Tuesday, September 25, 2012

From Edmonton To Evergreen??

Daryl Katz knows what he's doing. He's doing the same thing that Mario Lemieux did during the Penguins venture for a new arena, and seeing as it worked out in Pittsburgh-- it's bound to happen in Edmonton, right??

Of course, what I'm talking about is the other crazy news out of Seattle that didn't include a touchdown/interception to end a football game. Katz and other members of the Edmonton Oilers brass went to meet with the particulars involved in the new arena in the Seattle area which will try to house a NBA and possible NHL team. This is after Katz and the Edmonton city council have been at loggerheads when it comes to the funding of this mini-city that Katz has proposed.

While the Edmonton mayor has said that the deal could be sunk by the drop-dead date of October 17th, that isn't stopping Katz from grandstanding and visiting cities that may be interested in a new tenant. You can bet that the Oilers stop in Quebec City informally a while back didn't hurt his cause either. These are cities that have been in serious consideration for getting a relocated hockey team in to their area.

Even though the odds of this happen are quite slim in the end, the fact that the Oilers have taken to Twitter to voice the fact they need a new arena in order to stay is something that has made the management team kind of fall out of favor with the fans because the Oilers are asking for more of their money. Though, you have to wonder how much that will change with Katz venturing around to other locales in order to actually gauge the interest of places elsewhere and could have new buildings when the Oilers' lease runs out in 2014.

Katz is playing the game to maybe force the hand of city council to push it through lest their beloved Oilers leave town. As a businessman, Katz knows the game and is definitely someone who could be able to sway things in his favor-- whether it be in Edmonton or elsewhere.

As it plays out, you can only imagine the leverage that Katz will have, especially since the want for relocated teams are at a pretty steady margin and probably will be out there until all the arenas are filled that need to be filled. Katz knows how much other cities could want a team and would be footing the bill, rather than him, for an arena that will be leaps and bounds ahead of the Rexall Place that is standing there now.

Of course, the fans will be upset should the Oilers actually leave rather than bluffing. The history of the team is one of the best in the NHL and have produced the many superstars along the way. Should they actually leave-- it'd be a big hit for the league, the city of Edmonton, and show the true state of franchise loyalty in cities that were thought to be untouchable.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Hank Bassen

While the west seemed to be the best for this week's AGM, he did make a name for himself but coming out of nowhere in order to get to the NHL and would be noticed from the lower leagues-- though the translation to the NHL game didn't go as planned. This week, the profile of Hank Bassen.

Bassen started off playing for his hometown team, the Calgary Buffaloes of the Western Canadian Junior League starting in the 1949-50 season, finishing his rookie season with a 11-18-1 record in 30 games, while his sophomore season; Bassen played 37 games and went 8-27-2 with the Buffaloes and was loaned out for a game to the Medicine Hat Tigers, losing that game. It was a bounce back year in the 1951-52 season, as Bassen went 21-17-4 in 42 games, then 0-3 in the playoffs. For the 1952-53 season, Bassen played in 30 games, compiling a 14-13-3 record, then again going 0-3 in the playoffs.

Moving out east for the 1953-54 season, Bassen played for the Chatham Maroons of the Ontario Senior League, putting together a 22-30-3 record. The 1954-55 season brought Bassen to the AHL's Buffalo Bisons, where he would play in 37 games and finish up with a 13-19-5 record.

An interesting turn allowed Bassen get some NHL playing time as he would replace the suddened injured Al Rollins for the Chicago Blackhawks and play in 21 games for the Hawks, finishing with a 4-9-8 record for that season. The 1955-56 season had Bassen in 12 games for the Hawks and posting a 2-9-1 record, but spent the bulk of that season in Buffalo going 26-23-4 in 55 games, then posting a 2-3 playoff record.

For the 1956-57 season, Bassen went back out west to Calgary to play for the Western League's Calgary Wranglers, where he would play in 68 games and post a 29-35-4 record, then 1-2 in three playoff appearances.

Even while not with the team, the Blackhawks traded Bassen away with Johnny Wilson, Forbes Kennedy, and Bill Preston to the Detroit Red Wings for Glenn Hall and Ted Lindsay in July of 1957. That didn't make Bassen go back out east, as he would stay in the Western League in the 1957-58 season with the Seattle Totems, putting together a 27-27-6 record, then going 5-4 in the nine playoff appearances.

The Red Wings traded the rights to Bassen away in May of 1958 to the AHL's Springfield Indians, where Bassen would appear in 29 games and put up a 13-14-2 record. Bassen was then traded by Springfield to the WHL's Vancouver Canucks for the 1959-60 season, where Bassen compiled a 44-19-6 season, the a 9-2 playoff record, helping win the WHL Championship. Bassen also was awarded the Leader's Cup for League MVP and Outstanding Goaltender Award.

The Detroit Red Wings claimed Bassen back in the 1960-61 season in the IntraLeague Draft, where Bassen would be behind Terry Sawchuk-- getting into 35 games with a 13-13-6 record and 1-2 playoff record. The 1961-62 season saw Bassen play 27 games with Detroit, posting a 9-12-6 record in those games. The 1961-62 season also had Bassen play with the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets (4-4-1) and EPHL's Sudbury Wolves (1-2-0).

It was another split season in the 1962-63 season for Bassen playing in 40 contest for the Hornets (15-23-2) and 16 for the Red Wings (6-5-5), while Bassen played in Cincinnati for the CPHL's Wings for seven games (0-6-1), 26 for the Hornets (9-15-2), and only one for the Red Wings (0-1-0) in the 1963-64 season. Bassen was firmly planted in Pittsburgh for the Hornets in the 1964-65 season, playing in 57 games and finishing with a 24-25-7 record.

Shipping back to Detroit for the 1965-66 season for 11 games and finishing off with a 3-3-0 record, while in the 1966-67 season, he would only play in eight games for the Red Wings (2-4-0), then ten games for the Hornets (6-3-1).

The Red Wings would trade Bassen to the newly expansion Pittsburgh Penguins for Roy Edwards before the 1967-68 season. He would play 25 games for the Pens and go 7-10-3 record before retiring from hockey.

After hockey, Bassen opened an excavating business and did manage the Calgary Jr. Buffaloes between 1984-86. Bassen's son, Bob, would go on to play 765 NHL games from 1985 until 2000. Hank Bassen would pass away from heart failure in May of 2009.

In a pinch, Bassen would be there-- that's how he got his name "Mr. Emergency" as he filled in during a time where back-ups weren't used frequently. Yet, he did have an affinity for the West and towards the end Western Pennsylvania. He seemed to always keep digging and was able to achieve the NHL dream over and over-- though there was time between appearances and plenty of up-and-down travels.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Better Know A Minor League: Southern Professional Hockey League

With the lockout doom-- DOOOOOOOM-- it's probably for the best that the actual NHL fans actually get acquainted with some other leagues out there. Yes, that's right, folks-- there's other hockey leagues out there besides the NHL. Crazy, I know. So, here we go.  

While it is one of the youngest and least known leagues-- the history of the Southern Professional Hockey League is an interesting one at best. It came together after a division of the Southern hockey contingency which was bound to ruin the whole landscape for those markets for other leagues.

The SPHL came from the remaining teams in the South East Hockey League and the World Hockey Association 2, which were competing leagues in the Southeastern US during the 2003-04 season and both of those leagues were spawns of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, which ran during the 2002-03 season.

After both the WHA2 and SEHL failed (WHA2 because of a cease-and-desist from the failed new WHA and SEHL only have four teams and two of them fold), the SPHL came together with eight teams coming into the league-- two from the SEHL (Fayetteville FireAntz and Knoxville Ice Bears), one from the WHA2 (Jacksonville Barracudas), and one dropping down from the ECHL (Columbus Cottonmouths). Along with the Huntsville Havoc; Fayetteville, Knoxville, and Columbus still remain as the originals.

Currently, the SPHL has nine teams in seven states across the Southeast, in what could be considered "single-A" hockey in terms of the minor league system. This is a place where you would see many veteran minor leagues drop down to play in their later years and young college kids-- probably from D-III or club team schools-- would go to play to continue their pro dream or stay there to live it out.

However, one of the big catches for the SPHL-- DIFFERENT RULES!!
  • No stick curve limit (Rule 10)
  • No trapezoid (Rule 1.8)
  • 16 players and two goalies to be dressed
  • 3-on-3 overtimes and five shooter shootouts
If nothing else, the SPHL does bring to light the renegade hockey level of play for the fans that are down there.

Yet, while the SPHL does have it's niche; they have been in some areas where it hasn't worked, failing twice in Winston-Salem, NC; once in Richmond, VA (a former ECHL hot bed); as well in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida. There have been some economic short-falls (which is something that is common with minor league hockey), but the SPHL has made some solid expansion decisions with former minor league hot-beds like Augusta, GA; Pensacola, FL; Biloxi, MS; and Lafayette, LA.

It's not well-known or well covered, but the support from the fans down there and the short scheduling is something that makes this a solid league to maybe get into-- especially for the Southern hockey fans needing their fix.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Rick St. Croix

When it comes to AGMs, the expansion side of things help get some guys a chance to show their talent, but also get lost in the shuffle of other young goalies the organization may think are better. This week's goalie had the experience of the latter, but still was able to actually make something out of all of the curves thrown his way. This week, the profile of Rick St. Croix. 

Starting in the 1970-71 season, St. Croix started a crazed junior career-- playing for the Kenora Muskies in the 1970-71 and 1971-72 season for a total of 66 games, while also playing for the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Canadian Junior League for three games in the 1971-72 season. 

In the 1972-73 season, St. Croix started with the OHL's Oshawa Generals, where he would play three seasons and a total of 117 games. St. Croix would get Second All-Star team honors in the 1972-73 season, as well as being drafted in the 4th Round of the 1975 Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. 

The 1975-76 season and 1976-77 season, St. Croix played in the IHL for the Flint Generals for a total of 95 games over the two seasons, while getting one game in the AHL with the Springfield Indians which was a win. The 1977-78 season saw St. Croix get a promotion to the AHL's Maine Mariners, where he would go 22-14-2 in 40 games, then 1-3 in four playoff games, while also playing in seven games with the Flyers-- totalling a 2-4-1 record. The 1978-79 season, St. Croix bounced between two AHL teams, the Maine Mariners for 22 games (10-9-3) and the Philadelphia Firebirds for nine games (4-4-1); as well as a two game stint for the Flyers (0-1-1). 

It was a big season for St. Croix in the 1979-80 season, where he would go 25-14-7 for the Maine Mariners and despite a 1-4 playoff record, would garner First All-Star Team honors and won the Hap Holmes Memorial Award for Fewest Goals-Against with teammate Robbie Moore. St. Croix would also play in a game for the Flyers, a win. 

In the 1980-81 season, the Flyers promote St. Croix to the main squad where he would split time with Pete Peeters and Phil Myre. That first season, St. Croix played in 27 games compiling a 13-7-6 record, while during the 1981-82 season-- he went 13-9-6 in 29 games. St. Croix's tenure with the Flyers would come to an end at the mid-point of the 1982-83 season, playing in 16 games (9-5-2) before being shipped out.

The Flyers sent St. Croix to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Michel Larocque in January of 1983. St. Croix finished the season with the Leafs, appearing in 17 games and finishing with a 4-9-2 record. The 1983-84 season saw St. Croix start off with the Leafs for 20 games (5-10-0) before being send to the AHL and the St. Catherines Saints for the final eight games of their season (7-1-0) and three playoff appearances (1-1). It was another split season for St. Croix in the 1984-85 season, playing in 11 games with the Leafs (2-9-0) and then in another 18 games with the Saints (6-10-1). 

With no NHL chances, St. Croix went to the IHL for the 1985-86 season for the Fort Wayne Komets where he would go 25-13-0 in 42 games, then 3-4 in the playoffs. St. Croix would share the James Norris Memorial Trophy with Pokey Reddick for Fewest Goals Against. After that year, St. Croix would retire.

Not out of work for long, St. Croix moved onto coaching starting in the 1987-88 season with the Winnipeg Jets for a couple seasons and would get a Stanley Cup ring as he was the goalie coach for the Dallas Stars when they won the Cup in 1999. St. Croix is now an assistant coach with the St. John's Ice Caps and has two sons in hockey: Michael (Edmonton Oil Kings/New York Rangers) and Chris (Calgary Flames draftee/European player), as well as two daughters. On top of all of that, he also has his own goaltending school to help aide the youth of the goaltending. 

Getting lost in the shuffle didn't seem to fade the spirits of St. Croix. He was able to take his experiences and start to pass it along to the next generation of goalies and be a teacher to them so they could learn the deeper intricacies of the position outside of just playing the game. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On the Topic Of the NHL Lockout

The lockout is coming.

That isn't news to anyone and shouldn't be news to anyone.

While the NHL says they were ready to meet at the All-Star break, the talks didn't start until July. They did meet frequently at least, giving hope to the hopeless-- then dashing those hopes when they had their press conferences when the meetings were over.

The bitterness and vitriol the fans will spew is going to be heightened as the social media movement is one that will ultimately show its worth in this work stoppage. They have began protesting outside the NHL Store in New York and maybe it could spread. And while they do have a right to do it-- it does bring out the worst in people; both attitude wise and in dealing with them when they're steadfast in their opinion and nothing will make them let up from it. Though, the overly pessimistic attitude is something that is a sign of the times in every aspect of life.

You can see the player's side of it-- they don't want to have their money taken away from them, especially since they feel they earned the contracts and shouldn't have it taken away from them. Sure, most of them will have plenty left over and will get a lot for their next contract for playing the game they love-- but it's the principle behind it that makes them fight and gets people on their side. My brother-in-arms Jonny P made a great point about how Fehr was going to be a tough negotiator and there would have been trouble when the NHLPA brought him onboard in the first place.

The owners are always in the wrong and there's few people who will defend them. I, for one, can see their side of it a lot more than I can see it from the player's side of it. The owners want to protect their investment. Sure, them giving insane contract because of "market value" isn't the smartest idea when trying to defend their point, but you have to give your team the best chance to win. Plus, to be in the position the owners are in, they had to take risks and that's how they made their billions and allowed them to actually have the money to own their teams.

Derek Zona wrote a piece about how much the owners are worth. One can assume it's to show that no one should support the owners because they aren't like the common man due to their riches. However, they had to work their way up the ladder in order to be in a position to make the money they did-- and they did a lot of things that maybe the common person would love to do: have financial freedom, be their own boss, own their own sports team. Let's be honest-- how many owners have actually made their fortunes from owning a sports team?? Plus, you can say that the investment in the NHL is a fool's bet-- if it wasn't, the Coyotes would have had an owner three years ago and we wouldn't have the amount of franchises changing owners as we have seen in the past two decades.

On top of that, when you hear many teams would lose less money without a season than with a season-- shows that the economic nature isn't the best in the world. Whether that means new owners are needed, less teams are needed, or whatever-- it seems that some people pass over that point. Not to mention, the owners have their hands in other things as well, which means they'll still make some money while the NHL is locked out.

No one will look good at the end of this. Owners are already hated, regardless of what they do. Players will get plenty of people on their side, but as things wear on-- they could lose some support depending on what they say and do while being locked out. The fans suffer, the arena staff suffers, writers suffer, the industry of the NHL suffers.

The game of hockey will only suffer due to its main league being out. Yet, it will continue to live on that the minor league, junior, and college teams would love for you to spend your entertainment dollar there. That's why I've done my "Better Know A League" series in order to enlighten people who may think the NHL is the only game in town. It'd be great for the health of the game if the lower leagues were supported and when the NHL comes back--maybe fans will be more inclined to go to a minor league game rather than NHL games-- which will really show the owners what you can do with your money and your choice.

And even with the lockout-- it could be a good thing for fans. Buddy Oakes at Preds on the Glass has a spectacular piece about how the lockout could be a good thing for some fans and how the last one was a good one for him personally. That's a kind of story you'll start to see if this lockout drags on for any amount of time. We all want the NHL to come back quickly, but a break from it all may not be the worst for some people out there.

In the end, the NHL will be back. People will go back to it, though it might be a little thinner than it once was. It's times like these where you can really tell that sports isn't about a game anymore-- it's a business.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Better Know A Minor League: Central Hockey League

With the impending lockout doom-- DOOOOOOOM-- it's probably for the best that the actual NHL fans actually get acquainted with some other leagues out there. Yes, that's right, folks-- there's other hockey leagues out there besides the NHL. Crazy, I know. So, here we go. 

When it comes to mergers, the Central Hockey League is one of the tops there is for have leagues want to merge into their league. It started with the Western Professional Hockey League merging with the CHL in 2001 and then the second-incarnation of the IHL merging with the CHL in 2010; the Central Hockey League is a league that went from the South-Central US and has grown far and wide to the Midwest and Southwest.

Though the CHL only has ten teams, it's all in eight states-- Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri. While they like to tout themselves as another "AA" league like the ECHL, only three NHL teams have affiliations with any team whatsoever; and most of them are due to proximity to the NHL's home-base. Luckily, the CHL has an 11th team coming into the league next season, which is a second team in Missouri.

In the realm of Southern hockey, the CHL has been solid with keeping their teams mostly in the Texas area, but going as far out as Macon, Georgia to the east and Youngstown, Ohio to the North and East. However, in recent years, the CHL has been in a flux of teams coming and going. Many teams have dropped down into the US Junior ranks, while others have used it as a stepping stone to move into the ECHL. In fact, last year's Ray Miron President's Cup champion-- the Fort Wayne Komets-- will be in the ECHL this season.

The CHL is also a case study about a league that tries to get too far out of their comfort zone and have struggles because of it. Though they did have their little bubble, they allowed other teams which were much too far out of their range-- thinking it could be a good idea. That ultimately led to those teams failing and leading to much more travel costs and maybe leading to failure of other teams as well. It seems that the league has gotten to a point where they have been able to keep things around a close area, with only South Dakota not being connected to any other state that's in the league.

With all of that said, the CHL has a very dedicated fan base and provides a competitive game for those in attendance with many former college hockey players and former AHL and ECHL players bringing up the talent level. It also provides fans with decent road-trip options should they want to follow their team around the loop. While you may not see many of these guys in the NHL when all is said and done, the bond the players create with the area is something that probably holds more value to fans than whether or not they make it or not.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Carl Wetzel

While many of these AGMs would move around towards the end of their career, this week's installment was on the go from the start. Over his 15 season career, he played in 14 different cities for 16 different teams. He was well-travelled, but not well recognized. So, that's what will happen now-- this week, the profile of Carl Wetzel.

Wetzel started his trek, literally, with the only team he had stability with-- the Hamilton Tiger Cubs of the OHA Junior "A" league starting in the 1956-57 season, playing in 48 games and finishing with a 24-22-2 record; the 1-3 in four playoff games. The 1957-58 season had Wetzel play in 50 games compiling a 26-17-7 record, then going 8-6-1 in 15 playoff appearances, losing in the finals to the Toronto Marlboros. He would also play 25 games in the 1958-59 season with Hamilton, but no record is indicated. Wetzel would also play one game that season with the WHL's Edmonton Flyers, which was a loss.

The nomadic side of Wetzel started with the 1959-60 season playing 62 games with the Omaha Knights of the IHL, but no record is given; then in the 1960-61 season-- Wetzel played 52 games for the IHL's Indianapolis Chiefs (no record), then played in the WHL with the Spokane Comets for five games (0-5-0), then was loaned out to the IHL's Fort Wayne Koments for eight playoff games (3-3). In the 1961-62 season, Wetzel played in the EPHL with the Sudbury Wolves, going 25-26-10 in 61 games and 1-4 in five playoff contests.

After that season, Wetzel would put his career on hold due to military services (likely due to the US Draft) and would only suit up once in the 1963-64 season as an emergency back-up to the WHL's San Francisco Seals.

Upon his return in the 1964-65 season, his hometown team, the Detroit Red Wings, picked him up-- but he would only play two games for them (0-1-0), while also spending four games with the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets (1-3-0).

The Montreal Canadiens claimed Wetzel in the Reverse Draft before the 1965-66 season and would place him in the CPHL with the Houston Apollos; where he would play 51 games with a 21-24-6 record. Wetzel would also play one game for the AHL's Quebec Aces-- a loss.

Wetzel left the Canadiens organization to play for the USA National Team in the 1966-67 season. He would play 12 games throughout the season, as well as seven games in the World Hockey Championships. In the World Championships, Wetzel went 3-3-1 in seven games and be named Best Goaltender in the tournament and named to the All-Star Team.

In the summer of the 1967, the Canadiens traded Wetzel to the expansion Minnesota North Stars for cash. Wetzel, along with Bill Masterton, were the first two signed to the North Stars. Wetzel would play five games in the 1967-68 campaign with the North Stars finishing with a 1-3-1 record; but would spend most of the season with the CPHL's Memphis South Stars for 20 games, finishing with a 8-9-2 record. A more masterful memory for Wetzel was bring loaned to the AHL's Rochester Americans for ten games (3-3-1) and then 2-1 in the playoffs, helping them win the Calder Cup championship. The 1968-69 season had Wetzel back with the Memphis South Stars for 39 games, while also playing two games for the AHL's Cleveland Barons, winning the game he was in on the decision for.

The 1969-70 season had Wetzel play four games for the USHL's Rochester Mustangs, but would go back to play with the US National Team for 17 games. In the 1970-71 season, Wetzel stayed with the US National Team, playing in the World Championship again-- but wouldn't fair as he did in 1967-- finishing with a 1-6-0 record in eight games of the tournament.

Wetzel would cross over the Europe for the 1971-72 season with KAC Kitzbuhel in Austria, playing in 44 games before returning to North America and the WHA in the 1972-73 season with the Minnesota Fighting Saints, losing the only game he played. He would retire after that last season.

After taking time off, Wetzel did return to be an assistant coach for the North Stars in the 1987-88 season, but would drop off the map after that until he came back for the Minnesota Wild hosting the "Back on Home Ice" reunion for the North Stars March 29-31, 2012.

He went everywhere and Wetzel tried to make the most out of it. He saw a lot of North America and some parts of Europe when playing with the National Team. He served his country in military duties and in hockey duties. He was a hustler in order to sell himself off as an option to teams and he would do what he could to get some playing time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Another Outlet For Misdirected Hostilities in CBA Talks

Blame the Owners. Blame the Players.

This is a chorus that many a fan are chanting, with the former being the one that the venom is most being spewed at. Rightfully so, as the owners control the lockout and don't seem to agree with what the players are proposing and can't figure out a revenue sharing plan amongst themselves to get their own top dollar.

Of course, the players are going to want their own share as they are the "product" and really don't care (and shouldn't care) about the economic stability of the teams because they're getting paid, so who really cares about the actual health of the team they're playing for as long as they get theirs. And the player's shouldn't worry about how the team's health is because they have their own health, their own well-being, their own on-ice performance to worry about; they shouldn't have to worry about the book of the team.

And while the owners did negotiate the crazy contracts we have been seeing and seems to really be giving out far too much money, thus making them hypocritical when they "cry poor" over losing money; there is one group that could actually be more to blame than the players and the owners combined.

The Agents.

It seems that this topic has been briefly touched on, but it is my own belief that the agents should the most vitriol from the fans.

Sure, the owners do give into the player's contracts demands at times, but at the same time; if not for the agents overrating and overvaluing their client (the player), the owners really have not much of a choice if they want to put a winning product on the ice. The agents know this and know that they can sell ice to an Eskimo if they wanted to, which is why they have driven third-liner's contracts into the $3M/year range when they probably should be half of that. They hype up their player, they use leverage of going to rival teams with their client, and then they smooth talk their way into making the GMs believe they're actually getting a deal.

Yes, the GMs (and, honestly, they play with the owner's money) can avoid this by not buying into their schemes and actually call the agents' bluff, but the agents know they can go to another guy and get the money they want. The fact the agents can manipulate the market the way that they do is almost criminal. They are the guys who skew the contracts and how the value of a player can be determined due to past results. The agents also realize that past results are not indicative of future results; so they have to get their client their maximum dollars-- of course, the fact they take a percentage plays into that, but they're looking at the best interesting in their player-- I'm sure.

Agents are hype-men for the players and in the end, they have to do the best for their client in order to not only retain them, but get them the most money they think they "deserve" and will go at all lengths in order to actually get those dollars-- not caring about who they get it from because loyalty is nothing to the agents, especially since they represent multiple players on different teams and in different standing on the depth chart.  As long as their players (and to a lesser extent-- them) get paid, they don't care where it comes from and they shouldn't either.

In other sports-- the disdain for agents are very much there. In baseball, it's Scott Boras and in football it's Drew Rosenhaus. Both are big mouthpieces for their clients and do get the maximum amount for their players and don't settle for less. It seems that Allan Walsh seems to the be most outspoken of the NHL agents and tries to do what he can to rattle the cages of people everywhere. Sometimes, it's for good (likes speaking out on fake insiders), but most times-- it's for bad (running down his client's [ex]teams). It's a shock that NHL owners/GMs would deal with Walsh when all is said and done, especially with how overaggressive he can be in the social aspect of things. It's one thing to get to the court of public appeal, but it's another thing when you are running down the people who have an effect on your client's career.

You can bitch and moan about who deserves what, but of course because of the entitlement that both sides have--owners because they own the team and make money in other ventures, believing they're above it all; players because they are the show on the ice and their agents overrate them in order to get the utmost, unattainable contract values (for the most part)-- are the main thing. It's more than Billionaire vs. Millionaire-- it's Ego vs. Ego.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Better Know A Junior League: Canadian Hockey League

With the impending lockout doom-- DOOOOOOOM-- it's probably for the best that the actual NHL fans actually get acquainted with some other leagues out there. Yes, that's right, folks-- there's other hockey leagues out there besides the NHL. Crazy, I know. So, here we go. 

When you want to talk about the next rising stars that come to the NHL, you have to look at the Canadian Hockey League for the best bang-for-your-buck prospects feeder system for the pros. In the past few years, the CHL has been a cash-cow, growing in exposure and popularity thanks to the products they have developed.

The CHL is broken up into three leagues-- the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Western Hockey League. Each of them have their own style of play and it shows when the winners of the three league championships and the host city meet in the Memorial Cup playoffs to determine the top team in the CHL.

Starting in the QMJHL, the league itself is more of a finesse league from what I've seen. While they do have some contact, the primary focus is on the scoring side of things, more offensive driven game-plans, and overall highlight reel kind of goals. While 12 of the 18 teams are in the Province of Quebec and take up two divisions, the QMJHL has a third division for the other six teams in the Maritime provinces (three in New Brunswick, two in Nova Scotia, and one on Prince Edward Island).  The past two Memorial Cup champions came from the Q-- the Saint John Sea Dogs and Shawinigan Cataractes.

Moving to the other side of Canada, the WHL is a very blue-collar league. It's a grittier, tighter checking, very physical side of the CHL, but also has the ability to be a skill league with such players a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Scott Niedermayer, Mike Modano, Joe Sakic, and Ryan Getzlaf to come out of the league. The most spread out league in the CHL, the WHL has 22 teams-- six in British Columbia, five in Alberta, five in Saskatchewan, four in Washington state, one in Manitoba, and one in Oregon. The spread out nature gives prospects a chance to experience the rigorous NHL travel schedule.

The Ontario Hockey League is a blend of both the QMJHL and WHL style. A lot of finesse players with a gritty edge to it as well. Five of the last six 1st Overall Picks in the NHL Draft have been from the OHL-- Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and Patrick Kane. All except three teams of the 20 member teams are based in Ontario-- two are in Michigan and one in Pennsylvania. With a solid display of both physicality and finesse, the OHL brings the best of both the QMJHL and WHL to Ontario.

While there is a great upside to watching the CHL, the downside is the fact it isn't that accessible to the masses to go see unless you visit the Great White North of Canada or some border states that they land in. However, if you do have the chance to go see a game (which is perfect for the family and quite inexpensive), I highly suggest it because there's action across the leagues for kids who have a lot of determination to get to that next level.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mario Lessard

This goalie was in one of the best comebacks in NHL history, but only screwed the pooch when trying to make a desperation play. While he came in like a house of fire, that play soon fizzled and he faded away from the game quietly, though he is a legend in his hometown. This week, the profile of Mario Lessard.

Lessard got his start with the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Castors in the 1969-70 season, playing in 15 games and finishing with a 3-5-0 record. Though he didn't play a lick in the 1970-71 season, Lessard came back with Sherbrooke for the 1971-72 season, going 7-8-1 in 21 contests; then losing all three playoff games he was in. For the 1972-73 season Lessard was playing in 40 games and finish with a 14-16-2 record, then went 4-2 in six playoff contests; while the 1973-74 season had Lessard in 44 games and compile a 19-17-0 record, but went 1-3 in four playoff games.

The Los Angeles Kings were the ones to pick Lessard in the 9th round of the 1974 NHL Draft and he would be placed in the IHL with the Saginaw Gears for the 1974-75 and 1975-76 season, playing 121 games over two years (sadly, no regular season records given) with seven shutouts and a 3.30 GAA. His playoff record over the two seasons was 10-7 in the 1975 playoffs and 7-5 in the 1976 playoffs. The 1976-77 season had Lessard play 44 games in Saginaw in the regular season, helping the Gears win the Turner Cup with a 12-6 record in 18 games. Lessard also played four games in the Central League with the Fort Worth Texans going 1-3-0.

Lessard would move up to the AHL with the Springfield Indians in the 1977-78 season, putting up a 30-17-6 record in 57 games, but would go 1-3 in the four playoff games he appeared in.

In the 1978-79 season, Lessard would be the start for the Kings after they lost Rogie Vachon to free agency and would go 23-15-10 in 49 games with four shutouts; but he would go 0-2 in the playoff games he appeared in. The 1979-80 season would be a little less successful, as Lessard would go 18-22-7 in 50 games, then 1-2 in four playoff games. Lessard rebounded in the 1980-81 season compiling a 35-18-11 record in 62 games, which allowed him to play in the NHL All-Star Game and be on the season-ending Second Team All-Star squad. Lessard also went 1-3 in the playoffs that season.

For the 1981-82 season, Lessard had a rough regular season with an 13-28-8 record in 52 games; but would go 4-5 in 10 playoff contests and was a part of one of the most famous games in Kings history, almost make it not happen at all. Lessard was in net for the Miracle in Manchester and almost lost the game for the Kings. During overtime, the puck was coming towards the Kings end with Glenn Anderson bearing down on it. Lessard made a move to go after the puck and cut him off-- but collided with Anderson, leaving an open-net for Mark Messier, but luckily Mark Hardy was there to distract Messier enough so that he would shoot it over the net. The Kings would win two minutes later, Lessard getting the win.

Lessard didn't have the year he wanted in the 1982-83 season, as he would finish with a 3-10-2 record in 19 games for Los Angeles before being loaned to Central League's Birmingham South Stars and putting together a 4-2-0 record in eight games, then posting a 6-3 record in 11 playoff matches. During the 1983-84 season, Lessard would only play six games with the Kings (0-4-1), before being sent down to the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks for five games (1-3-1) before finally deciding to retire after the season.

While his whereabouts have been unknown since then, he has gotten an arena named after him in East Broughton, Quebec. Lessard was able to come out of nowhere to come up big in his rookie year-- but inconsistency and pressure from all around the Kings organization to perform was something that was his demise in the NHL.