pointed at where Vilardi's stick was as the play went on, but not one other person seemed to catch the infraction - including all four officials on the ice! And while I don't have a problem with video review being used to get calls right, I'm glad this call went against Edmonton. That's not a slight against the Oilers in any way, but I feel we've lost the integrity of video review if we're looking for ways to take goals off the scoreboard.

If there was conclusive evidence - Vilardi's stick pushes the puck in a different direction or a clear indication that the puck hit the blade of the stick - I get the need to review the play. Again, I have no problem with them reviewing something that was clearly missed that could have affected the outcome, but this video review took way too long to study something where one cannot conclusively say the puck was touched with a high-stick. Because this is a scoring play in overtime, though, the NHL's War Room in Toronto reviews this play without needing the Oilers to ask.

Honestly, if this play wasn't caught by the officials on the ice, the only thing that the War Room should be looking for is CONCLUSIVE evidence that Vilardi's stick made contact with the puck. Otherwise, the goal stands and the Kings are free to celebrate. It shouldn't take seven minutes to determine that no contact was made in any circumstance, and the fact that the War Room spent that muhc time looking for evidence should tell you that we're going about video review all wrong.

As much as social media was divided into "high-stick" and "no high-stick" camps, the fifty-four replay angles we saw last night provided no assistance when looking at it in real time. When it was played back frame by frame, one could have made a case based on rotation of the puck, but the evidence was circumstantial at best. Because we're looking for conclusive evidence, it was virtually undetectable when watched in real time, and it wasn't conclusive in ultra slo-motion replay. Therefore, goal stands, and we move on.

I made that decision in less than one minute. Why does it take more than five minutes for the NHL to make that determination, and how many people need to weigh in on the decision if the officials on the ice are the ones who ultimately make the final call? If the official's call on the ice is the one being overturned, the official should be the one to overturn his own call with the help of the War Room. This process should take no more than two to three minutes.

No one is saying that the NHL shouldn't get the call right. Let me be clear in stating that the NHL should and will continue to use the video review system as they currently do. All I'm saying is that the War Room should queue up the replays, the senior official or official who mad the call reviews the replays quickly and efficiently, and the four men on the ice either stick with the call made or the call is overturned and the game resumes. If this process takes more than five minutes, the call stands as it was made.

I have no stake in the games between the Oilers and Kings. This isn't an "us-vs-them" discussion where I'm picking one side over the other. I simply want faster reviews done that don't require CSI-like skills to determine something that, honestly, had no effect on the final outcome. Had Vilardi touched the puck with a high stick, there's a rule that would force the play to be called dead so the review had to happen. I get that. What I don't get is the length of time it took to determine that he didn't touch it.

Had I ordered a pizza when Moore scored the goal, it could have arrived in the time it took to determine Vilardi didn't touch the puck. As much as I'm hyperbolizing the length of time needed, this was one review that took far too long. We need to find a way to speed these reviews up, and I hope the NHL will make this a priority whenever the bosses meet again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice (including you, Vilardi)!

Friday 21 April 2023

The British Adventure Continues!

While he doesn't have one of these as a Canadian citizen, it would appear that Tyler Kirkup will become an expat after today's news that came out of Coventry in England. As per the team's release, Tyler Kirkup has signed a deal for two more years with the Blaze as his impact in the EIHL was certainly seen by the club and its opponents. For a guy who started the year playing in the bottom-six with the ECHL's Reading Royals with limited ice time and offensive possibilities, there was always a belief that he could have a bigger impact with an increased role. After leaving Reading, Pennsylvania and landing in Coventry for the last eleven games of the EIHL season, Kirkup proved he was more than capable of being a major player at both ends of the ice!

I've written a couple of articles about Kirkup - him leaving Reading for Coventry and his impressive start to his EIHL career - but we can certainly point to his impact in games and his statistics as being reasons why Coventry was quick to sign the 25 year-old Canadian. And it sounds like they're excited to get him back in Blaze colours!
Head coach Danny Stewart spoke highly of Kirkup on Blaze TV, but it was the following line that I believe makes Kirkup invaluable to any team, and Stewart deserve some kudos for seeing the value Kirkup brings when he said, "He's very smart, plays in the hard areas and is skilled as well. We're very happy to get him back."

Kirkup totalled six goals and four assists in eleven regular-season games with Coventry before adding one goal in two playoff games. Comparatively, Kirkup had seven goals and eight assists in 49 games with Reading, so it clearly benefitted both parties with Coventry moving him to center and giving him more offensive opportunities. Slice it any way you like, but Kirkup's game clearly was elevated in Coventry playing more minutes with better wingers in situations where he could thrive offensively.

It's not like Kirkup shrugged off his defensive game for more points. He recorded a shorthanded goal in the six he potted, and he was often checking Coventry's best centermen with his solid two-way play. As much as I loathe plus/minus as a statistic, Kirkup was a +8 in 11 games so it's pretty clear that his line was doing more scoring than fishing the puck of out their own net.

With Englishman Ross Venus retiring after twelve years of hockey in Coventry, there will be more opportunities for Kirkup to show his talents as well. Venus was a solid player who got some power-play time occasionally, and his departure might be a chance for Kirkup to bring his skills to the man-advantage for Coventry. The Blaze were third this season with a 21.67% efficiency - 39 goals on 180 opportunities - but that efficiency dropped to 14.29% in the playoffs as the Blaze went 1-for-7. A better power-play efficiency comes with better scorers, so perhaps Kirkup's talents should see some power-play time!

As much as I can speculate and theorize how Kirkup could be used next season, it was pretty clear his impact was seen by the Blaze as they made the decision to welcome him back for another two seasons. Head coach Danny Stewart, as we know, likes Kirkup's versatility, so we could see Stewart playing Kirkup all over the lineup next season. What shouldn't be questioned is the effort that Kirkup will give, and that's what earned him the two-year deal from Coventry.

Congratulations to Tyler Kirkup on his two-year deal with Coventry. It was well-earned through his years of hard work and dedication, and we can;t forget his contributions off the ice as well. Tyler's two-year comes down to one thing: he's a "brick", as the English would say. And I'm excited to see what Tyler does over the next two seasons!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 20 April 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 552

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the airwaves tonight with a special guest joining us on this snowy day in Winnipeg. We're less than two weeks from May, yet Mother Nature is all about the whiteout as we get set for more NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs action with the Winnipeg Jets up a game on the Vegas Golden Knights! We'll talk to our guest about that tonight as well as get some information on a big tournament coming up for Team Manitoba!

The man you see to the left will be guarding the cage for Team Manitoba from May 18-21 at the Canadian Parahockey Championship at the Complexe Gilles-Chabot in Boucherville, Quebec! Teebz and Jason are proud to welcome goaltender Kyle Calder to the program tonight to discuss Manitoba's progress in getting ready for the tournament, their chances when it comes to medalling, and past tournaments in which Kyle has played. We'll learn about his love of the game, the passion he has for sledge hockey in the bigger picture, and we'll even chat about the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs with him as he is a die-hard Winnipeg Jets fan! Kyle's a great guy with a ton of passion for hockey in all its forms, and we'll get to meet the man responsible for Manitoba's last line of defence at the Canadian Parahockey Championship tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via!

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. 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, it'll get you connected!

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason are proud, honoured, privileged, humbled, and pleased to welcome Team Manitoba parahockey goaltender Kyle Calder to the program tonight as we talk national championships, his goaltending style, Manitoba's shot at a medal, the Jets and Golden Knights, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: April 20, 2023: Episode 552

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Air Quotes On "Leader"

I'm never one to back down from a lively debate, but the point of debating is to listen to the other side and try to defeat the argument that your opponent is making. Canadian politics took a shift this week when Canadian Progressive Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called for Twitter to label the CBC as "Government-funded Media" after proclaiming his party would defund the CBC if they take office. By no means do I care about political maneuvering by any party, but this demand made by Poilievre reeks of desperation by both a leader and a party grasping for positive headlines. Whatever the case may be for Poilievre's stupid demands, I'll stand by the CBC for its commitment to Canadian amateur athletics.

Some of you reading this article may agree with Poilievre's stance on the CBC. Yes, the CBC does receive government funding as part of its overall budget, but the attack on the CBC by Poilievre is based in some sort of weird act of vengeance towards their journalists and news programming for what Poilievre believes are slights and unfavorable reporting on him and his party. I don't know who handles Poilievre's marketing campaign, but the worst thing about being talked about is NOT being talked about.

This isn't Politics Blog In Canada, though, and I don't care if one party's or one leader's feelings were hurt by what the CBC reported. They're all adults - I assume they've been taught how to deal with negative press and commentary. What I do care about, however, is the lasting effect that defunding the CBC would have on something I care more about than the average Canadian sports fan: Canadian university sports broadcasts.

My appreciation for CBC on the Canadian university sports' front started back in 2018 while in London, Ontario. At the time, the U SPORTS National Championship broadcasting rights were held by Rogers Sportsnet - a company based in Toronto - and they had sent a broadcast crew to cover men's hockey in Fredericton, New Brunswick, but sent no one to cover the games in London. Coverage was three games so it wasn't the full tournament, but at least they had someone watching those games.

I wrote an article expressing my disappointment in Sportsnet's coverage of U SPORTS competitions at that time, and the Sports Information Director of the school I was covering took me aside and chastised me for insulting the right's holder of U SPORTS events. My response was, "You're worried about their response when they couldn't even send a staff reporter to this event to cover the action?" While I understood that there could be repercussions, his facial expression told me that he somewhat agreed with me despite him being unable or unwilling to say that.

Three years later, I wrote another article celebrating the transfer of the U SPORTS broadcast rights to the CBC. CBC's coverage of amateur sports is some of the best this country has, and their commitment to amateur sports that receive less-than-normal coverage on Canadian TV - skiing, figure skating, soccer - gave me hope that they'd bring that same professionalism in their coverage of amateur sports to their U SPORTS broadcasts.

Cutting the CBC's funding doesn't change the way that CBC does journalism, and I'm sure that Poilievre knows this despite his demands for those cuts. The CBC will still report the news as they always do, but cutting their funding will undoubtedly affect their coverage when it comes from having the same budget for crews covering amateur sports. That, of course, could affect their coverage of U SPORTS broadcasts, and that's simply something I'm not willing to risk with the Progressive Conservatives leading this country.

Some will read this and think, "Teebz, you're overreacting." Maybe I am in a few cases, but consider these numbers from 2021 about CBC's viewership of U SPORTS:
  • Total views exceed the U SPORTS digital viewership from the entire 2019-20 season by 8%.
  • 8% of commentators identify as BIPOC and 30% of commentators identified as female.
  • The Toronto-Victoria women's field hockey championships series saw digital viewership increased by 4000%.
  • Queen's women’s rugby victory saw a 300% increase in views compared to 2019.
  • U SPORTS digital coverage has increased viewership by more than 643% compared to the same period in 2019-20, with 97% of those audiences coming from CBC Sports digital platforms, according to Adobe Analytics.
It's hard to deny the importance of CBC's coverage to U SPORTS when you see those numbers. We saw the importance this year with the National Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Championships happening on the same weekend, and CBC had crews in both Halifax and Montreal to cover those tournaments despite games overlapping. Would cutting CBC's funding have forced them to choose between the two tournaments? I can't answer that, but cutting funds could mean that the CBC is forced to make decisions like that.

Beyond that, when have you ever seen a field hockey game broadcast on TV in Canada? Outside of the Olympics, that answer is "never". Women's rugby? That answer is the same number of games of field hockey - never. Yet we push these athletes to be the best they can be in every Olympiad despite us never having seen them play. More broadcasts of any kind means more money for the sport as interest in it grows, and that's vitally important when it comes to paying for training, places to play, and, ultimately, winning on the biggest stages.

Cutting the CBC's funding would be devastating on a number of fronts, but not how the Progressive Conservatives think. Instead, they'll weaken sports that are generating interest and viewership on CBC's digital platforms, they set the growth of and interest in U SPORTS back by decades, and they'll undoubtedly weaken the CBC's ability to cover Canadians who take part in the downhill skiing circuits, the CEBL, and Canadian soccer as the CBC makes tougher decisions on what to cover with a smaller budget.

As much as I'm making a case for amateur sports, I should also point out that the news cycle won't change unless the Progressive Conservatives change the CBC's leadership which they have no ability do, Canadian law as the CBC's editorial independence is protected in the Broadcasting Act, and the CBC's own Journalistic Standards and Practices. If Poilievre is just going to be an echo chamber for conservative politicans south of 49th parallel, focusing his crosshairs on the CBC was the wrong choice from the "Stupid Things To Say" playbook.

For me, as a fan of U SPORTS men's and women's ice hockey, I'll automatically vote against the Progressive Conservatives if they make this part of their platform in any national election. As I said off the top, it reeks of desperation when it comes to earning votes, and, frankly, it's downright stupid. The CBC is doing fantastic work when it comes to both their coverage of the news in Canada and amateur sports in Canada, and only one of those things would be severely affected by Poilievre's threats of cutting funding to the network.

If Pierre Poilievre doesn't like the CBC, he's welcome to his opinion. If he campaigns on that idea, he's going to lose in a big way in the next election. I don't even need the CBC to tell me that because it's just so un-Canadian in its approach.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 18 April 2023

History Made Tonight

It isn't often that history is written on the second night of playoff action, but the NHL saw a little history added to one franchise's time capsule. The Seattle Kraken played their first NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs contest tonight, and they were on the road in Denver where they met the Colorado Avalanche. Seattle has added a lot of firsts in their short history to date, but tonight's history came from a guy who didn't start the season wearing the stylized "S" on his chest and wouldn't wear the Kraken jersey until December 12, 2022. However, it's hard to argue that the addition of Eeli Tolvanen off waivers from the Nashville Predators hasn't been one of GM Ron Francis' best moves to date in improving the Kraken roster.

In 48 games with the Kraken after being waived by Nashville, Tolvanen had 16 goals and 11 assists. It's not quite Jared McCann numbers, but Tolvanen settled into the Kraken lineup and was solid at both ends of the ice, showing he can be an effective forechecker for Dave Hakstol as a member of the Kraken's second line. That forechecking skill came in handy tonight against the Avalanche.
Alexandar Georgiev was forced to move the puck quickly while the Kraken applied some serious pressure thanks to Yanni Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Tolvanen peeled off the right boards on the Devon Toews turnover where he was stopped once before burying his own rebound at 3:46 of the first period to become the first player in Seattle Kraken history to score in the playoffs!

The goal shown above is just Tolvanen's second playoff goal in his career which seems hard to believe, but, to his credit, he only appeared in seven playoff games with the Nashville Predators. The irony, though, is that both of his playoff tallies came against the Avalanche! His previous goal came on May 7, 2022 in Game Three against Colorado when he tied the game at 2-2 on the power-play at 5:41 of the second period in what would eventually be a 7-3 loss as the Avalanche went on to sweep the Predators out of the playoffs.

It was also a very big night for former Avalanche goaltender and current Kraken starter Philipp Grubauer as he stopped 33 of 34 shots in this game to earn Seattle's first playoff win. The only player to get a puck by him tonight was Mikko Rantanen midway through the first period before Grubauer locked down the Seattle net. In other words, it was a pretty good night for a guy that the Avalanche let walk as a free agent following the 2020-21 season!

While we saw the first goal above, I'll also give credit to Alex Wennberg and Morgan Geekie as they tacked on goals in this game for the Kraken as well. Wennberg's goal will be noted as the Kraken's first game-winner in the playoffs while Morgan Geekie's goal at 4:03 of the third period was his first-career NHL playoff goal in beating Georgiev. In what might be the most surprising result of the first games played in this year's playoffs, the Seattle Kraken skated to their first playoff win with a 3-1 victory over the Avalanche!

It's only one game, but the Kraken have proved tonight that if a team can make the dance, anything can happen!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 17 April 2023

For Whom Do I Cheer?

When I turned the TV on tonight as the first night of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs began, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum when it came to which team for whom I should be cheering. I've been a lifelong Penguins fans and most of my life has seen this decision made easy for me with the Penguins in the dance. With this being the first time in 17 seasons that the Penguins haven't been playing postseason hockey, I find myself with a void. An emptiness. A hole inside me where my fandom usually resided for the team I wanted to see win the Stanley Cup. With the playoffs starting tonight, I had a difficult question to answer: for whom am I cheering?

As much as it would be easy to cheer for the historic season that the Bruins put together in winning the Presidents' Trophy, there's no way I will ever cheer for the Bruins to win a Stanley Cup because I lived as a kid with my Dad cheering for the Bruins. My Dad is a great guy, but it's written into my DNA that I cannot cheer for the same team as him. That counts Boston out as the team for whom I'll cheer.

You're kidding me, right? As you may know, I live by the motto of "Anybody But Toronto", and I'm enforcing it here as well. ABT is the only way that 1967 will remain in every hokcey fan's lexicon when it comes to taking shots at Leafs fans, and the last thing any respectable hockey fan wants to see or hear are Leafs fans gloating about a win. Toronto will absolutely not be who I will cheer on in this year's playoffs.

I almost could live with the idea of cheering for Tampa Bay in this year's playoffs if it weren't for all the success they've had over the last six years. I like when teams that haven't won a Stanley Cup rise up and beat the teams who may be favoured, and no one should be counting out the Lightning when it comes to their experience in big games. Because they have won so recently, though, I'm opting out of cheering for the Lightning in this postseason. I don't need to see another boat parade.

In any other season, I might have cheered for the Panthers. However, the Paul Maurice-coached team is simply destined to lose no matter who stands in the crease. I still struggle to understand how this team fired Andrew Brunette after the success he was creating in Sunrise, but the Panthers' return to the playoffs will be a short one this season. I need a team who will play more than four games. I won't be cheering for the Panthers.

As much as I like the Hurricanes this season, it seems like they may be the best non-favourite to win the Stanley Cup. I'm a fan of Jaccob Slavin, I enjoy watching Sebastian Aho, and I was big on Martin Necas when he was playing with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers. I'm not all-in on Carolina due to their goaltending, but the Hurricanes could be a team I'll watch more than once. Besides, they're doing it for Svechnikov this season.

As a Penguins fan, this is an automatic no. I do like New Jersey's giant Hat hat they wear after victories, but I watched too many Martin Brodeur-led Stanley Cup parades in my lifetime. Maybe if they went back to their green-and-red colour scheme they'd find a fan in me, but that's not happening. New Jersey's a very good team who could win it all, but they won't be my team in this year's postseason.

Again, as a Penguins fan, this is an automatic no. The Rangers assembled all sorts of talent this season, and that only makes this feel like 1994 all over again. Patrick Kane already has his Stanley Cup rings. Vladimir Tarasenko has his ring too. Those major acquisitions for the Rangers give them a ton of experience, but I'm not cheering for the Rangers to win to see Kane and Tarasenko hoist another Stanley Cup. Count the Rangers out as a team for whom I'll cheer.

Any team led by Lou Lamoriello is an automatic no for me as well. The Islanders used to be the one team I loved to hate because of their crushing defeat of the Penguins in 1993 thanks to David Volek, but it was the hiring of Lou Lamoriello that rekindled the dislike for the Islanders in me. And this is coming from a guy with two Islanders jerseys and a Fisherman jersey! Sorry, Islanders, but I just can't cheer for you because of Lou.

I struggle with teams that circumvent the integrity of the salary cap. I know it's legal by all definitions based on how the rules are written, but seeing Mark Stone return this week after missing most of the season to create salary cap relief feels like cheating. If there was any karma in this universe, the Golden Knights would be eliminated quickly due to Stone's miraculous recovery, but I won't be cheering for them in any case.

Cheering for Edmonton is an automatic no thanks to growing up in the Smythe Division. It didn't matter what you did in the 1980s when it came to hockey because all roads seemingly went through the Oilers and Gretzky. Even after the Oilers traded him to Los Angeles, Messier and the crew were dangerous. As nice as it would be to see McDavid finally get his Stanley Cup, I won't be cheering for that to happen.

The Los Angeles Kings are an interesting case because I want them to defeat the Oilers, but they're my brother's favourite team. As such, I am obligated not to cheer for them because worlds would collide. I do wish the Kings would wear their Reverse Retro jerseys from the past couple of seasons just to put the purple-and-gold back into prominence, but I won't be cheering for them when my brother has that covered.

The hometown team seems like an obvious choice when it comes to supporting a team, but I haven't cheered for the Jets in some time now. The baffling decisions made by management, the coaching that seems oblivious to statistics, and the players who go through the motions far too often means I'm most likely in for disappointment once more this postseason. As such, I won't be cheering for the Jets even if they can pull off an upset.

I don't mind if Colorado repeats this season because they truly have been one of the best teams in the second-half of the NHL season. It wouldn't bother me if MacKinnon, Makar, and Rantanen were successful in defending their title, and I feel like MacKinnon will win at least one more Stanley Cup before his time is up in the NHL. Maybe that will be this year? Maybe they'll win it for Landeskog? Maybe I'll cheer for the Avalanche?

As much as I like Jake Oettinger as a goaltender, I struggle to cheer for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Dallas was good all season long and there's really no reason to dislike them other than I've never really liked Dallas at any point in their history. Adding Pete De Boer as a head coach didn't help things either this season. Dallas won't be my chosen team this postseason.

The Wild are one of those gritty teams that every team wants to avoid in the playoffs. They have skill, they have goaltending, and they can play physical, but I've never had any sort of wish to cheer for the Wild in any year. Personally, if the Wild and the Stars beat each other into submission, I'd be good with that result. Because of that, I'll continue my streak of not cheering for Minnesota this year.

Seattle is one of those feel-good stories as they reach the playoffs in the second year of existence, but that might be where the feel-good ends as they draw the defending champions in their first-ever series. I've been told that if you want to be the best, you gotta beat the best, but I'm not certain that the Kraken are at that stage of their evolution yet. That being said, I'd like to cheer for them, but I want to cheer for a team that will go deeper into the postseason.

It comes down to Carolina and Colorado for me, and I can already tell you that it won't be the Eastern Conference team for whom I'm cheering. I like the Avalanche because of their defence - Makar, Girard, Toews, and Byram - but also because they've given players like Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Galchenyuk a second chance at playing in the show. Lars Eller is thoroughly underrated in his game, Andrew Cogliano can still check like a demon, and both JT Compher and Artturi Lehkonen provide depth scoring.

Carolina fans will throw names of players on their team into the mix who can matchup against the Avalanche, and I'm not discounting that they're talented as well. I'm just more of a MacKinnon fan than I am a Jordan Staal fan. If Crosby and Malkin can't be competing for the Stanley Cup, I'd like to see MacKinnon win one more. I'm sure Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia is with me on this one.

Perhaps this will be the 2023 Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Avalanche meeting the Hurricanes. I certainly wouldn't complain about two highly-skilled, offensive juggernauts meeting in the final. Everything gets started tonight, though, so we'll see who earns their first wins before we starts talking about 16th wins. In saying that, let's go Avalanche... I think?

Until next next time, keep your sticks on the ice!