Wednesday, March 30, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Jason Spezza Taking On Leadership Role In Ottawa

Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza is emerging as a leader on a Senators squad that became much younger at the trade deadline and his overall game has greatly improved. Since he returned to the lineup from a shoulder injury on February 5th, Spezza has 8 goals and 20 assists in 25 games -  leading by example for the young guns from Binghamton auditioning for a spot on Ottawa's roster next season.

Spezza's winning percentage in the faceoff circle ranks 10th overall in the NHL and he is taking a regular shift killing penalties. He is a key component for the franchise's future success - while he was out of the lineup Ottawa's win/loss record was 1-11-3.

Read about Spezza's new role with the Senators at The Hockey Writers

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dawson City Nuggets and Ottawa Senators Alumni: Interview with Nuggets' Player Troy Suzuki

Troy Suzuki at the McBride Museum
(Photo - Don Reddick)
A few weeks ago, award-winning author Don Reddick shared his thoughts with The Voice of Sport about his trip to the Yukon for the much-anticipated re-match between the Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators Alumni as part of the Hockey Day in Canada festivities. Dawson City Nuggets player Troy Suzuki took part in the games and provided a firsthand account of all the action.

The original invitation for the Senators to travel to Dawson City was made by the Nuggets 106 years ago after their famous Stanley Cup challenge against the Ottawa Silver Seven. After losing to the Silver Seven, the man that organized the challenge, Joe Boyle, suggested the outcome would be different if Ottawa travelled to Dawson City. He offered to create a cup that was to be made of solid gold, hoping to entice the Ottawa hockey players into making the trip north.

While it took over a century for Ottawa to make the trip and the recent games were not for the Stanley Cup, a scaled down version of the Klondike Cup went to the victors. Ottawa won the games in Dawson City and Whitehorse but the event was not about who won or lost, it provided the two northern cities an opportunity to shine brightly in the national spotlight.

“The game was huge for the town,” Suzuki explained. “I think any time real NHL players come to town it is big, but this had a real buzz that made everyone want to take part. From the sponsors pouring in, to all the volunteers and people clamouring for tickets, even people who had no interest in hockey were excited. I think the historic nature of the game was important. What little town happens to have a Stanley Cup Challenge in their history? For that brief time I think we felt connected to the bigger world out there, which usually is very far away.”

“There were five or six dog teams to give the Senators players rides and the sun was out - it was one of those times when the town comes together and charms not only the visitors but themselves as well, when we all go, ‘Ah, okay now I remember why I live here.”

In 1997, the modern day Nuggets travelled to Ottawa, re-enacting the original trip from Dawson City to Ottawa. Travelling by dog sled out of the North, then by ship to Vancouver and riding the rails across Canada, following in the footsteps of the 1905 journey. Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae and Reddick accompanied the Nuggets and chronicled the journey - McRae in the Sun and Reddick in his book, The Trail Less Traveled. The two games during the Hockey Day festivities provided an opportunity for many of the participants of the ‘97 trip to reunite and reminisce about their shared experience - a remarkable journey that forged a special bond.

Troy Suzuki on the shores of the famous
lake Laberge during the 1997 trip to Ottawa
(Photo - Don Reddick)
“There aren’t that many of the ‘97 team left in Dawson but the ghosts of that trip came flooding back once I got to Whitehorse and saw the old faces; Kevin Anderson, Pat Hogan, Dale Kulych, Brian Gudmundson, Don Reddick and Earl McRae. Whitehorse put on a terrific show as well, with an amazing display of Yukon hockey history at the McBride museum. I was transported back to sitting around many a lounge having beers with the guys on the trip. Memories of the bush travel part of the trip came flooding back too and I had a renewed admiration for Don and Earl to have jumped in cold ‘literally’ into that trip. The Dawson/Whitehorse leg was the heart of that trip for most of us.”

“Flying back to Dawson with the Sens was nice as we got to play host and show off our town,” Suzuki said. “It made me think of the distance, culturally and geographically, between our two worlds. Dawson is very sleepy in the winter, the end of the road frontier town. I think the Sens got a much better idea and a new appreciation for what we went through getting to Ottawa.”

Suzuki was too young to play in the ‘97 game but made the entire journey from Dawson City to Ottawa, capturing every moment for his film Live From Moccasin Square Gardens. It was a new experience for Troy to take to the ice against the Senators in the history-making games. I asked him if it was easier to play in 2011 or to watch in 1997.

“It’s a lot easier to play in the game than to watch I’ll tell you that much,” he said. “I remember being so discombobulated at the Ottawa game I was almost sick with nerves and excitement - it was very hard to focus on my video and camera work. I don’t regret not playing in the Ottawa game though, as I knew I hadn’t been in town long enough to warrant inclusion on that team. I think of the video I came up with as a gift to the team, the town and Territory; I’m happy I could contribute in that way. Both games up here were fun, I couldn’t stop smiling, but I didn’t think of it as making Yukon history, more like a fun exhibition and a tip of the hat to that history.”

The scores of the two-game series in 1905 heavily favoured the Silver Seven (9-2 and 23-2) and while the ‘97 team narrowed the gap (the final score was 18-0) the team of recreational players from Dawson City are still looking for their first win against the former NHL players. The first game in Whitehorse ended by a 10-1 score, with Kevin Anderson scoring the first Dawson goal against Ottawa in 106 years and the home team dropped the second game in Dawson City by a 12-4 margin.

“The Senators are great showmen; they let us in the game so it was entertaining to the fans. It felt like they had a lot more gears than the one they were showing, they just drifted to the open ice and cruised, waiting for a pass. Their passing was beautiful, tape-to-tape, saucer passes - our passing was awful. I once suggested to our old-timer league that we should have a practice and work on our passing, I was pretty much laughed out of the room. Rick Smith from the Senators would chat during the play. He would give us lots of room to skate and even advised me what to do - go wide, round the net.”

As we venture further and further into a world that seems to revolve around a 24-hour news cycle, it is refreshing to see the Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators Alumni not only keeping history alive but also adding to the rich legacy of the sport.

Thank you Troy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Have A Question For Marty McSorley?

Since November, The Hockey Writers and the NHL Alumni Association have teamed up for a monthly series called Ask the Alumni. It provides us with the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the business ventures and charitbale work done by the NHL Alumni members while reminiscing about some of hockey’s greatest moments. It also gives our readers the opportunity to be a part of the interviews – each month, a different NHL Alumni member will join us here at The Hockey Writers for an interview and THW readers provide some of the questions.

So far, the Ask the Alumni series has interviewed Lanny McDonald, Georges Laraque, Theo Fleury and Claude Lemieux. This month's guest is two-time Stanley Cup champion Marty McSorley.

If you have a question for Marty, send it to thwnhlalumni@gmail.com by April 11, 2011.

You can find all the previous Ask the Alumni interviews at The Hockey Writers

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Craig Anderson Signs 4-Year Extension With Ottawa

Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray traded for Craig Anderson before the NHL trade deadline to take a closer look at the pending unrestricted free agent. Anderson has impressed his new team and their fans, posting a 6-4-1 record, a 2.11 goals against average and a .938 save percentage.

The former Avalanche goaltender has been equally impressed with his new team and Monday morning, Murray announced that they had agreed on a new deal that will keep the goaltender in Ottawa for four more years.

Read about Anderson's contract extension at The Hockey Writers

Saturday, March 19, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Interview with Ottawa Senators Defenseman Matt Carkner

Ottawa Senators Defenceman And
Capital City Condors Volunteer
Matt Carkner
(Photo TVOS)
Three years ago Jim and Shana Perkins started the Capital City Condors, a hockey team for Ottawa area children with learning or physical disabilities. Before the Condors arrived in the nation's capital, children with special needs could only watch their brothers and sisters playing hockey - forced to sit on the sidelines with no team to call their own.

In that first season, Jim and Shana welcomed three children into the Capital City Condors family. Three years later, through the efforts of their tremendous volunteers and sponsors the program has grown to forty players with a waiting list that continues to grow. One of the dedicated supporters of the Capital City Condors program spoke with The Hockey Writers this week – Ottawa Senators defenseman Matt Carkner.

Read about the Condors and my interview with Matt Carkner at The Hockey Writers

Friday, March 18, 2011

Time For Change In The NHL?

This article was first published in the March 18th edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

*Because of publishing deadlines, this article was sent in to Main Street before the General Managers meeting - the league has taken a few small steps towards protecting their players.

For most of last week, The National Hockey League was the top news story in Canada and the United States and once again, it was for all the wrong reasons. After yet another on-ice incident that resulted in a severe injury, the league’s inability to change their attitude towards dangerous plays has come under fire from fans and for the first time, a growing list of their corporate sponsors.

At this point, I am sure everyone is quite aware of Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty - the debate has been quite heated about Chara’s actions. The point of this week’s column is not to re-evaluate the league’s failure to suspend the Boston Bruins defenceman, but rather the NHL’s response to these situations; the “everything is okay, please don’t look behind the curtain” attitude.

Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed regret that an injury occurred in the Boston - Montreal game, but failed to say that this type of injury is becoming too frequent in his league and they are prepared to make changes. Instead, he made this comment after an appearance at the US Capitol Building.

“It was a horrific injury, we’re sorry that it happened in our fast-paced physical game, but I don’t think whether or not supplemental discipline was imposed would change what happened and in fact the people in the game who I have heard from almost to a person ... believe that it was handled appropriately by hockey operations.”

The league needs to acknowledge that something has gone wrong - it will not change what happened, but it could keep it from happening repeatedly. After several of these on-ice incidents, Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard or Chara’s hit on Pacioretty to name just a few, the league has stated that no rule violations actually took place, or that they were satisfied with the punishment handed down by the referees during the game. That is small consolation for players like Savard (his career is most likely over) or Pacioretty (whether he ever returns to the league is also in question). It is time for the league to implement a rule similar to the National Football League’s “conduct detrimental to the league” policy.

After several off-field incidents involving their players, the NFL adopted this new rule. In effect, it is a rule to punish players for making the league and all of its players look bad. I called for such a rule to come into being after Cooke’s vicious hit on Savard. In Chara’s case the league could say, “Perhaps you didn’t mean to hurt your opponent, but the fact remains you did something extremely dangerous and tarnished the image of the league - here’s a four game suspension.”

It seems like a simple solution but unfortunately, it is a long and drawn out process when it comes to changes in the league. The General Managers meet to discuss these issues and then any possible rule changes are off to the league’s competition committee and the NHL Players’ Association. If you are looking for immediate change, you will be disappointed. We may see new rules in place for next season, but when the league’s motto is “everything is okay”, it is quite possible that the status quo will remain next year.

In a high impact sport like hockey, head injuries and concussions will happen; it will be difficult to eliminate them completely. The question the league must look at moving forward - can they do something to limit the risks their players face when they step on the ice and can they send a clear message to players when they go too far? As the race for playoff positions heat up and then the battles for a trip to the Stanley Cup begin, it is very likely we will witness another injury of this magnitude. Until there is real change, we will not be talking about the Vancouver Canucks and their healthy lead in the standings, the fine play of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price or the Toronto Maple Leafs making a late-season surge for the playoffs, we will be discussing another career in jeopardy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators Alumni: Interview with Award-Winning Author Don Reddick

A shorter version of this article first appeared in the March 2011 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

Don Reddick
Last month, the CBC celebrated their annual Hockey Day in Canada with a thirteen-hour broadcast, which was hosted by the city of Whitehorse. Part of the weeklong festivities was a re-match 106 years in the making; the Ottawa Senators finally arrived in the Yukon for two games against the Dawson City Nuggets. Award-winning author Don Reddick was part of the 1997 re-enactment of the original 1905 Dawson City Stanley Cup challenge, which he chronicled beautifully in his book, The Trail Less Traveled, and he shared some of his thoughts on the games and the Hockey Day in Canada events with The Voice of Sport.

“I come to this from more of a historical angle, I always looked at these games, particularly the Dawson game, in historical context,” explained Reddick. “After the 1905 games, Joe Boyle, the leader of the Dawson team, challenged the Ottawas to come up to Dawson for a rematch. He promised to make a cup out of solid gold for the event. The players were quoted in Ottawa papers talking about the better team they would put up. So the invitation, after the great, legendary trip and loss, was extended in 1905 and it was 106 years before an Ottawa team responded and traveled up. So this was history to me, real hockey history.”

The original 1905 series resulted in a resounding Ottawa victory; the Ottawa Silver Seven outscored the Nuggets 32-4 in the two-game series. In the 1997 re-enactment, the Senators Alumni team defeated the modern-day Nuggets by a score of 18-0. While the Senators kept their winning streak alive with two more victories this year, the Nuggets had plenty to celebrate on their home ice.

“Kevin Anderson was the first Dawson player to score against Ottawa in 106 years and the place went berserk,” Reddick said. “The whole Anderson story is great. In ‘97, he whiffed on Dawson’s best scoring chance and it haunted him for years. On the way up, he told Gerry Armstrong, the Ottawa goalie, that he was going to score on him this time. In the second period, Kevin had another great chance - and whiffed again! We were going to get on him and then he scored. Brad May (NHL alumni members took part in the Whitehorse game but not the Dawson game the next night) set him up and Kevin snapped the pass into the upper right.”

“Richard Nagano, Dawson’s goalie, was unbelievable. He played a great game and was the number one star for me; but the Ottawas were just too much. It’s fun watching a series of games between amateurs and pros. The Ottawa guys never panic; they never throw the puck away. They see the ice better, its fun to watch.”

Hosting Hockey Day in Canada was an opportunity for the Yukon to shine brightly on the national stage and Reddick explained that there was an air of excitement in the region. Although the main Hockey Day in Canada events took place in Whitehorse and the visit to Dawson City was a short one, the residents and the Senators Alumni embraced the opportunity to witness and take part in the historic re-match.

“Hockey Day couldn’t have picked a better venue for their festival. Because of its relative isolation, its sense of being removed from the rest of Canada, it became even more important. The people were just thrilled with the opportunity to be part of this wonderful event.”

“The Dawson City game was at six and the whole town closed down for the event. Grocery stores closed, everything closed early so people could attend. They gave out Yukon Quest dog race cowbells at the game, so it was loud! After the game, they had a wonderful reception at Diamond Tooth Gerties, where Earl McRae, the Ottawa columnist, gave a complete review of his experiences on the ‘97 re-enactment. Then several of the Senators alumni, Fred and Johnny Barrett, Jean Payette and Noel Price were all dragged up on stage by Diamond Tooth Gertie herself, and made part of the act. I remember most of the alumni being entranced by Dawson, all of them wishing they had more time to spend there and saying how they all planned to return with their wives and families to experience it more thoroughly.”

“It started snowing rather heavily during the evening and into the next day and it was mesmerizing,” Reddick said. “This small, small town, just a few streets really, but unique and friendly and so interesting... all the guys loved the place and wanted to stay longer.”

Reddick’s first book about the Dawson City Nuggets was a work of historical fiction - Dawson City Seven, and he recently announced that the popular book would be re-issued. His connection to the town and the Dawson Nuggets’ story has built friendships that will last a lifetime for the author.

“I love Dawson,” said Reddick. “The whole experience for me of writing Dawson City Seven, participating in the ‘97 re-enactment and then writing The Trail Less Traveled, has made Dawson a pretty special place for me. I walked over to see old friends, saw Dick Van Nostrand at the Downtown Hotel - where the Ottawas stayed - saw old friends who were not playing in the games, Roy Johnson and Dave Millar. Just walking down the streets, seeing the place again and that fast-traveling knowledge that I’d wake up in a couple days and actually wonder if I’d really been there again - it all happens so fast - all good stuff! I love just sitting in the Downtown Hotel and watching the lifestyle; the young guys up for adventure and the old guys, the characters who never left.”

Reddick’s book, The Trail Less Traveled, was front and center throughout the week, as many of the Ottawa players picked up a copy and began to understand the passion for the history of the 1905 journey and the love of the game that inspired the Dawson hockey players to embark on the 1997 re-enactment. If you have read ‘The Trail’, this story is a classic!

“Rick Smith finished reading it on the plane ride from Vancouver to Whitehorse and Rick had a lot to say about it - he had played in the ‘97 game and was interviewed in the book. A great moment occurred in Diamond Tooth Gerties; I was standing with Rick when I spotted Cowboy Smith, the famous dog musher who plays a role in the book standing nearby. Rick had just read about him, took one look, and then strolled right up to him. He had told me that Wayne Cashman of the old Boston Bruins was one of the great hockey characters he had known and when he walked up to Cowboy, a legend and tough character himself, he said, ‘You’re just like Wayne Cashman. You’ve got to meet Wayne Cashman.’ to which Cowboy stared, and replied, ‘Who is Wayne Cashman, and why would I want to do that?’ Great stuff!”

For more information on award-winning author Don Reddick and his marvellous books, visit his website: Don Reddick.com

*Next week at The Voice of Sport - Dawson City Nuggets player Troy Suzuki shares his thoughts on the historic re-match between the Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NHL Alumni Interview with Peter Ing - Fan-tastic Sports & XHockeyProducts

NHL Alumni member Peter Ing
(Photo - INGcorporated)
For many young hockey players, the endless dream to one day follow in the footsteps of their hockey heroes and play in the National Hockey League is immeasurable. However, unlike other professions, a career in hockey is finite. When life in the NHL ends, a second life begins. This is a life where new opportunities are discovered and seemingly daunting challenges await. For NHL Alumni member Peter Ing, the same passion, dedication and drive that he applied during his hockey career helped him make the successful transition to life after hockey.

A Toronto, Ontario native, Ing experienced what many young hockey players in that area dream about while playing on their backyard rinks, the streets and local arenas. In the third round of the 1988 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected the 6’2”, 18-year old goaltender. “My draft year was at the Forum in Montreal. This is one of the places that you see and hear about; it had a mystique along with Maple Leaf Gardens,” reminisced Ing. “Just to put that jersey on, it was quite a feeling. It’s difficult to describe. It’s one thing to be drafted and go to camp – we all have aspirations; but to actually have the chance to play and play a significant role with the team was definitely a dream come true.”

The former Windsor Spitfire and London Knight moved on to the AHL with the Newmarket Saints after he was drafted and during the 1989-90 season, found himself in the NHL suiting up with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He went on to play 56 games in the 1990-91 season, winning the Maple Leafs’ Molson Cup. During his NHL career, Ing also spent time with the Edmonton Oilers and the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by injury and it was at this point that he was forced to contemplate life after hockey. Something he was not really prepared to do. “It’s a gut-check,” Ing confided. “You don’t know what exactly you are going to do and what skills are transferable. It’s a daunting and scary time to go through.”

“That was one of the most difficult times in my life, because I was not ready to give the game up. That certainly was not in my scope – to think about not playing that early in my life,” said Ing. One of the things that helped with the transition from the world of hockey to the business world was the opportunity to work for Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, Nevada. “I really learned a lot about the hotel/marketing world. I started as a management trainee in a city that was not a traditional hockey city, nowhere near where I grew up and I think that was really good for me.”

Ing focused on his new career, tackling every aspect of the casino business with the same determination and passion that took him to the NHL. With his hockey background, he discovered that teamwork was equally important in creating a successful business. Over the period of twelve years, he worked his way up through the ranks of the casino business and soon became an executive. “I had the opportunity to take on roles in which I was designing and opening facilities from the ground up. On top of running a day-to-day casino on one side, I was developing casinos, observing the traffic flows, what machines were in them, where the services were and how we were taking care of our best customers,” explained Ing.

“What I found in my life at that time in the boardroom was a lot of people talk about ‘team’, but it is very easy to see who has grown up in a team environment and who has not. It is at those times that you realize the skills that you obtained by playing a sport at a competitive level. There is no single player that can do everything on his or her own. Everyone has their role to play and it is when those roles intertwine in harmony that you have success. It is much more fun when you have a team that is all working towards the same goal, because it is amazing what can be accomplished.”

Throughout his hockey career and during his time in the hospitality/casino industry, Ing has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and experience; both have proven to be invaluable as CEO of INGcorporated. Whether it is building a hockey career, living a happy life or creating a successful business, there are certain values Ing keeps in mind and shares with others during speaking engagements and/or commercial consultations.

“I think one of the core values is integrity – meaning what you say and doing what you say. Being an honest person is the way I like to live my life and when I do that, I don’t have to look over my shoulder. It’s a small world no matter which part you are in. As I was climbing the ladder playing hockey, an old teammate of mine that had gone through the same experience said that ‘you see the same people on the way up as you do on the way down’. For me, I have always lived my life that way; I was never one to hurt people’s feelings or burn bridges.”

“The hockey world is extremely small, the casino world is extremely small and really when it comes down to it, the way we all work these days, the world seems to be very small. If you are looking to grow your business or find opportunities, having negative experiences with people can come around to make business difficult for you. I like to deal honestly and fairly, I don’t like surprises myself so I try not to give anyone else surprises.”

As the vice-president of a casino, there came a point in Ing’s life where he realized he had aspirations of owning and operating his own business. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it was always in the back of my mind,” recalled Ing. In 2008, he took on a new challenge by teaming up with Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils to help grow Fan-tastic Sports, a company that designs, builds and distributes interactive hockey training products.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Bryce and he told me about this company that he had been working on with a couple of engineers. Bryce is still playing at this time and he was looking for someone to come in, manage the company and take it to the next level. That was something I decided I would take a run at – it just seemed like a good fit. I liked Bryce from the minute I met him. He’s sincere and honest. He and I have those same qualities and we started with that.”

Fan-tastic Sports started as an interactive-only division, but then expanded into full facility equipment. “Let’s say you wanted to open a ‘gym’ for hockey,” said Ing. “You’ll want all of the state-of-the-art training equipment that can be used, along with the technology to scan and track a player’s development. With Fan-tastic Sports equipment, this is exactly what you get as all of the player’s scores are tracked, so they can compare and see how they are progressing in their training.”

The newest product line of Fan-tastic Sports is XHockeyProducts, which is derived from their understanding of the game, offering players training products that are highly portable. The objective of the Fan-tastic Sports organization is to produce a quality product as well as a quality experience. As Ing explained, “There is nothing worse than spending money on a piece of equipment to help yourself or your young player at home and it doesn’t work or it doesn’t work to your expectations. We take that very seriously, because our names are attached to it and you only have one name.” Success means repeat business and that is exactly what Fan-tastic Sports is seeing. Customers who have purchased one or two XHockeyProducts are returning to order more. “That’s the ultimate compliment,” said Ing. “They have taken it into their environment, they have used it and it has met their expectations.”

As far as events are concerned, the list of appearances for Fan-tastic Sports and the products they offer is growing. If you were a visitor at the All-Star game in Raleigh, North Carolina and took part in the fan-fair activities, then you have used equipment from Fan-tastic Sports. “The NHL sought us out to be the provider of services for the NHL All-Star Fan-Fair,” Ing explained proudly. “Here’s an organization that wants to be on the cutting edge of technology, wants to make sure they are pushing the envelope of the fan experience and they turned to us to activate 14 interactive areas; so we feel very blessed about the opportunity. Obviously, it is the pinnacle of hockey organization and it is part of our roots.”

The Fan-tastic Sports mission statement is simple: “We do not underestimate our roles as ambassadors.” By taking an honest approach to the business and producing quality products to the best of their ability, Ing and Salvador are definitely helping to grow the game. There is continuous focus on helping to improve hockey skills at the grass-roots level. “That’s our goal,” Ing said. “We really want to be a positive player inside the hockey world.”

The NHL Alumni Association’s motto is “Hockey’s Greatest Family” and Ing’s work with Fan-tastic Sports has brought him back in contact with former teammates and friends. He is enjoying the best of two worlds now – life in hockey and life after hockey. “The most fun I have had over these last two years has been getting back into the game and reconnecting with players I played with and players I played against in a completely new forum. Seeing what guys are doing now – that’s been fun for me and I embrace that. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a board member on the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni and I’m trying to do as much as I can with the NHL Alumni and support their group.”

 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Anderson and McElhinney - Making A Good Impression in Ottawa

Ottawa's Newest Goaltender - Curtis McElhinney
(Clydeorama/Flickr)
Several recent articles in the local media referred to Ottawa as the “goalie graveyard”. While it may be hard to argue that fact after the team has worked their way through Dominik Hasek, Martin Gerber, Ray Emery, Alex Auld, Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott in recent years, it is somewhat unfair to categorize Ottawa as the place where careers go to die. The goaltending position is a difficult role on any team. Realistically, how many franchises can say they have an elite-level goaltender like Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo or Miikka Kiprusoff?

Ottawa's new goaltending duo of Craig Anderson and Curtis McElhinney have made a good impression on Senators fans and more importantly, Ottawa management, as the pending unrestricted free agents audition for new contracts. Anderson is 6-3-0 in nine starts and McElhinney made 34 saves in his Ottawa debut on Friday evening in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Read about Anderson and McElhinney at The Hockey Writers

Friday, March 11, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Claude Lemieux and Ask The Alumni

NHL Alumni Member Claude Lemieux
(Photo - NHL Alumni Association)
This month's "Ask the Alumni" guest at The Hockey Writers is four-time Stanley Cup Champion Claude Lemieux.

While Claude’s legendary career may have started quietly with one goal in his first ten NHL games, once the 1986 playoffs began, he and a young goaltender name Roy played integral roles in the run to the 23rd Stanley Cup in the storied history of the Montreal Canadiens. The 20 playoff games in ‘86 foretold his future playoff success, as he scored 10 goals and added 6 assists that year. For the young man from Buckingham, Quebec, winning a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens was a dream come true.

He went on to play 1,215 regular season games with six different teams, scoring 379 goals and 789 points. His 80 career playoff goals ranks ninth on the NHL's all-time list and his 19 game-winning playoff goals are only five goals behind The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky.

Read the interview with Claude Lemieux at The Hockey Writers

For more information on the NHL Alumni Association, visit their website: NHLAlumni.net

Sunday, March 6, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Senators Fall to 30th Overall

Craig Anderson has brought stability
since his arrival from Colorado
(Mafue/Flickr)
The arrival of goaltender Craig Anderson brought some much-needed hope to the hockey fans in the nation's capital, but with Edmonton's 5-1 victory over Colorado on Saturday evening, the Senators have officially arrived in 30th place.

It's not all bad though - The young prospects from Binghamton have looked right at home in the NHL, Anderson is proving to be the goaltender that will carry the load until Robin Lehner is ready for the NHL in a few years and 30th place will bring one of the top prospects in this year's NHL draft to Ottawa.

Read about Anderson and the Senators at The Hockey Writers

Image resource: Mafue/Flickr

Friday, March 4, 2011

NHL Alumni Interview with Mark Napier - NHLA Help Celebrate 2011 Hockey Day In Canada

Lanny McDonald, Trevor Linden and Mark Napier
In Whitehorse For Hockey Day In Canada
(Photo John Biehler)
Last month, millions of Canadians tuned in for the CBC’s 11th Annual Hockey Day in Canada broadcast, which was hosted this year by the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon. One of the goals in celebrating the “unofficial” national sport is to grow the game, while exploring the rich history of hockey with segments and inspirational stories from across Canada. Mark Napier, the Executive Director of the NHL Alumni Association, travelled to Whitehorse with several of his fellow alumni members to take part in the festivities and spend time with hockey fans.

“This was my first real trip up there,” said Napier. “I was up there once before with an old-timers group but we didn’t get a chance to see the city, so this trip was pretty special. It was a lot of fun to see the community and how they rallied around Hockey Day in Canada. It was a great celebration of our game.”

“Hockey Day really works in the smaller towns, not to say that a bigger city like Toronto wouldn’t get behind it and do a great job, but it’s the local flavour and the hospitality of the people - they were just so thrilled that we would take the time to come up and see them. They really showed their appreciation in everything that they did and it made for a really great event.”

Hockey Day in Canada has become a weeklong celebration and this year was no exception. A special exhibit of the Yukon’s hockey history opened at MacBride Museum, there was a gala dinner and concert, a WHL game between the Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants, the Ottawa Senators Alumni renewed their rivalry with the Dawson City Nuggets, and the NHL Alumni members hosted numerous coaching clinics for boys and girls of all ages.

“Scotiabank is a huge sponsor of ours, so I did a lot of events for them,” Napier explained. “It was kind of neat; we met the Bantam team from New Brunswick that won a prize to come up to Whitehorse. Trevor Linden coached one team, Wendel Clark coached the other as Lanny McDonald and I sat and watched. It was a lot of fun and a great game.”

“We also went to the WHL game and there were a ton of coaching clinics throughout the three days we were there. We did a signing at the Scotiabank too, with Trevor, Lanny and I, along with the Stanley Cup. There was a lineup around the block - it was a really wonderful experience!”

In my conversations with NHL Alumni members, it is clear that they enjoy their role as ambassadors for the game and helping to grow the sport at the grass-roots level. Whether they are taking to the ice for coaching clinics at an event like Hockey Day in Canada or helping to raise money for charity in their local communities, it provides them with the opportunity to get together as friends and share their hockey knowledge with a new generation of players.

“The kids were so enthusiastic; it’s really fun for us. We were that age once and we remember what it was like to meet an NHLer and get an autograph, it was pretty special. I’m proud of our guys for taking the time and being part of these events.”

“Our guys are so giving of their time and they do so much for charity,” Napier said proudly. “The local chapters raise a ton of money and we try to help them out at the national level as well. It is also about being in the community and giving back through coaching and doing clinics at the minor hockey level, and basically, being guardians of the game, the game that we grew up loving.”

Guardians of the game, a perfect way to describe hockey’s greatest family - the NHL Alumni Association. With Mark Napier leading the way, it is safe to say that the game is in very good hands.

Image Resource: John Biehler

To learn more about the NHL Alumni Association, visit their website: NHLAlumni.net

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A New Arena In Quebec City - Will The NHL Be Moving North Again?

This article was first published in the March 2nd edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

On February 10th, Premier Jean Charest and Regis Labeaume, the Mayor of Quebec City, announced their intention to move forward with their plan for a new arena in Quebec City. The city and the province will share the costs of the estimated $400 million facility, while leaving the door open for contributions from the private sector and the Federal government. With construction set to begin on what is described as an NHL-style arena, the hope is to have the facility completed by the fall of 2015. The question being asked in the provincial capital and across Canada is, “If they build it, will the NHL move in?”

Quebec City’s NHL franchise, the Nordiques, left for Colorado in 1995 and became the Avalanche when the out-dated Colisee could not be replaced with a new arena. All levels of government, as well as the private sector, demonstrated no interest in saving the franchise at the time. What has changed since the Nordiques left town?

Several factors would allow for a successful return to the NHL for Quebec City. The Canadian dollar is much stronger than it was during the mid-90’s when the Nordiques left for Colorado, a factor that has benefited all of the current NHL teams in Canada. Nostalgia is also a key component in this process - the Nordiques have a long and storied history in the provincial capital as a member of the World Hockey Association and the National Hockey League. In early October, more than 50,000 fans gathered for a rally to demonstrate their desire to become an NHL city once again. Corporate support will be essential for the long-term health of the franchise and it appears the business community is prepared to support the reincarnated Nordiques. Hockey fans will certainly reward any business that helps bring the NHL back to the provincial capital.

The fact that the Southern expansion by the NHL has not taken root in certain cities must also be considered. While the league would never come out and say a particular franchise is struggling, there are several franchises experiencing hard times financially. Part of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s legacy in the league is his expansion into non-traditional markets in the United States. While it has been a success in places like Raleigh (the Carolina Hurricanes) and Tampa Bay (the Lightning), the Atlanta Thrashers and the Florida Panthers have struggled on the ice and at the ticket counter. The New York Islanders, a once proud franchise, has struggled on the ice for many years and they are in desperate need of a new arena. Team owner Charles Wang has tried repeatedly to begin a new development known as the “Lighthouse Project”, which would include a new arena for his Islanders. Unfortunately, the project has yet to receive the green light and it appears at this point that it never will. All three are candidates for relocation.

As recently as the NHL All-Star game, the commissioner stated that the league has no intention to expand the league or relocate an existing franchise. So, why would a team arrive in Quebec City? The answer is quite simple - the bottom line. Unlike the other major sports leagues, the NHL does not have a multi-million dollar television contract in the United States; revenue is generated by ticket sales and merchandising. Moving a struggling franchise to a market like Quebec City, a market ready to embrace the NHL, is better for the overall health of the league.

If they build it, the NHL will come...