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Thursday, October 30, 2014


First of all.  Here's to Gordie Howe and best wishes for a speedy recovery from his stroke.  As I said on Twitter,  I am sure there are still a lot more elbows left in Mr. Hockey!

Alright!   I spent way too much time arguing the merits and drawbacks of the CHL lawsuit which likely will not see the light of day for a long time.  The good thing was I got to dialogue over the issue with people who work for teams, former NCAA athletes, former Junior hockey players, and others with a lot more time invested in Junior hockey than I have. Sure one guy called me despicable, but I've been called worse, and plus that makes me a hilarious cartoon character:

Lets move on!

It sure looked like the IceDogs were turning the corner a couple of weeks back after wins over Belleville and Sudbury and then a hard fought loss versus defending champions Guelph on the road. However, last week was a setback for the Dogs.   Three straight losses, all in regulation and two of those games were at home.  Even worse the team gave up 19 goals in those three losses, and the power play has gone so far south that it has started to develop a drawl and a hankering for grits! Long story short, the powerplay is 3 for 50-something, and has given up two short handed goals too! The good news is that the IceDogs did a lot of things right on the power play in Saturday's 6-2 loss to North Bay.

What do you do with a team that is physically beat up, missing three top players, and likely emotionally beat up?  No need to put lipstick on this pig.  2-10 is not pretty and moral victories mean nothing.  

Here is your IceDog light at the end of the tunnel. There are 56 games left in the season and the three this weekend are home dates versus Ottawa (Thursday), Sudbury (Saturday), and then a road game in Mississauga on Sunday afternoon.  These are all three winnable games ,and you might think that I've been hanging out in Snoop Dog's basement too much, but the lofty goal should be to claim minimum 4/6 points on the weekend and the IceDogs are 0-8 on the road, and that must change.  

I believe it was either Nietzche or Kanye West who said "that which does not kill us , makes us stronger".   Translation:  There's a lot of talent on this team, so rolling over is not an option.  


  • Since opening night, the Meridian Centre has averaged between 3600 - 3900 people, a more than reasonable number considering the plight of the team.  Plus, IceDog attendance traditionally does not pick up unti the after the holidays.    There has been some grumbling about ticket prices, and the IceDogs introduced $20 Senior/and Student ticket prices. I will say that the $25 is a tad excessive, in my opinion, even for a new arena. It is not grossly out of whack with what I expected though.   Maybe the price point will get lowered as the season goes on. 

  • TSN put forth an interesting argument on allowing elite level OHL'ers who are not 20 to be able to play in the AHL.   The parameters suggested were first round draft picks, played three CHL seasons, and had a nine game AHL or NHL tryout period to prove that they have outgrown the CHL.  It would only affect a limited number of players, who are listed on the link below.  Bill Daly was not a fan of the idea, and I am guessing CHL teams would not like to have their best players taken away from their teams.  Still, if you have 19 year olds at the NHL level, why not the AHL.  My take is that if ain't broke don't fix it, and players should go down to their CHL team.  Still, its a good, out of the box idea put forth by TSN.  Details are here:  

  • Holy cow, I cannot believe the amount of grousing that people are doing about Rogers NHL coverage.  Don't people realize that you get more games for free?  People are having trouble finding the games.  Don't people realize that Rogers puts out a channel grid letting you know where you find the games?  People are complaining about Strombo, skinny jeans, announcers, intermission features.  You name it people are complaining about it.  A little sanity please! It's month one of a twelve year deal.  That's not even enough to call it a work in progress.   The announcers are not all that different than what you are used to seeing, and I am sure the tweaks are being worked out in terms of what has worked on air and what has not worked on air.    Serenity now to quote Frank Costanza! 
See you at the rink!
Steve Clark- TV Play by Play Niagara IceDogs/ Hamilton Bulldogs 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Let's get one thing out of the way first.   The CHL must change the way that it does business with its players.  They must be accountable and they must spell out more in terms of guarantees when  they compensate their athletes.  Right now, as the Sam Berg lawsuit alleges, there is much confusion as to what a player is and is not guaranteed when they don a CHL uniform and sign a standard player contract.   

That said, a little history lesson.  Back in February of 2014 the OHL enhanced their compensation package from the meagre crumbs that they were doling out in terms of dollars. Now an OHL player:   
  • can claim up to $470 a month of expenses such as movie nights, cell phone bills etc
  • Get $1000 dollars worth of off season training
  • Be able to access their education package 18 months after their overage year, and if they leave before their overage year that could be up to 30 months, 

 In other words players don't have a gun to their head to make a life/hockey decision as soon as their junior career is up.   How many 20 year olds know exactly what they are going to do with their life, if the NHL is not a viable option right away because they have not been signed, or are a marginal or fringe prospect?

Now these new additions to the compensation package represent to me, a start, rather than an endgame when it comes to recognizing players.  Personally, I would like to see a task force that met annually that would be charged with what the right way is to compensate players that reflect the times that we are in.  I would staff this task force with the following:   a couple of recent ex-
  • Consistently looking at the education package to see how it can benefit not only the hockey player but also the league.   Lots of competition for talented athletes out there.  Is the CHL offering the best and most viable alternative for players who seek a pro career?  I say yes they are offering the best path to get to professional hockey and I am sure that they are always looking at improvements and revisions in this competitive environment

  • Compensation to reflect the times that we live, and the life of a hockey player.  We know that hockey players get access to a lot of top of the line equipment.  How about a credit/compensation for a suit to wear on the road for example?   This still would be a stipend, and not a means to the idea of minimum wage.  I am  sure that they could use part of the $470 for this as well, but I'd like to see it on top of that.   I'm not looking for a credit for the custom made Armani, but a reasonable one (this comes from a guy who is always looking for the best deal and has to stand next to Ed Burkholder every week, so I'm well aware of fashion).   Also for one night only, players should wear that beauty that Connor MacDavid and the rest of the Ottters were wearing one night!

  • Continued assurance that trades and the trade deadline are reflecting the needs of the student, as well as the athlete, and not just the team.  Again, I am sure that this is being done, but ensuring the practice of trading is always being looked at. 

  • Continued evolution of the partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. Again, reflecting the needs of the players.   We all need to remember that they are not only elite athletes, but aged 16-20 where there are a lot of changes both physical and emotional.  
There, now that I've set up a task force, that should get rid of UNIFOR who wanted a provincial government task force to delve into the inner workings of junior hockey.  I cannot think of a worse group to consult on this than the provincial government, who really do not know a thing about junior hockey, and would likely, if I know the Liberal government in Ontario, waste valuable tax payer money while finding out very little in terms of new information. 

I wish that the lawsuit filed against the CHL would be disposed of in the same way that I just took the legs out of UNIFOR.  However, when you get opportunists who see dollar signs, and cloak it in a "standing up for the common man, (or junior hockey player in this case) philosophy, then you cannot get rid of them so easily.   For the purposes of this argument,  I will not take a look at the John Chartrand lawsuit as that involves a claim for injury.  Instead the class action lawsuit is the one that I will focus on.  

Lots has been reported on this lawsuit.  You can check any major newspaper in Canada and get a read on it.  I would not recommend the Toronto Star article, as it is fraught with error, and uses dated compensation examples, and in the past wrote a rather glowing puff peace on the lawyer who is at the forefront of the class action.  That man, by the way, is Ted Charney and he runs the Charney Lawyers and specializes in class action lawsuits.   A cursory glance at the firms web page sees that they like to keep their press clippings on the front page of their website, which may or may not be an indication of either their love for the common man who has been wronged, or love of seeing their own name in the newspaper.  It should be noted that the Toronto Star did a fluffy puff piece on Charney during one of this lawsuits that seemed more at home in his marketing brochure than in a major newspaper.   This actually disappoints me, as I generally respect the Toronto Star, just not this time.  Also, the Toronto Star disclosed the fact that its employees are represented by UNIFOR.   I'd say there is a bias there, but I will let you, the reader, decide.

You can judge for yourself here:  

The lawsuit, as I see it from an untrained legal mind, has some merits to it.  There has been a decision rendered on the idea that CHL players are employees in the case involving Kelly McCrimmon and the Brandon Wheat Kings.   You can read the case below, but the WHL lost this case and had their appeal denied and it was seen that junior hockey players and their team had an employer/employee relationship.   The case was heard in 2000, and much has changed since then, but there is no doubt that this case will be an important precedent going forward. The case is here: 

If I were arguing the case, I would argue that the CHL is a unique workplace that offers little in the way of actual compensation, but also offers their athletes a tremendous amount, some that can be quantified and some that cannot.   There have been some that have thrown around terms like "exploited" and "cheap labour", like this was child labour in the coal mines.  What other people get "exploited" with top of the line equipment, access to great training programs, coaches, rehabilitation for injuries,  a roof over the head and most importantly a ticket to the best development league in the world, where while your chances of making the NHL or having a solid pro career in the AHL, ECHL or overseas are more of a reality rather than a pipe dream?   

It would not surprise me to see the class action either win this lawsuit or take a big bite in terms of compensation with a pre-trial settlement.  Should that happen, that would be sad.  The opportunists and the lawyers would win and the very fabric of junior hockey would change.  Yes, the business model of junior hockey has changed, but it is hardily the lucrative money maker some make it out to be. Can you really see the likes of Owen Sound, Sarnia, Red Deer etc doing Johnny Manziel money signs?  Come on, these are small communities with small arenas that do make nice revenue when ti comes to junior hockey but it is hardily a license to print money.  Sure the London's and the Kitchener's of the world do ok, and there is new 12 year TV deal. No finances dislosed on that end, but some of the monies would have to be divided into 60 CHL teams.  That is a lot of hands reaching into the pot. 

 I would rather take the year by year approach of making things better for players, rather than a shot gun approach of a lawsuit, that would fundamentally change, and in some cases, ruin franchises and the game.   

See? That's a pretty balanced approach from someone whom the CHLPA referred to in this manner: 

You would argue anything as long as you kept your nose nice and brown far up David Branch's arsehole. Nothing has changed.

First of all, I have never received a dime from David Branch.  I get paid by the TV folks.  Second of all I have never met David Branchc, and while I have great respect for the man, also feel that he is too heavy handed in the area of supplemental discipline.  Third of all, I have a big nose and there is no way it would fit up David Branch's rear end if I tried.     

Can I go back to putting on my cheap TV make up promote the wonderful competition and athletes in junior hockey?   

Steve Clark TV Broadcaster Niagara IceDogs/ Hamilton Bulldogs/Untrained Legal Beagle

Monday, October 20, 2014


In the booth, opening night at the Meridian Centre. Ed Burkholder (left) and yours truly (right)

Phew! That's all I can say after a whirlwind weekend that involved three games, two home openers and one arena opening.   Three hockey games, all with varying degrees of emotion had me drained by the time 10:00 Saturday evening. That was when I was officially done and could start to reflect on what was certainly not a routine weekend of broadcasting.  

The Meridian, by the way, is a spectacular building.   From the time that I first walked into it, I was awestruck by the obvious care that was put into the building as well as the quality of the work.   Blue seats provided a wonderful visual.  The private boxes were beautifully constructed and our broadcast booth, was everything we could ask for and more.   Yes, there was some grumbling about line ups to get in the building, what might happen if it gets cold and you're stuck on the bridge.  Some took to social media to grouse about the Draconian measures that had been put in place.  Note to those people:  This is a brand new spectator facility, not an aging cramped building that the Jack was.  It is run by a professional marketing group, who specialize in running arenas.  It's not that big of a deal to have your bag searched Outside beverages are going to be confiscated and no one wants to sit beside someone who reeks of smoke.  So you won't be able to leave the building to fire up a dart and hope to get back in.  Sorry.   

Now, that said, for people who specialize in running a building, and by default, customer service, they could use a lesson or two in terms of how to deal with people.  I will put it down to opening night angst, in which everyone was on edge and everyone wanted things to run smoothly.  Also, many people had a reasonable list of grievances, and those will be looked at.  It's all part of ironing out the wrinkles in a new building.  

On to the hockey.  The first night it did not take long to make history as Mikkel Aagard of Niagara scored at 1:32 of the first and we were off and running on a rollicking wild ride that saw the IceDogs win 7-4, almost coughing up leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the process.

Here is how the first goal looked and sounded:  (and yeah, for some reason I got the poor guy's first name wrong)

 The sense of relief was evident by all, especially the IceDogs, as they had started off the year 0-6, and to have a loss hung on you opening night would have been a real downer.   The IceDogs would go on to win their 2nd game at the Meridian Centre, 4-2 over Sudbury in what was a far calmer night both on and off the ice.  Overall, hats off to all as the new barn is simply magnificent. 

I was at more familiar surroundings on Friday as the Hamilton Bulldogs opened up their 2014 -2015 home portion of their schedule versus the Marlies on Friday.   The terrifying catwalk journey has not changed, and I swear the floor was less stable this year than it was last year.   First Union Centre has added a couple of amenities this year with the advertising ring that was featured last year back in full force and apparently there is a new poutine place, and what goes better with hockey and $3 beer?   Naturally poutine was answer.  Arteries start your hardening! 5800 people were on hand for the Bulldogs/Marlies home opener and we all got a treat of seeing the new OT rules in full force.  Three minutes of 4 on 4 was followed by four minutes of 3 on 3 and both teams had the long change for all of the OT period.   Toronto and Hamilton traded odd man rushes, break aways, and the OT was wide open before Hamilton's own Spencer Abbot ended the game on a breakaway.  Unfortunately, the Hamilton native plays for the Marlies, but the faithful went home entertained by the new OT, which will hopefully see less of the silly shootout competition.   

Saturday's game, as I alluded to before, was a calmer affair than the sell out arena opening.   3900 plus were in attendance to see the IceDogs double up on Sudbury 4-2.  The Dogs are now 2-0 at home and 0-7 on the road, something the team hopes the hockey gods even out as five of those road losses have been one goal games.  A personal favourite part of the evening was when the Meridian Centre staff was dishing out free hot dogs post game as they had made too many.   I have learned two things about being with the media and being on TV.  One, wear make up as it takes the shine off your forehead (and I have a rather large forehead) and Two, never turn down a freebie of any kind!   

Two games later this week, both at the Meridian Centre on Thursday and Friday! See you then!
Steve Clark

Thursday, October 9, 2014


I had a chance to appear on a podcast called The Fan Boys the other day and had a blast doing it.  Listening to the whole podcast, these guys have something special and I am not saying this because I was invited on as a guest!

The two guys who host the show are what I would call legitimate, dedicated fans of the Ontario Hockey League.   They talk about the jersey's that they buy, and go around the league before their feature interview.   Sure, there is the odd blue language, and it's a bit off the cuff, but they are knowledgeable and both have supported multiple teams.  Steve MacLean, one host, was a dedicated Brampton Battalion fan, but switched his allegiances to the Guelph Storm when Brampton franchise took flight to North Bay. The other fellow was a Belleville Bulls fan, but now supports the Windsor Spitfires, and both knew their stuff and seemed to have an astonishing number of OHL sweaters.

Anyway's I had a blast, and I hope that they keep doing the podcast as it does serve as an alternative to what is out there.


  • I feel like I might be the only person in the Niagara Region who has not been inside the Meridian Centre, and chances are I will not until October 16th, when the lid is officially lifted for hockey.  All reports that I have read and pictures I have viewed have been extremely favourable.  Niagara hockey fans endured the cozy, quaint Jack Gatcliffe Complex for 7 years, so it is wonderful to see that they are proud of their new facility.   Anyone want to hook me up with Hip tickets?   

  • As a team, the Icedogs need to return home with some points after going 0-3 to start off the year.  No reason to sound the alarm bells, though there should be some concern that the Dogs had leads or were tied going into the third period in all three games, and have given up 7 third period goals so far.   Kingston/Ottawa and Belleville loom this weekend, and four points should be the goal

  • Congratulations to Red Deer and the CHL, as the Alberta city was chosen to host the 2016 Master Card Memorial Cup.  The CHL could have chosen the larger venue and population in Vancouver, but went in another direction.   I had blogged in the past that I thought the CHL was painting themselves into a corner by limiting the venues to large markets, and bigger arenas.  This in a sense re calibrates the process and shows the medium markets in the CHL have just as a legitimate shot as the usual suspects.  

  • Nothing wrong with sneaking in another cheap plug here is there?   the Hamilton Bulldogs will kick off their regular season on the road this weekend, and open at home Friday October 17th.  I, along with Norm Miller, Alex Maveal and the rest of the Cable 14 crew every Friday home game starting at 7:30 pm in HD.  The Bulldogs have come up short for the playoffs three years in a row, and look to get back into the post-season hunt.  That said, it was a great season for me personally last year, and I look forward to season number 2.  I will never look forward to the daunting catwalk clamber to the broadcast booth. You are just way too high above the First Ontario Centre man!

  • Rogers kicked off their 12 year partnership with the NHL in splashy style showing off their multi million dollar set, and cutting into the Tragically Hip's free concert down at Yonge/Dundas square.  The ref cam was a big hit, as was the cable camera in the 200 level.   I get the whole choose your own camera angle thing on NHL Game Centre, but I don't like too many bells and whistles with my hockey.   Rogers has not reinvented hockey broadcast but the changes that they have made and the camera's they have added were very, very good.  

  • When Rogers starts their CHL package in November, will fans get to see some of the different innovative production features, or camera angles?   Guessing that there will be a steady does of Connor McDavid this year on TV.  As a bonus, if you get McDavid, you also get Dylan Strome, younger brother of New York Islander Ryan Strome, and also potentiallylly a top five pick.  Crashing for Connor?  How about Sucking for Strome?!!

  • I think having Ron MacLean host Hometown Hockey is a great idea.  Though, well known, he has that touch of being the everyman, and the kind of guy you see at the bar having a beer who you could shoot the breeze with.  One quibble I have is that jacket he's wearing for the promo, which is from Roots and looks half-leather and half-denim.  Not even the early 90's are calling for the return of that fashion disaster!   The tour hits St Catharines December 12-14, and the IceDogs are home that weekend so it will be interesting to see what sort of cross programming we can come up with!

  • I am not sure I can take 82 separate autopsies on each individual Leaf game.  There are too  many post game shows, too much angst on Twitter and generally too much "fire the coach" "trade for a first line centre" for any game, let alone game 1,  Same should go for every fan of every sports team, even the IceDogs.  I know the natural tendency of the fan is to live game to game, and not look at the season as a marathon. Analyze the game, talk about the game, but do not start about jettisoning coaches, players, mascots (sorry Bones), broadcasters after one game.  
Enjoy the games and breathe a little bit.  It's early October, and the seasons run until March/April!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Steve, seen in this report, with an attempt at looking thoughtful, intelligent and articulate

More details coming tomorrow, but just to let everyone know that I have not abandoned the blog, life has become so busy between that other job I do, and being a good dad to my now extremely active and talkative three year old!

Here is what I have planned for the blog over the course of the season.  I really want to keep a good running documentation of my year in broadcasting, as well as making sure Junior and AHL fans get their team fix.

I have had it in my head to start writing a book detailing my climb up the ladder in broadcasting.  Of course, the last chapter, the move up to the NHL has yet to be written or will never be written.  Who knows at this point?  That's not glass half-empty thinking but there are factors beyond control at work out there!  This idea of kicking around a journal/anthology/book has been there for a while, I just need to get the kick in the ass to write about it.  The working title is Tougher Than A Two Dollar Steak. Now I just need to get Jim Ross to sign off me ripping off his signature catch phrase :-) 

So the blog this year will feature IceDog video highlights for sure, and a very short recap.  Not sure about Bulldog highlights because I would have to do all the editing myself and I likely will not have time.  I am also thinking of the odd audio/video blog/commentary, assuming I can navigate the technology.  I've seen the Apple Gigantic Commercial.  IPads, iPhones can do just about anything right?  

Expect there to be a lot more content on this blog, with a lot of variety!   Writing can be cathartic and it can articulate things in a way that helps clear your head or clarify a thought.  

You may also get some none sports blogs.  I am the combative sort, so if a controversial topic that is non-sports related becomes discussable, you will likely read about.  I will give a full disclosure on non-sports content, as I know its is not everyone's cup of tea!

Until tomorrow or Friday...