Saturday, October 23, 2010

Give us an N, Give us an O, what does it spell, Nooooooo!

When Mascots just don't cut it anymore whatever can you do?

Cue the dancing girls!

The prospect of cheerleaders invading Canadian hockey rinks seems to be splitting the faithful in Edmonton these days.

The Oilers announced this week that they would be the first Canadian based NHL team to embrace, er, make that employ, that American phenomenon the cheer leader.

A mainstay of some 23 American rinks and International hockey, the cheerleader in Canada has normally been confined to the nation's 8 CFL franchises,  university and high school teams and it's lonely NBA squad (oh how we still miss the Vancouver Grizzlies and of course the dance team).

Oilers President and CEO Pat Laforge said during the cheerleader launch,  that the new squad would be a source of entertainment for the fans and add a little extra spice and sparkle to Oiler games.

The move towards a more cheerful and "spicy" rink experience is one that is apparently gnawing at the soul of Canadian and Oiler hockey traditionalists, so much so that in Edmonton there is an apparent backlash growing to the Oilers plans.

While the Edmonton front office prepare for audition night, a number of those fans that would be subjected to the cheers and gyrations are taking to their computers to stop such folly.

An online petition has sprung up, as well as the ever popular Facebook page (though this particular page is proving rather difficult to track down) all designed to bring an end to  the visual interference of the on ice experience.

So far the quest to turn back the tide isn't exactly overwhelming,  with a slowly building data base of voters and commentators logging on to the site to cast a vote and leave a thought. And while we won't offer up a our own aye or nay on the topic, we have found the commentaries to be rather interesting.

We imagine that as for the movement to stop the cheerleaders, the organizers will continue forward hoping that Oiler fans will want to focus on hockey and not on distractions from the sport itself.

A wishful thought perhaps in yet another rebuilding year for the Oil,  as we head towards November, the Oilers currently hold down last place in the Western conference with but four points on the season thus far, based on two wins out of five games.

At that pace, by March, Oiler fans may be wishing for any kind of distraction from another disappointing season.

Cue the dancing girls, Oiler fans may very well welcome the diversion!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mis-behaving hockey parents are now on notice

A very public resignation of a Nova Scotia volunteer in minor hockey has once again drawn attention to perhaps the number one problem in minor sports these days, parents that don't quite get it  when it comes to the pursuit of athletics by their children.

While the Tim Horton's commercials may provide a wishful view of the ice side experience, the annual problem of parents who mis-behave at the rink (or in some cases far from it) is once again making  news.  

In question is how to reign in those parents who conduct themselves in a bullying fashion, or project the prospect of intimidation and/or potential violence towards players, coaches, officials and administrators, a question that is getting addressed in a number of areas of the country, with a very public examination recently revealed in Nova Scotia.

Wayne McDonald was the vice president of the Timberlea Minor Amateur Sports Association, until the verbal abuse and threats of violence from a few of the hockey parents in the region led him to say enough was enough.

But rather than just disappear into the growing pool of former volunteers who had tired of the abuse and lack of assistance from parents, he took his case to the province's largest newspaper. Submitting to the Halifax Chronicle Herald his reasons for his resignation and concerns for sport in general within his association.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald outlined some of the issues behind his departure from the local hockey scene, which included abusive phone calls made to Mr. McDonald at his place of work.

Mr. McDonald's travails with the parenting class have also been documented by the Globe and Mail which reviewed some of the incidents that led to his decision and the reaction in the region since it took place.

The Globe also provides some details of a Calgary based initiative that many say should become nationwide, a program designed to give parent's cause for a second look at how they behave at the rink.

Calgary Minor hockey currently has in place a requirement that all parents must take the Respect in Sport program, in short, the parents have to hit the books on proper behaviour, before their children can hit the ice.

While it's generally accepted that 98 per cent of the folks that stop by the rink to watch are well behaved, it's the 2 % that seem to ruin the moment for all, and for which the program hopes to turn around.

You can view more details about the online course from the Hockey Calgary site.

The Calgary program was created in 2004 by Wayne McNeil and former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, designed to protect the sanctity of the hockey rinks, a place where the game would remain fun and free from bullying, intimidation and any threatening behaviour at the hands of those that brought the kids to the rink.

This was the first year that the program was made mandatory in the Calgary Association, requiring at least one parent of the Association's 13,500 players to take the one hour on line course before their child can play organized hockey.

It may not completely bring to an end the era of the obnoxious parent, but at least may give them cause for second thoughts when it comes to their boorish behaviour.

The program seems rather easy to implement and could easily be transferred to other sports as well, providing lessons and reflection for those that also stand on a soccer  or football sideline or grab a seat court side at a basketball game or behind the plate at a baseball game.

A few decades ago facing parental apathy when it came to sport, there was a familiar television commercial which had Dick Irvin urging parents to stick around the rink when they dropped their kids off for a game or a practice. Some thirty years later and that may not seem like such a good idea for a few of those parents.

Some high profile incidents over the years have indicated how far that simple concept has been threatened by parents that don't recognize their responsibilities or their boundaries.

Perhaps with the RIS program in place nationwide and beyond the realm of hockey, those days of sport for the enjoyment  of the kids can return to the rinks, courts and fields of the nation

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Canucks don't provide much of an anniversary present for Alain Vigneault

"Everybody in that room, starting with me, could do a better job," -- Vancouver Canuck Head Coach Alain Vigneault reviewing Tuesday's woeful performance of his squad.

Game number 600 may be a milestone, but for Vancouver Canuck's head coach Alain Vigneault it wasn't much of a night to remember, in fact it was a night that even Vigneault himself admits was not his best effort, nor was it the finest hour for those that he coaches..

Vigneault's Canucks never appeared ready to play on Tuesday night a situation that the home Minnesota Wild more than took advantage of.

The Wild took care of the Canucks on the ice with a solid 6-2 victory,  a game which showcased domination in every facet of the game and featured the unwelcome sight for Canuck fans of Roberto Luongo getting chased from the game after surrendering all 6 of the nights goals for the Wild.

Beyond the embarrassing effort on the ice, the Canucks will also most likely be facing disciplinary action from the league office after an altercation off the ice between the Canucks Rick Rypien and a Minnesota fan in the stands.

While some of the Canucks were suggesting that the fan got a little to close to Rypien who had been sent to the locker room after a game misconduct the result of fight on the ice.  A review of the video of the incident seems to indicate that there is no evidence that the fan physically touched the player, while Rypien made ever effort to reach the fan in the stands.

Canucks GM Mike GIllis anticipates a phone call  on Wednesday morning from the league to set up a time and date for a league hearing into Rypien's lack of off ice composure.

As for the Anniversary boy, his record now sits at 293-235 with 35 ties and 37 overtime losses, though we imagine not many were as ugly or uncomfortable to watch than the Minnesota mess.

Tuesday was a night where the team was clearly out performed on the ice and as events play out in Colin Campbell's office over the next few days will most likely see the team no doubt reprimanded in the league office .

Monday, October 11, 2010

Canucks have but one wish for their 40th anniversary

When the Vancouver Canucks took to the ice against the LA Kings in 1970 they like many teams  had dreams of a Stanley Cup victory, but no doubt realized that an expansion team had a pretty big rock to push up that particular hill.

Forty years later, with the Canucks once again facing the LA Kings in a season opener, that dream is clearly a lot closer to realization, Vancouver a team on the rise with a strong core of players, one of the best goaltenders in the league and a first line combination that could very well take charge of the record books this season.

Such is the buzz around the Canucks these days, that a good number of prognosticators give the west coast team the most likely nod as a Canadian participant in the Stanley Cup final.  A climb back to the top of the expectations pile, after a couple of close calls in decades past, where the Canucks made it to a Stanley Cup final but just missed out on hoisting up Lord Stanley's collector cup.

This season there seems to be a new focus on the job at hand, Roberto Luongo has relinquished the duties of captain to better concentrate on his duties as one of the leagues most reliable goaltenders.

Henrik Sedin has been rewarded for his Art Ross season of last year with the teams C, a popular pick among his team mates and the fans in Vancouver, a city where wearing the C carries a heavy responsibility with all of that adulation. And as he was preparing to take on the job he came with no better reference than that offered up by Mats Naslund, the former Canucks that exemplified and understood the character needed for the position.

As though to reinforce the fact that he's ready, Sedin himself credited another former captain Trevor Linden for providing key advice to he and his brother in their early days in a Canuck uniform, as scoring sheets will testify to, both Henrik and Daniel took good heed of that leadership and now the time has come for Henrik in particular to take charge himself.

Beyond the newly appointed leadership role, the Canucks will once again rely on he and his brother along with fellow Swede Mikael Samuelsson. The trio form what could be one of the league's most exciting forward units and seem ready to fight through the extra attention that such a unit can attract.

With one blue chip first line and a more than potentially dangerous second unit following up, scoring goals in the long NHL season shouldn't be a particularly troublesome task for Vancouver's speedy offensive threats.

If there is a worrisome aspect to the Canucks line up it could be on the blue line, where there still appear to be growing pains and perhaps the need for a stand out defensive oriented player to hold down their own end.

To that goal and perhaps keeping an eye towards the trade deadline next spring, GM Mike Gillis may be keeping watch for yet one more move that could secure that one missing piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle.

While the Canucks are more than confident that Roberto Luongo can make those stops that can turn a game around, adding a little insurance in their own is certainly something that will be on the GM's radar as the season progresses.

A look at the Canucks lineup does offer much promise for 2010--11, certainly more than worthy holders of the title of the most likely Canadian team to go to the Stanley Cup final. If they do, they'll bring the hopes of a long line of Canucks fans who have been waiting for the day since October of 1970.

Forty years later, a guy named Henrik waits to do what a fellow named Orland and a succession of captains through the years also tried to visualize, holding up the Stanley Cup high in the air as a parade wanders down Robson Street.

If all the pieces come together as Canuck fans hope, it could very well be the highlight reel from Vancouver to Ornskoldsvik and everywhere in between!

Globe and Mail-- On the Canucks captaincy
Globe and Mail-- Passing the torch to Henrik

Friday, October 08, 2010

A fresh sheet of ice starts the quest for Stanley on Opening

The 2010-11 NHL season got underway on Thursday morning, the first match of the day's five games brought to us from Helsinki, Finland this years starting spot for 82 game endurance race to the playoffs.

Game number one featured the Minnesota Wild and the Carolina Hurricanes, with Minnesota grabbing the bragging rights of Finland with 4-3 victory. While the folks back home were pre-occupied with the fate of the Twins in the world Series, the NHL's mission to Europe offered up a sample of the excitement over a new season. Unfortunately for the Wild fans that may have tuned in at lunch the sample seemed rather familiar from last year, costly mistakes at the wrong time which provided Carolina with the opportunity to take two points away. The two teams wrap up their European tour on Friday,  today will also see Columbus and San Jose as well as Boston and Phoenix start off their tour of the continent in Sweden and the Czech Republic.

A little closer to the head office, the Penguins opened up their new arena, welcoming their cross state rivals the Flyers to town and the Flyers ruined the Pens grand opening celebrations, taking a 3-2 victory. Penguin fans marvelled about the new home but perhaps felt a little disappointed that the Pens power play woes have continued from last year.

More familiar home rinks marked the remainder of premiere night 2010.

The Blackhawks began their defence of the Stanley Cup in Denver with their salary cap revamped line up finding that the youngsters on the Avalanche have picked up a few ideas since last season. The Avs honoured their own Stanley Cup champs of 1996 and the current crew took inspiration on the way to a 4-3 victory over the Hawks.

The Leafs and Canadiens rekindled their ageless show with an entertaining night at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, the hometown Leafs taking their first two points of the season with a 3-2 victory, leaving the most loyal of Leaf fans to begin to draw up the parade route for Stanley's return later in June. One game down, 81 more to go for the Leaf faithful.

The hardest hitting game of the night came out of Edmonton, where provincial rivals the Flames and Oilers reignited the north south dialogue, though on Thursday it seemed only one team was doing the talking as the Oilers dominated the Flames in every facet of play leading up to a 4-0 shut out of their provincial rivals. It's been a fairly long time for Oiler fans, but Thursday brought reminders of the fast paced and fresh faced youngsters of the Golden era of Oiler's hockey, much to the shock for the Flames the scoreboard result resembled some of those nights from the 80's when the Blue and Copper ruled the ice.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Poolsters prepare to name the names that will bring them fame

With the start of the regular season set for  it's Finish debut on Thursday, hockey fans across North America and beyond are putting the final touches on their fantasy draft listings, the annual ritual of the hockey season which provides those at home to become the GM they always dreamed of being.

From local pools in pubs, bars and offices to the more professional of pools such as the Kenaston Saskatchewan  Lions Club annual offering hockey fans are sharpening their pencils and scouring the plethora of guide books to uncover that one hidden gem of a player that will lead them to victory.

Hours and hours of research all comes down to placement in the rotation or ability to handle the salary cap provisions in any particular pool. In the end it all really comes down to who has the most successful lineup and one that is able to avoid injuries during the length of the regular season.

This year as they did last year, the CBC offers up their own fantasy draft opportunity, where participants can log on and select their roster of players to carry them on towards success and perhaps the keys to a new KIA.

TSN is also getting into the hockeypool sweepstakes with their own version of a draft conducted through the ESPN portal.

Yahoo Sports is also a popular location for pollsters, providing a home for the hockey obsessed who love nothing better than to scour the post game box scores to see if their team is taking them on to bragging rights as the sage of hockey for 2010-11

Below are some of the links to the pools that we have discovered thus far, if you have one that we've missed out on, leave us a comment and we'll take a look at it and add it to the inventory.

CBC Fantasy Hockey
TSN Fantasy Hockey
Yahoo Sports Fantasy Hockey
Kenaston Lions Club SuperDraft Hockey pool

For those organizing their own office pool there's a site online that will help manage your pool for you

Reference materials for hockey pool players:

McKeen's fantasy hockey guide
Dobber Hockey
The Hockey News

Monday, October 04, 2010

Un, deux, trois, quatre it's the return of the NHL that really matters!

Quebec City put on their version of Puckstock on the weekend, with a large rally starting at the historic Plains of Abraham that  was designed to present visual evidence that a return of the NHL to Quebec's capital should be a no brainer for NHL executives.

With a look back at the glory days of Les Nordiques and stream of old players, coaches and friends of the cause, the gathered tens of thousands ( some estimates put the crowd at over 50,000 pucksters) were treated to what could have been confused as a religious revival such is the fervour that even the hint of a return of the Nords has brought to the city.

Evidence of that passion was shown for hours on a Quebec television network, Quebecor, which is also one of the key potential shareholders in any franchise options.

The rally dubbed "Le Marche Bleu" also served as a way of stirring up support for a new arena for Quebec City, a major requirement should the city seriously expect to have an opportunity to return to the NHL collective. The arena project has the support of the city's mayor and the provincial government, with both levels set to offer up their funding towards the project.

 However, the federal government has found itself in a bit of a controversial situation over the prospect of any Federal  investment in the quest for a new home for shinny.

Federal participation in the plan could yet take place, however, the process of attracting that funding may have to be revised before the project would be acceptable in other parts of the nation. Some of the tone of that reticence in the rest of country can be found in this National Post article.

Once the marching, singing and hopeful chants were concluded, the events for the day took to the ice of the venerable Le Colisee, where a sold out congregation watched the Montreal Canadiens defeat the New York Islanders in an exhibition game.

A temporary sample of what Quebec City's hockey fans no doubt hope will be the start of the repatriation of their hockey obsession, culminating with a return to the NHL of their much loved Nordiques.

Toronto Sun-- Why not Quebec? Stastny
Globe and Mail-- Quebec rallies to bring back NHL 
Montreal Gazette-- Nordiques fans form sea of blue in capital
Toronto Sun-- Hockey passion shines through at rally 
USA Today--  Quebec City rallies for another NHL team  
National Post--  Rallying cry for the Nordiques

Friday, October 01, 2010

HockeyNation Headlines October 2001

Our Archive of headline stories for October 2010

October 31-- Playing hockey's blame game
October 30-- Senators lose Michalek indefinitely
October 29-- Auld gets long-distance call in goal
October 28-- Quinn not fooled by so-called ‘promotion’
October 27-- Graham James faces new sexual assault charges after arrest in Toronto
October 26-- NHL taking shot at higher ticket prices
October 25-- Senators going back to basics
October 24-- Flames take bite out of Sharks
October 23-- Rethinking the game
October 22-- NHL suspends Rypien for six games
October 21-- Another busy day for Colin Campbell
October 20-- The painful truth about the NHL and its pensions
October 19-- Rypien faces disciplinary action after going at fan
October 18-- Tavares hands Leafs their first loss
October 17-- Brian Burke: A Leafs Enigma
October 16-- Joe Thornton takes pay cut to stay with Sharks
October 15-- Concussion victim Booth says 'Use your head'
October 14-- Latest bid to buy Coyotes stalls
October 13-- Senators popgun offence triggers alarm bells
October 12-- Police expected to issue new warrant for convicted sex offender Graham James
October 11-- Passing the torch to Henrik
October 10-- Bidding on Dallas Stars stalls
October 9-- Canucks finally a part of Vancouver’s sporting fabric
October 8-- Thrashers goalie collapses during game
October 7-- NHL’s gain, world junior teams’ loss
October 6-- Canada king of the rink again
October 5-- Bettman walking fine line on head hits
October 4-- Canucks part ways with Brendan Morrison
October 3-- Canucks part ways with Brendan Morrison
October 2-- Quebec rallies to bring back NHL
October 1-- Souray, Gerber clear waivers