Silicon Valley Football Classic - Northern Illinois vs Troy

Being an optimist, I have to admit it was tough finding an angle to talk about the matchup tonight featuring Northern Illinois [8-3] vs Troy [7-4] in the Silicon Valley Football Classic. San Jose Mercury News writer, and N Illinois alumni, Kevin Wendt writes with unapologetic glee about his team's success this season. I have to say it is contagious.

In the four years of Huskies football leading up to my 2000 graduation, NIU went a combined 8-36 with only four home victories -- and three of those came my senior year. The other home victory? It broke a 23-game losing streak. Yes. Twenty-three games.

I am owed some good times after all those losses, and here they are: NIU's first appearance in a bowl game since 1983. And wouldn't you know it, it's in San Jose.

For a slightly more objective preview of the game, A touchdowns worth of reasons to watch your hometown bowl. Visit the official Silicon Valley Football Classic website, Troy University, or Northern Illinois for more information about the teams.

The game will be broadcast tonight at 8PM on ESPN2. I am going to pull for Troy because the movie of the same name based on the Illiad this year was terrible, and a Trojan is only a few miles away from being a Spartan.

[Update] After a hard fought first half, Northern Illinois took control in the second and won the Silicon Valley Football Classic 34-21. The odds were stacked against this bowl game with a cold storm pounding the South Bay the night of the game, two non-West Coast teams, and two blown fuses that caused television coverage to start almost a half hour after the 8PM start time.

But if you forget about the above and simply wanted to watch a good football game, you were in for a treat. My first impression of both teams was that they really wanted to be in this bowl game, and both came out firing downfield despite a heavy downpour. The strong Troy defense also struggled in mud to contain the NI running game.

Troy scored twice early, but began to bog down as the game went on. The Trojan freshman quarterback D.T. McDowell was impressive, rushing for 2 touch downs, and throwing for a third. Northen Illinois slowly gained control of the game on offense, scoring 24 straight points to end the first half.

For furthur reading:

Northern Illinois puts on late show - SJ Mercury

N. Illinois Wins Silicon Valley Classic - SJ Mercury

S.J. bowl proclaims a victory - SJ Mercury

Silicon Valley Classic, Huskies' splash-ing success - SF Chronicle

World Junior Championships recap - first round

Complete chart of WJC hockey results, from CBC.

Tonights USA-CZE game can be heard online via the main USA hockey homepage [click on the live audio webcast link in red]. According to an official press release:

USAHockey.com To Carry Remaining U.S. Games In World Junior Championship

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- USAHockey.com will feature a live audio stream of all remaining U.S. games in the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, including tomorrow night¹s (Dec. 27) preliminary game against Switzerland.

The live stream will feature the play-by-play of Dan Kingerski of Double Minor Broadcasting and the Pittsburgh Penguins radio network. Joining Kingerski on the call of U.S. games will be David Whitesock.

List of results to date, from USA hockey's WJC section.

Day 6 [12/30/04]:

CAN 8 - FIN 1
RUS 6 - SUI 1
SWE 3 - SVK 0
CZE 3 - CZE 1

Canada vs Finland is a jr version of the World Cup of Hockey final, which Team Canada won 3-2. Canada needs only a win or a tie to clinch first place in Pool B. Team USA needs a win in order to finish first in Pool A.

With two wins by Slovakia and the Czech Repblic in the same day, it is time to check in with resident Slovak/Czech hockey expert Jes Golbez.

Jes on Team CZE: "The line of Kvapil-Olesz-Vrana continues to carry the offensive load for the Czech team as they accounted for 3 of the 5 Czech goals". Jes on TEAM SVK: "Some bad news to report as 2005 uber-prospect Marek Zagrapan missed his second straight game. Coach Dusan Gregor refuses to elaborate on what type of injury Zagrapan has, but did say he expects Marek back in the lineup by at least the playoff round".

Day 5 [12/29/04]:

CZE 5 - SUI 2
FIN 5 - SWE 4
SVK 5 - GER 0
BLR 5 - USA 3

The defending WJC champs [Team USA] got a wakeup call against Belarus, losing 5-3 after Boston College goaltender Cory Scheinder got his first start of the tournament. After yielding 3 goals in a period and a half, Michigan goaltender Al Montoya replaced Schneider in net.

Day 4 [12/28/04]:

RUS 7 - BLR 2
CAN 9 - GER 0

Unfortunately for the German fans that frequent this blog, Canada put the hammer down on Germany with a 9-0 win. The scorcesheet for Canada reads like a who's who of top NHL prospects, as Germany tried and failed to clog up the neutral zone and stem the onslaught.

The goal scorers for Canada in order: Andrew Ladd, Clarke MacArthur, Sidney Crosby [PP], Cam Barker [PP], Ryan Getzlaf, Anthony Stewart, Anthony Stewart, Sidney Crosby, Colin Fraser.

Sharks prospect Thomas Griess replaced German starter Youri Ziffzer in net, giving up 4 goals in a little under 36 minutes of play.

Day 3 [12/27/04]:

CAN 8 - SWE 1
RUS 4 - CZE 1
SVK 2 - FIN 0
USA 6 - SUI 4

I have to agree with Offwing, the 8-goal third period was a warning of things to come for the USA team. After what I considered a tight 2-0 USA lead for the first two periods, everything hit the fan in the third period. The Swiss were able to create scoring chances at will, and the US team tried to rely more on individual performances instead of working together as a team. With end-to-end action in the third, SUI goaltender Michael Tobler [24 SV, 60 min] kept his team in the game with a number of impressive saves.

Day 2 [12/26/04]:

SUI 5 - BLR 0
SWE 6 - GER 0

Germany was promoted from the second-tier to the top level of the WJC this year. A 6-0 loss to Sweden may demonstrate they have a little more work to do in order to be competitive at this level.

Day 1 [12/25/04]:

CAN 7 - SVK 3
CZE 7 - BLR 2
USA 5 - RUS 4
FIN 4 - GER 1

Full Team Russia WJC coverage is available from Russianprospects.com.

Watching the Russians against the US team reminds me why the NHL should not play another game unless they increase the size of the ice surface. The size of players, sticks and equipment has ballooned in the last 10 years. Watch any game from last season and count the time between a player receiving the puck, and the time he is challenged by an opponent. You will be lucky to pass the 1 second mark.

Watching the break-out passes, stick handling, and top shelf wrist shots from the Russian squad, I want to see NHL players have this much space to showcase their talent.

[Update] TSN video: Goaltending, Canada's strength America's weakness. Mark my words TSN, beware of the wrath of the University of Michigan goaltender. Do not get a Wolverine angry.

[Update2] Its "Al" good.

[Update3] This is a responsible online publication. Therefore I can not, in good conscience, recommend this t-shirt for NHL fans.


Upcoming local college hockey games

SJSU hockey BYU

Fourth ranked San Jose State starts the second half of their season January 15th and 16th with back-to-back home games against fifth ranked BYU. Only the top 4 teams in the Western Division will make the ACHA D2 Nationals in Detroit [Mar 2-5].

Stanford, as mentioned in the post below, has 2 games with UCLA, 1 game with Palmer, and a double-header with CAL. The second half of the 4 game Big Freeze will churn out a number of loud college students with the season series tied at 1-1.

Berkeley starts after the break with a home-at-home series against UC Davis [JAN7@ CAL, JAN8@UCD]. CAL then plays 5th ranked BYU, a double-header at home against USC, SJSU, Utah State, and 2 away games at UCLA. Berkeley will face a very good goalie for Long Beach before playing two games against Stanford to finish the Big Freeze.

UC Davis, with their home rink at the Vacaville Ice Center, plays a home-at-home with Berkeley, an away game at Logitech Ice with Palmer, and home games against CSUN, COC, and SDSU. After a 3 game roadtrip against the College of the Canyons, Northridge, and Moorpark, the UC Davis Aggies play a home-at-home against Santa Rosa JC to finish the season. What, no games against Chico?

For more information on each team, visit the following hockey websites:

San Jose State
UC Davis

[Update] The US World Junior team has come back from 1-4 to trail Belarus 5-3 with 12 minutes left in the third period. Look for a recap of the WJC games so far in the next post. Goaltender Cory Schnieder [Boston College] was pulled after giving up three goals. Al Montoya [Michigan] is currently in net for Team USA.


Hockey Notes - no NHL anytime soon edition

- Stanley Cup Championship bling. Also available in Tampa Museum of Art exhibit form.

- Metallurg Magnitagorsk, meet your new goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Russian hockey contracts seem to be in a constant state of flux, not to mention secrecy. More on this news as it comes in.

- TSN's Ellen Pinchuk has another informative video report from Russia. She talks about the rumored $80 million payroll for AK Bars Kazan, the 12 NHL players under contract, interviews the president of Tatarstan and local hockey fans about the team, and details the struggles NHL players are having adjusting to the Russian Superleague. What is Russian for Salary Cap?

Ellen Pinchuk's report on Fred Braithwaite playing for AK Bars Kazan was also must-see NHL TV.

- Not the most politically correct column from the Russian Information Agency Novosti: Extention of NHL lockout is good for Russian hockey fans.

- It is not very often a website makes me speechless, fedorovbrothers.com does the trick. Click on news for the double wedding photo, links for the baywatch style portrait, or here for the full music video. This may be an extreme case of Too Much Information, depending on your level of interest in the clan Federov.

- From Ecco in Germany [Merry Christmas to you too!]:

Thomas Greiss played yesterday in Cologne's 4-1 win over Iserlohn. His stats: [Greiss, Thomas - KEC, 60:00, 28 saves, 1 gaa]. Kai Hospelt was held scoreless [faceoffs 13:4].

- Two examples of hockey teams doing an excellent job of integrating fans on their website: the Kolner Haie Fan Project and the Chicago Blackhawks Fan Reports.

Jon Straigis Stanford hockey

- From Stanford goalie John Straigis on the second half of the Cardinal hockey season:

We resume in January with only 5 games left on our schedule--two against UCLA, one against Palmer, all three games at home in Belmont; and the home-and-home against Cal the first weekend of February. I imagine that series, being our last and considering the outcome of the first meeting, will be a good one.

USCHO covered the first game of the Stanford-Cal Big Freeze in front of 1000 fans in Berkeley, Sharkspage covered the second game in meatlocker cold Belmont. I recommend the upcoming home-at-home meeting for anyone who wants to see two very entertaining hockey games.

- Nice photo on the front of the CAL hockey website. It looks like a goal in the photo, but the puck actually went wide right.

- From reader Steve: "speaking of the Kokudo Bunnies - former SJSU Spartan Hockey player Milton Wallace used to play for that club overseas (96-97?)."

Also note that Martin Kariya scored 2 goals in his first outing in Asia League Ice Hockey, a 5-3 Nikko Icebucks loss to Oji. More on the JIHL and ALIH from Slapshots Japan.

- Time to add another new hockey blog to the blogroll. Battling Offwing for the title of "most prolific" hockey blogger, mirtle.blogspot.com. James Mirtle has worked for the National Post, The Hockey News, McKeen's Hockey Magazine and Inside Hockey among other publications.

- McKeens Hockey released their annual prospect rankings. Sharks prospect Milan Michalek was rated the 6th best skater overall, and Christian Ehrhoff was ranked the 10th best defenseman [24th best overall]. Other Sharks prospects: Steve Bernier - 45th, Lukas Kaspar - 68th, Marcel Goc - 71st, Matt Carle - 73rd. Two Sharks propsects made the list of top 30 goaltenders, Dimitry Patzold [23rd] and Patrick Ehelechner [29th].

- Hockeys future writer Eric Forest interviewed Sharks 2003 2nd round pick Joshua Hennessy, and HF writer Holly Gunning interviewed Sharks 2001 6th round draft pick Ryane Clowe.

- 3 Sharks prospects will participate in the 2005 IIHF World Jr Championships: Thomas Greiss [Germany], Kai Hospelt [Germany], and Lukas Kaspar [Czech Republic]. Team USA plays an exhibition against UND on Dec 19th, the first of 7 exhibition games before the preliminary round starts Dec 25th.

ESPN2 will offer "unprecedented" WJC hockey coverage according to this press release. Of course with the NHL lockout, hockey on TV is unprecedented.

ESPN2 Preliminary Round Schedule (PT)
Sat., Dec. 25 USA vs. Russia 5:30 p.m.
Mon., Dec. 27 USA vs. Switzerland 6:00 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 29 USA vs. Belarus 6:30 p.m. (tape-delayed)

- Updated the Sharkspage photo gallery. There are 4 galleries of hockey photos since the NHL last played a game in San Jose [ECHL Fresno Falcons, AHL Cleveland Barons, San Jose Sharks at the NHL rookie tournament, and SJSU/CAL/Stanford in ACHA college hockey]. More thumbnails and blurbs will be added later. Submit your hockey photo links here.

[Update] NHL players work hard to impress Russian fans - CTV.ca. Brad Richards left AK Bars Kazan after suffering a hip flexor injury: From Russia with hip pain.

[Update2] David Pollak reports on hockey fans north of the border: No, Canada isn't reeling - SJ Mercury.

[Update3] The ECHL posted an article on the second Japanese hockey player ever drafted by the NHL, Yutaka Fukufuji. Fukufuji Works On Improving Hockey, English In Bakersfield - ECHL.com.

He's found a new favorite food -- buffalo wings. He has a favorite television show -- "Seinfeld." And has learned enough English to vent his on-ice frustrations with unprintable language.

You might be able to see Fukufuji in goal [Feb 8, Mar 1, Mar 12-13] when Bakersfield plays at Fresno.


Big wave surfing season, no Sharks allowed

Live webcam from the Quicksilver Eddie Aikau 2004 invitational in Hawaii. The waves are breaking now, and a highlight video will be available on the webpage after the event.

[Update] Bruce Irons was the eventual contest winner, California native Darryl "Flea" Virostko suffered a leg injury.

The Mavericks 2004-05 Big Wave surfing contest in Half Moon Bay, California has put contestants and fans on standby for the right conditions from Dec01-March31. Visit this webcam during daylight hours to see the conditions at Mavericks.

Because I am going to link to this story as much as humanly possible: the Billabong XXL world-wide big wave surfing award was given earlier this year to Pete Cabrinha of Hawaii for surfing a 70-foot wave at Jaws. Somehow, a $70,000 prize does not seem appropriate for dropping in on a moving wave the size of a 7 story buidling.

The current Billabong XXL competition began April 1, 2004 and concludes on March 31, 2005. A photographer or videographer is required to document the wave being surfed, and is also given an award.

Stay tuned for simply incredible photos from that website.


International Hockey Update - Sweden, Germany, and Asia League Ice Hockey

While you are waiting for the NHL to respond to the NHLPA's labor proposal, peruse this selection of news and notes from the world of international hockey.

Timra IK Miikka Kiprusoff

Joachim Sandstrom, who operates the website for Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League, answered a few questions about following hockey in Sweden. Timra IK is currently in third place [16-7-5] in the Elitserien, 3 points behind Frolunda HC after 28 games played.

[Q] Could you tell me a little about Timra, where it is in relation to Stockholm, and what the travel is like between cities?

[A] Timra is a relatively small city with approx. 18 000 people living there. It is located some 40 Swedish miles north of Stockholm. If You travel by car you are looking forward to a 4 hour drive. If You take the train it takes just under 3 hours, and by plane it takes 40 minutes. Recently they have built a railway station under Arlanda Airport in Stockholm so it is easy to change from plane to train. We have a local airport in Timra but only for domestic flights. Sweden is a very long country because when you come to Timra it is another 11 hour drive to get to the very north of Sweden.

[note: It took me 5 hours to take the train north from Copenhagen, Denmark, to the border town of Malmo, Sweden, up to the capital Stockholm, Sweden.]

[Q] Besides Miikka Kiprusoff, I noticed that Christian Soderstrom and Lars Jonsson are on the team. What other players should I keep an eye on if I come to watch Timra IK play?

[A] It depends on if the NHL-lockout will be long or not. Besides Miikka we have two more NHL players playing for us. It is the Maple Leafs´Aki-Petteri Berg who is Miikka's best friend since they were kids, and also Henrik Zetterberg from Detroit Red Wings. Henrik is born and raised in Timra so it was natural for him to come "home". Another player from this area is Fredrik Modin, Tampa Bay Lightning, and we hope that he will play for us as well. Playing for us this season as well as the latest season is Kent Manderville who used to play for Pittsburgh when playing in the NHL.

[Q] What are the goals for the Timra IK this season? Who are the main rivals?

[A] I think this is a question for the coach but if You ask me and many other people, our goal is definitely to get to the playoffs. To play in the playoffs You have to be among the best 8 teams out of 12. We have reached the semifinals two years in a row now, so this year we hope to get to the finals. And I think it is possible to do that. It is difficult to say which teams that are the biggest rivals, because now most teams have filled up their rosters with NHL-players and the Swedish Elite League is probably the best in many years. In fact I´ve heard some people say that it is the best in the world now when they don´t play in the NHL. But if I have to pick a team I say Modo with Peter Forsberg and the Sedin-twins.

[Q] What do you think about the NHL lockout? It is bad for fans of the NHL, but is it good for fans of the Swedish Elite League?

[A] I think it is more things that are good than bad for Swedish hockey. The good things are that we will be able to watch some really good players from over there, and hopefully they will raise the standard of the Swedish players. Another thing that is positive is that the arenas will be packed with people and that will lead to better economy for the teams. For example we have already sold out two games in late December. That is good. I think the biggest problem with the lockout is that junior players will have even more difficult to take place in any team, and it is these players we must rely on in a couple of years to come.

[Q] Last question, I usually read Aftonbladet, or try to read it. Are there any Swedish newspapers, or websites that cover hockey in Swedish and English that you would recommend?

[A] I think www.aftonbladet.se is a good page, www.expressen.se is the other big Swedish newspaper both on the internet and in print. The Swedish Elite Leagues own website is www.hockeyligan.se, www.swehockey.se is the name of the Swedish Icehockey Federation's website. That page is also available in English. On this page you can follow the stats.

There is a small selection of Swedish hockey links if you scroll down the right side of this webpage.

Marco Sturm, Ingostadt DEL, Kbumm

With Marco Sturm playing for Ingolstadt, and defenseman Tom Preissing playing for the Krefeld Penguins, many Sharks fans have been following the Deutscher Eishockey Liga [DEL] of Germany.

Ecco emails to say that Marco Sturm is down for 7-14 days with chicken pox. According to the official DEL website, Marco has 11 gates [goals] and 10 assists in 24 Anzahl Spiele [games played].

Also mentioned was a new Marco Sturm biography written by Dino Reisner, Marco Sturm - The German rocket; and this interview with Sharks prospect Thomas Greiss, who is playing for Kolner Haie of the DEL. Click here for a photo of Greiss representing the San Jose Sharks in the NHL rookie tournament.

Ecco helped me translate a few questions I had for the director of the German Ice Hockey Museum, Horst Eckert.

[Q] How long has hockey been played in Germany, and what German hockey players and events are featured in your museum?

[A] Icehockey has been played in Germany since 1898. The first championship was in 1912. There was a league before then [1908-09] with just Berlin teams involved. A player will be invited into the German Hall of Fame when he has played 125 games for our national team, when he has played in 3 Olympics, or when he has received a medal at a European Championship, World Championship or at the Olympics. Coaches, referees and officials can also be invited. You can find the names of the current inductees under Hall of Fame.

[Q] What does the future look like for Germany in international hockey, and the German Elite League?

[A] The national team will not be able to hold their level, there too many foreign players playing in the league. The DEL will become a league where the participants look only on the money and play without heart for their clubs.

[Q] Can you tell me a little about the museum's support for African Namibia ice hockey and on the consultations to help Japan create a hockey museum?

[A] We are working with Namibia to support the establishment of a league, building stadiums, in addition helping with coaches, training, and consultation of IIHF officials. We are advising Japan at the request of the federation. They are looking to establish their own Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.

[Q] How do German fans react to the success of Germans in the NHL? And with Sturm, Ehrhoff and Goc all on the Sharks, how many Germans will be Sharks fans when the NHL starts playing again after the lockout?

[A] Our fans and also my coworkers in the museum are really interested in the games of the Sharks. We would be glad to get a jersey of the Sharks with the signatures of the German players for the museum. Uwe Krupp gave us his jersey, in which he won the Stanley Cup. In addition we have a jersey, gloves and a stick with autographs from Wayne Gretzky.

I will pass on that request to the San Jose Sharks, and I will print a few 8x10 photos to send to the museum.

Unfortunately, I have good pictures of Ehrhoff, Goc, Ehelechner, and Greiss, but none of Marco Sturm. As soon as the NHL starts the season, or if they start the season, I will make that the first photo I take.

Kokudo Bunnies JIHL

Speaking of Japanese hockey, it was sad to see the Japanese Ice Hockey League [JIHL] play its last season 2 years ago. It was preceded a few years earlier by the last season of my favorite JIHL team, the Kokudo Bunnies.

4 teams from the JIHL, including one from Kokudo, joined the new Asia League Ice Hockey. The ALIH has 8 teams in four countries: 4 from Japan [Nikko Ice Bucks, Nippon Paper Cranes, Oji Paper and JIHL Champion Kokudo], 2 from China [Harbin, Qiqihar], 1 from Russia [Amur], and 1 from Korea [Halla Winia].

Former NHL agitator Esa Tikkanen plays for Halla Winia of Korea. The younger brother of Paul and Steve Kariya, Martin, just signed with the Nikko Ice Bucks of Japan.

At the start of the season, I received this correspondence from Asia League Ice Hockey Headquarters.

Thank you for your inquiry to us, the Asia League Ice Hockey Headquarters.

About the Japan Ice Hockey League [JIHL], the Japan Ice Hockey League is the national ice hockey league played in Japan, and it has a brilliant 38 year history.

About the Asia League Ice Hockey [ALIH], the Asia League Ice Hockey started in the 2003-2004 season with total 5 teams, with 4 Japanese teams and 1 Korean team. It aims is to develop ice hockey as a very popular and longed for sport, and also to make the venue full of spectators.

The league became bigger this season as there are total 8 teams composed with 4 Japanese teams, 1 Korean team, 2 Chinese teams and 1 Russian team. The guideline of the Asia League is as follows: alhockey.com/outline/index.html.

Please refer the following URL if you would like to see more information about the Asia League Ice Hockey, such as the schedules and team profiles: www.alhockey.com.

Sincerely yours,
Asia League Ice Hockey Headquarters

According to an earlier IIHF press release:

The primary goal of the new Asian League is make the Asian teams more competitive on the international stage.

[ALIH] says that the 2004-05 Asian League has plans to expand in the future to include more than eight teams and hopes to find a major sponsor to help alleviate some of the costs of travel.

An emerging Ice Hockey league, with Esa Tikkanen and teams in four countries? The marketing and promotion opportunities are endless. Photograph Akebono, Takanohana or Musashimaru dropping the puck to start a game, or just wearing an XXXXL jersey. Have an entire hockey team judge an episode of Iron Chef, they have already had enough baseball players.

[Update] There is an article and 4 video segments [click on the blue E's] on German World Cup goaltender Olaf Kolzig at ESPN motion. Future German World Cup goaltender and Sharks prospect Patrick Ehelechner picked up a shutout in the 500th game he has played in goal. Congratulations!

[Update2] Former NHL player and John Buccigross favorite Shjon Podein, was reported to be interested in purchasing the Nikko Ice Bucks of the ALIH.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks and Cardiff Devils defenseman Rob Davison broke through a penalty box partition after sticking up for a teammate on the ice.


What happened to the bandwagon? Save us Ray Ratto!

the San Jose Sharks actually have fans

If anyone wants to experience the support the local Bay Area NHL team usually gets from the media, take a look at this article that ran Thursday by Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle: NHL lockout inspires a resounding ho-hum.

The National Hockey League lockout is nearly 3 months old and inspires one haunting question for much of the Bay Area: Who cares?

Now contrast this with an article that ran today in the New York Times by Selena Roberts: Hockey Fans Are Silent, and Union Is Listening. This is an honest look at the bargaining positions of the NHL and the NHLPA, how they have changed during the lockout, and what role the fans have played in those changes. Now obviously I am going to be interested in this viewpoint, but there is actual substance in this column, meat for my brain to chew on.

During his savvy strategy of passivity, Commissioner Gary Bettman could let public apathy do the devil's work for him as the National Hockey League spiraled silently toward its third month of a lockout.

He didn't have to belittle his league, not when a poll in The Hockey News revealed that only 56 percent of Americans even knew the N.H.L. had faded to black. He didn't have to rail about the gluttony of players, not when the lunch-pail fan base already blamed the catered-to stars.

Now compare and contrast the two columns. Both deal with the same issue, yet only one feels the need to go furthur than a "who cares" analysis of fan reaction to the NHL lockout.

For or against the NHL, for or against the NHLPA, it would be nice if the "no one cares about hockey" Bay Area journalistic theme died a horrible and painful death. We know. The local media has repeated that quote from ice rink owners, figure skaters, high school students, radio show hosts, scholars, philosophers, world leaders, all saying that no one cares about the NHL. That the sport lags far behind baseball, football and tennis. I mean basketball. Got it. No one cares. No need to pile on every 2 to 4 weeks.

the San Jose Sharks actually have fans

One reason fans become so passionate about the sport is they have to withstand a barrage of attacks from every writer or radio personality too lazy to actually put some thought into an original article. Other fans usually have to defend their team against the occasional media backlash, not the entire sport, and not on a near weekly basis.

Just as a public service, here are a few hockey story ideas that readers might be interested in:

  • Scott Gomez of the NJ Devils pays a hefty insurance premium just to support his community and play with his local ECHL team, the Alaska Aces.
  • A new hockey league has started its inaugural season with 8 teams in four countries [Japan, China, Korea, Russia]. One of the greatest personalities in the game is playing for Korea [Esa Tikkanen], and Paul Kariya's younger brother [Martin] just signed with a team in Japan.
  • Marco Sturm has been playing hockey in San Jose for the last seven years. What has his first season playing for Ingolstadt in the the German Elite League been like?
  • Team USA enters the U20 World Junior Championship as the event's defending champion. Eight players are returning from the gold medal team that played last year in Finland. This year the WJC tournament is being held in Grand Forks, North Dakota and Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
  • A selection of players from the CHL [OHL,WHL,QMJHL] defeated a group of young Russian players in the 6 game 2004 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. The what? That is right, if you lived in the Bay Area you never heard about this.
  • A team of locked out NHL players dubbed the Worldstars, defeated a team of Russian allstars in Moscow. Former Shark Marty McSorley was a coach for the Worldstars. According to TSN, the Worldstars will continue their tour of Europe Monday in the Czech Republic against a team of Czech/Slovak allstars. Jes Golbez will undoubtedly have more on that exhibition.
  • I may be a little biased, but I am also still interested in the San Jose State club hockey team's 16-2-1 run in the first half of their season. The second half will be much harder with double-headers against BYU, Utah State and USC, and road games against Colorado and Colorado State. Here are the rankings for the ACHA D2. The top four teams in each conference will qualify for the National Tournament at Oakland University in Michigan [March 2-5].
That should be a good starting point for Gary Radnich, Ray Ratto, Joe Garofoli, Glenn Dickey [last line], or Tom Wheatley to actually find something positive to say or write about the sport for Bay Area fans. Glad I could help.

If you are a news organization and you need someone to cover the WJC or the ACHA National Tournament, send me an email.

[Update] Brett Hull was on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update last night. He looked at ease in front of the camera, but Brett struggled mightly not to laugh at his own jokes before he told them. This was his best line when asked about legalized gay marriage in Canada:

That's what happens in Canada when there's no hockey... Guys have more time to hang out, talk about their feelings and fall in love with each other. I have nothing against it, but I'd rather be playing hockey.

[Update2] Sharks player representative Alyn McCauley had much the same reaction to the NHLPA's 24% salary rollback proposal as I did. Shock. Rolling back, way back - SJ Mercury.

[Update3] Why the NHL will never be the same - Mitch Albom.


D-Day for NHL lockout negotiations - minus 0

There has been an avalanche of news on the NHL front in the last few days. Instead of a bunch of small posts with each individual story, here they are in one big blog post. Check back tomorrow for an international hockey update.

For the first time in 3 months, the NHL and NHLPA sat down for negotiations today over the NHL lockout. After 4 hours of talking, apparently the glacial divide between the two negotiators began to thaw. The NHL has scheduled a news conference for 6:30 PM ET. A transcript of the press conference will be made available on NHLcbanews.com.

CBC reports that more talks between the NHL and NHLPA are scheduled for next week.

So what was being discussed between the NHL and the NHLPA? Rumors have been swirling that the NHLPA would make a significant new proposal to the league. Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan told TSN a few details about the proposal that would be made today. The changes could add up to 200 million in savings for owners.

  • A 10 percent rollback of player salaries across the board.
  • Luxury tax of 75 cents on the dollar on payrolls of $40 million.
  • A more severe tax for teams that spend over 60 million.
  • A lower cap on entry-level salaries that extend for a players first four years instead of three.
  • Changes to salary arbitration.
Thanks to Jamie Fitzpatrick of About.com for more information about the NHLPA proposal. A link to his blog will be added to right faster than the NHLPA can say "salary cap".

[CBA Update] TSN reports today that the offer was:

  • 24 percent rollback of player salaries.
  • Reduced qualifying offers and salary arbitration adjustments.
  • A tiered payroll tax kicking in at different levels.
  • A revenue redistribution plan.
  • Joint Player-Club committees to improve the game.
  • Adjustments and updates to other CBA provisions.
[CBA Update2] Gary Bettman released a statement following the Dec 9th meeting with NHLPA.

The Union presented us with a proposal today that, clearly, they worked on for a long time. We wanted to give it at least a preliminary review before making any comments.

We will not discuss any of the specifics until we formally respond to the Union. To do otherwise would not be constructive to this process. However, I will acknowledge that one aspect of the proposal is very significant. That element is a recognition by the Union of our economic condition -- but it is a 'one-time' element.

We have said consistently that the focus must be on the overall systemic issues and the long-term needs and health of the game. We will fully review the Union's proposal and respond next Tuesday. It is our present intention to make a counter-proposal.

[CBA Update3] The NHLPA released a 235-page PDF file of their proposal to the NHL on NHLPA.com.

This proposal demonstrates the players’ sincere desire to get the game back on the ice, and while the concessions on our side are quite significant, we feel that our effort is a meaningful compromise to get a fair deal for both sides. – Trevor Linden

In chart 2 of the NHLPA proposal, the stated direct impact of the 24% salary rollback for the 2004-05 season would equal $269 million for the entire league.

A team-by-team breakdown of the savings is given. The San Jose Sharks are identified with 22 players [more than 90 days of NHL experience] under 2004-05 contract for $32,425,000. The 24% salary rollback would save the Sharks $7,782,000 with a total salary of $24,643,000 for the 04-05 NHL season. An additional amount [$61,000] would be given to San Jose from the revenue redistribution plan.

Exhibit 9 of the NHLPA proposal also details a team-by-team case study of the proposal's effects for each individual team looking at the next two seasons.

Taking into account the 11 Group 2 free agents the San Jose Sharks would have to sign for the 2005-06 season, the NHLPA predicts the rollback savings would be $4.3 million for the 10 players under contract, and $3.4 million for the 11 group 2 free agents.

In another positive development for the league, Detroit Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan convened a meeting of players, owners, GMs and assorted "honchos" to examine the state of the game. If anything positive can come out of the NHL lockout, maybe the game can be changed for the better.

In attendance according to TSN: current and former GM's: Bob Gainey and Brian Burke; current and former NHL players: Mats Sundin, Alexander Mogilny, Curtis Joseph, Jim McKenzie, Al MacInnis, James Patrick, Sean Burke, and Andy Brickley; head coaches: Marc Crawford, Dave Tippett, and John Tortorella; hockey media: Glenn Healy and John Davidson,; TV executives: John Shannon [LeafsTV] and Tom McNeeley [ESPN]; and former referee Terry Gregson.

It appears no bloggers were invited.

Here is a partial list of the committee recommendations courtesy of OntheWings.

  • Reduce obstruction.
  • A penalty shootout to decide tie games after the five-minute overtime period.
  • Reduce minor penalties in overtime to one minute instead of two minutes.
  • Adopt AHL experimental rules (first announced by Campbell and the NHL last year), and that includes the tag-up offside, the wider blue-lines, pushing the net back two feet, and restricting the goalie's ability to play the puck in a designating zone behind the net.
  • Automatic (no-touch) icing.
  • A puck shot directly into the stands in the defensive zone is a two-minute penalty for all skaters, not just the goalie.
  • Improved access for broadcast rights-holders. An example was given of baseball managers during the World Series doing live game-in interviews with the broadcast booth.
  • Improve communication and partnership at all levels of the game.
There are a number of good ideas proposed by this group, but the biggest problem with the game now is the lack of space on the ice. Only so much can be done with rule changes, changing the lines, or moving the net around. Eventually you are going to have to make the ice surface bigger.

Add 5 feet of ice to all four sides, or remove two rows of seating, and the game will open up more than any crackdown on obstruction or 10 foot blue line could ever do. Unfortunately, it seems the committee failed to thoroughly study the Swenson Plan for fixing the problems facing the NHL. Inexcusable.

In a report a week and a half ago on CBC, Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden said the season will be lost in six weeks. A few other sources have said the first or second week of January will be the latest date this season can be salvaged. The rolling 30 day arena date cancellation has been upped to 45 days. After one more batch of games is cancelled, that could be all she wrote for the 2004-05 season.

And if you need to hear something that reminds you of what it was like to be at an NHL game, find your team and play this selection of NHL goal horns.

[Update] The New York Times wrote a feature on the economic effect of the lockout in Detroit, Columbus and Buffalo: Lockout in NHL Puts Businesses on the Brink.


Polling hockey players and fans

If you feel that the average NHL fan has not been able to have their say of late, then take one of the following surveys or polls:

NHL sporting industry - This questionnaire was received in an email from NHL.com. According to the website, this independent study is being conducted by two students currently attending the Harvard Business School.

CCM Sports - This survey was received in an email from CCM Sports. According to the website, CCM Sports is currently looking for hockey players to complete a survey about the evolution of the game of hockey and its equipment.

NHL Fans Association - This 3 question mini-poll was received in an email from NHLFA.com. The NHLFA is traveling to Toronto on Thursday to monitor the CBA talks between the NHL and the NHLPA and would like to go there armed with your opinions.

And if you want to take the Sharkspage poll, email answers to the following questions here. Names and email addresses are not required to submit your answers.

  • 1. What is your favorite NHL team?
  • 2. What hockey leagues or teams are you following during the NHL lockout? [college, youth, AHL, ECHL, CHL, international, none]
  • 3. Where are you currently living? Where were you born?
  • 4. Do you currently play ice, street or inline hockey? Have you in the past? Do your children play?
  • 5. What are the top 3 changes you would like to see on the ice to improve the NHL game?
  • 6. What are the top 3 changes you would like to see on television broadcasts to improve NHL viewing?
  • 7. What are your 3 favorite websites for following the sport [not including this one]?
Any answers submitted may be posted anonymously on this website unless otherwise noted. Thanks for your support.

[Update] As noted by a few other hockey blogs, the NHLPA has recently updated their website. In addition to a new design, in addition to adding information about NHL players playing in Europe, the NHLPA has finally added a feedback form. Fire them an email and let them know your position on the lockout, and that you appreciate the chance to convey it to them.

[Update2] I have heard a lot of different things being said about NHLcbanews.com, most of them negative. While I would like to see more on the positions of both sides posted on any CBA website, I think it is hard to fault anyone for clearly detailing their own position on their own website. And the NHL has gone furthur periodically answering questions from fans [they answered one of mine on Oct 5th]. Both sides have to look after their own interests in negotiations, but acknowledging and interacting with the fans is crucial in regaining trust after the lockout is over.


San Jose State defeats Cal Berkeley 7-5 for the 2004 Pennysaver Gold Rush championship

San Jose State 2004 Gold Rush Tournament champions

San Jose State 2004 Gold Rush Tournament champions

SJSU 2004 hockey

Pennysaver 2004 Gold Rush Tournament

Davis bowed out of the Gold Rush Championship, but Cal Berkeley played a spirited game in a 7-5 loss to San Jose State. Berkeley twice narrowed the lead to 1 goal in the third period, but the Spartans pulled away in front of 550 chilly but enthusiastic fans.

Visit the photo gallery for more pictures of the Gold Rush Championship game. In defeating Stanford and Cal on consecutive nights, San Jose State won the title of "Best in Northern California" for 2004.

[Update] A. Sheldon writes about SJSU winning the Pennysaver Gold Rush tournament in the Spartan Daily: Spartans beat Cal, Stanford to win Gold Rush Tournament.

The San Jose State University ice hockey club defeated long-time rivals Stanford University and Cal Berkeley to win the ninth annual Pennysaver Gold Rush Tournament over the weekend.

Kellam said, winning the trophy was the main goal for the team. "I've been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. I've been dying to get the trophy back," Kellam said.

The SJSU men's hockey club registered 20 goals in two nights, with 13 of those coming at the expense of an undermanned Stanford University club.

The Spartans will continue fighting to remain one of top four teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division II West Region to try and earn a berth into the National Championship scheduled for early March 2005.

Nice photo by Don Hoekwater.


San Jose State finds gold in 13-1 win over Stanford, UC Davis downs CAL 4-1

Gold Rush hockey tournament berkeley cal stanford, sjsu, davis

After an impressive back-to-back performance against Berkeley in the Big Freeze two weeks ago, Stanford lost 13-1 to San Jose State Friday night in the opening of the Pennysaver Gold Rush tournament. Undermanned, Stanford at one point faced 44 shots against only 4 put on the San Jose State goalie.

The Spartans put the foot on the gas early in the first period and did not let up until the final buzzer. Kelly Spain [#23] had a hat trick for the Spartans, and captain Ray Kellam also recorded a hat trick. SJSU goaltender Joe Best picked up the win.

The submarine claxton brought in to signal home goals got a workout.

Visit the photo gallery from the game, or SJSUhockey.com for more information about the team.

Gold Rush hockey tournament berkeley cal stanford, sjsu, davis

Gold Rush hockey tournament berkeley cal stanford, sjsu, davis

UC Davis defeated CAL Berkeley 4-1 in the second game of the Gold Rush tournament at Berkeley Iceland. My people in Berkeley tell me the CAL goaltender kept the score close. Visit the official website for more about the Aggies.

Davis plays SJSU at 8:15 in the championship game Saturday night at Logitech.

[Update] This is quote from the SJSU-Stanford program about the Pennysaver Gold Rush tournament.

The Pennysaver Gold Rush Collegiate Hockey Tournament brings the top four college hockey teams together in a single elimination tournament to see which team is the "Best in Northern California". Modeled after the Beanpot tournament in Boston, the tournament has produced classic games in the past. This year promises to be no exception.

Past Gold Rush champions:
2003 - Cal Berkeley
2002 - San Jose State
2001 - San Jose State
2000 - Palmer College West
1999 - San Jose State
1998 - San Jose State
1997 - San Jose State
1996 - Palmer College West

The Spartans want to remind everyone that there is a 4 week break over the holidays with the biggest matchup of the year the first weekend back in January. SJSU is ranked 4th [in the ACHA D2 West]. They play 5th ranked BYU two games on Jan 13th and Jan 14th. This will be a playoff atmosphere as the winner will most likely lock up a berth in the ACHA Nationals in March. Don't miss those games.

Happy Holidays to everyone from the SJSU Spartan hockey team!

Visit BYU hockey for more information about the Ice Cats.

[Update2] A. Sheldon wrote up the first meeting this season between SJSU and Davis, a 4-1 Spartan win on Oct 9th.

For the first time in the club’s 13-year history, the SJSU Spartans faced off against the UC Davis Aggies, resulting in a memorable penalty-filled contest that drew plenty of dissent from a raucous Logitech crowd.

The Spartans would make the most of a match that relied heavily on special teams with 3 of their 4 goals coming on the power play. The 4-1 victory over UC Davis would give SJSU a perfect 2-0 record on the season.

Read the full article here.

[Update3] Offwing is up for a 2004 Weblog award for the sports weblog category. I am not voting for Offwing.com because he posts interesting sports news daily, I am not voting for Offwing because he talks about the NHL long after I burned out on the relentless CBA financial minutiae, I am voting for Offwing because he was smart enough to start a general sports blog instead of focusing on a single team. Wait, DOH!


Gold Rush Tournament starts tonight: Stanford at San Jose State 7:45PM, UC Davis at CAL 10:45PM

Gold Rush hockey tournament berkeley cal stanford, sjsu, davis

The Gold Rush hockey tournament starts tonight with Stanford at San Jose State 7:45PM, and UC Davis at CAL 10:45PM. The winners face off tomorrow night at the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose at 8:15PM.

I will be in the house for the first game. There is an outside chance I will make the second in Berkeley. If any readers go to either game, send me an email with info so I can post more about them.

[Update] Nice article in the SJ Mercury on the SJSU hockey team: Need hockey? Join the club.