Saturday, 13 January 2018

Just Ducky

It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since The Mighty Ducks movie hit theaters. I guess I don't really look back on my life with respect to movie premieres, but that seems like a long time ago when I start thinking about it. The fact that there were three Mighty Ducks movies might be more indicative of just how much time has passed since those movies premiered in North America. That being said, January 27, 2018 will see the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones bring all three movies to the present day as they will wear jerseys from each movie in their game against the Fort Wayne Komets!

As you may be aware, Cincinnati used to be a Mighty Ducks town when the AHL's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks called the city home. From 1997 until 2005, the former Baltimore Bandits franchise played at the Cincinnati Gardens as the primary affiliate of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks from 1997 until 2000 when the Detroit Red Wings affiliated with the Mighty Ducks for three seasons after the Adirondack Red Wings folded. In 2003, the Red Wings moved their affiliation to the Grand Rapids Griffins, leaving Anaheim as the sole affiliate with Cincinnati until 2005. After voluntarily suspending operations and failing to reach their season ticket goal, the franchise was moved to Rockford, Illinois in 2007 where they became the Rockford IceHogs.

The history, however, is barely important when one considers the jerseys being worn in two weeks.
There are three periods in a hockey game, and three different jerseys to be worn that associate with the three Mighty Ducks movies. With the coincidence of Cincinnati once being the home of the Mighty Ducks, this game's jerseys almost seem surreal when one considers the hockey history in the city.

Nevertheless, all three jerseys were designed by Jeff Tasca, and he did a fabulous job. The first jerseys depict a skating cyclone on the original Mighty Ducks jersey when they won the state championship. When the Cyclones come out in the second period, they'll wear the Team USA jerseys the Mighty Ducks wore in the Goodwill Games in D2 with the word "Cyclones" written on the sleeve. And the third period jerseys will depict the modern Mighty Ducks jersey from D3 with a logo representing the Cyclones' secondary mascot known as Puckchop. Just so we're clear, they aren't representing the IceHogs... despite it looking like they might be. Clear as mud? Alrighty then.

Jeff's designs are outstanding with his accuracy of the jerseys and the playfulness of the logo changes. He dropped me a note about the night coming up that feature his designs, and he's doing amazing work. Full credit to him on making the Cyclones look as good as the Mighty Ducks did in their Disney movies. Athletic Knit put together the final product for the night, and the three sets of jerseys will be auctioned off following the game with proceeds going to the Cincinnati Cyclones Foundation which aims to help children in the Greater Cincinnati Area discover a love and a passion for the game of hockey.

In most cases, the final product on the ice looks better than the artwork for the jerseys does, and I have a feeling that the Mighty Ducks Cyclones will look amazing when they take the ice in each period against the Komets. The fact that those jerseys will help raise money to help ease the costs associated with playing hockey for kids in and around the Cincinnati area makes this venture worth the effort!

Now that's something for which it's worth quacking open the pocketbook!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 January 2018

They're Right

If you happen to listen to the broadcasts of the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team, we often have two writers from the school's student-produced newspaper, The Manitoban, on during the intermissions. I have to say that we're fortunate and lucky to have two outstanding writers in Ryan Stelter and Jason Pchajek join us regularly to discuss articles they've written about the sport, but the newspaper really has an outstanding group of individuals that turn in superb stories. One such story appeared on my Twitter feed today, and I have to say that Austin Frame's work, combined with an earlier article written by Ron Mahon who is a former Bisons men's hockey broadcaster, hit the nail on the head when it comes to the amount of overlooked talent playing in U SPORTS men's hockey.

NHL and AHL teams are always looking for good players to plug holes, fill in for injuries, and simply upgrade their levels of talent. There are draft picks, free agents, and possible undrafted NCAA players they could use to improve their teams, but the one pipeline that seems to be overlooked consistently is men's hockey at the Canadian university level. As Rob Mahon points out in his article, the AHL's Manitoba Moose have found some solid players that are making impacts at the AHL level after their U SPORTS eligibility was fulfilled. The Aalborg Pirates in Denmark's Metal Ligaen have tapped the U SPORTS pipeline to pick up some quality talent to bolster their roster. The AHL's Ontario Reign went out and signed a significant U SPORTS prospect as well.

What does all of these notes mean? Well, as Austin Frame wrote, it might be time for Hockey Canada and the professional hockey ranks to really start scouting Canada's university hockey system for high-quality talent, especially after the U SPORTS team downed the Canadian World Junior selection squad in a pair of games played prior to the tournament.

"I think a lot of the guys felt that U SPORTS gets overlooked as a whole. For lots of guys this is still a stepping stone to professional hockey and I don’t think people realize that," Saskatchewan Huskies defenceman and U SPORTS all-star captain Kendall McFaull said.

"So for us to showcase the talent against the [Canadian] world juniors and prove that this is how good U SPORTS hockey is was something really important to us and we treated it like they were big games and not just your typical all-star games."

Make no mistake that U SPORTS is not going to push the allure of the NCAA off the map. It's not designed to be that way, but is designed to fill a niche that other programs do not. If players in the Canadian Hockey League graduate out of that program, they get one year's worth of tuition for every season played in the CHL. That allows older players to return to school to gain a post-secondary education after having sacrificed years in helping their chosen teams in the CHL. It's a pretty good deal when you look at it, and one that I think more players should utilize when it comes to their futures.

In saying this, U SPORTS is seeing the level of talent rise across the country as more and more players take advantage of the tuition program. In turn, this has allowed the Canadian university hockey program to move from glorified beer league to one of the best leagues no one watches on the planet. There are now former NHL draft picks playing in all four Canadian university conferences, and the university teams have had to up their recruiting processes to try to fend off suitors from across the land when it comes to talented hockey players.

Now you may be saying that this is all nice and well for these players who probably will never play in the NHL, but let's be honest when it comes to anyone taking one of those 800-or-so NHL jobs. It just doesn't happen all that frequently, but there is greater turnover in leagues around the world.

One example of a player who was a highly-touted NHL player who came back to U SPORTS following a major injury and retirement from the NHL is Jared Aulin. Aulin, who was bartending in Calgary when he decided to give hockey one more try, joined the Calgary Dinos and parlayed that university stint into a highly successful career in Europe in Sweden and Switzerland. It's my pleasure to report that Jared signed a one-year contract extension with the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers at the age of 35. For a guy who thought his career was over, U SPORTS provided a springboard back into the game, and he has been enjoying life in Europe ever since.

The key in U SPORTS men's hockey is that most of the players are already in their mid-20s when they graduate from their respective university programs, making them more physically mature than their NCAA counterparts who graduate from their respective American universities. Getting a 23 or 24 year-old free agent who has four years of university hockey and four years of major junior hockey under his belt is something not many teams can boast, and these players are having impacts at the AHL and ECHL levels in North America and in leagues across Europe the moment they hit the ice. It's like signing a physically-mature, mid-draft selection who can score and play immediately without having to actually use a draft pick on him.

The talent in U SPORTS is there. There's a goalie who was at the Spengler Cup playing in Saskatchewan right now (with that article penned by Ryan Stelter). There are NHL draft picks scattered across the country on various teams. There are players who were highly-touted junior players that NHL teams passed over in their draft years. The talent level is deep at the U SPORTS level.

The only question to ask is why aren't you watching?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 277

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight on a rather frigid Thursday after we enjoyed some minus-single-digit temperatures for the first time in a long time while in the throes of January. How is it that our city can be -2C one day and -36C with the wind the next day? If you don't like the weather in Winnipeg, literally wait five minutes. In any case, we have a lot to talk about as the Canadian men's Olympic squad is announced today, so Beans and I will have a lot to say on that. Don't expect names like Iginla, Doan, and Fisher to be on the list unless Sean Burke has lost his mind, but we'll go over who made the cut and who didn't tonight on The Hockey Show on 101.5 UMFM!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans will have a chat about Cale Makar turning down the opportunity to be a part of Team Canada in South Korea and whether that's the right decision, who made the cut for the Canadian men's Olympic team, and how we figure they'll fare in South Korea in a month's time. We'll also talk about the Jets rolling along without the services of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Connor Hellebuyck being named to the NHL All-Star Game, the Bisons women's hockey team controlling their own destiny with the Saskatchewan Huskies in town, the UBC Thunderbirds women's hockey team going green tomorrow night for a good cause, Jaromir Jagr's time being up in Calgary, and the Brandon Wheat Kings cleaning house and stocking up for the future! It's going to be another busy show, so make sure you find a radio or internet-enabled device to listen at 5:30pm CT!

Ok, so how do I check this hockey-infused show out, you ask? 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! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

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 and Beans talk Olympic invites, Olympic declines, All-Star invites, winning while down players, controlling destinies, and doing the right thing on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: January 11, 2018: Episode 277

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

TBC: Young Leafs

I have torn to admit that I was torn when I received today's entry in Teebz's Book Club. I love reading, and I try to squeeze a little in every day. I admittedly don't go searching for articles on the Toronto Maple Leafs, though, so I wasn't sure I wanted to wade into the pages of this book. However, I did crack the spine over the holidays, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Young Leafs: The Making of a New Hockey History, written by Gare Joyce and published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Thanks to TSN and Sportsnet, I thought I knew more about the Leafs, Auston Matthews, and their young guns than I'd ever care to, but Mr. Joyce does an outstanding job in this book in giving better perspective about their players than either of the television networks have.

From his Simon & Schuster page, "Gare Joyce has written about sports for over thirty years, winning four National Magazine Awards and landing on The Best American Sports Writing notable list seven times. Joyce is the author of eleven books, including Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm and The Devil and Bobby Hull. He is a senior writer with Sportsnet and was previously a hockey columnist for The Globe and Mail and a staff feature writer for ESPN The Magazine and espn.com. Joyce lives in Toronto, seven subway stops from the Air Canada Centre."

I am a fan of Mr. Joyce's long-form writing for Sportsnet and other outlets, and his books have always been entertaining in both the topics he has chosen to write about and his writing style. He is a master of prose, often using excellent descriptors in his sentences and paragraphs that give you a deeper understanding of the topic. In knowing this, I felt like Young Leafs could be a good and entertaining read despite it being on a topic that I feel has been told over and over about the infusion of youth on the Leafs roster.

Knowing that this book was going to focus on the young Leafs players, I went into reading this book with an open mind. I was surprised to read about a number of things concerning players such as Matthews, Marner, and Nylander that had yet to be reported anywhere else. Granted, I wasn't actively seeking this knowledge, but the depth and great detail that Mr. Joyce put into illustrating the passion each of these players had in getting to the NHL and, ultimately, playing in the NHL really shines through in Young Leafs.

Joyce looks at the struggles and successes of each player in their first year of NHL play, but he also goes back in time to tell the stories of each player in their development, their path to the NHL, and some of the people who helped them take the necessary steps in following their dreams. Parents, former coaches, billets, and a number of other people all contributed stories about the future NHL stars, and Mr. Joyce really proves in Young Leafs that it takes a community to raise an NHL player.

One of the more interesting sections in Young Leafs was about Mitch Marner nearly walking away from the game while with the OHL's London Knights. After being a standout in his rookie season with the Knights, Marner's game suddenly disappeared in his draft year, and was highlighted by a 6-2 loss to Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters where Marner walked away from the team for a few days after he felt he was an "embarrassment". All it took was a session with one of the people who had helped Marner become a potential NHL draft pick for him to rediscover his game.
After three days, Marner told his parents that he wanted to get on the ice and skate with Desveaux. They made a call and set up a time. Desveaux was well aware of Mitch's slump, and the temptation might have been a kid-glove treatment, to tread delicately or go slow. Instead, Desveaux decided to be direct and break down the elements of the game that he had drilled into Mitch. Since the start of the Knights' training camp, a matter of two months, Mitch had fallen into a bunch of bad habits. They were plain to Desveaux in just a matter of minutes. He was shooting off the wrong foot. He wasn't prepared for passes because his stick was off the ice. Even the most basic elements of his skating were off - he was standing too high in his stride, his crossovers were a tangle. Marner had been keenly aware of all the things he was trained to do when just in grade school, and it wasn't simply a matter of repetition on the ice - his father had videoed almost every one of Mitch's workouts with Desveaux and they had watched them together, breaking down his performance in the drills. It was like a man of the cloth had somehow forgotten the Ten Commandments, all ten at once. "Mitch was relieved that there was something technical that we could point to and that it wasn't just one thing," Desveaux says. "He had been pretty down about how things were going. It was good just to get him smiling again.
If nothing else, this passage goes to show that even players at the top of their games get into bad habits on the ice, and it occasionally takes an outside view to correct those bad habits/ If younger hockey players read this book, this one passage should be proof that despite practicing the same drills a million times in their careers, there's a purpose in continuing to do the same drills when it comes to ensuring success.

The players that Mr. Joyce reviews in Young Leafs obviously focus on Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, but there are examinations of Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, and Nikita Zaitsev as the Leafs' young core begins to take flight. Mr. Joyce highlights key sections of the schedule where the Leafs' young players faced adversity, found successes, and worked through some issues. He goes through the playoff series versus the Washington Capitals where the young Maple Leafs put a jolt of fear through the highly-touted Capitals before finally being dispatched by Washington. There were lessons learned there as well, and Mr. Joyce does an excellent job in capturing the atmosphere around the Leafs' young guns.

Overall, if you're a fan of the Maple Leafs, Young Leafs is a book that should be in your collection. Mr. Joyce does an outstanding job in looking at the youth movement happening around the Leafs and how these players will be the key to future success. Mr. Joyce doesn't sugar-coat any of the situations nor does he use hyperbole in talking about the Leafs and their kids in Young Leafs. He does, however, give the reader an honest assessment and a candid look at the first year of a number of young Leafs players, and it allowed me to enjoy this book more than my initial judgment would have had me believe. Because of this, Young Leafs absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Young Leafs: The Making of a New Hockey History at all major bookstores and libraries today!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

UBC Goes Green

It will be a bit of a weird sight this Friday at Father Bauer Arena when the green-and-gold Regina Cougars square off against the green-and-white UBC Thunderbirds. Wait, aren't the Thunderbirds usually wearing blue? What is happening out in Vancouver that would cause this kind of colour problem?

The Thunderbirds usually wear blue and gold, but the T-Birds are asking everyone who is headed to the game on Friday to wear green! No, they aren't throwing their support behind the visiting Regina Cougars in some sort of strange psychological experiment. Instead, the T-Birds are asking everyone to wear green to support Mental Health Awareness!

Admittedly, the above image looks a little off when one considers how the T-Birds normally look, but Mental health Awareness is a significant cause to the UBC fmaily, and I'm happy to see the Thunderbirds women's team throwing their support behind this caus by wearing green to help stimulate a conversation around mental health issues.

For those that may not be aware, Laura Taylor, a former goaltender with the UBC Thunderbirds, suffered from bipolar disorder and crippling depression for nearly half her life. Taylor was diagnosed as bipolar in her first year of undergrad at the University of Saskatchewan where she also played hockey. In a tragic ending, Taylor would commit suicide on April 7, 2016 just days before her 34th birthday. Her suicide came as a shock to all who knew her, including many players on the UBC roster.

Taylor connected with head coach Graham Thomas about possibly joining the team as a practice goalie when she enrolled at UBC as a medical student. Teammate Kelly Murray spoke of her dedication at the time.

"We struggle with taking four classes and getting to the rink on time," Murray told the Canadian Press in 2017. "Here she is a full-time med student working shifts at the hospital and still coming to practice. She was definitely an inspiration."

While Taylor knew she wouldn't get into games, she wanted to mentor the UBC netminders who were getting the minutes in big games in Amelia Boughn and Tory Micklash. While her efforts on the ice were noticed, her struggles off it were not.

"She just carried herself so well," Graham Thomas told the Canadian Press. "There was never really any kind of sign... nothing really jumped out at us."

The UBC Thunderbirds played their first Mental Health Awareness last season, and it's encouraging to see them making this an annual event. Laura Taylor's story is one that shouldn't be forgotten due to how quiet she kept it during her life, and I hope that UBC's efforts on Friday in wearing green and getting their fans to wear green help to save lives. Mental health isn't something that is always apparent as in the case of Miss Taylor, so getting people to talk about it is an important first step.

Kudos to the UBC Thunderbirds in getting that conversation started so that we have fewer endings like the one that Miss Taylor wrote. She may be gone, but she's not going to be forgotten thanks to the efforts of the UBC Thunderbirds women's hockey team.

Until next time, let's have a conversation about mental health!