Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The New Frontier

I have been critical of the AHL for several years for allowing NHL franchises to dictate how it runs its business. For far too long since the NHL and AHL agreed to work together have the NHL teams been allowed to move AHL affiliates whenever they please. Long-time, successful minor-pro cities such as Adirondack, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Manchester, and Worcester are all being abandoned after this year as the AHL looks to expand their reaches to the west coast by establishing a brand-new Pacific Division. The AHL's new rules surrounding this "experiment" will be systematically destroyed here on HBIC, but it's time for AHL owners to start caring more about their product than the money they receive from the NHL.

AHL teams have closer roots to their communities than the players who play there. Free agency, trades, and promotions all have impacts on AHL franchises, making the franchises more important than the players who represent them. That's not to say that long-term players aren't rewarded by AHL teams; rather, it's harder to find them in this day and age. In saying that, fans associate with teams more than they do players because the team is constant in the community as opposed to the players.

The second reason AHL teams do well in communities is because of the affordability. Families can go to games in most markets for less than $100. Tickets closer to the glass can be bought by younger men and women who are looking for a night out for some fun for less than $50. When entertainment dollars are stretched thin already in today's society, the AHL is a great alternative to the uber-expensive NHL. In some cases, the AHL is the biggest game in town. Either way, the entertainment is affordable and fun.

On the other hand, I understand - yet respectfully disagree - with NHL teams who talk about the distance between their NHL teams and AHL affiliates. When Los Angeles complains about needing a full day to recall a play who is playing in Manchester, I empathize with them, but I'm calling them out on it as well. Every NHL team has the ability to charter airplanes. While there may be some logistics with airspace and flight paths that I fully don't comprehend, it baffles me that Los Angeles can't get an AHL player to Staples Center in less than twelve hours. Adding in timezones, there should be plenty of time to get a player across the country in that timeframe.

According to Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Calgary, and Edmonton, it's not enough time.

Say goodbye to the AHL in Norfolk, VA, Manchester, NH, Worcester, MA, Glens Falls, NY, and Oklahoma City, OK. While there's an opportunity for the ECHL to fill these voids - and it should - the fact that the AHL is moving out of cities that have excellent AHL history is proof that this model of the NHL tail wagging the AHL dog is wrong.

An "Adirondack" franchise has called Glens Falls, New York home since 1979 when the Adirondack Red Wings were founded as an expansion franchise. They called the city home until 1999 when the Detroit Red Wings to claimed the IHL Grand Rapids Griffins as their minor-pro affiliate. The Adirondack IceHawks took their place in 1999 as part of the UHL and survived until 2004. The name of the UHL team changed to Frostbite, and they would live through 2006. In 2009, the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms migrated to Glens Falls after the Spectrum was destroyed, and remained there for five years. Following the Phantoms' move to Lehigh Valley in 2014, the Abbotsford Flames moved to Adirondack.

In total, 26 years of AHL action, 4 Calder Cups. Pretty good history.

Norfolk, Virginia has a shorter history, but they made an appearance for a single year in the 1970s. 1971-72 saw the Tidewater Wings play a season before becoming the Virginia Red Wings from '72-75. After 1975, the Tidewater Sharks played in the Southern Hockey League from '75-77 before hockey abandoned Norfolk until 1989. The ECHL came calling, and the Hampton Roads Admirals were founded. They would stick around until the franchise was converted to an AHL franchise in 2000. Since that time, they've been the Norfolk Admirals.

In total, 16 years of AHL action, 1 Calder Cup. Pretty decent history there.

Manchester, New Hampshire has had a few teams, but no other AHL experience other than with the Monarchs who started play in 2001. There have been a few Manchester-based "Monarchs" teams as well, but all of those teams played low-level minor-pro or senior league hockey. Manchester has established itself as an AHL town, though, and the fans provide excellent support of this team.

In total, 14 years of AHL action.

Worcester, Massachusetts saw the IceCats move into town after the Springfield Indians moved their franchise in 1994. The IceCats called Worcester home until 2005 when the Sharks were founded in 2006 following the sale of the Blues' affiliate to Peoria, Illinois.

In total, 21 years of AHL action.

The Oklahoma City Barons are the only team with less than double-digit years of history. The Barons arrived in Oklahoma City to displace the highly-popular CHL Blazers in 2010, essentially killing 44 years of CHL action in OKC. In the five years that the Barons called Oklahoma City home, they lost in the Western Conference final twice.

In total, 5 years of AHL action.

With the move west, the AHL is moving into cities that have extensive ECHL success or failed IHL and ECHL attempts. There are two prime examples of success. The Stockton Thunder have led the ECHL in attendance in four-straight years in their state-of-the-art 9737-seat arena. Since 2003 after moving to the ECHL, the Bakersfield Condors have enjoyed considerable box office success.

The failures, though, should be noted. The IHL's San Diego Gulls were a mess at the box office for its five years of existence from 1990-95, but did make the IHL Turner Cup Final in 1991-92. They were resurrected for the WCHL which became part of the ECHL, but didn't make past the 2006 season. However, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the people of San Diego are already onboard for their unnamed AHL squad! Maybe professional hockey will work in San Diego this time?

San Jose hasn't had a deep minor-pro hockey history, but San Francisco watched the Bulls die a slow, painful death in the ECHL. The Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals didn't last long in the San Francisco Bay area either, but there's hope that with Stockton nearby, a natural rivalry will occur.

Ontario has also enjoyed a solid run of success in California thanks in large part to their affiliation with Los Angeles. The Texas Wildcatters moved to southern California in 2008, and have seen seven years of pretty good box office success, but no major successes on the ice as of yet.

In short, the AHL is trading the history of 82 years of hockey in five cities along with five Calder Cups to appease the travel needs of a few NHL teams. We've heard about the costs that some teams faced in the AHL being so isolated - Abbotsford, Manitoba, Omaha, and Oklahoma City to name a few - so having five teams playing on the west coast may only re-open the travel schedule wound. It was a costly experiment for these teams the first time, and now we're going to see it again unless the AHL does some serious cost-sharing. If anyone should know better, you'd think Calgary and Edmonton would want less travel rather than more.

Granted, the rest of the AHL teams could road trip through California and Texas, but that's a long seven-game road trip for any team when you consider that most AHL teams play on the weekends. Are we talking two-week, seven-game road trips? And what about the west coast teams? Do they do a two-week, divisional road trip to keep costs lower? Either way, the costs of traveling will skyrocket compared to this season's costs.

What's worse is that Texas is literally the only stop between the Eastern time zone and California in the AHL. You can possibly swing up to Iowa to play the Wild, but there are very few teams in the Central time zone with Oklahoma City pulling up roots. Cities like Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas should have been considered in a gradual move west. St. Louis, Colorado, and Phoenix all would have benefitted, and it would have led to the next wave of moves west. Instead, we're jumping the Central time zone altogether and forcing AHL teams to criss-cross the map because five NHL teams decided it was the right time.

Personally, I don't buy the garbage that an NHL team can't get a player to its NHL rink on game day. Maybe NHL teams need to carry one or two more players on its traveling roster if it means destroying the AHL. I wasn't a fan when Winnipeg suggested that it was interested in moving the IceCaps from St. John's to Thunder Bay, and I'm not a fan of these five moves.

Nevertheless, head west, young men. The AHL Pacific Division will take form for the 2015-16 season whether I like it or not. How long it lasts, though, is anyone's guess.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Boo-nier

I'll admit that I'm a fan of Jonathan Bernier. I think the kid has some exceptional battle in him, especially playing in Toronto. He's a solid goalie playing on a less-than-stellar team, but even he's human. The image to the left is one that is all too familiar this season as we normally see Bernier hanging his head after the red light has been lit behind him. Last night, his humanity was on display as he allowed one of the worst goals this season and, perhaps, one of the worst of his career. It will probably rank as the longest goal he's ever given up.

With the Leafs leading 1-0 to open the third period against the Arizona Coyotes, there was a glimmer of hope that the long losing streak that Leafs have been mired in would end. And then this happened.
That may have been the easiest goal that Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in his career. 114 feet of space was between Ekman-Larsson and Bernier, and the game was tied five seconds later. Hang your head, Jonathan, because that one hurts.

"I didn't see it," Bernier told reporters. "I lost it in the stands and it just dipped in front of me. It's tough to stay in, especially when I thought I was playing pretty good and the fans get on you. It gets frustrating."

I will say that Bernier experienced, according to his comments, something that happens when I play outdoors. Because it's dark when we play night games, occasionally our goaltender loses sight of the puck if it rises above the white boards. I can empathize with Bernier on this one, but it still hurts. Especially when you consider that he gave up another soft goal minutes later.

I feel bad immortalizing this goal with this post, but the truth of the matter remains that Bernier has to be at his best to give the Leafs a shot at winning. He wasn't last night, and the Leafs dropped a 3-1 result to the Coyotes. Will the losing ever end?

Maybe the better question is when does the season end?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 124

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with a show that will feature you, the listener! We are opening up the phones tonight, and we want to hear your thoughts on all things hockey! Any topic and any league are open for discussion tonight as we come back from the All-Star breaks in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL to the stretch drives in those respective leagues! We're talking your calls tonight for the entire hour we're on the airwaves!

Tonight, we want to hear from you. We know you listen. We know you have opinions. We know you may agree or disagree with us. Tonight is your opportunity to jump on with a question, a comment, or anything else on your mind that you'd like to share with us. As long as it's about hockey, we'll take the call and discuss with you whatever may be on your mind! We also have a few things to discuss, but we want to hear from you tonight, so get that dialing finger ready!

Give us a call tonight at (204) 269-8636 (UMFM) so we can get you on the air! As always, you can hear what we're up to on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. There are lots of ways for you to interact with The Hockey Show, but we want to hear from you tonight! Give us a call!

PODCAST: JANUARY 29, 2015: Episode 124

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The First

Mike Smith is still a darn good goalie. He has struggled this season, but the Coyotes have struggled as well. He was an Olympian, and he has shown flashes of brilliance this season. The image to the left is one that opposing teams should still be wary of when Mike Smith is tending the net because he's a pretty decent goal-scorer. In saying that, Smith actually holds a pretty distinctive record in the ECHL that will be tough to match. It involves a goal and some goaltending stats that, when mixed together, are a pretty impressive feat!

We have to go all the way back to October 26th, 2002 for this record. Mike Smith was playing in the ECHL for the Lexington Men O'War, and was starting his first ECHL game on the date in question. The opposition that day was the Dayton Bombers, and the game was a closely-contested affair!

Lexington was leading 1-0 late in the third period when the puck was sent behind Smith's net. Dayton pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. Smith retrieved the puck, flipped the puck high over the players on the ice where it landed near center ice, and continued to slide the length of the ice where it came to rest in the Dayton net.

So what records did Smith set with that goal? He became the youngest goaltender to score a goal in a professional game with that goal as he was just 20 years of age. He became the first goaltender in history to score a goal, record a shutout, and earn his first professional win in his first professional game. In other words, that was a pretty significant goal that Smith scored on October 26th, 2002 as he set a number of firsts!

Smith has scored other goals, but this one will go down in history. And it happened with one of the best-named teams in hockey history with the Lexington Men O'War!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Hockey FUNdamentals

I consider myself pretty lucky when it comes to some of the relationships I've been able to foster through this blog and the radio show. It has led to some incredible experiences, and I'm happy to report that I was invited to participate in another fun experience tonight as I went down to Canlan Ice Sports to take in a session of the Hockey Fundamentals course they are running. I wasn't on skates, but I did get to witness a lively class of women willing to be put through the paces by the instructors in order to improve their games. As far as I could tell, this group of women will undoubtedly be a solid graduating class once they make it through their classes, and I have no doubt that they'll be suiting up for a team at Canlan Ice Sports in the near future!

The range of ages for these women went from ladies in the thirties right through to those nearing retirement. Each and every woman I spoke to tonight really seemed to be enjoying their times on the ice, and all of them wore beaming smiles as they skated over to speak with yours truly. You could tell that they were enjoying themselves, and all of them had incredible things to say about the program.

Trish #1: "This is my first session with Canlan. Last year, I was somewhere else, but it's great! Really great!"

Vicky: "It's alright! I like it! This is my third session, and I have lots of fun. I used to play ringette when I was young and haven't been on the ice in, like, 20 years, so it's awesome!"

Liz: "Oh it's a lot of fun! This beats going to a treadmill in a gym some place!"

Liz, you'll be interested to know, didn't start playing hockey until she was 52! As stated above, this Hockey Fundamentals program is for players of all skills and ages, and the ladies I spoke with all had excellent things to say about instructors Sean, Kyle, and Kayla. It sounds as though half the fun is created by the instructors, and, as they say, a lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained!

Trish #2: "Very competent. (Sean)'s good at modifying things for different levels. He's good at tailoring it for everyone in the class."

That's key in all of this, isn't it? Good instructors who can reach players at their levels and help them improve their skills. Canlan Ice Sports has gone through a number of instructors as they search for great people who are excellent teachers in the sport of hockey. Kyle and Kayla assisted Sean Fisher on the ice, and Mr. Fisher is well-known to those following the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey program. Sean is an assistant coach with the program, so he knows how to run drills and get the most out of his students. Sean, Kyle, and Kayla ran the ladies through a pile of drills to continue their growth as players, and you could see the confidence in their smiles as they mastered the fundamentals!

Sean: "I think a lot of the participants we have out here tonight are returning clients who come back on a regular basis - session by session - and I've seen a huge improvement in those players."

I have to hand it to Canlan Ice Sports and Program Director Tyler Stewart for success of the Hockey Fundamentals program. They have had a number of the graduates from past years move on to play adult hockey in leagues at Canlan Ice Sports, and they appear to be close to having very competent, very capable players getting ready to graduate in this year's program as well.

The five players I spoke with all look like veteran players on their skates. While I wasn't there at the beginning of the sessions, hearing these ladies speak of their significant improvements and seeing the smiles on their faces as they talk about improving their hockey skills is proof enough that the Hockey Fundamentals program at Canlan Ice Sports works.

And most of all, you can't spell "fundamentals" without the word "fun"!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Whose Reality Is This?

Corus Entertainment is a pretty big player in Canadian entertainment companies. They usually do pretty go work, but they officially fall below "infomercial" network with their new "reality" show. Being that you're a reader of HBIC, you know I have little-to-no appreciation for these so-called reality-based television shows. Honestly, it's not reality for anyone but those participating in the show. So it is with great regret that I must announce that Corus Entertainment is kicking off a brand-new reality TV series called Hockey Wives.

I admit that the picture is small, but we're going to follow the lives of ten hockey wives as we get a glimpse inside their lives as the ladies behind the men who take to the ice. Included in the series as we go left to right on the image above is:
  • Wendy Tippett (wife of Arizona coach Dave Tippett).
  • Emilie Blum (wife of Iowa Wild defenceman Jonathan Blum).
  • Kodette LaBarbera (wife of Anaheim goalie Jason LaBarbera).
  • Nicole Brown (wife of LA forward Dustin Brown).
  • Tiffany Parros (wife of retired forward George Parros).
  • Noureen DeWulf (wife of Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller).
  • Maripier Morin (girlfriend of Montreal forward Brandon Prust).
  • Brijet Whitney (wife of retired forward Ray Whitney).
  • Martine Forget (finacĂ©e of Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier).
  • Jenny Scrivens (wife of Edmonton goalie Ben Scrivens).
I have no doubt that these women do their absolute best in managing their lives, the lives of their significant others, and the households in which they play a major part. But why is it on TV? I can tell you right now that I'll never be a hockey wife nor do I want to pry into the lives of men who have hockey wives. I just want them to be happy in their relationships and all the best in their chosen careers.

I dove into their individual biographies on the W Network page to see if I could piece together the relationships. Quite frankly, unless you're interested in Kodette LaBarbera' or Jenny Scrivens' relationships with the other women - they have four each - you might be a little disappointed. Noureen, Maripier, Wendy, and Emilie each have one direct link to another woman in their bios, but they may know the others as well. However, it seems the W Network isn't divulging that information, so do these women know each other or will we see them trying to forge relationships amongst themselves Survivor-style?

For the 800 or so hockey wives and girlfriends in the NHL, this is their life. This is what they experience on a day-to-day basis, but that's the life they have chosen to be a part of with their NHL significant other. For the millions of hockey fans across this country and continent, this isn't something we consider because it's not our reality nor will it ever be.

I appreciate what Corus Entertainment is trying to do here, but it's not a reality show in any format. If it were a documentary, that would be more informative. I hope that Corus Entertainment won't vilify any of the women in their portrayal of their relationships. After all, look at the abuse April Reimer takes for simply being the wife of a Toronto Maple Leaf. But in this being a reality show, I'm sure that the editors will take some liberty in the shots they use. That's what reality TV is all about, right?

To the ten women above who support their NHL husbands, maintain the household, and carry on with a normal life, I have no doubt that you're all incredible women. Besides being beautiful, you're the rocks that your significant others lean on, and they wouldn't be as successful as they are without you. The last thing you need is a reality TV show to support that statement.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

TBC: Written In Blue & White

NHL players and general managers go through copious amounts of paperwork each and every season when it comes to contracts and memorandums. Because we're in the electronic age, a lot of it is done via email, but there is still a pile of paperwork nonetheless. In the pre-electronic days, imagine how much paper NHL teams would have used in the course of a season. It would have been crazy! That's the focus of Teebz's Book Club today as I proud to review Written In Blue & White, written by Greg Oliver and published by ECW Press. Mr. Oliver takes a look at the memorabilia collected by Mr. Allan Stitt who has been collecting Toronto Maple Leafs' paperwork for decades! Mr. Oliver dives in and takes a look at some of the highlights of Mr. Stitt's collection of documents.

Directly from the ECW Press website, "Greg Oliver is the author of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series — The Canadians, The Heels, The Tag Teams, and Heroes & Icons. He has been writing about professional wrestling for over 25 years, starting with The Canadian Wrestling Report newsletter when he was still in high school. Upon completing a degree in journalism from Ryerson University, he worked at the Toronto Sun and Canoe.ca for a decade. A freelancer since 2001, he has worked on more than 40 books as an editor, writer and layout artist. At the moment, he has two hockey books in the works. He lives in Toronto with his wife Meredith, son Quinn, and is active in the community, both in Scouting and as a soccer coach."

People collect all sorts of things, but collecting player contracts and memorandums from the Toronto Maple Leafs seems a little less than glamorous. Allan Stitt was at a hockey card convention in Toronto when he got started by purchasing Teeder Kennedy's rookie contract for $300 from one of the tables. Next to it sat a Teeder Kennedy hockey card for $100. Which would you have bought?

"I didn't know anything about the value of either, but I thought, 'That's just crazy, that a hockey card they made thousands of, and wasn't really significant in terms of historical NHL memorabilia, could be compared to a document signed by Hap Day, signed by Teeder Kennedy in his rookie year, and signed by Merv Dutton, the league president," Mr. Stitt told Mr. Oliver for Written In Blue & White. "The relative values made no sense to me, so without knowing whether either of them were undervalued or overvalued, I just bought the contract because I thought it was an incredibly cool document. I think too, because of my background in law, I was interested in contracts."

There's how Mr. Stitt became the preeminent collector of hockey contracts and paperwork on the planet. His contributions to the Hockey Hall of Fame have made him the largest donor in the Hall's history, and he's had a number of incredible pieces in his collection including a 1977 contract between Wayne Gretzky and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the statistical sheet from Game Seven of the 1972 Summit Series, and a share in Maple Leaf Gardens. Mr. Stitt is certainly one of the more unique collectors on the planet when it comes to his extensive collection of hockey paperwork.

Mr. Oliver doesn't just get Mr. Stitt's view on his collection. He actually highlights some of the more interesting contracts from the various eras of Maple Leafs hockey. There are notes, documents, contracts, memorandums, and scribbles on napkins from all the men who had a hand in building the Maple Leafs - Hap Day, Conn Smythe, Syl Apps, Punch Imlach, and many more. It's an amazing look at how contracts and documentation changed throughout the years for the National Hockey League, and how salaries changed from era to era as the players began demanding more pay for their play.

Some of the more interesting documents in Mr. Stitt's collection are the hand-written notes. There is one particular hand-written expense report from 1935 that documents the costs of a Maple Leafs' road trip to visit the Montreal Maroons. The total cost of the expense report is $36.59, but includes $2.40 for "Coca Cola" and 50 cents for oranges! Broken down, the Leafs spent $24.50 on travel and $12.09 on supplies! Would anyone have known about this if it weren't for Mr. Stitt's collection? Probably not!

One of the more interesting contracts in Written In Blue & White was Darryl Sittler's contract from 1977 as it featured a no-trade clause! Those clauses are pretty standard now, but they were virtually unheard of in the 1970s. The clause reads,
"Although not expressed as a term of that '77-'78 to '83-'84 contract we wish to confirm to you the understanding reached between our Company and each of you that during the term of the contract the right to the services of DARRYL SITTLER as a professional hockey player would not be traded to any other professional hockey club without his consent."
In the same contract, the Leafs also forced Sittler to purchase two "red seats" to be offered to Maple Leafs Gardens before anyone else, and for him to do two "do 2 personal appearances per year for Maple Leaf Gardens." The contract was a mere two pages long, and Sittler's base pay for each of the five years was $170,000!

If you're a fan of hockey history, the Maple Leafs, or interested in contracts in some way, Written In Blue & White needs to be part of your reading collection. There are so many interesting facts and anecdotes on the pages that Mr. Oliver writes, but even more on the pages from Mr. Stitt's collection that Mr. Oliver has documented. Written In Blue & White is well-written and contains a ton of history on its 192 pages, and it's hard to fathom that Mr. Stitt has boxes upon boxes of additional contracts and paperwork from other teams. Because of the vast amount of historical information and documents, Written In Blue & White absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Written In Blue & White at your local bookstore for $39.95, but it comes with something extra special tucked inside the the back cover. I won't tell you what - you hve to buy the book! - but I thought it was cool! You can also find Written In Blue & White at your local library, so head down and check out the documents and history!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Seen Not At The All-Star Game

If you're looking at the photo and wondering who that player is, you won't be in the minority. The team represented by Jimmy Bonneau is the AHL's Worcester Sharks, and Bonneau dressed as a goaltender for the first time in his career on Wednesday. Bonneau is better known as a pugilist in the Sharks' lineup who plays wing, not goalie. However, backup goalie Troy Grosenick fell ill before the warm-up against the Portland Pirates, and Bonneau stepped up to help his teammates out - this time with the pads rather than his fists!

"I never played goalie before and the American league wouldn't be the ideal place to start, I don't think, but sometimes you just have to go with what you've got," Bonneau told Jason Galloy of The Guardian. "Someone went down, someone stepped up, fortunately, I didn't have to step up too much. That's how this team is, we have each other's back."

Bonneau saw no ice time in the 3-2 victory after Worcester rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the third period. So what did Bonneau learn while he watched from the end-boards? "I was shocked how heavy the gear is and how much it restricts your movement," he said. Spoken like a true forward!

Musicians Love Hockey

If you've been following HBIC for a while, you know that I'm building a massive list of musicians in jerseys. I've been working on it for a while, and I'm happy to report that there are some new additions to the list thanks to some sleuthing and a few contributors. If you'd like to contribute, fire me an email with the picture! Just make sure you're not sending a duplicate!

Garth Brooks is one of the planet's biggest country stars, and we don't usually see hockey and male country hockey stars go together outside of Nashville. However, when Garth Brooks stopped by in St. Louis, he and a numbers of Blues players teamed up to bring hockey to children at the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club in north St. Louis. One of the players there was longtime Blue Barrett Jackman, and Garth Brooks returned the favor by wearing Jackman's jersey at his concert that night!

Loudon Wainwright is a pretty famous folk singer, songwriter, humorist, and actor, and is the father of Rufus Wainwright amongst other titles he holds. He's released 26 albums over his illustrious music career, has won a Grammy Award, and has countless appearances on TV and film. The man certainly has conquered television and music. The one thing that he should be known for? Being a New York Islanders fan!

The San Jose Sharks recently held "Metallica Night" where they honoured the band! We already knew that James Hetfield was a Sharks fan, but we can now expand that to the full band as they all got their own personalized uniforms! Keep on rocking, Metallica!

We've seen some opera singers receive jerseys when they sing the anthem or anthems for teams. Like country, the operatic and hockey worlds rarely collide. One man who successfully made opera more popular was former member of The Three Tenors, the late Luciano Pavarotti. He's done a few songs with some mainstream pop and/or rock artists such as U2, and he may have been the most famous of The Three Tenors. However, I found extremely weird to see former Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard giving Mr. Pavarotti a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey! Maybe it's because I don't recall Ballard giving anything way except his opinion!

Finally, I want o thank reader Gerald T. for his contribution. Jeffrey Hanneman was the guitarist for heavy metal band Slayer, and he routinely wore jerseys while performing. Hanneman was a driving force behind Slayer's success, but he passed away on May 2, 2013 in southern California from liver failure due to alcohol-related cirrhosis. Hanneman was a sports fan, and he wore the LA Kings jersey proudly!

Alaskan Superheroes

The ECHL's Alaska Aces decided to steal some thunder from the NHL All-Star Game by encouraging a little fun as they dressed as superheroes and had their fans dress as superheroes! Superhero Weekend ran last night and tonight as the Aces squared off against the visiting Idaho Steelheads. Last night didn't go so well as the Alaskan heroes dropped an 8-5 result to the Pacific Division-leading Steelheads, so there was hope the Aces could rebound in tonight's match as the Aces find themselves 21 points back of the Steelheads after last night's game.

As of the moment of publication of this article, the Steelheads were up 2-1 on the Aces just before the end of the first period. They'll need to rally to help defeat the Steelheads' villainy! And in case you were wondering, the back of the superhero uniforms look like this:

That's all the updates I have for tonight. The NHL All-Star Game goes tomorrow from Columbus. I'll probably have it on as background noise as there's a fantastic book I will be reviewing tomorrow. If you're a Leafs fan or a hockey history buff, this book is one you'll want in your library!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Holy Domi

Canada and the world got to see what Londoners see regularly when Max Domi took the ice for Canada at the World Junior Championships. The Coyotes' prospect proved he has a nose for the net, doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, can skate like the wind, and loves to play the game. In other words, he's a pretty special player. With a World Junior gold medal in his pocket, he returned to the OHL's London Knights to continue their pursuit of the Memorial Cup. You knew there would be highlights still, but I don't think anyone anticipated what Domi did tonight. The Sarnia Sting certainly didn't.

I'll let the video do the talking because wow.

Full speed.
On a breakaway.
Flip it over the goalie.
Bat it out of the air.
Smiles all around.

This kid is gonna be a star. In fact, an NHL All-Star. Max Domi is the kind of player that the Coyotes will be able to build around for a long time. He's fast, he's exciting, he has great hands, and he's a scorer. 29 other NHL teams will be forced to defend against Domi. The only question is how often they'll be victimized!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 123

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a special guest. I have been tossing around an idea that 2015 will be the "Year of Women" on The Hockey Show as we look to expose women's hockey even more than it is here in Canada. We want to feature more players, officials, coaches, and women involved in the game than ever before, and we'll be running some cool stuff over the coming weeks as we dive into the women's game head-first. In saying that, tonight's guest kicks off our look at women's hockey in a big way!

Tonight, we are proud, honoured, humbled, and privileged to welcome a member of Team Canada's silver medal-winning women's U18 team in Amherst, Nova Scotia's Carly Jackson! Carly was the lone Nova Scotian on the 23-player roster, so we're going to give her a Manitoba welcome as she joins us for the full hour on tonight's show! We'll talk to Miss Jackson about her experience as a member of Team Canada, the tournament in Buffalo, her commitment to the NCAA's University of Maine next season, and the heartbreak of losing in overtime to their arch-rivals from America in the Women's U18 World Championships. We'll also get Carly's views on hockey in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes, how she got started in hockey and as a goaltender, and her influences and heroes from the greatest game on the planet!

We may have some fun with Carly as well in asking her about the NHL All-Star Game jerseys and whether or not she would wear that garish uniform. After all, she's that key demographic that the NHL seems to be targeting with this neon color idea. We'll find out if she has a superstition, why she wears #31, how school is going, and what it's like to be a bit of celebrity - she is to us!

The phones will be closed tonight as we talk to Carly, but you can hear what we're up to on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. There are lots of ways for you to interact with The Hockey Show!

PODCAST: JANUARY 22, 2015: Episode 123

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

They Need A Stick Called .45

I'm always on the lookout for new equipment or manufacturers. As someone once said, "'We've always done it this way' is the most dangerous phrase in business", so I'm intrigued when I find new manufacturers who take an idea and make it better. Hockey has seen lots of innovation over the last few decades - some good, some not so good - but it seems that sticks are reinvented constantly. More flex, less weight, and all sorts of new materials have gone into sticks in changing them from wood to aluminum to hybrids to whatever space-age material manufacturers are now using. Today, COLT Hockey is wading into the hockey stick world by creating the "most durable hockey stick in the world"!

Durability on hockey sticks often rely on two factors: usage and materials. Wood sticks are highly durable due to their nature, and some wood sticks have gone as far as adding iron or steel cores to the shaft of the sticks to provide added durability. Aluminum sticks were also durable and extremely light, but if an aluminum stick had a nick in it at a weak spot the aluminum would snap or shatter. This is also true for composite sticks, but the flex they can absorb is incredible. So how do COLT Hockey sticks differ from any of the above materials?

According to COLT Hockey's website, "Originally engineered for aerospace applications, Nanovate™ NiCo is used to make composite parts stronger and last longer. This patented Nano-technology produces the Nickel Cobalt metal at a grain size that is 1000 times smaller than that of a typical metal. The result creates a material that is 2.8 times stronger and 20% more flexible than steel." Interesting, but there haven't been many players who have turned to pure steel for their twigs. So how does this relate to a hockey stick?

Let's go back to the website.
With some modifications, we applied the Nanovate™ NiCo technology to carbon fibre and the COLT hockey stick was born.

In co-operation with an industry-leading composite stick manufacturer we underwent numerous product tests that showed we had achieved our objectives:
  1. The Nanovate™ NiCo coating protects the carbon fibre from micro-fractures that commonly occur with use
  2. Elite players found that the stick held up in high intensity situations (slap shots, one-timers and corner battles included)
  3. The one-piece composite stick is still able to load and release the shot with adequate flex and proper use of the stick’s kick points
  4. The COLT stick is ~50% stronger than a conventional carbon fibre stick after a simulated slash impact
  5. The most outstanding result is that the COLT is able to store more energy in the stick which results in more power behind your shot: Increased Energy → Increased Velocity → Greater Performance.
I'm impressed by some of the claims on here, but this sounds like a lot of marketing jargon. Numbers and figures are being tossed around, claims are being made, and there are a lot of keywords being dropped in those "objectives". In other words, I'm not convinced with all this lip service yet. After all, we were told that carbon-fiber would change the game radically. It changed the game, but "radically" might be a stretch. So where did the idea of this NiCo coating come from?

The idea was born when COLT Hockey company co-founder Daniel Lucchesi read how the technology made a ping pong ball strong enough to withstand 200-pounds of pressure in a National Post article. The Mississauga-based Integran Technologies was demonstrating the strength of their NiCo coating that they used in aerospace and military devices, and Lucchesi saw an opportunity to change hockey sticks in a major way.

According to the research, the weight of the NiCo coating adds a mere thirty grams of weight to a stick while providing an overly strong reinforcement that resists micro-fractures unlike carbon-fiber. There's a bit of a metallic sheen to the bottom third of the sticks, but we've already seen that during the aluminum stick era so this shouldn't be anything shocking. The most impressive part of the start-up is that COLT Hockey raised $100,600 from 476 interested recreational players and NHL alumni through a successful Kickstarter campaign, enabling them to start producing their sticks.

"We had people logging 1,000 slap shots per hour on this thing, and we did not experience any damage or deadening of the shaft, which is what happens with a lot of the composites," COLT Hockey co-founder Daniel Palumbo told Sportsnet's Luke Fox. "You can stand on it with a skate blade, and it won't break."

We'll come back to this claim in a second.

We've heard about the technology and research that went into this stick. We've heard the claims made by COLT Hockey about how these sticks are break-resistant. All of this R&D costs some moolah, so how much do these COLT Hockey sticks cost?

Well, they retail for $269.99 as a price point. Yes, that seems high for the weekend warrior, but it's actually not that far off other composite stick prices. When you consider the durability of the stick, it might actually justify the investment since there's less chance that you'll break a COLT Hockey stick. However, that price is a still a large chunk of money for any parent or player to spend on a stick.

In a turn of events, though, the guys from COLT Hockey decided to see of they could expand their business prospects by appearing on the Canadian investment show, CBC's Dragon's Den. They asked for $500,000 for 20% of their company in their pitch. Would the Dragons buy into the pitch? More importantly, would their claim of having a break-resistant stick hold true in front of the men and woman who could determine the future of COLT Hockey?
Despite the bars of the net being a little flimsy, the COLT Hockey stick withstood the abuse! I'm only comparing it to other hockey sticks, but the COLT Hockey stick took a beating and kept on ticking! The better news? Three Dragons liked the stick! Jim Treliving put in an offer for 50% of the company while Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton teamed up to put in their own offer for 49% of the company. With two offers on the table, would COLT Hockey be willing to surrender that much equity in those offers? Would they counter-offer these offers?

The answer is yes! I won't ruin the ending of the pitch for you by telling you which offer was taken and what, if any, counter-offers were made, but COLT Hockey has some solid backing to help them move the company forward. While it seems unlikely that the price point will change much in the coming months as they look to crack the market, there's a chance we may see the price drop if they gain a foothold alongside Reebok, Easton, and Bauer!

I want you, the reader, to know that I haven't seen nor touched one of the COLT Hockey sticks. I have no idea whether or not these sticks live up to their billing in real-life. I do know that the science seems legitimate and the video doesn't lie. I also know that at least one major investor - perhaps more - are backing COLT Hockey thanks to their appearance on CBC's Dragon's Den, and these investors don't sink their money into businesses that are going to fail. Logic seems to point to the COLT Hockey sticks being a wise investment for players if they are looking for a replacement for those flimsy composite sticks. Even better, supporting a Canadian company is a wise investment as well.

If hockey sticks are making you broke, why not get one that will resisting breaking? Seems elementary to me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Aggressively Funny Pelicans

The Lahti Pelicans might not be your everyday team when it comes to popular marketing. The Finnish SM-Liiga team was founded in 1996 despite the franchise having been in existence since 1891 in one form or another, but the Pelicans are a relatively new team on the hockey scene. The team is partially owned by former NHL goaltender Pasi Nurminen and has seen NHLers Sami Helenius, Toni Lydman, Karri Ramo, and Antti Niemi suit up for them during their existence. In other words, they have seen some talent move on to the biggest hockey stage on the planet.

Today, though, we're not here to talk about the history of the Pelicans despite having over 100 years of history to boast. Instead we'll talk about the ridiculous commercials that you rarely see from a hockey team, let alone a European team. Courtesy of Ridiculously Entertaining Randomness' YouTube channel, here are a pile of commercials from the Pelicans to help ramp up the hype for the team! You might wonder who came up with these commercials after seeing them.
That coach seems to be a little over-the-top in his yelling, but I like the idea behind the commercials. The one with the player who throws the bodycheck on the zamboni? That's a fantastic idea! I'm just not sure that I'd want a coach who is screaming at the top of his lungs at his players.

The aim of these commercials is to have people talking about the Lahti Pelicans, and I'm pretty sure these commercials hit that mark. The problem is that people might be talking about them for the wrong reasons after seeing that coach. Overall, though, the Pelicans have some pretty humorous ideas when it comes to hockey, and I have to commend them for going outside the box in their commercial efforts!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 January 2015

School

Rarely do I take a night off from watching or thinking about hockey. Even tonight, I have been keeping an eye on the Flames-Kings game due to the fact that my brother is at that game. He's a die-hard Los Angeles Kings fan, so he took the opportunity to take in a game on his winter vacation. I don't blame him. However, an hour of my night was dedicated to Bravo's 19-2 which stars friend and regular guest on The Hockey Show, Mr. Jared Keeso. If you haven't seen 19-2, I highly recommend it. It's a gritty police drama based in Montreal that isn't afraid to dive into difficult issues. Tonight's season-opening episode was one of those difficult topics.

The episode, titled "School", is based on the Dawson College school shooting in 2006, and is, quite frankly, riveting as the cast and crew tackle this sensitive subject. Jared Keeso and Adrian Holmes, who star as officers Ben Chartier and Nick Barron, respectively, are outstanding in their roles, picking up where Season One left off with Ben trying to uncover the identity of the mole in Station 19 and Nick being the main suspect. However, things go off the rails pretty quickly when they are the first responders to the reported school shooting.

I had spoken to Jared about what to expect this season before Christmas on The Hockey Show, and we had discussed the 13-minute sequence with no cuts that was, in a word, amazing to watch. And the ending of the episode leaves viewers with many questions. Literally, I almost don't believe what I saw tonight, and I'm still shocked by what was seen in tonight's episode. In other words, it's fascinating television!

If you missed tonight's season-opening episode, fear not, readers. It will air tomorrow at 10pm ET on CTV, and I will be watching it again. You should tune in as well. Even if this isn't your sort of television program, the episode will give you an idea of the mass chaos and confusion that exists for police officers when an event like this happens. Major kudos to the cast and crew of 19-2 and to director Podz for this episode.

Rarely does Canadian-produced television outside of hockey telecasts have me wanting more. 19-2's opening episode of Season Two definitely has me wishing it was Monday next week already.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Cost Of Dreams

I occasionally peruse Digg's site when I'm needing a little intellectual fodder to digest. While I admit that not everything on Digg helps my gray matter, there is an article every so often that they link to that sets off fireworks in brain. I found one such article today as they linked to an excellent piece in The New York Times that really should be read and understood by a lot of hockey-crazed parents in my neck of the woods. The author, Paul Sullivan, normally writes about the making the most of one's money in his articles, but he goes deep into the world of organized sports for kids by examining the costs that go into turning fun and team-building into a professional lifestyle. Where Mr. Sullivan really shines isn't on the money side of things, but rather in the emotional costs that it takes for parents and children to make it big.

The article, published online on January 16, 2015 and in print on January 17, 2015, is linked here so you can read it. Entitled The Rising Costs of Youth Sports, in Money and Emotion, the article features a number of prominent names in sports: former NBA stars John Amaechi and Bob Bigelow, former MLB pitcher Mike Trombley, former NFL kicker Travis Dorsch, and star quarterbacking coach Steve Clarkson. Mr. Sullivan speaks to all of these men about the pitfalls of financial despair that comes with the dream of your child being the "next one". And all of them have a sobering view of the world for parents.

Mr. Clarkson told Mr. Sullivan regarding a parent's dream of seeing his or her child becoming a star quarterback in the NFL,
"What I hope parents understand is that there are some three million high school players and by the time they scale that down to the quarterback position there are a couple of hundred thousand starters," he said. "Then you get to Division I and II, and there are 360 quarterbacks. When you get to the N.F.L. there are 64. When you think about the odds, that’s not very good odds."
That's the same thing that happens in Canada with hockey. I have heard parents in the crowd watching their ten year-olds play that "he's got a good chance at the NCAA or junior hockey". Unless that kid is some sort of savant, he still has six to seven years of school before the NCAA will send a scout to see him play. Junior hockey players can be recruited a little earlier, but there's at least five years of hockey before the CHL will have that child on its radar.

In other words, the odds are long for kids to make the NHL.

One of the reasons that some kids have their dreams die long before the NHL? The costs involved in playing. In his book Selling the Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids Are Paying the Price for Our National Obsession, author Ken Campbell sat down with Vince and Chris Duchene to figure out how much it cost them to give Matt a shot at the NHL. Between equipment, camps, team fees, travel, and lost income following Matt all over the map, they figured they had invested more than $322,000 in his hockey career.

The sobering part? How many players don't make the NHL as a star rookie? How much money have their parents spent and sacrificed only to never hear their kid's name called from the stage at the NHL Entry Draft? How many parents of "the next one" spent a fortune only to see their kids making $500 a week in some minor league? I'm not saying that the sacrifice isn't worth it, mind you. After all, Andrew Loewen of the Columbus Cottonmouths seems to really enjoy his time in the SPHL, and that's what is important. However, I'm also pretty sure his parents weren't pushing him to put all his eggs in the hockey basket either. He went to Canisius College where he played hockey, but he told me that he was there for an education first in our interview last summer. He had his priorities straight, it seems.

The one aspect of the article, though, that stood out in a major way for me was when they spoke of the emotional costs placed upon kids and their parents. Coaches are normally volunteers who have had some experience with the game. Rarely do you see high school coaches becoming head coaches in any professional sport because... well, are there any good reasons?

In hockey especially, it seems that coaches have to cut their teeth at every level of hockey - first as an assistant before assuming the head coach's cap - before they can take the next step. But when it comes to minor hockey programs, it's usually a parent or a coach who has little to no training in anything sports, psychology, or sports psychology who is directing his players. Mr. Bigelow told Mr. Sullivan,
"The biggest challenge of youth sports in this country is so many of the adults who propagate the culture have no background in child development or physical education," he said. "Their background is they played high school sports somewhere and they watch ESPN. Those are the two worst qualifications, ever."
As John Amaechi told Mr. Sullivan,
"I've watched as a coach stood screaming inches from the face of a girl and the parents were in the stands and instead of being incensed they continued screaming at her when she came to them.

"All you need to do to see what sport gets wrong is flip that scenario indoors and make that coach a French teacher," he continued. "Your French teacher is inches away from your child's face and screaming because she can't conjugate a verb? Parents would stand by and allow that? No, they'd be incensed."
Everything that Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Amaechi stated can be found in hockey. Sure, the culture of the sport is changing, but culture change doesn't happen overnight. It's the image of a coach in a player's face while berating him or her for making a mistake that sticks out vividly in my memory. It happened a couple of times in my sports career, and it is entirely demoralizing as a kid.

Thankfully, my parents were extremely supportive so the ride home is where we'd talk over the mistakes I was making, but I distinctly remember my mom dressing down a coach for his treatment of me and my teammates. Needless to say, I watched a lot of that season from the bench as the coach took it out on me. However, there would be parents of some of my teammates, as Mr. Amaechi states, that would pick up the same demoralizing, deflating garbage once the game was over, and you could tell it would be a quiet ride home for that teammate as he absorbed the crap that spewed from his parents' faces.

Hockey, though, still has its problems despite some people speaking out about the insanity and working to change the culture. Today, the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association was considering a ban for all fans from all games for this upcoming weekend due to a few parents who feel the need to verbally abuse officials. Doesn't that seem unfathomable? Imagine taking your son or daughter down to the rink and being told that you have to leave until the game is over. As the old adage goes, one bad apple ruins it for the rest, and I'd be quite annoyed if I were a parent with a child in the VIAHA.

The price of success shouldn't include stepping on others, abusing officials, and losing sight of the lessons learned playing team sports: fundamentals of the game, teamwork, and respect for teammates, opponents, coaches, fans, and officials. These are lessons that are vital to every sport if your child is going to succeed, and these lessons will lead to your child becoming a successful person. They won't guarantee an NCAA scholarship or an NHL contract, but character plays a large part in all of life's situations. Having excellent character, both for the parents and child, plays a major role in simply being successful in life.

Mr. Bigelow hits the nail on the head when he told Mr. Sullivan of parents in Massachusetts, "One of the hockey coaches up here told me there is no more cynical or delusional an adult than the parent of a 16-year-old kid who is pretty good but is not going to get a scholarship. The parents have spent all this money and they still have to pay for college."

Expecting a free ride because you're "pretty good" has never gotten anyone anything. There is always a price to pay for everything on this planet - talent will only get you so far in all situations. If a player who is exceptionally talented works hard as well, you generally hear about that player's stock "going up". That's also a reflection of the player's parents as work ethic is usually taught at home while the player's hockey talents are honed on the ice thanks to good coaching.

Exceptional players who have problem parents or an attitude problem themselves get weeded out of the process pretty quickly as reputations are unearthed by CIS, NCAA, and junior coaches. If we won't and can't stand for coaches who belittle their players, so do we think that coaches want that annoyance with a player? Coaches who are good coaches are teachers first, and no one wants a kid or a parent with an attitude disrupting things when they are trying to teach.

I want to commend Mr. Paul Sullivan on his fantastic look at the monetary and emotional tolls paid by parents, coaches, and kids in organized sports. I hope that you read through Mr. Sullivan's article and consider your actions and the actions of others when it comes to your kid's sporting endeavors. A good coach doesn't mind going 0-20 as long as his players are getting better an showing improvement game-in and game-out. A terrible coach is the feisty bench boss who goes 20-0, talks only about winning the next game, and screams and yells at everyone over mistakes made. He may teach his team some important fundamentals, but at what cost are the lessons being taught?

Even if you're kid is a whiz at Monopoly, it doesn't guarantee that he or she is getting a scholarship to study economics at university. Relax, teach important lessons, and have fun. That's the goal of any organized game, right?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

New Nittany Lions

If you know anything about me, you know I have passion for collegiate hockey, and I've been wanting to see more on Canadian television. Having the Big Ten Network in my cable package helps, but they have a limited run of teams they show on their programming. Despite being a mere two hours from a major NCAA hockey program, we never see that program on television! Thankfully, TSN stepped in this weekend with an amazing slate of games! I cannot tell you how happy I was to watch NCAA hockey thanks to some of the differences seen in the collegiate game in comparison to the professional game.

One of the big games featured on TSN this weekend was Penn State hosting Michigan State. Michigan State has a long and storied history in the NCAA ice hockey world. Penn State, on the other hand, has a long and storied history, but most of it comes from the football program. However, both programs feature beautiful uniforms, and I'm happy to report that Penn State's newest alternate uniform carries on that tradition!

Friday night saw Penn State don their new uniforms in a game against the Spartans, and they looked good! Seen to the right, the new Penn State alternate uniform features a solid chest stripe that helps draw attention to the Penn State logo - one of the best logos on the planet in this writer's opinion - where the logo is an old-school logo-in-circle. The colours work really well in terms of the setup that Penn State chose, and I'm alright with the drawstring collar on this jersey because of its old-time feel. I'd hope the players do something better than letting the strings dangle, of course, but that's a minor quibble. The only thing I don't like? The Nike logo directly front and center above the Nittany Lion logo. That shouldn't be featured as part of the uniform.

The back of the uniform is pretty clean and stylish. I love the hem and sleeve stripes that are designed in a traditional hockey sense. Unlike Reebok, Nike uses a straight hem on their jerseys, and it looks so much better. Kudos to Nike for having some fashion sense. The numbers are easy to read in their blue-on-gray setup, and that's never a bad thing. I don't have a problem with the contrasting name bar, but let's not get too carried away with doing this. Once is unique, twice is a trend, and any more is copycatting. Penn State's name bar, though, gets a thumbs-up.

The game televised on Saturday, though, was a great game. I expected Michigan State to bring their A-game out after winning 3-2 in a shootout the night before, but it was Penn State in their snazzy uniforms who stole the show and put on an offensive display for their fans. Casey Bailey put Penn State up 1-0 just 1:11 into the game before goals by Villiam Haag on the power-play and Michael Ferrantino sent Michigan State into the intermission with the 2-1 lead.

From there, though, it was all Penn State. Second period goals by Nate Jensen and David Goodwin gave PSU the 3-2 lead after 40 minutes, and Taylor Holstrom and Casey Bailey's second of the game capped off a 5-2 PSU victory over MSU. PSU improved their record against MSU to 2-4-2 all-time against the Spartans with the victory, so maybe the new uniforms bring a little added confidence and luck to the Nittany Lions? Either way, PSU captured four of six possible points this weekend!

You can add a Nittany Lion alternate uniform to my "Want" list. They're beautiful, and I'd be proud to wear the Nittany Lion if I was wearing this jersey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Make It Eleven

While he was once high on the Flames' depth chart, Reto Berra has been platooned with Semyon Varlamov in Colorado after having been traded to the Avalanche late last season. He has only appeared in ten games with the Avalanche this season before a collision with Ottawa's Kyle Turris put him in the injury bay. And like any injured player who has been off for an extended period of time, Berra was assigned to the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters for a conditioning assignment. Little did the Monsters know they were getting an offensive dynamo as well as a goaltender in this assignment.

Berra's first game of his conditioning assignment was tonight against the Chicago Wolves. Coincidentally, Berra's first goal also came tonight in the same game. With the Monsters leading 3-1 late in the game, Chicago opted to pull its goalie. This was the result.
Reto Berra becomes the eleventh AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal, and the seventh goaltender to actually shoot the puck the distance of the ice to score. The list of AHL netminders who scored is actually pretty recent when you consider the history of the league.
  • Darcy Wakaluk, Rochester Americans - Dec. 5, 1987 at Utica
  • Paul Cohen, Springfield Indians - Mar. 28, 1992 vs. Rochester
  • Robb Stauber, Rochester Americans - Oct. 9, 1995 at Prince Edward Island
  • Christian Bronsard, Syracuse Crunch - Oct. 30, 1999 at Rochester
  • Jean-Francois Labbe, Hartford Wolf Pack - Feb. 5, 2000 at Quebec 
  • Chris Mason, Milwaukee Admirals - Oct. 15, 2001 at Utah 
  • Antero Niittymaki, Philadelphia Phantoms - Apr. 11, 2004 at Hershey
  • Seamus Kotyk, Milwaukee Admirals - Apr. 17, 2005 at San Antonio
  • Drew MacIntyre, Manitoba Moose - Feb. 20, 2008 at Chicago
  • Chris Holt, Binghamton Senators - Mar. 19, 2010 vs. Rochester
  • Reto Berra, Lake Erie Monsters - Jan. 16, 2015 at Chicago
The Rochester Americans should feel a little less self-conscious now. The Chicago Wolves have joined them as the only AHL team to have a goaltender score on them twice. Now that's exclusive company!

I love Berra's skating to the bench after the goal. That's just awesome. I seeing that, Berra deserves a congratulations on his goal!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 122

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with our regular selves as Columbus, Beans, and I discuss the on-goings from the best game on the planet. Tonight's show is going to be a lot of fun. Not only do we discuss hockey, but we're also volunteering Columbus to be part of a social experiment! Rarely do radio shows get this kind of fun squeezed in, but we're going to put her through the ringer tonight as we try to make her more Canadian. This should be a beauty!

One of the fun things we get to do on The Hockey Show is partake in craziness. If you've heard the show, you know this happens almost weekly. However, Beans and I will step into the shoes of Mike Foligno and Jonathan Toews and have ourselves an All-Star Fantasy Draft! We'll put our thinking caps on to see who comes up with the arguably better team as we fight for All-Star Game supremacy. We'll also talk about the horrific All-Star Game uniforms, how the All-Star Game can become relevant again, and what to do to spark some interest in the Skills Competition as well.

Beyond those discussions, we'll talk about the IIHF Women's U18 World Championship, how proud we are of the Manitoban and Canadian ladies who wore the Maple Leaf in Buffalo, the recent play of the almost-healthy Winnipeg Jets, the Manitoba Bisons and their games against Lethbridge, and we'll run the social experiment!

As seen in the picture to the right, the snacks we'll feature tonight on the show will be exclusively Canadian, and we'll get Columbus - our resident American - to taste-test the snack foods she's never had before. In her defence, she has been in Canada for a while now, but I'm pretty sure we'll come across something she's never tried. I have accumulated a pile of stuff that Canadians know and love, and we'll see if she's a fan of our awesome snacks. There won't be any Tim Hortons or poutine because she's very aware of what those are, but there will be potato chips and chocolate bars for her to sample. And then she'll tell us over the air what she thinks of these items. Sounds fun, right? Should be interesting to say the least!

The phones will be open tonight at (204) 269-UMFM (8636), and you can hear what we're up to on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! You can tweet me anytime you like by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. There are lots of ways for you to interact with The Hockey Show!

PODCAST: JANUARY 15, 2015: Episode 122

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Not Suspendable

I was disappointed when Matt Niskanen was basically shown the door in the Pittsburgh, but the business side warranted it. As a fan, you're always disappointed to see talent walk out the door, but that's the reality of the salary cap era. Frankly, the distribution of talent makes for a better league despite what some people will tell, and the proof is seen in Washington this season where Niskanen and Orpik have stabilized a Capitals blue line that was nearly imploding last season. Couple their arrivals with Barry Trotz's effective coaching and Braden Holtby's re-emergence as a legitimate starter, and you have the Capitals roaring up the standings in the Metropolitan.

However, this isn't a "Washington is great" article as much as it is a "shut up, Flyers fans" article. If that seems harsh, it's because the outrage seen on social media after Niskanen's hit tonight was ludicrous and demonstrates the lack of knowledge a lot people have when it comes to the NHL rule book. And when it comes to Philly, disbelief becomes a national emergency when one of their players is on the receiving end.

Matt Niskanen isn't known for his physical play as much as Orpik is, but he rattled Philly's Scott Laughton tonight with a thunderous check. Granted, Niskanen took a pretty solid hit from Wayne Simmonds along the boards, so perhaps he felt he needed to administer a little tit-for-tat. Regardless, here's the hit that Niskanen popped Laughton with, and it's a beauty!
Great hit, right? Personally, I see nothing wrong with it, but I want to break down some of the arguments made by unofficial members of the NHL Player Safety Department via their social media accounts. I say that in jest, but these people want Niskanen suspended when it's extremely clear that what Flyers fans are seeing is something the rest of the planet isn't seeing.

HE LEFT HIS FEET!: Fantastic argument, but it didn't happen. I posted the image to the right to show that Laughton's body is already moving in the opposite direction that he was moving when he had the puck, and you can clearly see that Niskanen's skates are on the ice. While his skates come off the ice as he's standing Laughton up, he does not leave his feet while making the hit, so it can't be charging. After all, Rule 42.1 states, "A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner." Niskanen didn't "jump into" Laughton, so no penalty. He could be suspended for the violent nature of the hit, but does the NHL really want to set that precedent?

HEAD SHOT!: No. Not even close. This is clearly someone screaming about Laughton's head snapping back due to the nature of the hit, but the hit was shoulder to chest upon the initial point of contact. The image to the right - the one with Laughton's head in front of Niskanen's shoulder - is clear evidence that this was not a head shot. In fact, to claim this is a head shot means you probably didn't see the hit. I know the play happened fast, so seeing Laughton's head snap back as a function of physics rather than a function of shoulder-to-face might be excusable had it not been for the multiple angles and replays that were shown of the hit. Sorry, Flyers fans, the "head shot" theory holds no water.

Was it a violent hit? Absolutely. The Flyers have ruled Laughton out indefinitely with an upper-body injury at this point, and GM Ron Hextall won't show any cards when it comes to what type of injury it is. But should it be a reviewable hit worthy of a suspension? Not in my books. Solid check, unfortunate results.

Hey, Laughton! Keep your head up, kid!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Cost Of Business

I'm going to upfront in my writing this evening. I have struggled with the costs of post-secondary school since I went the first time, so it might surprise you that I went back for a second stint in the hopes of improving myself and my career prospects. I have yet to see many people hold up their Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree and say, "It was worth every penny" upon graduating. Down the road, I can see more graduates finding value in their degrees, but I'm not sure there are many who finish their final exam who aren't in some sort of debt. I want you to remember this debt load as you read through today's information.

There has been some noise made recently about the newest program being offered at Athabasca University as the media has gotten a hold of the news. Athabasca University is offering the world's first Hockey MBA program! The program is based on the normal MBA program, but geared towards a hockey-minded individual in the hopes that he or she will graduate and become the next great hockey mind in a front office.

Seems pretty reasonable, right? We haven't seen anything like this where a program is built around a solid MBA program offered by Athabasca University. The first enrolled students will start in May 2015 as they work towards a job as one of hockey's brightest new minds.

Therefore, the question must be asked: what's the catch? As per Athabasca University's webpage,
Athabasca University has collaborated with the Business of Hockey Institute (BHI) to develop an elite, graduate level, hockey specific Executive MBA to elevate the business side of the game. For the first time in hockey’s history, a program is in place to develop the leaders in the boardroom, rather than on the ice.

This exclusive program is designed for specific individuals working in a managerial capacity within the hockey industry and related industries. Students will have significant management experience in important functions within the business of hockey including: ticketing, marketing, communications, fan development, customer service, social media, sales, events, building operations, legal, merchandising, finance, media, analytics and hockey operations. Students from hockey related industries will also bring rich perspectives on corporate partnerships, revenue generation, and leveraging fan involvement beyond the game.

The Hockey Executive MBA builds on AU’s internationally acclaimed online Executive MBA program and focuses specifically on the issues, challenges, and opportunities confronting middle and senior level managers in a rapidly changing, global hockey industry.
This sounds like a promising program that Athabasca University has put together, and their partnership with the Business of Hockey Institute gives this program a little credibility in being a true hockey-based program. Designing a program that puts graduates into a managerial-ready role with a hockey program or hockey franchise takes out a lot of the guesswork and "learning on the job" that most managers have to endure.

I'm not going to call out anyone from BHI just yet despite the fact that one of the Directors is Athabasca University President Peter MacKinnon. BHI isn't a school whereas Athabasca University is - that's where the partnership was formed. There's a bit of a "who's who" on the BHI Board of Directors including AHL President and CEO David Andrews, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison, Hockey Canada COO Scott Smith, and Canadiens Executive VP and CFO Fred Steer. In other words, the "think tank" is diverse in their experience and extremely intelligent in terms of their combined knowledge of the game.

Using that information, you can understand when Athabasca University writes,
The curriculum is challenging. It concentrates on the key management areas affecting organizational performance (strategy, accounting, analytics, human resources, finance, marketing, operations) as these disciplines impact the game of hockey and its business operations. The Hockey Executive MBA will bring industry leaders, managers, executives, and academics together to debate, exchange ideas, conduct research, and collaborate. The curriculum requires students to exercise critical thinking and hone their decision-making skills.
Nothing worth having comes easy in life, right? I'm glad that it will be a difficult curriculum because being an NHL executive IS hard work, I've heard. It sounds as though this course will not only teach students to be effective hockey executives, but will also work to foster relationships between students as well, and that's a skill that all NHL executives need. Networking is a truly beneficial skill when you're in a limited network such as professional hockey, so making friends can be extremely useful.

Phase One of the curriculum has some heavy lifting as students will be enrolled in Strategic Management, Human Resource Management, Financial and Managerial Accounting, Marketing Management, Managerial Economics and Quantitative Analysis, and Operations Management. In other words, it's a basic MBA course load for the first phase of the Hockey MBA program. Nothing too surprising here as these courses are the foundation of all MBA graduates.

Phase Two brings in more of a hockey focus as students will be enrolled in Hockey Information Technology Strategy, Hockey Corporate Finance, Hockey Strategy and Organizational Analysis, and Hockey Managerial Ethics and Decision Making. It's a little tough to say what these courses provide since all of the links to those courses go nowhere. That's probably not the best thing to have on your website when touting a brand-new course, but what do I know?

In addition to these courses, students will also be enrolled in The Business of Hockey, Marketing Hockey Strategically, Integrated Marketing Communications for Hockey, Game Day Management & Marketing, Hockey Operations, and Managing Franchises Strategically. These definitely sound very hockey-centric, and will undoubtedly have the students prepared for life beyond Athabasca University.

According to Athabasca University, the Hockey MBA is an online course. Yes, you read that correctly: it's an online MBA program. I don't know about you, but it takes some serious concentration, willpower, and determination to do online courses and avoid distractions. In saying that, Athabasca University expects you to follow their asynchronous courses anytime you can, and commit to a 20-25 hour per week study time with assignments due during the eight-week courses. According to Athabasca University, "Usual program completion time is two and one-half to three years; the program must be completed in five years." So there you have it.

At this point, you may be asking what qualifications are required to enroll in the Hockey MBA program. Let me tell you that the bar for qualifying for this program has been set here. You'll see that "management experience" comes up often. This is defined as "experience managing people, projects and/or budgets". With that in mind, the qualifications are as follows:
  1. You have an undergraduate degree from an accredited university plus at least THREE years of management experience, OR...
  2. You hold an accepted professional designation (see list) and at least FIVE years of management experience, OR...
  3. You have at least EIGHT years of progressively responsible management experience.
This pretty much eliminates a large segment of the population from the qualification process. I, for example, have not achieved three years of management experience nor do I hold a professional designation found on that list. Therefore Teebz, you've been eliminated. That was quick, right? Needless to say, there will be a lot of people who won't make the cut based on these admission requirements.

However, maybe you have made the cut. Maybe you're still in the running. Maybe you're gearing up to be a hockey executive! Let me just tell you that the next part of this article is depressing.

Remember when I said this was a correspondence course that was done online? Generally, correspondence courses cost less than in-class courses because there are no associated costs of having a classroom. In Athabasca University's Hockey MBA program, that is far from the truth.

Allow me to post the tuition fees expected by Athabasca University.
If you're having trouble reading that figure, allow me to make it easier to read: $80,000. Eighty-grand for a correspondence course. $80K for three years of working from home without ever seeing a professor or setting foot in a classroom. Are you kidding me?!?

Here's where I have issues. I get that the admission standards are set high to ensure that executives in the MBA mold are transitioned into the hockey world. That makes total sense. But $80,000 for a correspondence course? Is Athabasca University insane?

BHI's main page states that it is "a newly formed, non-profit, 'think tank' focusing on business and management related aspects of hockey". See that little "non-profit" part? Before Athabasca University has even licked a postage stamp to send you course material, you've already paid Athabasca $1000 and BHI $5000 just for application and admission fees!

Why am I paying BHI $5000 for anything? As per BHI's website, "BHI is responsible for administering and promoting the Professional Hockey Manager (PHM) designation." Except I'm not enrolling in this PHM designation; I'm enrolling in the Hockey MBA program! I'm going to speculate that BHI gets paid for their research and consulting services and probably gets some sort of kick-back being an advocacy service on behalf of its members. So is this a $5000 membership fee? WHAT AM I GETTING FOR $5000 FROM BHI?!?

The other $74,000 is all going towards courses and course material, and that seems like a steep price to pay for a correspondence course. The one-year MBA course at the University of Manitoba is a mere $35,000 and it comes with a pile of stuff that Athabasca University doesn't guarantee: Health and Dental Insurance, Sports and Recreation fees (for use of recreation centers), and a classroom you'll take classes in at the Asper School of Business.

Still not convinced that this correspondence course's price is insane? Check out this chart from canadian-universities.net that shows all of the MBA prices across Canada. The national average for an MBA tuition in Canada is $20,592 to $22,249. Some of Canada's most prestigious schools - McGill, University of Ottawa, and Carleton University - fall below the national average. Manitoba is amongst those around the national average. You know who is above the national average? Athabasca University at $40,425! In fact, they are the fourth-highest in terms of tuition fees across Canada.

I had high hopes for this program, but I can't see aspiring business graduates assuming $80,000 in debt without some sort of guarantee that there is a high-paying job awaiting them at the end. While there are definitely parts of the program that interest me greatly, I also value my good sense in not plunging head-first into a vortex of debt because I love hockey. Then again, I wouldn't qualify as it is based on the admission requirements, but we're talking about assuming half the value of my mortgage in student loans to possibly get a job in hockey.

I love hockey. But not at that price.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!