vendredi 17 mai 2013

Junior Hockey – Do Small Market Teams have a Real Chance?

As the Memorial Cup opens once more, a quick look at the qualifying teams gives me some concern.  All three league champions, the ‘QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, Ontario’s London Knights and the Western League’s Portland Winterhawks, and numerous teams that were successful this year such as the Quebec Remparts, Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen represent big cities within junior hockey.  Should this be a concern and do small market teams even have a shot at junior success?  Over the next few weeks, I intend to find out.

This question has been bugging me for a while.  My hypothesis is that teams in bigger cities have more resources to devote to attracting players, offering better health and fitness services, ensuring easier travel and getting the best coaching staff.  Together, this makes it possible for them to reach the top of their leagues year after year creating a cycle that puts teams from smaller cities at a permanent disadvantage.  While it is not impossible for small market teams to have success and success is not guaranteed for big city teams, I think there is a relationship that goes beyond mere chance.  In order to test this hypothesis, I’ll have to dig deep and go back to my high school and university math to see if there is something to this.  As far as I know, teams don’t generally publish information like profit margins and revenues, so I’ll find to find information another way.

But how could that happen, that teams in smaller towns be at a disadvantage?  After all, they represent a majority of teams in the CHL.  It would be a concern to all three leagues if it is the case.  Each team, though, has access to the same players, the same drafts.  They play by the same rules in game and a lot has been done to punish teams like Portland and Windsor that have stepped outside the bounds to get players into their dressing rooms.  Yet, can more be done if there is indeed a problem?

To study this question, I will take a look at teams’ results over the past 10 years to look at trends and evaluate the correlation, if any, between city/region sizes, their support of junior hockey and results.  Success will be evaluated based on the number of Memorial Cups, league championships won and playoff rounds won as well as the number of times the team has made the playoffs.  To determine the size of regions and the support of teams, appropriate statistical information will be used when available.  It is unfair to assume that all teams in big cities have access to more resources because of a phenomenon common in junior hockey: when the team is not the highest level of hockey in town, it does not necessarily attract as much attention and support.  Junior hockey teams trying to establish themselves in the Toronto and Montreal regions have felt this consistently for many years and there was a time when Ottawa risked losing its junior team as well.

I hope to publish my research results and methodology near the end of this year’s Memorial Cup.  I’m not trying to shake up junior hockey but I would like to see a little bit more parity and some other teams get a real chance to go all the way.

jeudi 9 mai 2013

4 Year Anniversary of Leaving Iceland

I was a little busy to be writing about my April 29 anniversary of leaving Iceland this year on the day on which it should be remarked.  Catie and I were driving from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg on our way, eventually, to our new home in Calgary.  I would never have predicted or likely agreed to such a change a few years ago, but if this annual report as shown anything, it’s that my life has become unpredictable year over year though the end goal never changes.

After assuming the role of Interim Manager of Programs and Outreach at the Forum for Young Canadians and seeing the ‘interim’ tag get dropped, I got hard to work on what I saw was the biggest task there: increasing the participation in the program.  Together, volunteers and I drove over 20000 km and met and called thousands of people to increase the number of participants by 16%.  That means 16% more young people who got to live the experience that clearly impacted me high school and beyond.

When I wasn’t busy with that, I became even more ambitious with my journalism getting involved with television covering the Ottawa Fat Cats and lots of hockey from atom to university level.  In April, I even helped out with the web broadcast of the Women’s World Hockey Championships!  Perhaps the most exciting for me was getting into radio.  I was on a local sports talk show during the summer and around Christmas joined in the coverage of Ottawa 67’s games interviewing future NHL stars and the coaching staff.  
While their on-ice season wasn’t great, I learned a lot and was happy for the opportunity.

Another exciting activity during the year was when I invited myself onto Canada’s national hot air balloon team.  When you are willing to do what it takes to help people, they will offer you the opportunity.  I was offered the role of theodolite operator – measuring the winds on the ground – and I was amazed at the level of competition over in Battle Creek, MI.  Thanks so much!

As the year passed, it became evident that Catie would not find a librarian job in Ottawa.  With deep cuts to libraries, there were simply too many people with over 15 years experience floating around for a new grad to get a job, great as she is.  When a metadata librarian position opened in Calgary, Catie immediately knew it was for her and six months later, she has just started her dream job.  At the time, I hesitatingly agreed to move with her if she found work, knowing what a difficult situation it was and that she wasn’t going to let go of her dream.

I’m here now, despite my initial anxiety, and excited for my own Albertan activities starting with being a windreader at this weekend’s Rimbey Hot Air Affair two hours north of town. 

On our drive out west, we stopped in at Joel Fridfinsson’s new house for a great welcome.  It felt like coming full circle as we celebrated four years since that time across the hallway from one another by sharing stories of the past.  Yet, we also created new memories with a trip around New Iceland and recollections of our meetings since 2009.  We hadn’t missed a beat.  That type of friendship will be counted on from my rocky mountain home.