Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hockey Team Identity Project: Wheeling Nailers

Because I'm a silly goose, I retweeted Captain Hammer's latest HTIP, but never cross posted it here. But, it's a story about not only intertwining history, but also how the team had to change it's name for some reason.
The team began in 1981 as the Carolina Thunderbirds out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At the time they were part of the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League.The Thunderbirds moved to Wheeling, West Virginia in 1992. Apparently then there was a copyright dispute with the Seattle Thunderbirds. This seems quite strange to me, the Wheeling Thunderbirds' logo was nothing like Seattle's, and teams share names all the time--Rangers, Bruins, Wolves, Chiefs, and Americans just to name a few--so I don't know what the dispute was.
To find out how the new name was gotten and how it ties into the city of Wheeling-- click this direct link for it all. I'm sad to see it wasn't named after my former accounting teacher at MSJ, Jerry Naylor. If it had, the shoulder patches would have "Debit" on the left shoulder and "Credit" on the right shoulder.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Bett and Bals": Living on the Ice Edge

Just when you though the story out of the Glendale, Arizona was going to resolved with Ice Edge Holdings being the knight in shining armor for the Coyotes....this happens. That's right, according to the Arizona Republic, the deal between the Coyotes and Ice Edge could be in trouble. The issue comes with the point that IEH has not submitted the required paperwork, five weeks past the first deadline and rapidly approaching the August 6th deadline for dealing with the arena leasing issues. Despite the claims, both IEH and the NHL say that the deal is going along just fine. Hmmm....even so, what better way to add to the gimmick of the Bett and Bals than with this.

Gary Bettman is in this scene pacing through the room, frantically trying to get some answers on the phone, while Jim Balsillie is chilling on the couch with the remote.

Gary Bettman: WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY'RE OUT OF MONEY?!? Well, get them to get some more. What do you mean it's not that easy?? Legalities, what does that mean?? Look, I don't care how they do it-- I want this problem to go away and I don't care how they do it. (hangs up phone)

Jim Balsillie: Problems again with the Coyotes, Gary??

GB: What?? No, not at all. I was just on the phone with Bill Daly and trying to get him to recharge his Dave & Buster's game card. The Coyotes are just fine, thanks.

JB: That's not what this paper says-- it says that they passed the deadline in the Glendale exclusivity race and could be running out of cash.

GB: First off, who buys a paper anymore; especially you Blackberry boy?? Second, that can't be the case. We had them all ready to go, all ready to buy the team, the arena-- the city, I think was in that deal, too. What did they do with all that money-- party too hard?? This can't be.

JB: You know, had you let this go through last year and let the team be sold to me, we wouldn't be in this mess. You know that this will interfere with the whole Kovalchuk issue, which should be your crowning achievement this season; actually standing up for yourself. Now, they're screwing the pooch.

GB: No, no, no, no-- they're still good, just a little hiccup. You see, they have to be the best-- we told Jerry Reinsdorf he wasn't needed as a name anymore and he could go enjoy the White Sox. No way we can get him back with the Sox in the AL Central race now. This mess can't happen-- we had the Coyotes Summer last year, it was the Kovalf*ck summer this year-- we mapped it all out.

JB: Look, this could be an oversight-- maybe they overdrew just a bit and couldn't come up with some handling fees. Oh, wait-- they've had months to get their stuff in order. What is it with finding the right partner with this Gary. But, it could be a blessing in disguise; if you didn't know about this-- then you could be in the same situation in a year or two.

GB: Sure, rub that in-- but that's the CBA summer in two years, sir; it's all planned out. Plus, who knows if what the City of Glendale is pumping out is true or not. They're a city who is definitely an antagonist in this process. They want the lease to their liking, the owners to their liking-- if we went extreme; it'd be the pen and paper to their liking, too. They'll do anything to keep their name out there and to keep their city out there for people to see who's really in control. It's a bitter pill to swallow.

JB: But you talk about teams signing long-term, outrageous deals with players; why not deal with the leasing that way?? Sure, it's not the same thing as trying to get away with cap fraud, but it would definitely prevent this sort of silliness in dealing with 30 year leases for already financially strapped teams. Plus, the city is way out in the sticks; how do they believe that this will help people show up.

GB: Well, if you build it they will come. And you know-- the owners and building know what they're doing. I mean, they had to get the lease for that long because of the other teams out there looking to use that building for stuff.

JB: Name two.

GB:.......that's not important right now. What is important is to calm this all over. This is still a good deal that will be going through. They'll find the money, even if they have to scrap through the sofa to get it. If not, my name isn't Casey McCall.

JB: That's not your name, that's the name of a fictional character from the TV show "Sports Night." The fact of the matter is that, sure, the city would have an arena but no tenant if I were to have bought them-- but it seems to be doing pretty well for Kansas City. They have a big, fancy arena-- but no one there to play, aside from the occasional concert or circus. And they aren't talking too much about a team.

GB: Right now they aren't, but just wait until they realize their not an island and have to change the name all around when they move there.

JB: Huh??

GB: What??

JB: Does that mean there's no light at the house??

GB: No matter, the point in all of his is that we'd be bizonkers if we though Ice Edge was going to run out of money. Sure, it's good to know now rather than actually finding out later, but we have all the faith they'll turn it around. They'll find a way to get the money, they'll come through with this alledged missing paper work that's not on file. It's just a chance for Glendale to get their name and the Coyotes name back in the fold and make things work out for their benefit and to put themselves over. The Ice Edge folks aren't the kind of guys who would lead us on to let us down-- they aren't Lou Lamoriello.

JB: Ouch-- big shot there. Speaking of which-- I looked into an arbitrator for you and he's going to come over soon. I think you'll like him because he'll definitely be on your side and not against you at all. (Doorbell rings) There he is right now.

GB: Wow, just when I think you're a guy who I may loathe, you do something redeem yourself. You're not as harsh as you look and I think that I'll talk to the Board about you. (Opens door)

Judge Redfield T. Baum: T-BOMBED!!!

GB: (falling backward) You sonuva....ahhhh

JB: And that's how you keep a running gag going, though we all saw it coming.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hockey Team Identity Project: Reading Royals

For this installment of the Hockey Team Identity Project that Captain Hammer (with a great history lesson on the Wheeling Nailers) and I are undertaking, I went to a particularly interesting case in terms of marketing and branding. For the Reading Royals, they prove that building the brand is something that is much more efficient than aligning with the parent team.

To start it off, the Royals are the reincarnation of the Columbus Chill, who voluntarily suspended operations to make way for the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the 2001-02 season, Reading was the spot for them, with the Royals name coming down from a Name-the-Team contest; but it was a solid choice. The name went in line with the affiliations they had, the Los Angeles Kings and Manchester Monarchs-- why not have the Royals as the three jewel in the crown, so to speak. The Royals went into the color scheme of having black, purple, and silver, again going along with the affiliation scheme.

The affiliation between the two went very well, but in 2008; the Kings went to the Ontario (Calif.) Reign as their top ECHL affiliate, but used Reading as a secondary affiliate. The Toronto Maple Leafs came in to become the primary affiliate for the Royals. In 2009-10, the Boston Bruins came in to be the secondary affiliate to the the Royals.

With two teams that don't have the same color scheme of as what you have now, what's a team to do?? The Royals decided to keep the name, logo, and colors they had always had, which was different from the teams they were affiliated with. Why, you may ask?? For that answer, I went to the Royals General Manager, Gordon Kaye for some insight.

"If you were to change the colors or name, you'd be throwing away seven years of brand away along with it," said Kaye. "People in Reading know the black, purple, and silver and equate it to the Royals. There's no reason to to force yourself into rebuilding what is already a good, vibrant brand when people in the area are already familiar with it."

That's not to say they didn't think about changing things around.

"We spent a lot time thinking about maybe going in a different direction, but in the end; we didn't want to lose the brand equity we had built up already. People know the name, know the logo, know the colors-- we aren't going to throw that away," explained Kaye.

This piece gave an inside look at how things go down and the process that happens should a parent affiliation decide to leave the minor league club. While you may think that some teams change just for the sake of change; it's good to know that the fans and the brand that has been instilled in the community were taken into consideration. The old adage hold true in this instance-- you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Thanks to Royals GM Gordon Kaye for taking time out and provide information about the Royals history and the process that went along with it. Go to for more info about the Royals.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Pat Riggin

While we're in the dog-days of summer; I came across this week's AGM with an interesting note during his junior career; as well as getting noticed from his performance in the WHA first before joining up in the NHL. He went from team-to-team, league-to-league, and city-to-relocation city. We'll take a look at the career of Pat Riggin in this week's AGM.

Starting off, Riggin played with the London Knights of the OMJHL (now OHL) and played there for three seasons from 1975-76 until 1977-78; finishing with a GAA of 3.43. However, even with the wonders of the internet; there is no record available for Riggin in his OHL days. The only time Riggin wasn't with the Knights is when they loaned him to the Ottawa 67s for the 1977 Memorial Cup. The 67s got to the final game, but lost to the New Westminister Bruins. Riggin was named Top Goaltender of the Memorial Cup and named the All-Star Team, as well. In 1999, Riggin was named goalie of the London Knights all-time team.

Riggin went undrafted in the NHL following his final junior season, so he signed on with the WHA's Birmingham Bulls for the 1978-79 season. Riggin was one of six teenagers to sign with the Bulls (Craig Hartsburg, Rob Ramage, Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, and Gaston Gingras the others); which helped earn Birmingham the nickname of the Baby Bulls. Riggin went undetered on an inexperience team, playing 46 games and going 16-22-5 for the year with a 3.78 GAA. However, when the WHA folded, Riggin didn't know what would happen next.

Luckily, Riggin was picked in the second round of the 1979 NHL Draft to the Atlanta Flames. Riggin started the 1979-80 season in a familiar place; going to the Central League's Birmingham Bulls for 12 games (8-2-2) before getting the call to move up to Atlanta. In Atlanta, he made the most of his chance behind Daniel Bouchard, going 11-9-2 in 25 games. As the Flames moved to Calgary from Atlanta for the 1980-81 season; Riggin moved into a bigger role for the Flames, as he would takeover the starting role when Bouchard was traded to Quebec. Riggin had 42 games for the season and would go 21-16-4 and he would help carry the Flames to the NHL Semi-finals, but lost in six games to the Minnesota North Stars. Back in the starter role for the 1981-82 season, as Riggin would have a somewhat so-so year, going 19-19-11 and going 0-3 in the Playoffs, as the Flames were swept by the Vancouver Canucks.

In June of 1982, Riggin was traded with Ken Houston to the Washington Capitals for Howard Walker, George White and draft picks. Riggin would get into a tandem situation with Al Jensen for the 1982-83 season; with Riggin getting 38 games and going 16-9-9 for the Caps. Riggin would see three appearances in the playoffs, but would go 0-1 in a quick exit by the Caps in the first round. Riggin and Jensen would be the two-headed monster for the Caps in the 1983-84 season, seeing Riggin getting 41 games in with a 21-14-2 record; as well as going 1-3 in the playoffs. Riggin and Jensen would win the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals-against in a season. Riggin also played three games in the AHL with the Hershey Bears going 2-0-1. For the 1984-85 season, Riggin got most of the starts due to Jensen going down to an MCL injury midway through the season. Riggin wouldn't disappoint, going 28-20-7 in 57 games, but it would lead to another quick exit for the Caps in the first round. Riggin would be back in the fold for the 1985-86 season, but it lasted only seven games going 2-3-1 in those games.

In November of 1985, Riggin was traded to the Boston Bruins for former AGM Pete Peeters. Many believe that Riggin was traded from the Caps, even though he was at the top of his game, due to the remarks he made following a game in the World Championships. Riggin was playing for Canada and beat the US. After the game, Riggin said he was motivated because he was tired of the US players taking jobs in the NHL. Now, most of the Caps top players at the time were American; like Rod Langway, Bobby Carpenter, and Dave Christian and it probably didn't sit well with management with these comments.

Riggin would assume the tandem role for the Bruins, playing 38 games and going 17-11-8 in those starts. Riggin would start the 1986-87 season with the Bruins, playing 10 games going 3-5-1 but would be send down to the AHL's Moncton Golden Flames due to the logjam in Boston's net. Riggin would go 6-5-2 in 14 games with Moncton before he was on the move again.

Riggin would be traded in February of 1987 to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Roberto Romano. Riggin would play 17 games with the Penguins that season and go 8-6-3. Riggin would start off the 1987-88 season with the Penguins, playing in 22 games (7-8-4), but would be pushed out in another logjam in net. He would be sent to the IHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks and went a solid 13-2-0 with a 2.70 GAA; but would only go 1-1 in two playoff games. At the age of 28 and seemingly unwanted-- Riggin retired after the 1987-88 season.

Riggin seems to have faded onto obscurity these days, but he did plenty in his short career; including playing in a Memorial Cup his team wasn't even apart of. And while he may have burned some bridges along the way; he did well with what he had in front of him and was able to get some individual accomplishments along the way.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Hockey Team Identity Project: Grand Rapids Griffins

With this installment of the HTIP, I've decided to go to a team who has kept the same identity though a merger/takeover, but only accented their look a bit when they got an affiliate who's colors were somewhat different to the team's original identity. This time, we're looking at the Grand Rapids Griffins and how they were able to blend in the theme of a parent club without compromising the original identity.

The Griffins' owners were awarded an expansion franchise by the IHL in fall of 1995. The team then went with a "Name-the-Team" contest, which drew thousands of entries. The name Griffins were on multiple entries and thus the name was born. The griffin is a mythological creature with the body of a lion, but head and wings of an eagle. When I asked Senior Director of Public Relations Randy Cleves about it, he said that the ownership thought the griffin's traits of being fierce, tough, aggressive, smart, and a bit of a smart-alec transferred very well to the identity of a hockey team.

The Griffins then had to turn to a logo, which was made by Sean Michael Edwards Design, which is based out New York. Edwards' design depicted the spirit of the team name properly with logo' giving it a fierce look while giving the elements of the mythological creature a modern feel to it. The original colors of the Griffins were navy, green, gold, silver, with red accents to the logo. That was the scheme that was used when the team entered the league in 1996, up until the end of the 2001-02 season, as seen below.

For the 2002-03 season, the Griffins dropped the green accents are added more red to them, as they had an affiliate with the Detroit Red Wings. The Griffins even started to incorporate the parent's team identity with an alternate jersey what was like the Red Wings, but with a whited-out alternate and primary Griffins' logo and jersey to match that of the Red Wings. Even so, the Griffins kept their identity from day-to-day, even though the red in the pants stand out from the rest of the navy motif they have for themselves; seen below.

While they may have changed a bit, it wasn't as drastic as many others that have come over from the IHL, though the Chicago Wolves have pretty much stayed the same, as have the Manitoba Moose. Either way, the unique name that ties into a solid mentality; plus a color scheme that gives the team their own identity while blending in the parent affiliation makes for a solid identity and one that people won't confuse for another.

Thanks again to Randy Cleves, Senior Director of Public Relations for the Griffins for the information. Check out for more info about the Griffins.

Monday, July 19, 2010

........Annnnnd Scene

After 18 days, after numerous rumors and buzz-- Ilya Kovalchuk re-signed with the New Jersey Devils, ending the longest and most gut-wrenching (good and bad) free agency saga in the NHL. Since we haven't seen a caliber player like Kovalchuk hit the free agent market, it's no surprise it took this long and took this many turns, the last one being the New Jersey Devils' Twitter Feed beating EVERYONE to the punch.

First, I CALLED THE DAY....though the team was wrong and the terms are yet to be announced, but don't doubt my dumb-luck, folks.

Second has to do with those unannounced terms (though some say 17 years) and what it means for the long-run. Greg Wyshynski said that in no way do the Devils risk putting Zach Parise signing long-term in jeopardy with an outrageous contract for Kovalchuk. And we all know that Lou Lamoriello does have a very keen sense to manage the salary cap to his liking and move around money without much of a hassle of getting caught up in any trouble. Maybe you should watch the transaction wires as the season draws close.

Also, as an aside, Ilya's agent (Jay Grossman) should be considered for the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey with Ilya, Anton Volchenkov, and Johan Hedberg-- all his clients-- playing on the same team. Now, Grossman doesn't have to make multiple trips to check up on some of his bigger named players.

Now, while many people said the Kings were the destination, the point was brought up that Ilya didn't want to play in the West Coast, which is understandable. In 55 games in Western Conference buildings, Kovalchuk has a normal 20 goals and 20 assists, which would be very shaky when trying to justify a big time contract, and maybe Ilya knew that and wanted to stay out East. Now, for the Kings-- they'll have to look elsewhere; maybe Simon Gagne going out there; but it's a good move for them not to risk the future for the superstar.

It's finally done, and I think that's all that matters. Now, we can see some other moves, some trades, some signings, and maybe focus more on the like of Mike Modano, Marty Turco, and others who may be out there and forgotten because of all of this mess.

Absurd Goalie Monday: Alain Chevrier

With the debate raging on about the rules when it comes to recruiting players for the NCAA and how it will deal with schools losing out to major junior teams, we'll take a look at a goalie who played both sides of the game before the rule of a major junior player being unable to play in the NCAA if they played in major junior. We'll look at the career of Alain Chevrier.

Chevrier would start off his journey in the QMJHL with the Cornwall Royals, but only saw seven games of action for the 1978-79 season, something that would not get him much notoriety if he wanted to progress onward with his career. He would spend 34 games with the Ottawa Jr. Senators of the OJHL and would come out with a 3.93 GAA, but it would not be enough for Chevrier to stay in the major junior scene of things. It seemed that he may have to give up and presue other venture outside of hockey, which saw him move from his home in Cornwall, Ontario to attend Miami University of Ohio in Oxford, Ohio.

While the Miami-Ohio program was in it's infancy when Chevrier joined for the 1980-81 season, playing as an independent team. It saw Chervier get in 16 games with a 3.39 GAA and took home the Rookie of the Year prize for the team. When Miami-Ohio joined the CCHA in the 1981-82 season, Chevrier was along for the ride, but only got in 19 games and had a so-so season, going 8-10-1. His playing time would increase in the 1982-83 season, playing 33 games and going 15-16-1, helping Miami-Ohio get to the CCHA tournament; but they lost to Ohio State on aggregate goals in their two-game set. For his senior season in 1983-84, Chevrier had a rough issue for his last 32 games, going 9-19-1 and leaving on a down note.

Undrafted and out of school, Chevrier went out to push his wears to the minor leagues; for which he got picked up by the IHL's Fort Wayne Komets for the 1984-85 season and would actually be the winner of the huge pool of goalies the Komets had. That pool included former AGM's Pokey Reddick and Daniel Berthiaume; as well as Hannu Kamppuri, Dave Parro, Gil Hudon, and Luc Guenette. Chevrier played 56 games and went 26-21-7, helping the Komets get into the playoffs; where he would go 5-4 in nine games, being eliminated in the second round.

Chevrier got noticed by the New Jersey Devils, who signed him to a contract for the 1985-86 season; though the Devils had a logjam in net of their own. Chevrier would have to fend off Chico Resch, Kirk McLean, Sam St. Laurent, and former AGM Craig Billington to get his 37 games in, in which he would go 11-18-2 on a very subpar Devils team. Chevrier would become the defacto starter for the 1986-87 season, beating out Billington, McLean, Karl Friesen, and another AGM Chris Terreri. Chevrier would have a better season, going 24-26-2. Chevrier would split time in the 1987-88 season with Bob Sauve and then returning from Olympics Sean Burke, which saw Chevrier only get 45 games going 18-19-3 with a solid-for-the-time 3.77 GAA.

Thanks to the logjam, Chevrier was traded on July 19, 1988 (hey, an anniversary) to the Winnipeg Jets along with a 7th round pick for Steve Rooney. Chevrier would be in another logjam in Winnipeg, behind Reddick, Berthiaume, Tom Draper, and another AGM Bob Essensa. Chevrier would play only 22 games going 8-8-2 before he was on the move again.

In January of 1989, Chevrier would be traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fourth-round pick in the draft. Chevrier would be thrown into the starting role thanks to struggles from Ed Belfour and other AGMs Jimmy Waite and Darren Pang. Chevrier had a hot hand in 27 games going 13-11-2 and would be the starter for the playoffs; getting the Hawks to the Campbell Conference Finals before losing to the eventual Cup Champion Calgary Flames. Chevrier would get caught up with a competition with another AGM Jacques Cloutier for time in the net-- only getting 39 games in going 16-14-3 before he was on the move once again.

Chevrier would be traded in March of 1990 to the Pittsburgh Penguins for future considerations. However, it would be a short stint for Chevrier, who only got three games in with the Penguins, going 1-2-0 before not getting re-signed by the Penguins.

For the 1990-91 season, Chevrier got picked up by the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent, but only saw three games of action (0-2-0) in the NHL as he would spend most of the time in the IHL, where he started his pro career. Chevrier would play with the San Diego Gulls for 32 games, teaming up with Scott Brower, Glen Hanlon, and Mark Reimer in net. For his 32 games, Chevrier would go 10-16-1 and with no other work in the NHL available, Chevrier hung up the pads after that season.

While Chevrier's whereabouts are unknown, it goes with two topics going on with what's happening now with the Major Junior vs. College debate and what to do when goalies can't find a job (read: Marty Turco) and what they could do in the future and know when to say when. Though he did find a way for himself by going to the minors, it seems that option is no longer viable with all the minor leagues being affiliated with NHL teams and lack of independent teams. Chevrier was the last of a dying breed of getting noticed through the minor league route, which may be something that needs to be looked into to get more diverse talent into the NHL....or not.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When To Say When

The retirement of Rod Brind'Amour is something has been going through my head and the subject of whether some players know when to call it quits. Especially when you look at what Mike Modano is doing right now, which is the better option for some people. I can understand the drive some players my have; but is there a time where guys have something go off and say it's time to quit or do they need to be forced out because they're not needed. It's old conundrum if it's better to burn out or fade away.

Brind'Amour's plight is something that is a little more embarassing in my eyes. He's a guy who had a decent run for himself and didn't seem to see the signs that the game had passed him by. Sure, there were signs of brilliance every now and again, but not enough to warrant him playing past his expiration date. The fact that in his past two seasons he was a combined -52 (-23 and -29 respectively), plus his numbers have dropped and his need dropped-- which is something we saw when his captaincy was taken and given to Eric Staal-- something we all saw coming, but didn't see it in such a dramatic fashion. It didn't seem that Brind'Amour saw the writing and while he was very fit and had the conditioning, it didn't seem to play a factor into it all.

Mike Modano seems to be going that same route, but his is a bit interesting. Modano got a great big send-off in his last game in Minnesota, many in Dallas thought he was done, he got the big fanfare there and that should have been it, it would have been the magical ending to a great career. However, with him shopping himself around; it almost seem like a Brett Favre situation and we're all going to deal with this issue with him every time. You have to wonder if Modano is going to the be the new Chris Chelios and never really retire, but creep around and hope he gets a bite here and there. More over, for a guy who was with the Stars franchise his entire career; it would have been great to see him retire and show that you don't need free agency to have a nice career-- but now, will he taint his legacy by going to not only another team; but one who is a rival.

While I mentioned Chelios puttering around the various leagues looking for a gig, is that better or worse than guys like Theo Fleury or Claude Lemieux, who were taking a hiatus from playing all together, leading their post-retirement lives, then coming back out of the blue. At least with Chelios, he's staying in some kind of game shape and making himself out there, while the stuff of Lemieux and Fleury reeked of a sideshow and publicity stunt; especially with Fleury who had a book coming out at the same time.

While it's nice to have the drive for the game, there's a time where it become more of a distraction than anything else. It's the sideshow and maybe with the coverage of whether or not he can hack it with a new team that'll be something that's unneeded on most teams. Plus, the pressure that will come on the GM that sign him and backlash he could get from it all may be detrimental to him in the long-run as well.

While these guys have a solid career, it seems them almost having to be forced out of their place in the line-up is a bit of a shame and something they shouldn't have to go through to be forced out. Is there too much of a drive?? Is there not seeing the signs of giving up?? Is it just not having anywhere to go after it's all said and done?? Whatever it is, I feel they should have seen the signs before and not let their career slide off as much as it did before the called it a day in the sport. Of course, it's easy for me to say on this side of the table.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Hockey Team Identity Project: Regina Pats

Well, the Girl did it again-- going with the WHL again and head up with the Regina Pats.
As for the name, it comes from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battalion. The regiment was founded in August of 1914, as World War I was underway, Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault was willing to provide $100,000 to finance and equip a battalion for overseas service. The rest of the cost of building the regiment was financed by the Canadian Department of Militia and Defence. The existence of the Regiment was approved by the Governor-General, His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis D. Farquhar was the Duke's military secretary suggested the new Regiment be named after the Duke's youngest daughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught. The request was sent to the Princess and she gave her permission.

When the junior hockey team was introduced in 1917, they chose to honor the Infantry battalion by selecting the same name. In fact, the modern Regina Pats still have the Regiment's insignia as their shoulder patch.
To read more and to find out why they use a bulldog-- CHECK OUT THE LINK!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Armchair GM: Where Are The Possibilites??

With so much going on about Ilya Kovalchuk, there's still a decent amount of decent players still out on the market that haven't been picked up yet. At the same time, there's a lot of things that need to happen in order for them to get signed and many of them may have to wait until late-August/early-September for the signings to happen. In any case, here's my thoughts on some of the more prominent FAs and what needs to happen (and maybe some destinations) for them to get signed.

Marty Turco-- While no one can dispute his skill or hockey sense, the fact his salary demands could be high and his record is down (but individual stats somewhat up) are the stumbling points. Plus, he's a high-priced possibility in a position that is logjammed across the board, so he doesn't have a spot and he's priced him out of the unavailable spot. Quite the conundrum. What needs to happen is that he needs to open up his options and maybe see if he plays in a tandem situation and maybe be a mentor to the younger guys out there. Possibilities: There's really nowhere for him to go. Atlanta signed Chris Mason and will re-sign Ondrej Pavelec most likely and other places already have a solid tandem. He picked the wrong year to go on the market.

Paul Kariya-- Injury woes have brought down the former star, as well as the salary possibility. However, he could fill the role of a scorer or a role player. While his points have dropped off, he does have the ability to get back up into the scoring role if need-be, which is something that could be good if he goes to the $2M range or something of that ilk. If he's a cheap get, then people will be flocking to get Kariya. Possibilities: If the Penguins are looking for a winger to play with Sidney Crosby, then this is the pick-up for them. Kariya could dish the puck and put it in the net if need be. Even somewhere like Ottawa, if Jason Spezza is still there-- that's a place he could revitalize his scoring touch.

Jay McKee-- McKee made $800k last year and is a solid defenseman who will throw his body in front of the puck at all cost. Granted, the shot-blocker does cause a lot of injuries and he's not the most sturdiest of d-men, but at the same time; he's a guy who could go to a young defense at a cheap cost and be reliable. He just needs to get his name out there, which is something that is getting lost in the Kovy-Mania. Possibilities: Phoenix could be the way to go, as they lost Zybeck Michalek and I don't think they could rely too much on Sami Lepisto to do what McKee does, at the same price. Maybe, if he wants to stay out East, head to Carolina; who could use some extra protection in front of Cam Ward.

Alexander Frolov-- Known as "Kovalchuk Zero", as he is like Kovalchuk; minus his skill, Frolov could be a guy that would need a scenery change to revitalize his career. Of course, the thoughts about his attitude and then maybe looking at what he may ask especially considering there's not much else out there on the terms of talent on the left-hand side and with guys like Derek Boogaard and Jody Shelley getting over a million a year at the same position; he could price himself all the way to Omsk of the KHL. Possibilities: Aside from going back to Russia, maybe a trip to Pittsburgh or even St. Louis may be a destination, though I'm not sure if anyone will want to take a chance on him if he'll be bi-polar with his play.

With not much else on the horizon and the pretty much holding pattern until Kovalchuk does make his move, then this is what we can do with speculation on other guys not named Ilya. There's a fine crop outside of IK17; but because he's hogging the headlines; many good names are being overlooked.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Greg Stefan

There has been a rash of goalie who have had a short-fuse. Plenty of them like to dusk it up because the net is there area and they don't want anything to happen around it. However, this week's AGM has had a string of dust-ups and even got ejected for sparking a bench-clearing brawl when he was sitting on the bench and not even suited up. Not many of them, however, were confused for a soon-to-be legend. This week, we look at the career of Greg Stefan.

Stefan was born in Brantford, Ontario and was childhood friends with Wayne Gretzky, as they grew up in the same neighborhood. Interesting fact is that Stefan and Gretzky looked alike and when Gretzky got tired of signing autographs during a tournament in Quebec; Gretzky passed his jacket off to Stefan and let Stefan sign Gretzky's name for the masses. There has been a rumor about Stefan signing Gretzky with a "s" and not a "z" but nothing confirmed.

Stefan's career started off after being picked fifth overall by the Oshawa Generals in the OMJHL (now OHL). He would start off in the 1978-79 season, playing 33 games behind Georges Gagnon with a 4.88 GAA for the season. The 1979-80 season would bring difficulties for Stefan, as he would only play 17 games fighting it out with Jamie Boyer to back up Rollie Melanson. Stefan would go 8-6-0 with a 3.88 GAA in that season. Stefan would take over the starting role in the 1980-81 season, but would miss some games toward the end of the season due to being suspended six game for breaking his stick over Brett Wilson of the Toronto Marlies in March of 1981. Despite that, Stefan played 48 games and went 23-14-3.

Thanks to his performance, Stefan was selected in the seventh round of the 1981 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. He immediately went into the Red Wings system in the 1981-82 season with the Adirondack Red Wings of the AHL. Stefan would play behind Larry Lozinski going 11-13-3 with two shutouts and a 3.78 GAA in 29 games. Stefan would also see two games of action in Detroit, going 0-2-0 in this appearances. Stefan would go up to the Red Wings as a full-timer in the 1982-83 season, playing in a rotation with Corrado Micalef, Gilles Gilbert, and one appearance by Jim Rutherford. Stefan would play 35 games, going 6-16-9 on a dismal Wings team. While he would battle off some injuries on the 1983-84 season, Stefan improved his game and went 19-22-2 in 50 games, but when 1-2 in the playoffs. The 1984-85 season saw Stefan get less games due to missing a month with a shoulder injury, but went 21-19-3 in his 46 games, again only playing three playoff games and going 0-3. During his shoulder injury, however, Stefan got ejected while on the Detroit bench during a game in February 1985. The Minnesota North Stars head coach Glen Sonmor said Stefan sucker-punch Stars' player Tom McCarthy, which incited a bench-clearing brawl.

It got crazy in the 1985-86 season, as Stefan would miss the first eight games because of a stick-swinging incident during the 1985 playoffs. Later, during the season-- Stefan was suspended six more games for another swinging incident in December. With all of that, Stefan played 37 games and went 10-20-5 on the season. It was a bounce-back year for Stefan in the 1986-87 season, as he was feeling pressure from Glen Hanlon as a back-up, but Stefan would go 20-17-3 on the year, as well as going 4-5 in his nine playoff games. Hanlon would usurp Stefan's starting role in the 1987-88 season thanks to a knee injury to Stefan, though he would get a good amount of time in-- playing 33 games and going 17-9-5 and then going 5-4 in 10 playoff games, before getting beat out by his buddy Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers. Stefan would be injured during Game Two of the Edmonton/Detroit series after getting hit by Craig Simpson. Stefan would have a relatively healthy 1988-89 season, playing through some back pain and going 21-17-3 in 46 games, but had another short playoff-- going 2-3 in five games.

The 1989-90 season would be a short one for Stefan, as he would only play seven games (1-5-0) before suffering a serious knee injury during a game in late November; tearing up his ligaments. He would play only three games in January of 1990 with Adirondack (1-0-1), but would get the surgery in March of 1990 to repair his knee. Stefan returned to Detroit's camp, but would need more surgery before the 1990-91 season. It wouldn't be until February before Stefan would return to action, but would only play two games in Adirondack before re-injuring his knee, which led him to retire as he wouldn't have another surgery to his knee. He left his playing days at age 29.

His days in hockey weren't done, as he would start coaching in 1993 with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings as an assistant and would be with the team in their first OHL championship in 1995. Stefan moved with the team when they moved to Plymouth and became the Whalers; but Stefan would be offered a position by the Carolina Hurricanes, who's GM is Jim Rutherford; an old goaltending partner with Stefan in Detroit. Stefan did everything in the Hurricanes organization from a scout to assistant coach and actually got a Stanley Cup ring as a scout in 2006. Stefan would return to Plymouth to be the head coach in 2007, but would have troubles going 16-20-3 when he took over the team in the middle of the 2007-08, then getting ousted in the first round. He would come back for the 2008-09 season, but after getting off to a 6-11-3 start; he would step down and head back to the Hurricanes in a scouting role, but was let go earlier this month (July 1, 2010) by the Canes.

While he did have some famous friends, he managed to make a name for his own and have a decent career. While he did have to go through some injury issues and some attitude issues; Stefan did his best and succeeded to stay in the NHL even with those things working against him. He had a go afterwords, and saw some success there; but the future remains to be seen on what he'll do next.

EDIT 07.14.13: As seen in the comment section, Greg's son Joe gave us an update:  "He was the Goaltending Coach/Assistant Coach with the Hurricanes from 2006-2008. He was the one that put Cam Ward in.. and the rest is history. He's back with the Hurricanes now 2012-2015 is his contract."

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Hockey Team Identity Project: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Like was put forth by The Girl in her look at the Tri-City Americans yesterday, the key for this project is to get more inside the name of some of the unique team names. If anything, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers encompass that in that they have a very unique name and identity. In fact, so much so; many people think the location of the team is Bridgeport Sound, much like Owen Sound of the OHL. However, the city of Bridgeport is it's own entity, yet the name does have to do with a sound.

For this, I went to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and got a great response from the Sound Tigers' Marketing Assistant, Mr. Tom Morris. The insight he provide from the team's name and how the color palette today came about.

When it came to the name, it's broken up in two bits. First, the Sound part of it has to do with the Long Island Sound. "The Sound, as it’s commonly referred to around here, is a huge part of the city’s economy and serves as the link to Long Island. We have been affiliated with the NHL’s New York Islanders from day one, so this stresses the link between the two organizations." Morris continued with the Tigers side, "Tigers are the key attraction at Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo and are also symbolic of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which began in Bridgeport. P.T. Barnum is an iconic figure here and even served as mayor of Bridgeport at one point."

So, the name serves a very historical and symbolic pattern to the team and area. It's very apropos when including the Sound and having the symbolism that links Long Island and Connecticut, much like the Islanders connect to the Sound Tigers. While I'm sure I had some kind of idea of the Long Island Sound being a part of it, now that I definitely know about it-- makes it that much more awesome of a name.

Many of you may or may not know that the Sound Tigers were the first team on and the old BCM Hockey Network that the Face Off Hockey Show is apart of and still is, though under the new All-In Broadcasting incarnation. When the team first started, their jerseys and color scheme was very unique and while they were connected with the Islanders, didn't have much of an Islanders trace to it, as shown below.

(Photo from "OneTigerFan" Flickr account via Google Image Search)

However, that's when the Sound Tigers were working as an ownership independent of the parent team. Morris went on to talk about why the team changed from that motif to a the color scheme closer to the Islanders.

"The change in colors came when the Islanders owner (Charles Wang) purchased our team, as well. The idea was to emphasize the affiliation to the benefit of both organizations, building the Islanders fan base in Connecticut and cross-selling the minor league team to die-hard Islanders fans who want to keep up with the team’s prospects. We tweaked our colors last year ahead of the Islanders upcoming change to new vintage-themed uniforms."

That change you can see on this photo below this text.

With all of this, the Sound Tigers seem like the perfect fit to this project. The name is something that many people may seem silly, but when you dig deeper into it, the meaning of name is a perfect fit to not only the affiliation, but the town as well. These are the connects that will mean much more than having most fan voting systems to pick names.

Much thanks once again to Tom Morris, the Marketing Assistant for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. For more information, head to for all things Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Hockey Team Identity Project

One day, during our splendid G-Chat conversations, The Girl and I thought about doing a project together, dealing with the identity of certain hockey teams. From the name to the logo, even to the color scheme; we wanted to know why they chose what they did to make their "brand." Now, NHL teams are easily accessable when it comes to finding out where the name and colors came from, so we decided that we would do the minors and junior hockey to find out what happened where.

My first piece should be coming out next week, but The Girl got right to it, starting off with her team-- the Tri City Americans.

Obviously, on this blog, I have to start with the Americans. Bear with me, it's not anything terribly unique or unusual, there are several other teams named the Americans in North America--Rochester Americans (AHL) who go by the annoying nickname "Amerks". Don't know why, but that IRKS me...heh. There's also the Allen Americans (CHL), who have a bitchin' logo.

The Rochester Americans have been in existence since 1956, to my knowledge the first to use the name "Americans". One of the more famous Amerks alumni being none other than Don Cherry himself. So how did our lovely team get the name Americans? The name came to be when the team moved to Tri-Cities in 1988, but that was not the beginning of this organization.....

For more on her piece, which is very well done, check it out AT THIS LINK and enjoy.

Why Not US??

For those who are following the TSN's summer series this week of "Why Not Canada??", their series of why couldn't there be another team in Canada; then you'll know that it's a bit of the same stuff people spout off most the time when it comes to relocation or expansion-- the normal cities come up: Winnipeg, Quebec City, Hamilton, and Toronto. We all know these cities would be able to sustain; but in reality, the act of it happening seem to be slim.

So, whilst we worry about what's going on with Ilya Kovalchuk and then where Marty Turco will back up; it's time to go off and wonder the semi-yearly thoughts about what US cities could be a destination of expansion or relocation. If nothing more, much like TSN putting this on-- this all filler and no killer.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: The arena is build, state-of-the-art (pictured above), and already hoped to have a team for the time it opened. Yet, it is now almost three years old and there's only been assorted concerts, NCAA basketball tournaments, and arena football. Hell of a way to use the $276M spent on this arena. And yes, they have had the same issue where they had a team before and it didn't work out; but so did Denver and Atlanta and they got teams back. Sure, this could be another Atlanta issue, but don't know if you don't try-- especially if you move Atlanta to Kansas City-- then it's a push. The KC area is somewhere that seem like it could get the exposure based on their media rankage at 31st in the entire US; but even with the new arena-- is the area ready for a team. Granted, it'd be something new outside of the Chiefs and Royals, both whom get menial support; yet would it be something people would come out to make work?? Doubtful, but always worth a try.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST: There's always been a big push for either Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon to get a pro hockey team, being close enough to Vancouver to have some kind of rivalry based on territorial right and being one of the markets that the NHL has really never represented, unless you count the old PCHA....which I don't. The Pacific Northwest does have quite the hockey heritage with the Portland Rosebuds being the first US team to compete for the Stanley Cup (1916) and the Seattle Metropolitans being the first US team to win the Stanley Cup (1917). However, since then-- pro hockey hasn't been the hot topic. While both areas are very solid with major junior hockey teams; I don't know how well the pro game would be accepted. While the arenas in both arenas are under 20-years old, whether they'd be filled if a team got there (even if an owner stepped forward) is another story entirely.

HOUSTON, TEXAS: While it may be a wild-shot in the dark, but Houston had been mentioned in early expansion and relocation issues in the late '90s and early '00s and with the Toyota Center there, it could be a solid place to get a team into there. Granted, they get 6,000 for the AHL's Houston Aeros; the argument of whether or not they'd be able to get big numbers for the big clubs that happen there. Plus, they'd displace the Aeros, who have a decent history there from the WHA to the IHL to now in the AHL. I'm sure the NHL could take over the name and keep the tradition going, but if they'd have the clout to work it out for the best will always remain to be seen.

There's plenty others, but these three are the big places that a team could possibly work. Sure, the conversation about whether or not they'd be able to draw the big crowd if they moved there will always be there. You'll always get the debate of if these places are better or worse than another, if they deserved a team in the first place, and this, that and the other. The whole debate about relocation and expansion is silly until the NHL is actually serious about doing it. However, it's always a topic of great fun, great debate, and probably war amongst other factions that'll make the internet worth having. That said-- this is what summer is all about because you'll surely get these debates through and through, as it is always the Summer of Relocation.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Waiting With Bated Breath or Anguished Annoyance

While it seems that Ilya Kovalchuk is biding his time to make his decision, it's an annoyance to many who just want it over by now. For two days, the hockey world has been waiting to see where this year's biggest unrestricted free agent will go. While many have him going to New Jersey, will it be that exciting if he does or will it be a huge letdown??

Especially with everyone expecting Kovalchuk to go to LA, for him not to go there would probably be the most shocking thing. They seem to have the need for him, the money for him, and the spot for him, with the players that could compliment him and a system that could work with him. So why not go there in order to make things work out. It seems he's reluctant to play on the West Coast, which I could understand. Not just dealing with the LA traffic, but the travel out West is insane, so for a guy so used to staying in the same time zone-- his effectiveness on the West Coast could be the biggest reason why he's going to balk at the idea of playing out West.

So, while the LA thing may not work out, would New Jersey be such a bad thing?? For the short-term, not so much; though they would be back into an issue of the salary cap and it'd be harder to make some of the contracts disappear. Plus, they'd have to make decisions on some key players pending on how much Kovalchuk receives in his contract. Especially with franchise player Zach Parise becoming a restricted free agent next season and looking for a raise more than likely, some things will have to be moved-- like Patrik Elias or Travis Zajac or another higher priced player. Is the skill and ability of Kovalchuk worth blowing up your team for?? If you say it is, like it seems Lou Lamoriello is thinking-- then you can afford to do that without second-guessing. However, I think most GMs wouldn't think that way.

On a fan level, how much of a letdown will this be if the end result is that he's staying where he was traded?? The big thing when he was traded to Jersey was that he wouldn't be staying there after the season. If he stays there, it seems like a big to-do about nothing; which really puts a sour feel on the whole UFA market, since there really hasn't been too much of a shock in terms of who signed where. If the biggest UFA doesn't do anything, then we sit and watch what will happen with the remaining players, if anything-- which probably won't be as dramatic-- nor would it be dramatic if Kovalchuk stays in the swamp.

Whatever may come of it-- the grasp that Kovalchuk has on the fans of the NHL is amazing. Especially when Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, said it'd be over on Monday-- guess he just added to the drama of the whole thing-- and that could have worn down the spirits of fans, as well. Also, if Kovalchuk signs in New Jersey; Grossman could run for mayor of Newark, New Jersey with three of his clients, Kovalchuk, Anton Volchenkov, and Johan Hedberg, signing with the Devils this off-season.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Absurd Goalie Monday: Byron Dafoe

Coinciding with the celebration of Canada Day and the Fourth of July, this week we'll focus on a goalie who was from the country that each nation succeeded from. We go to jolly ol' England for this pick and one who a little more recent, but still somewhat remembered, if for the woes that was his career. This week, we'll look at Byron Dafoe.

Born in Sussex, England; Dafoe's family moved to British Columbia when he was a teen and started playing goalie with the Juan de Fuca Whalers in the BCJHL. Dafoe played 32 games in the 1987-88 season and ended with a 4.51 GAA. The 1988-89 season would see Dafoe move to the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks, where he would take over the starter's role. Dafoe saw 59 games, going 29-24-3 and 10-8 in the playoffs for the Hawks. Dafoe got enough exposure as the Washington Capitals picked him in the second round of the 1989 Draft, which was 16 picks after the Caps picked another goalie, Olaf Kolzig, in the first round. These two would see a lot of each other.

Dafoe would go on the Washington Capitals French tour at the start of the 1989-90 season, going 0-1-0 in his two games, but would be returned to the Winterhawks. With the Hawks, Dafoe had a rough year with a 14-21-3 record in 40 games. During the season, Dafoe and Kolzig would duke it out during an on-ice fight between the Winterhawks and Kolzig's Tri-City Americans. Quite the fight for position it was. The 1990-91 season saw Dafoe only play eight games with the Hawks (1-5-1) before being dealt to the Prince Albert Raiders, where he would fair somewhat better with a 13-12-4 record with the Raiders.

Dafoe would make the jump to the pros, spending a majority of 1991-92 season with the Baltimore Skipjacks where he would go 12-16-4 in his 33 games, but would also make stops with the Hampton Roads Admirals in the ECHL for 10 games (6-4-0), while being loaned out to the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL for seven games (3-2-1). Dafoe outdueled Kolzig in the training camp to get a spot on the Skipjacks with Kolzig being loaned out to the Rochester Americans. Dafoe played 48 games with Baltimore in the 1992-93 season going 16-20-7, as well as a call-up to the Capitals for one game in relief of former AGM Jim Hrivnak. The 1993-94 season would see Dafoe and Kolzig dueling it out again in Portland, Maine with the Pirates. Dafoe would see the majority of time in the starter's role, playing 47 games and going 24-16-4, but Dafoe was called up by the Caps late in the season (2-2-0), including two playoff games (0-2); which gave Kolzig the spot for the Pirates in the playoffs; but Dafoe was along for the ride as the Pirates captured the Calder Cup as AHL champions. Dafoe and Kolzig would share the Hap Holmes Memorial for fewest combined goals-against.

With the 1994 NHL Lockout, Dafoe got moved to the IHL and the Phoenix Roadrunners. With the Roadrunners, Dafoe played in 49 games and went 25-16-6 before going back to Portland and playing six games with the Pirates and going 5-0-0, as he would get a call-up late in the season with the Caps; going 1-1-1 and appearing in a playoff game in relief of another former AGM, Jim Carey.

Yet, with the logjam in net for the Caps, Dafoe couldn't prove himself worthy and would be dealt with Dmitri Khristich to the Los Angeles Kings for the Kings' first and fourth round picks in the 1996 Draft. Dafoe got into town just as the Wayne Gretzky era in LA was ending, as the Great One would be traded midway through the 1995-96 season. Dafoe would split time with Kelly Hrudey in net that season, getting 47 games in with a 14-24-8 record. The 1996-97 record would see former AGM Stephane Fiset battle with Dafoe for time, almost evenly split. Dafoe would get a litte better in the season, 13-17-5 in 40 games, but it seemed that Dafoe would be pushed out by Fiset and young Jamie Storr, who was coming up through the Kings ranks; leaving Dafoe the odd-man out again.

So in the summer of 1997, Dafoe, again with Khristich, got traded by LA to Boston for Sandy Moger, Jozef Stumpel, and a fourth round pick in the 1998 Draft. Dafoe was flung into the starting role quickly, as he beat out former AGM and Caps running buddy Jim Carey for the gig and Dafoe wouldn't disappoint for the Bruins. In the 1997-98 season, Dafoe would play in 65 games and go 30-25-9 with a 2.24 GAA and .914 save percentage. Dafoe would keep the magic alive in the 1998-99 season, playing 68 games in the season, topping his marks from last season going 32-23-11 with a 1.99 GAA, .926 save percentage, and 10 shutouts; though the case about the "dead-puck" era being thrown into play, it's still pretty impressive. Oddly enough, during that season, Dafoe got into another scuffle with, who else, Olaf Kolzig. During a big brawl, Dafoe got into it with the Caps' Dale Hunter and Kolzig with Ken Belanger before the goalies squared off. The two pretty much held onto each other, getting some licks in; but nothing serious as both were seen smiling. The two were friends, as Dafoe was Kolzig's best man for the wedding Kolzig had month's earlier; Dafoe returning the favor years later.

The 1999-00 would be a rough one for Dafoe, as he would only see 41 games; missing the start due to a contract holdout and missing the last quarter of the season to knee surgery. Much worse was Dafoe's numbers, which saw him have a 13-16-10 record coupled with a 2.96 GAA and .889 save percentage. The injuries continues in the 2000-01 season with Dafoe missing 24 games in the season with knee and hamstring issues, but his numbers would improve. In 40 games, Dafoe would have a 22-14-7 record with a slightly better 2.39 GAA and .906 save percentage. Dafoe got back into his groove, uninjured in 2001-02 season and getting back to his 60+ games (64) and getting a career high 35 wins (35-26-3); but the Bruins and Dafoe would falter in the playoffs, being the top-seed and being knocked off in six games by the bottom seeded Montreal Canadiens in the first round.

Dafoe fell out of favor with the Bruins, much doing with his contract demands and his inability to perform in the playoffs. Dafoe was let loose to find a new home for the 2002-03 season, which wasn't an easy task. It was almost a month-and-a-half into the season before the Atlanta Thrashers signed Dafoe to a contract. Dafoe would struggle plenty, having to back-up Pasi Nurminen for the most part after Dafoe started 2-7-0 for the season, ending the year with a 5-11-1 record in 17 games. It was more of the same in the 2003-04 season, with Dafoe playing 18 games, going 4-11-1 for the year, which marked the end of his run in the NHL.

While he took off the 2004-05 season, Dafoe would try the Russian League for two games in the 2005-06 season, but it was short lived before he finally hung up the pads.

We have mentioned through this article about Dafoe and his relationship with Kolzig, which continues to this day as both founded Athlete's Against Autism, a group which brings awareness to Autism; an affliction that both Kolzig and Dafoe's sons have.

It took a while for Dafoe to get going, but once he did; he held his own. He had plenty of glory during the regular season, but couldn't seem to get it done when it counted the most. He had to deal with logjams, disputes with management, and his own injuries; but made a nice living for himself. Even though Dafoe had to battle to get anywhere in the game, he was able to create some solid relationships through the battles and come out probably for the better of it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Revisiting the Ghost of Roller Hockey Leagues Past

Wrapped up in the excitement of the Draft, pre-free agency trades, and then the Free Agent Frenzy; the IIHF is pimping the hell out of the InLine Hockey World Championship in Sweden with the top eight teams in the Top Division and the other eight in the Division I part of the things. It seems like quite the ordeal for those who are hockey deprived. The interesting thing is that no one knew about this, including some that were unaware of USA Hockey even having an Inline National Team. I know my old home rink back in Maryland-- the Gardens-- has a league in many divisions, as they shutdown their main rink (for all intensive purposes) for the Inline league.

But it's easy to miss the allure of the inline hockey landscape. The fact that there lacks a bigger-than-house league for the inline hockey and little exposure for the sport. It did seem the hot topic for the early-to-mid 90s, because of the migration of hockey (and Wayne Gretzky, let's be honest) to the "Sunbelt" and the lack of ice that is there. Sure, people had street hockey by playing on feet, but never did you have the inline attachment to it all. Once it started to catch on at the grassroots level, then the bigger scale seemed to take note and it started to be seen to the masses.

It all started with former Stanley Cup winner Ralph Backstrom, WHA co-founder Dennis Murphy, and famous name having Larry King (not that one) forming Roller Hockey International in 1993. They were able to score a TV deal with ESPN2; which-- at the time-- was on the angle of "out there" sports and unconventional events; it displayed the league very well. The league started with 12 teams spanning from Anaheim to Toronto with stops in places like Calgary, Salt Lake City, and New Haven, Connecticut. It seemed like a decent success, with the 1994 season having double the amount of teams they did in 1993; moving into Atlanta, Montreal, Sacramento, and Las Vegas. However, the league blew it's load way too quick, going from 24 to 19 in 1995; then 18 in 1996. The big hit was taken when the league had 10 teams in 1997 spread all over North America, which definitely made the teams struggle financially-- so much so that the league took a year off in 1998, only to be recreated in 1999 with eight teams before the league finally ceased to be after it officially went under in 2001.

The RHI did have a number of former NHLers join the ranks of the inline league; which included former AGMs Petr Skudra and Daniel Berthiaume, as well as current NHLers Manny Legace and Glen Metropolit and legends Tiger Williams and Bryan Trottier. If nothing else, it gave an outlet to those fringe players, and many goalies, the change to play all year-round. The Anaheim Bullfrogs won two championships in the RHI and made it to four finals. It left use with great names as the New Jersey Rockin' Rollers, Calgary Rad'z, Vancouver Voodoo, and Edmonton Sled Dogs.

After the RHI falter, ESPN2 had another brain child to not only take the roller hockey idea, but add an even more extreme aspect to it and adding the beach, as well. That's how we got Pro Beach Hockey, which started in 1998. The concept was simple: six teams playing each other in a single rink in Hunington Beach, California. The extreme aspect was that behind the nets, there were these quarter-pipe-esque ramp, creating more speed for the players around it, more mayhem because of it, angled glass behind the net to maybe some set plays to ring it up and around the goal to the player in front of the net; and the kicker-- the 2-point line. What could go wrong??

Well, the fact there were only six teams was a start, but it did make it easy enough to follow. More fancy team names-- like the Dawg Pac, Web Warriors, and Salsa. They had motivating factors, like teams getting paid based on standings and the pretty girls on the beach in the outside atmosphere. While they had a lot of RHI players coming over, a sponsorship deal with Franklin Hockey, and a TV gig; PBH only lasted three seasons before ESPN cut off their sponsorship of the league, thus making it fade into the background, leaving us wanting more ramps.

Nowadays, the way to get the fix is Major League Roller Hockey, which was the real resurrection of RHI. The MLRH started in the 1998 season and has continued on, with only two stoppages in 1999 and 2008 due to some conflicts of teams. The league even went to a Super League with the North America teams, as well as teams in the United Kingdom and Czech Republic. It also has branched out to MLRH2 and MLRH AAA and AA, as well. Though it's located mainly on the Eastern seaboard, the appeal is there for players who want to get into another level with the game. Even better team names with this one: Tampa Bay Rollin' Thunder, Chicago RollerSnakes, DC Mad Dawgs, Ohio Wheelz, and Charlotte Outlawz.

Alongside MLRH, the largest inline tournament in the world, NARCh (North American Roller Hockey Championship), which started for amateur teams in 1994 and continues to this day; the most teams being in 2008 with 435 teams in North America. Another big tournament, which a little more pride to it is State Wars, which takes players from each state and they play to see who's the best of the 50 states from around the US. There are different age levels and a provides another side motivator in the competition.

While it may not be a big deal anymore, there was a time where inline hockey shined. Thanks to the West Coast and "Sunbelt" swing of the NHL teams, including the NHL sponsored NHL Street, and the Mighty Ducks skating through random malls and vacated basketball courts; roller hockey was just getting started before it all came crashing down. With Sweden winning the last three IIHF Inline titles, you can tell who is taking note of the possible next uprising of roller hockey. Here's hoping the US or Canada (who took a decade hiatus from the IIHF tourney) will find a new crop of inline players to get North America back to competitiveness.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thoughts on UFA Day One

There was a lot of intrigue, lot of confusion, and a lot of heartbreak for the opening of the NHL Free Agent Market. While the determination about who won and who lost will be shown during the season, plenty reserved judgment I'll do right now.

-First off, Darryl Sutter has gone insane, and the picture above may be the telling sign. Maybe he's trying to test the limit of what the Flames ownership will do, but bringing back Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay could be the breaking point, especially if they don't contribute. The worst part was the lovefest in the media between Sutter and Jokinen, with Sutter saying he made a mistake by trading away Jokinen and Jokinen saying he didn't want to leave in the first place. The high point for the Flames is that the Heritage Classic is only eight months away.

-While the Senators lost Anton Volchenkov to New Jersey, they did get Sergei Gonchar. While it may be a bit of money for him, the main thing he'll be used for is as a mentor for the young Erik Karlsson; who will be in the more offensive side of things for the Senators in time. While many thing there is really no definitive direction for the Sens defense-- has there ever been, especially since losing Zdeno Chara in favor of Wade Redden....then losing Redden.

-The Penguins dealt with the lose of Gonchar easily, picking up Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek for five years a piece. Both younger options to Gonchar and both that could be able to do what Gonchar did. The problem for the Pens is that they're close to the cap ceiling and still need to get a winger or two. While Bill Guerin could be an option, they'll run into the same issue next season, should Guerin be a one-year gimmick.

-Two Russian that didn't go (as of post time) on the first day was Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Nabokov. Kovalchuk, who many have going to the Kings, said he's going to bide his time and pick what's the best for him; which works for him since he's the top-dog in the FA market this summer. He can afford to do that. On the other hand, Nabokov's options are dwindling, as Dan Ellis went to Tampa, Chris Mason went to Atlanta, and Antero Niittymaki took his old spot in San Jose. I mentioned that I thought Nabokov could be a good fit for Atlanta, but doubtful of that happening. While it seems that Washington could be an option; I hope the Caps won't fall for the ploy they need a goaltender for that much money and that length of time with the guys they have in their system.

-Speaking of the Caps, it's odd they have yet to make a peek in the market. I would have thought they could have gone after a reliable back-up like Alex Auld (Montreal) or Martin Biron (NY Rangers) or even Andrew Raycroft (Dallas), but they haven't done anything like that. Sure, the load could be carried by the likes of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, but as a fan-- I would like some kind of sturdy back-up who could play starters minutes if need be. Hopefully, the won't go for the Marty Turco or Nabokov because that'd be discouraging to the young keepers.

Okay, that's just what I have for what jumped out to me. There's plenty more, of course-- but you can get that anywhere. I'm sure once Nabokov or Kovalchuk do something, I'll add more and if the Caps continue to not doing anything-- that'll be talked about in time.