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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Some quick thoughts from the hip:

Congratulations to Shawinigan for hoisting the Memorial Cup at the expense of the London Knights.  Anytime you see a championship game decided in Overtime, it is a special thing even though it is absolutely devastating for the vanquished team.   Four London Knights who really stood out for me were Austin Watson, Greg McKegg , Matt Rupert and Ryan Rupert.  Everyone was talking about the two way game and intensity that Watson brought to the table, but equally impressive was McKegg.   His offensive talents are well documented, but he also developed a very, very solid two way game.The Leafs have a bonafide solid prospect.  It will be hard for any NHL team to ignore the Ruperts, two guys with 50 point, 100 PIM potential.  They are cut from the Andrew Shaw mold and he made an instant impact with the Chicago Black Hawks this year.  Michael Houser was ranked 16th for goaltenders in the upcoming draft.   His stock has sky-rocketed since then and will be a great pick for whomever is lucky enough to nab him.  The only negative from the tournament was the poor ice that seemed to plague games.  Credit goes to the players for putting on a first class performance in spite of the ice issues. 

People may quibble with the nature of Sportsnet's coverage for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes the announcers style are not everyone's cup of tea and the "expert analysis" is lacking.  Many do not like the interruption of the flow of the game.  Personally, I enjoyed the game coverage, but in particular getting a regular Friday night spot did wonders for the legitimacy of the product, and it showed during the Memorial Cup.  During OT, upwards of a million people tuned in at some point.  Those are great numbers for junior hockey.  This combined with the wall to wall coverage put forth by local cable companies gives great exposure to the athletes.  

Congratulations to Dougie Hamilton, CHL Defenseman of the Year and to Mark Visentin who had a chance to savour some playoff experience with Phoenix before they bowed out of the conference final versus LA.  The next announcement I hope to make in regards to the IceDogs is a pro contract signing for Andrew Agozzino.  The guy is just too good not to get a look professionally. 

Hearing he wants back in the game with the San Francisco in some sort of front office/advisory role.  Here is the irony of the situation.  There is no doubt that Bonds could add something to a team, but his complete selfishness, and propensity to treat people with complete and utter disdain ruin any credibility he could have with an organization.   How could any team want to take a chance on that?   

Unfortunately this team is getting more headlines for their emotional outbursts and real or contrived war with the umpires.  Plus, they seem to be spiralling in the wrong direction having lost 5 of their last 6.  The talent is there, but the maturity and consistency have a long way to go.  They got a stabilizing performance from Drew Hutchinson last night after Kyle Drabek and Brandon Morrow got lit up, Henderson Alvarez gave up back to back to back jacks before getting tossed, and then Ricky Romero who cannot locate the plate, but did find the time to snipe back to fans on Twitter.  Brett Lawrie also took to social media to bash at the "haters" out there.   I think they need to corral their emotional outbursts and channel on the field don't you think?  Not quite the halcyon days of the glaring, crotch grabbing Dave Stieb and the uniform burning of Damaso Garcia, but getting there!!

This might rank up there with Carolina/Edmonton, Ottawa/Anaheim in terms of match ups with a lack of buzz.  That said this year's Stanley Cup does have a nice level of intrigue with the upstart Kings versus a Devils team with a lot of talent and goalie hoping for one last Stanley Cup before riding off into the sunset.  That said, I'm cringing in advance at what Ron MacLean might come up with for an opening for CBC.   

Steve Clark

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I love the CBC.  In fact I think more tax dollars should be devoted to the CBC and all its ancillary programming.  For an educator like myself, the Fifth Estate, and all of the CBC documentaries in its Doc Zone are invaluable resources in the classroom.  CBC has a wonderful educational portfolio ,and delivers timely regional news.  Personally, I can take or leave some of their prime time programming, but there is not doubt that it does a very good job of promoting Canadian talent.   Hockey Night in Canada is the cornerstone program of not only the CBC but also it is the benchmark for all other hockey  broadcasts in Canada, be it Rogers Sportsnet or TSN.

There!   Someone had to say it because the CBC has become everyone's favourite whipping boy.  The CBC took a severe hair cut in the last budget and seems to get attacked from every angle, particularly the extremely skewered Sun TV, a right-wing Fox News Wannabee that seems to use CBC bashing as its cornerstone programming.  

  Admittedly, they are an easy target. When you are tax-payer funded, all of a sudden everyone becomes a programming director and complains that their tax dollars are not representative of what they want to see in a government ran television network.   Realistically it is hard to please everyone.  Philosopher Jeremy Bentham probably had it best when he promoted the concept of utilitarianism which is the fundamental principal of trying to please the most people possible, with the full knowledge that unanimous support was simply not feasible.

Hockey Night in Canada has borne the brunt of the complaints and really serves as the inspiration for this blog. Now in the interests of full disclosure, there may be a wee bit of a bias as, like any fledgling sports broadcaster ,  I do have a life long dream of working for Hockey Night in Canada, one of the first programs that I embraced when I came to Canada at the age of 8.  Of course when you are in living in a one TV household and there was a steady diet of The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Knots Landing and Dallas on the TV, you tended to gravitate towards and hold on to the alternative that Hockey Night provided.  

This season has seen personalities Ron MacLean and Don Cherry leap from controversy to controversy, be it from Cherry's  perceived xenophobia and his hasty and necessary apology to Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson  for calling them out at the beginning of the season to MacLeans recent attempt to link hockey to 9/11.The Coaches Corner Duo have become popular targets to their exorbitant salary and their tendency to sprinkle more opinion than people care for.   Panellists and colour commentators PJ Stock,  Kevin Weekes and Glen Healey have all come under heavy criticism.  Even the normally reliable Jim Hughson and Mark Lee, two of the CBC's strongest voices have also received their fair share of less than stellar opinions.  None, however, have been as polarizing as veteran Bob Cole.   The signal caller is approaching 80 and is seen as both CBC's link to the past and at the same time their hesitancy to become as contemporary as other broadcasters.  Cole, who does miss his fair share of names, does have the wonderful pipes and can still call the game as it should, but do not tell that to many who have made him a consistent trending topic on Twitter, mostly for negative reasons. While everyone is entitled to their opinion and someone's own personal style may not be for everyone the criticism of other hockey broadcasters seem to pale in contrast to the avalanche of criticism that Hockey Night in Canada seems to receive

However, with a rights negotiation looming for the beleaguered corporation, not only have some eulogies been written for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, but the ashes have already been sprinkled across the prairies through Ontario and out to Newfoundland. Please do not roll the credits on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC yet.  There is a lot of vibrancy and potential left in the CBC Hockey Department and does remain a desireable location to work at even in the face of still competition from Rogers Sportsnet and TSN.     Gary Bettman,  the diminutive commissioner has himself tacitly endorsed Hockey Night in Canada and its tradition, even though it is certain that tradition in this round of negotiations will come at a heavy price.   

There are many who do not like the fact that tax payer dollars are used to as a bargaining chip and negotiating tool for things such as the lucrative Saturday night NHL hockey package, but it must be said that he revenue that CBC generates through hockey are very beneficial to the bottom line.  Plus it could be argued that the demise of CBC sports could result in the demise of the rest of the CBC.   While some may celebrate, I would see it as an absolute catastrophe.  The rest of the networks could not come even close to replacing what the CBC offers, and that includes programming which goes beyond sports

 I hope that the CBC uses every available resource to retain Hockey Night in Canada.  It is too important of a Canadian tradition to simply pass off to another network. 

Steve Clark

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The London Knights  and Niagara Ice Dogs continued the series of "no margin for error" with another evenly matched tilt last night at the John Labbat Centre, with the Knights emerging with a narrow 3-2 goal on a goal that was deemed controversial by Ice Dog Coach Marty Williamson who felt that an interference penalty should have been called.   Controversy or not this series has proven that the teams are willing to leap on any scant advantage handed to them by the opposite team and as it turned out the Knights capitalized on the last chance that was given to them by the IceDogs. A soft and highly debatable call on Steven Shipley with less than two minutes left dashed the residual hopes of the IceDogs.   

What must be frustrating for all IceDogs players, coaches and supporters alike is the fact that the IceDogs have had leads in all three games and have failed to hold them.  Game 3 would be particularly frustrating as the IceDogs took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and quickly gave them up.  They are usually a very defensively responsible team so credit goes to the Knights for burying their chances and turning up the pressure when adversity hits them.   

Make no mistake about it the IceDogs are going to have to come with the mindset that Game 4 is the biggest game of the year for the team.  A couple of IceDog players have struggled to find traction so far in the championship series, not from lack of effort, but more to the diligent work of the Knights.  Ryan Strome, Tom Kuhnackl, Alex Friesen, Steven Shipley and David Pacan are amongst the IceDogs who have yet to light the lamp.  Those players are too good to be held down for long, so expect one, two or all of them to elevate their game tomorrow night. 

Game 4 is Wednesday night at The Jack, game time 7pm.  The Robertson Cup will be in the house again and we are trying to figure out the source of that eerie green glow that hangs over top of the cup.   I think it means that Slytherin are House Champions. Harry Potter fans will get the references, and we all know Harry Potter fans and hockey fans are mutually exclusive.

*snarky author reference* Yes I know that the green light is a TV creation, and I'm just poking fun at our fine counterparts in London. :-) All in good fun, and I've enjoyed the work that Greg Sloane, Rick Doyle and the rest of the crew have provided.


- IceDogs lost versatile and valuable forward Mitchell Theoret in the 1st with an "upper body injury"  That forced the IceDogs to juggle 11 forwards, with the fourth line splitting duties on Theoret's 3rd line spot

-The IceDogs did welcome back hardworking Miles Doan back to the lineup.  The agitating forward played a strong game, showing his usual hustle and enthusiasm

-The Dogs did not open or close the game very well. In the first the shots were 7-1 London coming out the gate and 15-9 in the 3rd.  In fact London has outscored Niagara 3-0 in the 3rd period so far in the series. 

-Tasteless moment of the night goes to the London fan who held the Russian Flag with the sign "Don't Worry Visentin, this time you are only letting down your CITY".  Talk about trying to get a story alive well past its due date that was ill-informed to begin with.  The flag itself was one thing, adding the sign was bit too much

-Austin Watson continues to be the best all-around forward on both teams, particularly in the shot blocking department.   The IceDogs have missed a number of key opportunities due to the diligent forward

-Also, the IceDogs had only 27 shots on goal, but missed the net on a number of key shots

Looking forward, once again, to the province wide audience for Game 4 at the Jack with Ed Burkholder, Al Galloway and myself

Steve Clark - Ice Dogs TV Play by Play

Monday, May 7, 2012


The margin for error for success and failure has become even more narrowly defined as the OHL play-offs march on.  This has been extremely evident so far in the first two games of the OHL final between London and Niagara.  In game one, Niagara parlayed two London penalties into some overtime momentum, finally winning on Dougie Hamilton's seemingly harmless shot from the point that eluded Michael Houser.  Houser, who had been brilliant  to that point, let one slip by that he likely should have had.  Game over, advantage IceDogs.

Fast forward to game two and the Ice Dogs this time took advantage of their power play opportunities, counting twice through Agozzino and were on their way to putting London on the ropes in the series.  However, that turned out to be something of fools gold for the IceDogs.  Though up 2-0, the chances and the shots were pretty even.  Jared Tinordi jumped into the rush and was not picked up. He netted the shot and the Knights were down one.  In the second period it was time for the Knights to be opportunistic as they turned a couple of defensive turnovers into goals via Ryan Rupert and then added a fourth as for some reason three IceDogs got caught up ice while shorthanded and that allowed a pretty three way passing play finished off by Olli Maatta.  Though the IceDogs would respond through Agozzino's 3rd of the evening, they got no closer despite a furious rally in the third.  Rupert would match Agozzino in the hat-trick department with an empty net marker late in the 3rd to cap the scoring.

Game 3 will be tonight (Monday) in London, and there is no reason to believe the game will be anything but close.  They both roll four lines deep, have standout defensemen and series changing goaltending.  Batten down the hatches for a long one fans!

Highlights from Game 2 in Niagara are here: 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It was another up and down round of predictions, as I correctly predicted Niagara over Ottawa in 5, but being way off on London/Kitchener.  I had the Rangers in 7, and we all know that London quickly dispatched Kitchener in 4 straight.  This series will mark the first time that the Ice Dogs did not have home ice advantage in the playoffs, but it is important to note that 2 of the 3 Ice Dog losses in these play-offs were on home ice.  They are a stellar 6-1 on the road in the play-offs.

This pick is part roster analysis and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the squads and part desire for the storybook ending.  Hey, I'm a romantic at heart!  When I analyze the two playoff runs, the one thing that is being said about both teams is that London might have been a year early, while Niagara is a team that is built for the presence.  It's true to a certain extent but London did acquire Austin Watson and Greg McKegg at the trade deadline, showing that they believed a deep run was a strong possibility.  The Ice Dogs added the key and necessary pieces of Jamie Oleksiak, Tom Kuhnhackl and Brett Ritchie, all from the Western Conference for the run.  The goaltending match up of Michael Houser vs Mark Visentin is a tantalizing one as we have the two reigning OHL goalie's of the year matching up.  Houser has been outstanding, but give me Visentin in a pressure packed situation any day of the week.  He is a curious mix of hyper-focus, intensity and attention to detail before the game, but possesses a cool, unflappable demeanour during the game.  Plus, his excellent puck handling is a difference making asset.  On defense, London boasts Jared Tinordi, Scott Harrington and Ollie Maata as a top three.  Maata has proven to be uber-talented and his stock has skyrocketed during these playoffs.   The Ice Dogs counter with Oleksiak, Dougie Hamilton and Brock Beukeboom as a top three.  Call the D match up a wash.  Same goes for the forwards.  The Ice Dogs run four lines deep and each has contributed at some point during the playoffs.  The overage production of Alex Friesen, David Pacan and Andrew Agozzino has been unmatched so far in these playoffs.  London boasts the likes of Jared Knight, crafty Vladimir Namestnikov, Greg McKegg, Austin Watson, Bo Horvat Max Domi, the list goes on and on and on.  Their maybe a very, very slight edge to London on this one, but it is the scantest of margins.  The coaches are also very evenly matched.  London had to deal with their coach, Dale Hunter leaving in the middle of a very successful season.  No problem, as brother Mark stepped in and the Knights did not miss a beat.  The Ice Dogs have the lead by example Marty Williamson.  You rarely see Williamson lose it on the bench, but he has the attention of everyone in the room and has had success at every level, save for the elusive OHL title and  a Memorial Cup appearance.  This series could very well go seven games and London may use home ice advantage to propel them over the top, but the old sentimentalist in me sees the storybook finish of the Ice Dogs celebrating in front of a raucous sold out Gatorade Garden City Complex.

Enjoy the series everyone!

Steve Clark