Better Know An Affiliate: Columbus Blue Jackets

AHL: Cleveland Monsters (37-29-8-2, 4th in North, lost in second round)
TEAM LINEAGE: As one of the new kids, the Jackets don’t have much of a lineage for their primary affiliates. While it took forever to get the Monsters on board, it only makes sense to keep the prospect within reasonable distance. Prior to Cleveland, the Springfield Falcons served as the Jackets’ affiliate for five seasons and before that, the Syracuse Crunch were the Jackets first affiliate and lasted 10 years with the Jackets.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Jackets will give Eric Robinson every chance to make the team this season, but his size could be the only real upside, as his offensive output in his first pro season didn’t set the world on fire. Another inconsistent big-man is Kevin Stenlund, who had 15 goals in his first North American season, but couldn’t balance his defense, as well as not finding consistency finding any spark offensively.

ECHL: The Blue Jackets don’t have an ECHL affiliate and having had one since the end of the 2015-16 season when they had the Kalamazoo Wings as their secondary affiliate. The Jackets have been all over the map for secondary affiliates with the Evansville IceMen, Chicago Express, Fort Wayne Komets, Gwinnett Gladiators, Johnstown Chiefs, Elmira Jackals, and Dayton Bombers.

Better Know An Affiliate: Arizona Coyotes

The season is right around the corner, so why not let people into the whole line of teams that their parent team will be dealing with throughout the season. I did this a few years back on another website of mine, so why not revive it and go from there??

AHL: Tuscon Roadrunners (34-25-5-3, 5th in Pacific, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: After the California teams moved, the Coyotes bought the Springfield Falcons and moved them to Tucson in 2016. Much like the rest of the AHL Pacific, the reasoning was so that players didn’t have to make cross-country flights in the event of a call-up. Before the Roadrunners, the Coyotes bookended their affiliation with Springfield– who was their first affiliate from 1996 until 2004, with the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder taking some players in 1998-99. After the first time with the Falcons, the Coyotes put their prospects with the Utah Grizzlies, San Antonio Rampage, and Portland Pirates before returning to Springfield and the moving to Tucson.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: Goalie Adin Hill is a likely candidate depending upon the health of the goalies above him, but it could be a look at the blue-line for guys moving up and down. Robbie Russo, who signed a one-year, two-way deal this summer, has a lot of offensive upside that could be useful for the Coyotes moving ahead. Though, Russo’s age could play a factor– which means that another talented blue-liner– who already had some time with the Coyotes– Kyle Capobianco has the same offensive upside, but is four years younger and has a better two-way play element that Russo has; albeit very slightly.

ECHL: Rapid City Rush (30-33-5-4, 6th in Mountain, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Coyotes moved back to the Black Hills of South Dakota, as the Rush return as the ECHL affiliate after the Coyotes left in 2017. The Coyotes have had a bevvy of secondary affiliates across a couple leagues– ECHL, UHL, and CHL– over the 23-year franchise history. In fact, the Coyotes have had multiple secondary affiliates four times in their franchise history: 2001-02 (Mississippi Sea Wolves and BC Icemen), 2006-07 (Phoenix Roadrunners and Laredo Bucks), 2010-11 (Las Vegas Wranglers and Laredo Bucks), and 2012 until 2014 (Gwinnett Gladiators and Arizona Sundogs).
NOTABLE GRADUATES: There have been a couple of Rush players who have moved up from the Rush to the NHL, including Adin Hill, Marek Langhamer, and Michael Bunting– all of which were called through the Coyotes system.

On the Topic Of Parity, Marketing, and Bitterness of the NHL Playoffs

The other day, a writer for The Athletic tweeted something “edgy” about the comparison about the NHL and NBA playoffs. It’s often something that circles the wagon of hockey fans to unite in saying how much better hockey is than basketball. To which NBA fans couldn’t care less because they are focused on their playoffs because they don’t have a chip on their shoulder about their sport’s standing in the US.

Ah, yes– the great parity debate and the great “playoff system is broken” rallying cry. Look, I’ve gone over the playoff system before and it’s not great, but it’s the best we’ve got since people wanted more rivalries. In the new system, the only match-up that would have been changed is the Bruins would face the Penguins and the Islanders would have the Maple Leafs. For what it’s worth, the Eastern and Western Conferences would have had the same match-ups in the second round with re-seeding.

Shocking. Something doesn’t go Toronto’s way and people kick up a giant fuss. To counter that– because it seems he heard a lot of that– he tweeted this.

To which, another user had a reply to him to counterpoint this writer:

You cannot compare the two playoffs– so doing such is stupid. The NBA has clear winners and losers in their game. There’s no point for an overtime loss– it’s just a loss and no ground gained for the losing team. Hockey’s one point for extra time loss. Why even have the loser point anymore?? Just have a straight loss and that’s that. No incentive for losing, actually play to win the damn game.

More over…isn’t parity something that people love about hockey…hell, love about sports?? Are Toronto media and fans– OF ALL PEOPLE– tired of parity happening and other teams in maybe non-traditional markets actually getting some kind of success at the expense of them?? It’s a helluva thing, isn’t it??

Yet, there’s a much better thing that people are missing from the amount of parity that happens in the league and that’s the casual fan being lost during playoff parity. Look, I won’t lie– I go back and forth when it comes to parity in hockey all the time. As much as I like the idea long-shot story being a thing…it does hurt the casual fan base in the US and thus, the ratings– which is really what people look at when it comes to judging the popularity of a sport. Losing the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, PK Subban, and to a lesser extent (not a short joke) Johnny Gaudreau– they are names that are somewhat recognizable to the casual hockey viewer.

Of course, that then falls on the NHL, NBC, and the marketing of them both. NBC wants ratings, so they’ll go with teams that have a bigger following nationally– rightly or wrongly. When you hang your hat on those teams, you leave a lot of room for error and a lot of room for people missing out on teams that should be profiled later on in the season. The NHL wants to put out their superstars– so the Caps and Pens are thrown out on national broadcast ad nauseum.

It’s really up to the NHL’s marketing department to work with NBC to make people care about players in Carolina and Dallas and Colorado and the other markets who are underserved. There’s no conceivable reason that every team cannot be the focus of some of these Wednesday Night Hockey deals that NBCSN has. Hell, the NBC afternoon games would be great for the teams out west with an afternoon eastern start time.

So, how did this start as a self-righteous Toronto writer comparing the remaining seeds of the NHL and NBA to the marketing of the NHL and NBC need to be better?? I don’t know. Things just work that way. The point is the NHL needs to be better for their teams so that when some of these teams goes on a “shocking playoff run,” it won’t matter that some of the top names are out because the NHL and NBC would be profiling stars across the league by showing their games rather than just mentioning them in passing during the season in highlight packages.

NHL Playoffs 2019: Round One

Since no one asked– here’s my picks and a reason.

TAMPA BAY vs. COLUMBUS
Prediction: Tampa in 5
Reason: As much as I may no believe in the Lightning down the stretch, the Blue Jackets were too hot going into the playoffs to have much left in the tank. Also, Nikita Kucherov will most likely continue to step-up his game in the second season.

BOSTON vs. TORONTO
Prediction: Boston in 6
Reason: We’ve seen this song before and Toronto isn’t that great against Boston in the playoffs. Goaltending is a disaster for the Leafs, while their defense isn’t much better.

WASHINGTON vs. CAROLINA
Prediction: Washington in 6
Reason: Give the Jerks credit, they clawed back to get in this spot. However, the Caps seem to enjoy feasting on the Canes in life. Plus, the Caps want to get back to the Promised Land to hoist the Cup again, so they’ll do whatever it takes to win it again

NY ISLANDERS vs. PITTSBURGH
Prediction: Penguins in 6
Reason: As much as I want to believe in Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss; Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and a somewhat healthy Evgeni Malkin trump that. Only hope is Matt Murray stinking up the joint

CALGARY vs. COLORADO
Prediction: Calgary in 6
Reason: Goaltending aside, the Flames won the Western Conference for a reason. Especially with Mikko Rantanen just coming back from injury– who knows how effective he will be. Though, some pressure may be on Johnny Gaudreau and friends to make an unexpected run.

SAN JOSE vs. VEGAS
Prediction: Vegas in 5
Reason: Playoffs is about defense and as much as the Sharks have Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson to add some punch offensively, Martin Jones hasn’t been great. The Knights enjoyed a nice taste last year and probably want to make people know it wasn’t a fluke.

WINNIPEG vs. ST. LOUIS
Prediction: St. Louis in 7
Reason: I don’t know why, but the Blues could be a sleeper team to make some noise. They weren’t even supposed to be here, but Jordan Binnington decided that he’d show Jake Allen how to play in net. They’ll be a tough out with JB in net.

NASHVILLE vs. DALLAS
Prediction: Nashville in 6
Reason: With the window for the Preds and all their talent, it could be the perfect time for them to run wild in the West. They probably still feel the sting of the lost to Winnipeg and want to make a statement run at the Cup this year.

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.

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.

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.

NHL Branded Podcasts Are Exactly What You Would Expect

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Logo via NHL.com

This past week, the NHL got into the late-2000s by releasing their own branded podcasts, one of which is called the NHL Executive Suite. Every other week, Deb Placey will talk to hockey executives about, according to the release, “how each guest broke into the game, why they pursued their careers, how they see the future of the sport and much more.” Their first podcast was with Hall of Famer Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner (f-f-f-f-for life).

In between having a ton of podcasts and avoiding writing on this blog apparently, I gave this a listen. Now, this won’t be a complete deconstruction of the podcast and nit-picking from my 17 years of experience, because I don’t think it needs deconstruction for what it actually is and who it’s put out by. Plus, if I were any better at doing podcasts, I’d be in a spot on the NHL Productions Radio spot.

No, this is more about the concept of the project with who is putting this out.

If it were anyone but the NHL, the podcasts would actually have things people want to hear and not fluff pieces about these executives that are going on. I can’t blame Deb Placey, she’s great in directing the conversation, getting the topics that they want to put across, and pretty much following through the whole thesis of what they want this podcast to be about. Placey is fantastic as a host and her history with the NHL and knowing how to deal with executives from her time with Gary Bettman and his radio show is perfect in knowing how the league wants this all to play out.

My problem with something like this is that these are people that other podcasts would love to have on and not have the sugar-coated questions. There is a lot to the onion of any of these executive’s stories, but they’re so guarded in where they are working that these stories are not something that will come out on podcasts as long as they’re employed. This is a podcast where I would rather have nothing at all than to have something like this that only scratches a surface that will never be fully scratched because hockey people are that way.

Earlier in the month, the NHL released their Fantasy on Ice podcast– again, years after they should have had one. However, with all the new sponsorship deals they have with MGM and Fan Duel and Yahoo– why not have a fantasy hockey podcast licensed by the NHL?? It’s a simple thing that should have been done years ago, but now that other places have something like that– the NHL is trying to finally make a splash and hope that people go with the NHL brand over other places.

Listen, it’s okay that these exist, but for the NHL to be producing them lets you know that it’ll be as milquetoast as you think it’ll be for a league putting out content like this. In fact, I’m surprised the NHL did this because they are probably the league that most protects their brand against people who aren’t going with the company line.

(Don’t believe me– just ask me about my interact with a recently retired NHL executive at the Dallas Draft and why it’s harder than hell to get the Face Off Hockey Show in with credentials to NHL events.)

These programs– as well as the ones on NHL Network and NHL Network Radio– are going to protect the league in any way they can. Sure, there might be some discussion to the contrary about different things, but with these hosts contracted by the league to do a service– they won’t go against the grain and risk a job because they know spots at The Athletic are filling up to capacity and the bubble may burst soon. It’s a cozy job, it’s an easy job, it’s something people would enjoy if they want to just see the money roll in.

But what fun is that when you’re just hearing the company line. There’s plenty of great stories out there that many won’t tell because they’re too close to the game, but the guys outside of the game will talk your ear off about them. It’s my hope that one day there’s going to be a wrestling-style “shoot” interview with some players or executives and it’d be a great time….but some hockey players aren’t that way and it’d never have the full effect, though it could be a great money maker.

So– here’s to the NHL for finally getting onto the podcast life years too late from when they should have. It’s great to have another hockey podcast– despite it being a color-by-number interview segment that rarely touches on the things people want it to touch on.