Tuesday, 18 July 2017

US Pond Hockey Goes Sledding

Having been lucky enough to spend some time with Billy Bridges while he was working at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School, it became pretty apparent to me that sledge hockey still doesn't get the recognition that it truly deserves on both a local and national stage. Granted, it has made leaps and bounds over the last two decades thanks to players like Bridges, Brad Bowden, and Greg Westlake leading the charge for Canada on the international stage. We've seen the Norwegians, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Swedes all turn in solid programs over the past number of years as well, so the sport is growing with solid numbers and a fantastic following!

If one is looking to continue that solid growth, it helps if more people can take part in the game. Bridges had all the campers at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School give sledge hockey a try, and the smiles and laughter seen on the ice and after the sledge session was impressive as everyone seemed to love their experiences. But there still needs to be more exposure for the sport to grow, and one group that is taking a lead on that front is the US Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There was an announcement from the US Pond Hockey Championships yesterday as Jim Dahline sent out an update that came with a pretty important announcement for sledge hockey players. He writes,
"We have had sled exhibitions in the past, and it's a travesty that we haven't had a sled division. So this year, we're changing that. This is a first on the pond hockey circuit, and we're proud that USPHC will award the first Sled Championship in 2018."
That is OUTSTANDING! Well done, US Pond Hockey Championships. That's amazing news, and hopefully a number of excellent teams will play in this first edition of the tournament! With it being an Olympic year, there shouldn't be a pile of Olympic players there either, so there's a very good chance that a team of amateurs or semi-amateurs will capture that first championship!

I'd be very interested in returning to Minneapolis this February for the US Pond Hockey Championship, but that whole Super Bowl thing is a crowd with whom I really don't want to deal. NFL football fans are great, but the Super Bowl turns fans into fanatics sometimes, and I just wanna watch some pond hockey. Maybe I'll return in 2019 for the fun... and if I practice I could be on the ice on my sled!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Early Days Of Broadcasting

I feel pretty lucky that I get to be involved in the radio broadcasts of hockey each winter thanks to the University of Manitoba entrusting me and my esteemed colleague, TJ Phillers, to be the voices of Bisons women's hockey. After a short meeting with TJ tonight about this season's broadcasts, I realize that we've pioneered a number of firsts for Canada West hockey broadcasts of which we're pretty proud. But they pale in comparison to the guy who really blazed the path for all broadcasters, including us, in Foster Hewitt.

Hewitt is a Hall of Fame broadcaster who spent forty years as the voice of Hockey Night in Canada. I've always been curious as to how he was selected as the man to be the voice of Canada's most famous sports program, and there's a CBC video documenting this very subject!
He turned a part-time reporting job into the world's first full-time play-by-play hockey broadcast which is amazing to me. I thought it was kind of cool that he used the telephone to make the first radio calls as we still use that technology today for some of our broadcasts! Seeing Hewitt's path from the seats to the gondola is pretty incredible as well, and the explanation for the gondola makes total sense. For a three-minute video, there's a lot of great stuff that Hewitt shares!

We lost Foster Hewitt at the age of 82 on April 21, 1985 due to throat cancer, but the voice of Hockey Night in Canada is still one of the most important people in hockey history for everything that he did to make play-by-play broadcasts a weekly program that millions would tune into on the radio. The gondola that he had made famous unfortunately succumbed to the pure stupidity of Harold Ballard when he removed the gondola in August of 1979 to make room for private boxes. The gondola reportedly went to an incinerator and was never seen again.

Where would we, as hockey fans, be today without Foster Hewitt and that gondola?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

TBC: Leafs AbomiNation

I'm always one to throw a little shade on the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's just how we in western Canada view the Ontario city's NHL team. One thing I won't do is support the team in any way, so when I had a chance to acquire today's entry in Teebz's Book Club at a reduced price from the already-low price of $19.67 (nice poke at the team!), I jumped at that opportunity. It should come as no surprise that reading today's entry gave me some pleasure as the writers take a few shots at the Maple Leafs, so Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Leafs AbomiNation, written by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange and published by Random House Canada. To say that Feschuk and Grange pulled back the curtains on why the Leafs were mired in mediocrity since 1967 would be a bit of an understatement when it comes to this book.

From the Penguin Random House website, "Dave Feschuk is a sports columnist with the Toronto Star and formerly wrote for the National Post. He has been nominated for a National Newspaper Award, and his piece on the underdog's life of Wayne Gretzky's hockey-playing brothers was included in the anthology The Best American Sports Writing. Feschuk lives in Toronto." Feschuk has been with the Toronto Star since 2003 where he covers all sports for the newspaper, and seemingly was on Phil Kessel's bad side while he played in Toronto. There has been no word on whether the current Penguins winger and former Leafs winger has changed his opinion on Feschuk since being traded to Pittsburgh.

Also from the Penguin Randon House website, "Michael Grange is a sports reporter for The Globe and Mail and an award-winning magazine writer, writing in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for much of his 14-year tenure at Canada's national newspaper, the New York Times, and ESPN." Grange has since "joined Sportsnet in 2011 as a columnist for Sportsnet.ca and regular contributor to Sportsnet magazine. During his time at Sportsnet, Grange has become one of the network's leading basketball analysts and regularly contributes to Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and Sportsnet Central."

Leafs AbomiNation goes directly at all of the misfortunes, poor hirings, bad trades, and inept management that the Leafs have exhibited since Keon and the boys captured the Stanley Cup in 1967. Names like Ballard, Stavro, Peddie, Tanenbaum, Ferguson Jr., and Quinn all get mentions within Leafs AbomiNation, but Feschuk and Grange point out that there have been smaller mistakes made by each of these men who have run the Leafs that have led the Leafs cleaning house and appointing a brand-new empire to rebuild the castle. Being that this book was published in 2009, a few points have long passed, but it's the examination of the ineptitude of eras of management that had me glued to the pages.

It's interesting that two men who work in and around the Maple Leafs for a living would embark on a project like Leafs AbomiNation, but they seemed to get input from almost all the subjects which they covered. Aside from those who have passed on, the authors allowed the men under examination to respond to the allegations of mismanagement with which they are associated. It didn't take the edge off the words that Feschuk and Grange wrote, however, as they ripped into management from every era that has contributed to the long-suffering that Leafs fans have endured.
Ballard's anything-for-a-buck lust knew few boundaries. Concerned about a loss in revenue from program sales when the NHL mandated that teams emblazon jerseys with the players' surnames, Ballard obeyed the ordinance to the letter: he saw to it that white letters were sewn on the backs of white jerseys, so fans couldn't possibly read them. He sold the Stanley Cup banners that hung from the Gardens rafters. He once made inquiries with the arena superintendent as to how many cucumbers would fit in the 30,000-gallon tank that held the mixture that circulated through the refrigeration pipes beneath the rink floor. "He said he wanted to make dill pickles to sell at games," rink manager Wayne Gilespie told the authors of the book Forever Rivals. "He'd dream up these schemes — anything to make a buck — then he'd forget about them."
While their fact-checking requires a little work - HBIC went deep into the jersey names in the past - both Feschuk and Grange bring to life stories about the Maple Leafs that seem almost implausible. Reports of John Ferguson Jr. turning down an opportunity to sign Fabian Brunnstrom long before anyone had heard about him is detailed in Leafs AbomiNation. Details on Pat Quinn's refusal to mentor Ferguson Jr. are written. The various interests of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan as the majority owners are covered, and winning a Stanley Cup isn't high on their priority list. The squabbling between various segments of ownership through the years, the poor trades and scouting the Leafs have done, and the complete mismanagement of the team from top to bottom are all covered by Feschuk and Grange in Leafs AbomiNation.

I like a snarky piece as much as the next person, but I'm surprised that both Feschuk and Grange haven't been excommunicated by the Maple Leafs after all they wrote in Leafs AbomiNation. The writing is solid and the chapters read well, but there are definitely some stories that probably shouldn't have been put into ink if one was worried about one's career. I credit both Feschuk and Grange for taking that courageous leap in making that happen, and it makes for a very compelling book as we learn about the dirty laundry hidden behind the boardroom doors at MLSE. For that reason, there's no doubt that I, as a fan of things going wrong for the Maple Leafs, happily award Leafs AbomiNation with the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Leafs AbomiNation at most bookstores and libraries across this great nation!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Mea Culpa

Back in June at the introduction of the Kunlun Red Star CWHL team, there was a bit of confusion towards the pluralizing of the word "team" that CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress used. One team definitely was introduced that evening, and we all became excited for a six-team CWHL next season that involved some international, overseas travel. However, there was still some unrest at the idea of there being multiple Chinese teams next season after Miss Andress used "teams" in her speech. Would there be further announcements? Was there a second team in the works? What details had yet to be revealed?

These question went unanswered until tonight. With one tweet, the CWHL confirmed an article written in Chinese that stated there would be a second team. If you had listened to The Hockey Show on UMFM on Thursday night, I had asked Sami Jo Small about the possibility of two teams, and she confirmed the rumour that there would be two teams. However, she also stated that only one would play in the CWHL next season. I thought I had the story, and I ran with it on Friday when people were speculating about the second team.

What Sami Jo Small and I didn't know is that Miss Andress had left the press conference in Markham, Ontario on Tuesday in order to catch a flight over to China for a meeting with officials for the second hockey club. Sami Jo Small was in Winnipeg running her hockey school, so she'd have no idea about the changes that were happening behind-the-scenes in Toronto at the league offices when she reported what she did on The Hockey Show when asked about the possibility of two Chinese teams. Things literally change that fast in the CWHL right now.

With the plane carrying Miss Andress touching down in China some time later on Tuesday or possibly Wednesday, it's clear that Miss Andress and the Chinese officials who were interested in bringing this second CWHL team to fruition came to an agreement at some point over the next few days between Wednesday and today, prompting the tweet to go out tonight about the second CWHL team based in China. Again, Sami Jo Small would have had no communication on these new developments, and I happened to report what I (and Sami Jo) had known to be true at the time on Friday - there was no second CWHL team in China.

Tonight, I sit here with a little egg on my face for being vehement in defending what I was told. There is no one to blame for me speaking out about this other than myself for stating what I was told, and I'll take the heat for that. Blaming anyone else would be wholly and completely wrong, and I won't allow that to happen on my watch. I spoke out, I said the words, and I deserve the heat I have already felt and will feel in the coming days for the error. It's all on me, folks.

There's a lesson to be learned here, and it's one that I should have heeded in this time of incredible expansion in the CWHL. That lesson is that in times of great change, multiple sources confirming any story are extremely important. Any single-source stories, as I've been taught, should come from an authoritative source. I took Sami Jo Small as being an authoritative source, and I will consider her to be one in the future. However, until this summer of great change in the CWHL is over, I will double-down on my efforts and get multiple sources on any major piece of news so that I don't lead people astray in the future.

In saying that, I have one message: sorry, folks. I messed up. I promise to be better in the future.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Newly-Painted Huskies

Being one of the people on the play-by-play broadcasts for the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team means I don't spend a lot of time giving players from other teams in the Canada West Conference a lot of credit while on the air unless they do something rather spectacular. That's not to say that we in the booth don't discuss stuff off the air and marvel at the talents of the Bisons' opposition. We do that - a lot, in fact - but we simply don't do it on the air. Because of this, I rarely get a chance to make mention of the helmet designs employed by some of the netminders in the conference which are rather incredible!

The Saskatchewan Huskies will have Jasey Rae Book and Jessica Vance tending to their nets this season, and both will have brand-new paint jobs with which they can wow fans. Vance, who is a former Bisons redshirt, wore a white mask while with the University of Manitoba. She'll dazzle in the nets this season with her new paint job. Have a look at these designs with the hidden reflective messages painted into the designs.
Both masks were designed and painted by Schinny Designs in Lethbridge, Alberta. The company has done a lot of work with goaltenders in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but notably has worked with University of Saskatchewan men's goaltender Jordon Cooke and Mount Royal University Cougars women's netminder Jessica Ross from the CWUAA. As of right now, Schinny Designs is warranty-certified by both Bauer and Protechsport masks, so you shouldn't have to worry about your Bauer or Protechsport mask if you send it to them. Needless to say, both Book and Vance will look pretty sharp this upcoming season!

If you have a mask you want to see painted, please contact Schinny Designs and be sure to read the FAQ. There are things the company and cannot do when it comes to one's mask, so be sure you know what you're doing. And while Schinny Designs may be able to make you look good on the ice, you'll still have to put in the work to look good on the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 251

The Hockey Show crossed over a major milestone last week with our 250th show in our illustrious? contemptuous? history, and we want to keep that party rolling! Tonight, for show #251, The Hockey Show is out on the road as we invade a local arena for some fun, laughs, and discussion on all things hockey! Guests will be on the show, Beans will not be on the show, Teebz will guide you through the discussions, and we'll see how many people we can get involved in this week's episode!

Tonight, The Hockey Show is proud, honoured, humbled and privileged to have been invited to Gateway Recreation Centre to broadcast live from the Sami Jo Small Hockey School! Sami and her cast of instructors have been working with the attendees at the hockey school all week, so The Hockey Show is going to bring the media element to the school tonight! Among the instructors who may be lingering around the Gateway Arena are Billy Bridges (who was phenomenal on last week's show), former Olympic gold medalist and CWHL All-Star Jenelle Kohanchuk, former Olympian Fiona Smith, and more! Needless to say, the star power at this camp is high, and we'll try to squeeze in a few words with as many of these world-class instructors as possible before getting some of the kids involved! There's bound to be some fun discussions, so make sure you tune in!

I also want to point out that there are still many camps being offered through the Gateway Recreation Centre if you missed the Sami Jo Small Hockey School here in Winnipeg. Click the link and check the dates because there are camps for all skill levels and age groups spread out through the remainder of the summer! For more details on these camps, click the outlink from the Gateway Rec Centre website!

Without doubt, this is going to be a fun show tonight, and you should be tuning in for it. How, you ask? Download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet! It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to up-to-speed there 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, The Hockey Show is live on-location at Gateway Recreation Centre as we talk to the instructors and players participating at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Taking Steps Backwards

The Manitoba Moose are a curious case. For a team that has an abundance of youth looking to establish themselves in the professional game, there seems to be a definite lack of professional players who can show the next generation how to play like a professional, the work required behind-the-scenes to be a professional, and exactly what being a "pro hockey player" means. That's not to say that these kids don't carry themselves professionally or speak fluent "media-speak", but there seems to be an obvious chasm between the Manitoba Moose and the Winnipeg Jets when it comes to grooming the kids into professional hockey players.

If you remember some time ago, the Jets were a team picked by The Hockey News as the 2019 Stanley Cup champions. With high-scoring junior players being added at every draft, hope was bubbling over into hype with the number of blue-chip prospects the Jets seemed to be amassing. Names like Nic Petan, Chase De Leo, Scott Kosamchuk, Kyle Connor, and Jack Roslovic had scouts in a frenzy as the Jets continued to stockpile outstanding junior players.

Instead, the reality is that the Jets have visited the playoffs just once, winning a grand total of zero games in their illustrious history thus far - twice if you want to include Atlanta with a whopping zero wins to show for it - in what has to be one of the most laughable histories of any team to date. As the team approaches its twentieth anniversary of its founding, 2019 seems like a pipe dream when it comes to playoff success when the Jets simply struggle to even make the playoffs.

A lot of that missed opportunity can be directed at the AHL's Manitoba Moose and how they are run. Ever since the team relocated from St. John's, Newfoundland to the Manitoba capital, the Moose have done nothing but swirl around the drain, usually finding themselves eliminated from playoff talk around Christmas with the deficit in which they find themselves in the standings. There are some good players on the Moose squad, but they seem to be missing a few veteran players that other teams are only too happy to employ for the sake of development. Right now, the only thing developing with the Moose is a sense and an atmosphere of losing, and that's never going to help the kids become better hockey players.

Why am I speaking about this today? Well, the Moose decided to cut ties with their third- and fifth-leading scorers, setting Dan DeSalvo and Kevin Czuczman adrift as free agents to sign with any other team they like. The fact that the Moose opted to keep veteran players like Darren Kramer, Patrice Cormier, and Brandon Tanev over DeSalvo, Czuczman, and Quinton Howden shows just how poorly this AHL franchise is being run. It might be time to separate the NHL team's influence over this AHL team by giving it more independence to make decisions that help itself.

Instead, DeSalvo signed with the Hartford Wolfpack today, giving them a solid addition to their forward group. DeSalvo was a solid player for the Moose last season, appearing in 66 games while collecting 18 goals - eight of them coming on the power-play - and 22 assists. His 18 goals were second-highest on the Moose while he finished third in scoring. He was a solid face-off man as well - something the Moose desperately needed last season. There was no doubt that DeSalvo was a solid veteran addition, but the Moose allowed him to walk this off-season with little explanation.

Also gone is Kevin Czuczman. The rearguard played 76 games last season, picking up nine goals and 23 helpers to finish fifth in scoring, leading the Moose blue line in scoring by 12 points and setting career highs in both categories. He was often called upon to play against some of the better competition late in the season, but Czuczman showed improvement throughout the season that should have warranted a return to the Moose defence corps. Instead, he'll ply his trade with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season after the Moose allowed him to walk as well.

Of the regulars returning, Patrice Cormier is the grizzled greybeard for the Moose at this point. He's 26 years old. Compare that to, say, the AHL Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins who re-signed Ben Street to a deal. Street will be 30 this season. Or maybe we should consider 33 year-old Brett Sterling with the Chicago Wolves. There's 33 year-old Chris Conner in Lehigh Valley, 38 year-old Tom Kostopoulos in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and 30 year-old John McCarthy from the San Jose Barracuda. The key with all of these players? They're veterans who have been around the game long enough to show the kids a few things in being a professional while being important contributors on their teams. Oh, and all their teams employee two-to-four guys who are aged 27 or older.

The year that Winnipeg's AHL affiliate lost in the Calder Cup Final - the 2013-14 St. John's IceCaps - saw them employ three regulars aged 27 or older, including leading scorer Jason Jaffray who was 32. Brenden Kichton and John Albert were fifth and sixth in scoring, respectively, and were the highest-scoring players on that team under the age of 25. Of that team, only the ninth-highest scoring player remains on this Moose team today, and that player - JC Lipon - has seen his scoring drop way off as the Moose became all about development. Lipon went from 42 points to 26, 30, and 30 in the next three seasons. So exactly WHAT are the Moose developing if the highest-scoring player remaining from a championship-caliber team has seen his scoring drop off in a big way while the team rids itself of veteran leaders and players?

There will always be good, young players who filter through an AHL affiliate. Kyle Connor got a chance to play alongside Jack Roslovic this past season with the Moose, and the two developed some great chemistry. Both will be fixtures on the Jets' roster at some point, but this pipe dream of a Stanley Cup parade in 2019 down Portage to Main Street in Winnipeg needs to end. The Moose do a horrific job at developing talent, and a lot of that has to do with pitching the veterans into free agency. Veterans are where the kids learn how to play the game through the vets' experiences, trials, and tribulations. Without a few veteran players, the kids have no experiences from which they can draw.

If youth but knew what age could do. Or, in this case, if the Moose but knew.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Moving To Markham

HBIC officially is not relocating. That's not even an option at this point in my life nor would I want to move. I like the little niche that I've carved out for myself, and I'm happy to be where I am. However, the CWHL made a significant decision to move today. Specifically, the league decided to move a franchise from an area where they were somewhat underrepresented to an area where they will receive increased exposure through both fans and television along with moving into a fancy new home. The Brampton Thunder will move northeast to Markham, Ontario and rebrand themselves as the Markham Thunder!

The Markham Thunder will take up residence in the Toronto suburb starting this winter for the 2017-18 season. Brampton, which was the lone Ontario women's hockey franchise that survived all the changes through women's hockey, will move into an arena that will accommodate TV cameras and crews, more fans, and possibly a fierce rivalry with the Toronto Furies in the years to come. While it's sad to see Brampton abandoned by the CWHL, this move to the city of Markham will be good for the team, the league, and the women's game overall.

Having the community support from Markham is huge, and Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti was proudly on-hand to welcome the Thunder to Markham this morning. That's not to say that there wasn't community support in Brampton, but moving to "Canada's most diverse community" doesn't mean there will be more fans attending games unless the city of Markham and the CWHL sell the Thunder hard to the existing Markham community. From a diversity standpoint, the 2011 census information on Markham shows that residents who speak languages as their mother tongue outnumber the traditional Canadian official language speakers by a ratio of 171,875 to 117,785 - just under 55,000 more than English- and French-speaking residents combined. That's a lot of varying interests and sporting passions in Markham.

Where the CWHL and Markham should really make a push is through the Kunlun Red Star appearances in Markham in terms of appealing to one of the largest individual groups in its census area. According to the census, the number of residents who identified themselves as either Cantonese- or Chinese-speaking residents was 78,625 in 2011 - 26.1% of all respondents to the census. That's one-quarter of the entire census population in Markham, and there were some 40,900 women who identified themselves as Cantonese- or Chinese-speaking residents - over half of all those who identified themselves as having Cantonese or Chinese as their primary spoken language.

There has been talk that because the CWHL held the Clarkson Cup Final in Markham for a few seasons that the community is already primed for CWHL hockey. I'm calling nonsense on that idea as it's now 2017-18, not 2014, and the Clarkson Cup Final will bring in spectators and supporters from all over the map. We're talking about support for 15 home games plus playoffs potentially in an area that has only hosted the league's biggest game in the past. This will still be a hard sell for the team to overcome, but they do have access to the greater Toronto area now for added marketing opportunities. I just don't think this initial season is going to be rainbows and unicorns out of the gates unless the team adds some major star power or can sell the community on the Markham Thunder/CWHL experience.

I still have no idea why the CWHL and Markham are selling the players of yesteryear when there's a whole crop of amazing women playing for the Thunder. Statements from the releases that say, "The Thunder have been home to several great Olympians including Jayna Hefford, Vicky Sunohara, Cherie Piper, Gillian Apps and Lori Dupuis" do nothing for selling the on-ice product of today. Yes, those players are part of the Thunder's history, but why aren't we talking about Olympians Jocelyne Larocque and Laura Fortino? Why was there no mention of the CWHL All-Stars that included goaltender Erica Howe, defenceman Courtney Birchard, and forwards Jess Jones, Laura Stacey, Rebecca Vint, and Jamie Lee Rattray? Why is nothing said of the community and charitable efforts put forth by players like Fielding Montgomery or Liz Knox? There are a ton of amazing things being done by these women and every player on this Thunder team, and it seems like the CWHL, in its press conference, missed its first big selling opportunity to get the community onboard.

Look, I'm always critical of a relocation. I think that uprooting teams does harm to the civic pride of a community, and the resentment that hangs over said community towards the team and league can affect the team's financial performance. I lived through the Jets leaving Winnipeg, the Whalers relocating to Raleigh, the Nordiques jumping to Denver, the North Stars heading south to Dallas, and the Thrashers packing up for Winnipeg. I can tell you I've seen the good and bad, but the teams who have arrived in their new cities have sold the present and future well in order to get the community excited. I don't believe Brampton lost a team as much as the Thunder simply needed a better arena to in which to play. I hope that Brampton fans will continue to support the team even if they moved out of your backyard because this team and the CWHL rely heavily on your support. Don't hate them for moving into a better home the same way you wouldn't hate a neighbor for moving to a better home.

In the end, this move helps the Thunder for exposure and marketing opportunities. Whether or not the fans show up to support the Thunder in greater numbers than they saw in Brampton will remain to be seen. There are some key selling features the CWHL should be endorsing as reasons why people should go see the Thunder in my view, so we'll see what the future holds for this franchise.

If there is one certainty out of all of this commotion today, it's that the Furies now have a closer rival than before.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Montreal's Defence Looks Different

See these guys? After having been pillars on the Montreal blue line for a long time, vast changes swept through the defence corps of the Canadiens this off-season at the hands of GM Marc Bergevin. For a team with a franchise goaltender who puts up gaudy numbers each season, improving the team's defence usually isn't at the top of the list when it comes to improving one's team, especially when areas like scoring and middle-of-the-pack special teams could use some tinkering. Instead, Bergevin went out and blew Montreal's blue line apart in an effort to get younger and better at the same time.

While everyone will focus on the Karl Alzner signing as the "big move" by Bergevin, there were other key moves that weakened his blue line significantly in this writer's opinion. Of the fifteen defencemen used last season by the Canadiens, only six are still with the franchise today. They include Jordie Benn, Brandon Davidson, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber, Zach Redmond, and Brett Lernout. Redmond and Lernout will most likely start the season in Laval at the AHL level, leaving four NHL-experienced defencemen on the roster after all the moves were made.

Gone are important secondary pieces such as Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin. Beaulieu played in the most games in his career last season, registering career highs in goals and tying for second in power-play points despite playing considerably less power-play time than Andrei Markov. Some will point to the fact that he was last among the Canadiens' regular defencemen in Corsi and scoring-chances-for percentages, and it seemed that he was exposed by the New York Rangers in their playoff series in terms of his defensive play. However, for a player who is just 25 and playing in his second full NHL season, Beaulieu's progress should have been good enough to warrant a roster spot this season. He'll have one, only it will be with the Buffalo Sabres who acquired him from Montreal so that Montreal wouldn't lose him for nothing in the expansion draft.

The other player who ate a ton of minutes and played a solid defensive role was Alexei Emelin. For as those that decry his somewhat questionable hits and the lack of speed he possesses, he was Shea Weber's defensive partner on the top pairing and the two spent some 850 minutes together at five-on-five. They spent significant time together killing penalties as well, and the hiring of Claude Julien saw improvements to a penalty kill that was ranked in the bottom-third for most of the season. The fact that Emelin was still sent over the boards by Julien in these situations shows that the coach believed in his players. Some will say that Emelin was buoyed by Weber in his own end, and there may be some truth to that statement. When paired with Jeff Petry at times under Julien, Emelin's poor skating and poor judgment with trying to throw a big hit were exposed. Emelin's contributions in playing the most games and minutes of his career, though, helped the Montreal blue line this season.

Let's be honest: Karl Alzner is probably a better defensive replacement for Emelin than for he may be given credit. Alzner won't be much help in the offensive department unless something changes within his game over the summer, but Alzner is a slight upgrade over Emelin. The other replacement that Bergevin brought in was David Schlemko via trade with the Vegas Golden Knights. Schlemko and Beaulieu are comparable players overall, so we'll call that a wash. They also signed Joe Morrow for some depth, so the Canadiens have a little depth, but he's no Mikhail Sergachev in terms of his potential.

If you're looking at the depth chart, Weber, Petry, and Jordie Benn are your right-side defencemen. That leaves Alzner, Schlemko, and Brandon Davidson as your left-side defencemen. While younger than the Markov-Emelin-Davidson combination, there's a significant lack of experience there as well. Alzner certainly has played in big games and seen almost every situation, but Schlemko and Davidson haven't had the seasoning that Markov and Emelin have had in their careers. I'm not saying that will plague the two younger defencemen, but expect some bumps on the road as they are forced into situations by default that they may not have encountered at this point in their careers.

Do I like what Bergevin has done this off-season? I'll say that the jury's still out. I know they needed scoring and to get Jonathan Drouin they had to give something up, but Mikhail Sergachev seemed like a stiff price to pay. I know they didn't want to lose Beaulieu for nothing in the expansion draft by exposing him, but maybe they should have swung a deal to keep Beaulieu with the Golden Knights. I do like the addition of Schlemko and potentially giving Davidson a bigger role, but the left side, if the roster remains static, might be exploitable for a lot of teams.

One thing is certain for next season: the Canadiens' blue line will look far different than it did this season. Where that will take them is all up to the players and coaching staff now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Don't Blow A Tire

Hockey, as we've seen over the years on this blog, comes in many forms. There's the ubiquitous ice hockey whose hockey form gets the most coverage across this planet. Field hockey is also quite popular across Eurasia and the Australian continents, and HBIC usually gives Olympic years its due coverage. From there, we've seen sledge hockey, floor hockey, underwater hockey, air hockey, and a number of other forms that seem a little odd, yet have a following of dedicated players who regularly play and practice the game. Today, HBIC brings you another form of this great game that apparently has a following all over the world... and somehow has eluded my vision of the game!

I'll be completely honest: I am ignorant of the rules and how the game is played, so let's go to the video!
Ok, so Peter Searle, the uploader of said video to YouTube, seems to have a little fun with the dramatic introduction of the game, but watching that video seems to show that the game is a lot like regular ice hockey with a few notable exceptions. Let's take a look at some of the differences as documented in the game's official rules as per the governing body, the International Unicycling Federation.

First off, there are five players to a side with a minimum of three players needed for each team to start a game. There are no goaltenders - each member of the team can play goaltender with no special privileges awarded to whomever is guarding the net at the time. Any stick deemed legal for play in ice hockey is also legal for unicycle hockey except for the goaltender's stick which is not allowed in the game whatsoever. Sorry, ice hockey goalies - this game kind of excludes you.

The equipment is pretty standard - shorts with kneepads or pants, shoes, gloves, helmets, dental protection, and a jersey or shirt of similar colours and markings as your teammates. It's the unicycle's measurements that seem to vary among players. The maximum diameter of the wheel is 24 inches, but it seems most players prefer a 20-inch wheel diameter for quick turns and bursts of acceleration. With my limited - read: none - experiences on unicycles, I wouldn't be able to tell you the differences and pro and cons between the wheel sizes. Just know that a two-foot diameter is your limit. There cannot be any protruding parts on the unicycle that could cause injury such as bolts or quick-release levers, and the pedals have to be made of plastic or rubber. Believe me, those metal pedals with the teeth on them leave a heckuva mark on your shins if you get dinged by them!

The ball is a regular street hockey ball made of the hard rubber that leaves a welt when it hits you. Alternatively, a "dead" tennis ball can used. A dead tennis ball is one that bounces thirty to fifty percent of its original height when bounced. The only key is that the type of ball used must be attainable in all countries where unicycle hockey is played or it is removed from play.

In the case of penalties, we see something similar to field hockey. All penalties result in a free shot from the point where the penalty occurred. However, according to the rules, "a team gets a free shot within the opponents' goal area, the free shot is done from the closest corner mark (corner shot). If a team gets a free shot within their own goal area, the free shot is done at a distance of 1 m in front of the goal line (goalkeeper's ball)." Again, this is somewhat like field hockey's rules for free shots. The free shot must be indirect and the player executing the free shot can only touch the ball once before another player touches the ball. Opposing players and sticks must remain two meters from the free shot location.

But what if the penalty disrupts a scoring play, you ask? They have covered too.
If legal playing would have led to a direct chance to score a goal, a "6.5 m" is given. This includes fouls outside the goal area. The ball is placed at the 6.5 m mark. A player of the defending team goes to the goal and must sit with the bottom of the wheel of their unicycle within 0.5 m of the goal line. The other team chooses a player to shoot the 6.5 m. All other players must leave the goal area. After the referee's whistle the goalkeeper must ride the unicycle freely and not rest on the goal. The attacking player has three seconds to make one shot. If no goal is scored, play continues as soon as the ball touches the post, the keeper touches the ball or the ball crosses the extended goal line.
But wait, you say, if there are no goaltenders and it appears a team has a guaranteed goal, what about then? The rules account for that too!
If the defending team prevents a goal from being scored through an illegal play of the ball and if, in the opinion of the referee, the ball was traveling directly toward the goal and would definitely have entered the goal without being touched by another player, a penalty goal may be awarded. In this case the attacking team is awarded a goal. If there is any doubt as to the certainty of a goal, a 6.5 m must be awarded as described in section 8.4.2.
Basically, if your name isn't Patrik Stefan, there would almost certainly be a goal awarded. And, of course, if you're a real troublemaker on the court, they have rules for that too.
The referee can send a player off the field for two minutes, five minutes or for the remainder of the game. This is done in the case of unsporting behavior and also for intentional or dangerous disregard of the rules. While a player is in the penalty box, the team may not substitute a replacement for that player.
Just play within the rules and everything will be alright. Alright? Good.

The game is played in two 15-minute halves with a five-minute break between said halves. A bully - also known as a face-off in the hockey world - occurs at the center mark to start the half. If a game is tied after regulation time, there is another five-minute break followed by two five-minute halves with no break in between these extra halves. If still tied after the overtime periods, a penalty shootout will determine a winner.

To play, one basically has to be able to ride the unicycle freely. If one dismounts or falls off, the rider must get back on the unicycle at the point of the dismount and can only return to play when both feet are back on the pedals. If a player appears to be an obstacle in the course of play, that player must allow the play to play through without being an obstacle before returning to play on the unicycle. Basically, if you fall, don't be a speed bump.

The good news is that any part of the player, stick, and unicycle is legal in terms of playing the ball, but players cannot play the ball with the body in successive contacts. In other words, no knocking the ball down to a foot to redirect the ball as an example. Players are also not allowed to catch the ball at any time - open hands must knock the back down. If a ball gets caught in the spokes of a unicycle, the opposing team gets a free shot. And just like all forms of hockey, a goal cannot be scored if the ball is directed in off the hands or arms. Any player defending the net that moves the net will also give the opposing team a free shot. Any player who is caught dropping or throwing a stick intentionally will serve a two-minute penalty off the court without substitution as well as giving the opposition a 6.5 m free shot.

Unlike ice hockey, the game is played with as little contact as possible. Sticks raised above the hips indicate "exaggerated roughness", and players are not permitted to stick check opponents with any over-exertion of effort. Flipping the blade of the stick downwards is also prohibited. Players cannot push one another to knock opponents off-course, and players who have the ball have the right of way in almost all cases. The only player who can stop a player from traveling in a straight line is one who is idling or resting on one's stick. Ultimately, it is the referee who will determine right-of-way in the majority of these cases.

There are, of course, two major cases where a stick infraction could be dangerous: stick under bike (SUB) or stick in bike (SIB). If a player "subs" or "sibs" his opponent, it is an automatic foul regardless of intention. The result would be a free shot or a 6.5 m free shot depending on the foul's location. Aside from those stated rules in these last two paragraphs, everything else that constitutes gentlemanly play would apply in unicycle hockey as well.

The only other rule that stands out is the "long shot" rule.
A goal is disallowed if the ball was shot from one's own half and was not touched by anyone afterwards. The defending team gets a free shot (goalkeeper's ball). This rule does not apply if the ball is shot from the opponents' half into one's own goal.
Basically, like field hockey, one has to cross the half if one wants to score on one's own. Otherwise, the deflection play might be a routinely-called option if there's a need for a quick goal.

Unbeknownst to me, there are three countries with national unicycle hockey leagues: Australia (8 teams), Germany (53 teams!), and Switzerland (20 teams). England, France, Denmark, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea also have organized clubs that play regularly within those countries as the popularity of the sport seems to be similar to that of field hockey nations. In most nations, the club competitions feature teams of mixed genders, but the major unicycle hockey leagues consist mostly of men against men competitions. Needless to say, this could be the first sport that doesn't separate the men and the women during competitive play! I think that's an incredible feature of the sport, so here's hoping that remains a part of the game!

And with that, we have another version of hockey covered! I've never seen or even heard of it being organized in my area, but I might have to see if there's any sort of underground action of which I'm not aware. If you've seen or played the game, contact me here! I'd love to hear more about it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

En Fuego... Literally

This quiet little property is known as the Gigantium. Better known by its sponsored name, the Jutlander Bank Arena, the rink is home to the Aalborg Pirates in Denmark's Metal Ligaen. While it sits quiet right now, the arena is usually rocking when its main tenant is winning hockey games. It's a rather impressive building, seating 5000 fans for hockey and 8500 for concerts, making it the largest rink in the Metal Ligaen when it comes to the hockey part of its life. Aalborg Håndbold, the Danish Handball League entry, also plays its games at the Gigantium. Needless to say, it's a building that is bustling with sporting and musical activity on most days, but there was an entirely different sort of activity taking place at the building over the last few days.

Fire crews and police were called down to the rink on Wednesday morning after being notified by an employee that a portion of the building was on fire. According to reports, the handball facility took the brunt of the damage while the swimming and skating buildings were spared from the damage. Thanks to the quick actions by firefighters, it sounds as if the damage suffered by the Gigantium might be less than what was estimated.

"The extent of the damage actually looks reasonable considering the sight we met when we arrived at the scene. We initiated a strong response in order to limit damage," firefighter team leader Anders Brosbøl told The Local. "There is also water damage caused by all the water we used. But it looks like we will be able to salvage the wooden floor."

This is good news for handball fans, albeit still terrible news. While the handball facility will certainly be out of commission for some time, having the rest of the facility unaffected by the fire is a credit to the local firefighters' efforts. Handball has a very large following in Europe, and Aalborg's fans are no different as the sport ranks second in popularity in the community behind the soccer club. It will take some time to rebuild the handball facility, but the fact that the firefighters worked hard and saved the floor - an important part of the handball game - deserves some major kudos.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the blaze. One firefighter went to the hospital for observation, but he reportedly is fine. The only other employee that may have been affected by the fire seems to be a staff member who was using a weed burner on the exterior to get rid of some unwanted vegetation. It seems that the weed burner was the cause of the fire. Police reports state that the employee was removing weeds when he discovered that the building had caught fire. He then wisely contacted fire services. Unfortunately for the employee, charges of breaching safety and a fine will be handed out as per the police report.

Why am I reporting on a fire at a sportsplex half a planet away? As you may know, friend of the blog Brandon Reid is the head coach for the Aalborg Pirates. Thankfully, his team won't be affected by the fire, but it's still pretty brutal to see the handball team lose their home. The best part of this accident, though, is that there were thankfully no casualties. For something as innocent as a weed burner to cause this fire, it's always a relief that no families were affected by a major tragedy. Let's just hope that this serves a purpose in knowing how to use tools properly and safely.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Collector's Item?

With a summer heat wave finally arriving, I decided a mini-vacation was in order as I made a run across the border. One of the things I've learned from a number of trips across the border is to blend in with the locals so that you don't look like a tourist. With my destination being Grand Forks, North Dakota, I decided that I should probably wear one of the University of North Dakota hats I own. The catch is that all my hats are Fighting Sioux hats, not the new Fighting Hawks hats. I had some trepidation in wearing the Sioux logo, but ultimately I decided to wear it and accept any lumps that came my way. Instead, I found quite the opposite.

The name "Fighting Hawks" has been the name of the university's sports teams since 2015 after they spent three years nameless following the retirement of the "Fighting Sioux" name and imagery. June 11, 2012 saw 67.35% of North Dakota voters vote in favour of retiring the Sioux name and logo as Referendum Measure #4 in a statewide vote. If you're good with fractions, that's 2/3rds of the voters - a rather sizable group of North Dakotans. Three days later with the results of the vote being known, the state's Board of Higher Education voted to drop the name and logo with its intention of picking a new name in 2015 after a three-year penalty was imposed.

Let it be known that I saw very little Fighting Hawks merchandise being worn by the people of Grand Forks. For the most part, people seemed to wear Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Wild gear with the sprinkling of a few other teams mixed in. I don't know what the sales of Fighting Hawks merchandise is, but there was no one looking at the gear for sale in Scheels while I was there either while the Vikings and NHL sections had a handful of people in them.

Why am I telling you this, you ask? I was stopped on two occasions and asked from where I had purchased my Fighting Sioux cap. One gentleman who had to be no older than his mid-thirties told me that I "shouldn't be wearing it because it's a collector's item around here". As I thought about it, he might be right as I saw virtually no Fighting Sioux merchandise in any store despite the university producing a limited series of items known as the "Dacotah Heritage Collection" with the Sioux logo on it in order to retain the trademark and prevent others from producing merchandise with the name and logo on it. From the way it sounds, "limited series" might be a handful of trinkets if my hat is now a "collector's item".

It never occurred to me that the Sioux name and logo could eventually become the new Hartford Whalers situation where, after ten years of controlling the trademark, the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut allowed the NHL to use the Whalers mark in merchandising with the trademark rights transferring back to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the NCAA may not like the idea, there seems to be a demand for Fighting Sioux merchandise still. Granted, it's not quite in the same demand as the Whalers were, but the name and logo still resonate locally in Grand Forks.

I'm not saying this will ever happen. I'm sure the NCAA will keep the pressure on UND to produce some merchandise so that there aren't packs of fans showing up in Sioux merchandise after the school rebranded itself. However, for the two men who came up to me in the city and commented on my hat, it seems they may represent a group of people who are die-hard Sioux fans, especially considering that the logo had been in use from 1930 until its demise in 2012.

Maybe I do have a collector's item on my hands?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 250

The Hockey Show hits the airwaves tonight in its quarter-millennium show! How the heck did we survive 250 shows without being tossed off the air, sued for all we're worth (not that much), having multiple complaints registered with the CRTC, or all of the above? Well, it starts with you, listeners, and we can't thank you enough for tolerating our comedy, our banter, and our arguments over hockey. Tonight, as a bit of a "thank you" for sticking with us, we're hoping to have a pair of special guests on! Who are they, you ask? Let's get to the guessing game!

Our first guest is a hockey player who has seen some time in the NHL. He has ties to Manitoba in his career, having been traded for current Winnipeg Jet Tyler Myers and Winkler, Manitoba native Dustin Penner! He has a pair of medals from the World Junior Championships - one gold and one silver - while serving as an alternate captain for the silver medal-winning team. The 27 year-old has spent the last three seasons playing in Germany where he'll return this fall to play again. He's currently skating on the left coast in preparation for next season, so we'll see if we can track him down once his on-ice session finishes for the start of tonight's show!

Our second special "250th show" guest is a two-time Olympic medalist who has won a bronze medal and a gold medal at the Games. At age 14 in 2000, he became the youngest member of the Canadian National Team. The 15-year veteran of the Hockey Canada program is a four-time World Championship gold medalist, and a two-time World Championship bronze medalist. The Summerside, PEI native is also an accomplished basketball player, playing twice at the World Junior Basketball Championships. He's a top-200 tennis player in the world as per the current rankings. Oh, and I did mention this athlete is in a wheelchair? We'll try and track down this multi-sport star tonight as well!

Clearly, we have a big show tonight, and you should be tuning in for it. How, you ask? Download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet! It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to up-to-speed there 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, Teebz and Beans chat to two special guests if we can track them down about their careers, their futures, their accomplishments, and what goals they have set for the future only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: July 6, 2017: Episode 250

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A Uni-Watch Gem

There are a few sites I read daily to get caught up on all sorts of news, but one of these sites is Uni Watch. Paul Lukas and Phil Hecken bring daily insight into the aesthetics of athletic sportswear in terms of the uniforms these athletes wear. While they normally don't focus on hockey that often, Paul and Phil will occasionally get submissions from readers that are simply astounding. One such story happened today that concerned the Pittsburgh Penguins from yesteryear and a certain piece of winter clothing that one rarely sees players wear in an indoor arena.

St. Louis fans, having seen their 1967 expansion franchise go to the Stanley Cup twice in consecutive years, were a rowdy and raucous bunch as the 1970 St. Louis Blues were on their way to a third consecutive Stanley Cup Final. With his team needing to stay focused during an important road game in St. Louis, Penguins head coach Red Kelly did something rather incredible for his team! Check the image below!
That photo, taken by Lew Gordon in 1970, shows the Pittsburgh Penguins wearing earmuffs! No, it wasn't due to the temperature in the rink, but to drown out the St. Louis crowd! I went searching for additional info on this night, and Pittsburgh Hockey.net had all the details on how this happened!
January 3, 1970

Coach Red Kelly issued red, white, black and brown earmuffs to the Penguins to wear during the game to drown out the rowdy faithful at the St. Louis Arena.

The Penguins couldn’t hear anything that night, and apparently, couldn't see the back of the net, either. Kelly was concerned about the St. Louis fans from the previous game there, when the Pens were shut out, 4-0. "One guy got pretty viscous last time," Kelly said about the Nov. 13 game. He added, "My guys won’t have to hear the hecklers and won’t be disturbed by them."

Kelly purchased the assorted-colored earmuffs at Kaufmann's Department store before heading to St. Louis and distributed the headgear to his players and the only other guy on the bench, trainer Ken Carson. Kelly did not make the headgear mandatory.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd of 16,566, Kelly, Carson and about half of the players wore them at the start of the game, but the Blues scored five goals in the first 14 minutes to stun the Pens and goalie Les Binkley. "But before the end of the embarrassing first period, there was not a set (earmuffs) in sight," a local newspaper reported.

Blues' goaltender Ernie Wakely made 26 saves to shut out the Pens again, 6-0.

The Penguins didn't get a win in St. Louis in the next five visits, two seasons later, when they beat the Blues, 4-1, on Nov. 9, 1971.

Players on bench from left: Keith McCreary, Bryan Hextall, Ken Schinkel, Glen Sather, Ron Schock,Tracy Pratt and Duane Rupp (behind Kelly).
So it appears that this earmuff idea lasted all of fourteen minutes before the team ditched the headgear. And despite one fan being "viscous", it seems the idea of keeping the fans' comments out of his players was a poor one by Red Kelly. Let's give him some credit, though: the photo above would have never happened had it not been for Kelly's off-the-wall idea.

It just goes to show that not every innovative idea is a good one.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Dynamo Moscow Situation Resolved

As reported on The Hockey Show a few weeks back, the situation in the KHL with Moscow Dynamo's ownership group was ugly. Players were owed salary monies, the owners were reportedly bankrupt and trying to sell the team, and the takeover that happened saw the new owners of the club refuse to honour any debts accumulated by the old owners. In short, we had a bit of a gong show on our hands. Today, however, Alexander Ovechkin's KHL club of choice finally saw a resolution passed down to them by the KHL Disciplinary Committee as players had appealed for their contracts to be dissolved since they weren't being honoured.

As per the release from the KHL today,
Today, the KHL Disciplinary Committee, as well as the Joint Disciplinary Chamber of the FHR and the KHL, reviewed applications of hockey players from the Dynamo ANO for the status of "Unlimited Free Agent" due to the club's failure to fulfill its contractual obligations.

At the meeting of the Disciplinary Committee of the KHL, 13 applications from hockey players of the ANO OHC "Dynamo" (Moscow) were considered, which had a unilateral contract. Following the results of the meeting, with regard to hockey players Ansel Galimov, Maxim Karpov, Denis Kokarev, Semyon Kokuev, Martins Karsums, Andrei Kuteykin, Artem Podshendalov, Matt Robinson, Alexander Rybakov, Yakov Rylov and Alexei Sopin, it was decided to terminate the contract and assign the status of "Unlimited free agent" .

With regard to hockey players Yegor Dugin and Daniil Tarasov, who had the status "Fixed for the Club (availability of qualification proposal)," it was decided to assign the status of "Unlimited free agent".

At the meeting of the Joint Disciplinary Chamber FHR and the KHL, 29 applications from hockey players of Dinamo (Moscow), which had a bilateral contract, were reviewed. Following the meeting with respect to hockey players Andrei Alekseev, Andrei Biryukov, Mikhail Bitsadze, Vladimir Bryukvin, Artemy Gryazev, Egor Zaitsev, Ivan Igumnov, Viktor Kornyakov, Klim Kostin, Alexander Kuznetsov, Georgy Kuznetsov, Alexander Osin, Kirill Pilipenko, Alexei Maklyukov, Dmitry Raiko , Dmitry Sidlyarov, Alexander Sevostyanov, Artem Fedorov, Maxim Chuvilov, Dmitry Shevchenko and Ilya Shipov decided to terminate the contract and assign the status of "Unlimited free agent . "

With respect to hockey players Ilya Baranov, Ivan Bocharov, Artem Volkov, Vladislav Efremov, Andrei Mironov, Stanislav Kondratiev, Alexander Petunin and Maxim Solovyov, who had the status of "Fixed for the Club (availability of qualification proposal)", it was decided to assign the status of "Unlimited free agent".
In other words, there are now 42 players who are free agents as Moscow Dynamo's hold on them through a contractual basis is no more. Some of the names are significant while other will probably find new homes in the KHL. Reportedly, the majority of the 42 players will sign on with the new ownership group to remain as part of Dynamo Moscow, but under the terms of new deals.

Of the names that should be noted, Klim Kostin is one that should make fans of the St. Louis Blues happy. Kostin was the first-round pick of the Blues in this year's NHL Entry Draft, and the 18 year-old will mostly sign a deal with the Blues later this week. Denis Kokarev is an interesting free agent since he was third in team scoring last season with 28 points, and Maxim Karpov should attract interest as he finished with the second-best goal-scoring total with 12 markers. Needless to say, there are some decent players who could help some clubs out in a big way if they were looking to get out of the Dynamo system.

As one noted member of the media wrote,

Do your homework if you're thinking about heading to Russia to play hockey, folks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Expansion For The Good Of The Game

One of the best things that happens late in the summer is the CWHL Draft. Dozens of women would be drafted to the five teams, and this season will see six CWHL franchises make selections with the addition of Kunlun Red Star. While it may sound like there wouldn't be logistics problems in drafting some 60-75 women into a six-team league, there are only so many open spots available for players to compete for on a roster. Most teams have two established goaltenders, so that doesn't leave a lot of positions open for those players, and there are only so many spots for skaters due to retirements or free agent moves. In saying that, it might be time for the CWHL to consider true expansion to allow a vast number of talented women to play in the league.

The expansion into China is a very unique situation in that it isn't a true expansion in the sense to which North American fans are accustomed. It's not like the Kunlun Red Star team is picking off players from the other five teams' rosters to build their team. No, they went out and signed free agent Kelli Stack. They have an agreement in place, it seems, to draft goaltender Noora Raty when the draft takes place. Zoe Hickel is also reportedly headed there. There are literally another half-dozen names of verified star players linked to Kunlun's team. If anything, the Kunlun team should be competitive from Day One with the other five CWHL teams.

Instead, the CWHL should look at domestic expansion in order to give a vast number of women who have been drafted in the past and who will be drafted in the future an opportunity to play professional hockey. This shouldn't happen tomorrow or even this summer, but there are a vast number of women who could be and should be playing hockey for the CWHL if only the league would consider traditional expansion. That's not to say they haven't considered it. After all, I have no access to the Board of Directors' meetings nor should I. But with the numbers climbing every year for the CWHL Draft, the CWHL is finding itself in the same place the NHL was with its Original Six teams in 1967.

Expansion is fraught with peril when it comes to a league-run, league-funded organization of teams. Any team that fails affect the others, so this examination of where and when to expand should be prefaced with the idea that if the five teams - again, China is a case on its own - are doing relatively well after the league's first season of paying the players and the league is still making money, it might be time to open up more jobs for women who exceptional in the game of hockey. There are too many women who are good enough to play in the CWHL that are not playing in the league right now due to a variety of factors, so the league should look at adding at least two more domestic teams.

League finances will be kept under close watch this season with the CWHL expanding its overall pay to it players, but this league has built markets and worked hard in those communities to carve out niches for themselves that are still growing at this moment. There are solid followings within a number of communities across North America where women's hockey is doing fairly well without a professional team, but the additional of a CWHL team would validate those efforts in one fell swoop. Places like Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Alberta have very well-established minor-hockey programs, junior programs, and university programs to help the success of teams that may set down roots there, and there are a vast number of players who would most likely move to those areas to play for said teams.

If the CWHL were to expand domestically, they need to look at making a Western Conference to give Calgary a fighting chance when it comes to expenses, as well as helping the other four teams with that long-distance between them and the Inferno. This would promote more inter-conference play while allowing more women into the game as there would potentially be 60+ new roster spots opened. Your playoff format would move from a four-team playoff to an eight-team playoff with the Western Conference champion meeting the Eastern Conference champion for the Clarkson Cup. The two conference playoffs could run at the same time, so the CWHL wouldn't even need to add weeks of play to its schedule for the playoffs.

In saying this, the league shouldn't necessarily add three expansion teams to play alongside the Inferno as that would set off a serious imbalance in the league with how good Calgary has been over the last few years. In fact, I recommend that they seriously consider the Minnesota Whitecaps as their first addition to the Western Conference simply due to the fact that the Whitecaps already run like a well-oiled machine. They would provide instant competition to the Inferno, and they are well-established in terms of a following within their market. Having two established teams in the Western Conference makes it better for the league as a whole.

The second place I would look at expanding to would be Edmonton, Alberta. The Alberta Pandas are a program in rich and deep history, and they would be an instant pipeline of talent for the newly-formed team in the Alberta capital. Alberta has outstanding minor-hockey programs as well, and the fans in Edmonton really do come out to support women's hockey. They have a number of hockey academies producing top-level talent, the Alberta Midget AAA program has a vast number of outstanding players, and there are a pile of Alberta-born and Alberta-trained players who would love a shot to stay in the province where they were born, raised, and taught to play hockey. It would also be perfect for road trips in that a two-day weekend road trip for the teams out east would see them play Edmonton and Calgary in the Alberta road swing. All in all, it makes too much sense for Edmonton not to be considered as one of the new expansion teams.

While some would say that the fourth team - second true expansion team - in the Western Conference doesn't make much sense, I believe it does. Winnipeg is a stone's throw from Minneapolis/St. Paul where the Whitecaps play. They have a strong female midget program in the province, a few good hockey academies, and the Manitoba Bisons women's program is the highest level of female hockey in the province. They have produced some high-end talent - Sami Jo Small, Jennifer Botterill, Jocelyne Larocque, and Halli Krzyzaniuk to name a few - for many other teams, and they continue to send top players to NCAA and U Sports teams across North America. Winnipeg would be the fourth team located in the Western Conference.

By filling out the Western Conference, the East would shift to Toronto, Brampton, Montreal, and Boston. Just as the 1967 expansion showed us, Montreal would most likely still be the class of the Eastern Conference for years to come, but Toronto, Brampton, and Boston would have ample opportunities to fill potentially-vacated roster spots with new talent as some players head west. Players like Jenelle Kohanchuk, Katie Wilson, and Bailey Bram could return to Manitoba to play. Players like Toni Ross, Emily Grainger, and Nikki Robinson may be able to find roster spots with Edmonton. Any and all of these vacancies will allow more women to get into the game than in the past, and it would literally make for a stronger CWHL.

You may be thinking that the NWHL will have to expand its season to accommodate these new teams. You'd be right, but I'd suggest that we wouldn't need to change very much. The season would expand to 32 games so that every team plays each other twice at home and twice on the road. The Kunlun Red Star team would visit North America twice for the two series while each CHWL team would visit China once with a two-game set in that country while doing ambassador work there as well. Growing the game will take a league's worth of effort, so let's get the league onboard with these visits to China. All in all, each team will play each other four times in a season with regional road trips - Brampton-Toronto, Montreal-Boston, Edmonton-Calgary, Winnipeg-Minneapolis. Two-game road sets would mean visiting these cities twice in a year. It makes a ton of sense to keep things "regional" within the framework of the league.

While I realize that we're talking years down the line for this idea to even be considered, it might be a good time for the CWHL to go exploring to see if there's a way to put down stakes in these cities. Growing the game has to happen domestically as well as across borders, so keeping the momentum up in North America is always going to be a challenge within the five markets the CWHL currently calls home. There's room for growth from within, to be sure, but there's also room for outward growth where the bigger, untapped market exists. Planning will need to be done - and maybe it already has been? - but the potential for the CWHL to go big is on the horizon.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

TBC: Breaking Away

As I proclaimed a few weeks ago, my intention of resurrecting Teebz's Book Club would happen this summer as I wanted to spend more time reading when possible. I find that I get lost in good stories and can tread for hours at a time, and today's entry had me hooked just a few pages into the book. I honestly knew only a little about Patrick O'Sullivan prior to reading his story, but I'm glad that I took the time to learn more about him. In saying that, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Breaking Away, written by Patrick O'Sullivan and Gare Joyce and published by HarperCollins. Seeing and knowing what O'Sullivan did on the ice was one side that I was very aware of when it came to his life, but what he went through and the daily battles he faced to get to the NHL was something altogether new to me when it came to his career. This book opened my eyes in a major way.

From the HarperCollins website, "Patrick O'Sullivan was the OHL and CHL rookie of the year in 2002 and the AHL rookie of the year in 2005. He remains the all-time leader in games, goals, assists and points for the Mississauga/Niagara franchise in the OHL. He played 334 games over eight seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL. He played in three World Junior Championships and is all-time second in games played for the USA in tournament history. He scored the gold-medal winning goal for the United States team at the world junior championships in 2004, the first gold medal in the team's history. The 30-year-old now lives in southwest Florida with his wife and two sons."

Also from the HarperCollins website, "Gare Joyce is a senior writer for Sportsnet Magazine. A former writer for ESPN: The Magazine and The Globe and Mail, Joyce has won four Canadian national magazine awards and been a finalist 21 times. He is author of seven books of sports non-fiction, including When the Lights Went Out, Future Greats and Heartbreaks and The Devil and Bobby Hull. Under the nom de plume G.B. Joyce, he has written two mystery novels, The Code and The Black Ace."

I had a couple of options in trying to decide how to cover the topics in Breaking Away, but I ultimately decided that it's better to be honest about what Mr. O'Sullivan tells. It's a difficult read, but Patrick O'Sullivan was the victim of some pretty disturbing emotional, mental, and physical abuse during his childhood at the hands of his father, John O'Sullivan. There were parts in Breaking Away that I found difficult to read through thanks to the strong imagery used by Patrick to drive his point home. It's hard to fathom why his father did what he did to Patrick, but the fact that Patrick is able to tell the story speaks volume to his character and to the support and assistance he is receiving in dealing with this trauma. I'm not going to say that reading his story was enjoyable, but it was insightful and, at times, emotional in its delivery.

Breaking Away is literally a timeline from his grandparents emigrating to Canada to his father's attempt at playing big-league hockey to his father's repeated and numerous failed attempts to get beyond the lower ranks of minor-pro hockey. O'Sullivan speaks of how his parents met, and family life at the O'Sullivan house as he grew up. It was his interest in hockey that seemed to attract the attention of his father, and John decided that he was going to craft hockey's greatest player through intense workouts, physical and verbal abuse, and moving season after season after his father has worn out the patience of coaches, teams, and programs. To say that Patrick O'Sullivan had a brutal childhood may not even scratch the surface of what he went through.

How he broke free from the clutches of his father is where Breaking Away starts, but not where it finishes. As you may be aware, O'Sullivan was part of the gold medal-winning US World Junior team in 2004, and was credited with the goal that clinched the gold medal over Canada. He was a star in the OHL with the Mississauga IceDogs, and he appeared to be headed for a first-round draft selection as one of the most dynamic young scorers of that draft class. However, his father's shadow still loomed large over him after the incident he describes took center stage prior to the draft combine. He would eventually be drafted and play in the NHL, but he retired at the young age of 27, started at family with his beautiful wife, and began to deal with his years of trauma. To say Breaking Away took your through the emotional wringer would be pretty accurate.

O'Sullivan writes about his father,
It's not like his anger was ever going to pass. For years it had been the same way. The way he saw it, he was always right, the only who knew what was right. He pushed people around and intimidated anyone who got in his way. I was the one always around, always in the way, so I had been afraid for my life every hour of every day. It has been the only life I'd ever known.

Some of the worst of it happened on the road, on the back roads going from one small town to another. On cold nights like this one, he would kick me out of the van and make me run beside or behind it for a mile, maybe two, maybe more. I had to run hard enough to satisfy him. He threatened to leave me behind if I didn't measure up. Sometimes he would drive off into the distance on the highway in the middle of the night until the van would be out of sight and I'd run down the soft shoulder not knowing if he was still out there. That started when I was eight or nine years old.
O'Sullivan's thoughts as a child was to please his father, but there was clearly some sort of imbalance in his father to do something like that to an eight or nine year-old kid. There are accounts of abuse similar to this throughout the book as Patrick really sets the stage for the moment when he strikes back. It's hard to read at points, but it was his reality for so many years.

Breaking Away is a very honest, very real book that documents a prolonged period of child abuse in a way to which not many people, including sports fans, may be accustomed. For a player as talented as Patrick was on the ice, his efforts were never good enough for his father's liking, resulting in some rather uncomfortabler passages to read. Patrick's writing was done very well in describing incidents and events, and it made for very fluid reading. The fact that Patrick has been able to manage his trauma and lead a normal life with his wife and two sons is a testament to the writer's resolve in getting this story down on paper. It's not an easy read, but the stories, the empathy the reader will feel, and perhaps some closure on this part of his life are all factors that led to Breaking Away absolutely deserving of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find Breaking Away at your local bookstore or library. Please be warned that some passages may be difficult to read, so this book is better suited for young adults and older readers.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!