The Final Two Principles


With the NHL unveiling their Declaration of Principles for hockey and having every North American entity and the IIHF latch onto it is a great thing for the growth of hockey. I mean, it was even praised by His Holiness, Pope Francis— so you know it must be good.

But, when thinking about the whole Pope’s blessing thing…why was there only eight principles of this whole thing?? For those who follow or know the littlest thing about Catholicism; there’s really four big numbers: 7, 10, 12, and 40. I’m shocked that the Pope didn’t suggest two more principles in order to mirror the commandments; which– let’s be honest– seems to be the sense of happening here.

So, in my infinite wisdom, I had an idea on what the final two principles could be– especially given what this whole thing is all about: inclusiveness.

#9. Have some respect for your fellow player. We all know the big hit and all that seems cool and gets the highlights– but what about the other player in this situation?? Maybe they should have their head up, maybe you just accidentally stuck your leg out if they got past you– but have a bit of accountability for your actions out there and not just say it’s a “hockey play.”

#10. Honor the hockey mom and dad…to a point. Sure, they get up early and haul you around and bankroll your career; but you and your teammates should have to put up with the overactive parent. Players have the right to speak up when their parent isn’t acting properly and putting you in a bad situation with your teammates. Other parents should to and those offending parents need to have a reality check for the whole thing and not act like they’re doing nothing wrong.

There’s definitely others you could go about, but that’s up for the Martin Luther of the hockey world to put up their 95 Theses to this Declaration of Principles in a couple years.

It’s a mean-well effort and really a solid show of solidarity to make hockey available for every one in North America and the world, but mostly North America. If you add this to their “You Can Play” stand the NHL has taken, but they’re going to make sure that hockey is available to everyone and anyone who wants to take an interest– which is a great and noble ideal.

However, the one problem to all of this is people. Once you get people involved, you always have some numbskulls who ruin it for the rest of the group. Hopefully, that won’t happen for this project or the other projects where hockey wants everyone involved. One can only hope and follow all of these principles to make things a lot better on and off the ice.

On the Topic Of NCAA Expansion


With Penn State and Arizona State making the jump from Division I club team to Division I in the NCAA, it makes some wonder who is going to be the next team to make the big jump to the NCAA and who is really able to make the jump with few stumbles along the way.

During this year’s NHL Draft, the University of Illinois announced that they were the first team to participate in the newly sponsored research for the feasibility of more college teams being brought up to the Division I level of hockey. It would make sense for Illinois to be the first to be in this program, as the state is surrounded by plenty of college hockey and would have a built-in conference alignment in the Big Ten once they move into D1. In the ACHA, Illinois went 13-11-3 in 2016-17 and finished the season being ranked 13th in the final rankings. That ranking is up from their 17th final ranking in 2015-16 and even with their final 2014-15 ranking at 13th. Illinois has been a club team for 60 years and with the Big Ten finally getting a hockey conference, it could be time for them to make the jump to the big show.

That said, I wholly expect that the next team to get funding to see if their program is viable for NCAA D1 status will be the Naval Academy. You can bet that the NHL and NHLPA will announce that during the Stadium Series weekend in Annapolis, as well.

The location of Illinois would be perfect when you look at the map of the NCAA. It’s clear to see that if you’re a D1 hockey school, you’re probably in Northeast corridor or the upper Midwest. Only two of the 60 NCAA D1 schools are south of the Mason-Dixon line (Miami-Ohio, Alabama-Huntsville) and seven teams are west of Minnesota (North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver, Air Force, Arizona State, Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks) with the two Alaska teams on thin-ice with keeping their teams due to financial reasons.

With the look at Navy, the move would help the NCAA establish a move towards the under-represented Mid-Atlantic region of the US. On top of that, the team would have already have the two other service schools– Air Force and Army– as their rivals. McMullin Arena may be one of the smallest of the NCAA, but they would be in line with what Robert Morris University has with the majority of the stands being on one side of the rink rather than a bowl seating situation.

There are some issues with Navy getting in and being competitive from the start, with recruiting being the biggest issue, which are the same issues that Army and Air Force deal with when it comes to bringing in the top players into the program. With players having to do service time after their college career is done, some may be hesitant to joining the team.  This is something that former Army goalie Parker Gahagen is dealing with, as he signed an amateur try-out with the San Jose Sharks, but is not looking into whether or not he could defer his service time (a minimum of two years) to move on with his NHL career. The same thing happened with Zach McKelvie after he finished his Army career, but had his pro hockey career stalled due to having to finish his active duty time in the Army.

However, the move to the Mid-Atlantic region for NCAA D1 hockey would be great for the high school scene in and around that area. While there are great club teams who play in that area and have a history behind them, it’s an underserviced area of the US when it comes to the prospects of high school players playing close to home. Especially with Alex Ovechkin having an impact in registration for youth players in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area, you’d think the NCAA would want to tap that market, too. Both Sam Anas (Quinnipiac) and Jamie Fritsch (New Hampshire) were Maryland kids who were able to break out and have D1 careers, but for the most part, a lot of players in the area look to the club team’s D1 or hope for a NCAA Division III school to go to– which isn’t bad, but you’d think they’d want to strive for move and try to get that boost to D1.

While Navy would be a good fit to the NCAA D1 pool, the University of Delaware could be another option. While not the most sexy of choices, the pool of players they can pull from would be tremendous as they would have Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey players to recruit and be close to home base. Delaware’s D1 club program has been a model for consistency and has won an ACHA National Championship in 2012, the first for the program. The team would fall into that Northeast corridor area of travel, but be a little closer for kids in surrounding states who don’t have D1 college hockey within a reasonable driving distance. While they did run into trouble last season, having to pull out of the season due to school sanctions, the team was reinstated by the school without having to miss a season because of said sanctions.

This whole scenario doesn’t include the growth of hockey out west, especially in California and Arizona. With Arizona State making the jump, they may have started a westward shift, but without any club teams (sans University of Arizona) being all that prominent in Division 1 of club hockey, it will take a little more time to grow the college game out there. The whole point is that right now, NCAA hockey is a big area of development for NHL teams and more and more kids from different areas are getting involved. It’s up to the NCAA to maybe explore harder into what they need to do to expand past the 60 teams they have now and make it viable. Assistance from the NHL and NHLPA will help greatly, but the NCAA can’t rely on those entities, as they will only look for area that would also help in NHL markets rather than outliers.


An Alternate to the Capitals’ Alternate History: Dafoe over Kolzig


With due respect to Jason Rogers of Japers’ Rink in his NHL Alternate History on Yahoo’s Puck Daddy; there’s many of ways you could have gone with the Washington Capitals side of things aside from former players becoming coaches. Like what if Michal Pivonka and Peter Bondra’s hold out led to their being traded?? What if the Caps hadn’t traded for Rod Langway?? What if David Poile stayed with the Flames organization and not come to DC?? What if the Caps matched St. Louis’s offer sheet for Scott Stevens?? What if the Caps would have moved in the early-80’s??

However, one stood out to me when we were riffing on this on August 30th’s edition of Face Off Hockey Show. What if the Capitals had picked Byron Dafoe as their future goalie going forward instead of Olaf Kolzig??

They were 16 picks apart in the 1989 draft and both were selected by the Capitals. While they developed a bond in the minors, when push came to shove; the Caps seemingly made the right decision in choosing Olaf Kolzig over Byron Dafoe. Kolzig became the face of the franchise for the Capitals before Alex Ovechkin came along, while Dafoe had a decent career, if not limited by the injuries he had during his prime.

Yet, it could have turned out much different. In fact, before he was traded– then head coach Jim Schoenfeld had Byron Dafoe as his #1 starter over Kolzig and Jim Carey going into the lockout-shortened 1995 season. However, due to a bad showing in the pre-season, Dafoe was relegated to the AHL and then IHL before getting traded with Dmitri Khristich to Los Angeles. Even before then, Dafoe had a great showing during the Capitals European tour in 1989, but was ultimately sent back to Portland in the WHL, allowing Kolzig to be the opening night back-up to Don Beaupre at the start of the 1989-90 season. Granted, Kolzig got shipped back to Tri-City after the start of the season, but with David Poile having that much confidence in him showed how the pecking order was at the time.

However….what if the Caps had moved Dafoe along the quick path?? What if Kolzig had been sent down to Tri-City of the WHL after the training camp??

What if the Caps picked Byron Dafoe over Olaf Kolzig as their young goalie for the future??

Right after getting drafted, Dafoe went with the Caps over to Russia for a tour and only allowed four goals in three games, posting a 2.64 GAA compared to Kolzig’s 5.11 GAA, as Kolzig gave up four goals early in his first appearance. Luckily for Kolzig, David Poile thought Kolzig was more mature, as he was a year older than Dafoe, as well as thinking the bigger netminder would be better off being put on the Caps opening night roster.

In fact, if Dafoe was given the keys to the kingdom, a lot of things could have turned out different in that season along. Growing off his solid European tour, the Caps would have had a longjam in the AHL with the Baltimore Skipjacks having Jim Hrivnak, Bob Mason, and Shawn Simpson in line. With a half-decent team in front of him, Dafoe could have been the back-up to learn the ropes from Beaupre, but would also probably block the trade the Caps made for Mike Liut at the trade deadline.

The talent Dafoe had displayed would have been good enough for many teams. Even if he had been sent back to Juniors after a couple of starts, Dafoe went back to subpar teams in Portland before he was ultimately traded to Prince Albert and actually got support. Kolzig was able to evolve due to the help he got in Tri-City. Sure, there was an incident where Kolzig flipped out during a brawl and went after the fans— but his size helped him. Kolzig then went to struggle a bit in the AHL, rebound a little in the ECHL, then finding success in the AHL, but with the Rochester Americans– not even part of the Caps farm system.

Put Dafoe above Kolzig would have change a lot. Not only because the future franchise goalie could have been elsewhere, but it could have yielded a better return on a trade than what they were able to get with Dafoe (and Khristich)– which was two draft picks in 1996 that turned out to be Alexandre Volchkov and Justin Davis. If the Caps would have dangled Kolzig, who was a part of the new wave of oversized goalies– the return for the Caps could have been much greater and set the team up better off down the line.

Especially when being put on display for the Sabres front office in Rochester, Kolzig could have very easily netted some players from the Sabres to help rebuild the Caps skaters. Which, if it happened, would have put a little curve on them going with guys like Dominik Hasek or Martin Biron down the line.

Had Dafoe stayed with the Caps, the Jim Carey situation may not have happened. And though Dafoe suffered some injuries later on, the fact is that Dafoe could have held the fort down for the Caps while back-ups like Rick Tabaracci and Craig Billington could have gotten new life and maybe taken the starters role due to Dafoe’s injuries.

Had Dafoe been the goalie of record the Caps rode, they would not have had the workhorse that Kolzig became. While Dafoe played well in the Bruins system when he got there, the same probably would not have been said had he been the backstop of the Capitals during that same time span. With the struggles that Kolzig had early in his pro career, if he had been traded away at a younger age, would Kolzig have been mentally prepared for that move or would it have broke him down more and not allow him to focus??

On top of that, depending on when they traded it them, it could have drastically altered what the Portland Pirates were able to do during the 1993-94 season. Dafoe and Kolzig were a solid tandem during the season– despite Dafoe getting the majority of the regular season starts. The playoffs showed the determination of Kolzig, who’s 12-5 record helped the Pirates win the Calder Cup the year they moved to Portland. That run may have been enough to maybe change any doubt the Caps could have had in Kolzig, especially  when it came to clutch moments like playoff time– which helped them during their 1998 Stanley Cup Finals run.

It was a decision that may have looked silly at the start, but not buying into the hype train that Dafoe put out there in the first tour paid off big for the Capitals. They were able to settle down with Kolzig and really have him join the trend of bigger goalies being put between the pipes and being a success thanks to it. With goal shored up, the Caps were able to focus on different priorities and adapt their game around Kolzig being the dominant workhorse he grew into.