Lord of the NHL – The Two Towers

The lockout is over! Pending a ratified CBA, we’re looking at the return of NHL hockey on January 19th.

The night before the lockout ended, I decided to watch Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, for the hundredth time. It occurred to me that the movie plot is closely related to the NHL lockout. This is the story of how the lockout ended, as told by Canucks Corner.

Thanks to @midway_brennan and @keribo1 (both Blackhawks fans!) for having some fun with me on the #LOTNHL hashtag.

 

YOU SHALL NOT PASS .. this sad excuse for a pension plan.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS .. this sad excuse for a pension plan.”

 

20

Frodo: “What’s on Sportsnet?”

Sam: “Well, let me see.”

Sam: “Oh yes, lovely. Negotiations. And look! More negotiations.”

 

30

 

 

 

Sam: “This looks strangely familiar.”

Frodo: “Because we’ve watched this before. These negotiations are going in circles!”

 

 

 

 

40

“There is no promise you can make that I can trust. You will lead us to the Black Gate.
And 57% of Hockey Related Revenue.”

 

"Looks like meat and player pensions are back on the menu boys!"

“Looks like meat and player pensions are back on the menu boys!”

 

60

Eomer: “We piled the carcasses of the last offer sheet there. We left none alive.”

Aragorn: “Dead negotiations? Again?”

Eomer: “Look for your deal, but do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these fans.”

 

 

 

 

 

"I am Gandalf the Federal Mediator. And I come to you now, at the turn of the tide."

“I am Gandalf the Federal Mediator. And I come to you now, at the turn of the tide.”

 

80

 

Hama: “By order of the NHL, the arenas must empty. We make for the leagues of Europe.
Do not burden yourself with long contracts.
Take only what sticks you need.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“New Year’s Eve. Where is the stick and puck?
Where is the goal horn that was blowing.
How did it come to this.”

...

 

Aragorn: “Ride out and meet them.”

Theoden: “Yes! Let this be the hour when we draw up a CBA together.”

Theoden: “Fell deeds awake. Now for give. Now for take. And the Red Ink!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I know. It’s January already. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could hockey go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this lockout. Sensible offer sheets must pass. A new season will come. And when the puck drops the ice will shine out the clearer.

 

...

Sam: “Even if you were too small to understand hockey is big business. I think I do understand. I know now. They had lots of chances of signing only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

Sam: “That there’s some good money in this world, Mister Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for HRR.”

 

"Sam, you one crayyzzzzy ass bitch!"

“Sam, you one crayyzzzzy ass bitch!”

“The battle for HRR and back-diving contracts is over. The battle for The Stanley Cup is about to begin.
All our hopes now lie with two red-headed Swedish twins.
Somewhere in Rogers Arena.”

Gingerbread 2012: Canuck Place Children’s Hospice

A few years ago I received The Gingerbread Architect as a gift. It’s a great book, and it comes with recipes and ingredients for 12 different gingerbread masterpieces.

Last year, I opted to make the Urban Brownstone, which is rated as one of the more difficult houses to make in the book. Despite the written difficulty level, I found the baking of the walls to be pretty easy, and the decorating wasn’t too difficult. In my blog post summarizing that build, I wrote:

Next year, I am strongly considering making my own house out of gingerbread.

Canuck Place Children's Hospice (not a photo of gingerbread).

Perhaps I was just a bit too ambitious with my plans this year.

My inspiration: Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, also known as Glen Brae Manor, also known as the Tait Mansion.

Canuck Place provides care for children with life-threatening illnesses, and support for those kid’s families. The kids that stay here have access to the best palliative care that is available, at a first rate facility – the first of it’s kind in North America.

Players from the Vancouver Canucks are often seen at Canuck Place to visit – to put smiles on kid’s faces, and perhaps to keep their own lives in perspective.

Usually during a regular NHL season, there are great fundraising efforts for Canuck Place and awareness through those efforts is elevated. During the lockout this year, I thought it might be a fun idea to donate this year’s gingerbread house to Canuck Place. And what better building to model than the hospice itself!

The structure is a heritage building within the Shaughnessy neighbourhood in Vancouver, BC. It is a 4-story mansion, built in 1910. It has very distinctive domed turrets, and features curved exterior walls on nearly every side of the house. There is a large covered porch at the front of the mansion, as well as on the east and west sides of the building.

Photo of the final house.

That’s it! I have to thank my wife Marnie for being the voice of reason, and for the use of her equipment – it helps to have a cake decorator for a wife when you need to make 10 pounds of gingerbread dough. It also helped immensely to have her creativity and an extra set of steady hands. I’d also like to thank Dianna (@Dianna_Chr) for arranging access to the Canuck Place grounds, and Dawn (@light_and_lit) for some good baking advice.

Hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed making this house!

Emotional Stages of NHL Grief and Addiction

There’s something that has been at the back of my mind – it’s the fact that we are now nearing the end of October, and still no NHL regular season in sight. In fact, there are rarely any meetings between the league and the players union either. October comes, ring a bell, and we salivate for hockey. We’re conditioned addicts.

Today in the local newspaper the NHL was way back in the sports section, and this is in hockey-addicted Vancouver. Admittedly, it is a BC Lions game day, and there was a lot of excellent CFL coverage. However, when a retiring horse jockey and EPL soccer news bury the NHL news to the 11th page, that’s noteworthy in itself.

These 5 stages of grief and addiction (following the Kübler-Ross model) can be applied to NHL addicts, and hopefully help some of you in understanding your path to recovery.

Denial: “I feel fine. This can’t be happening, not to me.”

Not just a river in Egypt, denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage. It sounds something like this:

  • It’ll be fine, the NHL will start in October.
  • Okay November.
  • Okay, it’ll be a shortened season.
  • Don’t worry, we’ll still have the Winter Classic.
  • It’s OK, we’ll get started before the playoffs.

Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair! How can this happen to me? Who is to blame?”

Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with with NHL, or with the players, and especially those who are close to them. Many fans are stuck in this phase of NHL grief, angry with Bettman, angry with owners and players alike. This is where most people get stuck.

Admittedly, I feel angry most of the time when I really think about this lockout, the 3rd under Gary Bettman’s tenure as NHL commissioner. The owners and the players make are fighting over Hockey Related Revenues (HRR), to the tune of billions of dollars. They do not seem to realize that everything that is HRR is generated by the fans. It is on the backs of the fans that players, owners and the NHL as a whole make their money. The fans that make 5 or 6 figure incomes, not 7 or 8.

It is the fans that fill the seats, buy the jerseys, call in to the radio to rant, chirp each other on social media sites, and spend their time and hard earned money on the NHL.

The fans spend money on hockey. The league and the players make money on hockey. Never forget this.

Bargaining: “I’ll do anything for a few more years. I will give my life savings if…”

The NHL and the NHLPA seem to have skipped this stage.

Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything? I miss the Canucks, why go on?”

A hockey addict may feel that he or she has no choice or control over things. And in the case of the NHL, he or she may not. He or she then falls into depression. Hockey deprived individuals would have trouble making the best decisions, and all of a sudden they’ve purchased yet another vintage jersey.

But with the help of concerned family or friends, he or she may eventually be pulled out of NHL depression and binge buying of licenced paraphernalia. In fact, in the right situation, the addict might be convinced to return that Barry Pederson Flying V (and exchange it for something more contemporary).

Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay. I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

Acceptance is often the first step to recovery. By admitting that the NHL has serious problems, he or she will be able to seek professional help and commit to a healthy lifestyle without the NHL. An effective recovery program seeks to reinforce hockey abstinence, growth of other sports to dominate your TV watching, and necessary programming changes.

Relapse in the form of a ratified NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement might test your recovery, but by believing in one’s self, knowing the risks, and addressing the root of the problem, this can be overcome so full-term recovery can take its place in the person’s life.

I just want to remind the owners and the players: you guys make money because you’ve got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard. They buy tickets. They’re watching on TV. Y’all should be able to figure this out. Get this done.
– Barack Obama on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Wise words from the most powerful man on the planet. HRR is a budgeted projection of how much money they think NHL hockey can make. The NHL should take heed; if this season is lost, most casual NHL fans will have moved on, and the faith of the hardcore would certainly be shaken. Better put those losses into your HRR projections. I’m spending my money somewhere else.

Hockey For Rookie Parents – What You Need To Know

Hockey 2 Evaluations – they skate for 2 hours for 2 days in a row and are ranked according to skating ability. This way teams are balanced to start the year.

My youngest son Matthew is playing ice hockey this year, like any good Canadian kid. It is awesome watching him skate around out there and having fun! Like Matthew, I’m a rookie too, as this is the first year either of my kids are playing organized ice hockey. I’ve already learned some lessons that I can pass along to future hockey parents – hope you enjoy the post.

What Level Should My Kid Play In?

Matthew is playing hockey with the Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association. He turned 6 this year, which puts him at the Hockey 2 level, which is in the Initiation or Tyke age category for Hockey Canada or PCAHA. The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association is the umbrella association for minor hockey clubs like Semiahmoo Minor.

Category

Hockey Canada

PCAHA

Players’ Ages

Hockey 1

Initiation

Tyke

primarily 5 year olds

Hockey 2

Initiation

Tyke

6 year olds

Hockey 3

Novice

Novice

7 year olds

Hockey 4

Novice

Novice

8 year olds

Kids older than 8 years will play in the Atom level and advance from there:

  • Atom (ages 9-10)
  • Pee Wee (ages 11–12)
  • Bantam (ages 13–14)
  • Midget (ages 15–17)
  • Juvenile (ages 18–20)

My Kid is Really Good – What About Rep Teams and Junior Hockey?

First of all, everyone’s kid is really good. Yes, every single kid is going to the NHL. However, should you really and truly be raising the next future NHL star (like everyone – yes, everyone), elite players will play on travel or “rep” teams which scale up all the way to various junior level leagues, which are for players from 16-20 years of age. The age at which rep teams start varies between associations and provinces. I’ve seen rep teams begin as early as age 6 or 7. To make the roster of a rep team, tryouts are typically required. Those that don’t make it to rep are encouraged to stay in house leagues.

How Much Does It Cost?

Well, that depends. First – how good is your kid? No, seriously. Second – how much money do you have?

Here’s a breakdown of payables. For us, Matthew is beginning young, and in a house league, so this is probably the cheapest season of hockey we will ever pay for.

Registration Fee:

 $535

Equipment:

 $200

Tournament Entry Fee:

 $60

Trophy, Socks, Gift for Coach:

 $65

Volunteer Fee:

 $200

Total:

 $1060

We got the cheap starter equipment bag from Canadian Tire, which includes pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shinguards and a practice jersey. We got a cheap composite stick from Costco. Matthew’s skates are hand-me-downs from his older brother, and he had a helmet that still fits from his old skating lessons. So this is on the very cheap side of the scale, even for a 6 year old player. The Volunteer Fee is interesting – if you choose not to “volunteer” you can pay a fee of $200. All others are “Voluntold” to put in at least 4 hours of work for the association, which usually involves fundraising of some kind.

There is a much broader conversation about the cost of hockey in North America. There have been many articles written about how much minor hockey costs, and how the cost to play is prohibitive.

“We are catering to the kids that are more spoiled in that they come from money – they want this, they want that – and those are the kids that eventually down the line don’t make it because they’ve had everything given to them easy. It’s the ones that have to work harder, train harder and don’t have the money (who) are hungrier to get (successful) and we’re knocking those kids out of the game.”
– Peter Zezel, former NHL player. Quote via The Star

The cost to put Matthew in minor hockey, playing with his 6 year old buddies is on the very low end of the spectrum. As the kids get older, registration and equipment can cost more than $10,000 a season, and God forbid you have a kid that’s a goalie.

What Do We Get For This Money?

Semiahmoo Minor has hundreds of players registered every year, and the vast majority of people are volunteers. Matthew’s team has a Head Coach, two Assistant Coaches, Team Manager, Player Safety person. In addition, there is a power skating coach who specializes in improving the kids’ skating skills.

If you’ve played any hockey, you know how expensive ice time can be, even if you’ve got a dozen players splitting the cost at midnight. Despite the cost, I thought there was actually decent value for what we’ve paid – 2 to 3 sessions each week, varying days and times. Ice times are as early as 7AM, as late as 6PM, which is not bad at all. From October to mid-December, it’s strictly practices, power skating and scrimmages. Our one tournament is just before Christmas, which is also when games begin against other league teams.

What’s Next?

Matthew and myself both love hockey, and we’re both competitive. Once he and his brother threatened to cheer for the Blackhawks because they had beaten the Canucks in the playoffs. I then promptly told them to pack a bag if they want to cheer for another team. I’m certain there will be some future posts about Crazy Hockey Parents, which may in fact be introspective. I’m also hoping to write posts about coaching, scheduling and finances.

If you’ve got any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know below.

Canucks Summer: No News is Good News?

The Colour of Money – it’s not Canucks blue and green

Two of the biggest free agents this summer were Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They signed twin contracts in the Twin Cities with the Minnesota Wild. Both players signed for 98 million over 13 years. Are these guys worth their contracts? Are any players worth this kind of money? Inevitably, comparisons will always be made to other contracts in the NHL. Parise’s contract makes sense looking at other big name offensive stars in the league, but Suter’s contract is the type of deal that artificially drives up the prices of lesser players. Suter’s cap hit is the 2nd highest for an NHL defenceman, only behind Shea Weber, and ahead of big names such as Zdeno Chara, Mike Green, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith. Time will tell if Suter is worth that type of money, without Shea Weber playing next to him.

Rick Nash was traded from the Blue Jackets to the Rangers. Although Columbus GM Scott Howson insists that this was a good deal for the Jackets, it’s not. Columbus gets Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon. Dubinsky and Anisimov are two roster players, and Erixon is a young depth defenceman who will get a chance to play in Columbus. Generally speaking, the team that loses the best player loses the trade. In this case, Nash is by far the best player in the deal. Columbus lost their best player, and look to be treading water again. The Rangers on the other hand look great – they still have a great young defence corps, and added a top notch goal scorer to help out up front.

The Canucks did manage to pick up Jason Garrison, for a cap hit of 4.6 million per year, over a 6 year term. Garrison will hopefully fill the holes left by Sami Salo and Aaron Rome. Garrison could be described as a combination of the two – he possesses the heavy shot of Salo, and has the size of Rome. Time will tell if this former Panther is worth his contract, as the jury is decidedly still out on both David Booth and Keith Ballard, also picked up from Florida.

Luongo not yet traded, Schneider signed to 3-year deal

Roberto Luongo is still a great starting goaltender, and his cap hit of 5.3 million is actually 9th among active goalies. Not bad, but it’s not the cap hit that teams are shying away from – it’s the length of the term, and to an extent, the uncertainty of the upcoming CBA structure.

As if to confirm the Canucks are looking to trade Luongo, they signed former backup Cory Schneider to a 12 million dollar contract over 3 years, at a cap hit of 4 million per year. With Luongo at a cap hit of 5.3 million per year from now until eternity (2021-2022), that means 9.3 million per year is tied up with 2 goaltenders. Mike Gillis doesn’t want to be burned with a bad trade (see: Rick Nash), and he has stated that he isn’t afraid to start the season with both goalies in the lineup.

Having said all that, Luongo has gone on record saying that he believes it’s time to move on. During this interview, Luongo was thoughtful, humorous and candidly retrospective – qualities that were missing too often from his post-game appearances, especially during his tenure as the team’s captain.

Roberto Luongo Interview with CFOX’s Jeff O’Neil Show

What does this all mean?

At this time, the core roster players are mainly the same, including the excellent goaltending tandem of Luongo and Schneider. Arguably, the Canucks have lost a key piece of their defence with Salo leaving, but Garrison fills that spot and adds durability. With the Canucks winning the President’s Trophy for the last two seasons, they might be alright heading into this season. Then again, with some of their divisional rivals getting better (the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild), points will be tougher to gain in the Northwest Division.

Fans should keep the faith. The Canucks always seem to play well when the pressure is on, and with management holding onto vast majority of last season’s roster, the pressure has never been greater.