Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Hockey Night At The Ballpark

For those that are unaware, the move Slap Shot is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. While we've lost Paul Newman in that time, there are still a number of stars who are enjoying the fruits of their work since filming the movie. Tonight, the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball's Winnipeg Goldeyes decided to honour the movie and a few of its stars by donning the above uniforms in the style of the Charlestown Chiefs!

As you may know, I'm usually against cross-sport promotions, but the connection between a minor-league "AA" baseball team and a minor-league fictional hockey team are about as far apart as one can get. In essence, this was like any Star Wars night or any other movie-themed night at the ballpark to me. The fact that it had to do with a hockey-themed movie made sit up and take notice.

In town for the Slap Shot 40th Anniversary Golf Tournament at St. Boniface Golf Club to raise funds and awareness for concussion research, prevention, and treatment were Dave Hanson, Jeff Carlson, and Denis Lemieux who all had prominent roles in the movie. The three men were in the concourse at Shaw Park to meet fans and sign autographs, but the issue of concussions was a topic at the forefront all week and at tonight's game.

"I can look back and tell you know that I had concussions," Hanson told Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun.

"The treatment then was sit on the bench, see how you feel later and if you're alert and you don't puke all night long, you're playing the next day."

While the treatment and recognition of symptoms of concussions has changed dramatically over the last forty years, the fact that Hanson and Carlson are in town to talk about concussions despite depicting the most violent hockey captured on film seems a little ironic. Knowing that Hanson and Carlson most likely suffered from concussions, however, is why both men are here to try to raise funds for the reasearch, prevention, and treatement of the injury.

"Forty years ago when the movie came out you weren't aware of concussions and the life-changing effects they can have," Hanson said. "Fortunately 40 years later we're all still together, we're alive and in good health. Some of us in this group have concussion symptoms to this day so it's great for us to have an opportunity to come out and be a part of this type of event and be involved."

The golf tournament happened earlier in the day, and it seems that everyone enjoyed the atmosphere while helping out a couple of great initiatives that deal in concussion research. All proceeds from the tournament went to support the StopConcussions Foundation and Shoot for a Cure (SFAC) campaign. The StopConcussions Foundation is a concussion/neurotrauma educational and awareness platform for all sports, to address the growing trend of concussions in sports. It is an educational portal that players, parents, coaches and officials can visit to seek information regarding concussions, with the goal of becoming more aware and ultimately safer individuals in their respective sports. SFAC is a fundraising campaign that aims to reduce the incidence of concussions as well as to fund research to find a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries.

Personally, this great event should happen more often as we see kids and teenagers diagnosed more often with concussions and concussion-like symptoms.

"We want kids to play sports," Kerry Goulet, a StopConcussions co-founder, told Wyman. "Hockey is so much more than the actual game itself and we want kids to experience that. However, there's a caveat to that. We've got to make sure that if you are playing sports, get educated. If you're a parent putting your kid in sport, just understand that cause, effect and consequences. If there are injuries, follow proper protocols to allow your young son or daughter or even yourself to come back and play and play safe. We want to mitigate the risk, we're not going to eliminate it."

In the end, raising money for research, treatment, and prevention of concussions is just makes sense. Brain injuries are often hidden, and the symptoms sometimes don't appear for hours. By learning more about the causes and treatment of these injuries and by investing in research for better protocols to identify concussions or concussion-like symptoms is a wise investment for everybody involved in sport.

As for the ballgame, the Winnipeg Goldeyes were hosting the Sioux City Explorers and found themselves down 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning when Wes Darvill drove in Shawn Pleffner on his double and the Explorers walked in a run on four pitches to pinch-hitter Casey Turgeon with the bases loaded to score David Bergin to make it a 3-3 game after seven innings. The next inning would see Pleffner drive in Reggie Ambercrombie with a single to right-field after Ambercrombie had singled and stole second base to put the Fish up 4-3 in their come-from-behind rally!

With closer Ryan Chaffee on the hill in the ninth inning, things got a little tense with the Explorers advancing a runner to third base with two outs, but Chaffee induced a ground ball off hitter LeVon Washington for the game's final out and his 19th save of the year on Hockey Night at the Ballpark!

Even in baseball, we're seeing more concussions, so I'm 100% behind having hockey stars - even fictional ones - speak out in support of concussion research. All sports have seen an uptick in concussion reporting as science gets better at diagnosing concussions, so more money for research and prevention is needed. Having members of Slap Shot speak candidly about concussions is one thing, but having them help raise money for research is entirely a good thing.

Well done to all involved on this night and at the golf tournament, and those Goldeyes jerseys are incredible!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Boys Are Back In Town

It's only August. I say that because it feels odd to be writing about serious hockey on August 21, but the KHL kicked off its regular season today and kicked off its tenth anniversary. I was actually surprised that the KHL is only celebrating ten years since it feels like they've been around forever, but ten years ago the KHL started up its operations. While I haven't been keeping a close on the KHL as they prepare for this season and today's game between CSKA and SKA St. Petersburg, there are a few things that people should note about the upcoming tenth-anniversary season.

While we didn't see any major names defect to the KHL for the opportunity to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics, there were a few players who opted for the Russian circuit as opposed to playing in North America under an NHL team. Justin Fontaine, Ryan Garbutt, Dwight King, Quinton Howden, Chris Lee, Andrei Markov, Alexei Marchenko, Mikhail Grigorenko, Ben Scrivens, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Jhonas Enroth, and Stanislav Galiev all opted for KHL contracts rather than trying to fight their way onto an NHL roster. All these men probably would have been good depth signings for a number of NHL teams, but they'll take their efforts over to the KHL with the hopes of making the Olympic rosters of their respective teams.

Markov is an interesting case of the above names, though, as he literally only wanted to play in Montreal. When it was clear that Montreal was moving on from the 38 year-old defender, he didn't hesitate at turning to the KHL when it came to his next contract. Markov signed with Ak Bars Kazan after Danis Zaripov's suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. The move reunites Markov with his former coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov whom he played under with Dynamo Moscow. Markov made it clear that this connection was part of the reason he chose Ak Bars Kazan over other clubs.

"The fact that I played for Zinetula Bilyaletdinov at Dynamo, before I even went to the NHL, played a significant part," Markov told khl.ru. "I know what he expects of his players, and I'm really glad that we'll be working together again. You could say that it's thank to him that I became the player I am."

I suspect that Markov will have a good year with Kazan under Bilyaletdinov as their top defender. Markov has played the most NHL games by any Russian player at 990, and those 990 games have given him experience against the best players in the world. The transition to the larger ice will take some adjustments, but I'm going on record to say that Markov will have a great year statistically in the KHL.

"Iron" Mike Keenan will step back behind a bench after last helping Metallurg Magnitogorsk to a Gagarin Cup parade, only this time he will be running the bench for Kunlun Red Star. The 1984-85 Jack Adams Award winner and 1994 Stanley Cup winner will direct the KHL's youngest team which features a nearly brand new roster from last season where the squad made the playoffs. Keenan, who is in charge of the Chinese national hockey program, will get a first-hand experience with a lot of the players he's hoping will restore glory to the Chinese program as the Red Star roster is loaded with a number of players with Chinese heritage.

"We can call our players talented, but they are not superstars like Mozyakin, Zaripov or Kovar," Keenan said at a press conference over the summer. "Plus, there's a layer of Chinese prospects who will hope to be part of the Beijing Olympics in 2022. It's going to be interesting to see how everything plays out during the season."

There is a new wrinkle to the KHL this season. The KHL will move from a best-of-three shootout format to a best-of-five shootout format. Adding two additional shooters to the mandatory list of shooters will give the KHL teams with a pile of talent a chance to showcase that talent even more. Will this be a burden to the teams with less talent? We'll see how this plays out during the season.

Of players who have yet to sign or retired this summer, Kazakhstani netminder Vitaly Kolesnik hasn't signed with a club as of yet, but the 37 year-old should be a depth signing in the KHL somewhere if he decides he wants to play. The 2006 Olympian and four-time World Championship participant still plays at a high level, but he's being pushed by the youth in the KHL.

Former Maurice Richard Award winner Jonathan Cheechoo is also sitting on the sidelines at the time of writing. He will hold a special place in the KHL as he scored Zagreb Medvescak's first-ever KHL goal before also playing with Dinamo Minsk and Slovan Bratislava. He'll be 38 this season, so finding a roster might be tough for the former San Jose Sharks sniper.

American Brandon Bochenski decided at the conclusion of last season to call it quits. The 35 year-old forward had a number of excellent seasons with Barys Astana, recording 397 points in 399 KHL games. He even claimed Kazakhstani citizenship to represent the team on the international stage after serving for so long in the Kazakhstan capital. His loss is a big loss for the American Olympic squad, and he will be hard to replace for Barys Astana as well.

Aside from the three players suspended for doping this summer, it has been a pretty solid off-season for the KHL as they embark on their tenth anniversary season. Who will win the Gagarin Cup in this anniversary season? We'll know in a few short months!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Biggest Draft Class Yet

The CWHL Draft happened today. If you happen not to follow any hockey people on social media, you may have missed it, but I'm pretty certain if you're reading this blog you follow at least one person, right? Regardless, the CWHL Draft welcomed a brand-new class of players today to its seven teams as the two Chinese teams - Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays - made their first selections ever in a CWHL Draft, and the Thunder selected its first players under its new Markham locale. In short, today was a pretty special day for the decade-old women's hockey league, and there's a lot of reason for optimism as the CWHL embarks on its eleventh season of play!

We'll start with the Boston Blades who held the first-overall pick. Newly-announced GM Jessica Martino selected Union College forward Courtney Turner with the first pick, and the Milton, Massachusetts-born Turner might have raised a few eyebrows as the top selection.

During her four years at Union College, Turner amassed 11 goals and 17 assists in 83 NCAA games, but missed the entire 2014-15 season due to a torn ACL. She did lead Union in scoring in her freshman year, but her two points last season was more due to the knee injury she suffered midway through the season. I could probably write a whole entry on Union's women's program and the many flaws in it, but know that when she did play for Union she was an effective scoring threat and made the players around her better. That's why Martino drafted her, in this writer's opinion, with the Blades' first pick.

The Toronto Furies were up next, and they chose Boston College forward Kristyn Capizzano with their first selection. There's no real mystery why Capizzano was an easy selection for Toronto. In her four seasons with Boston College, Capizzano scored 45 goals and 57 assists in 155 games, and she was an assistant captain for the Eagles in her senior year. The Oakville, Ontario native played in all situations with the Eagles, and she was a valued two-way player in all four years. Toronto nabbed a great player in Capizzano who will help them at both ends of the ice.

The first pick made by the Thunder as the Markham Thunder was Quinnipiac University defender Nicole Kosta. I'm not sure how or why Kosta is listed as a defender when she was a forward at Quinnipiac, but I just report these things. Kosta scored 39 goals and 84 assists in 137 games with the Bobcats over her five-year NCAA career, and that includes the 2013-14 season where she didn't play due to injury. Nicole suited up with the NWHL's Connecticut Whale last season where she notched six goals and eleven assists in 21 games as a forward. If they are going to use Kosta as a defender, she will give them a major boost on the offensive production from the back-end. If they use her as a forward, she's a proven scorer as well. Either way, the Thunder got a good player in the Mississauga-born Kosta.

In what might have been the first no-brainer pick of the draft, les Canadiennes de Montreal selected McGill University forward Mélodie Daoust with their first selection. Besides being an outstanding scorer at the U Sports level in Canada, she was part of the 2014 Canadian Winter Olympic team that won gold at the Sochi Olympics. She was named as the CIS Rookie of the Year in 2012-13, and became the first player to be named as CIS Player of the Year the season following her rookie campaign. In 79 U Sports games, Daoust scored 71 goals and 96 assists - and that includes missing a season for the Olympics and part of the 2014-15 season with a knee injury! She might be the best pure scorer in the draft, and she's now part of les Canadiennes.

The second Quinnipiac Bobcat had her name called next as the Calgary Inferno opted to select defender Taryn Baumgardt fifth-overall. The Innisfail, Alberta native scored 12 goals and 31 assists in 150 NCAA games, and was one of Quinnipiac's most reliable defenders. She was in second in blocked shots last season with 57, and she was used in all situations for the Bobcats. While her point totals won't wow anyone, her versatility in all three zones will play nicely into the Inferno's systems. Baumgardt will be an excellent, steadying player for the Inferno this season.

Kunlun Red Star selected next, and they chose a player who we had already known would be heading to China. With their first selection in CWHL history, Kunlun Red Star selected Finnish goaltender Noora Räty. The 28 year-old's name should be fairly well known thanks to her long career with the Finnish national team and with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. She holds six NCAA records including winning percentage at 1.000, wins in a season with 38, and most wins all-time with 114. She's a two-time Patty Kazmaier Award finalist, a two-time NCAA champion, and an Olympic bronze medalist. Raty's reputation proceeds her in almost all situations, and she'll now try to help Kunlun Red Star capture the Clarkson Cup this season.

The Vanke Rays would make their first selection in CWHL history next as the final pick of Round One, and they selected Clarkson Golden Knights forward Cayley Mercer with the seventh-overall selection. Mercer's four-year career at Clarkson saw her crack the 20-goal plateau three times, and she finished her NCAA career with 80 goals and 98 assists in 160 games. She's a two-time NCAA champion, was a Patty Kazmaier nominee in her senior year, and is particularly skilled in winning face-offs. If Vanke wanted scoring, they'll get it in bunches with Cayley Mercer.

There were some other notable players who were selected in later rounds. These choices include:
  • Lindsay Grigg - Markham Thunder (R2, 10th-overall). Grigg is a skilled defender who played one season in the NWHL before moving to HV71 in Sweden. She served as an alternate captain with HV71 and recorded eight goals and ten assists.
  • Kelly Murray - Calgary Inferno (R2, 12th-overall). Murray led all defenders in scoring in Canada West last season as a member of the UBC Thunderbirds, and helped UBC win the Canada West title and the bronze medal at the U Sports National Women's Hockey Championship.
  • Alex Carpenter - Kunlun Red Star (R2, 13th-overall). Carpenter is the 2015 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, a silver medalist at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and a multiple gold-medal winner with Team USA at the IIHF World Championships. She played with the NWHL's Boston Pride last season and played in the NWHL All-Star Game.
  • Elaine Chuli - Vanke Rays (R2, 14th-overall). The Rays got their goalie in UConn's Chuli. Chuli holds all sorts of records at UConn, and she'll be expected to bring her strong goaltending to China to help the Rays in their first year.
  • Bulbul Kartanbayeva - Boston Blades (R3, 15th-overall). The Kazakhstani-born Kartanbayeva dreamed of playing hockey in the US, and she'll get that opportunity after the Blades selected her. Her videos on Twitter show a ton of raw talent, so there's hope she can make the squad.
  • Shiann Darkangelo - Kunlun Red Star (R3, 20th-overall). Darkangelo was a marketable star with the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts, and she'll join the Red Star team in China. She recorded 17 goals and eight assists in 29 NWHL games.
  • Devon Skeats - Markham Thunder (R4, 24th-overall). Skeats is another former NWHL player who made the jump to the CWHL. In 31 NWHL games with the Buffalo Beauts, Skeats recorded 13 goals and seven assists. She'll be counted on to play solid defence for the Thunder.
  • Lindsey Post - Calgary Inferno (R4, 26th-overall). Post was named the U Sports National Championship MVP last season after backstopping the Alberta Pandas to the national title. She was constantly one of the top goalies in the nation in U Sports hockey.
  • Zoe Hickel - Kunlun Red Star (R5, 34th-overall). Hickel was another player rumoured to be heading to China. She played two seasons with the NWHL's Boston Pride and last season with the Connecticut Whale where she posted seven goals and nine assists in 31 total games.
  • Emily Janiga - Vanke Rays (R5, 35th-overall). Janiga graduated from Mercyhurst University with 72 goals and 79 assists in 141 games before joining the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts last season where she scored six goals and five assists in 17 games.
  • Ashleigh Brykaliuk - Vanke Rays (R6, 42nd-overall). The former captain of the UMD Bulldogs graduated with 62 goals and 83 assists in 146 NCAA games, and she was a dynamic scorer for Team Canada at the World U18 Championship. The Brandon, Manitoba native will certainly add scoring and depth for the Rays.
  • Mariya Sorokina - Markham Thunder (R10, 66th-overall). The Russian-born goalie won't supplant Knox or Howe immediately, but Sorokina has options. She won a bronze medal at the 2016 Women's World Championship, and her stock should rise if she gets to play against the best competition on the planet.
The full list of drafted players can be found here, but those players are the ones that caught my attention. There are still others who could be difference-makers on their new teams - Brooke Webster, Hanna Bunton, Sydney Kidd - so we'll see how next season breaks down as the players look to capture roster spots. For now, there were 113 players who will be welcomed into the league at some point in their careers, and the CWHL is better with all these players involved!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Red Star Has Landed

As we had discussed with Tyler Fines on The Hockey Show on Thursday, there were rumours that the Kunlun squad was looking to send some of its younger players over to North America to participate in leagues here and in the United States. As you can see to the left, Kunlun Red Star's logo is now prominently featured on the doors to Rink 2. The question is where are these doors and which Kunlun teams are playing behind them? Those answers can be found below, but it should be noted that the Kunlun teams in question will be playing in one city and not touring the country on a cross-continent exhibition series.

The rink pictured above can be found at Chesswood Arena in North York, Ontario. According to reports, Kunlun Red Star is basing their U20 and U18 teams at this rink for play in leagues at the arena. There were no mentions whether this meant there would be four teams playing out of the rink - one men's team and one women's team for each age group - but one would hope that the Red Star management group would see the value of sending both the men and women over to play.

While the Red Star have officially moved in after getting some window dressings installed, I'm curious as to who they will be playing. There are midget teams based out of the Chesswood Arena in the Toronto Aeros and the Toronto Red Wings so there will be competition on-hand if the KRS U20 men's team needs some opposition, but I didn't see any women's leagues listed. There may indeed be a woman's league that plays there, but they aren't listed on the Chesswood Arena site. Nonetheless, we do know that the Red Star have landed in North America, and they're getting themselves ready for hockey action this winter!

China certainly is going all-in for 2022 with these developments, and they will officially add more players to the fold when the CWHL Draft goes tomorrow. I can't say whether this plan will work on such a short timetable, but China seems to be going for broke in an attempt to win a medal on home ice in Beijing. They're certainly doing all they can to prepare for their Winter Olympics, but is there enough time?

Getting their younger players into North American leagues with four years to go before the puck is dropped in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is a smart move for exposing their younger players to some of the best minor-league hockey North America has to offer. You just hope they won't be overwhelmed by this experience.

Big stick-tap to Hockeytoronto.com for the photos!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 August 2017

The New Hawks

I'll put this notice upfront: I'm not happy writing about the University of North Dakota's hockey program. As you may recall, they only have a men's program to speak of after they cut the women's program and set twenty-five women adrift. However, today's article is all about what the Fighting Hawks will wear this season as the school decided to update the uniforms to reflect their newer name.

Unveiled on Thursday afternoon, the new Fighting Hawks jerseys will be what you see above. There are a few differences from last season's jerseys that should be noted. UND opted for a new font for "North Dakota" on the front of the jersey that matches what was unveiled last season with the new logo. Also changed is the Fighting Hawks logo on the shoulder, replacing the interlocking "ND" that once called the shoulder home. From the image above, those are the noticeable changes.

Among the changes not shown in the image above, the font for the names and numbers on both the front and back will not follow suit with the new font. They will remain as block lettering on these new uniforms. I suspect this will make either the "North Dakota" or the names and numbers look off since there are now two fonts being used in close quarters. I don't understand this thinking, but people who are smarter than me approved it. Let them deal with it.

I have always liked the green uniforms, but this kelly green jersey looks phenomenal. As I have always maintained on this blog, green might be the most under-utilized colour in the hockey world, so seeing the green road jerseys pop as nicely as they do is a huge plus. On the opposite side of the spectrum is that black jersey which is both unnecessary and awful. I will never understand why a team that has an amazing road jersey opts for a black uniform, especially when white is worn at home. If the black uniforms are only worn on the road, don't sacrifice your best look for black. That kind of thinking gets people committed.

I commend both UND and CCM for using an actual hockey sweater template for this new look. Great arm and hem stripes and a solid shoulder yoke give this uniform a very traditional look. I'm not a fan of the lace-up collar, and I don't really like the idea of the "collegiate look" with the name of the school surrounding the number, but I suppose the latter is appropriate on an actual collegiate team. I'd love to see the Fighting Hawks logo on the road jersey, but it seems people smarter than I approved this design.

The cool thing about these uniforms? They'll first see the ice on September 30 when the University of Manitoba Bisons men's hockey team visits Ralph Engelstad Arena for an exhibition game. The Bisons have yet to win in Grand Forks, so this might be the best time to spoil the party with the Fighting Hawks in new threads. It will take some serious work as UND always has a solid team, but Manitoba should be ready to go after their brief European tour this fall.

What do you think of the new UND jerseys? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 256

The Hockey Show is back on the UMFM radio frequency tonight, and we're going to bring a potpourri-style of a show tonight as we go through a number of stories from around the hockey world. First, though, we have a returning guest who has a unique perspective on some of the major stories from the hockey world this summer. He's still involved in a way with the stories, but he's not as directly involved as he once was. We'll get his viewpoints on the major stories before breaking into a number of cool stories from around the hockey spectrum in the second-half of The Hockey Show!

The Hockey Show is proud to welcome back former head coach of the CWHL's Brampton Thunder, Mr. Tyler Fines! Tyler is now the head coach for the Etobicoke Dolphins Midget 'AA'​ Hockey team in Ontario where he is responsible for the development of 2000-, '01-, and '02-aged female hockey players and the promotion of these players to the PWHL, NCAA, and CIS ranks. Tyler's work in this midget hockey league will see him working with some Chinese-Canadian athletes as well as being able to offer unique insights into the CWHL expansion to China this summer. We're excited to have Tyler back on the show, and we'll try to squeeze as much information out of him as we can!

On the second-half of The Hockey Show, we'll take a look at a couple of stories the CBC ran this week about three First Nations women heading south to play hockey at a prestigious Boston-based hockey school, the Sagkeeng Oldtimers team made up of residential school survivors who will now have a place at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and the struggles a women's league in Kenora is having in getting ice-time. We'll also touch on the Sudbury Wolves looking sharp, Hockey Canada's U18 women's team kicking off play against Team USA in a three-game set in Lake Placid, New York, and the Aalborg Pirates are back on the ice and winning games so we'll update everyone on how Brandon Reid and his team are doing! There's lots to chat about tonight, so make sure you tune in!

How can you listen to the show, 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!

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 chat with Tyler Fines about a new job and the CWHL before bringing up up-and-coming stars, Hall-of-Famers, beer-leaguers, Wolves, Canadian women, and Pirates only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: August 17, 2017: Episode 256

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

TBC: Changing The Game

As we're all aware, there will be a new addition to the NHL schedule this year for all thirty teams as the Vegas Golden Knights join the league. The NHL has expanded a number of times through its own decisions or via merger, so I thought it would be a good idea to get into another book. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Changing The Game: A History of NHL Expansion, written by Stephen Laroche and published by ECW Press. If you're into cool facts and interesting stories, Mr. Laroche's book will take you through every expansion team from the start of the NHL right through to the addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild with all sorts of incredible detail on each addition to the NHL's fraternity.

It seems Mr. Laroche is very good at staying behind the lens as opposed to being in front of it as I couldn't find an image of him! Nonetheless, from the back cover of the book, "A seasoned hockey historian, Stephen Laroche has a distinct passion and deep appreciation for many aspects of the sport's history. The editor of Beckett Hockey and Beckett Basketball, he is former trading card company executive. He lives in Belleville, Ontario, with his wife, Michelle, and stepdaughter Guenevere."

Changing The Game doesn't just highlight the moments of each NHL team's founding. Instead, it takes you through the founding of each team and the first year of the team's existence before highlighting some key players from that year. There is a lot of amazing information contained within these synopses of the teams, and the research done on the players is top-notch. Needless to say, Changing The Game is thorough and detailed.

There are sections for every NHL team, and there are even small sections that deal with the WHA and the business side of the merger with the NHL. The one thing that Changing The Game doesn't cover, however, are relocations. There are no chapters on the New Jersey Devils, the Dallas Stars, the Arizona Coyotes, the Colorado Avalanche, the Carolina Hurricanes, or the new edition of the Winnipeg Jets. There are mentions in the sections of each of the teams from where they were located on how the team moved, but relocations are not included in Changing The Game. This book looks only at the various expansions done by the NHL.

There are some great examples of history in Changing The Game that may have been forgotten over the years. I know I've forgotten some of the information Mr. Laroche introduces in his book, and there's a pile of information that I learned with the work done by Mr. Laroche. For example, I had no idea there were so many cities looking to get in on the 1967 NHL expansion. Mr. Laroche writes,
Team owners were finally convinced by William M. Jennings that to head off a catastrophe, they needed to double their membership to 12 teams. Clarence Campbell announced these intentions in March 1965. Some of the cities deemed acceptable or potential sites for new clubs included Vancouver, San Francisco-Oakland, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Less than a year later, the NHL was presented with 14 different applications - five from Los Angeles, two from Pittsburgh and one each from Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland, Baltimore, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Buffalo and Vancouver.
It's hard to believe, but the Philadelphia Flyers may not exist today had the applicants from Baltimore been better organized with their application. Of course, six of those cities were successful, and we'd see both Buffalo and Vancouver get teams a few years after that 1967 expansion year. I'd be interested in seeing what happened with the other unsuccessful applicants who weren't awarded teams, but that may be another book altogether!

Whether you're just getting into the game or have deep knowledge of the inner workings of hockey, Changing The Game has something for all fans. Newer fans could use Changing The Game as a textbook on how the teams got started while those who have followed the game for years may find some new facts to complement the depth of their current knowledge. Changing The Game is an incredible book of facts on the beginnings of all the current NHL teams. Because of the research and information contained within the covers, Changing The Game absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Changing The Game at all major bookstores and libraries. I would recommend purchasing the book, though, and keeping it handy as a reference book when it comes to the amount of information stored on its pages.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sudbury Goes Old-School

There are certain elements of a hockey jersey that make them look like old-time hockey sweaters. They usually include things like the hem stripes, the sleeve stripes, and a traditional V-neck-type collar. Anything else might be team-specific, but those are the generic "old-time" features of a hockey jersey that make the jerseys timeless as they are for the Canadiens, Blackhawks, Rangers, and Red Wings. Junior hockey clubs seem less inclined to make sweeping changes unless necessary, so there are still some timeless jerseys seen in the CHL as well. One team that decided to move away from the traditional sweater look was the Sudbury Wolves when Reebok got involved a decade ago, but it seems that Sudbury is going backs to its roots with yesterday's changes and it might be the best jersey unveiling this summer!

Let's start with the old look that the Wolves introduced seven years ago as modeled by Owen Lalonde.
First off, you already probably know that I hate the vertical apron straps on these jerseys, and it makes the logos and captaincy designations worn on the front of the jerseys look absolutely ridiculous as seen on Marcus Foligno to the right. His alternate captain's "A" is basically in the middle of the jersey at this point! In past years with the apron strings, the Wolves applied the captaincy marks over the vertical piping, but both looks are absolutely ridiculous. The shoulder yoke simply extends to the wrist, eliminating sleeve stripes, and the hem stripes are non-existent. Basically, this was "Reebok design" to a tee, and I was never a fan of it.

Let's jump seven years ahead to present time where the Wolves will wear the following this upcoming season.
Now that's more like it! While the uniform clearly is still modern with today's lightweight fabrics and the slimmer cuts, the traditional elements have returned to make the Sudbury Wolves look more like a hockey team and less like an aggressive Chopped Canada team. There are great stripes that use the secondary colours well, there are traditional shoulder yokes that really makes the colours pop, and the logo is now the focal point for the eyes when looking at the jersey. This is what hockey is supposed to look like, and the Wolves are looking fantastic!

"The new look is really a fresh design, with a clean look that salutes some of the more successful seasons of the organization wearing the blue and whites," Andrew Dale, VP of Marketing & Development, told reporters at the press conference. "Launching a new jersey designs is one of the most fun aspects of working in sports and marketing. We consulted with key stakeholders to get their opinions; from alumni and players to fans volunteers and as an organization we felt the timing was right to signal a change in the new era of Wolves' Hockey. The jersey change is a symbol of what this edition Wolves organization believes – respect for the past, our history and tradition but a firm grasp of a fresh clean and bright future."

That past is one that is hasn't seen a ton of winning, but going back to the team's heady days where they looked great isn't a bad thing. As seen on Marc Staal, there are a few differences due to the modern jersey template, but the style elements have returned. Sudbury's play on the ice needs to be improved as much as their jerseys have as they currently hold the OHL's longest championship drought and the third-longest drought in the Canadian Hockey League. They've only been to the OHL's J. Ross Robertson Cup Final twice, and lost both times in their 45 years of being in the OHL. However, they do develop serious NHL talent as they have sent 77 players to the NHL including the likes of Mike Fisher, Mike Peca, Dave and Dale Hunter, Pat Verbeek, and the aforementioned Staal and Foligno.

So what do the players think? "When we got a sneak peak at them in the spring before leaving for the summer with some of the guys, we were stoked to see this change," Reagan O'Grady told reporters. "I think that this small change reflects the feelings that Wolves Hockey matters and that people are excited about what's going on at the arena. This year there is just a completely different feeling going into the season and that's exciting."

If you look good, you feel good. That may translate into more on-ice success for the Wolves this year, but they're already light years ahead in the fashion department for the changes seen here today. I never really had the Sudbury Wolves among my favorite teams, but these changes have brought the hockey look back to Sudbury, and that's a great look for the upcoming season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Meet The Kids

With autumn rolling in like a locomotive on what seems like an already-short summer, Hockey Canada is gearing up for another big season of hockey. Yes, there's that little tournament known as the Olympics that they'll participate in and they always have teams for the World junior Championship and the IIHF Men's Hockey Championship, but there are other segments of the population that get to represent Canada on the world's stage as well. After spending eight days in Calgary, Hockey Canada has pared down its roster of invites from the U-18 camp to 24 women who will wear the maple leaf in a three-game set against Team USA beginning August 17 in Lake Placid, New York!

"We want to congratulate all 42 players who took part in the selection camp, and thank our staff for a phenomenal week. As we expected, these young women showed up ready to work hard both on and off the ice, and they made our decision very difficult," said Delaney Collins, head coach of Canada's National Women's Under-18 Team. "Congratulations to the 24 players who were selected to play in Lake Placid; you've earned this opportunity, and we’re excited to work with you and continue to see you develop over this upcoming series."

While Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan will have the most representation on the team in terms of which provinces the girls call home, the roster is made up of a unique mix of players. Four players are returning silver medalists from the 2017 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship, and five played in the 2016 three-game summer series against the United States. I'll denote these players on the roster below so you can see who the returning "veterans" are, but there are some other interesting notes from the development camp that just finished.

First, Logan Angers of the St. Mary's Academy Flames in Winnipeg had an outstanding camp statistically, but was not chosen as one of the goaltenders. Her stats line of 30 saves on 31 shots, a 0.64 GAA, and a .968 save percentage in three appearances would have led me to believe that she made the cut, but she was victimized for her only goal-against in the final intra-squad squad in overtime to give Canada-Black a win over Angers' Canada-Red team. I'm not saying this is the reason why she was cut, but her stats were arguably as good or better than the three goalies selected. That's not to say that any of the goalies who were selected don't deserve the honour, but it goes to show just how close the competition is when it comes to picking the right players for this opportunity.

Second, it seems this team is built not for this three-game series, but the eventual goal of capturing the gold medal at the 2018 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship in Dmitrov, Russia. I have no issue with this future planning at all, but I would like to see Canada lock in on the majority of players they want for that tournament. As Hockey Canada's press release states, "Hockey Canada scouts, along with the team's coaching staff and general manager, will continue to evaluate players with their provincial and club teams during the 2017-18 season, including at the 2017 National Women's Under-18 Championship in Quebec City". That means that players like Angers or any of the other women sent home could be back to play with the team in Russia if they continue to see their stocks rise. I believe that they have a good idea of who they want on that squad, but you just don't want to mess with chemistry too much as the tournament approaches.

After saying all that, here are the 24 women who will represent Canada later this week in the three-game set.

The ladies will begin their quest to gold this Thursday against the US U18 women's team in Lake Placid followed by Game Two on Friday and Game Three on Sunday. The overall results of this three-game series with the American women isn't focused on winning or losing, but developing a squad that's ready for Russia. If the end is a gold medal, I'm ok with the means if we lose all three games despite playing hard. After all, the big dance happens in Russia in January.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

TBC: Body Check

Teebz's Book Club has a pile of books that need their spines cracked, but I'm slowly working through this pile. With summer being more than busy for me, it's hard to just grab a seat and plow through two hundred pages of a book. That being said, I do try when the time allows for it and today was one of those days. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Body Check, written by Matt Christopher and published by Little, Brown and Company. This book is aimed at younger readers as Brent Mullen and his Badgers teammates look to improve on a .500 record the year before. However, it seems the team's strategy changes with the addition of a new assistant coach and his son, and this leaves Brent questioning his desire to play on the team!

Matt Christopher authored more than one hundred novels and three hundred short stories in his life. Born in Bath, Pennsylvania, Christopher was an outstanding athlete in his youth, but his interest in writing began around the age of 14. He would see his first story published at the age of 24 in a detective magazine. After graduating from high school, Christopher played professional baseball for the Smith Falls Beavers in Ontario before he was cut after he couldn't make contact. Christopher would return home to New York before a knee injury reduced his sporting endeavors entirely. He married Catherine "Cay" M. Krupa on July 13, 1940, and worked at the National Cash Register in Ithaca, New York until he retired in 1963. Upon retiring, Christopher took up his passion for writing after having had 15 books already published. Unfortunately for readers, Christopher died September 20, 1997 in Charlotte, North Carolina after complications arose in surgery for a non-malignant brain tumor at the age of 80. He won the annual Milner Award as "the author whose books are most liked by the children of Atlanta, Georgia". When asked why he wrote sports books for children, Christopher answered, "Sports have made it possible for me to meet many new people with all sorts of life stories, on and off the field, and these are grist for this writer's mill."

In reading Body Check, I felt a little out of my element with some of the explanations of terms that Matt Christopher works into the story. While I get that not all youth readers may know what a power-play is, I struggled when Christopher continually used the term "flip shot" when he really meant "wrist shot". It literally tripped me up a couple of times as I read through, so just be prepared that if you award this book to your younger player you may have to explain a term of two that isn't in the parlance of hockey.

That being said, the story contained within the covers of Body Check is one that most parents and players will struggle with or have struggled with as young players get older. While the Badgers seemingly haven't had a big season with a lot of wins recently, Brent is fairly content with the job that Coach Maxwell is doing as the Badgers' head coach. He has seen his older brother, Lee, become one of the best players at his high school, and he learned under Coach Maxwell. However, a new addition to the team in the form of Vic Seabrook and his father and former player, Mr. Seabrook, have a different attitude towards winning that Brent doesn't like.

Brent and the Badgers had been using speed and skill to win games under Coach Maxwell, but it seemed that Coach Seabrook wanted players to resort to doing anything possible to win, and that included playing dirty. Brent found himself at a crossroads as he knew that type of play wasn't right nor did he want to play that way, but he also questioned whether or not Coach Seabrook's methods accomplished more.
The kind of hockey that Coach Seabrook was teaching went against everything he believed - and not only about sports but life in general. Rules were there to be followed. He was certain of that.

But then a scary thought came to him.

Could it be that Coach Seabrook was right? That what made some players winners and others losers was that winners knew when to cheat and get away with it? Maybe that was what it was all about, and Coach Maxwell had it wrong. Maybe Lee was wrong too... after all, Lee might be a few years older than Brent, but he was basically still a kid himself.

Brent wished he could be sure.

And he wondered, too, if the way Coach Seabrook taught hockey was the way it was supposed to be played. If so, could he play that way?

Did he even want to?
And that's the struggle that Brent goes through in the book. Despite Mr. Seabrook's insistence that this is how hockey is played and that "sometimes accidents happen", Brent and several of the Badgers players struggle with this new outlook while Brent's best friend, Cam, embraces the "winning" mentality. With a game coming up against the undefeated Cyclones, will this new style of play hurt the Badgers? Will they be able to defeat the Cyclones? Will Brent finish the season as a Badger? All of these questions are answered in Body Check!

There are some strong lessons in Body Check that shouldn't be overlooked. The importance of learning important fundamentals and playing the game the right way as opposed to cheating and intimidation of an opponent is the main theme, but questions of right vs. wrong will enter the story at times, friendships will be tested, and apologies will be given and accepted through the 137-page novel. Mr. Christopher does a great job in bringing these tough moral questions to the forefront in his writing, and they are lessons that every parent should have with their young player at some point. Because of these lessons, Body Check will get the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find Body Check at your local bookstore or library in the young readers section, and let your young all-star work through the entire series of Matt Christopher books!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A Good Man Gone

The hockey world, and the world in general, lost an incredible man today as it was announced that Bryan Murray passed on after a long battle with colon cancer at the age of 74. Murray was a very unique individual whose sharp mind and ever sharper retorts to questions were appreciated by all. The courage he showed in his battle with colon cancer not only showed his inextinguishable human spirit, but showed that Murray would not let cancer slow him down. Losing a man like Bryan Murray today seems a little unfair considering all he did for the game of hockey, the players and personnel he met and gave chances to regarding their dreams, and the countless fans who had experiences with him. He will be missed.

For the last three years, Murray had been battling Stage 4 colon cancer, and he told TSN's Michael Farber in 2014 that there was not going to be a last-minute victory in this battle.
"The word is we'll keep doing chemo and, hopefully, reduce the tumors and the effect and I'll get some time out of that," Murray said. "There is no cure for me at this point."
As per the report linked above, "According to doctors the cancer had been living in Murray's body for seven to 10 years before it was caught."
"The frustrating part – and I've said this to several doctors since then – is, 'How come there were no signs?'" Murray, 71, asked. "When you hear that you've had cancer for possibly up to 10 years and there were no signs... obviously, because of the Stage 4, it had moved through my body."
Murray didn't let the anger or frustration of his situation get the better of him, though. As he stated,
"Let's go to extra overtime and keep playing like the game we played against the Islanders many years ago and we went to four overtime periods," Murray said. "Let's just keep it going as long as we can, be as healthy as we can for that time, and enjoy what we have as we do it."
And that's what Bryan Murray should be remembered for: his never-give-up, turn-a-frown-upside-down attitude that saw accumulate a ton of successes in his hockey career. This is a man who earned 620 NHL coaching wins - 10th-place all-time - and has won both a Jack Adams Award and an NHL Executive of the Year Award. He's won a Memorial Cup with the Regina Pats, the CJHL's Centennial Cup with the Rockland Nationals, and has been inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame. The man's reputation in hockey was succinctly summed up by his long-time friend and Nashville Predators GM David Poile when, last season, he said of Murray,
"Players always have good things to say about Bryan," Poile said. "He knew how to communicate with players. Sometimes it was his sense of humour, his sarcasm, but he just knew how to get through to them and in response they played for him. He knew how to motivate players."
There might be no greater compliment one can give a coach than what Poile said of Murray. But it wasn't his coaching legacy that Bryan was most proud of as he was often fondly remembered as a loving husband, devoted father, doting grandfather, and loyal friend. Bryan's connection to everyone he met, to his friends, and to his family was vitally important to him, and he would often do whatever he could to put those people he cared for ahead of himself.
"I can't say enough about Bryan," said longtime Senator Mike Fisher. "He was always so good to me and when it came time to move me he could have traded me anywhere, but he wanted (wife and country music star Carrie underwood) and I to be together and he was able to make a deal with David (Poile) to get me to Nashville.

"That's just the kind of guy he was. He always thought about you as more than just a player. He wanted what was best for you as a person."
In hearing that, I'd hope that more people would strive to be like Bryan Murray. There are far too many who worry about the bottom line or where the team is in the standings who lose perspective of everything that goes on outside of hockey. The fact that he did all he could to accommodate Mike Fisher's request to move to Nashville to be closer to his wife shows you that it's not always about winning and losing. Sometimes, it's about the people, and Bryan Murray never forgot that aspect whether he was making deals in the GM chair, handing out instructions as a coach, or simply providing sound advice to those that asked.

The world lost a good man today. Rest in peace, Bryan Murray. You're a legend in this game called "life".

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Mr. Murray!

Friday, 11 August 2017

Food For Thought

As much as I love hockey, I have a variety of other interests. They vary across a number of different skill sets, and I wouldn't say I'm a master at any of them despite my enjoyment in practicing these skills. From gardening to DIY repairs to softball, these interests occasionally intersect as it is tonight on the ol' blog where I will allow you a glimpse behind the curtain to tell you that I love cooking. Get me into the kitchen with some good ingredients, and I'm as happy as a clam. Tonight, I had some time to myself, so I decided to bring a few things in from the garden and get to work.

I've been thinking about adding a non-hockey piece in random spots going forward because I am involved with so many things. I happen to enjoy making good food. Yes, one can head to a restaurant and enjoy any sort of food one happens to desire, but it's a skill to be able to bring that taste home and recreate it whenever you want - for example, a late-night snack after a night out. I feel very comfortable in the kitchen and I love trying new recipes, so I think I'll incorporate a foodie post occasionally. If you like this idea, let me know in the comments below.

I happen to love pasta, and there's nothing better than a good sauce for pasta. It's one of those things that will either take pasta to a new level or wreck it completely, I find. An overbearing sauce causes the pasta to lose its flavors while a poorly-seasoned, watery sauce destroys any hope of enjoyment. I, for one, hope that my sauce tonight is good, but the real test will come next week when I taste it on pasta. In short, I spent my Friday night with four basic ingredients, a pot, a spatula, and some good scents. I'm not a chef by trade, but I think most people can master this basic, but oh-so-good, sauce.

This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan who may have changed how North Americans cook Italian food. I have made it a number of times in the past, and it always comes out rich and delicious due to the amount of butter used in the sauce. But don't fear that if you want to recreate this recipe - everything works well together!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of tomatoes with juice, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 onion, cut in half and peeled
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. DON'T OVER-SALT!
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. In Marcella's recipe, she recommends discarding the onion, but I like it in there. Wait until the onion becomes translucent and, as above, use a spoon to cut the onion pieces into smaller chunks. When all is said and done, this recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.
Pretty easy, right? You can still discard the onion, but I think the sauce tastes better with the onion left in. You might not be big on onions and want it gone, and that's fine. I usually dress it up with a little oregano and Italian seasoning just to give it that stronger Italian flavor that I like. Dress it up however you prefer, but I've found that it makes a great pizza sauce as well if you enjoy making homemade pizza. In short, this easy-to-make and versatile sauce can be used for a number of things, and I hope it works as well for you as it does for me.

Again, if you like the idea of a non-hockey post on HBIC occasionally, toss me a comment below. I'm always up for some interaction, and good cooking and sports can usually bring people together fairly quickly. Bon appetit, folks!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 255

The Hockey Show returns to the airwaves and internet tonight with one of the shows with which we have the most fun. Every year, we seem to end up with odds and ends in our Shwag Bag that we don't really have any contests for, so we do our annual Prize Bag Purge before the school year starts so we can start fresh in September with a new batch of prizes to be won. Tonight, you have a chance to win stuff if you call in and play the game show we like to call "Pick Your Poison"!

Before we get to that, though, there's a very special day happening today across Canada. It's Children's Miracle Treat Day again at Dairy Queen, and I'm posting this all on my own accord because I really believe in this cause. If you aren't aware, net proceeds from every Dairy Queen Blizzard treat sold at participating Dairy Queen locations will be donated to your local Children's Miracle Network member hospitals. Every day, nearly 5000 children enter a Children's Miracle Network member hospital for treatment. Help participating Dairy Queen restaurants help local kids by purchasing a Blizzard Treat today on Thursday, August 10. That includes the Winnipeg Children's Hospital, so get out there and enjoy some ice cream to help kids across this great province get the treatments they need and deserve.

As for the "Pick Your Poison" game, I will honestly say that the name of the game is far worse than anything we have to offer. There are no Whammys as seen to the right with Press Your Luck either... unless you happen to choose a Toronto Maple Leafs prize pack. It's a very simple game - pick a number and you win the corresponding prize under that number if you can answer a fairly simple trivia question. And by "fairly simple", Beans and I guarantee that you can't get these questions wrong. In fact, I'm not sure these trivia questions are even trivia. Most don't have wrong answers.

In saying that, if you want to win some free gear, call us at (204) 269-UMFM. That's 204-269-8636 for those with no letters on their phone's keypad. Phone lines will open at 5:35pm sharp, and we'll give away everything in the Shwag Bag tonight! Oh, and we'll also talk a little hockey as well as we chat about Eddie Olczyk's battle with colon cancer, Hockey Canada's efforts in Russia and at the U-18 women's camp, a new Bisons women's hockey recruit, the Dallas Stars taking a stand in Texas, and Cam Cole's article in the National Post about kids who play hockey year-round. Lots of chatter and laughs will be heard tonight, so tune in and win!

Maybe you're asking how you can listen to the show because you're just discovering it and you wanna win some gear! That's great, and thanks for listening! We suggest that you download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans empty out the Shwag Bag, eat some ice cream to help kids, chat some hockey, work in a little TV chatter, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: August 10, 2017: Episode 255

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The First Olympian

He has played for a number of NHL teams and he's already represented Canada as part of the Spengler Cup team, so I'm not sure how a player like Mason Raymond would even be in the discussion of players who may not make the Canadian Olympic squad. He still has great wheels that he uses to find and create space, and that's something that will come in very handy on the larger Olympic ice surface. What some people may forget, though, is that Raymond has a pretty gifted set of hands that led Vancouver to drafting him in at 51st-overall in the second round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Today, he put those mitts on display that should end all talk of him being left off the roster.

In the third-place game at the Sochi Open hockey tournament, Canada met Metallurg Magnitogorsk for the right to claim the bronze medal. Raymond, who already had one goal in this game, decided to up the stakes at 15:59 with a pretty sneaky move that resulted in the second Canadian goal on the night.
Raymond decided to use the lacrosse-style goal we've seen on a number of occasions to slip the puck in top-shelf over a kneeling Vasily Koshechkin to put Canada up 2-1. For me, it's hard to believe that Koshechkin would leave that corner open knowing that Canada has some former NHL players out on the ice, but the veteran of over 500 KHL regular season and playoff games didn't cover off the post entirely and Raymond made him pay. On top of that, there were some whispers that Koshechkin might be one of the three netminders Russia takes to the Olympics, so this highlight probably isn't one that Koshechkin will be sending the Russian selection committee.

I'm gonna say that Raymond's performance in Sochi at this preseason tournament might have officially booked his ticket to South Korea. While Canada fell a little short in its goal in Sochi, Raymond put the team on his back in the bronze-medal game to help Canada to the 2-1 victory, and his six points in five games at last season's Spengler Cup shows that he can skate among the best international players out there.

Former Manitoba Moose forward Mason Raymond is my first lock for Pyeongchang!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Looking For A New Ride?

I'm not sure that anyone would visit websites like AutoTrader and search for a zamboni. No reasonable person would drive a zamboni as their everyday vehicle unless... no, there's really no "unless" situation. I don't know how often used zamboni machines are bought and sold, but it seems like there would be a very small, very niche market for these products. If you have the financial means and one becomes available that was used by a fairly recognizable hockey team, maybe you want to jump at the opportunity?

If the answer is "maybe" or better, you might want to check this eBay offering. According to the eBay listing, the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky - once home to the AHL's Kentucky Thoroughblades and the ECHL's Lexington Men O' War - is selling their zamboni that once resurfaced the ice for both teams. The cost for this piece of hockey lore? A cool $25,000.

The description is pretty amazing to read. The zamboni apparently has 1483 hours of operation under its hood, and it runs on propane or natural gas. They're selling it with four new tires, five sharp blades, and five dull blades. I'm not sure why one would want five dull blades, but to each their own.

The conditions are as follows:
Used: An item that has been used previously. The item may have some signs of cosmetic wear, but is fully operational and functions as intended. This item may be a floor model or store return that has been used. See the seller's listing for full details and description of any imperfections.
Those imperfections? "Some surface rust on driver side of tank" is the only wear-and-tear listed by the seller, lexingtoncenter. Honestly, in looking at the pictures, I can't say that the description is wrong as there are no visible dents or scratches, and it appears to be completely free of rust.

There was one thing on this listing that cracked me up, though. It's a fairly straight-forward, no-nonsense listing for a zamboni, but I think the payment options might be a little limited.
Um, I don't know about you, but how many people or businesses have a PayPal account with twenty-five grand sitting around in it, but lexingtoncenter would prefer if you could use PayPal if you're the winning bidder.

I don't think this zamboni will sell quickly.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 7 August 2017

What Part Didn't You Understand?

Today, it seems there was some serious backlash over the NHL announcing that all contracted players, including those on two-way deals in the minor leagues, will not be eligible to play in the Olympics. Apparently, this was some unknown news to many outlets as the reporting on this seemed to be aghast at this news. This confuses me because the NHL made it fairly clear a few weeks ago that any player under contract with the NHL would not be going to the Olympics. Did I miss a memo somewhere?

"A decision has been made that all players under NHL contract will be subject to similar treatment," Daly said in today's press conference.

The clarification, it seems, is that players in North America will not be granted leave for the Olympics if they are under contract to an NHL team. Those players in Europe who are under contract with an NHL team will not be subject to these NHL restrictions mostly because those players cannot be recalled at a moment's notice, so that would be why they can go. This also opens up the option for junior-aged players and players in the NCAA if the CHL and the NCAA decide that players from those respective leagues can go.

While this probably won't hurt Canada all that much, it does throw a major monkey wrench into the plans of Hockey USA. Players such as last season's leading scorer Kenny Agostino, defenceman T.J. Brennan, and goaltender Troy Grosenick are now ineligible to play in Pyeongchang where all three probably would have played large roles with Team USA. Instead, Hockey USA will have to dig a little deeper to fill out its twenty-five man roster.

Again, while I get how this weakens the American team's roster, I fail to see how this is news. The NHL was fairly clear in its initial statements of how no NHL players would go to the Olympics. There was some uncertainty over minor-league players, but it seemed pretty clear to me that players who could be recalled probably shouldn't go either. Logically, there could be a few of those players who make NHL rosters out of training camp as well. In summary, why would the NHL allow any player who is under contract at any level go if he could be recalled at any moment's notice?

I have no clue how people missed these details originally. We spoke about how players on two-way deals wouldn't be going on The Hockey Show last week. No one called in to tell us how wrong we were or how we should wait for the NHL to rule on minor-league players. I thought it was fairly clear that if a player signed a deal of any kind with an NHL team that he would be ineligible.

Well, the NHL cleared that up quickly - if you can't be recalled, you can go.

Would the Jets be cool if Jack Roslovic went to South Korea for a couple of weeks if Bryan Little got hurt while he was gone? I'm not saying that Roslovic would be the first player recalled, but the Jets may need a scoring centerman, and Roslovic fits that bill. Outside of Roslovic, do they recall Chase De Leo and hope for the best? I can't see the Jets doing anything like this when they could have had Roslovic. This is why the players signed to NHL deals aren't going.

If you want better players at the Olympics, blame your local NHL team's owner. The owners are the ones driving the bus on the "no Olympics" push this season, so take aim at them. Don't blame Gary Bettman or Bill Daly or the players for giving us a Super Spengler Cup this year. Just cheer on the players who pull on your country's sweater and enjoy the ride they take you on in South Korea.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

What Are These Leggings?

Sunday night, to many people, is Game of Thrones night. I am not one of those people. I haven't watched any full episode and I honestly don't plan on doing so. Of the many that do, though, is USA Hockey player and Olympian Hilary Knight. Miss Knight took to social media prior to the start of the Game of Thrones episode last night to show her preparation for the show in the image to the left, and I immediately noticed something that I've never seen before. If you look closely, there appears to be a laptop to Miss Knight's right and she's wearing some rather thick leggings that almost look like hockey pants. I was a little shocked that Miss Knight would "armor up" for the show, so I began looking into these "NormaTec"-branded leggings that she is wearing in the photo.

The NormaTec website is flashy with photos of athletes and blocks of propaganda about the device being sold. But what is it? What is NormaTec, and what are these leggings? What do they do?

According to the website,
NormaTec is the leader in rapid recovery—our systems give a competitive edge to the world's elite athletes, coaches, and trainers. Our goal is to establish recovery as an integral part of every athlete's training, and we feel NormaTec systems are the best way to accomplish that. The NormaTec PULSE Recovery Systems are dynamic compression devices designed for recovery and rehab. All of our systems use NormaTec's patented PULSE technology to help athletes recover faster between trainings and after performance.

Our systems include a control unit and attachments which go on the legs, arms, or hips. They use compressed air to massage your limbs, mobilize fluid, and speed recovery with our patented NormaTec Pulse Massage Pattern. When you use our systems, you will first experience a pre-inflate cycle, during which the connected attachments are molded to your exact body shape. The session will then begin by compressing your feet, hands, or upper quad (depending on which attachment you are using). Similar to the kneading and stroking done during a massage, each segment of the attachment will first compress in a pulsing manner and then release. This will repeat for each segment of the attachment as the compression pattern works its way up your limb.
Interesting, to say the least. It appears as though Miss Knight is using the "PULSE Leg and Hip Recovery System" as seen to the right as she watches Game of Thrones. In looking through the NormaTec site, there's no mention of Miss Knight's name nor USA Hockey's involvement, so this may very well be her own system. It appears that there are a lot of endurance athletes - triathletes, cyclists, and marathoners - who are using this and have associated their names with the product. As I've stated in product examinations before, it doesn't matter whose name is associated to the product unless there's some benefit. The question must be asked: does the science behind the NormaTec product show benefits for the athlete?

There are four studies linked on the website via pubmed.gov that all point to peristaltic pulse dynamic compression (PPDC) being beneficial, but I wanted some third-party reviews just to corroborate the findings on the pubmed site. The first one that jumped out at me was on Lower Extremity Review that found "that peristaltic pulse compression of the lower extremities may provide a means of enhancing the rheological properties of the lower extremities without resorting to extreme temperatures, expensive body work, or stretching." It should be noted that the author, Dr. William A Sands, works for the US Olympic Committee and NormaTec had donated several devices of which he was free to use at his discretion as long as he upheld the standards set forth by the USOC and the IOC. He writes,
I was largely free to explore these devices and their use with athletes. However, my work with any technology or methodology was and is constrained by the fact that any device I investigated could do no harm, had to function within existing USOC and IOC rules, and had to result in large effects. Sport scientists are bound ethically and pragmatically by a high regard for the time and effort of their athletes. High-performance athletes have enormous demands on their time; they simply cannot, and usually will not, take part as a research volunteer unless there are direct benefits to them. In short, I could not simply study something that was of academic interest to me; the study had to exhibit a large probability of performance and recovery enhancements.
I'd say that getting a nod of approval from the United States Olympic Committee is a good sign, but it seems that Dr. Sands has been involved in most of the studies relating to the PPDC. In knowing that the medical evidence may be influenced by one man's opinion, I decided to go to the sources that have the names of the best athletes on the NormaTec site - namely, runners and cyclists.

Alex Hutchinson wrote an article on the Runner's World blog back in February 2014 about the NormaTec science. His article was prompted much in the same that mine was when he saw a tweet from Alex Hall that showed Hall using the NormaTec leggings. This sparked Hutchinson's curiosity about the claims made by NormaTec, so he went looking for answers. He writes,
Still, popularity aside, I'd never been able to figure out whether anyone had actually tested the device to see if it works -- until a friend recently forwarded me this study from the International Journal of Sports Medicine, published last November by researchers at Massey University in New Zealand. They took 10 volunteers and put them through a bout of "damaging" eccentric exercise (3 x 100 eccentric leg contractions) then monitored their recovery at 24, 48, and 72 hours using blood samples (to look for markers of muscle damage) and tests of strength and power. Each subject went through this process twice, one with the NormaTec immediately after plus again at 24 and 48 hours, and once without it.
And the results of that medical piece, also found on the pubmed site?
Nevertheless, it is important to note that IPC may have an impact on different types of exercise. Therefore, further research is necessary to investigate the potential role of IPC to expedite muscle recovery by focusing on finding an optimal pulse pressure, pulse time, duration and frequency of its application as well as investigating the effect IPC has on other modes of strenuous activity.

In other words, "We didn't find anything but maybe someone else will." That seems like a reasonable conclusion. Personally, I suspect that there's a pretty big placebo component going on here, but it's also clear that "proving" the benefits of recovery protocols is much trickier than people suspected when they first started trying to study things like ice baths and compression. It's very hard to quantify and measure the phenomenon of "feeling good." I will say this, though: if I was going to spend $1,750 on one of these suckers, it would be nice if it produced a measurable benefit.
Ouch. That's not the kind of review one wants from a running-centric blog when one's product is aimed at recovery for runners. In all fairness, though, that's just one medical publication. There are a number of studies out there that say it is beneficial. Are there other studies that cast doubt on the product?

Actually, yes. Shane Nicolas Draper's thesis at Cleveland State University entitled Effects of Intermittent Pneumatic Compression on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in Long Distance Runners concluded that, "Although the test subjects recovered one day earlier when using the NT device (Day 4) compared to the control (Day 5), this difference was not significant." Again, not good results for those that use these devices in endurance sports, and one could say that Miss Knight plays an endurance sport with the number of times she's on the ice.

If the only benefits seen are in flexibility, I'm not saying that isn't important for a high-level hockey player such as Hilary Knight. In fact, increased flexibility in the hips and legs would prevent more injuries that are commonly seen in hockey, and that's important as she'll be on the ice more often than off it with these treatments. As an example, Martin Brodeur was a yoga enthusiast, and he played relatively injury-free throughout his career.

However, the science seems to be unproven in NormaTec regarding recovery benefits. With prices ranging between $1495 and $2545 for the NormaTec, however, this seems like a hefty price tag to gain more flexibility when there are certainly more time-tested and inexpensive alternatives such as yoga and stretching.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying NormaTec doesn't work for athletes. Every athlete has his or her own preferences for rest and recovery. For Hilary Knight, that involves the NormaTec peristaltic pulse dynamic compression system that she can afford. For weekend warriors like you and I, that price tag may prove that it might be better just to find a yoga studio or daily stretching routine that works for you. Unfortunately for marathon runners, cyclists, and triathletes, the science just doesn't pan out for muscle recovery.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

You Know, Support The Team!

I was relaxing after a long day out in the sun coaching softball, and I happened across an old episode of Seinfeld. David Puddy, played by Patrick Warburton, had a small part in the episode, but it got me thinking about how much of a fan of the New Jersey Devils hat David Puddy was. The characters in Seinfeld often went to Knicks games or Mets games, and George Costanza worked for the Yankees. Rarely was hockey mentioned, but it got its own episode in "The Face Painter" in 1995. This is the episode where Jerry receives NY Rangers playoff tickets from Alec Berg and forgets to thank him, but the name of the episode comes from Puddy's over-the-top face painting in his support of the Devils.

The whole ordeal starts with Jerry noticing Alec Berg sitting behind the glass at the Rangers game. He and Elaine are sitting in the coffee shop when he sees Berg and begins chatting with him about his TV appearance. Berg makes reference that they are season tickets and he is unable to go to the game, offering them instead to Jerry.
Elaine: Hey, isn't that Alec Berg?
Jerry: Yep, Alec Berg. He's got a good 'John Houseman' name. Alec Beeerg.
Mr. Beeerg.
Elaine: I can't stand him, he is so pretentious.
Jerry: John Houseman?
Elaine: No, Alec Berg.
Alec (approaching): Elaine!
Elaine: Hi!
Alec: Hi, how are you? Jerry.
Jerry: Hi, Alec.
Alec: Did you hear about Gary Fogel?
Jerry: Yeah.
Alec: You gonna go to the funeral on Friday?
Jerry: Yeah, hey did I see you on TV at the Ranger game? Were those your seats
right behind the glass?
Alec: Those are them, yeah. Season tickets. Uh, you know, unfortunately I
can't go tonight, so they're available if you'd like to use them.
Jerry: Oh, I'd love to, are you sure?
Alec: Absolutely, you just call my secretary, she'll arrange everything.
Jerry: Gee thanks! Thanks a lot!
Alec: It's my pleasure. Be good. (Walking away, he stops abruptly) You know,
I actually might not use them on Friday either so I'll let you know.
Jerry: Alright, thanks again.
Elaine: Thank you very much.
Jerry: Really, thank you.
That's how Jerry and Elaine get access to the tickets. We find out that George can't go due to a date, and Kramer is entirely in for the game. Elaine asks if she can bring David Puddy, and Jerry is fine with the arrangement. We'll pick up the scene there.
You already know that this whole thing with being a die-hard Devils fan is going to be a running theme, and Puddy is all over the Rangers and their fans at the game.
Puddy: You're dead, Messier! We're gonna get you, Messier!
Fan #1: Will you sit down?
Puddy: Hey man, I'm just trying to support the team.
Elaine: Will you sit down? You're disturbing everybody. Sit down!
Puddy: Oh yeah, because you're a Ranger fan and you know I'm messing with their
heads.
Just then the Devils score a goal and Puddy is back up, banging the glass.
Puddy: Go Devils!!
Again, we move to the next scene, and Puddy is reveling in the Devils' win that night. He nearly gets hit by a car, and his reaction leaves the passenger shaken.
Of course, the priest is shaken to his core, Jerry waits until the last possible moment to thank Alec Berg for the tickets causing he, Puddy, and Kramer to sit in the nosebleeds with a specific request, and Elaine almost breaks up with Puddy for being a face painter.

All in all, it might not be in the top-20 of Seinfeld episodes of all-time, but it's the only one that even mentioned hockey as a theme. It's pretty funny to think that David Puddy is a Devils fan, but that's part of the character's background. Personally, I would have loved to have seen more hockey on the sitcom, but everything for the show has already been written.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!