SPHL

Bakersfield Condors

It’s Teddy Bear Toss season and the fur has already been flying (Video)

2 Comments

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah, the holidays are upon us, but it’s also Teddy Bear Toss season!

The Teddy Bear Toss is a promotion that has been done by many teams at various levels of hockey for years. While we wait for the kings of the event, the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, to host theirs on Dec. 10, a slew of tosses took place recently and boy, did the fur fly.

• Let’s start in Bakersfield, California where Brad Malone’s shorthanded goal helped the American Hockey League’s Condors to a 7-3 win over the San Antonio Rampage. Malone’s goal also signaled the 8,862 fans — the franchise’s fifth-largest attendance ever — to send their teddy bears flying.

Here’s their multi-angle view via Adam Beck of the Condors:

The final total was a team record 10,549 stuffed animals, which will help nearly 50 local organizations. The all-time count after 19 years of holding the event is 121,395.

• Next up we have the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, who saw approximately 4,000 stuffed animals hit the ice to benefit Hug-a-Bears of Kent County.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

• A six-game point streak came to an end for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers over the weekend, but the fans at WesBanco Arena got to toss their bears following Garret Meurs’ first period goal.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

• Like I said, many different levels of hockey partake in this great tradition. Here’s the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins getting in on the act to help out the Salvation Army:

• The Children’s Miracle Network were one of the charities who benefitted from the Quad City Mallards’ event:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

• Ben Berard got the BCHL’s Powell River Kings fans out of their seats to send their bears flying:

• The event has even gone international with the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers of Germany taking part:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Pretty fun time, right? If you thought those were cool wait until you see what the fans in Calgary do next month when the Hitmen hold their annual Toss night. Last year they sent 23,924 stuffed animals to the ice, which was amazing but not close to the record they set in 2015 with a total count of 28,815.

Calgary Hitmen

That’s a lot of bears and a lot of soon-to-be very happy kids.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

SPHL gets creative, adopts ‘pick your opponent’ playoff format

SPHL
6 Comments

When discussion about the NHL’s playoff format comes up, there is a section of fans who would like to see the league allow for an even greater reward for top teams other than home-ice advantage.

That idea has become a reality thanks to the Southern Professional Hockey League.

The 10-team SPHL announced on Monday that they are overhauling their opening round and turning it into what’s being dubbed the “Challenge Round.” The top three teams will get to choose their first-round opponent during a “Challenge Round Selection” event which will be broadcast to fans on Sunday, April 8, the day after the regular season concludes. After the top three seeds select their opponents, the No. 4 team will be matched against the leftover side.

Every playoff series, including the President’s Cup Final, will remain best-of-three with re-seeding taking place for the second round.

The idea for this change came to SPHL commissioner Jim Combs over dinner in June with Axel Bammer, Chief Operating Officer of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. When Combs heard that the league’s top teams get to pick their opening round opponent, he could imagine the buzz it would generate. (Sweden’s Elitserien did this in the past as well.)

A week after meeting with Bammer, Combs met with the league’s owners and received zero pushback about the idea. The new playoff format was widely embraced as the group felt this was the future of hockey.

Feedback has been mixed on the change. But Mike Campos, who covers the SPHL for The Sin Bin, sees it being a big plus for the league.

One of the benefits of being at the bottom rung of the professional hockey ladder (second-lowest, if you consider the FHL a pro league) is there is flexibility to implement radically new ideas other leagues can not. If the “Pick Your Opponent” format change generates buzz among fans and rivalries between teams resulting in a spirited postseason, the decision could be a winner for the SPHL.

As Campos notes, lower levels of hockey allow for plenty of innovation while not straying far from the fundamentals of running a hockey league. This new format will certainly make the end of the regular season much more interesting and provide bulletin board material for teams and storylines heading into the playoffs. It’s an idea worth exploring, and the SPHL is no stranger to implementing ideas that catch on elsewhere.

It was the SPHL where 3-on-3 hockey began over a decade ago. It was deemed a silly gimmick at first, but now that we’ve seen it at the NHL level for two seasons, it’s clearly a welcomed change — one that’s made overtime hockey must-see television.

Combs said the league will see how this playoff format idea plays out in April before deciding whether to keep or tweak it in the future.

So what do you think? Would you want to see the NHL go in this direction for the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Stick-tap Scotty Wazz

 

SPHL game suspended after gruesome injury

4 Comments

A Southern Professional Hockey League game was suspended during the second period in Peoria, Illinois Saturday night after Huntsville Havoc center Justin Cseter suffered a severe skate cut.

According to Dave Eminian of the Journal Star, the skate of Peoria’s Dennis Sicard inadvertently cut Cseter across an unprotected gap between the bottom of his pants and above his shin pad.

Eminian reports doctors said the cut was about 1 1/2 inches deep and about six inches wide across his inner thigh on his right leg. His muscle was cut, but the skate blade missed his artery.

Saturday’s incident is reminiscent of the injury former Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Zach Redmond suffered following a skate cut in February 2013. Redmond suffered a lacerated femoral artery when teammate Antti Miettinen’s skate cut him during a practice.

Redmond, now with the Colorado Avalanche, missed roughly three months of action recovering from the cut.