Thursday 31 August 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 571

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, has a lot to go over tonight as there has been some major news coming out of the hockey world this week! You may have heard that the professional women's league is on the verge of becoming more than just an idea, and our hosts will run down everything seen and heard from that big news. You may have heard that a disgraced coach had found a new job, and our hosts will tackle that sticky subject. There's a major event happening with a Canadian team playing, so we'll give a shout-out to them as well. And there was this little thing called "the start of school" happening next week across this province! With so much news and disappointment for fans, let The Hockey Show ease the pain with our chatter at 5:30pm CT!

Honestly, it feels like the shortest summer ever based on where the calendar sits, but Teebz and Jason will finish off August by discussing all the details and information about the PWHL that came out on Monday about how the league will run, where the teams will play, and everything in between. After that, they tackle Rhyah Stewart's impressive debut with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the progress women's hockey is making, Alex Galchenyuk finding a new team and the circumstances around that, the Lethbridge Hurricanes scraping the bottom of the coaching barrel, the local NHL outfit finding a new ECHL partner and the fallout from that, Hockey Canada starting its Beyond the Boards Summit next week, and they cap off the show with some expensive Boston Bruins news! It's a show filled with news, information, shoutouts, and more, and it all happens 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. We also recommend Radio Garden if you need an easy-to-use online stream. 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 and Jason discuss new leagues, new rules, old cities, new affiliations, goalies excelling, new opportunities, bad decisions, questionable hirings, changing cultures, new extortion methods, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: August 31, 2023: Episode 571

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 30 August 2023

The Signings Aren't Stopping

If you asked me what percentage of U SPORTS players have signed contracts this offseason, my answer would only be "not enough". After having the privilege of watching a number of highly-skilled players pass through the more-than-fifty programs across this nation, there are still talented players who have graduated in the last few years who aren't playing anywhere. The good news is that the signings in the ECHL are not stopping, and there have been a pile of players signed over the last week. Get settled in because the names on this list are plentiful!

As reported in my Monday article, the Florida Everblades added a talented offensive threat to their lineup by signing former Manitoba Bisons forward Brett Davis for the 2023-24 season. Davis notched 20 goals and added 26 helpers in just 36 games for the offensively-challenged Bisons, and was Manitoba's lone representative on the 2023 FISU Team Canada squad that brought home a gold medal where he showed his offensive touch once again. The former 163rd-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars had a five-game cup of coffee with the Manitoba Moose in 2020-21 after a successful WHL run with Lethbridge, Kootenay, and Red Deer. If he scored for Florida like he did for Manitoba, he likely won't be sticking around the ECHL for long, but we'll see how Davis does down in Estero, Florida this season!

Puck-moving defencemen are always coveted by teams, and the Florida Everblades are no exception as they added a second Canada West player on the same day they signed Brett Davis as former Regina Cougars rearguard Mike Eskra will join the defending Kelly Cup champions! Eskra was a solid offensive defenceman with the SJHL's Weyburn Red Wings before joining the Cougars in 2018. His scoring slowed somewhat, but he pushed the offence when he cold as his four seasons with the Cougars saw him score six goals and 26 assists in 85 games. The 2018-29 Academic All-Canadian only recorded 43 PIMs with 23 of those coming in his final season. Eskra's skillset should fit in nicely on the talented Florida blue line this year as they look to three-peat in the ECHL!

The Jacksonville Icemen went out and signed an ECHL veteran to bolster their defence as former Windsor Lancers defender Jack Van Boekel will skate for the Icemen this season! Van Boekel's time with the OUA program ran from 2017-20, but his three seasons saw him record one goal, six assists, and 222 PIMs in 55 games! After the pandemic stoppage, Van Boekel joined the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones for 34 games where he put together a productive three-goal, ten-assist campaign, but was traded to the Idaho Steelheads in March 2022. Idaho then sent Van Boekel to Wheeling to complete an earlier "player to be named" deal between the two clubs. Van Boekel played 30 games with the Nailers, amassing two goals and three assists, but he'd be on the move once more as his rights were dealt in June to Savannah to complete another "player to be named" deal. Savannah opted not to sign the 6'7" defender, and he'll skate for Jacksonville this season!

The Kalamazoo Wings looked north to bolster the middle of their forwards as former Guelph Gryphons centerman Ted Nichol will join the K-Wings! Nichol spent four seasons with the Gryphons from 2018-23 where he scored 16 goals and 25 assists in 76 games after spending four productive seasons with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs. Nichol landed with the Florida Everblades last season for 15 games where he notched one marker and two helpers, but the Sociology major will take his talents north to Michigan this season where he'll play a little closer to home in Kalamazoo. Nichol, it should be noted, scored the championship-winning goal in triple overtime in the Queen's Cup Final in 2020!

The Idaho Steelheads are bringing back a guy who helped them reach the Kelly Cup Final last season as they've re-signed former Saskatchewan Huskies forward Zane Franklin to a new deal! Franklin's time at the University of Saskatchewan wasn't long as he played 20 games in the 2021-22 season, scoring six goals and adding 20 assists after having played with the ECHL's Allen Americans in 2020-21 where he scored nine goals and 23 assists in 60 games at the professional level. His stint with the Huskies was enough for the Reading Royals to take an interest as they signed him to a deal for the 2022-23 season. After just four games with the Royals where he scored a goal and added four helpers, the Royals traded Franklin to the Idaho Steelheads. In 55 games with the Steelheads, Franklin scored 16 goals and added 17 assists before playing 16 more games in the playoffs where he notched two goals and added two assists to help Idaho reach the Kelly Cup Final. They'll be looking for the same production from Franklin this season as they try to return to the final!

If there are U SPORTS players that are looking for a way into the ECHL, the Fort Wayne Komets seem to be the best opportunity for most with the number of players they've signed. They were at it again this past week when the inked former MacEwan Griffins defender Neithan Salame to a deal! Salame spent a single season at the Edmonton campus where his 2022-23 season saw him appear in 23 games, scoring five goals and adding ten assists. Salame came to MacEwan after a successful WHL career that saw the majority spent with Brandon before he was dealt to the Regina Pats in 2021-22. The native of Edmonton had a big season for MacEwan as he led all their defenders in scoring while finishing in third-place on the team in scoring. The 22 year-old might be the kind of offensive defender that Fort Wayne needs if they hope to make a run in the Kelly Cup Playoffs next season!

I don't know if Jacksonville has a pipeline to Windsor, but the Jacksonville Icemen signed their second former Windsor Lancers player when they inked defender Chays Ruddy to a deal. Ruddy spent a couple of seasons at the University of Windsor where he played 47 games, scoring two goals and seven assists while sitting for 92 minutes in the sin bin. Ruddy played in the OJHL with the Trenton Golden Hawks before spending his 2017-18 with the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL. Following his two seasons with Windsor, Ruddy played 32 games with Fort Wayne (surprise, surprise!) and 17 games with the Kansas City Mavericks in 2021-22. He jumped to the EIHL's Manchester Storm in 2022-23 before returning to the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones. After seven games, the Cyclones waived Ruddy where the Toledo Walleye claimed him. He'll begin this season as one of seven defenders signed by Jacksonville!

The Reading Royals dipped back into the U SPORTS player pool as they signed former Acadia Axemen forward Mason McCarty to a contract for next season! McCarty broke into the professional ranks when he signed a deal with the Rapid City Rush in 2018-19 after playing five seasons in the WHL with Red Deer and Saskatoon. 15 games with the Rush was all he'd play in his first ECHL appearance, but he did score six goals and four assists. McCarty enrolled at Acadia University in 2019 where he joined the Axemen for a couple of seasons, scoring 16 goals and 16 assists in 42 AUS games. That prompted Kalamazoo to sign McCarty last season, and he played 43 games with the Wings where he notched 13 goals and 12 assists. He'll head to Pennsylvania this season where he'll look to score goals for the Royals!

Idaho re-signed another former Canada West guy as they're bringing back former UBC Thunderbirds forward Colton Kehler for another season! Aftetr three seasons in the BCHL, Kehler began to find his scoring touch with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. After three seasons skating with Edmonton, Kehler jumped into university life at UBC where he made an impact with the Thunderbirds. In two seasons and 42 Canada West games, Kehler had eight goals and seven assists while being a thorn in the sides of his opponents. Upon leaving UBC, Kehler played 2020-21 in the German Oberliga - the ECHL of German hockey - with Herne EV where he scored at a point-per-game pace. That caught the attention of the Steelheads who signed him in 2021-22 where he's been playing ever since! In 113 games with Idaho, Kehler has 31 goals and 30 assists, and he'll build on those totals in this upcoming season!

Kalamazoo must like the OUA because they re-signed another OUA player as former Brock Badgers forward Ayden MacDonald re-signed with the Wings for this upcoming season! MacDonald had a solid four-year run in the BCHL before landing at Brock University in 2017. In four seasons with the Badgers, MacDonald skated in 89 games while posting 24 goals and 35 assists before leaving midway through the 2021-22 season to sign with the ECHL's Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The K-Wings would acquire MacDonald in a trade at the trade deadline this past season, and they've made sure he sticks around the Michigan city for next season! In 102 ECHL games to date, McDonald has 27 goals and 30 assists, including two goals and seven assist in 12 games with the K-Wings thuis far. He'll look to continue that scoring this season!

The final update today is another re-signing as the Wichita Thunder welcomed former Dalhousie Tigers forward Dillon Boucher back to the squad! Boucher played four seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL before hopping into the Maritime Hockey League with the Miramichi Timberwolves in 2017-18 where he scored at a point-per-game pace. He enrolled at Dalhousie in 2018, playing four seasons for the Tigers where he scored 16 goals and 27 assists in 99 AUS games. Boucher signed with the Thunder last season upon the completion of the Tigers' season, getting into eleven games, but registered no points. He'll be looking for that first professional goal and point this year as he'll back with the Thunder once again!

We're heading into September where teams will look to tweak rosters by bringing in talent, and there are still lots of great U SPORTS players who could be signed. As seen above, there were some great signings this week as teams add talent and skill, and the guys who returned to the teams they played with last season provide some stability and familiarity to those teams. The ECHL season opens on October 19, so HBIC will keep an eye on who is signing where!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 29 August 2023

A Progress Report

If you've been reading this blog since July, you may recall me mentioning an ambitious project involving U SPORTS women's hockey, EA Sports' NHL '94 game, and my ability to learn hexadecimal while preserving the sanctity of the game. I wrote a quick piece on the idea of turning an NHL '94 game into a playable U SPORTS women's hockey game with teams and players from the current era. That piece was written on July 29, so you may be asking what I've been doing since posting that idea, and I can assure you that today's progress report may have some of you smiling.

As reported back on July 29, I managed to get all the schools, team names, and arenas they play in entered into the grid-like screen used in the ROM editor. There is limited amounts of room one can use to enter this information thanks to the original EEPROM sizes in Sega Genesis cartridges, but it happened. All of the teams seen below still exist on my version of UWHKY '94. Note that the working title will likely not be the final title for the game.
Again, I'll restate the following about the teams shown above: "I had to make some decisions that were based on history of winning, appearances at Nationals, and university recognition. I will also admit to there being some bias towards the nine Canada West teams that appear, so that's on me. You can be unhappy about that, but the vast majority of the teams in the list above have played often at Nationals, won Nationals, or medalled at Nationals." This statement still holds true, so don't expect many changes there.

I also noted in the July 29 article that "all fifth-year players and all red-shirted players will be excluded", and that's remained true in some cases but I've had to re-examine my stance on this. Because I want this game to be current for 2023-24, I've decided that 2023-24 rosters will be used for all teams. As it stands, not every team has their updated 2023-24 rosters on their websites yet, so I'm filling out the rosters with last season's information. As a result, not every team has been updated to reflect a current roster, and this is why I haven't rushed to complete the work on the game yet.

No one wants to hear what I haven't done, though, so let's get to what has been completed so we can see how much work still needs to be done before we get to serious women's hockey gaming!

First, all team rosters have been entered alphabetically up to and including the StFX X-Women, leaving nine teams and the two "all-star teams" needing to be completed. That means those eleven teams need player names entered, player ratings adjusted to reflect a player's abilities, uniform and sprite updates to reflect team colours, and a quick verification to make sure no one was missed from the roster. In saying that, I can complete one team in about an hour, so that leaves about 11 hours worth of work to complete before the teams are entered and finalized.

Once October hits, I'll go through all the teams once again just to ensure that rosters are as close to accurate as possible based on what is published on each team's website, and that will finalize the most difficult part of this process since this is mostly data entry. In total, let's say that I'm about 20 hours from being done with team information for argument's sake.

Here's the fun part, though: I've tested the game with a few teams already! In the screenshot below, you can see Mount Royal Cougars forward Athena Hauck converted an Aliya Jomha feed when she beat Alberta Pandas netminder Halle Oswald! How cool is that?

I still need to insert logos at center ice for each team, update the logos on the main team select screen, update the banners used on the game start screen, update the player photos, update Ron Barr and his speech in the pregame setup, and possibly update the title screen with a more women's hockey-appropriate image. If I'm being totally honest, the player photos are the lowest priority out of all of those "to-do" items, but we'll see how much time it takes for me to complete the other stuff. If there's enough time, I'll look into plugging in player photos. Total time to complete: who knows?

My goal is to have this completed by December. As you know, U SPORTS hockey goes on break for part of December with students writing exams and getting a holiday break from school, so there's no better time to have everyone playing this game as their favorite team and players. Based on that timeframe, it also gives me a chance to watch a handful of games from each conference to ensure that player ratings are accurate. Or as close to accurate as possible. If you have a bad game, you better hope I don't see it (KIDDING!).

Briefly, there's still a lot of work to do, but I'd say I'm nearing being halfway to done with the teams almost done. The center ice and main screen logo changes are just rinse-and-repeat processes once I get that mastered, so we'll see how the next pieces of completing this game go. What needs to be stressed, though, is that the testing works for gameplay with names and rosters, and that delights me to no end as I figured that would be the most difficult part!

I'll have more progress reports here on HBIC as I hit benchmarks in the creation of this game. The biggest part of the game's creation - team and roster info - is almost done, though, so we're getting closer. After that, it will be time to unleash U SPORTS women's hockey on the world where everyone can enjoy it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 28 August 2023

Wasted Opportunities

The image to the left of Saskatchewan Huskies forward Carson Stadnyk scoring on Manitoba Bisons netminder Tyler Brown is, in a frozen moment, a perfect epitome of Bisons men's hockey. There isn't a defender to be seen near Stadnyk as he pots what appears to be either a pass to him or a rebound off Brown's save, but the face that Stadnyk faces no opposition in scoring the goal speaks volumes as to some of the problems that the Bisons face. And while this image was taken in 2019, the same problems seem to be appearing in 2023 for the Winnipeg-based squad as former players show their skills elsewhere and talent needed to make an impact have left for green pastures elsewhere. In short, it's going to be a long season.

You might be wondering how I can write a team off before they've even played a second of preseason hockey, and I'm here to say that this year's version of the Manitoba Bisons could surprise many. They could play far above the ceiling currently being proposed for them, make the playoffs, and restore some faith to those who have had their faith tested. What should be known, though, is that the talent pool compared to other teams appears to be relatively shallow, and that's due to a couple of players leaving before they've fulfilled their eligibilities in Canada West.

The first player that we should note is the man to the left in goaltender Liam Hughes who had himself a heckuva weekend over the last few days. Hughes, as you may recall, is playing in the Australian Ice Hockey League with the Melbourne Mustangs where he's established himself as one of the top netminders in the circuit. The Mustangs won their AIHL play-in game for the playoffs on August 20 by an 8-3 score over the over the Brisbane Lightning, setting them up for the semi-final this weekend. Saturday saw the Mustangs crush the Sydney Bears 4-0 to send them to the AIHL final where Liam Hughes stopped all 33 shots sent his way by the CBR Braves in a 1-0 Mustangs win! Liam Hughes was named AIHL Playoff MVP in helping the Melbourne Mustangs win the Goodall Cup!

Why is this relevant you ask? This statement seems to be all the evidence one would need in finding relevance:
""Goaltending was a priority and we were really excited to get Liam Hughes from the Ice. He was the team's number one goalie and one of their most valuable players," says Sirant.

"The time that he's been with us, he's shown how good of a goaltender he is. He's outstanding and really competes hard."
Based on that glowing review from the recently-retired Mike Sirant, one would think that the Bisons would do everything in their power to keep Hughes in brown-and-gold colours, but Hughes lasted just eight games with the Bisons in 2021-22 before leaving for a professional opportunity with the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets. I don't fault Hughes for taking an opportunity when it knocked, but happy players don't usually leave in the middle of a season.

Just two short seasons later, Hughes is now the AIHL Playoff MVP and a champion with the Mustangs rather than preparing for a third season of eligibility in the Manitoba net. It makes you wonder "what if..." had he stuck around Winnipeg, but the reality is that we'll never know as I don't think Hughes regrets his decision to leave.

The other gut punch that the Bisons took came this weekend as well as their top offensive player in Brett Davis decided to leap to the professional ranks by signing a deal with the ECHL's Florida Everblades! Davis's two seasons in Winnipeg saw him establish himself as one of Canada West's best scoring threats as he scored 20 goals and added 26 helpers in just 36 games for the offensively-challenged Bisons. Davis was Manitoba's lone representative on the 2023 FISU Team Canada squad that brought home a gold medal where he showed his offensive touch once again. Davis's 46 points was one back of linemate Devon Skoleski's two-season total with the Bisons, but Davis's 1.28 points-per-game average was considerably higher than Skoleski's 1.07ppg.

Davis came home to Manitoba after bouncing around the WHL between Lethbridge, Kootenay, and Red Deer, and it seemed the former sixth-round pick of the Dallas Stars was set to put Canada West on notice with his scoring talents. He certainly did, and it's now earned him a shot at not only joining the two-time defending Kelly Cup champion Florida Everblades, but he'll even skate with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers at their training camp in September!

"Hopefully I can make a splash and go from there," Davis said in the Bisons' press release. "I've been to a few pro camps, so it makes things a little more comfortable going into it for sure. Just soaking it in and working my hardest is all I can do. There are a lot of good people and surrounding coaches and staff. I'm just going to try and soak it all in as much as I can."

There will be opportunities for others to step up into the roster spots left by Hughes and Davis, but will those players who look to take those spots have the same impact that Hughes and Davis had? Based on the recent round of recruiting, it seems very unlikely that the Bisons will get an MVP-calibre netminder like Hughes to stop pucks this season nor a point-per-game player who had the impact like Davis had. Both players spent parts of two seasons with the Bisons before leaving, so one has to wonder if this is less about professional opportunities and more about the culture in and around the program.

Happy players usually stay where they are happy. This isn't a proven scientific fact or anything, but just a general observation. Professional opportunities will still come to those who may want one more season to play with close teammates just as we've witnessed in Alberta and UNB, and those two programs who win often rarely have players opt out before finishing their eligibilities. Manitoba had two game-changing players in their ranks over the last three seasons, and they squeezed just 44 games out of them. Seems off, doesn't it?

You might think, "It's just two players, Teebz," which would be accurate if it also hadn't happened in the cases of Keaton Jameson (three seasons), Reece Harsch (15 games), Remi Laurencelle (38 games), Quintin Lisoway (53 games), Blake Heinrich (39 games), Kamerin Nault (40 games), and the aforementioned Tyler Brown (12 games) who all left Manitoba for professional hockey opportunities and never looked back. In all but Jameson's case, these players wore a Bisons jersey for two seasons or less. That's not a great track record when it comes to building team chemistry, but I can't fault any of them for wanting to leave a program that hasn't won a Canada West playoff series in a decade.

I will say that the slate has been wiped clean with new head coach Gordon Burnett installing his systems and building a culture he wants to see, but he has yet to recruit a single player nor jettison any of the holdovers from Mike Sirant's era behind the bench. Losing his most dynamic offensive player in Davis before the season starts is a hit he didn't need, but Burnett will need to find a way to replace that scoring if the Bisons hope to start moving up the standings rather than being stagnant in sixth-place or worse.

If Burnett can recruit players like those above who bring immense talent and skill to the ice, the Bisons will undoubtedly get better. If he can find a way to retain them for four or all five years of their eligibility, the Bisons could move into territory they haven't seen in decades as Canada West contenders. The Bisons have certainly had enough talented players to give the best in Canada West a run for their money, but those players never play together for more than a couple of seasons. And then the rebuild begins again.

Losing Hughes two seasons ago hurt the program as he was a bonafide starter in Canada West. Losing Davis this season is a setback that the Bisons didn't need before opening training camp, but no one will pity them for their loss. At the end of the day, this Bisons team could have had some of the more successful seasons in recent memory had the team stuck together, but the grass is greener when one considers where the Bisons have finished over the last decade. Knowing some of the players who left other programs, the Bisons have seen some wasted opportunities as other teams rebuilt and restocked in that same time.

What's very apparent for this season, though, is that the Bisons need an infusion of high-end talent into their ranks once more. With Burnett's WHL experience, he should be calling all his contacts and seeing if any undrafted talent wants to move to Winnipeg for next season. After that, it's up to him and the Bisons to give those guys a reason to stay. Otherwise, it's just more wasted opportunities which seems to be the modus operandi over the last decade for one of Canada's oldest and most storied programs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 27 August 2023

Where Eagles Soars

My last day at the professional ballpark in the city came and went today as the home portion of the local professional baseball team is now done. Because baseball is now over for me, I'm also ending the 2023 HBIC Summer Project that looked at some of the great women who played baseball in the AAGPBL, played some high-level hockey, and the women who are carrying on that two-sport tradition today. The end of baseball always means that the autumn season is near, and that also means that hockey training camps will be getting underway for most teams if they haven't started already. Players will be tested, teams will be built, seasons will be played, and championships will once again be handed out to the best teams standing at the end of their respective seasons!

There are players, though, who have chosen to move on and do other things with their lives as retirement from the game will happen to every player who skates. Some make news while retired while others fade into obscurity, and I often find myself wondering where some of these players landed. For every Wayne Gretzky, there is a fourth-line player who didn't seek a TV analyst role or front office career in management. Today, we pull one of those players out of obscurity to find out that he led a very incredible life after his professional hockey career ended!

You may remember Mike Eagles from his time with Quebec, Chicago, Winnipeg, and Washington in the NHL, but the Sussex, New Brunswick native had a solid junior career with the Kitchener Rangers and a good start to his professional career with the AHL's Fredericton Express. Eagles wasn't remembered for his scoring, but his defensive play as a forward made him a valuable player to the teams on which he played as he often drew checking assignments against the opposition's best players. Eagles would play 853 NHL games where he scored 74 goals and 122 assists, and he also added two goals and six assists in 44 NHL playoff games before retiring in 2000.

After retiring from the NHL, Eagles wasn't out of the game for long as he accepted the head coaching position for the St. Thomas University Tommies men's hockey team in the AUS. St. Thomas, which had finished 7-19-2 and dead last in 2001-02, saw an immediate turnaround under Eagles as the Tommies went 16-7-5 to finish atop the standings in the AUS! As a result, Eagles was named as the 2003 AUS Coach of the Year, becoming just the third St. Thomas coach to win the award in the program's history! The Tommies would fall short in the playoffs, though, and miss out on an opportunity for the CIS National Men's Hockey Championship.

St. Thomas would drop to 11-15-2 and sixth-place in 2003-04, drop out of the playoffs at 9-17-2 in eighth-place in 2004-05, bounce back to a 14-12-2 record for fifth-place in 2005-06, repeat their fifth-place finish in 2006-07 with a 14-14-0 season, and climb to fourth-place with an 11-11-6 mark in 2007-08. While he never guided the Tommies to the same success he had in his first season behind the bench, Eagles donned a second hat in the summer of 2008 when he was named St. Thomas University's Athletic Director!

The dual jobs that Eagles held may have occupied more of his time that he normally gave to hockey as the 2008-09 version of the Tommies fell to seventh-place on the strength of an 8-16-4 record. They actually fell further in 2009-10 as the Tommies finished in eighth-place out of eight teams on a 7-19-2 season. 2010-11 was the lowest point of Eagles' coaching career with St. Thomas as the Tommies put together a woeful 3-21-4 record to finish dead last by a large margin, and it forced a decision that affected Eagles' coaching career and the direction of the Tommies.

St. Thomas University interim president Dennis Cochrane decided that the dual roles that Eagles was filling wasn't doing justice to either position, so Cochrane asked Eagles to step down as the head coach to focus on his work as St. Thomas's Athletic Director. Obviously, the Tommies needed a head coach with the position vacant after Eagles chose to remain as Athletic Director, and former Acadia Axemen assistant coach Troy Ryan - yes, he of the current Canadian women's national team - was named as the new head coach of the Tommies on April 28, 2011. Ryan officially started the job on May 2 as he looked to lead the Tommies back to the AUS playoffs.

There's no denying that Troy Ryan is a very capable and intelligent coach, but it seems that whatever happened in 2011-12 and 2012-13 simply wasn't working as Ryan's Tommies went 8-42-6 in those two seasons. Ryan informed Eagles at the end of the 2012-13 that he would be resigning from the head coach position, telling, "It just got to the point where I didn't think it was the best fit. Whether I wasn't the best fit or they weren't the best fit for me, it's time to leave.".

While it was disappointing for Tommies fans and players to see Ryan leave, the cracks in the financial foundation of the university were beginning to show in 2013 as the Fredericton-based university was expected to post a $600,000 shortfall that year. The Athletic Department under Eagles pressed on, though, and Tommies alumnus Patrick Powers was named as head coach for the 2013-13 season with former Tommies players Quade Lightbody and David Reynolds serving as his assistants. Could these three men boost the program out of the AUS basement?

In one word: no. The Tommies posted a 6-20-2 record to finish in seventh-place in 2013-14. 2014-15 saw the program take a significant step back once again as the Tommies went 2-22-4 in that campaign to finish in eighth-place once again. And as hard as it may be to believe, the 2015-16 version of the Tommies was actually worse than they were one year earlier as they finished the season with a 2-25-1 mark that included going oh-fer-14 on the road that season. While things looked bleak on the St. Thomas campus for the men's hockey team, the worst was about to come.

The Tommies men's hockey team had been a Fredericton fixture since 1938, playing games every winter as the sands of time poured through the hourglass. In 2016, though, the school was facing a a growing deficit in excess of $1 million, and the difficult decision was made to eliminate unnecessary expenses that the school was funding. One of those expenses was men's hockey whose budget was $245,000, so the school went ahead and saved a quarter of a million dollars by shutting down men's hockey.

"The costs of operating the men's hockey program are unsustainable in light of our other financial priorities, especially in academic and student areas — it is simply beyond our means," Dawn Russell, the university's president and vice-chancellor, said. "We have an operating budget deficit and are closely examining costs across our operations."

That news - delivered on April 5, 2016 - wasn't received well by any of the students or staff who represented the hockey program, a number of fans, and the Athletic Director at the school, Mike Eagles. Eagles had discussions with the administration on what could be done to keep hockey going, but the final decision stood as the hockey program was cut from the Athletics Department. Because of the saving, it also meant that no other sports would be in jeopardy of being cut, forcing Eagles to view this cut from a bigger perspective.

"The decision has been made and I'm moving forward with an acceptance of the decision," he stated matter-of-factly. "At the end of the day, I know the university is in a very tough spot with the finances the way they are."

The bleeding didn't stop there, though, as an article written by Tiana Trevino on November 6, 2019 in The Celt Independent highlighted the ongoing financial difficulties that the university face. Tiana wrote,
"The University of St. Thomas has run a deficit of $8 million since the beginning of 2019, according to Vice President for Finance Spencer Conroy, an increase over the 2018 deficit of $7 million quoted to the Independent by Vice President for Communication and Marketing Jeff Olsen.

"Fundraising and the UST community as a whole, however, have helped lower the 2019 net deficit to about $2.5 million, according to Conroy."
While cutting hockey temporarily slowed the bleeding, it's pretty clear that St. Thomas was still hemorrhaging money despite efforts to prevent the deficit from growing since 2013. I'm not saying that men's hockey should have returned to St. Thomas while they were splashing red ink all over the school's ledgers, but cutting hockey didn't quite put an end to the problem either. Whatever financial problems were still plaguing the university never went away, and that means hockey wasn't coming back.

While none of that could be solved by Mike Eagles, it wasn't like he was neglecting the other athletic teams at St. Thomas. STU has hosted numerous Atlantic Collegiate Athletics Association championships, Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association championships, and U Sports national championships which saw the school host the 2014 CIS Women's National Hockey Championship.

In terms of individual sports, the Tommies men's volleyball team won their second-straight ACAA championship in 2021-22, the women's hockey program earned their first win at the CIS National Championship with a 2-1 win over McGill in 2015-16, and the Tommies brought home the 2021-22 ACAA Men's Soccer Championship. While losing men's hockey is certainly a downer on one's career as Athletic Director, Mike Eagles has seen his teams bring home hardware on a number of occasions!

You might be asking why I wrote a long piece on a former fourth-line NHLer who moved into the world of university sports, but it mattered to me because Mike Eagles officially retired from his position as Athletic Director at St. Thomas University on June 27, 2023 to start living a more quiet life where he can focus on things he likes doing in his personal life like triathlons, gardening, and spending time with his family. Honestly, after 21 years with St. Thomas in some capacity, I don't think anyone can say he hadn't earned himself a nice break.

"Student-athletes from St. Thomas and across our wider AUS conference have benefitted greatly from Mike's dedication throughout the years," said AUS president and CEO Phil Currie. "His expertise and his passion will be greatly missed around our table. We wish him all the best and congratulate him on his retirement."

I love finding out what some NHL players are doing in their lives after their careers. For the most part, they all seem to be doing something fun and/or interesting, but Mike Eagles certainly took a different path than what other former NHLers have done. For the record, Mike is a member of the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, Fredericton Sports Wall of Fame, and Sussex Sports Hall of Fame, so it's pretty clear he's been inspiring kids in and around New Brunswick for some time whether it was as an NHL player, an AUS head coach, or a school's Athletic Director.

Congratulations on a fantastic hockey career and an incredible post-hockey career, Mike. HBIC wishes you all the best in your retirement after being one of this writer's favorite Winnipeg Jets in the 1990s!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 26 August 2023

An Impressive Debut

How about the smile? That's Rhyah Stewart, the 16 year-old netminder from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who was playing for the Cape Breton West Islanders in Nova Scotia's U18 hockey league last season. You likely heard that Rhyah played half a game for the QMJHL's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles last night, and her performance was nothing short of brilliant as she showed the 2005 fans who showed up that she may be ready to be part of a tandem in the Cape Breton nets at the QMJHL level. I don't think anyone should be surprised that Stewart may be ready to make the jump to major junior hockey considering her skill set, but her ability to perform at a level high enough to warrant a shot speaks volumes to how far and how quickly women's hockey has progressed since the likes of Manon Rheaume's moments with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

1992 saw the Tampa Nay Lightning invite 20 year-old Manon Rheaume to training camp where she showed her stuff and beat out of a few of the guys who may have snickered at the thought of a woman guarding the net of an NHL team. Clearly, Rheaume had the last laugh as she played in parts of two preseason games, but she was ultimately cut at the end of training camp. What isn't mentioned in that story is that Rheaume had played one game in the QMJHL for the Trois-Rivières Draveurs during the 1991-92 season.

On November 26, 1991, the 19 year-old was sent into a 5-5 game against the Granby Bisons. She allowed three goals and had to exit the game after 17:04 of ice time when her mask was shattered by a shot from Patrick Tessier, leaving her with a cut over her eye that needed attention. While Granby won the game by a 10-6 score, it was clear that Gaston Drapeau, head coach and general manager of the Draveurs, saw something in Rheaume that few others did.

"She's not on our roster as the third-string goalie for nothing," he told reporters. "It`s because she's good. She can play."

That's precisely the view that Cape Breton is taking with Stewart as Screaming Eagles general manager Sylvain Couturier made that point clear when the club drafted her in the QMJHL bantam draft.

"Firstly, let's be clear, she is invited to the camp because she deserves it," he stated matter-of-factly. "She is quick and rivals every shot. You do not receive an offer from the University of Wisconsin for nothing, and an invitation to Hockey Canada if you are just average. She is special."

Talent at any position shouldn't be held back over gender, and Stewart's 24-save performance in 30 minutes of work - allowing no goals to the Moncton Wildcats, it should be noted - is a shining example of why Couturier used a bantam pick to select Stewart. She left the net last night with the Screaming Eagles leading 2-0 before Brandon Lavoie took over for the final half of the game, and I'll note here that Cape Breton lost the game 5-3 at the final horn.
Stopping an early breakaway? No problem. Quick glove save off a face-off? She's got it. Battling through screens and protecting the bottom-half of the net when it comes to loose pucks and rebounds? Second nature for Stewart. As you can hear, the play-by-play broadcaster was quite impressed with Stewart's play in the 30 minutes she protected the Screaming Eagles' net!

In what might come as disappointing news, it seems that Stewart likely won't be part of the Screaming Eagles this season as she has committed to the University of Wisconsin Badgers program for the 2024-25 season, but her move to the NCAA may set up some rather remarkable goaltending battles between Stewart and Minnesota-Duluth's Ève Gascon for the foreseeable future. If there was any question or doubt about the state of Canadian goaltending for the national women's team on the international stage, it seems the American midwest may hold the keys to the future in that regard.

With these two young women have proved they can not only play at the QMJHL level, but win and succeed there, it might be time for the "publicity stunt" crowd to sit down and button their yaps. Like the young men who come to camps across Canada in the CHL, solid talent will rise to the top when teams are hunting for good players, and those who capitalize on their opportunities will get more chances to continue finding successes. This isn't something new and everyone knows this is how good teams are selected, but there are still a handful of neanderthals and troglodytes wandering around in this world who believe that girls can't, shouldn't, and won't be good enough to play at the same level as boys.

Manon Rheaume started it. Charline Labonté pushed the bar higher. Shannon Szabados took it up a few notches again. Ève Gascon set it even higher than her predecessors. And the new kid pushing the bar higher is Rhyah Stewart who will - mark my words - make this country proud with her talents in the crease in the future. For anyone who thinks that these women should have been held back from competing against men or boys, it seems pretty obvious that they held their own when it came to getting their shot.

Rhyah Stewart's 24-save effort in Friday's game is the start of what appears to be a very special goaltending career for the 17 year-old. I'll be cheering for her no matter where she goes or for whom she plays, but it seems clear that she's ready to stop any shot coming her way no matter who is shooting those pucks!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 25 August 2023

Blueshirts Fill Cubicles

Based on their announcement today, it seems the New York Rangers were doing a lot of interviews recently for positions either created or vacated over the last season. I'm not against any team adding smart hockey people to its front-office staff, but it seems the Rangers are building a high-end hockey staff that could skate circles around most other NHL teams' front offices. Will that help them win games and, ultimately, the Stanley Cup? As we know, nothing is guaranteed in the NHL, but the group that general manager Chris Drury has assembled is impressive. Even more impressive are the smarts and talents they people possess that they'll use to help push the Rangers to new heights in 2023-24.

Former Sharks and Devils forward Ryane Clowe played just 12 games for the New York Rangers in 2012-13 after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline, but Clowe will be playing a more prominent role in Manhattan this time after the Rangers named him as Co-Senior Advisor to President and General Manager. I'm not sure how much advising Chris Drury needs in his roles as President and General Manager, but it seems Clowe, along with Mike Barnett, will be the people to whom Drury will turn when he's vexed with a problem and needs another thought or opinion.

Drury went into the business world and recruited a solid hockey and business mind as former USA National Team member Angela Ruggiero was named as a Hockey Operations Advisor. Ruggiero is the CEO and co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab, but she was also a Senior Management Associate with Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, prior to founding Sports Innovation Lab. With her hockey and business knowledge and connections, the Rangers are getting one of the sharpest minds in the sports world to lend her expertise and abilities to their organization.

Paul Mara joins the Rangers after a hockey career that took him through six NHL cities including three with the New York Rangers from 2006-09. The former defender more recently was the head coach of the NWHL/PHF's Boston Pride where he established a number of coaching records. He joins the Rangers as part of the player development staff where he'll work alongside former players such as Tanner Glass, Jed Ortmeyer, and Antti Miettinen in developing the next wave of talent for the Rangers.

These former players join the likes of associate head coach Phil Housley, assistant coach Mike Peca, consultant Doug Risebrough, hockey and business operations professional Adam Graves, ambassador Henrik Lundqvist, European scouts Patric Kjellberg and Sergei Kuznetsov, amateur scout Jeff Beukeboom, professional scout Steve Eminger, and European professional scout Shaone Morrisonn as some of the former pro hockey players who show up for meetings at Madison Square Garden. That front office would make a pretty decent beer league team if they hit the ice together!

Those weren't the only hirings, though, as the Rangers added some solid minds to the front office on Broadway as well!

Christian Hmura joins the Rangers after serving as the Hockey Director and Director of Player Development for the Tier 1 AAA Chicago Mission from 2017-23. The 36 year-old jumps into the fray as the Skills and Performance Development Coach for the Rangers, and he'll work with the player development team on getting some of the picks and players the Rangers have on their depth charts to the next levels of their careers!

Another hiring who will work in developing prospects is Mark Ciaccio who was named Prospect Development Skills Coach. Ciaccio is more of a promotion than a hiring as the founder of MC Hockey Skills has worked in a skills coach and development role with the Rangers since 2013. He spent time in skills development role with the Arizona Coyotes for 12 years and with the Los Angeles Kings before Arizona prior to jumping to Manhattan, and he's also spent some time working with Swedish players in the SHL in the same capacity.

The Rangers have a new Head Athletic Trainer this season after Andy Hosler was named to the role. The former Nashville Predators head athletic trainer from 2013-21 had worked in the NHL from 2007 until he accepted the head athletic trainer's role at Michigan State University in 2021. Holser holds a master's degree in kinesiology from Michigan State, and spent his first two seasons in professional hockey as the head athletic trainer for the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies.

Brandon Rodgers moves north up the east coast as the Rangers hired him to be their new Senior Sports Therapist. Rodgers spent the past five seasons as the Physical Therapist and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and we've seen the Lightning make deep playoff runs almost every year as a testament to the conditioning program they run. Rodgers also helped Lightning medical staff by performing physical therapy and traditional athletic training services, so it appears that his wide range of skills and knowledge will benefit Rangers players this season and beyond!

Kayla McAvoy was promoted to a full-time position by the Rangers to continue her work in the strength and conditioning department as Assistant Sports Scientist. McAvoy earned a master's degree in exercise physiology from Queen's College, and her experience has seen her design and implement exercise programs for professional athletes at Prentiss Hockey Performance. If the McAvoy name seems familiar, yes, her brother, Charlie, plays for the Bruins, but it's pretty clear that Kayla is carving her own path in the hockey world as part of the Rangers' strength and conditioning department.

As we know, analytics are playing a bigger part in every team's front office, and the Rangers are no exception as they hired Kathryn Yates as Manager of Performance Data Insights. She joins the Rangers' analytics department after spending the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Flyers got her after she had spent two seasons with the University of Massachusetts men's hockey team where she served as the Director of Analytics. Yates is an incredibly sharp mind as she holds mater's degrees in both business administration and sport management, and the article that ESPN did on her time with Boston University is a fantastic read!

With Ruggiero, McAvoy, and Yates working in the Rangers' front office, that also pushes the number of women working in high-level hockey positions within the Rangers organization to a new high. Some of the notable women and position they hold include Victoria Mink who holds the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Jeanine McGrory who sits as the Senior Vice President of Finance, Katie Condon who is the Senior Director of Hockey Administration, and Erika Whitman who is the Director of Sports Nutrition. The Rangers are proving that success comes with amazing people leading the way, and all of these women - plus those not mentioned due to space - are making the game better for everyone.

We'll see how the Rangers do this season, but they seem to have a dynamic squad with a ton of speed, skill, and scoring that should help them ascend the Metropolitan Division standings against the likes of Carolina, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington. Adding some incredible minds to the people making decisions never hurts, so we'll see how all this knowledge and skill comes together on Broadway this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 24 August 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 570

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the radio waves around Winnipeg and across the internet with a number of updates on stories we had previously discussed. It's always good to get updates on things we've put out into the hockey chatter-sphere, so our hosts will tackle those updates tonight with their thoughts on each of those stories. There's also some fun hockey chatter that they'll bring up tonight, they'll look at the international hockey scene, and more as The Hockey Show hits the ground running at 5:30pm CT!

As stated above, Teebz and Jason will run you through a handful of updates from stories that were previously discussed on The Hockey Show. We have updates on Logan Mailloux's status with the NHL, there's an update to the Alex Galchenyuk drunk driving saga, and it appears we have an update on why there's been very little news coming out of the professional women's hockey circuit in North America. After we go through those updates, our hosts will discuss Norway's national hockey problem, the passing of legendary broadcaster Rick Jeanneret, Auston Matthews' new deal, a very cool story about three local players heading overseas, and we have our normal player update segment as three well-known players from Canada West find new homes and roles in hockey. With August winding down and training camps being planned, now is a great time to make The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via a regular part of your week!

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. We also recommend Radio Garden if you need an easy-to-use online stream. 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 and Jason chat suspended players, intoxicated players, no news, financial news, the loss of a legend, a lack of cap space, a big opportunity, new opportunities, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: August 24, 2023: Episode 570

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 23 August 2023

More Reinforcements

We're past the midway point in August, and it seems that ECHL teams are still loading up their training camp rosters with players for this coming season. Thankfully, there are more U SPORTS signings to report over the last six days as six players signed deals with five teams in the minor-pro circuit. You can't go wrong with more reinforcements at any position, and the arms race in the ECHL is all about finding one or two unsigned gems that will boost your team in a big way. Let's see who signed where over the last six days as one of these players might be those gems as each of the teams hunts down the Kelly Cup!

The first player who inked a new deal for the 2023-24 season is former Saint Mary's Huskies defender Zack Hoffman who will suit up with the Rapid City Rush this season! Hoffman moves to South Dakota after spending 52 games with the Wichita Thunder last season where he recorded six assists. Hoffman split time in the SPHL with the Fayetteville Marksmen and Saint Mary's University in Halifax in 2021-22, but his two seasons with the Huskies saw him record one goal and three assists in 32 AUS games. Known more for being a defensive defender, Hoffman does the little things right while mainly staying out of the box as his 69 PIMs in 52 games illustrated last season. He'll be a solid player in the Rush zone this season!

The Rush added a second player on August 17 as they dipped into the U SPORTS pool for their second player as well. Former Acadia Axemen forward Maurizio Colella inked a deal to return to North America as he'll skate with the Rush this season. Colella spent last season in the Alps Hockey League with Merano HC in Italy where he potted ten goals and 12 assists in 19 games after spending 2021-22 without a permanent home after playing three games with the South Carolina Stingrays and ten more with the Newfoundland Growlers. His three seasons at Acadia University from 2018-22 saw Colella play 67 games where he scored 14 goals and 16 assists in his time with the Axemen. The Rush are hoping to rekindle the scoring flame he showed last season and with the OHL's Flint Firebirds!

The Utah Grizzlies went out and got a little sandpaper for their roster as they signed former Carleton Ravens winger Cody Caron for the 2023-24 season. Caron spent last season plus nine games in 2021-22 with the Cincinnati Cyclones where he put up three goals and 11 assists in 64 games, but he was never shy about spending a little time in the sin bin as he spent 144 PIMs in isolation. In his three seasons with Carleton from 2018-22, Caron played 61 games with the Ravens where he scored 21 goals and 23 assists while sitting for 125 PIMs in the OUA. If Caron can find the same scoring touch he showed with Carleton while playing his bruising brand of hockey, Utah might have found a power forward that few can match as they look to win the Kelly Cup!

The Adirondack Thunder finally dipped into the U SPORTS pool for talent, and they signed former Concordia Stingers forward and former Regina Cougars forward Jake Fletcher to a deal! Fletcher will make his professional hockey debut on Saturday, October 21 against the Worcester Railers as he skates in his first ECHL game in his career. Fletcher spent last season at the University of Regina where scored five goals and 12 assists in 17 games with the Cougars. Prior to that, he had skated in Montreal with Concordia University as he spent 2018-22 there, scoring four goals and three assists in 46 OUA games before transferring west. Fletcher was a standout with Estevan in the SJHL, and the Thunder want to see that scoring touch return!

Earlier today, the Allen Americans re-signed former McGill Redbirds defender Dalton Gally to a deal for the upcoming season. Gally played in Florida and Kansas City in 2021-22 before signing in Kansas City where they traded him to Allen last season. In 70 ECHL games with the Norfolk Admirals, Everblades, Mavericks, and Americans, Gally has recorded ten assists as he still seeks his first professional goal. Gally played two seasons with McGill from 2019-22 where he tallied five helpers in 18 OUA games. His short stint in Montreal followed a solid three-season run in the WHL with Medicine Hat and Kelowna, and it should be expected to see Gally play a solid defensive game with some physicality on the Americans' blue line!

The other Thunder team got in on the action in re-signing a former U SPORTS player as the Wichita Thunder agreed to terms on a deal with former Dalhousie Tigers centerman Kelly Bent! Bent will enter his fourth professional season with 75 ECHL games under his belt where he scored three goals and five assists for the Allen Americans, Kansas City Mavericks, and the Thunder. Last season, Bent played 42 games with Wichita where he scored two goals and three assists while sitting for 254 PIMs. In four seasons with Dalhousie University from 2016-20, Bent skated in 116 AUS contests where he totalled ten goals, 16 assists, and 338 PIMs! It seems that Wichita needed someone to keep the peace when things get rough, and they have it with Bent back on the roster!

It's crazy to think that we're two months away from the opening night in the ECHL, but it would seem the calendar has been moving forward with the number reports I've filed about U SPORTS signings. These six men will look to help their teams win the 2024 Kelly Cup this season, and it would seem that there could be a few more signings between now and October when training camps are underway. HBIC will keep an eye on former U SPORTS players as camps get underway, but it's pretty awesome to see all these former Canadian university players getting their shot at their professional hockey dreams!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Another Calgary Cat In Sweden

Sweden is a land full of incredible wildlife, but there are no feline apex predators on the peninsula that the country can claim as a "native species". They have brown bears and wolverines and wolves, but the closest predator that Sweden has to a cat is the European polecat... which is a weasel. There is one city, however, that has amassed a collection of Cougars for this winter, and those Cougars will tour Sweden with the hopes of bringing home a championship as a third Cougar arrived on the scene yesterday. At this point, we should consider Leksands IF to be a safe haven for Alberta hockey players!

Former Mount Royal Cougars head coach Jordan Colliton seems to be building a solid team that has a distinct U SPORTS touch to it as former Cougars sniper Anna Purschke will play there once again this season, and she'll be joined by newly-signed former Alberta Pandas sniper Autumn MacDougall and former Montreal Carabins forward Lore Baudrit. There were still some spots that Colliton could fill with good players if she needed, and she locked up another one last night when Leksands IF announced another signing.

Tatum Amy will join Leksands for the upcoming season, and she'll be a welcomed recruit by the team and fans with her incredible work ethic, her skill on the ice, and her personality off it. Amy's arrival in Sweden coincides with the announcement that team captain Hanna Sköld will step away from the team after finding out that she's pregnant, so it seems that the departure of Sköld opened a roster spot for Leksands IF to pursue a deal with Amy chose to ink a deal with the PHF's Buffalo Beauts earlier this summer after being contacted by Leksands. After the PHF was bought by the PWHPA and contracts were made void, Leksands circled back to talk with Amy once more after Sköld broke her news.

Second chances aren't something that most general managers get in the same summer when it comes to signing impactful players, but general manager Alexander Bröms is happy to have Amy to join his squad, stating, "Tatum and I had been in contact before but when she announced that she would play in the PHF there was no further dialogue. When then PHF came with the news that the league would not start as planned, Leksand became relevant again for Tatum. In Tatum, we get a playable forward who has many qualities and from whom we will benefit greatly this winter. We are confident that it is another good character we will get into the group."

For Amy, the opportunity with Leksands IF is one she will embrace just as she did in Calgary, saying, "I am very excited to come to Sweden and start a new adventure in my hockey career. Much of what Leksand is struggling to achieve rhymes well with my personal goals. I look forward to being faced with new challenges, making new contacts and being part of an organization that feels extremely professional. On the ice, I hope to be able to contribute with a strong defensive game connected to my center role, while also wanting to be a leader both on and off the ice."

For Sköld, she knew that the news of her pregnancy would pause her career for this season at least, but the 26 year-old and her partner are excited for that new challenge as well. Regarding the added players and changes, the nine-year Leksands IF veteran said, "There are many new players who have come in and it will be fun to see what Jordan and Joakim can get out of the team," adding that she'll be watching from the stands and on TV. "It will be great!" she exclaimed.

Roster turnover and changes happen in all sports and certainly at all levels of hockey, but it's pretty clear that the team in Leksand, Sweden are building something special with the players they've brought in this season. While it may not result in a championship as every team in the SDHL seemingly got stronger, watching Leksands should be very entertaining this season with all the familiar names in the lineup. And to show my faith in the players they've added, I'm going to throw out a prediction and say that they finish the season with more than the 37 points they totalled last season!

With a playmaking, defensively-responsible center in Amy whose hustle and drive were unmatched in Canada West last season, I like Leksands' chances of eclisping that 37-point total. Toss in a couple of solid goal scorers in Purschke and MacDougall and mix in some depth with Baudrit, and the foundation of a solid team is forming. Having 13 new additions to the roster this season means that there will be bumps along the road as players work to find chemistry together, but it's a clean slate full of potential as Leksands IF gets ready to take the ice on Saturday, September 23 against Djurgårdens when they open the season.

I've already got that day circled on my calendar as I'll be up early to catch the game assuming it's shown on C More's networks once again. We're one month away from the start of the SDHL season, and I'm already getting excited for the games! My only complaint? I want more summer.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 21 August 2023

Hockey In A Different Desert

You'd be forgiven if the title led you to believe that this was another Coyotes story or if the lede photo was some sort of artist's rendering of a new home for the Arizona Coyotes. Neither of those would be correct, but this is a story about hockey in the desert. That desert, however, is surrounding the city of Dubai, United Arab Emerites where a major women's hockey tournament will be played next month. Normally, I don't write about lesser-known Asian tournaments, but this one has a cool twist to it that will connect a city in Canada to another country's national team who will be playing at that tournament in Dubai! Let's see how the dots connect!

The Union Women Ice Hockey Tournament will be played September 5-9 in Dubai, UAE as a handful of teams make their way to the Middle Eastern country. We've seen teams such as the Bahrain Ice Hockey Club, the Shaheen Falcons, and Team India play at past tournaments in UAE, so this tournament does attract some good competition. While none of those teams are going to strike fear in most teams across the world by IIHF rankings, UAE does have 115 registered female players in their country as UAE looks to promote winter sports in a country that has an average annual temperature of 28.2°C. The coldest month on the calendar for Dubai is January at 19.4°C, so it's not like we're talking about a country that plunges into sub-zero temperatures by any temperature scale.

It should be no surprise that Dubai has money as we've witnessed time and again from that country, and they continue to build massive multi-sport complexes that house winter sports facilities. UAE has five indoor rinks including the one pictured at the top in the Sport Society Mall, so this country is spending a lot of money to boost its presence in winter sports.

One way to do that is to invite other teams to come and play at your state-of-the-art facilities, and that's what the Union Women Ice Hockey Tournament will aim to do as they invite teams from across the planet to play in Dubai for one week in September. The tournament's aim is to help the UAE National Women's Team prepare for the 2024 Asia and Oceania Championship, so they'll likely have a couple of decent teams there. One of the teams that's accepted an invitation? Team Philippines who likely will be one of those teams at the 2024 Asia and Oceania Championship!

You may be asking why I've spent all this time on Dubai and Team Philippines without mentioning a Canadian city, so let's bring this all together nicely by announcing that three Winnipeg-born players will be joining Team Philippines in Dubai in September for this tournament! Hanna Pagdato, who plays for the Mount Allison Mounties in the AUS, and her sister, Larissa Pagdato, who was a forward for the MWJHL's Northern Stars, will join the Philippines team in two weeks, and they'll be joined by Winnipeg-born defender Jordy Wyant who plays for Saint Mary's University at the NCAA D3 level in Winona, Minnesota! How cool is that?

The Pagdato sisters were on a local radio station in Winnipeg this morning with their dad, Larry, as they spoke about the opportunity on 680 CJOB's The Start with Brett Megarry, Lauren McNabb, and Greg Mackling. Here's the 11-minute interview from CJOB!
I am pretty excited for these three women to hit the ice in Dubai with the Phillipines National Team, and I'm hoping there will be a lot of amazing stories they'll bring back from UAE! This is an opportunity few get, so congratulations to Hanna, Larissa, and Jordy!

For those who may be wondering, Team Philippines National Women's Team is currently unranked as per IIHF rankings, but, as Larry stated, the sport is growing within Philippines' borders. They currently have just 48 female players registered and just two indoor rinks in the country, but their team will be cobbled together from players in their domestic leagues and from abroad just as Team China did for the Beijing Olympics and Team Korea did for the Pyeongchang Olympics. If Team Kazakhstan does play in the UAE tournament, they could be bringing players who nationalized as well, and they include former Mount Royal Cougars defender Erin McLean, former Alberta Pandas defender Kalista Senger, former Ottawa Gee Gees forward Roxanne Rioux, former Western Mustangs forward Kendra Broad, and former Toronto Blues forward Breanna Berndsen all play for the Kazakhstani squad. It seems Canada will be well-represented in UAE!

It should be a fun tournament and an unforgettable experience for the Pagdato sisters and Jordy Wyant, and I'm excited to see how they do in Dubai. That's not normally a place where my attention focuses in September, but the hometown connection to the tournament makes it a little more relevant for this writer!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!