Saturday, 16 September 2017

A Soggy Day Off The Grid

Welcome to slo-pitch in September. Today will see me and twelve-or-so teammates attempt to make something out of a windy and wet day on the ball diamonds as we look to defend the title won last season. With it being as rainy and windy as it is, I'm not sure why we're playing, but apparently we have to get the games in "one way or another". I guess that means umbrellas and rain ponchos for all? In any case, I'm gonna spend most of the day off the grid trying to stay warm in single-digit temperatures while we take down teams standing in front of us to repeat as champions!

Tonight, I have the privilege of attending the Bisons women's hockey social where they are raising money to offset costs this season. Honestly, I wish there was more I could do to support this team because they worked their butts off to make this happen, and I really want to see the social make a pile of money for the team. These women have dedicated themselves to the sport like no one I have seen, and they have come together this season with one goal in mind: London, Ontario. Specifically, the U Sports Women's Hockey National Championship at Western University from March 15-18. There will be challengers who want to stop that from happening, especially within the uber-competitive Canada West Conference, but the Bisons are determined to make it happen.

In saying the above, come down to Wayne Fleming Arena at the University of Manitoba and cheer these women on. There's an Olympian, a number of former NCAA players, a pile of talented Manitobans, and a few Saksatchewan- and Alberta-born players who have adopted this city as their own in helping the Bisons achieve their goals. All they need is some fan support as they seem to play twice as hard as they normally do when the stands are full!

The tickets? They're cheap. Like "you can afford a season pass" cheap. Tickets to get into the games are $10 for adults, and I guarantee it will be the best women's hockey action you'll see outside of the Olympics. If nothing else, come out and see how we do broadcasts for UMFM at the games. We occasionally speak about people in the crowd on broadcasts who wear unique clothing, are loud and boisterous, or who come as a group, so if you want a little free recognition for your efforts at the games via radio, you know what to do.

It's game time in about 90 minutes, so I'm out. Support your local hockey where ever you may be located, and get out and support your local U Sports teams when you can!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 15 September 2017

I Thought This Only Happened In Soccer

The uniforms, as seen to the left, are what Ukraine's national hockey teams wear. They actually look much better on the ice than they do in the graphic, but that's not why we're here today. The IIHF announced today that it has begun an investigation into two Ukraine players and has suspended them "from all ice hockey competitions or activities authorized and organized by the IIHF or any IIHF Member National Association as of 14 September 2017" as part of this investigation. If this seems like a heavy ruling while the investigation is on-going, the important thing to note is that this decision was made due to the two players' alleged match-fixing during the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A game between Korea and Ukraine on April 28, 2017. That's a pretty serious allegation.

According to the IIHF, "[t]he players were allegedly involved in a match-fixing attempt in which Ukraine should have lost with a margin of at least two goals. However, the game ended with a 2-1 win for Korea in shootout." Clearly, Ukraine did not lose with a margin of at least two goals, so one has to question what prompted the IIHF to investigate. Again, according to the IIHF, "[a]fter reviewing all available evidence and reports, including evidence of increased betting on a loss of the Ukrainian team by two or more goals, the IIHF has decided to open an investigation".

Varyvoda is a defenceman who recorded one assist in the five IIHF D1 games at the World Championship. The 22 year-old hasn't really been an impact player for Ukraine at any of the international tournament games in which he's participated.

Zakharchenko is a goaltender whose 2.23 GAA and .943 save percentage show more than the single point that Ukraine earned at the IIHF tournament. The 22 year-old was set to join the EIHL's Nottingham Panthers this season until these allegations derailed his hockey dreams.

According to a report on a site called International Hockey Lineal Championship, Zakharchenko and Varyvoda "were paid a sum of roughly $30,000 US by an as-yet unnamed source to help Korea win by a two-goal margin in their final on April 28 in Kiev, ensuring that Korea would clinch silver in the tournament and advance to the Championship Division with a goal differential tiebreaker over Kazakhstan". That, friends, is highly illegal, and now we see why the IIHF is investigating.

How they were caught in the bribery scandal is a little bit more bizarre, and the outcome of other investigations could be devastating to these two young players.
The players, who were exposed when signed letters from the day after the game that they provided, promising to refund the money as they failed to meet the goal differential, were made public. The Ukranian Hockey Federation has undergone the process to discipline the players, and the IIHF has confirmed that they are starting a separate investigation. Additionally, Ukrainian anti-corruption laws could see fines and potential imprisonment in the future for both Zakharchenko and Varivoda if found guilty.
Ouch. Risking suspension is one thing, but risking imprisonment is an entire other problem about which these two probably never even thought. I have never heard of anyone at the IIHF level committing match-fixing before, but, if the allegations are true, this would mark a serious blow to the efforts of Russian sport in having them clean up their acts. Unconfirmed reports indicate that one of the organizers of the bribery scheme is the former HC Vityaz head coach Alexei Lazarenko. Let's call that a double-Russian-whammy.

The letters below were written by the players, with Zakharchenko's letter on the left and Varyvoda's on the right.
The translation of Zakharchenko's letter reads as follows: "I am Zakharchenko Eduard. I play for the national team of Ukraine. I promise to return money, 60 thousand dollars (30 thousand myself) because I have promised to screw up the game Ukraine-South Korea for money. Also I asked to stake my money for our loss to South Korea in two pucks and I haven't managed to do that."

Oops.

If those smoking guns aren't enough to sink Zakharchenko and Varyvoda, I'm not sure what will. The only way I could see them getting out from this trouble is if they could produce evidence that shows they were coerced into taking the bribes. Clearly, they didn't follow through on what was asked of them in terms of fixing the score, so maybe there's some hope that they didn't accept the bribes on their own volition. Whatever the case may be, I'm guessing their next steps won't involve skates anytime soon.

Dummies.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 260

The Hockey Show begins Season Six tonight, and it's nearly appropriate that we feature a number of people who could make the next five years as good as the previous five! It will be a little strange not having Beans in-studio to celebrate this occasion, but he's off conquering other parts of this planet and claiming them for the Teebz and Beans Nation. In having an empty seat, I decided to send out an invite to people we always enjoy having on the show as we get to meet the new kids who will don the brown-and-gold for the Manitoba Bisons women's team this season!

The new Stromtroopers recruits brought on by Lord Head Coach Jon Rempel are a diverse and skilled bunch. We already met Alison Sexton on a previous show, and she may drop in tonight, but there are more notable additions to meet! We won't get all the rookies, but we will meet some or all of Natasha Kostenko, Madison Cole, Emilie Massé, Brielle Dacquay-Neveux, and Lauren Warkentin this evening! Natasha's hockey career is very interesting in terms of where she has played. Madi hails from Lloydminster, Alberta and we'll get her take on attending school in a new province. Emilie has done some incredible things in her career as she looks to add more achievements with the Bisons. Brielle has all sorts of accolades attached to her name as well, and we'll hear about a summer job that made her somewhat famous. And Lauren's hockey career is filled with highlights and amazing moments about which we'll discuss. There will be our standard rapid-fire question period with the new recruits as well, so tune in to learn all about the new kids who will carry the torch for the Bisons!

So now you might be asking can you listen to the show, right? We suggest that you 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 remain 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 meets, greets, and quizzes the new Bisons women's hockey players on their own careers, who they are, and other fun stuff only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: September 14, 2017: Episode 260

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Stop Abusing Public Funds

Here we go again, folks. It seems the 32 year-old Pengrowth Saddledome is no longer suitable for the Calgary Flames when it comes to a home rink, and now the owners of the franchise and the Commissioner of the NHL are banging the drum loudly once again for the city of Calgary to dig deep and find some money to give the Flames a new home. This is the same Saddledome that two years ago was up for debate in terms of being replaced, and the city of Calgary balked at the idea of using public funds to build an arena. And that will lead to the questions of what has changed since 2015, and why should Calgary pay for an arena that will primarily be used by a team that is owned by billionaires?

I penned a long article two years ago that used an exemplary piece of reporting by John Oliver from HBO's Last Week Tonight that explains why funding stadia with public money is a bad idea. I still firmly believe that using public taxpayer money to fund the building of arena in which the majority of the public may never set foot is a terrible idea. In fact, maybe the worst idea when it comes to the use of taxpayer money in the history of modern civilization.

After a meeting with officials from the city of Calgary, the Flames have now dropped the idea of a new arena, stating that "the group is no longer in talks with the city". The meeting included Gary Bettman, who decided to speak out following the meeting in saying, "This arena can't compete, for example, with Edmonton any longer, because they don't have the resources or the building. I think there were 34 dates of concerts that the new Edmonton arena got that didn't come down here."

Boo-bloody-hoo.

It's not that Calgary doesn't want a new arena. Mayor Naheed Nenshi has gone on record in saying he'd like to see a new arena as part of a revitalized entertainment district near the current Saddledome, and a recent survey of Calgarians show support for a new arena. The catch? That survey found that most Calgary residents don't want pay more in taxes to build the arena. I'd say that's fair, but not all Calgarians feel that the city needs a new arena. According to the survey results, "32 per cent said it doesn't and 18 per cent weren't sure" when asked if Calgary needs a new arena. If half your citizens have doubt that Calgary needs a new arena, that's a lot of people not saying yes to the idea.

Back in March, there were rumblings of the Flames needing a new arena when Gary Bettman spoke up again on behalf of the Flames. Bettman was in town lobbying for a new arena that seemed to fall on the ears of Mayor Nenshi's constituents.

"The calls to our office, the emails, the comments have been, I would say, 99.999997 per cent saying please Mr. Bettman stay out of it and no, there should be no public money for this," Nenshi told the CBC's Drew Anderson. This was a mere six months ago where Mayor Nenshi heard people saying that there should be no public money used, and now we're back to today where we're seeing the Flames and Bettman begging the city to use public money to fund an arena.

You can't hold a city hostage when the owners of the business named "Calgary Flames" are billionaires. Flames Vice-President Brian Burke, when speaking to a crowd at the Canadian Club of Calgary in June, spoke of why the Flames should have a publicly-funded arena. Burke was asked by an audience member and longtime season ticket holder why he thinks the Flames should get public monies for a new arena, suggesting that there was nowhere for the team to go if they didn't get the money they sought. Burke's response gave little merit to why the city of Calgary should fork over any money, responding with, "I think most intelligent people get this. Sorry... my learned friend."

Actually, most learned people and almost every economic-impact study done on new stadia show that there is little to no benefit received by the city or the area surrounding the new stadium, so I'm not sure from where Burke is pulling his "most intelligent people" statement. Instead, Burke doubled-down with, "In the U.S., it has long been acceptable to use public money to construct arenas and stadiums. It's long been acceptable to give a pro team a favourable lease based on the benefits pro teams bring to the marketplace."

How does using public money and giving favourable leases benefit the city of Calgary at all? In the end, if the city decides to use public funds or grant a favourable lease, there has to be something given back. Just existing as the Calgary Flames hockey club isn't good enough. It wouldn't be good enough for a Wal-Mart store or an Ikea store, and I'd say they have far more appeal to a wider-ranging audience than the Calgary Flames do. If they pay property taxes and build their own buildings using private money, why is the business of the Calgary Flames any different?

Look, I understand the allure of the new arena. It's a sparkly, new building with all sorts of amenities and concessions that are unique to that venue. Most new arenas dazzle before you even step foot inside the venue, but that does raise one cent for the city nor does it put patrons into the businesses surrounding the arena. For too long, professional sports franchises have trampled on civic pride to get what they want before threatening relocation if they don't get what they want. Personally, I'm glad that the city of Calgary has taken a stand against these threats, and I'll credit Mayor Nenshi for recognizing these tactics used and calling them out in the June CBC article.
"This is me kind of shrugging," he said when asked for a reaction. "This is page 26 of the script. It's always page 26 of the script in every city, and my job now is, I'm supposed to go to page 27 and 28 in the script when I point out that Rogers has given them billions of dollars and they're not going to let them remove a team from a western Canadian market, that in order for them to go to Quebec, they'll have to sell the team to Pierre Karl Peladeau, and he's not going to give them a deal the way they're going to get in Calgary, blah, blah, blah. I'm not interested in doing that."

Nenshi said the city has been "very, very clear on our non-negotiables."

"The first one is the one I always say, public money requires public benefit, so you've got to negotiate," he said.

"Five out of the seven teams in Canada have privately owned rinks, only Edmonton and Calgary are publicly owned, and the Edmonton deal may have been right for Edmonton, where they desperately needed revitalization and construction in their downtown core, that is not the case in Calgary … so we have to find a new model."

There's only so much money to go around, and a sports franchise would fall below important things like infrastructure and police, fire, and paramedic services. Those are essential services that require public funding to help everyone. A new arena for the Calgary Flames is not an essential service in any way, shape, or form, and I'll gladly stand with Mayor Nenshi in finding a new model that meets the needs of all the parties, especially the taxpayers in Calgary.

When billionaire owners are unwilling to spend money on the house they bought for their team, maybe they shouldn't be home-owners.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

King Of The E-Rink

The video game cover to the left hid inside the one game that literally gets played at HBIC Headquarters at least once per week. NHL '94 by EASports is still, in my view, the greatest game ever produced for anything and I will fight you if you try to argue that fact. Ok, I won't fight you, but you have to admit that it's quite iconic. There was so much to love about NHL '94, and I'm not any game ever came close in my childhood to replacing NHL '94. It might be, in this writer's view, the perfect game from top to bottom. Lemieux, Gretzky, Roy, Hasek, Bourque, Lidstrom, Roenick, Selanne, Yzerman, Messier - all the hockey greats from my era were in this game!

If you know anything about me, you know that I love this game. I usually bring my Sega Genesis and copy of NHL '94 into the radio station during the week-long fundraiser we do, and radio DJs will battle out their differences over the classic sports game. I've been known to take the woefully bad Ottawa Senators and somehow still pull out victory over All-Star squads, so I have a bit of a reputation when it comes to my gameplay and most aim to knock me off the tower of NHL '94 power I seem to hold.

Why am I writing about this today? Well, I think I may have found my brethren.
How cool is it that NHL '94 is getting its own documentary?!? For those that love this game, this documentary will hopefully speak to the little kid inside them that chose the Jets to play with Selanne, that chose the Blackhawks to see if Roenick and Larmer could be Lemieux and Jagr, that chose the Kings to see Gretzky win one more Stanley Cup. I can't guarantee this documentary will win an Oscar, but for those of use who love EASports' NHL '94, this is a documentary for the ages!

Here's the catch if you think you have what it takes to be the King of NHL '94: they're holding a tournament in Las Vegas on September 30 that will allow competitors to see the NHL '94 documentary! And it features a cash prize of $10,000! How cool is that? I won't be in attendance due to work and life obligations, but if they were ever to bring something like this to my neck of the woods, I'd consider it. How cool would it be to be called the King of NHL '94?

If you loved the game of NHL '94 as much as I do, you'll have this documentary on your must-see list this fall. I'm excited to see what some of the best gamers do in the game, and I think it's cool that so many people have held onto their games and continued to play them despite advances in technology and gaming that have changed the gaming experience. I have always been a retro gaming guy, and NHL '94 is my go-to retro game that I love.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!