Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson.
Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto.
Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net
Ryan Gardner, currently playing with SC Bern of the NLA in Switzerland, will miss 4-6 weeks due to a knee injury.
The Canadian born winger has spent the past four seasons playing with the Swiss based club, giving him a total of 522 points in 720 games during his NLA career. Before eventually transitioning into a Swiss national team player, Gardner represented Canada in three Spengler Cup tournaments, recording seven points in 18 contests. Since then, Gardner has posted 11 points in 21 games for Team Switzerland at the World Championships, mainly playing in a bottom six forward role.
Gardner has seen some success at the Champions Hockey Level. After winning the original tournament back in 2008-2009 with the Zurich Lions, Gardner has gone on to record four points in four games this year with Bern. Bern has struggled this year, currently sitting in last place in Group E. Bern has one more game remaining on the schedule, with the Stavanger Oilers hoping to have a similar result as their 2-0 victory last Tuesday.
The Zurich Lions of the NLA in Switzerland have signed Mike Künzle to a three year contract extension.
Künzle was recently suspended by the Champions Hockey League last Wednesday for a checking from behind call in a game against the Vienna Capitals. He is currently banned for the Lions next game, the final one of the group stage. In four CHL contests this year, Künzle currently has zero points as a 20 year old forward. In league action, Künzle has fared much better, posting six points in eight contests.
Künzle, a 20 year old forward, is looking to stick in the NLA for the first time in his young career. Last year, he played in 44 games for the club, registering just 11 points, but he also spent time with the NLB’s GC Küsnacht Lions. With the minor league club, Künzle recorded six points in 11 games, the same amount of points he has in just eight games at the top level so far this year.
Despite playing in Switzerland, Künzle isn’t unknown to North American fans. In 2013, Künzle participated in the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect camp in early of July. Previously, he added three goals and an assist in six games while representing Switzerland at the 2013 World Junior tournament.
CSKA Sofia, the hosts of Group A, have moved on to Group B following an impressive showing at the opening Continental Cup tournament for the 2014-2015 season.
Sofia, representing Bulgaria in the tournament, finished with an impressive 3-0 record. The first game of the tournament was the only close one that Sofia competed in, defeating CG Puigcerda by a score of 3-2. In the second game against the Turkish champions Izmir BJBSK, Sofia exploded for 19 goals in a dominant performance. In the third and final game, a 10-2 smashing of Beostar Belgrade gave Sofia all the clearance they needed to move on to the second round, improving on their disappointing Continental Cup appearance the season before.
With the victory, the Bulgarian club will now face te Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven, Belfast Giants and Tilburg Trappers in Bremerhaven from October 17th-19th.
Just a day after grabbing a 20-2 victory, Beostar Belgrade dropped a 5-1 decision on Saturday to CG Puigcerda.
Puigcerda, who lost 3-2 yesterday to CSKA Sofia despite a late game comeback, showed no mercy against their Serbian opponents. Offensively, none of the goal scorers were complete standouts on the score sheet, but it didn’t matter due to Puigcerda’s explosive third period. Holding a close 2-0 lead heading into the third, Puigcerda managed to muster up three goals before finally Belgrade got their first with seven minutes remaining in the contest.
While the score may have not looked so swell for the losing team, Belgrade did get some spectacular goaltending from Arsenije Rankovic, who made 38 stops before being named the top player for his squad. At the other end, Andrej Beliansky was near perfect, stopping 37 of 38 shots to completely steal the game away for his club. Just like Rankovic, the top player would be awarded to Beliansky, who made the game close on Friday in Pulgcerda’s close loss to Sofia.
Reigning Bulgarian hockey champions CSKA Sofia, the only returning team at this years IIHF Continental Cup tournament, took home their first victory of the tournament thanks to a 3-2 victory over CG Puigcerda.
The victory looked like a formality in the early stages of the contest. Leading the shots in the opening forty minutes thanks to a 27-15 advantage, Sofia scored three goals during the time span. Viktor Stefanech, who last played professional hockey in Slovakia, scored the teams first goal just 13 minutes into the game to set the tone. Two goals by the Bulgarian club gave Sofia the safe 3-0 lead heading into the third.
However, it wasn’t so safe. Two late goals by Puigcerda meant that the hometown favourites were going to have to scramble in an attempt to not allow their lead slip away. That’s exactly what happened to them last year, as Estonian club Viiking Sport Tallinn defeated them when it mattered most to prevent them from moving on (Tallinn was set to move on, but couldn’t register their players in time for the next round). Luckily for Sofia, they wouldn’t let the game fall to their Spanish opponents, surviving a late game comeback to win the game 3-2.
The defending Turkish champions Izmir BJBSK surely did not look like champions of Friday, getting destroyed by Beostar Belgrade by a score of 20-2 in the opening game of the 2014 Continental Cup.
The Belgrade offense was led mainly by two players, Nemanja Vucurevic and Kamil Kinkor. Kinkor finished the contest with a whopping six goals and ten points, while Vucurevic recorded three goals and ten points of his own. Neither would finish with the Best Player of the game award, as Dmytro Gnitko posted three goals and seven points in 14 shots.
BJBSK’s goaltending had to be busy in the opening game. The team was faced with 86 shots throughout the game, with Coneyt Ergenc making 46 stops during the first 31 minutes while Nevzut Altun stopping 40 in 29 minutes.
Mike Künzle of ZSC Lions Zurich has received a one game suspension following an infraction on Tuesday.
Künzle was given a minor penalty and 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind in a game against the Vienna Capitals. He’ll be forced to miss his club’s next group stage contest, which happens to take place against . Currently, they sit in a position to move on thanks to their second place spot in Group B, but Sweden’s Farjestad Karlstad sits just two points behind. If his team does in fact move on, he’ll be allowed to suit up for his team in the next round for the Lions.
In four CHL contests this year, Künzle currently has zero points as a 20 year old forward. In league action in the NLA, Künzle has fared much better, posting four points in six contests.
NHLPA chief Donald Fehr has reportedly confirmed the dates for the World Cup, expected to take place in Toronto from September 15th-October 1st in 2016.
As reported back in June, the tournament, which could act as a replacement for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, will feature just eight teams. Currently, Canada, USA, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic are confirmed, with Switzerland, Slovakia, Latvia and Norway looking to be possible choices during a potential qualification round.
The tournament has been on a hiatus for the past ten years. The last World Cup was also held in Toronto, with Canada defeating Finland 3-2 in the tournament final at the Air Canada Centre. The expectation would be that the tournament would once again be played prior to the NHL season, as the last installment took place from August 30th-September 14th, 2004.
To view my opinion on the World Cup from back in June, read this.
The 2014 Spengler Cup schedule was released today, along with the two group listings that will compete in the classic winter tournament. The 88th Spengler Cup will take place in Davos, Switzerland December 26th-31st, 2014. Like in the past two years, The Hockey House will have full coverage of every game. To take a look at the news from the past tournament, click here.
Big expectations seem to always bring on extreme pressure to perform at the highest level. Whether you hoped to finish first and didn’t even compete for a medal, or you looked to make the quarter-finals and ended up getting relegated, failing under pressure is a common theme in almost every international tournament. Some teams have struggled more than others, and you’ll get to see five of them as I take a look at the top five IIHF flops in the past 16 years.
5. Slovakia – 2011 World Championships
Hosting the World Championships for the first time as an independent nation, Slovakia brought one of the strongest rosters to the tournament that tends to see some weaker players competing for the top countries. Coming off a great 2010 Olympics, Slovakia brought 16 from that team to the tournament, including Jaroslav Halak, LubomirVisnovsky, Miroslav Satan, Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, Marian and Marcel Hossa. Considered a favourite to win a medal, the team suffered four straight one-goal losses to Germany, Russia, Czech Rep and Finland before finishing tenth in the overall standings. The Slovakian national team has struggled in major tournaments ever since.
4. Russia – 2000 World Championships
Just like in 2014, the pressure for Russia to win gold was immense. Hosting the tournament for the first time in over a decade, the Russians brought a list talented players in the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Alexei Zhitnik, Igor Kravchuk, Pavel Bure, Viktor Kozlov and more. The Russians looked good to start the tournament, blasting France for eight goals in the opening game. That’s when the tournament began to go downhill, however. A disappointing 3-0 shutout loss to the Americans and a 3-2 loss to Switzerland meant that the team was in a deep hole heading into the games that mattered. Russia had to win at least two of the next three in order to make the playoffs, and with Latvia and Belarus on the docket, it should have been an easy task. That wasn’t the case, as an awful bounce that led to a 3-2 Latvian victory, followed by a shocking shutout by Belarus meant that the powerhouse hosts would leave the tournament with a horrible 11th place finish.
3. USA – 1998 Olympics
With the NHL finally allowing their players to compete in the Olympics, USA brought an almost identical roster to the one that won gold at the 1996 World Cup, with added firepower from Jeremy Roenick. Instead of competing for gold like many expected, Team USA crashed out in the quarterfinals with only one win to their credit. While it’s fair to say having Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic as your competition makes it tough to take home the victory, their 5-2 win over Belarus just wouldn’t be good in the long run. USA ended up finishing sixth place in the overall rankings, a finish that made many of the players mad as they ended up trashing their hotel rooms before departing back to North America.
2. Canada – 2006 Olympics
After gold medals at the 2002 Olympics and 2004 World Cup, many expected the red, white and black to repeat as champions once again. Canada even featured 14 star players from the 2004 World Cup squad that proved to be unbeatable at every point in the tournament. The tournament was a total disaster for the 2010 Olympic hosts, as Canada would be unable to record a goal in three of their final four games against the Swiss, Finns and Russians, as well as in 11 of their final 12 periods. When it comes to Olympic failures, seeing the 2002 champions fall all the way to 7th can be seen as easily one of the most disappointing performances by a top tier country.
1. Russia – 2014 Olympics
While the team in 2010 was better on paper, Russia’s collapse in 2014 proved to be a much bigger disappointment. With names like Ovechkin, Malkin, Varlomov, Kovalchuk, Radulov, Bobrovsky and more, the team was expected to be one of the favourites for gold while competing on home ice. However, the pressure proved to be too much for the Russians, as Ovehkin and Malkin were never heard from again after the opening win over Slovenia. The team managed to only lose twice, falling to USA in an incredible shootout performance by TJ Oshie and the Americans before losing to Finland in the quarter-finals. Russia did manage to grab a few victories before the tournament came to a close, but at no point, besides their game against Slovenia, did the hometown squad show any bit of dominance.
Every year, I hear the same old arguments about the IIHF ranking system: “Canada won the Olympics, they’re the best”, “Oh yeah, but Sweden is always the most consistent, so wouldn’t that make them the best?”, “Th3$3 r@nkennigs suk”, etc., etc. After a while of agreeing with the system the IIHF employs, I decided to come up with my own ranking point system to see who really are the best among as many tournaments as well. In this chart, I have put together a point system to find out who the best countries at junior national competitions are.
Now, I understand that not every team takes part in all these tournaments. But regardless, the actual rankings, which take into account tournaments from 2013 and 2014, aren’t much different from where they finish each year in the standings. In fact, Finland, who recently won the 2014 World Juniors, still stays on top of the rankings while Sweden, the tournament silver medalists, come in second.
Each tournament is weighed differently depending on the importance. For junior hockey, the 2014 U20 tournament will be worth more than a 5 Nations tournament from this year due to the amount of teams and higher competition level. Tournaments from 2013 will be similar, except each point total will be just a percentage of 2014, which already is a fraction of the 1200 points the winner of a major men’s tournament would get.
Just like the IIHF, THHenwick uses the same point structure. The world champion receives 1200 points and then a 20-point interval is used between teams. However, a 40-point interval is used between gold and silver, silver and bronze, fourth and fifth, and eighth and ninth. For the junior level, each number is based off of this system, but only a certain percentage is used.
Every year, I hear the same old arguments about the IIHF ranking system: “Canada won the Olympics, they’re the best”, “Oh yeah, but Sweden is always the most consistent, so wouldn’t that make them the best?”, “Th3$3 r@nkennigs suk”, etc., etc. After a while of agreeing with the system the IIHF employs, I decided to come up with my own ranking point system to see who really are the best among as many tournaments as well.
In this chart, I have put together a point system to find out who the best countries at men’s national competitions are. Now, I understand that not every team takes part in all these tournaments. But regardless, the actual rankings, which take into account tournaments from 2013 and 2014, aren’t much different from where they finish each year in the standings.
Each tournament is weighed differently depending on the importance. For this chart, the 2014 Olympics will be worth more than the Pan-Am games due to the amount of teams and higher competition level. Tournaments from 2013 will be similar, except each point total will be just a percentage of 2014, which already is a fraction of the 1200 points the winner of a major men’s tournament would get.
Just like the IIHF, THHenwick uses the same point structure. The world champion receives 1200 points and then a 20-point interval is used between teams. However, a 40-point interval is used between gold and silver, silver and bronze, fourth and fifth, and eighth and ninth. For the men’s level, each number is based off of this system, but only a certain percentage is used.
Boasting a roster with two North American’s on the club (former ECHL goalie Jerry Kuhn and recent AHLer Philip-Michael Devos), HC Val Pusteria was the first successful team of the Italian league thanks to their Supercoppa Italiana victory this weekend.
The Supercoppa Italiana is an Italian hockey challenge that pits off two teams in a winner takes all event. Pusteria’s opponents, SV Renon, was close to forcing overtime in the contest, by Devos’ goal in the final seconds of the third period gave Val Pusteria the eventual victory in the contest.
Sv Renon, who feature two former New York Rangers prospects in Chris Holt and Patrick Rissmiller, were the most recent champions of the Italian Serie A hockey league last year, beating their Pusterian rivals in the sixth and final game of the championship series.
During the 2014 Annual IIHF Congress meeting, it was announced that South Korea will participate in the Olympics for 2018, their first time ever.
There was a lot of debate as to what the situation would happen for the 2018 games, which happen to be in South Korea. After going win less at the Division I Group A World Championships earlier this year Korea was relegated to Group B for 2015. In a sense, it can be seen as the team losing a full year of development, as they are going backwards in their quest of proving their real worth.
To think that after losing to Ukraine, a Division 1A club, by a score of 8-2 should be good enough to scare you away from the idea. Considering their top player is former Edmonton Oilers prospect Bryan Young should say something, as he finished his brief NHL career with zero points.
If the IIHF tiebreaker rule is brought into effect once again, it will be a slaughterhouse. If teams like Russia, Canada and Sweden can defeat teams like Norway and Austria by incredible differences, imagine how a game against a 23rd ranked team will finish. As a result, current bubble teams such as Austria, Belarus, Latvia, Slovenia and Kazakhstan, all who may actually be able to stay within a ten goal differential, will have one less legitimate spot to compete for.
The last team to get an automatic birth into the Olympics was Italy. The Italians, ranked 14th at the time, finished with 23 goals allowed in just five games. While the scores wouldn’t prove it, Italy actually deserved to be there, having placed 14th in World Championship competition. But to see them get blown out like they did then compared to what could happen to South Korea in 2018…yikes.
Well, hey, you never know. Maybe with all the new financial support from the Korean Ice Hockey Association ($20M U.S.), the team will be forced to improve by 2018. If not, get ready for some one-sided affairs.
Just over a month since Ukraine withdrew as hosts from the 2015 Division 1A World Championships, the IIHF have announced that Poland will be the country that will take over next year.
A week ago, it was announced that Krakow City, the city in which the tournament will take place in, had granted support to the Polish national team for the upcoming tournament. Krakow Arena will be the venue of choice for the IIHF’s second best group of countries, boasting a seating capacity of 15,328.
“We’ve been waiting for the decision regarding the tournament for a few months now,” said Polish Ice Hockey Federation President Dawid Chwalka. “It is a difficult situation for Ukraine at it is regrettable that they cannot host the tournament, but we hope that with a good location, and good atmosphere and great fans we can put together a great World Championship.”
Despite moving up into the second highest IIHF group, the most recent NHLer to come out of the country was Wojtek Wolski. Unfortunately, despite having a a solid rookie season that saw him record 50 points with the Colorado Avalanche, Wolski’s career has gone downhill for the most part. Currently, the Zabrze, Poland plays in the KHL with Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo.
Ukraine was forced to pull out as hosts in the middle of August due to the political tensions within the country.
The IIHF has announced that the Asian countries of Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates have shown the highest growth in hockey participation in the past five years.
Hong Kong, who re-joined the World Championships last year, increased its number of registered ice hockey players from 182 to 1,631, giving them nearly a 800% expansion in players. For UAE, who is coming off a gold medal at the Gulf Cup earlier this year, had a 350% increase, putting them second on the IIHF’s five year growth chart.
With the introduction of the Challenge Cup of Asia back in 2008, it makes sense to see hockey in these countries rise to where they are today. For the Emirates, the team has managed to win six international tournaments since 2008, including two Challenge Cups and every Gulf Cup tournament. While Hong Kong won’t be at the next Challenge Cup, it seems like the 2011 CCoA gold medalists are looking to expand on their World Championship program following a measly 4th place finish in Division III in 2014.
On the other end of the spectrum, Slovenia (-29%), Poland (-12%), Italy (-9%) and Japan (-8%) currently sit at the bottom of the growth chart. For Slovenia and Poland, this news comes during the same year that both countries took major advancements in men’s competition, with the former participating in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
For a full list of new player information published by the IIHF, click here.
The Nepal Ice Hockey Association formed a team in Kathmandu, Nepal last week, becoming the first team to come out of the nation since it’s inception just a few months back.
Kathmandu, a city with a population of approximately 700,000, is not known for it’s hockey due to the fact they have never had a hockey team. It’s not known officially as to what the rink situation will be, but there are currently zero rinks built in the entire country.
Originally, it was reported that Pokhara, Langtang and Khumjung would also get new hockey teams, but that has yet to be confirmed as of right now.
Here are a list of attractions in Kathmandu if you intend on watching them play hockey in the near future.
An interesting final contest has declared SC Miercurea Ciuc the champions of the 2014 Romanian Cup, defeating Corona Brasov 2-1 in overtime this weekend.
With the victory, Miercurea Ciuc now owns six Cupa Romaniei’s, also known as the Romanian Cup. It was a nice sigh of relief for the club, who haven’t seen action in the finals since their championship back in 2011 when the defeated ASC Corona Fenestela 68 Braşov.
While Miercurea did prove to be the best team in the tournament, it would be their final competitors, Corona Brasov, that would finish with the best goal differential. Finishing with a +32 GD, the club defeated Sportul Studentesc Bucharest by a score of 30-0 in just the first game alone. It was a tough tournament for Studentesc Bucharest, who allowed 52 goals in just two games, while only mustering one of their own.
In Pierre LeBrun’s most recent post on the potential for an NHL World Cup, the ESPN insider reports that the NHL is seeking out opportunities to have teams compete in regular season contests over in Europe in the near future.
“What possibly could also be part of a World Cup announcement – although it depends on the timing of it over the next few months – is the return of the Premiere Games,” wrote LeBrun. “The NHL hopes to have regular-season games back across the pond next season, but no firm details are finalized on that front.”
The NHL has a long history with teams competing over in different continents. Back in 1938, the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings squared off in a 9 game series in France and England. Since the NHL lockout back in 2005-2006, the NHL has competed in a non-NHL country six times in a row, with five of the years being part of the European Premiere series. However, the NHL has yet to venture outside North America since 2011, with the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks finishing as the most recent victors overseas.
With the potential World Cup coming up, it’s clear the NHL wants to get as much revenue from around the world as possible. Will this be a success? No reason for it not too, but it’ll be interesting what some of the hometown fans will think of having home games removed from the schedule.
According to Slovakian reports, former national player Miroslav Hlinka has committed suicide at the age of 42.
Miroslav, the cousin of Czech Republic national player Jaroslav Hlinka was found dead in his hotel room this weekend. The 42 year old Hlinka had recently retired from his playing career in Slovakia to become an assistant coach with HC 05 Banska Bystrica for the upcoming season. In 242 games in the top Slovakian hockey league, the big, two way centreman finished with 46 goals and 135 points before eventually finishing in the Slovakian minor league system.
Aside from league action, Hlinka did suit up for Slovakia at international events. Unlike his cousin, who played for the Czech Republic, Hlinka, a three time World Championship medalist, including a gold back in 2002, competed in 54 career games for the national team, with his most recent stint happening in 2008.