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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Round Two Predictions and Other Notes

Just took a look at my first round predictions.   Not bad... not too bad I must say.  In the Eastern Conference, I nailed 3/4 series and the correct number of games, failing only in the Mississauga/Barrie series as I had Barrie in 5.  Full credit to the Steelheads for stretching the Colts, and exposing some flaws and inconsistency.  Barrie coughed up a 3-0 lead, losing 6-3 and then got thumped 7-0 in Game 6.  You can't have games like that in the playoffs going forward if you expect to have a deep run.   Game 6 was a real red flag as Barrie completely lost their collective minds and formed a steady parade to the penalty box with some horribly undisciplined play.   In the West, I, like many misfired on Sarnia and Sault Ste Marie as I had Sarnia in 6.  The rest I got right, though I only correctly picked Erie to sweep  Saginaw.   

I will say it was a great first round of hockey for the OHL. Normally with the selling off of assets by lower ranked teams, you get the ice tilted a fair bit, but to have three game 7's made for one heck of a night of channel flipping, and who would have thought that Sportsnet would grab a Tuesday night game for their network? Gotta give RJ Broadhead and Sam Consentino a lot of props for the work they do.  Even though the travel can be taxing and they are not covering a regular team, these guys are always prepared and call a very good game.   

Enough preamble- On to the second round!   

ICEDOGS OVER KINGSTON IN 6
Here's the thing.  My choices in this were Kingston in 5 or the IceDogs in 6.  Weird split right?   Even though the IceDogs played some of their best hockey at times versus Ottawa, there is always that inconsistent green monster that can rear its ugly head with the IceDogs.    To me, it all comes down to goaltending.  This is the series that the IceDogs got Alex Nedelkjovic for and I think he will be the difference maker in this series.    That said for Kingston Hevig and Peressini are a pretty formidable duo in net too.  Add in Lawson Crouse, Michael DalColle, Warren Foegle and Spencer Watson, you can see why Nedelkjovic will have to be at his best.   I haven't been called a homer in a while, so if you want to call it a homer pick be my guest! (But you'd be wrong)

NORTH BAY OVER BARRIE IN 6
Another one in which no one would begrudge me if I said Barrie in 6.   Barrie's inconsistency was unnerving to watch.  They were terrible at times vs Mississauga.  Plus, Dylan Sadowy missed Game 7 , and who knows if MacKenzie Blackwood is 100%?  North Bay fought hard to win a seven game series over Peterborough, who were a lot of people's sleeper pick for good reason. Stan Butler normally has his teams prepared and disciplined and have in my opinion one of the top 3 or four players in the league in Mike Amadio.   He will have plans for Justin Scott, who potted 10 goals in the series versus Mississauga

LONDON OVER KITCHENER IN 6
I was surprised that Kitchener only needed five games to beat Windsor, but many of those games were close and Windsor blew many a lead during the series.  Plus, Windsor lost Brendan Lemieux for a couple of games in the series.  In short, Kitchener got a break or two in the series and took full advantage of it.  London lost Max Jones for what could the be rest of the playoff run, but can roll out a plethora of offensive talent with the likes of Dvorak, Tkachuck, Marner. Tyler Parsons played well, and he needed to be at his best against an Owen Sound team that was relentless.  I like London's talent level, if they can stay somewhat disciplined.  

ERIE OVER THE SOO IN 5 GAMES
You have to give the Soo tons of credit.   Sarnia had a sold out building and a crowd waiting to bust out as the Sting were on the brink of the second round.   The Sting even opened the scoring, but the Soo remained composed and used the talents of Zack Senyshyn Gustav Bouramman among others and outstanding goaltending by Brandon Halverson to win Game seven on the road, not small feat.     Erie had Devin Williams a little banged up but are well rested, and whatever uneven play they demonstrated late in the season they seemed to avoid in sweeping Saginaw.   Give this one to Erie in five hard fought games, and it would not surprise me to see a couple of these go to OT. 

FURTHER NOTES: 
The schedule for Kingston/ Niagara calls for the series to start Thursday and Friday evening with the good folks in Kingston handling the call for Cogeco.    Our crew will cover Sunday's game (start time 2pm) and Wednesday's game.

I noted how well Sportsnet cover the game of junior hockey.   They really do a bang up job with their production from the studio to the game coverage.  I suppose if there is one criticism, they could be a little more representative of all three leagues, but I have a feeling that travel budget may play a role.  Their NHL coverage has come under a lot of fire, much of it being unfair.     In a cost cutting move, one of the key men in bringing you NHL coverage was let go.  His name is Gord Cutler. I know people do not normally sprinkle sunshine and rainbows over Rogers, and they surely could get along fine without the likes of me defending them, but I have to say that they were dealt a lousy hand for the first two years of the deal.   They've had a lousy areLeafs team who have admitted that the playoffs are not on the radar.  This year they had a lousy Leafs team, a lousy Montreal team, a Connor McDavid injury, all the Canadian teams missing the playoffs, and even strong American draws like Boston, Pittsburgh and Detroit all guilty of indifferent play at times, and two of those teams may not make the playoffs.  It does not matter what bells and whistles you come up with, that is tough to overcome and Rogers has paid for it in the ratings. In TV land, less ratings mean less ad revenue.  When you have $5.2B to make up, then you can imagine the hand wringing.   Next year the luck cannot be that bad for them, and they can get ratings to rebound.  That said, they do need strong teams from Montreal and Toronto to help drive the ratings bus, and I expect there to be some coverage streamlining.  Good luck to them and hopefully the playoffs can provide good story lines! 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

OHL PLAYOFFS: ROUND 1 PREDICTIONS

A rare "Ice Accretion Day" has given me a little more time to pontificate and ruminate on the OHL playoffs, which start tonight.  I'm normally lousy at predictions, as past records in NCAA Tournament pools would attest.   As I did not follow college basketball at all this year (Thank you mediocre Georgetown!),consequently I did not fill out a pool.  Upon hindsight, the usual trend is the more I know the worse I do, so maybe I should have filled one out this year.   

Predicting the OHL playoffs can be just as fraught with angst as trying to fill out an NCAA bracket.  You're dealing with roughly the same age range, though the NCAA's are a one off, and subject to upsets, while the OHL playoffs CAN be a little more predictable as over a long series the better team can usually prevail.  That said, making assumptions is when you start to get in trouble. 

Before the predictions, a little aside.  I took my 4 year old daughter to the Hershey Centre for the IceDogs season finale vs Mississauga.  Post-Game I was able to get pictures of my daughter with Josh Burnside, Sean Day, Alex Nylander and of course 'Sauga the mascot.   Many thanks to the players who were kind and gracious and helped make a little girl's day.  Apologies to all players though as Josh HoSang remains far away #1 in her heart.  She watches the game for the sole purpose of seeing HoSang either on the ice or on the bench.  Also, I am sure that those chatting with Alex Nylander were likely a little confused when I approached Alex for a picture as I was , at my daughters request, wearing a Hamilton Bulldogs cap, while she had on an IceDog cap and a Steelhead t-shirt, thanks to me leaping with a vertical beyond my years to snag a free t-shirt.   It may not have worked out quite that way, but it's my blog and I get to spin the narrative and stretch the truth when it suits me.   

On to the predictions, which I will keep brief. 

EASTERN CONFERENCE: 
KINGSTON OVER OSHAWA IN 5.  Kingston will finally get to exercise their post-season demons that have seen them not win a playoff round since the late 90's.  Last year's Memorial Cup winners get credit for making the post-season after losing a good portion of their core due to graduation and trades 

BARRIE OVER MISSISSAUGA IN 5:  A month ago, I might have played this differently.  Barrie has been very good and is playoff savvy.  Mississauga, at times, has spun their wheels.  Next year is the Steelhead's time .  X factor could be Mississauga G Jack Flynn, who has been outstanding this year while maintaining a heavy workload.  He could steal a game or two. 

NORTH BAY OVER PETERBOROUGH IN 7.  I almost had this as an upset special until I realized that the past couple of years, I have shown no faith in North Bay in the post season and have been burned by it.   I like the Petes as they're a veteran laden team, but North Bay and their veteran G Jake Smith, outstanding all around player Mike Amadio, and super OHL rookie Cam Dineen will ultimately win out. 

NIAGARA OVER OTTAWA IN 5.  With the IceDogs inconsistency, I am surprised myself that I am picking this squad in 5, but I am heavily relying on the fact that Ottawa is not as good as a team as they were last year, and on paper the IceDogs are a better team. 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
ERIE OVER SAGINAW IN 4.  Saginaw may steal a game and Erie had some eyebrow raising curious results down the stretch (an 8-0 drubbing vs Owen Sound being one of them).  Too much talent, and firepower for the Spirit to overcome. 

SARNIA OVER SAULT STE MARIE IN 6.  Sarnia, like Kingston, has some playoff demons to exorcise.  To my recollection they have not advanced past the first round since 2007-2008 when Steven Stamkos led them to the second round, where they promptly got blown out by Kitchener.  They will get a scare from the Soo, and will be better for it the rest of the playoffs. 

LONDON OVER OWEN SOUND IN 5.  London lost out to Erie for 1st in the conference the last day of the season, and thus becomes a highly touted 3 seed.   If I base Owen Sound on the two games in which they owned the IceDogs, I might predict a longer series.  London has a wealth of talent, and depth though I could see their highly undisciplined play be a factor at some point in the playoffs

WINDSOR OVER KITCHENER IN 7.  Kitchener too owned the IceDogs sweeping them in the season series, while the IceDogs swept Windsor.  I am throwing that small sample size out the window.  This should be a whale of a series.  Though the Rangers have home ice advantage, I'm going with Windsor, led by mercurial Brendan Lemieux in a minor upset.   

Steve Clark

Monday, February 22, 2016

THE WEEK THAT WAS..

While the title of this particular missive is "The Week That Was", the focus will be kept to an area of experience of which I feel comfortable talking about and is more closely aligned with what I cover.   I've found that few people really give a snap ( my 4 year old daughter says we should replace all potential bad words with the word "Snap".  I will follow that decree! ) about my thoughts on the Leaf tear down which so for as seen three players off-loaded, three picks and a player returned, and an unwanted Raffi Torres, marooned somewhere on AHL island. 

Lets get to the local and relevant stuff.  

ICEDOGS STRUGGLE. 

The natives are restless, the team cannot score and the coach is really, really snapped off (see earlier reference to snapped).  All this has resulted in a four game losing streak, two against opposition below them in the standings at the time in Mississauga and two versus the elite of the league in London and Kingston.    So the IceDogs cannot beat the teams below them, and really have no measuring stick games when it comes to stacking themselves up against the contenders in the league.  Purgatory is not a nice place to reside, and neither is the dog house.  Marty Williamson laid waste to his team after a listless 6-2 thumping at the hands of the Steelheads.   He had them running the stairs of the arena immediately after the game and then lambasted them in the newspapers, reserving some of his finest vitriol about the team for DJ Brooks and Matt Young of Niagara This Week.  If motivation by demotivation was the goal, it did not work as the IceDogs lost again on home ice to the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-2, and there were man-handled by the conference leading Kingston Frontenacs who used their back up Jeremy Helvig on route to a 4-0 shut-out.  The most positive thing that has happened was the cancellation of Saturday's game versus Ottawa was "rained out" . Apparently those who work in arena management could not control a leaky roof and after a couple of hours of thoughtful standing around and staring at the roof, it was ascertained that the roof was indeed leaking and subsequently the game was cancelled.  The IceDogs will get a chance to salvage something from the weekend tonight when the game is replayed tonight at 7pm in Ottawa.  Here's hoping the team can send the bill for their extra bus miles and hotel rooms to the 67's!   

Niagara This Week Article is : HERE

So what's wrong with the IceDogs, and can they right the ship in the last 12-13 games of the season ? 

1. TRADES HAVE NOT PANNED OUT
While the acquisitions of the likes of Michael DalColle by Kingston, and Travis Konecny by Sarnia have paid immediate dividends the same cannot be said of the IceDogs.    It's a little unfair to compare as the IceDogs kind of went for the "sum of their parts" attitude, but it is clear that Tyler Boston, Stephen Harper and Pavel Jenys are all scoring below their average before being traded.   Josh Wesley and Alex Nedelkjovic are in a holding pattern, but it is clear that none of the trade acquisitions have made the splash that was hoped. 

2. BREAKDOWNS/POOR DECISION MAKING
Several times mistakes have lead directly to goals.  Turnovers in their own zone from a player trying to do too much ended up in the back of the net.   It's a little bad luck as players do make mistakes and subsequently get bailed out, but some of these errors have been glaring and were committed by players who really should know better

3.SQUEEZING THE STICK
Offensively, the IceDogs have not scored more than three goals since January 29th, a 6-1 W over Sudbury.   There is a ton of offensive talent on this team, but it is really under performing.  Goalies have played well versus Niagara, but there are guys who are blindly shooting rather than placing and a lack of the gritty, drive the net , get the rebounds goals.   Offensively they have become predictable and this league that can catch up to you awfully fast. 

Is there reason for concern?  Yes. Does this mean that should abandon the S.S. IceDog as if your hair is on fire? Snap no!   The IceDogs can get hot in the last 8-10 games and head into the post-season with momentum.  Plus, really things are so tight 3-7 in the conference, you could pick the teams out of a hat at this point.  

RIVERLIONS FIRE COACH/GM
In a show of empathy towards their fellow Meridian Centre tenants, the RiverLions created a little news and controversy of their own by dismissing Head Coach/GM Ken Murray after coming out of the gate at 5-14.  A release by the team cited an "inability to close out games" as being a key factor.    While it is true, expansion teams are supposed to struggle, and there is no question that the RiverLions were highly competitive in most of their games.   Grace Lokole, the assistant and local product takes over for the balance of the year.  Also, what was curious was the timing of the release.  It was announced at 10pm on Saturday day night, hardily the optimal time to announce such a key change.   You could say the team was burying the lede, and trying not to call attention to the move but that is speculative on my part.    In another move, Windsor interim coach Tony Jones turned over the coaching reigns back to brother Bill who returns from exile/suspension after last year's Game 7 debacle.  Tony went out with a flourish by getting the boot for picking up two technicals in rapid succession.  If you were in the Meridian Centre on Friday, then you saw the last game coached by both Tony Jones and Ken Murray.  All teams qualify for the playoffs in the NBL, so the rest of the regular season will be used for positioning and momentum.  It is hoped that Niagara can derive some momentum for the rest of the year under the new coach. 

TIGER CATS SCHEDULE RELEASE
One of the recent trends in sports has been building up a schedule release as something that is vitally important to a fans life. It really is clever marketing as a game that might be considered to be a stop in the schedule, can be built up as a must attend/must watch game.  As a broadcaster, I always love the anticipation around the release of the OHL schedule, and schedule releases as a whole have become appointment viewing.  Fans love to plan road trips to various destinations, and just are plain curious to see how their teams schedules play out. The CFL rolled out is schedule in somewhat grand fashion, bookending the season around the Argos move to BMO Field. They will open the season in Toronto, and that is where the Grey Cup will be as well.  There is a sense that a move to an outdoor, grass facility will revitalize a fan base that was largely dormant at the too big and too impersonal Rogers Centre, and more along the lines of the revival in Montreal.   The hometown Hamilton Tiger Cats are the natural adversary for the first game at BMO, and their schedule was released with fanfare, player visits to radio stations.  The team is looking to build a little goodwill and continue the streak of sellouts at majestic Tim Horton's field.   

SPORTS RADIO NERD ALERT
There is a group of hardcore and casual people who follow both TSN 1050 and the FAN 590 and love to comment on the various personnel.   As someone who is invested in growing their sports media role, I rarely comment on personalities, unless it's positive, but there are some who are hardcore listeners and have strong opinions about all personalities.  Both stations have changed up their on-air roster, in much the same way a team changes their roster to find the right chemistry.  The Fan , via cutbacks said good bye to two on air personalities in Greg Brady and Jeff Sammut and will debut the Andrew Walker Show weekdays 1-4pm. Brady had formerly co hosted that show.  TSN 1050 practically detonated key elements of their lineup moving Mike Richards from the key AM drive slot to 1-4.  Moving the Leafs Lunch crews to the drive home time of 4-7, and re branding the show Overdrive.  Andi Petrillo hosts a one hour version of Leafs Lunch from 12-1 and the new morning team is Dave Naylor and Michael Landsberg.   That' s a lot of changes, but when you are behind in the ratings, it does not hurt to change things up.  It will give the listeners new destination listening, and also something to talk about.  Good luck to all that are new, and have been moved, and best of luck to those who were let go.  Both guys are too talented not to land on their feet. 

Until next time. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

NIAGARA RIVER LIONS OPEN WITH A BANG

Image result for RiverLIons logoImage result for RiverLIons logo\Image result for RiverLIons logo
Months and months of studying the demographics, finding out where your basketball fans are.

Goals of trying to fill the Meridian Centre, a tough building to fill.

Coach unveiling, team unveiling.  Logo unveiling. Colours and uniform unveiling.

Tirelessly banging the drum for a sport like basketball that often leaves a hollow beat, when talking about pro basketball. (Remember the Niagara Daredevils? Went belly up in a matter of months, the ending like a smashed barrel going over the Falls.

You work hard to put as many paying customers into the seats, not knowing what lies ahead.

Yep, minor league sports can be a bitch to promote, and reach the conscience of the casual sports fan,  the worst animal possible.

And yet, the best marketing happened in a split second.  Clinton Springer Williams, former star of the Carleton Ravens hits a fall away buzzer beating three pointer and ignites a Niagara basketball fan base and sends them deliriously into a crisp St Catharine's evening ready to hustle to Gords Place or Kully's, or any of the great Niagara establishments to talk about their latest heroes and relive each heart stopping moment of Niagara's newest team.

Aahh, there's nothing like a walk-off victory in your home opener, and 1st ever game at the sparkling Meridian Centre.   Yep, the RiverLions will be the talk of the town and hopefully will spill over into next Sunday's game at home, and the next game, and the next game.

You can do all the marketing you want. There is no better marketing than winning, and in such a dramatic fashion?  You couldn't script it any better.  They'll be clamouring for this performance at Niagara's Shaw Festival next year.

Heck, I was not even at the game and I felt compelled to write about it.  Watched some of last nights live stream, and watched the 1ast half of tonight's live stream, and wished I was there both nights.  Therein lies the rub.  People who wished they were at the home opener will want to buy a ticket and hope to catch the next great moment in RiverLions history. 2800 and change attended the game tonight.  It will seem like 10 000 were there as the buzzer beater will be relived time and time again.  

"You were there?  Me too, Section E. Saw you, meant to come over"   

Must admit, that I had my doubts and I'm a huge basketball gane. I got my broadcasting start calling OUA basketball and beat the drum for the sport for years.    Nothing against the team, but pro basketball has not fared well in these parts.  The last pro team with any success was the Hamilton SkyHawks of the early 90's. I was in my early 20's and cynical about the team.  Put me in my early 40's "Get off my lawn years", and cynicism becomes skepticism.

I still harbour high hopes for local basketball in this region.  Butch Carter's league the CBL, came out of the gate with a flourish, announcing a workable cost effective model and a deal with CHCH TV.  After some delay, the league is expected to be a go, though without Kitchener- Waterloo, hailed as one of its flagship franchises.  A quick perusal of their website sees Hamilton, Ottawa, Scarborough, and Vaughan in their schedule.    There are enough basketball fans to accommodate the two leagues, though will they support the worthwhile ventures?   

in 2007 the IceDogs came into this region with some of the same skepticism.   Here they are 9 years later, entrenched in the region, and without them the new Meridian Centre likely remains a parking garage.

2015, the RiverLions with their sharp, sharp uniforms, well regarded coach , and savvy marketing department might just make a permanent footprint in the Niagara Region.

Tonight, a basketball team arrived in the Niagara Region.  They just might entrench themselves like their hockey forefathers.

Steve Clark

Of Note:  I erroneously posted that Butch Carter's CBL was on hiatus until 2016.  That is incorrect as I was informed that the league will play this year.  The blog has been corrected to reflect this and I aplogize for the mistake. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

ON CHCH AND A TRULY BLACK FRIDAY

Image result for CHCH logo
Shocked.  

Stunned. 

Gutted.  

Blood Letting. 

It was a game of word association that no one wants to play.  It was the answer to the question that no one really wanted to answer.  The question?  

What was your immediate reaction to the bankruptcy of CHCH Television?  or Describe what happened at CHCH in one or two words.   

The story, by now, is well publicized.  CHCH TV , a Hamilton staple that just celebrated their 60th year on air was in deep trouble, hemorrhaging money and in a stunning turn of events on Friday, was basically turned on its ear.   Blown out the door were 138 full time workers, another 29 part time people.  About 50% of them might be hired back with "competitive wages", according to the company Channel Zero.   80 hours of local television would be scaled back to 17. 5.  Do the math and you see over a 75% reduction in local content.  Safe to say those who will be welcomed back will see their roles reduced. 

Those not welcome back?  A veritable who's who of Hamilton broadcasting.   Men and women woven into the steel fabric of the city for as long as you can remember. 

Matt Hayes, Ken Welch, Scott Urqhart, Lauran Sabourin, Mark Hebscher, Lori DeAngelis.   Can you imagine a CHCH TV without these dominant personalities?   These are people who were your TV friends, and were faces and voices that you connected with.  How hard will it be to turn on the television and not see Matt Hayes, and his smiling face not giving you the weather, or to seen Ken Welch deliver the sports in his own droll way, a man who was established in the Hamilton community and gave local sports a boost it would not have otherwise got?  

I will miss local issues show Square Off because it provided current events issues and debates.  I will miss the rapid fire content of Sportsline with Mark Hebscher and Bubba O'Neill.  I will miss the morning show that I tuned into regularly, now scaled back significantly.   Bob Cowan, Annette Hamm, Lori DeAngelis, Tim Bolen, Jaclyn Colville and Brian Wood were the staples of that show.  How many will we see in the new 2 hour model and how much local content will be delivered?   How on earth do you service Hamilton, Halton and Niagara with 17.5 hours of local news?   That is a population of over a million people.  How will their stories be told?  Niagara has been serviced with news by Lauran Sabarin and her camera man.  Both were not asked to return.  Will we just pretend that there is no news in Niagara to deliver?     

Probably the cruelest fact is the way the news got delivered.  Extra money deposited into an account covering up to date pay and vacation pay.   A sudden cancelling of news programming on Friday and a hastily arranged statement by the CEO delivered live on the TV station. It would be the only local programming delivered after the 4:00 hour.    Who cancels news programs for one day anyways?  The news should never stop, even when its the television station itself making the news.    A declaration of bankruptcy delivered the most punishing blow. It provided a back door escape route from paying loyal employees severance pay.   

While the news itself on Friday was stunning, the financial issues plaguing the station and the company were likely not exactly a shock to all involved.  Delivering 80 hours of local news programming a week is a costly venture, and that was even with a lot of the news cycle repeated, and a lot of the news canned.   Quite frankly the format was not working to what it should be and delivering local news was an increasingly expensive expenditure.   The national advertising sponsors were not there, and really it was a tough model for a national company to get behind.   A national sponsor for a TV station that promised local is a bit of an oxymoron.    

The CRTC has done the local model no favours either.   Scrapping a $5M local television fund for stations like CHCH removed a significant revenue stream, one that could not be made up no matter how much ad time Hamilton staple John Savidis bought, or how much air time the erstwhile Frank D'Angelo could buy.   The CRTC's recent  decision to basically open the doors to U.S. advertising for the upcoming SuperBowls on CTV sent Canadian advertisers scattering and was one of the factors that saw Bell reduced their own work force, with the media division taking a particularly large hit.

I will leave the financials, quite frankly, to those better equipped to do it.  All I know is that a lot of good people, good at their jobs, some you saw as friendly faces on TV and many you did not see behind the scenes are either no longer gainfully employed or not employed at the same level.   

I will say that there was lots of nostalgia for CHCH.   Fond memories of local icons Norm Marshall, Dick Beddoes, Dan MacLean and Connie Smith were duly.  Shows like Tiny Talent Time were fondly remembered, as were the old OUAA Game of the Week, a relationship by the way left in the lurch. The OUA just had signed a new agreement with CHCH.  What happens now?    Maybe that was the problem.  Nostalgia, while nice, did not pay the bills.  Perhaps people were remembering the golden age of CHCH while paying lip service to the current model.    

So CHCH will debut a newer, sleeker model on Tuesday.   17.5 hours of local content is enough to give you a 6pm newscast, an 11 pm newscast cut down to 30 minutes and a truncated morning show from 7-9am.  The hope now is that one of the big cable companies sees some viability in a sleeker model and looks to snap it up at a bargain bin rate.  Maybe then they can increase the local presence, and give local news a chance because local programming and news is dying on the vine, and it does not have to be that way.  

CHCH just celebrated their 60th anniversary of broadcasting not so long ago. How many more anniversaries will be commemorated?   
  

Tuesday December 15th CHCH will debut not only their new format, but their new reality.  How long until 17.5 hours of local programming becomes zero?  

Of all the questions asked in this blog, and there were many, that is the most important one. 

Steve Clark

Great coverage and articles by The Spectator helped in this blog,  Here are the two main ones.  




Sunday, December 6, 2015

OHL BLOCKBUSTER NIAGARA AND FLINT

When the trade announcement came out indicating that IceDogs goaltender Brent Moran had been trade along with a passel of picks to Flint for Alex Nedelkjovic and Josh Wesley, my first thought was that I hated it, I really hated it.   So I tweeted that and you should never send anything out on social media without a mandatory cooling off period.  How long should be?  Probably longer than it would take to do a background check on guns in the U.S., but lets not get into THAT or we will be here all night.   

Now here I sit about three hours later and my final opinion on the trade is that I really do not like it.  I do not like use the word "hate", and especially for something like a hockey trade. Again, nothing to do with the guys who made the trade.  There will be no "Marty Williamson,or Terry Christensen, his Flint counterpart,  got fleeced on this one pretty good" type analysis.  I will leave that to the true experts and those who hang around the periphery trying to break down trades

My thumbs down on this trade has reall nothing to do with the merits of the trade themselves.   Goaltender Nedelkjovic is a Carolina 2nd round pick and likely headed to the World Juniors in Helsinki, while Defenseman Wesley is also a Carolina draft pick and with dad Glenn a long time NHL'er, along with Uncle Blake, the bloodlines are good.  I am sure that Wesley will swapping yarns with Ryan Mantha, whose Uncle Moe was also a solid NHL'er.  Any team in the league would be lucky to have a fine goaltender like Moran, a Dallas Star draft pick who stands 6'4, which appears to be the minimum height for a goaltender this days!  Plus extra draft picks is the currency of the league now it seems. 

Here's the bottom line.  The OHL likes to tout itself as a developmental league, but here is Brent Moran in his 4th year in the league and now he his headed to his 4th different goalie coach.  I do not profess to know the Flint goalie coach, but you can be certain that he will have a slightly different philosophy from Ryan Ludzik, the current IceDogs goalie coach who likely has a slightly different philosophy than last years coach Lucas Lobsinger, who likely had a slightly different philosophy from Ben Vanderklok.  You get the picture.   All great hockey goalie minds.  All guys who did their homework and know their craft, but each with a different message, and that maybe enough to confuse anybody. I feel bad for Brent.  Last year the IceDogs acquired a goalie as they felt Moran needed support. This year he is the one moving on.  Hey, here's hoping that Brent Moran can have the key unlocked to his vast potential, something it appeared, was not consistently reached in Niagara.  The thing is that it seemed that Moran was getting closer and closer with the IceDogs.   His goals against average was just above 3, and his save % was close to .900.  He was getting a decent run of starts, more often than not playing very, very well and was a large reason for the IceDogs recent run of success. 

The human element of this sucks too.  Brent Moran's family travelled to most, if not all of his games travelling a long distance to watch Brent play. Good people, nice people and very supportive of Brent.  Being the parents of a goalie sucks.  You get to hear how much your son or daughter blew the game, or should have stopped that one etc, etc.  Many times I would see Dan Visentin, father of IceDogs star Mark, embark on a lonely intermission walk to blow off steam, or relieve whatever had stressed him out the period before.   Now that journey gets a little longer, unless there is a super highway being built linking Ottawa and Flint.

Also, I was struck by the picture of Brent Moran with his billets.  He had established a three year relationship with them, and all of a sudden he has to pack up and say goodbye in far too less of a time.  While I get that trades are part of hockey, the relationship and bond that players can build with their billets can last a life time.  My wife's aunt and uncle billeted Sarnia Sting players for years, still speak fondly of them and maintained a relationship with a player and his parents when that player embarked on a professional career.

While Nedelkjovic and Wesley travel together to Niagara to a brand new arena, welcomed warmly by fans and teammates alike, getting to play in one of the finest, if not the finest building in the OHL and a team that is invested in going all in, Brent Moran travels a different journey.  He travels alone to a new country, a new team, a team with nowhere near the potential of his former team and a team that was on the verge of insurrection earlier in the year.  The good things is I guess is that he leaves behind being the unfair lightning rod for criticism heaped upon him and hopefully the change will be a good one.  He is the unquestioned number one in Flint, while there was a reluctance to give him that in Niagara the past two year and he is still playing to get signed by the Dallas Stars.  Maybe the latter part of this year will convince the team from the LoneStar state to get Moran inked. 

The reality of this trade is that we are reminded of how this can be sometimes a harsh business. This is ironic as the league is trying to distance itself from any sort of business model for obvious legal reasons.  It should be pointed out that the NCAA does not trade its athletes, though I suppose I hijack my own arguments as a player can transfer and that can be far worse prospect than getting traded.   I guess there is no perfect system but I'd like to think there is a better system than the one in place  because it is a system that will allow high school age students to get shipped when they are weeks away from their final exams, or in the midst of a school crunch of final projects. They are usurped from billets and friends and dropped into a new city, or new country with new teammates and coaches.      

Trades will continue to be consumated.  Scouts and teams will update the depth charts, check the cupboard for avaiable draft picks,  and those who follow such things will start to float more picks and more names of high school aged or post-secondary aged players to see if they will be a fit in Sault Ste Marie, or London, or Kitchener or Kingston or any other team.   

The human aspect is rarely reported, but the business grinds merrily along. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ombudsmen: A Modest Proposal for the Ontario Hockey League

The storm  clouds seem to have settled for the time, being in Flint, Michigan.  Though, it would appear, all is far from rosy.  Rolf Nilson ate a heaping, healthy dose of humble pie by coming to the genius conclusion that without a team, or coaches, makes it tough to own a hockey team.  Young Hakon Nielsen remains a Firebird for the foreseeable future, but questions linger around the management of the team and some have taken up the mantle that this sort of act of rebellion lends credence to the unionization of junior hockey. 

Lets stop right there.    I am not a fan of unions, and I say this being a union member myself.     I am not against a form of representation, but adding unions, who often times do not have the best interests of the membership at heart, is not the solution in my humble opinion.   The same goes for increased power in agents.   Agents, again, have a protected interest in their clientlele, but it cann be argued that their interest in the greater good beyond their clientele can certainly be called into a question.   I am invested in greater representation for the players, and improved compensation structure.  To me, the best interest of the players would be served by Ombudsmen. 

Ombudsmen, by definition, investigate complaints that are made against authority.  By nature normally reserved for government institutions, I can see this skill set easily transferrable to junior hockey.  

Regional Ombudsmen (maybe three for the whole league) will meet with teams and discuss concerns.  Concerns can be submitted in a meeting,  anonymously or in person and can be on a range of day to day issues.   Of course hockey related decisions and ice time are left to the coaching staff, and agents and other hockey personnel.  The Ombudsmen role is best left to deal with day to day life of a player like academic concerns, compensation concerns, personal concerns with management, teammates, issues of harassment, bullying, discrimination even billet concerns can be addressed via the Ombudsmen role.  The Ombudsmen can work with people already charged with academic, billet roles to act as an intermediary.  More importanly the Ombudsmen is a trusted individual who can collate a list of concerns and prioritize them with the league office.    

To me the game of hockey at the junior level is evolving.  Compensation and education structures are improving but far from where they need to be to reflect the student -athlete/elite athlete needs of today.   The Ombudsman can help convey those needs to the league so that they can be evaluated on a regular basis, say annually.  Of course the needs of the players will be balanced with the needs of managment and the league.  Sounds a bit like a union, but it is not. There are no dues to be paid, no minimum wage to be decided, no legal battles to be fought.   

Idealistc?  Sure, probably.  Realistic?  Not really. You're going to have to invest in this and offer a fair compensation structure for the job you expect this person to do.   

I will say that one of the bigger concerns voiced is that we drop high school, early college/university aged elite athletes far away from home and expect them to thrive, and excel in high pressured situations. 

Having someone be an advocate, who has the best interests of the players and the league at heart with little to to self-interest or personal gain is a worthwhile investment.