Saturday, September 8, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports - Veteran Players and the Stanley Cup

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockeyProducts blog. This week’s article - Are there any guarantees when veteran players chase the Cup?

 
Any Guarantees When Veteran Players Chase the Cup?
 
 


Daniel Alfredsson
(Photo - A. Rodger TVOS - Copyright 2012)
Many of my friends and hockey-writing colleagues focus on Junior players, prospects and the NHL’s rising young stars (and do a great job with their coverage!), but since I work with the NHL Alumni Association, my focus tends to be the league’s veteran players. After all, today’s NHL players will be tomorrow’s NHL Alumni stars – life after hockey arrives eventually for every player and I have the honour and the privilege of helping to shine the spotlight on the many charitable endeavours of the NHL Alumni members.

Heading into the off-season in the spring, the contract situations of Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators) and Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes) were on the minds of hockey fans in both cities. Would Alfie return for the final year of his contract? Would Doan re-sign with the only NHL franchise he has called home? While fans in Ottawa got their answer, Coyotes fans are still wondering if Doan, an unrestricted free agent, will return to the desert.

Read more at the XHockeyProducts blog...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview: Liam Maguire Nominates Paul Henderson for Order of Canada

Perhaps you watched it live on television or listened to the game on the radio in 1972... If you were too young to see it live, you have most likely seen the video. Regardless of when you became a hockey fan, when you hear Foster Hewitt’s famous call, “Henderson has scored for Canada” you know exactly which goal we are talking about - the goal heard around the world - Paul Henderson’s goal with 34 seconds remaining in Game 8 of the historic 1972 Summit Series.

It is a goal and a moment that stands the test of time. It is a series that stands the test of time - Team Canada versus the seldom-seen Team USSR. A battle of the two hockey super-powers and for many at the time that had lived through the Cold War and events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, a battle between democracy and communism. It was more than a hockey series; it was two different world-views battling each other, a drama being played out by young men from each nation on an ice surface with sticks and a puck.

As we approach the 40th anniversary of Paul Henderson’s goal on September 28th, Liam Maguire, the world-renowned hockey historian and president of Liam Maguire’s Ultimate Hockey, is trying to right a wrong by nominating Paul for one of Canada’s greatest honours, being named to the Order of Canada. This year’s nomination is Liam’s second attempt at seeing one of Canada’s hockey heroes honoured, not only for his goal in ‘72, but for all that he has done for Canada during and after his hockey career.

Read the NHL Alumni interview with world-renowned hockey historian Liam Maguire

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jack, Main Street and The Voice of Sport

On May 29th, my friend and the founder of Main Street, Jack Burger, lost his battle with cancer. A great leader in the English communities in the Laurentians and a supporter of my writing career from the beginning, this is my column from the July edition of Main Street.
 
Jack, Main Street and The Voice of Sport

It is with a heavy heart that I write this month’s Main Street column, but as the news of Jack’s passing reached me in Ottawa, I knew that this article would be an opportunity to celebrate a friend and share the story of Jack, Main Street and The Voice of Sport.

Hard to believe, but this column marks my fourth anniversary as a member of the Main Street team, and although I live outside of the Laurentians, writing for and reading our newspaper keeps me connected to my Lachute roots. (Continuing to help my dad in the hay fields every summer is also good reminder I am a fifth generation farmer from Lachute, but writing is certainly an easier reminder!)

I first met Jack many years ago, it may have been during the Perspective days, but it was just over four years ago with a phone call that our story really begins. After 12 years of living in various parts of Canada and working as a musician, a lengthy illness forced a career change. Trapped at home with a healthy mind but unhealthy body, I rediscovered my love of sports. In May of 2008, a good friend from my music days, phoned to tell me he had created a website for me - The Voice of Sport. All of a sudden, I was a sports columnist...

To fulfill my goal of being a real columnist and to bring some legitimacy to my website, I felt I needed to be part of a newspaper as well. My dad suggested I call Jack Burger and Main Street. I prepared my sales pitch and had every answer ready (for any possible question) as to why this rookie writer deserved a shot. Our first conversation lasted close to an hour as I shared my story and we talked sports. As I prepared to ask Jack, “do I make the cut”, he said I had actually saved him a considerable amount of bother. He wanted to add a sports writer anyways and since I called out of the blue, it saved him the time of having to find someone himself - I would find out later he was eager to have me on board. I told Jack I wanted to bring something different to Main Street and I believe he said, “Send it on time within the proper word count and we’ll get along just fine.”

One of the first interviews I set up was with Chris Nowinski - one of the world’s leading voices on raising awareness about the issue of concussions in sport and the founder of the Sports Legacy Institute. During our interview, Chris asked if he could put me on hold. “Sure, no problem,” I said with a shaky voice. When he came back on the line, he said it was the New York Times calling and he told them he would call back as he was doing an interview with Main Street. A New York Times reporter was told to call back because of Main Street - that’s the power of our community newspaper!

In our first conversation, I also confidently told Jack I was going to interview Kevin Lowe. The Rodger and Lowe families have been connected over the years through our farm and Lowe’s Dairy, but I had never met Kevin and I wasn’t sure how I was going to actually make it happen. I rather naively sent an email to the Edmonton Oilers through their website. I’m not sure how many people read that email and kept forwarding it along, but three months later an email arrived in my inbox from Kevin Lowe - he would love to speak with Main Street. I immediately sent an email to Jack and Sue to let them know we had the Lowe interview. Kevin even became our correspondent during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, offering to call me and chat about the Games for Main Street.

My connection to Kevin led to meeting one of his former teammates, Mark Napier, the Executive Director of the NHL Alumni Association. We would also end up chatting for a Main Street article and two years ago, I became the resident writer for the NHL Alumni Association. I am often asked how I became a writer and I start by saying, “Well, it’s a long story”, but the story always starts with Jack, Main Street and The Voice of Sport.

Have a great sports day Jack!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview With Serge Payer

"Overcoming obstacles - it is a theme in many of our NHL Alumni articles. Some of our members were cut by their Junior team, while others had to pay their dues in the minors for several seasons or overcome serious injuries in pursuit of their NHL dream. The path to the world’s greatest league is unique and varied, but there is only one way to describe the story of NHL Alumni member Serge Payer’s journey to the NHL, and that is remarkable.

At 19-years old, Serge was a member of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, healthy and in top athletic form as he made his way to the NHL. Like every young man with NHL aspirations, the last obstacle he expected to be placed in his way was a potentially life-threatening illness called Guillain-Barré Syndrome."

Read my interview with Serge Payer at the NHL Alumni website.

Friday, June 15, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with PJ Scriffignano

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockeyProducts blog. This week’s article - An interview with PJ Scriffignano - co-owner of Next Level Training in New Jersey.

On April 28th, 2012, countless hours of planning and hard work came to fruition, as Donald Shauger and PJ Scriffignano officially opened the doors of their Next Level Training facility. Located at 8 Ridgedale Avenue in Cedar Hills, New Jersey, Next Level Training has begun helping hockey players of all ages and skill levels improve their game with off-ice training programs. Combining top-level trainers and the innovative, state of the art technology in the Fan-tastic Sports and XHockeyProducts equipment, the facility is already receiving tremendous feedback from the hockey players and parents that have visited.

“The people that come in absolutely love the facility,” PJ said during a rare break in the action at Next Level Training. “The kids that come in don’t want to leave and the players, from 7-years old, all the way up to college players in their twenties have had the same reaction – they love it!”

Read my interview with PJ at the XHockeyProducts Blog

Saturday, June 9, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview with Craig Muni

The path to the NHL is different for every NHL Alumni member. For some, the team that drafts them have an immediate need and they step right into the lineup. For others, it takes time in the minors to either hone their skills or prove their potential to the organization. NHL Alumni member Craig Muni knew that he had the skills and talent to play in the world’s greatest league; he just needed the opportunity to prove it.

For the Toronto native, being selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round (25th overall) of the 1980 NHL entry draft was a dream come true, but it took some time for Craig to break into the league. Staying positive was the key; he knew that in many cases, it was being in the right place at the right time, as well as having someone in the organization that believes in your abilities. So close to the NHL and yet so far, his hard work and dedication to the game would certainly pay off.

Read my interview with three-time Stanley Cup champion Craig Muni at the NHL Alumni website

Friday, June 8, 2012

Helping Kids Play Safe: An Interview with David Cohen, Creator of Stop-it!

Being active and playing outside is an important part of childhood and in towns across Canada, seeing children at play in the driveway is a familiar site. Maybe it is shooting a basketball at the hoop hanging off the garage or a little game of ball hockey, but whatever the outdoor activity, an important concern for all parents is the safety of their children while at play. David Cohen, a father of three active kids, had that same concern a few years ago and when he failed to find an existing product that would help make the driveway a safer play area, he created one - Stop-it!

Stop-it! is a multi-purpose net that can be used in the driveway, at the park or in the backyard. It allows parents to create a boundary or safer play area for their children. The net can stop balls from rolling into the street and it serves as a reminder for kids to remain in a safe area. It is fully retractable too, which makes it easy for parents or kids to set up and take down.

“I have three kids, 14, 13 and 8 years old and they keep me pretty busy,” David explained in our recent interview. “They are really active kids and play a lot of sports. Their main sport is hockey and they are on the ice five or six times a week, so we go running around from arena to arena. When they come home though, the first thing they do is go outside to play once their homework is done.”

“That’s really were all this began, my kids were young and we lived on a busy street; they always wanted to play on the driveway. I was thinking there must be a way I can make it a little bit safer for them, but when I went and looked, I couldn’t find anything I could purchase. I thought I would try to make something myself, so that I would have some piece of mind and it evolved from there.”

Since he approached creating Stop-it! for his own use and not as a business when he first began, David was able to take his time designing the product. As it evolved, he found ways to perfect the net system; creating the locking system, making it retractable and manufacturing it in a way that one net could be stacked upon another for added height. With his product now available to the public at select retailers in Ontario and on the Stop-it! website, combined with the positive response and feedback he has received from parents, his goal is to one day see Stop-it! in every driveway in every neighbourhood.

“The main message we try to get out to parents is don’t take safety for granted, that you can always have your eyes on your kids, or that they will always remember to stay off the road. We want to make this area that is the play area for most families safer - that’s our goal.”

“I had one parent call and tell me that when anyone comes over to play, the first thing her son does is put the net up and then they figure out what game they are going to play,” David said. “When he goes to other friends houses, he asks, ‘Are you going to put a net up?’ He has figured out that he needs this and asks his friends why they don't have one too.”

“Speaking with one mother, she was saying that her daughter is always riding her tricycle in the driveway and now there is a physical reminder that she cannot go out of the driveway. It is also a good reminder for cars pulling into the driveway because sometimes drivers may not see kids playing. In its simplest form, it is great to keep the ball from rolling into the road, but it really does a good job as a reminder to kids to be aware of their surroundings too.”

Nothing can compare to the watchful eye of a parent, but having that extra level of protection could make a big difference and provide some peace of mind. Having fun and staying safe - a perfect combination!

You can find Stop-it! at www.stop-it.ca and on Twitter (@Stopit_Canada).

This article first appeared in the June 2012 edition of Main Street and is posted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street to have a look at a great community newspaper that I am proud to support!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview with Brad Marsh


Follow Brad's Cross-Canada Journey
on Twitter (@BradMarshNHL)
and at his 90 Day Challenge Blog
(Photo - Brad's Twitter Page)
At times, there is nothing more daunting than making important changes in our lives. Even though they are changes for the better, the idea of doing something that may take several years is intimidating for most of us. What if you could set more attainable goals for yourself, working towards a certain goal 90 days at a time? That is exactly what NHL Alumni Brad Marsh has done for the past two years and his current 90 Day Challenge has become a remarkable adventure that is not only changing his life, but changing the lives of others.

Brad and his son Erik are on an incredible journey - biking across Canada to raise much-needed funds and awareness for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. On April 25th in Vancouver, the courageous duo dipped their tires in the Pacific Ocean and set out on their adventure. For those of you that have travelled within Canada, you will know from your own experience that the country has a unique and challenging geography. There are the highs and lows of the world-famous Rocky Mountains (mostly highs), the ever-present headwinds of the Prairies and then the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield, before the final push into the Maritime Provinces. Nearing the halfway point of their trip, with the Rockies and Prairies behind them, Brad shared his thoughts on the ride, as well as the important role of the Boys and Girls Clubs in our communities.

“So far, it has all gone extremely well,” Brad said on the telephone from Brandon, Manitoba. “Just from an organizational standpoint, mapping out the route and all the work that you do leading up to something like this - it’s all gone very well. From a physical standpoint and being able to actually ride the kilometres that you have to ride to complete something like this has gone extremely well too. No problems and no meltdowns on the bike - I look forward to each day that I get on the bike and riding to a new community.”

“We all know from grade school and high school geography how unique Canada is, but it has been neat to be able to see the different parts of Canada. What is great about being in the different regions is meeting the people and staying in the smaller towns. They are the places that you would normally never see because when you are travelling, you usually go to the bigger cities or the bigger attractions. We have had a great time meeting all the different people.”

Currently working with nutrition company ViSalus, Brad explained that the 90 Day Challenge is part of their main message - the Body by Vi 90 Day Challenge, which helps people achieve their goal of a healthier lifestyle. It is something that he has incorporated into his own life to bring about positive changes and the concept of the 90 Day Challenge led to the idea of this bike ride and raising awareness for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“People can get their head around 90 days if they set a goal to do something or achieve something,” he said. “Whether it is weight loss, better health or maybe getting ready for a 5K or 10K race, 90 days is something that is within reach. When they do reach their goal, they feel good about themselves and quite often set another 90 Day Challenge. I have been doing this for almost two years now and it has been fun.”

“My first 90 Day Challenge was to start to get my health back, lose weight and get in shape. Each time, I set a goal and achieved it, I kind of set the bar a little higher for the next one. With this one though, I obviously raised the bar quite a bit!”

With a history that dates back to the late 1800’s in the United States and the early 1900’s in Canada, people may not realize the importance of the Boys and Girls Clubs and the organization’s role in our communities. The Boys and Girls Clubs help young Canadians with after-school and out-of-school programs and their activities promote a healthy and active lifestyle. The dedicated staff and volunteers help participants learn the importance of positive relationships with their peers and family members, and provide positive role models to help them become the leaders of tomorrow.

“For whatever reason, the Boys and Girls Clubs fly under the radar of the other major charities and that surprised me when I first started asking about it,” Brad explained. “The Senators Alumni does a lot in Ottawa with them and you just assume that because you are involved with a specific club, that every one is the same or has the same support, but as I said, it flies under the radar. A lot of people don’t know that it exists in their town or do not know the good that they do, the importance of the club and how they help kids. So, that has become the focus of this ride, to raise awareness for the Boys and Girls Clubs.”

“Yes, we hope to raise some money, but we don’t have a set goal or a set amount in mind. The main thing is to raise awareness, so my goal when I arrive in each new town is to get on the local radio and television station, get in the local newspaper and talk about the club.”

During his NHL career, Brad played 1,086 games with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. His never-quit attitude made him a fan-favourite in every city and his junior team, the London Knights, honoured him by retiring his number 22. As the president of the Ottawa Senators Alumni Association and an active member of the NHL Alumni Association, he generously gives his time to help others. Which is one of the reasons he did not hesitate to ride across Canada for the Boys and Girls Club as part of his current 90 Day Challenge - it is what he has always done.

“When you get into the hockey environment, the team environment, especially the era that we came through, it was very easy to be involved in the community because we were hockey players in Canada,” he recalled. “People and kids looked up to us, so it was a really natural thing for us to do. For myself, being traded a few times and playing in a few different communities, the easy thing to do was to get involved through the team. Upon their retirement, a lot of the NHL Alumni guys continued doing that charitable work in whatever community they retired in - it’s great to be involved and help others.”

With a stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Wednesday and then pushing on to Thunder Bay, Ontario and crossing the provincial border, I asked Brad to share his thoughts on the second half of the trip.

“Once we cross the border into Ontario, even though we have a heck of a lot of time left, I think it will be good for us because that’s my home province,” he said. “We’ll be riding hard to get to London, Ontario because that’s my hometown and there will be a sense of real achievement at that point because we’ll be near the halfway point and in friendly territory. It will be good to cross into Ontario.”

“Like I said, I look forward to the bike ride every day. We came from Regina into Bandon last weekend and it was just a beautiful day to ride. I felt good and just kept riding; by the end of the day, I had put in more than 280 kilometres. We were going to stop at the halfway point, just to break it up, but I felt so good we just kept going all the way to Brandon. I know some people here, so our goal was to arrive in time to catch some of the hockey game on Saturday night, which we did. We sat and had dinner and watched the hockey game, so it was a good day - a long day but well worth it!”

While a cross-Canada bike ride can be lonely at times, Brad is sharing the journey with his family and creating memories that will last a lifetime for everyone. As previously mentioned, his son Erik is with him, riding, writing for their blog and keeping everyone up to date with Twitter and Facebook posts. His wife Patty accompanied him at the start of the trip and will connect with Brad again when he reaches Kingston. Brad’s son Patrick lives in Calgary, training as an elite-level speed skater, so he joined in when they reached Revelstoke and took part in some of the mountain climbs. When his daughters, Tory and Madeline, finish up their college studies for year, they will take part too as he rides through Ontario. It is truly inspiring to see the entire Marsh family taking time to help make this journey possible.

Brad is the perfect embodiment of the NHL Alumni’s motto of being ‘Hockey’s Greatest Family’ - As he completes his cross-Canada ride and his 90 Day Challenge with his family’s support, he is helping numerous families across the country. Raising funds and raising awareness, taking the time to play hockey with the children at the local Boys and Girls Clubs after a long day of riding - being a positive role model for all of us. Yes, it is truly amazing what can be accomplished in 90 days.

You can follow Brad and Erik Marsh on their journey across Canada on Twitter (@BradMarshNHL) on Facebook (facebook.com/BradMarsh90DayChallenge) and at their blog (bradmarsh90daychallenge.blogspot.ca).
.

Friday, May 18, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with Rene Cranston


Rene Cranston's Attack Triangle
Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockeyProducts blog. This week’s article - An interview with Rene Cranston, creator of the Attack Triangle.

"An age-old adage comes to mind when speaking with Rene Cranston - With experience comes knowledge and with knowledge comes expertise. With a lifetime of playing hockey, watching and learning the intricate details of the game, he brings his knowledge to the next generation of players, teaching them what he has discovered as their instructor and coach. His expertise and what can best be described as a ‘Master’s Degree in Hockey’ led to creating an innovative hockey training aid that helps players perfect their stick and puck handling abilities, the Attack Triangle."

Read my interview with Rene Cranston at the XHockeyProducts blog.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with Dean Dachyshyn

Dean Dachyshyn's QuickStickz
Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockeyProducts blog. This week’s article - An interview with Dean Dachyshyn, creator of QuickStickz.

"The game of hockey has evolved over the years and so have the training aids used by players of all ages and skill levels to perfect their techniques. The latest technology allows today’s athletes the ability to focus on specific aspects of their game and work towards reaching their full potential. If you are looking for a new way to practise your stick handling skills, why not turn your hockey stick into a video game controller. That is exactly what Dean Dachyshyn has done with his innovative product, QuickStickz.

By combining the specially designed stick handling ball, the QuickStickz camera, your computer and your hockey stick, the QuickStickz system helps hockey players of all ages improve their hand speed, stick handling and passing skills. Utilizing the online drills and challenges that are part of the system, players learn to keep their head up and how to rely on their peripheral vision for better puck control and on-ice awareness."

Read my interview with Dean Dachyshyn at the XHockeyProducts Blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with Tom Pederson

Master Your Puck Handling Skills
with the Green Biscuit
Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - An interview with NHL Alumni member and creator of the Green Biscuit, Tom Pederson.

"In the early 1990’s, after Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in Los Angeles, the game of hockey flourished in the state of California. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks and San Jose Sharks joined the NHL during that time and the sport began to capture the imagination of sports fans that before the “Great One” arrived, had rarely taken notice of the game. Tom Pederson joined the San Jose Sharks one year after their inaugural 1991-92 season and he has continued to help grow the game in the state as a coach for the San Jose Jr. Sharks and as an NHL Alumni member.

After playing 240 NHL games with the Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tom added inventor to his résumé when he retired from professional hockey after the 1999-2000 season as a member of the Hannover Scorpions in Germany. Seeing a need for a puck with the ability to lay flat on any surface, he designed the Green Biscuit – a puck created to help develop your forehand and backhand pass, as well as the one-touch, saucer pass and toe-drag. Making the Green Biscuit a perfect addition to your off-ice training regime."

Read my interview Tom Pederson at the XHockey Products Blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with Dan Reja

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - An interview with Dan Reja, creator of the Dangle Glove.

"As is often the case in life, our journey can take us to new and unexpected places with wonderful results. For Dan Reja, the dream of playing in the National Hockey League during his professional playing career was never realized because of a lingering injury. However, taking the knowledge from playing the game professionally for seven seasons after his OHL career ended, as well as a lifetime of honing his skills, Dan now shares his passion for hockey as an instructor. He is also teaching proper stick handling skills to hockey players of all ages as the creator of the Dangle Glove. "

Read my interview with Dan Reja at the XHockey Products Blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: NHL Rookies Becoming NHL Stars

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - a great group of NHL rookies go from "Future Stars" to household names!

This Year’s NHL Rookies Are Becoming NHL Stars

NHL rookie Adam Henrique and the New Jersey Devils
take on the Ottawa Senators
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
With the NHL’s 82 game schedule completed and the playoffs set to begin, the debates are raging in the media and amongst hockey fans regarding the annual awards that will be handed out June 20th in Las Vegas. Is Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, the Rocket Richard Trophy winner with 60 goals, also the Hart Trophy winner as the MVP or will Evgeni Malkin’s league-leading 109 points win the trophy? Has St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott played enough games to be considered for the Vezina Trophy with Jonathan Quick (Kings) and Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers)? Here in Ottawa, the award conversation revolves around Erik Karlsson. Is he the clear winner of this year’s Norris Trophy?

One thing is clear though, the NHL has no shortage of stars and world-class talent, and that number continues to grow. This season, an astounding number of young players have staked their claim to being the stars of the future in the NHL. How has this year’s group of rookies impacted the NHL? We need look no further than the Philadelphia Flyers, where 11 first-year players hit the ice at the NHL level for at least four games this season.

Leading the way for Philadelphia was rookie forward Matt Read. The former Bemidji State University star did not finish at the top of the rookie scoring race (he finished fourth with 47 points), but he has been an integral part of the Flyers season. When Philadelphia traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter during the off-season, many wondered who would fill the void left by their departure. Well, Read and fellow rookies Sean Couturier (27 points in 77 games) and Brayden Schenn (18 points in 54 games) have stepped into the lineup and made an impact with stars like Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. The most impressive number for me when I look at the Philadelphia rookies - Read and Couturier have combined for ten game-winning goals this season!

In the Western Conference, Edmonton’s first-overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog finished the season at the top of the rookie-scoring race. These two may be the favourites for the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year and it will be interesting to see how their seasons are viewed. Nugent-Hopkins scored 18 goals and had 52 points, but he was limited to 62 games due to injuries. Landeskog had 22 goals and 52 points and suited up for 82 games with the Avalanche. Landeskog helped keep his team in the hunt for a playoff position until the final weeks of the season.

As impressive as Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins and the Flyers rookies have been, another player has made his case for Calder consideration - New Jersey’s Adam Henrique. The third round selection (82nd overall) in the 2008 draft, Henrique is a two-time Memorial Cup champion with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires and the talented junior star has brought his game to the next level - the NHL level. Averaging over 18 minutes per game and 23 shifts per game, he is playing top-line minutes in New Jersey, scoring 16 goals and adding 35 assists in 74 games. It is not just his total points that are impressive, Henrique’s overall game has been outstanding - he plays a regular role with New Jersey’s penalty killing unit and leads all rookies with four goals and three assists while shorthanded.

One rookie that does not score very often, but you will certainly be hearing his name in the coming years is Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen. He may not be in the running for Calder consideration, but he certainly deserves a mention. This time last year, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft was wrapping up his junior career with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League. He joined the Binghamton Senators and helped win a Calder Cup in the American Hockey League. A rugged d-man, Cowen made the Senators roster with a strong showing at training camp and played in all 82 games. He scored 5 goals and added 12 assists, but it is not his offensive prowess he will be famous for, it will be his presence and hockey knowledge behind his own blue line.

There is plenty of debate about the NHL game - injuries continue to be a major concern, the need to see more goals scored and even realigning the divisions and playoff formats are all major talking points. One thing is certain though - the league has an abundance of young stars that will one day become household names and the faces of the game.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: 21 Consecutive Playoff Appearances for the Detroit Red Wings

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - the Detroit Red Wings and their remarkable 21 consecutive playoff appearances.
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)


April 1990 - that is the last time the NHL playoffs began and the Detroit Red Wings were on the outside looking in when the second-season began. The model of consistency for professional sports organizations, a lot has changed in the past 21 years... like having the ability to post blogs on the Internet for example.

When the Red Wings embarked on their remarkable playoff streak in 1991, Out for Justice starring Steven Segal was the top movie at the box office (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was a close second). Wilson Phillips, Gloria Estefan and Amy Grant were battling for the top song on the American Billboard charts. Steve Yzerman, the current General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had just completed his eighth season in the NHL when Head Coach Bryan Murray and his two assistants, Dave Lewis and Doug MacLean, led the Wings to a third place finish in the Norris Division. They lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in the first round that year, but it was the start of their current streak and a sign that great things were coming to Hockeytown.

In the last 20 seasons, the Red Wings have finished first in their division 14 times - once in the Norris and thirteen times in the Central. They have been the Western Conference champions six times and lifted the Stanley Cup in victory four times. When you consider how difficult it is to remain competitive in today’s NHL and the challenges of the salary cap era, Detroit continues to succeed year after year. Drafting well and teaching their prospects how to play the Red Wings way, they have signed key free agents during the off-season and added the right players at the trade deadline when needed. Whether it has been Bryan Murray at the helm as General Manager, Scotty Bowman, Jim Devellano or Ken Holland, the Red Wings organization always seem to make the right move at the right time and the results speak for themselves.

Several teams have climbed to the top of the league to win a Stanley Cup during Detroit’s streak, only to fall back into mediocrity soon after. The four Cups in the past 20 seasons and 11 championships in the long and celebrated history of the franchise, places them third on the all-time list for most Stanley Cup wins behind Montreal (24 Stanley Cups) and Toronto (13 Stanley Cups but none since 1967).

Their Original Six counterparts have combined for four Stanley Cups during the twenty year streak (the Montreal Canadiens in ‘93, New York Rangers in ‘94, Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and the Boston Bruins in 2011), but none have been as consistent as the Red Wings year after year. Their expansion-era cousins in Edmonton and on Long Island had their own dynasties in the 1980’s, but like the rest of today’s NHL teams, no other franchise can lay claim to such an impressive streak (New Jersey’s streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended last year). The Red Wings were one of the great teams in the Original Six era and clearly, they are one of the legendary teams of the modern era too.

The list of the great players to wear the Red Wings jersey during the streak is endless - Yzerman, Igor Larionov, Sergei Federov, Chris Chelios, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek, Vladimir Konstantinov, Henrik Zetterberg... the list goes on and on! I can’t help but wonder what the top movie will be when the streak hits 30 consecutive seasons...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: The Dawson City Nuggets and Ottawa Senators - 107 Years of Hockey History

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - the Dawson City Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators - 107 years of hockey history!

“Lost amidst our traveling turmoil is the simple, overwhelming love of hockey. Caught up in the day-to-day schedule, interviews, and personal problems, we forget the essence of this whole adventure, that a group of guys could so love a game, be so enamoured of its history that they would drop everything in their lives for a month just to re-enact one game.”

 - Don Reddick in The Trail Less Traveled


What if the Stanley Cup Went North and Never Came Back?

If you look closely at the Stanley Cup, you will see the name of a team that you may not be familiar with - the Dawson City Nuggets. While the Nuggets never won the Cup, losing their challenge against the famed Ottawa Silver Seven, they are forever etched on hockey’s Holy Grail and have a special place in hockey history. Their story and rivalry with Ottawa’s hockey teams has continued for over 100 years. The games are for fun now when the modern-day Nuggets and the Ottawa Senators Alumni compete, but it remains one of hockey’s most remarkable stories.

The year was 1904, the NHL was yet to be created and Lord Stanley’s Cup was still a challenge cup (before 1912, hockey teams from different leagues could challenge the reigning champions at any time). Joe Boyle, a legend in Canada’s North, set out to bring hockey’s greatest prize to the Yukon. His hope was that after defeating the Silver Seven, no team would be foolhardy enough (or willing) to travel to Northern Canada and challenge his Dawson City Nuggets; the Stanley Cup would remain in the Yukon forever.

Travelling by dog sled, bicycle and on foot, the Nuggets left Canada’s North in December of 1904 on their epic journey to Ottawa. Once they reached the coast, the Nuggets travelled south by steamship to Vancouver and then across the country by train, arriving in Ottawa after 24 days of travel over some of the country’s most rugged and unforgiving terrain. Waiting for them in Ottawa was the Silver Seven - a team that would hold on to the Stanley Cup through ten challenges, led by future Hall of Famer Frank McGee.

You could say that the Nuggets held their own in the first game of the three-game series, losing 9-2 on January 13th, 1905. However, McGee’s 14 goals in game two (which is still a Stanley Cup record) powered the Silver Seven to a 23-2 victory (January 16th, 1905). Dawson was outscored 32-4 and the Stanley Cup remained with the Silver Seven. It did not travel north when the Nuggets returned home, but Boyle suggested the Silver Seven attempt the trip north, promising that the result would be different if the two teams faced off in the Yukon.

The rivalry would remain dormant until 1997, when a group of modern-day Dawson City Nuggets embarked on the same remarkable journey for a March 23rd date with the Ottawa Senators Alumni in the nation’s capital. While they added snowmobiles to their transportation options in the first part of their journey, the trip to Ottawa was just as challenging 92 years later - the year may have changed but the terrain had not! When they reached the coast, the modern-day Nuggets boarded a ship for the voyage south and then caught a train in Vancouver for the trip to Ottawa. Award-winning author (and rookie snowmobiler) Don Reddick chronicled the remarkable re-enactment and the history of the Ottawa - Dawson rivalry in his book, The Trail Less Traveled - a must-read for any hockey fan, as it beautifully captures the spirit of the historic 1904/1905 and 1997 trips.

“When I went up to Dawson to start the trip, I flew from White Horse to Dawson in a small plane,” Don recalled in one of our first conversations a few years ago. “We flew directly over the terrain that we were going to come back over. I looked down for an hour at nothing but ice encrusted rivers and mountains. I just remember thinking, my god, what have I gotten into here?”

Don and the Nuggets arrived in Ottawa for their 1997 rematch, along with 50 ounces of gold that would be donated to charity by the winning team. While the Senators Alumni went on to an 18-0 victory, the Nuggets won the hearts of fans throughout Canada and the hockey world. For the Yukon men taking part in the re-enactment, the journey was not necessarily about the game itself or the final score; it was about breathing new life into one of the game’s greatest stories.

Last year, when the Senators Alumni travelled to White Horse and Dawson to continue the Nuggets/Senators tradition as part of the Hockey Day in Canada celebrations, Don was once again in attendance to witness the historic games. The trip to Canada’s North would fulfill a promise made over a century ago.

“After the 1905 games,” Don explained. “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.”

If you ever have the opportunity to spend some time with the Stanley Cup - perhaps you are at an event like the NHL All-Star game or visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame, take a moment and look closely at the engravings for 1905. You will see a very special moment in hockey history, Ottawa vs. Dawson. As a fan of hockey history, it is interesting to think about Joe Boyle’s plan in 1904... What if the underdog Dawson City Nuggets had done the impossible and defeated the Ottawa Silver Seven? What would have happened if the Stanley Cup had gone north and never come back?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Two Former Habs And A 1st-Time All-Star Helping Stars Shine In Dallas

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - as the Dallas Stars look to lock up the Pacific Division, three players that took three very different paths to Dallas are helping to lead the way.

Two Former Habs and a 1st-Time All-Star Helping Stars Shine in Dallas
Jamie Benn and Jordan Eberle in Ottawa
During the 2012 NHL All-Star Game
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
To say that the race towards a Western Conference playoff position is too close to call is an understatement! With less than ten games remaining in the season, the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks are all within 3 points of one another. Three of these teams will be on the outside looking in when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin and chances are they will miss the post-season by only a point or two.

To make things more interesting, four of these teams are in the same division. So, while two teams may finish in 7th and 8th place, earning a difficult first round match-up with St. Louis and Vancouver, the Pacific Division winner will be the third seed and start the playoffs with home-ice advantage in the first round. The team currently holding down the division lead (for today anyway) is the Dallas Stars and it is two former Montreal Canadiens and a first-time All-Star helping to lead the way in Big D. With a 40-28-5 record, the Stars are on a roll with a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games. They are winning when it matters most and making a strong push for the division title.

Loui Eriksson is having an outstanding season, leading the team with 68 points, but it is former Habs Mike Ribeiro (16 goals and 41 assists) and Michael Ryder (32 goals and 25 assists), along with 3rd year forward Jamie Benn (22 goals and 35 assists) that have caught my eye this year. The success of Ribeiro and Ryder has quietly gone under the radar for most hockey analysts, while Benn caught the attention of hockey fans around the league with his first invite to the NHL All-Star festivities this year in Ottawa.

For Montreal native Ribeiro, his success in the QMJHL as a junior player led to tremendous pressures to succeed in his hometown as a member of the Montreal Canadiens (he scored 67 goals and had 167 points with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL during the 1998-99 season). While he hit the 20-goal mark in the 2003-04 season, the media spotlight may have limited his opportunities to grow as a player. Once he arrived in Dallas after being traded in September of 2006, he became a solid contributor to their offence. In 453 regular season games as a Dallas Star, Ribeiro has been impressive, accumulating 401 points.

Ryder arrived in Montreal as a rookie scoring sensation - lighting the lamp 25 times in his first season (2003-04). The Bonavista, Newfoundland native followed that up with back-to-back 30 goal seasons with the Canadiens. Unfortunately, for the eighth round selection (216th overall) in the 1998 draft, his magic around the net disappeared in his fourth year, when he only scored 14 goals. He was not re-signed by the Habs and left as a free agent to become a member of the Boston Bruins in July of 2008. In 235 games as a Bruin, Ryder scored 63 goals and became a Stanley Cup champion in 2011. A free agent once again, he signed with the Dallas Stars and is powering their offence; reaching the 30-goal plateau for the third time in his career.

This brings us to first-time All-Star Jamie Benn. The 6’2 winger from Victoria, BC has become a solid overall player in his third year with the Stars. He has scored 22 goals in each season and set a new career high this year in assists (35 and counting) and total points. What may be most impressive about his season to date is that he has improved his play at both ends of the ice. After being a -5 in the plus/minus category last year, after last night’s game he is a +16 this season. He made his debut at the All-Star game after missing seven games due to an emergency appendectomy - and he won the Accuracy Shooting contest at the skills competition!

While it takes an entire team to achieve success in the NHL, the skills and abilities of Ribeiro, Ryder and Benn, three players that have taken three very different paths to Dallas, has led to a resurgence in Big D. With first place in the Pacific Division within reach, the Stars would be a tough opponent in the first round of the playoffs if they can hold on to the top spot in their division. It is going to be an exciting few weeks for the players and their fans!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TVOS and Fan-Tastic Sports: The Wins Keep Coming - Martin Brodeur Reaches 650 Wins

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur reaches 650 regular season victories.

The Wins Keep Coming - Martin Brodeur Reaches 650 Wins!
New Jersey Devils Goaltender
Martin Brodeur
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
With a 4-1 victory on Sunday versus the Philadelphia Flyers, the New Jersey Devils moved into a tie with the Flyers for 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings. While it may be difficult to catch up to the New York Rangers for first in the Atlantic Division, the win helped tighten their grasp on a playoff position this spring. Sunday’s win also marked another milestone in the marvellous career of goaltender Martin Brodeur. Stopping 18 of 19 shots for the win, the future Hall of Famer won his 650th career game.

Selected by New Jersey in the first round (20th overall) in the 1990 NHL Draft, Brodeur has played in 1,180 regular season games - all with the Devils. The 10-time All-Star and 3-time Stanley Cup champion’s career record in the NHL is an astounding 650-367-105-35 (W-L-T-OT). His Stanley Cups have plenty of company in his trophy case too, with four Vezina trophies as the league’s top goaltender, five Jennings trophies for fewest goals against, the 1994 Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, two Olympic gold medals and numerous NHL records and accolades. You can also add another unique accomplishment to his lengthy list - his goal-scoring prowess. He is one of the two goalies to have scored a goal during the regular season and the playoffs (Ron Hextall is the other).

As the wins continue to pile up for Brodeur, the possibility that another goaltender will someday break his record for most career victories diminishes. The closest to Brodeur in the career wins category amongst active goaltenders is Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo - he is tied for 17th all-time with Gump Worsley with 335 wins (as of Monday). Luongo has had a tremendous career himself, but the longer Brodeur continues to play, the record for all-time regular season wins climbs further out of reach.

Brodeur set the record in March of 2009 when he surpassed Patrick Roy’s mark of 551 wins; he has added 99 more wins since then. As I wrote at the time in an article entitled “A Devil Reaches Sainthood” at my website, The Voice of Sport, a Hollywood scriptwriter could not have created a better story than what Brodeur wrote himself when he tied Roy’s record.

When you consider the number of games he had played, what are the chances that the Montreal native would have the opportunity to equal Patrick Roy’s record in Montreal at the Bell Centre? With the former Montreal and Colorado goalie known as “St. Patrick” in attendance, as well as 21,000 hockey fans, Brodeur backstopped the Devils to a 3-1 victory that evening for his 551st career win. It was one of the few times that I can remember a visiting player leaving the ice in Montreal to a lengthy standing ovation. The long-time Devil would break St. Patrick’s record in his next game, a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 17th - St. Patrick’s Day!

While Brodeur does not carry the entire workload as he did earlier in his career, when he would regularly play in 75, 76, or 77 games each season, he is on pace to equal last year’s total and play in approximately 56 games. Sharing the net minding duties with Johan Hedberg will mean that Brodeur is refreshed and ready for the playoffs, which is not good news for his opponents in the Eastern Conference.

There will always be a debate about who is the greatest of all-time, but with 650 regular season wins and counting, there is no doubt that Martin Brodeur is at or near the top of the list with St. Patrick and the other goaltending legends and pioneers of the game.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Can We Tone Down The Trade Deadline Rumours?

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - is the rumour mill out of control leading up to the NHL trade deadline?

Can We Tone Down the Trade Deadline Rumours?

(Photo - TVOS)
There was no shortage of hype heading into the NHL’s annual trade deadline, but it came and went with few trades actually taking place. In the salary cap era, it is difficult to make a blockbuster move and with so many teams still in the hunt for a playoff position, many were not prepared to give up on their season just yet. While fans and perhaps a few GM’s ponder the moves that did not happen, the teams that did add a player or two feel that they are one step closer to Stanley Cup contention. As exciting as the day is though, is it time to tone down the trade deadline rumours?

Don’t get me wrong, the trade deadline is a good thing - it keeps the competitive balance in place. A team cannot acquire a star player days before the playoffs begin; teams must decide whether they are “buyers” or “sellers” before the final push to the playoffs begin. My issue with the deadline lies in the coverage and the lead up to the big day.

What used to be an afternoon of trade coverage has become an all-day televised event, with coverage starting at 8am and continuing right through until that night’s games begin. This year though, it seemed that the trade talk took on a new trend - the “trade tracker” segments began six weeks before the deadline on the major sports television networks, in print and on the radio. During intermissions, pre-game shows and in daily columns, hockey analysts would introduce us to a player, explain why he should be moved (usually because he was a pending unrestricted free agent), and provide a list of teams that needed to trade for him.

For six weeks, night after night, the same names were on the lists without any thought for the players involved or their families. Now that the Internet provides “experts” and “insiders” the ability to throw names around for weeks leading up to the deadline, the rumour mill is spiralling out of control. If you toss enough trade possibilities up in the air, chances are one might happen, but that does not make you an expert.

(Photo - TVOS)
Fans often associate players with their salaries and while their professional life is tied to the team that they are under contract with, let’s not forget that we are talking about real people with real families. The names being tossed around leading up to the trade deadline are not commodities and contracts; that should be acknowledged and respected.

A few years ago, listening to a former player discuss the realities of trades in the NHL on television, I heard a story that opened my eyes to the reality of these situations. During the conversation, he spoke about finding out late in the evening that he had been traded. His children were already asleep in bed and his new team needed him in the lineup right away. Travel plans were made for him and before his kids woke up in the morning, he was heading for the airport. He kissed his sleeping children goodbye and did not see his family again for six weeks. That is the reality of professional sports and we do not see this side of the game making headlines or appearing as the top story on a television broadcast.

As I wrote earlier, don’t get me wrong - trades are an exciting part of the game and necessary too. They are good for the teams involved and fans love to see them happen. What I ask you to consider in the days leading up to the deadline is to keep in mind that your favourite player is a real person. The first line star, the backup goaltender and the fourth line depth guy on your team are real people. While it is easy to think of them as a “piece to the puzzle” or a contract that needs to be moved to clear future cap space, keep in mind these guys are husbands and fathers too. Perhaps it is time to tone down the speculation and shut down the rumour mill.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

St. Louis Blues Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch Shares His Thoughts On The Newest Senators Goaltender - Ben Bishop

Ben Bishop in action - making his debut
for the Binghamton Senators
Photo - Bob Howard
Power Play Post Show
One of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference this season, the Ottawa Senators and their fans expected things to be relatively quiet in the days leading up to the NHL’s annual trade deadline on February 27th. Things can change quickly in the world of professional sports though, as an injury to goaltender Craig Anderson forced the organization to examine their depth at the position.

With Alex Auld, Robin Lehner and Mike McKenna the only goaltenders available to the NHL club while Anderson recovers, Senators GM Bryan Murray looked to acquire a net minder in case of further injuries, while keeping to his plan of not sacrificing short-term gain for future pain. Sending a second round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Draft to the St. Louis Blues, Murray added Ben Bishop to the Sens roster and solidified the position for the final 20 games of the season. A potential unrestricted free agent in the summer, Bishop and the Senators agreed on a one-year, one-way contract extension when he arrived in the nation’s capital.

Knowing that Bishop could play a significant role with the team as they make their push for the playoffs during the remainder of the current season and into next season with his new contract, I reached out to NHL Alumni member Corey Hirsch. As the goaltending coach for the St. Louis Blues and a former NHL goaltender himself, Corey knows the new Senators net minder well and generously took some time from a busy schedule with the Blues to shed some light on Bishop for Senators fans.

What can Senators fans expect to see from their new goaltender when he gets the opportunity to play in Ottawa?

“What’s going to be interesting for them is that they are going to see a big goalie in the net and that’s going to be intimidating for a lot of the teams that they play,” Corey said on the phone from St. Louis. “The shooters are going to be a little intimidated by Ben because he is a big man and you don’t see a lot of net. You are also going to see a fire out of him too and I think Ottawa liked that - we liked that. His puck handling ability is very good too.”

Heading into the season, Bishop was expected to battle former Senator Brian Elliott for the backup role in St. Louis, but ultimately, the organization went with the veteran duo of Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. All things considered, it was a wise move as the pair are near the top of every goaltending category this season. Even though he hoped to break into the NHL lineup on a regular basis, by all accounts Bishop had a great attitude when he arrived in Peoria to play for the Blues AHL affiliate. While he may not have been happy about another season in the minors, he worked hard and excelled with the Rivermen - that says a lot about the kind of person and competitor the Senators acquired.

“The one thing you learn as a player is that things are going to happen that you don’t like,” Corey explained. “That’s part of the game and it doesn’t ever help you to play poorly or have a bad attitude. Regardless of what happens to you - you have to play well because that’s your only way out at the end of the day.”

“With Ben, that’s the approach that he took. He didn’t want to go down to the minors, he didn’t like going down to the minors, but the only way out of the minors is to play your way out. That’s been his attitude and that is what he did. He’s a good success story and long term it’s going to be what helps him become an NHL goalie.”

In our recent NHL Alumni interview, Corey discussed his work at the NHL level with Halak and Elliott, but his duties as the St. Louis goaltending coach includes working with all the goaltenders in the organization, whether they are in Peoria or they are the draft picks still in junior. In our conversation yesterday, he explained that he tries to get to Peoria for at least seven days each month to check in with his goaltenders, but that can be difficult during a busy NHL season. Even when he is not there in person though, he stays in regular contact on the phone to see how the guys are doing and the American Hockey League games are online, which provides Corey with another opportunity to watch for trends and offer insights and advice.

A third round selection (85th overall) in the 2005 NHL Draft, Bishop’s numbers in the AHL have been impressive this season. He has a 25-14-4 win/loss record, 2.23 goals against average and a .930 save percentage in 38 games with Peoria and 1 with the Binghamton Senators. He made his Binghamton debut on Tuesday evening against the St. John's IceCaps - a 41 save performance in a 5-1 victory for the Senators. With Robin Lehner’s impressive play of late in Ottawa as he fills in for the injured Anderson, it is still unclear when or if Bishop will take to the ice in the nation’s capital this season, but hockey observers believe that he is one of the young goalies ready to make the jump to the NHL and Corey agrees with that assessment.

“For sure! He can play at that level,” Corey said. “There’s no question that he can play anywhere in the NHL. It just happened that the guys up here in St. Louis played so well, that he just didn’t get the opportunity this year. He just needs an opportunity; he just needs a chance and he will easily prove that he can play in the NHL.”

Ben Bishop
Photo - Bob Howard
Power Play Post Show
When I asked about some of Bishop’s strengths as a goaltender, it is difficult to avoid the fact that the newest Ottawa Senator is 6’7 - that is certainly an asset. As Corey explained though, his height is not his only strength.

“His size is a strength,” he acknowledged. “That’s the biggest thing that sticks out - he’s a big man! The other thing that I am impressed with is his mental strength; how he deals with things and how he handles situations. He has a very strong mind and things don’t bother him too much. He can shrug things off pretty quickly. You also have to be athletic to be successful at this position and for a big man, he is very athletic.”

As previously mentioned, when we will see Ben Bishop in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators remains to be seen, but we know thanks to Corey’s insights, that when he does arrive, Ben has the abilities and attributes needed to be successful. While Sens fans did not expect a new goaltender to be added at the trade deadline, Anderson’s injury forced the organization to make a move. They now have some much-needed depth at the position should further injuries occur and they have set up a healthy competition for training camp next season, as Bishop and Lehner compete for a place on the NHL roster.

You can follow Corey on Twitter: @CoreyHirsch

*On a personal note, thanks Corey for taking the time to chat - the NHL Alumni truly is “Hockey’s Greatest Family”!

And thank you to Bob Howard from the Power Play Post Show for answering the call on Twitter and sending along the pictures of Ben Bishop in his debut with the Binghamton Senators.

Make sure to visit the Power Play Post Show website and follow Bob on Twitter: @PPPSHOW

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Having A Special Place In Ottawa's Hockey History

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - Laurie Boschman’s special place in Ottawa hockey history.

Laurie Boschman's Special Place In Ottawa's Hockey History
NHL Alumni member and former Ottawa Senators captain
Laurie Boschman at the 2012 NHL All-Star Fan-Fair
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
On the eve of the NHL All-Star festivities in the nation’s capital, the city of Ottawa and the Sens Foundation officially unveiled their “Rink of Dreams” - a refrigerated outdoor skating rink that is located next to Ottawa City Hall. As Mayor Jim Watson and the city councillors welcomed the skaters onto the ice, several guests of honour were in attendance. Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray and Head Coach Paul MacLean were on hand, as were two of this year’s All-Stars, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek. Also in attendance as an honoured guest was a man with a special place in Ottawa’s hockey history as the first captain of the modern-day Ottawa Senators, NHL Alumni member Laurie Boschman.

Laurie played in 1,009 regular season games during his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators. Perhaps best remembered as a member of the Jets during the 1980’s, Laurie arrived in Ottawa via the expansion draft for the franchise’s inaugural 1992-93 season after two years in New Jersey.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, as the eager skaters ventured out onto the ice for their first skate on the new rink, Laurie and I chatted about the All-Star game being held in Ottawa for the first time. We also discussed the Senators and the inroads the team has made in the community as they celebrate their 20th anniversary this season.

Our conversation led to the many “firsts” in a hockey player’s career. There are the obvious ones that every hockey player hopes to enjoy - putting on a jersey for their first NHL game and scoring their first goal. If all goes well, there may be a trip to the playoffs for the first time and a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. There is one event though that only a select few get to enjoy - being named the first captain of a new franchise.

I have had the chance to get to know Laurie since I began working with the NHL Alumni Association and I am proud to call him a friend. It’s a great feeling as a writer to have someone as respected in the hockey community as Laurie say, “Call me anytime” and he always makes sure to introduce me to his friends and former teammates when we meet at Alumni events. Last September, we spoke about the return of the Winnipeg Jets, his work with Hockey Ministries International and being part of the expansion Senators for an article at the NHL Alumni website and he reminisced about his time in Ottawa.

“It was a challenging first year and it was challenging to be a part of an expansion team, but it was also an interesting experience because I had never done that in my career.” Laurie said in our interview. “Living in Ottawa since then, it is interesting to see the growth of the team because my wife and I brought up three sons that played hockey and grew up as Sens fans. It is really neat to see that younger generation now that totally embraces this team.”

“It was a very unique experience for sure and there was a ton of excitement here at that time,” he continued. “I think what we noticed back then, was that while we had tremendous fan support right from day one, we also recognized that there were lots of Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadians fans, which still exist in Ottawa today. There was a lot of allegiance to those two brands and so it has taken twenty years to establish a fan base and a brand here in Ottawa. I think the Senators are solidly entrenched in the community now.”

While the Senators struggled on the ice in their inaugural season, finishing the year with a 10-70-4 record and only one road victory, the organization has grown in the community. Thanks to a lot of hard work by the players that have worn the uniform and the many people behind the scenes, the franchise has a solid reputation throughout the hockey world. Just as Jack Laviolette will always be the first captain of the Montreal Canadiens (1909-1910 season), when the Senators celebrate their centennial anniversary in 80 years, my friend Laurie will still have an honoured place in Ottawa’s hockey history as the first captain of the Ottawa Senators - that’s pretty special!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thanks Dirk!!

(Photo - The Voice of Sport)
In early December, baseball pitcher and best-selling author Dirk Hayhurst (@TheGarfoose) announced that he would be holding a contest. The mission - bake a Garfoose shaped cookie... a Garfookie. The prize - an advanced copy of his soon to be released second book Out Of My League.

The contest provided a perfect opportunity for "Business Garfoose" to return to The Voice of Sport. While the Garfookie did not turn out as planned (it was delicious though!!), the effort did not go unnoticed...

"Also @ARodgerTVOS is an honorary winner for his costume party Garfookie baking. Awesome costume, hideous Garfookie."

A copy of Out Of My League arrived today, but unfortunately, it looks like I will have to wait my turn before I get a chance to read it!
(Photo - The Voice of Sport)


(Photo - The Voice of Sport)

Thanks Dirk!!

A special thank you to Michaela Hamilton at Kensington Publishing too.

You can pre-order a copy of Out Of My League or drop by your local bookstore on February 28th.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Wayne Gretzky's 77th Goal

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - Wayne Gretzky and the 30th Anniversary of his record breaking 77th goal on February 24, 1982.

Celebrating a Great Moment in Hockey History:
The 30th Anniversary of #99's 77th Goal

Whether watching a game at home or live at the arena, nothing brings hockey fans out of their seats faster than a goal. With stars like Steve Stamkos, Corey Perry and Phil Kessel finding the back of the net on a regular basis in today’s NHL, we wait and hope that one or all of them will reach the 50-goal milestone in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. While a 50-goal season has become common in recent decades with stars like Bossy, Selanne, Lemieux, Bure and Ovechkin lighting the lamp on a regular basis, in the early days of the NHL it was a magical milestone - a seemingly unreachable number.

Wayne Gretzky statue outside of
Rexall Place in Edmonton
(Photo - Wikipedia)
Well, if you are the type of hockey fan that jumps out of your seat when your favourite player scores a goal, can you imagine doing it 77 times in one season? How about 92 times in one season? February 24th, 1982 is a special day in hockey history, as that is the day that Wayne Gretzky soared past Phil Esposito’s single-season record of 76 goals.

Esposito set the single-season record during the 1970-71 season as a member of the Boston Bruins, breaking the previous mark of 58, which was set by Bobby Hull during the 1968-69 season. Esposito’s 76 goals and 152 points earned him the second of his five Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s top point scorer. The only players to reach the 50-goal plateau before Hull and Esposito surpassed that magical number were Maurice Richard (1944-45), Bernie Geoffrion (1960-61) and Hull himself (1965-66). Esposito’s 76 goals would remain the number to beat for decades, right? It could have been, if not for a young man from Brantford, Ontario.

To say that Wayne Gretzky exploded onto the NHL scene would be an understatement! In his rookie season, he scored 51 goals and added 86 assists to finish the year with 137 points. How did The Great One handle the “sophomore slump” in his second season? Well, he scored 55 goals and finished the year with an astounding 164 points. What hockey fans may not have realized at the time though, was that Gretzky was just getting warmed up...

On December 30th, 1981, in his 39th game of the season, Gretzky was five goals away from reaching the 50-goal mark for the third year in a row. He would score all five that night against Philadelphia to set one of his many NHL records (50 goals in 39 games). As he was on his way to finishing the 1981-82 season with 92 goals, 212 points and a plus/minus rating of +81, the stage was set for a record breaking evening on the night of February 24th.

With Esposito in attendance at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium to watch Gretzky’s Oilers take on the Buffalo Sabres, the pressure to break the record weighed heavily on the young hockey phenom. Buffalo goaltender Don Edwards held Gretzky off the score sheet for most of the night, but a turnover with just over six minutes remaining in the game opened the goal scoring floodgates - the Great One skated in on Edwards and scored his 77th of the season to break the record. He would add two more goals on that night, his 78th and 79th, as the Oilers went on to a 6-3 victory.



As I worked on this week’s XHockey article, I discovered an interesting news story in the CBC archives about Gretzky’s popularity on the night he broke the single-season goal scoring record. The young journalist ended her report by asking this question, “How long can this Gretzky fever last?”

There have been many “Greats” in the game of hockey, but there is only one Great One.

Wayne Gretzky would retire in 1999 with 40 regular season NHL records, 15 playoff records and 6 All-Star records (some are shared records). He took to the ice for 1,487 regular season games with the Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers, scoring 894 goals and adding 1,963 assists for 2,857 career points. In 208 playoff games, he added 382 points to his overall total.

A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Oilers, Gretzky won every major NHL Award multiple times. He won the Hart Trophy as league MVP nine times, the Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion) ten times, the Lester B. Pearson (now the Ted Lindsay Award - MVP as voted on by the players) five times - and the list goes on and on. If he had spent a season playing as a defenseman for some reason, it is not hard to imagine he would have a Norris Trophy on his shelf as well!

So, how long will Gretzky fever last? Well, it has been thirty years and it is still going strong. On February 24th, 1982, one of the NHL’s unbreakable records was broken.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview with St. Louis Blues Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch

Working with NHL Alumni member Corey Hirsch,
St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott
has become an All-Star
(Photo Andrew Rodger TVOS)
In today’s NHL, every point gained or lost can have a major impact on a team’s position in the standings. A lengthy winning streak can elevate a team to the top of the conference, while a slow start or losing streak can leave a good team on the outside looking in when the playoffs arrive. The strength of the Western Conference and the Central Division makes the goaltending position an essential element to having a successful season and the St. Louis Blues rank near the top of the league in all of the goaltending categories. In his first season in St. Louis as their goaltending coach, NHL Alumni member Corey Hirsch has the tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott firing on all cylinders.

Read my interview with NHL Alumni member Corey Hirsch

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NHL Alumni Interview - Peter Ing Celebrates the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Finale and All-Star Fan Fair

NHL Alumni member Peter Ing at the
Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Championship
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
After stops in 15 cities during their cross Canada tour, Peter Ing and the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition returned to Ottawa during the recent All-Star festivities to crown their champions. The journey to find some of Canada’s best young hockey players began in Vancouver on October 7th and ended on December 15th in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with stops everywhere in between. Testing their skills in shooting accuracy, passing accuracy, timed skating and puck control, the top qualifiers from each city were invited to Ottawa for the grand finale on the historic Rideau Canal on January 28th.

It took a tremendous amount of effort and planning to complete their cross Canada tour, but there was one final hurdle waiting for Peter when the Junior Skills National Championship arrived in Ottawa - the weather! The day before the final event, the nation’s capital was inundated with freezing rain and unusually warm temperatures, which left the canal temporarily closed to skaters. Despite the previous day’s weather, when the competitors awoke on the big day, the sun was shining and the ice on the canal was ready for the innovative XHockey products provided by Peter’s company; the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition began as planned at the historic venue.

“I was really happy that we were able to have it out on the canal,” Peter said in a recent interview. “That was the plan from day one, but with the weather we had a few days before, it was touch and go. The decision came down at 2am and the official word that we would be able to go out on the canal came at 6am. They worked really hard to make it the best ice that they possibly could.”

“The day of the event though was amazing. The wind was calm, it was not too cold, the sun came out for a while and to have the backdrop of the Parliament Buildings - it was spectacular!”

The weather preceding the event and the fact that it was outdoors made the ice conditions a little more challenging when compared to the indoor facilities used in the qualifying rounds, but as Peter explained, it was the same for all of the participants. The young hockey players were not competing against their own past scores; it was an entirely new competition, so the playing field was identical for all of the participants.

The Junior Skills competition was open to boys and girls, ages 7 to 12, in three different categories - peewee, novice and atom. In the novice category, Katie Chan, Angela Huo and Zachary Dean skated, passed and shot their way to victory. In the atom category, Sydney Kennedy and Tommy Bouchard earned the top scores, while Maggie Connors and Stevon Hlusiak won the peewee category. Along with their trophies and All-Star status, the winners were introduced on the ice at Scotiabank Place during a break in the action at the NHL’s Skills Competition.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience for those that do not go on to play in the NHL,” Peter said. “It was a feel-good event from the beginning in Vancouver, all the way through to Newfoundland. There were lots of smiles and I think that’s what it is all about - promoting the game of hockey at the grassroots level and providing an experience, whether it was a qualifier or the finale, where a player could experience what it is like to be an All-Star.”

“To feel like an All-Star,” he continued. “That was our goal - to make every player feel special and give them a unique opportunity to compete.”

As we spoke about the successful conclusion to the Junior Skills competition, I asked Peter if he had a favourite moment on the tour.

“I think honestly, the favourite part for me was the finale,” he answered. “Having it outside brought back memories for me of playing on the outdoor rinks; that doesn’t happen at all for me any more. Just how the air feels against your face when you’re outside - the ice isn’t perfect but the game is still great. What I really enjoyed too, was seeing kids from coast to coast participating in the game and enjoying what they were doing.”

While the focus of the event was not promoting the XHockey products, being involved in an event like the Junior Skills competition provided a great way for Fan-tastic Sports, which is co-owned by Peter and New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador, to showcase the portable products in the XHockey division.

“We certainly didn’t talk about the products that much, but it certainly helps to create an awareness about what we do as a company and what services we offer,” Peter acknowledged. “It would be nice to get the message out about our portable products, but it’s good to have our company known as being involved in the game and helping at that grassroots level.”

The partnership between Fan-tastic Sports, the NHL and Canadian Tire provided the participants in the Junior Skills competition with that once in a lifetime experience Peter previously mentioned. Having attended the November 25th qualifier in Nepean, Ontario and the finale on the Rideau Canal, I can say from firsthand experience, that all the hard work that went into planning the events provided the participants with memories that will last a lifetime.

“Our partners are fabulous,” Peter said. “Obviously, the NHL believes in the game and believes in growing the game at that grassroots level, but Canadian Tire also did a spectacular job of putting the players first and targeting the age groups that are just developing in hockey.”

“Every single event was first-rate - from hanging the jerseys up for all the different players, to their accommodations at the rink, the process of checking in and having the scoring system up for everyone to see - right from the beginning, all the way to the end, it was first-rate!”

“It’s a huge compliment to have both the NHL and Canadian Tire believe in the service we provide and the equipment we can provide to put on this great show from coast to coast.”

The Junior Skills finale was not the sole reason for Peter’s visit to Ottawa, as Fan-tastic Sports also provided the interactive equipment for the NHL All-Star Fan-Fair at the downtown Convention Centre. While the thousands of hockey fans that visited the Fan-Fair posed for pictures with the Stanley Cup or met with NHL Alumni members and this year’s All-Stars in autograph sessions, they could also test their hockey skills on the 14 interactive lanes set up by Fan-tastic Sports for the event.

“There was an electricity around Ottawa,” explained Peter. “I didn’t hear one single complaint during the entire three-day weekend; there was nothing but great comments and great reviews. We had zero downtime on any of the equipment and everything went flawlessly. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it all turned out - the comments and the smiles. The fans really seemed to enjoy that interactive experience.”

An added bonus to being involved in the All-Star festivities in a Canadian city was that there was no shortage of media coverage for the Fan-Fair and the Junior Skills events. Whether you picked up the local newspaper or turned on the television, Peter and the Fan-tastic Sports equipment were prominently featured. Media members from all of the various news outlets were eager to test their hockey skills and as Peter told me during our conversation, he did not have to twist any arms to get them to try the interactive equipment.

“I think that is one of the neat things that we are able to bring to the game - equipment that is fun and engaging. Every level of participant can have a level of success, while it is still challenging if you are a pro. That has been our goal since the beginning and it helps promote the brand of hockey. That’s what we are tying to do; bring positive awareness to the game and grow it from the fan level.”

After back-to-back years at the NHL All-Star Fan-Fair, the completion of the Junior Skills competition, as well as taking part in the Red Wings Hockeyfest and the Washington Capitals Fanfest in the fall, I asked Peter, what’s next for Fan-tastic Sports?

“We have a number of different events coming in the next year and we are looking at doing a lot of the events we did this year with some of the NHL clubs we have worked with,” he said. “Our next big show will be the Let’s Play Hockey Expo in Minnesota, where we will be unveiling some new XHockey products.”

“That division (the XHockey products) has really started to gain traction and that’s one we really enjoy because you don’t have to have tens of thousands of dollars to buy the big interactive equipment we have - it’s the equipment priced at under $200 that you can practise with at home. In the basement, in the driveway and out on the rinks - improving your skills with affordable items. That is the ultimate grassroots right? ”

To stay up to date on next year’s Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills competition, young hockey players and their parents can visit the Canadian Tire Hockey School website (www.canadiantirehockeyschool.ca) and register for updates.

To learn more about Fan-tastic Sports and all of their innovative products, as well as news on any upcoming events, visit their website www.fan-tasticsports.com and follow them on Twitter (@XHockeyPoducts)

NHL and Ottawa Senators Alumni members Patrick Lalime and Brad Marsh
watch the action during the Canadian Tire NHL Junior Skills Finale in Ottawa
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)