Archive for the ‘hockey’ Category


I took a bit of a break yesterday from the rigours of summer training and the heat and went to watch a beginners recreational game that I knew was on. Well I knew it was on as my wife plays for the team I was watching. I didn’t really know what to expect from the game, after all what could a group of “beginners” (playing against other beginners) offer me. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised.

Sure I wasn’t watching hockey at its fastest, but I actually found myself getting really into the game and before I knew it, I was watching with bated breath as each scoring opportunity unfolded and the goalies at both ends of the ice were jumping in front of the puck and battling through traffic.

What I found great about the game was something that I think I often forget in hockey and in the midst of a game or, in fact, the season is that it should be fun. The smiles, the high fives, the encouragement that was shown to each other on the bench was something really great to watch. More to the point, the players on the team were living and breathing every moment of the game. For some it was their first game of their lives, for others it was the first game of their season. It’s not often you see players coming off the ice after a shift with a smile on their face, even if they didn’t score. The reason why they were smiling was because they were having fun.

My wife actually said to me when she joined the team that “I know I’m not going to be a superstar in hockey, what I really want is to enjoy it and have fun with it.” I think that sentence and statement epitomises what the game essentially is. We all got into hockey, either playing or watching, because it is fun. I think the fun is what drives us to the rink again and again to play the game, or to watch our teams. For some players at the top of their game, the fun has turned into something serious, a bread winner, a profession and sometimes it is difficult for guys to remember that we need to have fun with the game and enjoy every moment within the game.

Hockey can give us so much, whether we are spectators or players. It can give us some of the greatest memories that we have and friendships. It is the achievements, seeing your team do well or your personal skills as a player come forward in leaps and bounds.

However, at least with me, sometimes we forget the fun of it. We play the game to win and we rev our minds and our bodies to do whatever it takes to win. When the big W’s come, hockey is a lot of fun and we are smiling, but when the string of losses come round we forget to have fun and things become tense. We often hear professionals in the midst of a losing streak say “We just got to go out there and have some fun with it”, and it is true. If you’re not having fun, things are not working.

I know I’m a bad loser as I always want to win and everything, mentally, is geared towards doing anything it takes to win, but when all of that turns into a loss, the disappointment can be too much to take and the game you fell in love with can start to feel like a chore.

Even if my wife’s team lost yesterday, I didn’t see a single disappointed player on their team. I know I would’ve been grumpy for days after a 5-6 loss. However, these guys were happy with their performance, despite losing the lead late in the game. They had fun. They came together to enjoy the game and I think (as a spectator) that they were overjoyed by the fact they scored five goals. The smiles they had on their faces after each shift made me wish I could do the same.

In-fact, thanks to these guys, I have now added another emblem on my gloves. I have for years played with the word SISU written on the palm of my left glove, but it’s now accompanied by the word SMILE, to remind me to enjoy and have fun with the game.

Thanks Basingstoke Raptors for reminding me of something that I sometimes forget and take for granted.


If the IIHF World Championships haven’t received enough negative press due to the high ticket prices and the near empty arenas, further devastation for the games came as the headline sponsor Skoda is considering its investment with the games.

Skoda has been the headline sponsor of the World Championships for twenty years and has become synonymous with the games. Year on year Skoda has displayed its latest models at the games and was most recently one of the parties that brought the World Championships games on to YouTube. Finnish tabloid Ilta-Lehti has quoted Skoda’s Swedish PR chief Mikael Sandberg who said that “the spectator numbers have been below expectations and as the headline sponsor we need to react. What exactly will happen, I don’t know.”

According to Swedish Dagens Media news portal, Skoda is blaming the organisers of the games for the high ticket prices, which have been sited for the low attendance at the games. However, Skoda has apparently been pleased over the decision to lower the ticket prices.

 

(Edit) According to the Finnish representative for Skoda, Helkama Auto, Skoda has an agreement with the IIHF until 2017. Though the Finnish and Swedish offices don’t really have a say in whether or not Skoda will review its sponsorship strategy, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the company decided to review its investment after the current world championships. Where it is likely that Skoda will be on board until 2017, it might look at 2012 as a turning point of the agreement, specially as the 2013 IIHF world championships will be hosted by Sweden and Finland again.

 

The second headline sponsor of the IIHF World Championships, Kyocera, is more careful about its assessment and critique as Bo Gustavson, director of marketing for the Nordics said “Obviously we want there to be as many spectators as possible. Unfortunately, we can’t control the ticket prices for the games.”

Losing the main sponsor would be a heavy blow to the World Championships as I for one have become to associate Skoda with hockey and the World Championships. IF the worst case scenario takes place, it will be a tough job finding a new headline sponsor in the current climate. Though having said that, even DHL forked out a dumb amount of money to have its logo appear on the Manchester United training kit, so I guess if the World Championships brand appeals to a company anything is possible. I have to get a snipe in here and say that with these ticket prices, it would be fitting if the headline sponsor was a luxury goods company.

Since Finland announced new ticket gategories (Fan package and Family Package) to the Finland vs France game and Finland vs Kazakhstan game, the ticket sales has picked up. Infact the organisers reported that the game against France has been sold out and that there were only a few tickets remaining for the Kazakhstan game (reported yesterday).

However, in Globen, the game between Czech Republic and Norway saw only 800 spectators fill the seats. Norway’s Mads Hansen said “It was boring. I’ve played in several World Championship games, but this felt like an exhibition game somewhere in the Italian alps. Sweden is a hockey country and I would’ve expected more than this.”

It will be interesting to see how the arenas fill up with the reduced prices. 800 spectators at an international tournament is a bit of a travesty. I’ve seen more spectators than that in some bush league games.


(Edit: I’ve had an issue with WordPress and the HTML code, where the formatting looks pretty messy right now, I’m going to attempt to tweak it tomorrow)

I’ve been wanting to do a post about the latest hockey gear that’s come out. There’s always been a part of me that’s been really interested in the different makes out there and how the kit differs from one another. Before I go any further, I must stress that this is only based on information and marketing collateral, rather than my own opinion. I would absolutely love to review these products properly, so if any of the manufacturers read this are into the idea, drop me a line.

We start off with Bauer. Bauer has been a staple of the hockey world for, probably as long as hockey has been around. Since getting rid of the Nike Bauer brand, the company has brought out some of the most preferred equipment we see the NHL Pros use.

Skates:
Bauer has brought out the Bauer Supreme Total One NXG to accompany the APX to its flagship range of skates. The Total One NXG features a new TUUK fusion blade, which has been designed to reduce the weight of the runner by 27%. As with most skates today, a lot of attention is being paid to the fit. The emphasis is on getting the skate as comfortable as possible and the Total ONE NXG features a new insole that supposedly gives a better fit and more responsive skate.

Helmet:
The one big thing that Bauer has brought out is the RE-AKT helmet. The helmet takes its look from the HH4500 helmet. Rather annoyingly I’ve seen some adverts and sites advertise the helmet with the ‘passes the mirror test’ tag, which is just a personal pet peeve of mine. The RE-AKT has been designed to reduce the risk of concussion from direct impact to the head. At impact, the helmet’s SUSPEND-TECH free floating liner should move independently from the VERTEX FOAM liner to should reduce excessive intra-cranial movement.  Phew, don’t you just love these terms SUSPEND-TECH, VERTEX FOAM. Wow

Sticks:

While during the playoffs, I have seen many players use a new-ish TotalOne stick I haven’t seen further details of it emerge as yet so I don’t know what to say about it. However, the Bauer Vapor APX stick has been around for a while, but I thought that I’d include it in the round up anyways. Bauer claims that it is the smartest stick in the history of the game. The stick supposedly fits all types of shots and combines the Intelli-Sense Shot Technology and Bauer TotalOne’s blade to give it that soft feel.

CCM:

CCM has been a brand I’ve been using ever since Koho was swallowed up by the Hockey Company. I used Koho sticks/blades nearly my whole life. For the roundup, CCM doesn’t have a new skate to include as it is going with its U+ CL skate. Perhaps the biggest additions to the range is in the field of the protective equipment.

CCM has expanded its U+ CL range to the protective equipment and should a player wear CL shoulder pads, CL elbow pads, CL shin guards, CL skates, CL gloves (introduced last year) and use a CL stick, the overall equipment weight would be reduced by 25% compared to other manufacturers. Impressive, but my main question is: If it’s that light, will it be any good at protecting the body. There is also the CS, or Crazy Strong, variant of the equipment line available as well.

Shoulder pads

The CL pads feature CCM’s U-foam caps and molded floating ventilated sternum. The U-Foam has also been utilised in the body of the body of the shoulder pads. The pads look pretty decent, but I’d have to get my hands on them to see what they are really like. There isn’t much else to report on the pad and its features apart from the fact that it contains a lot of U-Foam.

Elbow pads

The CL elbow pads feature a 3-piece construction and reinforced caps. The pads come with a neoprene wrap in the liner and also features neoprene in the elbow bed for improved fit. For the forearm and bicep there is U-Foam protection.

Shin guards:

The CL shinguards feature vented caps and an anatomical shell design. The thigh guard can be removed for a bit of customisation. I personally don’t like the thigh guard in my pads so it’s good to see that it continues to be a removable feature. The knee bed is segmented with neoprene lock zone, which should ensure that the pads stay in place and provide additional comfort. The pads are attached with cross strapped in the back, which allows for the calf wrap to provide protection to the back of the leg.

Sticks

The CL stick hasn’t really changed much since the last re-vamp of it. It now carries the name of CCM CL Midnight. Otherwise the features of the stick looks the same. The biggest improvements as far as I can see on paper are in the construction. CCM has introduced something it calls True Spear technology which is supposed to ensure optimal energy transfer for shots.

The other stick is the U+ Pro, which comes weighing in at 455 grams. Like the CL Midnight, it uses aerial grade carbon to make it a lightweight stick. The blade uses PRB Graphite technology to create a similar sweet spot for an accurate shot. Like the CL the stick also includes the true spear technology.

Perhaps the most interesting stick from the CCM Staple is the RBZ, which is set to come out in Fall 2012. We’ve seen pictures of it and know it’s been used by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landesgok and that it’s been designed in partnership with the golf company TaylorMade. That’s all I’ve managed to dig out on the stick so far.

 

 

 

For great deals on top of the range hockey equipment, please click on the image below:


When Canada last won the world championship in ice hockey, I read an article where it said that Canada had turned a new leaf in its approach to the world championships. In all the hegemony, the Canadians were saying that they no longer viewed the games as a guys holiday, with a chance to play some hockey in between and that every player there was playing to make their country proud.
The same could not be said of some of the Canadian players at the 2012 team. Three days into the games and what has Canada done? Played a sluggish game against Slovakia  and then lost to the USA in overtime. Before the Slovakia game it was reported that Canada cancelled its morning skate and a short while after it emerged that the Canadian players had been sampling the wares at Henry’s Pub in Helsinki.

After the USA game reports emerged that the Canadians were parting until 3am at Circus in Helsinki. There were a few tweets that suggested that there would’ve been fisticuffs involved at the end of the night as well, but no official word on the fight have emerged.

(EDIT 11:14BST 08/05/12) There have been further updates on what has supposedly been said and I thought that I’d update the story. Getzlaf reportedly shook his fist and said “You don’t want any of this” and reportedly said that he would “knock everyone out in three minutes.” It would appear that the initial reports of the scuffle weren’t as bad as first thought, but there was some shouting. Some outlets have also reported that Getzlaf also shouted he was the captain of the Anaheim Ducks. Maybe not the smartest thing to shout at the heat of the moment, given that Finns follow the Ducks closely because of one Teemu Selanne. The original text that appeared in this blog can now be read at the bottom of the story.

IF the Canadians keep going like they are they will be one of the biggest disappointments of the games. There are two players on that roster that have looked like they actually want to be there and play for their country and that’s Jeff Skinner and John Tavares. All the Getzlaf’s, Corey Perry’s and the like are in summer holiday mode. Getzlaf even admitted that he did not play or get on the ice for a month before the tournament. Is this the type of player you want wearing the C for your team? Is this a good example of leadership? The only thing Getzlaf is capable of leading at the moment is the off ice activities for Canada. I think he picked out a few favourite joints to hang out in during the NHL opener in Helsinki.

I tweeted last night saying that Ducks should seek to trade Getzlaf. He is on the final year of his contract, but I don’t think the Ducks should commit their long term future to a player who is good when he wants to be. Getzlaf can be a great player when he wants to be, but most of the time he looks like he doesn’t want to be.

As for Canada for the rest of the tournament? You can never count them out, that’s for sure, but will all the off ice activities and enjoying a roadie with the boys lead to the teams’ demise and out of the medal games. It’s OK to party to get the game out of your system, but when you are playing for your country, make sure that you do it in the off season, not the night before the game.

 

——————————————————————————–

Original excerpt from above:

More details have emerged from the Canadian players’ night out on town. There was a bit of a scuffle at the bar when Ryan Getzlaf took exception to a group of Finnish men at the bar. There had been some back and forth verbalisation before slight pushing and shoving. Getzlaf reportedly shoke hist fist vigorously and said “Don’t make me use this, I will strike you all down.” The bouncers broke up the blossoming brawl, and moved the players out of the club, but there was more shouting outside.


EDIT: Please see post here about recent developments: http://pushforpros.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/iihf-world-championships-iihf-bins-live-youtube-streams/

The news has literally just broken on Twitter with the IIHF announcing that all of the games from the 2012 Ice Hockey World Championships will be streamed live via YouTube.

In a move that resembles the KHL’s startegy of showing games free of charge on YouTube, is bound to attract more fans to look at the games and watch the videos. However, it is still expected that the IIHF will offer paid for packages for the games where you can buy rights to watch the games of your chosen team.

However, the offer is not available to all as some countries have been geo-blocked. The list of Geo-Blocked countries includes: Belarus, Denmark, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and the USA. EDIT: It has now emerged (at 14:46 GMT) that the games will also be geo-blocked in Finland.

(Edit: I have deleted the paragraph about the Finnish TV rights for the games) I can only suspect that the YouTube streaming would’ve hurt the TV and media partners of the games, though I doubt that the decision to stream the games came from the Helsinki/Stockholm organising committee but from the IIHF itself. However, it is a welcome move to offer the games via YouTube.

I for one (based on my geographic location) applaud the IIHF’s decision to move. It is a bold new strategy and will expose the sport to a wider fan base, which will be great for the sport.

The YouTube channel can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/icehockey.

The schedule for the games is here: http://www.iihf.com/competition/272/home-oc/tournament-info/game-schedule.html Please note that the game times are in Swedish and Finnish times respectively.

Your move NHL!


As I’ve now been doing my off ice and off season training for two weeks, it has suddenly hit me that my body actually has a lot more to give in terms of being on the ice.

As I’m writing this, I am watching the last game for the Canadiens in the regular season. Earlier today I intensely followed the Finnish elite league play-offs and read odd bits and pieces on Facebook and twitter about the English Elite League playoff weekend (which is a dumb format by the way, but more about that later)

As the saying goes, spring is the best time for a hockey player. The sun is coming out and the dark of the winter is gone and you feel energised. I’ve always looked forward to this time of the year as a player; it used to be the time for playoffs if you were that lucky, or when I was playing rec hockey, it was the start of the season. But now the season is over for me, but with the team finishing in a playoff position (in most leagues anyways) I feel sort of hollow.

Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of what we achieved this season, but I feel we could’ve done a lot more. I guess this feeling has it’s roots in a twitter conversation I had with Boone Jenner, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect. He asked me what do we play for if we don’t have playoffs?

Well in honesty I love playing hockey, but not having playoffs is a real downer to the season. You play your heart out, but at the end of the day its like soccer where the team that finishes first gets crowned champions.

Seriously what is the point in that? I know there are probably hundred and one issues around it like money and ice time and blah blah blah, but let’s look at it from this point of view: nearly all European leagues, pro or not, have playoffs in place. And I don’t mean stupid playoff weekends, but proper playoff series, best of seven series’ etc. The main argument I’ve heard for playoffs is that the hickey teams don’t own the rinks, I’m going to be using Finland as an example here, but back home only one team owns it’s own rink, well sort of. The team is Jokerit. If a professional league where teams don’t own their own rinks can arrange playoffs can arrange and schedule playoffs it surely can’t be that difficult to arrange them. Hell, even the rec league I played in had playoffs (Cue stuff about summer leagues and more ice time available blah blah blah).

Maybe I’m just bitter that I’m not playing playoff hockey or at least have the chance to play for a playoff spot. How ever, I can’t change the league and the way they manage things, but o think it’s a high time for them to wake up and stop treating hockey like it’s soccer. It ruins the game.


Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Granlund’s and this article is not to criticise him, but rather look at how he has coped since rising to stardom in his native Finland.

 

Mikael Granlund, the supremely talented Finnish forward, has seen more column inches than any Finnish hockey player not playing in the NHL in recent years, or dare I say it decades. Granlund was known as a promising player and had garnered some international attention prior to his 9th overall draft pick by the Minnesota Wild.

 

It wasn’t until the 2011 World Championships that Mikael Granlund played himself to the knowledge of the entire hockey world and at the same time cursed himself with the amazing air-hook goal he scored against Russia in the semi-finals. I write cursed himself, only because it seems to be the only thing the Finnish media has been asking him for the past year and every time someone somewhere scores a similar goal and it goes viral, the press and in particular the tabloid press, pick up on it and say “Better airhook goal than Granlund’s.”

 

Yes Mikael Granlund is a super talent, and one like Finland has not had in a long while. He is a legitimate player that can bring something to the table at Minnesota right off the bat. Where he is not (yet) physically the size of some of the other players he will be playing against, he showed his fearlessness and determination in the Russia game in the World Championships when he finished hits against players such as Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuck. The only downside I can see with Granlud’s stature is that whether he will be able to take the hits in the NHL.

 

I’m not taking anything away from the professionals in the Finnish league, but I’m going to stick my neck out there and say that the NHL is far more physical and the hits far harder than they are in the SM-Liiga and how Granlund will cope with that remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that he has a history of concussion and missed significant amount of time last year when he mistimed a hit and crashed into the boards head first.

 

The latest topic of discussion around Granlund around the SM-Liiga playoffs has been whether or not he is tired. The young man has been used for PR duties and he has also played the world juniors, where he got a lot of criticism of his missed penalty shot at the crucial time. Hero one minute, villain the next. As a captain of the team, Granlund shouldered the responsibility of the loss, but it looked like it was all becoming too much for him.

 

Granlund has also missed a lot of time with the flu and as a result missed almost the latter part of the regular season and has only returned for the playoffs. After such a long time off with a persistent disease, Granlund has not been at his optimal level as has been pointed out by many hockey journalists in Finland.

 

After the playoffs eventually come to an end for HIFK, Granlund who was second in the point scoring race in the league, will likely be chosen to play for Team Finland in the World Championships. There’s nothing wrong with being chosen for the team, its just that the games are in Finland. After last years’ triumph I can expect that the media will be on the players like piranhas and every move will be scrutinised on the ice by respectable journalists and those who are only looking for stories on how drunk the players got and what Miss Finland contestant they are dating. My advice to the latter would be not to bother. You’ll do a bigger favour to the team by staying at home and let the team do what they are there to do; play hockey.

 

In nearly every video interview I’ve seen of Granlund of late, he is visibly agitated by the interviews as he has to answer same questions over and over again “Something something about airhook goal?” “How tired are you?” “How much fun is it to play hockey”. I can only expect that the media interest will get higher as the games get closer and Granlund is already losing some amount of sleep over it. The kid is under huge pressure, specially if he is chosen for the World Championships team. The coach Jukka Jalonen has been good on the front that he hasn’t overloaded Granlund with the (in my view) insignificant Euro Hockey Tour games.

 

Which actually leaves Jalonen with a tricky call. Name Granlund to the team even if he is tired and still recovering from the flu bug and not at peak condition, or leave him out and give him time to rest. If the latter, Jalonen might be crucified by the fans and if MG is not at 100% shape, will the fans and so on crucify him for playing sub par?

Granlund has always been a level headed player and is so much fun to watch on the ice. In fact, looking at pictures or videos of him on the ice, show that he is truly happy to be out there. There are no outside distractions and its just pure enjoyment for hockey. To me there are more brilliant plays than the airhook goal. Granted some of the moves/plays have not lead to a goal, but the kid is not afraid to try something new. He is super creative on the ice.

 

As and when he does make the move to the NHL, and if the Minnesota Wild website is anything to go by, he will be in the show next season. There will be media interest from the local press as well as that on a national scale, but Granlund, to a greater extent is an unknown in the league. Sure people have seen what he is capable of, but he is still a rookie in the league.

 

For some reason, I have a feeling that Granlund will actually relish the move across the pond, if for nothing else, he wouldn’t have to answer any more inane questions about the damn airhook goal.