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”

Advertisements

The Latvian: Kristers Gudlevskis

LatviaWhat an incredible performance from 21 year old goaltending sensation Kristers Gudlevskis. This is what makes the Olympics what they are; anything can and more often then not will happen. The young netminder put up over 50 saves during the quarterfinal match-up against Team Canada and almost turned Latvia into a Cinderella story.

Gudlevskis hails from a town called Aizkraukle which holds a population of just over 8,000. In a country that only has 7 ice rinks to it’s name, finding one was almost impossible. However, he carried on his passion and ended up making a few dents in the Latvian national league and also suited up for  2 games with Dinamo Riga of the KHL.

The North American shores came calling as he became the highest ranking Latvian goaltender to get drafted into the NHL. He’s since making his name and way around the AHL as he started his career with a shutout in his very first game.

Gudlevkis might be a diamond in the rough. The thing North American fans have to remember is every single team in tournaments like these are now showing how much competitive they’re becoming. The rest of the world seems to finally be catching up to play with the likes of Team Canada and Team USA. Remember, the Olympics, World Cup, and international competitions is like the Stanley Cup for these countries. Goaltending is their biggest development.

At the same time, teams like Team Canada and USA (I’m not saying they’re doing this), can’t come in cocky and take anyone for granted. Not just the players but fans alike. In International competition, anything can happen. This isn’t the National Hockey League where you can ride a losing streak for a while and come back out on top. Hell, in the 60’s and 70’s, one game could mean retraction of the whole hockey program for your country.

With Team Canada, these NHL players are not used to going a few games without points. They lead their own teams night in and night out. Confidence can play a lot in how a team performs.

So while Latvia put the brakes on a Team Canada walk through, it shouldn’t come as no surprise. These teams are only going to get better as time goes on.

And hey, Ric Flair said it best….

“To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

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.

Will Jamie Benn be Team Canada’s Bobby Ryan?

Hockey_Canada_LFor some strange reason that I can’t seem to explain, I have never been fond of Jamie Benn. Maybe it’s because he’s on a west coast team and I have an east coast bias that’s been instilled into me since the day I was born. He just never really stood out to me.

That is, until this year.

Since being named captain, the Dallas Stars franchise player has come around full circle in my eyes and I’m finally starting to see what the fuss is all about (not that my opinion matters in this vast world of hockey but I digress). Maybe it’s because he finally has rock solid linemates in Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin but the kid is setting up and finishing plays like there’s no tomorrow.

In terms of points, Benn is notched at 36 and when we look at Canadian players in the NHL, that’s only one behind the likes of Claude Giroux and Matt Duchene. It also puts him ahead of Team Canada veterans Eric Staal and Logan Couture who some say are shoe ins. In my eyes, Benn has proven himself worthy enough over any of those four this season.

Jamie+Benn+Dallas+Stars+v+Colorado+Avalanche+rzaZ8LhDmz6lAnother thing.

While projecting a Team Canada roster, you’ll have arguably the best gold medal team at any given time on paper. Let’s not kid ourselves here though. I’m a proud Canadian but let’s face it, facts are facts. This is the Olympics. In Russia. (With sub-par goaltending.) History doesn’t like Canadians on foreign ice. Olympic and European sized rinks require speed, finesse and stick handling abilities.

Enter P.K. Subban.

Hopefully Stevie Y and company got a good look at last night’s game between the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens. Subban was just filthy in his win for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. His style of play is perfect and is built for international play. In a game that could have went either way, both Benn and Subban looked remarkable and are definitely making sure their names get brought up during roster selection.

Hey, Yzerman. No pressure eh.

What is wrong with David Poile and Team USA?

ex_usa_hockey_2010USA Hockey unveiled its 2014 Olympic roster after the Winter Classic on a snowy Sunday afternoon at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While most of the usual suspects were on the team, as always a few surprises were left off. You can say all you want about Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle. They deserve to be there more than a couple who were picked in their spots but one name that didn’t get called that really upsets me is a New York Islander.

Kyle Okposo.

The St. Paul, Minnesota native is a having a phenomenal first half of an NHL campaign. He has combined for 9 points in his past five games; scoring two game winning goals despite the Islanders in general having a very poor outlook. All said and done, he’s sitting at 40 points and is well ahead of a few that made the team.

David Poile’s explanation is that Okposo wasn’t made for big ice. Well, most of the American and Canadian players weren’t made for big ice to begin with. Most never trained on it growing up. Well, Mr. Poile, you can’t give me that excuse. Okposo played on an Olympic size sheet of ice at the University of Minnesota and proved to be exceptional. Damn shame.

Another player that I think deserves a shot at Olympic…..well maybe not a medal but Olympic experience is Tampa Bay’s goaltender Ben Bishop. I saw Bishop play live a few times while he was in Ottawa and he is remarkable. His huge frame takes up most of the net and is decisive to what Team USA is going to face in Sochi. He’s second in the NHL for save percentage. Jonathan Quick is ranked 24th and Jimmy Howard doesn’t even place in the top thirty.

Something’s wrong with this picture. I think we need to stop focusing on who has “Olympic experience” as a means to be able to choose them to an international team. Yes it’s great that they’ve been here before but how is anybody else going to be able to get a shot if they’re never chosen?

Anyway, good luck in Sochi Team USA. You’re going to need it.

Sochi 2014: Team Latvia

LatviaAnother surprise entry into the 2014 Sochi Olympics is Team Latvia who qualified at the beginning of this year.

The majority of the team is made up of players from Dinamo Riga of the KHL. Lone NHLer Arturs Kulda of the Winnipeg Jets could easily make an impact on the blue line with being paired up with Georgijs Pujacs or Kristaps Sotnieks from Riga.

From the forwards perspective, Latvia has sharpshooter Zemgus Girgensons who spent last season in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans. He was drafted 14th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2012 and hasn’t looked back at his homeland since.

Jānis Sprukts is another powerful forward who spent some of his junior years with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He’s also had stints with Rochester Americans, Florida Panthers, Dinamo Riga and is currently playing for CSKA Moscow in the KHL.

Team Latvia is actually head manned by Canadian Ted Nolan for the past two years. Nolan has had a bit of a controversial NHL career but a success coaching one. The Latvians must have seen something in Nolan as he’s been their bench boss since 2011.

Of course we can’t go without mentioning one of my favourite hockey Latvians, Arthurs Irbe. Although he’s retired, I’m sure he will be apart of the Olympic program in some way, shape or form. Goalie coach? We can only hope.

SOCHI 2014: Team Switzerland

Switzerland_national_ice_hockey_team_LogoSwitzerland is no longer a stranger to the hockey world. They upset the Canadians in the 2006 Turin Olympics and came close to doing it again in Vancouver. They are the current World Championship silver medalists and they are a team not to be taken lightly.

From the National Hockey League perspective, look for the sensational Nino Niederreiter who spent last season with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has recently been traded to the Minnesota Wild though and this upcoming season should prove to be a big one for him. Reto Suri is another powerful Swiss forward who spent last year with EV Zug. He signed a one year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning for this upcoming season.

Another traded Islander, former captain Mark Streit may be apart of Switzerland’s club. His new acquired team, the Philadelphia Flyers will definitely be welcoming his help on the blue line this year as will the Swiss. Other defenders that should pop up are Montreal’s Raphael Diaz and Nashville’s Roman Josi.

In goal, journeyman Martin Gerber should see some game time. He was last in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers in 2011. Has since been playing in the KHL and the Swiss league.

The rest of the club will be made up of the Swiss’s leagues best. SC Bern, HC Davos, and ZSC Lions will provide most of the players of Switzerland’s roster.

Although the Swiss are a still a few years away from an Olympic medal, their chances are getting better and better at every tournament. I would love to see these guys step out from the underdog spotlight.

SOCHI 2014: Team Norway

NIHF-logoAlright, another team on this side of the globe that people rarely hear about. You’re gonna read and learn a few things about the mightiness of Norway.

 

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will definitely be a part of Norway’s 314x407squad. If you’re not familiar with the name, you should be. Tollefsen was drafted in the third round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. After playing 4 seasons with the Syracuse Crunch and Columbus, he signed a one year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009. In 2010, he was sent to Detriot for Ville Leino. He is only one of 7 Norwegians to play in the NHL. He’s currently playing in the Swedish Elite League and if you don’t remember him from the Vancouver Olympics well, let me refresh your memory:

Yeah.

Anyway, the majority of their roster can be found playing in Sweden, and quite a few are with Modo and Frolunda. However, the GET-ligaen, the Norwegian premier league, hosts a bevy of talent as well. The most recent champs, the Stavanger Oilers have been known to go on 18 game win streaks and we all know that’s not an easy thing to do.

It’s been said that Norway or Norwegians don’t really care about hockey. Well, from my research, it’s alive and well. Norway currently features 5 mens leagues that each serve as a breeding ground for the other. Women have their own two league system including an Elite league. Oslo, the capital, hosts 16 teams itself! Of course, this is still a developing hockey nation in the modern sense but there’s still plenty of ice time to be had in Norway.

No longer the land of death metal bands.

SOCHI 2014 – Team Austria

568px-Austria_Bundesadler_2.svgAustria’s national team will have a Canadian connection, at least with it’s coaching staff. Former Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Emanuel Viverois is slated to take on the head coaching duties while former coach of Prince Albert, Rob Daum will be his assistant.

Team Austrai definitely has their fair share of fire power. Thomas Vanek, who is coming from the Buffalo Sabres will definitely bolster the line up. Along with former New York Islander and current Lake Erie Monster Thomas Pock on defense, Austria will be strong competitor.

Competing in their first Olympic games since 2002, there are a couple other NHLers that Austria might invite to camp. Carolina’s Andreas Nodl and New York Islanders Michael Grabner could definitely help out the team in their division. Their best goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum, is currently playing with Modo Hockey in Sweden.

Austria will definitely be put to the test but don’t count them out. This year’s Olympics will feature a strong cast of countries.

SOCHI 2014: Team Slovenia

SloveniaHockeyLogoThe Slovenian men’s national team is making the Olympics for the first time ever. Although there’s not many players you’ll recognize by name, you might want to get familiar with them now.

Let’s start with a familiar family.

Anze Kopitar currently plays for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and he’ll be right at home with Team Slovenia. Hell, the team is coached by his father Matjaz. His brother Gasper, who played junior with the Portland Winterhawks will also be suiting up along side him. It’ll be a one-two Kopitar punch.

371px-Robert_Kristan_17112009Slovenia’s best goaltender Robert Kristan, will likely see his time to shine. He has represented Slovenia on numerous occasions and has accumulated an extensive history of awards. His last IIHF tournament, he boasted a .904 save percentage. He currently plays for KHL Medveščak Zagreb.

Right winger Marcel Rodman spent his junior years with the Peterborough Petes. Drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2001, he never did quite make it up to the big time. He went back and played for numerous Slovenian teams, including representing the national team on several occasions and he currently players for Schwenningen Wild Wings of the German Elite League.

Although most of the names on the Slovenian roster are not well known, it’s no reason you should overlook them. Competing in Group A alongside Russia, The United States and Slovakia, they definitely have their work cut out for them. Between them, Latvia and Switzerland, one team could emerge as the underdog and surprise everyone. (I mean, remember Canada and Belarus? Torino disaster.)

The Sochi Olympics are coming fast and furious. Not much long to wait now folks.