UND HOCKEY: UND Force Overtime, Split Series with Bemidji

GRAND FORKS, ND– After winning at Bemidji State last night, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came back home to complete the home-and-home against the Beavers. A slow start doomed the Hawks from the start, but thanks to late pressure– they were able to get the game into overtime, but could not complete the comeback, losing 4-3 to Bemidji in extra time. 

“One of the main points for today was to have a better start,” said UND coach Brad Berry after the game. “I thought a couple plays led to their goals, and they were nice goals, but a couple of mistakes– not handling the puck in the neutral zone and errand passes in our zone. You can’t put yourself down 2-0 against a good team like that.”

Bemidji struck first, as Kyle Looft wristed on through a mass of humanity and put it past Zach Driscoll to make it 1-0 Beavers 47 seconds into the game. Less than a minute after that, Tyler Kirkup picked up an errand pass in the defensive zone to make it 2-0 within the first 1:28 of the game. After their timeout was called, UND got on the board with a great transition and tic-tac passing from Connor Ford and Chris Jandric allowed Ashton Calder to put home his third of the year. While the Fighting Hawks got most of the chances through the period, including two solid chances from Gavin Hain, Kirkup got on the board again, after a pass from Alex Adams hit off his stick and trickled past Driscoll to make it 3-1 Bemidji.

North Dakota, knowing they couldn’t give the next goal, kept pushing offensively with a decent amount of chances– including Hain skying a puck on the breakaway. They finally got within one as Riese Gaber picked up a Louis Jamernik wrap-around rebound to close the gap to 3-2.  Even with the power plays that UND were given towards the end of the frame, they couldn’t convert and had only a few quality chances at Michael Carr. UND outshot Bemidji 11-4, but the score remained 3-2 after 40. 

Try as they might, UND couldn’t get shots past Carr. Bemidji got their bodies, sticks, and everything else in the way of any potential Fighting Hawks shots. While some passes didn’t connect, the Hawks made sure that they did support Driscoll when Bemidji tried to press the play. It wasn’t until there was 48 seconds left in the game, when– with the extra attacker– Ashton Calder fired it on net and Carr, who was half in the net, let it slip by him to tie the game, sending it to overtime. 

“(Sanderson) made a great play off the wall, caught them sleeping a little bit,” said Calder of the game-tying goal. “(Schmaltz) made a great pass and I was there to pump it into the back of the net.” 

It took only 53 seconds in OT to end it, as Ross Armour got behind the UND defense to put it over the shoulder of Driscoll to give Bemidji the split on the weekend with a 4-3 victory of their own. 

THEY SAID IT

“You gotta reset. That was a critical time to reset your team and get back into sorts again. When you give up two goals, you get kind of shaken a little bit; I wanted to make sure our guys get back on the horse again. You can’t control what’s in the past, but you can control the future. I want to make sure the future of our game was good.”– Berry on using his time-out 1:28 into regulation. 

“We showed we can play really well, especially those last two periods, we just have to start better. You can’t spot teams, especially like that, two goals, three goals right away in the first period, so I think if we clean that up, we’ll be really good after that.”– Calder on the takeaways on the weekend.

“At the end of the day, it’s huge to have that tied up and go into your pairwise ranking against a good team. The biggest point is we like our team, but we got to play more like a team in the early part of the game. Second and third, we had great push-back, I don’t think we spent a whole lot of time in the second and third at our end of the rink. We just have to have a more effort not playing in our zone in the first.”– Berry on getting into overtime.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Collect First Sweep of the Year, Downing Niagara 4-0.

Photo: Jen Conway/ @NHLHistoryGirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a decisive 6-2 win last night, North Dakota knew they needed to start quickly to set the tone to try and get the eventual sweep of Niagara University. On a night where the school honored former player and current Grand Forks mayor Brandon Bochenski, the Fighting Hawks got off to that quick start and didn’t look back, sweeping the Purple Eagles with a 4-0 victory on Saturday. 

North Dakota wasted no time as Judd Caulfield made a no-look spin-a-rama pass to Jake Schmaltz, who put it over the shoulder of Jake Sibell to take the 1-0 lead 1:08 into the first. Niagara woke up after that goal, starting to tilt the ice in their direction, putting some shots on Zach Driscoll.

The second period didn’t have much flow to it in the beginning. The passes didn’t seem to hit the marks and there was plenty of sloppy play in the defensive zone for North Dakota. With two power plays in the first part of the second frame, the Fighting Hawks didn’t seem to get any lane to get quality chances with Niagara getting sticks in the lanes and getting onto the puck carrier quickly. That changed with 6:28 left in the period, as Schmaltz got his second of the game as the puck was cycled around the zone and Schmaltz fired home a one-timer from Chris Jandric past Sibell, who had lost his glove in a scrum in front of the net. 

With some back and forth play, Jake Sanderson made it 3-0 on a 4-on-4 situation, coming down off the wing, getting a pass from Connor Ford, and going backhand/forehand/backhand through the crease and behind Sibell. 

Plenty of neutral zone action in the third, but with 2:59 remaining, Riese Gaber put home a power play goal from the top of the circle off a Sanderson pass and made it 4-0, which would be the eventual final. 

Next weekend, North Dakota will play a home-and-home series against Bemidji State, whom they beat in their exhibition game this season. 

THEY SAID IT

“New guys, but they’re experienced guys. Obviously, just trying to find spots for each one of those guys on each unit. We haven’t been able to work with them until the beginning of September, but they’ve been bonding together since July and getting to know each other. They deeply care about each other and when we’re not on the ice with them, they’re talking power play and they’re working on it together.”– Head coach Brad Berry about the new players succeeding on the power play early in the year. 

“I don’t think I should be compared to Drew Stafford, but it’s super cool to have a stat like that, but he’s a hell of a player. I shouldn’t compared to him just yet.”– Schmaltz on being the first rookie since Stafford in 2003-04 to score in his first two games. 

“We just stuck to our game plan. Just getting on pucks early, forechecking hard, too. Make them make mistakes and turn the puck over and we just capitalize on that.”– Caulfield on what UND excelled on this weekend. 

“Feels good individually, but that doesn’t happen without the team in front of me. Special teams were awesome– power play and penalty kill did their jobs. The chances that did happen were from the outside. Good team effort for sure.”– Driscoll on his 11th career shutout

UND Hockey: Fighting Hawks Open Season With Big Win Over Niagara

Photo via UND Hockey Twitter @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– On the 20th Anniversary weekend of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks kicked off their season with a non-conference battle against the Niagara University Purple Eagles. In the “House That Ralph Built,” many family members were in attendance to celebrate the birthday of one of the best arenas in all of hockey. It was something that UND head coach Brad Berry stressed to the players before going onto the ice. 

“We’re grateful and blessed to have this rink,” Berry said. “We mentioned that to our team– and I think that helped them– that the Engelstad family was here to see the gracious gift they gave us. I think our guys felt that and jumped out right away.”

North Dakota got things going early, as Ethan Frisch got his first of the year with a wrister from the point getting by Chad Veltri. Frisch was set up perfectly by Matteo Costantini, who was patient, keeping the puck in the zone and finding an open Frisch for the chance. UND continued to dictate the play, resulting in a couple offensive chances and then cashing in minutes later with Jake Schmaltz getting his first NCAA goal after Riese Gaber drove to the net and found a streaking Schmaltz for the tap-in. North Dakota continued to pace the play, holding Niagara to only three shots in the first. The offense didn’t let up, as Ashton Calder put home his first goal with the Fighting Hawks on the power play, picking up a Riese Gaber rebound and putting it past Veltri with under three minutes remaining. It was Calder’s first power play goal in over a calendar year.

“It’s nice, I mean, having me in that spot, obviously shoot and hopefully score goals. I do my best to do that every night,” Calder said after the game. 

Niagara got an early power play, but the UND PK was strong again, keeping it away from the danger zones and allowing Zach Driscoll to see the puck clearly. North Dakota would strike in the first portion of the period, with Calder striking again after a shot went over the net and Jackson Kunz picked up the loose puck and found Calder just above the crease to put it behind Veltri and give the Hawks a 4-0 lead. With some back and forth play, Niagara had one big chance with Walker Sommer walking down the wing and across the crease, but Driscoll was able to stop him with the right pad. As the period wound down, Jake Sanderson got in on the scoring, getting a pass on the half-wall by Judd Caulfield and putting it near-side on Veltri to make it 5-0. 

An early chance by Connor Ford, cutting through the defense, but Veltri was able to shoulder the puck away. The Fighting Hawks did have a bit of a rest, with Niagara getting some chances to Driscoll’s blocker side, but all were turned away. North Dakota got back in the goal column with Tyler Klevin getting a pass from Gaber and hammering it over the shoulder of Veltri to make it 6-0 and giving Gaber his third assist of the night. However, Niagara would get on the board, as Shane Ott picked up a Mike Faulkner rebound off the crossbar to make it 6-1. Just 51 seconds later, what looked like a  Ryan Naumovski shot-pass deflected off of Frisch’s skate to make it 6-2, which is how the game would end. 

These two teams meet again on Saturday night to close out their series. 

THEY SAID IT

“We talk about it right at the beginning of the year. We talk about it going into the first series like this one right away. We don’t even look at them as non-conference, we look at them as NCHC games because they count just as much and they’re vital to making the National Tournament. So, whether we’re at home or on the road in non-conference play, we tell them to treat it like an NCHC game.”– Berry on the importance of the non-conference weekends.

“It was super cool. Playing with Riese (Gaber) and Judd (Caulfield) make it super easy for me. But just the play Riese made to take the guy wide, giving it to me backdoor, there’s not a lot for me to do, so shoutout to Riese for that.”– Schmaltz after this first NCAA goal.

“We got off to a good start. That was kind of our main focus was to come out early, get a lead, and build off that. There’s some room for improvement in the second period, but overall it was a pretty good game.”– Gaber on the first game of the season.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Slide Past Bemidji State in Exhibition Opener

GRAND FORKS, ND– It has been a long time since the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks played in front of a full Ralph Engelstad Arena. With the weekend in Grand Forks being as busy as it was, The Ralph was packed with 11,812 fans happy to be in the arena and cheer on the Hawks. On a banner raising night to commemorate the NCHC Championship, the Fighting Hawks and their 14 new players took on the Bemidji State Beavers in their exhibition tune-up and took home a victory by a count of 2-1. 

The game was initially supposed to be against the University of Manitoba, as most teams face USports teams from Canada for their exhibition games. Because of that, the NCAA allowed exhibition games against fellow NCAA teams if need be. 

“This was a litmus test for us,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “Even though both teams might have a little rust tonight; the heaviness, the lack of time and space, you know, an intense college hockey game was thrown at us. There’s nothing that replaces that. We have a lot of areas to work on, but I’m glad we got to play against a very, very good opponent.”

“That’s a great team over there,” Jake Sanderson said of Bemidji State. “I saw that the schedule changed and I was pretty happy just to see where we stacked up against another good team. I was pretty pumped.”

It was a feeling out period for both teams, with North Dakota getting chances early on, but Michael Carr had some pretty solid saves from the Fighting Hawks attempts. Bemidji didn’t get a shot on goal until after halfway through the first, with North Dakota getting into the shooting lanes, as well as not giving the Beavers any time to set-up their offense. Bemidji did get plenty of chances after the halfway mark, including a breakaway that just got past Zach Driscoll, but couldn’t get past the left post to keep the game scoreless. 

It didn’t take long for North Dakota to find the net in the second period, as an early power play for the Fighting Hawks yielded the first goal. The puck cycled around the zone and ended up on Riese Gaber’s stick, where he fired a wrister past Mattias Sholl to give UND the lead 2:30 into the frame. Bemidji would answer back moments later as a tic-tac-toe passing play from Lukas and Owen Sillinger ended with a Alex Ierullo goal to even the score. North Dakota seemed to be on their heels after that goal, with Bemidji working the puck around, but not getting many shots onto Driscoll. 

Going in tied at one in the third, both teams were looking for any space they could. Bemidji’s forecheck was giving North Dakota fits, while maintaining pressure on net. Driscoll kept composure and kept the game knotted up, including stopping an Owen Sillinger breakaway attempt. Just past the halfway mark, Jake Sanderson took the game on his stick, going end-to-end and putting a shot five-hole on Gavin Enright to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. While Bemidji pushed, the Fighting Hawks defense got in front of shots and clogged up the neutral zone on their way to the 2-1 victory. 

“I just saw time and space,” Sanderson said of his goal. “The defense kind of backed off and I just took it.” 

North Dakota starts their regular season off next weekend against Niagara University at home. 

THEY SAID IT

“It was a weird experience for sure. I played three seasons in that program, so going out for warm-ups and seeing the Beaver jersey on the other side was a little weird. One the puck drops, you’re just playing hockey after that.”– Driscoll on playing his former school in his first game at North Dakota. 

“I thought it was awesome. Haven’t played in over a year, but these guys made it easy for me. It’s a good group here, so it was awesome. I just gotta give credit to the team and my D partners for making it so easy for me. Kept it easy and simple.”– Chris Jandric on playing his first NCAA game in over a year.

NHL Adding Jersey Sponsors, Revenue in 2022-23

Reports on Tuesday stated that the NHL will put ads on jersey starting in the 2022-23 season and thank goodness this dance is over. Thankfully, the NHL has come to its senses and realized that ads are not a bad thing and that they’ll just be following in the footsteps of most hockey leagues domestic and internationally by getting ads on the jerseys.

This has been teased for a while with every Chicken Little hockey fans proclaiming the sky is falling at every mention of it. Well, we’ll see how they hold up with it becoming a reality. Everyone claims purity of the sport, but that died when they started using aluminum sticks and goalies started to cosplay as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man. It’s about revenues, baybee, it’s about getting that salary cap up, baybee. They already have the sponsors on the practice jerseys, think of the money they could get for game jerseys.

It’s not greed, it’s capitalism, baybee, let’s go!!!

But seriously, this isn’t bad. This isn’t like a player going out to get their own sponsors to look like a NASCAR driver– though that’d be pretty awesome. It’s about activating more partnerships, getting money with the gates being down due to the pandemic that’s currently going on, and it’s about catching up with other sports leagues.

I can’t say with certainty, but I highly doubt the league would allow a sponsor to overwhelm a team logo, much like club soccer over in Europe. That’s not good for team branding and the NHL is all about that. The league will have parameters about contracts with sponsors and hopefully vet those sponsors; much like they did with the helmet ads. Plus, they don’t want to have teams switch sponsors year-in and year-out; though it would be a boom for the jersey industry.

To me, people who boycott the league for jersey ads are only using it as an excuse for not getting out of it earlier for much more heinous things that the NHL and their member teams haven’t addressed– either in part or as a whole.

The sun will come out tomorrow. Your team should have still shouldn’t have gotten rid of that one guy. Your team will still be one piece a way form a Cup. They’ll just have a little extra weight on their upper torso.

Twenty

August 8th, 2001 marked the first Face Off Hockey Show. Known just as “Face-Off,” it was a streaming radio show that pre-dates the iPod by two-and-a-half months– which is why we didn’t call it a podcast. It was a show that streamed live and thanks to code and all of that– it was made available as an on-demand stream. It was kind of ahead of its time.

If you were to tell me then that this show would still be going two decades later, I’d be a little apprehensive. At that time, Marc and I were both about to head to college, while Jon had a career already, and Sean was running the streaming business that hosted our show. At any time it could have just fell by the wayside because of life getting in the way. Hell, I moved to another country three years into the show, so needed to adjust and adapt to that was a big deal.

But we did just that. From VOIP phones to cell phone cards to Excalibur boxes, to then Hangouts On Air and now Skype– we’ve found a way to do a show every Wednesday (give or take two or three) from 2001 until the present. It’s been a way for us to keep in touch, it’s been a way for us to get/keep our names relevant in the hockey landscape, and it’s allowed up opportunities we might not have otherwise have taken. Granted, Sean has gotten plenty on his plate nowadays and really dropped off for a bit; the Pitzes and I have kept this train a-rollin’.

When you look at the 20 years or work we’ve done and the places we’ve been; the question that may come up and one that I always have is whether or not we feel we should be bigger in terms of popularity than what we have now??

Personally (since I don’t know what the Pitzes think), I do think we should be bigger. That’s easy to say when there’s a bias in it, but I mean– we’ve put in the work, the longevity, know some of the right people– but the wide-spread notoriety hasn’t happened for us. While that sucks, the core group of people who enjoy us seem to enjoy us a lot. Having that “underground” fan base is pretty cool and I love them to death. I just wish more people enjoyed us how our fans have enjoyed us.

We don’t play the game well. We never wanted to be the fake persona on the podcast or any kind of online presence just to be in the good graces of people. We know who we like, we want to talk to people who we like, and it’s kind of easy for us to pick up the people who might be great in some capacity in their own online bubble; but are people I personally don’t think I could be fake for if they were to come on the show. We know the people we gel with on the show and that’s why they’re a constant for us. But we also know who we wouldn’t gel with and I wouldn’t want to do a forced interview just to get listeners from their portfolio.

Another way we don’t play the game well is that we don’t mesh with the NHL ideology. That was never more noticeable when Jen (NHL History Girl) introduced me to former senior VP of communications for the league, Frank Brown, and to get the response of an icy cold stare and a “I know who you are” as a response to my introduction…pretty much shows why we as Face Off Hockey Show rarely get NHL credentials under the show name. The show hasn’t been credentialed since 2017. No reason why, no real idea why– but it is what it is now, I suppose.

Granted, I’m sure a lot of other bloggers and podcasts have been treated the same way. After the big internet boom of the late ’00s, early ’10s; the NHL has had to be picky and choosy about who gets what and where. Add that to everyone old beat writer joining The Athletic and doubling the coverage by team beats because of it– if you don’t have a big status; you’re not going to get into the show.

In any case, we still soldier onward. This show has been great for me to stay in touch with my friends back home every week and make me play pretend radio guy as a hobby for the past two decades. This has been a great time for me and I hope it continues for many more years to come. We have a great relationship with the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL, a solid relationship with the University of North Dakota, and made some pretty long-term friends/fans out of this whole thing. For me, someone who wanted to get into media since I was a teenager, I couldn’t think of a better time than these past 20 years.

Take care of yourself and someone else.

UND HOCKEY: Mr. Johnson Goes to Washington in Third Round

Photo via Sioux Falls Stampede

GRAND FORKS, ND– As a wedding was set-up for Saturday afternoon on the floor of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, another marriage took place hours before, as incoming University of North Dakota defenseman Brent Johnson was selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Sitting in a suite with his family, Johnson actually didn’t initially notice his name on the board.

“Actually, I wasn’t even looking,” said Johnson. “I was looking at my phone and then I looked up and it was pretty exciting. My heart kind of dropped for a second. Just a lot of emotions all at once. Unreal experience. I’ve been working on this for a long time now– especially with my family here with me. It’s something that’ll never forget. They’ve all been pulling the same rope that I have, so they know hard I’ve worked and it was special to have them here.”

Coming from Frisco, Texas, Johnson will be the first player to wear a North Dakota uniform from the Lone Star state and should be play for the Capitals, he’ll be the second player of record to hail from Texas, the first being Chris Brown from 2013 until 2016. Developing in the Dallas Stars Elite youth program, Johnson sees a lot of talent coming from the area from his experiences.

“It’s been a lot better and it’s growing fast,” Johnson mentioned of hockey in Texas. The guys are growing up and becoming hockey players and there’s some guys ahead of me that have come up. I think it’s a developing market and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for Dallas hockey.”

With the Draft being virtual again this year, the pomp and circumstance wasn’t at an NHL arena. Luckily for Johnson, North Dakota and The Ralph pulled out all the accommodations as they did last year for the 2020 Draft class that were slated to play for UND.

“It was amazing. Thanks to the staff for helping me put this together and allowing me to have such a special day. It was an unreal experience to see the building I’ll be playing at for the next four years. I can’t wait to get started.”

Johnson looked to be very dedicated to staying at North Dakota for the long haul, saying he had no changes in plans after getting drafted and was focused on a National Championship in the next four years. When talking about his incoming defender, North Dakota head coach Brad Berry was very eager to have him in the line-up.

“Just getting to know Brent over the last few months, it was something he was very excited for an when he name was called, him and his family were very excited. And we’re excited, too. It’s a point in time where he’ll never forget this moment, but not the work begins for him to have a productive season for us at North Dakota,” Berry said.

Berry continued, “He’s a very, very smart player. When you talk about smart players, you always wants those players who anticipate the next play. Even before the puck is on his tape, he knows where it’s going. And to add, he’s also ultra-competitive. He’s a very competitive player with a lot of offensive ability. We have a great, great player; but an even better person in our group.”

Johnson is coming off a solid season on the blueline in the USHL with 21 assists and 32 points in 47 games in his first full year. His offensive side is matched by his ability to keep the play in front of him defensively and protect his blindside well. One thing some scouting reports looked at was his skating style leading needing some work, which should come with time. While Johnson will be in the line-up this season, there is still things that are needed to work on, which Berry honed in on.

“He has very good offensive ability and he defends real well, but you can tell he’s a person who needs to grow his body a little bit,” mentioned Berry. “Him coming from Sioux Falls and coming here to train, which has already with the group; you can tell he’s going to get bigger and stronger with our group. We’re going to let time take place and we know he has the work ethic to do it.”

Mock (YEAH) Expansion (YEAH) Draft (YEAH)

The day that we all were waiting for is finally here– probably the last Expansion Draft of our lifetimes in the Seattle Kraken. For myself, I ran through plenty of mock drafts– mostly for shits and giggles and with not much real logic thrown into some of these picks. It’s really what I want to happen rather than what I think will happen.

The first draft was for the June 30th show of Face Off Hockey Show, when we all did drafts and NBC’s Sean Leahy judged them– mostly siding with Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey because those media elites stick together. For me, the big pick was PK Subban going to the Kraken because they needed a face to the organization and he is going to a contract year which he’ll probably do all he can in order to get a last contract.

I only made a second draft because the news of Carey Price being left unprotected in this draft was put out there. Sure, a lot of injury concerns coupled with an $11M bonus in September aside– why wouldn’t want to pick a goalie and build from the net out??

After talking myself out of it and plenty of free time to do it– a third draft pick was in there. For the Price draft, I had to get rid of Subban on there, but he’s definitely on there now with Price not in the picture for the third draft.

My final pick is what I’m going with. It’s without Price, and tweaks here and there.

It was a fun thing to do. This is something I’m not going to take seriously because I’m not getting paid to take it seriously. I’m not getting paid personally at all– just through the FOHS Patreon and that mostly goes to show things. So, sit back, enjoy the show tonight– should be a hoot.

Tepid Take: Somehow, Pierre McGuire Got His Front Office Gig

It’s taken a minute, but the Pierre McGuire news has calmed down a bit– so thanks to the wonders of having a day-job, my take is beyond late. Hence, a Tepid Take scenario. People were dumbfounded bu this move of Pierre McGuire going to the Ottawa Senators as Senior VP of Player Development. Many mocked the Senators for this move, many Sens fans were severely distraught, some Senators loyalist/media people are wondering who let the peanut gallery have a voice on who is and isn’t a good hire.

When it comes to this move…I’m optimistically skeptical. It’s a deal that would work out big, it could be a deal that works out horrible. There’s a lot of me who leans towards the latter outcome, but there’s some shimmer of hope that because the Senators haven’t been the best over the last couple years, this could be some kind of move that could turn the ship around…or not.

The only comparison I liken this to is when Tampa Bay hired Barry Melrose during his ESPN stint. Melrose was away from coaching and on TV for 13 years, coached in 16 games– in which he didn’t like Steven Stamkos being on the roster apparently– then he went back to the booth. McGuire could have that same fate, but at the same time– he might have a longer leash not being in the direct public eye.

For the gimmick that McGuire plays, he does know the players and prospects. The character of Pierre is over-the-top to a fault and trying to let people know where a player grew up– even if it’s hokey as all hell. But when you listen to him in other interviews out of character; he’s more toned down, more direct to his point, and does know how the game was played. And there’s a reason why I put a past tense there.

I make no secret that I’m not a big analytics guy as personal preference.I can see some of the points for its use in the game, but I’m not an overly math guy for fun. My day job throws enough numbers at me that my leisure time, I don’t want to be bogged down in equations and such. This, however, is McGuire’s job and whether or not he embraces the new way hockey is scouted will probably determine his tenure and legacy as front office guy.

During his media car-wash, he quote was “It’s not that I hate analytics, it’s that I believe in scouting. I don’t hate analytics. I think it’s a tool that can be utilized in any kind of scouting, but I’m a big believer in boots-on-the-ground scouting.” Daps and head-taps to Stephen Whyno on the transcription.

The whole “old school hockey guy” is dying out and McGuire could be what fully kills it if he messes this up. I understand his whole ideal of the “eye test” when it comes to scouting and maybe some analytics aren’t up his alley– but that’s the way it is now and you either adapt or go back to the booth. The key to McGuire is whether he completely dismisses analytics out-of-hand; which is a big mistake these days. Sure, there’s analytic darlings of the past who didn’t amount to much but folk-hero status; but that side of things could make or break a person in the player development role if they sign a guy for big bucks who passed the eye-test, but couldn’t hold up in certain situations on the ice.

While people dance on the grave of the NBC muppet going to the front office, it’ll be very interesting to keep track on the make-up of the Senators going forward. Maybe Eugene Melnyk is going all “Major League” on this team and hiring the worst possible people to sell the team and have it move somewhere else. It almost seems that way on the surface.

Fare Thee Well, NHL on NBC

With the Lightning’s 2nd straight Stanley Cup win on Wednesday, the NBC era of NHL TV history has paused with ESPN and Turner Sports coming into the fold next season. What start as an exclusive three-year, $200 Million TV deal with the Outdoor Life Network turned into a deal that will net the NHL over $4 Billion in their incoming deal with the new networks.

It was a joke to start, many fans in the US– already reeling from a season that was cancelled– now had their sport in one of the least attractive channels they could have thought about and one many didn’t know if they had or not on their cable provider. Don’t even get started on hotels having it for people on the road– even to the end of days with NBCSN.

But it progressed for the better. While the production was one that was nothing too different from other productions, the deal with NBC spawned many things like the outdoor games people can’t get enough of and more dedicated coverage to the game, as it was the first major sports property for OLN. Of course, it also gave people the horrid Tuesday All-Star Game and the beta-version of a rail cam for that event. Then it turned to Versus, a little more interesting of a name for a sports network, but it’s something that didn’t make people think it was just hockey, hunting, and (according to my friend and mentor Sean O’Connor) fish racing.

Versus allowed the NHL to have multiple games per week on the network, plenty of coverage around the game times, and possibly a new voice for things to come. NBC Universal saw the potential and bought up the Versus property, turning it to NBC Sports Network while signing the NHL to a 10-year, $2 Billion exclusive deal. Not without its hiccups, the NBCSN was still something the normal layperson had trouble finding, playoff coverage got bumped for horse racing on the main NBC network, and while some new personalities were able to shine– familiar voices, both good and bad, were around for the duration of it. Not to mention, more features happening like more mic’d up players and commentators between the benches. NBC did all they could to make some more entertainment for folks watching the games.

If nothing else, the NBC/NHL partnership allowed the league to have a dedicated spot for a long amount of time. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to dislike NBC and what fans wanted out of it– but when a media company as big as NBC Universal invests that much into the league, in the grand scheme; it helped with revenues for the league and was a hub for hockey in its tenure.

Fans are a fickle bunch when it comes to the presentation they want to have on their screens. Everyone is sick of the same teams over and over– but in the TV business, that’s the way to get ratings and advertising dollars. Will we see a change for ESPN and Turner?? Maybe not at the start of things. But that’s why ESPN+ exists for whatever their Center Ice parallel will be on that platform; all the games will exist from the local markets doing them.

The NHL on NBC didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, they just had to keep the vehicle of the NHL going. It put trust in the league with their long-term deal and in-turn, the league didn’t need to worry every other year where their national games were being held. People shouldn’t expect the wheel to be reinvented with ESPN or Turner either. Just keep the vehicle moving, be entertaining, and be informative– people are going to shout their hate for something into the social media void regardless of what’s put out there. Just keep things rolling and see what happens in seven years’ time.