Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Stingrays Go Retro

In case you had missed it - and I'm sure a lot of us had since I missed the date as well - the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays unveiled their new alternate jersey for the 2014-15 season on July 18 as seen above. The affiliate of the NHL's Washington Capitals will wear "throwback" jerseys in all eleven Sunday home games this season. They look pretty sharp, to be honest.

According to the release published on the Stingrays' website, the new uniforms will feature "the original Stingrays crest used from their inaugural season (1993-94) to 2000 along with the South Carolina state flag on the shoulders". While they are using the original logo, the jersey isn't a true throwback in itself. Still, this uniform looks pretty solid considering some of the minor-league alternate jerseys we've seen in the past.

"We wanted to incorporate our old logo from the mind 1990s to the early 2000s," Stingrays President Rob Concannon said to Joseph Zakrzewski. "I've always liked the state of South Carolina with the stingray and hockey stick slashing through it. I'm partial to this logo because there are a lot of good memories with it. We won our championship with it in 1996-97. I wanted to keep it clean and with our current colors."

Sunday, November 9 is the first time you'll be able to see these uniforms on the ice the Gwinnett Gladiators visit Charleston, South Carolina for a game against the Stingrays. While footage of the game may be tough to get here in Canada, I'm going to see if I can find a feed to see these uniforms in action. The pre-sale of these uniforms is on now, and the team expects them to be delivered in October.

Could another championship for the Stingrays be on the way in these uniforms?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

ESPN Says So

If you had to name the sport that would rank as toughest in the world, you could come up with a few mentions of hockey, American football, boxing, Aussie rules football, rugby, MMA, and a few others. All of these sports feature some tough characters, and each requires that the participant receives some sort of punishment in overcoming his or her opponent. I was quite shocked, however, to read the following archived page found on the internet from ESPN. Yes, the same ESPN that no longer carries hockey, instead replacing that sport in its lineup with such fascinating spectator sports as poker and dog shows. Excuse the biting sarcasm.

The Worldwide Leader in Something-or-other published this page on its old Page 2 format, but it doesn't give a date of when it was published. However, ESPN asked a panel of experts to weigh in on the toughness needed to play sixty sports, and they went about the task. I already scanned the backgrounds of the professionals posing as the panel of experts, and none have hockey or a hockey-related interest listed anywhere in their information.

So why am I talking about this? The panel actually ranked hockey as the second-toughest sport in terms of demanding the most from the athletes who compete in it. Yes, ESPN actually had something good to say about hockey! In fact, only boxing demanded more from its athletes than hockey did according to this panel. Hockey also ranked ahead of long-time regulars on ESPN like baseball, football, and basketball.

Let me say that again: ESPN's illustrious panel ranked hockey as the toughest team sport ahead of football, baseball, and basketball. Yes, you're reading that correctly.

According to the panel, ice hockey ranked 11th in endurance, tied with tennis. I can actually believe that after watching some of the men's games go five sets and deep into a tie-breaker in that fifth set. Most tennis players collapse after winning that final point out of exhaustion, so I'll give the panel a pass on that one. However, to say that basketball, ranked tenth, requires more endurance than hockey players? Well, they are human so mistakes can happen.

Hockey ranked eighth overall for strength, and there aren't many arguments one can make about the sports than rank ahead of them. I'd argue football should be ranked lower, but some of those linebackers and linemen are specimens, so I'll let this one go.

Ice hockey was fifth on the power rankings, tied with rodeo's steer wrestling and sprint cyclists. While power is defined in this ranking system as "(t)he ability to produce strength in the shortest possible time", the idea of steer wrestling seems like it has little to do with power. Yes, it does take some power, but the majority of the time you see the rodeo cowboys simply use their weight to bulldog the calf into the ground before roping them. Requirement of power? You just have to use momentum to win that battle. Swing and a miss, ESPN.

Hockey ranked fourth in the speed category, tying it with middle-distance track-and-field runners. No arguments about where hockey ranks here, and the three sports above it - track sprinters, speed skaters, and sprint swimmers - all should be ahead of hockey players.

Hockey was also fourth in the agility category, placing behind soccer, basketball, and tennis. Soccer, maybe. Basketball... that's stretching it, but some players show some pretty solid moves in the paint. Tennis absolutely requires agility, and, in my opinion, should have been ranked higher than the other two sports. That being said, I have no qualms about hockey ranking fourth.

In a rather strange ranking, hockey ranked in as 26th in the flexibility category. In a sport where goaltenders make rather acrobatic and often unbelievable saves, hockey finds itself ranked lower than steer wrestling, skateboarding, fencing, basketball, and diving. Yes, diving. Where divers are supposed to remain rigid as they enter the water. Simply amazing, ESPN.

The next category was nerves, and hockey players find themselves ranked 18th. Yes, 18th! According to the definitions provided, nerve is "(t)he ability to overcome fear". We should ask goaltenders about how much nerve it takes to stare down Zdeno Chara, Al MacInnis, Al Iafrate, or Shea Weber slapshots and say "not on my watch". We should ask the defencemen how much nerve it takes to drop down in front of one of these cannons and sacrifice their bodies for a win. We should ask players about the nerve it takes going into corners with guys like Chris Pronger. We should ask players the nerve it took to stand across from Bob Probert when he was angry. According to ESPN, skateboarders, bobsledders, and divers have more nerves. I'm going to wholeheartedly disagree with those assessments because once they have done it once, it's over. Hockey players face a new set of dangers every single night.

Ice hockey was ranked third overall for durability. Boxers were first, and I saw they take one helluva beating and keep on fighting. That's a solid choice for top spot. Football was next, and I'm not sure that 18 games over 18 weeks with practice in between measures up the same way as 82 hockey games per season plus practices. I'm not saying that football players don't take their licks in games, but they have a week to recover between games. Hockey players usually get two nights at best. You do the math.

Hockey was ranked seventh in the hand-eye coordination rankings. Baseball, a few racquet sports, and team handball ranked ahead of hockey, and I'm ok with that. Auto racing somehow snuck in there, and while I'm not saying that drivers don't have good hand-eye coordination, I am suggesting that a sport must actually require athleticism. Otherwise, chess, checkers, competitive video gaming, Scrabble, and tiddlywinks are all sports by the definition. If you don't actually physically participate, I can't allow that to be called a sport. Sorry to the race fanatics out there. It's my blog and my opinion.

Ice hockey ranked first in the analytic aptitude category, tied with soccer and auto racing. This is one I won't argue with in any capacity, and I'm not going to bring down the other sports tied with hockey. Hockey is a fast game that requires players to process an immense amount of information every second they are on the ice. Players make mistakes, and goals get scored. If there is one category I would have fought hard for, the analytic aptitude category would have been it. Well done, panel.

When totaling the scores up, hockey ranked second of the sixty sports and as the top team sport in the rankings. However, I contest that the panel knows very little about sports like rugby, lacrosse, and field hockey to accurately judge those sports, and the fact that they grouped bobsledding and luge together as one shows they failed poorly when arranging these sports.

I will give credit to ESPN, though, in giving hockey its high score. It might be the only time ESPN has ever given hockey its full due.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Capital Offences?

I'll fully admit that I am no Capitals fan being that I have an liking for their division rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh and Washington had some epic battles in the playoffs in my youth, and the Crosby-vs-Ovechkin battle re-ignited the rivalry between these two proud hockey clubs and their fans. I will say that I wanted to see Barry Trotz hired in Pittsburgh, but Washington made the leap before anyone else as Trotz agreed to coach the Capitals. Today, Neal L., known for his segment on Gentlemen, To Your Corners here on HBIC, submits a piece on the Capitals' recent moves!

Without further adieu, here is Neal and his thoughts on the Washington Capitals!
Before I get started, I figured I would give a little foreword to my first solo blog on the site. I never figured six months ago that I would be writing a hockey blog and for a Canadian site no less! While hockey is king in Canada, I'm in the short-attention-span, sports-saturated, east coast United States. While I would admit that hockey probably is not my favorite sport, it has to be my favorite sport to talk about. Hockey fans in general are the most intelligent of all the sports, and, except for a few, are usually open to multiple points of view. It's why GTYC is such a fun segment for me and I hope to continue to be involved in. The best part of that segment is that it's something John and I have done for what seems like every day for years. We just now get to privilege of publishing our arguments. If I didn't delete most of our conversations from the past, an excellent piece would have been just to post some of our arguments over the years. So with that said, I hope you guys enjoy reading my blogs. I know I have fun writing them.

My piece today is about what I consider to be the next tire fire in the NHL. Of course, some people may say that this situation has already been in flames for a couple of seasons now. I think this situation is about to get a whole lot worse. What I am talking about? I'm talking about the current situation of the Washington Capitals. I feel like this team, who seemed like a shoo-in a few short years ago to be a perennial cup contender, just made a terrible coaching hire and other personnel moves to potentially make it a bottom-feeder team in the future.

My first argument is my case against Barry Trotz, the new coach of the Capitals. Around the league, it is noted how much respect Barry has and what a steady hand he had in creating a solid foundation in Nashville. While in some respects this is true, my argument is that he is pretty overrated in my book. How can I say such a thing? I would say the record speaks for itself in multiple ways. First, we all know how Trotz took over an expansion team and turned it quickly into one of the league's better teams by the middle of the last decade. I'm not going to discredit him for that. After all, in the first couple seasons, he did as well as anyone could. Where I discredit him is that despite being consistently one of the league's better teams over the past ten seasons, his squads have produced a total of two playoff series wins. Simply put, that's not very good. In most other situations, only having two series wins would get you fired well before Nashville decided to can Trotz, but maybe their standards are a bit lower. Some people would also argue they often ran into extremely tough competition in the playoffs. Let's make no bones about it: to win in this league you have to beat tough teams. There are no "gimmies" in the NHL, and to use the reasoning we ran into tough teams is a pretty lame excuse.

The other piece of evidence I have against Trotz is his inability to develop real offensive playmakers. While guys like Hornqvist and Erat are decent enough players, you can't really think of one impact forward that the team has developed. While some of the blame for the lack of forward prospects rests on GM David Poile, it is often the coach and his staff's responsibility to develop his players. Some people would argue that some of that has to do with Trotz's defensive style, but isn't that also an indictment of the coach? It should be the coach who adjusts his system to maximize the talents of his players. Rest assured, if Patric Hornqvist nets forty goals for the Penguins this year, I would consider that to be indicative of Trotz's methods.

This issue makes things worse for the Caps. Let's face it: outside of Ovechkin and Backstrom, who do the Capitals have up front that can contribute on a consistent basis? The Caps are rated as having six forward prospects rated 7.0 or better by, so can Trotz be trusted to develop it? Consider that in the same period the Predators came into the league, Minnesota had Marian Gaborik, Columbus had Rick Nash, and bumbling Atlanta managed to get Kovalchuk and Heatley. Elite forward prospects usually are available in the top-five picks in the draft, and the fact Nashville couldn't develop any of their forward picks in its infancy is inexcusable. By those numbers, I don't like the chances of the Capitals' forwards developing. That doesn't even count how Alexander Ovechkin will react to Trotz's defensive style this season!

The other argument I’m going to present is based on the construction of the Capitals' roster. When the Capitals were one of the best teams in the league under Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals often employed a high-octane, full-court press style of hockey that kept opponents on the ropes. During the period, they were often the most fun team in the league to watch. Ovechkin instantly became a fan favorite, and all seemed to be well in the nation's capital. A few disappointing playoff exits later - with a trip to the conference finals something more than Trotz can say - it was determined that a shake-up was needed and Boudreau was let go in favor of Dale Hunter who employed a strict defensive style. The hope was that employing a more defensive game would be better in the playoffs where other teams often tighten up, and the fast breaks that the Capitals were so dependent on wouldn't be as effective. In his one season as coach, the Capitals did make the second-round of the playoffs though Hunter often clashed with Alexander Ovechkin over his defensive play. Of course, Hunter was replaced by Adam Oates whose system I still can't determine other than "here Alex, go make a play".

While what Hunter did might bode well for Trotz, the fact that a rift can occur with his star player might be catastrophic for the team. From the Capitals' perspective, if you had the most success under an up-tempo coach, why wouldn't you hire one when the opportunity presented itself? Peter Laviolette would have been an excellent hire. Simply put, the Caps really are not constructed to be a defensive team. John Carlson and Dmitri Orlov are developing into very solid defensemen. Newly-signed Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, however, are not exactly known for defensive prowess. Although plus/minus can often be a bogus stat, before this season's +33 Niskanen had never been better than a +9 and was often a minus player. That doesn't even include defensive black hole Mike Green who is essentially a forward playing on the back end, and ironically enough was a +39 one year during the Caps' heyday - better than any year of Niskanen to date! Even if Trotz can get his stars in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to buy into his defensive system, it may be the defence that who could prove to be his downfall. It's not Shea Weber back there anymore to bail the team out.

In conclusion, the Capitals do have a team that should contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but I don't know if they are a lock. The hiring of the defensive Barry Trotz is puzzling to me from a pure fit perspective. They are still smarting from early playoff exits from a few seasons ago when they were a Stanley Cup favorite, yet they brought in a coach who has made a job of exiting from the playoffs early. If the Caps are improved and win consistently under Trotz, I will be the first to eat crow on this blog.

However, I just don’t see it happening.
Wow! Great article, Neal!

Now I'm going to speculate that a number of Capitals fans and bloggers will take issue with a few of Neal's assertions. That's why we have discussions. Neal feels a certain way about the moves the Capitals made with regards to the coach they hired, and he's entitled to his opinion. If you'd like to engage with Neal, leave a comment below. He can respond there as well.

Personally, I think it will be interesting to see how Alexander Ovechkin approaches this season knowing that Barry Trotz will demand more focus on the defensive side of the puck. Combine that with his recent break-up with Maria Kirilenko and we could see fireworks if Ovechkin comes into camp with a chip on his shoulder. However, if Ovechkin comes in with an open mind with regards to the season, the Capitals may surprise everyone.

It should be interesting in the District of Columbia this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode Ninety-Eight

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a guest, some interesting topics, and a great update from a friend of the show. As you're aware, Beans and I try to keep our ears to the ground when it comes to hockey and hockey-related events, and we're going to talk to someone in the business of hockey tonight as well as cover a few stories that have made headlines in the last week.

Tonight, Beans and I are honoured to welcome Mr. Jason Goulet of Top Shelf Hockey! Top Shelf Hockey makes high-quality hockey sticks in Winnipeg, and was founded by former Winnipeg mortgage broker Rod Westendorf some six years ago! Jason will drop by to talk about the company, give us some history on the company, promote some of their products, and chat some hockey! If you haven't heard about Top Shelf Hockey before this evening, you may want to give a listen as they produce quality sticks for fairly reasonable prices!

Tonight on 3 Rounds Deep, Teebz, Beans, and Jason will tackle a topic to which everyone can relate. It's a simple question: what arena, past or present, would you want to watch a hockey game in? There have been a lot of old barns that simply were magnificent in terms of their acoustics and game experience, but the modern lights, lasers, Jumbotrons, and pyrotechnics have their own charm if you prefer a more visual experience. Neither are wrong, so we'll discuss the three arenas each of the men would want to experience a hockey game in on tonight's 3 Rounds Deep!

If you wanna be a part of 3 Rounds Deep tonight, give us a call during the segment at 204-269-8636 (269-UMFM) and we'll put you on the air! Same rules as always as we can't repeat picks made by others and neither can you, so it will get a little tougher as people start participating. We'll start it off, then open up the phone lines and hit Twitter for everyone else to participate. If you want to toss some names in electronically, the Twitter link is below where you can go 3 Rounds Deep!

Going 3 ROUNDS DEEP tonight: where do you want to watch a game? You know what to do!

We'll also weigh in on the charges and suspensions handed out for the attack on officials during a game between Stonewall and Lake Manitoba First Nation on March 30, talk about the CWHL looking to expand, discuss the hiring of Jim Paek to try to bring the Korean Ice Hockey Association's standing back to respectable before the Olympics in 2018, update everyone on the recent playoff game played by the Dirk Digglers hockey team, and we have an update on Jared Aulin's summer and how his mom and sister are doing in their fights against cancer. It's going to be another busy show as we get closer to Show #100!

We're on the air at 5:30pm to tune in for some hockey fun! Hit us up at 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 and play 3 Rounds Deep or share your thoughts on any of the topics we cover! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us up at @TeebzHBIC on the Twitter machine. 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. We have lots to cover, so join us tonight on UMFM and be a part of the action!

PODCAST: JULY 24, 2014: Episode 98

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Paek Your Bags

Remember this guy? That's Jim Paek, the first Korean-born player to play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the side of the Stanley Cup, and Paek faced tremendous odds in accomplishing what he did. Two Stanley Cup rings and two IHL Turner Cup rings later, Paek transitioned nicely into the coaching ranks with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins as an assistant coach, and has helped that team win a Calder Cup in 2005-06 since stepping behind their bench. Paek will have a whole new challenge on his hands, though, as he has accepted the position as the director of hockey for the Korea Ice Hockey Association (KIHA) and head coach of the Korean Men's National Team! For Korea's national team, a first-time entry into the men's ice hockey even at the Winter Olympics will see Paek once again face tremendous odds in this journey.

The 47 year-old was raised in Toronto and became a US citizen in 2011, but his legacy is still growing in the hockey world. He was Grand Rapids' longest-tenured coach, having served behind the Griffins' bench for the last nine seasons. According to the release from the Griffins, "his influence helped Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill earn the 2013 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL's outstanding coach for 2013-14, when the Griffins compiled a 46-23-2-5 record". His accomplishments as a coach would nearly equal his accomplishments as a player, and adding the new credentials with the KIHA will only enhance his standing.

"The Detroit Red Wings congratulate Jim Paek on his appointment to the Korea Ice Hockey Association and Korean National Team," said Ryan Martin, assistant general manager of the Red Wings. "We are thrilled and excited for him on his well-deserved opportunity. With the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, this is a tremendous opportunity for Jim to oversee the development of hockey players, coaches and administrators across all levels of hockey in his native South Korea.

"As the longest-tenured coach in Grand Rapids history, Jim has been instrumental in the development of many current Red Wings, including Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Tomas Tatar, Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith, to name a few. Jim won two Stanley Cups as a player with Pittsburgh and a Calder Cup as a coach in Grand Rapids. He possesses a wealth of experience as a player and coach at all levels, as well as a strong passion for hockey development. Jim's multi-faceted skill set will be a great asset in leading the Korea Ice Hockey Association in developing its national programs."

It's kind of funny to think that three members of last year's coaching squads under the Detroit Red Wings' watch may be in Pyeongchang in 2018 to coach Olympic teams. Mike Babcock is the run-away leader for coaching the Canadian men's team again, and Tom Renney will be there as Hockey Canada's President and CEO after serving as an associate coach with Mike Babcock last season. Detroit may have had the deepest pool of coaches seen in the NHL in a long, long time.

Paek was instrumental in working with the "Black Aces" during the Stanley Cup in 2008 by the Red Wings, earning him his third Stanley Cup ring. He played a big part in the Red Wings’ summer development camps and fall prospect tournaments and training camps, and should be familiar with one player on the Korean roster when he begins work thanks to his work with the Red Wings' prospects. Left winger Brock Radunske, who hails from Kitchener, Ontario, was granted "South Korean citizenship in 2013 and became the first non-ethnic Korean to represent the country in international sport". The 31 year-old Radunske is currently a member of Anyang Halla of Asia League Ice Hockey in South Korea, and was drafted in the third-round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2002 after playing at Michigan State University. Radunske played 20 games with the Griffins in 2006-07, so there should be a little familiarity there. Radunske holds a number of records for Anyang Halla, but the Olympics will be a brand-new game for him.

There is no doubt that South Korea will face a difficult challenge in 2018. Korea is currently ranked 23rd in the world, and aren't close to any of the teams that participated in the Sochi Olympic Games. However, I believe that Jim Paek can push the Korean squad to new heights. He has a solid coaching legacy, and he knows what it takes to beat the odds. Realistically, we're not talking about a medal for Korea in 2018, but they might be able to beat one of the lower-ranked teams that qualify.

The key for Korea isn't to win a gold medal, although that would be pretty impressive if they did. However, the exposure the Asian Ice Hockey League gets thanks to Korea ramping up its hockey focus will benefit that league and nation in a big way in the same way that it helped Japan in 1998. If Jim Paek wasn't a pioneer before for his countrymen with their hockey dreams, he certainly will be now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!