Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 235

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns to UMFM's airwaves and the UMFM app with a new voice joining the show! With TJ playing a prominent role in a conference in the city and Beans playing a prominent role in parenting, the two normal co-hosts alongside Teebz are off tonight. In their place will be a voice that has been a guest a number of times as well as a broadcasting partner of Teebz, and that voice belongs to Manitoba Bisons forward Alana Serhan! With Alana on the show tonight, we're going to do a little housekeeping and bring everyone up to date on stories that have happened and will happen over this last two-week period so we're ready to go for next week when TJ will take the reins for a special show!

As you can see to the left, the ol' desk has a few items on it that we need to go through. While not my real desk, I have had some stories pile up on The Hockey Show's desk, so we'll clean all of it off tonight. Alana and I will discuss the Female World Sport School Challenge and her broadcasting experience, the USports National Women's Championship that saw Alberta capture gold and UBC capture bronze, a quick blurb about the Men's Hockey Championship where UNB downed Saskatchewan, Bisons women's hockey and the USports All-Star Team, the 8OT game in Norway as Alana was part of the 5OT game in the Canada West playoffs, MHSAA Boys' and Girls' Provincial Hockey Championship results, Letterkenny's win at the Canadian Screen Awards, Bisons men's hockey netminder Byron Spriggs suiting up in the AHL on an emergency basis, an update on the Aalborg Pirates and how they're doing, the KHL's Kunlun Red Star finding new coaches for the men's and women's teams, Hometown Hockey going this weekend in Portage la Prairie, and a major street hockey tournament returning to the University of Manitoba!

If you're gonna be out and about tonight, but still want to hear the show, you really should download the UMFM app. Like now. I'll wait while you go do that because it's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so get to 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!

If you're all over social media, we try to be 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, I have Alana Serhan in the studio as a special guest co-host as we discuss everything that's been happening in the last two weeks around the hockey world on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

More Coaching Perspective

The man to the left is Chris Larade. Larade coaches the Saint Mary's Huskies women's hockey team in the AUS, and he won his second consecutive USports Coach of the Year Award this past weekend. Chris is an outstanding coach, but he doesn't quite have the coaching record of UConn's women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma. UConn has 109 victories in a row and counting, and that's a record that may never be touched by any other team in any other sport. I made the comment this weekend at the Female World Sports School Challenge while watching the Minnesota Revolution play Shattuck-St. Mary's about the body language of some of the players when the Revolution got down a few goals. Yesterday, Auriemma brought body language into a hole new spectrum for sports.

Watch this video of Geno Auriemma talking about the type of players he looks for when it comes to recruiting and playing time. The man has built a program that simply doesn't lose, so his philosophy on building a team is one that every coach, parent, and player should be absorbing. The amazing thing is that it applies to any team sport on this planet in my view.

There's a lot of amazing philosophy in that video, but it comes down to a couple of key phrases about not scoring enough or not getting enough minutes. I hear this at minor-hockey games a lot, and it's bothersome because there are only six spots on the ice at any one time. I also see coaches playing favorites on occasion where specific players get increased playing time simply due to skill or bloodlines. Both sides need to realize that it's a two-way street when it comes to kids in sport and work together to see the success of the team be prioritized over the stats or minutes of one player.

Auriemma mentioned benching Breanna Stewart in his speech. Stewart is an amazing basketball player, and she was the first overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm. In high school, she was the National Gatorade Player of the Year, the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year, and a McDonald's All-American. In college, she led UConn to four consecutive National Basketball Championships. She was the Final Four's most outstanding player a record four times, and was a three-time consensus national player of the year before jumping to the WNBA where she was named Rookie of the Year. So yeah, she can play a little.

Auriemma's team was led by Stewart, but his philosophies hold more water than how many points one can score. He said in the video,
"And if your body language is bad, you will never get in the game. Ever. I don't care how good you are. If somebody says, well, you know, you just benched Stewy for 35 minutes in the Memphis game a couple of years ago. Yeah, I did. That was to motivate her for the South Carolina game the following Monday? No, it wasn't. Stewy was acting like a 12-year-old. So I put her on the bench and said sit there."
Parents of minor-hockey teams would be outraged if a leading scorer was pinned to the bench for playing like an individual. Yet too often, it's this individuality that causes teams to lose games simply because coaches lean too heavily on those individual players or parents scream murder about how the coach isn't playing that player enough when it comes to winning. If we want to see sports help us develop great people, we need to start teaching good lessons early on in the lives of our children.

I'd wager a bet that Geno Auriemma would be successful in a number of sports that he coached with this team-first philosophy. He gets his players to buy into the attitude that if the team is successful, its players will be successful. He asks his players to show enthusiasm, excitement, and happiness for the accomplishments by her teammates, and takes note of those players who aren't contributing to the general positivity of the team. After that, it's all on the players to play the game, but their overall success is built on the same things that you and I would expect from family members: support, enthusiasm, and excitement for one another's achievement.

Sports teams are often compared to families in terms of the closeness that players exhibit. They know about each other's lives, they're involved in each other's lives, and they certainly enjoy being around one another. There's the occasional conflict, but what family doesn't have that? What Geno Auriemma has done is fostered that family-like environment into his team, and the result is that the UConn Huskies are the most successful team on the planet right now.

If your child is spending that much time under the guidance of someone else and around other people who have the same interest, wouldn't you want him or her to have the same support he or she gets at home in his sporting endeavor? Maybe it's time to change the way we look at success in sports. There will always be winners and losers in sport because that's how games are setup, but team success should be the same as family success. If everyone helps everyone else on the team, amazing things can be accomplished!

Well done, UConn and Coach Auriemma! You're changing the spectrum of sports for the better with your philosophies, and everyone will be better off for it. Let's hope that a few teams begin to put your ideas to work in their own programs!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 20 March 2017

It's Not Over Yet?

I have to admit that I stopped watching W Network's Hockey Wives show once they opted not to bring back Emilie Blum. Emilie and Jonathon Blum had the only real story I was interested in as Jon was playing with the AHL's Iowa Wild while the other hockey wives all had NHL husbands. They ran through a second season that contained a lot of in-fighting and squabbling behind the scenes, so this "reality" program seemed more like a soap opera than the lives of real people. Needless to say, I stopped watching when it got a little over-the-top with some of the women.

It was announced today by Corus Entertainment that a third season of Hockey Wives will air on W Network starting on April 19, 2017 at 10pm ET/PT. I received the press release, but didn't really give it any thought until this evening when I wanted to know which wives and players would be spotlighted on this season's show. It turns out that one returnee, one call-back, and four new women will tell their stories on what it's like being the wife of a professional hockey player.

We'll start with the returnee and the only woman who has appeared on all three seasons: Maripier Morin. Morin is engaged to Brandon Prust whose career in the NHL seems to have stalled. In this season, Prust may look at options to play abroad, but that means the pair must endure the stress of a long-distance relationship. Morin was one of the background players in Season One, but took a more prominent role in Season Two. I imagine she'll play a large part in this season's storylines.

The woman who was called back to the show from Season One is none other than Emilie Blum. I've kept up with Emilie and Jon via Twitter so I know how their story unfolds, but this season's story will follow Emilie as a solo parent with Jon playing in the KHL with Vladivostok. Emilie is an amazing woman who has endured a lot while Jon was in Russia last season, so we'll see how she fares once again with Jon in Russia for another season.

The new women cover a wider range of professional levels. Catherine LaFlamme, wife of Kris Letang, joins the program as the Penguins defenceman comes off a Stanley Cup championship while she launches her own children's clothing line. Martine Auclair Vlasic, wife of San Jose Shark Marc-Edouard Vlasic, will have all sorts of new challenges as Marc-Edouard's career takes off following a successful playoff run and a World Cup of Hockey championship. Vanessa Vandal, girlfriend of St. Louis Blues forward David Perron, navigates life with David being traded back to St. Louis when she decides to go back to school only to learn that she's pregnant. The sixth hockey wife is Erica Lundmark, wife of Jamie Lundmark, who looks after their three kids and her own career as Jamie plays hockey in Austria!

Here's the trailer for Season Three.

As you can see, there are a lot of storylines to follow, but this inside look at the lives off the ice of players and their families is something unique. Having the show head across the ocean to Austria, Germany, and Russia only adds to the intrigue of what happens in these womens' lives, so it might be worth catching an episode or two if you're a fan of reality TV.

We're a month away from seeing this season's premiere. If you're not up to date with the careers of these men and women, this would be a good program to start watching. Seeing how they navigate the long-distances between the men and their families are one of the strongest traits of these woman. Hockey Wives won't gloss over the tough parts of that life, but that's part of the life these men and women have together.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The West Emerges

I had been saying for weeks since they eliminated the Manitoba Bisons that the Alberta Pandas looked like the best team in the nation. Granted, my watching of OUA, RSEQ, and AUS teams was significantly less than what I had seen from Canada West, but the Pandas threw a 14-game winning streak up before dropping a pair of games to the UBC Thunderbirds - the top-ranked team in the nation - in the Canada West Final. With their appearance there, the Pandas would garner an invitation to the USports Women's Hockey Championship in Napanee, Ontario where they had a chance to shock the world. Well, everyone except their fans and me, apparently.

It was hard to deny that the best team in the second-half of the Canada West season wasn't the Alberta Pandas. While the UBC Thunderbirds jumped out to the big lead, it's never how you start the season, but only how you finish. The Pandas and Thunderbirds used all three games to determine a Canada West Champion, but the Pandas wouldn't be deterred by a Game Three loss when a bigger championship stood before them.

It would be in Napanee where the two Canada West teams began their assault on the other six teams. On Thursday, UBC moved on to the semi-final round with a 2-1 victory over the hosts from Queen's University after a late Nicole Saxvik goal put them ahead. On Friday, Alberta scored a pair of second-period goals from Amy Boucher and Cayle Dillon before surviving late pressure from the St. Mary's Huskies to advance on a 2-1 victory as well. Four teams advanced, and both Canada West teams were still in the hunt.

The first semi-final game would pit the Thunderbirds against the McGill Martlets. This game had a little bit of everything - great defence, incredible goaltending, chances for both teams, and some good pace. However, a late goal by Gabrielle Davidson with 2:29 remaining in the game was all the scoring needed as the Martlets upset the top-ranked team in the nation to advance to the final on the strength of a 1-0 victory. UBC's dream of returning to the championship game would end, but they would still have a medal opportunity as they'd play for the bronze medal on Sunday.

Alberta, however, caught a significant break when the underdog Concordia Stingers downed the Guelph Gryphons in their quarterfinal game the day before. The upstart Stingers wouldn't just roll over for the Pandas, so Alberta would need to bring a solid game once again. Concordia jumped out to a lead just 19 seconds in when Claudia Dubois scored. Alex Poznikoff would pull the Pandas even at 9:24 while on the power-play, but Marie-Joelle Allard would restore the one-goal lead just 35 seconds after the Alberta goal, and the Stingers would carry the 2-1 lead into the intermission.

While some eyebrows were raised after the opening frame, Alberta head coach Howie Draper had no time for surprise as he took his troops into the dressing room, drew up some changes, and the Pandas came out like the dominant team they were through the second-half of the Canada West season. Five consecutive goals later, and the Pandas booked their ticket to the USports National Women's Hockey Final with an impressive 6-2 victory over Concordia in which they limited the Stingers to just six shots over the last 40 minutes of play. Needless to say, that suffocating defence that the Pandas had played since January now had them in the biggest game of the season!

Before we get there, though, we had a bronze medal game to play as the Concordia Stingers of the RSEQ met Canada West's UBC Thunderbirds! Could Concordia have one more upset in its bag of tricks or would the nation's top team rally back from a heartbreaking defeat? Well, it turns out that the T-Birds had just enough gas left in the tank. A first-period goal by Cassandra Vilgrain at 17:42 on the power-play put UBC out in front, and they iced it almost 40 minutes later when Logan Boyd added a second power-play goal at 17:23 of the third period. Amelia Boughn stopped everything that the Stingers threw her way in backing the Thunderbirds to the bronze medal in a 2-0 win!

After earning a silver medal last season, the Thunderbirds close out this season with another medal and a win to give Canada West the third-place podium finish. Would Canada West finish atop the podium or with a second-straight silver medal as Alberta geared up to play McGill in the championship final?

It took until the second period, but that tenacious Alberta defence and solid transition game finally broke through when Amy Boucher used a defenceman as a screen and snapped a shot past McGill's Tricia Deguire on the far side to put Alberta up 1-0 at 17:38 of the middle frame. Alberta, who has had no worry when holding a one-goal lead, gave up a power-play early in the third period, and McGill would capitalize when Melodie Daoust fired home a cross-crease pass from Olivia Atkinson to even the game at 1-1 at the 3:15 mark of the third period.

From there, both Deguire and Alberta's Lindsey Post took over and denied chance after chance through to the end of the third period with neither goaltender giving an inch in the 1-1 tie. Despite McGill scoring on one of their twelve shots in the third period, the two teams would go to overtime where they would continue the battle. And once more, the goaltenders stood tall as Deguire stopped all four shots from the Pandas in the extra frame while Post would stop the three shots sent her way. And once more, we'd need to roll into another period!

Double-overtime saw Alberta go down a man early as Morgan Kelly was whistled for hooking at 1:06, but the Pandas weathered the storm with Post making a couple of key saves to preserve the tie. It wouldn't be longer after, though, where we'd finally crown a winner. Taylor Kezama's shot ricocheted off the foot of a Martlets defenceman and found its way past Deguire at 8:13 to give the Pandas the USports National Women's Hockey Championship and Alberta's eighth national title in 20 years!

"It didn't feel real at first, I was like, 'did this go in?'," Kezama said with excitement post-game. "My excitement level went through the roof. It's the most amazing feeling I've ever had in my life."

Alberta gives Canada West two wins on Championship Sunday as the Pandas captured the gold medal while the UBC Thunderbirds captured the bronze medal. Canada West featured three of the top-six teams at the end of the season, and had a number of teams move up and down the Top-Ten standings all year. There will be changes next season for both teams as a number of players are graduating, but no one can take these victories from these women.

Congratulations to the UBC Thunderbirds on their bronze-medal performance! And congratulations to the Alberta Pandas for winning this nation's highest honour for university hockey players as they are the 2016-17 USports National Women's Hockey Champions! It should make for an exciting Canada West season next year!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Car Ride Home

I spent my day watching a lot of amazing girls play hockey at a level higher than I ever reached as they participated in the Female World Sport School Challenge. These girls are amazingly gifted, but hockey is a sport in which there are winners and losers with nothing in between. Most of these girls had parents in the stands, and that means there was a good chance most of the parents would have driven their children to the rink and home from the rink. While doubt they got "the talk" on the way home, most kids do have some sort of conversation about the game when they're younger. Here's where the stats go off the rails.

70% of kids quit sports before high school. Seventy percent. Say those two words out loud: seventy percent. That's seven in ten kids who quit sports before they hit high school. Why do they quit, you ask? The top reason, according to True Sport, is that sports aren't fun any longer. And the place where kids hear it most is usually during the car ride home.

The video below might be hard to watch for parents, but this sort of things happens daily at fields, rinks, and courts all over our great nation. It needs to be watched, though, so that one can see the negative impact it has on the young boy. Watch the video below, and we'll pick up the discussion below it.
Pretty brutal, right? That happens all over our country, and I hope the impact of that video gets into your head if you're a parent.

"I would be one of the classic parents — you know, [the kids] hop in the car at the end of a game and they didn't know they should be miserable until I told them," Michael Langlois, a sports consultant who has worked with amateur and pro coaches and teams, told CBC's Jamie Strashin. "I regret that as a dad. But I think it's something a lot of us need to acknowledge. The car ride home shouldn't be miserable for kids."

The message seen at the end of the video reads, "You need to take a good hard look at yourself." It's a message that True Sport hopes to push on parents so that more kids will remain in sport throughout and past high school. Remove the pressures of winning and let kids play. Let them have fun! And don't trap them in the car with negativity about the game they just played.

"You are inside of this capsule where you are stuck for a period of time, so I think it's an excellent opportunity for you as a parent to ask some questions in a gentle way about how things went," Dr. Penny Werthner, a former Olympian who has spent 30 years studying sport and psychology, told Strashin.

"That opens up the door for them to start the conversation and tell you as a parent what they are feeling, what they are frustrated about, what they are thinking. That provides you with an opportunity to then come back and start giving some direction."

There have been a number of parents and athletes who have reached out to lend support to True Sport's initiative. Some of the notable names are:
  • Ken and Arlene Olynyk - parents to NBA star Kelly Olynyk, Saskatchewan Huskies basketball player Maya Olynyk, and BC rugby player Jesse Olynyk.
  • Keith Wilkinson - father of Canadian soccer star Rhian Wilkinson.
  • Jan Scott - mother of Olympic cross-country gold medallist skier Beckie Scott.
  • Rosemary Brydon - mother of former Olympic downhill skier Emily Brydon.
We have to remember that our kids are having fun out there. Win, lose, or draw, they're playing a sport they love and enjoy doing, and parents should be supporting them in their endeavors and worrying less about performances.

"It was really important to not talk about it until she opened up the conversation," Rosemary recalled to Strashin. "We never asked her. If it was a bad result, we'd steer clear, she would find us when she was ready. They have to absorb what happened and how they are going to cope with it."

"After a race, Emily came up to us and said, 'I'm really glad that you are my parents.' And we went, 'Why?' And she said, 'You don't care if I win or lose.' That's my favourite story."

Enterprise Rent-A-Car leapt at the opportunity to help True Sport. Getting that kind of support is amazing for this initiative, and I commend Enterprise for getting involved. They produced a great message, so, if the first video made you sad, this one should pick you up a little.

Remember that it's just a game. You want to see your kids playing and having fun, so don't turn it into a chore. They'll find a way to succeed if they feel they're supported, but I've seen too many kids drop out of sports because it became a job with the stress and pressures of winning. Sports is about playing and participating instead of about worrying about the scholarships and scouts. The elite in every sport will get a shot, but for most of our kids they'll just continue to play like we do in our beer league softball and hockey leagues because we have fun. It's all about having fun for 99% of our children.

So please, I beg of you, don't lose sight of what's important when it comes to your child's happiness. You're their number-one fans. Support them as you would your professional sports idols.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!