Archive for the ‘Ice Hockey’ Category

Show some class, fans

- April 2nd, 2015

Respect in sports is something that is taught at every level of every game and for very good reason. It’s fundamental to becoming a good, well-rounded person in not just sports, but in life.

That’s why what fans are doing in Buffalo and at the arenas of many tanking teams is deplorable.

You should never cheer for your own team to lose.

And while you can say it is their freedom of speech to do so, it is not about that – it’s about respect.

Tanking for draft picks is a hot-button topic sports these days, with teams seemingly looking for ways to lose more games to increase their chances at getting a top player in the draft.

It has to stop.

Players and teams should go out and try to win every game they can. If your team isn’t very good, try to develop players and get better. If that’s not working, try using a different strategy. If you can’t think of one, fire the coach and find somebody that can.

It’s no secret that teams like the Sabres, Coyotes, Oiler and Leafs have been tanking for a chance at Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – the latest surefire future stars. But why is this acceptable?

When the Leafs fired coach Randy Carlyle, they were in a playoff spot. Since then, the team has been absolutely awful sinking to second last in the Eastern Conference.

Under Carlyle, Toronto was 21-16-3. Under Peter Horachek, who has proven to be one of the worst coaches in the league in recent history, the team is 8-27-3.

The fact that the Leafs haven’t fired Horachek for looking this pitiful is a joke.

But, this isn’t a rant about the scourge of tanking in pro sports, it’s about the fans that support it.

By cheering for your team to lose, you are enabling terrible sportsmanship, enabling teams to get away with not competing – which is the essence of sports.

When the team allows a weak goal, don’t cheer it, boo them! You’re not supposed to be happy you’re losing. Show your displeasure that it has come to the fact that your squad is competing for a better draft pick than for a playoff spot.

Even worse, is the opposite end of the spectrum: Booing your team for winning.

In what world should be it considered OK to crap on your favourite team for doing well? It’s insane.

But, this is the sad place we are as a society. And until things change and there’s no incentive to lose games, we’ll always see this despicable action of teams trying to game the system by losing on purpose and we’ll always see fans support it in the hope that this leads to a better team in the future.

The only real justice would be to see none of the teams that are openly tanking win the lottery. It would be amazing to see a team that’s trying its damnedest to actually make the playoffs win with long odds.

If that were the case, I wouldn’t have any problem for a second laughing at the suckers rooting for their teams to tank.

Even better: Watching the Bruins or Senators miss out on the eighth spot and then win the McDavid lottery. That would show their division rivals.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Time to kill the deadline coverage

- March 3rd, 2015

By the time the bell rang at 3 p.m. on Monday for the NHL trade deadline the amount of players on the move roughly equalled the amount of people covering the trade deadline on TSN and Sportsnet.

It was that uneventful.

When you consider the most excitement of the day came when TSN had Gino Reda wrangling llamas in the parking lot, well, you get the picture of what actually went down on deadline day.

This came after months of advertising for this “event” by both sports networks, which devoted at least a dozen people each for on-screen duties.

The biggest trade of the day? Jeff Petry from Edmonton to Montreal for a couple of draft picks. I can honestly tell you that I have never of Petry and wouldn’t have even known he played for the Oilers.

But the spectacle raged on. The whole thing on TSN went on from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. – nine hours of coverage! – and then followed that with a one-hour recap show.

A bit excessive when you’re breaking down deals like Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey for Jordan Caron.

Compare that to the coverage both networks gave the NBA trade deadline a couple of weeks ago: None. Not even a ticker on the main networks while some pretty big and unexpected deals were breaking. It was the exact opposite of what happened at the NHL deadline.

The whole thing really got started in 2010, when there were a record amount of deals that went down and networks were scrambling to keep up.

Now, nothing happens until around noon and, even then, there’s nothing too big.

This year especially, teams were making deals in the weeks leading up to the deadline. While there were some interesting names on the table like the Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, there was no way that either would be dealt in a panic trade in an effort to tank for Connor McDavid. After all, the market for them will still be there around draft time.

This should be a wakeup call to the networks and media in general that we shouldn’t go treating the the NHL trade deadline like it’s a Canadian national holiday. It’s a bank holiday at best and, at worst, it’s a bunch of llamas running through a studio full of guys staring at their cell phones.

It’s time to tone things down.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

The World Cup of stupid

- January 30th, 2015

I might be a little late to the party on this one, but when you’re sick, you don’t really feel like thinking about things that make you feel even worse.

Over that monstrosity known as NHL all-star weekend, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the return of the World Cup of ice hockey.

What a joke.

There couldn’t be a more ham-fisted way of this league trying to side-step the Olympics.

What Bettman doesn’t realize is that this little tournament he is trying to pull off doesn’t have a fraction of the cache of the Games.

Players don’t want to compete for this resuscitated Cup, they want Olympic medals!

The two big problems that the NHL has with the Olympics is that it must take two weeks off mid-season and that the next Games will be in South Korea, making it hard for the NHL to use as a tool to market players because of the difficult time difference.

It won’t get any better in 2022 either, when the Winter Games will be either in China or Kazakhstan.

Really, this is just a measure of control for the league over its players, and it’s a poor move on their behalf.

The worst part about this World Cup proposal: The two non-national teams that will be involved. There will be an “all-star” team made up of players from the remaining countries not invited, which is stupid, and a Young Guns team featuring the best young North American players 23 and under, which is completely preposterous.

Are there really not eight countries in the world good enough to play in this World Cup? And if not, why are we bothering to even call it that?

The Young Guns team is especially stupid when you consider that it will amount to a much of second-year players going against Olympic-calibre stars. Looking over Canada’s roster from the Sochi Olympics, only Matt Duchene would have qualified to be a Young Gun. Doesn’t seem fair, right?

The timing of when this World Cup will occur isn’t good either. In a league where the off-season is too short already, the league’s top players are now going to have to be in game shape by early September. It also means that teams will be without their top players until right before the season starts, making preparation more difficult.

Finally, don’t get me started on this even more preposterous Ryder Cup idea!

Having a series between a team of the top North American players and the top European players is just plain dumb. Nobody draws lines like that in ice hockey except for Don Cherry. And when you consider that the biggest national rivalry hasn’t been Canada vs. Russia for a long time and is now Canada-U.S.A., why would you want to see those two sides team up?

And to think, the NHL had been on such a nice run too.

There has been  a noticeable lack of scandals and mistakes. The quality of play is up and the league growing, even think about – gasp! – expansion. Fights are even way down, too – which at least I’m thrilled about.

But now, they gotten too greedy and flown too close to the sun.

Just like goals at the all-star game, too much is not always a good thing.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Let’s concentrate on other sports, Canada

- January 8th, 2015

After the world junior triumph by Team Canada on Monday and coming off Olympic gold medals by both our men’s and women’s teams at the Olympics in Sochi last year, it is very clear that we are back on top of the world as the undisputed best country in the world at ice hockey.

So, after climbing that mountain, let’s aim for another one.

Let’s call this mountain: Anything-but-ice-hockey.

Canada is so good at this sport that any tournament that it enters it will be considered the favourite – and rightfully so.

In the women’s game, there are only two world-class teams, with the Canadians and Americans always dueling for the gold.

In the juniors, Canada is always the best team out there, but has blown it the past few years. If you think otherwise, just look at the first round of the NHL draft.

In the 2014 draft, almost half (14 of 30) of the first-round picks were from Canada and six of the top seven were Canucks. The year before, 18 first-round picks were Canadian.

At the Olympics, you could’ve built a team with the all of guys that Canada didn’t take and have a good shot at a medal.

So, here’s what I propose: Let’s try to get stronger as a nation at other sports.

If we use 20% of government funding allocated to ice hockey and if one of every five top ice hockey prospects took up a different sport, we could still dominate on the ice while developing other sports and creating diversity on the sporting landscape.

Just look at some other sports and we fare in them:

-While Canada produces some decent baseball players, there’s not enough to ever contend at the WBC.

-We had just one gold medal at the 2012 Summer Games and were tied for 13th in overall medals.

-In the current FIFA rankings, Canada is ranked 112th in the world and hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1986.

-Can anybody name the last Canadian-born QB to start in the CFL? Has one ever been successful? I’m guessing probably not.

-Mike Weir winning the Masters was an excellent story, but how often do Canadians win even low-end tournaments on the PGA Tour?

-We’re finally getting our act together in tennis, so no complaints there. Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic are arguably the two greatest Canadian tennis players ever – which is saying something about our history.

Can we not aim to improve at these other global sports and bring some pride in other areas?

As great as winning gold in ice hockey feels every time out, just making the World Cup would feel even better.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Our completely uninformed 2014-15 NHL preview

- October 8th, 2014

I’ll be the first to admit that when I don’t have to, I’m not paying attention to ice hockey.

I’m not a fan of it and I’m not sure if it’s a fan of me.

What I am a fan of is making predictions, especially with a new season raring to go on freshly zamboni’d ice.

So what did I miss over the summer, when really, you shouldn’t be paying much mind to a winter sport?

Well, until reading up a little bit, I had no idea who the first pick in the draft was (Aaron Ekblad), that Jarome Iginla joined my “favourite” team (Colorado), that the Phoenix Coyotes no longer exist (it’s the Arizona Coyotes now) and, really, just forgot which teams were realigned into those funky new divisions last year.

There is plenty of knowledge I did retain though. Like the fact that league is in pretty good shape and actually looking into expansion – you know, because the teams in Florida, Carolina and Arizona are working out SOOO well and shouldn’t be moved.

Also, there’s no Olympics this year, so the season should start and end at reasonable time without that idiotic two-week break to send 5% of the league’s players.

And perhaps both most shockingly and importantly, Gary Bettman is no longer the worst commissioner in sports. Not even his incompetence and the NHL’s repeated work stoppages could knock Roger Goodell off of that podium now.

But in fairness, could you imagine how terrible Bettman would come off if he had to deal with the same stuff that Goodell did.

As for my picks, I look forward to seeing a large percentage wrong at season’s end.

Metropolitan division: Pittsburgh, Washington, New York Rangers.

Atlantic division: Boston, Montreal, Tampa Bay.

East wild cards:, Toronto, New York Islanders.

Pacific division: Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose.

Central division: Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas.

West wild cards: Colorado, Nashville.

Hart trophy: Sidney Crosby, PIT

Art Ross trophy: Steven Stamkos, TB

Norris trophy: Shea Weber, NAS

Vezina trophy: Carey Price, MTL

Surprises: New York Islanders, Jonathan Bernier (Vezina contender), Columbus, fighting will – thankfully –go down a tick.

Disappointments: Winnipeg Jets, Alberta teams, Minnesota, the East in general.

Eastern Conference final: Boston Bruins over Pittsburgh Penguins.

Western Conference final: Chicago Blackhawks over L.A. Kings.

Stanley Cup: Chicago Blackhawks.