Saturday, 22 December 2012

You can't take the game from us

Although you've tried hard!

Hockey is a game of passion. Brotherly love and hate. Of curses, swearwords and great plays. Six men with bats, knives on feet and armor go out on the ice hitting each other in battle for the small rubber band. How can we not love it? Well.. when the top league isn't being played, that's how. Give us our game back guys. Think we deserve it.

And it looks like we're going in that way. NHLPA has taken a vote and its a loud "YES". So these guys are going to court to file a dispute against the league. This will be fun.

Whats going on with the game we love?

What Ovi, Stammer, PK and everyone round the world has been asking the same question. And these guys replied - Hockey is ours. The game is on, regardless of what few billionaire owners say about it. And another multi - billion company just found a way to use it to generate revenue. Because NHL doesn't want to generate it, better not to make any money than to give away some of it.

NHL is cancelled until mid January

And fans are outraged. Hell, we want our guys to play, stop bitching about peanuts. NHL cancelled the games, NHLPA player's vote ended with a loud "YES" and we're going to court now. Man the fuck up and get the game where it belongs. Back on ice.

Meanwhile in Europe

There's hockey. Russia is busy voting on their ALL STAR game rosters, many other leagues are shuffling NHL lockout players, washed up AHL players and just trying to bring fans on the rink to spend a dime or two. Support your local hockey club guys! Or local rich guy owning your club.

EBEL league in Austria is particularly funny this week. Actually, not the whole league, but one special part ran by mr. Pierre "I turn the" Page.  What do guys like: Alex Auld, Tobias Enström, David Clarkson, Derrick Brassard, Derek Dorsett have in common with Johnny Boychuk, Mike Duco, Rob Schremp and Mark Cullen?

They were all teammates at one point in Salzburg in last couple of weeks. Yeah, all these guys passed through Salzburg in last two months or so.
Derick Brassard in days of glory for Red Bull Salzburg

Aaron Portzline via twitter: Derick Brassard left his Austrian team without their permission, agent Allan Walsh had this to say: ”Derick Brassard is the 5th NHL player to sign with Red Bull this season and the 5th player to leave within 3 weeks of arrival. Talk to Tobias Enstrom, David Clarkson, Derek Dorsett or any of Red Bull’s current players. There is no more unprofessional organization in all of Europe. The club is misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to justify to their fans and media why NHL players keep leaving.

Wow. Guys with unlimited money managed to turn away PRO players from it? No idea, no tactics, no hope for future as they are sitting on a 9th place and train to Playoffs is going further and further away. 

And then there is... Switzerland! (and Austria and Croatia)

Congrats to Sam Gagner of EC KAC (Austria) on his first invitation to play for Team Canada in Spengler Cup next week! He'll be joining John Tavares, Carlo Coloaiacovo and many others who are yet to be named. 
Sam Gagner in KAC doing a "victory chicken dance" native to a farm he plays at

Very excited to get the invite to play for  in the Spengler Cup. Always a tremendous honour to play for your country.

His new line mate in KAC is Tom Zanoski who ran away from a bad bad coach in Zagreb and went to big league rivals in the most uprising story of the last week. No one outside Zagreb cares about it so we'll leave it at that.
Francois Bouchard in Zagreb, decent on ice, 82kg, rly?
Zagreb went on and tried to sign Bouchard. They couldn't get the actual NHL hockey player so they signed his baby brother Francois Bouchard. Frankie got to town couple days ago and then hopped on buy, went to Czech hooker town of Znojmo and scored a nice goal after a pass of a face off draw. Not bad kid. Now get your cousin PA over here and we can talk some more. Right? Okay thanks.

And don't forget to check out whats Dustin Jeffrey been doing when he's not playing hockey for Penguins.

Michal Handzus, epic hair guy
Stupid Dornbirn also went in line to break Zagreb's record of biggest defeat in season (11:2 against EV VSV Villach). These chaps sitting on 11th (out of 12) place managed to lose by 12:3 in Salzburg. By a team marginally better then theirs and around thousand times more costly.

Good job guys scoring three goals on these boys.

We're on pretty soon again, hopefully some guys (shoutout to Ned Lukacevic and Mike Handzus) will finish up their interviews. Will you guys? Thanks!

p.s. Ned go work out and get out of that slump. We need you back on scoring track buddy!

Monday, 10 December 2012

We have hockey here

and you don't. Say thanks to Bettman

NHL got cancelled until 30th of December. Is it the last milestone until cancellation of the whole season? Could be, previous were October games, then Winter Classic, then All Star game, and is this the last step before NHLPA and NHL refuse to kiss and make up?

Please do, or we're going to have many more players come overseas and face the cultural shock when they do come. 

There and back again

There are few traditional migrations of players between Europe and North America. One happens with young talent that goes from Europe to try in various junior leagues all over NA and in case of older boys to collegiate hockey, where mostly they stick to studying and play some hockey until their talent gets recognized or more often, until they finish school and return home. 

The other "natural" migration is of talented hockey players moving to top European leagues in search of their dream, and seasoned vets and players to less prominent leagues and clubs looking for jobs. "Kids" often find it strange when they come over from big hockey towns with newer facilities, different ownership status and different lifestyle to a more traditional, sedentary way of life.

Most of these countries have lots of "history" as they put it, and lots of, behind the scenes work, issues players just don't understand at first glance. From mostly English (or French) speaking countries, players venture to Swedish, Finnish, German, Czech, Slovakian, in some cases Italian and in best of those to English (UK) and French speaking countries. Lots of languages, players from all over world and from dozens of different cultural styles often meet. And then you start talking about hockey. If they're lucky they land in a place where there are a few NA players already or at least a coach to help them sort it out. 

Crimmitschau ice hall - open to the side and woods on the right
Now, imagine to land in a small city (eg. Crimmitschau - signed Simmonds, Stewart and MacArthur), some 250 km south of Berlin on border with Czech republic. Folks are mostly German with some Czech mixed in between, players are almost all German, with few imports from East. And you're a Canadian guy that doesn't speak German. Your coach knows some words but that's it. And in between facility is 3 parts closed and one part open towards the woods. And You haven't played outdoors since you were a kid. 

Its kind of hard to get there and into the game isn't it? Now instead of German town put in a Czech city, a Hungarian metalworking town, or any other place. If you're lucky you end up in bigger cities or, in places where many people know your language. Otherwise you adapt, start learning the local language or in some, you just don't bother.
Wayne Simmonds in Europe during NHL lockout
Now imagine that with all those cultural and language barriers you head into a bunch of provocative and drunk fans that start throwing racial slurs. Wayne Simmonds is a hell of a player and he felt that. Lots of ink has been spilled over chants calling him a monkey in Czech republic so I wont cover it all again. It was just a really ugly game, that shed some really bad light on European hockey and its great and loud fans. Hope it won't happen ever again. Good luck back home practicing with great guys at "Beyond the next level" facility in Toronto by @DeejBTNL 

Players that head into bigger cities like Vienna, Berlin, great organisations like Red Bull Salzburg (just added Boychuck, Dorsett, Mike Duco etc.), Milano get it easy as they can feel the spirit of Europe just by poking their heads out. 

Dustin Jeffrey (Medvescak Zagreb) - photo by Igor Šoban
Dustin Jeffrey (Pittsburgh Penguins) went to Venice on his first day off, then went to Budapest. All in a driving distance from Zagreb, Croatia, where he currently plays and makes fans love him with his every move  day in and out. He will get to visit one of the great cities of the world, Dubrovnik, and many more just by having an NHL lockout. 

Many others, including guys in Swiss, Germany and other countries like Briere, Giroux, Tavares, Ty Seguin and many more have great time playing abroad. Of course they mostly play for pocket money and insurance, but they do what they love. They play hockey. They give their best each day, each practice and aren't spared on the ice. 

Sam Gagner happily chewing on a mouthpiece. He's the one
 in white red jersey. #97 in case you missed it. (P: Igor Šoban)
EBEL league has its stars too. Sam Gagner just can't believe how beautiful the Austria (and 4 other countries he plays in while on the roster for EC KAC).  

Beautiful Austria“: On the way to Innsbruck earlier today  

And then he proceeded to demolish Innsbruck with a few goals justl like his teammates Alex Cogilano and Tyler Myers (currently on IR list with a knee injury but expected to be on roster by weekend). Or was it an ankle injury? I'm sure someone cares about it, but its not me. 

Free summer with additional free fall?

And it looks like the NHL season is in indeed a free fall. Another batch of games up to Dec. 30th have been cancelled. Xmas is right on the corner and owners (and players according to HRR) are going to lose bunch of money by not selling games and merch during the games. All that TV coverage, and overall hockey related revenue is basically as good as gone. 

Season 2004. - 2005. is likely going to be repeated, and no one is going to profit from that. Well mostly no one, Europe will love it. Some guys will come over, enjoy the opportunity, possibly for the first time ever in their schedule driven life to enjoy hockey and play abroad. From midget, to AAA to collegiate/pro hockey most of them never had a "free" summer followed by a free fall/winter. Without having to worry about getting through the camps, being sent up/down or traded on a whim of the owners and coaches, players have a chance to do what they're best. Enjoy hockey without a capitalistic driven North American society. 

Enjoy it while you can, soon you'll be flying franchise jets, living a fake dream and enjoying bloated contracts that block negotiations more firmly than any other points Bettman and Fehr are trying to battle around. 

Embrace the LOCKOUT, see the World, play hockey. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012


And there is nothing we can do.

Third month of 2012/13 NHL owner imposed player lockout is looming. Both parties have presented proposals, counter proposals, withdrew proposals and refused to move from their positions. Both parties wish to bring the public and fans on their side. But fans, media and public do have a single standpoint in common: they want to see the game played at the highest level.

RIP David Courtney
But with all these big players, team owners, managers and agents either arguing or looking for job for their clients overseas, fans pay the ultimate price. Without fans the League is nothing. Just like Phoenix. But these guys are not the only ones at loss now.

Recently deceased 22 season long LA Kings PA announcer David Courtney had a job regardless of Lockout. He was the voice of LA Clippers, Angels and Kings so he still had a job when NHL decided they won't play any games yet.

Many other arena and facility workers are now without work. No games, no announcements, no facility maintenance, some places don't even have ice on. Garry Bettman, you didn't just lockout players, you lost a lot of people their livelihood. Get it rolling and take some cuts, be a man in this sport. Its a game of men and honour. Tge greatest game on planet.

While Gary, Don, mediators or not, stop playing. We want to watch hockey, not lawyers and managers fighting over money fans and sponsors throw at your face. For a reason. To watch hockey.

And here is the Class of 12/13 NHL Lockout:

Phil Kessel (@BTNL) doing interview for Sportsnet
Hiding in a world class gym and ice rink the Class of 12/13 Lockout spends their days working out, getting ready and pleasing the not-so-small crowd that gathers at every practice. Beyond the next level training facility is run by a guy living the dream. With big players working hard in the great facility under professional care Mr. BTNL (Dan Ninkovich @DeejBTNL) is doing a real work during the days of Lockout.

It all started with a few players reporting in at the start of lockout for a regular gym sessions, some skating time and dangling the puck while the few days the lockout was supposed to last pass. 

These days you can see running around the gym PK Subban, Kessel, Kaberle, Clarkson, Mason, Winnick, 
many other younger prospects, and many, many fans enjoying a beer while watching their stars skate, play a dummy game or just work out.

Dan, you're doing the job NHL can't. You're making the players stay fit and ready for fans. Keep up the work and lets see you play some shiny with the boys! We're watching.

What else to do when there's no games?

Many players have headed over the seas. Some are in Europe, some in Russia, some are still at home working out. Over the past weeks I've written about numerous players in my "home" league, and since last update there were a few more additions. After Boychuk in Red Bull, the bulls signed Rob Schremp. Why you ask? 
Rob Schremp signed for Red Bull Salzburg
I think this is a good enough answer. Then they signed an NHL duo Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett. And in their first game, they won! Atta boys! Schrimp boy added 4 assists, Brassard scored and assisted, while Boy-chuk was there too. So happy.
From left to right three guys making a living in Salzburg after Gary fucked up NHL season
(Brassard, Schremp, Dorsett)
Rest of the guys aren't noteworthy so far. Gagner is skating in Klagenfurt, Myers is there for company and with roughly 35 TOI, while Bickell can't get his team on a winning track in Znojmo, Czech. Muršak scored tonight a decisive penalty for his team to finally take two points from another away team except Zagreb.

Grabner is skating around, and Nodl is enjoying sweet alpine air. His team did take 5 points in three games but who cares anyways.

The guy who I like in Vienna (one of few) is this guy:

Philip Pinter. Nice guy, nice mustache and great twitter feed. Follow him @85fipo. And he owns twitter feed of Caps. A real spirit of the team.

What else? Ljubljana did a Teddy bear toss. Barely scored a goal. Did throw roughly 7,5k stuffed animals on the ice, almost two per person at the game.

Dustin Jeffrey (Pittsburgh Penguins/Medvescak) scored a goal and started a Toss in Zagreb
Two days laters Bears did the Teddy bear toss. Barely scored a late game goal. 5 thousand something stuffed animals hit the ice, which means less than one per peson in the hall that day. Maybe it'll get better. Or the guys will do some more original activities. But it looked cool though. Really cool.

And now... the conclusion

I've started this post with a thought about players I've been wanting to see on ice in Zagreb for past four years. There are few I've had luck of seeing, and some a luck of calling friends and working with them for a while. 

The list would become a standalone club if all the guys came over. Few of them are "wet dream" of every Zagreb fan, yet, we've seen a few of them ending careers instead of coming over. One of these guys is Victor Oreskovic. 

Victor Oreskovich during glroy days
Vic already had a break in 05/06 and 06/07 after not reporting to AHL camp. This fall he considered going to KHL, hoped of playing a role other than checker and gritty boy in NHL, thought about big money and finally decided to sell insurance. Wow Vic, thats a promising career. From an NHL player (even though you're a 4th liner) to a insurance guy. Hope you like it, but the world is really big and I'm sure a step across the pond (you see what I did there?) would be the right one. Good luck.

Daniel Vukovic
Then there are many other players who fans would like to see over. Phil Oreskovic (without H) is playing in East Coast this season. He would be an okay addition but D part of the club is really strong this season. Also, Mark Popovic is the guy to look out for in Langnau (NLA), Mark Katic (Berlin), Travis Hamonic (NYI - a real wet dream of a few guys I know), Daniel Vukovic, all on D. With these guys Medvescak could take a shot on KHL though. That would be a fun team to watch. And listen to curse. 

Maybe its time to get some lottery money and start a team. Should work like a charm. Or does anyone got a rich uncle? 

Until next time, stay fit, watch hockey, keep your feet moving and head up high.

P.S. Anyone seen Stewart or Simmonds lately?