Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Photo via GoMustangSports.com

This week on Chesapeake Hockey Week, I mentioned that the Stevenson University Mustangs Women’s team will be using their Saturday game against Neumann University as their Mental Health Awareness game. All the processes from the attendance goes toward the National Alliance of Mental Illness or NAMI for short. The game will have raffles, silent auctions, and a meet-and-greet with the players after the game.

So, let’s talk about mental health because the stigma is still strong and as many Bell Let’s Talk campaigns and as many HASHTAG Sick Not Weak things go around– there’s still things about mental health some people are not putting out there– rightly or wrongly.

I am someone who suffers from mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and a form of Bipolar Disorder. It is rough to live every day of my life in a “normal” manner, but that’s part of the high functioning part of this disease– you deal with it when it hits you, but even then– you shrug it off until it consumes you.

For all the things going around, for all the people who support the mental health initiative when it comes around, there still is a stigma to it. Whether it be people who think they are just stronger than the disease or people who don’t want to burden other with what’s going it– the epidemic is real and needs to be addressed in a strong fashion. The stigma around mental health is something that, while there is support for it, is also one of the most taboo things to talk about.

According to NAMI, 43.8 million adults suffer from mental health issues. In that, 9.8 million people suffer from a serious mental health issue that interferes with the life they live. Even with all of this data, people seem to push it by the wayside purposely or not. This effects work life and social life due to the crippling effects it create in people.

Yet, even after all this…it seems like something people deal with for a day or two and then it falls by the wayside, rightly or wrongly.

In hockey, there is a bigger situation. Obviously the story of Robin Lehner that’s going on is something that is huge. An active player with struggles of mental health that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as suicidal thoughts. Patrik Berglund is another higher profile player who walked away from the NHL because of his mental state, mostly because he lost the drive he once had for the game he loved. With the losses of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak— the NHL has seemed to turn their tone on mental health awareness; but is it enough??

Yes, in the last link dump– I put my old work in there (ESPECIALLY THE RYPIEN PIECE), but it still holds true today. The fact we still have to have these talks is enough to realize– shit’s fucked up. We aren’t getting the mental health we deserve, whether it be because of pride or because of fear or because of any excuse you can think of. The reality of the situation is that if you’re not feeling great mentally, it shouldn’t be any different than if you’re feeling poor physically.

Look, if you’re feeling poor mentally– you’re pain is valid. There’s no reason why you should feel remorse or regret for not being able to perform mentally. While people shouldn’t abuse it– there are still people who do, which makes it harder to break a stigma because it’s hard to judge the reality of hurt and the need to get out of work. It’s not like a broken or sprained limb– it’s something deeper and more neurological than that.

Will there ever be a situation where the stigma is gone?? Maybe not, but you can keep pushing. There be a feeling of burden, there may be a feeling of vulnerability– but it’s okay. No one can be strong all the time. It’s not possible and if you think it is, maybe take a step back and see if you’re true in your convictions or if you’re saying/doing it because you’ve been told to be like that.

Forty-three point eight MILLION is a hard number to dispute against. It’s a hard number to hide. And odds are it’s higher just because of people who don’t feel like taking about what they’re going through or admitting their mental state matters. It does. It’s the starting block to all of your health. If your brain isn’t great, the odds that your body isn’t great are much higher.

In 1952’s “Viva Zapata,” the character Fernando said, “Cut the head off the snake and the body will die.” I feel that’s a correct quote when it comes to mental health because once your head is in a whirlwind, it affects other aspects of your bodily health. Many forget how vital mental health is to everyday life. The brain can play tricks on you and could lead you to rash decisions or comments– trust me, I know.

At the end of the day– when I say, “Take care of yourself and someone else,” it really is a way of life. Make sure you put yourself first– it’s not selfish, it’s preservation. And you hate to do it alone– so take care of someone else who you can trust and you hope can trust you.

Personally, my life in my head sucks and is very self-destructive to me. That’s why I’m re-entering therapy because it’s affecting my career, my relationships with people, and I still don’t know what direction to go in my life. You’d think by this time, nearing 36-years-old, I would– but I don’t…and that’s okay. Regardless of our age or experience, we need a little help. It’s hard to ask for it because you don’t want to be a burden, but it’s good to get another perspective on things since a lot of people are very set in our ways.

But here’s the Stevenson University Women’s hockey team for doing an event like this and hopefully, people will go out to the event in Reisterstown, Maryland on February 9th and donate to a noble and worthy cause.

On the Topic Of All-Star Weekend

It’s a thing in every sport and yet it shouldn’t be and that’s an All-Star Game. With media being more prominent now, the idea of the All-Star Game when it was used to see all the stars of a league in one place seems archaic– but yet it goes on. I’ve long been an advocate to make it into more of a three-day Comic-Con– or extended FanFest as it were– but it seems that these leagues feel that the action on the surface will hold people’s attention.

So it went in San Jose, as the Metro Division won the whole tournament 10-5 over the Central. It was what it was– though it was quite the juxtaposition of color. The black-and-white Adidas Parlay jerseys made it feel like an old-time game, while the gradient colored blue line coupled with goalie’s set-ups being much brighter than the jerseys made it feel like these were extra scenes from “Sin City” or “Pleasantville.”

More over, the NHL’s new toy– player and puck tracking— was on full display, making us reminisce about the FoxTrax puck. Obviously, this new toy will be exploited to the cows come home and in no way has to do with the NHL’s deal with bookmakers and the prop bets that will come from it– nope, not at all. That said, NBC and NBCSN really abused it for those two days– maybe to get used to it, maybe to show us what we’re all in store for next season. Either way, too much of a good thing ruins it.

No one got hurt, which was really the most important thing. It seemed the guys had fun and won’t have to serve a game suspension because they missed out on the events. San Jose put on a good showing and all of that, so it’ll be a success.

Though the buzz of the weekend was the Skills Competition and some for the right and some for the wrong reason. The right reason was the inclusion of Kendell Coyne-Schofield to the Fastest Skater event and she did not disappoint with her talent despite not winning the event. For the bad also involved a woman competitor and a bit of a boggle by the NHL.

The Decker situation was when she was demonstrating the Premier Passing drill and many accounted for her finishing in a faster time than eventual winner Leon Draisaitl, though the NHL said her time was in fact around 1:12 (three second short of Draisaitl); as the league went back and checked. Saying they would “do the right thing” if she won was nice– but try explaining that to people who raise hell whenever possible. Luckily for Decker, CCM stepped up and added that $25,000 to her pocket.

When you break it down– this is where the NHL needs to figure out what to do with women’s hockey. Why not include Decker like they did with Coyne-Schofield?? What does it hurt to put the women in the men’s competition and allow them to stack up against the top players in the NHL?? This is where you have the conundrum of the two women’s pro leagues and the NHL stating they won’t favor one over the other. If/when the NWHL and CWHL merge or one becomes obsolete– it won’t only be better for women’s hockey, but it’ll be better for the NHL because you can bet they’ll start financially backing a one-league system as an off-shoot of the NHL and the women’s league will reap the benefit of the NHL marketing team…which isn’t the best, but maybe better than what they have.

Other than that– the Skills Competition seemed to lack things. The Hardest Shot had four players, which seemed pretty lame and looks to be going the way of the NBA Dunk Contest, while there was not much pizzazz with the other events other than skill being isolated for the world to see. Maybe the gimmicks are just done for now.

Either way, this debate will happen again next year with the game going to St. Louis. Love it or hate it, the idea of it continues to generate revenue, so leagues love it. Players and teams….maybe not as much, but they’ll play the company line or sit a game in rebellion.

UND HOCKEY: Hain, Bowen Net a Pair Each in Win Over St. Cloud

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a tough 3-1 loss on Friday night, the University of North Dakota looked to bounce back in game two Saturday against the top-ranked St. Cloud State. The Hawks would be without Grant Mismash after the hit he took on Friday, while St. Cloud had Jack Poehling and Robby Jackson out in what’s being called “unhealthy scratches.” With that boost and playing on emotion from the Mismash injury, the Fighting Hawks took down the top-ranked Huskies 5-1 on Saturday.

“I think what really fired us up was Mismash,” said UND coach Brad Berry. “That play there that probably ended his season– we took it to heart. We felt we got slighted there a little bit and you know, guys are prideful. That’s the on thing about North Dakota– we’re a team-first mentality here and our guys wear their hearts on their sleeves.”

With emotions high, Gavin Hain opened the scoring after Mark Senden took the puck away from Jimmy Schuldt, broke in and found Hain down the slot, catching David Hranek going side-to-side and pass his outstretched blocker. UND had control of the offensive game in the first half of the game, holding St. Cloud to only two shots through 16 minutes of play; but St. Cloud started to show signs of life by the end of the frame, getting five more shots in the last four minutes to close out the frame.

While St. Cloud started the period with sustained pressure, Senden was able get on the other side of the scoring sheet, with a great anticipation in his own zone to pick off a dump-in attempt, came rushing up the ice, and snapped a shot over the blocker of Hranek to make it 2-0 for the Fighting Hawks. Not to be outdone, Dixon Bowen picked the puck off the boards and was streaking down the right side, letting a shot go that slipped through the five-hole of Hranek. After that goal, Hranek’s night was over in lieu of Jeff Smith. Smith and SCSU withstood plenty of onslaught from UND before Schuldt was able to get a shorthanded goal after Adam Scheel kicked out a Patrick Newell shot that was retrieved by Schuldt and put past Scheel to cut UND’s lead to 3-1.

UND got off the hop quick in the third with plenty of chances, including Senden. It wasn’t until Colton Poolman picked off a pass in the neutral zone, tried to drive through the middle, but lost the puck. Luckily, Hain was trailing behind him, picked up the puck, fired at Smith, getting his own rebound to make it 4-1 UND, adding another goal to the Hain-Senden-Cole Smith trio.

Brad Berry/Photo by Jen Conway

“They’re super hard to play against,” Berry said about the line. “We had the match-up against (Blake) Lizotte’s line and they did an outstanding job limiting them in our zone, but they played in their zone. They made it hard to play against and possess pucks and not to mention score goals. So when you can get that from that line, you’re gonna win a lot of games that way.”

“We three have kind of a grind mindset,” Hain said of his linemates. “We get pucks down and support each other. Just work the puck below the goal line. We have been doing that all year. Sometimes we get some goals, like we did tonight, but other times we don’t. This time it worked out for us.”

With just under six minutes remaining, Dixon Bowen picked off a Patrick Newell own-zone cross-ice pass, had the initial shot get stopped by Smith, but the puck squeaked through Smith and Bowen had a tap-in.

“It was great on us,” said Bowen post game. “We came together this morning and talked about it. Put yesterday behind us and come today and have fun. Biggest key was staying disciplined and keeping them off the PP and we got a couple of bounces and got the W.”

Discipline was correct for the most part, but things fell apart at the end of the game, starting with Jasper Weatherby getting into a shoving match with Schuldt, then Gabe Bast slashing Ryan Poehling, and ended with UND having five players in the penalty box at the game’s end. It was for not though, as UND held on for the victory.

It doesn’t get much easier, as the Fighting Hawks will now be on the road for most of February and not be back at home until they host Minnesota-Duluth on February 22nd. UND will take on Denver next week, then a bye weekend, before going to Western Michigan after Valentine’s Day.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Dropped Spirited Affair Against #1 Ranked Huskies

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a split of a weekend in Omaha, the University of North Dakota came home on Friday for their last season in a month at The Ralph and it would be no easy task for the Fighting Hawks, as they took on the top-ranked St. Cloud St. Huskies for the weekend. There was a buzz in the arena that I personally haven’t felt since Minnesota came to town last year, which was a welcome change for a game of this profile. However, most of the 11,608 were sent home disappointed, as St. Cloud beat UND 3-1 on Friday night.

While the first part of the opening frame was a feeling out process, North Dakota had a slight advantage in their offensive zone in the first half of the period. Nick Jones opened up the scoring for UND with a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot that hit off the backboards, flicking a backhand off SCSU’s David Hranek and into the net for the 1-0 lead. The best chance for SCSU came when UND’s Hayden Shaw turned the puck over in his own zone to give Patrick Newell a mini-break on Adam Scheel. Scheel– however, was equal to the task, flashing the glove to preserve the 1-0 lead at the end of the period.

Another back and forth period, but business picked up when St. Cloud appeared to tie up the game, as the puck bounced and appeared to bounce over the goal line, but after review– the evidence was inconclusive, which kept the game tied up at one. However, St. Cloud atoned for that when after a power play, Micah Miller got a cross-ice pass from Nolan Walker  and put it five-hole on Scheel to tie the game with 13.7 left in the frame.

St. Cloud showed off why they were the top-ranked team in the nation in the third, controlling the play in the neutral and offensive zone, moving the puck around to create several chances for themselves to break the tie. Luckily for UND, Scheel and the shot-blockers got in the way of many pucks to hold the tie. After UND killed another crucial penalty, Nolan Walker picked Colton Poolman’s pocket behind the net, slid a pass across to Patrick Newell, who beat a sprawling Scheel to make it a 2-1 Huskies lead.

Colton Poolman/Photo by Jen Conway

“I accept responsibility for that second goal,” an emotional Poolman said after the game. “I owe my teammates better to be more focused at a critical juncture in the game like that. That’s where it went sideways, so I accept responsibility for that.”

Later in the period, Grant Mismash took a hit by Jimmy Schuldt and was down on the ice in pain, but got a penalty for slashing the stick out of Schuldt’s hand. No penalty was given to Schuldt, as the refs told UND coach Brad Berry that they deemed the hit to be clean. A hit like that is reviewable by the referees, but neither decided to go to the scorer’s table to review it.

“I am very, very disappointed,” said Berry. “I’m not going to get in any trouble by making a comment, but that was a knee-on-knee play that should have been reviewed. We have a protocol in place and it was reviewed and I’m very disappointed. It’s not the result of the game I’m alluding to, it’s one of those things where you know when anything is 50/50 in a game like that, it’s got to get reviewed. We have that in our protocol.”

When asked about Mismash’s status for tomorrow, Berry simply said, “He’ll be out.”

As UND pulled the goalie, Blake Lizotte fired it into the open net to give SCSU the 3-1 win. Though, after the hit– you could see the emotion rising, plenty of activity after the whistle and in the penalty boxes, as well with both SCSU and UND players yelling at each other between the boxes. This should be a great precursor for the game on Saturday night.

UND HOCKEY: Another Night of Free Hockey, Another Two Points for North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, ND– Following an overtime victory last night, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks looked to add another notch in the win column and complete the weekend sweep of Colorado College. It would be a bit of a different look for UND, as Gabe Bast was out of the line-up due to a suspension from his hit on Alex Berardinelli. The team was also hampered with a sick goalie, as Adam Scheel came to the rink in the morning under the weather and not at 100%. However, he made a quick recovery to help the Fighting Hawks sweep the Tigers with a Saturday night victory in overtime.

Hayden Shaw got the Hawks out to a quick start with Jordan Kawaguchi finding Shaw streaking down the slot and put it bottom right corner on Alex Leclerc just 1:18 into the game. While UND did get some chances on the power play, it wasn’t until they were down a man that they would get their second goal, as Andrew Peski’s clearing attempt was picked up by Dixon Bowen, who streaked in to beat Leclerc under the blocker side to make it 2-0.

Dixon Bowen/Photo by Jen Conway

“Finally nice to get that monkey off my back,” Bowen said. “It’s funny because in practice when I try to deke, I never score and the boys make fun of me in practice and say I’m a shooter. So I was like okay, I’m gonna just shoot this one and it went in.”

Colorado College would open up the scoring the second with a shorthanded goal of their own as Adam Scheel kicked out a rebound off a Grand Cruikshank shot to the stick of Westin Michaud and cutting the lead to one. Colorado College could have had two more goals, but both were called off– first for goalie interference and then as the puck when in just hundredths of a second after time had expired.

The Tigers did even it up, as Cole McCaskill made a fantastic stretch pass to Trey Bradley, who broke in behind the defense and beat Scheel far-glove side to even it up at two. North Dakota kept the pressure on, sustaining pressure on Leclerc and playing with patience– though you could argue too much patience. With no goals to be scored after Bradley’s equalizer, we got another night of free hockey.

The free hockey didn’t last long, as just 50 seconds into the free frame, Nick Jones’s forecheck proved to be as deadly as usual, gaining possession behind the goal-line, trying to wrap it around, but getting blocked. Luckily, Jordan Kawaguchi was streaking in to put home the game-winner for UND in order to sweep the weekend.

“Honestly, I just blacked out the whole play,” said Kawaguchi post-game. “I remember seeing the puck and trying to get it towards the open net. Jonesy made a helluva play.”

A few years back, it was a different scene as the BCHL alums were jawing at each other on different sides of the puck in the playoffs. However, the combination of them both at UND has proved to be a solid match for the Fighting Hawks.

“It’s kind of ironic they’re playing together right now,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “They both came from very good, storied programs and they were very dominant players for each of them. There’s not a lot of love loss between them. But that’s the beauty of North Dakota. I remember years back, players coming in from different leagues and there was real animosity. But when you get together, you’re a teammate and your goal is to win a National Championship.”

The Fighting Hawks will take this sweep in stride as they prepare to travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks next week in yet another NCHC battle.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Need Extra Time to Topple Tigers

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a weekend that saw them throw everything and the kitchen sink against their opponent, but still only able to muster two goals in the weekend; the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks needed to rebound quick, as NCHC play started back up in full force. This weekend, they welcomed the Colorado College Tigers into The Ralph and used almost every minute of regulation and overtime to get a 4-3 win on the first game of the weekend.

It took until halfway through the first for UND to solve Alex Leclerc and it took a power play to do so. After the two-man advantage was killed, Nick Jones got the puck down low from Jacob Bernard-Docker and somehow was able to find space where there didn’t seem to be any over the shoulder of Leclerc to make it 1-0 for the Hawks. While UND did have a shot advantage in the first of 11-7, they seemed to have better quality chances against Leclerc than Colorado College had against Adam Scheel.

After plenty of sustained pressure in the zone, Andrew Peski’s shot from the point went off of Colorado’s Zach Berzolla and past Leclerc to make it 2-0 for the Hawks. Colorado College cut the lead in half after a power play goal by Westin Michaud– who drew the penalty– as his shot trickled past Scheel despite the UND goalie getting a glove on it– but couldn’t stop the momentum afterwards.

Under three minutes into the third, Colorado College tied it up after Erik Middendorf picked up the puck off a blocked shot and put it past a scrambling Scheel. Off the goal, Gabe Bast leveled Colorado’s Alex Berardinelli, which resulted in Berardinelli needing help off the ice, as Bast got a five-minute major and ten-minute misconduct for targeting the head. Less than thirty seconds into the power play, former North Dakota forward Chris Wilkie put home his fourth of the season with a wicked shot from the top of the circle and put the Tigers up for the first time in the game, though it was the only goal on the extended power play. With almost five minutes to play, UND got back on the board, as Jordan Kawaguchi tipped home a Nick Jones slap-pass/skate tip shot to knot the game at three, which led to overtime.

Jordan Kawaguchi/Photo by Jen Conway

“I didn’t see anyhing,” said Kawaguchi post-game. “I just went to the net with my stick on the ice. I don’t know if Nick’s shot would have gotten in or not, but just going to the net with my stick on the ice. It’s something coach has been talking about, getting into the dirty areas and goals will come.”

Just when it looked like it would go to a shootout to see who got the extra NCHC point, Ludvig Hoff tipped a Jacob Bernard-Docker point shot over Leclerc’s shoulder to give UND the overtime win by a score of 4-3.

“It was huge for a lot of reasons,” remarked head coach Brad Berry. “First of all, get back in the win column. Second climbing the standings in the NCHC, Pairwise is a big thing. But the morale of the group here. You’re working hard all year and in the end, sometimes you don’t get rewarded. We got rewarded tonight.”

UND is hoping that the rewards continue and try to finish the weekend with four points on Saturday night.

TEPID TAKE(S): Garbage Jerseys, Shrinking Ice, Flyers Goalies

Adidas unveiled the All-Star Game jerseys, which are garbage. Legit garbage. The jersey makers have partnered again with Parley for Oceans to make jerseys out of plastic debris out of the oceans. It has been done before with MLS and now will come to the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose.

When comparing to past ASG jerseys, they’re underwhelming, of course, because they’re not flashy. From what JonnyP has told me, it has to be that way due to the thread used to keep it all together. Fair enough and in all honesty, it’s the All-Star Game and while specialty jerseys are suppose to have some kind of flash to them, this is a good cause. Plus, on the broadcast, it’ll give an old-time feel of black-and-white TV.

More over, it’s a nice nod to the MLB jerseys where players wear their own teams logo on it. While the jersey itself isn’t the template specific, the fact that it’ll be more than just a shoulder patch logo is pretty damn cool. You can’t buy just a generic jersey and slap together whatever you want– you need to know what team you want before you buy it– so that’s something.


Rene Fasel was talking about things again. This time, the IIHF President for Life was talking about how the federation is looking into shifting the sizes of rinks for international competition away from the set-up of 200-feet by 100-feet to the NHL standard of 200-by-85, which is in no way an attempt to get the NHL back into the Beijing Olympics in 2022.

No, Fasel said that it would be more for the fans and help bring more excitement and emotion thanks to smaller confines…and in no way to squeeze another row of seats into the arena.

Listen, unless the other European federations are going to shrink their rinks and the leagues around the world are going to put up with this whole thing, this just seems like a silly idea. Sure, the European fans have a total different look as the NHL/North American fans– but the fun with Olympics and World Championships is the bigger ice surface to have more space and have skill and actual systems come through.

I’m not fully convinced it’s to appease the NHL and their overlords because the fact the World Juniors is played on NHL-size ice every three of four years and then a random European rink is a little annoying– but don’t change the systems wholly because of one Olympics that the NHL didn’t want to go to because of reasons (money).


Mike McKenna won’t be the last different goalie to start for the Philadelphia Flyers. Thanks to his start in Washington on Tuesday, McKenna helped the Flyers tie the record for most starting goalies used in a season (Quebec in 1989-90, 2002-03 St. Louis Blues, and 2007-08 LA Kings) as the sixth different starter in a season.

We’re only midway through the season, there’s plenty of more goalies to go through, and the Flyers still have the trade deadline, waiver wires, and the inevitable injury that’ll happen to Carter Hart or McKenna to look forward to.

The Flyers are 13th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference, while they’re last in the league in goal differential with a minus-61. Are the goalies the biggest woe for the Flyers?? Maybe, but it proves that just removing the GM and head coach wasn’t the quick fix some thought it would be. Might it hamper Hart’s development?? Perhaps– especially since the Flyers haven’t been able to bring along a homegrown goalie since Ron Hextall back in the ’80s.

On Face Off Hockey Show, we put the over/under at 8.5 for goalies who have started for the Flyers this season. You have to think that maybe some minor league goalie gets pluck off of waivers by the Flyers or Branden Komm gets a call-up late in the season because the hell with it. For me, I’m taking the over all day, everyday.

My Wishes for the Battle of Atlanta in Regina

We all know this won’t happen. The NHL won’t let this happen. The Winnipeg Jets won’t let this happen. But I want the #BattleOfAtlanta to go down in a big, big was in October for the Heritage Classic game in Regina between the Flames and Jets.

Both teams are formerly of Atlanta. The real issue stems with one team actually caring about their heritage, whereas the other wants to think this is a Cleveland Browns situations– in that they keep the records of the team that relocated.

Word to the wise– the Winnipeg Jets are the Atlanta Thrashers and hold all the Atlanta Thrashers records. The franchise leader in points for the Winnipeg Jets is Ilya Kovalchuk with 615 points. Dany Heatley holds the record for goals and points by a rookie. These are Winnipeg Jets legends by proxy. Dale Hawerchuk, Bob Essensa, Teemu Selanne– all those records belong to the Arizona Coyotes. Even dumb, idiot, blowhard bloggers from six years ago say the Jets are the Thrashers.

Okay– with that all out of the way: the only way to play this is to have the Flames wear the classic Atlanta Flames jerseys. They already have the template with their third jerseys and with this game being about Heritage…it only makes sense. Like I said before, the Flames incorporated their Atlanta roots many times, including putting the old logo as an alternate captain letter.

Powder blue is something that the Jets should wear as the Thrashers– it would help that color clash people enjoy. Plus, they already incorporate that in their alternate jerseys now– which is a nice step for them bringing back the Thrashers garb for one night only.

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Musical act is Lil’ Jon– point blank period. Not because he’s an Atlanta guy, but it’s because he’s someone who has held the torch for Atlanta hockey since the Flames played at the Omni. He was a great ambassador for the Thrashers and really help bring more pop culture into the game when it was looking for it. So much impact that Kari Lehtonen put him on the back of his mask.

So it’s set– this is what it should be, especially if we’re talking about a HERITAGE CLASSIC. Before you get where you’re going, you’ve gotta know where you’ve been. That’s what it’s all about– knowing both teams came from Atlanta to Canada in different generations. Time to mesh them.

And honestly– to the people who might be butt-hurt over this (probably Jets fans who are defensive of their identity and want to believe 1996-2011 didn’t happen); if you liked the Hurricanes becoming the Whalers for one night– why can’t you enjoy the Jets becoming the Thrashers for one night?? It’s all in the name of fun, right?? All the nostalgia is great right??

You might not like it, but I’m sure there’s a lot more people who would. It’s the history of the team and regardless of what you try– it’s not going away. Preserve history rather than put it under the rug and then you can enjoy things rather than being overly uptight.

#BattleOfAtlanta

Battle of Atlanta Kicks Off Specialty Games for 2019-20

In light of another Chicago Blackhawks outdoor game, the NHL revealed locations for some of their specialty games coming up for the 2019-20 season.

First, the Heritage Classic will come back and take place in Regina, Saskatchewan on October 26. In what I’ll be calling “The Battle of Atlanta” the former Atlanta Flames will take on the former Atlanta Thrashers– with the Calgary Flames taking on the Winnipeg Jets. It’ll be the fifth Heritage Classic and first since 2016 in Winnipeg. With both teams on the rise in their divisions, it should prove to be an interesting match-up, especially early in the season.

Second, the NHL put forth next year’s Winter Classic, but this time in Dallas’s Cotton Bowl, as the Dallas Stars will host and unnamed opponent– which, if it’s not the Minnesota Wild, it’ll be a huge narrative disrupting event. Surprising that it’s not being held in JerryWorld at AT&T Stadium, as it would go with the NHL wanting a big venue for these events.

St. Louis will be the 2020 All-Star Game host for the third time (1970 and 1988 being the prior ones) through the weekend of January 24th until the 26th. We’ll be waiting with bated-breathe to see if Nelly and the St. Lunatics show up with Fred Brathwaite like they did in the “Welcome to Atlanta” remix.

Finally, the NHL also announced another Stadium Series game at a military academy, with the Colorado Avalanche hosting a game at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium. Another game with no opponent, but hopefully the NHL will keep getting closer and closer to their goal of holding a game at West Point after going through two other military academies already.

Is there one better than the other?? Do you even care about the amount of outdoor games anymore?? Leave a comment or something to let me know….or don’t, I get paid the same either way.

On the Topic Of Utica, Vancouver, and Affiliation Distance

When the westward move of the AHL began and many of the Western Conference teams started to move their affiliations, people thought it was a matter of time before the Vancouver Canucks moved their affiliation out of Utica, New York for a closer destination.

Saturday’s announcement put a damper on that idea, at least until the 2020-21 season. That’s because the Canucks and Comets agreed to a new six-year affiliation extension; though it has an option for the Canucks after two seasons to depart upstate New York for somewhere else.

Business wise, Utica is great with president Robert Esche having built a great entertainment outlet. They’re in the midst of a 133-game sellout streak that started in April 2015, while they have been producing plenty of talent of the retooling Canucks– including head coach Travis Green. On the ice, it’s been solid as well with a 193-136-35-16, though the team only has two playoff appearances in the five full seasons the two teams have been affiliated. The Comets haven’t had a season under 35 wins, either.

Obviously, the distance between Utica and Vancouver is something that should be a worry when it comes to call-ups. However, does moving a team closer to the Canucks, namely the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia, make sense when the AHL has tried and failed once before?? Of course, you can say the shortcomings of the Abbotsford Heat was the Calgary Flames being in Canucks territory– but would people actually be enthused to have AHL hockey when the NHL team is maybe an hour away??

Hockey fans can be fickle, so maybe seeing the future of the team may not be as good as seeing the team itself. Plus, when you’re the Canucks and own the Comets (leasing it to Esche and Utica), the fact that money and loyalty keeps rolling in up in Utica, you don’t want to kill that golden goose when it’s making profit. Plus, maybe keeping the young players away from the cutthroat media and possible extreme expectations that would come with being closer to the Canucks may be best for development of some players to be able to learn the system first before having it dissected by everyone in the Vancouver area.

It’s always a struggle when it comes to situations like this. You don’t want to move an affiliation when it’s working so well on the business and hockey side of things, but you also don’t want to have your prospects so far away in a place that’s not a major airline hub that it cuts into the roster of the NHL team. The Canucks have a delicate balancing act they’re doing, but as of right now– they seem to be winning out thus far with the marriage they have in Utica.