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Monday, September 23, 2013


I 've changed my attitude about fighting recently, after an exhaustive study of the forthcoming Derek Boogard lawsuit that was just filed by the Boogard family versus the NHL.   Derek Boogard had almost 200 fights over the course of his junior and professional career, including 66 in six years in the NHL.  The damage to his body both physically and psychologically was astounding.   Routinely taking pain pills, the severe trauma to the head from repeated blows,and the emotional upheaval that came with the likelihood of fisticuffs,  it did not make for a pretty picture.

At the OHL game that I called on Thursday, I cringed during the two fights, hoping that the combatants would not get injured.  In one fight a player was felled by a flurry of punches, likely breaking a nose.  I know that I do not call fights with the zest that some broadcasters do, nor with the enthusiasm I did earlier in my OHL broadcasting career. 

 Despite this, I still see a role for fighting in the game,  still see it as a momentum changer in the right circumstances and still see a role for the skilled enforcer.  Argue all you want, but Tie Domi was a skilled enforcer.  He could drop the gloves to set the tone, change the tone or protect a teammate but was also good for double digits in goals and 20-25 points per season.  Nothing wrong with that for a role player with 4th line minutes.   In the right time and the right place, fights are an integral part of the game. 

However, I saw Sunday nights donneybrook as neither game changing nor momentum shifting.  It was exhibition play for goodness sake.   The Sabres, from what I can gather, took issue with a one sided brawl involving the Maple Leafs Jamie Devane, a former OHL enforcer, likely to play a similar role in the pro's.   Enter Jonathan Scott, and more importantly delete Colton Orr and Frazer McClaren, neither one of them in the lineup.  Scott, an imposing 6'8 270lbs with a total of 1 goal 4 assists and 305 PIM in 180 odd games was a central figure in a wonderful mini-documentary done by the New York Daily Times on the late Derek Boogard.  He was also a former teammate.  During the documentary he spoke of his role as an enforcer and all of the angst that goes with the job.  

Scott, after a word or two with Phil Kessel, broke the alleged "Code" by attempting to jump the diminutive Kessel who responded with one or two desperate lumberjack swings to the giant enforcer.   At that point everyone jumped in, including David Clarkson, he of the hefty contract , who emerged from the bench for a dance partner.   That turned out to be a very costly move as it is an automatic 10 game suspension and carries no salary cap relief for the Leafs.  Kessel himself should face supplementary discipline for his attempt to injure.  Despite the chest puffing, this was a costly venture for the Leafs.  While Scott, who may have broken the rules of the Code, really broke no rules as defined by the National Hockey League.  If he is suspended it would be via a media driven agenda rather than an interpretation of the rules.   

All of this nonsense may serve as a prelude to the regular season when the Leafs and Sabres, divisional rivals and frequent opponents.  No doubt the next time these two teams play Orr and Maclaren will be dressed, along with Scott.  What happens before the two teams play will play a large role in how the next match up is viewed.  If the NHL moves to suspend those who sinned and issues warnings to teams that any rough stuff will be harshly punished then the issue will be settled on the ice, as it rightly should.  However,  if the NHL inflicts the minimum punishment and does nothing to warn the teams they are, in my opinion, cononding or even encouraging another potential explosive situation.   

Here is hoping cooler heads prevail.  Remember, the Bertuzzi/Moore incident was the culmination in a war or words, fights and questionable hits where the NHL allowed one of its players to issue a bounty on another player and stood idly by. 

Steve Clark

Friday, September 20, 2013


Sure felt like 2007 all over again at the Jack Gatecliffe Arena last night.   The opponents were from Mississauga and the weather outside was muggy, making for some interesting ice conditions.  The result, however, was vastly different.  Back in 2007 the IceDogs led by Stefan Legein and Michael Swift fashioned a tidy 4-1 victory over the then Mississauga St. Michaels Majors. Last nights affair was anything but tidy, as one could expect from two young teams trying to find their way and their identity.  The final outcome was a rollicking, entertaining and highly uneven affair with Mississauga prevailing in OT 6-5.  The IceDogs set the pace but could not hold leads of 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3.  Credit goes to the Steelheads for never giving up on the game.  A lesson was learned by the young IceDogs as well. You can never take your foot off the pedal against anyone in the OHL.   The Dogs are off for a week before a strange road trip that will see them hit Kingston, Belleville and Ottawa before returning home to face North Bay.  Geographical logic dictates that the more seamless road trip would be Ottawa, Kingston and Belleville, but such is life in the OHL. 

Last nights highlights are  HERE:
Been around the league long enough now to see guys start their pro careers with varying degrees of success, ranging from the wildly successful Alex Pietrangelo, to guys like Michael Swift carving out their niche far away from North America in Japan.  A couple of IceDogs alum. popped up on AHL rosters as they start training camp.   Alex Friesen and David Pacan are plying their trade now for Utica, the new farm home for Vancouver.   Drew Schiestel gets a little hometown cooking as he is trying out for the Hamilton Bulldogs while Stefan Legein is on the training camp roster for the Toronto Marlies.  Andrew Agozzino, owener of a new NHL Contract will be in Lake Erie while draftees like Mark Visentin, Freddie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie and Jamie Oleksiak remain in NHL Camps and will likely be assigned to Portland (Visentin) Worcester (Hamilton) Bridgeport or New York Islanders (Strome) Dallas or Texas Stars (Ritchie and Oleksiak).  Nice to see so many ex-IceDogs finding their way in the pro ranks. 

Lots of off-season broadcast shuffling locally.  Dan Dunleavy moves from Leaf radio broadcasts to Buffalo to eventually succeed Rick Jeannerrette, while Jon Abbot gets Dunleavy's old spot in Toronto as he vacates the Marlies booth.  Hamilton Bulldogs TV voice Todd Crocker jumps to full time work with the Marlies.   What is interesting about Crocker's appointment is that he will also be filming a documentary on the AHL as he travels the circuit.   What is sure to be interesting is his take on the AHL Outdoor Classic at Comerica Park as the Marlies take on Grand Rapids.  Todd is pretty handy with the camera and has shot a number of short documentaries through his company From Thin Air Pictures.  As for myself?   a 7th year at the Jack Gatefcliffe looms, as well as other assorted yet to be named freelance dates.   Happy to see guys move up, and it makes me think that maybe one of this opportunities may slide my way at some point.  

Till next time
Steve Clark

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Wow, has it really been July 15 since I last posted?    Talk about those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer getting away from me.  Seriously, a combination of writers block and a busy summer chasing around my now two year old kept me away from the computer and away from writing.   Honestly, when I looked at the last posting I did, it really was far from my best work and had nothing really compelling to say.  Hopefully, we can change that and also be able to post a little more frequently now that hockey season is upon us.  

The first item of business to ponder is the Hockey News pre-season OHL rankings.   Predictably London is at the top, and Barrie is right there with them.   Now most of the list is pure speculation as its based on existing rosters and maybe a handful of exhibition games.  Its not to say that they were throwing darts at the dartboard when predicting but it is far from a exhaustive, compelling in-depth look.   The IceDogs are ranked 19th in the OHL just ahead of the Mississauga Steelheads.  Should that come to fruition, it would mean that the Dogs would miss the playoffs for the first time in its 7 year inception in the Niagara Region.   

There is no doubt that there is a youth movement abound in Niagara, and there is no doubt that over 100 goals have left the building in the form of Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie and Steven Shipley.  That said, I cannot see this IceDog team languishing close to the basement of the Eastern Conference.   Of course the eyes are on fielding a competitive entry for the opening of the new building, whose corporate sponsor will be named today. (SPOILER ALERT:  It's the just kidding its Lundy's Lane T Shirt Shop).  However, the Dogs also have a building to fill this and momentum to carry onto next year.  Tanking the season and getting a high draft pick is nice, but in terms of doing business, a lousy season will not fill the seats.   

Some things are going to have to happen for the IceDogs to be competitive.  Carter Verhaeghe must continue to prove he was worthy of being a 3rd round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  He became a very dangerous forward down the stretch for the Dogs and needs to elevate his game to a point per game production.  Niagara will need at least 45 goals from Anthony DiFruscia and Brendan Perlini, and the goaltending duo of OA Chris Festarini and Brent Moran must be stellar.  To me the most questions lie in the heart of the IceDogs defense.  Smallish Jesse Graham and Luke Mercer will have to be up to the task of logging big minutes, but the duo of Blake Siebanaler, rescued from the NCAA and import Russian Alexander Mikulovic must pick up the slack. Aaron Haydon, injured to start the season must continue the physical and mental maturity he showed during the last part of the season. The card the IceDogs do have to play is that of the Over Age spot.  Right Chris Festarini is a lock, while Mike Robinson may have the inside track on another spot.  A veteran addition either on forward or defense may help Niagara.   

Its tough to say goodbye to the likes of Strome, Ritchie and Shipley and have to lean on youth.  The aforementioned were leaders on and off the ice, but lengthy pro careers await hopefully all three.  There will be growing pains no doubt.  But 19th overall?  I can't see it.   Lets go with 6th or 7th place in the conference and a 7th straight playoff performance. 

See you at the rink!
Steve Clark