On (the) Miller’s Tail

(or Why I Like a Lack of Goaltending)

Don’t worry, This was the plan from the start.

by Tyson Michie

I can remember the first time I saw him. It was in Penticton, BC and I was in the stands for the Vancouver Canucks training camp. As the players, mostly young NHL hopefuls, poured onto the ice, one stood head and shoulders above them all. He looked like a man among boys, like Gulliver in Lilliput…like Zdeno Chara anywhere. It was hard not to notice Eddie Lack that day. The 6’4″ goaltender towered over pretty much everyone on the ice, coaches and all. Once the scrimmage started, it was impossible not to notice him. I became an Eddie Lack fan that day, because I realized I was looking at the future of the Canucks, and it looked good.

"How you doin'?"
How you doin’?

At the time, the Canucks were sporting two #1 goaltenders in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. There wasn’t enough room in the crease for the goalies the big club already had, let alone this monster of a kid. I won’t go through all the details, but as we know by the end of last year there was not only room for Lack, but he became the defacto starting goaltender after both Schneider and Luongo had been traded. Lack put up a valiant effort down the stretch, but proved he wasn’t ready to be an NHL starter.


Since then, new management has come in and one of the first things they did was demote Lack to backup by signing star goaltender Ryan Miller. With Miller signed to a 3 year deal, a lot of people think Eddie Lack’s days as a Canuck are numbered. With many people seeing him as a starting caliber goaltender within 2 years of Miller’s contract. They see this as a problem. I do not, though I understand why it’s easy to see this as a potential problem. The Luongo/Schneider saga is still fresh in our minds, and we’re watching a similar situation unfold in Toronto between Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer. As weird as it sounds, no one wants two #1 goaltenders. I don’t disagree with that, and I don’t disagree that Eddie Lack will be an NHL starter long before Ryan Miller’s contract is up. In fact, I think he may be there already.

What does it take to be a successful starting goaltender in Vancouver? First and foremost, mental toughness and maturity. Does Edie Lack have that?


In spades.

Eddie doesn’t just have a personality naturally conducive to being a Canucks goaltender, he also has the experience. He was playing for the Canucks’ farm team, the Manitoba Moose, during the 2010-11 season in which the Canucks dominated the league and fans showered Luongo with praise. He was around to watch everyone turn on Luongo during and after the Cup Final loss to Boston. He was also around to see Luongo get everyone back on his side and how he did it. He watched two fan favourite #1 goalies get run out of town and stayed to take over. He then came back this season as a better player to a lower position, and seems more than happy to do it. Is he mentally tough enough for Vancouver?

I’d say so.

Is Eddie Lack’s play good enough to be a starter? So close, but not quite. At the beginning of the season, Ryan Miller was leading the league in wins, and Eddie Lack was 0-3. He played well, but couldn’t seem to close out a game. Whether his fault or not, goals against in the third period seemed to be the theme for Lack’s first few games. The same could be said of him last season, and it was looking like he was still a backup. A good backup, but a backup nonetheless. His next game he earned a win, holding the Anaheim Ducks to just one second period goal in a 2-1 shootout win. At the time of this writing, Lack’s record sits at 6-7-2, with a .917 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average. Those aren’t fantastic numbers, but in the last few games, I’ve noticed something. Against New Jersey, the only 3rd period goal was Mike Cammalleri’s empty net tally. In Lack’s previous outing, a matchup against the Minnesota Wild, Lack allowed one goal in the third period, which still left the Canucks with a 3-2 lead and eventual victory. The game before that was a high scoring affair against Chicago which did see the puck behind Lack several times in the third, including a bit of a soft one by Marian Hossa to tie the game in the final minute. Regardless, it was just one of those games against he Hawks. The point is his late game play is getting better, and really, the only thing that’s going to improve his play at this point is game time.

So Lack has the personality, mental toughness, and ability to be a #1 goaltender, not just in the NHL, but in Vancouver. Miller is still signed for another two years though. You don’t trade an elite goalie like Miller ever, right?

Well, who fared better over the long-term, Buffalo or St. Louis?

"They said I had to leave once my coffee got cold."
They said I had to leave once my coffee got cold.

In the trade that sent Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues, he was joined by forward Steve Ott in return for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, 2 draft picks (including a first rounder this year) and a prospect. The Sabres turned around and, the very next day, traded Halak and a third round pick for goaltender Michael Neuvirth, and defenseman Rostislav Klesla. Klesla refused to report to the team, but as Buffalo starts a hard rebuild, Chris Stewart looks to bring a big return at this year’s trade deadline while Neuvirth is their starting goaltender and that first round pick, if lower than the one they acquired from the Islanders, could be what got them star forward Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets. St. Louis let Ryan Miller walk, getting nothing in return for him, while Steve Ott is still a member of the team. Meanwhile, that trade seems to be what has set up Buffalo to be very successful in just a few years. Do you trade a goalie like Miller? Sure. If Patrick Roy can get traded, why not?

And that’s the thing. Everyone is looking at Lack as the tradebait. Why are we not looking at Miller as the tradebait? Nothing against him, he’s a world-class goaltender, but he’s not ours. He doesn’t feel like a Canuck. McLean felt like ours. So did Luongo, from the minute he arrived. Schneider felt like ours. Even Dan Cloutier felt like ours and Lack does too. Miller just doesn’t. Miller feels like he’s resetting himself for the second part of his career and, while I’m happy to have him do it here, win us some games, and groom Lack a little along the way, it isn’t a long-term solution for this team. Eddie Lack is.

"I was told the same thing."
I was just given a travel mug at the airport.

The Sabres traded Ryan Miller and they have a potentially bright future because of it. The Blues let him walk and have nothing to show for his time there. Which group would you rather be in, current standings aside? I’m not saying trade him now or this summer. I’m saying split next season between him and Lack, with Miller carrying the slightly heavier game load, then trade him and his reasonable contract next summer. If you’re going to trade any goaltender this year, trade Markstrom. He’s ready for the NHL as a backup at least, and he doesn’t want to wait another year.

If the Canucks want to settle their goaltending, giving the team as a whole a better chance to succeed, this needs to be a team that Lacks in goaltending.

"Did someone say coffee?"
Did someone say coffee?

Illusions and Conclusions: A Look at the Pacific Division

by Tyson Michie

It’s late February, the NHL trade deadline is looming, and all talk is about who should be a “buyer or “seller”. This inevitably leads one to look at where their teams are in terms of the current playoff race. I decided to take a look at that race as well as last year’s race. I’m not sure what I expected to find, but what I did find was quite interesting and led me to conclusions on several Pacific Division teams, and leads me to believe there are a lot of illusions within the Pacific division. First, here’s what I initially looked at:

Pacific Division Standings: Feb. 22, 2015
Pacific Division Standings: Feb. 22, 2015
Pacific Division Standing: Feb. 22, 2014
Pacific Division Standings: Feb. 22, 2014

The first thing one tends to notice is that Calgary and Vancouver look a lot better, San Jose and Arizona/Phoenix look a lot worse, and Anaheim, LA, and Edmonton look about the same. Something was bugging me though. As optimistic as Canucks fans and media seem to have become about the team, they’re only 6 points better than last season. There was something else as well. As horrible as things have been around the LA Kings, the reigning Stanley Cup champs, they sit in 3rd place with 68 points, exactly where thy were last season at this time. This led me to my fist conclusion:

1 – The LA Kings are fine

True, they don’t look like the same team that twice stormed through the playoffs to win hockey’s holy grail, but really, they didn’t look like that in either season leading up to those Cup runs. It’s easy to get distracted when looking at the Kings. Certainly the Slava Voynov situation has been tough on the team. They placed Mike Richards on waivers and now he’s in the AHL. They’ve been losing games that, on paper, they should really be winning. They’re a team limping towards the playoffs.

Guys, they limp into the playoffs every year. It’s how they manage the season. Hell, its how they manage the game. If you watch them enough, you’ll know what I mean. This is a team that, by design, has more to put out when it matters most than probably any other team in the league. Mike Richards will be back for the playoffs, Jonathan Quick will get hot, and Doughty will do what Doughty does. There are some saying this team looks to be in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Are you kidding me? Seeing what I’ve seen from this team, they appear to be in Stanley Cup form once again. One also shouldn’t discount the idea that Mike Richards will be brought back in the playoffs, once the salary cap is taken out of the equation, and that it was the plan all along to deal with the cap crush Slava Voynov caused. Unique situations call for unique solutions, and that would be one. Either way, the Kings are down 2 regulars (Voynov, Richards), sitting exactly where they were last year, and stand to get one of those guys back during the playoffs. All that means the Kings look just fine.

The current 7 game win streak doesn’t hurt that either.

This led me to look at last year’s playoff race, and the points differential from this year, which led me to look at the differentials from each division. Here’s where it got interesting. Despite individual teams having more or less points, both Eastern conference divisions have more points now than this time last year, with the Metropolitan carrying a +13 differential, and the Atlantic a +10. Meanwhile in the Western Conference, the Central division has an even rating while the Pacific is running at -15. This led me to my next conclusion.

2 – The San Jose Sharks have become a much worse team

Every season is different. Every year, teams will move up or down in the standings. After looking at those numbers though, one cannot ignore the fact that 12 of the 15 points lost by the Western conference belong to the Sharks, though the Arizona Coyotes (-17) may share more of that blame. It may be a case of San Jose trying the Los Angeles method, or it may be that, like many have said about Vancouver, their time is up and management needs to start over.

It’s not just that they’re losing more, it’s that they’re losing more within a division that’s losing more. That’s a double whammy. The Pacific is a -15 with a team (Calgary) that is +17. San Jose and Arizona together are -27. Now, Arizona has openly given up on this season, opening trade talks regarding anyone but captain Shane Doan, but San Jose? They’re supposed to make the playoffs this year. They’re supposed to finally do something in said playoffs. They’re supposed to be better.

They’re 12 points worse in a division that’s 15 points worse.

As a Canucks fan I wondered what this meant for my team. They certainly appear to be doing much better than last season. They’re 2nd in the Pacific instead of 5th, and they’re one of only 2 teams with a plus rating from last year, Calgary being the other. Heck, even Anaheim has a minus rating and they’re sitting in 3rd in the league with some considering them the team to beat this year. That bodes well for Vancouver, right?


Anaheim is sitting pretty on top of the division, just as they were last year when they had 6 more points. That tells me the difference of +/-6 is negligible in this conversation. It didn’t affect Anaheim within the division. In fact, being a +9 leaves the New York Rangers in the same spot in the standings as well. These types of numbers are mostly jostling for position, and in the East there are more points overall, while in he West, there are less. This led me to my next conclusion:

3 – The Vancouver Canucks are no better than they were last year

In fact, they might be a little worse. All these numbers should start adding up to something for Canucks fans. The team isn’t in 2nd place because they’re better than last year, but because the division is worse. If the Canucks +6 differential even came close to covering half the -21 differential the rest of the division holds, it might be different. The fact is, though, that they are 6 points better in a division that is 15 points worse. It’s a much better look than San Jose has, but it’s a false illusion of improvement that is actually nothing more than stability.

But hey, stability is what this team needed after last season, right? No one is expecting them to do much, to the point that just making the playoffs again seems exciting. Team President Trevor Linden, GM Jim Benning, and Head coach Willie Desjardins have brought stability back to the organization. That stability has inspired confidence, which has made Vancouver hockey a little more fun again. That’s fine. It’s good. It’s improvement.

That improvement just hasn’t actually shown on the ice yet, despite it showing in the standings.

But improvement is improvement, and teams can improve within bad divisions. The problem is that it’s easy to look like you’re improving when you’re not (see above). There is one team whose differential points to true improvement, though, which leads me to my final conclusion:

4 – The Calgary Flames are for real

Okay, when I say “for real” I don’t mean they’re Cup contenders, I mean they’re not a bad sleeper pick for the final 4. As I’ve stated already, the division’s point differential with Calgary is -15. Take Calgary out and the remaining 6 teams are a -32.

I’m just gonna let that settle.

The Calgary Flames are 17 points better in a division that’s only 15 points worse overall. What’s more the Flames have the work ethic, youth, and potentially the goaltending to make a serious run should they make the playoffs. This is a team that, like Edmonton and Toronto, promised a rebuild. Unlike their Canadian counterparts however, they seem to be delivering. A lot has to do with Head Coach Bob Hartley. He has this team completely overachieving while keeping them convinced they aren’t.

And at the end of the day, they might not be.

Kane’t Fit

by Tyson Michie

Yesterday, the Buffalo Sabres kicked off trade deadline season in high fashion. In case you haven’t heard, the Sabres made a blockbuster deal, sending goaltender Jonas Enroth to Dallas in return for Stars goaltender Anders Lindback and a 3rd rou…

They made another trade you say?

Okay, okay, the Buffalo Sabres acquired defenseman Zach Bogosian and, more notably, star forward Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets for forward Drew Stafford, defenseman Tyler Myers, 2 prospects and a conditional 1st round draft pick. This trade is pretty much a win for both teams. With controversy swirling around Kane as of late, along with his recently announced shoulder surgery and 4-6 month recovery time, the Jets don’t need the distraction or their best player sidelined for a serious playoff push. Surely though, I do not need to add my 2 cents to what can certainly be called a wealth of opinions on this trade and Kane’s particular situation. Instead, I want to talk to one group: Vancouver Canucks fans (of whom I am one).

There are a lot of Vancouver fans who really wanted Evander Kane to become a Canuck. Some are still holding out hope that GM Jim Benning can still pull off a deal with the Sabres to land the skilled power forward. Guys, I get it. I really do. He’s a Vancouver boy who won Vancouver a Memorial Cup for the Vancouver Giants on Vancouver ice. It sounds like a match made in heaven, but guys, it isn’t. We don’t want Evander Kane. At least, we shouldn’t. Not yet, anyway.

First let me say, I’m a big Evander Kane fan. I think he’s an incredibly skilled player who will do well in Buffalo with a team that is merely expected to try hard, not necessarily win. It’s obvious to me that an team should covet a player of Kane’s skill. To say anything otherwise would be foolish. It would be foolish except that the Canucks shouldn’t want Evander Kane.

Now let’s kill all the hope. The Sabres have effectively announced a firesale. Anyone can be had for the right mixture of youth/prospects/picks. They traded for a star player who is out for the season. They will keep him. He is exactly what they’re after; a player who will help them later, but can’t help them now. He’s worth more to Buffalo as a player next season, hopefully alongside Connor McDavid, than he is as a trade asset now. Sorry Vancouver, he ain’t coming home soon.

Now, let’s look at Kane’s situation with the Thrashers/Jets organization. On the ice, he spent his first few seasons learning the pro game in the relative anonymity of the Atlanta Thrashers, a team ignored by both city and league. The first season after the team’s move to Winnipeg, 2011-12, was a breakout year for Kane as he potted 30 goals and added 27 assists. The following season, shortened to 48 games due to labour dispute, Kane netted another 17 goals, putting him close to that 30 goal pace for a second season. It seemed that the city which had got its team back had also got a superstar to go with it. But things aren’t always as they seem, and the next season, 2013-14, saw him score just 19 goals in only 63 games played. This season it’s 37 games played, 10 goals, 12 assists. Now, this isn’t to say Kane was a flash in the pan by any means. This is to try to pinpoint where things went wrong. Many are pointing to the off-ice controversies that seem to follow him with every move he makes, and that being in the fishbowl of Winnipeg; a true hockey city that is still excited to be back in the NHL, was a big problem for him. While I think that’s possible, he had his best 2 seasons in that fishbowl and has never really shown signs of worrying about what are mostly imagined controversies that wouldn’t be news in most NHL cities.

Yes he battled injury that year, but his first underwhelming season, that 19 goal, 41 point 2013-14 season, was also the first season the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization he played for was placed in the Western conference. Suddenly he is constantly battling injury and suddenly his point production is beginning to decline. Suddenly he’s not the superstar he appeared to be. The city turned on him, he turned on the city. His relationship with his teammates broke down, and suddenly his track suit was wet. Does his dwindling point production stem from his injury issues? Probably. But, do his injury issues signal a player who, like many others, will never pay a complete season due to injury? No, but they do signal a kid who needs to mature physically, mentally, and within the game before he can truly be a star in the wild, wild Western conference. Just by virtue of added travel for Western teams, with the cities spread much further apart, it is a more grueling conference. Yes, in his breakout year they were playing in Winnipeg as part of the Southeast division, the furthest division from Winnipeg, but a look at their schedule tells you it wasn’t actually all that bad for travel. Now they’re on the eastern edge of the a spread out conference. They regularly travel to Nashville, Dallas, and Denver. The only nearby NHL team, the Minnesota Wild, is 700km away, while divisional rivals Dallas and Nashville lie 2000km away. That’s tough physically and mentally. This is all not to mention the more physical style of play found among Western conference teams. The situation wouldn’t be a whole lot different for him in Vancouver. Neither would the “fishbowl” effect. Not that I want to get into Kane’s off-ice issues in Winnipeg, but let’s take a moment to look at that. A lot of people are wanting this Vancouver boy to come back home and bring another prestigious hockey trophy to the city. That would be great, but if his off-ice behavior is to be an issue, and if a big part of that equation is his not liking the fishbowl, is Vancouver the best spot for him? If you think Winnipeg is a fishbowl, try going home.

But hey, this is all speculation, so let’s speculate that he can get past all this. Let’s speculate that the team and the city can too. Let’s speculate everything would have gone swimmingly. There’s still a problem. With so many Vancouver fans and media saying the Canucks need a young, big bodied, crashing winger with skill (which Kane has been an underwhelming example of for 2 seasons) it can be easy to convince yourself they don’t have young, big-bodied, crashing wingers with skill. It seems to this writer that the Canucks do, in fact, already have a young, large, underwhelming winger showing flashes of brilliance; Zack Kassian. Now, Zack is not Evander Kane, but he does fill the role, and if he can reach the potential all Canucks fans know he has, he can fill the role just as well. Given the comparison though, you’d still take Kane, right? Of course. Take Kane and trade Kassian later, or for Kane. Here’s the thing, we still already have another young, underwhelming, big-bodied, crashing winger with skill showing flashes of brilliance. Shawn Matthias may not be setting the world on fire now, but he is showing major signs of a breakout season next year, if he is still in this system. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with two of the same player, right? Right, except now you have another young, big-bodied, crashing winger coming up; Hunter Shinkaruk.

Look, the biggest problem the team has faced in recent years has been too many of the same type of player. For several seasons, the Canucks have basically iced a first line, and 3 third lines. Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, Alex Burrows,Brad Richardson, Derek Dorsett, Tom Sestito, Max Lapierre, Derek Roy, and on the back end Yannik Weber, Frank Corrado, Ryan Stanton, Luca Sbisa…too many of one or two players. They’re all good players, but they all fit a lower line or lower pairing role. You can’ fix that by adding too many of a better player. You’ll only lose better. This is a team sport with roles to be played. It may not look like it right now, but the Evander Kane role is filled.

There are of course ways around that, like trades, and Kane does present something closer to a “win now” attitude than Vancouver seems to have and for which there is something to be said. However, in the case of the Canucks, is it win now? Not really. You’re giving up players you have now, who might be able to get a playoff series out of this season, for a guy who will be coming back from shoulder surgery in 6 months. You’re essentially saying goodbye to this season for next season. You’re also undoubtedly saying goodbye to some good prospect or even young roster players. You know, the future of the team? I don’t know how a team rebuilding on the fly can expect t win now by mortgaging the now and future for a guy who’s out 6 months.

There are a lot of reasons to wish for Evander Kane in the blue and green. He’s a rare talent, an amazing player. It certainly would make a great story, especially if he was able to help finally bring a Stanley Cup to the city. But there are also a lot of reasons not to wish for him in Vancouver, reasons which are largely being ignored. Vancouver is not a great place to regain and strengthen yourself mentally. Mike Gillis’s biggest sin as Canucks GM was filling the roster with too many of the same player, and they have players of Kane’s prototype, if not skill level. Kane does not thrive in a fishbowl atmosphere, and he’s from Vancouver. He’s not mentally ready to carry a team that wants to win, win a lot, and win now. He’s a star in the Eastern conference, and average in the West.

He’s just not a good fit for Vancouver. Not right now.

To Whom it May Concern:

by Tyson Michie

"...but I do not fear, for the Leafs cannot go forever without another Stanley Cup!" -Anonymous Leafs Fan c. 1876
“…but I do not fear, for the Leafs cannot go forever without another Stanley Cup!”
-Letter from Anonymous Leafs Fan c. 1876

Dear NHL Players:

Should I wait until you're done?
Should I wait until you’re done?

Hi! How are you? I am fine. How is the weather? It is cold here.

I’m a big fan of your work. I have jerseys with your names on the back, and a collection of hockey cards and memorabilia bearing your pictures, stats, and personal histories. I watch your games, I read your books, I follow your careers. With all of the outside influence; coaches, management/ownership, other fans, media, etc, etc, it can be easy for those of us who don’t play the professional game to lose sight of a couple of things. I want to own up to those things right now.

Look, we don’t really treat you that well. No argument. Whether we admit it or not, we look at you as robots designed to score for our favourite teams or pad our fantasy stats. We cheer when you bash each other’s heads in, and look the other way when faced with watching you handle the long-term repercussions. More than that, you’re also supposed to be designed to give us the exact sound bites we want. We expect you to play a high-speed, high emotion sport, and spew safe clichés for 15 minutes immediately after. Be interesting, just don’t ever say anything interesting. You’ll get roasted alive. We seem to think you’ve been extensively trained in the field of PR, and we watch and listen to you like hawks, waiting for the moment you make a verbal slip up, or “controversial” tweet. We then vilify you for being human when you don’t meet our off ice standards. As a child, you were sold on a dream that you could get paid a lot of money to smack a puck around a rink. You achieved that dream only to realize that is but one small part of your job. You must not only achieve perfection on the ice, but off as well. We expect it.

The thing you have to understand is, you’re not the team. None of you is. Not long-term anyway. In the long-term I and every other fan are the team. You see, we were here before you showed up and we’ll be here long after you’re gone. Yeah, there’s always a bandwagon, or fair weather fan contingent, and you’ve been around the game as long as we have, but you also just showed up on our team. We’re always here and we always support you. Rather, we always support whoever is wearing that shirt, and you happen to be wearing one. Everything you do reflects on our team and on that jersey and logo. It reflects on me and anyone else who is your fan as long as you’re in town. If you get traded, or cut, or retire, I may be sad or I may be happy. Either way, I will get over it though. It pains me to say this, but you are a cog; removable and replaceable, and the team is more important. Long term, that means that we the fans are who matter most, not the players.

Your paycheck depends on what I’m willing to pay for your jersey and tickets to your games. Remember that.


Dear NHL Fans:

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

Guys! What the hell is wrong with us? Why do we act the way we do? Why do we abuse those we hold in highest esteem?

Look, I’m with all of you. I paid for my jersey and if I want to burn it, I’ll damn well burn it. If I want to throw it on the ice after a game, I’ll do that too. Hell, I’ll throw it in a puddle outside if I’m mad enough. It’s my right. I paid for the shirt, I paid for the ticket, I paid for the right. I get it.

But guys…guys…

It’s one thing to throw your jersey on the ice after a bad loss on a bad losing streak after years of bad losing teams. Edmonton, Buffalo and Toronto have earned the right to toss their jerseys, but not during play, or at a game in another league (even an affiliate league). Come on guys.

Speaking of throwing things on the ice, does anyone remember a few years back? A certain Leafs fan throwing certain breakfast foods on the ice? Guys?

Who throws a waffle?!

That wasn’t just him, though. That was a representation of us all. And it’s bad enough when an individual gets an idea. It’s much worse if you get a bunch of us together and piss us off. Vancouver Canucks fans, both real and faux, ripped apart their city after losing the Stanley Cup in 1994 and again in 2011. TWICE! Speaking of Canucks fans, they were mad at Coach John Tortorella at last year’s Heritage Classic for deciding to sit Roberto Luongo in favour of backup Eddie Lack. Canucks fans were right to be a little peeved, as was Luongo. What they did though…

They showered chants of “WE WANT LU!” down on the ice surface a BC Place. They aimed those chants at Luongo in support and Tortorella in rebellion. The thing is, no matter how they felt about it, both Tortorella and Luongo were on the bench. Despite everyone watching them to some degree, it’s easy to feel hidden on the bench. In the crease though? There stood Eddie Lack, in the premiere game of the season, playing outdoors in front of thousands upon thousands of fans who were telling him, in no uncertain terms, that he shouldn’t be there. Eddie’s a smart guy. He knew that wasn’t his game. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be there, but everyone had to tell him anyway. Now Roberto is gone and Eddie is still here. Canucks fans should count themselves lucky that Eddie Lack has such an untouchable personality. Anyone else would have told that city to shove it, and anyone else would have had a really good point.

And that’s just how we treat on ice play. Our expectations and treatment of off ice behaviour can sometimes border on lunacy. Do we really care what Evander Kane tweets? Do we really care what Sean Avery says about Elisha Cuthbert or at all? Do these things really matter to us? Do we really need to lap up everything the media feeds us? The media can be great. It brings the game to us, both directly and indirectly. It gives us the information to make decisions for our ever important fantasy teams. It lets us know which players are likely to be traded. It tells us that Martin Brodeur is retiring and Mike Richards was sent to the minors. This is why we should watch. Anything else should be ignored. Anything else signals a slow news day. It is time filler for a 24 hour sports news cycle that, in reality, has no right to exist.

If those are the stories you like to watch and love to talk about the next day, maybe you should switch over to TMZ. There’s just as much hockey to be had, and way more of what you seem to want.

We don’t depend on these guys do we? If thy all disappeared a new group would come along in 20 minutes to take their place. So we don’t need them, right? Wrong. We do need them because we need someone, and they’re the best. We need hockey. We need the games, the fantasy teams, the stories. We need the distraction and we’re willing to pay for it. We pay them to play, we pay them to talk, and we pay them to let us wear their names on our shirts. We pay them a lot for all this, and then we turn around and scream that they don’t give us enough because they’re overpaid to play a game. That’s not true.

Their paychecks depend on what you’re willing to pay for their jerseys and tickets to their games. Remember that.

The Black’N’Blueline ManiFANsto

by Tyson Michie

I’m ba-ack!

Okay, few probably noticed I was gone, but look, several things happened. First and foremost Richard is now a proud father, which means he’s too busy for the likes of you now. There were other things that contributed to my absence and Blacknblueline.com’s stagnation, but I won’t get into them here. The long and the short of it is I’m alone, I’m here, and I want to write.

What do I want to write about? I want to write about lots of things. the Canucks, Oilers, Leafs, Ducks, Slava Voynov, Mike Richards, All Star games, outdoors games, NCAA, overseas interest…you name it, I want to write about it. So, I’m going to. Also, I did all the back work I missed and am proud to announce the Black’N’Blueline Championship Belt is also back! Be sure to check that out!

Another thing that changed is my perspective on my fandom. I am a fan of the game. A fan of hockey. I like the leagues, but I am not a fan. I have favourite teams and I will use the word “fan” to describe myself, but it won’t be entirely true. I say this because I’d rather watch my Canucks lose a tight, exciting game than see them blow out a terrible team. I love to see them make plays to perfection, only to be stopped by a goalie putting on a stellar performance. I’d rather see good hockey than see my team win. A player can tarnish himself. So can a team. A team can tarnish a player and a league can tarnish them all and itself. None, though, none have the power to tarnish the game, the sport, the spirit. It’s about a lot more than wins and losses and needs to be appreciated as such. This is the lens I will be looking through, and attempting to show you. I only hope I do a worthwhile job.

The Hockey Dad Survival Guide

*****EDITOR’S NOTES*****
This is a guest article by Nutz Grubner
Nutz Grubner is NOT a member of Black’N’Blueline, I cannot stress this enough. He is the proud owner of The Dumbp and showed up on my doorstep about half an hour ago, on what appeared to be the tail end of an acid trip. He handed me this and walked away without a word.
This piece has not been edited in any way.
-Nutz Grubner may or may not be the reincarnation of Newsy Lalonde, though no one claims he is, and Nutz himself does not believe in reincarnation.
Nutz Grubner’s Twitter account: “@NutzGrubner” Was hacked. Unfollow him now.
The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of Black’N’Blueline, its partners, affiliates, ancestors, pets, or music teachers.

"I'm a hockey mom. This is what I do."
“I’m a hockey mom. This is what I do.”

By Nutz Grubner
I recently read a blog post giving tips to hockey moms, and offering a free “Hockey Mom Survival Kit” to one lucky reader. Though the blog in question is sponsored by the company that just happens to make all of the products in said Survival Kit, as well as every product mentioned in the article itself I’m not here to take any credibility from the author of the post or the post itself. Frankly, the company in question, does make a lot of great products to be regularly used by hockey moms everywhere. The products mentioned are very good for the purposes mentioned and said Survival Kit, as well as the tips, would surely be helpful to any hockey mom out there. But what is a new hockey dad to do?

"This ice hockey uniform top is acceptable apparel for this afternoon's match, is it not?"
“I believe this ice hockey uniform top is acceptable apparel for this afternoon’s match, is it not?”

With the sport growing at a fast pace, many young fathers are finding themselves feeling much like so many first-time hockey moms. Unsure of the rules, both written and un, they are often forced to either take the position of “when in Rome” and simply hope not to screw up somewhere, or just separate themselves from the whole thing, always watching alone from some dark corner of the rink and relying on other parents to develop their child in the sport. Well, hapless hockey dads, I’m here to help. I may not have a fancy $40 prize for anyone, but I do have some tips for you from my years spent in minor hockey arenas. In fact, I’m certain I can turn you into a great hockey dad with just the following ten easy steps. Consider this your survival guide, or user manual, depending on your relationship with your child.

1: Skates are expensive. Many printers nowadays can create very good, high quality stickers. Use this technology to cover up the “KOHO” with a “CCM” logo or Nike swoosh. Suddenly that $40 pair of skates looks like you broke the bank and, therefore, don’t hate your child.

2: The repeated cost of sharpening skates at around $5-$10 a pop can add up quickly. Most arenas have beat up machines that do it for about $2 or so, but these machines are cheap for a reason as they do a terrible job. Anyone who sees you will make fun of you for using it, so make sure no one sees you. If someone walks in on you while your kid’s skate is inside being “sharpened,” walk away and tell your child his or her skate was stolen by the mafia and you’ll buy a new pair.

3: Bring along something to dry off the blades of your child’s skates after practices and games. An old sock or pair of underwear; anything that used to collect sweat from parts of your body normally hidden from public view will do the trick. If you forget a rag, however, the cuff of your jacket will work too.

Don't use this...with anyone present
Don’t use this…with anyone present

4: Speaking of sweat, your child is going to sweat a lot. Because of this, his or her equipment is going to smell ghastly, and render the vehicle it travels in almost unusable. If you don’t own a pickup truck, try to use your wife or boss’s car and be sure to turn up the stereo as you drive. If any of your passengers complain, shove a couple of drier sheets in vents or just tell them to go to hell.

5: The same smell will permeate whatever area you store your child’s equipment in. An easy way to avoid this is to store your child’s equipment somewhere you don’t generally go, such as the laundry room, linen closet, or neighbour’s shed.

6: You’re going to find yourself in some cold arenas, which means you’re going to get the odd runny nose. If you’re too damn good to use your sleeve like everyone else, there are usually some napkins on the concession counter for people like you. They’re even greasy, somehow, so as to feel smooth against your skin, your highness.

7: Most minor hockey teams have a rotating system for a different parent to wash all of the jerseys each week. When your turn comes around, here is the easiest system I have found for completing this task*:
Step 1 – Put both sets of jerseys in the tub with a little bit of soap from beside the kitchen sink.
Step 2 – Turn on shower. Run for 30 minutes.
Step 3 – Put soaked jerseys in the dryer. Leave there until merely damp.
Step 4 – Put them on hangers and hand them off to the next guy.

*-Note: If you do this properly, you’ll never be asked to do it again.

8: Minor hockey arenas tend not to serve alcohol, but there is usually a terrible bar nearby where you can pass the time during your child’s evening game or early morning practice. These places usually sell hot wings pretty cheap, which also takes care of that “mid-game snack” you were supposed to bring.

Like this, but with cheap beer and swearing.
Like this, but with beer and swearing.

9: Every team has at least one a-hole dad. This man can be recognized by a few determining factors including, but not limited to:
-Yelling at refs
-Yelling at coaches
-Drinking beer from a travel mug at Pee Wee games
-Drinking beer from a travel mug while driving
-Yelling at players
-Yelling at timekeepers
-Buying $500 worth of 50/50 tickets and bragging about it
-Yelling at other parents
-Yelling at concession workers
-Lighting a cigarette 30 steps before exiting the building
-Yelling at arena maintenance workers
-Yelling at small children
-Losing $500 on the 50/50
-Yelling at the cop who pulled him over on the way home
In that order. If you can’t figure out who the a-hole dad on your team is, it’s probably because you’re yelling too loud to hear him, a-hole. Don’t be the a-hole dad on your kid’s team. There’s no need to yell anyway. Most kids don’t go pro, but yours definitely will. It’s fate, and no one can stop it, so relax.

10: Practice at home is important, especially studying tape. I suggest Slap Shot, Youngblood, Miracle, and the entire Mighty Ducks series.

And a Bonus!
11: Learn the phrase “Leafs suck”. You will be instantly accepted by 95% of hockey fans outside Toronto. If you live in Toronto, move.

There you have it. Ten easy steps, plus I snuck in a bonus, so, you’re welcome. Armed with the knowledge you’ve gained here, you can successfully put your kid in hockey knowing you won’t make a total ass of yourself. Take what you have learned here and unleash yourself on an unsuspecting public as you shame them with your knowledge of how to be a hockey dad.

Hockey History: Crossing the BC Boundary

by Tyson Michie
Driving through the Boundary region of southern British Columbia, so named for its proximity to the Canada/US border, you can’t help but feel in your gut that there is history in the hills. A quick trip through small town Grand Forks, or even smaller town Greenwood, will tell you your gut is a smart guy. The story of this region is the story of Western expansion; mining, logging, and railroads giving birth to camps and settlements across what is now British Columbia and Washington. As a linking valley between the province and state, the area would come to identify with both Canada and the US. Some of the settlements would survive, others would not, but they would all play their role in the history of the region, province, and nation.

But a quick trip through will not tell the whole story. You will pass by many school and sports fields, but only one actual arena, which is in Grand Forks. You may notice the outdoor rink, the only rink that serves the town, as you drive through Greenwood. You may blink and miss the sign pointing you to Phoenix Ski Hill; a tiny ski lodge next to what used to be the city of Phoenix, BC, whose citizens claimed to have the highest rink in all of Canada. You won’t see much else in the way of hockey, though, as these are the only symbols of what used to be. With nearby longtime hockey towns like Vernon and Penticton in the Okanagan valley to the west, and the Kootenay region with Trail and Nelson to the east, it’s easy to ignore the Boundary’s place in hockey as you pass through wondering when the Vees play the Smoke Eaters next, and no one would blame you. It would, however, be a mistake.

James Donaldson Park

If you stand outside the home of the Grand Forks Border Bruins of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League; a league low on the proverbial totem pole of junior hockey, you’ll find yourself looking at the most prominent sports facility in the region. No, not the Grand Forks Aquatic Centre and Arena you’re standing in front of, but James Donaldson Park, just across the highway that runs through the heart of the small city. Looking at one of the top baseball fields in Canada, host of one of the top amateur tournaments in the world, you might be inclined to believe that baseball is infinitely more popular, and has more history in the small town, but the fact is, as much as baseball is loved in this area, there is arguably as long a hockey history here as anywhere else in British Columbia. In fact, the Boundary region is a birthplace of sorts for hockey in British Columbia, and the story of hockey in the Boundary region, is the story of the region itself, and many areas of BC and northern Washington where ghost towns now sprinkle the landscape.

The history of the area is mining and logging, and it was mining and logging that brought workers from the east. These workers brought with them all the things they already loved, including the game of hockey. At first, games between rival towns and camps were sparse, as winter travel through the mountains often proved prohibitive, and were as rough and vicious as one can imagine barely-organized games between miners and loggers of the time could be. It wasn’t long, though, before order was introduced and teams from Grand Forks, Greenwood, and Phoenix started playing each other fairly regularly. In 1906, Grand Forks and Phoenix fought to claim the first covered rink in the area, and possibly the province, with each city building one that year. The very next year, Greenwood followed suit, building their own enclosed arena. By 1908, teams from the three towns had formed the Boundary Hockey League, said to be the first hockey league in all of British Columbia. The league’s first season, 1908-09, ended with Grand Forks winning the Boundary Hockey Championship Cup, the first hockey trophy awarded in British Columbia. Between 1908 and 1912, the league would grow to include teams from the neighbouring Kootenay region, representing the towns of Rossland, Nelson and Trail. On top of all this, it would be a crime not to mention that Phoenix is claimed by historians to be the home of the world’s first Women’s hockey team, though Queen’s University in Ontario makes the same claim.

In 1911, the Phoenix Hockey Club came closer to the Stanly Cup than any team from the Boundary, before or after. Having won the McBride Cup as provincial champions of BC, the team had won the right to challenge for the Stanley Cup. Their challenge to the Cup holders at the time, the Ottawa Hockey Club, was deemed “too late” however, and they were denied their shot at hockey’s holy grail. Within a couple of years, the Boundary Hockey League found itself positioned as the farm league for the Patrick family’s newly formed Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

When the First World War broke out the need for copper pushed the price through the roof and mining the metal from camps outside Phoenix to be smelted in Greenwood and Grand Forks proved very profitable, and the area boomed even more. Immediately after the war, though, the price of copper fell dramatically. The entire industry was all but destroyed and the once populous cities were suddenly all but ghost towns. Phoenix, having been hit the hardest, did become an actual ghost town, almost overnight. Several decades later, coal was found directly underneath the abandoned city. The entire place was razed, and an open pit mine was replaced it. Today, that pit of a mine is all that is left where Phoenix, BC once stood. One of the early western Canadian hotspots, home of the first women’s hockey team in the world, is now a hole in the ground on top of a mountain. The only evidence of the city that once earned the right to challenge for The Stanley Cup is a WWI Cenotaph and a graveyard.

The region that gave British Columbia its first hockey league and trophy, is now represented by a single Junior B team. Greenwood is a shadow of its early 1900s self, its 676 residents proclaiming it the Smallest City in Canada, while Grand Forks, though survived as the largest city in the area, remains a hard luck town, living and dying on the forestry industry. This is a small area of Canada with very close historical ties neighbouring Washington state, and by extension, the US itself. Its biggest claim to fame in the sports world is the annual Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament (formerly the Labour Day International Baseball Tournament) which draws teams from all over North America and the world. It’s easy to understand why baseball is such a popular sport in the area and has been for years. Just don’t let that distract you from hockey’s place in the Boundary region, and the Boundary’s place in hockey history.

The 1911 McBride Cup Champion Phoenix HC