Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 132

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with another fully interactive show as we invite you to call and talk hockey with us! Because Beans, Columbus, and I have been overly busy with various things in our respective lives - there will be two announcements tonight as a result - we've decided to wing it tonight and just talk all things hockey. That, of course, opens the door to your calls and tweets, and we invite you to call in or tweet at me!

Computer HopeTonight, we invite you to join us talking about the Jets versus the Canadiens and how games are basically must-win for the Jets from here on out, the return of the Jets who are fighting the injury bug and their potential impacts, the fate of Friend-of-the-Show Jared Aulin and where we would like to see him land, the comments made by New Jersey Devils owner Hugh Weber to POLITICO Magazine, a new women's hockey league and the impact it will have on the CWHL, the Minnesota Golden Gophers women's team winning the women's Frozen Four, and the NCAA looks to crown a winner in men's hockey! It's going to be a busy show, so tune in early!

The phones will go live right after the show's intro tonight so give us a call at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM)! As always, will be live 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! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me 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. It's all about you, the listener, tonight so tune in at 5:30pm so you can have your take on the hockey world live on the air!

PODCAST: MARCH 26, 2015: Episode 132

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

All Forms Of Media

Computer HopeI received a couple of phone calls that I missed tonight as I was working through some cool project stuff that I'm hoping will make UMFM a little more prominent in and around the University of Manitoba. I wasn't until my iPad notified me of a new tweet that I sprung into action. You see, CBC Radio was calling me once again, and that only means one thing: I will start my day on one station and finish it on another! I truly am becoming a radio guy!

Tomorrow morning around 7:30am, you'll be able to listen to me weigh in on the Jets and Canadiens who will battle at MTS Centre tomorrow night. There are big implications in this game as the Jets need to win after dropping a rather uninspired 5-2 decision in Vancouver last night. With Carey Price in town, goals may be hard to come by for the Jets, so they will need to play a solid defensive game to keep scorers like Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and PK Subban from derailing the playoff dreams of the Jets.

You can hear me live at 7:30am on CBC Radio's online stream or over the airwaves at 89.3 MHz on the FM side of the dial. I'm excited for the opportunity to speak with host Marcy Markusa once more as we dive into the Jets' situation again!

NHL '94 Evolved From Madden

Everyone knows that EA Sports is pretty much the only name in video game sports that matters. There have been some excellent games that weren't made by EA Sports, but no video game company has had the number of best-selling sports titles that EA Sports has had. One franchise in particular, the NHL series of games, actually had a pretty amazing start and how it led to NHL '94 being made despite a few major obstacles being thrown in EA Sports' path.

Blake J. Harris wrote a rather incredible article highlighting how EA Sports came to be the powerhouse in sports video games over on readonlymemory.vg, and it is worth every second of your time that it takes to read the article. Mr. Harris' work and detail in the article is simply amazing, and he really paints an excellent picture of the early struggles faced by EA Sports right through to designing NHL '94, the standard for all other sports game to follow.

They Do Things Differently

I joke here that Russia does things a little different and that they are occasionally a little backwards in their thinking. Apparently, they also do things a little upside-down as there was a rather interesting tournament played near Temirtau village in the Kemerovo region of Siberia.
So those are players playing upside-down underwater with their feet on the ice! I can't imagine how difficult this tournament would be, but it appeared that the players were doing their best to move the puck. How cool is this version of the game, though? Gives a whole new meaning to "keep your sticks on the ice"!

So there's radio, TV, and print in terms of the different forms of media covered here on HBIC. Tune in tomorrow with CBC Radio and Marcy Markusa as she and I sit down and talk about the Jets and Habs in tomorrow night's clash at MTS Centre!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Forced Out Of The Fold

If there's one thing true in professional sports, it's that you never know when it will end. It could be through retirement after a lengthy career that a player finally decides he or she has played enough to walk away. It could be through injury, as unfortunate as it is, but one has to weigh the balance between living a full and normal life or possibly being injured for the rest of his or her time on the planet. In some cases, though, it is beyond a player's control when his time ends with a team, meaning he's forced to pack his bags and search for work elsewhere or walk away from the game he loves despite still being in game shape. Consider me baffled when I was looking at Jared Aulin's stats for the Swedish Elite League's playoff only to discover he hasn't been playing regularly.

With Örebro playing Växjö in their series, I was surprised, shocked even, to find that Örebro had sat one of their most popular players for the last three games before entering Game Six on Monday night. Suddenly, the updates we do regarding friends of The Hockey Show who play in Europe may not be so stellar any longer, so I began to dig a little deeper to see if perhaps Jared was injured or perhaps dealing with a personal issue.

It turns out it was neither.

"I'm ready, focused and feel fresh if I get to play," Aulin told Pelle Strandman of NA. When asked if he was surprised to be left out of the lineup in this series, Aulin replied, "Absolutely, very surprised. But it is not my place to question anyone and everyone in the team deserves to play. When (you're not in the game), you have to be a supporter and work hard to get the chance again."

I respect Jared for his team-first stance which speaks to his character. However, some who left comments on the site felt entirely differently about Jared not dressing for key games against Växjö.
Any Day Of The Week wrote: "I can agree that not Aulin performed at a peak time but one thing is for sure, a bad Aulin is any day of the week a better player than Johan Wiklander! In the playoffs you have to win close games where often individual effort determines. The tools have Aulin, absolutely not Wiklander!"
Thankfully, it sounds like Örebro dressed him for Game Six in what some are saying could be his final game with Örebro. Personally, the bond he has with the community there is unlike any other in sports, and I want to firmly believe that this decision is less about how he is playing and more about icing a line-up that has some intangible that the 33 year-old Aulin doesn't bring to the table. I needed confirmation, though, so I went to the source. Or, at least, the social media source: Jared's Twitter account.
Well, that's not a good sign. It sounds as though Jared is already resigned to the fact that he won't be playing for Örebro next season or in the future.

I'm going to follow up with him via Twitter this week to see if I can get some confirmation that he'll indeed be leaving Örebro. From the way it sounds, his time with the team he helped get promoted to the Swedish Elite League is done and it's not by his choosing. That's the worst kind of news a player can get, and it comes at a time when life was just getting back to normal for Jared Aulin.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Fans Don't Flock Here

The image to the left is Newark, New Jersey outside Rutgers University. I've never been to Newark, but it seems to be similar to other NHL markets in that it has a solid core population and a number of surrounding communities to fill an arena. However, there was a rather unsettling comment made by New Jersey Devils owner Hugh Weber to Jason Nark in POLITICO Magazine that was published on March 19. I'm not sure why he would say what he said, but it doesn't appear that hockey in New Jersey is doing well in terms of attracting new fans.

The article by Mr. Nark actually looks at the deteriorating situation in Newark in terms of the city needing to be revitalized. There's been a "slow trickle" of people leaving the city, and it appears that the city has been unable to recapture some of that lost population. The urban core, where the Prudential Center is located, has been hit hardest in Newark's current situation, and it prompted this view from Mr. Weber, president of the Prudential Center and New Jersey Devils.
The Prudential Center arena is one of the few places that makes Newark feel open for business after sunset. Hours before a recent 7 p.m. hockey game there, customers in Devils hockey jerseys fill up bars around the venue and the popular Ironbound neighborhood nearby. In the Courtyard Marriott, Boston Bruins fans gather in the lobby.

Hugh Weber, the president of the Prudential Center and New Jersey Devils, says he doesn't expect to win new ice hockey fans in Newark. It's not the most diverse sport, he admits.
I'm not sure what diversity that Mr. Weber is looking for, but we're talking about a sport that is primarily played in colder markets still as places like Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Phoenix are working to develop grassroots programs. So the question should be asked of the Devils as to what they are doing to help the game and, ultimately, themselves?

It's no secret that the NHL is still battling with the NBA for legitimacy on the American map, and this trickles down to the kids who want to emulate their football, baseball, and basketball idols. It's easier for a kid to go watch the Rutgers football or basketball teams than it is for them to gain access to a Devils game. This is a case of simple economics that the Devils will always lose, so they need to become more accessible in other ways to try to capture the upcoming generation's attention.

I'm not sure if the Devils are stuck in an "old-fashioned" mindset with Lou Lamiorello at the helm, but I would think they would send a number of players out into the community to generate some buzz. Do they have some sort of street hockey/learn the game initiative like the Coyotes do? If not, why not? Could they not partner with youth centers and community centers to teach the game to those that visit?

I understand that times are tough in Newark, but there are other teams in NHL cities who are facing the same issues that are far more pro-active in their approaches to reaching out to their fans. Detroit, for example, has seen fluctuations in their attendance based on the economic times, but they are always marketing themselves to the fans with a pile of good ideas. It's the same story in Buffalo as well. Both of these teams engage their fans who, in turn, bring friends to the games and to places where games can be watched. They grow the game by reaching out, and I'm not sure if New Jersey does this. If they do, they certainly don't do it well based on Mr. Weber's statement.

Again, I've never been to Newark, but the article by Mr. Nark in POLITICO Magazine sounds optimistic when it comes to finding a way for Newark to revitalize its downtown core area. For the NHL to have a guy who basically says that the sport he's heavily invested in isn't attracting fans in an article about revitalizing the downtown area is a great way to ensure that people won't spend their hard-earned money going to Devils games.

Well done, Mr. Weber.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Heat Is On

The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings are in perilous positions. Los Angeles dropped a game to Vancouver on Saturday night that they needed to win as they fell four points back of Winnipeg for the eighth playoff spot and two points behind the Flames for third-place in the Pacific Division. Boston dropped another game today, this time at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They sit just a point ahead of the surging Ottawa Senators, and seem to be struggling to earn points at the most critical time of the season. The heat is on these two teams right now as they battle for their playoff lives.

Boston has just nine games remaining while Ottawa has two games in hand on them. Boston does own the tie-breaker in terms of regulation/OT wins, but it will matter little if Ottawa overtakes them in the standings. These two teams don't meet up for the rest of the season, they do have teams that pop up on their schedules that could affect the race.

Both teams face the New York Rangers twice, and that could pose a problem for both. The Rangers are playing well, and Cam Talbot has been stonewalling everyone. Both teams face Toronto, Florida, Washington, Detroit, and Tampa Bay before the end of the season, and Boston has two games with the Panthers who are also chasing these two teams down. The playoff race may come down to the results against these six teams, and Boston has two less games to gain as many points as they can to hold onto their spot.

For Los Angeles, the playoffs could be won or lost on the five-game road trip they start tomorrow. New Jersey is the first stop, and the Kings are in must-win territory with this game. They then face the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, the Minnesota Wild, and the Chicago Blackhawks before returning home for a game against the Oilers to kick off April. The Kings have to find a way to manage these five games and come home with a winning record or it could be game over for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

While the Kings have one game in-hand on both the Jets and Flames, it won't matter much if they aren't in the race. Winnipeg finishes March off with games in Edmonton and Vancouver before coming home to host Montreal, Chicago, and the Rangers. It's no picnic for the Jets either, but they have a four-point cushion and have beaten some excellent teams recently. If they continue to play as they have in the last four games, the path to the playoffs for the Kings becomes very murky.

Calgary has a far easier path to the end of March as they host Colorado and Dallas before hitting the road against Minnesota, Nashville, and Dallas. Calgary still has to win, of course, but it appears that they'll have an easier time of it based on standings than the Kings will. The Kings will have to be at their best to come out of March ahead of the Flames, so Kings fans may want to develop allegiances for next nine days for the Avalanche, Stars, Wild, and Predators. If Los Angeles is to make the playoffs, they're going to need a little help.

The next three weeks are going to be intense. For the five teams mentioned, it's a race to the finish as the stretch run continues. The only problem is that it could be less of a race if a couple of teams can't find the winning formula to stay in the race.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!