Hockey Headlines

Monday, 29 September 2014

Back In Black And Blue

We've seen a few teams in recent years go back to uniforms that they had a lot of success in, but Tampa Bay didn't do that today. As you can see from the photo above, the Lightning are harken back to their championship days with their new alternate as Steven Stamkos took to the ice in black, but we'll see that these aren't throwbacks to their 2004 Stanley Cup Championship.

"The one thing that we talked about was obviously going to black but keeping our blue in it, having the blue and the black together," Dave Andreychuk told Bryan Burns. "And I know Mr. Vinik was a big fan of the BOLTS. To me, it’s perfect."

Well, opinions are going to differ between myself and the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Dave Andreychuk. I respect Mr. Andreychuk, but I think he's hitched his wagon to the BOLTS a little too long.

If Stamkos wasn't wearing BOLTS across his chest, you may have been able to convince me that he had been traded to the Los Angeles Kings. While the Kings wear sleeve stripes and less blue, the jerseys are nearly identical in their basic design. Personally, I'd like my alternate jersey to look unique to my team, but it seems the Lightning are taking a page directly out of the Kings' jersey history. On top of that, check out the stripe on the Kings' socks from their old black jerseys. While Gabe Gauthier's socks aren't the best in that picture, it seems the Lightning's new alternate socks have nearly the same pattern as well. I'm not sure that there is anything unique about this uniform at all. It's simply a reworking of the Los Angeles Kings' current jersey and their old socks. Did Reebok have a surplus of Kings equipment lying around their factory?

Moving on from being Los Angeles West, I wasn't a fan of the BOLTS name across their chest when they debuted it on their blue alternates a few seasons ago, and I'm still not a fan.

"I'm glad that that's back," Andreychuk told Burns. "We kept the BOLTS, which is cool because I think when you think about BOLTS now, we're starting to become Bolt Nation and Go Bolts. We can't get rid of the BOLTS, so I'm glad that stayed."

Why? They have such a great, simple logo now, they no longer need BOLTS. In fact, they've never needed BOLTS. It's a nickname. It's not the team name. The Penguins don't wear "Pens", the Capitals don't wear "Caps", the Islanders don't wear "Isles", the Panthers don't wear "Cats", and the Canadiens don't wear "Habs". Why do the Lightning feel they need to use their nickname when they have a great logo?!?

It's not their most colorful alternate nor does it use some funky font, so will anyone remember this uniform fondly? I doubt it. It's not all that unique, and it certainly doesn't evoke memories of anything in the Lightning's history. Being a black uniform, it has to be pretty awesome for me to give it high marks. This uniform, sadly, is not, and it would not receive a passing grade from me whatsoever.

Lightning didn't strike twice in Tampa Bay with these alternate jerseys.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Preseason Hurts As Much As It Helps

The NHL preseason is underway, and there are a lot of teams finalizing rosters as we speak. Players are being returned to junior, being sent to the AHL, or, in some cases, being released from tryout contracts, but things are getting a little tougher for some teams as injuries are starting to pile up in these rather meaningless contests. Does it make sense to have your regulars playing the preseason if there's a chance one of your regulars is going to miss significant time?

There's no way to predict when injuries will strike a team. Injuries are one of those variables that can significantly affect a team's outcome in the standings depending on the number of injuries suffered by a team and by whom. Carolina lost a significant piece of their team earlier this preseason when Jordan Staal broke his right leg in a preseason tilt against Buffalo. He's scheduled to miss the next three-to-four MONTHS of hockey, and Carolina's playoff hopes just faded significantly.

Staal isn't the only major player that will miss time. Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, New York's Derek Stepan, Pittsburgh's Beau Bennett, Toronto's David Clarkson, and Toronto's David Booth could all be lost for significant portions of time to start the season, and a bad start has most teams playing catch-up from which they may never recover. Losing key players hurts the team in the standings in the short-term, and that downturn in their overall success could hurt the team's bottom line in the long run.

The second question we should ask: does anyone actually enjoy preseason hockey? The players on one-way contracts work on getting back into game shape, work on getting their timing down, and work on finding some chemistry with linemates. The players on two-way contracts are looking to find an NHL job on a roster. For draft picks, they are looking to play above their heads to find a roster spot as well. Coaches come into training camp with an idea of what they want, who they want, and basically know who will be on the roster after two or three games. Fans watch the games simply because we crave hockey after a long summer. So do we really need nine games to determine a roster? Could we not start the season earlier in order to end the season earlier?

I know that owners want to make a few more bucks, and can do that by filling the building a few more times in the preseason, I suppose. If I'm a fan, though, I'm not really interested in watching one-third of the normal NHL roster try and find some chemistry with guys who may not see NHL ice until the following training camp. Personally, I understand that the NHL season is supposed to start in October, but we could move it back two weeks, chop the number of preseason games in half, and finish the season before June.

With the number of significant injuries we've seen in this year's preseason, it makes no sense to continue to play long preseasons when teams will suffer without their stars. It also makes no sense to play hockey in June either, but that's a different conversation altogether. If there is a way to reduce the number of significant injuries in the preseason, I'm all ears. Right now, the best way to do that is by reducing the number of preseason games.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Off The Grid Today

Things are changing around HBIC. There's a major event happening tomorrow, so I'm spending today off the grid to prepare for the changes. The blog, however, will remain unchanged, so don't go looking for changes physically here on HBIC. You won't find any. At least not yet, anyway. While Neo saw the glitch in The Matrix that meant some code changed in the system, the system is changing around this code today for me. I'll be busy, but I haven't forgotten to post something.

For those of you concerned your team may tank to win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, here's how Boy Wonder is starting his OHL season.
McDavid looks to be in fine form a few games into the season.

Oh, the Lightning? They unveiled this alternate jersey today.
We'll talk about that on Monday.

I'm off the grid today and most of tomorrow! I'll post something tomorrow, but it may not be much.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Kickstarter Watch: AirBlade

I'm not one to support every idea out there on the market when it comes to campaigns on sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and the likes. I'll be honest: there's a lot of crap on the support-me-please market. While there are some legitimately good ideas, there are dozens not worth their weight in salt. In saying that, I'm taking the opposite approach this morning. The blade to the upper-left presents a very interesting concept in its design. While hockey players rarely complain about wind resistance as they're shooting, the idea of cutting that small amount of drag as a shot is being fired could actually increase the speed of shots even further than what we see today! With that, I'd like to introduce you to the AirBlade!

I want to be upfront with everyone on this: I have received no endorsements, products, or payment of any kind for this review. I am writing this review having not touched a stick, seen it in use personally, or any other personal experience with the AirBlade outside of the testimonial videos. I am writing this because the science behind the stick seems valid and plausible, and I happen to appreciate science. Because I have not used the AirBlade in any way, I can neither endorse nor discourage any one from getting an AirBlade if one is interested in purchasing an AirBlade. This is simply a look at the science and claims behind a stick that has the potential to change the game for some players. Ok? Ok.

Carbon Sports LLC's COO Richard Fucillo "explained that the AirBlade stick was designed with a perforated cross-beam pattern, rather than a foam core, with a carbon fiber composite material used in the aerospace and military industries". Interesting, but we're talking about a blade that has holes in it, right? I get that carbon fiber is stronger than most materials, but the idea of using a hockey stick with a blade that has holes in it seems counter-productive, right?

Well, according to Carbon Sports' website, "[t]he competition uses a foam core for the majority of their blade. This makes the blade more sensitive to wear and chipping, as there is only a thin layer of carbon fiber protecting the core". There's a good chance that the wearing and chipping has happened to most of us who play the game. As you're aware, as soon as this chip becomes prominent, the stick is basically finished. By using AirBlade's solid carbon fiber design, there is less chances of chipping or wearing, meaning that your stick will last much longer than current conventional sticks. That is probably the biggest selling feature that I can find at this point in terms of why players would want an AirBlade.

The warranty that Carbon Sports offers on the AirBlade is actually very impressive. They offer a 300% longer warranty on their sticks compared to conventional carbon fiber sticks, and they "have not had a single return or issue with any AirBlade stick to date". In other words, they stand by their claims of the AirBlade outlasting their traditional competitors!

Now you might be asking about the claim for faster shots due to less drag on the stick. As a defenceman, I've never really considered wind resistance to be a major player in the shot department because every player deals with it. However, as you can see on the right, the AirBlade does show an increase in shot velocity as per Carbon Sports. According to their studies, players can experience "a 13% increase in average shot speed as documented by internal wind tunnel and on-the-ice testing". In some cases, that's the difference between a goal and a save due to a goalie's reaction time.

There are additional features that make the AirBlade a little more player-friendly as well. The blade has micro-grip nubs, allowing for better puck control and shot accuracy. The AirBlade can also be ordered "in 25,000 different combinations of lie, curve, curve depth, contour, rake, shaft flex, and shaft coat" so that you get your stick exactly how you like it. In other words, AirBlade literally has a stick for all players of all sizes and ages!

Carbon Sports has a few testimonials from some well-regarded players. I'll post a couple of these, and you can decide on whether these reputable hockey players' testimonials are enough for you to consider an AirBlade.

Carbon Sports is going to be launching a Kickstarter on Monday, September 29, 2014 to try and get the AirBlade off the ground. They're looking to raise $45,000 in their campaign. If you want to help out, there are a number of different incentive levels that can be met including one that offers an AirBlade. I admit that the Kickstarter amounts seem expensive in some cases, but there's usually a product coming back your way at each level.

Now you might be asking why they chose Kickstarter as their means of raising capitals. They write,
We currently have the technology, the team, and the infrastructure in place, ready and waiting to produce custom-made AirBlade sticks for our customers. Your support will allow us to purchase the molding tools necessary to begin production of the AirBlade directly from our facility in Massachusetts. Without these molding tools, we would not be able to tailor the AirBlade to each player's individual specifications, and we would not be able to keep production right here in the USA!
The science seems sound on all accounts in the AirBlade's case. While the testimonials may leave a little doubt in your mind, the names supporting the AirBlade are pretty recognizable and I doubt they'd stake their reputations on a product that was inferior. Overall, it seems like this product has legs as long as they reach their Kickstarter amount.

Until next time, keep your AirBlade sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 107

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a studio full of guests! Beans and Columbus will join me as always, but we'll also welcome a contingent from the Re/Max Cup ball hockey tournament as they get ready for another big tournament next spring! As always, it'll be madness in the studio as we go over all the stuff happening with the Re/Max Cup and we look at this past week's major hockey stories, so tune in on 101.5 UMFM for some hockey chatter!

Kevin Wilson, the man and brains behind the tournament, will be bringing in some of the top players from past tournaments to help raise the banner on another tournament as the registration for the 2015 Re/Max Cup begins next week! We'll talk to the players about their favorite memories of the past few tournaments, and we'll get the word out about this year's tournament, how you can register, the costs, and much more. Having been to the last two, I can tell you that the action is fast-paced, the players are highly-skilled, and the tournament is always a success!

Tonight on 3 Rounds Deep, Teebz, Beans, Columbus, and the members of the Re/Max Cup entourage will discuss who we believe the Stanley Cup champions will be this season. Everyone knows that teams like Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Boston, and Pittsburgh are the favorites year-in and year-out, but maybe someone has a different thought on who could shock the world. Montreal? Tampa Bay? Dallas? San Jose? All teams are in play in this edition of 3 Rounds Deep, and we'll see who the consensus Stanley Cup favorite is from the group!

Going 3 ROUNDS DEEP tonight: Stanley Cup favorites!

Within the hockey talk tonight, we'll be chatting about the new uniforms for the Penguins and Capitals, Ryan Johansen and whether a team should offer him a contract now that his price has come down, the first two preseason games for the Jets, who might be staying with the Jets this season, and much more! Tonight will be busy, so don't miss a minute!

We're on the air at 5:30pm so tune in for all the action! We're on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! We'll be available via phone at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), so give us a call to share your thoughts on any of the topics we cover! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us 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.

PODCAST: SEPTEMBER 25, 2014: Episode 107

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!