Putting the Minor Leagues Into the Mainstream

During the Memorial Cup Final on Sunday, NHL.com’s AHL writer Patrick Williams brought up an interesting concept when it came to the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals coming up and how to get some buzz to those casual minor league hockey fans.

Williams is not wrong. The AHL putting their games out there for free on AHLLive.com, but even with that, people need to have a purpose to go to that site and put in all the things in order to watch the game. It’s not like the CHL had in the US and Canada where you could be flipping around the channels and find themselves watching the game because it caught there attraction. Yes, you can make the argument that the NHL is not in and around many prime channels and you may need a reason to turn to that channel– but it’s still on TV is the point.

However, for the production value of the games will have to be better by ten-fold. On the AHL Live feed, all the things that are shown on the jumbotron are shown on the broadcast, including in-game graphics and promotions, are shown during the broadcast with the radio play-by-play being over top of the action. It’s not like you can see replay and have those plays broken down, so it’s a real disadvantage. Though, there are times AHL Live simulcasts TV broadcasts, but it’s few and far between.

At this point in the season, you would think that both the AHL and the ECHL would want to show off their product in the best of lights. The member teams, you would hope, would find a way to get a local TV station to help with the production of their game film and make it very presentable for a championship series and not grainy quality you’d expect to see in archival footage from the 1970s.

Of course, a budget factor would come into play. You wouldn’t think teams would have much money earmarked for the TV side of things, though at this point in the season– you could splurgs for something like this. Plus, you’d have to imagine that if they got on regular TV, the NHL Network would be able to grab that satellite feed and broadcast it on their airwaves because, well, they don’t have anything else going on right now with the Cup Finals being the story of the next two weeks or so. Why not put the AHL or ECHL playoffs onto the channel to give hockey fans even more hockey that matters on the air.

I’ll always advocate for minor league hockey and to get minor league hockey out into the mainstream for people to not only check-up on their team’s prospects, but to learn about new players, areas, teams, league, and whatever else they can take away from watching the games. Making them watchable has to be the first step for minor leagues– first on a production level and next to get it out to the masses.

If there’s anything I missed with what the AHL and ECHL could do to improve upon their broadcasts, hit up the comment section.

PREDICTION: Stanley Cup Final(s)

When I was growing up, it was called the Stanley Cup Finals and sometime along the post-lockout world it became the Final; but whatever. Everyone is in the prediction business, so why not go for it myself??

Short and sweet, too.

As much as I loathe the Pittsburgh Penguins, this year they’re trying to be the first back-to-back team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, which is made especially difficult in a salary cap world. Without Kris Letang and without Sidney Crosby at 100% (and even then he’s 2nd in playoff scoring), guys like Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have stepped up in a big fashion, while I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of Phil Kessel yet. Hell, Matt Murray is trying for his second Stanley Cup in his rookie season, which is just wacky as hell when you say it out loud like that. However, the Penguins have really showed their depth and showed how their system really could be a model for most teams in the league going forward.

On the other side, the darling of the hockey world has been the Nashville Predators and the fans of Nashville who people are just discovering. While they don’t have the offensive fire-power, they do have some of the top defensemen in the league in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and PK Subban. Upfront, Filip Forsberg has truly blossomed to the player people thought he was going to be, while Colton Sissons is going to get paid this summer because of his John-Druceian performance this playoffs. Luckily, Pekka Rinne has also came to play for the Predators after an up and down season for him this season. The loss of Ryan Johansen is a big one, but it’s a “next man up” mentality for this team who have really bought into Peter Laviolette’s message.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Penguins react to having played so much since October 2015, as this is their second straight run of this magnitude. They aren’t the young guns they were back in 2008 and 2009 when they made this kind of run themselves. Coming off of two Game 7s in the past two series, the Pens could be running on fumes; but you can bet they have some gas in their tank saved up just for this.

The Preds, on the other hand, are amazing in team stats in having a +18 goal differential and only have let up 29 goals this playoffs. They’ll be very tested against the top scoring team in the playoffs, but Rinne will probably be equal to the task. As the second Wild Card in the Western Conference, this team is playing with house money. They don’t know they shouldn’t be here and are going to play the next however many games with as much enthusiasm as they did leading up to this.

PREDICTION: It’s really a “head vs. heart” for me because I know what the Penguins can do, but I think the Predators could really pull it out because they have the defense-first mentality that usually gets teams very far in the playoffs.

Predators in 7. Rinne will continue to be hot, the Preds defense will rule the day again, the Pens will feel the effects to all the games in the past two season and not have that extra juice needed to win.

Caps, Leafs Bring Hockey Back to Maryland

On Saturday night, news started to come out about the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland hosting an outdoor game between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs on March 3rd. It will be the third outdoor game of the year after the ones in Ottawa and New York.


Boy, are there several things to dissect here.

First, good on the NHL to follow up on their desire to have outdoor games at the Armed Forces Academies. I’m shocked that it’s the Naval Academy first before the Army, but at the same time, the logistics are probably easier for a stadium off-campus, as is the case with Navy.

Secondly, what could happen with the wacky weather Maryland brings that time of year. Of course, the NHL has the most top-notch of people on the ice making and have been able to deal with all kinds of conditions– like in Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, Maryland’s weather can be all kinds of wacky. Like this past March, it went from 80F to 62F to 37F in three days– which would be the lead up to the gameday and March 3rd being the lucky 37F day. I’m sure they can react as necessary to the ebbs and flows of the weather, plus the ice probably won’t be any worse than we’ve heard Verizon Center could be, so that could be a plus for the Caps.

Thirdly, boy– this is late in the season for the game. It looks like it’ll be just post-deadline, right in the playoff rush, and depending on what happens– some guys on the Caps will be coming back from the Olympics. It all spells bad times for the Caps in this one, but it’s a good event for them to participate in.

Finally, I’m over the Caps being in this. Sure, they are a big ratings and attendance draw and have Alex Ovechkin on the roster, but at the same time, despite being a fan, I want some new blood into the mix. Proximity is something that killed them to have an out on this, but the Caps have had their time in that spotlight (and you could argue the same for the Leafs) and it’s time to mix it up a bit.

All that said, it’s a great move by the NHL to bring the Armed Forces into the realm of outdoor hockey, especially if they do something akin to what the MLB did last year and open most of the tickets up to the Cadets and Officers in the Corps. While the team’s fans won’t enjoy that kind of notion on the surface, it would be good of the NHL to make it exclusive to those in the school. Of course, unlike the Braves and Marlins– the Caps and Leafs actually draw well at home and on the road, so you could bet plenty of people would be pissed if it was a closed or raffled kind of ticket giveaway.

In any case, good on Maryland to get another professional hockey game, which would be the first time since the Chesapeake Icebreakers played at the Showplace Arena in the ECHL during the 1998-99 season. The NHL left Maryland in the middle of the 1997-98 season when the Caps moved from Landover to move to downtown DC.

Though, as a former Marylander (if you couldn’t tell from the Crossland Banner and Calvert Bars put across this page) and resident of Anne Arundel County for 21 years, I’m shocked the first game wasn’t held at the ice rink at Glen Burnie Town Center. Or just rip the roof off of Piney Orchard and start the demolition/remodel of that place.

The Demise of the NHL Coverage by ESPN

Here we are, only a scant few days from the start of the Stanley Cup Finals…and ESPN’s top writer (after their giant purge a few weeks ago) has left the company.

On a Facebook post, Craig Custance announced that he is leaving ESPN for reasons he did not disclose at this time. With the firings of Pierre LeBrun, Scott Burnside, Joe McDonald, and the possible exit of John Buccigross when his contract is up in July, the hockey department has been pretty much gutted at the “Worldwide Leader.” While they still have Linda Cohn and Barry Melrose on the TV, as well as Corey Pronman on the dot-com side; the hit that hockey’s coverage has taken is making it look like ESPN will go strictly to wire results for the NHL starting next season.

Now, I’m sure Custance will land on his feet as a hockey writer because he’s a tremendous reporter and he will be very sought after. However, you have to figure that the pro hockey “takes” are dead to ESPN, if it hadn’t been before.

The NHL and ESPN have always had a sort of odd pairing together. Most people like to remember how the NHL was replaced by poker at the beginning of the 2000s, which was the end of the contract the league had with ESPN, but before then– the NHL was soundly put at the forefront, especially when ESPN2 was created. There were games mostly every night on “The Deuce” and there was plenty to be taken from. Sure, there were plenty of Red Wings or Flyers or Penguins games– but you had a smattering of Sharks and Kings games thrown in. Hell, when the NHL was locked out in 1994, ESPN liked the idea of hockey on The Deuce, they got a deal with the IHL to show games on the network– huge for the minor league industry and good for ESPN to keep their hockey fan base happy without the NHL around.

Many fans still feel that ESPN gave the NHL a hard time when it came to coverage, and I could see why they thought that– especially when ESPN took a jilted lover approach to their coverage after the NHL went to the NBC family of networks. That said, I could see ESPN’s reasoning for not giving it coverage because it didn’t value hockey due sagging ratings by fans not tuning into games. After that, ESPN had hockey of the NCAA variety, but only during the Frozen Four and recently, select games on ESPNU.

Even when you look at the coverage that ESPN put out for the World Cup of Hockey, which seemed as if they had one guy in the arena doing the between-the-bench schtick, while the play-by-play staff was calling it from the studio in Bristol. ESPN thought they could make something of the WCH, but in the end– it was same lackluster performance they had put out there from the last time they had pro hockey coverage.

In this day in age, the need for the NHL to have coverage on ESPN is not as desirable as it was a decade ago. People consume sports differently, especially on social media and with the leagues having highlights on-demand. That kills the need for highlight shows or to even be home to watch the game thanks to streaming services and everyone being connected to the internet.

The NHL, and hockey fans for that matter, don’t need ESPN as much as they used to– but the end result is a lot of talented people having to look elsewhere for work because ESPN sees how little traffic it gets and how little revenue they are generating from cutting the cords. That’s the nature of the business these days, sadly.

NHL: Three Stripes, New Jerseys

To the surprise of no one, Adidas is going to alter some jerseys next season for their first year as the official jersey supplier of the NHL. Adidas will take over for their sister company, Reebok, due to the restructuring they did with the NHL not too long ago.

But the report that over a dozen teams will be getting a change is really the sticking point, though Chris Creamer said that it could be as minor as the teams booting alternate jerseys to full-time status since the alternate jerseys are going the way of the dodo, again, for next season– though it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out for the outdoor games that will be going on.

The one shocking thing is that the Sabres are once again going to change their uniforms. According to NHLUniforms.com, since 2005-06, the Sabres have had nine jerseys, including the Buffaslug and Turdburger jerseys, but not counting the change from the old jerseys to the current Reebok edge. The Sabres have surpassed the Canucks in jersey changes in the shortest timespan.

But the only good thing is that if Adidas really wants to put their brand on something– the Sabres jerseys would be the best. Sure, everyone is going to be having some kind of “three-stripe” on their jersey– minimalist or otherwise– but the Sabres are prime candidates to be the poster child for Adidas. Look at the original jerseys for the Sabres– their socks alone had three stripes of three stripes. It’s stripe-ception for crying out loud.


Granted, the wouldn’t be able to put Jack Eichel away from Bauer, but the point is that the Sabres could be the NHL’s Oregon Ducks to Nike or Maryland Terrapins to Under Armour with the stripes they could have.

In any case, it’s much ado about nothing. A lot of the changes, I’m sure, will be minimal and the teams that need an overhaul will get it or they will just stick to some generic garbage that they have now.

My only request is that no more unnecessary piping. Enough. We get it, you can template a uniform. Be done with it.

Reboot: Version….I Don’t Know, 97??

For those who have followed me in the past however many years, you know how disjointed I can get. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, I get a writing bug time and time again only to fade away from the whole thing.

So, what is this thing going to do for me?? Who knows, but I think it’s time to maybe condense all my things into one area. I’ll keep the other places up, but maybe this is the place to have the one-stop for my work or new stuff that comes along.

Thanks for sticking with me. Another ride begins.