Tag Archives: NWHL

DTFR Podcast #132- Hall of Guardians and Turtlenecks

The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Class was inducted on Monday, plus we remember the NHL Guardians and celebrate Joe Thornton’s milestones. Tomas Plekanec retired– leaving us a turtleneck to pass on ceremoniously– and Milan Lucic was fined $10,000.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ plight comes with an extension for General Manager Jim Rutherford, while the Los Angeles Kings battle the injury bug in net (we finished recording before Wednesday’s trade between the two clubs).

Meanwhile, Tom Wilson is back, a concussion lawsuit was settled, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game was announced, Jakob Chychrun got a six-year extension and Nick and Connor discuss when they’ll eventually let their kids (if they ever have any) play contact sports.

Support the show on Patreon.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #106- We Recorded This Before Vegas Won (Unedited)

The Original Trio reunite for a special look at the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, college coaches landing NHL jobs and Conference Finals takeaways. Also, we meant Andrei Svechnikov.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #74- Participation Trophies After One Game (Part II)

Jaromir Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames this week, the regular season started (though the Pittsburgh Penguins might not have been told yet that the games matter now) and former players tend to be GMs in the NHL, the Original Trio confirms. Also, we gave participation trophies without even watching the rest of the season for the second year in a row.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

What’s going on with the ECHL?

Last week a second ECHL team in less than a month announced that they would be ceasing operations at the end of the 2016-2017 season.

The Elmira Jackals are joining the Alaska Aces in the soon-to-be-defunct-teams category of sports trivia at your local bar that actually asks questions about ECHL teams. First of all, if such a bar exists, I am impressed. Secondly, real talk, stump trivia could really up their game by asking all sorts of questions relating to the ECHL, but I digress.

The more important question to be asking right about now is what is happening with the ECHL? Is there some sort of financial instability league wide that has yet to be exposed (similar to the concerns that have pained the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) since its birth) or is the loss of two organizations in one season simply a matter of growing pains for the growing in popularity– and importance– second-tier minor league?

As a fan of the forthcoming 29th team in the league– make that 27th team– the Worcester Railers, there is reason to be concerned about the ECHL, if not simply its franchises.

Worcester, Massachusetts as a professional hockey market has long been a staple to minor league hockey in its accessibility to a wide market of fans in the New England region, as well as its affordability compared to some of the major league NHL tenants in the area.

Not to discredit the Manchester Monarchs who appear to be killing it in attendance (by ECHL standards) since dropping down from the AHL as a result of the mass exodus of AHL organizations to California, but having Worcester is crucial to the viability of the ECHL.

From the first puck drop in Railers history, having a rival in the New England region is certainly something to work with for both the Monarchs and Worcester. However, my preference for the Worcester organization over Manchester, as a fan, is not simple.

It all harkens back to the days of growing up with the AHL’s Worcester IceCats, the betrayal that was felt when they left (despite no other options), the joy of seeing a return to the AHL in the form of the Worcester Sharks and the consequential loss of yet another AHL team to bigger and better prospects of league sustainability, as well as prospect development from an NHL standpoint– hello, San Jose Sharks.

Losing the Alaska Aces is a shock, despite their declining attendance figures. Losing the Elmira Jackals almost a month later is a blow below the belt for the ECHL.

It’s one thing to foresee the longterm success of a professional sports franchise in Alaska as well, not ideal, but somehow the Aces made it work for years despite all of the travel, especially in the modern ECHL.

Nobody said it couldn’t be done once the Aces made it happen, in terms of both on ice success– having won three Kelly Cups in their venture in the ECHL from 2003 to 2017– and off the ice, however the ultimate downfall of the team was brought forth by a sluggish Alaskan economy, mounting bills on travel and faltering attendance.

Minor league hockey has long been a staple in New York.

Just look at how many AHL teams there are in the state. Now multiply that number by 1,000 and you should have approximately the number of ECHL teams and AHL teams in the Empire State. I’m only kidding.

Acknowledging that hockey has grown to being more than just a Northern sport on all levels, we really should have seen this coming in terms of perhaps overexerting the market and maxing things out on a bunch of affordable, minor league options in one state that also boasts several NHL teams to boot (in state and within a short driving distance out of state).

The New York market contains the Albany Devils, Binghamton Senators, Rochester Americans, Syracuse Crunch and Utica Comets are all AHL teams in state (with the Toronto Marlies not that far from the up-state border in Canada). Albany, of course, is relocating to Binghamton to replace the Senators who are moving to Belleville, Ontario at season’s end.

All of the teams above are in the AHL, which prides itself not only as being the top minor league in the world, as the greatest affiliate of the NHL, but as one of the most family-friendly sports and entertainment options in minor league sports in general.

Coincidentally, the ECHL is in the same market of family-friendly sports and entertainment options.

The Elmira Jackals are the only other ECHL team in New York besides the Adirondack Thunder– and Adirondack had long been a staple in the AHL, despite changing hands and franchises over the years. Similar to the AHL’s situation in New York, where the Marlies are just across the Canadian border, the Brampton Beast (the Montreal Canadiens ECHL affiliate) aren’t that far at all from the states in Brampton, Ontario.

It should be no surprise that the overcrowding of minor league hockey in New York is quickly disintegrating before our eyes, given the AHL’s Californian adventure prior to the 2015-2016 season and all, but at this point there’s no sense in repeating myself.

The ECHL needs to thrive on bigger smaller markets.

They’ve found niche successes with the Allen Americans (San Jose’s ECHL affiliate), Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh’s ECHL team), Orlando Solar Bears (Toronto’s ECHL farm team) and more, although sometimes their successful franchises in market draw has been helped by their NHL affiliates, recent ECHL championships or admittedly necessary constant ownership turnover.

But one thing is constant, the teams above have all done well in non-traditional hockey markets, where fans are sometimes exposed to the game for the first time at its most pure and otherwise violent level. Minor league hockey isn’t for the faint of heart, considering how many players are trying to live out a dream others might easily have given up on two rungs below on the NHL ladder.

Sure, the loss of the Aces and Jackals can probably be chalked up to the changing environment of NHL-AHL-ECHL affiliate systems and where parent clubs prefer their minor league teams physical locations over others, but the loss of two franchises in an otherwise up-and-coming brand of hockey that could rival baseball’s minor league system shouldn’t be handled lightly.

Despite the contraction, there is a possibility for light at the end of the tunnel. A return could be looming in or around the Las Vegas market with the incoming Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL, as well as a return to professional minor league hockey in Portland, Maine, as a group of former Portland Pirates executives slowly explore their options.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #28- NWHL Wrap Up, NHL GM’s Meetings and More!

The Down the Frozen River crew discusses the success of the National Women’s Hockey League’s (NWHL) inaugural season and Isobel Cup Playoffs, as well as some of the topics at the 2016 NHL GM meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. The DTFR team also talks about the race for the wild card spots with less than a month left in the 2015-2016 regular season. Stay tuned for next week’s all new #DTFRPodcast where the guys will talk some college hockey and more! Hear what the DTFR Crew has to say about the latest news and notes from the NHL as always right here on the Down the Frozen River Podcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter and/or drop us a line on Facebook– your thoughts might make it on our show!

A Few Thoughts…

By: Nick Lanciani

Hello, it’s me- okay I promise I won’t get Adele stuck in your head. I’m back again (kind of) and I’m here to share a few thoughts with you on the state of the National Hockey League as we wrap up the 2016 NHL All Star Break and get ready for tonight’s games. Thank you for reading (and hopefully enjoying) my “Look to the Rafters” series last year. I had a lot of fun writing most of them before the season started, then making minor changes to them before posting them throughout the last several months as I tried to cram them into my busy schedule.

This is my first “real-time” post in a while that hasn’t just been a podcast, because I’ve had other commitments on weekends. Having said that, I’ll resume a regular column role after the Super Bowl because, well, I’ll be working this weekend (go Panthers! – Carolina Panthers, that is).

Anyway, how about the league parity this year? Every division is pretty close unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets, then there’s pretty much no hope (I’m sorry, good people of Columbus, Ohio).

Plenty of teams are in spectacular standings battles as we begin the rest of the season after the All Star Break (it’s not really the second half of the season, since every team has played over 41 games already ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). I’ll be taking a look at some trade deadline previews in the next week or two, as the trade deadline is looming over the horizon, but first here’s a few thoughts for your pleasure…

First, good for the NHL for finally stepping up to the plate and embracing John Scott at the All Star Game- that and the new 3 on 3 All Star Game format made it perhaps the best All Star Game since at least 2004. I won’t go into the hypocritical nuances and overtones from the entire All Star Weekend regarding the storylines the league was drumming up about John Scott, but I digress.

Second, John Scott has a way with words (and I mean it). If you still haven’t had the time to read Scott’s column in The Players’ Tribune go ahead and read it now, I’ll wait. You good now? If you’ve already read it, read it again. Scott’s piece is exceptional. It’s well crafted, well written, and well, better than anything I ever did/aim to do here on this site. Seriously, Mr. Scott, if you ever consider becoming a hockey blogger after you retire from the game someday, please write for us, as long as we’re still around however many years into the future.

Third, there’s plenty of speculation mounting regarding league expansion once again- then again, when hasn’t it been this season? I’m sure the league is doing everything in its power to carefully review and construct all the details that would be necessary to work out for any cautious business ventures that may or may not ultimately be made.

Again, however, not much has changed in the discussion at the end of the day. Québec City is still a beautiful city and deserves an NHL team, however, history may be repeating itself in that the Canadian dollar has been showing signs of the ultimate demise of the 1990s Quebec Nordiques. In other words, it’s not good.

You might ask, “what about revenue sharing?” and the answer is that the league already has a system in place that significantly boosts its smaller market Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and even Ottawa- these are “small” in the sense that their financial backing is nothing compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs and/or the Montreal Canadiens).

Bottom line, it’s important to remember that 1) any sports franchise is expensive as heck to own and operate, especially if any public funding comes into play and 2) all Canadian teams generate revenue in Canadian dollars, but must pay their salaries in American dollars per the terms and conditions of the current CBA.

So, yeah, umm I’d like to see the Québec Nordiques resurrected, but not if it means that they’ll end up folding or relocating only a few years into a rebirth.

With regards to Las Vegas, T-Mobile picked up the tab on the naming rights for the new Las Vegas arena, so that’s promising for something, whether it’s hockey or just another entertainment venue ultimately. The league seems to have a special interest in the Las Vegas ownership group given its strong backing and the tremendous amounts of support that local Vegas residents have shown in hopes of landing an NHL gig.

And for you, good people of Las Vegas, Nevada, I am hopeful. Just as hopeful as I am for the wonderful citizens of Le Ville de Québec. Indeed, it would be a shame if this is all for nothing for now, but at least the serious level of the discussions is out there, are tangible, and within reach of hopefully putting something together.

As for Seattle, remember they are not part of the formal expansion application/discussion process at this time because they still cannot come to terms on building a new NHL/NBA ready arena in the Seattle metropolitan area.

Which, hey, if you wonderful people of Seattle, Washington got on that, we could be talking about another possible expansion team and almost being able to balance the conferences again (and that right there, lies another issue potentially holding expansion back- the imbalance of the conferences as they are and as they would be by adding teams in Québec and Las Vegas).

All I know is that I’m glad I’m not the one that is responsible for making all of these decisions. I’d much rather be a GM right now that’s having to debate trading a major component of a franchise or not and praying he doesn’t leave in free agency if he doesn’t resign (I’m looking at you, Mr. Yzerman). It seems as though at the end of the day, dealing with player contracts that don’t yield $500 million in expansion fees is much easier to crunch than well, what I just said about expansion fees.

Finally, thank you to the NHL, NWHL, CWHL, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Pride, and hockey fans everywhere for joining forces and continuing to support Denna Laing. It’s incredible to see the outpouring of compassion by the hockey community and helps make the world a better place.

I’ve seen some bad injuries in person before and I never want to have to see another stretcher on the ice again, but it’s nice to know and see how positive Denna Laing has remained through the last month and has given a newfound hope for us all to see that anything is possible and dreams may come true.

Let’s let our professional women’s athletes play another outdoor game as part of the Winter Classic festivities, let’s let our player’s play, and let’s have it televised, because there’s no reason to believe that women’s hockey is any less thrilling than men’s hockey.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #19- 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship Preview (and more!)

The Down the Frozen River crew wraps up the 2015 edition of the Down the Frozen River Podcast by previewing the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland, as well as discussing this week’s headlines and doughnuts? Hear what they have to say about the latest news and notes from around the NHL in this week’s #DTFRPodcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter and/or drop us a line on Facebook– your thoughts might make it on our show!