Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Leaders

Normally, Thursday means it's time for The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, but we've been pre-empted tonight by UMFM's annual Top 101 Songs that started mid-afternoon on the station. Fear not, though, as The Hockey Show will return in 2016 at the same bat-time and the same bat-channel on your radio!

I want to talk about a few things before getting to the meat of this article. First off, the Women's Outdoor Classic earlier this afternoon was pretty awesome. For all the problems that the NHL, CWHL, and the NWHL had in getting this game on the ice, the end result was pretty darn special. Kim Deschenes scored first for Les Canadiennes on a cross-crease pass by Noemie Marin. Blake Bolden of the Pride replied by converting a cross-ice pass from Rachel Llanes, and this game would finish in a 1-1 draw.

For all the complaining and whining on social media about USA Hockey preventing eight players from playing for the Pride to the NHL not airing the game on TV or streaming it online, the game itself was played by 36 women who battled hard, played well, and laid the groundwork for future outdoor games. Not one player complained, and we, as fans, should respect that fact. This was the realization of a dream for all of these ladies and these two leagues.

Personally, it's almost appropriate that this game ended in a tie in its first inaugural iteration. Both leagues have work to do in terms of finding equal ground to be able to work with one another over a number of issues, but it's pretty clear that the play on the ice is top-notch, and that's a credit to the amazing athletes who suited up this afternoon. I want to thank Susan Cohig, Patrick Burke, Pat Lafontaine, Brenda Andress, and Dani Rylan for all their hard work in finding an agreement on this game, and to the 36 athletes of Les Canadiennes and the Pride who put on a heckuva show. I also want to thank Scotiabank for sponsoring this game because it's not free to put on an event such as this. Amazing work, everyone!

I also want to mention that Boston's Denna Laing took a hard fall that ended up having her slam into the boards. She didn't move a lot after the fall, was stretchered off the ice, and was transported from Gillette Stadium to Massachusetts General Hospital. The NWHL hasn't released a statement as to her health, but this writer is hoping that it's all precautionary only. Laing is a competitor, and here's hoping she's back on the ice shortly.

Moving onto the other story, there was more history made tonight. Granted, it's not history that will encompass the planet and make societies change directions, but a small piece of history was replaced with another on the ice in Glendale, Arizona.

Former Winnipeg Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk and current Arizona Coyotes forward Shane Doan were tied atop the franchise scoring lead for goals with 380 goals. It literally was only a matter of time until the leader of the Coyotes erased Hawerchuk's name from the leaderboard, and he did it tonight coincidentally against the new version of the Winnipeg Jets.
Doan's 12th goal of the season was the record-breaker in the desert, and he now sits atop the franchise goal-scoring leaderboard. There was always hope in Winnipeg that Doan would develop into the leader he is today in front of Jets fans, but he's definitely the face of the franchise in the desert and is now recognized in the record books for his great play.

Winnipeg-born Max Domi assisted on the play in what could have been two names heard in Winnipeg had the elder Domi not been traded. Tie Domi was a member of the Winnipeg Jets in 1995 until his trade to the Maple Leafs on December 28. The following season saw a young rookie by the name of Doan play 74 games for the Jets before they moved to Phoenix. It's pretty incredible to think that Max Domi, born March 2, 1995, and his dad Tie Domi missed out on playing with the same player by ten months thanks to a trade. Winnipeg history is kind of crazy!

Doan would add an empty-net goal later in the game to move two goals ahead of Dale Hawerchuk, and he's currently the Coyotes' leading goal-scorer with 13. The Coyotes would down the Jets 4-2 on Doan's historic night in a game in which the Jets took a number of stupid and unnecessary penalties. The difference in the 4-2 victory by the Coyotes was a 2-for-5 effort with the man-advantage by the Desert Dogs.

2015 ends the same way it started for the Jets: dumb penalties and loss to the Coyotes. The only difference is that January 8, 2015 saw the Jets lose 4-1 as opposed to their 4-2 loss on December 31, 2015.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 35

The Moose have been off since December 21, so there isn't a lot to report this week. Roster freezes also meant any and all player movement was zero for a good portion of that time, and that meant everyone who was with the Moose would return as of December 27 as part of the Moose. You have to think that head coach Keith McCambridge sat down at one point with his coaching staff and went over what has been working, what hasn't been so good, and what needs to be scrapped altogether. This is a team that barely scores, is eight games below .500, and looking up at a lot of teams putting lots of space between themselves and the Moose. While the Moose will stress development, perhaps they could develop some scoring? A power-play? A penalty-killing idea? Eric Comrie has been the only Moose standout thus far, and he's getting shelled most nights.

Coming To Town

I previewed them last week, but the Iowa Wild visit MTS Centre for the New Year's Eve game and will stick around for a New Year's Day game as well. You can find the preview on the bottom of last week's Antler Banter. The Moose had better win both of they hope to remain in contention, albeit a long shot, for a playoff spot.

Grand Rapids comes to town on January 3 and 5, and this is a team that isn't to be ignored. Grand Rapids started the season off on the wrong foot as they trailed the Moose for a period of time in the standings. Cue up a 15-game winning streak over 39 days that was the longest streak in the AHL since Norfolk set the standard by rattling off 28 in a row, and the Griffins are in the thick of the playoff race in the Central Division again. Grand Rapids is also 14-4-0-1 against the Central Division, so this won't be a good time if the Moose don't come ready to play. If there is a silver lining, ten of those 15 wins came on home ice, and the Griffins saw their streak snapped on December 27 by the Milwaukee Admirals in Milwaukee.

Former Winnipeg Jet Eric Tangradi leads the Griffins in goals with 13. He's the only Griffin in double-digits for goals, but don't be fooled by that. Five additional players have seven goals or more, so there is a balanced attack in Grand Rapids. Andy Miele leads the team in assists (18) and points (24), and they have 11 players in double-digits. Jared Coreau is an impressive 13-4-1 on the season with a 2.28 GAA and a .928 save percentage, so they're getting quality netminding as well. Tom McCollum is 4-6-0, but his 2.53 GAA and .924 save percentage saw he may be a victim of bad luck when it comes to his overall record.

The Moose need to beat Iowa twice and work for a split against the Griffins. The Moose are 14 points behind sixth-place Chicago, and they need a serious run of wins if there's any hope of salvaging this season.

Not Playing

Jay Harrison and JC Lipon are listed as week-to-week. There's hope they could be back in action sometime next week, but we'll see how that goes. Thomas Raffl is out long-term after that crazy story we learned of last week.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Mark Scheifele ran into Andrew Ladd in practice and sustained a concussion. If the Jets didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck. Because there was a void at the center ice position, the Jets recalled Adam Lowry who was really looking good as part of the top unit for the Moose. He had four assists in four games with the Moose thus far, and has played a more prominent role with the Jets since his recall.

Good on Lowry for putting his "demotion" to the Moose to good use.

Watching Hockey

While the AHL games won't be televised from MTS Centre, there is that little NHL game going on in Forborough, Massachusetts between the Canadiens and Bruins. I'll most likely be watching that on Friday, so Happy New Year, Moose fans! Here's hoping 2016 being a few more wins than 2015 did!

Until 2016, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The CBC Weighs In

The CBC has a reputation of high standards in journalism. They usually ask the right questions in that they don't shy away from tough questions that may make the interviewee uncomfortable. From shows like Marketplace to The Fifth Estate, the CBC has long been considered one of the leaders in news reporting and investigative journalism in Canada. The National, CBC's national news program, has been a front-runner in their reporting year after year, and it's in this ability that I was anxiously awaiting their piece on women's hockey. Last night, they aired the piece, and it's very interesting.

I won't say much before you watch the piece, so here it is in its 13:07 entirety. My comments are below.

First off, the piece is a very high overview of the women's leagues. There isn't any new news here unless you're completely unaware of how the two leagues are run. Personally, the narrator puts way too much emphasis on a few facts that are explained pretty easily - Rylan playing hockey in Florida, for example. While I commend the CBC for asking some tougher questions at the end of the piece, they really needed to dig into the facts about the leagues when comparing the two business models. In a 13-minute piece, though, that doesn't allow for a lot of digging to be done.

Are we ever going to get a different answer from Dani Rylan about the "investors"? At some point, there has to be a revenue stream that generates enough income to pay the bills. Investors can contribute money all they like, but if there are losses every year, at what point does the NWHL become a not-for-profit organization? More information needs to be sought on this. I expect the year-end financials for both the NWHL and the NWHL Foundation to show how the accounting model in the NWHL works.

When Rylan speaks of the Canada-US gold medal final from the Sochi Olympics, she really is forming a card-stacking fallacy. Yes, five million Americans watched the gold medal game, but there are more factors as to why people watched than just "an amazing hockey game". The hockey was outstanding as evidenced by the play of the players, but there's patriotism that comes into play. Canada and the US have had a long history of meeting in finals of various competitions, and it's this undying rivalry combined with personal patriotism that brought a lot of people to their TVs to watch the game. Yes, some were long-time hockey fans, but there were casual fans who tuned in just because "yay Canada" or "yay America". To assume that people are going to support the NWHL solely because they saw one amazing women's game is a major fallacy.

Megan Bozek and Tara Watchorn were quite good in their assessments of their respective leagues, and it's a telling sign when both players state that they believe a one-league format would be more beneficial than the current two-league format. For the vast number of people who have dismissed this idea, it seems the players are on the opposite side of the fence. As the narrator of the piece points out, the NHL and WHA suffered greatly when talent was divided. The women seem to recognize this, so maybe it's time to start listening to the players and their wishes when it comes to "growing the game".

What are your thoughts on this piece? How much do you know about the two women's leagues? Do these sorts of pieces make you more or less interested in the women's game? I'd like to hear some feedback on these questions and the CBC piece above. Sound off in the comments, and we can discuss!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 28 December 2015

A Highly-Coveted Free Agent

They have two appearances in the Clarkson Cup Final, and have their name on the trophy once. They were a major force in the former Western Women's Hockey League. The Minnesota Whitecaps are still playing hockey, but are a team without a league. They have a ton of stars on the squad, and have suited up against CWHL and NWHL teams in the past. They featured both Canadian and American women in the past, and they're looking for an opportunity to play more often with their current collection of American stars. So which league are they joining? Well, they're not. Not yet, anyway.

So who are these Whitecaps and from where did they arise? I'll break this into a few distinct sections as we look at the entire situation of the Whitecaps and their efforts to be included in the women's leagues.

The Past

The Whitecaps have had their fair share of recognizable names wear the jersey, and some of these women should be recognized because the history of the team is as fascinating as their current situation. Jenny Potter played for the Whitecaps, and she was the first American woman to accomplish the Women's Triple Gold feat of winning the Clarkson Cup, an IIHF World Championship gold medal, and an Olympic gold medal. There are others who are in the club today, but Potter was the first American woman to pull off the accomplishment.

Other prominent names to wear the Whitecaps' logo include Angela Ruggiero, Caitlin Cahow, Molly Engstrom, Gigi Marvin, Manon Rheaume, Julie Chu, and current CIS standout Iya Gavrilova. Natalie Darwitz was the WWHL's MVP for the 2006-07 season, and the 2010 Clarkson Cup victory gave the Whitecaps the distinction of being the first American team to win the trophy.

2011 saw the Western Women's Hockey League merge in a way with the CWHL. The two existing Alberta clubs - the Edmonton Chimos and Strathmore Rockies - would merge and play out of Calgary as "Team Alberta". The team would eventually take the name "Inferno" in 2013 after partnering with the Calgary Flames.

The two remaining teams - Minnesota and the Manitoba Maple Leafs - were to merge and play as one club as well, but the Whitecaps reportedly balked "at the idea of diluting an established, successful franchise to join with Manitoba Maple Leafs and create one team." This led to Minnesota being excluded from the CWHL with the Whitecaps and CWHL having different stories as to why they were left on the outside.

The Whitecaps have a rich history if we just consider the above examples, but they deserve to continue to add to that legacy and are looking to add a few new chapters.

The Present

The Whitecaps have been finding competition to play against in and around Minnesota, and they squared off against NWHL teams this season. The Whitecaps fared fairly well in their early games in New York against the NWHL, falling to the Connecticut Whale 8-4 before rebounding with a 5-2 win over the New York Riveters. December saw two more games as the Boston Pride visited Minnesota for a two-game set that saw Boston win 5-1 before Minnesota took the second game of the back-to-back series by a 5-4 count.

The Whitecaps are 3-5 since September 25. They are 2-2 against the NWHL, but it's the NCAA that has given them trouble. They dropped games in September to both the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State before splitting with Shattuck-St. Mary's at the beginning of December. The issue is that the Whitecaps didn't play a single game between October 4 and December 5 due to the various hockey schedules of their closest competition and the two women's leagues. For the roster of the Whitecaps, I'm sure they want to play more games.

It should be noted that the Whitecaps are a team loaded with talent. There are six women who represented the team at the Four Nations Cup in defencemen Monique Lamoureux and Anne Schleper, forwards Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Allie Thunstrom, and goaltenders Jessie Vetter and Alex Rigsby. These same six women are also at the USA Hockey World Championship Camp in Blaine, Minnesota, so the Whitecaps can boast the second-most players at the US camp behind the eight from the Boston Pride of the NWHL.

So being that the Whitecaps have proven that they can skate with one of the better NWHL teams, when do they join the NWHL as the fifth team in the league?

The Situation

I went looking for answers, and received an email from Laura Halldorson. Halldorson, if you're not aware, is a pretty important figure in US women's hockey and in the state of Minnesota. She's a Princeton alum where she was a co-captain and all-conference in leading the Tigers to three Ivy League titles. She also played hockey alongside Patty Kazmaier, and was one of the women who played on the earlier iterations of the US women's national teams.

After her playing career ended, she coached at Colby College before taking over as the head coach of women's hockey team at the University of Minnesota. Under her watch, the Golden Gophers established ties with the Minnesota high school system where girls from Minnesota would be encouraged to attend the University of Minnesota to play hockey. This led to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2004 and 2005 with a third appearance in the Final in 2006. In 10 years at the helm for Minnesota, she compiled a 278-67-22 record, and was an evaluator for the 1998 US Olympic team who defeated Canada for the gold medal.

In other words, she knows hockey, and her involvement with the Whitecaps made her an excellent resource to find out about the future of the Minnesota club. She answered some questions via email.

HBIC: The Whitecaps have a pretty strong relationship with the NWHL at this time. Are we looking at the newest NWHL club in the future?

Laura: "The goal has been to put some pieces in place that will help prepare this team for whichever league ends up being its new 'home'. We have a positive relationship with both the CWHL and NWHL. This past summer, we requested games from both leagues and were able to schedule four games against NWHL teams. We were told that the CWHL's policy is that there are no exhibition games allowed."

HBIC: What happened in 2011 with the Whitecaps and the CWHL?

LH: "I was not involved with the Whitecaps in 2011 or 2012, so I cannot shed light on exactly what happened back then. What I do know is that, ever since the WWHL stopped operating as a league, the Whitecaps have been looking for a 'home'. Since I started helping out a couple of years ago, the focus has been on trying to provide the best opportunities for the women of this area to be able to play at a high level after college. So far, that has meant finding games against NCAA teams, elite U-19 teams, and even the U.S. Under-18 Team."

HBIC: Do you feel that being a independent team gives you the upper hand when either league decides to expand?

LH: "Operating independently has been a good thing for us, as we wait and watch. We believe that Minnesota would be a great addition for either league. Right now, it appears that the financial consideration is the challenge for both the CWHL and the NWHL. We understand that. But we also believe that having a team in Minnesota would be a significant step for the growth of professional women's hockey in North America."

It would certainly help the growth of hockey through the midwest. Minnesota alone features 18.7% of the US's female hockey registration as of 2013-14, and that number will likely only grow with the Whitecaps playing a more prominent role in one of the two leagues. Having excellent high school, college, and university programs has helped immensely in the State of Hockey, but getting a team in a professional league will only lead to further growth and a larger following in that region.

Minnesota has always branded itself as the State of Hockey, and the Whitecaps are a major part of that hockey history that Minnesota boasts. If the Whitecaps played in one of the two women's leagues, it gives the women in those university and college programs something to strive for once their collegiate careers end. They wouldn't have to move to other locales to continue to play hockey, and could still contribute to the local hockey scene in Minnesota as the Whitecaps currently do.

In short, the growth of the women's game would see a direct impact by including the Whitecaps into either the CWHL or NWHL.

Discussion Points

I will say that Miss Halldorson's comments don't excuse the CWHL or the Whitecaps from the disagreements they've had in the past nor should those disagreements be held as grudges when it comes to getting the Whitecaps into either league. While I don't truly believe that the CWHL colluded to keep the Whitecaps out of the league or the Clarkson Cup competition, I understand the perception from the Minnesota side made it seem as so.

As Miss Halldorson stated, there is no contention between the Whitecaps and the CWHL at this time as some would have you believe. I think it's fairly clear that cooler heads have prevailed as the working relationship with both the CWHL and NWHL is helping the Whitecaps in being the best team without a league in North American hockey.

What needs to happen now is for one of the two women's leagues to figure out how to include the Whitecaps. While it would be a huge bonus for the players to be paid as part of the NWHL's business model, travel to and from Minnesota becomes an issue when the other four franchises are on the east coast in a self-proclaimed "bus league".

The CWHL, on the other hand, doesn't pay its players yet, but there are five franchises with Calgary being one part of a potential western road trip for the eastern CWHL teams. There are more teams in the more established league, but there are costs associated with being a CWHL team that could hinder that league's attractiveness.

There are pros and cons to both leagues including the Whitecaps, but keeping them out of one of the loops only makes it harder to deny the importance of their inclusion when it comes to growing the game at the grassroots level.

The Future

There's no quick answer on this one. As stated above, there are pros and cons to each situation, but both leagues have to be in a position to expand as well. Both the CWHL and NWHL have expressed their wishes to expand, but neither is saying that the process is underway or even being explored at this time.

Where will they land? Only the future holds that answer. As it stands today, the Minnesota Whitecaps are ready and listening to offers from both the CWHL and NWHL as to their inclusion in one of the leagues. Like any top-tier free agent, it all depends on the offer when it comes to having the Whitecaps sign on the dotted line.

What should you do to help? Get out to see the Whitecaps play. They'll be at Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota on January 6 to play the Golden Gophers, and then in Grand Forks to play the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Ralph Engelstad Arena on January 9 and 10. The Whitecaps an exceptional team with a ton of talent, and they can use your support! Go see the best women's team not in an organized league take to the ice whenever they come to town!

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Rundown - Week 13

We're still two weeks from resuming the regular season schedule in the CIS, so I thought today might be a good time to introduce you, readers, to a couple of international players who are suiting up in the CIS this season. Names like Iya Gavrilova, Sasha Vafina, and Venla Hovi are better known due to their international work, but there are many others playing who you should get to know because they are pioneers in their home nations when it comes to hockey. I've profiled Sojung Shin and Mathea Fischer in previous weeks, so we'll meet two more women today who are looking to break out on the international stage.

A Potential Olympic Host

She was only 15 when she joined the South Korean national team, but Ye Eun Park is out to make the Olympic squad on merit rather than simply due to numbers. She was one of about 100 women playing hockey in Korea when she decided to make the jump to Canada where the defender enrolled in the Ontario Hockey Academy. She spent two years at one of Canada's finest hockey academies where she was given lots of ice-time, and it was at the OHA where she caught the attention of UPEI head coach Bruce Donaldson.

"Clearly the end sight for her is to be able to participate in the Olympics and our goal is to help her get there," Donaldson told Nancy Russell of CBC.

Donaldson also gave Park high praise for her skills on the ice and in the classroom. "Academically she is exceptionally strong," he stated. "And, as a player, her skillset will be an excellent addition to our program. I can see her being paired with one of our senior defence so she can continue to mature in strength and skill. Her work ethic is very impressive."

For Park, her experience in finding UPEI was the same as Shin's experience in finding StFX: she had no idea where the school was. "I actually had no idea about this place," she said. "But then my friends told me it's really pretty here."

Getting to the Olympics is no easy feat when you consider that there are just 177 women playing hockey in South Korea. There are no teams to play on and no leagues to play in, so the women who are serious about making the national team have had to go elsewhere to hone their skills. Korea will be just the third Asian nation to play in the Olympics - China and Japan were the other two - but they have a large deficit to make up in that they are ranked 23rd in the world, much lower than either China or Japan were when they played in the Olympics.

Park was a member of the Korean team that took part in the Division-II Group A World Championships in Dumfries, Scotland at the Dumfries Ice Bowl. They fell 2-0 in their opening game against Kazakhstan, lost 3-1 to Great Britain, and won 4-3 in a shootout against Poland before beating New Zealand by a 3-0 score and decimating Croatia 13-0 in the their final game. All told, Korea went 2-2-1-0 (W-L-OTW/SOW-OTL/SOL) for eight points and a third-place finish behind Kazakhstan and Great Britain, respectively. Park, for her part, contributed a pair of assists in the five games as the Koreans took steps forward on the international stage.

Park is a freshman at UPEI this season, so she's playing behind more experienced AUS players, but she's played in five games with no points and a +1 rating thus far. When you consider that all five of those games were losses for the Panthers by a combined score of 17-5, that +1 is pretty impressive. She'll find more playing time in the years building up to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, but the psychology major is looking like she's on the right track to be a major contributor in Korea's program in the near future!

From The Alps To The Rockies

I've already introduced you to Mathea Fischer who plays for UBC, but UBC actually has a couple of international players on the roster this season. While Fischer joined the team from Norway, Laura Trachsel comes to the Thunderbirds from Switzerland where the 21 year-old is a member of the Swiss national team!

Trachsel has been on Switzerland's radar for a long time. She played with the Frauenfeld U15 team for two seasons while splitting time with Frauenfeld U17 from 2007-2009. She was actually a more prolific scorer with the U17 team where she averaged more than a point per game, and that led her to being picked up by a Swiss Women's Hockey League B-Divisio team in HC3Chêne in 2010-11. She would put up 10 goals and 15 points in just 14 games, and that prompted an A-Division team in SC Reinach Damen to sign her for 2011-12. Trachsel wouldn't be there long, though, as she made the jump to SC Weinfelden Ladies where she recorded six goals and eight points in 23 games.

2014-15 saw her suit up for the Swiss national team at the 2015 Women's World Championship in Malmo, Sweden. She played in four games and recorded no points, but Switzerland did advance to the quarter-finals where they lost to Finland by a 3-0 score. UBC head coach Graham Thomas liked what he saw from the fiesty 5'3" forward who wore #51, and recruited her to join the Thunderbirds.

"With time in the top Swiss League and with the Swiss National Team under her belt, Laura will bring us plenty of international experience, along with a great deal of speed and tenacity," Thomas stated. While she has yet to register a point in 11 CIS games, the Swiss national has shown some effective forechecking with that speed.

While she has yet to put her first point on the board, the Arts student is adjusting to the CIS game in terms of the speed and skill, and there's no doubt that head coach Graham Thomas will come to rely on Laura Trachsel's skill in the coming seasons. The Swiss national team should also see benefits as Laura gets better with each game!

See You In January

I highly encourage you to check out the recruits who have agreed to attend the various CIS schools. There are a number of excellent players who have already committed to Canadian universities, and it is encouraging to see the CIS programs getting stronger year after year. Next week, I'll talk about a rule change that came into play in 2013 that allowed schools to do more to not only attract domestic recruits, but international recruits as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Kermit's Distant Relative

I have had a busy day, and it doesn't seem to be stopping. I watched a ton of hockey today with both the World Junior Championship and the Spengler Cup tournaments getting started, but I spent a lot of time doing housework. HBIC Headquarters is looking prim and proper once again after the Christmas rush, so I wanted to bring this story to you. Everyone knows Youppi! came to the Canadiens from MLB's Montreal Expos, but from where did Youppi! come before he landed a gig with the Expos? The story of Youppi!'s start actually is tied to both the Philly Phanatic, Kermit the Frog, and Miss Piggy!

I want to draw attention to Mike Rubin of Victory Journal who did a ton of digging on this story as he uncovered Youppi!'s origins as well as many other mascots in sports. Everything points back to a Minnesota woman by the name of Bonnie Erickson who was and is directly responsible for 16 mascots in the four professional sports leagues in North America. I'm guessing her designs are the inspiration for many more mascots as well.

I highly encourage you to read the linked story above. I want to focus on the hockey mascots only, and there's a short paragraph all about Youppi! in Mr. Rubin's story. He follows it up with the impact Youppi! had on Miss Erickson's newly-forming business as she began to get paid in a big way for her designs. Mr. Rubin writes,
Youppi! (French for "Yippee!") followed in 1979, and the Montreal Expos' mascot quickly became the only untouchable on that club's payroll. The cost-conscious team may have dealt away future Hall of Famers like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and Pedro Martinez, but their seven-foot-tall mascot with his couch-potato belly and wildfire-orange fur outlived the franchise itself — after the Expos moved to Washington, DC, in 2004 to become the Nationals, Youppi! became the first free agent mascot and joined hockey's venerable Montreal Canadiens.
Indeed, Youppi! was the only Expo that never was under the threat of being fired or traded. He was and still is a fixture on the Montreal sports scene despite jumping the barrier from summer sport to winter sport in moving from baseball to hockey.

There's a lot that goes into making mascot as well, and Miss Erickson went over the creation details for how they came up with their furry spots-minded creatures. Mr. Rubin writes,
Costumes were constructed from fake Icelandic sheepskin fur, foam, feathers, yarn, spandex, fleece, and plastic (in the early years, eyes were made from L'eggs egg-shaped pantyhose containers). Each costume had to be flexible enough to allow a performer to express himself, durable enough to hold up through at least 81 home games plus promotional appearances without any major repairs, yet be as light and cleanable as possible. Even so, the suits ended up weighing 35 to 40 pounds, and tended to get pretty stinky. (Harrison recommends spraying suits regularly with cheap vodka to fight the funk. "It takes out the odors," he says. "Free tip. We’ve done some research!")
That last tip alone might be worth the value of the mascot's skin. You have to think that baseball mascots, who routinely bake in the sun, would have it harder than hockey mascots, but both sports' mascots are, as Mr. Rubin wrote, "35 to 40 pounds" of "fake Icelandic sheepskin fur, foam, feathers, yarn, spandex, fleece, and plastic". Having been a mascot for a short period of time, I can certainly tell you still sweat like a hockey player inside the suit!

There are even times when their ideas aren't accepted. Not surprisingly, the New York Islanders, who have had their own run of different mascots, are one of the teams named by Wayde Harrison, Miss Erickson's husband and business partner, in the article. Mr. Rubin writes,
One proposal, a giant rodent called Rink Rat for the New York Islanders, is fully fleshed out. "We made the whole presentation and they signed a contract to build the costumes," says Harrison. "Then the team got sold and the new owner didn't want one."
I'm not sure if a giant rat would have endeared the Islanders to heir Long Island following in the 1980s and 1990s, but Rink Rat never saw the light of day aside from some drawings and designs.

According to Miss Erickson, only Youppi! exists from all their designs in the NHL. There are six others that the former Jim Henson Productions and Sesame Workshop employee created who still exist today, but the Phanatic and Youppi! are by far the most recognizable. Honestly, it's not a bad legacy to have when you consider that she spent 40 years working with Jim Henson and was the creator of Miss Piggy and the balcony critics Statler and Waldorf.

The sports world is a much better place thanks to Miss Erickson and Mr. Harrison. Please click the link above and read the excellent work done by Mr. Rubin on Victory Journal. It's one of the more excellent pieces I have read in a long time!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 25 December 2015

The Big Day

Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas, everyone!

The above picture, painted by DR Laird, reminds me of my childhood when the afternoon and evening of Christmas Day meant hitting the local rink with my friends for some shinny. If that wasn't possible due to family commitments, there was always street hockey out in front of the house with some kids from around the neighbourhood.

I'll be honest: I'm not religious. Christmas has no religious overtones for me personally, so I always wanted to include the families from other walks of life into the celebration my family had. I guess what I'm saying is that I hope for peace on Earth today and that differences can be overlooked as we all come together.

Grab your skates, head down to your local rink, pond, or backyard ice surface, and have some fun today. Enjoy a hot chocolate or other warm beverage, and then sit down to a delicious meal. Hug your friends and family. Tell them how much they mean to you. It's not a celebration without friends and family, so have some fun.

Oh, and don't forget about the World Junior Championship and Spengler Cup starting up this holiday season! The boys from Canada can use your support in Helsinki, Finland and Davos, Switzerland, respectively, so cheer loudly and proudly as a Canadian! Ok, cheer loudly for any other team as well, but HBIC is all about the Canadian effort!

Until next time, happy holidays, folks! Be kind to one another, and enjoy the day!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 171

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back for the final show of 2015! There's no show on New Year's Eve due to UMFM's Year in Review show, and we're ok with that as both Beans and I have plans. The decision was made higher than us to kick us off the air that day, so we'll go with that. However, today's show is going to be fun as I get to welcome an incredible woman to the show who is home here in Manitoba for the holidays! Beans is hanging with family today, but he's going to call in later as The Hockey Show wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

She won't be in-studio because she's with family, but I am proud, honoured, privileged, and humbled to welcome one of Manitoba's greatest women's hockey players to the show tonight as I'll have Miss Jenelle Kohanchuk on the phone! Jenelle plays for the CWHL's Toronto Furies currently, and she's working on an invite to the 2018 Olympics with Team Canada. We'll talk to her about everything that's gone on with her in the half-hour we have with her as she has other family commitments tonight! Perhaps we'll even find out what's on Jenelle's Christmas list this year. There's lots to talk about with Jenelle, so tune your radio in and have a listen tonight!

I also will run through many thank-yous to the vast number of people who have made our show better this year. We've had a ton of guests on the show, and I want to make sure they get a little recognition. There will be a pile of people to run through, so we'll work through that as best I can.

The phone lines are closed with Miss Kohanchuk on the program tonight, but make sure you tune your radio dial in the Winnipeg region to 101.5 on your FM dial or listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! Tweet me anytime with questions you may 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. One of Winnipeg's best players who should be an Olympian in 2018 is on The Hockey Show tonight only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: December 24, 2015: Episode 171

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 34

Four games, some festive spirits, and some airing of grievences are on-deck for today's episode of Antler Banter. The Moose played the San Antonio Rampage twice at home before heading out on the road to the American midwest once more where they met the Milwaukee Admirals and the Chicago Wolves. With a winning record against the Admirals this season and in Milwaukee, there was hope for a 3-1 record on this four-game swing as the Moose look to make up ground before the holiday break. Chicago has beaten Manitoba to a pulp in recent games in Chicago, so the Moose needed to bear down and grab their first three-game win streak of the season if they wanted to salvage anything from the first-half of the season.

Game 24 - Vs San Antonio

The Moose and Rampage tangled for the first time this season, and there was potential concern about the Rampage offence as they have a number of weapons. The Moose laid that concern to rest early when Nic Petan's centering pass on the power-play was deflected off the stick of Nikita Zadorov and it got past Calvin Pickard at 4:04 of the first period. The Rampage would tie the game late in the period when Andrew MacWilliam's cross-ice breakout pass was picked off at the Moose blue line by Mikko Rantanen, and he walked in and backhanded a shot to the top corner past Eric Comrie for the 1-1 tie at 19:08. It's pretty clear to see why Finland wants Rantanen in their lineup at the World Junior Championship.

The Moose would take the lead again in the second period when Patrice Cormier's shot hit John Albert, and Albert's whack at the puck went off a Rampage player. The carom came directly to Matt Halischuk in the slot, and he fired home the loose puck high on the blocker side at 2:34 for the 2-1 lead. It would become a 3-1 lead midway through the third period when Matt Fraser's shot from the circle was stopped by Pickard, but the rebound was juggled. Patrice Cormier was standing in front and he batted the puck out of the air and behind Pickard at 9:56 while on the power-play. Two minutes later, the Moose ran the same play and ended up with the same result! Adam Lowry fired the puck from the top of the circle and Pickard kicked out the rebound to where Scott Kosmachuk was standing in front of the net, and Kosmachuk fired it into the back of the net at the 12:00 mark for the 4-1 lead. The Moose would round out the scoring 3:13 later when Julien Melchiori's point shot was tipped in front by Matt Fraser that Pickard couldn't corral, and it was 5-1 for the home side.

Eric Comrie would hold the fort as he made 22 saves on 23 shots for the victory in the 5-1 win over the Rampage. Pickard took the loss after surrendering five Manitoba goals. With the win, the Moose improve to 7-14-1-2 on the season!

Game 25 - Vs San Antonio

The back-to-back two-game set resumed Thursday evening at MTS Centre, and it was game that featured special teams! The first period saw a lone goal scored, and it was San Antonio on the power-play. Colin Smith picked up the puck in the left face-off circle and fed a one-timer cross-ice to the right face-off dot where Rantanen was standing. His high blast got past Eric Comrie, and it was 1-0 for the Rampage for their first lead of the two-game set. The second period saw the Rampage go up by a pair while on the power-play at 9:30 as Borna Rendulic fed Nikita Zadorov at the blue line for the one-timer, and his blast deflected off Jay Harrison in front and beat Comrie for the 2-0 lead.

However, cue the comeback! Brenden Kichton had a chance to tee it up from the high slot while on the power-play, but instead made a slap-pass to Patrice Cormier on the back door who simply redirected the puck past an out-of-position Calvin Pickard to give the Moose some life at 18:39. The Moose would tie the game up in the third period while on the power-play as Kichton and John Albert played catch on the point before Albert stepped into the right face-off circle and blasted home a slapshot high on the glove side that Pickard couldn't snag at 6:49!

It would come down to a next-goal-wins situation, and the home side wanted it. 42 seconds after the Albert power-play goal, Austen Brassard chipped a puck past a Rampage player in the neutral zone where Scott Kosmachuk picked it up inside the Rampage zone. It turned into a mini 2-on-1 when Ryan Olsen jumped into the play, and Kosmachuk found the streaking Olsen with the cross-slot pass. Olsen made no mistake burying it in the yawning cage, and the Moose were up 3-2 after trailing 2-0!

Comrie would stand tall in the final 12 minutes to seal the win for the Moose as they get by the Rampage by a 3-2 score! Comrie made 30 of 32 saves on the night for the win while Pickard dropped his second game in his hometown. With the win, the Moose improve to 8-14-1-2 on the second and have their first back-to-back wins this season!

Game 26 - At Milwaukee

There's a story about Thomas Raffl I'll share below that TSN1290's Darrin Bauming reported that had me shaking my head that was discovered in Milwaukee. We'll get to that in a second, but this is going to be a quick recap because there were a ton of goals scored in this game. Ready?

Milwaukee's Max Gortz opened the scoring just 1:01 into the game. Manitoba's Chase De Leo added his fifth of the season at the 4:00 mark, and Ryan Olsen added his fourth goal 1:20 after De Leo's goal to put Manitoba up 2-1 through the first period.

Gortz added his second of the game on the power-play at 3:51 of the second period. Milwaukee's Felix Girard scored shorthanded at 7:15, Manitoba's Austen Brassard got that one back on the same power-play at 7:48, and Jimmy Ogilny put the Admirals up 4-3 at 10:55 with his second goal of the season.

Chase De Leo added his second of the game at 7:57 of the third period to make it 4-4. Kristian Nakyva made it 5-4 for the Admirals at 10:32 before De Leo finished off the hat trick at 15:49 to tie the game up once more. Milwaukee's Pontus Åberg woudl score with 33 seconds to play, and the Admirals would ice the game three seconds after that when Zac Larraza hit the empty net with his shot to give the Admirals the 7-5 win. Juuse Saros stopped 22 of 27 shots he faced for the win while Eric Comrie made 24 saves on 30 shots in the loss. With the setback, Manitoba falls to 8-15-1-2 on the season.

Game 26 - At Chicago

I'm not sure why Manitoba continues to visit the Wolves. Maybe it's the shopping or the sights, but Chicago has not been nice to the Moose. Monday would be no different.

Pat Cannone started things off for the Wolves when he tipped a Peter Harrold shot out of midair past Eric Comrie at 19:09 for the 1-0 Wolves lead. Just 12 seconds later, it was a 2-0 game when Cody Brown made a rather unselfish play in lifting the stick of Brenden Kichton to eliminate him from the play. That move allowed Zach O'Brien to pick up the dumped-in puck and go cross-crease to Ivan Barbashev who had no problem in putting in the open net with Comrie out of position. It would 2-0 for Chicago going into the intermission.

Manitoba would cut the deficit in half in the second period. Just as a power-play expired, Ryan Olsen picked up a loose puck along the half-boards and fired a shot at Pheonix Copley. Austen Brassard got a stick on it, and the puck found its way past Copley to make it 2-1 at 3:44. The Wolves would restore the two-goal lead later in the period as a power-play expired. After a couple of shots were blocked, Jeremy Welsh picked up the loose puck and wired a wrist shot on net. Eriah Hayes blocked out anything Comrie could see with an excellent screen, and Welsh's shot found the twine at 15:33 for the 3-1 lead.

A turnover at the Moose blue line late in the game with the net empty led to the fourth Chicago goal as Ty Rattie scored into the undefended cage. The Moose would fall 4-1 in Chicago. Copley stopped 23 of 24 shots in the win while Comrie made 25 saves on 28 shots he faced in the loss. Manitoba falls to 8-16-1-2 as they head into the holiday break.

The Infirmary

Jay Harrison did not play in Milwaukee after suffering an upper body injury against the Rampage. He is listed as week-to-week. JC Lipon is also listed as week-to-week after suffering an upper body injury as well.

I mentioned that there was a Thomas Raffl story, and it actually landed him on the injury list. The word out of Moose camp is that he's going to be out long-term. According to TSN1290's Darrin Bauming, Raffl was hit in the face with a slapshot during practice on Friday. He went to the bench where training staff wanted to examine him. Raffl reportedly told the training staff he was fine and that he still have 20-30 minutes of practice to complete. The training staff agreed to let him go back out on the condition he check back in with the trainers after practice.

After practice, the trainers went searching for Raffl who had already changed and went home. No harm, no foul, they thought. The next night, the Moose are in Milwaukee where Raffl is in the lineup and playing. He takes a hit and twists awkwardly, causing him to go back to the dressing room. While he's being examined by the trainers for this new upper-body injury, the trainers take a look at his face.

Thomas Raffl is now out with a broken jaw. Thomas Raffl went home, flew to Milwaukee with the team, and played part of the game against the Admirals with a broken jaw. I'm not saying Raffl is the toughest player on the Moose, but wow. Unfortunately, he won't be seeing the ice for some time now. Whether that has to do with the jaw or the upper-body injury wasn't clear, but Raffl won't be playing for a while.

New Faces, New Places

The Winnipeg Jets needed some holes filled, so they recalled Joel Armia and Matt Halischuk on Friday. Both should see time with the big club, and they were inserted into the lineup with the Jets as you're probably aware.

The Moose announced on Friday that they had assigned forward Axel Blomqvist to the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers. Blomqvist has played ten games with the Moose, amassing two penalty minutes. The 20 year-old Swede will get some additional playing time with the Oilers where he can see more ice-time. This is a good move for the youngster.

The Moose, needing to fill some roster holes, also announced on Friday that they had signed Darren Kramer to a contract after the forward had been on a professional tryout contract. Kramer has seen action in 13 games with the Moose thus far, picking up one assist and 31 PIMs. He's not afraid to drop the gloves when necessary, and he brings some edge to the Moose. I like this signing to help the Moose.

Airing Of Grievances

Manitoba's power-play picked up some steam this past week, and they're no longer at the bottom of the power-play percentage list. Manitoba has improved to 28th overall - still not great - at 11.4%. They've converted 13 of 114 chances with the man-advantage, and that's simply terrible. Like the NHL Jets, the AHL future Jets are a tire fire when it comes to playing with the extra man. This has to improve in the new year.

On the flip side, there were a pile of power-play goals scored against the Moose as well, and the Moose currently sit 24th overall at 81.4%. Again, this is not even close to being good enough. The Moose have surrendered 21 goals on 113 penalty killing opportunities. However, the flip side is that the Albany Devils, who lead in penalty killing percentage, are only at 89.5%. The difference? They've allowed just half the goals the Moose have while a man short - 12 goals on 114 shorthanded opportunities.

Up Next

The Moose will return on New Year's Eve as they host the Iowa Wild that afternoon. They'll also play the Wild on New Year's Day. The Wild are one of the few teams trailing the Moose in the standings, so the Moose need to take advantage. The Wild enter the game with a 5-22-2-3 record and sit four points back of the Moose.

Zack Mitchell is a player the Moose may want to keep an eye on. He leads the team in goals with ten, and is second in team-scoring with 15 points. Michael Keranen and Christoph Bertschy lead the team with 16 points, so there's some balanced scoring through the lineup. Moose fans will recognize Jordan Schroeder's name as the former Canuck now is a member of the Minnesota Wild franchise, and he should be in the lineup next weekend. Longtime Moose defenceman Maxime Fortunus will be in town with the Wild as well, and the veteran defenceman should get some cheers from the home crowd.

Leland Irving has handled the majority of work thus far, and comes into the weekend with a 4-12-3 record, a 2.68 GAA, a .916 save percentage, and one shutout. Jeremy Smith has played his fair share as well, and he'll look to improve on a 1-10-2 record, a 3.35 GAA, and a .905 save percentage. In both cases, neither netminder's stats should scare the Moose, but these two are capable of stealing games, so the Moose will need to be ready.

The Moose should come out of the holiday season with ten wins if they play as well as they did when they met up with San Antonio when Iowa comes to town. Until then, happy holidays, folks, and we'll see what the Moose bring to the rink after Christmas!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

'Tis The Season

Occasionally, a play-by-play guy will take it upon himself to add some fun to a game. He might throw a pop culture reference into games, add his own unique twist on a goal call, or simply have some fun while the play goes on below him. There have been lots of occasions where the guys calling the action have had a little fun, but I'm not sure if we've ever seen a Christmas carol sung while a fight has broken out. Until tonight, that is, when Jack Edwards of NESN did so.

As he prepares to conduct the choir in the above image, a fight broke out between Boston's Tyler Randell and St. Louis' Ryan Reaves. While the fight itself wasn't anything to write home about, it was the unique call made by Edwards that caught the attention of the hockey world.

'Tis the season, I guess? All in all, not a bad rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". Who would have the thought one would hear a Christmas carol midway through a hockey game?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 December 2015

It Must Be A Prairie Thing?

I have no idea where this photo was taken, but that definitely is a zamboni on a street that is being driven in traffic. I was going to guess somewhere in central Canada or USA with the rash of impaired zamboni drivers we've seen from that section of the continent in the last year. You can understand maybe one or two, but how is it that this area of the country has five incidents in five years and two in the last six months? Not to outdo the rest of the two nations, but we'll look at a couple more incidents where alcohol and zambonis have run into the strong arm of the law as well. Here are your zamboni mishaps!

Incident #1

We'll start with the most recent incident that happened in Ste. Anne, Manitoba on Saturday. Marc Robichaud, chief of the town’s police department, said a man in his 30s was placed under arrest after a game featuring the Seine River Snipers bantam team, who were the home team, and the Southeast Blizzard. According to witness reports, the man was the zamboni driver, and he made his way onto the ice surface on the machine for the second intermission resurfacing when things went off the rails.

"On his first lap he struck the gate where the Zamboni drives onto the ice, and broke the boards and also broke pieces off the actual Zamboni," said Martin Kintscher, Seine River's manager, told the CBC. "One piece got stuck under the Zamboni, which left a ridge on the ice with every lap."

The Ste. Anne Police Department confirmed a man in his 30s had been arrested and charged with impaired driving, resisting arrest, and refusing a breathalyzer. Robichaud told the Canadian Press, "Liquor and any kind of motorized vehicle don't mix, irregardless of whether it's on the road or wherever it may be."

Incident #2

Let's go back to June where another incident happened. This time, we head south to the community of Fargo, North Dakota where "Steven James Anderson, 27, was sentenced to nine days in jail, with credit for one day served, and ordered a $1,500 fine, chemical dependency evaluation, and participation in the state’s 24/7 sobriety program" after admitting "being drunk while operating a Zamboni during a high school hockey game," according to Dave Kolpack of The Associated Press.

"He was arrested in January during the girls hockey game in Fargo after witnesses complained he was driving erratically on the ice between periods and crashing into the boards. Police say his blood-alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit for driving a motor vehicle," Kolpack reported. According to police reports, Anderson's blood-alcohol content registered a .314 at 9:30pm. He was arrested after Fargo Davies' principal Troy Cody called police between the first and second periods after Cody witness Anderson "crash into the boards rather hard".

At least Anderson seems to have cleaned up his act after his brief jail stint. Hopefully he's found peace after this incident.

Incident #3

How about a fun story in 2013? 24 year-old Spencer Holt did something that most only dream about: he tried to steal the AHL Oklahoma City Barons' zamboni! As per The Lost Ogle who quoted KOKH Channel 25,
A man was arrested after taking a joyride on a Zamboni at the Cox Convention Center Saturday.

According to authorities, 24-year-old Spencer Holt got on a Zamboni and broke through restraining gates before driving the Zamboni on the ice.

Holt was taken into custody and charged with destruction of property and public drunkenness.
Thankfully, police say he never got the Zamboni out of the building. What is it with drunk dudes and zambonis?

Incident #4

We move to Apple Valley, Minnesota for our next story that happened in January 2012. Pat Pheifer of the Star Tribune wrote,
Spectators, hockey players and parents pressed against the ice arena's glass Monday night, watching as a Zamboni driver at the Hayes Arena in Apple Valley weaved across the ice erratically and smacked the machine hard against the boards.

About 25 minutes into what should have been a 10-minute job resurfacing the ice, the driver - a part-time employee of the city of Apple Valley - tried to maneuver the unwieldy machine into the arena garage. By then, coach Bryan Dornstreich had called 911.

Officers arrested the 34-year-old Apple Valley man for allegedly driving while intoxicated. He failed field sobriety tests and was taken to police headquarters for a blood-alcohol test. The sample was sent to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis. Test results were unavailable Tuesday.

The man has not been formally charged. He was convicted of drunken driving in 2002 and twice in 1999.
Court documents from March 2012 show that Joel K. Bruss, the zamboni driver above, "had a blood-alcohol content of 0.32 percent - four times the legal limit, according to court documents." Clearly, Bruss should not have been driving that night. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and here's hoping that Bruss has also found some peace after this harrowing experience for all those in attendance.

Incident #5

Calgary is right on the edge of the Canadian prairies, so I'm including this one as well. We go back to 2011 where, according to the report filed by QMI's Nadia Moharib, "two apparently drunk men allegedly committed the most Canadian of crimes — they tried to steal a Zamboni." It's the details of this crime that should be noted, though.
Ross Harris, operations manager at the East Calgary Twin Arenas, said he was working in an office at the facility alone when he noticed the Zamboni, which was parked inside, on the move.

"I happened to see the Zamboni going outside on the camera system" he said. "I really wondered what was going on."

He soon learned at least one of two men had walked into the building and broken into the garage area where the ice-grooming machine was parked.

When he got outside, the pair, one behind its wheel, were trying to push the car free of an icy stretch of pavement.

They seemed utterly unapologetic about their actions, instead asking Harris is he had a truck or tow rope to help them free their car.

At one point, the man behind the wheel of the machine stepped to the ground and it rolled backwards. Harris was forced to jump into the driver's seat just in time to steer it clear of the building.
So what did the men have in mind? Police Sgt. Kelly Oberg stated, "My understanding is they were going to use it to push a vehicle. They started it and successfully exited the building and were swiftly arrested."

The two men, in their 30s, were charged with theft of a vehicle, break-and-enter, mischief, and impaired driving. Oi vay!

Incident #6

This one has nothing to do with drunkenness, but I will say these two employees have cojones the size of Idaho. John Miller of The Seattle Times has the report from 2006.
Two employees have been fired from the city's ice skating rink after making a midnight fast-food run in a pair of Zambonis.

The ice-groomer jockeys, both temporary city employees whose names and ages weren't released by Boise Parks and Recreation, had to negotiate at least one intersection with a traffic light on their late-night creep from Idaho Ice World.

An anonymous caller who alerted a telephone hot line set up by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter was gassing up his car at a nearby service station at about 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 10 when he saw the Zambonis roll through a Burger King drive-through, order food, and then return to the skating rink. The rubber-tired vehicles, whose top speed is about 5 mph, drove about 11/2 miles in all, said Parks Department Director Jim Hall.

"They were fired immediately," Hall said. "We're pretty sure it was just the one time. When we interviewed them, they didn't seem to be too concerned about it. I don't think they understood the seriousness of it. Even if they had felt bad about it, they're not going to be employed here."
It's kind of like that scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex rumbles by the 76 gas station. Instead of a T-Rex, though, it's two zambonis who roll up to Burger King! That's just crazy.

Clearly, there are some interesting incidents that have happened with zambonis. I'm sure there are more, so post additional stories in the comments if you like. I'm still chuckling over going to grab a Whopper on a zamboni!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Rundown - Week 12

Everyone is still off with the holiday season upon us, so it's time to take a look at who's been the best player for each team in the CIS. I'll only comment on the Canada West teams since I see them most often and have better insight into who has been instrumental in getting her team to where it is in the standings. I'll post the best player for each team in the OUA, RSEQ, and AUS based upon stats and what I know about that time as limited as that may be. You'll also want to check the recruit page as I've been updating it as well. Note that the comments haven't been updated as often. Let's get into this week's Rundown!

Canada West MVPs

We'll do this alphabetically for simplicity. To be my pick for MVP, the player chosen has to have made an immediate impact on the entire season. The question one should ask is had the player chosen not played, would the team be in the same position or worse off? It became pretty clear that these players have played an immense role in helping their teams get to where they are. Here we go.

Alberta Pandas
Teebz's MVP: Alex Poznikoff

There's no doubt that the rookie has the inside track on being the Canada West Rookie of the Year, but Poznikoff is leading her team in goals (8), points (11), power-play goals (2), and shots on net (40). For a team like the Pandas, having a rookie breakout like Poznikoff has is vitally important after Jessica Kampjes became unavailable for the squad this year. I said in the season preview that Poznikoff was a heckuva player, and she's been everything that the Pandas have needed and more.

UBC Thunderbirds
Teebz's MVP: Rebecca Unrau

The veteran has been the leader that UBC needed after Tatiana Rafter left the program, and she currently leads the team in goals (8) and points (13). She's been a leader on and off the ice for the Thunderbirds, embracing her role as a senior. What makes Unrau so dangerous is that she seems to hit the scoresheet every weekend with a big goal or a nice setup to allow others to score. UBC's veteran has been their best player thus far.

Calgary Dinos
Teebz's MVP: Sarah Murray

It's easy to pick the leading scorer for the MVP of each team, but the Dinos are a bit of a tough case in that they have a couple of good scorers in Iya Gavrilova and Sasha Vafina, but it's been a monster effort from their rookie goaltender who has stolen games from better teams. Sarah Murray won't wow you with her 2-6-2 record, her 2.98 GAA, or her .887 save percentage, but she's beaten UBC and Alberta this season and that's no easy task. If Calgary is going to play the role of spoiler this season down the stretch, Murray will be a big part of that effort.

Lethbridge Pronghorns
Teebz's MVP: Jocelyn Sabourin

For a team whose season went sideways after a strong start, it's tough to pick an MVP from the forward ranks especially after they were shutout in eight of their first 16 games and seven times in their last ten games. I won't fault the goaltending that Alicia Anderson put up, but I have been impressed with the defensive play of Jocelyn Sabourin. She's second in team scoring with eight points, leads the team in assists with six, is even in plus/minus, and has two power-play goals. She's been the difference on the back-end most nights, and she gets my vote for being the most consistent Pronghorns player thus far.

Manitoba Bisons
Teebz's MVP: Rachel Dyck

The best defensive team in the conference has had incredible goaltending all season long from Rachel Dyck and Amanda Schubert. Dyck is 7-4-1 on the season with a 1.50 GAA and a .941 save percentage which is tops for all goalies. She has made more than her share of incredible saves in keeping the Bisons in games they could have been out of early on, and she's a wall when Manitoba has a lead. I will admit I was leaning towards Karissa Kirkup at first for this selection, but without Dyck the Bisons may not be in a tie for first-place in the conference. That's the very definition of an MVP.

Mount Royal Cougars
Teebz's MVP: Sarah Weninger

Weninger has been the model of consistency for the Cougars. She leads the team in goals (6), points (10), power-play goals (2), and shots on goal (62). She plays an excellent two-way game, and is a threat every time she's on the ice. While I considered defenceman Jocelyn Froehlich for her excellent play thus far, Weninger has been everything that the Cougars need. Her six goals are 19% of the total goals scored by Mount Royal this season, and they'll need her scoring to continue to push for a playoff spot in the second-half of the season.

Regina Cougars
Teebz's MVP: Toni Ross

Jaycee Magwood is second in the conference in points (18), Kylie Gavelin is third in points (17), and Emma Waldenberger leads the conference in goals (9). So how did Toni Ross get my nod? She's 9-3-1 on a team that has given up the most goals outside of Calgary. Her 1.74 GAA and .939 save percentage are a large reason why the Cougars are still in contention for a top-two seeding in the conference. She's played much bigger than her 5'1" frame, often staring down the top teams without flinching. While the offence has been solid for Regina all season, they wouldn't be where they are without Ross' efforts, especially with their 6-2 record in one-goal games and 3-1 record in overtime.

Saskatchewan Huskies
Teebz's MVP: Julia Flinton

Flinton has been arguably the best defenceman in the conference thus far. She's second in team scoring with 12 points and leads the CIS in points by a defenceman and the team in assists (9), plus/minus (+9), penalty minutes (26), and shots on goal (65). Flinton is seemingly in on every play, and her number is called often by head coach Steve Kook. She plays in all situations, logs a ton of minutes, and has the stats to give coach Kook every reason to continue to throw her out on the ice whenever she's available. She has been, in this writer's opinion, the best Huskies player to date.

Of course, these are all subjective picks, so you may disagree and that's totally fine. Discussion is good so feel free to leave comments on any of these picks or any of the picks below. Again, the OUA, RSEQ, and AUS picks will be done quickly, but your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Ontario MVPs

BROCK - Goaltender Jensen Murphy (3-6-0, 1.89 GAA, .937).
GUELPH - Forward Averi Nooren (9G, 6A, 3 PPG, 1 SHG).
LAURENTIAN - Forward Julie Hebert (7G, 2A, 2 PPG).
LAURIER - Goaltender Lauren Webber (6-3-0, 1.75 GAA, .932).
NIPISSING - Goalie Jacqueline Rochefort (6-5-0, 1.15 GAA, .958).
QUEEN'S - Goalie Caitlyn Lahonen (9-3-0, 0.94 GAA, .967).
RYERSON - Forward Karli Nummikoski (3G, 0A, 1 PPG).
TORONTO - Forward Taylor Day (7G, 7A, 3 PPG).
UOIT - Forward Chelsea Ball (2G, 5A, 1 GWG).
WATERLOO - Forward Paula Lagamba (8G, 4A, 3 GWG).
WESTERN - Forward Kendra Broad (6G, 7A, 2 PPG).
WINDSOR - Forward Erinn Noseworthy (3G, 11A, 1 PPG, 1 SHG).
YORK - Forward Rianna Langford (4G, 2A, 1 GWG).

Quebec MVPs

CARLETON - Forward Nicole Miners (2G, 4A).
CONCORDIA - Goalie Katherine Purchase (3-5-0, 2.12 GAA, .913).
McGILL - Forward Melodie Daoust (5G, 9A, 1 PPG, 1 SHG).
MONTREAL - Goalie Marie-Pier Chabot (4-2-0, 0.67 GAA, .967).
OTTAWA - Forward Melodie Bouchard (5G, 9A, 1 PPG).

Maritime MVPs

DALHOUSIE - Forward Sarah Robichaud (6G, 5A, 1 SHG, 2 GWG).
MOUNT ALLISON - Forward Heather Richards (5G, 4A, 2 PPG).
MONCTON - Forward Marie-Pier Corriveau (8G, 4A, 4 PPG, 3 GWG).
UPEI - Goalie Marie-Soliel Deschenes (2-7-0, 2.05 GAA, .929).
SAINT MARY'S - Forward Breanna Lanceleve (6G, 11A, +14).
StFX - Forward Daley Oddy (6G, 9A, 3 GWG).
ST. THOMAS - Forward Kelty Apperson (6G, 7A, 2 PPG, 1 SHG).

From Oslo To The Okanagan

You may not know her name, but she's doing everything she can to put Norway's women's program on the map. While you might be familiar with names like Mats Zuccarello, Espen Knutsen, Patrick Thoresen, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, you should get to know the name Mathea Fischer. Fischer plays for the UBC Thunderbirds after spending a couple of years at the Ontario Hockey Academy, and she's one of a number of international players suiting up in the CIS this year. One of Norway's best young women's players is the focus on HBIC today!

She began playing on boys' teams at the age of seven when she received her first pair of skates. Growing up in Norway and playing with the boys gave her a better perspective in terms of her abilities, and she applied at the age of 16 to join the Ontario Hockey Academy. According to one article, Fischer is the first Norwegian-born woman to train abroad in the sport of hockey. She's a pioneer at the age of 16, and is still blazing a path for other young Norwegian girls to follow.

Fischer has had a pile of success in her home country where she starred for Vålerenga. In 32 games over three seasons, the sniper racked up 25 goals and 30 assists! This put her on the map for the Norwegian U18 Women's team that has been a regular at the IIHF U18 Division-1 Women's World Championship. In 2011-12, Fischer was dominant in scoring three goals and five assists in five games at the tournament. In 2012-13, she only had two goals and two assists as Norway finished poorly. 2013-14's tournament saw Fischer score three goals in five games. In 2014-15, she scored three goals and four assists in five games, leading Norway in scoring. France won the tournament, but Norway finished second. She was named Norway's U18 team MVP in 2012 and 2015 for her efforts on the international stage and is currently Norway's leading scorer all-time at the tournament!

She wasn't done there, though. April saw her make the jump to join the senior women in Rouen, France for the IIHF Division-1 Women's World Championship! In five games against the best women from Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, and Latvia, Fischer put up one goal and two assists! Her lone World Championship goal to date was scored on Paula Marchhart of Austria, and it appears Fischer is poised for more as her career continues!

To prepare for her international junior appearances, Fischer had made the move to Cornwall, Ontario where she joined the Ontario Hockey Academy. Things went extremely well for the Norwegian at the school. She recorded 22 goals and 25 assist in 57 games in 2013-14, and she had 28 goals and 32 assists in 58 games in 2014-14. Fischer earned the school's hardest-working player honour in her first year at OHA, and she hit the radar of a number of post-secondary schools in Canada.

A few weeks prior to joining Team Norway in France, she was recruited by and accepted a spot with the UBC Thunderbirds in Canada West! Head coach Graham Thomas had some high praise for Fischer once she committed to UBC. He said, "Mathea plays a complete 200-foot game. She has good size, puck skills and hockey sense which allow her to create offence for herself and her teammates. Mathea has a strong shot with a quick release that she uses off the wing very well. Overall, Mathea is the type of player most coaches love to work with because she is a complete player that does all the little things well."

Fischer has started to settle into her freshman year. She's scored a pair of power-play goals to lead the team and has four assists for six points thus far as she adapts to the faster pace of the CIS game. She's an even player right now, showing her defensive side of the game hasn't been forgotten and proving coach Thomas' comments about a 200-foot game to be true. Along with Fischer, there are a few additional Norwegian women playing in North America right now as that program improves. Victoria Løvdal plays for the NCAA's Minnesota State Mavericks, goaltender Ingrid Sandven suits up for the OUA's Windsor Lancers, and Hedda Fence plays with the RSEQ's Carleton Ravens, so expect the Norwegians to start improving on the international stage as more and more of their women find spots on top-tier college and university programs!

Mathea Fischer is a great, young hockey player who deserves a look if you're hunting for the next big star. Get some passes to see CIS women's hockey this holiday season as the ladies put on one heckuva show, and you won't see better women's hockey played anywhere in Canada outside the CWHL on a regular basis! Do yourself a favour, and get down to your local university in January to see the next stars of women's hockey like Mathea Fischer!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Merry Christmas, McMann

The World Junior A Championships have been going on in Cobourg and Whitby, Ontario for the past week or so, and there has been some solid action. If you missed the highlights, Team USA won the bronze medal after thumping Canada East by a 7-1 score on Friday night, and tonight featured the gold medal game between Canada West and Russia. Switzerland and the Czech Republic were also in the mix, but they were already on their way home after going 0-3 in the round robin, respectively, but it's been a good tournament overall as the action has been solid. However, tonight's gold medal game featured a gift-wrapped goal that, for better or worse, was the difference between gold and silver.

Tied 0-0 early in the third period with a face-off deep in the Russia zone, we pick up the action via TSN. Oh, and allow me to wish Bobby McMann a Merry Christmas from Russia's Aleksandr Iakovenko before you play this video.
Yikes. That was one helluva giveaway. I'll say that I believe that Iakovenko was looking to reverse the puck to forward Artur Kayumov who originally dished him the puck, but Kayumov went to the corner and just stood there while Iakovenko panicked behind the net. Ultimately, it's Iakovenko who is responsible for this brutal turnover, but Kayumov did nothing to support his teammate by heading to the corner and watching this unfold.

McMann's goal was the first for Canada in this game, and it helped Canada West win the gold medal in a 2-1 final. Despite giving up one legitimate goal and the above goal he had no chance on, goaltender Mikhail Berdin looked impressive in his efforts in the Russian net. The Ufa-born goalie plays for Severstal Cherepovets in the KHL, and he appears to have a bright future tending nets either in Russia or abroad.

Canada West wins their fifth gold medal at the World Junior A Championships! Congrats to all the players, coaches, and staff who worked on this team as they come out of Ontario golden once more!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 December 2015

I'd Say Interference

Tim Peel is an NHL referee, so he's used to making calls like interference on players. Some have called him terrible and openly mocked him while others have called for him to be fired after his numerous questionable calls. Hey, we're all human, right? I mean, mistakes do happen in a fast-paced game, right? Referees aren't perfect despite the demand for them to be perfect, and Tim Peel was back at it again on Friday night. The only difference? He thought he was a Detroit Red Wings defenceman.

Here's the video. Tim Peel will make a solid play to break up a scoring chance. You can hear Derek Dorsett emphatically give Peel some advice that isn't quite PG-rated.
What the hell is Tim Peel doing? As John Garrett says, go to the corner if you find yourself in a direct line between a player with the puck and the net. I'm not saying Derek Dorsett would have scored on this play, but Tim Peel made sure that wasn't going to happen entirely as he helped Brendan Smith make the defensive stop.

Officials in the NHL are evaluated on a game-by-game basis, and the top officials get the call for the playoffs. Tim Peel just made it a lot harder on himself to get a playoff job despite his seniority with this play, I'd imagine. For Tim Peel who has been working in the NHL since 1995, this is simply brutal.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 170

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a guest we've been trying to pin down for some time now. He will be with us in-studio tonight, and we are excited, honoured, and humbled by this man's presence. He lives in Chicago now, but he was born here in Winnipeg, got his start in hockey in Winnipeg, and comes back every so often to visit family and friends. With the holiday season upon us, he's agreed to drop by the studio tonight to chat some hockey!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are honoured, privileged, and humbled to welcome to the UMFM studios the man with one of the most recognizable masks in hockey history as Warren Skorodenski joins us on the program tonight! Warren only played 35 games in the NHL, but he's a part of hockey history on a few levels and has traveled the country and continent thanks to hockey! We'll talk to him about growing up in Winnipeg, playing in the MJHL, WHL AHL, IHL, and NHL as well as for the Canadian National team, some of his teammates, and anything else that comes up in between. The man who first wore the skull mask is on The Hockey Show!

The phone lines are closed with Mr. Skorodenski on the program tonight, but make sure you tune your radio dial in the Winnipeg region to 101.5 on your FM dial or listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! Tweet me anytime with questions you may 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. One of Winnipeg's finest netminders is on The Hockey Show tonight only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: December 17, 2015: Episode 170

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 33

The Moose returned home from the butt-kicking they took in Chicago and Toronto, and it was time to take advantage of a team that has had no success against the Moose thus far in the Milwaukee Admirals. The Moose had been outscored 20-3 in their previous three games, and head coach Keith McCambridge ran his squad through some lively practices in the lead-up to the two game set with Milwaukee. Would this pay off for the Moose who desperately need points if they hope to keep the word "playoffs" in their vocabulary? Let's take a look at how the Moose did in their weekend set against their old IHL foes!

Game 22 - Vs Milwaukee

The Moose are 2-0 on the season against the Admirals with both wins coming in Milwaukee. Would that same success follow the Moose back to Winnipeg? It didn't start well as the Admirals jumped out to the 1-0 at the 12:37 mark when Joe Pendenza fired a rolling puck from the left wing that may have caught the stick of Jay Harrison as it went up and over the shoulder of Eric Comrie. The Moose, though, would knot things back up when a poor clearing attempt up the middle of the ice by Petter Granberg was one-timed into the back of the net past Marek Mazanec by Julian Melchiori for the 1-1 tie.

Manitoba owned the second period as they took control of this game. Nic Petan won a face-off in the Milwaukee zone back to Pete Stoykewych, and his point shot was stopped by Mazanec. However, Matt Fraser was in front and he corralled the rebound before burying the puck into the yawning cage past Mazanec for the 2-1 lead at 9:54. The Moose would make it a 3-1 game when Chase De Leo threw a rather harmless shot on net as he circled out from behind the net, and Mazanec completely misplayed it as it found the back of the net off his own stick! De Leo's marker at 16:38 gave the Moose a nice cushion for the third period.

The two teams would trade chances, including Manitoba giving up a couple of power-play opportunities, but there would be only one goal scored. Taylor Aronson banked a pass off the end-boards to Max Reinhart who caught Comrie a little late in his lateral move across the goal line to make it 3-2 with just 12 seconds to play. Comrie would close the door in the final seconds as Manitoba wins this game 3-2! Comrie was outstanding in this one, stopping 30 of 32 shots in the victory while Mazanec took the loss. Manitoba improves to 6-14-1-1 on the season with the win!

Game 23 - Vs Milwaukee

The Moose were now 3-0 against the Admirals, and there was a good chance they could turn that into 4-0 and their first two-game winning streak of the season if they continued their mastery over Milwaukee. Once more, the Admirals opened the scoring in this one. While on the power-play, Trevor Murphy went cross-ice to Pontus Aberg, and his one-timer found room between Eric Comrie and the right post for the 1-0 lead at 9:45. Manitoba would respond a few minutes later when Joel Armia chipped a puck past Kristian Nakyva, and John Albert picked up the loose puck. It looked like Taylor Aronson would run Albert out of room when Albert spotted Josh Morrissey breaking into the slot unchecked. Albert's pass would find Morrissey and he chipped it past Juuse Saros for the 1-1 equalizer at 12:37.

Manitoba would take the lead 4:47 into the second period when Austen Brassard found a loose puck in the corner and spotted Ryan Olsen in the slot. Olsen wasted no time in one-timing it past Saros to put Manitoba up one goal. It appeared Manitoba would take the lead into the third period again, but Milwaukee would strike late. Vinny Saponari would cut into the Moose zone and strea up the right wing before putting a shot on net that Comrie would kick out into the slot. Frederick Gaudreau made good on his drive to the net through the slot by banging home that dangerous rebound at 19:49, and it was a 2-2 game to start the third period.

Victor Bartley and Adam Payerl would break in on the Moose on a 2-on-1 while shorthanded midway through the final frame. Melchiori could do little to stop the pass from Bartley to Payerl, and Payerl had nothing but an open net to shoot at as he scored at 10:45 to put the Admirals up 3-2. Late in the game, Aronson would rattle the puck around the boards in an attempt to clear the puck, but Jay Harrison would cut it off at the blue line. Harrison would send a wrist shot in on Saros that fooled the netminder entirely as it got through him and ricocheted off the middle post before any of the Amdirals realized what had happened. Harrison's third of the season at 17:34 made it a 3-3 game, and it was off to overtime!

Overtime would solve nothing, so it would take a shootout to determine a winner in this game. Manitoba would shoot first, and Saros would stop all five shooters Manitoba sent his way. Comrie would see Saponari go forehand, freeze Comrie with a good fake, and then deke to the backhand before depositing the puck past a prone Comrie for the shootout winner as Milwaukee wins 4-3. Comrie stopped 34 of 37 shots sent his way before giving up the winner on the fifth Milwaukee shootout attempt in the loss. Saros picked the shootout win, and the Moose fall to 6-14-1-2 on the season.

The Infirmed

Nada. Zip. Zilch. No one. The Moose are healthy.

The Dressing Room Is Getting Full

Joel Armia was returned to the Moose on Saturday prior to the first game against the Admirals. He actually set the screen on Melchiori's goal and it was thought he may have tipped the puck, so he had a bit of an impact upon his return. They'll need more from Armia if the Moose want to continue earning points.

In a rather shocking and unforeseen move, the Moose announced around noon today that second-year forward Adam Lowry was being sent to the Moose. Lowry is off his production from last year as he's posted just one goal and seven assists in 31 games thus far. According to Jets head coach Paul Maurice, he needs to find more speed to compete at the NHL level. This could be a huge addition to the Moose if Lowry comes down with determination to get back to his NHL self. He should be in the lineup in time to face the San Antonio Rampage tonight!

Merry Christmas

The Moose start a two-game set starting tonight against the San Antonio Rampage at MTS Centre. The Rampage enter the back-to-back set at 11-8-6-0, and should be a good measuring stick for this newly-equipped Moose squad. Miko Rantanen leads the Rampage in points with 23, and is tied for the team lead in goals with Andrew Agozzino at 9 and tied for the team lead in assists with Maxim Noreau at 14. Those three, along with Colin Smith, have 19 points or better so far this season, so there are definitely players who can score for the Rampage.

Calvin Pickard comes home to Winnipeg with an 8-6-4 record, a 2.83 GAA, and a .917 save percentage. He hasn't been lighting the world on fire, but he's capable of winning games as long as there's a bit of offensive support. We may see Roman Will in one of these two games, but his 1-1-1 record coupled with his 4.31 GAA and .868 save percentage should worry no one at this point.

From there, the Moose hit the American midwest once more as they travel to Milwaukee for a Saturday night tilt where the Moose have played some excellent hockey. The Moose are 3-0-1 against the Admirals, and they are 2-0 in Milwaukee thus far. Whatever they're doing against Milwaukee needs to happen some more because half of the Moose's regulation wins have come against Milwaukee thus far. Keep it going in Cream City and cream the Admirals once more!

After that, it's on to Chicago for a Monday night game where the Wolves have kicked the hell out of the Moose thus far. While I'm not suggesting that the Moose just mail the Wolves the two points, they need to come in with a sense of desperation as they try to hunt the Wolves down in the standings. They're not invincible, but the Moose can't let Chicago lay another 8-2 beating on them either.

We'll check out how the Moose close out their pre-Christmas games next week. Personally, if the Moose can go 3-1, they would significantly close the gap between themselves, the Wolves, and the Charlotte Checkers, and they'd give themselves a shot at the playoffs in the second-half of the season. It's time for the Herd to bear down and score some wins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!