Saturday, May 16, 2015

Death of a hockey program . . . RBC Cup final set . . . Putin scores eight goals

There is an interesting note on overage players in the Finnish Nuorten SM-Liiga, which is that country’s top junior league.
A team is effectively allowed nine overagers — eight skaters and a goalie.
The goalie may be either 20 or 21. (In Finnish, it says "toinen maalivahdeista" which translates to "second goalies" or "other goalies.”)
Of the eight skaters, four may be 21, but they must be signed to a contract with the junior club's senior team and registered in the senior league.
In the lower junior leagues (think our Tier 2 and below), the rule is the same except there are no extra overage goalies and no restrictions on being signed to the senior team — just eight overagers with four allowed to be 21.
Imagine the quality of play in the WHL if teams were allowed to play under this rule. Imagine the quality of play in midget hockey, as players who still have midget eligibility would be playing midget.
Looking at the ‘summer’ roster for Espoo Blues, who finished third last season, they have 32 players listed. The age breakdown is:
 Age 21 (born 94) — zero
Age 20 (95) — five (all skaters)
Age 19 (96) — six
Age 18 (97) — 14 (five returning, nine played midget last season)
Age 17 (98) — six (two returning, four played midget)
Age 16 (99) — one (returning player)
The one 16-year-old who played this season as a 15-year-old is Urho Vaakanainen, a 6-foot-0, 176-pound defenceman. He had 12 points, including four goals, in 30 games. He was born on New Year's Day, 1999, so was just barely a 15-year-old for this season.

Trevor Bast fought the good fight. But, in the end, he chose to walk away.
Bast’s son, Des, was to have played in 2014-15 for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack hockey team. However, citing financial issues, the TRU athletic department chose to drop the program before the season began.
Almost immediately, Trevor went to work trying to resuscitate the program. When it became evident that he couldn’t save the season, he tried to get the program up and running in time for 2015-16.
However, earlier this week he said that he was done.
“I don't think there was ever a chance of bringing hockey back to TRU but that doesn't mean the fight wasn't worth it,” he wrote in an email to Taking Note. “I think it is very important for someone in Kamloops, preferably a hockey alumni, to keep the torch burning to a small degree. The attitude and climate may change over time and it's important to be ready just in case.”
Despite TRU’s reluctance to get involved again, Bast said he really felt he was on the right road.
“I was close to having three seasons of hockey funded between player fees and private donations,” he explained. “That was without any advertising or fund-raising commitments. It's important to know money was the least of the obstacles to saving or reviving hockey. Once the cause went public, donors came out of the woodwork. We also had a hockey operations department standing by and ready to go.”
Bast also questions whether finances was the real reason that TRU chose to drop hockey. He is of the opinion that it had more to do with eight players becoming academically ineligible all at one.
“That,” Bast noted, “is a black mark on any institution and they needed to separate themselves from it as quickly as possible. . . . Baseball has survived as a club team at TRU for 13  years. They've had their ups and downs financially, but have avoided drawing that type of negative attention to themselves and the school.
“The reality is, hockey started at TRU under an athletic director and an administration that was fully supportive of hockey. The current AD has his preferences and when hockey became difficult to deal with and put itself in this position, it was an easy decision to nudge them off the cliff.”
At the end of the day, though, Bast said the big losers are the potential collegiate hockey players.
“I will always hope hockey comes back to TRU,” he said. “I feel badly for the players aging out of junior hockey who won’t play collegiate hockey because there now is one less place to play.”
Like so many other observers, long-time WHL watcher Peter Loubardias expected the championship final between the Kelowna Rockets and Brandon Wheat Kings to last six or seven games. Instead, the Rockets swept the series. So . . . what happened? That’s what Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix asks Loubardias right here.
Dan Lambert has won a Memorial Cup as a player. Now, in his first season as a head coach, he’s going back to the championship tournament. Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun takes a look right here at Lambert and how he got to where he is today.

The host Portage Terriers will meet the CCHL-champion Carleton Place Canadians in the RBC Cup’s championship final tonight. . . . The Terriers, the MJHL champions, got there with a 6-1 victory over the SJHL-champion Melfort Mustangs last night. . . . The Canadians reached the final with a 3-2 victory over the BCHL-champion Penticton Vees. That game was decided at 3:43 of double OT. . . . In the round-robin, Carleton Place beat Portage, 3-0. . . . This is the Canadians’ second trip to the final in two years. At last year’s tournament, in Vernon, B.C., they gave up two goals eight seconds part late in the third period before losing 4-3 in OT to the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers. . . . Brian Munz and Craig Button will call the championship final on TSN.

“The odds are slim for anyone to play a single game in the National Hockey League — let alone make a career of it. But I was one of the few, after playing my heart out in the minors, to reach the pinnacle of my profession,” writes Malcolm Davis in the National Post. “But this success was fleeting. Due to the League’s callous attitude toward head hits and concussions, my NHL days were cut short. The long-term effects haunt me to this day.” . . . And, with that piece, which is right here, another hockey player details his life of trying to deal with post-concussion syndrome. For starters, if he reads something for longer than 10 minutes, he gets a headache. This is not pretty.

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