Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Andy Baggot has an interesting piece in today’s Wisconsin State Journal about college hockey teams being put in a tough position because of the new CBA:
When the NHL lockout ended last month, it was thought college hockey would be one of the big beneficiaries. The new CBA featured a major reduction in entry-level salaries, which spawned the belief talents like Eaves would be more inclined to stay in school all four years.
Except the new CBA also mandates if a college player doesn’t sign with his NHL club by Aug. 15 of his graduation year, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Previously, a NHL team had signing rights until a year after graduation.
Rather than have their hands forced three or four years down the road, NHL general managers have stated they will be more intent on signing college underclassmen now. Eight schools have already been affected, including Colorado College and Michigan, which have lost two underclassmen apiece.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Responding to a few emails I’ve received:
Heshey Bears NHL Affiliation
The Hershey Bears have officially parted ways with the Colorado Avalanche now that the Bears’ season is over.
Regarding a new affiliation, from the Patriot-News:
The Washington Capitals still appear to be the front-runner, but no deal has been signed. The expectation is that an affiliation announcement won’t come this week.
“We’ve been working extensively trying to secure an NHL affiliate,” said Doug Yingst, Bears president-GM. “It would be our goal and objective to hopefully have an answer within two weeks.”
The Frozen Four in Florida
South Florida is out of the running for the 2009, 2010 or 2011, but Tampa is one of six finalists.
The selection committee will visit Tampa on April 22, and each city will make a presentation at an NCAA hockey meeting in Indianapolis in June. The host cities will be announced in September.
The other finalists are the FleetCenter in Boston; the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.; the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia; the MCI Center in Washington; and Ford Field in Detroit.
I’ve only been to one game in Tampa (spring of 2004, against the NY Islanders), and it was a nice arena. There were plenty of fans, many who seem to have gotten hockey down, although there was still a good amount of instruction throughout the game. It didn’t seem like there was anything else going on in the area at that time.
The northern cities have a good advantage in terms of location. It’s not just about being a “hockey market” than it is about possibly having the teams involved be local (making it much easier to sell tickets). Although, lets be honest, is anyone in Minnesota really going to complain about going to Florida in early spring? I doubt it.
Maybe Alabama-Huntsville, the only southern Division I team, will make the tourney that year (they were a win away this year, losing in the CHA title game to Bemidji State), giving the UAH fans a nicer commute.
Good luck Tampa.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
So my NCAA prediction didn’t turn out quite like I wanted, but I was still happy with it. See, I made it over a month ago while giving a friend my thoughts on the NCAA season so far. I watched a good amount of college hockey this year until Cablevision took the Fox Sports channels away from me.
North Dakota had a good amount of games televised this season and I was very impressed with Jordan Parise. He did well in the tourney too, shutting out BU, holding off #3 ranked BC (looking at INCH’s power rankings pre-tourney) and helping his team to the finals.
I was able to watch the last few minutes of the first period until the end on a plane (Delta Song). It was competitive when I turned it on, but it became clear during the second period that it was Denver’s game. Freshman goaltender Peter Mannino took home the Most Outstanding Player award. Mannino had a solid tournament, although I would have given MOP to junior forward Gabe Gauthier, who received a good amount of praise from the ESPN crew as well.
One thing that was mentioned briefly was South Florida submitting a bid to host the 2009, 2010 or 2011 Frozen Four. Barry Melrose wasn’t high on the idea, but I beg to differ. The Panthers may have been 17th in attendance in 2003-04, but it’s not like the fans had much to hope for. But the Panthers aren’t the only South Florida hockey team. The ECHL’s Florida Everblades lead the ECHL in attendance. Sure, they don’t have to fill large arenas, but they’ve had a solid following for years.
I happened to catch a Blades game last Friday against the Columbia Inferno. Nashville Predator Shane Hnidy has been playing with the Everblades, but he wasn’t in the lineup last Friday. Buffalo Sabre, and former Everblade, Eric Boulton is playing with the Inferno and his play was noticeable during the game.
About a week or so before the game I looked into getting four tickets. The best seats available were in the last row mid-offensive zone. The Everblades home, Germain Arena, seats 7080 and I was impressed already that those seats were the best available.
When we arrived to the game, about 20 minutes before it started, the lot was pretty full already. $5 for parking for a AA hockey game seemed like a few bucks too much, but tickets were pretty cheap so there wasn’t any real complaining.
In we went, none of us having been to a minor league hockey game before. It was like an NHL game, only smaller. The normal concession stands were around the one-level concourse and except for the team logos, nothing seemed out of the ordinary for us. Lots of people around, many of them wearing team t-shirts and jerseys.
On to the game: the action was good, open. You can tell that you’re not watching the best talent in the world, but the players were trying and there was some good flow to the game. Some noticeable differences to the NHL game: touch-up offsides and automatic icing. It was nice watching a game with touch-up offsides again. Each team dresses sixteen skaters and two goalies. I never counted, but it seemed like each team might have had one less player or so. Either way, you got used to the names on the ice very quickly with the shorter rosters. The ECHL also goes to a shootout if the game is tied at the end of a five minute overtime.
We were disappointed that Hnidy wasn’t playing, but Boulton was there, so we still had an NHLer to compare to everyone else, even though he may not be All-Star material. Boulton played an aggressive game and was challenged many times by Brandon Coalter, but Boulton wasn’t interested in dropping his gloves.
We were treated to some fun hockey and the best part was the fans knew it. They were a quiet crowd, but I’m used to NY crowds, so most other cities seem to be more quiet to me. However, they were cheering for all the right things a hockey crowd should cheer for. Nice saves, good plays, big hits and even clears on the penalty kill.
The Blades had a solid game, leading 4-1 with a little over 5 minutes to go. However, they collapsed on the lead and the game ended in a tie when the third period ended. After a scoreless overtime we were “treated” to a shootout. I use the word treated liberally because I’m not really a fan of shootouts. The first four players on each team missed their shots and then both of the #5 guys scored. After five players it’s sudden death in the shootout. The Inferno sent out their #6 man, Eric Boulton. Boulton fakes a shot and then gets it by former Northern Michigan goalie Craig Kowalski, who hadn’t played in months due to a groin injury. Reggie Berg couldn’t convert for the Blades and crowd walked out stunned while the Inferno celebrated as though they just won the championship (it was a nice comeback, but it was an even bigger celebration). I’m still not a fan of shootouts. Kinda fun, but not enough that I want games to be decided that way, nor can I see it still being fun after a few of them.
Another thing to note about the game is there was little instruction given to the crowd. The basics were announced and the only explanations about gameplay were about the overtime and shootout rules. It was another sign that this was a good hockey crowd. What? In Florida? Yes, South Florida apparently likes hockey. Makes me wonder about the other “bad market” in Georgia, home of the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators. The Gladiators are behind only the Everblades in average attendance. I don’t want to suggest hockey can do well in the south though, some northern heads may explode and we might lose a scapegoat for hockey’s problems.
In the end we had a good time while watching some live hockey, and that’s all we were looking for. Dare I even say it was good enough to make me think that replacement players would have a shot at working (with low ticket prices), especially with some higher level talent mixed in.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Been a little slow to post it, but quick to say it to anyone who’s been listening: I’ve been predicting North Dakota to win the NCAA championship tomorrow night. Jordan Parise‘s played great leading up to the tournament and has been solid throughout it so far, he should win Most Outstanding Player if the Sioux win. The final game will be broadcast on ESPN 7pm ET.
In other college hockey news, Colorado College forward Marty Sertich won the Hobey Baker award.