Remembering the Reebok Edge Rollout

The Rbk EDGE Uniform System (Photo by Mike Fuentes/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As I was going through YouTube, a clip came up from 2010 when the Flyers beat the Bruins after coming back from 0-3 down in the series. I didn’t think about the hilarious collapse of the Bruins, but more of how horrible those Flyers jerseys were. They came from the redesign of the NHL’s jerseys by Reebok and their Edge jersey system. Then I remembered the start of the roll out of those jerseys at the 2007 Draft in Columbus. With Reebok being the ultimate brand in the NHL, they needed to do something with the uniform system; especially after Nike came out with their Swift uniform system for the 2006 Turin Olympics (which had their own issues before the Games).

Before the big rollout, the NHL debuted the jerseys at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas– which happened to be the last time the NHL had a weekday ASG. The jerseys did away with the bulk air-knit jerseys of the past and make them more anatomical for the players, which was perfect for the new speed that the game had brought back post-lockout. Reebok touted the jerseys were 14% lighter and had moisture resistant technology, which absorbed 76% less moisture. There’s much more, including the core technology they had put together in this video here.

As for the rollout itself, it went team-by-team; though the NHL Draft hosts in Columbus debuted their look at the Draft itself, as did the Capitals There were some teams that did an entire overhaul– like the Capitals, Sharks, and Canucks; while other teams kind of fell into a templated nightmare with other teams. For instance, the Penguins, Senators, and Lightning used the same template as the All-Star jerseys; while the Predators, Oilers, and Panthers used their own template with the latter two having unnecessary piping on it. The piping was also noticed around the shoulder yoke of the Carolina Hurricanes, which stood out like a sore thumb. Not only that, but half the league went without the traditional bottom hem stripe on the jersey. The wide array can be found on the NHL Uniforms’ site.

Interestingly enough, the jerseys were starting to get leaked on the internet thanks to EA Sports putting out an unlock code for the game before teams officially put the jerseys out to the public. It was truly a fun time for people who were pining to see what their teams would do, but also a cringe time for some when their team underwhelmed in this situation.

I like to remember is how the first versions of these jerseys were trash. They only lasted about half a year before Reebok had to redo the whole thing because the first version was doing it’s job by repelling moisture…but into the gloves the players making sweat pool in their gloves. That made Reebok revert back a little to the airknit fabric and making them a bit less form fitting. We did have a glimpse into the look of the jersey, as the Ducks and Sabres each had a redesign in 2006-07 that was a format for what the new jerseys would look like with the collar being very pointed and where the NHL logo would appear on all the jerseys a season later.

Looking back, it was a huge step for the jersey era; especially with MSRP of jerseys going up because of the materials used. It was also a sigh of relief as rumors had the system using tucked in jerseys killing any kind of loose fit. The Edge system also was the start of the Icethetics website, where a lot of the leaks were posted for wider consumption.

The look itself may have turned off some people because it wasn’t traditional enough for them, but in the end; we all made it out and now move on with life in the Adizero era where the weight feels more like the older jerseys, which doesn’t seem to affect the play on the ice with the players.

Fair Thee Well, 2019-20 AHL Season

The AHL did what they should have done a while ago with the rest of the minor leagues and closed up shop on the 2019-20 season and playoffs. What along wild ride it was and it’ll be remembered throughout the annals of time. And with it, we’ve got some loose ends to tie up and away we go.

Happy Trails, David Andrews: Since 1994, Andrews has been the face of the AHL. In that times, he’s made the AHL the only AAA-level minor hockey league, he’s seen the absorption of the remaining successful IHL teams, he’s help the league move out west to get a reach into the pacific time zone, on top of getting 31 teams to match the 31 NHL franchises. Attendances has been a big boom under Andrews thanks to more markets, but also the media presence with TV in North America has been a big marker left by Andrews. His successor, Scott Howson, will have big shoes to fill– but he’s left with a great start from Andrews’ legacy.

We Hardly Knew Ye, San Antonio Rampage: The team that was partial owned by the NBA’s Spurs has been sold and will move to Henderson, Nevada to become the Golden Knights affiliate. The Rampage only had four playoff appearances with only one going past the first round, but they were a successful franchise off the ice with over 6,000-people in average attendance; a huge thing to do for a minor league team in a bigger market with plenty to do around it. Especially for not getting to the playoffs frequently, it’s a huge feat. Some notable players came out of the Rampage system like Rocco Grimaldi, Gregory Campbell, David Schlemko, and Keith Yandle.

Maryland’s Scoring Champ: Despite it ending early, Potomac, Maryland’s Sam Anas locked up the scoring title with 70 points (20g, 50a) in 63 games for the Iowa Wild. Having the chance to talk to Anas before the season, he seemed hell-bent on making the most of his off-season and getting more consistent with his play. Being an unrestricted free agent, Anas should have plenty of options come his way. The question is whether or not he wants to keep going with the Wild organization or go to a place that might give him a better chance to play at the NHL level.

Low-Key Solid Keeping: Three goalies in the AHL had sub-2.00 GAAs– Dan Vladar (Providence), Igor Shesterkin (Hartford), and Connor Ingram (Milwaukee)– while Kaapo Kahkonen in Iowa lead the league in wins with 25. The biggest thing is whether these guys will make the jump. We’ve seen Shesterkin move up to the Rangers, but the other three could be a part of the numbers game. Kahkonen is behind Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock; Ingram behind Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros; and Vladar behind Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. While Kahkonen and Vladar are RFAs, odds are their teams will try to keep them for an insurance policy moving forward and place them in their future plans…as they should.

Oh Admiral, My Admiral: It’s a shame the Milwaukee Admirals couldn’t finish out their season. Leading the league with 41 wins and 90 points, the Admirals could have had a record season with 15 games remaining. They have posted 49-win seasons twice in franchise history, but the way they had been paying, 50 wins was well within reach, as was the 108-point plateau they had in 2005-06 and was their AHL franchise best. Of course, the playoffs seemed to be the great equalizer, as the Admirals haven’t made it out of the first round since 2011, but with this determined squad– anything could have happened.

On the Topic Of Networking

I’m not good at networking.

Maybe that’s not the right thing to say, because I can network– but I think I’m not good at forcing myself to network. I’m sure that shows in where I might be in my career with all of this thing.

And maybe it’s because I see people who force their way into things and try too hard to network while looking super desperate in doing so. After seeing that, I’d rather not network than appear to be a disingenuous ass. Those people might get a spot here and there, but in my eyes– I don’t know if giving up whatever moral convictions I might have when it comes to this journalism career to be a boot-licker is the right route for me. I’d rather the work I put in be the determining factor in that.

Of course, maybe the work is the reason I’m in the spot I’m in– so it’s very much up for debate.

I’ve always been convinced that you do the work and you’ll get rewarded for it. If it’s one of those “eventual” things, then I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting after almost two decades. Stuff I think is great never gets traction while the dumb stuff is what blows up and makes me wonder what the fuck the algorithm is for any of this.

Back to the networking side of things, there’s a lot of people in the media that I consider friends or acquaintances and I think because of that, I don’t want to endanger that relationship to be an overzealous person in angling for a higher standing in order to make gains for my end-goal. There’s no space for that in a friendship that uses each other. It’s got to be symbiotic, baby.

Granted, at this point in time, probably the best I’m not in a bigger journalism job as a career since there’s little to talk about. Still, thinking in the bigger picture, I just wish I could have “networked” better when I had clout and popularity in order to actually have made something more out of this freelancing situation I’m in right now.

And that’s what’s up.

Now Hear Me Out, Practice Rinks

With the idea of the NHL coming back around July or whatever and so many weird scenarios being thrown out there, the location(s) of the events are going to be crucial. Of course, the idea of a big, vacant arena is a trippy situation that’ll border on the absurd to open up the venue when getting no revenue out of it.

But what about practice facilities?? This is something Captain Chaos Jonny P thought of during the April 29th edition of Face Off Hockey Show.

Sure, there’s going to be some players weary of it because the training facilities aren’t going to be up to snuff with the exception of the main weight room area, but why not think about going to the practice rinks in order to play these games?? It seems like something that’ll won’t really cost that much in comparison to the actual giant arena.

There’s not going to be fans in attendance, thus not going to be need for much arena staff, outside of bare bones security; the big time presentation on ice isn’t needed– just speakers. A temporary set-up for the media could be put up if need be, because most practice rinks don’t have the control center for big money productions. The rinks are all the same in dimensions and really the only thing that may not be up to snuff could be the system that holds the nets on– but you’d hope that’s been addressed when they built the facility knowing that a NHL team would be doing their training there and you want the game-experience there to not really mess up a rhythm.

Looking at all angles, it only makes sense because it’ll be low overhead when you look at going practice rink versus the big arena. It’ll already be unique in the situation we’re in right now, so why not double and triple down on the situations, while saving a few bucks for not having to open the big stage when not making any income from it at all. Just a thought to save some kind of money– which could really help everyone in the end going forward.

Pushing Back The 2020-21 Season

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 12: A goal sits on the empty ice prior to the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775376586 ORIG FILE ID: 1212022895

According to Pierre LeBrun, the start of the 2020-21 season will be in December; accounting for the idea that the NHL season will resume in July like some people are hypothesizing. LeBrun said that the league would hope to have a full 82-game slate for the squads, but is there a chance that isn’t feasible.

It’s hard for everyone right now being without entertainment as their cooped up in the house in this Schrodinger world we’re living in, but you also have to look out for common sense. Money is going to be lost by the NHL because the odds are good that no fans will be allowed for whatever’s left for the 2019-20 season. Yet, the biggest thing to look at is the idea that players will be very worn out from the summer hockey and then however short the offseason is for them and then right into the next season in December. The start and stop aspect probably isn’t the most ideal, especially when the goal is a 82-game affair and everything that would give breaks would be scrapped to get back on schedule for everyone.

Now, of course, there’s plenty of red-tape that the league will need to get through in order to go through with their plan of finishing the current season. The border of Canada and the US is closed, so teams there would need to figure out how the hell to get out and play if they indeed get this whole thing started up again. Then you have to hope the proper testing is in place because one setback could ruin the entire rest of 2019-20, despite what Bill Daly may have said. You also have to wonder how keen the players are to fit all those games in what looks like it could be an 11-month window.

As much as I miss live hockey, the idea that we need to push for it to come back in the most uncertain of times seems very short-sighted, the business aspect be damned. What’s gained by getting back on the ice sooner than needed?? What’s gained by further pushing the players’ bodies by keeping the schedule for next year the same, while giving them much less off-time for said schedule and taxing their bodies even more?? Is it worth rushing things for this season and then condensing next season in order to not lose as much money?? These are the questions that need to be asked when you look at the entire scope of things.

If the NHL is rushing back just to get back, then it could be a high-risk, high reward situation. If it pays off, they look like geniuses for getting back when they did and plotting out things to get back on track by the 2021-22 season. If it stumbles and turns out to be the worst thing to happen to hockey– they might not hear the end of it. I don’t envy those making these decisions, but they can’t make it in haste just because we’re all anxious and bored with no live sports.

On the Topic Of Virtual Playoffs

The NAHL is doing something pretty solid. They’re actually simulating the Robertson Cup Playoffs on XBox with NHL18 and using that as a thing to crown a virtual Robertson Cup champion. They modded the jerseys to somewhat resemble the team jerseys and use the player’s names on there.

With the whole world going to Esports, the way they’re going about this to give the fans something and maybe some closure to their season is fantastic. It kind of answers the “what-if” for some people, even though there are some teams I’m sure a little bitter they didn’t get into the playoff position with uneven games and what-not.

But the bitterness should be subsided– says the guy who’s team got into the playoffs– because it’s something for the fans. In this time of…well, who knows what the hell this timeline has become, it’s a great distraction for everyone involved. Plus, it gives the NAHL a little bit of an upside because– and I’m sure someone will correct me– this is the first league who had their season cancelled to do this. I don’t think the ECHL or SPHL have attempted, but it’s a nice marketing tool for the league to get some eyes on their product and have the teams a little something to hype up in a very down time.

It may not be solace to players to not be playing in a real playoff game, hell– I know it’s not. But maybe they can see this and take it all in virtually and hopefully hype up their virtual doppelganger to victory and more.

On the Topic Of the NHL in North Dakota

When you hear people talk about Ralph Engelstad Arena, you hear the chorus of how beautiful it is and how much it’s as good as or better than (in some cases) most NHL arenas. With a passionate fan base for the University of North Dakota, along with the tradition the program has; it’s easy to see why they would want to have such a top-notch facility for their student-athletes and be able to use that to bring in top talent.

Now, it could be time to see how it does shape up to the NHL standard.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped some knowledge Sunday night that the NHL is looking at options if they should get their season back together in one way, shape, or form. One of the options has been Grand Forks, North Dakota and The Ralph. Friedman says that nothing is eminent, but it’s been floated around due to the facilities and the low population density that North Dakota does have in comparison to other states with rinks. Considering places like Toronto and Calgary say that they won’t have games in those cities until June 30th at the earliest; neutral site games are a must.

Logistically, however, could be an issues. While the Greater Grand Forks area (Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, MN) has about 30 hotels— not all of them are the nice, five-star places players may be used to and some hotels may not want to have a sharp influx of people from out of town given the climate of things. Of course, adding to that is the US/Canada border being closed for the time being, on top of the leagues voting how their season should go along and what format it needs to be in.

Not to mention, whether or not the state would be willing to take people in given North Dakota has a 14-day quarantine for incoming travelers, then to decide if there should be fans in the arena for the events given the pandemic, how you put first responders into the arena while taking away from the hospital in town and other red-tape that would be necessary to have this happen.

Personally, living here– it’d be a huge buzz for the area and something that people wouldn’t forget if it were to happen. Emphasis on “IF.” There’s no doubt that the facilities of The Ralph are beyond comparison in some instances and that it does have the ability to house a regional tournament should that be the case. And it’s not like they haven’t hosted NHL game before, albeit preseason games— but the area has houses many IIHF events with multiple nations represented with teams and with fan bases.

While I’m still of the opinion the NHL should shutter the season for the sanity of everyone and not to give people false hope only to diminish that hope later, this could be interesting overall. It’d give the local economy a boost with lodging and food and such, it’d give people something to look out for when it comes to sports in the area, and it’d being back some kind of normalcy to the landscape a whole.

Plus, if I can get in to cover some of these games– I’ll take it.

But you also have to think about the long-term venture over the short-term solution. If it all makes sense and things are trending properly– then by all means, go with North Dakota and other neutral sites. However, if the states are cautious to it and don’t want it to happen– you have to respect their decision to keep the interest of their residents the top priority over the allure of a tick of normalcy.

About That Gretzky/McDavid Thing

GQ’s Sports department did a thing where they have a “One on One” segment where they usually have a current player from a certain league and an entertainer that roots for that team or grew up in the area. Recently, they bucked that trend and had Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky on there to talk about Edmonton, being a hockey phenom, and Gretzky reassuring McDavid that he’s going to win a Stanley Cup.

It was probably the most…cringe, but interesting thing I’ve seen in a bit, but far from an “epic conversation” that GQ would have you believe.

A couple things here. Thing the first– this is the Gretzky we kind of need. Sure, the Great One was currying favor to McDavid– especially reassuring McDavid he’s going to win a Cup in Edmonton and all of that– but he was actually very talkative. Gretzky was lively, he was more than the corporate figurehead that the NHL trots out in special events, and he showed some kind of personality. So much so, it made McDavid look much more milquetoast than usual.

Now, thing the second– McDavid looked like he did want to be there. Not in an uninterested way, but in a way that he was too nervous and not comfortable with the limelight (much less being there with Gretzky) and didn’t know what he was supposed to do in a situation like this when they’re talking about the greatness and the link between Edmonton and the two superstars. It came off as McDavid sitting there anxiously waiting for it to be over while Gretzky was trying to reassure him that he’ll get the Oilers to a way like they were in the ’80s.

The premise of this is solid, but it’s also the first time that they’ve seemingly done an old star and new star. The other were more athlete and musician with Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers talking with Justin Vernon, lead singer from the band Bon Iver; RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks and Spike Lee; and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat talking with Rick Ross. Those connections have more to do with the location of the team and a person growing up there. This kind of bucks that trend, which makes for…I don’t know what it made for.

If they did this format with Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby and Gretzky, it would have maybe been little less awkward and more conversational…maybe. However, the cliche machines of today’s hockey players seem to kill any kind of starting point with this.

Also, I hate this kind of format with an off-screen moderator doling out a subject and almost forcing these two to try and relate. It just seemed so forced. Not only that, but of what I’ve seen— this is the only one where they needed questions or subject matters thrown at them from off camera. No wonder this was shorter by about 15 minutes compared to the other ones; it was all around too forced.

Should be so inclined and have nothing better to do….maybe give it a watch and make your own opinion. This just seemed like it was very unnatural when there’s so many other options that you could have presented to make the hockey connection be better than just trotting out Gretzky and the next “Great One” in Edmonton.

Black Bears 2019-20 Season in Review: My Three Wishes for 2020-21

Last year, I did this three wishes for the 2019-20 campaign and they had varying results in the grand scheme of things. First was the special teams, where the power play was better going from 12.8% to 16.7%, but they ended the season with an 0-for-47 streak, while the penalty kill was second in the East Division at 80.7% efficiency, raising from last year’s 73.3%. Next, the blue line was a bit beefier, but I think more durable than before. They worked has plenty of guys to work in and out and not have to drop a forward back there. Finally, I don’t know if there was a totally definitive first line, but they had definitive scoring strengths.

So, with that review down, my THREE WISHES for the 2020-21 season.

BRING BACK AS MANY AS POSSIBLE: There has to be a feeling of unfinished business for many of the players on this team and with the exit of five solid contributors, the Black Bears may have to reset once again. Hopefully, however, it’s not going to be a big reset for the rest of the squad. You would have to think a lot of these guys would want to come back to prove this team is a playoff caliber team and deserved to be in the playoffs for the 2020-21 season.

Granted, you’re going to have some guys trying to move up to the USHL or even possibly departing for college before the season– but if you can just tweak a little bit to fill the holes left by the graduating players– they should be good. Of course, my ideas of player personnel hasn’t had a great track record; which is why I’m in this position and now in a front office gig.

BETTER IN EXTRA TIME: The Black Bears went to eight overtime games in 2019-20, but only mustered one win in those games. Their seven losses in OT were the most in the league last season, with many of the losses coming on some bizarre instances– bad bounces on a clear, bad line changes off a turnover, and some power play goals against. While the point is nice, it still isn’t two points at the end of it.

Of course, the one thing to do is to finish it in regulation and not get into that overtime situations. However, keeping composure mentally in the extra frame is very crucial for this team where every point is crucial, as the race towards the end of this season showed.

DEFENSIVE ZONE CLEAN-UP: While they got better as they year went on, the play in the defensive zone was scary at times. Ill-advised passes, sloppy breakouts, and lapses in coverage were things that seemed to haunt the team from the beginning of the season. Like I said, it got better– but some mental lapses did happen later on in the season.

While I’m not delusional to think that it’ll be crisp and clean all the time, there needs to be better decisions made when in their own end for the upcoming season. A fair amount of goals-against were caused from turnovers inside the defensive zone and coverage being lost. Tighten up in the defensive zone and success will almost surely follow.

Black Bears 2019-20 Season in Review: Fare Thee Well

The downside of junior hockey is the fact that there is a definitive end to it all. Whether it’s leaving for college when the time comes or it means getting to the age-limit; there is a finite amount of time players have in the NAHL. It’s time to relive what they were able to bring to the Black Bears– no matter the term.

NOTE: This is for the players who are definitely leaving as of this writing. It does not take into account players who may be leaving for the USHL or elsewhere.

First things first, we start with the captain– Logan Kons. Going from fighting for every minute last season to being the leader of the Black Bears this season, Kons grew as a player in the off-season and showed off his personality off the ice as a leader for the community. It should be no surprises that Kons took home the East Division Community Service Award, as he was front and center of initiatives for the team within the Baltimore/Washington community, as well as showing his appreciation to people who came out to The Den by coming out and being around the fans after games.

On the ice, he was very noticeable with 24 points in his 52 games on the season, as well as potting three game-winning goals– tying him for the team lead with Aden Bruich and Brayden Stannard. With an appearance at the NAHL Top Prospects game, Kons was able to put his hard work out on a bigger scale for scouts to see. While there hasn’t been a clear path for his future, the way Kons carries himself will make him successful as his life moves forward.

Another part of the leadership group leaving is defenseman Hampus Rydqvist. In his first year in North America, Rydqvist was able to pick up on the different nuances of the smaller rink and succeeded enough to capture the East Division Defenseman of the Year, as well as being named to the East Division First Team. With an explosive shot, smooth skating ability, and a small wrecking ball when the opportunity arises; Rydqvist provides all the tools to be successful moving onward.

His time in Maryland allowed the Swede to get recruited by Miami University to play in the NCHC starting next season. A player with a good outlook off the ice, but serious when the blade hits the ice; Rydqvist took the time in a new locale in stride and as the season went along, got plenty comfortable with his new surroundings Stateside. Here’s hoping it continues for him in Ohio.

A third member of the leadership team departing is Jackson Sterrett, the leading scorer for the team this season. With his speed and ability to find holes in the oppositions’ defense, Sterrett was able to put home 19 goals, including four short-handed. The UMass-Lowell recruit was consistent all season, never going more than three games without a point. With the departure of Wilmer Skoog, Sterrett put up 21 points in 27 games to end out the campaign.

Having moved all around North America to pursue his goal, Sterrett leaves the Black Bears having set the single-season mark for goals and short-handed goals. There’s a tremendous upside with Sterrett, which he will put on display in Hockey East starting next season in hopes of helping the Riverhawks get back to the NCAA Tournament.

One of the late-season acquisitions for the Black Bears is Aaron Swanson, who came over from the Springfield Jr. Blues. However, even in his short time; Swanson made a big impact for the Black Bears with four goals and nine points in only 12 games with Maryland, while adding a veteran presence to the squad and would have been a great asset for the playoffs.

Even with the short time, Swanson was able to leave an impression with his teammates in regards to his work ethic and with the Black Bear Nation in his hustle and grit in his games played at The Den.

To round it out, Jack Smiley was another late-season pick-up, but made a mark on the team. The physical forward brought more size to the team when he was picked up from Corpus Christi, as well as a tenacious forecheck which helped the Black Bears create some turnovers in the neutral zone.

Much like Swanson, the hard work Smiley was able to put in won the favor of Black Bear Nation. Despite only getting one goal in his 12 games, the intangibles that Smiley brought to the table helped give the team an important piece they may have been missing for their playoff run.

To all five of these men, thank you very much for your tenure with the Black Bears– regardless of service time. Even just one game makes you part of the family from this point forward. Make sure to come back and visit or call every once and a while.