The weekend of January 24th and 25th 2015 will be a magical one at the Angry Buffalo at the Rose Garden when the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic once again takes over the backyard and outdoor bar for two straight days of outdoor hockey fun. Last year, the THBYC had over 30 teams participate over a two-day span as the ice held on just long enough for all games to be played. Features included Sabretooth helping out with the mites, a heated locker-room tent, four 35 ft by 90 ft long ice rinks with end board fencing, a championship rink with a scoreboard, Doug Allen singing the national anthems, music throughout on a high-quality Bose speaker system, Sabres Alumni bartenders, and SOOO much more.
This year promises to be even better than last year! Tim Hortons is back on board as the title sponsor of the event. A more logical rink setup is going to be featured this year so that all four rinks are in a line. New this year will be a Pace Rinks custom built Championship Ice Rink. Two rinks will be located inside of the Angry Buffalo at the Rose Garden's volleyball courts. An additional rink will be located next to the volleyball courts. This will mean that all of our rinks will be fully lit allowing for play to continue into the night. The developments have just begun for this year's installment of the Classic. We are looking forward to another sold-out event.
If you can't wait for hockey you're not alone. There's only so many times we can watch C.J. Spiller run into a wall of defenders or the Bills defense get scored on at will. The Sabres are back with a young lineup and based on the preseason shenanigans we are in for an interesting year.
Here is why we are looking forward to this year.
Evidence Piece #1
Paul Ranger's Kick the Stick Shootout Attempt
Evidence Piece #2
The Entire Sabres/Maple Leafs Shootout
Evidence Piece #3
Evidence Piece #4
Our 3rd Jerseys
Evidence Piece #5
The Rookies & Young Guns (U25 Team)
72 Luke Adam 6' 2" 206 Jun 18, 1990 23 St. John's, NF, CAN
33 Joel Armia 6' 3" 187 May 31, 1993 20 Pori, FIN
63 Tyler Ennis 5' 9" 157 Oct 6, 1989 23 Edmonton, AB, CAN
65 Brian Flynn 6' 1" 180 Jul 26, 1988 25 Lynnfield, MA, USA
82 Marcus Foligno 6' 3" 226 Aug 10, 1991 22 Buffalo, NY, USA
25 Mikhail Grigorenko 6' 3" 200 May 16, 1994 19 Khabarovsk, RUS
19 Cody Hodgson 6' 0" 194 Feb 18, 1990 23 Toronto, ON, CAN
22 Johan Larsson 5' 10" 200 Jul 25, 1992 21 Lau, SWE
4 Jamie McBain 6' 2" 200 Feb 25, 1988 25 Edina, MN, USA
57 Tyler Myers 6' 8" 227 Feb 1, 1990 23 Houston, TX, USA
3 Mark Pysyk 6' 1" 193 Jan 11, 1992 21 Sherwood Park, AB, CAN
55 Rasmus Ristolainen 6' 4" 207 Oct 27, 1994 18 Turku, FIN
5 Chad Ruhwedel 5' 11" 180 May 7, 1990 23 San Diego, CA, USA
6 Mike Weber 6' 2" 211 Dec 16, 1987 25 Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1 Jhonas Enroth 5' 10" 166 Jun 25, 1988 25 Stockholm, SWE
Evidence Piece #6
Saucy Paws, Dangles, and Sick Goals
Hockey season is back meaning dry-land training is going to be traded for more ice time as preparations for the first games are being finalized. It also means that 6 am practices, spending 5+ days at the rink, and the pressure of academics and hockey are back onto the kids.
Thinking back to my playing days, all I ever wanted to do was play games. As a kid and even as an adult who actually likes going to practice every day? Ok get on the line because you didn't make a tape-to-tape pass on that last breakout drill. Skate faster in a meaningless circle drill! I could never put together the importance of a practice while I was a kid. Now as an adult you realize that skill development does require time on the ice honing our skills but do we really need to overwhelm our kids that much?
Let's look at our adult sports leagues. It's all games and no practices and trust me not everyone has the skills to be playing games without practicing but we realize practice isn't fun. So why do we subject our kids to practicing 5x more than they play?
While I understand that there are going to be kids that want to develop their skills and become the best that they possibly can be, this is where AAA hockey comes in. What we need to consider is reinventing and reintroducing the house league. Travel hockey has become so watered down because everyone wants to be a "travel" player. In reality many of these AA programs are just house leagues that wanted the travel name. Now these kids who wanted to just play games every weekend and practice once a week are subjected to practicing like a AAA team but may lack in the skill development department.
Some of my best memories were made in house hockey and playing pond hockey where yes the wins still matter but there is much less pressure and the focus is on having fun and beating your buddies. It's a friendly place for competition where kids can go to have fun and that is what I believe is missing in today's hockey leagues. You can't possibly tell me that the kids will remember just another game against a travel team more than their time playing outdoor ice hockey at the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic. Case and Point.
It's that time of year again where spring/summer hockey comes to a close and the intense travel hockey schedule resumes. With that USA Hockey has released their latest rule changes which have brought about the most significant changes to the book since the introduction of the new Standard of Play Initiative. This year the focus is on continuing to develop skill rather than intimidation or physical play. The last time the rule change year came around it was a move that pushed the first year of hitting from PeeWee (12U) to Bantam (14U).
This year features a crackdown on illegal hitting. Many of the rule changes strengthened the minimal penalty time for those offenders who target the head or the back. Penalties such as boarding, charging, and head contact now carry minimum penalties of 2 minutes plus a 10 minute misconduct. This is up from just a 2 minute minor penalty for each offense.
Just as the NHL has cracked down on repeat offenders such as Patrick Kaleta, USA Hockey has introduced their own legislation which will take players off the ice for extended periods of time in an effort to change the player's ways. Some of these rules include changing a second 10 minute misconduct into an automatic game misconduct which can also carry a 1 game suspension in some leagues. The Progressive Suspension clause will deal with repeat offenders and assessing longer suspensions.
These efforts by USA Hockey, in addition to the continuation of the Mite hockey cross-ice program, are all to promote the skill development of young players. By not allowing players, especially those physically developed players, to hit has allowed smaller players to still fit in on the ice. This may allow future players to be like Danny Briere or Nathan Gerbe and overcome their size and experience success at a high level.
As always, the views on the new rules will be split. While I personally don't agree with them, the focus of USA Hockey is on player safety and with the abundance of concussions in the game today, perhaps delaying hitting and punishing those who break the rules significantly will help that number go down significantly.
Become a better fan and coach...try reading the rules!
"If you take a group of African-Americans who have never skated before and a group of white kids who haven't skated before and put them on the ice approximately the same percentage of them will skate proficiently right off the bat" --Anonymous
If this is the case then why can you count the number of minorities on 10 hands? It all starts at the youth hockey level. It's about exposure at a young age. Dr. Frome takes his students from the King Charter School to the Riverside Ice Rink which is all the way across the City of Buffalo. So why does the City of Buffalo share two ice pads while the suburbs share 20 ice pads? It's all about the affluence as the wealthy people moved out to the suburbs and got hooked on the sport largely based on your financial status. To fully equip a hockey player can cost upwards of $1,000 or more just until the next time he/she grows out of the equipment. That doesn't even include the fee to play, which for travel can be upwards of $1,000-$2,000 for the ice time, referees, hotel, etc. The sport is skewed towards rich, white parents who want their kids to be just like them.
Hockey was invented in Canada and some say perfected by them and it's reflected in recent results from Olympics and other world events. Yet the United States is on the rise! They are doing so, however, with a majority of white athletes. With the minority becoming the majority in our country why are we not tapping into the wealth of athleticism that these minorities possess in order to better the overall skill of USA Hockey? We are limiting the draw of hockey players to mostly suburbs of major cities, who are white, and have money. This means we are drawing from a very slim percent of the country. While hockey doesn't thrive in all regions of the country, especially the warmer climates, cities like Buffalo which are hockey-enthralled are still failing to tap into the African-American market. Programs such as Hasek's Heroes which is a part of the Hockey is for Everyone initiative by the NHL is allowing children from the City of Buffalo to learn how to skate and play hockey at no cost! With similar programs in Philadelphia (Ed Snider) and all around the country we are SLOWLY starting to expand the opportunities for this group of children which can only benefit USA Hockey. The Tim Hortons Backyard Classic has raised over $30,000 in our five-year existence to help in Hasek's Heroes efforts and rewarding the hard work by the children of Hasek's Heroes by bringing one or two teams of their kids out to play in the tournament every year.
This problem isn't just in USA Hockey though, it carries over to the National Hockey League as well. If I asked you to name 10 white guys who currently play in the NHL it would take me five seconds to answer: Vanek, Pominville, Myers, Crosby, Ovechkin, Miller, Thornton, Kaleta, Ennis, Leopold. Yet if I asked you to name me ten Asian players or even five Asian players I guarantee you wouldn't be able to. The same carries over to African-American hockey players as well. The most prominent one currently is probably Wayne Simmonds who at the beginning of the season was victim of racism when a fan threw a banana onto the ice while he was performing a shoot-out attempt. We are years away from slavery, yet how much progress have we actually made? Minorities have just as much athletic talent and ability if they are given the exposure that everyone else is given, so why not better our game at a national and local level by evening the playing field and giving everyone a fair shake. Look below for current minorities in the NHL.
(AS OF JANUARY 30, 2013)
NHL Players of African Descent or Ancestry Active Players (Only current NHL team or affiliate identified): Akim Aliu, Forward, Calgary Flames Paul Bissonnette, Forward, Phoenix Coyotes Francis Bouillon, Defense, Nashville Predators J.T. Brown, Forward, Tampa Bay Lightning Dustin Byfuglien, Defense, Winnipeg Jets, Member of Stanley Cup Team, Trevor Daley, Defense, Dallas Stars Robbie Earl, Forward, Minnesota Wild Ray Emery, Goaltender, Chicago Blackhawks Maxime Fortunnus, Defense, Dallas Stars Mark Fraser, Defense, Toronto Maple Leafs Jarome Iginla, Forward, Calgary Flames Derek Joslin, Defense, Vancouver Canucks Evander Kane, Forward, Winnipeg Jets Greg Mauldin, Forward, Colorado Avalanche Jamal Mayers, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks Kenndal McArdle, Forward, Winnipeg Jets Johnny Oduya, Defense, Chicago Blackhawks Kyle Okposo, Forward, New York Islanders Theo Peckham, Defense, Edmonton Oilers Ryan Reaves, Forward, St. Louis Blues Bryce Salvador, Defense, New Jersey Devils Wayne Simmonds, Forward, Philadelphia Flyers Devante Smith-Pelly, Forward, Anaheim Ducks Anthony Stewart, Forward, Carolina Hurricanes Chris Stewart, Forward, St. Louis Blues P.K. Subban, Defense, Montreal Canadiens Joel Ward, Forward, Washington Capitals
NHL Players of Aboriginal Descent or Ancestry Active Players (Only current NHL team or affiliate identified): Arron Asham, Forward, Pittsburgh Penguins Rene Bourque, Forward, Montreal Canadiens Kyle Chipchura, Forward, Phoenix Coyotes Jonathan Cheechoo, Forward, St. Louis Blues Vernon Fiddler, Forward, Dallas Stars Chris Kelly, Forward, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins D.J. King, Forward, Washington Capitals Dwight King, Forward, Los Angeles Kings Cody McCormick, Forward, Buffalo Sabres T.J. Oshie, Forward, St. Louis Blues Carey Price, Goaltender, Montreal CanadiensWade Redden, Defense, New York Rangers Sheldon Souray, Defense, Anaheim Ducks Jordin Tootoo, Forward, Nashville Predators
NHL Players of Asian Descent or Ancestry Active Players (Only current NHL team or affiliate identified):Chris Beckford-Tseu, Goaltender, Florida Panthers Manny Malhotra, Forward, Vancouver Canucks Jon Matsumoto, Forward, Florida Panthers Raymond Sawada, Forward, Dallas Stars Devin Setoguchi, Forward, Minnesota Wild Brandon Yip, Forward, Nashville Predators
A majority of Americans have suffered from the Cinderella story of Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA mens basketball tournament. The real March Madness is the Frozen Four for us hockey fans, however, and we wanted to give our fans a way to get even more involved in the action while giving your bracketology skills a second shot.
Go to http://www.timhortonsbackyardclassic.com/frozen-four-bracket-challenge.html to enter your bracket by Friday at 1:59 pm by emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is 100% free!
All too often in the NHL have players been hurt on icing plays where a defenseman and forward are skating stride for stride at full capacity in order to touch the puck before the other. The onus lies on the forward who could absolutely punish the d-man into the boards behind the goal line. The NHL has done a good job in enforcing this safety issue and has led to still good competition for the puck behind the goal line on touch icings but still the issue remains for that one case. On the other hand skaters having to go back and touch the puck to get a whistle wastes valuable seconds off the clock and is essentially a waste of what could be almost half a minute of play during a game that spectators who are paying large sums of money are essentially seeing nothing happen.
Lets look at the different types of icing. Keep in mind these are simple definitions and there are circumstances when an icing can be waved off by the linesman.
Touch Icing: The defending player must touch the puck before any opposing player to complete the icing call. In place in the NHL and AHL.
Hybrid Icing: Play is stopped immediately if the player on the opposing team reaches the faceoff dot first, instead of skating all the way across the goal line to touch the puck. In place in the NCAA.
Automatic Icing: Play is blown dead immediately once the puck crosses the goal line. In place in USA Hockey.
I believe that the NHL needs to go to hybrid icing just as the Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher suggests. If you need a reason why check out the video below of Kurtis Foster breaking his femur on a touch icing play. Add a comment below to agree or disagree.
"In our backyard we have amazing youth hockey teams who are playing on a national level and you can watch for free!"
Why are we willing to shell out hundreds of dollars, sit in an hour of traffic pre and post-game, while spending $15 on beer and concessions watching the Sabres lose? Yet, literally in our backyard we have amazing youth hockey teams who are playing on a national level and you can watch often for free or under $10! Between the Buffalo Jr. Sabres teams to the Amherst Youth Hockey teams playing at the Northtown Center, four-rink facility in Amherst, NY, which hosts USA Hockey Nationals for multiple age levels every year; there is no reason to only pay to see the pros. Now don't get me wrong, I love going to a Sabres game at least once a year because it's a great atmosphere when you're spending time with 19,070 other people who share at least one thing in common with you, a love for Buffalo sports.
Coming from the referee perspective, I believe youth hockey has been revolutionized with USA Hockey's initiatives. In an attempt to better the game, in my opinion, they have lessened the quality of talent at a local level as compared to Hockey Canada. It is a different style of play up in the Great White North and it often trumps the USA Hockey talent. Yet don't let this turn you off because the United States is churning out young players like never before. And its not just boys playing hockey anymore, the girls game is rapidly growing as well!
Next time you want to go to watch a hockey game, avoid yourself the financial troubles and other difficulties associated with seeing a professional sports game and give youth sports a chance! Especially at the Nationals level you won't regret it!
With the couple days of warm weather which turned our ice rink into a swimming pool; some of you might have been smart enough to take out your plastic. But for those of you that stuck it out, Bravo! You may have been rewarded with a couple more skating days as the temperatures are staying low during the nighttime. However, with my time constraints I settled for taking the plastic from our Backyard Classic Rinks after ice had once again settled on top of our couple inches of water. This makes for a nightmare!
Lesson to be learned here: wait until the ice is completely gone, if possible, because even a thin layer of ice can accumulate during removal and make the plastic a 100 or more lb sheet. Unfortunately, in my case, we had to get it out to prepare for flag football leagues and it took me two and a half hours just to remove the plastic (granted I was by myself). And ALWAYS remember to check the slope of your land to see where the water will drain!!
A concussion can have a devastating effect on a child's or teenagers life essentially bringing everything in their life to a halt. They can't go to school, watch tv, read a book, or socialize all because another player cheap-shotted him or her from behind into the boards head first. They never saw it coming and couldn't protect themselves. USA Hockey has tried to limit this issue by moving the checking age up to 14 year olds and up in order to limit the discrepancy in height and weight between teenagers experiencing puberty. This rule change is in an effort to maximize the skill plays and limit the fear of being hit on the blindside. But the problem isn't limited to youth hockey. It seems everyday another NHL player is being suspended whether it be a repeat offender in Patrick Kaleta or high-skill player of Corey Perry. The respect is no longer there and if we keep going the direction we are, USA hockey players are going to fall behind. It needs to start from the top and involve a full-scale remodel of the game of hockey.
Hey maybe we just need to play the game out on the pond or backyard ice rink where there is no checking and all issues are resolved over a beer. The game is self-regulated with penalty shots and the focus is on having fun not necessarily keeping track of a score (even though everyone loves to beat their buddies).
My name is Nick Penberthy and am the Founder of the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic. Now after 5 years of running the THBYC we have raised over $30,000 for Hasek's Heroes.