Ohhhh baby! Bob Cole, the voice of my generation

BobCole07There’s a lot of little Canadian hockey stories that float around during this time of year. Some don’t get past the lips of those who live through it. Some do. I think it’s important to truly understand every aspect of the game, right down to the people who flood the rinks. It’s also important to understand how they got there.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the people of the world were put through many twists and turns in their everyday lives. In between fighting two big wars in Europe, the world plunged into economic turmoil as the stock markets crashed. On that Black Tuesday in 1929, Canada and the rest of the world entered the Great Depression.

Out on the Eastern coast of the country Newfoundland was particularly hit the hardest. As they were still a Dominion of the British Empire and not a province of Canada just yet, the Depression drove in a nail to their deathbed having the challenging economy pile on top of reparations from World War I, construction of the Newfoundland railroad and the collapse of fisheries.

As violent protests and riots seemed the norm across the area, the people of Newfoundland found themselves suffering from malnutrition and diseases like tuberculosis began to spread. It’s hard to believe that something this bad was happening within Canada’s borders but, that’s history.

In June of 1933 in the Dominion of Newfoundland’s capital, St. John’s, Robert Cecil Cole was born into those trying times. However, the resilience of a Newfoundlander is tested many times through life and they will always prevail.

The man who came to be known in hockey households worldwide as Bob Cole, begin his broadcasting career as a 23 year old working for St. John’s AM radio station, “Voice Of the Common Man”. Started in a house by another St. John’s lad Walter Williams in 1936, the VOCM radio station gave Cole the chance to find his voice as an announcer and newsreader.

After gaining his bearings and some confidence under his belt Cole made his way inland to Toronto where he met up with legendary hockey announcer Foster Hewitt. Hewitt, who was then the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, provided Cole with valuable advice. Cole managed to leave some of his demo tapes behind and well, the rest is history. I like to think that Hewitt’s famous Hockey Night in Canada sign on of “Hello, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland”, was foreshadowing of a future Newfoundland takeover. (It wasn’t. Like I mentioned earlier, Newfoundland wasn’t apart of Canada when Hewitt wrote that line.)

Cole started off in 1969 with CBC Radio. A short four years later (and after calling Paul Henderson’s winning goal over the USSR in 1972), Cole transferred over to television for the newly expanded version of Hockey Night in Canada. Along with Danny Gallivan in Montreal, and Bill Hewitt (Foster’s son), the CBC had a very strong three punch announcing tandem. Upon Hewitt’s retirement, Cole became the voice of the Leafs. Cole also was the voice for many international and Olympic match ups. One of his most famous calls is my all time favourite:

Foster Hewitt was the voice of a generation. He was the hockey voice of my parents’ generation. However there is nothing more nostalgic then hearing Bob Cole and his color commentator Harry Neale call a hockey game. I’m instantly brought back to my cold Canadian winter childhoods of watching HNIC every Saturday night. Hell, even when they only started broadcasting the game at the second period.

There are a lot of hidden gems in hockey’s history. Thankfully this one didn’t stay hidden for long.

Ohhh baby.

 

Reddit reacts to Team Canada winning World Junior gold

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Team Canada was on fire so bad last night that they broke Twitter. (Okay, maybe they weren’t the reason for the blackout but I’m going to dream and think it was. Sue me.) However, another marvelous internet site was still kicking.

I present to you some of the best comments from the World Juniors gold medal game thread from Reddit because I’m a nerd like that. (Warning: NSFW language ahead!)

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CONGRATS TEAM CANADA

Laura Fortino selected first overall in 2014 CWHL Draft

(Photo: Finn O'Hara)
(Photo: Finn O’Hara)

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League held its annual draft last night and saw a number of talented women earn the honour to don the colours of the five member teams.

The Brampton Thunder selected Canadian Women’s National Team defenseman Laura Fortino with their first overall pick. The Cornell Big Red star has been a part of the national team since 2011 where she has earned four gold medals and three silvers in numerous IIHF tournaments. Fortino also has the honour of being Co-Rookie of the Year for Cornell in 2009 along with being nominated to the All Rookie and All-Star teams.

With the second pick in the draftr, the Toronto Furies drafted towering defenseman Megan Bozek from the United States Olympic Team. The Minnesota Golden Golpher was a monumental part of Team USA’s Silver medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A force on the blue line with an incredible point shot, it’s too bad the Furies male counterparts in the Maple Leafs couldn’t suit her up for a game or two.

Rounding out the first round, the third pick belonged to the Calgary Inferno who stuck with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and picked up forward Sarah Davis to the mix. The Boston Blades jumped in fourth and drafted dynamite forward Jenny Potter and the 5th pick went to the Montreal Stars who stayed close to home and added forward Kim Deschenes fom the L’Universite de Montreal.

Clarkson University had the most picks iced from their domain with four. Another interesting selection came in the 8th round as the Calgary Inferno drafted Aina Takeuchi from the Japan National Team. Interesting to see how that plays out.

laura_fortino

Here’s the full 19 rounds of who was chosen:
Round 1
1 Laura Fortino  D Canada Olympic Team                     Brampton Thunder
2 Megan Bozek    D United States Olympic Team          Toronto Furies
3 Sarah Davis     F Minnesota Golden Gophers                Calgary Inferno
4 Jenny Potter    F Minnesota Whitecaps / Team USA Boston Blades
5 Kim Deschenes F  l’université de Montréal                Montreal Stars
Round 2
1 Jamie Lee Rattray F Clarkson University Brampton Thunder
2 Kelly Terry F University of Minnesota Toronto Furies
3 Hayleigh Cudmore D Cornell University Calgary Inferno
4 Monique Lamoureux D Team USA Boston Blades
5 Vanessa Gagnon F Clarkson University Montreal Stars
Round 3
1 Carly Mercer F Clarkson University Brampton Thunder
2 Tanis Lamoureux F Elmira College Toronto Furies
3 Louise Warren F Boston University Calgary Inferno
4 Brianna Decker F University of Wisconsin Badgers / Team USA Boston Blades
5 Sophie Brault D Carabins Université de Montreal Montreal Stars
Round 4
1 Erica Howe G Clarkson University Golden Knights Brampton Thunder
2 Candice Styles D Wilfrid Laurier University Toronto Furies
3 Jessica Campbell F Cornell Big Red / Canada U22 Calgary Inferno
4 Alyssa Gagliardi D Cornell University Boston Blades
5 Chelsey Saunders F McGill Martlets Montreal Stars
Round 5
1 Kelly O’Hanlon F University of Toronto Brampton Thunder
2 Laurel Hill D St. Norbert College Toronto Furies
3 Brittany Esposito F Northeastern University Calgary Inferno
4 Kaleigh Fratkin D Boston University Terriers Boston Blades
5 Erin Lally F Concordia University Stingers Montreal Stars
Round 6
1 Ellie Seedhouse F Western Mustangs Brampton Thunder
2 Leah Whittaker D Niagara University Toronto Furies
3 Kristen Hagg F SAWHA Calgary Chargers Calgary Inferno
4 Bray Ketchum F Boston Blades / Yale Boston Blades
5 Sydney Aveson G Plattsburgh State Cardinals Montreal Stars
Round 7
1 Jennifer Ward F Brampton Thunder Brampton Thunder
2 Danielle Butters G Minnesota State University, Mankato Toronto Furies
3 Samantha Fieseler D Pursuit Of Excellence Hockey Academy Calgary Inferno
4 Nicole Stock G Brown University Boston Blades
Round 8
1 Fielding Montgomery F Dalhousie University Brampton Thunder
2 Laura Saar D N/A Toronto Furies
3 Aina Takeuchi D Japan National Team Calgary Inferno
4 Denna Laing F Princeton University Boston Blades
Round 9
1 Michelle Ashburner G Western Mustangs Brampton Thunder
2 Camille Trautman G Red Deer College Queens Calgary Inferno
3 Janine Weber F Providence College Boston Blades
Round 10
1 Calaine Inglis F University of Calgary Dinos Calgary Inferno
2 Jordan Smelker F RPI Boston Blades
Round 11
1 Glenda Edie D University of Lethbridge Calgary Inferno
2 Rebecca Morse D Providence College Boston Blades
Round 12
1 Christina Kelly F UPEI Panthers Calgary Inferno
2 Megan Myers F Utica College Pioneers Boston Blades
Round 13
1 Olivia Ross G Western University Mustangs Calgary Inferno
2 Laura Veharanta F Providence College Boston Blades
Round 14
1 Rebecca Mosher D Saint Mary’s University Calgary Inferno
2 Taylor Holza F Boston University Boston Blades
Round 15
1 Cassidy Anderson D NAIT Ooks Calgary Inferno
2 Brooke Fernandez D ZSC Lions, Zurich, Switzerland Boston Blades
Round 16
1 Dayna King F Sask Wheat Queens Calgary Inferno
2 Corinne Buie F Providence Friars Boston Blades
Round 17
1 Denise Cardello F Castleton State College Boston Blades
Round 18
1 Alexius Schutt G Sacred Heart University Boston Blades
Round 19
1 Stephanie Ciampa G Mercyhurst University Boston Blades

It’s time to bring back the World Cup of Hockey

World_Cup_HockeyOfficiating always comes under subjective scrutiny in any sport. As the sport continues to grow and get bigger and as games get more meaningful, we tend to focus more on the rule enforcers. In international competition, politics come into play and at the very worse can taint your sport for life.

The International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships just wrapped up their 2014 tournament in Minsk, Belarus. Taking place every May, the tournament has attempted to showcase the best of the best in international hockey. However, its timing has always been debated as strange with the NHL playoffs proceeding at the same time. Many people feel, at least on North American soil, that this tournament is really just a waste of ice.

Russia became 2014 World Champions after a controversial defeat over Finland. The Finns got robbed by very questionable officiating and after playing one of the best games in their nation’s history, was forced to be regulated to second. Calls were blown on the ice in favour of Russia and penalties that should have never even be questioned were called against Finland.

Finnish graffiti artist Hende Nieminen went to the walls of Helsinki after the championship game to show his distaste. (Photo: Hende Niemenin)
Finnish graffiti artist Hende Nieminen went to the walls of Helsinki after the championship game to show his distaste. Translated, it says “Silver is not shame, but the judges are.” (Photo: Hende Niemenin)

Talk immediately became not of the two talented teams on the ice but of the black and white striped individuals who dictate the play. Some say the refs played in Russia’s favour to make up for their horrible demise at the Sochi Olympics. You’ll never be able to find out if there was a motive behind their calls or if they’re just terrible international referees but it shines a black eye on the sport.

It’s time to bring back the World Cup of Hockey.

The World Cup of Hockey came to fruition in the mid 1970’s, originally called the Canada Cup. Doug Fisher and Alan Eagleson formed the tournament on the basis of showcasing the best hockey talent of the world through various nations and their competing squads. It would be held every three to five years and would take place in NHL venues before the start of the NHL regular season. As the Winter Olympics were still considered amateur competition and the IIHF World Championships always coincided with the NHL playoffs, this tournament would truly hold the best of the best.

1996USAIn the mid 90’s the Canada Cup changed its name to the World Cup of Hockey. The World Cup was played under NHL rules and NHL officiating. The United States won the inaugural championship beating Canada. Along with their North American counterparts, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Germany and Slovakia each iced their own squad. Another tournament was held in 2004 during the lockout and proved to be successful.

The problem is this tournament is not held often enough to put an end to the IIHF World Championships. There’s talk of another World Cup happening in 2016, a non-Olympic year, which would put a 12 year gap between tournaments. NHL rules and rinks provide the game with the best players on the ice. There’s no reason for international rules and referees to come in a game with a political contest in mind, this isn’t the 1960’s anymore.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be talking about this nor would I be writing this article. I don’t want to read articles about how the refs are putting the sabotage to one side. Leave that to Olympic ice skating. I’d rather listen to Don Cherry scream about the World Cup.

Turning Japanese: Team Canada and the dreaded Nagano shootout

Jagr and Gretzky shake hands post game. (Photo: Kathy Willens)
Jagr and Gretzky shake hands post game. (Photo: Kathy Willens)

It’s Olympic season so I thought I’d take a little trip down memory lane. It’s not such a great memory but one that sticks out of Canada’s hockey history like a sore thumb. The lessons learned at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan were pivotal to the shape of how Team Canada creates and maintains it’s roster in the present time. Sit back and enjoy the tale of Team Canada and Czech Republic’s quest for hockey gold.

The 1998 Canadian Men’s Olympic hockey team came into Nagano looking for a score to settle with the United States. Just two years earlier, the US captured gold at the 1996 World Cup. What both teams didn’t expect though, was neither of them even medaling.

The Canadian team was put together with once again gold in mind. With it being the first time the National Hockey League would take a break from their regular season and allow NHL players to compete, household names such as Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Scott Stevens, and Martin Brodeur complemented the greatest player in the world. That player named Wayne Gretzky.

With a stacked team at hand, Team Canada made its way to the medal round with a perfect 3-0 record. Wins came from the beatings of Belarus, Sweden and the aforementioned Team USA. While coming into the game against Kazakhstan a bit cocky, the hockey gods bestowed its power against the red and white. Proving just anything can happen in Olympic sport, Joe Sakic strained a knee ligament and was out for the rest of the tournament. The not so good turning point for Team Canada.

Hasek. Fleury.
Hasek and Fleury.

Entering the semifinals against the Czech Republic, Team Canada again once had the advantage. The Czechs iced a team that at the time only had 10 players on its roster playing in the NHL. Things were neck and neck and anxiety was at an all time high as both teams entered the third period with a score knotted at one.

The Canadian team was carefully put together by none other than Mr. Broadstreet Bully, Bobby Clarke. With a little input from head coach Marc Crawford, the Team Canada brass was beaming with pride with their selections. On paper, there was no way anyone could come close. Back home, some of the choices were controversial. Eric Lindros was named captain ahead of the likes of Gretzky, Yzerman and Raymond Borque. Clarke’s pick of Lindros may have been a bit biased as he was General Manager of Lindros’ Flyers at the time. A sleeper pick that had heads shaking was Rob Zamuner. Continue reading “Turning Japanese: Team Canada and the dreaded Nagano shootout”

What will it take for Team Canada to win gold?

Spoiler: They won’t.

sochi-2014-logoLook, I’m the biggest patriotic Canadian in my neck of the woods but I know reality when I see it. Of course, I will be cheering my heart out for the boys in red and white but I truly don’t think gold is in the cards this time around. Maybe I’m just a realist.

Maybe this article will come and bite me in the ass.

While Team Canada is indeed sending over an impressive and stacked team to the frozen Olympic ice of Sochi, Russia, there are plenty of details that pile up against them in their run to make a repeat at winning gold.

A few solid lines of forwards (we do have the best forwards in the tournament, no doubt) and defense is not enough when it comes to international competition. It may get by in the NHL, but not on the world stage. You need impeccable goaltending. With Team Canada selecting Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, and Mike Smith, I just don’t think that’s enough to hack it.

Sadly, his time is over. :( (Photo: sports.msn.ca)
Sadly, his time is over. 😦 (Photo: sports.msn.ca)

That’s not their fault however. Our goaltending hasn’t been up to snuff in years. When these 3 goalies are hot, they’re insanely hot. The key is to catch them on their good streaks because when they’re bad, they’re downright terrible. Thankfully, Carey Price has been standing on his head for the Canadiens lately so that is something to get excited for.

Another big factor is the size of the ice. Olympic style rinks and European/Russian rinks in general are bigger then the NHL and North American ones. This has proved to be detrimental to Team Canada in numerous international tournaments, not just the Olympics. On top of which, hockey is played in an entirely different way; it’s more about speed and stick handling compared to our well known physical game. Luckily some of our players have had the chance to play in European leagues during the lock out so that might be a bit of an advantage but it won’t be enough.

Russia-hockey-logoLastly, Russia will have the biggest advantage of everyone as they are the home country. Now, I now the Cold War has come and gone, the Summit Series is a twinkle in everyone’s eye but I still wouldn’t put anything past them in terms of sabotage. Hell, it’s 2014, I shouldn’t have to be thinking like this but the reality is I am. With all the media surrounding the Games and with the likes of a few players on the American team telling their families to stay home for fear of violence, it’s just in the back of my mind.

Hopefully everything I’ve written here turns out wrong. Hopefully Team Canada does in fact repeat. Hell, hopefully they’ll medal. The odds are good yet the goods are odd.

Team Canada Wins Sixth Straight Gold At Ivan Hlinka

The boys are golden and the streak is staying alive.

(hlinkamemorial.com)
(hlinkamemorial.com)

Team Canada powered through the Russians in the semi final yesterday and then shutout the Americans today to capture their sixth straight gold medal at the U18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic. Chicoutimi Sagueneens netminder Julio Billia picked up his second shutout of the tournament with the 4-0 win.

Oshawa Generals forward Michael Dal Colle’s first goal was all the Canadians needed to put away the Americans. Brandon Wheat Kings’ Jayce Hawryluk and Barrie Colts forwards Aaron Ekblad and Brendan Lemieux added the extra cushion for the red and white. Billia managed just 21 saves.

The story of the tournament is powerhouse forward Spencer Watson of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. He lead the tournament with an astonishing 10 points (four goals, six assists) with three helpers coming from today’s final. Watson and his Kingston teammate Sam Bennett each scored once in Canada’s 3-1 semi final victory over Russia.

Canada is proving that their up and coming junior stars are strong and willing to play. There’s no shortage of talent across the board in every league and every position. This includes goaltending where Hockey Canada is extremely concerned. The list of next year’s NHL draftees are going to be long and no shortage of depth and will have NHL general managers making some very tough decisions.

In the bronze medal game, the Czech Republic edged Russia with a 3-2 win.

Spencer Watson’s shootout goal leads to semi final berth for Team Canada

Kingston Frontenacs forward Spencer Watson has been an unstoppable force for Team Canada at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic. Today’s game finished in dramatic fashion as both teams kept fans on the edge of their seat.

(hlinkamemorial.com)
(hlinkamemorial.com)

Watson’s latest expenditure came at the hands of Team Switzerland where the Swiss forced Canada into a shootout. The Swiss rallied in the second and third period to tie the game up at three. Watson prevailed and notched the shootout winner to seal the deal and has had at least one point in each round robin game. Team Canada sits  on top of the group A standings and will head to the semi finals.

Canada’s other goals came from Watson’s Kingston teammate Sam Bennett, Barrie Colts scoring machine and Team Canada leader Aaron Ekblad and Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brayden Point. Watson also picked up an assist on Point’s goal. Chicoutimi Sagueneens goaltender Julio Billia picked up his second win of the tournament.

This pivotal win gives Team Canada a playoff berth where they will face the Russians on Friday. Canada is going for its sixth gold medal in a row at this tournament.

In group B action, Team USA won their final game of round robin competition to finish on top of the standings. Three members of the Portland Winterhawks picked up points in their 5-2 victory over Slovakia. The United States will now face the host nation of Czech Republic in other semi final match up on Friday.

Canada drops to Sweden; Sweden’s Eriksson Breaks Leg

(Photo credit: hlinkamemorial.com)
(Photo credit: hlinkamemorial.com)

Team Canada suffered their first loss at the hands of Team Sweden at the U18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament today. However, Sweden suffered it’s own loss as starting goaltender Jesper Eriksson left the game.

Jared McCann of the Soo Greyhounds put Canada on the board first but it was Sweden who retaliated with three straight in the first period. Two of those goals came from Swedish sharpshooter Kevin Elgestal.

The Swedes carried their 3-1 lead into the third period but Sam Bennett had other ideas as he pulled Canada within one with goal coming at 3:54. However it was short lived as Micheal Nylander Altelius put Sweden on top by two once again. Spencer Watson notched a powerplay goal for the red and white near the end of the third but it proved to be not enough as Sweden hung on to a 4-3 victory.

(Photo: hlinkamemorial.com)
(Photo: hlinkamemorial.com)

Not all went well for Team Sweden though as starting netminder Jesper Eriksson left the game in the third period after colliding with a Canadian player who had been tripped. Eriksson is rumored to have broken his leg and will be out for the remainder of the tournament and possibly his upcoming season. A penalty was called against Sweden on the play.

Team Canada’s record falls to 1-1-0 as they powered over the Czech Republic with a 4-0 victory on Monday. Their next game comes in the form of Team Switzerland who actually formulated a win against Sweden in their second game of action. That game is set to take place on Wednesday at Alcapast Arena in Breclav, Czech Republic.

Chicoutimi Sagueneens Julio Billia earns Player Of The Game Honors for Team Canada

Team Canada blanked the Czech Republic at a score of 4-0 in their first official game at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. The Canadians put on a show and dazzled the crowd with their hockey sense and ability. Team Canada is made up of the best junior players from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL.

1310776129443_ORIGINALStarting goaltender, and QMJHL Chicoutimi Sagueneens netminder. Julio Billia earned his first shutout of the tournament and picked up Player of the Game honors as well for Canada.

Newly appointed team captain, and Barrie Colts forward Aaron Ekblad added a pair of assists in the win along with a goal and an assist from sharpshooter Michael Dal Colle.

Dal Colle’s power play goal in the first period was the first of two as Hayden Fleury added his own. Kingston’s Spencer Watson added to the scorecard with his goal coming off of a penalty shot in the second period. The scoring stopped in the third period with Sherbrooke Phoenix’s forward Daniel Audette notching the final and Team Canada’s third power play goal.

Czech Republic seemed to spend an awful long of time in the penalty box as they took 7 over the course of the game.

The action at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament continues tomorrow. Team Canada will be back at the Alcapast Arena in Breclav, Czech Republic as they enter their second game of the tourney, taking on team Sweden.