Monday, July 30, 2007

The hockey camp where two a days might be asking a little much!

Summer time for many kids means hockey camp, a couple of weeks of intensive skating, passing, shooting, checking and goal tending. A rite of passage for many Canadian kids who hope that the one, two or more weeks of on ice activity in a sweltering summer may turn them into the next Sidney Crosby.

The CBC website has an interesting tale of a hockey camp that is becoming rather controversial for the lessons that they are providing for their young charges.

Power punching is taking the place of power skating at the Derek and Aaron Boogaard Fighting Camp in Regina.

For a registration fee of $40, players between the ages of 12 and 18 get the one two of instruction in the art of on-ice scrapping, provided by two of the tougher customers in pro hockey.

Derek and Aaron suggest that they aren't teaching kids so much how to fight as to be safe should things deteriorate on the ice to that stage. But considering minor hockey is supposed to be trying to eliminate fighting completely, it's a course outline that isn't gaining much traction with the critics.

The Boogaard’s camp of course isn’t sitting well with some of the purists of the game and those who are wondering why we need to teach kids barely or not even in their teens how to make their knuckles do their talking. Some have called it a “goon camp,” while others are worried that those kids taking the camp will now think they have a green light to get into on ice scraps.

For some it's an idea that is deserving of not only a five minute major but a suspension as well.

The Fight Club for Puckheads has become a bit of hot story with a number of mentions in the media:

Boogaard's summer fight camp
Last thing hockey needs is a fighting camp for kids
Boogaard's summer fight camp
Boogaard brothers offer fighting tips to young hockey players
He's giving young hockey players a fighting chance

And needless to say the camp has managed to solicit more than a few comments on the CBC Your View page.

(Picture above from AP through the CBC Website)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mike Comrie's official contract song?

The story making the rounds is that Mike Comrie, currently of the New York Islanders and formerly of the Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Farjestads BK, Philadelphia Flyers, and Edmonton Oilers has become rather close with a young chanteuse and actress.

For Mr. and Mrs. Comrie the good news is that her name isn't Britney or Lindsay!

TORONTO (CP) - Is fresh-faced pop star Hilary Duff dating New York Islanders centre Mike Comrie?

On Thursday, gossip website published a photo of the pair leaving a Santa Monica, Calif., restaurant hand in hand. Comrie, who left the Ottawa Senators to sign with New York earlier this month, was born in Edmonton. His father is Bill Comrie, who founded the Brick chain of furniture stores.

Duff was previously involved with Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden.

On Saturday, Duff is set to play Winnipeg followed by stops in Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, whatcha gonna do!

"Our jail had never been full before."

That's the quote of the day from Darcy Ziller of the Cook County Sheriff's office in nearby Grand Marais, Minnesota speaking about the arrival of the Staal brothers and their bachelor party posse.

Described as "Canadian boys going wild" and the "bachelor party that went awry." Jordan and Eric have become the poster boys for the unruly Canadians in northern Minnesota.

The boys and group of relatives and friends had descended upon Lutsen, Minnesota and a posh resort for a day of golfing and partying all in celebration of the pending nuptials of Eric, who is set to get married next Friday back in Thunder Bay.

As the group got more into the swing of the party, the managers of the resort asked them to calm it down. Apparently those requests went unheeded as after a few warnings the cavalry arrived.

Cook County Sheriff's deputies, a Minnesota State Patrol trooper, and even a United States Border Patrol agent arrived to take the party group off to jail and a date with the morning newspapers.

The Toronto Sun (picture featured above) had the cover page that will no doubt go down in Thunder Bay hockey history. Though you have to admit that those are pretty handsome looking booking photos, no bruises, no cuts!
The Staals attorney expects that the charges will be dismissed, perhaps with a promise to appear at a charity hockey game to benefit the youth of Lutsen.
Much of the trouble might not have happened if the Staal's had remained in Canada for the bachelor bash, the drinking age is lower here hence there would be no under age drinking charges and more importantly, the soft drink quality of American beer wouldn't have tempted the lads down the road to incarceration.
Perhaps the only person that might be glad for the over exposure of the hockey players this week might be The Count, Gary Bettman, who might have been feeling a little left out.
The NHL Commish has had to sit back and watch his contemporaries in the NBA and NFL deal with cheating refs and dog fighting superstars. Nothing like a little boozed up brawl to get hockey back on the front pages!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Al Arbour to step back behind the bench

This sudden retro period in the NHL seems to be taking off!

With Mike Keenan stepping back behind the bench in Calgary, it seems that the icons of the past are coming back. And we can pencil in Hall of Fame member, Al Arbour to the list, if only for one game.

In a classy move, Islanders coach Ted Nolan has asked the former Islander great to step behind the bench one more time on November 3rd. Arbour will mark his 1500th game that night, having gone down in NHL history at 1499 for some 24 years now, he last coached back in 1983 and the wonder years of the Islanders.

The competition for game number 1500 might look a little familiar, the Islanders will play the Pittsburgh Penguins that night, and Pittsburgh is one of the rising star teams of the NHL looking awfully similar to those great Islander teams of the eighties.

Pierre Lebrun of Canadian Press had some of the background on the discussions and decision to salute one of the all time great NHL coaches.

Al Arbour to coach one more game with Isles
Canadian Press
July 19, 2007 at 10:38 AM EDT

Al Arbour is going behind the bench one more time.

The 74-year-old Hall of Famer has accepted an invitation from New York Islanders head coach Ted Nolan to coach his 1,500th regular-season game as an Islander when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Nov. 3.

"I'm very excited about it," Arbour told The Canadian Press from his cottage in Sudbury, Ont.
Arbour, who guided the Isles to four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to '83, will sign a one-day contract Nov. 2 and lead the team the following night against the Penguins.

Arbour, who also coached 107 games with the St. Louis Blues, wants a win.

"There's no question about that," said Arbour. "I don't know that much about coaching anymore, I've been away from it a long time, but still two points is two points and we certainly want to win this hockey game."

Nolan felt it was important for Arbour to reach the milestone.

"Every day last season I would walk by that big board outside our locker-room at the Coliseum that lists the franchise's award winners and milestones," Nolan said in an Islanders release.

"And every day it would kill me when I'd see Coach Arbour made it to 1,499 games."

So the Isles coach asked GM Garth Snow to check with the league to see if it was possible. They got the green light.

"It's going to be an amazing night, I can guarantee you that," said Nolan. "To me, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman are the two greatest coaches in NHL history."

Bowman leads all coaches with 2,141 games behind the bench,
Arbour confesses he didn't actually know he was stuck on 1,499 as an Islander.

"I really didn't know how many games I had really coached," Arbour said. "When Ted said that, I was kind of surprised. I said to him, 'It's up to you, I don't want to do anything that will harm the team.' And he was all for it, so I said, 'OK, I'm all for it also."'

Arbour will make sure Nolan is also on the bench Nov. 3.

"He better be, let me tell you, because I don't know the players, I don't know the system or anything," Arbour said with a laugh. "There's no question about it, I'll need a lot of help."
Arbour's games coached and victories with the franchise are the most by any coach with one team in NHL history. He's 739-537-223 all-time in the regular season with the Islanders and 119-79 in the playoffs. He is the second all-time winningest coach in NHL history with 781 career victories, behind only Bowman.

Getting win No. 740 as an Islander won't be easy against Crosby and company.

"I think they've got a couple of wonderkids on that team," said Arbour. "Let me tell you, they've got some good hockey players and they're going to be a team to be reckoned with for a number of years."

Arbour said he hoped to get some his former players involved in the night. Already one of his former stars seemed excited.

"Ted Nolan has shown a great deal of respect for the tradition and history of the New York Islanders and Al Arbour by stepping aside and having Al coach his 1,500th game," Mike Bossy, Arbour's Hall of Fame right-winger from the dynasty era, said in a statement. "As a former player of Al's I am looking forward to seeing him adjust his glasses and brush his hair aside one more time."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

You crossed his path at your peril!

It’s a sad day for the hockey world with the news of the passing of John Ferguson.

Back in the day, he was the meanest, toughest sturdiest left winger a team could hope to suit up on the centre line. Fearless in battle, Ferguson never backed down from a challenge and created much of the space that a more gentlemanly artist of the game such as a Jean Belliveau would need to weave his magic.

Ferguson was one of those iconic members of the great Habs teams of the sixties, his pitched battles with Bobby Hull the thing of legend as he stood his ground and tried to make sure that the Hull’s, Howe’s, Mikita’s, Keon’s and such found no favours in the Montreal end of the rink.
He was the poster boy for the power forward, long before the term became fashionable, a rock in the Montreal lineup that refused to budge or yield the ice. His playoff scoring abilities the key to many of the Montreal Stanley Cups during that remarkable era for the Habs.

His body checks were bone rattling, his mean streak legendary, but even in the heat of a battle he was admired for his tenacity to task and his willingness to stick up for his team mates regardless of the challenger. He was the unofficial heaveyweight champion of the NHL until the day he retired after eight seasons of battle in the trenches of a very different NHL.

Once his playing days were over, Ferguson moved on to coaching and then managing. He was one of Harry Sinden’s assistants in that legendary Canada/ Russia summit series of 1972. No doubt wishing he could have donned the blades and taken his place on the blue line to put the Russian speedsters in their place in that historic series. His thoughts of the day perhaps the bug in the ear of an impressionable Bobby Clarke who took matters into his own hands during the course of the legendary eight games.

He was beloved in Winnipeg, where he forged a hockey team out of the cold winters of Manitoba that captured that provinces hearts and even though they broke those hearts more often than, the team was created in Fergies likeness. They had skill and toughness and once the early days were out of the way, a visit to the Winnipeg Arena would not be an easy path to two points to the opposition.

He was part of the Ottawa Senators family for a few years, the lean years as it turned out, long before the regular visits to the playoff rounds and the high scoring machine that the Sens became over the last few years. But the seeds were planted during his time there, the players he recruited, scouted and coaxed into signing would eventually form the backbone of the team.

Long considered one of the keenest eyes for talent in the game both as a GM and later on in his duties s a scout for a number of teams. There are any number of teams playing today that have a pool of talent assessed and recommended by Ferguson, he had the knack to find the players that make a difference well beyond goal scoring.

Ferguson finally lost his battle with cancer today, a long and no doubt painful bout that kept him from public view for most of the last year or so. His impact on the game was recounted most recently on draft day as the hockey fraternity offered up their prayers and salutes to the hockey legend.

They are few and far between the ones who have made a lasting impact on the game. Hockey is missing one of its builders today, a strongman who made the transition from player to executive in his own style. He understood the game, what it took to play at the highest level and there are numerous cities along the NHL road map that owe him a debt of thanks for keeping hockey alive wherever he chose to be.

The accolades today will pour in, as they should. For one of the legendary names of the game, a player who left it all on the ice game in and game out. A man who had such a passion for the game that he infected those that worked for and with him.

(Photo above from CP archives through the CTV News website)

Hey, does anyone have Punch Imlach’s phone number?

They plowed through the B’s to no avail, apparently rebuffed by Scotty Bowman. Bud Poile never got the chance to say yea or nay. A confidential session was held with John Muckler, so secret that we suspect snipers were ordered to stand guard atop the roof of the Air Canada Centre on the off chance somebody got too close to the inquisition.
And now if the latest report is true, they have now turned their attention to Harry Sinden who did such a fine job with the B’s over the last twenty years or so.

In one of the more bizarre headhunter searches in recent times, the executives of MLSE have talked to anyone with a pulse and an old age pension in regard to the “mentoring” position for John Ferguson Jr.

The Leafs seem determined to undercut any value their current GM may have, by trotting out the elder statesmen of the last century. And while we no doubt suspect that all those considered thus far have a fair amount of hockey knowledge and have probably forgotten more than we’ll ever learn, most of it was forged back when the players could be sent to Siberia or Springfield at the whim of the manager.

The long running saga which first got its legs before the playoffs had even finished, has carried on to comedic lengths, with the only message that doesn’t seem to be getting through is that there aren’t that many people really in a hurry to work for the crazy rich guys guarding the Teachers fund at the Air Canada Centre.

How this whole bizarre scenario is impacting on his ability to run the Leafs is a very valid question. How many other GM’s will phone him up and try to talk trade, how many agents will call him up with their free agent players if there’s some doubt that he’ll actually be the guy making the decisions. It’s the most foolish thing we’ve seen in a long time from the franchise that used to make Foolish its corporate mantra.

You have to feel a fair degree of sympathy for Ferguson, who may be wondering just what it is that his bureaucratic masters at MLSE really want from him. More importantly perhaps he should be looking to find his parachute and go to a franchise a little less loony in their approach to upper management. He could only pray that Hamilton somehow snares their cats from Nashville and might need an extra hand, now that would be a delicious bit of turn about, taking his battered frame down the QEW to help launch the next great threat to the Leaf Nation.

The unseemly manner of the Leafs machinations of late, took a rather dark turn today with the news of the passing of John Ferguson Sr., the hard nosed former left winger of the Habs and one of the great characters and most knowledgeable executives of the game. His son will take time out now to bury his father, a job that every son dreads but one which must be taken to complete life’s cycle.

Once he has taken care of that most sacred of our social rites, he can get back to wondering about his bosses. He was particularly close to his father from all accounts, one would hope that some final fatherly advice might have been to take his lumps from the Toronto experience and move on to a more promising opportunity. There are 29 other teams in the NHL, most of them in need of some upper office guidance, surely a few of them are a run a little bit more sanity than his current employer.

He may truly want to stay on with the Leafs, they are the face of hockey in the NHL. One of its most storied, but apparently most dysfunctional of franchises.

John Ferguson Jr. may or may not become the next great General Manager in pro hockey. He may or may not have what it takes to lead a team to the Stanley Cup, but in order to make that step you have to have the faith of your employer and faith in your employer.
Judging by the last six weeks in Toronto, Ferguson must wonder at nights if this job is worth all the levels of Dante’s circles hat seem to be playing out for him as part of the Maple Leaf Nation.
Note: article was revised July 15/07, to correct an error in text regarding Ferguson Srs. position with the Canadiens.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

They're off to London to visit the Queen

The NHL regular season will get underway in London England this fall as the league drops the puck on its 90th season.

The LA Kings will begin the quest and the Anaheim Ducks will defend their grasp on Lord Stanley's Cup with two games in England starting September 29th, some seven months later the 2007-08 playoffs will open up their first rounds with June 9th, the last call for ice time if the need for a seven game final is there.

In between, there will be a few dates to circle on your calendar, some interesting match ups that will no doubt entertain even the casual fan.

Of interest to Edmonton fans will be the return of Ryan Smyth to the Alberta capital. this time donning the garb of the Colorado Avalanche, Smyth returns to Edmonton for the first on October 23rd.

On the topic of reunions, Vancouver fans can renew acquaintances with Todd Bertuzzi on November 3rd as the newest of Brian Burke's Ducks returns to Vancouver in the role of guest.

Sid the 87.7 million Kid, will make his first foray into western Canada this year, as the newly minted Pittsburgh captain brings his Penguins to Edmonton on Dec. 5, Calgary on Dec. 6 and Vancouver on Dec. 8.

Hockey Day in almost all Canada will take place on February 9th, as the NHL this year manages to screw up the most successful of its promotions, with an inability to schedule six Canadian match ups on the day. So Hockey Day in Canada will feature two American teams as Detroit plays Toronto and Colorado travels to Vancouver, in between the Sens will host Montreal and the Oilers will go visit the relatives in Calgary.

The Buffalo Sabres who watched many of their high profile players head for greener pastures will have the painful task of welcoming back all that talent, with two key nights to mark on the Sabre calendar.

Daniel Briere will bring his new friends from Philadelphia to the home of the chicken wing on Dec 21st, while Chris Drury will join in on the traditional festive atmosphere that always greets a New York Ranger visit as the Rangers bring their free agent laden team into Buffalo on February 23rd.

The official schedule for 2007-2008 can be found here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Flames across the Border

If Gary Bettman thought that he could force Jim Balsillie to just go away, he may have misjudged the mission that the would be NHL owner is on. And with each passing day Mr. Bettman digs himself a deeper hole in the land above the 49th parallel.

The Monday edition of the Hamilton Spectator has an interesting look at why Balsillie continues to want to spend his money on an NHL franchise, despite indications that his money isn't particularly welcome ( go figure that accounting principle out kids).

Balsillie is playing the Canadian card to its fullest, as the Spectator paints him as almost a folk hero who won't rest until Canada has a seventh NHL franchise operating out of Hamilton. It's the kind of thing that should have a song composed for.

The Battle of Hamilton is going to place Balsillie clearly on the side of the angels and try as he might, Gary Bettman will never again be able to say that he has the interests of Canadian hockey at heart.

Somewhere Kanye West is waiting for a phone call and a chance to say "Gary Bettman hates Canadians."

The intransigent nature of the NHL to throw as many roadblocks in front of the Ontario millionaire (maybe billionaire who knows for sure) will be one of the great wonders of NHL history.

Here's a guy with enough cash to not only buy and operate an NHL team, but to renovate a rink and secure a hockey base that is dying for a team to support. To think that the NHL is ready to move on to a Kansas City, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City or Seattle at the expense of where hockey is a living breathing entity just astounds the mind.

Folks in Winnipeg and Quebec City surely must realize the hollowness of the occasional offerings that they may one day be allowed back into the circle.

In the end, Bettman may win the Nashville battle but we suspect Balsillie won't go away. Eventually the other 29 NHL owners will sit down and ask Gary Bettman, why exactly a high tech millionaires dollars aren't good enough for a league that has more than its fair share of trouble spots!

Billy G gets a C

The New York Islanders still smarting a bit after watching Ryan Smyth head back west and Jason Blake leave for Toronto gave their fans a bit of positive reinforcement on Monday. Garth Snow and Ted Nolan announced that recent free agent acquisition Bill Guerin would become the 11th player to wear the C as Islanders captain.

While clearly back into a rebuilding mode after a brief playoff run in this years playoffs, the Islanders decided to look to Guerin for on ice leadership for a team that has struggled in that department for a number of years.

Fresh from a contract signing that will see him earn 9 million dollars for two years in the blue and orange, Guerin will be the face of an ever changing Islander squad that seeks to get back to the halcyon days of Smith, Potvin, Bossy et al. Whether Guerin in his declining years will be able to recapture some of his past scoring exploits will prove to be the key point to the Islander signing.

They had rolled the dice large at the trade deadline in their quest to bring in Ryan Smyth, hopeful that he would look at the chance to help reclaim hockey glory on Long Island But with a phone call from Joe Sakic and a chance to join the Colorado Avalanche, Smyth moved on and the Isles had to go to plan B.

A plan which seems to involve creating a first line out of free agents as Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedetenko picked up their Blue sweaters just before the Guerin announcement. Also joining the Isles through the free agent market is Jon Sim.

Last year was a learning curve for the Islanders as Ted Nolan got himself back in the coaching saddle and tried to coax his team to exceed the expectations of the Islander faithful over the last few years. He came up a little short, but had a pretty good run leading up to the playoffs, only to have the good vibrations come to an end at the hand of the Buffalo Sabres in the first round.

They’ll be calling on history and pride in 2007-08, hoping that Guerin’s experience and the excitement of the newcomers will mesh with the remaining Islanders, taking them further by the time next May rolls around.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A 48 Hour flurry of free agency

The first two days of July have provided for some excitement around the NHL as a number of big name players switch sweaters and check their bank accounts.

With the New York Rangers leading the way with over eighty four million dollars in salary in less than 24 hours, the days of fiscal prudence seem to be going out the window once again. Below some of the high profile players that have move on to greener (no kidding!) pastures for the 2007-08 season.

ANAHEIM: Todd Bertuzzi back with Burkie: 2 years, 16 million dollars.
ANAHEIM: What if Neidermayer changes his mind? Mathieu Schneider takes a line, 2 years, 11 million +.

BOSTON: Oh if only it were a Joe. Shawn Thornton signs on the line, No terms released.

CALGARY: Owen Nolan and his back head for Alberta: 1 year, 1.75 million.

COLORADO: A Mile high and millions in the bank, Ryan Smyth heads back west, 5 years 30 million +.
COLARADO: Scott Hannan for the Defence, Avs add to the blue line, 4 years, 18 million.

DETROIT: Chelios has to retire some day! Brian Rafalski leaves the Devils for the Wings, 5 years, 30 million.

LOS ANGELES: From the desert to the coast: Ladislav Nagy, 1 year, 3.75 million
LOS ANGELES: Handzus the cheque, Michael joins the Kings, 4 years, 16 million dollars.

MONTREAL: Plan B. Roman Hamrlik, 4 years, 22 million
MONTREAL: Brian Smolinski, from Canuck to Canadien, 1 year 2 million,

NASHVILLE: Radek Bonk, judging by the press coverage it's one more shot where no one might notice, 1 year, terms undisclosed.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Scott Gomez, no need to sell the home, 7 years, 49 million +.
NEW YORK RANGERS: Chris Drury, trading in wings for a big steak, 5 years, 35 million+.

PHILADELPHIA: The last one out of Buffalo turn off the lights, Daniel Briere heads south, 8 years, 52 million.

ST. LOUIS: Paul Kariya’s gypsy life takes him to the Midwest, 3 years, 18 million dollars.

TORONTO: Well they had to sign someone. Jason Blake, 5 years, 20 million total.

WASHINGTON: A Capital expenditure, Michael Nylander: 4 years, 19.5 million.

The full list of those that have signed on the dotted line can be found here.

While those still waiting for a phone call can be found here.