2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

Time to finally give my home continent league a little love on the blog. It’s been a long while since I’ve written about the National Hockey League so the next few weeks should be full of amazing highlights and banter. I probably should’ve posted this yesterday before the start but there’s no time better than the present! Only one day of games has been played and well, my predictions aren’t off.

history-CanesCup2Ca

EASTERN CONFERENCE – FIRST ROUND

Series A A1 Boston Bruins vs W2 Detroit Red Wings

Boston in 6.
Detroit’s good luck AHL team’s steam has to run out at some point and the Bruins are just the roadblock to do it. Boston will play the body as they usually do leaving the Red Wings looking mighty small. Both goaltenders will be up to the task and this matchup will come down to pressure in the offensive zone.

Series B A2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs A3 Montreal Canadiens

Tampa in 6.
One game has already been played in this series and I took in the whole thing. From watching 9 goals get scored in a Montreal win, it’s quite obvious to point out that the goaltending and defence was a train wreck. While that is somewhat normal for the Habs in pressure-cooker games, it’s unusual for the Lightning. Watch for them to regroup and come out in full force in game two. Their spirits will continue to rise with the welcoming addition of Ben Bishop back in the lineup.

Series C M1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs W2 Columbus Blue Jackets

bobrovsky-201213Pittsburgh in 6.
Holy cow, what a game was game 1 of this series. I don’t think anybody had the Jackets having two leads in this game. I don’t know what it is with Pittsburgh, their defence, and Marc Andre Fleury in big games. Ever since they hoisted the Cup a few years ago, they’ve been terrible in the post season ever since. However they’ll be able to get to round 2. Unfortunately as much as I want Columbus to succeed, especially with Sergei Bobrovsky, the mighty Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin will silence their parade. Continue reading

Yet another player comes out: Matt Suderman and the Hull Stingrays

5335902-largeThis is embarrassing and appalling to the game of hockey.

More and more professional hockey players are finally coming out of the woodwork and exposing what really goes on behind the scenes between owners, players, and the clubs they are representing. The latest to come out and add his thoughts to this epidemic is Matt Suderman who is currently playing with the Brampton Beast of the Central Hockey League.

Suderman spent some time with the Hull Stingrays of the EIHL and after taking a whole lot of time to cool off, he finally cleared the air of what happened. Essentially, another case of greed from a club owner by the name of Bobby McEwan. You can read Suderman’s entire statement here. I’m going to touch on a couple of things.

“Things were so bad that players were paying for portions of their skates/equipment because McEwan refused to buy certain brands (which were higher quality), he claimed they only wanted that brand because it was more expensive and thought everyone was out to get him.”

You’re kidding me right? You couldn’t even supply the players on your own team the basic necessities to perform on the god damn ice because you have this premonition that they’re out to “get you”? Come on, give your head a shake. Hockey is a business first and foremost. Like any business you have to spend money to make money. It’s common business sense. You think the players are out to get you because they just want to protect themselves with better equipment? Someone’s delusional.

“In my 10 years of pro hockey I’ve never seen anything like it. McEwan (owner) refused to give his players even the smallest luxury, like soap and shampoo.”

Not even commenting on that one. That’s just unfathomable.

“Somehow Bobby McEwan worked out a deal where the team would receive money for players attending schools and working with the kids. A majority of the visits were done by younger British players who didn’t receive a salary. They were promised money for these visits and went to schools two, sometimes three times a week, some of the visits were for three or four hours. None of them have seen a dime of the money promised, all of the money went straight into McEwan’s pocket. During Movember, a player had somebody fundraising for him during a game, for charity. Bobby McEwan was irate, claiming this player was taking money from him, and even demanded a cut of the money raised. “

If these allegations are true, (which I’m 99.9% certain they are), this has to be one of the most unacceptable things I’ve ever read. Its one thing to steal from your players (which is still damn unthinkable) but to demand a cut of money that’s raised for charity just makes you a complete scumbag. I don’t know this guy, but just that alone gives the Hull Stingrays and to an extent the EIHL a black eye in the hockey world. I’m glad I don’t know what charity this money was raised for otherwise, I’d be ripping even more.

D_GrhnPFThe most terrible part of this whole thing is that Matt Suderman is not the only player that this is happening to. Although Joe Grimaldi is a bit of a pain in the locker room according to some players, he brought a few hate fueled tweets to Twitter a few weeks ago concerning the owner of the Nottingham Panthers. However, the EIHL is not the only league that this is happening to either. It’s an epidemic that needs to be stopped. No longer are hockey players just walking doorknobs who don’t know anything about business practices and just play the game anymore. Everyone is informed on how things work.

You also can’t get away with things in this day and age especially with the presence of social media. Things get out and they get out quick. Whether this will do anything to the club is another story but every damn team would be in much better positions with owners who care. Of course that’s far fetched to say.

Suderman isn’t the only one. Mike Danton came out earlier this year about how he was treated in Kazakhstan. That’s Kazakhstan though and you can kind of expect it to come from there. Not a hockey “juggernaut” like the EIHL. Even over year in North America with leagues like the LNAH, FHL, to a lesser extent the CHL, it’s happening here too.

Sadly, nothing is ever going to change. It would need to take a whole overhaul of a team or league to get things moving in the right direction with players getting what they’re owed. As long as they type of owners are in charge, there’s not much hope. I hope more and more players start to come out with how they’re being treated. It’s almost as if there’s a stigma attached to it. Almost like you’re not man enough to take it if you speak up. Well guess what, times have change and it’s time to get your due.

Cornwall River Kings, fans and the Alex Penner debacle

Photo: Rick Bowen

Photo: Rick Bowen

A lot of people have been asking me why I haven’t commented on the Alex Penner fiasco that took place a couple weeks ago at the Ed Lumley Arena and commenting that I should be sticking up for my team, the Cornwall River Kings.

Sticking up for my team is one thing, agreeing with Alex Penner’s actions and not my team’s fans is another.

Look, even though this is the LNAH, a line needs to be drawn. I have no problem with what Alex Penner did. Yeah okay, his past events indicate he’s not one to back down from a fight be it how small but when somebody throws a damn can at your head (and makes you bleed no less), fan or not, you have a right to be pissed and retaliate.

These players are there for you enjoyment. They are there for your entertainment. Hell, some nights they beat each other to a bloody pulp just so you and your buddies can have something fun to do on a Saturday night. I have no problem with chirping and getting involved but when you start to get aggressive, it’s time to cut you off and say goodnight.

I don’t care what Penner did to provoke it, which I don’t even know if he did. If you watch the video (youtube it, I’m too lazy to link it), the fan comes running out of nowhere to launch the can as Penner skates off the ice. Like him or not, he’s a hockey player. He’s on the ice getting paid, you’re not and probably never will be.

Cell Block E can get rowdy and I think that’s fantastic. For the most part and the handful of games I’ve been too, I enjoy their heckling and commentary. I think some of the other teams find it amusing too. I know this guy might not have even been sitting in that section either.

Cornwall, you want to put a stop to this? Get some decent security who doesn’t just stand there. Tell them to not interfere with the chirping, only when things start to escalate. There’s no harm in a little heckling, hell this is hockey and the LNAH. If you do interfere, you’re only going to make it worse for yourselves.

Pack the house tonight. Let’s force a game 7.

Who should be the next coach for the Coventry Blaze and Why

March’s note: Once again, I have the honour of writing a piece and donating it to the fine people of Bleed and Blue, the Coventry Blaze’s fanzine. I took on a hotly debated topic with ease. Check out http://www.bleedandblue.co.uk


175px-CoventryBlaze
The topic given for this article and your reading pleasure is who should be the coach of the Coventry Blaze and why. Good question.

Tough decision.

When Matty Soderstrom took over the helm at the beginning of the season, no one knew what to expect. That being said, everyone had their expectations way too high for a first year coach. Things were going to go wrong, that was inevitable but to sink that quickly? Well, pretty sure nobody expected that.

The Blaze started off this year’s campaign with a good feeling. Somewhere along the line things changed. I wasn’t a fly in the wall in the dressing room, hell I’m far away from the damn country, but it doesn’t take the average hockey fan to realize that the players did not want to play for him. They seemed slow and sluggish. I’d even go on the edge and say that it looked like they weren’t even trying at times.

Of course, management didn’t see this (or maybe they did and turned a blind eye), until it was way too late in the season to salvage it. Canning Soderstrom and bringing in Marc Lefevbre as a rental for hire coach from Sheffield was not the answer to stop the bleeding. However, this happened and there’s no point crying about it now.

Lefebvre with the Dayton Demonz of the FHL.

Lefebvre with the Dayton Demonz of the FHL.

Marc Lefevbre’s head coaching ability and experience come from the Federal Hockey League over here in North America. You think the LNAH runs things to the ground? Try the FHL. The FHL is as bush league as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, there are very talented players playing there (including Lefevbre), but let’s face it: Rob Ford could probably run that league better and that’s saying something.

Is he the right person to lead the Blaze in the upcoming season? If it were me, no.

BUT WAIT….

Continue reading

With OHL season over, Kingston Frontenacs Sam Bennett turns his attention to the NHL Entry Draft

Although the Kingston Frontenacs surprised most and bowed out of the first round of the OHL playoffs, most would seem to call it a day on this year’s hockey season. However, for a select couple of Fronts, they now turn their attention to the National Hockey League Entry Draft taking place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photo: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

(Photo: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

This is a monumental time in a junior, heck, every hockey player’s career. It can justify all the decisions that were made soundly or made in haste. Three players on the Frontenacs squad are looking at being taken by teams in the first round. Roland McKeown, Spencer Watson and superstar Sam Bennett who seems to be in the race to be taken first overall.

A native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Bennett has been with the Frontenacs for two seasons. His resume for the past year is an impressive one. He won double gold last summer for Team Canada at both the World U18 Championship and the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament over in the Czech Republic. Returning in the fall on a high for the Frontenacs, Bennett managed to put together an impressive 24 game scoring streak before a minor injury put him out of commission for a few games. The NHL Central Scouting Bureau ranked Bennett as the top North American player to be drafted in their mid-season ranking. I’m sure that rank hasn’t changed much.

Bennett managed to become almost a two point a game player. His final point total for the 2013-2014 season saw him notch 91 points in 57 games. Pretty impressive for a lad who suffered a mid season injury. He was an essential asset to Kingston as well in their limited playoff run. In 7 games against the Peterborough Petes, Bennett notched 5 goals and 4 assists.

There’s no doubt the Sam Bennett will be drafted into the National Hockey League this summer. The question now turns to what rank and to what team. He would be an essential asset to a club like the Buffalo Sabres or the already youngster filled Edmonton Oilers. We won’t find out where the teams fall for a few more weeks.

Texas shooting for Calder success

MarchHockey:

I know I have quite a few Texas fans that follow the blog. Take a look at what Mark has to say about the Baby Stars.

Originally posted on ukhockeyfan:

The Texas Stars have been the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars for five seasons including the one currently in progress.

In their first season of operation, they made it all the way to the Calder Cup final before losing in six games to the Hershey Bears.
The next season was a first round exit in six game to Milwaukee which was followed up by a losing season, where the team failed to make the post season.
It wasn’t just a losing season though as they finished bottom of the West and 29th in the AHL.
For the 2012/13 season, Willie Desjardins was installed as head coach, having been an assistant coach for Dallas the previous year.
Before that, Desjardins had spent the last nine seasons in the WHL with Medicine Hat Tigers.
The impact was immediate as Texas went on to win the Western Conference before losing in the…

View original 821 more words

Sports Energy News – Pat Haramis and the Cornwall Royals

I am delighted to be apart of the Sports Energy News team here in Cornwall, Ontario! Sports Energy is a publication that promotes the best local sports stories throughout Cornwall, SD&G and Akwesasne. My first story assigned to me was a look back at the 1980 Memorial Cup championship with former Cornwall Royal, Pat Haramis.

I had a great half hour conversation with Pat as he told me tons of stories from his time with the Royals and as a Golden Knight at Clarkson University in upstate New York.

If you’re in the Cornwall area, you can pick up Sports Energy News across 250 locations including Food Basics, Tim Horton’s, and the McConnell Medical Centre. This edition also includes a profile on Cornwall Multi-Sport triathlete Dana McLean.

For those of you not in the Cornwall area, you can read the paper right here at this link: http://issuu.com/blapierre/docs/issue_no_17/11

Haramis

How I became a fan of the Coventry Blaze and EIHL

March’s Note: I had contributed this article to the new Coventry Blaze fanzine, “Bleed and Blue.” It was first published on their website today but it meant too much to me to not throw it up on my blog. Enjoy.

175px-CoventryBlazeI am Canadian.

I live thousands upon thousands of miles away from most of the fans, players and anyone attached to the Elite Ice Hockey League. With my father’s side of the family originating from Southampton, it’s no wonder why I hold the United Kingdom close to my heart.

However, I am as Canadian as they come. I enjoy my Tim Horton’s (except their coffee, disgusting), I’ve definitely taken advantage of my free health care these past couples years, I say “eh” way more often then I should, and it goes without saying that I love my hockey.

When I was in grade school, EIHL player, Sheffield Steeler and most likely Hall of Famer, Jeff Legue was suiting up for our hometown Junior A team, the Cornwall Colts. The city of Cornwall beams with pride whenever someone brings up his name. Many know he plays hockey overseas in Europe but just as many, if not more don’t realize the league he calls home is in the United Kingdom.

I started my blog last year as a way to past the time when I was recovering from surgery. With lots of time on my hands, I decided to become a voice for lesser known leagues around the world. I covered the Australian and New Zealand Ice Hockey League’s with pride and made many new friends and contacts. When the Cornwall River Kings of the LNAH secured Legue’s league rights, he popped onto my radar again after not thinking about him for all those years.

FC41E0E0-B175-44F2-B6E7A758CC5D4ABC_H234_W407In the fall of 2013, I met through the greatness of Twitter and my blog, Paul Wheeler and Ed Kimberley. These two gentleman are the fine play by play webcasters for your Coventry Blaze. Kimberley urged me to sit back and take in a few games. When I decide to become a fan of a team and throw them into my favourites, I tend to fall back and do some research, looking for what kind of a storied tradition they might have. Upon concluding my “studies”, if you will of each team in the Elite league, I could not leave the legacy, tenacity and toughness of the Coventry Blaze behind. They were built to win from the start; their 4 regular season titles say it all. They reminded me of Canadian hockey.

It’s no secret that I have been battling some health issues over the past little while. I have been diagnosed with Liver Disease and a rare disorder called Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction. Essentially my bile ducts are not big enough for bile to flow through and it’s backing up into my liver. This has left me out of work and in constant unbearable pain and in need of more surgery in a couple months time.

The friends, fans, people associated with the team and league that I’ve met as I’ve been going through this has meant everything to me. The countless messages, support and even gifts I’ve received tell me that the EIHL deserves to be known around the world. I have not met a more passionate fan base than I have of the Elite Ice Hockey League. From here in Canada, I am making it my duty to help spread awareness of both the Coventry Blaze and EIHL as a whole to hockey fans here in Canada and around the world.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank each and every one of you. I love my newfound UK hockey family. I will always continue to Bleed Blue.

Ashley aka @MarchHockey

Players as pawns: Nottingham Panthers and Joe Grimaldi

D_GrhnPFLast Saturday night former Nottingham Panther Joe Grimaldi took to Twitter to air out his frustrations over the way he was treated by head coach Corey Nielson. Grimaldi accused Nielson of changing up his contract and badmouthing him to other clubs therefore ruining his chances of landing on another team. These tweets have since been deleted and Grimaldi has of course cited the age old excuse of being “hacked” by keyboard warriors.

Anyway, whether or not what Grimaldi is confessing is true is another story. I don’t know enough about him, Nielson or the Nottingham Panthers to give you a firm opinion on the matter. That being said, I know that it’s not out of the ordinary for coaches, GMs and Owners to sabotage the players hopes. So I don’t doubt that there some truth to his accusations.

In many teams and leagues around the world, some owners and general managers look at their players as pawns if you will. You are nothing more than a number to them. Hell, a dollar sign even. You can easily be replaced as there are countless numbers of players just waiting to take your spot. I’ve heard similar stories to Grimaldi’s from other players in different countries first hand from the players themselves. They don’t look out for what’s best for the player. Case in point, Mike Danton.

I’ll spare you the details but Mike Danton was treated extremely horrible in the most insane conditions in Kazakhstan. Actually, you can read his blog post about it here. Even after speaking with the club’s brass about it, nothing changed. We are speaking about Kazakhstan though so this story might be on the more extreme side of things. On the other side of the coin, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the New Zealand Ice Hockey League and the Australian Ice Hockey League.

As early as junior, players are looked at as a viable income to several owners. (Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not lumping every single one in the same fashion. I can name quite a few who treat their players like royalty.) The perfect example of this is the tragic case of Terry Trafford. The Saginaw Spirit is growing a hardened reputation of not being a very reputable organization to head into.

As we get into the semi-pro ranks, the tide continues to grow. Promises are not promises; wages don’t get dealt out or they get held back. I’m not talking about clubs who can’t seem to afford to play their players (that’s a whole other topic) but one’s who outright refuse to pay their players.

Hockey as a profession is luck of the draw. It’s hit or miss. Unless you know how to weasel and sly your way around, you might want to do some research before you sign that “big pay cheque”.

One on One with Olympic official Joy Tottman

(Photo: icehockey.co.uk)

(Photo: icehockey.co.uk)

Joy Tottman is a well-known name among British hockey circles. She’s been apart of Ice Hockey UK as well as the IIHF for over 15 years. What’s even better is she is a strong woman at the top of her game. The past Olympics in Sochi, Russia was her third consecutive time officiating the Winter Games and she held the honour of being selected to run the ice for the women’s gold medal game between Canada and the United States. I caught up with her to shed a little insight into what makes a strong woman referee and to give women here in Canada a chance at stepping into another part of the best sport on Earth.

March Hockey: How did you get involved in hockey? What made you head into the disciplinary part of the game?

Joy Tottman: I first started refereeing at the age of 12.  I had wanted to learn how to skate and my dad had taken me to our local rink and given me the choice of playing hockey or figure skating and I chose hockey.  I was playing under 10s and when we had games no officials were turning up.  My dad was one of the only parents who could skate and so he took the referee course so that we could play our games.  He would then have to stay on to referee the games after my game and so he got me to take the course too so I could stay on with him.  I started to enjoy the refereeing and made the switch to just refereeing at a really young age.  I guess it was a way for me to be involved in the game without the physical element of playing in a boy’s team.

MH: This past Olympics was your third. How do you prepare mentally and physically for an event of that size?

 

( Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images)

( Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images)

JT: The physical preparation was a huge part of going to the Sochi Olympics.  There was a pre-Olympic selection camp in August 2013 where we were tested on and off the ice.  I had a trainer for off-ice who I saw 3 times a week and then did my own programme on the other days.  Because I have a day job this meant training at 6am each morning.  The mental preparation for me was all about getting game experience throughout the season and of course over the years.  Making sure that I focused on each game and learned from the situations within it.  It was about putting myself mentally in a place where I knew I was prepared and had done everything possible to be in the best shape and best frame of mind for the games. Continue reading