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.

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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 “2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions”

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.

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 “One on One with Olympic official Joy Tottman”

Stadium Series – How many is too many?

Another weekend of outdoor hockey games has come and gone for the NHL. Another weekend where I didn’t spend a minute watching either game.

I don’t hate the idea of outdoor games but they have seemed to have lost their luster. The first couple of Winter Classic and Heritage Classic games were great. They brought back that old time feel of playing shinny out on the pond or on your backyard rink growing up with snowflakes cascading all around you. After the third one though, that was enough for me as I was watching at home on television.

Raanta at Soldier Field. (Photo: Jason Kessenich www.aepoc.com)
Raanta at Soldier Field. (Photo: Jason Kessenich http://www.aepoc.com)

These outdoor games played in baseball stadiums and football fields are meant to be watched in person. The experience of being in a famed sporting venue while watching a game of hockey under the lights and dark of night. Not at home on your couch squinting to see the puck because the camera is 8 million miles away.

Essentially, it’s a money grab. The whole Stadium Series shtick was brought up, at least in my mind anyway, as a way to suck fans back into the game from last year’s lockout and make money from all the revenue lost. New merchandise to be bought, crazy ticket prices and what have you. Great idea, marketed insanely well and it worked. Maybe too well. I mean hell, some of the baseball teams can’t even sell out their own stadiums.

How many more are we going to see of these though? It’s already lost its appeal to most hardcore fans around the league because of what I stated earlier; the camera angles are atrocious. The build up to them is kind of stupid as well. It’s nothing special, just another game albeit played outside.

My thinking is I hope the NHL will stick with what they know. Keep the Winter Classic and the Heritage Classic. If you really want to dabble with the Stadium Series, have one or two games. Not 5 or 6. The human mind gets sick of things quick. It’ll be just a matter of time before the next big marketing ploy comes knocking at Bettman’s door.

Australia’s dream is one step closer: Nathan Walker’s quest

CapitalsDevelepmentCampDay4-8-of-46On Saturday night, a mere three hours west from where I sat watching on television, a National Hockey League preseason game was taking place in the Yardmen Arena in the city of Belleville, Ontario. The community of Sterling-Rawdon won the Kraft Hockeyville challenge and was presented a National Hockey League game in their community.

While the teams of the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets took to the ice that is the home of the Belleville Bulls, only one name stood out to me. No, not Evander Kane or Dustin Byfuglien. Hell, not even Alexander Ovechkin.

That name was Nathan Walker.

Nathan Walker made history Saturday night becoming the first Australian to compete in a preseason NHL game as he skated with the Washington Capitals. He even helped out in the 4-3 shootout win, earning an assist on Washington’s first goal.

Walker was actually born in Wales, United Kingdom but grew up in Australia and found his love for the game. In 2007, he moved to the Czech Republic to help his play, suiting up for both under 18 and under 20 squads. Along the way he made stops in the Australia Ice Hockey League with the Sydney Ice Dogs.

Photo: capsinpictures.com
Photo: capsinpictures.com

Scouts saw something in this young kid as he signed a contract with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL for 2013. It was here in North America that the NHL started to really pay attention. After failing to be drafted in the 2013 Entry Draft in New Jersey, the Washington Capitals handed him a spot in their training camp leading to his debut Saturday night.

The sky is the limit for Walker. Given his talent and age, there is no doubt to see him in an NHL jersey sooner rather then later. Australia should be proud of the hockey talent they are producing.

Soon enough, and hopefully the world will take notice, the NHL might have a Aussie invasion.

Q&A With Former KHL Enforcer Jon Mirasty

mirasty-yablonski-590x445Jon “Nasty” Mirasty is one player you’d rather have on your team then to be playing against him. In his 10 year professional career which has seen him play all over the globe, he has racked up a total of 2571 penalty minutes.

Case in point: He’s not one to be messed with.

Jon Mirasty is a native of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan and got his start in the WHL. He turned pro in 2003 with the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL and the legend was born. I was intrigued by his style and his brief foray into the MMA world.

March Hockey: You’ve played in numerous leagues but the one I’m most intrigued by is the KHL. How does the game over in Russia compare to that of North America?? Different atmosphere??

Jon Mirasty: Russia was a great experience. The game is a lot different. You play on a bigger ice surface which opens things up. On the physical aspect, guys there shy away from the rough stuff. Instead of booing, fans whistle. You don’t know if they are cheering for you or against you. It was very hard for me because I love to fight, and there I’d get into only 4 or 5 fights a season. All in all, it was a great time!

MH: I’ll ask right off the bat too, who’s the toughest guy you’ve ever fought?

JM: The toughest guy I ever fought is a pretty hard question to ask. I’ve fought so many guys that were very tough in different ways. Memorable guys that stand out to me would be guys like Steve MacIntyre, Derek Boogard, Jeremy Yablonski. I have to admit, Steve Bosse hit pretty hard too! But like I said, all the guys I fought were pretty tough and I respect them for doing one of the harder jobs in the game.

MH: You’ve spent some time in the LNAH. How does that league compare to other ones you’ve played in? Do you think it’s changed since you’ve left?

42JM: I had a great time playing in the LNAH. Obviously the skill level wasn’t on par with the KHL or AHL, but I feel that a lot of people under estimate the league. From what I remember, there were some very good players, along with some very tough men. I love old school hockey but sometimes the fights/brawls got a little carried away. It was a very exciting league where fans got a little bit of everything. I haven’t played there in over 6 years so things may have changed.

MH: Growing up as a kid, who was your biggest influence on your game and why?

JM: A lot of people helped me get to where I got, but the biggest influence would have been my dad, Gary.

MH: Any chance will see you in an MMA ring again?? What was that experience like??

JM: MMA was awesome. I have a lot of respect for those athletes. It is completely different than fighting on skates. I did not prepare properly and was not ready to compete. It takes a lot of devotion and time to train. With my new business adventures, I doubt I’ll have the time to ever attempt to compete again. I will train though.

Jon-Mirasty

MH: If you could play (or fight haha) against anyone, past or present, who would it be and why??

JM: I’ve had great battles against many guys and would look forward to doing it again against any one of them. Let my son put a few years on, and maybe I’ll try him.