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Monday, December 19, 2011

Ice Dogs win 2 Straight Heading Into Christmas Break

The Ice Dogs reaped the benefits of stability on the weekend winning two in a row at home from the Erie Otters and the Sudbury Wolves.  Armed with the knowledge that they knew that they would be without four key Team Canada bound contributors for the foreseeable future, the team put together two solid games from start to finish.  On Thursday back up 'tender Chris Festarini posted his first career shutout as the Ice Dogs exploded for six second period goals on route to a 7-0 thumping of the hapless Erie Otters.   Andrew Aggozino would pace the offence with five points, including 2 goals while young Broderick Kelly scored his first career OHL goal.  Other marksmen on the night were David Pacan with two, Steven Shipley and Mitchell Theoret.   On Saturday the Ice Dogs spotted the red hot Wolves a 1-0 lead before utilizing the power play, scoring all three  with the man advantage to best Sudbury 3-1.  The Wolves came into the game sporting a tidy 8-2 mark in their past ten so a victory over their Central Division foes was no small feat.   Brock Beukeboom counted his first career goal for the Ice Dogs while Alex Friesen and Steven Shipley also scored for Niagara.  The team is now off until December 28th which is when they will make their annual post-Christmas pilgrimage to Owen Sound.  Next home game is the New Years Eve contest vs Guelph with a special start time of 6:00pm.  

Steve Clark
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia 


HIGHLIGHTS (MYSELF AND ED BURKHOLDER ON THE CALL


NIAGARA 7 ERIE 0




NIAGARA 3 SUDBURY 1



Monday, December 12, 2011

HIGHLIGHTS FROM SATURDAY NIGHT: KINGSTON 3 NIAGARA 2

The first game involving a depleted Niagara Ice Dogs performed on Saturday night, dropping a close 3-2 decision to Kingston.  This was a strange one in that Kingston scored, only to have the Ice Dogs respond within 20 seconds both times.  The first time saw Steven Shipley respond to Cody Alcock's goal within 9 seconds.  The second time Niagara's Luke Mercer answered Kyler Nixon's goal within 18 seconds.  Alex Gudbransen would provide the margin of victory early in the 3rd period, marking the 1st time that Kingston had won a game when tied up after two periods. 

The Ice Dogs close out their pre-Christmas schedule with home games vs Erie and Sudbury on Thursday and Saturday respectively.   Both games are live on TV Cogeco and the OHL Action Pack starting at 7:00 pm.   As first cuts for the Canadian Junior team will be made on Tuesday, there is a chance that the Ice Dogs could have any combination of Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton, Freddie Hamilton and Mark Visentin back in the line up.

Highlights are courtesy of TV Cogeco:


Steve Clark


Friday, December 9, 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

   
When St Catharines council approved new spectator facility on Monday one of the small caveats was that there would be an investigation into changing the name from the Niagara Ice Dogs to the St Catharines Ice Dogs.  My initial thought was that it was no big deal, and that people would not stop coming just because the name became localized rather than regional.  Upon reflection, maybe its a bigger deal than I thought.  The Burkes have marketed this team as a regional team from Day 1, holding open practices in areas outside of St Catharines.  The strategy has worked.  A large part of the fan base comes from outside St Catharines.  Maybe the name is a big deal, particularly if your team has been marketed regionally from Day 1.   Now that there is a 4500-5000 seat facility to be built, no marketing stone must be left unturned to fill the building.  With that in mind, the wiser choice would be to keep the Niagara Ice Dogs name.  In the long run St Catharines may not get the name it wants, but it will retain all that outside money coming into the city from paying customers from Niagara Falls, Welland, Grimsby, Port Colborne etc. 

OTHER NAME AND NON NAME CHANGES Changing the first name of a sports franchise likely is more impactful than changing the nickname.  Some name changes have made no difference, others have.  How about those franchises that change cities but don't change the nickname.  Sure seems curious, particularly if the nickname of the team reflects the city or the demographic. Here's a partial list.

New Orleans Jazz to Utah Jazz- unless there is a thriving jazz beat in Utah that I don't know about, this made little sense, but now no one blinks an eye

Mineapolis Lakers to Los Angeles Lakers- Again, more reflective of Minneapolis and the nickname City of Lakes, the move to LA meant no change, and now the Lakers are one of the top selling brands in the NBA.

Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans Hornets- no real demographic change here. I'm guessing both cities have Hornets.  Now, if it were the Charlotte Flairs after legendary Charlotte native Ric Flair- different story Wooooo!

Atlanta Flames to Calgary Flames- Likely an homage to Atlanta being burnt up from Gone With The Wind.  The fire theme made it to Calgary and stuck. 

California Angels to Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- The last one is just plain silly

New Jersey Nets to become the Brooklyn Nets in the next couple of years.  Doesn't matter where you put the franchise the Nets are still sad sack

LA Raiders to Oakland Raiders- With the mystique surrounding the Oakland Raiders of the 70's, they never should have changed this name

Anaheim Mighty Ducks to Anaheim Ducks- The Disney allure gone, and the Flying V a relic of the past, the Mighty was dropped from the name.  The name Ducks does not exactly breed intimidation.

Washington Bullets to Wizards- The only nickname change that the NRA likely petitioned about.  This one was long overdue. 

York Yeoman/Yeowomen to York Lions-  Tradition traded for a silly cartoon lion! 

Queens Golden Gaels to Queens Gaels- Again, tradition went the way of the Dodo bird for a more sleeker name. 

Florida Marlins to Miami Marlins- A new stadium begets a new name.  Uniforms are the real issue here.  They are beyond bad!

Oh there are more, but this was a list off the top of my head.  Even Toronto flirted with using the Jays more than the Blue Jays, and what about the Raptors?  The dinosaur phenom has long passed.   This is a franchise in dire need of a new look.

Maybe we'll save athletes changing names for another time.  So World B. Free, Metta World Peace, Chad Ocho Cinco and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, don't worry your time will come.

Shakespeare asked "What's in a name?"  Well, when its the cornerstone of your core marketing ,a lot!

Steve Clark


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX APPROVED!


By a decisive 9-3 vote St Catharines council approved a new entertainment facility on Monday night, marking the biggest date in Ice Dogs history.  The threats of the Ice Dogs leaving town if they were not part of the new facility was not an idle one.  Bill and Denise Burke love their hockey, but first and foremost they are business people and the revenue streams out the Jack Gatcliffe arena were somewhat limited.   A few things come to the forefront now:

1. The proposed completion of the building is to be January of 2014, and hopefully the time lines can be met.   Promotion wise  its in the best interest of the region to have the building open on time.  Hopefully there is a run on shovels at the local Canadian Tire as the catch phrase should change from Let's Build It to Let's Start Building It!

2. There have been a lot of promises that this will be an entertainment facility as opposed to a hockey arena. I'm sure that the marketing group running the facility will do the necessary leg work to make this true.   Mid-level concerts, trade shows, wrestling are all a reality along with the boost from sporting events.   Heck, Neil Diamond is playing Toronto June 26th.  Why not live large and have a Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and Paul Anka triple bill!! If that were the case my fellow broadcasters Ed Burkholder and Al Galloway will be pre-ordering concert T-Shirts!

3. Along with the Niagara Ice Dogs, the St. Catharines Falcons and Brock Badgers expect to be additional tenants.  Hopefully the complex can be seamlessly adapted into a basketball facility.  The arena could then attract OCAA, OUA and CIS hoop events and maybe even a professional team in the fledgling all-Canadian NBL.

4. There might be a move to change the name from Niagara to St Catharines Ice Dogs.  This would more reflect the revitalization of downtown.  While the Ice Dogs have been marketed as a regional team, it makes sense to localize the name.

FROM THE LATE NIGHT EDITION...
Better late than never is the old adage. Here are the highlights from Niagara's 4-3 SO loss to the suddenly viable and resurgent Barrie Colts.  Barrie came back from a 3-1 deficit to nip the Dogs.  After a tough 1st year, Dale Hawerchuk's message seems to be sinking in to the Colts, but did you expect anything else from the Hall of Famer?


Monday, December 5, 2011

ICE DOGS: THE WEEK THAT WAS...OTHER THOUGHTS

The Niagara Ice Dogs reverted back their uneven play with a 1-1-0-1 record this past week.  Thursday featured an easy 7-2 victory over the hapless Erie Otters, losers of 10 in a row coming into the game.  Andrew Aggozino paced the Ice Dogs with a natural hat-trick while Mark Visentin garnered the victory in net.  Highlights are here:



On Saturday the Ice Dogs were visited by an old nemesis: the shootout.  Losers of  both shootouts this year, the misery was extended with a 4-3 loss to Barrie via the gimmicky showdown.  The Ice Dogs held a 3-1 lead on Barrie, but could not hold onto the advantage, giving up two goals in the middle stanza. 

Sunday, the Ice Dogs made their second unsuccessful trip to the Bunker in Brampton.  The last time the Ice Dogs played the Battalion in Brampton the result was an uneven 6-4 loss.  This tilt resulted in a 3-0 shutout, the first time the Dogs had been blanked all year.  The Ice Dogs face Peterborough and Mississauga on the road Thursday and Friday before returning home to face Kingston on Saturday.

QUICK NOTES:
1. Monday December 5th will mark the most important day in Niagara Ice Dog franchise history.  Council is set to vote on proposals on a new entertainment facility for St Catharines.  While informal media polls have support running at 70% or above, the real decision lies with the politicians, and there are view points on both sides.  What a crying shame it would be if the politicians did not back this proposal and the Ice Dogs left town.  Owners Bill and Denise Burke, along with the fans have been very very patient with the antiquated Jack Gatecliffe arena up to this point. 

2. Four Ice Dogs head to World Jr Camps on Saturday, and will miss some of the OHL schedule.  There is a good chance that all could crack the squad, so the brass ring will be available for those Dogs left behind to grab. 

3. I'm tiring of people using words like "redemption" for Mark Visentin as he tries out for Team Canada.  Redemption for what?  Visentin is a 1st round NHL draft pick and was the OHL goalie of the year.  I think he's been "redeemed" don't ya think?

OTHER NOTES
1. Had a chance to call my first OUA basketball doubleheader of the year on Friday at McMaster U for Cable 14 sports.  There was a victorious air as the Vanier Cup and some of the Marauder football team were in attendance.  It was great to be back calling basketball and great to see student support at its finest.

2. Must be said.  My Miami Dolphins, author of 4 wins in 5 (only loss was a 1 pointer to Dallas), by all rights could be 8-4.  Three losses were on the last play, or in the last minute (Cleveland, Denver, Dallas) and one was a blown 4th quarter lead vs the Giants.  Only other somewhat decisive losses were to New England, San Diego, the New York Jets and Houston.  

3. I watched the Survivor Series, and man did The Rock look good.  Now whether or not the WWE Wellness Policy applied to the Most Electrifying Man in Entertainment is another thing..

Keep pushing the rock up the hill!

Steve Clark

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NEW ARENA DEBATE PICKS UP STEAM

The city has endorsed seven different scenarios for a new arena, with the most popular one being a 5000 seat arena and a 700 seater.  This would be a tax payer cost of close to $39 a year.

I thought it would be appropriate for me to re-post my thoughts on a new entertainment complex.  I wrote this last year and I think it still rings true today.  Here it is in its entirety: 

IN SUPPORT OF A NEW ENTERTAINMENT FACILITY FOR THE NIAGARA REGION

By: TV Cogeco Niagara
January 20th, 2011 @ 4:30pm
On the corner of Geneva Street and Gale Crescent sits a vintage arena full of charm and memories that pre-date World War 2. The Gatorade Garden City Complex, formerly the Jack Gatecliffe Arena has a capacity of 3145 when it is filled, a lively atmosphere that is the envy of many teams and and drew high praise from the entourage of the Swedish World Junior Team who trained there for the recent Under 20 World Championships.
 
With all due respect to our Scandinavian brethren and the rabid atmosphere, the flip side is a different story, The arena was constructed in 1938, the same year that Hitler won Time Man of the Year and began his march on Czechoslovakia. It has limited, almost non-existent parking and much of the available parking features a brisk walk and the crossing of a major intersection. Once inside the arena, the dance of choice is “The Shuffle” due to the lack of space to walk around the arena and if I were a chiropractor, I'd set up an on-site business due to seating more suited for those who are vertically challenged. Niagara Ice Dog fans are the best in the league simply due to the fact that they still attend games in droves with nary a complaint. Though, I hardily think that this arena was the long-term vision of owners Bill and Denise Burke when they moved the team from Mississauga before the 2007-2008 season.

Simply put the time for a new facility is now and the possibilities for a new facility are endless. Firstly, one misconception has to be addressed in order to get the non-hockey fans on board. This really should be a proposal for an entertainment facility not a hockey arena. With that small change, you expand the focus not only to different sports but to many other forms of entertainment and thus appeal to a wider spectrum of the population. The basics of economics dictate that an arena is only as good and as profitable as the events that put backsides in the seats (and I stress seats, not two seat benches). The pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is the addition of corporate or luxury boxes, a must for any new facility, even those in the mid-range in terms of seating capacity.
 
Ice Dog owner Bill Burke sees a wealth of potential with a new facility
 
“Along with the new Arts Center, St. Catharines will become the entertainment district of Niagara. Think of the people that will be flocking to downtown virtually every night.”
 
TV Cogeco on-air personality,a long-time Welland resident and business owner Ed Burkholder concurs
 
“Socially, its' what Niagara needs. It gives Niagara people something in common collectively.”
 
So lets put together a more than reasonable list of non-hockey events. Concerts, trade-shows, pro-wrestling are all very realistic non sports events that could conceivably make St. Catharines a regular stop. Brock University and Niagara College could move certain special attractions to a new facility and could bid for OUA (Ontario University Athletics) and OCAA (Ontario College Athletics Association) provincial events and CIS (Canadian Inter-university Sport) and CCA (Canadian College Athletic Association) events.. Minor hockey tournaments would be an attraction., keeping the arena humming and bustling

You know what means? It means area hotels being used, products being purchased , restaurants and sports bars being eaten in and jobs being created. In short a trickle down effect, and an increase in ancillary revenue in the region. Ever see a hotel on the weekend of a minor hockey tournament? Its a beehive of activity, and that sound you hear? That's the sound of cash registers ringing, and debit and credit cards swiping.. All of this is before consideration of the anchor tenant, who are the Niagara Ice Dogs, good for 40 dates in the arena at an average of 3500-4000 fans a pop, and that estimate is conservative.
 
Economically speaking the numbers add up. Owner Bill Burke estimates that on top of the substantial investment that he and his wife Denise have in the Niagara Ice Dogs, that Ice Dog fans spend on average $7-10 dollars per game outside the arena. Do the rough math and that's nearly 1 million dollars spent per year in the St Catharines region. Think of that sort of revenue not being tapped into, and potentially being spent elsewhere.
 
Long-time Niagara resident and TV Cogeco producer Darren Sawyer says
 
“A lot of people travel across the boarder or to Hamilton or Toronto with their entertainment dollar. A new facility would keep that money in Niagara. “
 
Although informal polls suggest that there is good support for a new facility, there is however a backlash. Taxpayers don't want to see their bill go up, at the expense of a new facility because they are not hockey fans. They have already seen their money go to pay for The Seymour-Hannah Complex, a four pad arena, that has seating for 2000, but is not nearly large enough to accommodate an OHL tenant. .
 
Grumbles one reader in a letter to the St. Catharines Standard
 
“This is a major expenditure that will impact tax payers for decades”.
 
Adding to that recently news came forth that the federal government will not kick any money top help build the facility, which leaves municipal tax payers and private interests as the sole revenue streams in financing the facility.
 
To answer that the Region needs to leave no private enterprise stone unturned in their quest for offsetting the cost to tax payers. Though the arena will be located in St. Catharines, the Ice Dogs have always marketed themselves as a regional team. Tapping into private resources should follow that model. Looking at revenue streams and sponsorship in wine country should be a jumping off point. Selling the naming rights to the arena would provide more revenue.
 
The model of using the arena as a centrepiece to a vibrant downtown core is London. The John Labbatt Centre is perched majestically in the middle of an already bustling area and thrives on the ardent support the Knights generate from Londoners as well as the student population at the University of Western Ontario Restaurants, and other shopping destinations all benefit from an arena that houses a number of events, including OHL hockey and is the crown jewel not only of London, but the surrounding area. While London benefits from not having a lot of arena competition in the surrounding area, the comparison and the potential for St. Catharines is too hard to resist.
 
Should a new facility not be built, the Niagara region, not just St. Catharines could face the very real prospect of having the Ice Dogs leave town. Lost would not just be a hockey team, but an indelible and ingrained part of the Niagara region. Players and coaches visit schools, have hockey clinics holds open practices, become heroes and set positive examples in the community. The Gatorade Garden City Complex would remain, nothing would be revitalized, and many events that could generate revenue will go elsewhere.
 
It is time to build a new entertainment facility with the Ice Dogs as the anchor tenant. Its the right thing do do both socially and economically.
 
The last word on this should go to Ice Dogs owner Bill Burke:
 
“If city council votes no on a new spectator facility, then they are saying no to the Ice Dogs, so we will have to take the team and the two million dollars we spend in St. Catharines elsewhere”
 
You cannot put it more succinctly than that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

ICE DOGS 3 MAJORS 0

A tidy 3-0 win by the Ice Dogs over the Majors last night  should keep the anxiety level of Ice Dog fans down.  There are those who have been fretting about the teams' inconsistent play.  However, last night a 0-0 stalemate was broken by Billy Jenkins' goal with :45 left in the 2nd period.  Dougie Hamilton roofed one :48 seconds into the third period while Alex Friesen added some insurance late in the game. Mark Visentin broke off a personal 0-3-0-1 streak and recorded his 3rd shutout of the season.

The Ice Dogs, who have been sub-par on the road (2-6-1) travel to Kingston on Friday and Ottawa on Sunday.

Highlights are courtesy of TV Cogeco.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM AND THE SKY IS FALLING MENTALITY OF FANDOM


The proliferation of sports media and the sheer number of outlets have spawned a  "the sky is falling mentality"when covering teams. On sports radio in Toronto, with two sports stations, four newspapers, several TV stations and a great number of social media outlets, there is not a stone left unturned when it comes to analyzing the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The trickle down effect is starting now in the Ontario Hockey League.  There has been an increase in social media coverage, fan sites, TV coverage, blogging, radio coverage, the list goes on.  For the most part these mediums have a "live in the moment" sort of mentality.  Never look back, never cast an eye forward, always exist in the present.  It's sort of like OHL discipline, but that's another story line altogether. 

Fans will offer an opinion, and start a thread that is purely based on emotion and observation from afar.  If you believe the fan sites, Niagara's Mark Visentin can't stop a beach ball and should not be considered for Team Canada's World Junior team.   In fact one thread on the popular www.thenoof.com site was entitled "Visentin Horrid".  A tad off base, and sensationalist don't you think?  A more well-reasoned approach to Visentin's early season inconsistency can be found in this great article by the St Catharines' Standard. You can read it HERE

I'll admit that I will "lurk" the fan sites.  They can have offer something of a barometer in terms of how a fan- base is feeling, but for the most part, and I know that I run the risk of alienating myself here, its a bastion of ranting from the those who have "The Smartest Guy in the Room" syndrome.  They think that they have all the answers, but normally it comes from a position of bias.  Again, I have no problem with the expression of opinion.  Heck, I'm a law teacher who regularly teaches The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Freedom of Expression.

However, analysis can become downright silly and its not just limited to the fans.   There have been those in the media who love to play arm chair commissioner and start throwing out number of games a player should be suspended before the decision is meted out.  I'm not sure if the motive is to lobby, or if there is a pool out there for this, but I don't think it serves a purpose.  Debate the merits after the suspension and at least you have a basis point for discussion.  Doing it before and promoting it through various forums, to me is a tad irresponsible. 

QUICK POINTS:
- Curious decision-making to say the least as Ryan Rupert gets 5 games for stick swinging and connecting while Alex O'Nell gets 10 games.  Precedent, it seems, is a dirty word, for the OHL

- Freddie Hamilton and Ryan Strome really shone in the Subway Series.   Freddie Hamilton was a 5th round draft pick.  No, that is not a misprint.  This guy is going to be a fine NHL'er and a lot scouts and teams have some 'splainin' to do about how they missed him

- Ice Dogs take on Mississauga Thursday November 17th at 7 pm on the OHL Action Pack/TV Cogeco.  Ed, Al and I will have the call.

Steve Clark
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

KUHNHACKL PART 2: 20 GAMES IS TOO MUCH

Twenty games for Tom Kuhnackl is unduly harsh.   Now, I already will acknowledge that my reasoning for  this is flawed because it is predicated on analyzing the rule of precedent/case law, a basic tenant of any legal system and one that has its roots in 12th century Britain.  

The rule of precedent allows that a previous decision in a case could have an impact on a current case.  Hockey has rarely used precedent in determining its decision-making.  If you are a fan of hockey's justice system, you see it as showing no bias, looking at supplemental discipline with an extremely narrow focus, and the focus is on the individual act.  If you are not a fan of hockey's justice system you see it as haphazard, inconsistent  and making it up as you go along.

I'd say in Kuhnhackl's case that I do not see the justification for 20 games, or 40% of the remaining schedule in this case.  Firstly, when you are talking 20 games, you automatically think of  Zach Kassian's hit on Matt Kennedy, the last time that 20 games was used as a punitive measure.  That hit is here, and to these trained eyes the Kassian hit is far worse than the Kuhnhackl hit in that he literally launches himself  at an unsuspecting Kennedy.  Now there is a fine gentleman from Windsor who took serious umbrage with the decision, barking" 20 games for interference".  Plus, unlike Kuhnhackl, Kassian was a repeat offender, so in all likelihood escalating consequences were a part of the decision making.

Another take was by well respected Junior hockey writer Neate Sagar who essentially contradicts himself  in his article found here

He also says
 As for the length of the suspension, it's fair. It's the longest ban in the OHL since Zack Kassian also got 20 games for a head shot on Barrie's Matt Kennedy in January 2010 and that play was arguably worse, although Kassian was also a repeat offender and K├╝hnhackl was not"

Again, this time we are both accused of using using the flawed rule of precedent on this, though Sagar contradicts himself a number of times by saying the suspension of Kuhnhackl is fair, but says that the play was worse and that Kassian was a repeat offender. To me you can't give a guy the same amount of games when you find inherent differences.  

Some people, like Damian Cox, have carelessly referenced Mike Liambis Hit on Ben Fanelli as a basis for comparison.  In fact Bob McCown asked David Branch about comparisons to the Liambis hit and he did not immediately dismiss it.   To me, the Liambis hit is nothing like the hit delivered by Kuhnackl, and without delving into a long-winded explanation, the ends justify the means.  Liambis was banned for over 50 games for that hit, so really it is not a valid comparison.

So if we use the OHL system of justice and analysis of hits, I still don't see 20 games in all of this.  Again. flawed comparison as I'm basically arguing against 31 seconds of video footage and 4 points of reference by the OHL, but here we go. It should be noted that the fact that a penalty was called on the play is not included in the OHL's interpretation  Here is the OHL's interpretation of the hit by Kuhnhackl, and here is what they said in terms of their reasoning:
  •  Contact to the head
  • Vulnerable, unsuspecting player
  • Speed and considerable distance travelled
  • Injury

Lets set aside the obvious facts, which we can agree on.  Yes, there was contact to the head, and yes there was an injury.  There could be minor quibbling of a mitigating circumstance because Murphy did return to the game for a couple of shifts, but not nearly enough to impact the decision.  These two stand alone points pretty well give Kuhnhackl 10 games as a starting point.

The other two points can be debated.  For me, personally, I think the only time a player could be construed as vulnerable is when his back is to the play or he is on the ice.  Again, this is an interpretive measure. What my eyes interpreted are different to the decision-makers.  The other point about speed and distance travelled is debatable as well.   Yes the collision was at a high rate of speed, but Kuhnhackl, according to my colour partner Ed Burkholder, was aggressively following the path of his forecheck. I bet that I could get 20 junior coaches to draw up their forecheck plan and almost all of them would trace the path that Kuhnhackl travelled.  Again, minor quibbling, but worth investigating. 

If I take all those points into consideration, I come up with 13 games, or 1/4 of the remaining season. Again, I'm basing it on a lot of factors that may or may not have been taken into consideration by the OHL.

QUIBBLING POINTS:
  1. I have a ton of respect for David Branch, and although I may not agree with his decision, he has not been afraid to be out front of any trends.  That said, I think he did not do himself any favours by, according to the St. Catharines Standard,  not contacting Marty Williamson directly with the details of the suspension, but was able to find the time to do interviews with Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports and with Cybalski and Company on TSN Radio.
  2. Damian Cox mentioned in his short article about protocol of a suspected head injury because Murphy did return to the ice for a couple of shifts.   Perhaps in the days and weeks to come there will be more discussion of this point because in all supplemental discipline, the safety of the athlete is always a consideration.  It should be no different here.

Steve Clark- TV Cogeco/ OHL Action Pack Play by Play Niagara Ice Dogs
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TOM KUHANCKL'S HIT ON RYAN MURPHY

See full size image




A couple of years back the Erie Otters were the first team to come to town after Mike Liambis' horrific hit on Ben Fanelli and our crew was charged with the responsibility of breaking down the hit and talking about it.  It was and still is tough footage to watch, but our crew did an admirable job of analyzing the hit. 

Fast forward to last Saturday, and ironically with Fanelli's Rangers in town, another controversial hit reared its ugly head. On Friday Tom Kuhnackl felled Ryan Murphy with a jarring, shocking- pick your adjective check.  Certainly this hit was suspendable, and the concern goes to young Ryan Murphy, a player with a bright NHL future.  Kuhnackl, not the sort of the player, to deliver a hit of this ilk and viciousness, also suffered a knee injury on the play.  No one wins here.   We watched the footage at least 10 times in the truck and broke it down step by step during the first intermission.  A summary of our thoughts follows here:

- Kuhackle, according to colour man Ed Burkholder, was following his fore check path. Ed, as a scout and former coach is well versed in the nuances of the game
- Murphy had lost sight of the puck, but it was still in his vicinity
- Murphy, skating low to the ground to a horrific amount of impact to the head
-Kuhanckl's arms were to his side, but he made no effort to slow up
-Kuhnackl did not leave his feet at the point of contact, but the aftermath had him leaving his feet

The hit is here and the footage is courtesy of our good friends at Rogers TV who do a wonderful job covering OHL hockey.

In the end we all felt that reckless was the best way to describe the hit rather than malicious.  While the intent was not there there was a level of recklessness in the hit.  Kuhnackl could have slowed up, but  did not and by not taking care to protect Murphy, his opposition, a suspension was imminent.  I don't like to play the public game of determining length and quite frankly loathe those who try to play commissioner.  I also intensely dislike those who choose to publicize and promote the "David Branch is ruining our game"  message.   You may not agree with the assessment of David Branch and his staff in all the decisions, but to say that he is ruining the game is beyond comprehension. 

The other debateable point here is that Murphy, while clearly shaken up, returned to the ice for a couple of shifts, adding an assist on a power play goal.  He was finally shut down in the 3rd.  Logical thinking dictates that when you have a player in that amount of peril, perhaps it is not in the best interest of player safety to return to the ice.  Hopefully that part of the equation will be up for discussion so that protocol can either be revised or  be put in place for situations like this
The bottom line here is that there are no winners.  I feel immensely bad for Ryan Murphy, one of the OHL's bright lights and shining stars and I hope his recovery is speedy. For Tom Kuhnackl and the Ice Dogs, the hope here is that his physical recovery is speedy and that they accept the decision with dignity. 

Steve Clark

Friday, November 4, 2011

A QUICK ANALYSIS OF THE ACQUISITION OF TOM KUHNACKL

The price was steep, no doubt about it, but to acquire a sniper of Tom Kuhnackl's quality and ability you pay a premium. 

Arguably, the Ice Dogs made their most impactful trade for a bonafide player on Wednesday with the addition of 39 goal marksmen Tom Kuhnackl.  Now I acknowledge that there may be those who quibble with my statement considering the blockbuster trade bringing in Ryan Strome.  My argument is that Strome had not yet developed into the elite level player that he is now when the Ice Dogs traded for him.  

Kuhnackl is a player owho could also potentially spend another year in the league, and that sets him apart from the dividend paying trade involving Darren Archibald last year. Furthermore the Ice Dogs boast a top six quality of forward that few possess in the league right now.   Coach Marty Williamson has the luxury of mixing and matching Strome, Freddie Hamilton, David Pacan, Andrew Aggozino, Alex Friesen and Kuhnackl in both his regular lines and his power play. 

The cost for the Ice Dogs was three 2nd round draft picks, Jaroslav Pavelka, Phil DiGuesseppe and a 1st round import pick.  The Ice Dogs also picked up Windsor's 2nd round import pick.  While it would appear to be a mortgaging of the future, the Ice Dogs do possess a surplus of picks stockpiled for just these purposes.  DiGuesseppe, currently plying his trade with Michigan, was never a part of the Ice Dogs future and Pavelka had not been the right fit in net during his short tenure. 


All in all to add a forward of Kuhnackl's quality while not sacrificing anyone off the current roster gets a Clark hale and hearty seal of approval

QUICK SIDE NOTES
1. Kuhnackl has excellent blood lines too.  Father Erich, a robust 6'5,  is widely regarded as West Germany's best hockey player, once potting 83 goals in a 48 game season in German hockey.  He also was a member of the 1976 bronze medal winning West German hockey team

2. Far be it for me to offer up a criticism of something related to the Ice Dogs, but I have to question the criteria in choosing the stars of the game.  In Oshawa's 5-3 victory over Niagara, the stars went as follows 1. Steven Shipley (1 goal) 2. Tom Kuhnackl (1 assist) 3. Kevin Baillie (42 saves) Boone Jenner's 1 goal and an assist and +2 and Nicklas Jensen's +3 got overlooked.  Now to give Shipley a star is perfectly acceptable, but to me the stars should be 1. Baillie 2. Jenner 3. Shipley.   To give a losing team two stars and the number one star smacks a wee bit of home town cheer leading not seen since the likes of Bring it On (dated reference #1)

3. Congratulations to Dougie Hamilton, named defenceman of the month for October in the OHL.  Looks like the Hamilton family has to break out the hammer and nails and add another shelf in the awards room.

4. Kuhnackl skated on a line with Joel Wigle and Steven Shipley in his first game, a mild surprise considering those who saw automatically in the top six.  Marty Williamson opted for balance it appears.

5. Luke Mercer fell awkwardly into the boards in the first period and did not return to the game.   On the replay it looked bad and here's hoping the young defenseman is not out long term

Next up for us on TV Cogeco and the OHL Action Pack are the Kitchener Rangers on Saturday.  Game time with Ed, Al and I is 7 pm

www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia

Monday, October 31, 2011

WEEKEND ICE DOG HIGHLIGHTS

The Ice Dogs completed a successful week gaining 5 out of a possible 6 points.  The week started on Wednesday with a come from behind 6-4 victory of the struggling Erie Otters.  One night later the Ice Dogs bested divisional rival Brampton, a team with a strong road record.  Final score was 4-1 and had it not been for Brampton goalie Keegan Wilson standing on his head the score could have been much worse. The only blemish on the week came via a pesky Sudbury Wolves team.  Despite the Ice Dogs firing 45 shots at Sudbury net minder Johan Mattson, the Wolves hung on for a 2-1 shootout victory, the second time that the Wolves beat the Ice Dogs using the gimmick competition.  

The Ice Dogs prepare for a difficult three in three night stand as they take on Oshawa at home on Thursday and then have a home and home series versus the always difficult Kitchener Rangers.  The Rangers have been dominant versus the Ice Dogs at home, and have never been beaten by the Ice Dogs at the Kitchener Memorial Arena.

Highlights from Thursday's 4-1 victory are here

Ryan Strome was at it again, providing another highlight reel goal.   It was not as jaw dropping as his goal vs Plymouth that went viral last year, or his rookie training display or pizazz, but it should put a smile on the New York Islanders fans, players, coaches and other personnel.  The goal is here

Saturday's shootout loss highlights are to be found here

Quick Thoughts

  • It was an impressive Hallowe'en parade at The Gatorade Garden City Complex on Saturday.  I'm not sure about dressing up your child in a Crown Royal costume, but all in good fun. 
  • Having had to deal with the shootout for the past few years, my opinion has not changed: Don't like it and never will.  How about 5 minutes of 4-4 OT followed by 5 minutes of 3-3 OT.  If nothing is decided, bring back the tie.  After 10 minutes of the extra frame, nothing wrong with sharing the points. 
  • It is a shame that Oshawa and Niagara only play a home and home series during the regular season.   There has always been a buzz in the arena when the Gens come to town.  It started with John Tavares and the play offs the first year and has continued on culminating with last years stirring 5 game play off series.  The only time there was not a buzz in the arena was when the lights literally went out in the arena in March of 2009!
  • Decision time is looming for Marty Williamson and his defence. The Ice Dogs have rolled out 7 D Men the last few games as Brock Beukeboom transitions into the lineup after his return from Injury.  Beukeboom is starting to take a regular shift and the Ice Dogs will likely have to bump someone from the line up. 
  • Hardworking Myles is Doan is down with injury.  He hurt his foot on Saturday, which is a shame because the line of Doan, Joel Wigle and Billy Jenkins had some impressive mojo going. 
  • Movember is upon us again.  After last year's sad and embarrassing display of moustache growing, I will not be participating, but will be happy to support this important cause.  Ed Burkholder is participating.  Al Galloway is undecided as of this writing
We will have two games this week on TV Cogeco and the OHL Action Pack:

Thursday November 3rd Oshawa vs Niagara @ 7pm
Saturday November 5th Kitchener vs Niagara @ 7 pm

Steve Clark- Ice Dogs play by play TV Cogeco/OHL Action Pack
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia

Monday, October 24, 2011

IMPROVED PLAY BY THE ICE DOGS

The jocularity was in full effect for the Niagara Ice Dogs after a weekend sleight of games at the Gatorade Garden City Complex.   A full 60 minute 4-1 victory over Ottawa was followed up by a tidy dismantling of the Plymouth Whalers by a 4-0 count, with Mark Visentin notching his 2nd clean sheet of the season.  Post game the music was pumping and the players were in a celebratory mood, and with good reason.

After last weekend's dismal US swing, the Ice Dogs were summoned to the arena on Sunday for a skate, and this was not the Saturday afternoon open skate at the Jack.  Message received the Ice Dogs refocused and look to maintain a level of play consistent with a team that was a pre-season #2 in the CHL.

Away from the scorelines were some positive intangbiles.   Plymouth, particularly in the 3rd period seemed intent to take a few liberties with goalie Mark Visentin.  Nick Malysa was the most obvious offender as he tried to bull rush the puck and Visentin into the net at one point during period #3.  He was asked to atone for his sins via invitation from resident tough guy from the Ice Dogs Mitch Bennett.  To his credit, Malysa answered the call, losing in rather a decided fashion.  While those who are in the anti-fighting brigade, this was likely not their cup of tea, but from a team concept the notion of stepping in and sending the message was one that was well received in the broadcast booth, in the stands and undoubtedly in the dressing room. 

The Ice Dogs are back at it in Erie on Wednesday.  The Otters have struggled mightily out of the gate this year but this trip has always been a struggle for the Ice Dogs for some reason.  Victories at the Tullio Centre have been few and far between.  It will be interesting to see if former Otter Chris Festerini gets the nod against the Otters or whether or not Marty Williamson will stick with Visentin.  The Ice Dogs have two key home divisional match ups this week as Brampton and Sudbury visit the Gatorade Garden City Complex on Thursday and Saturday respectively.  The betting here is that Festerini gets the call Wednesday while Visentin gets the home divisional match ups.

Highlights from the Plymouth game are here .  Footage is courtesy of TV Cogeco, editing is by Darren Sawyer and the call is provided by yours truly on play by play and the ubiquitous Ed Burkholder on colour.

QUICK THOUGHTS:
1. We had a spirited, all be it, short debate on the Bob Nicholson proposal to raise the draft age by one year to 19.  The idea has its merits developmentally speaking, and that idea was promoted by Ed.  Al Galloway and I seemed to support the notion that there may be legal challenges and this idea would likely have to be collectively bargained.  In the long run, this is an idea worth looking at, but change is not imminent.

2. The team in the most disarray right now is Kingston.  Out of the game with one win in 11 tries, the heat is on in one of the OHL's most proud cities.  Ryan Spooner has been traded about 10x already this year it seems.  Igor Bobkov has struggled in the nets and the heat is on Doug Gilmour. 

3. The Barrie Colts get an immediate boost with the repatriation of Mark Scheifle from Winnipeg.  While Scheifle would be an enticing trade chip at some point in the season, the thinking is that he will in Barrie whole year with ex-Jet Dale Hawerchuk at the helm of the Colts, and if you can't learn from Howerchuck, you can't learn from anyone.  Plus the Colts are holding their own so far in the season and are a marked improvement over last years moribound squad.

We have two games on TVCogeco and the OHL Action Pack.  Ed, Al and I will have the call of the following:

Brampton vs Niagara 7pm
Sudbury vs Niagara 7 pm

Steve Clark
TV Cogeco/OHL Action pack Niagara Ice Dogs Play by Play

Friday, October 21, 2011

ICE DOGS VS OTTAWA HIGHLIGHTS THURSDAY OCTOBER 20TH

The Ice Dogs clamped down on defense and Mark Visentin won a goaltending duel with Peter Mrazek in a 4-1 Ice Dogs victory.  The Dogs broke off a mini two game losing streak and never trailed in this one.  Goals were scored by Joel Wigle, Freddie Hamilton, Mitchell Theoret and Jesse Graham.  Ryan Van Stralen had the lone marker for Ottawa.  

Enjoy the highlights with myself and Ed Burkholder on the call.  Footage is courtesy of TV Cogeco and the editing is done by producer Darren Sawyer:

Ottawa 1 Niagara 4 October 20th

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ice Dog Highlights from October 13th vs Belleville

An added feature to the blog will be the addition of game highlights for the Niagara Ice Dogs, the team I call play by play for on the OHL Action Pack and TVCogeco.  All footage is courtesy of TV Cogeco and is produced and edited by Darren Sawyer, our fine Mobile Producer.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

EARLY STRUGGLES FOR THE ICE DOGS


The headline in the Toronto Sun of "It's Been a Dog's Breakfast for the Niagara was not nice.  The fan forum icedogfans.com have been even less kind with a thread entitled "This is Embarassing".  Niagara was a pre-season CHL #2 and expected to be a Memorial Cup contender in 2011 but they have stumbled out of the gate at 2-4-0-1 and collectively they have been pretty abysmal defensively, giving up 38 goals in 7 games, a far cry from the staunch defense that was ranked 2nd best in the league last year. 

Seven games out of a 68 game schedule is a small sample size and no reason to push any sort of panic button.  A little Rock like eye brow-raising concern though for the team's early fortunes are legitimate.  They already 9 points in arrears of the Mississauga Majors and just endured an early weekend that featured a decisive 7-3 loss to London, a 5-4 SO loss to Sudbury and an ugly 8-6 loss to Barrie.  So far in the early going the Ice Dogs have given up a seven spot on two occasions, and a six spot to go along with the eight goals the Colts hung on them.  Mark Visentin has been injured and the combination of Jaroslav Pavelka and Mike Gallardi have been severely overmatched,  a point that was re-enforced during the 7-3 loss to London in which the combination of Gallardi and Pavelka gave up three goals on three shots. 

  To hang this all on the defense and goaltending would be unfair.  Hockey is after all a team game and my broadcast partner Ed Burkholder's favourite mantra is "If you don't have the puck, make sure that you have a man" .  Offensively the Ice Dogs are putting up curious numbers.  Andrew Aggozino has put up a solid 9 points in 7 games, but on the flip side is -9.  Freddie Hamilton's outstanding offensive numbers (14 points in 7 games) have been offset by a sad  -9. Steven Shipley is averaging a point a game in 7, but has a -6, while David Pacan is blazing a trail with 8 goals in 7 games, but then a dose of cold water is thrown on those numbers with a -2.  Jesse Graham was the plus minus leader for rookies last year, but has started off the year -7.   There are other examples, but the point is made. 

Are there moves to be made?  Possibly.  The Ice Dogs desperately need some goaltending support, as they are very likely to lose Visentin for most of December due to world junior commitments.   Dougie Hamilton, Freddie Hamilton and Ryan Strome could also be potentially on that list, and could further sap the depth of the Ice Dogs during a key portion of their schedule. 

Niagara fans are anxious for a winner.  They got a taste of success last year when the Ice Dogs got to the third round of the playoffs, and it was all supposed to come together this year, a year in which there is also expected to be a strong push of a new arena.  On ice success will keep the antiquated Gatorade Garden City Complex full and happy.   A Dog's breakfast?  Not quite, but enough questions to raise a curious eyebrow or two. 

QUICK NOTES
- The numbers caught up with affable OA Johnson Andrews who was let go when Alex Friesen returned from AHL camp.  Andrews is ripping up the Jr B with the St Catharines Falcons, and has lots to offer an OHL team.

-Ryan Strome remains with the New York Islanders, but has been a healthy scratch for the first couple of games.  The betting is that he will return when the Isles get a couple of bodies off of IR.  One of those injured for the Isles is Trevor Gillies, and why he still has a job in this league is beyond my reasoning.

- A new and very welcome feature on the OHL website is the breakdown of suspensions on video.  Taking a page from the NHL the OHL has done a very nice job of highlighting the transgression via several different angles and then offering up their reasoning for the suspension.  Each video is only about 25 seconds long and gets right to the point.  You may not agree with the decisions, but the method of disseminating the information is to be lauded.

TV Cogeco returns after its one game Election Night Hiatus with the Belleville Bulls in town to face the Ice Dogs.  Game time is 7:00pm on TV Cogeco in Niagara and on the OHL Action Pack.  Ed, Al and I have the call.

Steve Clark

Steve is in his 5th year as the television play by play voice of the Niagara Ice Dogs, and 6th year overall with the OHL.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

POLITICAL FUN FOR A WEDNESDAY

There will be a sports related blog a little later on in the day, but I thought I would have some political fun today.   I watched the debates last night and chuckled at the lack of spontaniety by the candidates as they failed to actually answer any of the questions, choosing not to deviate from the usual political speak.  So today I thought I'd try some celebrity look alikes:

WHEN I SEE DALTON MCGUINTY....I THINK NORMAN BATES


WHEN I SEE TIM HUDAK....I THINK SHELDON FROM THE BIG BANG THEORY


WHEN IS SEE ANDREA HORVATH....I THINK NANCY GRACE


Discuss.....

Monday, September 19, 2011

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS FOR A MONDAY



How does J-Lo, Marc Anthony, Justin Verlander and Alan Thicke all related to each other?  Read on to find out!!!


1. Taking into consideration last year, the Miami Dolphins have lost 9 out of their last 10 at home!  The team tried to hire another coach (Jim Harbaugh) before firing Tony Sparano, then signed Sparano to a 2 year contract.  They also openly tried to acquire QB Kyle Orton from Denver, and that fell through.   Things are a mess in Miami and that does not even include J Lo leaving Marc Anthony!!!

2. Do the Leafs open their exhibition schedule tonight?  Holy cow, there were at least 50 tweets breathlessly detailing the line up tonight.   There are 70 bodies in camp right now, so expect a lot of mixing and matching as the Leafs navigate the NHL's convoluted Exhibition dressed/not dressed rules.

3. Marc Crawford joins TSN as an analyst.  Good for him as me may need a pay check if the Steve Moore/Todd Bertuzzi lawsuit goes horrible awry.  Can't get the image of Crawford smirking as Steve Moore lay prone on the ice.

4. The Ice Dogs open their season in Peterborough on Tuesday and then get a much needed week off before the home opener.   As of this point in time, only David Pacan has been returned from his NHL affiliation (Florida)

5. Thumbs down to McMaster QB Kyle Quinlan who got himself arrested after a scuffle in a campus bar.  Quinlan has been suspended by the team, which is less than convenient in a year that McMaster was destined to some damage.  Gotta remember that as an elite on campus athlete, you are more visible and also a target!!

6. Non-Sports, but How I Met Your Mother returns with a new episode double shot!! Gotta love Neil Patrick Harris and the random Alan Thicke cameos!

7. Watched WWE Night of Champions at the movie theatre last night.  The show itself was pretty good, but the most fun was watching the signs that fans bring to the matches.  Some tasteless, some funny, but always creative.  Kudos to the man in full luchadore/Insane Clown Posse get up.  Good for you sir!!!

8. Dallas won 27-24 in OT yesterday, but the most telling stat was Dallas being favoured by 3.  A lot of bettors were left broken hearted as in OT Dallas completed a 77 yard pass to the one.  Dallas scores a TD and those who wagered on Dallas are very happy today....

9. Kansas City has been outscored a whopping 89-10 in two losses to Buffalo and Detroit, who subsequently are 2-0 to start the season.  Did anyone pick that????

10. Brandon Morrow continues to confound, confuse, frustrate and impress.  After getting rocked for the better part of the second half, he turns in a gem yesterday against the Yankees.  Do I go for the Morrow jersey, or do I hedge my bets and go for the much more safe Lawrie or Bautista one?

11. That sound?  Its the sound of the Red Sox season going down the tubes!!

12. Justin Verlander is 24-5 and he should be the MVP.  No one has made more of a difference to his team tangibly and via intangibles.  He gives the bullpen a rest, and his win percentage is far above his teams average.   I know the arguments about pitchers and position players, but if you take a look at a position player: Do his HR's and RBI's always make a tangible difference in a game or not?  My guess is not.  Verlander, Granderson, Bautista, Gonzales are my top 4.

Steve Clark
http://steveclarksportsbroadcaster.blogspot.com
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia

6.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CANADA BASKETBALL: ITS A NO BRAINER

 
Who Canada's next national basketball coach should not be up for debate.  It will not be grist for talk radio and there should not be a lengthy list of candidates.   One name stands well above the rest.  Simply put, he's a winner and his name is Dave Smart, Coach of the Carleton Ravens owner of numerous CIS Basketball Championships and author of the greatest dynasty in Canadian university basketball history, this side of Ken Shields' Victoria Vikes of the late 70's and early 80's. 

Smart was a former assistant coach with the national team as recently as 2008 and he was horrible miscast.  It was hard to imagine the fiery Smart holding a clip board and weaving his magic on a program.   He took a moribound Carleton program breathed life into it and made the model franchise for all of university basketball.  He teaches his players to win and settles for nothing less as a coach.   He is quick to give his players credit for winning while receding into the background.  He is a rare hybrid of intensity and humility, not seen in basketball where coaches egos are larger than life.  

I've had a chance to sit in on a coaching clinic with Dave Smart, and while many coaches are very good at this, they use as a forum to crack a few jokes, tell a few stories and run some drills. Smart brings his brand of intensity into coaching forums and you come out of his presentation truly believing in him, and his philosophy.

Canada basketball has tried university coaches in the past, and it has been a horrible failure.  Steve Konchalski, long-time coach of St FX had the job and it was not a good fit as Konchalski's teams at the time did not play under the FIBA rules.   These days the CIS follows a FIBA hybrid and its coaches are much more suited for games on the national stage.  Who better to get than the best coach the CIS has to offer?

This is barely worth an opinion blog.  It's Dave Smart's job to lose.  Any other choice would pale in comparison.

Steve Clark

Thursday, September 8, 2011

RUSSIAN HOCKEY TRAGEDY

A woman mourns in front of the Arena-2000 stadium, the home venue of Russian ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the city of Yaroslavl, 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow. - A woman mourns in front of the Arena-2000 stadium, the home venue of Russian ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the city of Yaroslavl, 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow. | Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images
Picture yourself supporting and rooting for your favourite team.   You follow the team religiously, buy the merchindise, and attend the games.  Then all of a sudden its gone, completely wiped out about a terrible tragedy.  That's likely how you fell this morning if you support the KHL team Lokomotiv  Now multiply that  by about a 1000 times and you might scratch the surface as to how friends and family members are feeling this morning as they try to pick up the pieces left by 43 people perishing in a plane crash.   I could separate those who plied their trade for NHL teams in the past, but that would not do justice to the rest of the victims, each with friends, each with families, each with careers.  

Russian air safety has been thrust into the limelight already after this awful, awful tragedy.  Preventable? Early indications are that Russian air safety has been, well lets just say, lacking.  Time, and a thorough investigation, will reveal the truth, and hopefully the appropriate measures are taken.  It is just sad that it takes a tragedy such as this peel back the layers and thoroughly shine a light on what could have happened.

It is just so sad that we, as a society, tend to be more reactive than proactive. 

The NHL would do right by having players wear a patch for the whole year to honour those whose lives were lost.

It is another blog I wished that I did not have to write. In this off-season of bleak news in hockey, training camps cannot start fast enough so that the focus can be on the ice.

Steve Clark

Monday, August 29, 2011

LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS

TOP TEN RANDOM THOUGHTS ON A LATE SUMMER'S NIGHT

Time is short, hence the late night blog posting, but here are some quick hit thoughts from a variety of subjects, covering a variety of sports.

1. Finally...Ice Dog training camp opens tomorrow.  The team is only playing three exhibition games because Marty Williamson has been frank about his ability to field a quality squad considering that there are nine players who will be at NHL camps.   Should all nine return, and there is a very good chance that will happen, call the Ice Dogs one of the early favourites this year.

2. Not a huge CFL fan, though I do love my Tiger Cats. While I was rooting hard for the Cats vs. Winnipeg on Friday, a small part of me was happy that the newly dubbed "Swaggerville" got the W.  Love the fact that this team has success and personality! Also, love the fact that Montreal and Calgary spent a good portion of the week yapping at each other and then backed it up with a great game narrowly won by Calgary.  Its been a fun year in the CFL, unless of course you are an Argo fan or a Roughrider fan.  Sad thing is that one of those teams could very well make the playoffs!

3. No secret that I am a huge Miami Dolphin fan and no secret that this team causes no end of frustration for all of its fans.  Its bad enough having to root for a team that has dreadful aqua marine uniforms, but the mediocre football is too much. Last year ended with my Dolphin hat getting thrown in the recycling bin in disgust!  Here's hoping Reggie Bush can revitalize a stagnant offense led by the redoubtable Chad Henne who somehow managed to find one of the best receivers in the NHL in Brandon Marshall for only 3 TD passes last year.   No problem with the D, but the O better step up the game, else a "Seahawk-esque" 7-9 is very likely.  My goal for the year is to be the special guest of Jennifer Lopez, who now has a spot open in her suite after she dropped the vampire like Marc Anthony.

4. Spent the latter part of summer digging into some Fantasy Hockey magazines, which might seem strange as I don't play Fantasy Hockey, but I love the stats.  Predicted the Leafs, by the way, another one of my teams that causes me premature aging, to make the playoffs the last two years.  We know how that went.   No predictions this year, but I've been with my wife for over five years now and she has yet to see me watch a Leaf playoff game, while I have dutifully and reluctantly, I might add, have celebrated her Red Wings winning one cup and making the playoffs every year.

5. NBA update?   Nothing, unless you count Gilbert Arenas co-hort/foil Javaris Crittendon getting accused of murder.   Methinks some of these fellows need some hoops to keep them out of trouble.  At least Ron Artest is rumoured to be doing Dancing With The Stars. Wearing sparkly tuxes should keep him away from trouble.

6. With the NBA, this will give the fledgling NBL of Canada a running start in terms of focus and gaining a following.  Here's hoping hoop fans discover that there is great ball in their back yards with the new pro loop and university and college basketball.

7. Congrats go out to John Bartlett, who goes from the Marlies to the Canadiens.  While I did apply for the Habs gig, I'm happy to see a guy like John go from the OHL to the AHL to the show.

8. Congrats also to Dennis Beyak who leaves his part-time radio gig with the Leafs and returns home to Winnipeg to call games for TSN regionally and also on the radio at 1290. He will be supported by ex-Manitoba Moose voice Brian Munz.

9. The Blues Jays are officially in "play out the string" or "garbage time" mode.  I hope that that they don't mail in the last part of the season.   Three straight dismal losses to T-Bay were on the heels of losing 2/3 to the sad-sack Royals.  The only games the Jays have won the last two series, were the ones started by Ricky Romero who has been rock solid. 

10. Personally, I know that I will be back as the voice of the Niagara Ice Dogs on TV Cogeco next year along with fine broadcasters and good friends Ed Burkholder and Al Galloway.  There might be more to announce in the next couple of weeks, or nothing at all.   Ed, Al and I are in our 5th OHL season together and other 150 telecasts.  Where has the time gone?  Home opener is September 29th vs the dastardly Mississauga Majors!

Finally, can't believe I have to mention another sad passing for the second consecutive blog. Longtime McMaster Marauder basketball fan, Hamilton Tiger Cat season ticket holder and all around good guy John Millar passed away suddenly late Sunday evening at the age of 62.  There was no bigger dedicated supporter than John.  He rarely missed a Marauder basketball game, often travelling great distances on the road to support the Maroon and Grey.  He will be sadly missed.

Steve Clark
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia
http://steveclarksportsbroadcaster.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AFTER AN ABSENCE.....A BLOG!

I took a brief somewhat unscheduled close to three-week hiatus away from the bloggosphere .  A little cottage time, and other fatherly responsibilities involving a now three month old kept me away from the computer.  Got a variety of topics to cover, so lets get to it!

THE NBL of Canada DRAFT

Congratulations to the NBL of Canada on the staging of their inaugural draft, which from the buzz that I've read was a complete and utter success. Many major media outlets covered the story.  The Toronto Sun, Star, TSN among others all offered up varying reports.  The cynicism remains, but there remains more of positive spin than other failed ventures. CEO Andre Levingston made an appearance on Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590 on Monday and calmly laid out his vision and business plan. He was quick to point that the lure of the league is opportunity, rather than wealth as the salary cap is $150 000 per team. The challenge now is to make the players something of household names.  I'll admit I've never heard of 1st overall pick Morgan Lewis, 6'4 out of the University of Findlay, and in fact had not heard of any player until the University of Windsor's Isaac Kuon got drafted in the 2nd round by London.  Best names of the draft?  Got to be Akeem Sween, drafted by Moncton out of Humber College, followed closely by Halifax's Papa Oppong, out of Western Kentucky.  Also, the PA Announcer for Saint John will have fun with Kevin Massiah from Wisconsin when he finds bottom of the net.  The first game goes October 29th when Moncton visits Quebec City.   I think a lot of people are rooting for the league to succeed, so go buy a ticket.  There will be no question that the basketball will be of premium quality.

ICE DOGS OPEN CAMP

Magic words for all OHL fans around Niagara with the announcement of training camp beginning August 30th at the Gatorade Garden City Complex, running through  until the first exhibition game on September 3rd vs Erie.  There should be no shortage of intriguing story lines for Niagara this year as the squad has a chance to build on last years success and really be amongst the elite not just in Ontario , but in all of Canada.  Questions remain as to how long 1st rounders Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton and Mark Visentin will last at their respective NHL camps. Also, the aforementioned trio plus Freddie Hamilton are all gunning for Team Canada and the World Jr's.  How much time those fine players miss, may go aways in dictating the fortunes of the Dogs this year.  Also, the question of whether or not the Niagara region gets a new arena may dominate the headlines and casting a looming shadow over the year.  Here's hoping that gets settled so we can also focus on hockey!

MEDIA NOTES

All is silent on the hockey media vacancies at this point in time.  Phoenix, Winnipeg, and Montreal all have voids to fill on either the TV or radio end.  Montreal is looking for a radio play by play man, as is Winnipeg. While Phoenix and Winnipeg are still looking at play by play on the TV end of things.  

Personally, I'm hoping to have a couple of new projects on the go come the fall, on top of this blog and my play by play duties with the Ice Dogs.  A busy fall awaits, and you'll be the first to know if something breaks personally.  

IN MEMORIAM

As has been heavily documented in many media outlets, we mourn the passing of both Rick Rypien of the Winnipeg Jets organization and NDP leader Jack Layton. Many have spoken of both men and their many tremendous attributes, and both leave a lasting legacy. 

Jack Layton sudden passing at the age of 61 opened up a staggering number of tributes or respect to the affable and outgoing NDP leader.  His tireless devotion to this party and cause lead the NDP to their highest standing in the country.  More importantly Layton defied the traditional and conventional politician and truly was a man of the people.  A fighter to the end, he will be missed.

With the passing of Rick Rypien tragically at the age of 27 it is hoped that the conversation about mental illness will continue and that there can be open dialogue. Rick Rypien fought his illness for many years and still carved out a niche in an extremely competitive line of work.    Remember to everyone out there suffering from an emotional or mental illness:  There are open and non-judgmental set of ears and caring hearts if you want to talk.

Steve Clark