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NHL trivia quiz PDF Print
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Tuesday, 01 April 2014 16:47

By Rob Ficiur
As the NHL’s regular season enters its final week here are a few questions (and a hint or two) to test your regular season knowledge - before the second season begins.
1. Who is the only NHL goalie that is the all-time wins leaders for two different teams?
2. When the Calgary Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers 8-1 on March 22; what Battle of Alberta record did the teams set?
3. The NHL regular season has just over a week to go.  Some teams are perennial playoff participants, in other cities the fans can’t remember what a playoff game is.
a) What current NHL team has appeared in the playoffs the most consecutive years?

b) What current NHL team has missed the playoffs the most consecutive years?
4. Which current NHL team has had the longest Stanley Cup drought?  (Most years in a row without winning the Stanley Cup).
Hint: 
1. This goalie is still playing the NHL.  His current team expects him to play many years – so he is not an aging veteran playing a backup roll.
2. No hint will help you on this – the two trivia facts about this are not something you would ever look up. 
3a) This team is currently on the bubble. At this precise moment, they are in a playoff spot; there are four teams fighting for two spots. Their status could change in if they hit a losing streak.  Playoffs are not a guarantee this year.
3b) The last time this team played an NHL playoff game, they were in Game #7 of the Stanley Cup final; one win away from being champions. They did not win that game or series. Even their harshest critics would never have imagined they would be out of the playoffs this many years in a row.
4. One answer to this question could be the Ottawa Senators. They last won the Stanley Cup in 1927. However, from 1935-1990 there were no Ottawa Senators in the NHL. The answer to the question is another team.
Answers (Don’t peek until you try to figure out the questions).
1. Roberto Luongo has the most career wins for the Vancouver Canucks and his new / old team the Florida Panthers. In his Vancouver years Bobby Lou 252 regular season games, 42 more than second place Kirk Maclean and third place “King” Richard Brodeur (126 wins). All three of these goalies led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup final and a few years later they were gone. When Luongo left Florida in 2006 he was the franchise leader in goalie wins with 108. When he returned in 2014 he was still the franchise leader. (Luongo is also Florida’s leader in games played and shutouts). If Roberto Luongo was the best in the two cities he has played in why were the Canucks so anxious to get rid of him?
2. When the Flames beat the Oilers 8-1 in Edmonton, it clinched the season series for the Flames 3-2. (Not a record there.) However, all five games were won by the visiting team. The other record, for the Flames is that it was their highest margin of victory for the Flames against the Oilers in Edmonton. While there is no number to measure it – was the lowest of low points in a very low season for the Oilers.
3a) The Detroit Red Wings have been in the NHL playoffs for 22 consecutive years. Since they last missed the playoffs in 1989-90, Detroit has won four Stanley Cup championships; more than any other team in that time period. The longest consecutive playoff streak in NHL history is 29 years set by the Boston Bruins from 1968-1996.
3b) The Edmonton Oilers last playoff game was Game #7 of the 2006 final. Counting this year, the Oilers will have missed the playoffs eight years in a row. The Winnipeg Jets (Atlanta Thrashers) franchise is close behind with seven non play off years in a row as of 2014. The longest playoff drought in NHL history is ten years set by the Florida Panthers from 1999-2012. 
4. The Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup the year Canada celebrating its centennial; Lester Pearson was the Prime Minister and our Maple Leaf flag was two years old. The Toronto Maple Leafs, 1967 Stanley Cup Champions, have gone 45 (soon to be 46) years in a row without winning the Stanley Cup.

 
Reflections (and ramblings) on basketball provincials PDF Print
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Thursday, 27 March 2014 15:40

By Rob Ficiur
This past weekend across Alberta Basketball Provincials created new champions and entertained fans across the province. Provincial Basketball Fever hit our home Thursday and lasted for three days until the final buzzer rang.
Much has changed: When our daughter went to provincials in 1992, we waited until long after the game was over to find out the results. She phoned and gave us the update. [For those too young to remember twenty years ago very few people had cell phones, and a text was a book that teachers gave us to study from.]
In 2014 we could watch, from the comfort of our computer desk, any game we wanted to; anywhere in the province. The technology was good but not great. One game we watched it was hard to read the score clock. “I think that is a 6 but it could be a 4…” If it was a six we were winning by lots, if it was a four things were looking bad.
As we watched my niece’s Thursday night game, the screen went blank with a minute to go in the game. Now what? In the year 2014 there was a simple solution. During the game, we saw one of our sons in the stands cheering on his cousin.  We texted him for the final score.
Websites are only as good as the person updating them. Did the Gershaw boys win?  Did the Gershaw girls win? How did Foremost do? All this information was available on the Alberta Basketball website…except when it wasn’t. “That game was last night, why hasn’t it been updated?” Through facebook it was easy to find out who won and who lost.
We got home from Lethbridge Provincials, for the last few minutes of the Gershaw boys first place game against Rosemary. Gershaw was behind by one point. They had to foul Rosemary about four times before they somehow got the ball back. Their goal was to have Rosemary go to the foul line – first time I remember not having too few fouls as being a problem. Not sure how it all happened, but with two seconds left; down by one point Gershaw had one chance to win. The inbound pass was perfect…the shot was up there…rolling around the rim…it missed…someone tipped it back up…NO! the ball rolled out of the rim on to the ground. A heart breaking loss – so close. 
Too bad there was no video replay on the website. Even without the sound, I could feel the anguish of those who lost. Not hard to tell the enthusiasm of those who won.
We spent part of Saturday watching our niece in Provincial tournament. Sadly her team lost on Friday, so this was the consolation game, not the pressure and excitement of a provincial championship. Since she is in Grade 12, we all knew it was the last game of her high school career.
As the game went on, I took the chance to ask my two sons that were with us, if they remembered their final Grade 12 basketball game. Both lost out in zones their senior year, but they remembered. “We almost tied it up in the last seconds…” one remembered as her loudly cheered his cousin on.
“Do you remember the nearly flagrant foul you got in the last minute of your last game?” I asked my other son.
“Dad, your memory is fading…Oh…a few years ago I had a university class with that guy; he was cool.” (See old Dad remembers a few things right).
I spent the first half taking pictures with my new camera. I got better pictures of my niece’s basketball games in one day than any of my own children in any of their sports: badminton, volleyball, curling, basketball, soccer and basketball.  Action pictures are much clearer with a new camera. (And I won’t have dozens and dozens of blurring poor colored pictures in a box).
At half time I took about one hundred pictures of my one year old grandson. “Look he is crawling. Look at his cute smile. Look at him play with the rug…What? The ball game has started again… Yes, I guess we could watch that too.” Grandson began to cry when noisy fans screamed. I wanted to tell those fans off, but I realized that was my son, grandson’s papa being so loud.
My world has changed since our first Basketball Provincial Tournament. We had six children who we loved to take hither and yon (and on and on the miles would go).  Graduation may be the end of school sports, but it is the beginning of new chapters in life. Now we have added three fabulous children of the in-law variety; one son in law and two daughters in law. Instead of following our children around for badminton or soccer now we have three grandchildren to entertain us; each in their own way. 
One thing hasn’t changed; no matter how close we were, there is only one team that won the title of Provincial Champion…(until we do it all again next year).

 
2014 Paralympic Games PDF Print
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Tuesday, 18 March 2014 19:12

By Rob Ficiur
The 11th Winter Paralympic games ended this week in Sochi, Russia. The next Summer Paralympic games will take place in 2016 in Brazil and the next Paralympic Winter Games will take place in 2018 in South Korea. Since 1988 the Paralympic games have taken place a few weeks after the Olympics finish in the same site.
The first organized athletic day for disabled athletes that coincided with the Olympic Games took place on the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, who had fleed Nazi Germany in 1939, hosted a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries.
The first Paralympic games took place in Rome in 1960. When the Soviet Union held the 1980 Summer Olympics, they were not interested in hosting the Paralympics, since there were no disabled people in the Soviet Union. (Did they really say that?) In the 2014 Paralympic games the Russians earned 80 medals, including 30 of the 72 Gold Medals. Guess now there are a few disabled people in that country.
The 2014 Paralympic games had 550 athletes from 45 countries. (by comparison the 2014 Winter Games included 2873 athletes from 88 nations. Snowboarding made its Paralympic debut at Sochi. The Paralympic games have grown in size each year. The 1988 Paralympics (held in Innsbruck, Austria not Calgary) had 22 countries and 377 athletes. In 2010, the Vancouver Paralympic games hosted 44 countries and 506 athletes.
Canada came in third in the 2014 Paralympic medal count with seven gold and sixteen total medals. This is slightly down from 2010 when we won ten gold and nineteen medals still put Canada in third place. Third place is the highest Canada has ranked in the Paralympic games, beating our previous best of sixth place set in 2006 and 2002. 
Who are the Canadians that won medals? During the three weeks of the Winter Olympics, every day a new hero was born. TV coverage of the Paralympic games was relegated to highlights and broadcasts on secondary sports channels. 
-Brian McKeever, a visually impaired athlete, won gold in 20 km and 10 km free style skiing and 1km sprint. Brian will need a new shelf for all the 12 Paralympic medals he has earned since 2006. His favorite color is Gold, he has nine of those medals.
-Josh Dueck won Gold and Silver in Sit-Skiing. Josh was chosen as Canada’s Flag bearer at the closing ceremonies. Duecks’ silver medal came ten years to the day when he broke his back in a skiing run. 
-Wheelchair curling earned Canada another gold medal. Canada has won all gold in all three years that wheel chair curling has been part of the Paralympic games.
- Christopher Klebl won Gold for 10 km Cross country sit-skiing. In 2005 Klebl broke his back snowboarding and was paralyzed from the waste down. The Canmore resident previously competed for the USA in other Paralympic games.
- Mac Marcoux won gold for downhill skiing for the visually impaired. Sixteen year old Mac was the youngest member of the Canada Paralympic team. The visually impaired Macroux learned to downhill ski using a radio to communicate with his guide up ahead while he blasts down the hill at upwards of 100 kilometres per hour.
-Canadians had to settle for a bronze in sledge hockey. The USA won gold, and the Russians did a get an Olympic hockey medal, silver in sledge hockey. Canada has only won the Gold Medal in Sledge hockey once, back in 2006.
The opening of the Paralympic games was marred when Russian troops threatened to invade the Ukraine. Hopefully the Sochi Olympics will be remembered for all the athletes who overcame life changing disabilities, not for one more mini war between a big country and its little neighbor.

 
NHL trade tells fans what teams are thinking PDF Print
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Tuesday, 11 March 2014 16:41

By Rob Ficiur
Why did the NHL trade deadline consume the sports channels last week (like it does every year)? Through the course of a year, teams always have to say the right thing; “We are trying to win the Stanley Cup this year,” is the basic comment you get from the opening of training camp until a team is mathematically eliminated. However, at trade deadline, teams show what their real plans for the season are, by the trades they make and the trades they don’t make.
Calgary Flames: Building for the Future
Last year when the Flames traded their 36 year captain Jerome Iginla fans knew that the team was beginning a rebuild. This year the Flames made two minor trades. Forward Lee Stepniak went to Pittsburgh for a third round draft pick and goalie Reto Berra went to Colorado for a second round draft pick. The earliest fans are likely to see these draft picks play for the team is three years from now. Having missed the playoffs for four (soon to be five) years in a row, Flames fans know it will take several years to build a young core that can lead them to a higher level.
Best news for Flames fans is what they did not do. First they did not give away other veteran players for a minimal return. As we see in Edmonton, a team of young players without some veteran leadership does not succeed. 
Edmonton Oilers: Stronger for Next Year Already
Through two quiet trades, the Edmonton Oilers have solidified their goaltending for next year…Okay, it may not be solid, but compared to four months ago the Oilers are far ahead of where they were at the beginning of the season. Ben Scrivens (picked up for a third round pick) leads the league in save percentage…yes we know that much of that came from his time in LA – but that still proves he can stop a puck. Victor Fasth was picked up from Anaheim for a fifth round pick. Fasth looked like a rising star when be broke into the league last year. In the middle of all this the Oilers acquired a fourth round pick for Ilya Bryzgalov, a goalie they did not want next year. Two goalie upgrades at no cost to the roster and one draft pick.
Maybe these two goalies won’t win the Oilers a Stanley Cup, but steady net minding can be the difference between being a bottom feeder and a playoff contender.
Tampa Bay: Bye Bye Captain
Three NHL team captains were traded at or near the deadline. Steve Ott’s contract in Buffalo was up at the end of the year, so his departure was not a surprise for the last place Sabres.  Ryan Callahan, another unrestricted free agent in July, was not getting the type of contract offer he wanted from the New York Rangers.
However, the surprising move to everyone was when Lightning captain Martin St. Louis demanded a trade to the Rangers. Reports all suggest that St. Louis was so unhappy that Tampa GM Steve Yzerman did not originally pick him for the Canadian Olympic team that St. Louis wanted out of Florida (and please trade me to New York). Fans had come to see the undrafted undersized St. Louis as an example of what a player can do with determination.  Now he looks like so many spoiled athletes who wanted out when he did not get what he wanted. 
Vancouver: How the Mighty Have Fallen
For two years in a row (2011 and 2012) the Vancouver Canucks won the President’s Trophy as the best team in the regular season. Three years ago (2011) they were one win away from winning the Stanley Cup. Today the Canucks are 21st in NHL standings, four points out of a playoff spot. With a 2-7-1 record in their last ten games, they are falling down the standings faster the outdoor ice can melt on the West coast.
The most surprising trade of the week was when Vancouver traded two time Olympic Gold Medalist Roberto Luongo to Florida for a potentially good goalie and a potentially good forward. A year ago the Canucks had the enviable problem of two NHL level goalies. When they could not trade Luongo last year they traded Corey Schneider to New Jersey. Now with both Luongo and Schneider gone, the Canucks two goalies have played a total of 39 NHL games. How did this all happen?
Two simple answers. First, John Tortorella managed to alienate the team’s all star goalie.  Why was Tortorella fired from the New York Rangers…the players were tired of his disrespectful mind games. In less than a year Coach T. has already alienated at least two of the Canucks top five players – sorry for you Ryan Kessler that the Canucks could not make a trade so you could take the first plane out of Vancouver as well.
Second, record setting bumbling by GM Mike Gilles. Two years ago he could have traded Luongo for what he got this week. The team discord that has gone on for two years would not have happened. Did they really think that a bully coach was going to get better results out of the team this year? Why has this GM not acquired other scoring help to assist the Sedins? What has he done to keep his job as GM of an NHL team?
I was talking to a loyal (but unhappy) Canucks fan today. He told me all these complaints and more. Seems we have a simple solution – the Canucks can hire the two of us as co-General Managers. We can’t do worse than what has been done.
Once we are named General Managers, if we have goaltending issues, we know that Edmonton has an overabundance of good goalies (2), maybe we can make a trade before next year’s trade deadline.



 
Canadian hockey gold medals - Same colour, different paths PDF Print
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Tuesday, 04 March 2014 20:26

By Rob Ficiur
Twice in one week Canada stood still, waiting, hoping, fearing and then cheering a Gold Medal in Olympic hockey. The early early Sunday morning game, got a an average rating of 8.5 million. Though that is half of the 2010 Gold Medal game rating, during the final hour of the Gold Medal performance, ratings indicates that 90% of Canadian TVs were watching the big game.
Has anyone told Canadian sports fans that we came out of Sochi with one less medal (24) than we did in 2010? Has anyone told the rejoicing fans that Canada had four fewer Gold medals in 2014 than we did four years ago? Maybe. However, Canadians care more about the two hockey medals than any others sports (sorry curling fans). Our two Hockey Gold Medals came in dramatically different ways.
Canadian Women win their fourth Gold Medal in a row…the hard way.
In my 2014 yearly predictions, I predicted that the Canadian Women would not win Gold in Sochi. The team had just fired their coach and hired former Florida Panther head coach Kevin Dineen. Was two months enough for a team to come together? Since the Americans beat Canada four games in a row in December in a pre-Olympic tournament, things looked bad for our women’s team.
I was in class when I heard that the Canadian Women won the Gold Medal in overtime. “Nice,” I thought. “It must have been a good close game.” Only as I drove home did I hear about the dramatic come back. Down 2-0 with less than three minutes to go – somehow Canada came back and won.
-Riveting Re-run
Thursday night several sports channels replayed the entire game. By this time I knew the score, and I knew when Canada would score their goals. Knowing all the facts did not take away from the drama of the game.
With five minutes left, and Canada down 2-0, I kept encouraging (yelling at the TV) for the Canadians to get some shots on net. How can they possibly win the game, when the Americans were getting more chances to score than Canada?  [What kind of person yells at a re-run of a hockey game?] Anyone who thinks that the Americans were coasting to the end did not watch the game. The USA had more scoring chances in the last ten minutes than Canada.
Even though I knew who was going to win, I felt compelled to urge the team on. “You will have to try harder than that to win this time as well,” I told the re-run episode.
The overtime was as exciting as any ever witnessed. In the first minute of overtime, the Americans got seven quality shots at the Canadian goal. Two minutes later Canadian took a two minute cross checking penalty. Yes, she was defending her goalie, but yes it was a penalty. With a 4 on 3 power play, things looked good for the USA. Seconds into the US power play the Americans got a slashing penalty. That was a penalty? After seeing it twice, it still looked like all the US was doing was trying to get the puck lose. Two or three whacks is not usually a penalty. I was watching a replay of the game, so I knew that my opinion was not going to change anything.
When Canada scored the winning goal, I felt bad for the Americans. (Not bad enough to cheer for them.) They were so close. The 2014 Women’s Gold Medal Comeback will be remembered for decades.
Canadian men
The Canadian Men won the hockey Gold Medal with a 3-0 win over Sweden. Unlike 2010, there was no overtime Golden Goal. Instead Canada dominated Sweden defensively though the game. Team Canada set a record that will never be broken, letting up three goals in the entire six game tournament.
Somehow Coach Mike Babcock convinced scoring superstars to play defense. The result was near total domination.  Canada never trailed during any game of the tournament. Their tight defensive system lead to the goals they needed.  (Example, Goal #2 in Golden Game when Sidney Crosby created a breakaway goal through his defensive work at his own blue line.)  With Canada up 2-0 in the third period, you would think that Sweden would be pressing for a goal to get them in the game. No. By the 10:00 mark of the third period, Sweden had only one shot on goal, because of Canada’s tight defensive system.
Conclusion: Canada has won three of the last four Olympic Gold Medals in Men’s hockey. Since 1976, Canada has won seven of the eleven best on best tournaments (Canada Cup, World Cup of Hockey and Olympics). How good have Canadian teams been? In the eleven best on best tournaments, no country has won more than one time except Canada. The Soviet Union won its only Canada Cup in 1980, more than 30 years ago. Americans speak about the Miracle on Ice, but in best on Best Tournaments, they have only won once. 
Canadian hockey fans can and will celebrate for the next four years. Canada has proven (again) it is the top hockey country in the world. Period.




 
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