Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

An Influential Force

The young lady in the image to the left should start becoming a little more important to you as this summer starts to unfold. That's Dani Rylan, and she should be named as one of the more influential people in hockey in this upcoming year if everything goes to plan. You see, she's the driving force behind this new, upstart women's league known as the National Women's Hockey League or NWHL. Miss Rylan's body of work in hockey isn't storied or steeped in history just yet, but it will be once the inaugural 2015-16 season for the NWHL starts. As she and her partners work to make this new league a driving force in women's hockey, she'll be carving out a path that very few women have had a chance to do in hockey as she'll also wear the GM's hat for the New York Riveters in their first season!

Her Twitter account tagline reads "dreamer. doer." and she certainly is doing both with this new NWHL venture. She was born in Tampa Bay, Florida - a state not know for its rich hockey history - and made her way to the NCAA's Northeastern Huskies women's program as a player thanks to her dad who worked for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning's inaugural season was in 1992, and this gave Rylan, who was five years-old at the time, the inroads to skating and hockey in Florida! It helps that her brothers also played, so there was a definite family tie-in that resulted in her developing into a solid player and playing for the Huskies.

She also played for the Division II Metropolitan State University in Denver as the only woman in the ACHA before arriving at Northeastern, proving that she's capable of holding her own against the boys. She recorded three goals and five assists in those two years in Denver, and she caught the eye of Northeastern's program and she joined the Huskies. She recorded three goals and seven assists in both years, but helped Northeastern capture the Beanpot Trophy in 2011-12!

After graduating with a degree in Sports Leadership from Northeastern and a Broadcast Journalism degree from Metro State, it appeared that Rylan was set to become a household name after landing a contract with the NHL Network, but the lockout put those dreams on hold. Instead, Rylan followed another dream and opened a coffee shop up in New York City called Rise and Grind located in East Harlem. If and when I ever get to New York City, you know I'm looking this place up for a coffee or two. It sounds like a happening place!

"I had moved to New York City to work for the NHL Network," she told New England Hockey Journal's Kat Hasenauer Cornetta. "My brother lives in New York City too, working as a coffee distributor. He had a storefront he wasn't using, so we worked out a business deal. I got the storefront and a coffee distributor and opened up a shop."

It wasn't all fun and games, though. Rylan showed that dreamer and doer life motto once more. "My friend designed the shop, but I had to do all of the renovation work. I ended up laying tile and all of that," Rylan said. "I compared (the renovations) to preseason. I was pulling twenty hour days to get the shop ready. It was just like working incredibly hard in the preseason with the hope that it pays off during the season. I feel the same way about this."

Clearly, her hard work has turned Rise and Grind into a successful spot for coffee. What's cooler is that she's also giving back to the community through her business venture. "I donate five cents of each cup of coffee I sell to Ice Hockey in Harlem," explained Rylan. "I physically put the five cents in a stainless steel style mug we all got that says 2012 Beanpot champions on it. I keep it next to the register. It's not a lot of money, but I hope it makes a difference."

Every little bit counts, and that's a pretty awesome thing she's doing. With the CWHL gaining ground, she began work on trying to have the CWHL award a franchise to the New York City area. In an interview with CUNY, Rylan said, "New York's a great city for it because of the career opportunities. All of the girls have to have jobs on the side as well as play because players aren't paid right now. But that's part of the model that the CWHL is hoping to change, sooner rather than later. But right now there are 40 women on the Boston team’s roster for the upcoming season, so there are a lot of women that want to live in the U.S. and still compete at that high level."

That's a lot of women on that Boston roster, and the CWHL has yet to enter any US-based market outside of Boston despite the vast number of players in and around the New York area. That may have been one of the main factors in Miss Rylan's push to create the NWHL. She and Angela Ruggiero are the founders of the new women's league, and it sounds like their model is ahead of where the CWHL is currently as the NWHL will pay players! Granted, we're not talking millions of dollars, but $270,000 per team as a salary cap is better than the play-for-free-because-you-love-it model in the CWHL. Dollars and cents are enticing for players who work jobs during the day just to play hockey at night.

If there are 20 players on a roster, that's about $13,500 per player if everyone is paid evenly. That's not retirement money by any means, but an added $13,500 to any of the bottom lines for these women is pretty darn good. Players will be paid just like employees: taxes will be withdrawn from pay cheques, and the remaining amount will be the player's take-home amount. Because players are employees, the four American-based teams can apply for and obtain work visas for international players such as Florence Schelling, Janine Weber, or Natalie Spooner. Suddenly, the CWHL could see an exodus on players leaving for some green... er grass.

If you followed the CWHL this season, you know that the Hockey Hall of Fame wanted Janine Weber's stick after the Austrian-born Weber scored the overtime winner in the Clarkson Cup. She, however, had reservations in giving up her stick as it was only one of two she had. Thankfully, STX Hockey came through and donated a pile of sticks to Janine so she could send a stick to the Hall of Fame. It was a bit of an embarrassment for the CWHL, and the NWHL has already learned from that situation.

All of the players in the NWHL will receive equipment provided for them! "This a professional league. The women will have their equipment provided to them. The equipment, tape, sticks, the necessities to play will be given to them," Rylan told Puck Daddy's Jen Neale. That's pretty awesome that the players no longer have to worry if they remembered to pick up sock tape on the way to the rink or to replace that broken skate lace before the next game. As Miss Rylan stated, that is how professionals are treated.

While I'm not suggesting this will be an NHL-vs-WHA war like we saw in the 1970s, it might be an opportunity, if the NWHL can gain some traction, for these two leagues to operate as one in the future. Miss Rylan believes the two leagues can co-exist, but this isn't an NHL/KHL thing. While I appreciate her politically-correct point-of-view on the two leagues, you have to ask yourself one question: do I want to play for free while paying out of pocket for my own gear, or do I want to get paid to play and have some free gear thrown my way?

It sounds as though Miss Rylan has the business model down, has sponsors onboard, and has some interest from players already. The league is about 20 percent of the way to their financial goal right now, but they have an entire summer before the league kicks off in October. They're still looking for additional sponsors as well, so things are progressing but aren't entirely finalized. The four teams will play 18 games from October to March - 9 at home, 9 on the road - with each home game being a themed game: military, breast cancer support, and others, for example. Time commitments will be two practices per week and a game on the weekends.

I post this today because there is an NWHL Launch Party in New York City on April 13 that sounds like it will have some important people attending. Details surrounding the event are hard to come by, but I'd assume that Miss Rylan and Miss Ruggiero have some great people lined up. The inaugural NWHL Entry Draft will take place some time in June, it appears, as there is a registration deadline for players on June 1, 2015. Junior and senior women's collegiate players are eligible to register and be drafted, but they must complete their degrees and cannot be paid until they graduate in order for those players to keep their amateur NCAA status. Players who have already completed their collegiate careers and graduated are declared as free agents, and can be signed between March 15 and August 25 of this year.

In other words, this new NWHL idea has legs and is moving forward. Miss Rylan's dream is now in motion, and it's one of the biggest dreams to become reality in a long time in either of men's and women's hockey. Dani Rylan said she was a doer. This is one helluva did to pull off, and she should be recognized for this as one of hockey's most influential people despite her being just the tender age of 27.

Know her name. She's gonna be a big player in the game of hockey for a long time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 30 March 2015

I Need A Night Off

Computer Hope
I don't usually do this, but I've got way too much stuff on the go in my life, so I'm taking a day off from hockey. As you've seen, I have this Blackberry project on the go, I have some running around to do in terms of completing errands, and I generally need to catch up on sleep. It's been a trying couple of weeks trying to meet all the deadlines and expectations placed upon me, so I need a night to regroup and reset. I don't want to think about hockey, writing about hockey, or looking for interesting stories. I just need a break, so I'm taking one.

This would be one of those times where you, the reader would be featured by me. I'd post your story, and I'd toss in a few comments at the end. I have no articles to post, though, because I haven't received anything in the ol' inbox lately. Hint, hint.

Ok, so you're not a hockey writer or don't have the urge to pen a piece on a specific topic. I get that. There are still lots of ways to feature you.

Maybe you like to do YouTube stuff? I'm completely behind you on that one. Mock up a video or sit down and record a rant. I'm game for that. Bring your best video to me, and we'll have some fun with that.

Maybe you like to code? I posted that match game a couple of weeks ago that I learned how to code. If you coded some awesome game or application that deals in hockey matters, I'd be happy to feature it. Heck, I'd hope you would use it as a springboard to a programming job by posting the link on a resumé. I'd be happy to post some awesome application you'd devised so that your name gets out there. And yes, all the credit would be yours.

I have always, always said this blog is "of the people, by the people, and for the people", but it seems that very few take advantage of that opportunity. I know you all follow this blog because you love the game, and I know you all have opinions. You're all talented people in one way, shape, or form, so let's see some of those talents!

As for me, I'm closing this laptop for the night. I'm going to get some stuff done tonight that I need to get done, and I'll see you tomorrow. Be ready because I'm going to introduce you to someone who absolutely deserves to be on your hockey radar!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Two Decades Earlier

Today on HBIC, we're going to take a trip down memory lane as we look back at the mid-season opening of an arena for an NHL team. The Ottawa Senators currently play in Canadian Tire Centre, but this arena has had a few names over its life. It was called Scotiabank Place and the Corel Centre, but we have to go back to when the building opened to discover its original name: Palladium. It's hard to fathom that the Ottawa Senators building a case for a new arena when this one opened on January 14, 1996, but they were seriously proposing a new arena as late as the turn of the calendar to 2015. Considering the info found in a couple of Ottawa Citizen newspapers I discovered in a box, it seems the luster has worn off this once shiny, new building.

According to the newspaper, the Palladium cost a mere $200 million. Parking cost $8 back in 1996. Fare on the various buses traveling to Kanata to this new venue would cost $1.85 each way. Hot dogs were $2 while beer was $4, taxes included. The most expensive seat in 1996? $85 to see the Senators and you got seat-side service for concessions. Seats in the Citizen family zone? $15 apiece. Needless to say, life was pretty good for hockey fans in the Ottawa area in 1996.

If there were complaints, there were few but they were significant. There were too few elevators in the rink which meant that fans who sat in the upper deck climbed the equivalent of five stories of stairs to get to their seats. There were also significantly less washrooms for women than men - "688 urinals and stalls for men on the main concourse and 656 stalls for women" as per the Ottawa Citizen. Impressive, um, totals, right?

The Ottawa Senators began play in 1996 at the Ottawa Civic Centre which held a measly 10,575 fans. It was easily the smallest building at the time in the NHL. The Palladium could easily hold 18,500 fans for hockey and up to 21,500 for other events. That's a huge difference in attendance. They also ensured that the sightlines were taken into consideration when building the rink. The farthest seat from the playing surface - seat S33 - is only 138 feet from the playing surface, and all players can be seen. Although they may look like ants.

Here's the Brad Evenson of the Ottawa Citizen describing the Roman theme of the Palladium.
One of the most striking features of the Palladium is the extent architects and designers pushed the Roman Empire decor.

Ever since the Senators dumped the Peace Tower logo for a stylized Gladiator, they've pushed the Roman stuff like a broken chariot. The Palladium looks like Julius Caesar's own interior decorator was turned loose. The building is thick with doric columns, arches, and domes. The executive entrance boasts a six-metre tall suspended statue of the winged horse, Pegasus. Another room boasts a giant mural of daily life in Rome. Like a Roman arena, the building is circus-ready - complete with secure entrances for lions and tether posts for elephants. ("I mean, we can't have elephants running loose, can we?" says [Palladium spokeswoman Sue] Baker.)
Needless to say, the Senators embraced their Roman ties with this new arena. There were other impressive architectural feats: the ice surface is below ground level, meaning fans enter the rink off the concourse almost a third of the way up. The seat sections are cantilevered over one another. Those with seats in the upper deck are nine feet closer to the ice than in other arenas at the time. Sound engineers were brought in to improve the acoustics. As Evenson writes, "Up in Seat 33, the acoustics are so good you could hear your nose bleed."

The Senators have a 10,000 square-foot dressing room that comes with a steam room, a weight room, whirlpools, and lounges. The opposition, meanwhile, gets what could amount to enough room to act as a broom closet. There's a YMCA-YWCA on site, and there are enough restaurants and bars built up around the Palladium to make it worth a night out even if one wasn't attending the rink. Honestly, the planning that went into and around this arena is pretty impressive.

Want some numbers? Here we go.
  • 2500: amount in kilometre of electrical wiring that went into the building. It would stretch back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto three times.
  • 1200: total number of steel pilings filled with concrete used in building the arena.
  • 22: length in kilometres of refrigeration piping under the rink.
  • 26: number of games played in the Palladium by the Senators in the rink's inaugural season. They did not make the playoffs that year.
  • 120,000: cost in dollars to rent the best luxury suite per year, including taxes. Add another $40,000 to furnish that suite as well.
  • 150: total number of luxury suites.
  • 200: total seats for media. The press area includes four TV booths, four radio booths, one NHL booth, and one TV-replay booth.
  • 400: total number of TV monitors in the Palladium. One included in every suite.
  • 110,000: cost in dollars per year for the most highly visible board advertisement location. The lesser seen ad spots only set you back $80,000.
  • 2000: number of people who can use the toilet at the same time. That's some impressive plumbing, no?
The Senators, in a weird twist to this story, weren't the first event in the Palladium. Monday, January 15, 1996 saw a Bryan Adams concert as the first official event in the brand-new Palladium. And they followed that on Tuesday night with an all-star skating event, so the Senators weren't even first to skate on their ice! When they finally hit the ice, though, they welcomed the Montreal Canadiens for that first game, and we have video!
So there's a little history on this Sunday night about the the Palladium which is now Canadian Tire Centre. Honestly, it sounds a little more regal as the Palladium, but the dollars made with naming rights to the arena can't be overlooked.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Show 'Em How It's Done, Coach! - The Sequel

Recognize this Bruins netminder? If you don't, you're excused. He didn't dress for tonight's game, but he ended up on the bench wearing #70, a number he's never worn in his career. That, readers, is 50 year-old Bob Essensa, better known as the Bruins goalie coach, dressed and ready for action. If we're learning anything about NHL goalies, it's probably a good idea to have a goalie coach who isn't too far from his playing days in case one of your team's two netminders goes down with an injury in the game.

Bob Essensa's last game came as a member of the Buffalo Sabres where he unfortunately posted an 0-5 record in nine appearances. His 2.91 GAA wasn't overly terrible, but his .850 save percentage left something to be desired. He called it quits after that 2001-02 season.

Thirteen years later, Bob Essensa is back!

Ok, not really. Tuukka Rask had been suffering from symptoms of dehydration which flared up during the first intermission, so Claude Julien did the smart thing and yanked his starting netminder. That left an empty seat on the bench as Niklas Svedberg replaced the ailing Rask just ten seconds into the second period. NHL rules state that you need to dress a backup netminder, so the emergency goaltender rule was enacted and Bob Essensa returned to the NHL!

Having been around for Winnipeg Jets v1.0, I can tell you that he's still held in high esteem in the city of Winnipeg. He never truly got the respect of some of his goaltending peers at the time, but he was one of the more memorable Jets thanks to radio play-by-play man Curt Keilback's calls of "Great save, ESS-SENZ-ZA!"

He was traded from Winnipeg to Detroit along with Sergi Bautin for Tim Cheveldae and Dallas Drake in what was one of the more lopsided trades that went against the Red Wings. Bautin and Essensa hardly played a large part in the Red Wings' success while Drake and Cheveldae became fan favorites in Winnipeg.

While Essensa won't be suiting up for the Bruins for the remainder of the season, it's always nice to see one of those players that you grew up with back in the spotlight. While the gamesheet won't show Essensa as contributing on the ice, the Bruins can take comfort in knowing that he's there if and when a goaltender is needed once more.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 27 March 2015

That Project I Mentioned...

I had mentioned on Wednesday that I was working on a project, and I think I finally got it to work in such a way that I'm happy with it. You may recognize the device to the left as a Blackberry. Specifically, it is a Blackberry Bold 9650. It will play a prominent role in today's entry here on HBIC. I will inform you here and now that this article has nothing to do with hockey, but if you have an interest in technology, reusing old equipment and devices, or simply are hoarding some of this stuff, you'll want to read on. Honestly, this might be one of the cooler things I've come up with, and it will benefit UMFM, the radio station that features The Hockey Show, greatly if all things come to pass.

Any Blackberry older than the Z10 is basically worthless to the carriers that supplied them at this point. The total rebate offered for them is zilch, so they are nothing more than plastic and scrap metal in the eyes of the carriers who supplied them years ago. I happen to enjoy turning old technology into something useful again, so I can happily step in and save the carriers from themselves in turning these Blackberries into scrap.

Here's the background on what's going on with these, and this is important to the cause. Read on for an idea that I've been toying with for a while.

CJUM-FM is based at the University of Manitoba. As a result, its broadcasting range covers its immediate service area which is the city of Winnipeg. It's one thing not to be noticed on the radio dial for reasons like not playing commercial music or having too much talk-radio or simply being "different", but it's entirely harder for UMFM to exist when there are staff and students that don't know you exist despite them paying fees to keep us afloat.

In order for us to have a greater presence around the University, we need to be heard. The problem is that the infrastructure to have UMFM's sounds playing in the hallways and corridors of the University does not exist. The University isn't interested in helping us grow our market within our own borders either as they have other pressing needs that require some monetary attention, and we accept that. We understand the economics, but we also run on a modest - read: shoestring - budget ourselves.

That's where my Blackberry idea comes in.

Because the infrastructure to have an integrated feed through the buildings doesn't exist, we have to improvise. Every building has electrical run through the ceilings covered by a drop-ceiling, so we have that working for us. And every building has wifi coverage. And that got my gray matter fired up as I put two and two together.
After ensuring SIM cards were pulled and personal information was wiped from the phones, it was all about ensuring they could connect to wifi. That was confirmed after the 9650s were fired up. Next, I'd need to be able to connect to the internet stream via UMFM. The problem is that Windows Media Player and WinAmp aren't widely available via the Blackberry App Store, so I was off to find another app that would let me connect.

It took some searching, but if you have Blackberry, here's the best way to listen to UMFM on your Blackberry: Nobex Radio. Nobex connects you to, literally, thousands of stations across the world, and I'm happy to report that CJUM-FM - 101.5 UMFM - is on that list! I've been listening to UMFM on and off via random Blackberry Bold 9650s over the last two days without so much as an interruption. I have to say it's a pretty great app!

So we have a device, wifi access, an app that connects via wifi to gain access to the radio station. All we're missing is a set of speakers. That's where the computer speakers come in as they have the male audio connector necessary to plug into the Blackberry's headphone connection. A little testing done here with HBIC's own speakers, and we have a working digital stereo, kids!

There are still some things to work through before this project becomes more than a science experiment. We need approval from the Board of Directors to purchase the necessary number of computer speakers, but I'm certain we can source them fairly inexpensively. Secondly, we need the University of Manitoba to sign off on our using an outlet to plug the Blackberry charger and speakers in. We don't want the batteries in the Blackberry dying, so we need to keep them plugged in. Lastly, we need to source out appropriate spots for these radios to be installed in the drop-ceilings of the various buildings.

We're still weeks away from this digital radio idea hitting the hallways, but this is what I spend my evenings doing when I'm not writing here. I think outside the box when it comes to technology and finding uses for those devices people say are obsolete. No, I didn't pioneer this idea, but this is the first time I've had access to a dozen old Blackberries that have been deemed obsolete.

Now we just need the powers-that-be to sign off on the idea.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!