Friday, 21 July 2017

The Free Agent Pipe Dream

I'm not sure if he just likes seeing his name in the news or if he's somewhat serious, but it sounds as though the 2017-18 season will be Ilya Kovalchuk's last in the KHL as he's planning to return to the NHL in 2018-19 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. While this may catch the attention of some NHL GMs, you have to think that Ray Shero's comments about not having the opportunity to turn down deals for Kovalchuk this summer should be a cautionary flag for the Kovalchuk camp in the NHL's desire to see Kovalchuk return to North American rinks.

The fact that Kovalchuk will be a free agent means that a few GMs will kick the tires on what will be a 35 year-old winger. The issue that presents itself is that contracts given to 35 year-old players are fully guaranteed as per the CBA. For a player who reportedly has lost a step in the KHL as age has begun to catch up to him, I'm going to doubt that many teams will show up with bundles of money to sign the aging star when he's been out of the league for nearly six seasons.

That's not to say there won't be interest, though. For a guy who scored 32 goals and 78 points in helping SKA St. Petersburg win the Gagarin Cup, he has shown that he can still pull the trigger in the KHL and his play-making abilities are still there on the big ice. The critics, however, will point to the KHL and state that the game play is more akin to what you'd see in the AHL, so make of that what you will. There will be a few GMs who could offer a short-term deal who would want to see the sniper bag 25-or-more goals just as he did in nine of ten full NHL seasons.

As stated above, a few GMs called Shero about the availability of Kovalchuk via a trade earlier this summer, but Shero told Andrew Gross of NorthJersey.com he never received a trade proposal from any team.

"It was, 'I talked to this team, that team, do you mind following up?' Which I did, and like I said, I never had an offer I turned down," Shero told Gross. "He had to get a deal somewhere. That was step one. Nothing happens with him. That never happened, at least to bring to me for me to consider anything. So again whatever happened in that process, I don't know. It wasn't my business, it was theirs. I was ready for point B but never got there."

Now it would seem like Shero left it up to Kovalchuk to make a deal with another team which is find for Shero to do, but Shero also added in the Gross interview that he was under the understanding that Kovalchuk would become a free agent in 2018. "Yes," he stated, "that's been the understanding all along. Won't have to go through this again."

In hearing that, I could see why Shero fielded zero offers on Kovalchuk. If a team can wait one season until he becomes a free agent, there's no sense in dealing players or picks for a guy who may want to play elsewhere anyway once he hits unrestricted free agency. But even if he had found a deal and some team traded for Kovalchuk, you still have to do the due diligence and find out what you're getting prior to making the deal and possibly signing Kovalchuk beyond 2018-19. With teams having scouts everywhere across the world now, it might more prudent than ever to really know what you're getting when you see who Kovalchuk's linemates were last season as well.

Look, this isn't a debate about whether Kovalchuk is coming back to the NHL. He is, and that much we can be sure of from his statements today. What the debate is about is signing a point-per-game player in the KHL to a guaranteed contract in the NHL for some term. Anything more than three years is ludicrous when you consider the number of 38 year-old players in the NHL today, but you'd have to expect that at 35 years of age Kovalchuk would want three years to make it worth his while. And term will most likely dictate what he's paid as well since that contract is guaranteed whether he plays, retires (again), or simply sits in the press box watching.

If your GM is a cautious man, I could see him trying to buy low on this one for a shorter term with the promise that the next deal, if Kovalchuk can bring in good returns, would make up the difference. If your GM is gambling man, I could see someone plunking down a three-year deal for $4 million in the hopes that Kovalchuk immediately brings results.

If you're Kovalchuk, though, there may only be five or six teams you're willing to even listen to when it comes to trying to win a Stanley Cup. Those teams are usually near the cap as it is, so Kovalchuk may be forced to take less in order to win. Whatever the answer is, we'll know Ilya Kovalchuk's strategy next summer on July 1. Until then, there is an NHL season to play and a KHL season to play, and anything can happen between now and then.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 252

The Hockey Show is a little late in getting this up today as the last twenty-four hours have been extremely busy, but here we are nonetheless. Tonight, Teebz is flying solo in terms of our regular hosts as Beans is off conducting a little family celebration as a birthday is happening, so we'll toss out some good wishes on that front. He will be joined by a special guest host, though, and the two will spend some time discussing a wide-range of topics as The Hockey Show gets back to its roots! Oh, and if you like winning stuff, tonight's show will have a couple of cool prizes up for grabs!

Tonight, The Hockey Show is proud and privileged to welcome a man who has been heard on Bisons hockey broadcasts as The Manitoban's Jason Pchajek sits down with Teebz in-studio! Jason covers all sports at the University of Manitoba and outside the campus as well as contributing on several other non-sports stories during his time at the university newspaper! He's extremely well-versed in the ongoings of the hockey world, so we're honoured he can spend some time with us! Among the topics we'll be covering tonight will be the recent slate of signings by the Winnipeg Jets and whether that will be enough to vault them past the usual suspects in the Central Division for a playoff spot, why the Moose seem to be content with being eliminated from the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs by Christmas, CWHL expansion and relocation, the new recruits by the Manitoba Bisons men's hockey team, why this year might be THE YEAR for the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team, is Letterkenny the best Canadian comedy right now, the upcoming final season of 19-2 and what that drama means to Canadian TV, and we'll give away some clothing compliments of the Sami Jo Small Hockey School and Rebel Pizza! There's lots happening, so make sure you tune in tonight!

I wouldn't repeat it week after week if it wasn't important. Download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet! It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz welcomes one of the upcoming-and-coming writers in Manitoba to the show as Jason Pchajek makes an appearance to talk hockey, Jared Keeso projects, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: July 20, 2017: Episode 252

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Another Pro Thunderbird

It's starting to become clear that a few pro leagues have decided to give U Sports athletes a shot at playing professional sports. The latest player to sign a professional contract is the University of British Columbia's Anthony Bardaro from the men's hockey team. Bardaro will forgo his fifth and final year of eligibility to join HC Asiago of the Alps Hockey League which consists of teams from Italy, Austria, and Slovenia. He'll join a squad that finished as a finalist for the league championship last season, and HC Asiago is getting one heckuva competitor from everything we've witnessed in Canada West Conference hockey play.

Bardaro was a major reason why the Thunderbirds made the playoffs last season in Canada West. He led the team in scoring with 14 goals and 30 points while appearing in all 28 games for the T-Birds, placing him fourth-overall in Canada West scoring. While Calgary eliminated UBC in the opening round of the playoffs, Barbaro added a goal and an assist in the two games the Thunderbirds played against the Calgary Dinos. In 110 U Sports games, Bardaro scored 36 goals and 102 points while adding another 14 points in 14 playoffs games. He was a major part of the T-Birds' offence, and he'll get to try and elevate those skills in Italy next season.

"I'm extremely excited to begin my professional hockey career in Italy," Bardaro told Jeff Sargeant of UBC Sports. "My time at UBC has been amazing and I cannot thank all of my coaches and trainers, the university, and the athletics department enough for everything they have done to help me reach this point in my career. I look forward to being a part of this program's alumni in the future."

The former Prince Albert Raider was an arts student at UBC while representing them on the ice, and joined the team after one-and-a-half seasons with the Prince Albert WHL club. In his final season with the Raiders, he served as an assistant captain while scoring a career-high 25 goals and 57 points. Prior to playing with the Raiders, he had spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Spokane Chiefs. His WHL career saw Bardaro post 90 goals and 200 points in 266 WHL games. He was named as a CWUAA Second Team All-Star this past season after posting CWUAA career highs in goals and points.

"You can't replace a leader like Anthony," assistant coach Kevin Cech told Sargeant. "But as with Derek Dun and Luke Lockhart, it proves the strength of our program here at UBC and that's a big reason why we've got new recruits and returning players who are looking forward to the opportunity left by those guys."

As mentioned by Cech, Bardaro makes three Thunderbirds that have signed pro contracts this off-season as Dun and Lockhart signed with the KHL's Kunlun Red Star in late June, providing evidence that U Sports might be the most overlooked league in North America when it comes to solid prospects. And while no one is saying that teams should abandon their traditional scouting methods, it might be worth it to send a few scouts to U Sports games. When Team Canada takes goaltender Jordon Cooke to the Spengler Cup, there may just be a wealth of talent that the pro men's leagues are ignoring.

I suspect Bardaro will do well in Italy as he and girlfriend Chelsea Kerley head to Mediterranean country. Kerley, a graduate of Washington State University in Spokane's Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program, has worked extensively with hockey talent in Vancouver at Factory Hockey where a number of well-known hockey players work out in the off-season. There have been no announcements about Miss Kerley being hired, but it seems short-sighted if HC Asiago didn't utilize her knowledge and skills for its players as well.

In any case, I wish nothing but the best to one of Canada West's best players in Anthony Bardaro as he embarks on a new adventure in Italy and the Alps Hockey League! He's going to make a name for himself over there!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

US Pond Hockey Goes Sledding

Having been lucky enough to spend some time with Billy Bridges while he was working at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School, it became pretty apparent to me that sledge hockey still doesn't get the recognition that it truly deserves on both a local and national stage. Granted, it has made leaps and bounds over the last two decades thanks to players like Bridges, Brad Bowden, and Greg Westlake leading the charge for Canada on the international stage. We've seen the Norwegians, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Swedes all turn in solid programs over the past number of years as well, so the sport is growing with solid numbers and a fantastic following!

If one is looking to continue that solid growth, it helps if more people can take part in the game. Bridges had all the campers at the Sami Jo Small Hockey School give sledge hockey a try, and the smiles and laughter seen on the ice and after the sledge session was impressive as everyone seemed to love their experiences. But there still needs to be more exposure for the sport to grow, and one group that is taking a lead on that front is the US Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There was an announcement from the US Pond Hockey Championships yesterday as Jim Dahline sent out an update that came with a pretty important announcement for sledge hockey players. He writes,
"We have had sled exhibitions in the past, and it's a travesty that we haven't had a sled division. So this year, we're changing that. This is a first on the pond hockey circuit, and we're proud that USPHC will award the first Sled Championship in 2018."
That is OUTSTANDING! Well done, US Pond Hockey Championships. That's amazing news, and hopefully a number of excellent teams will play in this first edition of the tournament! With it being an Olympic year, there shouldn't be a pile of Olympic players there either, so there's a very good chance that a team of amateurs or semi-amateurs will capture that first championship!

I'd be very interested in returning to Minneapolis this February for the US Pond Hockey Championship, but that whole Super Bowl thing is a crowd with whom I really don't want to deal. NFL football fans are great, but the Super Bowl turns fans into fanatics sometimes, and I just wanna watch some pond hockey. Maybe I'll return in 2019 for the fun... and if I practice I could be on the ice on my sled!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Early Days Of Broadcasting

I feel pretty lucky that I get to be involved in the radio broadcasts of hockey each winter thanks to the University of Manitoba entrusting me and my esteemed colleague, TJ Phillers, to be the voices of Bisons women's hockey. After a short meeting with TJ tonight about this season's broadcasts, I realize that we've pioneered a number of firsts for Canada West hockey broadcasts of which we're pretty proud. But they pale in comparison to the guy who really blazed the path for all broadcasters, including us, in Foster Hewitt.

Hewitt is a Hall of Fame broadcaster who spent forty years as the voice of Hockey Night in Canada. I've always been curious as to how he was selected as the man to be the voice of Canada's most famous sports program, and there's a CBC video documenting this very subject!
He turned a part-time reporting job into the world's first full-time play-by-play hockey broadcast which is amazing to me. I thought it was kind of cool that he used the telephone to make the first radio calls as we still use that technology today for some of our broadcasts! Seeing Hewitt's path from the seats to the gondola is pretty incredible as well, and the explanation for the gondola makes total sense. For a three-minute video, there's a lot of great stuff that Hewitt shares!

We lost Foster Hewitt at the age of 82 on April 21, 1985 due to throat cancer, but the voice of Hockey Night in Canada is still one of the most important people in hockey history for everything that he did to make play-by-play broadcasts a weekly program that millions would tune into on the radio. The gondola that he had made famous unfortunately succumbed to the pure stupidity of Harold Ballard when he removed the gondola in August of 1979 to make room for private boxes. The gondola reportedly went to an incinerator and was never seen again.

Where would we, as hockey fans, be today without Foster Hewitt and that gondola?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!