Hockey Headlines

Monday, 30 September 2013

Brought To You By The Number Eight

We made it! The NHL season opens tomorrow, and it looks like this season will be very interesting. Established players have been sent to the AHL. Up-and-comers are taking roster spots. Once dominant teams are now being challenged by teams who have drafted and developed players well. Chicago will look to defend the Stanley Cup. There will be a plethora of outdoor games. There is no shortage of intrigue as new rivalries are formed, old grudges are rehashed, and old wounds reopened as new divisions take flight. Hybrid icing will be part of the game (finally!) in order to reduce player injuries, and the no-tuck rule will probably get a lot of chatter if teams begin losing games because of it. This season will be one to watch, so let's run through some final housekeeping before the drop of the puck tomorrow.
  • Eight is the number of respondents I got for the HBIC survey. Eight. Seriously. I get that you come here to read what I have to say and occasionally debate me on it, but eight? That's all? I can't use that as feedback. Heck, I can't even use that as a focus group. C'mon, people, you're here anyway - go fill out the survey to help HBIC be better!
  • If you're a fan of the Jets, you know that Jacob Trouba had a solid preseason campaign. But hold your horses if you want to get your very own Trouba jersey. Trouba wore #3 throughout the preseason, but has opted for #8 for the regular season. Note that in your programs, kids!
  • Major faux-pas by a former Jet as the $20-million-man is now on the shelf. Ilya Kovalchuk will miss a month of time in the KHL after SKA teammate Alexei Ponikarovsky collided with the superstar at the Vityaz Chekhov blueline. Kovalchuk sustained a shoulder injury on the play, and immediately went to the dressing room and did not return. All I can say is Ponikarovsky better have a monster season with St. Petersburg now.
  • The QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads got a big boost when it was announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning would return Jonathan Drouin to the team for his final year of junior hockey. The Mooseheads were in a rebuilding phase after loading up for last season's successful Memorial Cup run, and getting Drouin back will help. As a Canadian, I'll be selfish and say we just got one of the best players for our World Junior team back. Game on!
  • In a rather surprising move, the Winnipeg Jets announced on Sunday that they were suspending Ivan Telegin for not reporting to St. John's as assigned. The suspension wasn't surprising, but rather why it was imposed. Telegin decided that another year in the AHL wasn't his cup of tea and went back home to Russia instead. It isn't known if Telegin will seek a roster spot on his hometown Metallurg Novokuznetsk, but this is the second Russian to bolt from the Jets. For a team loaded with Russians in the mid-1990s, this isn't a good sign.
  • Rumor has it that the Maple Leafs and forward Phil Kessel are close to signing a long-term extension. The number? $8 million per season! I'm not sure Kessel is worth that kind of money. He's a great player, but he has nothing to show for the effort. No major trophies, no Stanley Cups, no playoff series wins in Toronto. If he's worth that much money to the Leafs, Toronto might see that Stanley Cup drought extended into the next decade.
  • Starting tomorrow, you can catch a pile of NHL action on your big screen TV as NHL Center Ice is offering a free preview from October 1 to October 19! This offer is dependent upon your TV provider (obviously), but how cool is that? Contact your service provider to see if you can get NHL Center Ice for free for nearly three weeks!
  • Gearing up for some CIS action, the University of Manitoba Bisons men's team plays their home-opener and season-opener this weekend, and they'll be hosting the Alberta Golden Bears! The Bisons dropped a 4-0 decision to the powerful Bears at the University of Regina Men's Hockey Summer Challenge on September 14, so there will be a chance at vengeance this weekend with divisional points on the line. If you're a student at the UofM, you get free admission! And who doesn't love free tickets? To sweeten the deal even further, the Student Servives guys will be on-hand to give out free Bisons t-shirts! Free tickets and free gear? I'm in. If you're near Max Bell Arena on October 4 and 5, grab some tickets, get a t-shirt, and cheer on the Herd!
That's all for today, kids. Give that survey a go, and speak your mind on HBIC. It's completely anonymous, takes all of three minutes, and will go a long way in helping this blog be better.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

TBC: Rebel League

HBIC has been getting caught up in the reading department with everyone heading back to school. There are a pile of new books coming out from the various publishers, and there are a number of authors who really deserve your attention. As you're probably aware, I'm a major fan of hockey history and I enjoy researching small details that may have affected hockey in a big way. Today's book has a ton of historical info that will fill your hockey trivia needs. Teebz's Book Club is proud to have had the opportunity to read and review Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, written by Ed Willes and published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. The work done by Mr. Willes in this book is nothing short of fantastic as he interviewed many of the key individuals who helped the WHA get off the ground and become the rival to the NHL's monopoly. Through these interviews, we learn many things about the WHA and its operations with some information being seemingly unbelievable. In short, Mr. Willes' work in Rebel League is outstanding.

Mr. Willes was born in Ottawa in 1955, and lived across the country as he was growing up. While working towards his journalism degree at Carleton University, he walked away from his studies in his third year of the four-year course! He got his first newspaper job in 1982 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and his career has taken him to Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Vancouver. His freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, and he boasts a single-digit handicap on the gold course. He has written a number of books on hockey, most notably he very first book on Teebz's Book Club, Gretzky to Lemieux. Mr. Willes currently lives and works in Vancouver.

I have to admit that my knowledge of the WHA before reading Rebel League was limited to what I had dug up on the internet and heard second-hand. I wasn't able to verify many crazy stories I heard because I simply didn't have the resources. I can now honestly say that I know a lot more about the NHL's rival than I did before thanks to Mr. Willes' fantastic work in chasing down characters and story-tellers in Rebel League.

The list of names that Mr. Willes interviews in Rebel League is impressive to say the least. The men who made the WHA famous include Wayne Gretzky, Jacques Demers, Paul Shmyr, Glen Sather, Nelson Skalbania, Peter Pocklington, Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Marty Howe, Harry Neale, Dave Dryden, the Carlson brothers, and John Garrett. And those are just the regulars in the book! There are a pile of characters that Mr. Willes brings to life through his writing and the stories told by the men interviewed, and they make for a lot of chuckles as one reads through the book.

The chapter that I may have enjoyed the most was all about the Minnesota Fighting Saints who may have lived up to their name through their actions on the ice. It's hard to believe that a team may have rivaled the Broad Street Bullies in terms of intimidation, but the Saints came pretty close. The Saints employed a carousel of thugs that made a lot of teams wilt before they hit the ice. Included in this parade of goons were Gordie "Machine Gun" Gallant, Bill Goldthorpe (the basis for Slap Shot's Ogie Oglethorpe), Jack "The Big Bopper" Carlson, Steve Carlson, Jeff Carlson (the basis for Slap Shot's Hanson brothers), Ron Busniuk, Curt Brackenbury, and Paul Holmgren.

The stories told about these guys are simply amazing, but the legend of Bill Goldthorpe and his three-game WHA career is absolutely outstanding. Full credit to Mr. Willes for giving the world the story of Bill Goldthorpe because it is worth the price of the book alone. Mr. Willes writes,
On still another occasion, Goldthorpe was sent to serve a major for Walton, who'd been kicked out of the game for his part in a scrap with Aeros defenceman John Schella. Neale was peeved that Schella had gotten his star ejected and instructed Goldthrope that if the blueliner was on the ice when the penalty was up, he was to draw him into a fight. Five minutes later an enormous ruckus broke out, with Goldthorpe and Schella, who knew each other from Thunder Bay, swapping knuckles. At the end of the fight, referee Bill Friday gave Goldthorpe an extra two minutes.

"For what?" screamed Neale.

"Harry, he left his stick and gloves in the penalty box when he went after Schella," Friday said.
That was just another day at the office in the WHA, it seemed. It's amazing to think this league existed on the strength of about six solid franchises. Everywhere that the WHA seemed to land only resulted in another owner who bit off more than he could chew. The chapter on the merger negotiations with the NHL was especially fascinating when it was revealed there could have been as little as one team and as many as six teams that could have been absorbed by the NHL. In the end, though, just Edmonton, New England, Winnipeg, and Quebec made the cut. And we all know what has happened since.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rebel League. The chapters focus on specific teams and events, and things move in a chronological fashion. Mr. Willes' writing is more story-telling as he transcribes a lot of the interviews done with WHA stars. And where he writes about the WHA, his work is concise and complete. The stories in Rebel League are funny and thought-provoking, and they really show why the WHA was both popular with fans and hated by some players. If nothing else, the work done by Mr. Willes will either confirm or shoot down some of the myths and rumors about the WHA. Because of these reasons, there is no doubt that Rebel League receives the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

I know it's only September, but it might be a good time to talk about Christmas gifts andRebel League would be the perfect gift for your adult hockey fan. There is some PG-rated language in the book, but the instances of the expletives are few and far between on the book's 278 pages. Find Rebel League at your local bookstore, and give your hockey fan one of the best books Teebz's Book Club has ad the privilege of reading this year.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Something Rarely Seen

There are many sports where black memorial armbands are worn in memory of a fallen teammate. The Yankees wore black armbands for Ralph Houk after he passed away on July 21, 2010. But the one sport that rarely ever features an armband is hockey. Instead, hockey wears patches. There could a be a number of reasons for not wearing an armband, but the most likely is that there are already numbers and stripes on the sleeve of a hockey jersey, and adding an armband may cause the meaning to be lost as the black armband fades into the background on a uniform. But one team DID wear an armband for a short time. Today we look at how the WHA's Cleveland Crusaders got to wearing a black armband on their arms.

I encountered a number of issues when looking this information up on the internet. Mainly, there isn't a lot of information aside from a few newspaper articles I was able to find. Since 1976 was the last year that the Crusaders called Cleveland home, it appeared that not many people cared about the team enough to take a photo or write about the team's plight. Subsequently, they would be the second incarnation of the Minnesota Fighting Saints by the time 1977 rolled around. A photo of the Crusaders wearing these armbands may become a "white whale" for this writer.

In any case, there was some dissension among the ranks after the Crusaders gave Gerry Cheevers his walking papers. GM Jack Vivian had criticized his star goaltender by saying that he wasn't providing quality goaltending for the club, and that prompted Cheevers to quit the team. It also didn't help that Cheevers was worried about being paid by the cash-strapped Crusaders as well, but the criticism of his play prompted he and his agent to walk away from the Crusaders. They met with Vivian and team officials, ended the contract held by the Crusaders for Cheevers' services, and Cheevers went back to the Bruins to assist them in their quest for a Stanley Cup.

Secondly, as the team pushed into March playing good hockey, there were reports breaking that team owners of the Crusaders had been in contact with the NHL to bring the struggling Kansas City Chiefs to Cleveland. This, of course, didn't sit well with the players, and they decided to stage a protest against the team's owners for their indiscretions. Losing Gerry Cheevers was a big blow to the team, but they persevered. Losing their jobs? That was something they wouldn't tolerate.

On March 10, 1976, the Crusaders took the ice at the Richfield Coliseum wearing black armbands to protest the actions of team management. Rather than walking out, the team decided to wear their protest on the ice in the form of black armbands. At this point in the season, the Crusaders and Cincinnati Stingers were battling for first-place in the Eastern Division, so none of the players even considered a walk-out with the success they were having on the ice. The armbands, though, would send a message to owner Jay Moore and his staff, and hopefully prompt questions from reporters around the league that would cause Moore to reconsider his options.

It was reported that Moore and Vivian met with the players before the game to ask them to reconsider their black armband protest, but the Crusaders clearly had no interest in taking that advice. GM Jack Vivian resigned the next day after realizing that either the players no longer had faith in him or that his earlier attempt to resign after losing Cheevers may have been the best move. In any case, Vivian's time with the Crusaders was over.

Stranglely, owner Jack Moore stated that the armband protest displayed by the Crusaders actually was good for the team! The discussion that took place before the game apparently was beneficial for both sides, and looked like things would settle down in Cleveland. And that's where this trail goes cold.

I have searched and searched to find out if this was the only game they wore the armbands to no avail. I have looked for images and photographs of the armbands, but if the protest only lasted one game, photos of that game could be few and far between. What I can conclusively say, though, is that the Cleveland Crusaders wore black armbands on March 10, 1976 against the Cincinnati Stingers in a 5-2 win. That conclusion is proven with the newspaper articles linked above.

As for any other teams, I haven't seen many in hockey wear the armband. Do any come to mind? Leave your comments below and link pictures if possible!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 27 September 2013

In Memory Of A Champion

The young man to the left is Jordan Boyd. You may recall the stories about how Jordan collapsed at training camp for the QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan and never regained consciousness. His loss hit his hometown of Bedford, Nova Scotia hard as the young man appeared to have a promising hockey career ahead of him. HBIC certainly wishes the town of Bedford and, more importantly, his family and friends in Bedford and on the Titan hockey team all the best as they recover from this tragedy. Tonight, though, there was a fantastic effort made on Jordan's behalf that will help kids follow their dreams. With that being said, let's end the week with some good news.

Tonight at Brewster's Bar and Grill in Bedford, hundreds of people turned out in honour of Jordan to help raise money for a scholarship in Jordan's name. The outpouring of support was simply amazing, and I want to commend those who made it down to Brewster's Bar and Grill to help out with their auction bids as well as all those who donated prizes for the auction to help raise the necessary cash to get this scholarship going. Amazing work, people, and HBIC salutes you!

Among the items available was a hockey stick singed by Halifax Mooseheads star Nathan MacKinnon, an autographed 2010 Olympic Team Canada jersey featuring signatures of all the players on that roster, a team-autographed San Jose Sharks jersey, an autographed Joffrey Lupul Maple Leafs jersey, and a Sidney Crosby-autographed limited edition pencil sketch of Crosby by artist Rob Scott. There were gift baskets, bikes, autographed memorabilia from other sports leagues and famous players, a pile of tickets to various NHL games and sports events, and, of course, a Jordan Boyd jersey autographed by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan team. In other words, this auction had something for everyone, and all the proceeds would go to helping students achieve their dreams.

Kody Cuvelier, boyfriend of Jordan's older sister, organized the auction, and was impressed by the generosity of the many people who bid on the auction items. "People aren't out here to get bargains," he told Global News' Julia Wong. "They're out here to support a really good cause."

The idea for the scholarship came about when looking back on Jordan's days in school. Greg Dobson, Jordan's older brother, told Global News, "Throughout school, all his school projects had to do with hockey, something about his favourite player or role model. Since he was little, it was hockey, hockey, hockey."

"The scholarships are for someone who is just a good well-rounded kid like Jordan. Jordan was great in school. He worked hard. He worked very hard in hockey," Cuvelier added. "If we can help two or three families every year through this scholarship fund, what better way to help Jordan’s legacy live on?"

According to organizers, there will be "one scholarship worth $500 to $1,000 to a hockey player in the Bedford Minor Hockey Association and another worth between $1,000 and $3,000 to a graduating grade 12 student and hockey player within Hockey Nova Scotia". Those amounts are incredible, and will go a long way in furthering the dreams of two young hockey players so that they can pursue their dreams. I'm not sure there's a better way to honour Jordan than to reward a hard-working student an opportunity. While I didn't know him, I'm quite certain Jordan would be proud of this scholarship, and former Bedford teammate Ryan Yould thinks the same. "I think Jordan would be amazed by all this," he said. "He would be down here with a smile."

Perhaps the best news of all is that organizers expected to raise between $20,000 and $25,000 with the auction this evening. That kind of support goes an incredibly long way, and I hope that the organizers not only get that amount, but surpass it easily. The best news of all? You can help if you like! There is a website set up in memory of Jordan Boyd where you can make a donation in the young man's name. I encourage you to do so if you have the means as your donation will go towards helping a student in Nova Scotia get closer to his or her dream.

I want to congratulate Kody Cuvelier, Greg Dobson, and the Boyd family for the success this auction had this evening. Your work in getting this scholarship off the ground in Jordan's name will make his legacy a lasting one for many, many years to come. I want to applaud the people of Bedford for rallying behind this event and making the night a massive success. I also want to applaud all who donated items to the auction as your generosity has certainly helped young hockey players in Nova Scotia. Again, if you have the means, please donate what you can if you believe in this cause.

Jordan Boyd's time on this planet was cut short far too early. But he will live on through this scholarship as he helps kids follow their dreams just like he followed his. And that, readers, is the mark of a champion.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Fifty-Five

I'll be honest: I struggled with posting this preview of The Hockey Show after checking out some of the statistics from the HBIC survey. It also appears that we have very few listeners outside of the immediate listening area, so I'm not sure these previews are very beneficial. I am posting this, though, simply due to carrying on tradition on this blog. We'll see how the results of the survey flush out, but it appears that not many people really need this preview. Maybe I'm wrong, though. Let me know through the survey.

Today, however, we're going to look at one of the more controversial topics in hockey after this week's Toronto-Buffalo brouhaha. The Hockey Show will take a long look at the unwritten rules of the enforcers AKA "the code". There are definitely rules that the older warriors - Probert, Kocur, Grimson, Ray - followed when it came to picking a fight, and there are certainly a list of things one doesn't do when looking to start a donnybrook. We'll go over these rules Fight Club-style, and we'll see who broke what rules in the melee that took place in Toronto.

We also have an update on former University of Manitoba Bison goalie Jesse Deckert who appears to have a good thing going after his successful playoff run with the ECHL's Florida Everblades. We'll do our regular updates of former Jets and FRIENDS OF THE SHOW Brandon Reid and Jared Aulin. We'll talk extensively about the NHL '94 video game tournament we'll be having during Pledge-O-Rama as well as Pledge-O-Rama itself. And we may even give away a prize if we can get things rolling along.

Of course, if you have an opinion on "the code", fighting in hockey, the Sabres-Leafs game, the suspensions handed out, or all of the above, call us at (204) 269-UMFM (269-8636). You can also tweet me at @TeebzHBIC with your thoughts, and we'll get those on the air as well. The Hockey Show is live on the air tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM! Join us!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Things I've Discovered

I have spent the better part of the evening looking over statistics and scouring the internet and through books. You may be asking why, so here's why. I simply didn't feel like writing anything today. As I allow the collective gasp to end, I found out that the survey I posted on Sunday is giving me a whole new perspective on this blog and what people take from it. I'll post the link below again because I really would like some more perspectives, but for those who have already filled it out, thank you. I appreciate your feedback. Let's get to the interesting stuff.
  • David Kelley, creator of successful TV shows such as Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope, and The Practice, was the stick boy for the New England Whalers in the WHA. Just to add a little icing to that tip, he's also married to Michelle Pfeiffer. Yeah, not a bad outcome at all.
  • Ben Hatskin, who owned the WHA's Winnipeg Jets and convinced Bobby Hull to sign in Winnipeg, was once offered a World Football League franchise in Hawaii. Surprisingly, he declined the ownership offer.
  • In the last three seasons, the highest scoring player is Steven Stamkos.
  • In the last three seasons, he and Martin St. Louis rank #1 and #2.
  • In the last decade, Joe Thornton has been the highest scoring NHL player.
  • Surprisingly, Martin St. Louis ranks as the second-best player over that decade.
  • Andre Lacroix, who was a star in the WHA, played on six different teams in his seven seasons in the WHA, but he was never traded. Not once. The teams he played on either folded or moved. Interesting times in that league.
  • In his final season with the Detroit Red Wings, Gordie Howe made $100,000. In their first seasons in the WHA, Mark and Marty Howe made $600,000.
  • Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild is planning on wearing #3 this season. He'll officially become the lowest-numbered forward. Taylor Hall of Edmonton held that title before Coyle as he wears #4 for the Oilers.
  • Don't look now, but Ilya Kovalchuk has found his groove in the KHL. Helping SKA St. Petersburg to a 6-1-1 record, Kovalchuk has now tied for the lead in goals with six while posting nine points. If there was any doubt as to who was going to win the scoring title, Kovalchuk is erasing those doubts with every goal he scores.
  • Yaroslavl Lokomotiv head coach Tom Rowe was relieved of his duties after Lokomotiv's poor start, and youth program coach Pyotr Vorobyov has replaced him. One of the assistant coaches brought aboard by Vorobyov? Former Flyers and Maple Leafs defenceman Dmitry Yushkevich. Now there's a blast from the past!
  • Bratislava, Slovakia will host the 2014 KHL All-Star Game. Y'know, in case you were wondering. Book your plane tickets now... or something.
  • Kudos to the Brandon Wheat Kings on opening the season 2-0 with two convincing wins over the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Wheaties will now play a two-game set against the Jets' Josh Morrissey and the Prince Albert Raiders in PA. Keep it rolling, Brandon!
That's some of the findings around the old hockey news wire. Again, please fill out the survey about HBIC so that I may be able to bring you better coverage of the stuff you like and more options for you to enjoy on this site. It literally takes three minutes max! Thanks to those who have responded, and thanks to everyone who read this far today!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Got Some Explaining To Do

I rarely find myself speechless when it comes to Hockey Canada's decisions, but I am appalled at what I am seeing to the left. Posted by a Redditor named "justacanuck88", the image to the left is what Canada will be wearing in Sochi in February when gold medals are on the line. I know that Hockey Canada is planning on presenting these uniforms on October 8 at a press conference, so I hope they have a good explanation for the decisions that went into this uniform set. Quite frankly, this may be one of the worst-dressed Olympic hockey competitions of all-time.

Let's get a better look at these uniforms, though, so we know what we're dealing with before tearing down the walls. I'm not sure who the designer was that came up with these looks nor would I want to name the person who approved these designs simply out of fear they could be hurt. But here are the three uniforms that Team Canada will take with them to Sochi, Russia.
Wow. I'm embarrassed for my country. There is so much wrong with these uniforms that I'm not sure I even want to break them down. But I have a responsibility here, so let's get on with it.

I already posted an article all about the Jonathan Toews picture with him in the red uniform. I also posted an article about the reported black alternate uniform to which Roberto Luongo had alluded. I expressed my disappointment in the look that Canada was adopting for the Olympics, and I made it very clear that I was not happy about a black alternate uniform. Especially in a ten-game tournament. Today, though, I want to actually look at all that is odd and/or wrong about these uniforms since they aren't getting positive reviews from the vast majority who have seen them.

There are no traditional hockey stripes on the hems of any of the uniforms. I assume Canada will be wearing black breezers at the tournament with each of the uniforms, so there will be some colour breaks with regards to Canada possibly appearing to wear a onesie. Those black breezers will blend nicely with that alternate uniform, though. Officially, this lack of striping comes across as DUMB.

Secondly, the sleeve stripes only appear on the left arm. There is no striping on the right arm whatsoever, creating a very imbalanced and very incomplete look for the Canadian squad. Why one would only allow striping on one sleeve is beyond me. I cannot stop looking at the sleeve without wondering why there is no stripe to balance the uniform. And to make this worse, the stripe doesn't even go all the way around the sleeve on the red and white jerseys! It's like they just needed a contrasting colour for the little flag patches, and slapped a box of colour on the arm! I'll go on record right now and say that I hate this, that it annoys me, and that it's DUMBER THAN DUMB.

The twelve gold maple leafs on the left hip seemed useless to me at first, but then it bothered me greatly. What do the twelve maple leafs stand for? Canada has won eight gold medals in men's hockey, three gold medals in women's hockey, and one in Paralympic hockey, so clearly the rows of eight, three, and one make sense when looking at the history of Canadian hockey at the Olympics. But is this necessary on a uniform? Does Canada really have to wear their history on the outside of the uniform? Isn't that a little arrogant to flaunt our hockey success at the Olympics in the face of other countries while competing? I almost want to root against Canada for doing this. COMPLETELY DUMB.

Everyone piles on Nike for using the faux laces on the uniform. I guess I will, too. I get that they are built-in for support, much like the Nike Flywire in shoes, while minimizing weight, but they're very noticeable. And since most of the hockey world is now watching hockey in high-definition, these will be very noticeable every single time a camera zooms in on a player during a face-off or a break in the action. While they may fade into the background as we see them more and more, I still question why the faux lacing even needs to be visible. And it will be visible on every zoom-in. Count on it. AESTHETICALLY DUMB.

I'll single out the black uniform here since it looks out of place. The red and white jerseys can at least be rationalized as official Canadian uniforms with the maple leaf on the front. The black one, though, looks like a cheap knock-off. If Nike understood anything about the pride that Canadians have in their national logo and image, this uniform would have never seen the light of day. We are proud of the maple leaf. We take pride in seeing Canadians competing while wearing the maple leaf. This uniform, though, has no maple leaf. I cannot fathom how one can look at that black uniform and think that it is an official Olympic uniform in any way, shape, or form. This is a design fail if I've ever seen one. INCREDIBLY DUMB.

There are positives, though. The black uniform is not a black-and-yellow LiveSTRONG advertisement. While I doubt that the IOC would allow Nike and Hockey Canada to do something like that in regards to the advertising rules, there was a thought that someone may try to sneak the yellow in. I am happy to see that this is not the case, so this is a MINOR PLUS.

In comparison to the black uniform, the red and white uniforms look pretty good. That should give you an idea on how bad that black uniform is, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. There is still a lot that is missing or requires revision on the red and white jerseys, but they are miles ahead of where that black jersey is. We'll chalk this one up as a PLUS BY DEFAULT.

Overall, I'm just not that proud of these uniforms. I'm a passionate Canadian when it comes to hockey, but I like hockey players to look like, y'know, hockey players. All of the fancy new materials and slimmed down, minimalist designs are great, but hockey players still need to look like hockey players in the end. Canada's three uniforms don't give me that sense of pride I've had in other uniforms, and that's a disappointing feeling for a fan and a supporter of Canadian hockey. Sorry, Nike and Team Canada, but I just don't like it. And I'm going to struggle to be positive about Canada's look.

The only thing that will make these eyesores 100% better? A gold medal draped around the necks of each Canadian player.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 23 September 2013

TBC: Cold A Long Time

With school back in session and training camps underway, it's time to start reading again! Teebz's Book Club took the summer off to relax a little, enjoy the sunshine and beautiful weather, and have as many barbecue nights as humanly possible. Inevitably, though, the autumn breeze blows in, giving way to tykes waiting for school buses and homework being assigned. TBC is hitting the books hard this season so I can get you ready for Christmas by giving you a number of excellent books to read. Today is the first great example as Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery, written by John Leake and published independently. The story of Duncan MacPherson, covered in an article here on HBIC, is magnified and thoroughly examined by author John Leake in Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery, and he does an outstanding job in showing the true crime that went on in the Austrian mountains some twenty-five years ago.

From his biography on the website, "Born in Dallas, Texas, John Leake went to Vienna, Austria on a graduate school scholarship and ended up living in the city for over a decade, working as a freelance writer and translator. His first book, Entering Hades: The Double Life of a Serial Killer (Sarah Crichton Books, FSG) was a New York Times Sunday Book Review "Editors' Choice," a Men's Vogue "Best Book of 2007," and the inspiration of The Infernal Comedy, starring John Malkovich. John can be reached by email at: johnleake@yahoo.com."

Having had the privilege of speaking with Lynda and Bob MacPherson, Duncan's parents, I can honestly say that the work that Mr. Leake put into Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery is incredible. I can honestly say that Mr. Leake left no stone unturned in discovering the lies, deceit, and cover-ups performed by the vast number of people working and living in Stubai Valley and Innsbruck, Austria. To read through the vast amount of lies that the MacPhersons endured, I would find it hard to trust anyone again if I were in their shoes. To come out of this tempest with a smile on their face shows the immense character and goodness in Lynda and Bob. They are truly saints.

Early on in the book, we learn all abut Duncan MacPherson and just how special he was as a person. His abilities on the ice led to him being drafted by the New York Islanders from the WHL's Saskatoon Blades, and the young man gave it his all before injuries resulted in New York not renewing his contract. Not be discouraged, Duncan heard of a potential job playing and coaching in Dundee, Scotland and jumped at the opportunity to see Europe while still playing the game he loved. After arriving in Nurenburg in early August, Duncan was going to do some traveling and sight-seeing before making his way to Dundee for August 12. However, he would never make it to Dundee as it appeared that Duncan vanished from the planet on August 9, 1989.

It is here where John Leake picks up the story of Lynda and Bob MacPherson's incredible ordeal in trying to find Duncan. When one reads the lies, deception, and manipulation from the vast number of people in Austria that were supposed to be helping the MacPhersons, it becomes clear that there is something foul happening behind the smoke and mirrors. From doctors to ski hill employees to police officers, everyone seems hellbent on trying to have the MacPhersons believe something other than the truth. Quite frankly, I was sickened by some of the lies they were told and how quickly they were dismissed as nuisances by those whose jobs were to actually find out if Duncan had disappeared.

While I certainly won't go through the details that Mr. Leake presents, the evidence he uncovers as an author makes me think that the doctors, scientists, and police officers in Austria are better suited as the Keystone Cops rather than authorities of anything. From Dr. Walter Rabl's deception in pretending to show empathy towards the MacPhersons to gain their trust to Walter Hinterhoelzl's lies about the snowboard equipment and Duncan's time on the hill to Officer Franz Brecher who simply found no reason to investigate anything, the evidence that they simply overlooked or ignored would be clear to even the least deductive mind, but these men chose to drive the MacPhersons off the path of justice instead.

In getting to know the MacPhersons, Mr. Leake wrote perhaps one of the most touching tributes to two people who deserved much better than the garbage they faced for fourteen years in searching for Duncan. Mr. Leake wrote,
If there is redemption in the MacPhersons' story, it is from their own fortitude. They did everything possible to find their child, and through terrible frustration they stuck together and refused to let their marriage become an additional casualty. In the face of endless deception, they persevered in their quest for the truth, and ultimately exposed public officials for accommodating powerful interests instead of enforcing the law. Treated with a long train of shabby behavior, they never yielded to the temptation of hate or cynicism. Tricked and manipulated, they remained honest. Encountering all that is lamentable about human nature, they responded with all that is best about it.
Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery might be one of the best books I have read in 2013 thus far. Mr. Leake backs up discoveries with photos and reasoning, and his theories are logical and complete. His description of the battles that Lynda and Bob MacPherson fought may make one question how people can be so cold towards two parents who want answers about their child, but Mr. Leake is always quick to show how moral and honest the MacPhersons are in their quest. Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery was an absolute delight to read with its short chapters over its 231 pages, and it absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for the outstanding work done by the MacPhersons and Mr. Leake.

Before we depart, I do want to point out a couple of things. Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery, John's second book, was the winner of the 2012 Independent Publisher Award. The German translation, Eiskalter Tod, published by the Residenz Verlag, received extensive media coverage in Austria and became a bestseller. Congratulations to John on the accolade, and to Mr. Verlag for his success as well.

I had the privilege of speaking with Lynda and Bob MacPherson on The Hockey Show on August 15, 2013, and I really encourage everyone to give the podcast a listen. The MacPhersons were fantastic in explaining their story and I wish we would have had more than an hour to talk in order to get into some of the details of their journey for the truth. I want to thank Lynda and Bob once more for joining us!

Lastly, if you have the means to do so, please purchase a copy of Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery through the website. 25% of all sales goes back to the MacPhersons who, as you'll read in the book, spent a pile of money trying to find the truth about Duncan. If there is only one thing that I ask of you ever on this blog, please help the MacPhersons out by buying Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery. The book is fantastic, and it even comes in an e-book format for e-readers if you prefer electronic books!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Survey Says...

HBIC is always looking for ways to improve service for readers, so today's entry is all about what you, readers. Specifically, I'm going to throw out some ideas and I'm looking for feedback. As you can see by the image above, one major idea will involve The Hockey Show radio show, but I have some ideas for other things I'd like to try to implement so the only way I can figure that stuff out is by tuning into your thoughts about the site. See what I did there? Anyway, without knowing what you want, though, these new "features" could mean little to you. So I want to ask, and I'd really appreciate answers. The poll below will help you out, so answer honestly and brutally because when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, this blog is "of the people by the people for the people".

The reason I'm reaching out is because this blog seems to be at a crossroads. I know there are loyal readers, and I appreciate you 100% if you are. In fact, you're the people I want to hear from the most. What I'm looking for is some feedback on a few things that make this blog what it is, and so I can move forward in a more productive way to better meet your needs.

Secondly, because we don't use feedback or ratings tools at UMFM, we never know exactly how many people actually listen to The Hockey Show. We assume some of you do, but you know the little adage about assuming. We also don't have a feed to plug the shows into iTunes for easy listening, so I've included a question about an option that I've been working on in my spare time. Please answer these as it will tell us what direction The Hockey Show should move.

Again, please answer honestly and openly about this site and the services it provides. Without knowing what you like or want, I can't really deliver content that is relevant to you, readers. And I happen to enjoy your company.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Once the survey results have been tabulated, I'll post the results!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Building Champions

I have admitted this before on this blog, but I am a big supporter of Lego as a toy that all kids should have. There is nothing that one cannot do with Lego and a little imagination, and I happen to think it is the best toy of all-time for kids. I'll even be upfront and tell you that I occasionally pull out one of the massive buckets of Lego that I own and build. Whether it's a castle, a spaceship, a pirate ship, or anything else one can imagine, you can build it with Lego.

But what if you wanted to build a Stanley Cup-winning hockey team? It would seem that Lego may not be able to help kids on this one. That is, until now. One father and his four kids have put together one of the greatest building projects I have ever seen, and I want to start off by telling them that I am impressed, awed, and inspired by their work.

Joel Cadieux and his four kids - Noah at ten years-old, Dallis at eight, Elijah at seven and Davis at four - decided that they wanted to honour their favorite NHL team, the Edmonton Oilers, by giving them one more lap around the rink with the Stanley Cup. Out of that dream came Brick Arena, and the sixth hoisting of the Stanley Cup by the Oilers!

I first saw this story on Friday night as I was watching the CBC Evening News in my neighbourhood. Here is the feed from the Edmonton CBC news desk, and, as stated above, I am blown away by this family's ingenuity and creativity.
Make no mistake: this is beyond awesome. Brick Arena's cut-away measures in at roughly one-metre-by-1.5-metres in area. The height is nearly a metre as well, and there are an estimated 15,000 bricks in the entire structure. Nearly 300 "fans" fill the stands of Brick Arena as the mini-Oilers hoist their mini-Stanley Cup. There are banners on the walls, there are the five big Stanley Cups representing the five championships won by the Oilers, and there are cameramen in the stands capturing it all on mini-film. Needless to say, the family has done their homework on their favorite arena.

But they aren't done there because the details are insane! Check out the orange man and blue man similar to Vancouver's real-life green men who harass opposing players who have taken penalties. There's an Oilers logo that covers one wall inside the main entrance of Brick Arena that isn't too far from what the real thing looks like. They added the famous Wayne Gretzky statue outside the arena (didn't I just see him inside in the last photo?). The urinals even have pee in them!

I am thoroughly envious of the Cadieuxs because of their architectural abilities. They have built an amazing structure with fantastic details, and major kudos go out to the CBC for capturing this story. As a lover of Lego and hockey, this brings together two of my all-time favorite things on this planet. I bow down before you, Cadieux senior and Cadieux children, as I salute you as Kings of the Lego Hockey World.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Giants Honour Braves

The WHL season kicks off tonight with a pile of games, but none will look better than the game in Vancouver featuring the host Vancouver Giants playing the Victoria Royals. The jersey in the image to the left is what the Giants will take to the ice in, and there's a rich history behind the uniform they will be wearing. While not a throwback, it does honour one of British Columbia's finest teams to ever have laced up the skates, and I am proud to see the Giants doing something like this considering the history.

Alkali Lake sits about 500 kilometers north of Vancouver, and about 250 kilometers northwest of Kamloops. It's basically right in the middle between Prince George, BC and Vancouver, BC, and features the Alkali Lake Indian Reserve No. 1 as the primary settlement in the area. The name of the area actually comes from an outcropping of alkali on the hillside above the lake. The lake itself is not a true alkali lake. From that small community, an aboriginal team of hockey players emerged in 1931 to challenge BC's best teams, eventually toppling the Prince George club for the BC Northern League championship and earning them a shot at playing the all-star powerhouse squad in the Vancouver Commercials!

The one man who was the star of the team was Alec Antoine. The scouting report on Antoine, included in the book Hockey: A People's History, read, "He skated backward with the puck better than most of the players could carry it going forward. He had a natural talent for shooting as well. His accuracy was uncanny." Antoine would be the man that many would marvel at with his speed, apparent tirelessness, and fantastic shooting ability. But the Braves were more than a one-man show as they became one of the best teams in the BC interior in 1930.

The team was formed from the aboriginal men of the Shuswap nation who worked at the Alkali Lake Ranch which featured a large cattle operation. Needing a way to keep in shape in the winter, the men took up hockey as their sport. Not being content with scrimmaging amongst themselves, the men would travel twelve hours by sled over fifty-six kilometers to get to Williams Lake where they competed against teams of Caucasian players. Because of their obvious racial differences, their welcome to Williams Lake for the Alkali Lake team was less than friendly, but they persevered.

After trekking all day to the Williams Lake outdoor rink, the men would camp outdoors near the fire, eating deer meat and keeping their horses from the cold bite of the winter air. The next day, the team would don their worn and ragged green-and-white uniforms, provided by the Woodward Department Store owner who was married to the daughter of the Alkali Lake rancher, and they would dazzle the crowd with their speed and skill.


After honing their skills against local teams, the Alkali Lake Braves did the unthinkable in beating perennial BC Northern League champion Prince George in 1931! This brought notoriety for the team, and Squamish nation chief Andy Paull arranged for them to come to Vancouver where they would meet the Vancouver Commercials, an all-star team of semi-professionals from the Commercial League. The two teams battled furiously, but the all-star teams would prevail in both games against the amateur squad. What surprised most people, though, was the final scores in the two games were 2-1 and 1-0!

Amazingly, the details about this team makes them even more impressive. One team member was 50 years-old and a grandfather! They averaged about eight games per season as most of their time was occupied with work at the ranch. They had never played in an indoor rink before their visit to Vancouver, and had never played in front of fans, let alone 4000! Needless to say, to lose by one goal in two consecutive nights to an all-star team of semi-professionals while facing these odds is simply outstanding!

Of course, during this team, the Patricks were operating leagues and had scouts all over the place in BC. Lester Patrick, who was in charge of all things New York Rangers, came to Vancouver to offer Alec Antoine a contract to join the Broadway Blueshirts! While it isn't known what the terms of the contract were that Patrick offered Antoine, the young man turned down the NHL deal, opting instead for his $15-per-week ranch job.

While the ranch was somewhat immune from the Depression of the 1930s, the financial crisis caught up to the Alkali Lake Braves in 1933 as the team folded under financial strain. While it isn't clear as to what strain was placed on the team, the Braves faded from the hockey scene in British Columbia until tonight.

In saying that, the WHL's Vancouver Giants are wearing a uniform that was never worn by the Alkali Lake Braves, but represents the team very well. The "lazy cross" on the logo was the brand of the Alkali Lake Ranch, and the name is prominently displayed on the logo's circular edge. These uniforms are simple and classy. I love the striping on them, and I may have to break the bank and pick up one of these game-worn jerseys. They are absolutely gorgeous, and the honouring of one of BC's most notable teams has been done in a most excellent way. Well done, Giants!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Fifty-Four

The Hockey Show hits the airwaves at 5:30 CT on 101.5 UMFM once again tonight. After a great anniversary show last week, we're back to talking hockey for an hour, and we have quite the show planned. Beans and I will be discussing all of the latest hockey news, we'll update everyone on the players we're tracking over in the KHL, we have some news regarding some local events around town, and we'll talk Jets and their preseason games thus far. In other words, The Hockey Show is back to business this week!

We'll also be talking about an event that will run during Pledge-O-Rama of which you can be a part. Because it's the 15th anniversary of when UMFM first hit the airwaves, The Hockey Show will be hosting an NHL '94 tournament during Pledge-O-Rama as NHL '94 is celebrating its 20th anniversary. While the dates don't coincide, the celebrations do, and we'll have a Sega Genesis down at the radio station where players will compete in a tournament. Details will be announced tonight on the program, so tune in to find out how you can be a part of this extravaganza!

Make sure you tune in tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM, and we'll take your calls and tweets as well. You can reach us at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM) by phone where you can give us your take on all the hockey proceedings happening in this city, this country, this continent, and across the world. Feel free to tweet us your thoughts at @TeebzHBIC and we'll get them on the air as well. There's a ton of stuff we'll cover tonight so tune in and get your hockey chatter on!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Great Sections Available

With word breaking that the Florida Panthers may have a new New York-based owner shortly, it appears that this 20th anniversary thing they're doing may get better. After all, a new infusion of cash and new leadership at the top should be able to inspire most players and a good number of fans. Florida's citizens, however, appear to be immune to this sort of excitement after seeing the turnout for an afternoon preseason game between their Florida Panthers and the visiting Nashville Predators.

That was the crowd during the singing of the anthems. Click on the image to make it bigger if you like, but you're looking at nothing but green seats. Wisely, the game report for the Predators-Panthers tilt in the afternoon did not report the attendance, but officially the puck was dropped at 2:36pm on Monday. Yes, you read that correctly. 2:36 in the afternoon. 14:36 in military time.

That picture, taken by Fox Sports Florida's Erin Brown, is pretty overwhelming. I have never seen a preseason game where the players outnumber the fans. I'll grant the Panthers some slack in that they were playing two games on one day to allow more players to play and be evaluated, and I'll even allow them some slack in stating that the night game was attended by 6541 fans. But if no one shows up to a game on a Monday afternoon as seen in the photo above, why schedule it at all at your home rink? Why not find a smaller rink where the costs of running that rink would be far less?

Secondly, what is playing in that cavernous arena with no fans like? The 6-3 final score saw the goal horn used six times and there was someone piping music into the arena between whistles, but it has to be tough to get yourself motivated when you look out into the crowd and see no one. Literally, no one. The players were probably as overwhelmed with this crowd as the ticket takers were outside the arena. Can we get security to Gate One, please?

The Panthers, of course, are the team that offered up season tickets for $7 per game. I can't get a beer in Winnipeg for $7 let alone a ticket to see the team play. What's that, you say? Not good enough? How about if they throw in a team jersey too? And then add in free parking to those games! Still not enough for $7 per game? How about free concerts as well? WOW! I feel like I work on infomercials with all the free stuff I'm including for this one incredibly-low price! But because we can't do this all day, keep in mind that I'm no Vince Offer.

Perhaps what should have the NHL worried, though, is how the sunbelt teams that struggled to attract fans last season are seemingly experiencing the same problem this season. Florida isn't the only subtropical US city to see fans stay away by the thousands. The Dallas Stars are playing host to those Florida Panthers tonight, and Jonathan Huberdeau tweeted out this photo as he sat in the crowd.
If you're doing the math at home, in two out of three preseason games played by the Panthers, they have had less than 500 people show up to watch them combined. I get that Dallas wouldn't have many fans come to cheer on the Panthers, but Dallas also had a problem attracting fans last season. And while I understand this is preseason hockey and no one really gives a damn, it has to bother the NHL that these sunbelt teams can't seem to gain any fan support while Toronto gets over 19,000 people to a preseason game at the Air Canada Centre against the Flyers.

I'm not sure what the Panthers can do to attract more fans. They have dropped ticket prices to an astoundingly low price and killed any parking and merchandise revenue in the same breath. This franchise is bleeding red ink and can't seem to stop the hemorrhaging regardless of what it does. And for all the empty seats that the Dallas Stars had last season, it appears that trend is continuing despite new ownership, a pile of new players, and a new division to compete in for a playoff spot.

I guess the only saving grace is that it is the preseason, and no one gives a damn until October.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

How To Prove You're Insane

Normally, one doesn't go searching for ways to prove insanity. Our society tends to give sane people more slack when it comes to preposterous ideas, but those people can still be mocked if the idea is way out there. But rarely does our society give those people deemed to be insane much of a chance where logical and clear thoughts are required. It has become apparent that there is a growing population of insane people occupying powerful jobs in the northeastern United States of America, particularly in Buffalo, New York and Bristol, Connecticut. I'll illustrate why below.

Let's start with the Buffalo Sabres who as an organization, for all intents and purposes, seems to have lost all sensible thought-making processes since the season ended last year. Buffalo's personnel choices and contracts have always been somewhat questionable since the heady days of Hasek and Peca, but small markets sometimes have that effect on the teams that operate there. Case in point? The Buffalo Sabres' alternate jersey for this upcoming season.
I've already taken Buffalo to task over these uniforms once, so there's no reason for to become angry again in discussing all that is wrong with these uniforms. And there is lots. However, the above photo from the Sabres' media guide this season shows another little glimpse into the insanity that was incorporated into these uniforms. And you may not see it at first because you're overwhelmed with the garish design of this alternate uniform, but it's right there on the right shoulder of the jersey.

See the crossing swords aka sabres? That's the captaincy designation. ON THE SHOULDER. NOT ON THE CHEST.

UPDATE: I received several emails last night regarding how the Sabres' captaincy patches actually violate league rules. Rule 6.1 of the NHL Rule Book clearly states,
6.1 Captain - One Captain shall be appointed by each team, and he alone shall have the privilege of discussing with the Referee any questions relating to interpretation of rules which may arise during the progress of a game. He shall wear the letter “C,” approximately three inches (3'') in height and in contrasting color, in a conspicuous position on the front of his sweater. No co-Captains are permitted. Either one Captain and no more than two Alternate Captains, or no Captain an no more than three Alternate Captains are permitted (see 6.2).
Besides the spelling mistake in the last line, that passage clearly states that a captain must wear his designation "in a conspicuous position on the front of his sweater". NOT THE SHOULDER. From what I've heard, the NHL doesn't take kindly to teams ignoring the rules the NHL sets out for them to abide by, so we'll see if this ever gets to the ice. Thanks to all who emailed on this.

I had seen the image of the captaincy patches that Buffalo planned on wearing before, and I actually thought they were doing something cool to make their captains unique. Much like the Flames do with their captains, it appeared that the Sabres were going to do something that 28 other teams do not. Instead, the media guide reveals that the Sabres are doing something unique: losing their freaking minds!

I took a look at photos of their preseason game against Columbus, and the proof was in the photo as Christian Ehrhoff was wearing the regular captaincy block-letter designation. So the captaincy patches with the crossed sabres are only for the alternate jersey. I guess the Sabres, in some sort of lightning strike of intelligence, realized that a gold captaincy patch on a yellow background may not stand out very well. The next logical place to move that captaincy patch, obviously, is to the navy blue background on the shoulder. OBVIOUSLY.

Again, there is so much wrong with these alternate uniforms that it almost feels right to continue to screw up little details just to make this uniform so ugly that it becomes a "modern art masterpiece" as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman would say. In looking back at this whole uniform debacle, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the Sabres are a little too sane in that they willingly keep adding garish pieces to a horrific look. Maybe they're not insane at all, but so sane that I can't comprehend how great this design is when you bring together all of the elements they've thrown at this uniform.

Or maybe they are insane. And I'm very comfortable with that theory.

Who Needs ESPN?

I get that ESPN doesn't hold hockey in very high regards. I get that they believe that hockey highlights rank somewhere below poker results, pinewood derby race results, and the crowning of the winner of the Westminster Dog Show. I'm fully aware that ESPN's highlight pack consisting of 20 NHL games runs all of five minutes on SportsCenter. I get it, and I have no problem with how they run their business.

I do, however, take task with ESPN.com's continuing push to bring hockey to relevancy when they seemingly have no clue about the game. While I appreciate the opinions of guys like Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun, the "top 50" defencemen list they published is missing some key names and has some players ranked way beyond their abilities. I'm not sure who these "experts" are that they asked (even they use quotes to describe the experts they polled), but how this list made it through an editor - oh right, it's ESPN! - is beyond me.

First, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a good defenceman, but he's in no way the ninth-best defenceman in the NHL. Not even close. Especially when you consider some of the names below him: Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Seabrook, and Francois Beauchemin most notably. He's not even in their league at this point.

Second, if you ask Jets fans who their best defenceman is, I guarantee you that the order you receive back is not Byfuglien-Enstrom-Bogosian. Sure, there might be a few people who place the Jets' blueliners in that order, but Bogosian would be ranked much higher by Jets fans than Enstrom at this point. Maybe I'm making a wild leap here, but I'm baffled at how that one played out.

Third, I'm pretty sure that these "experts" were choosing players based mostly on their offensive abilities and not their overall game. Some defensive defencemen made the list - Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Kevin Bieksa, for example - but they missed a pile of outstanding defencemen who should have received more merit and/or votes. Guys like Travis Hamonic, Karl Alzner, and Niklas Hjalmarsson didn't even make the cut, but players like Kevin Shattenkirk, Fedor Tyutin, and Matt Carle did. And not to denigrate or call-out those three players' abilities, but are you kidding me, ESPN? I'll take Hamonic, Alzner, and Hjalmarsson any day of the week and twice on Sunday over Shattenkirk, Tyutin, and Carle. And I'd win 10 out of 10 times with those three guys.

I guess what I'm saying is that anything published by ESPN as a top-whatever list should be taken with a few grains an ocean's worth of salt. There is little reason to believe that this list is anything but one writer's favorite defencemen. ESPN, in true journalistic fashion, doesn't identify their "experts" either, so this list is being propped up solely by ESPN's reputation rather than by merit. If they asked the players, identify those who responded. Otherwise, don't label them as experts. That, readers, is horrible journalism rather than just plain ol' insanity.

I will say this: you'd have to be insane to publish something like that without identifying your experts. And you're obviously insane if you're listening to ESPN for any hockey information whatsoever.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 16 September 2013

A Musical Interlude

We interrupt this blog's proceedings with a musical interlude as HBIC's ongoing project featuring musicians in hockey jerseys continues. Ok, so it's not an actual musical interlude. It's more just pictures of musicians in hockey jerseys, but it has a musical theme, right? Do I still get points for that? If you've skipped a beat over the last few months, you'd best find the dance steps as HBIC has been compiling a collection of musicians in hockey jerseys. HBIC is always on the lookout for musicians in jerseys, so don't fret! Send them this way if you spot an image that HBIC doesn't have! Do you think I used enough musical terms in this paragraph yet? On with the show!

Let's start with a hip-hop group I know nothing about in the The Cool Kids. Pictured is Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey next to partner Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll in the Detroit Pistons jacket. The Cool Kids are also members of the hip-hop collective All City Chess Club founded in 2010, as per their Wikipedia page. Other than that, I know little else about these Cool Kids.

While KISS may have just bought themselves an arena football team, they were in an advertisement with another arena-based team as they held a replica jersey of the Edmonton Oilers. Gene Simmons is also on the Musicians in Jerseys page after sporting a Saskatoon Blades jersey!

The Backstreet Boys return in yet another group photo while wearing different uniforms. Nick Carter is in the Tampa Bay Lightning sweater, Brian Littrell appears to be wearing an Ottawa Senators jersey, AJ MacLean is wearing the Mighty Ducks colours, Howie Dorough is in the Los Angeles silver-and-black, and Kevin Richardson appears to be sporting the teal colour of the San Jose Sharks.

Speaking of the silver-and-black Los Angeles Kings, here's hip-hop recording star Kendrick Lamar in a Kings jersey.

Cappadonna of the Wu-Tang Clan wears the Montreal Canadiens colours in another photo from a music video.

Do we give Will Smith a pass if the team presents him with a black fashion jersey? Does this say anything about the Canadiens in terms of them presenting a black recording artist a black fashion jersey? Am I simply creating controversy when there is none? The last answer is probably "yes".

Hip-hop artist ASAP Rocky sports a Chicago Blackhawks uniform to an event. I have to say that there is nothing like going out on the town in a hoodie and hockey jersey when you want to make a statement.

Hip-hop star Ghostface Killa makes a statement in his Canadian National Team alternate uniform. Yeah, I'm still not a fan of black Canadian uniforms.

Hip-hop star Li'l Wayne sports a Vancouver uniform while on-stage, and fellow rap artist Akon matches his look in his own concert.

Rap star Xhibit comes out strong with a Toronto Maple Leafs alternate uniform!

Speaking of Toronto, check out this old photo of Roger Daltrey in concert with The Who while sporting a Maple Leafs uniform! Nice!

Craig Mack, who we previously saw in a Tampa Bay uniform, puts himself on his own album cover wearing a Charlestown Chiefs uniform from Slap Shot!

I'm not sure that this counts, but I included it anyway most because she's worn nearly one-half of the league's colours thus far. Check out the grin on Jeff Skinner as he presents a new Carolina Hurricanes uniform - with his name and autograph on it, no less - to Miss Taylor Swift!

Former hip-hop star LL Cool J sports what appears to be a Jagr-branded Pittsburgh Penguins jersey on TV. He's joined by Kriss Kross who wore matching Robo-Penguin jerseys. And to show that the Penguins have worldwide appeal, here's a member of Korean rap group DJ DOC sporting the Robo-Penguin uniform as well.

Hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest saw member Phife Dawg sport the New Jersey Devils' uniform in a video. Joining him in his admiration for the Devils are Robert Smith of The Cure and hip-hop star Nas.

There are some additional musicians in jersey. I'm sure there are plenty more out there, so if you want to help out, fire me an email with the image. I'm building quite a database of musicians in or with various uniforms, so let's keep this going!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Lukoyanov Has Bigger Problems

Rarely do you see photos like this one on HBIC. However, tonight's topic requires one to examine the player in question as we look at a highlight from a recent KHL game. The player with the washboard abs is not Ak Bars Kazan's Artem Lukoyanov, but that photo appears on a vk.com site belonging to "Artem Lukoyanov". If you haven't heard of vk.com, that's ok as we'll discuss that site in a bit. But Mr. Lukoyanov's first highlight of the season is probably one he wants to forget. Quickly.

Late in Thursday's game between Ak Bars Kazan and Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Kazan led 3-2. That prompted Metallurg coach Mike Keenan to pull the goalie. No surprise there, right? And yes, Iron Mike Keenan coaches for the city named for Magnitnaya Mountain that was almost pure iron and having the largest iron and steel works company in the country, Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works. But I digress.

With the puck heading into the Metallurg zone, Lukoyanov jumped at the chance to ice the game when he picked up a loose puck with nothing to hit but twine. Here's the highlight.
Oh, Lukoyanov. In his defence, we've seen lots of players miss open nets (Patrik Stefan, anyone?) and we'll see more of these types of highlights as the season progresses. What bothers me, however, is this vk.com page that I found the top photo on that reportedly belongs to Mr. Lukoyanov.

You see, that well-defined young man is NOT Artem Lukoyanov. Far from it, in fact. This is Artem Lukoyanov.
Not quite the same guy, right? I did a little digging, and it appears that this vk.com site is the Russian Facebook. According to the Wikipedia page about the site, vk.com is the "second biggest social network service in Europe after Facebook" and is a popular social media site in "Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, and Israel". And like Facebook, it appears that someone is using a fake photo on his page.

I'm happy to report that the image of Cristiano Ronaldo on the linked vk.com site above is not run by Artem Lukoyanov. It appears to be someone with the same name as our goal-phobic player. But upon digging deeper into a Google search, it appears that the 24 year-old's reputation has other, bigger issues to deal with as we work into the KHL season.

On August 18, Mr. Lukoyanov was arrested for assaulting a police officer! I did some scouring, and it appears that he and a friend, Maxim Gruzdev of hockey club Neftyanik, were detained after an altercation at a night club in Almetyevsk. Reports from the Tatarstan regional Internal Affairs Ministry indicated that Lukoyanov "struck one of the officers in the side of head and attempted to steal his gun". As of Tuesday, August 20, there still wasn't a clear indication what charges Lukoyanov and his friend were facing, but reports from witnesses vary greatly from what the Ministry reported.

Eurohockey.com spoke to witnesses who stated that Lukoyanov was hardly responsible for a brawl that started, let alone assaulting any officers whatsoever. The Ministry's press release read as follows,
"Our official tried to calm the two aggressive people who were in a state of alcoholic intoxication. But they began to resist, causing a scuffle.One of them tried to snatch from police service weapon, but after a warning shot young people calmed down. Employees received minor damage. However, one of them had to be hospitalized with suspected head injury. Young people face up to 10 years in prison. The investigation is ongoing."
The suspected head injury was a concussion, according to this report. But eye witnesses at the club where the brawl erupted, Lukoyanov's involvement was far different.
When I came to the restaurant, he saw there Artem and his wife, Evgenia, and greeted them. Then I was away for a short while, and when I came back, I saw a mess and people attacking Artem. The entire fight took place in a room, in front of many witnesses. When came the police, twisted Artem and another guy on the floor and handcuffed them.You know, we also usually weaker ones, and to take away - said an eyewitness - There wasn't any attack on the employees. Of course, now police say that Artem pounced on them, I do not understand why it was necessary to shoot, because at that time Artem was lying on the floor in handcuffs. By the way, the camera n the restaurant filmed all, but it was immediately removed by the investigative committee"
It appears the investigation is ongoing, but that ru-facts.com site stated that "vice-president of KHL Vladimir Shalaev took off for Kazan that on a place to penetrate into a situation". While the English is awkwardly stated, it appears that the KHL came to the rescue of its player in terms of finding a solution in this matter.

Here's hoping that Artem Lukoyanov is cleared in this matter so that he can continue to play hockey. The charges levied against him are serious, so let's hope that he isn't found guilty, resulting in a decade in a Russian prison. I'm pretty sure that they don't play hockey in prison, and the video clip above shows that Lukoyanov could use a little extra time on the ice.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

It Will Take A Few Tweaks

Washington versus Winnipeg tonight! Man, it's like the first day of school in terms of heading down to HBIC Headquarters and watching some live hockey! There are new names to learn, new systems to pick up, and new lessons to learn when it comes to this game. One of the key things that the NHL is teaching tonight is hybrid icing. From the looks of the game thus far, it appears to be working fairly well, if not needing but a few tweaks to make it better. But for all the gruesome injuries seen in terms of races to pucks for an icing call, I think hybrid icing has worked fairly well in this preseason game.

Hybrid icing is used in a vast number of leagues below the NHL, including both the NCAA and the USHL. The best way to explain it is that the linesmen make a judgment call regarding the race for the puck based on who arrives at the face-off dots first. If the defender gets to the dots before the offensive player does, the linesman will blow the play dead to prevent the inevitable collision that will result from the race. However, if the offensive player is ahead of or tied with the defensive player at the face-off dots, the race then becomes like the old icing rule where the linesman will make the call based upon who touches the puck first.

Simple? Ok, so maybe a video explanation will help. Hockey USA explains how the rule works.
Does that make sense? If it doesn't, leave comments below, and we can discuss it there.

Ok, so there were a few blips on the hybrid icing radar tonight, but nothing too egregious. In the first period, it appeared that Evander Kane and Nate Schmidt were even as they crossed the face-off dot in the Washington zone. However, the linesman blew the play dead in thinking that Schmidt may have had a step on Kane or possibly a direct line to the puck that would have allowed him to gain possession sooner. Needless to say, both players arrived at the puck at the same time, and the look on Kane's face spoke volumes about what he thought of the call.

Personally, I want to see this rule instituted. It worked well in the Kraft Hockeyville preseason game, and I think it will save a few defencemen this season. While I realize that the icing calls will always be discretionary, the safety of the players should be mandatory in all situations, and this rule takes the possibility of injury away if called correctly.

There's still room for improvement after watching tonight's game, but as with any rule change, the officials will adapt and the players will follow. I was sold on it at the NCAA level and below before the NHL had even whispered the words "hybrid icing", so count me in as a fan who will support the NHL's stance on this rule. Anything that saves players from injury - in some cases, career-ending injuries - I'm 110% in favor of every day of the week.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Firsts Of The KHL Season

The guy in white in the heavily-watermarked KHL photo is former Manitoba Moose and Vancouver Canuck forward Brandon Reid. Brandon Reid has played all over the globe through his hockey pursuits, but this is his first season in the KHL. Of course, that means that any accomplishment would be a "first" for him in the KHL, but we're looking strictly at goals from two men today for two completely different reasons.

Because Brandon Reid is a friend of The Hockey Show, we are keeping tabs on his progress this season as he tries to win the Gagarin Cup with CSKA Moscow. The Red Army team has started slow, but Brandon recorded his first goal in a 4-1 win over Donbass Donetsk on September 10. After scouring YouTube, we finally have video of Brandon Reid's first KHL goal!
And this guy wasn't offered an NHL contract? Wow. You think Florida can use some help down the middle from a skilled player? In any case, that was a nice move to get the puck to his forehand, and then to find some space to shovel the backhander by the goaltender? Yeah, Reid's pretty darn good. Fantastic goal for his first goal of the season and his first KHL goal in his illustrious career!

Of course, everyone will be keeping eyes on the $80-million man. Ilya Kovalchuk finally notched his first goal on September 10 as well as SKA St. Petersburg downed Yugra 5-1 in their game. Here is Kovalchuk's first KHL goal of the season.
That's not exactly how Kovalchuk planned to start the season after his incredible KHL campaign during the recent lockout, but one goal is the best start to getting many goals. Kovalchuk has picked up steam as he had a second goal in the following game, and is now up to five points on the season in four games. While most would say that kind of point production isn't worth $20 million annually, Kovalchuk is starting to pick up steam.

We'll be tracking Brandon Reid's stats all season here on HBIC and on The Hockey Show, so stay tuned to hear more if you're a fan of the speedy forward. Reid has an assist in his fourth game to extend his point streak to two games, but CSKA Moscow fell to Spartak Moscow 3-2. CSKA currently has a record of 1-2-1-0 (W-L-OTW/SOW-OTL/SOL) and sit in eighth-place in the Western Conference, but there are still fifty games to play. I expect the Red Army team to be challenging for home-ice advantage in the playoffs as the season progresses with the talent they have.

Congratulations to Brandon Reid on his first KHL goal, immortalized here on HBIC!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!