Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 155

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with a big guest. Yes, both in name recognition and size of the guest. We're entering another school year and that means there will undoubtedly be parties and celebrations where a few people may indulge in some adult beverages. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a glass or two, but some may find a dependence on this high and continue to party long after the party has ended. Our guest tonight has not only ascended to the highest level of play in hockey, but he has successfully defeated his own demons and has remained clean and sober for a long time.

The Hockey Show is proud, honoured, and privileged to welcome one of the toughest hombres in all of hockey to the show in Anaheim's Brian McGrattan! "Big Ern", as he's affectionately known around the league, is known for his fisticuffs on the ice, but his greatest victory has come off the ice where he is living clean and sober after an addiction to alcohol had him in dire straits for a while. Approaching his seventh year of living the clean life, Brian is a testament to the hard work and dedication one needs to have to break an addiction, and we'll talk to Brian about winning this battle on a daily basis tonight! We'll also chat with him about his time in the OHL with various teams, being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, playing in a few cities across North America, his break with the Senators, his work with the NHL substance abuse program, and the love of his life in Michelle whom he married in 2012 and has helped him immensely in his journey.

The phones will be closed tonight as Beans and I speak with newly-signed Anaheim Duck Brian McGrattan! Make sure you tune in tonight 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! You can tweet me anytime with questions you may have for Big Ern 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. Brian McGrattan is talking hockey and life with us tonight on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 18

The Moose chatter is back for another week, and we have an actual Manitoba Moose story to talk about on Antler Banter this week! For a team that keeps its cards as close to its chest as possible, it's nice to get a snippet of news once in a while. It's getting to be a quieter time in hockey with teams finalizing rosters and setting themselves up for training camps and rookie camps, but there are still a few stories coming out the American Hockey League to give us a full roundup here on Antler Banter. There was a re-signing, a retirement, a ridiculous goal scored by a former Moose player, and a few free agent signings. We're off and running through all of these stories on today's edition of Antler Banter!

Another Netminder

The Winnipeg Jets announced that free agent goaltender David Leggio has been given a professional tryout contract with the team for the upcoming training camp. Leggio played 28 AHL games last season with Bridgeport and Portland with the majority of those games spent in Bridgeport. He posted an 8-15-1 record with a 3.17 GAA and an .885 save percentage. Not quite the numbers that Leggio has posted in previous AHL seasons, but the goaltender has a pile of experience and will probably be looking at grabbing one of the spots with the Moose.

And that leads to a major quandary. The IceCaps saw Connor Hellebuyck grab the starter's role last season in his breakout campaign as he was named to the AHL All-Star Game behind a non-playoff team. Hellebuyck will definitely be with the Moose this season after another strong showing at the IIHF World Championships last season. The Moose also were expecting Eric Comrie to push for a spot with the Moose after having another successful season in the WHL. Comrie was rewarded with a position on Canada's World Junior team last season after his hard work, and the Moose and Jets expect him to continue to improve.

There's a third player who has already been signed - Jussi Olkinuora. Olkinuora signed early with the Moose, and there was hope that the big Finnish goaltender could push Comrie for time in the blue paint in Manitoba. He had an outstanding season with the ECHL's Ontario Reign last year, going 27-9-6 in 43 appearances with a 2.41 GAA and a .916 save percentage.

So why bring in Leggio if there's already competition? Would Leggio accept a goaltending position with Tulsa in the ECHL? I'm thinking he'd probably make the leap to Europe if he didn't make the AHL squad in Winnipeg. Or does Winnipeg want to have Leggio as Hellebuyck's backup while relegating Comrie to the Tulsa Oilers for more playing time? If so, what happens with Olkinuora who was making good progress in his career at the ECHL level?

Pushing younger goalies down the depth chart isn't really a good developmental plan, and the Moose have said they were focusing on development this season. I'm not sure that bringing Leggio in to compete for a job helps Comrie or Olkinuora at this point. If Leggio rediscovers his form that made him dangerous in Rochester and Hershey, though, no one will complain about have two elite AHL goalies.

Walking Away

Veteran defenceman Drew Bagnall is hanging up the skates in retirement. The eight-year pro announced on Monday to Democrat & Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobzija that he's "looking for a big-boy job in the real world" after spending time in Manchester, Houston, and Rochester in the AHL and two games with the Minnesota Wild in the NHL. The Oakbank, Manitoba product was a warrior on the ice, captaining his St. Lawrence University team in the ECAC, the Monarchs in the 2009-10 season, the Aeros in the 2012-13 season, and the Americans the past two seasons.

Goaltender Mike McKenna hit Twitter with a funny Bagnall story upon hearing that he was retiring.
The 31 year-old Bagnall found new responsibilities this summer as well. His son was born May 13, 2015, so he'll be changing diapers and up for midnight feedings! Shoulder injuries have slowed the old-school defender, and it appears that he's not going to let them ruin his future. Congratulations, Drew Bagnall, on a fantastic career, and best of luck as you look for that "big-boy job in the real world"! Might there be an appearance on The Hockey Show in the future?

Colby Geno-WOW

Antler Banter always likes to throw in Manitoba mentions and blasts from the past, and today is no exception. Morden, Manitoba's Colby Genoway played the MJHL's Winkler Flyers, the University of North Dakota, and the Manitoba Moose as he made his way from the amateur ranks into the professional hockey world. Having watch Colby play, I can certainly say that he was always a solid scoring threat and had great hands to compliment his smooth skating.

Genoway played in Switzerland the last few years and has landed in Medvescak Zagreb in the KHL this season. Tuesday night saw Medvescak Zagreb and Metallurg Novokuznetsk tied through regulation so it was off to the shootout to decide the game. And that's where Colby Genoway lit up the highlight reel.
That Datsyuk-ian move is ridiculous! Goaltender Filip Novotný has little chance to make the stop once he pushed to his left, but Genoway made it look way too easy. The funny thing is that there's a back story to this goal. Jeff Veillette of The Faceoff Circle writes, "Novokuznetsk starter Andrei Kareyev took an unfortunate shot to the face late in overtime, meaning that the team had to switch goalies in anticipation for the shootout. Genoway’s goal certainly warmed him up, though he probably brought him down a few notches at the same time."

Yeah, I'd say being on the receiving end of a filthy goal like that would bring anyone down a few notches. Congratulations to Colby Genoway on catching the world's attention with that incredible game-winning and shootout-winning goal!

Rosie's Back

The AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms announced on Monday that they had re-signed veteran forward Jay Rosehill to a one-year deal. Rosehill returns after a five-goal, seven-assist, 219-penalty-minute season for another season with the Flyers' affiliate.

The eleven-year veteran has played 117 NHL games with the Maple Leafs and Flyers in the NHL and 425 AHL games with Lehigh Valley, Norfolk, Toronto and Springfield. The rugged winger won't bring much scoring to the table, but he's an aggressive checking forward who isn't afraid to lay the body on someone along the boards. Expect Rosehill to be a leader on the ice for the Phantoms this season.

Dowell Returns

Veteran forward Jake Dowell is returning to his roots for this upcoming season. The former Chicago Blackhawks draft pick was signed by the Rockford IceHogs on Monday to a one-year deal. The 30 year-old had five goals and ten assists in 76 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs last season after spending time in Iowa in the previous two seasons where he was named the 2013-14 recipient of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.

Dowell has been around the AHL, skating in 381 games with Norfolk, Rockford previously, Houston, Iowa and Hamilton. He also has 157 NHL games under his belt with Chicago, Dallas, and Minnesota. The winger solidifies the IceHogs' lineup with a veteran presence who can score timely goals and provide quality leadership.

California Dreaming

While there haven't been any teams specifically pushing outdoor games yet, the AHL has announced that there will officially be an outdoor game this year in Sacramento. Yes, that's California. On December 18, the Bakersfield Condors and Stockton Heat will meet at Raley Field in West Sacramento for their regular season AHL tilt.

"This event will be a special showcase for our Pacific Division in its inaugural season," said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. "We look forward to this celebration of hockey outdoors and to sharing the experience with the terrific hockey fans in Northern California."

Hey, it worked in Los Angeles and San Jose. Why not Sacramento too?

So there are the AHL stories from this past week. Do you agree with the Jets' move in bringing in Leggio? How do you see the depth chart playing out with Leggio in the mix? All of these questions will be answered by October, but let's hear your thoughts in the comments!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Big Announcements

There was some excitement in the city of Winnipeg with the announcement that there was a press conference being held by the Winnipeg Jets yesterday morning. The last time there was an announcement that involved the upper management of the Winnipeg Jets we found out that the Manitoba Moose were coming back to the city. What could this press conference hold? Would the Jets be announcing a possible alternate jersey for this season? Were they orchestrating something for the fans? What would be revealed at this conference?

It turns out that the Manitoba Moose will be the primary benefactors of the Jets making improvements to their current practice facility! The Jets announced today that they would be making a $7.5 million investment into their west-end practice facility known as the MTS IcePlex! The 21,000 square foot addition to the east end of the IcePlex will have dressing room space for both the Moose and Jets at their practice facility, office space for the Manitoba Moose hockey operations staff, and storage space and office space for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy which plays out of the IcePlex and is run by the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation!

Having been to the IcePlex on many occasions, the facilities they have there currently are excellent for the players, but there's almost nothing in the way of offices or NHL-level dressing rooms for the staff and players of the Jets and/or Moose. The four rinks the IcePlex boasts are solid with some seating for fans, but seating is limited. The restaurant, which overlooks two rinks, is massive, and the food and drink served in the cavernous restaurant is pretty good. However, as stated above, there really is limited room for a professional team as the locker rooms are generic in nature. Office space is almost non-existent outside of the staff that currently run the IcePlex.

It's nice to see the IcePlex getting a little love from True North after playing host to hundreds of practices and training camps on top of the many city, provincial, national, and international tournaments, beer league games, sledge hockey games, MJHL games, MWJHL games, Hockey Manitoba events, Hockey Canada events, and everything else that goes on at that facility.

The second announcement that came from the Jets happened today, and this one is a big one for fans in and around this city. I was driving home and happened to have my local sports radio show on where Mark Chipman, President of True North Sports and Entertainment, was speaking to the hosts where he stated that Winnipeg will indeed host a Heritage Classic game next year and that he would like it earlier in the year!
With that news, let the rumor mill start churning abut who the Jets will play in the Heritage Classic. There's a strong feeling that the Edmonton Oilers will be the team that visits Winnipeg with the history between the two teams starting in the WHA, carrying through into the 1980s with the Smythe Division battles, and now with both teams having solid, young teams.

I'll be honest in saying that I want neither the Canadiens nor Maple Leafs in this game, and the Senators and Canucks just played a Heritage Classic in Vancouver. That pretty much leaves the two Alberta-based teams, and the Oilers haven't played in one since the original Heritage Classic in Edmonton. Will we see an Oilers-Jets Heritage Classic game in December at Investors Group Field? It sounds like it is very likely at this point!

Who would you like to see in the Heritage Classic against the Jets? Perhaps Michael Frolik and the Flames? Maybe hometown boy Mark Stone and the Senators? Manitoban James Reimer and the Leafs? Have your say in the comments!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Having A Little Fun

The image above, tweeted out by the Winnipeg Goldeyes, features the Goldeyes players in a promotional uniform as the American Association team winds down the season. The Goldeyes find themselves 8.5 games back of the wild card spot with eight games to play thanks to the Laredo Lemurs winning on Sunday night, so tonight's game against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks carried no pressure for the Goldeyes as their playoff dreams are over. Instead, it allows the Goldeyes to have a little fun, enjoy these promotions, and try to feed off the hockey-hungry city of Winnipeg for a few more weeks.

I'm generally against cross-sport promotions when it comes to a team celebrating another team, but the Goldeyes aren't celebrating the Jets. They legitimately hockey-fied themselves for the game with these uniforms. TV numbers on the sleeves, hockey stripes at the bottom of the jersey, and a fun logo that is a little different than the same Goldeyes logo used every day make these uniforms unique to the Goldeyes for their promotion. There are, however, some issues.

First, don't tuck. Ever. Hockey jerseys aren't meant to be tucked at all unless you're Gretzky or Ovechkin, and the look created by the players above eliminates those glorious hem stripes. If there are hem stripes, the hockey jersey stays untucked to display said stripes. However, being baseball there are dress code rules that the teams have to follow, and tucking in is one of those rules. This might be why a "hockey night" on the ball diamond isn't the best of ideas.

Otherwise, the uniforms look pretty good. The white really pops against the green field - yet another reason more hockey teams should wear green - and the Goldeyes wore the uniforms well on Hockey Night at Shaw Park. The baseball, however, was a different story as the RedHawks pummeled the Goldeyes into submission with 17 hits leading to a 9-2 victory. In other words, not a hockey score unless the word "blowout" was written on the whiteboard in the Goldeyes' dressing room. At 43-50, the Goldeyes have to win out in their remaining seven games to finish .500. Not good.

If there's one thing the Goldeyes do well, though, it's their promotional uniforms. Their recent Bacon Night was a hit, and tonight's Hockey Night looked pretty solid as well. While the 5810 people in attendance didn't go home with a smile, they did get to see two of their hockey heroes toss the first pitch as Winnipeg Jets Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart were on-hand for the ceremonial tosses! Apparently both found the plate with their throws as well!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Where I Am Today

Pictured to the left is what I was involved with today. Actually, it was all weekend. I had a blast this weekend coaching a women's team in the Provincial Championships. While the picture to the left isn't the team I was coaching, the ladies showed the same heart and teamwork to carry them to a 3-0 round-robin record on Saturday to set up the semi-final with a shot at the return encounter with the odds-on favorite in the final today. This team is a lot like the current Blue Jays - incredible offence and solid defence, but they are prone to a bad inning here and there.

Because I'm out in the baking sun today for hopefully two games, HBIC is take a breather for this Sunday. I can't necessarily say we'll win it all, but we've got a solid team who has been pounding the ball and scoring runs in bunches. We'll need to tighten the defence up a little if we're going to beat the odds, but the offence certainly made up for the few defensive miscues we had in the field. That needs to continue today, and I'll certainly be forcing players to be aggressive on the base paths.

It's championship Sunday on the ball diamonds! I'll get back into hockey tomorrow!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!