Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Pierre Page was a good coach

no one said ever. 

You know those guys that were coaching when your parents we young? Those guys that know everyone, have been everywhere, yet have not done anything at all? 

Pierre Pagé
Pierre Page who is currently a coach of Red Bull Salzburg, director of hockey operations, and a guy who works on team's hiring policy, is one of those people. Given the chance this guy can talk for hours. I've heard his players comparing his speeches to those of Fidel Castro on Cuba.

When my local team cancelled post game press conferences in favor of press statements done in passing by players and coaches one of the things I started to miss were his speeches on these. Previous years, regardless of winning or losing, Pagé just started to talk, and talked for quite some time. 

My first encounter with Pagé as after winning a game over a team crippled by injuries and overcoming a 2 goal deficit in last two minutes followed by a win in OT, "my" local team playing with two D-men in 3rd line as forwards. Pierre promptly recalled some SC run with one of his teams sometime between '80ies and mid '90ies and proceeded to talk about it for good 15 minutes.

And then there were playoffs

This time he has outplayed even himself. After barely qualifying for the playoffs Pagé team lost in the opening game. He didn't congratulate the opponents, or commented the game. This was a playoff game. 

Pierre Pagé, EC RBS player, Marty Raymond, Curtis Fraser
Pagé said (quote): "I've been in this league for 6 years now. And just last week I heard a comment by Swiss ref saying that this league has no speed and no skill. These are not my words but words by Swiss refs, Swiss GMs and Swiss coaches."

Well too bad mr. Pagé, but is this not a league in which you with almost unlimited budget can't compete? A league where you wouldn't qualify for PO if there hadn't been a system that favored you rotating a thousands of players? In few months of regular league Pagé has dressed 28 different import players and had overall of 57 players on his 22 men roster at some point.
Dont blame the players, blame the bad coach

I'm not sure here but it sounds to me like he didn't get a single player with speed or skills that mattered to him this season. Note at this point that Salzburg acquired several LOCKOUT players (most in league) this season like Johnny "The Rocket" Boychuk, Clarkson, Dorsett, Brassard, Tobias Enstrom. These guys weren't good enough I guess.

I wonder what they would say. Or Nick Ross, Ryan Kinasewich, Tyler Maxwell, Justin Keller, Shawn Hunwick and many more from previous seasons. The team is a joke. Hopefully it'll become something as it has means and facilities to be big. Without Pierre Pagé.

The issue with dropping a bomb in closed quarters full of people

was never a problem with Pierre Pagé as he managed to say the following:

"NHL has become a league with lack of skill and speed recently and is not looked upon anymore." 

Erm... what? Best players, best coaches and best venues in the world, but the league lacks skill and speed to be the best in world? 

It's not over till Pierre sings

Playoffs are a series of games between two clubs. They are played until last man standing and many things are done that wouldn't be done otherwise in a regular season game.

Now, Pierre Pagé is a master in those games. Not playoff games but in dirty games. 2007/08 Red Bull Salzburg was losing to Olimpija. One of the reasons was a superb goalie Alex Westlund between the pipes of Olimpija.
Player in crease holding a goalie and its a good goal. 

Tactics? Easy, ram the goalie. Didn't work then.

It worked today. When faced against a superb goaltending its best to brew a old recipe - have a sucky player ram the goalie and lets take the game home. Daniell Welser, a mediocre austrian player rammed and injured an Olympic Slovenian goaltender just so his team can win. Shoulder to the head works. Usually.

Also this is a good goal apparently:

This won't work as Medvescak has two excellent goalies and hopefully Pierre Pagé dirty moves will be penalised soon enough with a plane ticket to a nursery home. So long old man, we'll miss you...

That one you will never hear. Beat it.
Ha - Ha (Nathan Perkovich) 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Olympics, playoffs, Russians, hockey

What do Croatia, Germany and Denmark hockey players all have in common?

They're all going to watch Olympic games on TV. 

Robert Kristan standing firm for Slovenia against Denmark
Austria and Slovenia made an uproar and qualified to the Olympic hockey tournament in Socchi 2014! Beating "hockey" countries like Belarus, Ukraine and Denmark Slovenia qualified for the first time (since 1984 and OG in Sarajevo where they played as part of Yugoslavia), while Austria took a point from Germany with a goal in last minute to tie the score.

Slovenian team trying to hug their goalie all at once for stellar performance
at OGQ tournament. Photo by iihf.com
What do Austria and Slovenia have in common? Well, its a similarity at least. Almost all players from Austria play in the local/regional EBEL league, but almost all players from Slovenia play abroad. And they're mostly out of a single, and world-known, hockey school. A school where Anže Kopitar was made, on a sunny side of Alps in Jesenice.

So, in a league where Vanek stayed with his folks in a village in Austria (Graz) and scored like 15 points in 11 games. A bit less then he managed to do in his dozen or so games of a shortened NHL season. Yikes, EBEL is better league than NHL!

Btw. three countries with teams playing in EBEL are going to Olympic games. Only two countries with teams playing in NHL are going to Olympic games. Do the math! I know I did.

So, Sammy Gagner said congrats to his Austrian Eskimo brothers:
Also, Andy Chiodo, his former teammate and two times draftee commented the same. He discovered twitter as well recently. Coincidence? I think not.

Though, somehow I think Gagner's tweet went to a broader audience. But we're all praying that finally this is the year Oilers and Sammy go to playoffs. If not, he'll always have the Alps.

Anže Kopitar was also proud on his baby bro and his papy who pulled Slovenia to the first Olympic Games tournament in history. No one understood what he wrote though. Well, his teammates in Slo did. Maybe. Not sure.
He did say though that he's playing in Socchi 2014. Take that NHL.

"This is a miracle," Slovenia head coach Matjaz Kopitar, father of the Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar, was quoted as saying afterwards. "A great success, not only for our sport, but for our nation."

http://instagram.com/p/VmrMGWrOc1/ This picture sums it all up.

What else? Oh yeah, they have to brothers actually named Rodman. Cool right? And their brightest stars is a young trio that emerged from Jesenice school Sabolič - Tičar - Jeglič, twenty something kids playing in DEL and Allsvenskan. Going to Olympic games. Good luck boys!

Dustin Jeffrey is doing some graveyard shifts in NHL. And he was a star in Europe. Just like Muršak. Hope Jan gets better though and starts playing again like he knows he can.

Russians are coming

Ergo Arena in Gdansk
Or are they? Poland nominated Gdansk for KHL team. Their idea of a KHL team is a road show that'll be based in Gdansk but will tour around Poland in order to promote hockey. 

Seriously? Who comes up with ideas like those? 

In other news: Russians plan to have Milano in for 13/14 and by 14/15 another Swiss based team. That would sum up to 28 teams, with one spot open for either a Croatian team and Polish team, or someone else with money. 

Two cups one league 

But there's still playoffs to be played in EBEL league before Russians arrive (if?). EBEL has a really silly intermission round system worked in a way to give bottom teams a chance to qualify for playoffs while doing jack shit all season. Also gives chance to Red Bull Salzburg to dress a 28th foreign (transfer card) player this season. A frenchie. Yikes, seriously guys?

Vienna continues to dominate, and are now a team most would bet to win championship. Two cups one league? Yes, thats EBEL. Vienna will miss their star D-man, Dan Bjornlie who's out with a season ending concussion.

Trade deadline doesn't end by 15th so we'll see if they'll bring a substitute by then.

Bears from Zagreb, who are declining in this intermission round, got a new goal scorer, Roman Tomas from Slovakian team Poprad is supposed to arrive to Zagreb tomorrow and join the team for the away game in Vienna. Live video will be at www.medvescakizbliza.com under STREAM. Hopefully we'll have a good game to watch. Its about time.

Geoff Waugh might return to roster after a month long absence due to concussion.

Clayton Stoner still didn't reply to a few questions, but its okay, he's busy in NHL. Hopefully he'll do it soon and we'll have something to read about.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Mike Danton and Ned Lukacevic talk about...

A new / second part of season, both in Europe and North America. Some life, and some emotion. Read all about it:

NHL is starting on 19th while most of European leagues are getting really close to Playoffs. Somehow I feel like we're in early September with all the fantasy drafts, trade rumors and talks about first, last seeds and possible underdogs. While NHL starts soon, Europe is nearing trade deadline (Feb 15th). What will it bring remains to be seen. Hopefully it will be fun couple of weeks!

In Zagreb there's just one difference. There's like 60 cm of snow so far. And its fun. Except for guys. After a loss (and not important at all for 2nd seeded team in EBEL) in "big" Arena on Sunday to last (and worst) team of league they were sent shoveling:

Everyday I'm shoveling: Brandon Buck, Arena employee, Dennis Bozic, Ivan Šijan and Gal Koren. Working hard. 
Sam Gagner and Andy Chiodo (Edmonton / EC KAC) both rediscovered twitter. It's something of a "get a room you two" conversation. Oh boy.

Then I stumbled upon an interview by NHL network with Dustin Jeffrey.

I guess he really liked playing here. Good thing we're all basically literate and can speak English to some degree. Just like any proper country. Right guys?

I've talked to Mike Danton and Ned Lukačević. 

These two guys were extremly nice, and happy to respond to few of my questions. Danton, 5th round draft pick for NJ Devils in 2000, and Lukačević, a 4th round pick for LA Kings in 2004 have something in common. Both are currently playing in Banska Bystrica of Slovakian Elite league. 

Mike Danton in a practice jersey of HC '05 (Banska Bystrica, Slovakia)
Q: Mike, from making to the big league, NHL, to Canadian CIS league. From Sweden to Czech (Austrian EBEL) and back, and now in Slovakia. Quite a trip so far. What are your expectation of this season?

Mike: My expectations for this season are simple: be successful. This year was a little different for me because I became a father in the off-season. So, my priorities for the season were centered around my son. We felt it important to be in a similar culture to Canada for the upbringing of our son. That is why I intended on playing for the Coventry Blaze this season in the UK. However, my criminal background interjected once again and the UK border agency denied me access after two attempts. At that point, I just wanted to play hockey in a country that I was familiar with. So, I signed in Sweden. I played well there and got an opportunity to play here in Banska and it has been great so far. Hopefully, with the talent and speed that we have, we can make a strong push in the home stretch and go as far as possible.

Q: As player vast life and hockey experience, you are regarded by your teammates as a natural leader and something of a "life coach" in every team you play in. Do you consider yourself a changed man?

Mike: Yes, I consider myself changed, but not entirely. I am the same charismatic and entertaining guy that I have always been. That will never change. However, I have matured in life and mentality. I have been through so much in my life that I have a wealth of knowledge in so many areas. I hav eben up and down so much in my life that I have learned from all of those scenarios and can help guide younger players when I recognize similar situations they are going through. That is also a new aspect of my life that I enjoy. I do not mind it at all.

I've talked to Ned as well about Mike, and about having many lockout players this season on team. He talked quite a bit. Ned just loves to talk. 

Q: Your team (Banska Bystrica) had quite a few lockout players on roster. Now that they're gone, how does the team feel?

Ned: Having the NHL lock out players here was great for our club, and also great for the city. The city had a lot of buzz and it was really nice playing along side Micheal Handzus in particular for myself, he helped me really establish my game in the Extraliga. We have been struggling as of late to string together some wins, but the great thing is we're still in a playoff spot, and we feel good about the team we have in front of us.

Q: Your newest teammate is Mike Danton, a guy with huge history and obviously skill. Do you think you can learn a lot by playing with guys like Mike and Handzuš?
Mike Handzus and Ned Lukačević during a game for Banska Bystrica

Ned: Meeting Mike (Danton) for the first time, was a great experience for me and something I'll always remember. Mike has always been judged on his past, and the mistake he made... But just like anyone he deserves a second chance, I'm glad to say he is getting it, in life and in hockey. He (Mike) is a good person with a good heart. On the hockey side of things, he can still play- it's really interesting that someone who was locked up for 7 years is still as good as he is. It just shows why he was where he once was.

Q: You're a student of criminology. Does the understanding of human nature and psychology help you in hockey games?

Mike: Actually, I am a student in Psychology and Criminology with my focus being in sports psychology. In saying that, my education definitely plays a positive role in my hockey career. It is amazing to learn how significant the mind is when it comes to playing sports. I wish I was schooled in this field when I was playing in the NHL. One of the main concepts that I have really focused on the last two years in confidence and self-motivation. It is true: without belief, you really have nothing. Proper self-motivation and confidence can become your best friend or worst enemy in sports.

Q: You played a good season in Czech, and your former colleague at Saint Mary's Univ Kyle Wharton came to the club this season. Why didn't you stay? Can you compare the league to other top leagues you played in?

Mike: Znojmo was a great experience for me. I played well, and the fans were absolutely amazing. However, hockey is business and most of the time emotions do not make the best judgements for contractual agreements. Like I said earlier, we found it important to play in a similar culture to Canada this season because of the birth of our son. Playing in a country where English was not spoken too often would have hindered our situation if something were to happen to our son and daily errands that would have needed to be completed. The EBEL is a very good league. It is fast, skilled and tough like North America. There are many North Americans playing in that league which bring an element of physical hockey to their teams.

Q: What are your plans for this season and future? Do you see yourself working in hockey after you end your player career one day?

Mike: My plans for this season are simple: be as successful as possible. I want to perform as well as I can and help the team win as many games as possible. In the future, I want to play hockey for as long as I can, but I realize that might not be able to happen. Whenever children enter the picture, priorities seem to change. Whatever is best for my son and family is what I will decide to do. I would love to stay in hockey to some degree after my career whether that be coaching or in some type of psychological setting. I guess we will see.

Big thanks to Mike Danton for this great opportunity to talk to him. After I've finished with Mike, I went back head to head with Ned. While he loves to talk (did I mention that?) his second passion is hockey, and third probably poker. For next interview I might call him to play some heads up. 

Q: So Ned, you're in Slovakia for a while now. This is your second stint in Europe. How do you like it so far? Have you been to any of the great cities?

Ned: It's been a great start to my European career. Obviously with my brief stint in the Allsvenskan (Swedish 2nd league) last year, this is my first real taste at European hockey fully. It's a great pace, great life style, and hockey has become fun again. My favorite city I have visited so far has definitely got to be Vienna. 

Q: You played a few games in Sweeden (Allsvenskan) and some in Slovakia now. How do you compare those leagues? How do they compare to AHL and ECHL?

Ned: I think the difference between Allsvenskan and Slovakia is a few things. The conditions are a lot more modern in Sweden, rinks wise. Facilities are a little newer, but the fans in Slovakia are real passionate about hockey and are very loyal. Both leagues were up pace and real up tempo. On paper Allsvenskan is probably touted by general managers as better but I think the top teams here would be good teams in Allsvenskan as well. 
Ned Lukačević during 2008. Flyer's camp sporting a jailhouse jersey

Q: You've been regarded in past as top prospect by LA King's organisation and you eventually decided to play in Europe. Was it a hard decision? What do you miss the most?
Ned Lukačević while playing with Adam Miller (Medveščak Zagreb)

Ned: Obviously everyone's goal playing pro is to play in the NHL some day. At some point you either have to realize you may not make it, for whatever reason. It may be politics, luck, or just not being good enough. You just have to do what's best for your career at that moment, and at the same time enjoy the game of life because at the end of the day hockey is just a game. 

Q: Being born in Podgorica, MON, and you speak fluently the language. Did you find it hard to adapt to Slovakian? 

Ned: Being originally from (and born in) Montenegro , I can pick up bits and pieces of the Slovak language. It is still much different and hard though. It's nice to be close to my heritage as well, and hopefully even closer next year with a possibility of joining the bears (in Zagreb).

Thanks to both Mike Danton and Ned Lukačević for this opportunity. I wish you guys all the best in upcoming games this weekend and hopefully playoffs. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

And we're off!

We got ourselves a season. Europe is feeling better, KHL is still crying over Ovi, Malkin and not sure about Kovi. But hey, its not first time best and brightest are running out of USSR

Also, USA beat Canada. Then Canada got mad. And Don Cherry almost got a heart attack. Poor man, getting so excited over nothing. Lets pretend we cared and lets go on.

So, as we wait for hockey for another week or so, lets preview what happened so far in #Europe

1. Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL in Austria and surrounding countries) had its share of linking and popularity thanks to a nice guy playing for Olimpija Ljubljana, Mike Ratchuk. Over a million views total, not bad man, and nice goal. Feel poor for the kid goalie.
2. Then Patrick Kane went to dangle a bit around Corey Schneider in Swiss. Showoff mostly, and a battle of nerves. Kane won. Woooot.

3. And finally it was time for good old Pavel Datsyuk to teach these kids a lesson. In a KHL game shootout he decided to add a new move. Check out this:
4. But nothing can top Ilya Kovalchuk. I'm sure there are lots of guys on Devils' team that are sweating and swearing just watching this pure art. Спасибо Илье
What can you say? I'm sure lots of these Locked-out guys had fun in Europe. In USA and Canada its all just work. Most of these guys have had first Xmas off since way before they were even drafted. Most of them worked out, enjoyed the Europe for first time.
Dustin Jeffrey selling Xmas cards for Medvescak partner UNICEF

Just think of guys like Dustin Jeffrey, who worked hard to get into a star filled Pens roster. And had first Christmas off. He decided to spend it with his family and friends in Canada.

Michael Grabner got a chance to play for his childhood team, EC VSV in same league as Jeffrey. Guys made him such a sweet video, wonder if he got a mix tape as well? Villach is so cute I just cuddle them all together. Also you can see how awesome Grabner's beard got over time.

Rumours are Grabner's beard got sentient and he had to remove it upon landing on US soil. Or something like that.

Tyler Myers as a farewell gift got a pounding by Nathan Perkovich. 203cm vs 196cm and 10s fight. But was nice. Notice the screams in the arena. Hi Becky.

And another POV with a camera guy having a great feeling of the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80LNkJ6o-50

Damn he must be proud.

Anyways, thats it guys. Lockout is over, tears over new fan favorites have been shed, and we're off to see another, very short, NHL season. Go draft your fantasy teams, set up your leagues and we're off to go.

And Gagner's team is doing great since he left. They might even get to playoffs now. Which is unlikely for Edmonton Oilers.

Burke who?

Saturday, 22 December 2012

You can't take the game from us

Although you've tried hard!

Hockey is a game of passion. Brotherly love and hate. Of curses, swearwords and great plays. Six men with bats, knives on feet and armor go out on the ice hitting each other in battle for the small rubber band. How can we not love it? Well.. when the top league isn't being played, that's how. Give us our game back guys. Think we deserve it.

And it looks like we're going in that way. NHLPA has taken a vote and its a loud "YES". So these guys are going to court to file a dispute against the league. This will be fun.

Whats going on with the game we love?

What Ovi, Stammer, PK and everyone round the world has been asking the same question. And these guys replied - Hockey is ours. The game is on, regardless of what few billionaire owners say about it. And another multi - billion company just found a way to use it to generate revenue. Because NHL doesn't want to generate it, better not to make any money than to give away some of it.

NHL is cancelled until mid January

And fans are outraged. Hell, we want our guys to play, stop bitching about peanuts. NHL cancelled the games, NHLPA player's vote ended with a loud "YES" and we're going to court now. Man the fuck up and get the game where it belongs. Back on ice.

Meanwhile in Europe

There's hockey. Russia is busy voting on their ALL STAR game rosters, many other leagues are shuffling NHL lockout players, washed up AHL players and just trying to bring fans on the rink to spend a dime or two. Support your local hockey club guys! Or local rich guy owning your club.

EBEL league in Austria is particularly funny this week. Actually, not the whole league, but one special part ran by mr. Pierre "I turn the" Page.  What do guys like: Alex Auld, Tobias Enström, David Clarkson, Derrick Brassard, Derek Dorsett have in common with Johnny Boychuk, Mike Duco, Rob Schremp and Mark Cullen?

They were all teammates at one point in Salzburg in last couple of weeks. Yeah, all these guys passed through Salzburg in last two months or so.
Derick Brassard in days of glory for Red Bull Salzburg

Aaron Portzline via twitter: Derick Brassard left his Austrian team without their permission, agent Allan Walsh had this to say: ”Derick Brassard is the 5th NHL player to sign with Red Bull this season and the 5th player to leave within 3 weeks of arrival. Talk to Tobias Enstrom, David Clarkson, Derek Dorsett or any of Red Bull’s current players. There is no more unprofessional organization in all of Europe. The club is misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to justify to their fans and media why NHL players keep leaving.

Wow. Guys with unlimited money managed to turn away PRO players from it? No idea, no tactics, no hope for future as they are sitting on a 9th place and train to Playoffs is going further and further away. 

And then there is... Switzerland! (and Austria and Croatia)

Congrats to Sam Gagner of EC KAC (Austria) on his first invitation to play for Team Canada in Spengler Cup next week! He'll be joining John Tavares, Carlo Coloaiacovo and many others who are yet to be named. 
Sam Gagner in KAC doing a "victory chicken dance" native to a farm he plays at

Very excited to get the invite to play for  in the Spengler Cup. Always a tremendous honour to play for your country.

His new line mate in KAC is Tom Zanoski who ran away from a bad bad coach in Zagreb and went to big league rivals in the most uprising story of the last week. No one outside Zagreb cares about it so we'll leave it at that.
Francois Bouchard in Zagreb, decent on ice, 82kg, rly?
Zagreb went on and tried to sign Bouchard. They couldn't get the actual NHL hockey player so they signed his baby brother Francois Bouchard. Frankie got to town couple days ago and then hopped on buy, went to Czech hooker town of Znojmo and scored a nice goal after a pass of a face off draw. Not bad kid. Now get your cousin PA over here and we can talk some more. Right? Okay thanks.

And don't forget to check out whats Dustin Jeffrey been doing when he's not playing hockey for Penguins.

Michal Handzus, epic hair guy
Stupid Dornbirn also went in line to break Zagreb's record of biggest defeat in season (11:2 against EV VSV Villach). These chaps sitting on 11th (out of 12) place managed to lose by 12:3 in Salzburg. By a team marginally better then theirs and around thousand times more costly.

Good job guys scoring three goals on these boys.

We're on pretty soon again, hopefully some guys (shoutout to Ned Lukacevic and Mike Handzus) will finish up their interviews. Will you guys? Thanks!

p.s. Ned go work out and get out of that slump. We need you back on scoring track buddy!

Monday, 10 December 2012

We have hockey here

and you don't. Say thanks to Bettman

NHL got cancelled until 30th of December. Is it the last milestone until cancellation of the whole season? Could be, previous were October games, then Winter Classic, then All Star game, and is this the last step before NHLPA and NHL refuse to kiss and make up?

Please do, or we're going to have many more players come overseas and face the cultural shock when they do come. 

There and back again

There are few traditional migrations of players between Europe and North America. One happens with young talent that goes from Europe to try in various junior leagues all over NA and in case of older boys to collegiate hockey, where mostly they stick to studying and play some hockey until their talent gets recognized or more often, until they finish school and return home. 

The other "natural" migration is of talented hockey players moving to top European leagues in search of their dream, and seasoned vets and players to less prominent leagues and clubs looking for jobs. "Kids" often find it strange when they come over from big hockey towns with newer facilities, different ownership status and different lifestyle to a more traditional, sedentary way of life.

Most of these countries have lots of "history" as they put it, and lots of, behind the scenes work, issues players just don't understand at first glance. From mostly English (or French) speaking countries, players venture to Swedish, Finnish, German, Czech, Slovakian, in some cases Italian and in best of those to English (UK) and French speaking countries. Lots of languages, players from all over world and from dozens of different cultural styles often meet. And then you start talking about hockey. If they're lucky they land in a place where there are a few NA players already or at least a coach to help them sort it out. 

Crimmitschau ice hall - open to the side and woods on the right
Now, imagine to land in a small city (eg. Crimmitschau - signed Simmonds, Stewart and MacArthur), some 250 km south of Berlin on border with Czech republic. Folks are mostly German with some Czech mixed in between, players are almost all German, with few imports from East. And you're a Canadian guy that doesn't speak German. Your coach knows some words but that's it. And in between facility is 3 parts closed and one part open towards the woods. And You haven't played outdoors since you were a kid. 

Its kind of hard to get there and into the game isn't it? Now instead of German town put in a Czech city, a Hungarian metalworking town, or any other place. If you're lucky you end up in bigger cities or, in places where many people know your language. Otherwise you adapt, start learning the local language or in some, you just don't bother.
Wayne Simmonds in Europe during NHL lockout
Now imagine that with all those cultural and language barriers you head into a bunch of provocative and drunk fans that start throwing racial slurs. Wayne Simmonds is a hell of a player and he felt that. Lots of ink has been spilled over chants calling him a monkey in Czech republic so I wont cover it all again. It was just a really ugly game, that shed some really bad light on European hockey and its great and loud fans. Hope it won't happen ever again. Good luck back home practicing with great guys at "Beyond the next level" facility in Toronto by @DeejBTNL 

Players that head into bigger cities like Vienna, Berlin, great organisations like Red Bull Salzburg (just added Boychuck, Dorsett, Mike Duco etc.), Milano get it easy as they can feel the spirit of Europe just by poking their heads out. 

Dustin Jeffrey (Medvescak Zagreb) - photo by Igor Šoban
Dustin Jeffrey (Pittsburgh Penguins) went to Venice on his first day off, then went to Budapest. All in a driving distance from Zagreb, Croatia, where he currently plays and makes fans love him with his every move  day in and out. He will get to visit one of the great cities of the world, Dubrovnik, and many more just by having an NHL lockout. 

Many others, including guys in Swiss, Germany and other countries like Briere, Giroux, Tavares, Ty Seguin and many more have great time playing abroad. Of course they mostly play for pocket money and insurance, but they do what they love. They play hockey. They give their best each day, each practice and aren't spared on the ice. 

Sam Gagner happily chewing on a mouthpiece. He's the one
 in white red jersey. #97 in case you missed it. (P: Igor Šoban)
EBEL league has its stars too. Sam Gagner just can't believe how beautiful the Austria (and 4 other countries he plays in while on the roster for EC KAC).  

Beautiful Austria“: On the way to Innsbruck earlier today  

And then he proceeded to demolish Innsbruck with a few goals justl like his teammates Alex Cogilano and Tyler Myers (currently on IR list with a knee injury but expected to be on roster by weekend). Or was it an ankle injury? I'm sure someone cares about it, but its not me. 

Free summer with additional free fall?

And it looks like the NHL season is in indeed a free fall. Another batch of games up to Dec. 30th have been cancelled. Xmas is right on the corner and owners (and players according to HRR) are going to lose bunch of money by not selling games and merch during the games. All that TV coverage, and overall hockey related revenue is basically as good as gone. 

Season 2004. - 2005. is likely going to be repeated, and no one is going to profit from that. Well mostly no one, Europe will love it. Some guys will come over, enjoy the opportunity, possibly for the first time ever in their schedule driven life to enjoy hockey and play abroad. From midget, to AAA to collegiate/pro hockey most of them never had a "free" summer followed by a free fall/winter. Without having to worry about getting through the camps, being sent up/down or traded on a whim of the owners and coaches, players have a chance to do what they're best. Enjoy hockey without a capitalistic driven North American society. 

Enjoy it while you can, soon you'll be flying franchise jets, living a fake dream and enjoying bloated contracts that block negotiations more firmly than any other points Bettman and Fehr are trying to battle around. 

Embrace the LOCKOUT, see the World, play hockey. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012


And there is nothing we can do.

Third month of 2012/13 NHL owner imposed player lockout is looming. Both parties have presented proposals, counter proposals, withdrew proposals and refused to move from their positions. Both parties wish to bring the public and fans on their side. But fans, media and public do have a single standpoint in common: they want to see the game played at the highest level.

RIP David Courtney
But with all these big players, team owners, managers and agents either arguing or looking for job for their clients overseas, fans pay the ultimate price. Without fans the League is nothing. Just like Phoenix. But these guys are not the only ones at loss now.

Recently deceased 22 season long LA Kings PA announcer David Courtney had a job regardless of Lockout. He was the voice of LA Clippers, Angels and Kings so he still had a job when NHL decided they won't play any games yet.

Many other arena and facility workers are now without work. No games, no announcements, no facility maintenance, some places don't even have ice on. Garry Bettman, you didn't just lockout players, you lost a lot of people their livelihood. Get it rolling and take some cuts, be a man in this sport. Its a game of men and honour. Tge greatest game on planet.

While Gary, Don, mediators or not, stop playing. We want to watch hockey, not lawyers and managers fighting over money fans and sponsors throw at your face. For a reason. To watch hockey.

And here is the Class of 12/13 NHL Lockout:

Phil Kessel (@BTNL) doing interview for Sportsnet
Hiding in a world class gym and ice rink the Class of 12/13 Lockout spends their days working out, getting ready and pleasing the not-so-small crowd that gathers at every practice. Beyond the next level training facility is run by a guy living the dream. With big players working hard in the great facility under professional care Mr. BTNL (Dan Ninkovich @DeejBTNL) is doing a real work during the days of Lockout.

It all started with a few players reporting in at the start of lockout for a regular gym sessions, some skating time and dangling the puck while the few days the lockout was supposed to last pass. 

These days you can see running around the gym PK Subban, Kessel, Kaberle, Clarkson, Mason, Winnick, 
many other younger prospects, and many, many fans enjoying a beer while watching their stars skate, play a dummy game or just work out.

Dan, you're doing the job NHL can't. You're making the players stay fit and ready for fans. Keep up the work and lets see you play some shiny with the boys! We're watching.

What else to do when there's no games?

Many players have headed over the seas. Some are in Europe, some in Russia, some are still at home working out. Over the past weeks I've written about numerous players in my "home" league, and since last update there were a few more additions. After Boychuk in Red Bull, the bulls signed Rob Schremp. Why you ask? 
Rob Schremp signed for Red Bull Salzburg
I think this is a good enough answer. Then they signed an NHL duo Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett. And in their first game, they won! Atta boys! Schrimp boy added 4 assists, Brassard scored and assisted, while Boy-chuk was there too. So happy.
From left to right three guys making a living in Salzburg after Gary fucked up NHL season
(Brassard, Schremp, Dorsett)
Rest of the guys aren't noteworthy so far. Gagner is skating in Klagenfurt, Myers is there for company and with roughly 35 TOI, while Bickell can't get his team on a winning track in Znojmo, Czech. Muršak scored tonight a decisive penalty for his team to finally take two points from another away team except Zagreb.

Grabner is skating around, and Nodl is enjoying sweet alpine air. His team did take 5 points in three games but who cares anyways.

The guy who I like in Vienna (one of few) is this guy:

Philip Pinter. Nice guy, nice mustache and great twitter feed. Follow him @85fipo. And he owns twitter feed of Caps. A real spirit of the team.

What else? Ljubljana did a Teddy bear toss. Barely scored a goal. Did throw roughly 7,5k stuffed animals on the ice, almost two per person at the game.

Dustin Jeffrey (Pittsburgh Penguins/Medvescak) scored a goal and started a Toss in Zagreb
Two days laters Bears did the Teddy bear toss. Barely scored a late game goal. 5 thousand something stuffed animals hit the ice, which means less than one per peson in the hall that day. Maybe it'll get better. Or the guys will do some more original activities. But it looked cool though. Really cool.

And now... the conclusion

I've started this post with a thought about players I've been wanting to see on ice in Zagreb for past four years. There are few I've had luck of seeing, and some a luck of calling friends and working with them for a while. 

The list would become a standalone club if all the guys came over. Few of them are "wet dream" of every Zagreb fan, yet, we've seen a few of them ending careers instead of coming over. One of these guys is Victor Oreskovic. 

Victor Oreskovich during glroy days
Vic already had a break in 05/06 and 06/07 after not reporting to AHL camp. This fall he considered going to KHL, hoped of playing a role other than checker and gritty boy in NHL, thought about big money and finally decided to sell insurance. Wow Vic, thats a promising career. From an NHL player (even though you're a 4th liner) to a insurance guy. Hope you like it, but the world is really big and I'm sure a step across the pond (you see what I did there?) would be the right one. Good luck.

Daniel Vukovic
Then there are many other players who fans would like to see over. Phil Oreskovic (without H) is playing in East Coast this season. He would be an okay addition but D part of the club is really strong this season. Also, Mark Popovic is the guy to look out for in Langnau (NLA), Mark Katic (Berlin), Travis Hamonic (NYI - a real wet dream of a few guys I know), Daniel Vukovic, all on D. With these guys Medvescak could take a shot on KHL though. That would be a fun team to watch. And listen to curse. 

Maybe its time to get some lottery money and start a team. Should work like a charm. Or does anyone got a rich uncle? 

Until next time, stay fit, watch hockey, keep your feet moving and head up high.

P.S. Anyone seen Stewart or Simmonds lately?