Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Philadelphia Goldmembers

There are certain things that professional sports teams just shouldn't do for any reason. They're fairly simple rules: don't change your name, don't change your logo, and don't change your color scheme. Unless there's a very good reason to break one of these rules, the vast majority of fans will always clamor for the original look of the team with which they grew up and to which they are accustomed. Seeing the Flyers logo above in gold, for example, just doesn't look right.

The Flyers, however, don't seem to care about these fairly unbreakable rules because they are going to celebrate their 50th anniversary with a new colour, a new jersey, and no one will tell them otherwise! Ok, maybe they're not that adamant, but they will wear the jersey seen below twelve times in 2016-17 as they celebrate their semicentennial anniversary, also known as the Golden Jubilee. You can see where this is going from the image above. I'm surprised that the Flyers haven't named Johan van der Smut as a member of the executive committee at this point.

Instead, the Flyers will wear this on twelve dates including their home opener on October 20 against the Anaheim Ducks.
Holy schnikees, that's a lot of gold, but we haven't even seen the worst of it yet. If you thought Pittsburgh ditching the gold was a good idea, it appears that the Flyers found that burial ground and unearthed all of it.
Oi vay. Why do hockey jerseys have to celebrate anything other than what they represent? Look, I get that the Flyers being around 50 years is a heckuvan accomplishment, but what about the Kings, Penguins, and St. Louis Blues who have not gone down the golden road? You're not the only team with an anniversary this season, Flyers. Maybe this goldenrod addition to the jerseys was a bit of a misstep, eh?

The only thing worse than the jerseys? Paul Holmgren's hair!
What is going on with that dye job? Not only is it hideous, but that is not a colour found in nature. Even on nuggets of gold. If Holmgren's hair was part of Golden Jubilee celebration and he agreed to the dye job, be thankful he's not in charge of Flyers personnel moves. That's Donald Trump-esque hair colour. Yikes.

If there's one bright spot for the Flyers, it's that these jerseys look better as you move further away from them. Seriously. That's not meant to be insulting, but the obscene amount of gold seen up-close blends into the jersey as they get further away.
Of course, there's still all that gold on the back, but at least the front-facing side of the uniform is respectable when you're sitting in the nosebleeds at Wells Fargo Center. You might barely even notice if you're in the cheap seats!

You'll still see a lot of black and orange this season, Flyers fans. There's even a special Stadium Series jersey to come, so don't dwell too much on these Golden Jubilee jerseys. If you're smart, you'll buy nosebleed tickets and barely notice the added colour to the uniform. So get yourself a ticket, a hot dog and a beverage, and you'll be golden!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Needed Time To Process This

There are times in life when I find myself unprepared for a major change. Normally, change is something I handle with relative ease and this summer has been evidence of that, but when a team steeped in tradition changes suddenly jumps into rock music, flames, and raw meat, it takes you a second or two to figure out what one has just witnessed. SKA St. Petersburg is a team that was knee-deep in tradition having been the Sport Club of the Army for the longest time, but it appears that they have some new swagger with the addition of Pavel Datsyuk and the return of Ilya Kovalchuk this season.

Let's take a look at the video that SKA St. Petersburg released earlier this season in order to get people fired up for the 2016-17 campaign.

What the... what the hell was that?!?

I admit to you that I had to watch this video numerous times as my brain processed what it saw. I get that there should be excitement for the upcoming season if you're a St. Petersburg fan, but when did the hockey club go all Mad Max: Fury Road on us?

Let's break this down, shall we?
  • At :02, there appears to be some sort of new snack food being introduced to the world as the video shows what looks like a hot dog wrapped in some sort of bun with an opening at one end only! My brain is struggling already.
  • At :03, there's a can being opened which is pretty much indicative of hockey and adult beverages being paired together once more. Three seconds into the video, we have hockey, hot dogs, and beer. SKA St. Petersburg is appealing to every sports fan right now.
  • At :10, it appears that St. Petersburg has transformed into Magnitogorsk with their steel and iron industry. Why are they sharpening a stick on a grindstone? Turning your stick into an axe of any kind is probably worthy of a suspension. Don't do that, kids.
  • At :15, there's the obligatory cheerleader shot. Because Russia doesn't oppress women. Often.
  • At :19, there's a guy hitting a tractor tire with a sledgehammer. The only rational explanation for this is that this imagery represents a player hitting a puck with a stick. Yes, I've stretched that rationale as far as I can. No, I'm not sorry for that.
  • At :21, you get your first view of the flaming guitar played by the guy who appears to be from a 1990s-esque heavy metal band. The shredded SKA jersey only adds to his badass-edness.
  • At :24, the first really cool part of the video appears as the goaltender's mask is rigged to show two different colors. Could they do this in a real game? How much would that mess with shooters if the color changed while looking at the goalie?
  • At :30, it seems as though SKA is employing a full orchestra of brass instruments. By my count, there are six trumpet-like instruments, two trombones, a French horn, two tubas, and whole brass musical accompaniment edited over this scene at this point. Well done, video editors.
  • At :31, we finally get to see a few of the players outside of Datsyuk and Kovalchuk who will actually take to the ice this season. Vadim Shipachyov and Evgenii Dadonov are two prominent players seen, and they should be key contributors this season.
  • At :35, we see that fans of SKA are mostly carnivorous as one fan in a jersey bites into what appears to be raw meat. Yum? What significance does this have on how they play hockey?
  • At :36, the flaming "CKA" didn't translate well. I get the idea, but the execution fails horribly. Let's just hope SKA's offence doesn't resemble their flaming letters.
  • At: 37, the French horn player gets some serious isolation from the rest of the brass ensemble. Is she friends with the director of this video?
  • At: 38, more players. Anton Belov, an excited Mikko Koskinen, and a quick glimpse of Maxim Chudinov are included in this section. Note that Koskinen is wearing #19. The two Russian goalies on SKA's roster wear #30 and #34. Expect the Finn to be different.
  • At :42, we get more raw meat eating, more fire guitar playing, more cheerleadering, an AK-47 shooting something off-camera, Pavel Datsyuk, Mikko Koskinen, and a goal celebration before seeing the logo at the end. That seems to be everything St. Petersburg hockey is known for, right?
Look, all jokes aside, this promotional ad has 50% hockey and 50% crazy. I'm happy that SKA has the budget and ability to produce these sorts of ads, but the thing they should focus on is the hockey on the ice. Why, you ask? Take a look at this goal and tell me it's not pretty.
That goal by SKA's second line, made up of Evgenii Dadonov, Nikita Gusev, and Vadim Shipachyov, is certainly a front-runner for goal of the year and we haven't even broken camp for NHL teams yet. Ak Bars Kazan had no answer for those three, and the puck was fished out of the back of the net. As good as that second line looks, though, the first line might be even better.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk are starting to find chemistry on the top line in St. Petersburg, and that should worry the rest of the KHL. Here's what they did last night to salvage a point from Ak Bars Kazan despite falling 6-5 in the shootout.
That goal was scored with less than five seconds to play in the game, and sent the game to extra time tied at 5-5. You can't tell me that Datsyuk's addition - both in talent and leadership - isn't paying off for SKA. Kovalchuk, who had a horrendous season last year, is playing like he's 20 again. The scariest part is that we're only four games into the season.

I guess that promotional ad is good for building a little excitement in fans, but I don't buy the hype of flaming guitars, iron working and blacksmithing, and cheerleaders. The evidence of how this team will play is found in what they do on the ice. Right now, they appear to be having fun and scoring highlight reel goals which is for what fans should really be excited.

Don't buy the hype, folks. Let the highlights and stats do the talking.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 August 2016

There's A Terracotta Army, But...

As we all anxiously await the announcement of the Las Vegas NHL franchise's team name, it appears that they will called some sort of knight. I've been waiting for DC Comics to jump into the fray and suggest "Dark Knights", but that hasn't happened yet. Instead, it appears that the Las Vegas franchise has been registering every "(insert word) knight" name that they can think of, but the newest name that they have registered for a trademark really has me scratching my head. I've always been under the impression that NHL team names are either a real thing that reflects the city and/or region in which the team is found. Las Vegas' potential new name? Maybe one of the words, but not the key word.

As seen with the image above, the concrete chess piece is known as a knight. Concrete is generally made up of cement and some sort of aggregate, and that aggregate can be sand. Therefore, the above image can be loosely described as a "sand knight". See what I'm getting at here? Yes, that's the name that was trademarked by the Las Vegas NHL franchise - "Sand Knights".

Look, I get that the NHL doesn't want any sort of gambling name being used for the Las Vegas franchise. Names like "Aces", "Jokers", "Gamblers", or any spin on gambling has been forbidden by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. It makes almost as much sense as the NHL banning any sort of reference to Mardi Gras or jazz music if they were to found a franchise in New Orleans. The city was built on gambling, is known for gambling, and endorses the gambling in all its ads, but the only thing the Las Vegas NHL franchise in the desert is built is, apparently, sand.

What is a "sand knight" and how does it relate to Las Vegas? Does this make any sense?

According to a trusty Google Search, there are examples of sand knights out in the real world, but none of them exist in real life. For example, AdventureQuest - an online multiplayer RPG - has a character role known as a "Celestial Sandknight" which are "those who devote themselves to the desert and all the life supports. They maintain order in the lawless desert." AdventureQuest has been around since 2002, so there might be a possible trademark challenge at some point from Artix Entertainment.

Adventure Time Card Wars, "a 2-player duel to the death in the land of Ooo – recreating the Card Wars game that Jake played with Finn in the fourth season, episode 14 of Adventure Time," also features Sand Knights. According to the game, Sand Knights given the player "+2 ATK if you control a Blue Plains Landscape". I'm not sure the Las Vegas franchise nor the NHL control anything close to a Blue Plains Landscape at this point. There may be a trademark challenge from Cryptozoic Entertainment.

Regardless of who holds trademarks on that name, should we be in favor of a major professional team owning a team name not based in reality nor drawing its team name from something regional? If teams are representative the civic area in which they are found, why is Bill Foley so hung up on a "Knights" name when Vegas has zero history with anything other than "sleepless nights"?

Let it go, Mr. Foley. Find something you can build on that resonates with the local fans. If you're feeling up to it, I'm pretty sure that the "Posse" name of the CFL's failed American expansion phase could be obtained very easily, and you'd own almost all the imagery of the old west. It makes way more sense as you could set up a saloon inside the arena, screen print some faux bars on the glass for the penalty boxes like an old jail, and have the players skate out under a water tower. The imagery would be amazing, and the Posse would be a hit on the ice with the vast number of ideas that could be used for promotional nights!

While I get that you're trying to keep your alma mater's name as part of your identity, almost anything "Knights" makes no sense in the desert. Find something that represents your team and your civic region because that's the legacy you're leaving for all hockey fans and future hockey stars in Sin City.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

I'll Pass, Thanks

I was asked today if I was getting excited for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Knowing that I'm a bit of a hockey fan, you'd think I would be, right? Except I'm not. Quite honestly, I don't care. I have many issues with this tournament - cost to fans, impact on players, potential injuries - but the one thing I fail to find in this tournament is meaning. It feels forced with the whole "who owns the game of hockey" commercial on Sportsnet, and I'm here today to tell you that HBIC will not be reporting on any of the happenings at the World Cup of Hockey.

The commercial I referenced is below, but I fully admit that I change the channel when it appears. Here it is, and I'll go through what I don't like about it below.
I find it to be insulting in that Tomas Plekanec and the Czech fan will always have Nagano despite some of their country's recent hockey successes. The American fan references the Miracle On Ice game, yet I'm guessing he didn't witness it due to his age while ignoring all the success that Hockey USA has had since that game. All of the fans reference Olympic successes, but the World Cup of Hockey is not the Olympics nor will it ever be with the stupid North American and European teams.

I also find the commercial incredibly sexist as all of the fans are male. There are a couple of female fans, but the NHL, NHLPA, and Sportsnet are doing a serious disservice to the portion of the market with the greatest area of growth by not including women as serious fans. Watch it again. I guarantee you can count the number of women fans in the commercial on one hand.

Maybe you're thinking you'd like to take in a game, though. You're thinking, "Teebz, you're so cynical, and I'm going to see Canada play the USA because I love this game." Well, I am cynical, but you're probably going to spend a lot of money to see a faux-international tournament if you want to take in that game. Tickets for the Canada-USA game at the Air Canada Centre on September 20 will run you anywhere from $148 in Sections 318 and 319 to $3900 in the lower bowl! At this point, you'd be better off investing in gold. At least that will increase in value!

"But Teebz," you say, "what about the memories?"

Cram it with the memories. If the NHL makes a dump truck full of money off this, their participation in South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics will be rather moot since the NHL makes almost zero money off its Olympic participation. You know, the Olympics. It's that event all of those fans and players referenced in the above commercial. Yeah, THOSE Olympics.

You've officially entered a World Cup of Hockey-free zone. I won't talk about it, I won't post highlights from it, and I certainly don't care for it. There will lots of coverage on Sportsnet and ESPN, so make sure to get your fill there if you want to read about the players and games despite how meaningless this event is.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Be More Like The Russians

I have to admit that I am a fan of the KHL All-Star Game logo for the 2015 KHL All-Star Game. Seen to the left, it makes most other all-star game logos pale in comparison to it. According to the release by the KHL, "[t]he colors of Bashkiria and the image of a national hero will illuminate the 2017 All-Star Game as the KHL's Hockey Week heads to Ufa, the capital of the republic of Bashkiria. If the two teams suit up in the colors shown, this season's KHL All-Star gala will look pretty darn good too!

What makes this year's KHL All-Star weekend special, however, is the fact that the KHL has opened up its weekend to include all levels of hockey in Russia! Ufa will play host to the KHL All-Star game, the MHL Challenge Cup, and the inaugural Women's Hockey League All-Star Game! The MHL is Russia's junior league, and the MHL is becoming thee feeder league for the KHL. In order to continue to promote the MHL, "the four top players in the Challenge Cup will be invited to join the megastars of the KHL on the ice for the All-Star Game itself"! How cool is that?

Imagine if North American hockey did something like this? The NHL could grab the leading scorer from each of the CHL's leagues and the USHL and plug them into the NHL All-Star Game with the stars. Potentially, we could see the WHL's Nolan Patrick, the USHL's Eeli Tolvanen, the QMJHL's Maxime Comtois, and the OHL's Owen Tippett join the NHL stars in Los Angeles where they would play with one of the teams. It would be a great way for the top prospect from each league to get their feet wet and learn from their heroes at the mid-season gala, and it would be some good exposure for the prospects when it came to the fans and the general managers at the game.

The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game where Don Cherry and Bobby Orr coach their respective teams of prospects goes on January 26, 2017 this season, and the NHL All-Star Weekend is on January 28 and 29. The USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is on January 10, 2017. You'd think that each league would want to get together and let their prospects play still, so have the prospects play the weekend prior to the NHL All-Star Game, and send the best kids to the NHL All-Star Game a week later. Seems easy, right?

The second big portion of the KHL's weekend is the first annual Women's Hockey League All-Star Game! We saw the NHL try and include the two North American women's leagues into the Winter Classic last season, but it seemed like there were more headaches and problems than the NHL wanted when it came to getting the CWHL and NWHL on the same page and on the ice. While I'd love to see these two leagues come to some sort of agreement when it came to working together, the animosity that they share for one another would make it difficult for the NHL to include them both at the All-Star Weekend. And if both can't go, neither can go. No favoritism with the NHL.

Ok, so maybe we should just one step at a time here in North America. In Russia, though, they are doing things right with their All-Star Weekend. The kids are included, the women are included, and the best professional men playing hockey in Russia are included. Why can't we make something like this work in North America?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Beer And Hockey Meet Unconventionally

I'll admit that I don't read the newspaper as often as I should, but I always find a way to flip through the local newspaper when I'm out on the road. There are great stories from around the local area that are contained on the newsprint, but one of the sections I always read is the crime report. It's a fascinating look at what crime is like in small towns as compared to larger centers, but the crime we're going to focus on today is one that I haven't seen in all my time of reading these reports. And yes, it has a very distinct hockey angle that has made the crime a little surreal when you read the report and then watch the video. Yes, video!

The picture of the newspaper article above is from Russell, Manitoba where it seem a rather odd crime took place on August 15 at 2:45am. The following is the report filed in the newspaper word for word. Absorb this, readers, because the video that follows will bring these words to life!
A break-in occurred again at the Russell C-Store Beer Vendor. The video surveillance caught a man entering the store wearing a ball cap and his face covered. Shortly after... a goalie, yes a goalie, entered the store to assist the first man in carrying away several cases of beer. He was described as having a medium build, wearing goalie pads, blocker and trapper, and carrying a goalie stick. He was ready to play. Too bad there weren't any refs, as they would have thrown this thieving goalie in the penalty box for a while! The RCMP have never seen a disguise like this before! Police are reviewing surveillance and investigations are ongoing.
Yes, the RCMP have never seen a disguise like this before in a robbery for a few cases of beer. That's the take-away from this crime, I guess. I appreciate that the investigation is ongoing, but I commend the writer who had the task of writing the crime report in his or her efforts to have some fun with this story. It almost sounds like this might be an April Fool's prank with how they focused entirely on the goaltending burglar and not the guy in the ball cap!

You might be chuckling to yourself about this report. I'd imagine you have a picture in your head of what this particular crime may have looked like with a goalie involved. Conjure those images no more, folks, as we have video of the crime happening thanks to Manitoba's RCMP being media savvy! Without further adieu, here is the video from August 15th that features your show-stealing goaltender!
You'll notice the timestamp is actually an hour later than what the newspaper report stated, but how about that goaltender? He's agile as he goes through the broken window without wrecking his jersey or gear nor getting a scratch on him. He has great hands as he hauls two cases of beer out of the store while still carrying his goal stick. He appears to be somewhat athletic as he streaks across the parking lot area, but it appears he could work on that footspeed a little.

What makes this video even better is the description that the RCMP threw up on YouTube with the video. It reads as follows,
On August 15th at 3:38 a.m., a break-in occurred at a beer store vendor in Russell, Manitoba. Video surveillance caught two men entering the store and stealing cases of beer.

The first man was wearing mitts/gloves, a large coat, ball cap and had his face covered.

The second suspect that followed was dressed as a goalie.

However, he may have been a defenceman or forward in disguise as he was wearing jersey #17 – a non-traditional number for goalies.

He is described as having a medium build, wearing a blocker, trapper and carrying a goalie stick.

Anyone with information about this theft or has played against a goalie matching this description is asked to call Russell RCMP.
I love the line of "he may have been a defenceman or forward in disguise" due to him wearing #17. That's priceless! The Russell detachment of the RCMP may unintentionally be one of the funniest hockey writers in the game today!

Look, all jokes aside, this is a crime and these two buffoons certainly should be prosecuted for their criminal activities. If you happen to know of or recognize either of these men, please contact the Russell RCMP detachment at 204-773-3051. The owner of the convenience store/beer vendor probably would like this matter resolved.

In the meantime, enjoy the video above as we discover a new definition for the oft-used goaltending term of "highway robbery"!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Hockey Show - Episode 205

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight to discuss a number of hockey stories. With the Rio Olympic Games over, we'll also commend and highlight our favorite moments of the games and what sports we "discovered" as potential new favorites. We'll also do a quick recap of the CBC's broadcast of The Tragically Hip's concert from Kingston as each of us have expressed our respect and admiration for Canada's preeminent rock band over the past few weeks.

Tonight, Teebz, Beans, and TJ will look at the latest moves by the Arizona Coyotes that include dealing for Lawson Crouse while taking on another horrible contract and why they might be the best team of the future, and we'll discuss the hiring of Dawn Braid as the NHL first full-time female coach. We'll talk about Connor McDavid the reports that he may be named as captain to make him the youngest team leader in NHL history. We'll talk about Taylor Hall's comments on his trade to the New Jersey Devils, and we'll update everyone on the Manitoba Bisons women's team who began their European preseason schedule against KJT-Helsinki in Finland. We also have an announcement regarding some NHL and CIS scheduling, so tune in and hear all of this and more tonight!

The phone lines are wide open tonight for your calls, so get your takes in at (204) 269-UMFM (269-8636)! Make sure your radio in the Winnipeg region is set to 101.5 on your FM dial if you can't make it or listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage!

As new feature for your listening pleasure, if you're an Android user, download the UMFM app for easy listening! The iPhone version is coming soon, so make sure you check back here for its availability. Once it is, we'll post that link here as well!

Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have 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.

Tonight, we commend the Desert Dogs, blow up the Oilers, and talk about the Bisons on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: August 25, 2016: Episode 205

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

It's Called "Progress"

It might be time to give the Arizona Coyotes a lot of credit. They were questioned when they hired a 28 year-old as their general manager, and John Chayka has suddenly become one of the best GMs in the game after leading the Coyotes on a successful draft and free agency period. While they may not be a playoff team just yet, they have built and continue to build an impressive stable of players under the age of 25 while keeping integral parts of their team on the payroll. Today, the Coyotes went off the map again in adding to their coaching staff, and this hiring shows all the moxie you've come to expect from Chayka.

While everyone has used the term "history" when it comes to this hiring, I prefer to use the word "progress". It's about time that a woman be added to a team's coaching staff in a prominent role, and I commend the Coyotes on their hiring of Dawn Braid as the organization's full-time Skating Coach. Braid has a long history of working with NHL teams, and finally someone had the bright idea of putting her on a payroll. Funny how it was the youngest GM in the league that made that decision.

Braid, pictured to the right, worked with the Coyotes as a skating consultant under GM Don Maloney last year, and has also worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames at points in her career. She was part of the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development, and has worked with NHL stars such as John Tavares. In other words, she knows her craft and teaches it well.

"It's something that I've wanted to see happen," Braid told NHL.com. "The fact that they respect what I do enough to name me as a full-time coach, or to name me as the first female coach in the NHL, I take a ton of pride in that. I've worked very hard for this opportunity. It's been going on for years and I just look forward to going even further with it."

It's 2016, folks. Women have been working in and teaching hockey and skating for years. While her hiring is historic in becoming the first woman named to a coaching staff in the NHL, this is a very progressive move by a league whose "old boys' club" really holds all the cards. The fact that a 28 year-old analytical general manager made this move shows that it might take new thinking to open up the NHL to women and minorities, but the change is happening.

It's hard for me to understand why great women such as Shannon Miller, Barb Underhill, Laura Stamm, Cathy Andrade, Sarah Hodges, or Rachel Flanangan aren't being promoted through Hockey Canada and considered for positions in hockey by franchises across the continent. All of these women have exceptional skills and understanding of the game, and yet none of them hold positions within the professional ranks of men's hockey despite having these skills and abilities.

The fact that Dawn Braid might open a door for many other women is a significant step, though, and here's hoping that other franchises look to the fairer sex when needing a competent professional to fill a position of authority behind the bench. If the Coyotes show significant improvement this season over their finish from the last campaign, I believe that Ms. Braid will have a lot to do with it. Skating is one of the most important skills in the game, and improvements to skating will only make players faster and stronger on their skates. I'm pretty sure 29 other NHL teams want those same improvements as well.

Congratulations to Dawn Braid on becoming the first woman to hold down a full-time NHL coaching position. Now it's time for the other 29 teams to step up and show that they understand it's 2016 as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Fans Vote To Go Crazy

NHL teams often find themselves looking for new ways to pump fans up, and they usually find this through music. There have been a ton of arena rock anthems over the course of time, and there are specific songs that teams have used that are now associated with that franchise. The Minnesota Wild used Joe Satriani's "Crowd Chant" after goals, and it was particularly noticeable after goals during playoff games when the capacity crowd would sing along to the song. Today, though, the Wild announced that they would be changing the song based on a vote done by their fans!

For the unaware, this is the song that the Wild played after goals were scored by the home team prior to this recent vote. Yes, it gets loud during the playoffs.
Satriani's "Crowd Chant" has been used in multiple arenas across several sports for some time since its release in 2006. It's one of those mainstays on a lot of arena playlists because of its catchy riffs and somewhat-forced crowd interaction. The Wild used it very effectively as their goal song to keep the emotion and electricity high in the arena.

The vote done by fans, however, brought a local superstar's song to the Wild as the fans voted to use Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" as their new goal song! Again, for the unaware, this is the song that is replacing Satriani's "Crowd Chant".
The song was voted in by season ticket holders by a 2-1 vote, but the Minnesota Wild Facebook page shows that not all the fans are in favour of changing the song. Apparently Satriani's song really does resonate with some fans.

That being said, the comment with the most likes reads, "Finally. No offense to Joe Satriani but that song was really lame, especially since other teams used it. At least this has a connection to Minnesota."

What do you think of the change? Sound off below, and we'll see if non-Wild fans agree with the season ticket holders or not!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Distorting The Facts

For the last few months, I have avoided the conflicts and lawsuits that seem to be following the NWHL around. There have been all sorts of rumours and speculation about the league and its finances, and I have done my best to avoid the discussions that concerned these rumours and speculation. Today, however, I found myself watching what seemed to be an interview done with NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan that was nothing more than a distortion of facts and the spreading of half-truths.

Former BuzzFeed president Jon Steinberg launched Cheddar, a "finance news network aimed at the under-40 crowd" found exclusively on Facebook earlier this year, and Dani Rylan appeared on the Facebook Live broadcast of Cheddar this morning. Her intention was to promote the NWHL to those people watching the broadcast which numbered at 110 viewers when I was watching, but it seemed that all she was interested in doing was stretching truths and facts into whatever spin she needed.

Here's an abbreviated video from the Cheddar Facebook site. I'll disseminate what Miss Rylan said in the full interview that I watched below.


Ok, let's break this down, shall we?

Rylan mentioned that expansion was a possibility in the future with potential owners "approaching us all the time". I believe that this statement is entirely untrue. Three of her four franchises have already moved to new arenas this season that have a smaller seating capacity than where they previously played. If the league was truly looking to get bigger by a whole team, they wouldn't be downsizing 75% of the league.

Secondly, the loss of two major investors who have filed lawsuits seeking their investments back would most likely scare off other investors. The fact that there is proof of bills not being paid or falling into default would also scare off potential investors. No one wants to throw money into a sinking ship, so the expansion talk is entirely untrue. Yes, she flashed up the map with the stars on new locations, but there is a 99.9% chance of that never happening. Heck, she couldn't even keep a team in New York City where her league offices are located, so where are these expansion franchises going?

Rylan stated that the league was averaging about 1000 fans per game last season. That's a great number for a league in its first year, so why are teams downsizing? The Boston Pride are the reigning Isobel Cup champions, and they have moved to a facility that is outside metro Boston and only holds 660 people maximum. If the league truly is growing its fanbase, the league shouldn't be moving to smaller and more remote facilities.

One can make an argument that costs will be lower at a more remote facility, but that goes against all logic. If the league is growing and more people are showing up, arenas are usually keen to encourage teams to return since they make more money as well. Instead, the league has pulled up roots for three teams and moved them to smaller facilities. It makes no sense unless there are costs that need to be controlled because finances are tight. Maybe that attendance figure of 1000 fans wasn't entirely true?

Rylan made the bold claim that "one-third of the league plays for their respective national teams". This is a disgusting distortion of a fact. We already know that the Russians aren't coming back to the league and it appears that Nana Fujimoto also has walked away. Tatiana Rafter and Sarah Casorso have yet to suit up for Team Canada. So who exactly are these national teams?

The truth is that of the 68 rostered players - 17 players per team - one-third of them would be the 22 US national team players and Janine Weber. Weber plays for the Austrian national team. 23 players of 68 total players is one-third of the league, but only two national teams are represented and Americans make up 96% of that one-third. She would have been better off stating that one-third of the players in the league have represented America on the international stage. That would be entirely truthful and accurate. Instead, she distorted the truth about her league to make it sound more prestigious.

Rylan stated, "We are a media company." Do the players know about this? The NWHL is not a media company whatsoever. They produce content that is carried on some medium - internet, TV, radio, etc. - but they are not a media company. I get that Miss Rylan isn't an English major, but you cannot claim to be something you're not. Otherwise, HBIC is a media company. And I can tell you that it is not. Nor will it ever be unless I am gifted some large amount of money or the keys to some media company. I produce content, but the medium is the internet. Confusing the two terms is a major blunder.

Rylan stated that the NWHL is seeking the same types of commercial and sponsor deals that the men get. I appreciate this honesty because it would help the league immensely, but there are problems with her statement in that even her main sponsor in Dunkin' Donuts hasn't given the league the cash infusion it truly needs. Sources indicate that the deal negotiated with Dunkin' Donuts provided the league with $80,000 cash - not even enough to cover salaries for one month of play - while Dunkin' Donuts got prime real estate on jerseys and a ton of free publicity with the players using their individual $400 gift cards.

While she may be seeking the same types of deals that the NHL and the minor-pro leagues get, there's a major difference in that they have lasted the test of time and have generated a major fanbase in each of the markets in which they reside. Keep seeking these deals, though, as they will help your league. Just don't be surprised if they don't materialize.

In talking about these new commercial and sponsor deals that she is seeking, Rylan stated that the fans of the NWHL give the "same number of impressions" when compared to men's hockey. This is entirely a lie. In fact, it's laughable. If she thinks she generates the same number of "impressions" as the AHL or the ECHL does with their sponsors, she's delusional. There are zero metrics for her to base this statement in any sort of truth. She doesn't even reach the same number of fans on a seasonal basis as the ECHL averages per month. Therefore, this is a bold-faced lie.

Rylan's claims of players in the NWHL making salaries "almost comparable to minor-pro leagues" is technically true, but also a distortion of the facts. The average NWHL player will earn a salary around $15,000 for a 24-game schedule or about $625 per game. That's not bad money for a startup league, but there are some items not covered by the team that the lower-tier minor-pro leagues cover.

The SPHL, the league that Shannon Szabados plays in, pays its players somewhere between $300 and $325 per week due to the weekly $5600 salary cap, but apartment rent and most meals are covered by the team. They also help find jobs for the players in the communities in which they play which do not conflict in any way with the team's schedule. Looking at that, it's $300 clear above rent and most food, making it easier for the players to live on what appears to be a meager player's salary. Add in some extra cash from the jobs they work in their off-ice time, and some of the players get by fairly nicely.

The NWHL doesn't provide for housing or meals from what I have been able to gather, and I have yet to see them find job placements for any player. If they have, those announcements have been kept very quiet which is contrary to good marketing. In order to attract players, you'd think that the league would want to celebrate its achievements in helping players. Instead, we hear crickets. Suddenly, $625 per game doesn't really feel like a lot of money when you factor in rent, food, and transportation to and from games.

Look, I know that Dani Rylan is going through some tough times right now both as the league's Commissioner and on her own. The lawsuits from failed friendships and investors have to weigh on her somewhat, and there are rumours that additional lawsuits are on their way as companies begin to take action for bills unpaid or delinquent. However, the last thing she should be doing is distorting the facts about her league in order to make it sound better.

I'm concerned about the future of 68 women who could arrive at a rink one day to find out that games have been cancelled. In the end, the women on the ice are the ones who will suffer, and it's not fair that they have to bear the burden if things don't come out positively for the NWHL.

The show that Dani Rylan appeared on was called Cheddar. It's almost appropriate with all the cheesy lines she was using on the program.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The New Kids

Today was a big day for the CWHL as the five teams added some youngsters who they believe will carry them to the Clarkson Cup at some point during their careers. There were some big names who were available, but the CWHL Draft isn't like your NHL Entry Draft. The CWHL allows for the ladies who have registered to be drafted to pick two franchises to whom they can be drafted. The reason for this is to allow the women to pursue job opportunities in these cities so that they may make a living. In saying that, let's take a look at who went where in the CWHL Draft!

LES CANADIENNES DE MONTREAL
Record: 21-3-0, lost in Clarkson Cup Final.
Needs: Not a lot.

Les Canadiennes were the toast of the league last season, boasting the top four scorers in the league and the top goaltender. While they did fall short in the Clarkson Cup Final against the Calgary Inferno, Les Canadiennes are deep and talented in almost every position.

Selections
Sarah Lefort - LW - Boston University (NCAA)
Cassandra Poudrier - D - Cornell University (NCAA)
Ariane Barker - RW - University of Montreal (CIS)
Brittany Fouracres - D - McGill University (CIS)
Marion Allemoz - C - University of Montreal (CIS)
Taylor Hough - G - McGill University (CIS)
Melanie Desrochers - D - St. Lawrence University (NCAA)
Amanda Makela - G - Buffalo Beauts (NWHL)
Nachi Fujimoto - D - Sapporo International University (Japan)

Analysis
If Les Canadiennes needed more depth, they got it with this draft class. Sarah Lefort is a dynamic scoring threat and certainly put up incredible numbers in the NCAA over her four years. Despite being drafted by the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts, the former captain of Canada's U22 team decided to stay in Canada and play the game. Les Canadiennes will be much better for that decision. Lefort broke Marie-Philip Poulin's scoring record at BU, and will mostly be reunited with her former Terriers teammate.

Poudrier was captain at Cornell, and has steadily become a solid contributor at both ends of the ice. Barker and Allemoz played together with the Carabins, helping them to a CIS Championship this past season. Allemoz also captains the French national team, so Les Canadiennes get another excellent leader. Brittany Fouracres led McGill's blue line in scoring, and Taylor Hough was one of the better goaltenders in the nation last year. Desrochers led St. Lawrence in scoring on the back-end, Makela moves from a backup with the Buffalo Beauts to a competition for ice-time with the Canadiennes, and Fujimoto comes over from Japan where she played with Japan U18 National Team and is looking to add experience prior to the 2018 Olympic Games.

Montreal will definitely be the team to beat on the ice in the CWHL this season with the additions they made today. While they may not post the same incredible record as last season, I expect them to be at the top of the standings once the playoffs roll around again in 2016-17.

CALGARY INFERNO
Record: 16-6-2, won Clarkson Cup.
Needs: Not a lot.

Calgary really came on strong towards the end of the season. All facets of their game seemed to rise to the occasion with the start of the playoffs. While they were pushed by the Brampton Thunder, the Inferno really turned it on in the Clarkson Cup Final to bring home their first championship.

Selections
Emerance Maschmeyer - G - Harvard University (NCAA)
Katelyn Gosling - D - Western University (CIS)
Iya Gavrilova - C - University of Calgary (CIS)
Misty Seastrom - D - Calgary Senior Women's Hockey (SAWHA)
Akane Hosoyamada - D - Syracuse University (NCAA)
Cara Schlitz - D - Peace River Sharks (PCFHL)
Caitlin Zevola - F - Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
Claudia Tellez - F - Mexico National Team (IIHF)
Debbie Beaudoin - F - Vancouver Griffins (NWHL)
Rina Takeda - D - Mikage Gretz (Japan)
Stephanie Nehring - G - University of Guelph (CIS)
Toni Ross - G - University of Regina (CIS)

Analysis
The Inferno are the defending Clarkson Cup champions, so finding holes in their lineup isn't easy. However, they drafted the best goaltender and arguably the best player in the draft in Emerance Maschmeyer to pair with Delayne Brian. In other words, Calgary has a helluva pair of netminders. Toss in two outstanding CIS netminders in Nehring and Ross to push for playing time, and Calgary might have the league's best goaltending as a whole.

The Inferno also drafted arguably the best CIS player in Iya Gavrilova, an outstanding defenceman in Katelyn Gosling, and went with a couple of wily veteran players in Misty Seastrom and Debbie Beaudoin. They added international players Claudia Tellez and Rina Takeda who will look to gain experience, and added Alberta-born players Akane Hosoyamada, Cara Schlitz, and Caitlin Zevola for depth. Overall, the champs look strong as they begin their first season as "defending champions", and they should challenge Les Canadiennes for top spot in the league.

BRAMPTON THUNDER
Record: 16-7-1, lost to Calgary in semifinal.
Needs: depth scoring.

Brampton came up one point short of hosting a playoff series, and came up one game short of heading to the Clarkson Cup Finals. While there's no consolation in losing to the eventual champions, the depth of the Thunder was tested in the series against Calgary. Despite having two of the top-three netminders in the CWHL in Erica Howe and Liz Knox and balanced scoring, the Thunder will be looking for more scoring.

Selections
Laura Stacey - RW - Dartmouth College (NCAA)
Shannon Macaulay - F - Clarkson University (NCAA)
Nicole Brown - LW - Quinnipiac University (NCAA)
Jaimie McDonell - F - Princeton University (NCAA)
Taylor Woods - F - Cornell University (NCAA)
Kristen Barbara - D - York University (CIS)
Darlene Clapham - D - Western University (CIS)
Jessica Hartwick - D - Ryerson University (CIS)
Melissa Wronzberg - F - Ryerson University (CIS)
Emily Grainger - D - University of British Columbia (CIS)
Jetta Rackleff - G - Rochester Institute of Technology (NCAA)
Jessica McAuliffe - D - York University (CIS)
Nicki Robinson - F - University of Saskatchewan (CIS)
Kelly Campbell - G - Western University (CIS)

Analysis
Scoring needs were addressed in the first three picks that Brampton made. Stacey, Macaulay, and Brown can score, and they'll all challenge for roster spots out of training camp. McDonell and Woods are good depth scoring threats, and Wronzberg and Robinson will be expected to bring a lot of energy to the forward group if they hope to land a roster spot.

Defensively, Barbara, Clapham, Hartwick, and McAuliffe won't wow you with stats or flashy plays, but they are all defensively responsible and provide excellent depth for the Thunder blue line. Grainger has shown flashes of offensive ability in Canada West, but she's also a very responsible defender who makes the safe and smart play more often than not. Kelly Campbell will push Knox and Howe in the crease as she's a former CIS champion while Jetta Rackleff will be a bit of a project, but she has shown the ability to steal games in her collegiate career.

TORONTO FURIES
Record: 6-16-2, lost to Montreal in semifinal.
Needs: defence, scoring depth.

The Furies suffered through a rash of injuries to a number of their scoring stars, and those injuries really took a toll on the team's record. In saying that, they have the make-up to much better than a six-win team, and adding some solid defenders and some scoring depth will really improve the Furies' outlook this season.

Selections
Renata Fast - D - Clarkson University (NCAA)
Erin Ambrose - D - Clarkson Univeristy (NCAA)
Michela Cava - F - University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Jenna Dingeldein - F - Mercyhurst University (NCAA)
Danielle Gagne - F - Ohio State University (NCAA)
Erin Zach - C - Rochester Institute of Technology (NCAA)
Vanessa Spataro - LW - St. Cloud State University (NCAA)
Ella Stewart - D - Elmira College (NCAA)
Victoria McKenzie - F - UOIT (CIS)
Carlee Eusepi - D - Clarkson University (NCAA)
Jaclyn Gibson - F - UOIT (CIS)
Nicole Kirchberger - C - Buffalo State College (NCAA)
Jessica Platt - D - Kellis Squad Senior Team (LLHL)
Alessandra Armstrong - G - Ryerson University (CIS)

Analysis
I'd say Toronto shored up their defence quite nicely by adding three players from Clarkson to their blue line including the dynamic duo of Fast and Ambrose. They'll move the puck and bring speed and defensive responsibility to the Furies' back end, giving the Furies a competent breakout at any moment. Michela Cava is a good depth forward who has the potential to be a first-line player if she continues to work hard, but she'll be another good addition to the Furies lineup. Jenna Dingeldein is a very underrated scoring threat as well, and she could be a breakout star in the CWHL.

The depth that Toronto put together in getting Gagne, Zach, and Spataro also shows that the Furies are building for tomorrow. Those three players are solid contributors now, but should grow into scoring roles with the Furies as they adapt to CWHL play. McKenzie, Gibson, and Kirchberger will provide excellent depth up front while Stewart, Eusepi, and Platt give more defensive depth. Armstrong is an interesting pick with the Furies' final pick, but she provides more depth at the goaltending position.

BOSTON BLADES
Record: 1-23-0, missed playoffs.
Needs: Pretty much everything.

A one-win season was the result of the mass departures of the US Women's National Team players to the NWHL, so there are major holes all over the lineup. Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse and defenceman Tara Watchorn are the two stars of the team, but the rest of the lineup is fairly thin. GM Krista Petronick had her work cut out for her, but Boston will rebuild over the next couple of seasons through the draft. They started that rebuild today.

Selections
Kayla Tutino - F - Boston University (NCAA)
Chelsey Goldberg - C - Northeastern University (NCAA)
Cassandra Opela - D - University of Connecticut (NCAA)
Meghan Grieves - RW - Boston College (NCAA)
Dakota Woodworth - C - Boston University (NCAA)
Margaret Zimmer - F - University of Connecticut (NCAA)
Alexis Woloschuk - D - Boston University (NCAA)
Sato Kikuchi - D - Nippon Sports Science University (Japan)
Taylor McGee - D - Pennsylvania State University (NCAA)
Melissa Bizzari - F - Boston College (NCAA)
Kate Leary - F - Boston College (NCAA)
Lauren Dahm - G - Clarkson University (NCAA)
Amanda Fontaine - G - Sacred Heart University (NCAA)
Megan Fitzgerald - LW - Hamilton College (NCAA)
Alexandra Karlis - C - UMass-Boston (NCAA)
Jennifer Currie - LW - UMass-Boston (NCAA)
Jacqueline Perez - F - Norwich University (NCAA)
Sydney Collins - F - University of Rhode Island (NCAA)
Kristen Levesque - F - University of Rhode Island (NCAA)
Sarah Quigley - G - Buffalo State University (NCAA)
Deanna Meunier - G - SUNY-Cortland (NCAA)
Wendy Abramenko - F - Charleton University (NCAA)
Stevie Burger - D - Babson College (NCAA)
Marley Selfridge - G - Boston University (NCAA)

Analysis
If that seems like a ton of players selected, Boston is basically starting from scratch. There's a lot to like in all those picks. Speed, scoring, defensive responsibility, and depth. Boston needs all of that and then some. In saying that, though, they will have some great players to build around as they move forward.

Boston's rebuild will be an all-in game plan where everyone who makes the team next season will be expected to contribute in some way. Tutino should score and could be a star in the making, Grieves will be expected to chip in with some offence and speed, and Zimmer should be able to generate offence off the wing. Opela, Woloschuk, and McGee will provide sound defensive play in the Blades' zone. Overall, this is a good start in getting the Blades back to respectability.

76 women were drafted into the league. Many of them will be stars next season and in the coming seasons. Which pick will have the biggest impact? That will be answered shortly, so make sure you get down to the games and cheer on these women!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Only One Would Prevail

Like the women yesterday, the men's tournament at the Rio Olympic field hockey competition came down to four teams. Three European teams and one South American team would compete for the three medals up for grabs, and these four teams are some of the best on the planet. The second-, third-, sixth-, and seventh-ranked teams according to the FIH would compete for these three medals. The only question we have to answer is which team would stand alone at the end? We're not going to waste any time in answering that query!

Argentina vs. Germany

Argentina advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over Spain in the quarterfinals. The seventh-ranked Los Leones finished in third-place in Pool B with a 2-1-2 record. Germany advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 victory over New Zealand in the quarterfinals. The third-ranked team on the planet finished atop Pool B in the preliminary round with a 4-0-1 record. These two teams met in the preliminaries and came away with a 4-4 draw, so the rematch would carry a lot more importance with a berth in the gold medal game on the line. Germany needed a win in order to defend their 2012 Olympic gold medal, so there was a lot riding on this game.

This game was dominated by one team, and that started early in the game. Gonzalo Peillat scored at the nine-minute mark and the 12-minute mark off penalty corners to put Argentina up 2-0, and the lethal scoring threat helped his team push the pace against the Germans through the opening quarter.

Peillat capped off the hat trick at the 28-minute mark with his third penalty corner conversion. At points in the match, the commentators referred to Peillat as "the magic man" for his prowess, but it was clear that he came to play on this day. Entering half-time, the Argentinians held a commanding 3-0 lead over the Germans.

Argentina didn't hold back with the lead as they continued to pressure Germany in the third quarter, and they were rewarded in the 36th minute when Joaquín Menini scored from inside the circle to make it a 4-0 game. Germany looked stunned as they tried to mount some offensive pressure, but Los Leones were riding high with their new-found confidence against the third-ranked team, and they denied any and all chances that the Germans had in the third frame.

The Argentinians weren't done, though. Two minutes into the final stanza had Lucas Vila with some room in the scoring circle and he didn't make any mistake in finding the back of the net for a 5-0 lead. Germany, in needing something on which to build momentum, finally netted a goal when captain Moritz Fürste drag flicked a ball past Juan Vivaldi on a penalty corner to cut the deficit to 5-1 at the 51st minute.

The Germans decided to pull the goaltender in needing four goals to equalize, and they poured on the pressure. Christopher Ruhr chipped in a second German goal at the 57th minute, but it was far too little and far too late for this comeback as Argentina held on for victory with the 5-2 score! The Germans would not be defending the gold medal, but they still had a chance at hardware in the bronze medal game. Argentina would compete for its first Olympic gold medal!

Belgium vs. Netherlands

Belgium finished atop Pool A with a 4-0-1 record in the preliminary round. The sixth-ranked team downed India 3-1 in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. Netherlands finished in second-place in Pool B with a 3-1-1 record, and the second-ranked team advanced to the semifinals with a dominant 4-0 win over top-ranked Australia in the quarterfinals. These two teams didn't meet up in the preliminary round, but they have lots of history against one another with Netherlands holding the edge in the head-to-head meetings. Would that continue today?

The two teams played cautiously through the first frame with neither really pressing as they looked for holes in each other's defences. With the repeated meetings these two teams have played, it felt very much like a chess game early on, but there were chances as the quarter moved along and players found seams. However, the score at the end of the first fifteen minutes was 0-0.

The second quarter was entirely different. In the 25th minute, Belgium was awarded a penalty corner. The initial shot was stopped, but Jerome Truyens corralled the rebound and found the back of the net to put the Belgian squad up 1-0. Four minutes later, John-John Dohmen redirected a pass as he cruised into the scoring circle to put Belgium up 2-0! However, the Dutch wouldn't let Belgium run away with this game before the half as Mink Van der Weerden converted a penalty corner of his own in the 29th minute. After a half-hour of play, Belgium led 2-1 at half-time.

The two teams traded chances and opportunities throughout an entertaining third quarter as both pressed for more goals, but the netminders stood tall. The frantic pace would continue in the fourth quarter, and the Belgians would capitalize early when Florent Van Aubel tipped a pass that eluded goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann for a 3-1 lead at the 46th minute!

The Belgians chose to continue to press, and it almost was costly as netminder Vincent Vanasch was forced to make a huge save off a Dutch counter-attack to keep the two-goal lead intact. However, the Belgian strategy was a wise one as they controlled the ball and kept the Netherlands in their own zone for minutes at a time. When the final whistle sounded, the Belgians had earned a berth in the gold medal final with an upset 3-1 win over the Netherlands! There will be new gold medalists in Rio as the Netherlands will play for bronze!

Netherlands vs. Germany

I doubt that the second- and third-ranked teams on the planet expected to be playing for the bronze medal when this tournament opened as these two were the finalists in London, but here we are as the Netherlands and Germany took to the pitch to determined who would earn the bronze medal. These two teams met in the preliminary round with Germany winning 2-1 on August 12, so would there be a second victory for Germany or would the Netherlands exact some revenge in the biggest game between these two this year?

The first and second quarters were tight-checking affairs with few real scoring chances as the defensive efforts on both sides were great. The closest we got to a goal in the first half was when German Florian Fuchs beat netminder Jaap Stockmann on a play, but the ball was swept away from the goal line by the Dutch defenders to keep the game knotted at 0-0 through 30 minutes of play.

Five minutes into the second half, we finally broke the deadlock. Jorrit Croon, a 17 year-old player from the Netherlands, found the back of the net with his shot to put the Dutch up 1-0. Germany, though, would answer back before the end of the quarter. Martin Haner got an opportunity inside the scoring circle and he made no mistake at the 42nd minute to tie the game at 1-1!

The final quarter was intense as both teams looked for the winner, but neither team opened up enough to allow good scoring chances. We nearly had a winner when Linus Butt had an opportunity, but credit Stockmann for making a huge save in the waning minutes to keep the game knotted up at 1-1. Nicolas Jacobi kept the Germans alive with a couple of key saves in the final minutes, meaning we wouldn't see a winner in regulation time. Like the women's bronze medal game, this game needed a penalty shootout to decide who would go home with the accolades!

In the opening round of the shootout, Netherlands' Billy Bakker was denied by Jacobi while Tobias Hauke found room past Stockmann to put the Germans up 1-0! Both teams would score on their next three attempts to make it 4-3 for the Germans going into Round Five. The Netherlands had to score to keep their medal hopes alive, and they sent Sander de Wijn to the penalty spot for the attempt. Seconds later, Jacobi stopped the flick by de Wijn and celebration broke out on the German bench as the Germans took the shootout 4-3 to win the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics!

Belgium vs. Argentina

Belgium has one men's field hockey medal: a bronze from 1920. Argentina has none. Someone was going to add some new hardware to their mantles and/or trophy cabinets with a victory in the gold medal game at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Belgium really surprised a lot of people with their balanced attack and scoring while Argentina showed that they can score with the best teams in the world. One of these two teams would stand atop the podium at the end of this game!

The game started quickly with Belgium pressing and it didn't take long for them to show up on the scoreboard. Tanguy Cosyns deflected a pass past Juan Vivaldi at the three-minute mark to put Belgium up 1-0. The furious action between these two high-scoring teams continued, and it was Argentina who would capitalize next.

At the 12-minute mark, Argentinian captain Pedro Ibarra scored on a gorgeous behind-the-back penalty corner play that had Belgium completely baffled for the tying goal. Three minutes after that, Ignacio Ortiz found room in the scoring circle to make his shot count, and Los Leones would carry a 2-1 lead into the break.

The second quarter saw Los Leones continue their assault on the Belgian goal, and it would be superstar Gonzalo Peillat converting another penalty corner with a fantastic flick past Vincent Vanasch at the 22nd minute for the 3-1 lead. The two teams would continue to trade chances, but the whistle for half-time would see Argentina carry that two-goal lead into the intermission.

Belgium seemed to be a little more desperate as the third quarter progressed, but their determination would be rewarded with eight seconds remaining in the quarter. Gauthier Boccard hammered home a beautiful strike to bring Belgium within a goal at 3-2 as the two teams prepared for the final fifteen minutes.

Chances were had at both ends. The teams pushed the pace through the entire quarter. Belgium, needing the equalizer, pulled Vanasch for the extra attacker with three minutes to play. They continued to press, but Argentina held the fort long enough for Agustin Mazzilli to find enough room on the pitch to score an empty-net goal with 16 seconds to play for the 4-2 advantage. With no time left to score a pair of goals, Los Leones celebrated wildly at the sound of the whistle as they captured their first gold medal at any Olympics!

After that amazing and entertaining gold medal game, here are the final standings for the men's side of the tournament in Rio de Janiero.

FINAL STANDINGS
Rank Country Record Differential Points
Argentina
5-1-2 +8 17
Belgium
6-2-0 +18 18
Germany
5-1-2 +5 17
4th
Netherlands
4-2-2 +14 14
5th
Spain
3-2-1 +6 10
6th
Australia
3-3-0 +5 9
7th
New Zealand
2-3-1 +8 7
8th
India
2-3-1 -2 7
9th
Great Britain
1-2-2 +4 5
10th
Ireland
1-4-0 -6 3
11th
Canada
0-4-1 -15 1
12th
Brazil
0-5-0 -45 0

With the tournament coming to a close and the Olympic Games closing tomorrow, I have to say that this competition was excellent. I really enjoyed the games and the action on the pitch, and I'm hoping that Canada can gain a few more supporters and some extra dollars to continue to build on their appearance in Rio. The men played their hearts out, and I really think they're on the precipice of moving up the rankings if they had a little more support.

If you're interested in the game, hit up the Field Hockey Canada website and see if there's a way for you to help. It could be a volunteer position or paid employment or possibly even as a player on the pitch! We have four years until Tokyo, so let's see if we can get Canada a win or a medal on the Olympic stage!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Champions Crowned

There were medals handed out today for the final four teams in the women's field hockey competition at the Rio Olympic Games. The final teams in the competition are some of the best in the world as the second-, third-, fourth-, and eighth-ranked teams in the FIH rankings were playing for the three medals. The top-ranked Hockeyroos from Australia suffered an upset loss to New Zealand in the quarterfinals, so grabbing the top ranking in the FIH was wide-open for one of the four remaining teams. Who would prevail? Let's find out!

Netherlands vs. Germany

The Netherlands downed Argentina to advance to the semifinal game while Germany beat the United States to end any chance of the two best teams from the Americas winning a medal in Rio. Netherlands, ranked second by the FIH, finished first in Pool A while Germany, ranked third in the world, finished third. In their meeting in the preliminary round, Netherlands defeated Germany 2-0.

Both teams came out with incredible pace in this game as they looked to strike first. Germany would make that happen when Lisa Schutze's flick off a penalty corner found room past Dutch netminder Joyce Sombroek in the 11th minute.

The Netherlands would respond early in the second quarter when captain Maartje Paumen used a drag flick off a penalty corner to even the score at 1-1 in the 16th minute. These two teams were certainly more cautious in the second quarter than they had been in the opening frame, and the tie would carry into half-time.

In the second half, the Dutch sent wave after wave of attack at the Germans only to be denied each time. For a moment, it appeared the Oranje had broken the deadlock when Ellen Hoog scored high on Kristina Reynolds, but the goal was disallowed due to the height of the strike. The score remained 1-1 through regulation time, so this game would be decided by a penalty shootout.

Germany's Janne Müller-Wieland and Netherlands' Willemijn Bos traded opening goals in the shootout. Marie Mävers gave Germany the lead, and Ellen Hoog would be denied on the second shot. The Germans would denied over the next two shots, and Netherlands' Margot van Geffen would even the shootout at 2-2 on the Dutch's fourth attempt. With both shooters being unsuccessful on the fifth and final shots, the shootout would go to sudden death!

With the pressure high, Netherlands coach Alyson Annan-Thate crouched on the sideline as the Dutch looked to advance to the final to try to defend their two previous gold medals and attempt a rare three-peat in the Olympic world. Once again, Müller-Wieland scored and once again Bos replied. Sombroek, named as the FIH's best goalie in 2015, showed why she earned that distinction with a huge save on Mävers to potentially set up a Dutch celebration if Hoog could convert her chance.

Hoog, having extensive international experience, used the same move she used in London, hammering a reverse stick shot past Reynolds for game-winning goal! With the victory, the Netherlands move to the gold medal game while Germany will play for the bronze medal!

Great Britain vs. New Zealand

There was far less drama in the second semifinal game as Great Britain met New Zealand. Great Britain defeated Spain to advance while New Zealand upset Australia to get into the semifinals. Great Britain, ranked fourth in the world on the strength of England's play, finished first atop Pool B while New Zealand, ranked eighth by the FIH, finished second in Pool A. They did not meet in the preliminary round.

Both teams played somewhat cautiously through the first quarter, and the game would remain scoreless until the 22nd minute in the second quarter. Alex Danson hammered home a rebound off a penalty corner to put the Lionesses up 1-0, and that score would hold true through to half-time.

The third quarter saw the Britons suffer a couple of injuries that set their attack back, and the Black Sticks nearly capitalized. Netminder Maddie Hinch came way out of her goal to challenge the attacking Black Sticks and the ball got past her, but the Lionesses were able to clear the ball from the scoring area before any damage was done as the one-goal difference held up through 45 minutes of play.

Three minutes into the final frame, Helen Richardson-Walsh was sent in on a breakaway during a counter-attack, and New Zealand captain Kayla Whitelock was forced to foul Richardson-Walsh as she tried to prevent the goal, but she conceded a penalty stroke. Richardson-Walsh made no mistake on the free shot, and the Lionesses went up 2-0.

Lily Owsley's work on the pitch earned her a path to the goal, but she was also fouled to set up another penalty stroke. Alex Danson was selected to shoot, and she fired home the third goal for the Britons at the 52nd minute, almost guaranteeing zero chance of a Black Sticks comeback. When the final whistle sounded, Great Britain had the 3-0 victory and a berth in the gold medal game while New Zealand would play in the bronze medal game!

Germany vs. New Zealand

We already know how both of these teams got here, so let's go straight to the action!

Germany and New Zealand played a somewhat cautious first half with New Zealand being more of the aggressor, but both Germany's Kristina Reynolds and New Zealand's Sally Rutherford held clean sheets through the opening 30 minutes of play. Reynolds was clearly the busier of the two, but the German defence held strong as they looked for counter-attack opportunities.

They would get that opportunity four minutes into the second half when Charlotte Stapenhorst finished off the counter-attack after tipping home a shot inside the scoring circle, and the Germans owned a 1-0 lead. Four minutes later, Lisa Schutze found some room and flicked a shot past Rutherford to make it a 2-0 game! New Zealand, sensing that the Germans may shut them down like the Britons had, upped the tempo and were rewarded with a penalty corner at the end of the quarter. Olivia Merry's shot deflected off a German defender's stick and got past Reynolds for the goal to make it 2-1 at the end of the quarter! We would be in for an exciting finish!

New Zealand pressed hard for the equalizer in the fourth quarter. They had chances, but Reynolds and the German defence turned them away. With four minutes remaining - an eternity in field hockey - New Zealand pulled their netminder for an extra attacker to try and find that second goal. Despite the pressure, Germany found ways to clear the ball and keep it away from the attacking New Zealand players. In the end, the 2-1 score would hold as the final score, and Germany are your bronze medal winners at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games!

Netherlands vs. Great Britain

The top teams in both pools met in the gold medal final. Netherlands were looking for their third consecutive Olympic gold medal, and it seems that star player Ellen Hoog has a ritual that she follows that has ensured success of her and her teammates.

Hoog and teammate Naomi van As watch The Notebook before tournaments and before the respective finals of those tournaments as part of their routine. The movie came out in 2004 in the same year that Hoog made the Dutch national squad, so she has made a point of adding The Notebook to their day every time they suit up for tournaments and gold medal games. Would it help today?

The pace to this game was incredible, and it made for an amazing gold medal match. Captain Maartje Paumen was stopped on a penalty stroke minutes into the game as the two teams looked primed for a heavyweight battle! Ten minutes into the game, Sophie Bray made a great play to get into the scoring area, but her shot was stopped by Joyce Sombroek. Lily Owsley was in the right position to flick home the rebound and Great Britain took a 1-0 lead - a lead they would take into the break between quarters.

The Dutch would respond immediately after the break when Kitty van Male chipped the ball past Maddie Hinch into the back of the net, and we were knotted up at 1-1 in the 16th minute. In the 25th minute, Netherlands would be awarded a penalty corner, and Pauman made up for the earlier stop by converting the shot for the 2-1 Dutch lead! That lead would last less than a minute though as the Lionesses roared back and Crista Cullen would find the back of the net in the 26th minute! Through 30 minutes of the gold medal match, we had the two teams deadlocked at 2-2!

The two teams continued to attack in trying to break the tie, and the Netherlands would find the cage first. Off a penalty corner in the 37th minute, Kitty van Male wired a shot into the net unobstructed, and the Dutch would regain the lead! The Britons would apply more pressure after the goal, but the whistle would end the quarter after 45 minutes with the Dutch leading 3-2.

The offensive pressure applied by the Britons paid off in the fourth frame. At the 52nd minute, Great Britain was awarded a penalty corner. The initial shot was blocked by a Dutch defender, but Nicola White corralled the rebound and swept it into the cage for the 3-3 tie! The Dutch were looked anything but downtrodden after the goal as they attacked the Britons once more, but they would be turned away. The counter-attack by the Lionesses resulted in chances as well, but the final whistle would sound after 60 minutes with the score still at 3-3. The gold medal would be determined by a penalty shootout!

I'll be honest: I'm not a fan of shootouts deciding medals. However, this is the rule of the land in field hockey, so let's get to it.

Both teams were denied goals through the first two shooters, but Joyce Sombroek committed a penalty on the third British shot, resulting in a second attempt on the third shot for Helen Richardson-Walsh. Richardson-Walsh made no mistake on the do-over as she put Great Britain up 1-0 in the shootout. Laurien Leurink was denied by Maddie Hinch, and the Lionesses held the lead moving into Round Four. Both shooters would be denied again by the world-class netminders, so it was off to the fifth and, potentially, final round for the two teams depending on the results of the final shooters.

With Great Britain shooting first, they had an opportunity to end the shootout on their fifth shot. Hollie Webb would step to the penalty spot for Great Britain, and her flick found its way past Sombroek and into the back of the net for the deciding goal! Great Britain wins the game 2-0 in the penalty shootout, and dethrones the defending two-time Olympic champions!

As a note, there were a couple of stories about Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh becoming the first openly gay couple to win gold medals at the Olympics. Let me just say this: their sexuality means nothing to fans of the game, and those that reported this "historic" moment should be ashamed. These two women are amazing athletes and stars in the sport of field hockey which is what the Olympics are about. I, for one, commend them on their abilities and the fact that they are Olympic gold medalists today and forever. They are model athletes for this sport, and their gold medals reflect that dedication and ability. There is absolutely no reason to reflect on their marriage, their personal lives, or their sexuality when they are champions of their sport. Shame on those that made their story personal as opposed to celebrating what their team accomplished.

The Lionesses went undefeated in the tournament in winning the gold medal, and they certainly deserved the gold medal after showing the world how good they are. As a guy who has come to appreciate the finer points of the game of field hockey, this team showed class and respect throughout the tournament, and are fine examples of the Olympic spirit! Congratulations to Team Great Britain, your 2016 Rio Olympic Games champions!

The following table shows how the remainder of the field finished.

FINAL STANDINGS
Rank Country Record Differential Points
Great Britain
7-0-1 +13 22
Netherlands
5-0-3 +13 18
Germany
4-2-2 +2 14
4th
New Zealand
4-3-1 +4 13
5th
USA
4-2-0 +8 12
6th
Australia
3-3-0 +4 9
7th
Argentina
2-0-4 +5 6
8th
Spain
2-0-4 -8 6
9th
China
1-2-2 -2 5
10th
Japan
0-4-1 -13 1
11th
South Korea
0-4-1 -10 1
12th
India
0-4-1 -16 1

Congratulations go out to all the teams, but especially to gold medalist Great Britain, silver medalist Netherlands, and bronze medalist Germany! An excellent tournament by all standards!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!