Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 102

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a fairly normal show as it's just Beans and I chatting hockey. However, we have a pile of stuff to go through after having guests on for the last couple of weeks. You'll probably enjoy the segment later in the show as we also have a couple of announcements to make about our show and a friend of the show!

The biggest story to come out of hockey this week is the changes to the NHL Entry Draft. Beans and I will discuss how this affects teams, what it means for the perennially bad, how it benefits the successful, and why the NHL should look at other options. We'll also discuss the comments made by Evander Kane to the Team1040 radio on Wednesday night about his disappointment in not appearing in the playoffs thus far in his career, the Leafs and Oilers hiring bloggers to improve their hockey, how much stock we put into advanced statistics like Corsi and Fenwick, the suspension of the CHL's Denver Cutthroats for the upcoming season, and the sale of the New York Islanders. In other words, it's a busy show!

Tonight on 3 Rounds Deep, we look back at the best players drafted by the New York Islanders since Charles Wang bought into the Islanders in 2000. His fourteen years of owning the Islanders saw some great players drafted by the Isles with the number of times they missed the playoffs, and Beans and I will choose the best players who were picked by his staff during his time as the owner of the Islanders. Honestly, there haven't been a lot of players who have stood out, but we should be able to come up with six.

Same rules apply as always for tonight's 3 Rounds Deep as we can't repeat picks made by the others, so we'll see how this plays out. Phone lines will be closed as we have Myles on the phone, but we'll hit Twitter and Facebook for everyone else to participate. If you want to toss some names in electronically, the Twitter and Facebook links are below where you can go 3 Rounds Deep!

Going 3 ROUNDS DEEP tonight: the best draft picks made during the Charles Wang era of the New York Islanders! You know what to do!

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 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. We have lots to cover, so join us tonight on UMFM and be a part of the action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Punishing The Downtrodden

I had every intention on writing about the new draft lottery experiment that the NHL is implementing this season, and it turned out that one of the people who submits columns here had the same need to speak! Neal of the Gentlemen, To Your Corners! feature hammered out an article for HBIC today, and it will be a great start to what I wanted to write. I'll let Neal lead on this one with his piece, and then I'll add my thoughts below. Needless to say, this new draft system is generating discussion across the hockey spectrum.

There are a couple topics that touch people's nerves in the hockey world. For my co-GTYC columnist John, diving has always been an issue that has pushed his button. We already did a segment on that and I still don't see why he considers it as big a deal as it is. The issue that drives me nuts is tanking. That is something that has grinded my gears in every sport that it occurs in. I'm sure there are people that will wonder why I feel that is such a big deal. I just hate the idea of rewarding people for essentially throwing games. That's why I applaud the league's announcement regarding the draft lottery changes, although I will explain later that I don't think they went far enough. I'm so excited about this change I had to rush to write a blog even though I had no intentions of writing another blog possibly before the HBIC season preview.

In case you haven't heard, the new system involves the worst teams getting worse odds in winning the lottery and the teams just missing the playoffs receiving better odds. In addition, the top three picks will be up for grabs by all teams. It's something that will greatly alter hockey's landscape for years to come. Not so coincidentally, it comes right before the season of McDavid - a tanking team's dream.

Of course, the worst example of tanking involved the '83-84 Pittsburgh Penguins tanking to ensure they got the right to choose Mario Lemieux. It was an example so obvious that documentaries have been done on the subject. Some would say the Penguins tried to tank in '03-04 to win the Alex Ovechkin sweepstakes as well, but they lost that lottery and wound up with Malkin instead. This, though, enabled them to have the extra ping pong balls in the lottery to win the Crosby sweepstakes the following year.

In a more humorous example that didn't pan out, multiple people have accused the Ottawa Senators of throwing the '92-93 season in order to draft Alexander Daigle. I have always thought this wasn't the case given that it was the team's inaugural season, but it's a subject that even Sports Illustrated wrote about in 1993. Not sure how an expansion team has to tank to lose games, but that's beside the point. I don't think there is any question that teams would try to position themselves to get McDavid or even Jack Eichel.

One team to protest the league's decision is - you guessed it! - the Buffalo Sabres. GM Tim Murray thinks his team is being unfairly penalized for being bad and it may cost him a top pick when the team needs it most. To that I say simply, "Too freaking bad!"

A team's first objective in sports should be winning. Let me be the first to say that I have no problem with teams deciding they aren't good enough and deciding to trade to rebuild. That's all fine and dandy. What I don't like is what teams like Buffalo have been doing for what seems like forever: trading for draft picks and then turning around a couple years later and trading their semi-developed prospects for more draft picks. It shows that you have no plan and no vision. Losing is the easy way out.

There are already reports out of Buffalo that suggest that they are open to trading Tyler Myers for draft picks. I guess, according to Buffalo, being 24 years-old is considered ancient and the time is now for a "youth movement". Buffalo already boasts the top farm system in the league according to Why wouldn't Buffalo want to parlay that into a competitive team? Are you telling me that you could trade some of those prized prospects for legitimate stars and become instantly competitive in a not-so-elite Eastern Conference? You don't see Steve Yzerman wheeling and dealing prospects in Tampa. Instead, you see an organization that is combining hot prospects with legitimate stars. Real organizations mix a strategy of drafting a good farm system and either signing or acquiring stars, not just hoarding prospects. The Sabres could be in serious trouble if its pick falls to fourth-overall as they desperately need a franchise cornerstone after really having one since the likes of Hasek and Lafontaine played in Buffalo. We'll have to wait to see if Sam Reinhart becomes that piece, but, again, I say if it happens, it is for the best.

If I haven't made it clear, let me be clear: teams should not be rewarded for mediocrity. If somehow the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, or some other team that barely missed the playoffs lands Connor McDavid, I will not be disappointed. Let that team build a potential dynasty because hockey is better when we get a couple dominant teams. That team could be a new challenge to the Kings and the Blackhawks for league supremacy. I won't even begin to imagine the reaction if McDavid winds up on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto hospitals might have a million heart attack patients in one day.

Personally, I don't think these changes go far enough. I want to see at least the top five picks open to all the teams. What would the Sabres do if they tanked and not even get a top-five pick for it? Would they open the prospect vault and try to get legitimate NHL-ready talent? Would they find a way to keep Tyler Myers who is just entering his prime as an NHL defenseman and by all accounts could be a top defenceman for several seasons to come? Would the Edmonton Oilers stop their practice of drafting lottery pick after lottery pick hoping to catch lightning-in-a-bottle for once? OK, that was a low blow as I think Edmonton will be improved this year, but when you draft in the top five spots so many times, you aren't immune to my wrath either.

The other addition I want to see added is Gary Bettman doing the lottery on the stage at the draft. Just as an aside, I've gone to the last two drafts, and John and I are thinking about making the trek to Miami this June to see it again. Could you imagine the excitement right before the pick when Bettman picks a ping pong ball to see who drafts first? Imagine if the host city won. What a story that would become!

After the team with the first pick goes off the stage after the obligatory pictures and stuff, Bettman comes out again and draws the second pick. It would be must-see TV. I don't want to hear the argument about how teams couldn't draft properly because they aren't prepared. They are paid professionals and have already had their top 50-100 players ranked months ago. The draft would instantly be a fan favorite, I'm sure. If anything, it gives hockey a ton of excitement during its off-season.

So in conclusion, I want to thank the NHL Offices for taking the first step to eliminate tanking. Anything that increases competitiveness throughout the season is a thing I am definitely behind. Teams will now have less of an incentive to tank games and it could lead to Cinderella stories where a team who just misses the cut suddenly becomes a juggernaut with the first-overall pick.

I like Neal and he's a great guest contributor, but I'm going to take this one the opposite way.

If I'm an NHL general manager and my team is 15 points out of a playoff spot by the NHL All-Star Break, I'm not tanking. I'll put this bluntly: the season's already over. This is where I start looking to unload wanted assets for draft picks and prospects. While the fans may like the popular players being shipped out of town, the make-up of the team that I hedged my bets on when handing out contracts needs to change. The best place to make changes? The NHL Entry Draft.

If you look at the Sabres, the Panthers, and the Oilers, they are flush with great, young talent thanks to the draft. The problem with young talent is that it takes time to develop. Where the Oilers went wrong is that they almost entirely drafted forwards. Keeping the puck out of their net was the biggest problem over the last few years as their defence and goaltending really let them down. Before Ben Scrivens arrived in Edmonton, the Oilers had used Jason LaBarbera, Ilya Bryzgalov, Devan Dubnyk, a past-his-prime Nikolai Khabibulin, Yann Danis, Martin Gerber, Mathieu Garon, and Jeff Deslauriers. With the exception of Bryzgalov - and that's a major exception - none of those guys would be a starting goaltender in any other NHL city. The worst part? The majority of those players no longer them play in the NHL.

Back to looking at the drafts, there have been teams who greatly benefited from being a cellar dweller. The Colorado Avalanche, who finished 29th overall in 2012-13, moved up one spot to the top spot in the draft and selected Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon only went out and had a great rookie season, winning the Calder Trophy in the process, and playing a major role in helping the Avalanche win the Central Division in 2013-14. Would he have had the same success in Florida or Tampa Bay? No one can answer that definitively, but the proof is that the Avalanche were a better team with MacKinnon in their lineup.

MacKinnon's hype before the draft was that he was the next Sidney Crosby - a can't-miss prospect that will elevate a team to new heights. While MacKinnon's contributions to the Avalanche's season can't be overlooked, I wouldn't say he lit the world on fire with his 24 goals and 63 points. Again, take nothing away from him as that's an excellent point total, but he didn't exactly challenge Sidney Crosby for the Art Ross or Hart Trophies either.

What should be noted, though, is how the Colorado Avalanche didn't tank to get MacKinnon. They legitimately were a terrible team in 2012-13, and they drafted a great kid who certainly helped them get better out of the gate this season. However, when the NHL institutes its new draft rules after the upcoming season, the Avalanche may never get the opportunity to draft a kid like MacKinnon again.

For every Florida, Edmonton, and Buffalo, there are teams like Colorado, Anaheim, and Montreal who draft well enough to be able to insert those young players into their lineups and rise above their standing from the previous year. You might ask how I sneaked Montreal in there? Alex Galchenyuk has been a solid contributor for them since he was drafted by the Canadiens in 2012. None of Colorado, Anaheim, and Montreal tanked to get their hands on a top pick. Instead, they got lucky, drafted well, and made strides the following season.

Buffalo's Tim Murray is exactly right when he says that these changes will hurt the Sabres. The Sabres are trying to draft well and add key pieces to their lineup through free agency, but the NHL will potentially hurt their chances at a key player like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel if the young players they're betting on this season fail to meet expectations.

The NHL instituted the salary cap to provide parity amongst the teams in terms of attracting and landing free agents as well as retaining talent. With their new draft rules, parity flies out the window if teams like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh are able to pick up McDavid and/or Eichel. The teams who are trying to compete with the perennial powerhouses will never be able to make up the ground they need to if they are unable to restock their cupboards with exceptional talent.

Allegations of tanking are a serious matter, and there have been no NHL teams that have been found guilty of tanking. This will remain the case because there is pride on the line for these players and franchises, so talking about the Sabres tanking for a shot at McDavid this season is completely absurd. While they may not have the talent of a Pittsburgh or Chicago, Buffalo will ice a team that they believe is building towards a resurgence, but they may still be a piece or two away.

Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Boston - previous bottom-feeders a decade ago - have built successful runs to Stanley Cups through the draft. Why is the NHL now preventing teams using the same methodology from achieving the same goal? This seems counter-productive if the league wants all thirty teams to be competitive and viable.

If the league wanted parity, it just tore down any chance of recently-unsuccessful teams finding it through the draft. Like all lotteries, getting the first-overall pick if you're a cellar dweller in order to draft a key player just became entirely about luck.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Countdown Is On

The man to the immediate left? New York Islanders owner Charles Wang. Take a good look at him here because he won't be as visible any longer. It was announced today that Wang has decided to sell the franchise to Jonathan Ledecky and investor Scott Malkin with their ownership starting in 2016. They will be minority owners this season as they get their feet into the Islanders' water, and fully assume control in 2016 once they get a good look at this franchise. You can bet there will be a lot of personnel assessments made over the next two seasons, so some people - Garth Snow? - had better start knocking their performance reviews out of the park.

It's been far too long for the Islanders to be as bad as they have been considering their legacy in the early-1980s. Historians look back on the days of Bossy, Trottier, Gillies, Potvin, and Smith and see a dynasty built upon hungry, young players who wanted to win. Lately, the Islanders have begun building with younger players once more, but their fortunes in climbing out of the Metropolitan Division cellar have yet to change.

The Islanders do have a bright future, though, as players like John Tavares, Travis Hamonic, Casey Cizikas, and Kyle Okposo gain experience. The team will move to the state-of-the-art Barclay's Center for the 2015-16 season, and there's hope that the new venue will attract more people to see the Islanders play. Getting new ownership who have experience in the hockey business is also key.

Jonathan Ledecky is the former co-owner of the Washington Capitals as he was the chairman from 1999 to 2001 of Lincoln Holdings with Ted Leonsis. In addition to having a hockey background, both Ledecky and partner Scott Malkin are astute businessmen as well. Ledecky has served as a member of the Board of Directors for Forbes since January 2011 and as our Non-Executive Chairman of the Board since February 2012. Previously, Mr. Ledecky served as the Interim Chief Financial Officer (from February 2012 until July 2013) and as the Chief Executive Officer (from January 2011 to February 2012) of Forbes as well. Scott Malkin founded the Value Retail brand, serving as its chairman as the company grew in leaps and bounds. He manages Malkin Holdings, a real estate company that holds and manages over eleven million square-feet of retail and office space in New York City, and he is the Vice-Chairman of the Urban Land Institute Empire and Chairman of the Urban Land Institute Europe. In other words, these two men know business, and they are flush with money after being roommates in college at Harvard. Did I mention they were smart?

"We are pleased to have the opportunity to become partners in the New York Islanders with Charles, and to pursue our shared dream of winning a fifth Stanley Cup for the greatest fans in the NHL," Ledecky said in a statement released through the team. If the NHL was looking for "good" ownership for one of the league's more storied franchises, they may have found it Ledecky and Malkin. They're saying all the right things, and that's a better outlook than what Wang had been painting for the last few years.

Newsday reported in 2009 that Wang was losing $20 million a year on the Islanders. He tried to spearhead a shopping-entertainment district around the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, named as the Lighthouse Project, that was defeated in a referendum vote by Nassau County voters. The fact that the Lighthouse Project was drawn out for nearly a decade and was defeated by those it was supposed to help appeared to be the straw that broke the camel's back for Wang.

"I'd have to say it's good news," said Islanders Hall of Famer Bob Nystrom told Newsday's Arthur Staple. "I know Charles has been looking to sell for a while. I definitely think you've got to look on the positive side of it. We've been hearing rumors for so long, years actually. I know Charles really did want to get out after the Lighthouse debacle. I think that kind of iced it for him. So it's positive, for his side and for Islanders fans."

While the sale of the team still has to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, there's no reason to think this sale won't go through. Two smart, well-financed men want to own the team moving into New York City from Long Island, and this should bring some excitement back to Islanders hockey. Of course, the NHL will want to do its due diligence on both Ledecky and Malkin, but this new ownership really could be the team that pulls the Islanders out of the stormy waters they've been swirling in for so long now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 18 August 2014

TBC: Forgotten Heroes

If you've been visiting this blog from time to time, you're probably aware that I get giddy when it comes to great hockey history. I'm a huge fan of taking glimpses into the game's past, and I normally find something awesome buried in the black-and-white remnants of the game. Today, though, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage, written by Richard Brignall and published by JG Shillingford Publishing Incorporated. Mr. Brignall has done an exceptional job with this book as the amount of amazing and fascinating history he's put inside the covers is second-to-none.

From the Thin Air Writer's Festival webpage, "Richard Brignall is a freelance writer and journalist with a particular interest in sports. He helped originate the Recordbooks series at James Lorimer, and has published several titles, including Small Town Glory (about the Kenora Thistles' Stanley Cup win), Big League Dreams (about black baseball player Fergie Jenkins), and China Clipper (about Chinese-Canadian football player Norm Kwong). His new book, Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage (JG Shillingford) is a trove of stories, data and photos tracing the history of hockey, from it's early days - it began here, in Manitoba - to its wild popularity across the continent. Brignall lives in Kenora."

Mr. Brignall has done an outstanding job in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage in finding some amazing photos to go along with the stories of Winnipeg's earliest hockey heroes. He outlines the success the Winnipeg Victorias had in winning the Stanley Cup over the Montreal Victorias twice at the turn of the twentieth century. His vivid descriptions of the matches played between the two Vitoria teams, the Montreal Shamrocks, the Ottawa clubs, and the Winnipeg Winnipegs - the other Winnipeg-based senior hockey team - are phenomenal, and he spares no detail in bringing together the accuracy of reports.

Amongst the many stories are highlights of specific key players to the Winnipeg Victorias. Dan Bain, Jack Armytage, Whitey Merritt, Joe Hall, and Tony Gingras are key names that should be mentioned in any hockey history about Winnipeg, and Mr. Brignall doesn't gloss over these names. He highlights their contributions to the Stanley Cup victories celebrated by the Victorias very well, and it is apparent they started the legacy of great hockey players in Winnipeg.

Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage also features historical stories about some of the key people in hockey history who made their impacts off the ice. Goaltender Whitey Merritt first thought of wearing cricket pads to protect his shins. Former hockey player and speed skating legend Jack McCulloch developed the tube skate for hockey players that allowed players to maneuver better on a short, thin blade. George Tackaberry, living beside hockey player Joe Hall, came up with a boot for Hall made from kangaroo leather with a reinforced toe that would stand up to the rigors of a full hockey season. This style of boot would be known as the Tackaberry, and his wife would sell the patent to CCM in 1937 to Canadian Cycle and Motor Company, better known as CCM. Today, the Tackaberry boot is better known as CCM "Tacks"!

Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage doesn't just look at that small window of time surrounding the Victorias, though. There's a section on the Allan Cup that ranged from 1908-1935 that features the exceptional talent shown on the ice by the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Falcons, and the Winnipeg Monarchs. While professional hockey was still raging in the NHA in the east, amateur hockey had gripped the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. Stories of Dick Irvin and George Hay leading the Monarchs to an Allan Cup chaampionship in 1915, the 61st Battalion dominating amateur hockey in 1917 and 1918, and the Winnipeg Falcons winning the 1920 Antwerp Olympic men's ice hockey gold medals are all documented!

Simply put, there is way too much information to give Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage its true credit. Mr. Brignall has done incredible work in bringing to light the teams from the turn of the twentieth century through to the years of World War II that helped put Winnipeg on the hockey map. Literally, there are hundreds of players mentioned in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage that should be credited for Winnipeg's rich history of hockey, and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of communities like Brandon, Portage la Prairie, The Pas, Flin Flon, Selkirk, or anywhere else in Manitoba. I am completely blown away at the depth that Mr. Brignall went to in digging up some of the histories of teams in Winnipeg, and his exhaustive work makes Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage so good.

I usually have something I've found with the current review that is a bit of a negative. I am happy to say that while some of Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage's stories are long, the pictures and information are unparalleled. Mr. Brignall is exhaustive in bringing every detail to light about the teams and eras featured in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage, and he deserves major credit for writing an incredible book on Winnipeg's hockey history.
"Harnessing a powerhouse attack, which could not be stopped, the St. Boniface Seals proved to be unstoppable in that final game. A record paid attendance of 15,617 watched the Seals defeat the Generals 7-1. The St. Boniface Seals were the Memorial Cup champions of 1938.
Mr. Brignall should be proud of his efforts in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage. I haven't seen any book containing the same depth of information about Winnipeg's early hockey history, and Mr. Brignall should be commended for the effort put forth in Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage. Because of that fact, Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Look for Forgotten Heroes: Winnipeg's Hockey Heritage at your local bookstore! It comes highly recommended!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Musketeers Invade Russia

The USHL is generally regarded as the best junior level of hockey below the professional leagues in the United States. It's a great developmental league, and is second only to the NCAA in sending players to the NHL from an American-based league. They have former US National Team players in the league, and they're starting to pick up steam as a viable option for players who want to play high-level hockey before they become eligible for entry into college. In saying that, the USHL has a great thing going with the IIHF in sending teams to participate in the Junior Club World Cup, a tournament that features junior clubs from eight different countries.

This year, the USHL pegged the Sioux City Musketeers to represent the league at the JCWC in Ufa, Russia, following in the footsteps of the Waterloo Blackhawks in 2012 and the Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2013. Waterloo brought home a silver medal after losing to the CHL's Sudbury Wolves, and Dubuque captured the bronze medal with a win over Dinamo-Shinnik in their final game. Clearly, Sioux City is being counted on to continue the medal haul for the USHL.

This year sees the ten participating teams organized as follows:

  • Tolpar Ufa of Ufa, Russia
  • Chomutov Pirates of Chomutov, Czech Republic
  • Dinamo-Shinnik of Bobruisk, Belarus
  • Espoo Blues of Espoo, Finland
  • Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of Sidney, Nova Scotia in the QMJHL
  • Spartak Moscow of Moscow, Russia
  • Red Bull Salzburg of Salzburg, Austria
  • HC Riga of Riga, Latvia
  • Sioux City Musketeers of Sioux City, Iowa in the USHL
  • Malmo Red Hawks of Malmo, Sweden
Now you may be asking why I'm following the Musketeers for this article and not the Screaming Eagles. Well, it's two-fold. First, the Musketeers decided to design special uniforms for the trip to Russia. Personally, these uniforms are probably going to be a hot commodity in the USHL community, so if you like them and get an opportunity to get one, my advice is don't pass it up! The only thing missing? The dark uniform!

Secondly, the Musketeers are documenting a pile of stuff through pictures and video. In the following videos, you can see that the team's practice uniforms have been branded in Russian as well! The team arrived on Saturday and began documenting their progress. The first video features Max Zimmer and the second features Jerad Rosburg!

Not to be a downer for the people of Ufa, but I am really hoping for an all-North American final as we saw in 2012 when the Sudbury Wolves and Waterloo Blackhawks met. Of all the teams at the tournament, Malmo and Espoo should be considered tough draws, and the Chomutov Pirates have a couple of solid players if they are on the roster for the tournament. Being that this tournament is in Russia, one should never count out the Russian squads either.

However, in saying that, I expect the North American squads to capture two of the three medals. Unless one of the European teams has a massive tournament, it should be largely North American on the medal podium. Cape Breton was a middle-of-the-pack team last season at 37-27-1-3, finishing ninth, but has already beaten the Halifax Mooseheads in an early exhibition matchup to prepare for this tournament. The Sioux City Musketeers went 38-19-3 to finish third in the USHL's Western Conference last season, so they have a good chance at doing well in Ufa too.

Of course, they play the games on ice and not on paper, so we'll see who comes out and wins this whole thing on August 30. Sioux City plays Red Bull Salzberg on the 22nd, HC Riga on the 24th, the Malmo Red Hawks on the 25th, and Spartak Moscow on the 27th. The Screaming Eagles, if you're interested, play the Chomutov Pirates on the 23rd, Dinamo-Shinnik on the 24th, the Espoo Blues on the 26th, and Toplar Ufa on the 27th. We'll see where all the teams stand when the dust settles!

Unfortunately, I know of no video feeds for these games, so you'll have to scour the interwebs for highlights and/or recaps. Both teams look solid as they prepare for their games, though, so here's hoping that the North American teams can bring home some medals!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!