Monday, November 16, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday: Things Rolling Around My Head

So every week we come up with a new list of things that fall into a nice neat category. This week I'm doing something a bit different in just throwing out 5 topics that I've been mulling over as of late. With luck, you'll find them interesting enough to leave some feedback on.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable because this will be a long one... here goes.

5. Top Prospects Game Rotation

The 2010 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game is being held in Windsor this year. I am not 100% sure of the criteria of how the host site is selected; do teams bid on it like they do the Memorial Cup? If so it's certainly not as public. I think it's probably a bit more behind the doors negotiating for the event. Edmonton hosted it in 2008 a season after their return to the WHL and I get the sense that there was more than a little politics involved. I'm not trying to suggest that the eventual host does anything wrong, I just would prefer to see the site decided a little bit more in the open than it is now.

The fact that the big game is in the OHL for the second consecutive year bugs me a little bit too. Oshawa hosted the 2009 Top Prospects Game so why shouldn't the 2010 edition be in either the QMJHL or the WHL? The Memorial Cup is rotated every year from one CHL league to the other... why can't the Top Prospects Game follow suit?

why not spread the big events around if you possibly can? I think it's unfortunate that there isn't a third national event to go with the Top Prospects Game and the Memorial Cup so that each of the three CHL leagues would be hosting something special each year. Perhaps Hockey Canada could host the December World Junior Camp and play their exhibition games in the territory of the league that isn't involved with either of the other two showcase spectacles.

Maybe the three CHL leagues could do away with their own All-Star games (the WHL doesn't have one anyway) and instead play a small 3-team round robin at some point during the year? I'd watch that for sure! I know at one time there was something similar but that was before my exposure to junior hockey so I'm not well versed in what used to be done. Someone feel free to explain/describe how it went and why it was scrapped.

4. The Pipeline Channel

Recently I was trying to find some NCAA hockey coverage on the NHL Network (the actual reason I even added the channel to my particular subscription package) but came up out of luck. I've been able to track down only one listing for NCAA hockey games being shown in Canada this year... so THANK YOU to the Big Ten Network! (if someone else has, please direct me to a link for the info).

Anyway, it got me thinking: Would there be a TV audience to justify an all-hockey prospects channel? The levels to be covered would be junior, major junior, NCAA, CIS and minor pro.

Between that many leagues there would be at least one live game a night and on the weekends it would be nearly wall-to-wall coverage of live hockey that apparently isn't being shown (at least in Canada) to a wide audience.

Here in Western Canada we get a WHL game of the week on Shaw TV which is great... if you happen to be a subscriber to Shaw Cable, like me. However, I see ZERO games from the OHL or the QMJHL. Nothing of the NCAA (despite the fact that 25% of the players in US college are Canadian), zip for the AHL and only the gold medal games are shown from events like the RBC Cup, World Junior A Challenge or the World U18s.

Are you seriously telling me that there is an audience for "Cosmopolitan TV" and a half dozen cooking/life style/shopping channels but an all-hockey one wouldn't work? If it's an expense thing, I might be able to buy that but there is at least an in-rink feed for games in most markets and all teams (except the PEI Rocket) have radio deals... couldn't something be done there? A ton of NCAA games are shown in the States, would it be that costly to tap into those feeds?

I assume there are much bigger issues here than I am aware of, someone fill me in if I'm missing something. All I know is, I'd like to see a Kitchener/London game, the Beanpot, North Dakota hosting Minnesota, Springfield taking on Manchester... and I CAN'T.

3. Will Edmonton Move Torrie Jung?

A couple of months ago I floated the question as to whether or not the Oil Kings, at some point, might consider dealing their 2008-09 MVP. As far fetched and unlikely as it sounded, I specified that I would only consider it if the team was clearly not a contender and was failing to live up to its top-5 potential. Well guess what? The WHL trade deadline is now 7 weeks away and the Oil Kings currently hold down 10th place in the 12-team Eastern Conference.

There have been several reasons why the Oil Kings have struggled through the first couple of months this year. Injuries hit early, hard and frequently as several starters went down with different hurts including a few concussions. The blueline was especially hit hard and there were nights when 6 healthy bodies were hard to find so 16-year-olds were brought in for temporary relief. Then, like many teams, the flu bug had its way with the locker room. Unfortunately for Steve Pleau, his injury riddled roster meant a bunch of guys had to play sick. Add to injury and illness the fact that the team had played the toughest schedule through September and October... and it's like the perfect storm. Hence 10th place in the standings.

And yet the question is relevant and has to be asked. Might the Oil Kings best serve themselves in the long run by dealing Torrie Jung?

Can they live without him? Well it would obviously be harder without your starter but considering back up Cam Lanigan has played very well in his 10 starts (.901 sv% and 3.16 GAA), perhaps he's shown enough that he can shoulder a heavier workload. It would make sense that a goalie would come back in the deal so it's not like 16-year-old Laurent Brossoit would have to be rushed into service.

Things could change between now and the deadline but if the team simply plays .500 hockey...

If now isn't the time to consider dealing Jung, I wonder when that time will be (if ever)? Have the Oil Kings have already decided not to move the goalie and that simply making the playoffs is good enough this year? Will Portland shop 20-year-old Kurtis Mucha and might that affect the market for Jung? All things to think about.

I had a conversation earlier today with a long time WHL personality who suggested an overage netminder like Jung might only fetch a 4th round pick, maybe a 3rd at best. That said, would it even be worth it for the Oil Kings to trade him? considering the playoffs are much more likely with him that without... I'm thinking "No".

2. CHL Traditions

Sometimes we take flak for talking as much NCAA hockey on the show as we do but Dean and I have always felt that it is our NCAA that helps set us apart from other radio shows. Dean grew up in Brandon so with North Dakota just over the border, he's had exposure to the NCAA version of the sport all his life. I haven't so I'm still enjoying the NCAA game from afar and ever year I get more and more intrigued. I'm to the point now that I'd much rather fly to see a Michigan game at Yost or see the Badgers at home than I would fly to a WHL game in Regina or Kamloops.

Don't get me wrong, I love the WHL but I'm also very eager to take in the NCAA experience. I've spoken with a lot of Canadian players who have chosen the college route and when I ask them why, it almost always comes back to the impression that was made on them when they took in a game. I recently made reference to a fine write up from Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy where traditions around NCAA hockey is detailed. I did some internet exploring for more examples and came away with some interesting video clips like the simple "c-ya" chant Michigan fans give an opposing player taking a penalty... Wisconsin crowd dancing... Cornell's extensive guide and list of traditions, and in rink fun (example one and two).

I spent an hour watching various You Tube clips of fan chants, songs and rituals and came away with one question: Why are there no traditions at games in the CHL?

I made some calls and checked with guys who have followed junior hockey longer than I have and in the WHL, I've witnessed only one ongoing tradition and have been told about 3 others, 2 of which no longer happen.

The one I have seen and heard first hand occurs in Red Deer. As the crowd quiets and awaits for the start of the national anthem, a fan from section N clearly yells out the last name of the visiting team's starting; "Flaaaa-mmminnnggg!" to which the entire crowd responds with a hearty "SUCKS!!!". It's funny but it lasts 5 seconds and then it's done.

I'm told the Spokane Chiefs have used the same goal celebration song for several years and so I checked on You Tube and sure enough...

Not bad but not equal to the standard set by the NCAA crowds.

The Portland Winterhawks used to be welcomed to the ice by P.A. announcer Dan Folwick who would issues a rousing "Here come, the Hawks!". Unfortunately, Mr. Folwick has since retired leaving long-time WHL people like Kelowna voice Regan Bartell to take notice
"It just seemed odd when the Hawks entered the ice surface last night and Dan's big voice saying "Here come the Hawks' was no where to be found."
Regan would also remember when the crowd in Kelowna would shout "Guard!" at the end of O'Canada (..."we stand on GUARD for thee..."). Much like Dallas Stars fans do with "stars" during the Star Spangled Banner, Rockets faithful turned it into a salute for Kelowna goalie Kelly Guard. He's since turned pro and the tradition ended with his junior career.

And that's it. If you have seen or heard of others... please list them in the comments section.

The difference? Obviously the fact that the NCAA game is played in front of a large student body makes a huge difference. The party atmosphere is instantly created by the well lubricated students... but that's a good thing.

The CHL rinks I have visited have crowds comprised of families and people of all ages so you don't get that same party atmosphere. In Edmonton for example, the marketing of tickets sales is largely directed at families and so you end up with half of your 5000 tickets being held by fans who can't get into a PG-13 movie. Some people might find what the NCAA crowds do to be annoying or silly but I'd gladly take organized chants and opposing goalie harassing over the "air guitar cam" for the 10 and under crowd at Oil Kings home games.

Is it possible that Americans just know how to enjoy live hockey more than we do up here in Canada? Are we just stuck in "we know the game and just concentrate on watching what happens" so much that we can't have fun while we do it? Canadians go to hockey games to be entertained, Americans seem to go knowing ahead of time that they are a part of that entertainment. Big difference.

1. Would Taylor Hall be Carolina's Choice?

I know all the 2010 talk for the last several months has been about the Taylor Hall Sweepstakes, his is the name mentioned by message board fans of NHL teams that are struggling in the standings. I'll agree that he'll probably go first overall but I don't know that he would be every team's target if they somehow hit the podium first.

NHL Central Scouting released their rankings today and Hall was not the top OHL player. It's not the first time I've seen another name at the top and in my opinion, should the Carolina Hurricanes end up with that 1st overall pick... I'm not convinced that Hall would be their guy either. I think it would be Tyler Seguin.

Seguin got off to a very hot start, he's cooled off a bit but for a while, he led the OHL in scoring. Hall has since past him by but Seguin's first impression in his draft year will stick with scouts. The Ontario native has 36 points in 18 games, he's missed 4 games due to injury, yet still leads his team in scoring by 9 points.

Seguin was on our show a few weeks ago and he talked about how great the Plymouth Whalers organization is from top to bottom. It might sound a bit like a conspiracy theory but the owner of that OHL franchise happens to also own the Carolina Hurricanes and it wouldn't be the first time that the pipeline between Plymouth and Raleigh was used.

2008 2nd round - Zac Dalpe (C) Penticton Vees (OHL rights... Plymouth)
2008 4th round - Michal Jordan (D) Plymouth
2007 5th round - Chris Terry (LW) Plymouth
2007 6th round - Brett Bellemore (D) Plymouth
2004 8th round - Jonas Fiedler (RW) Plymouth
2001 4th round - Rob Zepp (G) Plymouth
2000 2nd round - Tomas Kurka (LW) Plymouth
2000 4th round - Jared Newman (D) Plymouth
1999 6th round - Damian Surma (LW) Plymouth
1998 3rd round - Kevin Holdridge (D) Plymouth
signed UFA - Chad Larose (RW) Plymouth

Call me crazy but as of right now I won't be surprised to see Tyler Seguin taken 1st overall by the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.


Unknown said...

Have to say I LOVE the idea of a prospects channel. Down here in the states there is even more of a dearth of coverage - occasionally (here in Seattle) on the big cable packages we'll get a Fox Sports local network from the midwest that might show NCAA games but we're mostly out of luck for the CHL, except for on-demand replays of Thunderbirds games. I think it would work great as either a stand-alone network (like the Fox Soccer Channel) or a subscription service like Center Ice.

Guy Flaming said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one Noel! Thanks!

Marc said...

My favourite NCAA tradition is 'Pelt Princeton', when Dartmouth hosts Princeton. Following Dartmouth's first goal fans shower the ice with tennis balls.

It apparently started some years ago when Princeton (who play in orange) fans threw oranges on the ice following their first goal. At the rematch in Hanover - and every home game against Princeton since then - Dartmouth (who play in green) fans throw tennis balls.

It's a fantastic spectacle - but one that unfortunately leads to a delay of game penalty for the home team.

Guy Flaming said...

Nice... thanks Marc!

Nathan Fournier said...

Love the Prospect channel idea...When the opposing team gathers in a huddle after the national athems at UMaine...the student section chants Orgy...Orgy...Orgy