Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Leave It For The Pros

I'm sure we've all seen the Sidney Crosby commercials where he's pushing Gatorade, especially with hockey season right around the corner. They show Crosby drinking down the magic energy elixir before going out and embarrassing his opponents with his incredible skill thanks to the magical energy-restoring and electrolyte-replacing Gatorade. While I'm entirely sure that Gatorade is used in the NHL thanks to a lucrative endorsement deal, I've been skeptical of the real-world results for beer league players and minor-hockey players. In fact, I called out Gatorade in studies versus water and the effects post-workout versus milk. Needless to say, the sports beverage came in second-place both times.

I was watching an episode of CBC's Marketplace today that originally aired in January of 2014. The investigative journalists took a long look at the sports beverage industry with a focus on whether Canadians actually do enough exercise to warrant drinking sports beverages. They focused in the television report on the marketing done, especially to kids, by Gatorade, and how Gatorade's marketing seems to be leading kids to the confectionary counter to buy sports beverages after they get off the ice like their on-ice idols do. Marketplace co-host Tom Harrington did an excellent job in exposing some truths in this episode.

As CBC writes in their article linked above,
Sports drinks promise to rehydrate, provide energy to muscles in the form of sugar and replenish electrolytes lost during exercise. Canadians guzzle more than $450 million in sports drinks every year.

Popular choices such as Gatorade are extensively promoted for their ability to help athletes refuel. Gatorade boasts their beverage is “scientifically formulated” and will "provide optimal quantities of sodium, potassium and carbohydrate to support exercise." Powerade promises an "advanced electrolyte system designed to help replenish four electrolytes lost in sweat."
Again, I don't doubt that Gatorade has done extensive studies to see what electrolytes are lost in sweat. That claim has to be true in order for them to design an ingestible product that replaces what is lost. However, when one looks at the nutrition labels of these beverages, you start to question exactly how much is needed when you're sweating.
Gatorade’s Glacier Cherry Perform drink contains 41 g of sugar per serving - more than 10 teaspoons of sugar - and 330 mg of sodium, more than a McDonald's medium fries and more than a serving of Doritos Cool Ranch chips.
Wowzers. That's a ton of sugar and a ton of salt. For an adult, that's excessive. For a child to be putting that into their bodies is downright criminal.

Dr. Greg Wells, a sports physiologist who is a researcher with the Human Physiology Research Unit at the University of Toronto and has worked with elite athletes, says the body is actually pretty good at regulating itself without all the fancy drinks. Children should probably avoid them completely.

"Your body is very, very good at making the changes it needs to make in order to keep you exercising safely all on its own," he stated. “We know that children don't sweat as much as adults do, so they don't actually need it as much as adults do. And kids' events are typically shorter and not long enough to require them. We're giving our kids a lot of sugar, lots of salt, so we need to be very, very careful with that."

I, for one, agree with the doctors here. Water is the main ingredient in sweat, so replacing it is vital. Yes, there are electrolytes that are expelled with sweat, but the vast majority of sweat is still water. You can argue that losing these electrolytes are vital in the long run, but how many of us are actually doing the amount of work needed to lose the quantity of electrolytes found in a bottle of Gatorade? You might think you do, but the studies show differently.
Wells says that while sports drinks are widely available, they're only really helpful to a small minority of athletes. "Eighty-five per cent of Canadians don't get enough exercise to begin with, so they don't need sports drinks. The remaining 15 per cent that actually do exercise, you probably have one or two per cent exercising really hard, really intensely enough to really need those sports drinks. In that group, probably a small subset of them are exercising long enough to need it.

"In the scientific community, we generally don't recommend sport drinks for anything less than 90 minutes, if you are exercising really intensely, if you are exercising in the heat, if you are exercising for a very long period of time."
Intense workouts in the heat for long periods of time? Sounds like a Florida Gators football practice - the same place where Gatorade was first developed and used. If you're a marathon runner in the summers, you could probably start to use Gatorade later in the race for the pick-me-up it provides with the simple sugars and the small effect the added electrolytes it will add. However, as Dr. Wells states, "the average person, in a gym, typical spin class, yoga class, going to lift some weights, you need water."

And that leads me to back to the rinks across Canada. Most beer league teams don't play for more than an hour, and there is no one player outside of the goaltenders who play the entire game. That means that you might log thirty minutes of ice-time in any given night which is far below the recommended exercise time proposed by the scientific community. Therefore, it stands to reason that you don't need Gatorade on the bench whatsoever, and that water is the only in-game beverage you need to replace any water lost through sweat.

“An average person like you," Dr. Wells told Mr. Harrington, "during a workout, you need to be drinking a lot of water; that's pretty much all your body needs. That's what your body needs for your muscles to work really, really well. That's what your blood needs to circulate really well."

I'm not here to tell you how to parent, but if I was coaching a minor-hockey team and I saw a kid drinking Gatorade, I'd be speaking to those parents. While I appreciate everyone believes their children are putting in 110%, the fact remains that ice-time is limited and kids in minor-hockey will never scratch the surface of a ninety-minute workout of an adult. Ever.

The benefits of water are many. Let's get off the "$450 million in sports drinks" mentality, and start doing what's best for us and our kids. Or, in other words, let's stop buying into the marketing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Motivated, But...

Dustin Byfuglien has a Stanley Cup ring. He was a vital part of the Chicago Blackhawks team that lifted the curse on the franchise by winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. Byfuglien, as a forward, terrorized goaltenders in front of the net, making a name for himself as the kid who couldn't be moved from the crease. The key in all this was that Byfuglien was an effective forward for the Blackhawks who did a job that others wouldn't: front of the net and take some abuse. It hasn't been that way since he got his ring.

Byfuglien was out at the first Winnipeg Jets Fan Fest yesterday, and he was surrounded by credentialed media all day. He seemed to be in a jovial mood, and that was good for all those looking for quotes from the big forward. The problem is that you weren't sure the answers you were getting were Big Buff being serious or having some fun with the guys who write about him.

"Defence is so much fun though, it's tough," Byfuglien said to the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe. "I've got a job to do and I'm just here to go work and do what I do."

There are lots of exceptional forwards who drop back to play defence on the power-play. Evgeni Malkin is probably the most prolific forward to do so, and he seems to enjoy it. Dustin Byfuglien is also a forward - at least by Paul Maurice's word - but will play the blue line on the power-play as well.

"I think it's more fun when he says he'd rather play defence, isn't it?" Maurice said, smiling. "This is one of the great personalities in the game right now. I hope he's still firing that out. It wouldn't be Buff. But he's playing forward."

Byfuglien, in his defence, did sound as if he was joking, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Again, he tossed in the joke when Wiebe asked him about his expectations for this season.

"Um, be back on defence anytime, right away," Byfuglien stated, a sheepish grin on his face. "No, just have a good start and do what I do and bring to the table what I usually do. Provide a little bit of everything. Focus on defence first and the offence will come."

I think that Byfuglien could be due for a big season based on his size and skill, but his endurance and ability to stay in shape will go a long way in determining how this season goes for the big man. As a forward, he's rarely knocked off the puck when he has it, and he often carries a couple of players with him who are trying to knock the puck away. On the power-play, there's no denying that Byfuglien is the cannon on the blue line. He has a very unique skill set, and he needs to use these tools to make himself, his linemates, and his team better.

Dustin Byfuglien came into camp with a positive attitude. He looks like he's in pretty decent shape. While he's not ripped, he seems to be lighter than in previous season, but this is something we saw last year which slowly regressed to seeing Buff be heavier and less productive. This is something the Jets will have to stay on top of this year because it seems like Dustin Byfuglien has arrived in Winnipeg with the right attitude, even if he is still joking about being a defenceman.

As they say, in any joke, there is a shred of truth. Byfuglien can be an awesome defenceman, but he'll only be expected to do so when they Jets have a man-advantage. And he should excel there.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 September 2014

A Championship Look

There's something to be said for the old Penguins uniforms, seen to the left on Mario Lemieux in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final. For years, the Penguins were mired in futility in these uniforms until they put it all together in 1991, winning their first Stanley Cup. They followed that up in 1992 with a repeat performance, and then went ahead and ditched their familiar jersey and logo altogether. If there were dark days ahead - and there were - this was the setting of sun on that possible dynasty. The Penguins would suffer some heartbreaking defeats in those coming years and would find themselves in the cellar of the NHL occasionally as they worked through the next decade. Indeed, the loss of their identity that people loved so dearly was the turning point.

After returning to the Skating Penguin logo, the Penguins won another Stanley Cup after missing out in the previous season. There is clearly something about the Skating Penguin that sets things right with this franchise. Fans of the Penguins still lamented the fact that the Penguins used Vegas gold in their color scheme, though. The three Pittsburgh-based pro teams were all wearing the same shades of black-and-yellow for the longest time, but the Penguins changed all that up with Vegas gold. Well, not anymore, readers! As you can see to the right, the Penguins will wear their old colors as an alternate jersey, and they look magnificent! I don't even have to break this down for you because I will fully admit that I am a fan of this alternate, and will gladly start a petition for the Penguins to make this their home jersey going forward if need be!

These uniforms are what the Penguins should have been wearing all along. While they have had great success recently, the Stanley Cup has eluded them once more. We talk about the "Hockey Gods" appreciating when players and/or teams do things the right way, so this move to bring back Pittsburgh's quintessential look should please the Hockey Gods immensely. Will it bring another Stanley Cup? That will be determined this season.

I believe we are nostalgic for what we remember fondly. The Penguins, in the early-1990s, were a dominant team, and we long for those memories again when players like Lemieux, Jagr, Francis, Stevens, Tocchet, Coffey, Murphy, and Samuelsson were leading the Penguins to new heights. We remember these good times, and it makes us feel good. Changing what we know to be good is usually met with resistance, so when we see our heroes changing their colors, we don't take kindly to it.

Fans reacted in outrage when it was announced that Wonder Woman's costume had changed. People don't react well when radical changes are made, replacing the icons they know, respected, and trusted. The Penguins developed a new logo - "Robo-Penguin" as it is often called - and people reacted poorly. They wanted it gone, they demanded the Skating Penguins back, and they got what they had been calling for once Mario Lemieux took over the team.

Today, a color faux-pas has been corrected in a big way as the Penguins brought back the exact look of their jerseys from the early-1990s. They look fantastic, and they feel right once more. I've always been a Penguins fan, but I've never been prouder than I am right now. This alternate uniform is a thing of beauty.

Now only if they could use it full-time at home, I'd be a happy man.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 106

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is a little late with this preview today as I've been trying to lock down a guest we were supposed to have on the show tonight. Unfortunately, it appears that fell through, so we'll be going back to chatting about hockey and all the stories surrounding it rather than learning about someone who we thought would be a great person to meet. We'll continue to work with this individual to see if we can have him on for a future episode, but we'll do our hockey thing this week instead.

We'll dive into looking at the ESPN report published today that ranks all the teams of the four professional sports leagues over a number of criteria. It's an interesting list because of the criteria used. For example, one of the categories is "Bang for the Buck" which is defined as "Wins in the past year, per fan dollars". We'll bounce through the list as we look at specific teams and discuss why they placed where they did. Surprisingly, there were a lot of hockey teams in the top-fifteen teams, and it surprised me that the American public in these major cities seem to like hockey more than other sports. Kudos to those franchises, and we'll talk about that tonight.

We'll also spend some time talking about the Ryan Johansen situation in Columbus, Kevin Cheveldayoff's interview with TSN's Bob McKenzie and what we saw in that, the Winnipeg Jets holding their first annual Fan Fest at MTS Centre on Saturday, September 20, and much more. We're also going to waive the 3 Rounds Deep segment tonight since we were preparing for an interview. Or maybe we'll toss it in. The only way you'll know is by listening!

We're on the air at 5:30pm so tune in for all the action! We're on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! We'll be available via phone at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), so give us a call to share your thoughts on any of the topics we cover! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

PODCAST: SEPTEMBER 18, 2014: Episode 106

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Prove Your Worth It

Ryan Johansen had himself a pretty great season last year. He led the Columbus Blue Jackets in goals and scoring with 33 goals and 63 points, respectively. He was part of a resurgence in Columbus where fans flocked back to the arena to see the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, win their first playoff game in history, and put a scare into the Pittsburgh Penguins. Again, Johansen was a big part of all those things happening. So when Johansen's entry-level contract ran out this summer, it was expected he would be re-signed without much trouble. Instead, we've got a Hatfield-McCoy style battle brewing in Ohio as the Blue Jackets and Johansen's camp are nowhere near each other's offers for a new deal.

Make no mistake in what's happening here: the Blue Jackets are asking the question of "was this one good season" while Johansen's camp is saying "the start of many good seasons". In the NHL's "what have you done for me lately" mind, the Blue Jackets are taking the sane approach in asking for a reasonable bridge deal similar to those of PK Subban and Matt Duchene. In other words, "do it again, and we'll reward you". After all, in 107 NHL games prior to last season, Johansen had just 14 goals and 33 points over those two seasons.

So what changed?

First off, Johansen has matured physically. He looked like he owned the ice some nights last season, and it understandable that he carries a lot of confidence in himself going into this season. The 6'3" forward has grown into his frame as he now stands around 220 lbs. as opposed to the 190 lbs. he started with in 2011. He's a big man in a big man's game, and he showed that he is ready for the challenge of playing that game last season. That's a credit to both sides: the training staff got him ready for the NHL game, and Johansen bought into the regiment in becoming a solid NHL player.

However, those previous two seasons still linger in the minds of Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson, the men holding the money. While Johansen exploded onto the scene last season, there's no guarantee the same thing will happen this season. Or future seasons. There are many examples of this in the NHL, and the one most similar is that of Dustin Penner. Granted, Penner had a decent season in Anaheim last year, but he was missing-in-action most other nights since 2010. For a man asking for a lot of money like Johansen, it's a mistake that neither Kekalainen nor Davidson want to make.

"It makes no sense," Davidson told The Hockey News' Ken Campbell. "When you see numbers that are thrown at us, we shouldn't even respond. That's how bad it is. It's embarrassing. And if the kid sits out, he sits out. I wonder if the agent's going to pay him his money back that he's going to lose by sitting out.

"With the numbers they come back with... are so one-sided it's nonsensical. It's extortion is what it is. I don't make this stuff up. I've been in this league doing this for a long time now and this one here, it's baffling is what it is. This one's baffling. Baffling."

Davidson, for what it's worth, has been around a long time in the NHL. He played, he managed, he's been president for a couple of clubs. If he's insulted by the offers made by the Johansen camp - in particular, agent Kurt Overhardt - then you know that this is only going to end when either the player swallows his pride and accept the bridge offer or the club realizes it's missing a big piece of its success from last season. Judging from Davidson's comments, the Blue Jackets probably will absorb a few losses in the standings rather than absorbing losses on the bottom line if Johansen regresses.

The chasm between the two sides is huge when it comes to the money. Reportedly, the Jackets softened a little today when they offered Johansen $6 million over 2 years, $32 million over 6 years, and $46 million over 8 years. Once again, the Johansen camp rejected all the offers. Davidson made the comparisons of his player to other players to Campbell.

"He's a good guy and he's a good player, but you can't sit here and have the Stamkos and the Toews and the Kane deals thrown at us," Davidson said. "He's a good player, but he's not Stamkos and he's not Toews and he's not Kane, at least not yet. He's not."

And therein lies the rub. The Blue Jackets sound like they'd be more than willing to pay the big dollars to Johansen if they had some sort of repeat performances of last season. That hasn't happened yet. That's why the Blue Jackets aren't offering big money, and why they feel that Johansen's camp is edging towards insanity with their numbers.

This isn't rocket science by any means, and this negotiations aren't personal in their nature. However, as both sides go longer without a deal, it starting to become personal. The Blue Jackets want their dynamic, young scoring threat in the lineup. Johansen wants to be paid for his results. What would be smart for Johansen to do is accept the bridge contract, hit the ice and dominate, and then come back for more. It's an easy solution if Johansen's camp would relent for one or two seasons.

Take less now for a lot more later. In other words, prove that you're worth Toews or Kane or Stamkos money in Columbus.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!