hersheybears

AHL Hershey Bears causing a stir with opponents logos on their jerseys

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You don’t ever think of a hockey team suiting up as if they’re a pack of bounty hunters, but the AHL Hershey Bears are treating their road jerseys as if they’re something out of the Boba Fett wardrobe.

With the AHL being a bit of an odd jersey wonderland on its own, the Bears took time out to pat themselves on the back for winning back-to-back Calder Cup championships by having a special jersey declaring as much but with an added touch. On the shoulders of the jersey you can see the logos of the teams they’ve beaten in order to win those titles.

If this sort of thing sounds tacky and downright unsportsmanlike to you, you’ll be happy to know you’ve got company in Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press who is rather outraged about the whole development.

Hershey is not some backwater but one of the pre-eminent spots in the hockey world. As no less than Gordie Howe said, “Everybody who’s anybody in hockey has played in Hershey.”

Hershey is a team and place that matters in hockey. It shouldn’t have its reputation sullied with high school stunts like this.

AHL teams regularly borrow one another’s logos for ads and other promotions but this is a stretch of that agreement.

Designing, manufacturing and wearing these jerseys is a mistake, an error in judgement and ego run amok. It’s not what the Bears have stood for in a glorious history dating back to 1938 with over 5,000 games played in the AHL and a record 11 Calder Cups. There’s absolutely no question the Hershey Bears are the flagship franchise of the AHL and such a display is beneath their standard.

All opinions of Hershey, Pennsylvania aside, Lawless is spot on with his take here.

This comes off as a bit of a cutthroat kind of gesture rather than one to say that the team is proud of winning their own title. Instead, it looks like the Bears are continuing to pour salt in the wounds of the Manitoba Moose and Texas Stars, the teams they’ve beaten for the Calder Cup the last two seasons. Creating bulletin board material is usually best left for the team loudmouth and not the uniform designer.

Picture if you will what would happen if the Chicago Blackhawks threw the famous Flyers logo on their shoulders when the teams meet up on January 23. Is there any doubt that retribution would be served up in the most violent of ways for daring to rub their nose in losing in the Stanley Cup finals? None whatsoever and I doubt you’d find anyone to blame them for any actions taken during the game.

It’s one thing to be proud of what you’ve accomplished, it’s another to take the ice and look like a pack of creeps looking to rub the opponents face in what’s already over and done with. This is the sort of thing you might see at the high school level by a group of kids looking to be jerks, certainly not from a professional organization. Then again, everyone loves a heel and the Bears, whether they meant to or not, have made themselves just that. Here’s to hoping they don’t mind embracing that role because this kind of self-congratulatory nonsense has earned them just that.

(Photo courtesy of the Hershey Bears website)

Back with the Blues: St. Louis re-claims Rattie off waivers

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 25:  Ty Rattie, drafted 32nd overall by the St. Louis Blues, greets members of the Blues, during day two of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 25, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Ty Rattie is back in the St. Louis Blues organization.

As you’ll recall, the Blues waived Rattie in January. He was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes, had two assists in five games with that club and was then put back on waivers Saturday.

According to reports on Sunday, the Blues re-claimed Rattie, the 24-year-old forward with 10 points in 35 career NHL games. He’s originally a second-round pick of St. Louis from the 2011 draft.

He has since been reassigned to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.

The Blues sit third in the Central Division, eight points behind Chicago and five points ahead of Nashville. They host the Florida Panthers on Monday.

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Taylor Fedun has cleared waivers and has been reassigned to Rochester in the AHL.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04:  Braden Holtby #70  and Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals defend against Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers during the first period at the Verizon Center on March 4, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Sunday is Hockey Day in America and it features a quadruple header of games on the NBC networks. All of the actions kicks off with a huge Metropolitan Division showdown in New York with the Rangers taking on the NHL leading Washington Capitals.

The Capitals, coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss in Detroit on Saturday afternoon, have earned at least a point in 21 of their past 23 games (19-2-2) to put themselves in a great position to win the Presidents’ Trophy for a second consecutive year. Saturday’s game was their first game back from their bye week and snapped what had been a six-game winning streak where they scored at least five goals in five of the games.

On Sunday they visit a Rangers team that has won six of its past seven games but can not seem to gain any ground in a division where everybody seems to keep winning and collecting points.

Game time is 12:30 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream

Click here for the Live Stream

NBC And NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day In America

The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 18:  Bryan Little #18 of the Winnipeg Jets skates the puck against Jeff Petry #26 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on February 18, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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One of the big changes in the NHL this season has been the introduction of the bye week, giving every team in the league one stretch of at least five consecutive days where it plays no games.

The theory behind it was simple: The NHL season, 82 games, plus two months of playoffs if your team is good enough to keep advancing, is a grueling grind and a five-day break in the middle of the season would be a welcome break.

One of the big problems has been the fact that nearly every team that has returned from its bye week has not only lost, but hasn’t even really been competitive in its first game back as they try to shake off the rust and get back to game speed.

After all five teams returning from their bye weeks on Saturday (Montreal, Washington, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Nashville) lost their games, NHL teams are only 3-12-4 this season coming off of their bye.

The 16 teams that have lost their first games back have been outscored by a 60-23 margin (that is a minus-37 goal differential!). Eleven of those losses have been by multiple goals, including seven that have been by three or more.

Even if you include the three teams that won their first game back, NHL teams have a minus-30 goal differential (outscored 37-67) in that first game back.

This has not gone unnoticed with the NHL.

The issue was discussed during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast with Kelly Hrudey talking about a couple of the options that have been proposed, including an extended holiday break (which NHL teams are not in favor of). One of the other ideas mentioned was a suggestion by Calgary Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy where the each conference takes its bye week at the same time, and when they return from that bye week they only play teams from that conference so nobody has a competitive advantage over the other team.

But while the record of teams coming back from the bye week has been the key talking point, the other unintended consequence that seems to slip under the radar is what that bye week in the middle of the season does to the rest of the schedule.

If your 82-game season is going to cover the same amount of time on the calendar, and you are giving teams an entire week off in the middle of the season, it is going to condense everything else the rest of the way. It is going to force teams to play more back-to-backs, have more weeks where they play three games in four nights, and add to the wear and tear at other times during the season. Making matters worse this season was the World Cup of Hockey that preceded the season, pushing the start date back an additional week later than it normally is.

Several NHL coaches have expressed some frustration with this, not only with what it does to the schedule itself and for player safety, but also for the way it has cut into practice time. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News wrote about the subject this week, quoting Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild at the All-Star game saying that he has never had fewer practices in the league as a head coach because, “you can’t kill the guys, especially your best players.”

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was even more direct.

“I think it’s 100 percent wrong for player safety,” Babcock said, via Harrington. “You’ve got so many games in such a short period of time and you’re jamming in more. To me, the more days rest you can have by not playing back-to-backs and jamming it in, the healthier you have a chance to be.”

Given the amount of attention this current set up has received, it seems like a strong bet that the NHL is going to at least look at the way the bye week is set up and how it is utilized next season and beyond.

The proud hockey history of Warroad, Minnesota: ‘Hockeytown USA’

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Today the NBC Sports Group is celebrating Hockey Day in America with an NHL quadrupleheader while featuring grassroots hockey stories from across the country. 

Located less than a half hour from the Canadian border, and with a population of just under 1,800, Warroad, Minnesota is probably an easy town to miss unless you happen to be from there, or know somebody from there.

At first glance it would seem to be no different than any other small town in America.

But this isn’t just some random small town.

This small town has become such a hockey factory and developed such a rich history within the sport — at all levels — that it has been dubbed “Hockeytown, USA.”

And with all apologies to the folks in Detroit, it is not a moniker that is out of place.

For a town whose population has never topped the 2,000 mark since it was officially incorporated in 1901, it has been a significant power in the United States hockey community with a legacy that has produced five NHL players, seven Olympians, and more than 80 (men and women combined) Division I hockey players.

It’s also town that has become a dominant powerhouse in the Minnesota High School community with six state totals (four for the men’s team, two for the women’s team) over the past 20 years alone.

It’s a legacy that a lot of major metropolitan areas can not even compete with, and to get an understanding of how this small town can be such a hockey power it all starts with not only getting players started at a young age and developing a passion for the sport, but also making sure they have the ability to actually follow through with it.

Warroad is home to two major indoor ice rinks — including a 1,500 seat Olympic sized rink — both of which are proud to feature free ice-time for anybody who wants it, for as long as they want it. Kids can come as early as they want, stay as late as they want, and skate for as long as they want. One of the biggest obstacles in a lot of areas for kids when it comes to getting into the sport can be associated with ice time, whether it be the ice time itself, or the costs associated with getting it.

In Warroad, the mindset is to make sure they always have access to it.

One of the biggest driving forces behind hockey in Warroad over the years has been the Marvin Family, owners of the largest employer in Warroad (Marvin Windows and Doors), for contributing to the construction of the Warroad Gardens rink and helping to ensure that kids always have a place to skate. That commitment has helped drive a passion for hockey in the town that has helped it produce a lasting impact on the sport that has been felt locally (the dominant boys and girls high school programs), Internationally, and in the NHL.

One of Warroad’s most famous claims is that both of the gold medal winning teams in men’s hockey have included players from the town, all thanks to the Christian family. Roger and Bill Christian both played on the 1960 Squaw Valley team and went on to become members of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Bill’s son, Dave Christian, was a key member of the 1980 Miracle On Ice team that upset the Soviet Union and then went on to beat Finland for the Gold Medal at Lake Placid. Following his Olympic success he went on to a 13-year career in the NHL.

On the women’s side, Gigi Marvin, the granddaughter of Cal Marvin, known locally as “the godfather of Warroad Hockey,” has been a spectacular ambassador for the sport both locally and nationally. She was an NCAA star at the University of Minnesota, was a member of the 2010 and 2014 women’s silver medal Olympic teams, is a four-time gold medalist at the World Championships, and currently a member of the NWHL’s Boston Pride where she was the league’s 2016 defensive player of the year and a 2017 All-Star.

Warroad’s NHL legacy began in 1971 with the debut of Henry Boucha, a silver medalist at the 1972 Olympics, and another member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s legacy continued with Christian and Al Hanglesben in the 1980s, and still continues today with current NHL stars Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) and T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals).

With such a rich history and contribution to hockey, and a passion to continue growing the sport, Warroad is sure to continue as one of America’s greatest hockey towns.

More on Warroad, Minnesota

For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

On Nelson’s hockey journey, from Northern Minnesota to Brooklyn