Sunday, September 30, 2007

British View of Hockey

Read on about the NHL games in London...

Though there are penalties in ice hockey, for high-sticking, for holding and holding the stick, there are no penalties for body checking your opponents at full speed, into a wall. Indeed, that kind of behaviour is rapturously applauded by knowledgeable fans. Such fans will need no explanation of the finer points of the game. Which is just as well. This is a sport of speed, power and violence, played without the inconveniences of offside or touchlines or namby-pamby referees. Indeed, ice hockey referees may well be the least namby-pamby officials in the sports world, since four of them must not only share the ice with two teams of aggressive hulks, but sort out the game's near obligatory brawl.

There was one of those last night, and highly entertaining it was too. The fight ended as an honourable draw, with one player from each side sitting out a five-minute penalty. The match? Oh yes, the match. The Ducks won that 4-1, revenge for defeat by the other home side on the previous evening. That match also finished 4-1, which is curious, and neat. Not entirely unlike exhibition matches after all.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My NHL Quickie Previews

Northwest Division
Colorado: Jose is French for backup?
Minnesota: Wake me up when Lemaire finds some offense.
Vancouver: Well there's Luongo and then there's....?
Calgary: When will Mount Keenan erupt?
Edmonton: Glory years available on Betamax.

Pacific Division
San Jose: No backbone, no Cup.
Anaheim: Don't open till Xmas Day, Teemu, Niedermayer.
Dallas: Play for the shootout.
Los Angeles: JS Aubin, need I say more?
Phoenix: Wayne Gretzky and Mickey Mouse together again.

Central Division
Detroit: Running up score on stiffs.
St. Louis: Best of a bad lot.
Nashville Moving vans packed for KC.
Columbus: Try 7 years out of the playoffs.
Chicago: Wirtz is gone, but same result.

Northeast Division
Buffalo: No Drury, no Briere, no problem.
Ottawa: My favourite choke team.
Boston: Just revoke the franchise.
Montreal: "Heart-and-soul" Samsonov gone.
Toronto: Gilmour and Clarke late camp invitees.

Atlantic Division
Pittsburgh Penguins: This year's Sabres.
New York Rangers: Expensive FAs never worked before.
Philadelphia Flyers: Only when Hatcher "the Anchor" is cut loose.
New Jersey Devils: Team built for a Sutter.
New York Islanders: Still begging for players.

Southeast Division
Carolina: Was Stanley Cup a dream?
Washington: Where is the defense?
Atlanta: Basillie's next target?
Tampa Bay: Who needs goaltending? Not Tortorella.
Florida: Ominous sign: the rats have left.

Leafs aren't the only team with unsettled goalie situation

In Atlanta, Kari Lehtonen and Johan Hedberg are fighting for the number 1 spot. Lehtonen's been struggling with a groin injury, and after an awful turn in the playoffs last year which opens the door for competition,

Los Angeles is a disaster with Jonathan Bernier, Jason LaBarbera, and J-S Aubin competing.

It's rare for a Stanley Cup contender to have no number 1 goalie going into the season but thats Ottawa right now. Emery's offseason surgery has opened the door for Gerber and Emery took some heat for a weak showing in the playoffs.

Phoenix is looking at David Aebischer, Alex Auld, and Mikael Tellqvist. This could be a career killing situation for at least one of them.

Tampa Bay is another contending team with no clear starter with Johan Holmqvist, Marc Denis, and Karri Ramo auditioning.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hockey Night in England

The NHL is in England to open up the new season (Anaheim vs. Ottawa). No idea why other than maybe Gary Bettman wants to see if there is anywhere on earth less interested in hockey than Phoenix, Arizona. By the way, I will actually be in Phoenix in two weeks and can provide a report back on hockey in the desert.

The Guardian ran an amusing beginner's guide to the NHL today that you can see online here. It truly is worth reading.

Audiences will be in for quite a shock when they realize that American hockey (that's what they call it) has no grass. Hope Canada's hockey goodwill ambassador, Todd Bertuzzi behaves.

Hockey Ads on Fox



Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another Reason the NHL is in Trouble

Minnesota defenseman Sean Hill is not permitted to play in the preseason as part of his 20-game regular-season suspension (19 left) for testing positive for steroids.

However, the NHL has permitted Islanders forward Chris Simon to play despite having five games left on his 25-game suspension for swinging his stick at Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg's head in March.

Mark Bell pleaded guilty to drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident and will serve jail time. He was give a 15-game suspension. He cannot play in preseason games.

In Hill's case no other player was harmed although, in addition to breaking the rules, he tarnished the reputation of the game. In Bell's case, the courts have dealt with his criminal activity. Simon viciously injured a player and may have further tarnished the reputation of the game. Simon is a risk to other players on the ice.

So where is the logic? Well, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune, "Terms of suspensions are case specific. Sean Hill's does not allow him to play."

Thanks for clarifying that Bill.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How will the Leafs do this season?

I found it very painful following the Leafs this fall. Usually in training camp there are some developments that give you some optimism going into the season. Something to make you think that this season they can do something special. I just don't have that feeling this year. The Leafs made few changes in the off season other than trade 3 high draft picks for a goalie and sign a free agent scorer. But these moves may not be enough to address last year's weaknesses.

I think the Leafs led the NHL in games lost to injuries last season. This season looks to be a repeat so far, Wellwood had to get surgery, Colaiacovo is not healthy (he rarely is) and Bell is suspended. Let's hope this is it for a while.

The forwards as a group are adequate. I'm puzzled by the Blake signing. Sundin has never had a big scorer on his line so why now. Their big weakness at forward is at centre. Sundin is 36 and has a bad hip. Wellwood has a wonky groin and they did not resign Peca. The Leafs needed to sign an eventual replacement for Sundin because none exists in the organization. So the Leafs may start the season with Kilger as their 2nd line centre. The Leafs offense was 8th overall last season which is pretty good. But to generate offense their powerplay needs to be better than decent. Without Wellwood that is not likely going to be the case.

I think everyone would agree the defense is greatly over-rated and hugely overpaid. The most expensive defense in the NHL is porous. None of the defense are overpowering in the defensive end of the rink. Most are weak on one-one, in particular McCabe since he can no longer utilize his can-opener move. Kaberle stands out because of his skating and puckhandling but he too is easily knocked off the puck on the forecheck. Too many offensive defensemen and not enough defensive ones.

If you have a great goalie then you can often get by with less than stellar defense. However, the Leafs do not have Cujo at his prime or anyone else like that. We all know what Raycroft can do. Toskala has looked shaky in exhibition games. Now these games don't count but his play hasn't exactly been inspiring. I know he is better than Raycroft but he is still unproven at the age of 30.

Special teams make or break you in the NHL. The powerplay will be weaker without Wellwood but it still has Kaberle and McCabe at the point. Tucker and Blake will be dangerous down low. The penalty killing was awful last year and with no Peca I don't see it being any better.

So if you're thinking the 41 year drought will end this year...not likely. Philadelphia and Florida will be stronger this year and push for playoff spots. Tampa Bay upgraded goaltending and Montreal as well. So I just don't see how the Leafs will slip in this year. So perhaps it will be the end of the line for JFJ finally.

Latest Headshot Victim: Dean McAmmond


Why does the NHL allow this to continue?
Senators centre Dean McAmmond left Tuesday night's game against Philadelphia with a concussion after he was sent to the ice by a flying body check by Flyers prospect Steve Downie
McAmmond had lost possession of the puck early and skated behind the Philadelphia net when he was checked hard by Downie. Downie's feet left the ice before the violent collision. Downie isn't even an NHL player.

Hearing Aid is broken


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chief Mascot Knows How to Deal With Unruly Fan

11 Year Old Gets Lost in 1/2 Marathon

A youngster ran after his dad at the start of a half-marathon race to give him a bit of support and then kept on running for the entire 13 miles.

Ian Scoggins, 12, is basking in the glory of his achievement but was in hot water at the time as he didn't tell his parents what he was up to.

His mother said: 'He only went to cheer his dad on and run the first bit with him, but then he vanished. 'After 45 minutes he still wasn't back so I started panicking.'

Dad Ian, who finished in 1 hour 45 minutes, said: 'I saw him behind me after about two minutes, then looked again and he'd gone. I assumed he'd gone back. The frantic parents enlisted the help of police on site to search for Ian.

Then all of a sudden he appeared at the finish line all red-faced. 'We asked him where he'd been and he said he'd run the half marathon. We didn't believe him, then people kept coming up and patting him on the back saying how well he'd done.

Ian said: 'My legs are really hurting now. I thought I might get lost on my way back, so I kept running. Then once I'd started I wanted to finish it.'

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sign in Clothing Store in China


You are not supposed to tell customers they are crazy. Go figure.

Someday it will all be worth it


Spelling 101


Bad spelling and grammar is ruining our society. Instead of warning drivers this sign offered them the opportunity to take the plates, setting construction back days and costing taxpayers millions.

Jewish hockey player to play on Sabbath

I had previously posted a story about Benjamin Rubin, an Orthodox Jewish hockey player who had been dropped by the Quebec Remparts because he had missed so many games because of the Jewish Sabbath. This season he is playing for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

After initially insisting he would not play on Friday nights and Saturdays, as he had not done in his rookie year in the league last year, 18-year-old Benjamin and his father, Michael Rubin, have decided to accede to his new team’s demand that he play full time, with the exception of major holidays. Rubin did not playing on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. If the team goes into the playoffs, it is also understood Rubin would not play on the first two days of Passover, which the team feels is a sacrifice at such a critical time.

He will continue to keep kosher (which for some road trips has meant taking his own food with him), will be allowed time for prayer and will be assisted by a non-Jew in keeping Shabbat rituals, his father said.

LLFHL Midget B Divisions

It's a shame that teams within 30 minutes of North York cannot be in the same division. As you can the problem with girls hockey is how spread out the team can be. So in order to include in the eastern and northern regions of the league, teams from Toronto are forced to do excessive travelling. The Mid-South division is the more fortunate group.

MIDGET B

East
Cold Creek
Durham West
Leaside
Lindsay
Northumberland
Oshawa
Scarborough
Whitby

Mid-South
Ancaster
Burlington
Flamborough
Guelph
Mississauga
North Halton
West Seneca

North-Central
Aurora
Barrie
Clearview
Etobicoke
North Simcoe
North York
Orangeville
Orillia
Vaughan

West
Belmont
Ilderton
Lambeth
Mt. Brydges
Norfolk
South Huron
Twin Centre

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Welcome to Toronto, Vesa


After allowing an unremarkable (but certainly not embarrassing) three goals in his first exhibition game in the blue and white, new Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Vesa Toskala awakened to these headlines Friday morning:

Talk about being initiated by the hometown press.

Welcome to Toronto, Vesa.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Vaughan 3, Storm 0: Still a Good First Step

Last night's exhibition game against Vaughan was fast paced but lacked intensity which would explain why there were no penalties called. The visitors walked away with a 3-0 win despite some excellent scoring changes for the Storm in the 2nd half of the game. Still, it was a good first step in team building and indicates where the team needs work. With 12 new players this season, people will need some time to become familiar with each other. There are many players either new to rep hockey or the Midget level that will need to adjust to the speed of the game.

Lot of good things were on display on the ice last night: good team speed, very aggressive forechecking by Maryssa, Marley and Sheri, some signs of strong playmaking by Mari and Genevieve and plenty of enthusiasm.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Coyotes are on MySpace

Phoenix Coyotes Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Michael Bucek announced today that the Coyotes have launched their very own MySpace page. The Coyotes Official MySpace page will allow fans to communicate directly with the club as well as with other Coyotes fans across the country.

You can see the site here, and it's a perfect fit for the attention deficit generation. I think I'm too old for this one.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Impact of the Rising Canadian Dollar on the NHL

In the January 2004 (the midpoint of the pre-lockout season), the Canadian dollar was worth about $0.78 U.S. today it's $0.97 which is a remarkable 24% increase. During that same period the NHL salary cap went from $39 million to $44 million and now up to $50.3 million which is a 29% rise. Since there are 6 Canadian teams the collect revenue in Canadian dollars, what impact does the dollar rise have on the salary cap? Probably lots.

It is a good assumption to make that the cap would not have risen to $50.3 million without the increased value of the Canadian dollar since league revenue is reported in U.S. dollars. So struggling U.S. based teams are having to pay higher player salaries to stay competitive without necessarily seeing an increase in revenue. It is likely that there is a fair amount of price elasticity when it comes to ticket sales so if teams increase ticket prices to meet the higher salary demands it will eventually impact on future sales. At some point in the future (when the Canadian dollar stops increasing or possibly falls) revenues could fall which will create a dilemma for players because it will require a drop in the salary cap. Teams with a lot of long-term contracts will be really be squeezed.

There is another possible impact which will likely appear this season. Canadian-based players have actually be taking a pay cut as the dollar rises. Since Darcy Tucker lives full time in Toronto but gets paid in U.S. dollars, his buying power has been falling. This will likely become more evident to players should the Canadian dollar rise above the American. The CBA prevents agents from negotiating contracts in Canadian dollars so will Canadian teams be a less desirable destination?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Harold Ballard's Ghost Must Live at the ACC

The Toronto Maple Leafs have brought to an end their much discussed search for a mentor, seemingly without a satisfactory candidate to guide JFJ through the next NHL season.

At one point Scotty Bowman and John Muckler were both rumoured to be on the short list to offer sage advice to young Mr. Ferguson, as he tries to return the Maple Leafs to some form of respectability. However, in the end they never came to an agreement with the Leafs, nor did the short list of other candidates that the Leafs had cooked up.

The search apparently came to an end a couple of weeks ago, as Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment closed the file and put the plan back in the filing cabinet.

A ridiculous situation where JFJ was trying to get his team set up for the upcoming season, and a t the same time his bosses seemed to be trying to undercut his managerial strength by suggesting that he might not be up to the job and required a mentor.

While Harold Ballard may be gone, somehow you sometimes get the feeling that his spirit came along when they moved from Maple Leaf Gardens to the Air Canada Centre.

Happy Birthday Genevieve


Thursday, September 13, 2007

NHL's Morality Squad

Commissioner Gary Bettman has put the hammer down on Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell today, suspending the troubled forward for 15 regular season games (without pay) for his driving under the influence and hit and run incident in the fall of 2006.

This is an interesting development, especially considering Toronto GM John Ferguson was on sports radio all last week saying he didn't believe Bell would miss any time this season. I also can't recall if the NHL ever even dealt a suspension for off-ice conduct.

It would be incredibly naive to think there's not some connection between this move by the league and all of the off-ice discipline that's occurred in other major-league sports recently (eg., Michael Vicks, etc.), something that's been pointed to as a 'crack down' on the bad boys of sport.

I applaud the NHL for recognizing that off-ice conduct impacts on the league. But I see this developing into a real quagmire. What other types of conduct is deemed to be "dishonorable, prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey"? How about Rick Tocchet who was involved in an illegal gambling ring? Dany Heatley accidentally killed a team mate because of excessive speeding - doesn't that deserve a suspension? The NHL can't be proud of the drunken brawl (and underage drinking) that the Stall brothers got into this summer? Bobby Hull was a wife beater, isn't that conduct that would be dishonourable to the league? How about cheating on your wife? Punching an annoying reporter? I could go on and on. The NHL has a hard enough time be fair and consistent in handing out suspensions for on-ice conduct. This is going to be a lot tougher.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Leaf Prediction

The following is posted on JFJ's blog.

"We are talking about going into a season where our expectations are making the playoffs and competing for the Cup. Clearly one has to precede the other, but we are not going to solely concentrate on qualifying. We want to consider making the playoffs something we pass along the way to accomplishing higher goals.

Last year was about making the playoffs. Our expectations, my expectations, are higher."

Going out on a limb aren't you Johnny? So adding Toskala, Bell and Blake make the Leafs a Cup contender. With the improvements made by Philadelphia and Florida, it will be a stretch to make the playoffs. But I will hold back any predictions until after training camp.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Canada Dominates Series


In case you weren't paying attention Canada whipped the Russians 7-0-1 in the 8-game series, completely dominating and outscoring the Russians 39-13.

Just a few things ...

1. Canada vs. Russia doesn't have any mystique to it, anymore. Sure, beating up the Russians always feels nice, but it's no longer special. The Iron Curtain is gone, we've played the Russians many times, and there wasn't anything all that different from this game from previous Canada/Russia affairs.

2. "We wanted it more!" - This cliché was actually pertinent as the Russians didn't appear all that interested in breaking a sweat. The Canadians? Sutter had them playing with gusto from the first puck drop, and they just seemed to be a lot more interested in paying the price to win.

3. The only time the Russians seemed to care was in the last game, when they started throwing a few 'sore loser' cheap shots. Canada made them pay with power play goals.

4. Canada and Russia have generally been looked at as the top 2 hockey powers in the world. Well, we know that is a-changing, with the Americans producing many more fine prospects, and the Russians churning out ... not much.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Can't We Play the Ticats Every Week?


Bishop completed 14 of 23 for 261 yards and threw two touchdown passes as the Toronto Argonauts swept their Labour Day series versus Hamilton with a 35-22 win Saturday.

Shcool

A street near Northwood Elementary in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has the word 'school' misspelled on the pavement.

Another Steeltown-Hogtown Showdown Today


Friday, September 07, 2007

New Girls League

The new girls league that is being formed to replace the Central East Girls Hockey League, North Metro Girls Hockey League and South Western Girls Hockey League now has a name - LOWER LAKES FEMALE HOCKEY LEAGUE. It's a little awkward but I'm sure it will grow on you. Here is the new website. http://www.llfhl.ca/index.html

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hockey helmet hazard alert

Health Canada has issued a warning about a vital piece of equipment for any hockey player pro, amateur or recreational.

An investigation by the Canadian Standard's Association has found that WJD Pro Ice goaltender helmets and WJD Pro “Cat Eye” face protectors, failed CSA safety standards.Helmets and face shields worn to protect hockey players may actually cause serious head and eye injuries, the Canadian government warns.

Players should immediately stop using all WJD Pro Ice goaltender helmets and WJD Pro "Cat Eye" face protectors, Health Canada said Tuesday.

An investigation by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) showed the Canadian-made equipment fails safety standards. The helmets do not give enough impact protection from falls, collisions from other players or hits from pucks or sticks.

Is anyone watching?


The Canadians didn't bring their best game to Saskatoon, but as has become apparent in this Super Series, (such as it has been) you suddenly don't need your best to topple the Russians.
In a game which saw the Canadians out shoot the Russians by a huge margin (42-17) the story could have been the missed scoring opportunities by Team Canada.

As the game moved into the third period with the two teams tied at 1-1, Canada finally found the chink in Varlamov and put the game away with three goals on the way to the 4-1 victory.

It's starting to look like a 8 game sweep which would be quite embarrassing for the Russians.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

NHL Suspends Bell

Well this was to be expected. Mark Bell has been suspended indefinitely without pay after being placed into stage two of the NHL's substance abuse program. In order to be reinstated, Bell will require the recommendation of program doctors along with the approval of both the National Hockey League and the NHLPA.

Supposedly, Bell's plea encouraged his placement into stage two as outlined by the substance abuse program even though more than a year has passed since the incident took place.

This only illustrates how desperate JFJ must have been to pick up a goalie that he would agree to take Bell as well. Although, throughout last season he repeatedly stated he was satisfied with his goaltending. I guess we know not to believe anything he says about his hockey team this season.

At least it appears Bell does not eat up cap dollars.
But hey, the Leafs also signed Tony Salmelainen (which you can pick up from uncooked chicken). He is 26 years old with a NHL career consisting of 18 points. Hope he can double that this season.

Monday, September 03, 2007

ARRRRRGOOOOOOOOOOOS!


Michael Bishop returned to the Argo lineup today and threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns to snap a five-game losing streak with a 32-14 Labour Day win over the Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The Argos have now won their eighth straight against the Cats and improved to 15-1-1 in their last 16 regular-season games versus the Ticats and 6-4-1 in their last 11 contests in Steeltown.


It's been a long hot summer


...but HOCKEY SEASONS starts for the Storm tomorrow!

Happy Birthday Lauren N


Marketing in the NHL

A friend noticed that the Dallas Stars have a new billboard marketing campaign.

And... the next time the NHL talks about "cleaning up the game," we'll know they really mean it this time:




Canada Leads 4-0 In Super Series

So far, there has been little notice of theJunior Summit Series played between the junior aged players from Canada and Russia. The first four games have already been played in Russia and Canada won all four by a combined score of 17-6.

This week, they return to Canada for the final four games in what looks like a blowout. This series is helping to overplay and possibly burnout junior aged players before they have even entered the NHL and very little interest is paid on it. It appears to be a foregone conclusion who will win before the first game in Canada is played.

The Russian hockey system is currently in disrepair. The somewhat unstable political system has let it fall apart. The Russian system still produces some incredibly talented kids in Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, but most of the rest of the talent is getting lost in a leaky pipeline. They have not been much of a match for the Canadian kids. It has been made worse due to Russian injuries to top prospects Alexei Cherepanov and Artem Anisomov, who are some of the more talented scorers on the Russian roster.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Wondering What Happened to Pavel Bure?

A few years ago Pavel Bure shent on the Rangers' injured reserve list and then disappeared off the face of the planet. Well he has reappeared - in court.

A Russian court has awarded former Bure 67,000 rubles (C$2,750) in a lawsuit he filed against British Airways after being forced to leave a plane.

Bure filed the suit after he was told to leave a plane at Moscow's Domodedovo airport that was preparing to fly to London in October. The suit said the pilot believed he was a soccer hooligan and refused to take off until Bure left the plane.

The incident occurred a day after Russian soccer hooligans disrupted another flight to Britain, reports said.

Bure filed a suit seeking 20 million rubles (C$822,000) in material and moral damages. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted his lawyer, Dmitry Ragulin, as saying he would appeal to a higher court to have the award increased.