Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 248

The Hockey Show hits the airwaves at 5:30pm CT tonight with a ton of stuff to talk about from the last few days. There are new uniforms in the NHL that we'll dissect as we go over the NHL's deal with Adidas. There were some awards handed out to some pretty good players. There's a whole draft class of kids looking to join the ranks of the NHL on Friday. And there was some other draft thing happening last night that seemed to catch the attention of the hockey world. Who, what, when, where, and why will be answered as The Hockey Show dives into all sorts of topics tonight!

Teebz and Beans will go over all the happenings in Las Vegas yesterday with the NHL Awards being handed out and the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights assembling a team from the unprotected players of the other thirty teams. We'll tackle the NHL jersey situation with our thoughts on teams that may have designed something worse than before, and we'll talk about the draft class with Winnipegger Nolan Patrick trying to become the first Winnipeg-born player to go first-overall. Dallas added to their coaching staff and has a tie to Winnipeg, the Manitoba Bisons posted the hockey schedules for the men's and women's teams, and we have an announcement about the show! There's lots to talk about, so feel free to get your thoughts in by calling us at (204) 269-8636 (UMFM)!

Speaking of, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. 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'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, Teebz and Beans discuss the expansion draft, draft picks, picking good uniforms designs, designing a coaching squad, where the Bisons squads will play, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: June 22, 2017: Episode 248

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Adidas Is Here

The NHL and Adidas unveiled their new looks for tonight as 31 teams are getting the three-stripes treatment. Having been through this once with the Reebok experience, I wasn't holding my breath for anything that blew my mind, but I was expecting some letdowns. That happens when ever new designs are submitted, and twelve NHL teams made some adjustments to their looks. How dramatic were the adjustments? Let's go through these new jerseys. Some will be great, some will be not-so-great. All will be seen on the ice next season in the NHL.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

No real surprises in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa makes a few small tweaks, the Panthers have football numbers atop the shoulders, and the rest seem pretty similar. With four Original Six teams, one team that looks like one in Tampa Bay, one that originally modeled their uniform after the Maple Leafs, one that used the US Army as its template, and a Senators squad which has done well in red, the Atlantic Division should look pretty good next season.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

The Metropolitan Division decided to throw a couple of curve balls at fans. Pittsburgh, the NY Rangers, and the NY Islanders all remain respectable in their clothing choices. Three of eight isn't bad, right?

Columbus decided to go back to their minimalist roots as they did when they switched to Reebok, employing the same piping as the only way of breaking up their monochromatic look. Carolina ditches the shoulder yoke, but brings back a faint hurricane warning flag on the hem stripe. Washington decides to toss a little white into their red while following the Columbus piping idea. New Jersey squared up the shoulder yoke, discarded the hem stripe, and refused to bring back the green. Philly adds white down the arm and under the wrist for a unique variation on the arm-length stripe.

I'm not a fan of what Columbus did, especially after they moved away from the monochromatic look in recent years. Carolina looks off as well, introducing black stripes where the silver stripes used to reside. Washington really should have stuck with their classic look, and New Jersey shouldn't have ditched their traditional elements either. I can live with Philly's look, but the Metropolitan Division really took a step back with the change to Adidas.

CENTRAL DIVISION

For a division that features an Original Six team, an original expansion team, three relocated teams, and two more expansion teams, I am shocked that the best team in the division looks like it's starting over. Chicago, Dallas, and Winnipeg remain unchanged, while St. Louis makes a few striping changes.

Minnesota decided to move the hem stripes to the chest which leaves the jersey feeling somewhat incomplete. Colorado brings back the peak in the hem stripe, and goes pretty vanilla with the yoke-into-arm-length stripe. And that leaves Nashville who really decided to kill their amazing contrasts between yellow and navy blue. Lemme blow this up for you.
Look, there's minimalist, and then there's a complete do-over. Nashville seems to have chosen the latter after seeing the most success their franchise has ever had in the jersey on the right. This looks like some sort of base model on which teams can add additional features. I don;t know why Nashville would agree to this design, but this is awful. Officially, Nashville now is the worst-dressed team in the NHL. And we still haven't seen the Pacific Division. Yes, that's how confident I am of this proclamation. This is not how a Stanley Cup finalist should look in the following season.

PACIFIC DIVISION

This division has a brand-new team, so we'll talk about them in a second. The old Pacific Division sees the Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks, the Arizona Coyotes, the Anaheim Ducks, the San Jose Sharks, and the Calgary Flames remain the same. Calgary actually cleaned up their act by eliminating some black piping around their jerseys, so kudos to them on that despite the fact they should be wearing their classic throwback jerseys full-time. Edmonton, as reported long ago, is indeed going orange with the darker blue which puts them slightly ahead of Nashville in terms of my rankings. I just am not a fan of the orange jerseys.

The one jersey that everyone was interested in, however, was that of the Vegas Golden Knights. I have to admit that the Golden Knights didn't do poorly at all. The colour scheme is unique for hockey, so that's a nice touch. Gray jerseys are rarely seen in hockey as opposed to other pro sports, and these colours seem to work together nicely. I could see myself wearing a potential "Fleury" jersey if he does get picked by Vegas. I'd say Vegas made a few safe bets with this jersey, and it paid off nicely.

Aside from a few misses, Adidas didn't do a terrible job. There's always room for improvement as we know, so let's see what happens in the coming years as well. We should hear news about alternate jerseys in the near future as well, so teams that occasionally wore a different look could have those alternate uniforms return as soon as the 2018-19 season.

The NHL still looks like a professional league, and that's a good thing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Final Counts Have Been Tallied

It's taken longer than I had anticipated thanks to life getting in the way, but I am happy to report that the final standings for the HBIC Playoff Pool have been calculated and we can now crown a winner! The race to the end featured a number of people risking their points to make that last-ditch effort to jump to the top of the leaderboard, but I will end the suspense now: no one called a perfect series in the Stanley Cup Final. There were a few who jumped up the leaderboard with some rather smart predictions, though, so let's take a look at who did what in the last series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

I want to thank my outside counsel of Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe for tabulating the results. Christine and Dave were kind enough to double- and triple-check my math because I err being human. I trust their findings, and I'm certain they represented the firm well. Thanks, guys, for the help in finding our winners this season!

And with that, we turn to the podium. Our overall winner led from wire to wire in this pool, and his 16-point margin of victory showed just how on-the-ball he was in this year's playoffs. It also helped that he was a Predators fan, but that's besides the point. Second-place actually needed a boost from the Stanley Cup Final, and he got that as he leapfrogged two entrants to land in second-place with a nine-point Stanley Cup Final! And our bronze medalist simply needed to keep pace to remain in the prizes, and he did just that. To the victors go the spoils, and here are the victors!

Congratulations to Peter, Neal, and Westin! I do want to throw out an honourable mention to both Justin S. and Katie S. who made runs at the end to try and chase down a top-three spot. While both fell short, this is one of the closest races for the prizes in recent history. Justin is a former HBIC Playoff Pool champion, but rookie sensation Katie came out of nowhere to stare down the boys and register an incredible first HBIC Playoff Pool. I'm hoping she'll be back next season because it would be great to see the fairer sex stand atop the mountain when the dust settles!

If you want to see where you finished, the leaderboard has been updated. If you notice point totals with an asterisk beside them, these were the brave souls who decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a portion of or all of their points to try and win. It may not have worked out, but nothing ventured means nothing gained, right?

Emails will go out this weekend to the three victors above. To all who participated, thank you for another enjoyable playoff pool. My hope is that you'll all join again next season, and who knows whose crystal ball will have the most right answers then?

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Expansion Draft Lists A-Plenty

Today's the day that all NHL teams submitted their lists to the NHL for who would stay and who potentially would get a one-way ticket to Las Vegas in the NHL's Expansion Draft on Wednesday. There are certainly some surprises on these lists as I read over who was left unprotected by their teams, but there were also some realizations that players who are older probably aren't on Vegas' radar when it comes to building a team. If one was truly inclined, though, one could make a very good team out of the veterans that have been left unprotected. Today, I tackle that task!

I'll admit that this team might only have a few years of maximum effort. The ages of some of these players means they're in the twilight of their careers, but that doesn't mean they don't have a few serviceable years left. I'll take one player from every team, and I'll fill out my roster with three goaltenders, sixteen forwards, and eleven defencemen.

ANA: Sami Vatanen - defence
ARI: Radim Vrbata - forward
BOS: Adam McQuaid - defence
BUF: Matt Moulson - forward
CAL: Dennis Wideman - defence
CAR: Lee Stempniak - forward
CHI: Brian Campbell - defence
COL: Calvin Pickard - goaltender
CBJ: William Karlsson - forward
DAL: Cody Eakin - forward
DET: Petr Mrazek - goaltender
EDM: Kris Russell - defence
FLA: Reilly Smith - forward
LAK: Teddy Purcell - forward
MIN: Eric Staal - forward
MTL: Charles Hudon - forward
NAS: James Neal - forward
NJD: Mike Cammalleri - forward
NYI: Casey Cizikas - forward
NYR: Michael Grabner - forward
OTT: Fredrik Claesson - defence
PHI: Michael Del Zotto - defence
PIT: Ian Cole - defence
SJS: Brenden Dillon - defence
STL: David Perron - forward
TBL: Slater Koekkoek - defence
TOR: Brendan Leipsic - forward
VAN: Derek Dorsett - forward
WAS: Philipp Grubauer - goaltender
WPG: Toby Enstrom - defence

if you're doing the math, I'm probably pretty close, if not over, the ceiling of the $75 million salary cap set for next season in the NHL. I feel like this team will score, but defence may be a bit of an issue while goaltending features Mrazek, Grubauer, and Pickard - three young netminders who may be the Achilles' heel of this team. I like the scoring depth, but there aren't a lot of players who seem to break out of their one-dimensional style of play.

On Wednesday, we'll see who the Golden Knights choose for their team, and I have a feeling there will be a number of younger players taken so that the Knights grow as they move forward. There will be trades made as some teams will want to protect those they couldn't fit under the protected roster, so I imagine there will be multiple picks sent to Vegas to give them an incredible draft class this year.

George McPhee's going to have a big night on Wednesday.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

You're Part Of The Problem

Having been around the game for some time, I can tell you that there's one group that has emerged who gives me cause for concern about how this game is covered. While mainstream media has always been in the game for one reason, they have generally avoided women's hockey for the most part outside of the major tournaments. Part of this is due to their apparent knowledge of their own market, but some may be due to a non-acceptance of the women's game as viable entertainment. This is where bloggers have picked up the gauntlet and made the women's game their own. While this effort is commendable, there still remains a major problem within this segment of the population.

The problem, as it is, stems from the fact that the women who are covering the game seem to believe that a tried and tested business model that values building a sustainable and viable market should be eradicated in place of paying players. The CWHL's announcement of their expansion into China was groundbreaking and monumental, yet some writers covering the game still had the audacity to ask the Commissioner of the CWHL where was the money for the players. Dollar bills, yo!

This fascination over the money being paid to the women is something I don't understand. And let me be very clear on this issue: the women should be paid as much as they can be paid without risking the sustainability of the league. As any business owner will tell you, if there's no market for your product, there's little in the way of take-home so you better have something people want before you start handing out raises and pay hikes.

There's a women's hockey league struggling to pay its players after slashing salaries and taking a major PR hit because said league thought they could simply show up and play and everyone would come and watch. The slashing of the salaries was not only dramatic, but it was admittedly done to save the league from folding mid-season which would have been a major blow to the sport in the US. Demands from the players for explanations were met after a rather ugly back-and-forth in the public's eye with the league unable to restore salaries for this upcoming season.

They would exclaim, "We have Olympians!"
They would proclaim, "We're paying players a livable wage!"
They would declare, "We're the only league to pay players!"

In the end, the market screamed back, "We don't care!" as virtually empty rinks made up the majority of seats. Except those empty seats didn't make up any difference in the bottom line, and there have been a number of players who have opted to move to the CWHL this season after their take-home pay went from livable wages to peanuts.

As it was stated over and over by Commissioner Brenda Andress at the announcement of the expansion Kunlun Red Star team, all teams would follow the same financial plan as set out by the league. Yes, she avoided the "are you paying players" question at the outset, but she never explicitly said that the CWHL was NOT going to pay players this season. This is where a vast number of that contingent of women's hockey bloggers went out and lost their minds.

I'm not going to post the commentary here made by those who seemingly lead the way in this area, but I'm shocked how quickly they began to bite the hand that feeds them. Forget that the CWHL has posted profits as a women's hockey league in recent years by building a market in cities where they know there is a market for women's hockey. Forget the fact that the CWHL has successfully attracted sponsors and partners who have bought into this business model so that they could survive for a decade against all odds and a rival league. Instead, focus on gettin' paid, yo, because apparently that's all that matters.

Well, this happened. And it happened outside of the expansion press conference. And it happened on its own after ten years of sustainability, good business practices, and good management.
I give full credit to Robyn Flynn for her work on this front because instead of standing there and performing the "making it rain" motion as seen at the top of this piece, she went out and asked questions like a true journalist would. Logically, based on what Miss Andress said at the introduction of the Kunlun Red Star team, the goal to pay players in the 2017-18 season would be met, but it's always nice to hear that directly from the source. Miss Flynn went and got that confirmation like a good journalist would.

Another women's writer made the quick connection that the same people who own the KHL's Kunlun Red Star will be funding the CWHL's Kunlun Red Star. And while she's not wrong about where the money is coming from, using the shady practices of the KHL teams' financials - which has been pointed out on this very blog - to cast doubt on the Chinese team's owners is, well, underhanded. The problem with Russia's KHL is that there are no rules on conflicts of interest, it seems, and the Russian-based teams take full advantage of those breaks. Case in point? The same ownership group owns both Finalnd's Jokerit Helsinki and Russia's SKA St. Petersburg and is tied heavily to the Russia government through both business and personal factors, hence why "Jokerit's new owners were put on a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department 'due to their actions on behalf of the Russian government'".

Kunlun Red Star, however, operates in China and they do not own any other KHL teams. They have one goal, it seems, and that is to grow the game within China as the leader of that movement. As Vice's Sheng Peng wrote in regards to Kunlun Red Star's first KHL game,
"As for the game itself, official attendance was 7,832 for an arena which seats 14,000 for hockey. To their credit, it was an enthusiastic mob. Just a couple minutes in, speedy Kunlun winger Oleg Yashin rushed the puck through the neutral zone, backing off the Admiral Vladivostok defenders, creating a surge in the crowd... and he dumped it in, which was exactly the right thing to do because the Red Star were on the penalty kill. They're still picking up the beats of the sport here."
Like the CWHL, they are working to create a market for the game while trying to develop players faster than any other program on the planet has or may ever will. Both the men's game and the women's game is literally in their infancies in China, and the KRS group has been tasked with accelerating those programs to become relevant on the world's stage by 2022.

How are they doing that, you ask? The same way any other program would - paying heavily for it. The hiring of players such as Noora Raty and Kelli Stack weren't just coincidence. These women are being paid as hockey ambassadors to help the CWHL team become competitive quickly as winning teams see growth in their respective sports at the grassroots level and to go out into these Chinese communities and introduce the people of China to hockey with the hopes that they can attract a few players who may not have considered hockey as an opportunity. That "ambassador" role is the definition of growing the game, a phrase that another league enjoyed using while promoting the latest new drinks from their coffee sponsor.

"But they're being paid as ambassadors in China, not as players!" was a retort. Does Sidney Crosby get extra money from the Penguins for hand-delivering season tickets to fans? Being paid as a player means that you accept the ambassador title with your hockey job because you're selling the game every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year. So while Noora Raty might be making a pile of dough this season as an ambassador, she's doing it as a hockey player. If you demand pay for players and then split hairs over what they're being paid for, you might be missing the bigger picture as to why these players are playing in China.

Look, people may lose their minds over me writing this article, so humor me by saving me from your subtweets and chatter behind the scenes. There have always been questions as to when the CWHL would start paying players, and it was escalated in ridiculous ways when that other league introduced payment for players despite no one knowing where the money was coming from to pay said players. It's clear that the markets in which they exist either can't or won't support the model that was introduced which led to salaries being slashed dramatically mid-season while the CWHL focused on building their brands within their markets. If people don't want your product, there is no business. If there is no business, there is no pay. This is simple economics.

With Kunlun Red Star handling the majority of the costs associated with the expansion into China, there would be no change to how the business model of the CWHL is run. All five teams would still be on-track to seeing players being paid since KRS is handling their side of the equation. Yesterday, through Robyn Flynn, that goal that was always stated by Brenda Andress became a reality with the framework of how players are to be paid still being finalized.
"The pay structure has not been finalized yet," a league spokesperson said. "But as Brenda [Andress] said at the press conference [announcing the expansion to China], it has always been the strategic plan to compensate the players this year. The details and specifics are still being worked out."
The CWHL has always been about sustainability to ensure that the best hockey players in the world have some place to play. Their strategic plan wasn't based entirely on capitalism, so I understand why there may be some confusion as to why players weren't being paid in the past. Socialism - working for the good of all regardless of status - has allowed this league to remain in business for ten years and beyond. With the league achieving a sustainability not ever seen before in women's hockey, the profits being realized can now be returned to the players for their efforts in growing the league and developing a successful product in five current markets and attracting one massive, new market to its fold where the opportunities may be endless for new sponsors and new investors.

That's how you get paid, yo.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Save Made By Brick Tamland

It's hard to image that Brick Tamland could have been a goaltender of record in the NHL, but anything is possible. Steve Carell, a highly successful comedian and Hollywood actor, was a very talented hockey goaltender at one point in his life. Honestly, I would never have guessed at his past sporting abilities, but the comedian has used his hockey talents in comedy in the past. While his hockey past may firmly be in his past, we're going to pull back the curtain on Steve Carell a little today and expose his hockey-playing days on HBIC. And no, that's not a joke as the former goaltender was a solid player in his days between the pipes at the NCAA level.

If you're a fan of the TV show The Office, you know that Steve Carell's character both referenced and played a little hockey on show. The episodes of The Office that showed him skating made it very apparent that Carell had either taken lessons or played at one time as he skates very well. In saying this, there had to be a story down the rabbit hole that is Steve Carell's life, and this is where we land today as we explore Steve's hockey past.

I'll start by posting this video of the short-lived Dana Carvey Show where Steve Carell takes to the ice in full goaltending gear to show off what it takes in practice for goaltenders to reach that next level.
That's clearly not Robert Esche in the nets as the clip features, as mentioned, Steve Carell doing all he can to show off his goaltending skills. It's not a funny as it could have been, but it gives a good sense as to his abilities. SO what do we know about Carell's career?

Born in Concord, Massachusetts as the youngest of four Carell brothers, Steve grew up watching the "Big Bad Bruins" with all the old greats. He told ESPN's Lynn Hoppes in 2013,
"I was definitely a Bruins fan. Celtics too. Havlicek. Cowens. Bird. You could count on those teams always being in the mix. The Bruins' great run in the early 1970s inspired me to get into hockey. I think I was 8 years old, and all my friends started playing. Those teams inspired generations to play youth hockey. Bobby Orr. Teddy Green. Esposito. Sanderson. Monumental times."
Knowing that Carell was a Bruins fan doesn't make me like him any less despite me questioning his choice of team, but that era of the Bruins was pretty special. He noted that he won a national championship at the "Squirt" level, and he decided to continue playing through his childhood into high school.

He was a goaltender for Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts from 1979 to 1981. Stats are hard to come by for this era on the internet, but it appears he wore #1 and #22 as a goaltender with the Zebras. On another note, how does a team call itself the zebras without wearing a striped uniform? In any case, there are no stats that I can find but it appears that Carell's choice of number in other sports was #22 as well, and he might be the first goalie to wear that number! He also tended nets for Division-III Denison University Big Red in the ACHA from 1981 to 1984, and it was at Denison where Carell made a decision that would change his life. He told Hoppes,
"I was a goalie. At a certain point, you either have to commit to that as a potential career or let it become a fun hobby. That happened in high school. I had to think about whether I was going to a Division I college hockey program and fight for a job of a goaltender or do something else. Instead, I went to a Division III school and played throughout college. It was for fun and not advancing myself."
For a guy who played hockey in college for fun while earning a history degree in 1984, that's a fun way to go through school. It was at Denison, though, where Carell joined Burpee's Seedy Theatrical Company, a student-run improvisational comedy troupe, as he began to find his comedic and acting chops. From there, he saw success with Second City in Chicago, was cast on The Dana Carvey Show, and worked with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show from 1999 until 2005.

What makes Steve Carell's short career in hockey is that his hockey days have affected his life some 30 years later! He told David Letterman about his recent 2014 hip surgery that was actually from an old hockey injury!
video
As you heard, the 54 year-old still plays hockey today when he's not on set for a film. According to this Reddit exchange, Carell plays "at Anaheim Ice on the Bronze". He's stated in interviews that the level of play isn't very high, but he enjoys playing hockey with his brother who lives in California as well! The only difference from his old playing days is that he now plays as a defenceman!

It's always interesting to think "what could have been", but I'm quite certain Steve Carell made the right life decisions in becoming a comedic actor. He has been in a number of hit movies and The Office was a resounding success on the small screen. His voice work as Gru in Despicable Me has spawned an entire run of movies and merchandise that should keep Steve Carell in good financial standing forever, so I'm not going to cast any judgment on his life choices. He still attends NHL games when he can, and it's clear that he's a fan of the game.

Hockey has the coolest fans!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 247

The Hockey Show returns tonight with a chance to wrap everything up from the last couple of weeks as every professional hockey league in North America and across the world are finally on summer break. That means we can award prizes to a winner in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest as well as the Penguins repeated and Tom H. repeated as the lone survivor once more. However, there have been a bazillion other things going on, so we have a ton to go over on tonight's show. We're live, in-studio, and taking calls if you want to get something off your chest at 101.5 UMFM!

Tonight, Teebz, Beans, and TJ will go over the Stanley Cup Final as we wrap up another NHL season. We'll take a look at the AHL's Calder Cup Final and the success of IHL teams in the AHL, NHL buyouts as teams position themselves for the expansion draft, some USports news, some Manitoba Bisons news, some ball hockey news, coaching changes at a number of levels, a KHL resolution that has led to more problems, a shout-out to a team we shouted-out to a couple of weeks ago, and a host of other stories as we run the gauntlet on the hockey chatter from the past two weeks! You don't want to miss everything we're going to cram into this show, so make sure you're tuned to 101.5 on your FM dial or have us up on the UMFM app!

Speaking of, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. 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'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, we look at championships, coaches, players, management, teams, and all sorts of movement within those topics only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: June 15, 2017: Episode 247

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Next Generation

For a team that missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, the Detroit Red Wings reportedly would be seeking help in the off-season with hopes of returning to the playoffs in 2017-18. They'll need to start rebuilding their roster, but they may not have to go far to do so as the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins completed another successful season by winning the Calder Cup over the Syracuse Crunch in six games. There were many contributors in Grand Rapids' victory over these AHL playoffs, and there has to be smiles in Detroit's front office knowing that the next generation is on the verge of cracking their NHL roster.

There have been a lot of changes at both the NHL and AHL levels in the Red Wings franchise. Jeff Blashill was promoted to the NHL level after Mike Babcock left, and Todd Nelson took over in Grand Rapids after he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers in 2014-15 after 46 games. Nelson's move to Grand Rapids has seen him win 44 and 47 games in two seasons, twice making the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs only to capture the trophy this season. While the Griffins finished in second-place in the Central Division this season, Nelson rallied his team to sweep the Milwaukee Admirals 3-0 in the opening round, down the Chicago Wolves 4-1 in Round Two, and knock off the San Jose Barracuda 4-1 in the Western Conference Final.

In six full AHL seasons as a head coach, Nelson has only recorded less than 40 wins once - 2013-14 with Oklahoma City when he posted 36 wins. Nelson literally is an AHL legend at the age of 48 as the win tonight allows him to join Bob Woods and Mike Stothers as the only three people ever to win Calder Cups as a player, as an assistant coach, and as a head coach. The fact that Detroit has a coach of Nelson's experience and tenure in Grand Rapids speaks volumes to the preparation that the next wave of Red Wings will experience. Nelson makes the Griffins a much better team, and that will pay off for Jeff Blashill at the NHL level.

Tyler Bertuzzi may have shown the best growth in this playoff run as the left winger was named as the Jack A. Butterfield trophy winner as playoff MVP. He had a fairly decent regular season with 12 goals and 25 assists in 48 games, but his nine goals and ten assists in 19 playoff games showed some real clutch play. Had this been the regular season, there's a good chance that Bertuzzi would have been scratched with a badly infected cut in his hand from a fight in the previous game in Syracuse. However, Bertuzzi remained in the lineup for Game Six and ended up scoring the third Grand Rapids goal. That goal, incidentally, was his 23rd career playoff goal for the Griffins, erasing the mark set by Teemu Pulkkinen for most in franchise history. In 42 career AHL playoff games, Bertuzzi has 23 goals and 39 points - the same number of goals as he has in regular-season play despite playing 121 regular season games. Playoff performer? Uh, yeah, you could say that.

Martin Frk was another big reason for the Griffins' success this season. Frk, a restricted free agent this summer, has 27 goals and 23 assists in 65 games this season, but it seemed his lay fell off in the playoffs. What Frk did, however, was use the increased attention on him to find open teammates as he recorded five goals and ten assists in 16 games. Of course, no goal was bigger for the Czech star than the slap shot he took with 7:19 left in the third period that beat Mike McKenna to put the Griffins up 4-3 in Game Six. It's expected that Frk will compete for a roster spot with Detroit next season, and his skill set should have him around camp until the end.

Jared Coreau may find himself tending nets with Petr Mrazek next season if Jimmy Howard is on the move, and there's no reason to believe the Wings will take a step back with that duo in the crease. Coreau went 19-11-3 in 33 games this season with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage with a pair of shutouts. However, Coreau went bananas in the playoffs as he posted a 15-4-0 record, including a 10-0 record on home ice, with a 2.84 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Those stats may not wow anyone on the outset, but Coreau's resolve to be a starter at the professional level deserves some mention.

After being yanked in allowing five goals on twelve shots in Game Five, Coreau came back with another solid game. Coreau has done all sorts of extra training to assist his development including eye-coordination training and mental toughness exercises. The 25 year-old coughed up the puck on the opening goal to Syracuse's Yanni Gourde who deposited it in the yawning cage, and Coreau would need to battle back again. But Coreau drew on his training and his time with the Red Wings this season to find the determination to hang in there, and he helped Grand Rapids overcome three separate one-goal leads to backstop the team to the Calder Cup.

Finally, the one other player who had a major influence on this year's Griffins team was centerman Tomas Nosek. Like his linemates in Frk and Bertuzzi, he had a solid regular season where he scored 15 goals and added 26 helpers in 51 games. And just as his linemates did, Nosek caught fire in the playoffs with ten goals and 12 assists in 19 games. Nosek's maturity at 24 years of age began to show through as the Calder Cup Final began. After a Game One victory, Nosek spoke out after scoring two goals, including the game-winner, and stated that the Griffins had to be better if they hoped to win. Nosek put the team on his shoulders with three goals and five assists in the six games, and looked like he's prepared to take the next step.

Of course, I might be getting ahead of myself here. Let's not suggest that the Red Wings will be Stanley Cup favorites next season with the addition of four young players. None of these players are game-breakers on their own, but together they can certainly help Detroit find its way back to the playoffs. If Blashill is looking to add a little scoring, he has an entire line at his disposal that helped decimate four teams in the AHL. While some may say they're not quite ready for the NHL yet, I say the Red Wings should let the kids play instead of trying to fill the roster with lower-priced free agents if that's their plan. It makes too much sense for these players not to be in Detroit.

Congratulations go out to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the 2017 Calder Cup champions! Nelson, Bertuzzi, Frk, Coreau, and Nosek were big pieces of that success this year, and they could play a role in Detroit's success in future years if they continue to work hard. Winning at the AHL level, though, is usually a good sign that key players and coaches are ready for a new challenge.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Busy Night

Ron and Don are already gearing up to give me heck for being busy on a Monday, but I legitimately have a ton of stuff I need to get done tonight so that I can survive the rest of the week. I'll be busy for the majority of the week, so I need to prioritize some free time instead of chatting hockey on this site like I enjoy doing. Regardless, I will have the final totals for the HBIC Playoff Pool posted mid-week as I want to go back and ensure that I double-check everyone's total. Mistakes can happen, so I want to be right! Just know that there's no instant replay here at HBIC on these points.

In any case, I want to show CBC/Sportsnet's season-ending montage from last night as I was thoroughly impressed with the ending they put together. I've seen a lot of these over the years, but this one might rank up there as one of the best ever. I don't know how much credit goes to CBC and how much goes to Sportsnet, but this partnership they've developed in broadcasting hockey in Canada might be the best broadcast of the game on the planet. That being said, judge for yourself with this year's season-ending montage.
Pretty awesome, right? This carries on the amazing tradition that CBC ran with their season-ending montages before Sportsnet dropped billions to be the place for hockey. Instead, they brought over most of the CBC crew and personalities, and we're still getting Emmy-calibre pieces like the one above made by talented people. If one invests in talent, that talent will do some amazing things.

See you next year, CBC and Sportsnet.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Back To Back

It's been a heckuva year for Sidney Crosby. The World Cup of Hockey in September was a tournament I didn't even care about, but Sid went and led Canada to a championship there while earning MVP honours, and that was after winning the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy in June of 2016. He captured the Maurice Richard Trophy this season as he led the league in goals, and then proceeded to lead his team to the first back-to-back Stanley Cup championship since the 1997-98 Red Wings while earning his back-to-back Conn Smythe. If you want to talk about "best year ever", there won't be many who will compete with Crosby's year.

I could sit here and write about watching my team win five Stanley Cups. I could recount the places I was while watching the final game when Lemieux deked Jon Casey, Shawn Chambers, and Neil Wilkinson out of their jockstraps. I could tell you where I was when I watched Jagr juke around a dozen Blackhawks, a hot dog vendor, and an usher before beating Belfour. I could tell you the heartbreak I felt and where I was when I witnessed David Volek destroy the dreams of a three-peat in 1993.

I watched the 2008 Stanley Cup Final in agony as the Detroit Red Wings won another Silver Chalice over the Penguins only to feel overjoyed in 2009 when the Penguins returned the favour thanks to Max Talbot's heroics. I could tell you where I was last season when the Penguins won in Game Six over San Jose. And I can tell where I was tonight when the Penguins downed the Nashville Predators in six games as well.

Like the did in 1991 and 1992, the Penguins stand on the verge of one of the most impossible feats in sports in looking at another three-peat. The target will squarely be on their backs all season next year, and I expect that target to only get bigger if and when they qualify for the postseason. That being said, it's time to for the Penguins to celebrate before getting back down to work as they are the best NHL team over the last three months of play.

For the leader of the Penguins, the shower he received upon walking into the Penguins' dressing room is something that very few ever receive. Enjoy the moment, Pittsburgh Penguins and all Penguins fans. They are the best team today and until they hand the trophy to someone new.

I had a number of beers tonight after softball to celebrate both our win on the diamond and the Penguins' win on the ice. Needless to say, it's always nice to see the team you've followed your entire life bring home another championship when most pundits predicted other teams to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Sidney Crosby, though, had other plans and delivered once more.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Musicans In Jerseys: Nashville Edition

With the Nashville Predators rolling out every name in their Rolodex to sing the national anthem in this year's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, it seems only natural that we document these musicians and others who have appeared in hockey jerseys. Nashville's roster of musicians will certainly grow thanks to all the invites, but there are other teams who have can claim some new musical fans. After all is said and done today, some new thirty acts will have been added to the overall database. Feel free to search through there and find your team or favorite artists!

With that being said, if you have images of an artist that I don't have, send them through to me! I'll give you credit, and your image will live forever on HBIC! Make sure you look over the list carefully. If you have one I don't, let me know! On to the show!

Let's start in Nashville where we can officially add a number of names. There were Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks in the rink, Hank Williams Jr. showed up for a little hockey, Kelly Clarkson belted out the anthem, Lady Antebellum showed up to sing, Little Big Town wooed the Nashville crowd with their sound, Luke Bryan filled the rink with his vocal talents, and Martina McBride made Americans proud. With Game Six going tomorrow night, there may be one more addition to the Predators' fan base as well!

In the other corner of this Stanley Cup battle, the Pittsburgh Penguins got help from Justin Bieber. Chicago's Terry Kath also appeared on-stage in an old Penguins jersey which is totally awesome. Unfortunately, that's not quite the same star power as the Nashville contingent above.

For the first time in their history, The Chainsmokers will make an appearance on HBIC thanks to Alex Pall's decision to wear a St. Louis Blues jersey for a show in the Missouri city.

The Minnesota Wild commemorated the appearance of Soul Asylum at the Xcel Energy Center with a jersey of their own.

We'll stay in Minnesota as Chicago's Terry Kath also wore a Minnesota North Stars jersey while playing at some point in his career as captured by Getty Images. Also seen in the Getty Images archives is Eddie Money rocking the glorious North Stars jersey. We really need some team to revive that colour scheme in this exact design once more.

Genesis makes a revival on this edition of Musicians in Jerseys as both Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford showed their allegiances to the New York Rangers. We've seen Collins in other jerseys, but he showed up once more in the colours of the Vancouver Canucks as well! Anyone up for a 1994 Stanley Cup Final once more?

I'm not saying that Borje Salming had anything to do with the next photo, but why else would Benny Andersson of ABBA be wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey? Good Swedes stick together, apparently.

In sticking with the Leafs, here's a cool story about our next musician. You may not be aware of her, but Abigail Richardson-Schulte has done more with less in music than most people including most musicians. Born in Oxford, England, she moved to Canada as a child. Strangely, she was diagnosed as being "incurably deaf" at the age of five, but fully regained her hearing once she had settled in Calgary! How weird is that? In any case, Richardson-Schulte has led a full life and is currently the Composer in Residence with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario! She's won numerous awards, and her southern Ontario roots had her decked out in Maple Leafs blue!

If you're a music historian, you might know a little information about the band Yes. If you do, you may know that Bill Bruford was their original drummer. Bruford remained with Yes from 1968-72 before leaving to join King Crimson where he remained a fixture in the band for 25 years. Despite being in and around English bands for most of his career, somehow Bill Bruford found a way to support the Boston Bruins!

She has shown support for a number of teams in her past, so let's add one more: Shania Twain in a Boston Bruins jersey. I'm pretty certain she has always been a Leafs fan since she hails from Timmins, but you never know!

I'm not sure about the rest of the band when it comes to who they like, but it appears that Mike Starr from Alice in Chains is a Los Angeles Kings fan. Or at least he was while he was still in the band. In other Kings news, Daron Malakian of System of a Down rocks out in a Kings jersey as well!

He's been seen in a white Oilers jersey, but Daron Malakian has also worn a blue Oilers jersey during shows in Edmonton. All he needs is the orange jersey to round out his collection!

We have our obligatory Montreal Canadiens additions as they seem to attract a vast number of celebrities. In one of the only pictures I've ever seen with him holding a jersey, Stompin' Tom Connors received a Montreal Canadiens jersey! For the guy who wrote and performed "The Hockey Song", this seems odd, no? And the second musician who appears wearing the bleu-blanc-et-rouge is none other than Wyclef Jean!

We jump to the international scene, and there are a couple more musicians that have been seeing wearing Team Canada jerseys which always makes me proud. The first musician is a little strange in that he's not even Canadian. Bruce Dickinson sported an old Team Canada jersey in this photo, but the Iron Maiden frontman is actually from England! The second musician is also not Canadian despite his wearing of a Team Canada jersey in his photo. John McDermott is originally from Scotland, sang with The Irish Tenors, appeared in Score: A Hockey Musical, and showed up wearing his Team Canada jersey at a gala for the musical!

Thunder Bay native and Grammy Award-winning musical director Paul Schaffer, who co-starred on The Late Show with David Letterman, went back to his hometown where he attended Lakehead University's 40th Anniversary Weekend and received an honourary degree from the institution! As part of the ceremony, Schaffer took to the stage in a Lakehead University Thunderwolves uniform!

According to information on the internet, the duo known as Rock City have written a pile of songs for other artists and themselves. I'm not aware of their music, but they seem to have a solid following, so it was pretty cool to see them take the stage in Hamilton, Ontario wearing the uniforms of the Hamilton Bulldogs!

Another band that I've never seen nor heard play is Classic Albums Live, a Toronto-based band that recreates classic songs from hit albums of the past, and performs these songs and albums live. One of the members of the Classic Albums Live band is drummer Rick Vatour, and he was captured on the ice in an Ajax-Pickering Raiders uniform!

And I know he's a hockey fan since he's been in a number of jerseys over the years, but what the hell was Snoop Dogg wearing here? If this is some tribute jersey to the greatest players, it misses the mark in my opinion.

So there are a pile more musicians wearing hockey jerseys or logos of some sort in very prominent manner. Again, if you have images you want to contribute, fire them off here and I'll post them in the next round of pictures!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 9 June 2017

The New Kids

It's always a big day when the new recruits are named to the squad, and the University of Manitoba Bisons men's hockey team announced four recruits today. Three are Winnipeggers as the local content of the team remains high while one player is American-born, coming from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to play. Their experience is varied, ranging from the ECHL to the WHL to the AUS, but all will be counted on to help the Bisons program in trying to climb the standings this season. So who are the new kids who will attend the University of Manitoba in 2017-18? Let's find out.

The player coming in with the most hockey experience at the highest level is Michael St. Croix. The Winnipeg-born centerman played four years over five seasons with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings where he was an impressive scorer. In his five campaigns, St. Croix piled up 128 goals and 192 assists in 280 games, averaging 1.14 points per game. That scoring touch attracted the New York Rangers who drafted St. Croix in the fourth-round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at 106th overall. The next three seasons saw St. Croix suit up in the ECHL and AHL with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and Hartford Wolf Pack. While his 13 games in the AHL resulted in no points, his time with Greenville saw him add 43 goals and 86 helpers in 178 games. In other words, St. Croix is a pretty decent scoring threat.

There's more that head coach Mike Sirant liked about St. Croix as well. St. Croix was an assistant captain for the Oil Kings, so he'll bring a leadership element to the Bisons' dressing room. He still holds the Oil King career records in points, goals and assists, and he was named a WHL All-Star twice in his five seasons. He helped the 2011-12 Oil Kings win the Memorial Cup, so he brings a wealth of experience in winning big games with him to the program. And if you're thinking the St. Croix name seems familiar, he is the son of Manitoba Moose Developmental Goaltending Coach Rick St. Croix who has experience working with a number of NHL clubs.

It sounds like the Bisons might have found a future number-one centerman! However, we're not done there.

Zach Franko has decided to return home for this season. The winger was a stand-out with the Winnipeg South Blues of the MJHL before making the jump to the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets. He would spend nearly four years with the Rockets before being traded to the Kootenay Ice late in his WHL career. All told, the speedy winger had 81 goals and 139 assists in 280 WHL games while totaling less than 70 penalty minutes over those games. While he wasn't drafted, Franko grabbed an opportunity to come back to USports when he signed up to be part of the Acadia Axemen in the AUS.

Again, Sirant was on the hunt for some intangibles with Franko's recruitment. His speed and lack of penalty minutes will help the Bisons stay out of the box this season - one of the oft-mentioned issues they had last season. He's shown to be a proven scorer at the USports level, earning 2014-15 USports and 2014-15 AUS All-Rookie Team honours. Scoring, speed, and less time spent in the sin bin are all positives forlast season's sixth-place CWUAA team.

Adding Franko adds another solid scoring threat for the Bisons. We still have two recruits to go.

The Bisons added former Winnipeg Thrashers and Winnipeg Blues defenceman Lucas Skrumeda after a three-year run with the WHL's Everett Silvertips. The undrafted bantam-aged Skrumeda played his way onto the Silvertips after a couple of good WHL camps, and his three years in Washington saw him score six goals and 36 assists while being a responsible defensive player. He was a teammate of current Bison winger Remi Laurencelle, and he spent significant time as the defensive partner of standout Noah Juulsen where Skrumeda made significant improvements in his overall game in being used by former Everett head coach Kevin Constantine as a shutdown defender. He should help stabilize an improving Bisons defence corps.

Two scorers, a solid defenceman, and one recruit to go. What could be missing?

If the Bisons needed a checking forward with a physical edge, they may have a guy that will keep the crowd buzzing this season in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota's Calvin Spencer. The former Chaplin Park High School winger earned the following description from SBNation College Hockey: "Spencer isn't really known as a big scoring threat, but can be a punishing physical player that could potentially thrive in a situation where he is asked to play more of a checking role". His scoring role was evident in five WHL seasons with Seattle, Swift Current, and Vancouver where he scored 32 goals and 34 assists, but amassed 15 WHL fights.

Spencer was a victim of numbers in Swift Current where he was overaged and the Broncos were forced to move him to Vancouver, but Director of Player Personnel Manny Viveiros stated he was a good leader and a great role model to the younger players. He's a character player who will bring a physical edge to his game like his half-brother, Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien.

There are some interesting names, family ties, and personal achievements in this year's Bisons recruiting class. It's always hard to judge just how much of an impact they'll play in the big picture with every other CWUAA city having a WHL team in town, but the Bisons are clearly looking for key pieces who will bring more to the ice than just what their stats lines state. If anything is certain about these four individuals, though, it's that Mike Sirant went out and got four quality people who will do their best to help the Bisons win. And that's always a boon to any program.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 246

The Hockey Show is back on the UMFM airwaves tonight with a bit of a different show. Normally, we'd be in the studio doing our regular hockey chat with a guest or among ourselves, but there's a pretty big event happening at the University of Manitoba tonight that we want no part of when it comes to finding parking. With the Canadian Women's National Soccer Team in town to play Costa Rica in an international friendly, we're going with a pre-recorded interview tonight, but this isn't one to be missed!

Her name may not be a household name in Canada just yet, but she's on the radar as one of this nation's outstanding netminders. Teebz sat down with Kristen Campbell, formerly of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks program, to talk with her about her career to date, some of her hockey heroes and inspirations, and her recent transfer to the University of Wisconsin Badgers after UND's decision to cut the women's hockey program entirely. Kristen gives some pretty candid comments on how the situation at UND went down, how it was handled by both the team and herself, and her thoughts and feelings on the administration who made the decision, her coaches and teammates who are now scattered across the NCAA landscape, and how this door closing allowed the door to Wisconsin to open. The 20 year-old Brandon, Manitoba native gave an outstanding interview, so you'll want tune in tonight to get to know this extraordinary young woman!

Honestly, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. 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'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, Teebz goes one-on-one with one of the best young goalies in the NCAA and in Canada as Kristen Campbell answers all sorts of questions only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: June 8, 2017: Episode 246

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Commissioner Speaks

If there is one thing that we, as fans, should take away from the CWHL in its announcement a few days ago, it's that Commissioner Brenda Andress is willing to answer questions about the new Chinese expansion and how her league will tackle a swath of new challenges. Miss Andress has always been fairly approachable and open in her communication with the media, and she seems to enjoy meeting fans and players as often as she can. She's a proud ambassador of the CWHL brand as she has to be as commissioner, but she's not afraid to sit down and answer some tough questions from the media when asked. Seeing her on Sportsnet discussing all the news and information with Tim Micallef and Sid Sexeiro on Tuesday only makes her seem more approachable when it comes to her league.

Take nothing away from Tim and Sid, but they lobbed a few softballs at Miss Andress in the interview. There were a couple of tougher questions where she danced around the answer - the salary question again - but she gave an answer that shows that she's very aware of her league, its markets, its finances, and where the CWHL stands in the big picture. Without saying much more, here is Miss Andress answering questions from Tim and Sid.
Were there questions I would have liked a more definitive answer to? Of course. However, Miss Andress has always been good at protecting her cards when sitting at the table, and she did so again last night with Tim and Sid. She's not playing coy, though, when it comes to the question of salaries and the amounts that are paid to players. She's simply stating that players will be compensated based upon a number of factors that include market, fan support, league support, partner support, and more. If it starts lower than expected, that's still a place to start and players will still be paid. Yes, it's nowhere near what the McDavids and Crosbys and Subbans make playing hockey, but you have to start somewhere. If growth continues as expected, I'd expect to see salaries to grow alongside that league growth as well.

Nothing firm was put in place on last night's broadcast, and Miss Andress will certainly not play those cards until she absolutely has to play them. However, the fact that she's stated that there will be compensation based on the strategic plan for the upcoming season makes it sound like players will be paid whatever the budget allows. It may not be a million-dollar salary, but getting paid year after year without slashing salaries dramatically because one's read on the market and landscape was so woefully poor is a huge attraction for interested players.

Miss Andress has been guiding this ship right over the last few years as sustained growth has been witnessed. While growth may roll with ebbs and flows, the fact that the CWHL is growing not only in their current markets but into expansion markets as well proves that you should put your faith in Miss Andress' plan just as the players in the CWHL have.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Who Wore Them First?

The legend of the Oakland Seals wearing white skates, as seen to the left, is well-known in hockey circles. Whether they were white due to paint, the colour of the leather, or shoe polish is a debate that hasn't been put to rest, there has always been one question that has bothered me about the skates. It's a rather mundane question when you think about it, but the historical ramifications of the answer could be huge. In saying this, I've always wondered which Seals player was the first to skate out on the ice wearing the white skates?

This information would require some painstaking research to pour through all the game rosters and moments of the Oakland Seals to determine when the skates were first worn and who wore them first, and for all we know those records may not exist. Thankfully, there are some from that era of painted skates who were part of the Seals organization, and an answer was found today!

Bill Torrey, a man who is associated with the building of the New York Islanders dynasty, actually got his start in the NHL as the Vice-President of the Oakland Seals, and his work over four years with the Oakland club saw its share of ups and downs. Torrey most recently has been working with the Florida Panthers, and he sat down today for a Hockey Reddit AMA as one of the greatest hockey minds answered a ton of questions including which player wore the white skates on the ice for the Seals first! To say I was excited as I read this would be a major understatement as the legend of the Seals white skates only grows with this new information!

The question posed by Reddit user ZuliaVZ was, "What were some of the most outrageous pranks or stunts that you dealt with as part of the Oakland Seals organization (besides polishing white skates)? (My Dad taught me about hockey at those games.)"

Now, ZuliaVZ was looking for some behind-the-scenes prank stories, but Mr. Torrie took the answer in an entirely different direction as he told a story about the white skates that I'd bet few know! I've cut a few spaces out of the response to make his answer more blog-friendly, but Mr. Torrie replied,
The white skates, I've read and heard a lot of stories about them, but when I was there, we didn't wear white skates... in league games.

Charlie Finley was the owner of the team, and he had the A's baseball team, which was the first in baseball to have white spikes, which he thought was a beautiful thing to see. I told him "you're putting white skates on white ice," while baseball players were wearing white spikes on green grass, which is why they looked so good.

As soon as he bought the team, he ordered white skates, so in the middle of July my secretary told me I had a package, and it was Charlie's white skates. The next day, I called the trainer in and told him to put them in the locker room and forget about them. So then, we had training camp up in Oshawa, and we had six or seven exhibition games with NHL teams. I hadn't heard from Charlie the rest of the summer, and we were playing an exhibition game in St. Louis, and I was up in the press box, and halfway through the first period, I had a note to me that a Mr. Charles Finley was downstairs and wanted to see me.

So, at the end of the period I went down. He looked at me and said "Bill, where are my white skates?"

So I told him, "Charlie, we're in training camp, we're on the road, I don't know if the trainers put the white skates in the trunks."

He said "Bill, I came all the way from Chicago, I want to see my white skates."

I went to the coach and said "Charlie's here, and he wants to see someone wearing white skates this period." So the coach said "You go in there and tell them, I'm not telling them."

Our trainer went in the back room and came back and he had the white skates - he'd put them in the equipment trunk - so I went into the locker room and I said to the boys "The man who signs your paychecks is out in the hallway and has come all the way from Chicago, and he wants to see somebody wearing these."

So, I went out in the hall, and talked to our coach for a few minutes. Our trainer came back out and said "I don't think anybody's going to put them on."

I went back in and said "Let me just remind you that Mr. Finley's signature will be on your paycheck at the end of the month, and there may not be paychecks if someone does not volunteer." And I turned around and walked out and held my breath.

Our coach turned to me and said "If that doesn't get their attention, nothing I can say will."

Gary Jarrett, left winger, volunteered to put them on, and he came out and wore them. That's the first time the white skates were ever seen in the NHL. So, after the game was over, I went down and saw Charlie and asked if he liked the white skates.

"No," he said. "You were right. White on white isn't the same as white on green."

We never wore them that year. Charlie got a hold of CCM and convinced them that the white skates were no good, but the new uniforms were kelly green, wedding gown white and sunny California yellow. He said "Make up colored skates."

So, what eventually happened, a year later, the Seals wore a green boot with a yellow toe and white trim. The funny thing, everyone kind of laughed when Charlie did that. But soon, the Maple Leafs wore blue skates with a white toe, St. Louis had light blue skates, the Red Wings had red skates... they lasted about two years in the league. The trainers didn't like them, because the pucks would scuff them with black marks. I don't know how many people remember that, but that's the actual history. The Seals did wear white for a while, but Charlie liked the green ones better, so he got rid of them himself.

He never did get a yellow puck. He had that idea, too.
Your trivia answer is none other than Gary Jarrett! Jarret was 26 years-old and had arrived in a trade with Detroit on May 27, 1968 that saw the Red Wings ship Jarrett, Doug Roberts, Howie Young and Chris Worthy to Oakland Seals for Bob Baun and Ron Harris. Ironically, Jarrett had his best NHL season in 1968-69, scoring 22 goals and adding 23 helpers in just 63 games. Maybe it was the work of the skates? Wait, that can't be since Bill Torrie stated above that they never wore white skates in league games. In any case, Jarrett was the first Seals player to wear the white skates on the ice in any NHL game, including the preseason!

When people ask me why I love hockey history, it's stories like the one that Bil Torrie told above. Despite everything we've been told and may have read, there's always some part of a story or a deeper story that we don't know. Ain't history great?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Welcoming The World

Every so often in a sports initial stages, there are some earth-shattering moments that take place. Obviously, historical moments will be remember, but there are events that change the course of the sports' history in profound ways. That being said, the CWHL decided to do a little shaking of the planet with the news of including a Chinese-based women's team that will play home games in China for the 2017-18 season. There have been other leagues who have played a game or two in Europe and Asia. There has even been a league that allowed a Russian-based team to play its North American teams for an entire season without having a home to call its own. However, for the first time in history, we'll see a professional league in North America welcome an Asian-based team to participate in a full regular season. History is being made!

Despite the CWHL not allowing the video of the press conference to be embedded, the announcement was made tonight in front of a small amount of press. The news of the women's league expanding is new in that most expansion was expected in North America as opposed to across an ocean. With the Minnesota Whitecaps still operating independently with Olympians in their fold, the natural thought was to see the CWHL incorporate them into their league. Instead, the league went off the board with this announcement.

"It is a very historic moment for Canadian women's hockey and for women's hockey across the world. The CWHL is extremely happy that we will be expanding to six teams and that sixth team will be in China. It's an opportunity to grow the game for women, which is important for all of us," Canadian Women's Hockey League Commissioner Brenda Andress told the press in attendance.

With China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese government is seemingly prepared to spend whatever is necessary in making their teams competitive when it comes to medals. The Kunlun Red Star group is a deep-pocketed organization who run a KHL franchise, and now have a five-year agreement with the CWHL as part of China's "2022 China Ice Hockey Action Plan" that focuses on increasing the country's status on the world rankings and on the ice. Joining the CWHL - seen as the premiere women's hockey league on the planet - should help with that goal.

With travel now including overseas travel, there seems to be a number of logistics to work out with scheduling, costs, and everything in between. Kunlun Red Star chairman Xiaoyu Zhao stated at the press conference that costs for the travel and accommodations in China will be covered by the Kunlun Red Star franchise. Each of the teams will travel to China on a week-long road trip that sees the visiting team play the host Kunlun Red Star squad three times in Shenzen, China at the Shenzhen Dayun Arena. The Red Star team will travel to North America on two-week road trips three times and play each of the five North American teams once. In total, all teams will play 30 games in the upcoming season, up from 24 the year prior. It's a 15-hour flight from Toronto to Beijing, but it seems that the league and the teams are willing to make that sacrifice to grow the game on a worldwide basis.

There was a second announcement at the press conference as Finnish goaltender Noora Raty and American defender Kelli Stack have both signed on to play for Kunlun Red Star for the upcoming season. Digit Murphy, the former head coach of the Boston Blades, will be behind the bench, and she'll be joined by recent Yale University head coach Rob Morgan as associate head coach. Former Chinese national team star Rui Sun will serve as the deputy sports director for the team.

It seems that the opportunity to add the sixth team in China happened relatively fast with the Kunlun Red Star group approaching the CWHL with the idea of joining the league for the upcoming season. Reports had the group approaching the league within the last eight months. To get this off the ground in that short time period required major efforts from both sides on this expansion. Clearly, both the league and the Chinese team are ready for the upcoming season.

The Chinese and Asian market for hockey is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games and the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. The women's team finished fourth at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games, but has since fallen to 18th-overall in the world rankings. China's investment in their program has seen the country's hockey programs put on fast-forward with some 400 rinks being built across the country prior to the 2020. For a country where 120 million people watched the Olympic gold medal game in Sochi 2014 and a reported 22 million people are watching the current Stanley Cup Final on TV - more than in Canada and the United States combined - the CWHL might be getting into the market at the exact right time.

There had been talk of the CWHL planning to pay players this season, and Commissioner Andress was asked at the press conference what the status of that plan was. She did tap-dance around the question without answering it directly, so there's little to report on that front except the status quo which is no firm pay structure at this time. While she left the door open, the league will probably want to look at costs and issues with this new travel schedule before committing to a set salary cap. That being said, if Kunlun Red Star is covering costs of travel to China, the issue of pay may be resolved before the start of the season yet. I admit there's a slim chance of that happening, but hope springs eternal.

The announcement today has the potential to be a major game-changer not only for the CWHL, but for women's sports entirely. Players such as Nachi Fujimoto and Sato Kikuchi in Boston, Akane Hosoyamada and Aina Takeuchi in Calgary, and Sena Suzuki in Toronto can be pioneers for Asian-born players across the world while the league itself embraces new cultures and players from faraway lands. By bringing in an emerging team in an emerging hockey market, the CWHL has the chance to possibly even cultivate an Asian Division that could include teams from China, Japan, South Korea, an eastern Russia who could square off against the North American Division champion for the Clarkson Cup. It would be a true "World Cup" for women's hockey if this partnership grows strong. From Commissioner Andress' comments, it seems the CWHL is dedicated to seeing that happen.

"Our national team and other national teams travel all around the world to play hockey. The next step for us is to do the same thing," she said. "We will work together with the CWHL Players' Association to make sure that when the players go to China for this experience that there’s a lot of great things to see, there's great hockey, they will play in a great facility and get top professional treatment that allows us to continue this partnership."

It's an exciting day for hockey, and women's hockey in particular, as the CWHL becomes the first true international hockey league with teams on three continents. How cool is that?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

IHL's AHL Success

When the AHL and IHL merged, the AHL agreed to absorb the six strongest teams in the IHL. I'm not certain that the AHL ever expected that the IHL teams would have ever been as good as they have, but since the 2001-02 season the former IHL teams have played in a total of ten Calder Cup Championships. That's pretty darn good representation for a league that folded. This year is no exception as the Grand Rapids Griffins, formerly of the IHL, are battling the Syracuse Crunch for the Calder Cup, and the Griffins managed to grab a 2-0 lead in the series with a win tonight. In two games, though, goals have been plentiful including the 6-5 double-overtime win today pulled off by the Griffins. I'm not sure what it is, but these former IHL teams have held their own in the AHL.

If we look back over that span, the Chicago Wolves were the first team to pull off the trick, downing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in five games in the 2002 championship in the first year of the newly-formed league. The Houston Aeros followed Chicago's win in 2003 with a seven-game thriller against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Milwaukee Admirals swept the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2004 before the AHL struck back as the Philadelphia Phantoms downed the Wolves in 2005. The AHL would claim one more victory in 2006 when the Hershey Bears downed the Milwaukee Admirals. If you'll note, though, that's five IHL teams in five Calder Cup Finals in five consecutive seasons.

After the 2007 Calder Cup Final saw Carey Price and the Hamilton Bulldogs down the Hershey Bears in the first all-AHL final since 2001, the Chicago Wolves returned to the top of the mountain with a six-game victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2008. The Hershey Bears would need six games to down the Manitoba Moose in 2009, and Hershey would repeat in 2010 with a six-game win over the Texas Stars in another all-AHL final. Binghamton would claim the 2011 Calder Cup with six-game series win over Houston. That's eight former IHL teams in ten years to appear in the Calder Cup Final.

The 2012 Final saw the Norfolk Admirals sweep the Toronto Marlies in an all-AHL final, but the Grand Rapids Griffins would claim the 2013 Calder Cup over the Syracuse Crunch in six games. Unlike this year's final, the Griffins won both games at the Oncenter War Memorial Arena in Syracuse before returning to Van Andel Arena to win Game Three to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Syracuse would win the next two games, but a 5-2 victory in Game Six on June 18 was the dagger that ended the series with the Griffins finding them as the best American League team.

The next three championship series all were AHL battles - Texas over the St. John's IceCaps, the Manchester Monarchs over the Utica Comets, and the Lake Erie Monsters over Hershey - but the Griffins found their way back to the Calder Cup Final this season against Syracuse as they renewed their 2013 championship battle. Counting everything up, that's ten Calder Cup appearances in sixteen years. Of the six IHL teams that merged into the AHL, three exist as they were in 2001 - Chicago, Milwaukee, and Grand Rapids. Is it any wonder why these three teams are the most successful of the six teams which included the Manitoba Moose, Houston Aeros, and Utah Grizzlies?

This year's final has played out nearly identical as the 2013 Final between Grand Rapids and Syracuse, although the venues in which Grand Rapids has won have been different. Game One in 2013 was won by the Griffins by a 3-1 score in Syracuse whereas this year's Game One saw Grand Rapids win 3-2 in Michigan. Game Two was a 6-4 victory for Grand Rapids in Syracuse whereas this year's Game Two was a 6-5 double-overtime win on Van Andel Arena ice. If the trend stays as it is, Grand Rapids should win Game Three by a 4-3 score since Game Three in 2013 was a 4-2 victory for the Griffins. In no way should predictions on HBIC be taken as valid and binding, though, unless you're in the business of losing.

If the Griffins do win this series, this will also be the sixth Calder Cup won by IHL teams since the merger sixteen years ago. That's an impressive win percentage for what-is-now three teams in a league of thirty teams. I doubt that we'll see that percentage stay as high as it is, but there has to be some nods given to the longevity of these franchises in these cities as a showing of what stable franchises can build when good people are in charge. The affiliations for two of the three remaining teams haven't changed, but it seems that the Griffins always find success. Milwaukee's work is being seen in the Stanley Cup Final this season as the Predators have promoted many of the good players from the Admirals. Chicago went from St. Louis' primary affiliate last season to becoming Las Vegas' affiliate next season, so we'll see what changes that affiliation brings in terms of Chicago's annual successes.

If you missed Game Two of the Griffins-Crunch series tonight, here are the highlights. Detroit and Tampa Bay, who are division rivals, seem to have a few players who could really bolster their lineups next season if this postseason is any indication of those players' growths. With Tampa figuring out how to manage the cap and Detroit needing a rebuild or retooling, a few of these key players would go a long way in helping their NHL clubs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!