Everblades Trying to Make Yellow Ice a Good Thing at Hertz Arena

 

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Photo via @FL_Everblades

There’s helping out your arena’s title sponsor and then there’s what the Florida Everblades are doing this season. With the Germain Arena newly renamed Hertz Arena, the Everblades have made the ice a yellow tint for the season and most likely beyond that.

Of course, this sort of thing has happened before, but mostly as a one-off situation. Whether it be for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, St. Patrick’s Day, the NHL using the AHL as a testing ground for blue ice— there has been numerous times the ice has been colored…or that one time it was painted and looked like a meth’d out European rink.

Yet, the life of me, this is the first time I believe a team has done this for a full season. Granted, I’m sure teams have done it and if they have pop into the comment section to let me hear about it. The upside is that it’s not a bright yellow like the Predators uniforms. The yellow that is in the pictures just looks like the Hertz Arena needs a new lighting rig for the ice. When you look at the Hertz logo— it could have been much worse.

It’s not like the Everblades need an advantage at home, though. From 2014-15 until last year, the Everblades have registered 25, 23, 25, and 27 wins at the Hertz Arena, ranking among the top home records in the ECHL during that time– tied for second last year with Colorado just one win behind Toledo.

This team could be different for the Everblades, as Michael Kirkpatrick, Mitchell Heard, and Callum Booth are gone; but adding Justin Auger,  Kyle Platzer, and Jamie Phillips may need some time to adjust, but will probably fill-in just nicely as they get things going throughout the season.

There are not rave reviews after the start of the season. As I mentioned, many fans complained that the ice looked like it was dimly lit, but the players have a different take on it all, as Joe Cox told the Naples Daily News: “It definitely made the ice a little bit slushier, so the puck was definitely bouncing a little bit more, moving slow.”

Overall, this is good synergy for the Everblades and Hertz. On top of the ice, the warm-up jerseys for the Everblades is bright yellow with Hertz under the collar. This is a team that’s making sure they’re taking care of their sponsors and keeping them happy by getting their name out there. Every dollar counts in the minor leagues and if you have to go to extremes like tinting the ice yellow….well, it’ll at least give it that old-time hockey feel out there.

Minor League Weekly: Utica Heating Up, Joe Cox Making His Mark, Final SPHL Spot Shuffling

AHL

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Photo by Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets Facebook

-Heading into hosting the All-Star Game, the Utica Comets are amongst one of the hottest teams in the league with points in nine of their last 10 games (7-1-1-1) and four-straight wins. Even with leading scorer Reid Boucher (20g, 17a) on the shuttle from Utica to Vancouver, the Comets are still fighting in the playoff hunt. Thatcher Demko has continued to improve in the system with the Comets (16-7-5, 2.28 GAA, .929Sv%), but will need a lot of goal support to help. Despite Boucher’s 20, no other comment is in double-digits for goals. To keep their hot streak alive and hope to get a playoff berth, something will need to be done offensively to help Utica out.

-While things aren’t going great in Glendale, the Tucson Roadrunners are giving Coyotes’ fans some hope of what’s to come, mostly due to rookies Dylan Strome and Nick Merkley, who have commanded the offense for the Roadrunners in the first half of the season. While veterans Michael Bunting and Mike Sislo have helped out, the youth is being quite served– especially with Hunter Miska leading the team in wins (12-3-0), but his GAA (2.98) and save percentage (.898) leave much to be desired.

ECHL

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Photo by Florida Everblades Facebook

-One player that could be lost in the Florida Everblades season could be the second-half play, thus far, of rookie Joe Cox. The Michigan State product is on a seven-game point streak (3g, 10a) and has provided a much needed punch for the secondary scoring for the Everblades already dynamic offense. It just goes to show the time it takes players to develop, as Cox’s best season before this was in the USHL when he had 20 goals and 20 assists for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, while his junior year at MSU was his most productive with 11 goals and 23 points in 35 games. Around an All-Star line-up as he is, the protection could allow Cox to flourish throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

-At the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, the Wheeling Nailers have gotten a lot of their offensive from their first-year players. While Cody Wydo continues to be a constant, the emergence of Reid Gardner has been a welcome for the Nailers. Gardner leads the teams in goals with 21 and power-play goals with six. Couple that with another rookie in Cam Brown leading the team with 39 points (12g, 27a), the Nailers continue to churn out talent for the Penguins organization. The offensive will need to be strong, as the by-committee goaltending has a combined 3.14 GAA on the year.

SPHL

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-The race for the eighth-seed is still hot and heavy between a second-year Roanoke team who changed coaches to change fortune, the rebranded Fayetteville Marksman with one of the top players in the league in Jake Hauswirth on the team, while the expansion Birmingham Bulls are only three points out and have Mavric Parks being second in the league in minutes played and 7th in the league in save percentage (.911) despite a 3.32 GAA. When it comes to this playoff format, too, it should be interesting to see if the traditional 1st vs. 8th seed get picked because who knows how the top seed will look at these teams, who are already in playoff mode as it is.

The Need for More Rivalry Trophies in Hockey

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Photo via Orlando Solar Bears

You want to really get people into a rivalry?? If you’re the NHL, you put those rivalries on Wednesday nights because that’s when people are watching hockey and that’s when every Wednesday game is a potential rivalry even when it’s not. Yet, shockingly, it can get stale and people will grow tired of it. So– how to do you spice up a rivalry??

Give it a trophy. Give it some meaning for teams meeting over and over again.

That’s why when I see something about the Wawa Sunshine Cup, I’m intrigued and wonder why more minor league teams don’t do that. The Wawa Sunshine Cup is a trophy that battled between the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears and Florida Everblades with the team who has the most standing points earned in head-to-head match-ups being the victor of it and maybe getting a sweet Built-To-Order hoagies with it. It gives some pride and meaning to playing a team around 14 times a season and make it worthwhile rather than stale. You have to wonder when they’ll include the Jacksonville IceMen to their party, but whatever.

The point is that, especially in minor league hockey where teams are facing off against each other a lot and with my whole plan of regional leagues under a big league umbrella, maybe to make things not get so dull– throw some kind of arbitrary trophy in there to make things a little more fresh in the world of hockey. I doubt this would work on the NHL level because that’s all too corporate; but the minor leagues are ripe for this stuff.

In the NCAA, hockey has plenty of rivalry trophies– like the North Star College Cup between the Minnesota D1 schools, the Holy War on Ice of Notre Dame and Boston College for the Smith-Kelley Memorial Trophy, the Battle for the Gold Pan between Denver and Colorado College, and the Beanpot, which combines the Boston colleges. Of course, college sports have a lot of tradition with gimmick trophies– as we’ve seen in the football side of things with their rivalry trophies.

(Shockingly, I’m a fan of the Crabpot Tournament because of my bias, but what can you do??)

Yet in this new era of minor league hockey where some people drone on and on about seeing the same teams over and again– why not do something like the Wawa Sunshine Cup?? Hell, the California teams in the AHL could do a lot more than not play the same amount of games as everyone else in the league and get some sponsorship for a trophy. The Texas AHL teams, all the teams cropping up in the Northeast in the ECHL could have something, the teams in the Midwest AHL or ECHL– the sky is the limit, so long as you can sell it to the sponsors.

Granted, the game today is really more about in-arena entertainment as it is the game itself, this could be a nice cross-section of branding for the company sponsoring the rivalry trophy and actually will get people into a match-up they’ve seen for the ninth time in the season. It doesn’t take much to make something like this happen, especially when it comes to bringing people into the hockey domain and really promote the brand they are trying to push. Sure, they may have the audience in the stands already– but it will also make them brand loyal when they have a choice of things. I’m sure people will hit up the Wawa more often than other convenience stores because it’s Wawa and it’s awesome, but more importantly– because they support Solar Bears or Everblades hockey. That’s the kind of advertising that’s easy and may have a lasting affect on people’s purchasing choices.

Minor League Monday: Jankowski Potting Points, Beast Licking Wounds, Mayhem Being Settled

While this blog encompasses the hockey landscape, there needs to one day that is dedicated to the lower levels of hockey on this blog when there isn’t a big story that going around the hockey blogosphere. And if just one day is not enough, you can head over to my friends at TheSinBin.net for your fix on almost every team in minor league hockey.

AHL

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-After being one of the last cuts of the Calgary Flames, Mark Jankowski is making every minute count while with the Stockton Heat. In his first six games, Jankowski has five goals and eight points, putting him tied in goals with another Flames cut, Garnet Hathaway and two points behind Andrew Mangiapane for total points.

-The Vegas Golden Knights goaltending situation is in peril, if you hadn’t heard. It’s in so much disarray that they have taken both of their AHL prospects out of Chicago, Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace, which leaves CJ Motte as their only rostered goalie for now. Luckily, the Wolves don’t play until Wednesday morning, so they have time to go ahead and get a back-up for Motte. Just goes to show you can never have enough goaltending depth.

ECHL

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-This is definitely not the start of the season the Brampton Beast wanted after their record-setting season last year. After getting into their first playoffs in the ECHL era of the team, the Beast are out to an 0-4-1 start. While Brandon Marino is putting up the goals (4g, 2a), the secondary scoring is still in need of a boost. There’s also a need to get more of their defense to help out rookie goalies Marcus Hogberg and Michael McNiven, as the team has given up a league high 24 goals.

-With the additions of always dangerous Mitchell Heard and Michael Kirkpatrick, the Florida Everblades are off to a blazing start. The team is a plus-9 in the goal-differential to the young season (only behind the Allen Americans) and a lot can be attributed to Heard and Kirkpatrick making a big impact, as well as rookies Steven Lorentz and Nelson Armstrong jumping in feet first for the ‘Blades.

SPHL

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-It has been a rough start to the season for the defending champion Macon Mayhem. With this past weekend yielding only one goal for the team while giving up nine in two games, it’s been the typical hangover we see from some champions time and again. The roster does have some of the returning players from that championship team, so it’s not like they aren’t used to pressure. While they can have a bit of hiccup, the short season in the SPHL makes it so they have to get back in the win column quickly before it gets too out of hand.

-Sean Bonar is building off his strong season last year with Fayetteville, but this time with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. A shutout in his first game with Pensacola was a great way to make a good first impression with his team, but the fact he’s getting goal support is even better for the SPHL’s reigning MVP and top goaltender going into a new season. It wasn’t easy, as Bonar faced 36 shots against the reigning champs in Macon, but once the defense tightens up, the Ice Flyers will surely be one of the teams to beat this SPHL season.

Jaromir, the Everblades, and the Money of Minor League Hockey

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With Jaromir Jagr still unsigned, which some people think is odd for a 45-year-old to be unsigned at this point in the free agency period, the shenanigans have begun. The Florida Everblades of the ECHL have made the first pitch to keep Jagr in North America and keep him in Florida, as well.

This is a kind of minor league gimmick we need, as the last time this has happened– I think– is when the Bakersfield Condors offered a contract to Justin Bieber. Sure, it won’t work, but to get the team some press (especially in the summer months) is a pretty smart marketing idea. Plus, it goes with a trend of Jagr signing in areas that are tax-free places to play during the season.

But….what if it did work?? What if Jagr goes, “You know….the hell with it, I’ll play in the ECHL, stay in America with my adoring fans, and really shove it up the asses of the NHL people who passed me by.” It would be something Jagr has never done, playing in the minors, and it could be something he would want to put on his bucket list and check off…but maybe a Spengler Cup would be one, as well, but that’d require him to go back to Europe for that.

Look, it’s the 30th season of the ECHL, which is a solid milestone for the AA-level league. You’d have to think that they would love to have someone like Jagr in their league for this noteworthy year. Yet, is there anything the league or the Everblades can do to get this done without violating the salary cap. For 2016-17, the ECHL salary cap was $12,600 with a rookie minimum of $445 and returning player minimum of $500. Some elite veteran players can make north of $1,000, but that comes at the expense of their teammates’ wallet.

Plus, you can’t expect the ECHL as a league to help out with Jagr’s contract when other teams don’t get afforded the same ability to get a superstar player or have help from the league to have and keep an elite player on their roster. You can’t expect the league to make an exceptional player clause for every team like the MLS does for one player to not have their salary against the salary cap.

Or can they?? It’s a slippery slope, especially for a league with a lot of independent owners with little to no NHL support coming back the other way…but it’s an interesting concept for a minor league to do in order to attract some players that may have some contract situations in the NHL or AHL or even over in Europe. Yet, you look at the IHL and what had happened to some teams who went the route of signing hold-out NHL talent– and it didn’t end well.

Not only that, but you can’t blame Jagr for balking at this, especially since he still believe he has more value than a minor league contract (no offense) and that he could just go over to the Czech Republic and play for the team he owns and get plenty of bank for returning and getting plenty of the gate receipts that go with it.

All of this depends on what Jagr wants to do with his career, what the ECHL wants to do for publicity, and what people want to do with their dollars should he do something like travel around the bus leagues and see cities he’s only flew over in charter flights.