Monday, October 20, 2014

Calgary Flames Forward Johnny Gaudreau Scores 1st Goal of the 2014-15 Season



Former Boston College Eagles All-American forward Johnny Gaudreau scored his first goal of the 2014-15 season last night. As you can see, Johnny Hockey's first goal was a thing of beauty. The Calgary Flames rookie has scored (1g-1a--2pts) in six games.

Phil Kessel Humor



I thought this tweet was really funny.

UND Ranked 3rd in Both National Polls

USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll

Rk.      School (First place votes)       
1.         Minnesota (39)                         
2.         Union (11)                                
3.         North Dakota                           
4.         Colgate                                    
5.         Providence                                
6.         Boston College                          
7.         Massachusetts-Lowell                 
8.         Ferris State                               
9.         St. Cloud State                          
10.       Miami     
11.       Denver                                  
12.       Boston University                       
13.       Minnesota State                           
14.       Michigan                                           
15.       Quinnipiac                                         
16.       Alaska                                                
17.       Vermont                                            
18.       Cornell                                               
19.       Minnesota Duluth                             
20.       Alaska Anchorage                           

Others receiving votes: Omaha 78, Robert Morris 67, Notre Dame 62, Bowling Green 47, Michigan Tech 36, Merrimack 27, Northern Michigan 24, New Hampshire 21, Princeton 17, Ohio State 14, Yale 10, Dartmouth 6, Harvard 6, Northeastern 6, Bemidji State 2, Clarkson 1, Mercyhurst 1.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll

Rk.      School (1st place)                     
1.         Minnesota (23)                                 
2.         Union (10)                                        
3.         North Dakota (1)                        
4.         Colgate                                              
5.         Providence                                      
6.         Boston College                                
7.         Ferris State                                        
8.         Massachusetts-Lowell                                     
9.         St. Cloud State                                  
10.       Miami                                                
11.       Boston University                            
12.       Minnesota State                               
13.       Denver                                              
14.       Michigan                                           
15.       Quinnipiac                                          

Others receiving votes: Alaska 45, Vermont 33, Cornell 27, Notre Dame 18, Robert Morris 15, Minnesota Duluth 14, Omaha 14, Yale 9, Alaska Anchorage 8, Bowling Green 6, Merrimack 6, Michigan Tech 5, Ohio State 3, New Hampshire 1, Bemidji State 1.

Hockey Is a Dangerous Sport - Yikes



Here's a picture of Penn State  defenseman David Thompson's abdomen after he was cut with a skate. Thompson laceration came in last Friday's game against UAA during the Brice Goal Rush tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska. Thankfully, Thompson should be back on the ice soon.

"Yeah, he's going to be great," said Penn State Head Coach, Guy Gadowsky of Thompson. "He's going to be fine. They took really good care of him. It was scary at the start, and we took every precaution, but he's going to be back at 100 percent very soon."

Back at it and Timber

After a week of vacation in central North Dakota, I am back at it. First, I want to give a big thanks to Sioux_7, Zach Hawkins and Redwing77 for filling in while I was gone. All three guys did a wonderful job while I was out depleting the North Dakota duck population. Yes, I also had a beer or two.

But I digress.

I wanted to take some time off before the hockey season kicked off full steam ahead. Yeah, because I am so taxed, right? Well not really, but I might as well use up that vacation time. I get 208 hours every year.

After watching UND get rolled 5-1 in the first game of the season against the Bemidji State Beavers, in the last three games UND has given up a grand total of four goals.

On the plus side, UND has scored 12 goals in the last three games. I don't think we need to worry about scoring all that much.

After four games, senior forward Marc MacMillan leads UND with (5g-2a—7pts). Coming in second is sophomore defenseman Paul Ladue (2g-4a—6pts).

After getting lit up in the first game of the season, UND goalie Zane McIntyre has been rock solid and really settled in. In four games, McIntyre has posted some really good numbers. Here’s the McIntyre line (3-1-0. 2.21 GAA and a .929 SV%).

Busness Insider: Jeremy Roenick Describes Life After 13 Concussions

This is kind of scary.
Aaron Taube, Busness Insider-- Five years into his retirement, the nine-time NHL All-Star says that the brain damage inflicted by his hard-hitting career makes it so he can no longer remember many parts of his past — games he played in, trips he went on, and friends he spent time with.

"My wife will ask me, 'Hey, remember we did this? Remember we did that?' And I totally don't remember any of it," Roenick says. "My short-term memory is good, but there's a lot of times I'm asked questions that I couldn't remember for the life of me."

Now an analyst with NBC Sports, Roenick says the concussions also hinder his speech. Sometimes on television he will have trouble finding the right word, even if it's one he knows and uses frequently.

He's worried that his brain will continue to deteriorate as he gets older, and he fears that he could one day suffer from dementia.

UND Women 9th in USCHO.com Division I Women's Poll


October 20, 2014

Team
(First Place Votes)
Record
Points
Last Poll
1
Minnesota
(15)
5- 0-1
150
2
2
Wisconsin
6- 2-0
128
1
3
Boston College
3- 0-1
115
4
4
Harvard
0- 0-0
103
3
5
Cornell
0- 0-0
91
5
6
Boston University
3- 1-0
87
6
7
Quinnipiac
4- 0-1
51
9
8
Mercyhurst
4- 1-1
33
8
9
North Dakota
4- 2-0
20
10
10
Clarkson
3- 3-0
19
7
Others receiving votes: Minnesota-Duluth 12, Northeastern 10, St. Lawrence 6.

Developing: Lawsuit filed against Canadian Hockey League over financial compensation

The CHL has been sued via a class action lawsuit. The suit alleges that the CHL players are underpaid.
The Canadian Press -- A class action lawsuit has been launched against the Canadian Hockey League seeking financial compensation for allegedly underpaid players.

The suit claims the players are paid less than the minimum wage in their regions and that they should also get holiday, overtime and vacation pay.

The lawsuit alleges the average OHL player devotes 35 to 40 hours per week to his team and receives $50 a week.

Toronto lawyer Ted Charney says the lawsuit seeks to hold the CHL and its teams accountable.
The Toronto Star has more on this subject. Of course the CHL President, David Branch is going to defense the way the CHL does business.
Robert Cribb, the Star -- An unprecedented class action lawsuit striking at the economic foundations of junior hockey in Canada alleges the Canadian Hockey League and its teams “conspired” to force young players into signing contracts that breach minimum wage laws.

A statement of claim filed in a Toronto court Friday and obtained by the Star, seeks $180 million in outstanding wages, vacation, holiday and overtime pay and employer payroll contributions for thousands of young players given as little as $35 a week for practices, games, training and travelling that could add up to more than full-time hours.

The league and its teams “conspired and agreed together . . . to act in concert to demand or require that all players sign a contract which the defendants knew was unlawful,” the claim alleges. “Such conduct was high-handed, outrageous, reckless, wanton, deliberate, callous, disgraceful, wilful and in complete disregard for the rights of the (players).”
It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic boards Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin



Three nights ago, Milan Lucic was penalized two minutes for boarding Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin. This is the replay of the hit. You can see that Emelin turns at the last moment. I don't really agree with the call in question, but oh well.

One has to wonder if Lucic was trying to send a message.

Apparently, Lucic also made an obscene gesture to the Montreal fans and was fined $5,000.00. Yesterday, Lucic apologized for his behavior. What's troubling to me is that the league is more concerned about obscene behavior than dangerous hits. To me, that's a travesty.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Canada is About to get Krzyznasty

Earlier today Hockey Canada announced their women's hockey roster that will be competing in this year's IIHF Four Nations Cup this November and UND sophomore defender Halli Krzyzaniak was one of the seven defenders named to the roster.

In her first season at UND, the Neepawa, Manitoba native did not miss a single game for UND on the blue line and was a huge factor when it came to positive plays. With 10 points and a plus 12 rating, the very disciplined defender is a key point to the UND blue line and will likely be the same for Canada as well.

The IIHF Four Nations Cup Will start on November 4 and will take place in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Congratulations to Halli and best of luck to you on your first stint with the big club in Canada.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Arena Impressions - Cedar Rapids - RW77

Ok, Part II so far.

The Cedar Rapids Ice Arena -- Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, home of the USHL's Cedar Rapids Roughriders, is a modern arena opened in 2000.  It seats 4,000 people and has two sheets of ice, as well as a small store that sells Roughtriders merchandise and a decent sized open area that could be used for many different kinds of events.

Though this arena only holds about 600 more than Des Moines, the age of the building isn't the only stark difference between it and Buccaneer's Arena.  This arena is adorned with modern seating, projector screens behind both goals, great lighting, and a great feel around the upper walkway.

The walls were festooned with Cedar Rapids alumni like UND forward Michael Parks and LA Kings hero Alec Martinez.

The facility looked very well cared for.  Aside for a few random dents in the steel siding (most probably from VERY stray pucks), this arena looked new despite its 14 year old age.

If I were to build a USHL facility on a limited budget, I'd start in Cedar Rapids, IA (knowing full well what palaces Ralston Arena is and what the new rink in Sioux Falls seems to suggest).

Facility Grade:  A-.  Would be an A+ with an updated scoreboard.

Ice:

Not unlike the facilities, the ice was great.  The boards seemed not to be as lively as Des Moines.  I think this helped Omaha because the boards seemed to react very similarly to Ralston Arena.

Grade:  A

Entertainment

They had a VERY interesting way of doing things pre-game.  Even at UND, there wasn't that much to do between the end of warm ups and the opening lineup ceremony.  Not at Cedar Rapids.  From the minute the last player left the ice until roundabout 3 minutes prior to them stepping onto the ice, there was a nonstop series of montage videos featuring different songs.  Some featured highlights from last season.  Some featured behind the scenes stuff.  Others the history of the franchise.  All in all, I was VERY impressed.

Pregame Grade:  A

Intermission Entertainment:  They had a chuck a puck competition, and a slingshot bowling thing.  The chuck a puck was pretty straight forward except the prizes were a bit lame.  We did not participate.

The slingshot bowling is always a crowd favorite.  And it was done right.  Good on them.

Intermission Grade:  B+

PA:  We met this guy but really, all he had to do (like I said before) was to know the player's names and numbers and pronounce them correctly.  He did.

Grade:  A

PS:  He's a nice guy.

Fanbase:

A LOT more people came to the game in Cedar Rapids than in Des Moines, but I do not recall them announcing it during the game.  I'm fairly sure that it was between 2,000 and 3,000 people from the looks of it.  Still, there were some empty seats.  A lot in our section.

Though we had rumors that Des Moines fans were less than fun, we had no such preconcieved notions about Cedar Rapids.  For the most part, we were left alone, just like in Des Moines.

Two exceptions:  One fan came and talked to us as a fan of a former Lancer player (Gage Hough, now of UMass Lowell).  She was nice.  As for the other, these three nagging older ladies did not take too kindly to my razzing the goaltender (The old UND standard (Goalie's Name x3, you suck) and made a rather crude reference of a more homophobic nature.  Hey, I'm not sensitive, but if you are going to mock me, at least be original or creative.  She wasn't.  Sad for her.

Cowbell/Vuvuzela Factor:  This arena really pushed cowbells and they were everywhere.  Naturally, this concerned me.  I shouldn't have been concerned.  They knew when to ring the cowbells and when not to and responded to prompts accordingly.  There was no gratuitous noise.  No one rang them in anyone's ears intentionally or otherwise.  It was very well orchestrated.  That speaks a lot to a strong, loyal, and well-informed fan base.

Fanbase Grade:  A-

Overall Impression:

Omaha's fanbase doesn't travel...especially with the year Omaha's having.  However, this was an easy 4 hour drive from Omaha and one that every loyal Omaha fan should make.  I would not hesitate in the slightest to return to Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.  BTW, even the Roughrider website is cool.

Overall Grade:  A-

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dufault, Kohler, Krzyzaniak UND's Now, Canada's Future

The UND Women's Hockey Team  has had its fair share of dynamic players and probably none better than two time Olympic silver medalists Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux. However, there are three players on the roster who are leading the way for UND and are the future of Canadian Women's Hockey. Becca Kohler, Meghan Dufault, and Halli Krzyzaniak have done everything to solidify them in Hockey Canada's future plans.

This past weekend, the trio put their skills on display in UND's sweep against Mankato. Kohler tallied up five points this weekend and was named WCHA offensive player of the week. Her play out front of the net is some of the best in the country and look for her to do big things this season as UND looks to charge back into the NCAA tournament.

As for Meghan Dufault, she has been getting big line minutes since coming to UND, showing that size isn't everything, it's heart. Her hat trick this past Friday night is just a little example of her big time play on the ice. She is always someone you expect to produce and no matter what you throw in front of her, she usually gets at least one point out of a weekend.
Dufault also put on a show at Canada's development camp this past summer, stealing the show on offense and turning the heads of the women's hockey community, all be it no surprise to me.

Halli Krzyzaniak is the workhorse on the blue line for UND. Although Tanja Eisenschmid may be seen as the top defender in a UND uniform right now, Krzyzaniak is much to UND as Ryan Suter is to the Minnesota Wild. You will always find her on the ice at key points of the game, and will rarely take a penalty or make a costly mistake. She does not score often, but that's not her role with UND. She does have that ability, which is a nice added bonus with her, but her strength to play big minutes will only make the UND
blue line that much better.

These three have what it takes to take their games to the next level. Hockey Canada should be put on alert because there is a green wave about to take over in the likes of Dufault, Kohler, and Krzyzaniak, in the very near future.

From Warroad, Minnesota, Number 29 Brock Nelson

As if UND fans needed an introduction to Brock Nelson, the rest of the NHL world is getting a taste, finally, of what UND fans saw in his two seasons representing, the then Fighting Sioux, colors and that is the ability to score goals and help produce them. Tonight was no different, scoring his fourth goal of the season for the Islanders, and the game winning goal in tonight's contest against the Rangers as well.

Playing on the Islander's top line with John Tavares, Nelson has found his niche to find the net in this young season. He has tallied a four point night, and is tied for top scoring in the NHL with 7 points with the likes of Rick Nash and John Tavares. Now I do understand that the season is very young, but I see him playing as well, if not even better than, when he played with Danny Kristo and Corban Knight in his 30 goal sophomore campaign at UND.

Brock has put the NHL on notice that he is one to keep a sharp eye on in the near, and probably the distant future. Look for Nelson to impress on the ice for many seasons to come. UND fans knew what the Islanders were getting, now everyone knows what they have, a future superstar.

Brock Nelson - ESPN story

I found this little article on Brock Nelson over on ESPN.  If you don't remember Brock played for UND in the 2010-11 and 2011-2012 seasons.

Sometimes in hockey it appears there's just a "poof" moment when it all falls magically into place.

At least that's how it must appear to fans when it comes to a guy such as Brock Nelson.

Brock who?

Exactly.

New York Islanders fans certainly know Nelson now, and if the early returns from the 2014-15 season are any indication, it won't be long before lots of hockey fans hear the name and nod their heads appreciatively.

Two games into the season, Nelson has six points on three goals and three assists and is tied with a guy named Sidney Crosby for the league lead in point production.

It's not like head coach Jack Capuano rubbed an old lamp he found in his office at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and a big, talented center appeared out of the smoke, though frankly, that's a better -- or at least more evocative -- story.

Capuano knows the path out of obscurity isn't nearly that neat and tidy.

The Isles coach knew Nelson as a rail-thin, 180-pound rookie at the Islanders' development camp a few years back, after they made him the 30th overall pick in the 2010 entry draft.

He has seen him evolve from a solid American Hockey League prospect -- he scored 25 goals and collected 52 points in just 66 games two years ago -- into a young man learning the NHL game the past season and occasionally finding his way onto the power play or penalty kill.

Now Nelson is well over 200 pounds, having focused on getting bigger and stronger with a more explosive skating stride, and Capuano decided the Warroad, Minnesota, native, whose uncle Dave Christian was part of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic gold medal team, can handle the pressure of being the team's No. 2 center.
[+] EnlargeBrock Nelson
James Guillory/USA TODAY SportsIslanders forward Brock Nelson had 14 goals and 12 assists in 72 games the past season.


"When I think of Brock Nelson, I think of a guy that has a very high hockey IQ. Tremendous intelligence of the game," Capuano told ESPN.com before the Islanders (2-0) prepared for what promises to be an emotional home tilt against the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

The Isles coach said he has always been impressed by Nelson's ability to play on both sides of the puck, but when he came to the NHL, Capuano wanted Nelson to use his skill more and not play it safe, as many young players do in simply trying to stay in an NHL lineup.

Now that is happening with Nelson, who has been playing with Ryan Strome and newcomer Mikhail Grabovski, as well as getting top power-play minutes.

"So far, I've been able to be on the fortunate end of a couple of nice plays," Nelson told ESPN.com.

With a significant change in personnel in the offseason, Nelson said he knew there would be opportunities for a different or expanded role.

"If you go out there and execute, you're going to build trust with the coaching staff," he said. "Whenever you get that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it. I want to grab this by the horns."

The past season, when he played 72 games for the Islanders, Nelson stayed first in a local hotel and then roomed with defenseman Thomas Hickey. The two are continuing to share a place, though Nelson insists they aren't thinking ahead to the team's move to Brooklyn next season.

"I know everybody has the move in the back of their mind, stored away," he said.

But the focus has been on a solid start to this season.

He said the atmosphere for Saturday's home opener, a win over Carolina, reminded him of the team's playoff series against Pittsburgh two springs ago.

"I think guys are pretty dialed in and want to make a splash," Nelson said.
If Nelson predictably downplays his early success, one person who doesn't is longtime Islander and broadcast analyst Butch Goring. He said Nelson was the best player in the Islanders training camp, including higher profile veterans.

"You have to have those guys down the middle," Goring said. "This guy has enough ability to bring some offense. His game has just evolved so much so quickly."
And there's the intriguing future landscape of the Brock Nelson story.
Sure, his mini point explosion out of the gate has created some nice buzz for a team desperate to get back to the postseason after missing out this past year. But it's the long-term impact that will be interesting to follow.

Nelson has played some wing, and there were some who thought he might start the season playing on the Isles' top line with captain John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. But Capuano opted to use Cory Conacher on the top line and Nelson as the second line anchor.

If Nelson grows into that role, the Isles will look like this down the middle: Tavares, Nelson, Frans Nielsen and Casey Cizikas, with a number of other wingers who have some experience at center.

"It's as strong as we've ever been [down the middle]," Capuano said.

Goring, for one, believes the Isles will find their way into the top eight in the conference, but after that, a lot will depend on how the rest of the season goes for the team's currently unheralded scoring star.

"How far they go, a lot will depend on how much more Brock continues to develop," Goring said.
"Poof" moment indeed.  (Link to Story)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Keep an Eye on Bemidji State Women

The Bemidji State Beavers have put on some very good defensive teams in the past four or five years in the women's hockey front and nothing has changed in this young season either. Giving teams like North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota troubles in the past, is this finally the time for them to crack the top 10 in the USCHO poll? Right now the Bemidji ladies are sitting just outside the top 10, but knocking on the door after starting the season 4-0-0 and rattling off back to back 4-0 shutouts against RPI and Vermont.

Starting 4-0-0 is nothing to bat your eyes at when talking about NCAA Division 1 hockey, but it also must be said that each victory has come outside of the very tough WCHA. However, they did sweep Robert Morris on the road and they beat Vermont a night after Vermont took it to UND at the Ralph.

This group of ladies is one to keep a sharp eye on for the rest of the season. They could be playing spoiler to someone in the WCHA when it comes to making the Final Face-Off this season. Their time unranked could soon be over. They cracked the top ten for me already.

USCHO Women's top 10
1. Wisconsin
2. Minnesota
3. Harvard
4. BC
5. Cornell
6. BU
7. Clarkson
8. Mercyhurst
9. Quinnipiac
10. North Dakota

My Women's top 10
1. Wisconsin
2. Minnesota
3. BC
4. Harvard
5. BU
6. Clarkson
7. Cornell
8. North Dakota
9. Mercyhurst
10. Bemidji State

Check this Chump out - Trevor Gillies of the AHL - RW77

The Adirondak Flames have the super hack named Trevor Gillies on their team.  Well, I haven't read much about this buffoon but I'm fairly certain that his idols are Matt Cooke with a dusting of Marty McSorley, early Steve Downie, and Todd Bertuzzi (pre-ban).

The situation is, as far as I can tell, the Flames were setting the tone and were about to get their first fight, when Trevor entered the fray and tried to enter the first fight as a third player (which I thought was illegal in its own stead).  Instead, he found a player named Carrier.  He attempts to fight Carrier and Carrier drops his gloves.  However, Carrier immediately realizes that this will not end well and turtles.  What happens next?

Well, the "code" for fighting is simple:  If he's standing and no refs interfere, fight on.  If refs interfere or one player goes down to the ice, the fight's over.  That's it.  Well, the fight was over and it appears that Gillies was unimpressed with Carrier's turtling... so he slammed Carrier forehead first into the ice.

Yup.

Luckily it was at such an angle that the helmet took most of the blow and Carrier got right back up apparently uninjured, but the message was clear:  This chump shouldn't be employed in the sport.

Today the AHL announced they suspended him for 12 games.  Funny thing is... if that was the NHL, they'd suspend him for 20+.  Heck, I'm fairly sure that if he had done it in the USHL, Tier II Canadian Juniors (BCHL/AJHL/etc.) or the OHL like he came through, he'd be looking at 20+ as well.

Get this:  I cruised over to Hockeydb to look at this yutz's stats and he's appeared in 1 game this year (which is the season opener) and accrued no points but 27 PIMs.  Not entirely certain how that's possible and I do have reason to question the stats.  Sirius Radio's NHL Radio station cited Gillies with a pro record of 8 goals and 22 assists but around 1500 PIMs.   Hockeydb only has his pro stat line as 2 goals and 1 assist in 57 NHL games (267 PIMS) and less than 8-22-30 stat line in AHL.  The 35 year old does have an "impressive" 2,948 PIMs spread out between the ECHL, AHL, and NHL over his pro career (not counting his 2 years overseas).

So what I'm saying is:  He's no scorer.  He's no defender (forward or otherwise.  He's routinely in the negative of the +/- measurement).

He has a history of cheap play.

Check this one out:

This was a flying elbow to the face of Tangradi followed by a one person fight.  You know why?  Tangradi was concussed over the hit and went down!  Didn't stop Gillies!

Oh yeah, Wild fans.  Forget this one?



This guy is another Matt Cooke but at 35 years old, he's beyond redemption.  Ban his backside and walk away.  I do not know if he's currently under a minor league contract with the Calgary Flames or if he's just an AHL contracted player, but if I were the Flames, I'd issue a statement condemning this guy and stating that, if he did have an NHL contract, he doesn't any longer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Arena Impressions Des Moines - USHL Edition - RW77

Ok, I know this has nothing to do with UND, Boston, or Minnesota Pro Sports, but I thought I'd add a little different perspective in the next few articles I write. 

Last January, I started regularly attending Omaha Lancer games and getting more into USHL hockey than I had been in the past.  This evolved into curiosity on how Omaha stands up to other USHL clubs in their division.  So my buddies and I started planning on making an effort (within reason) to visit opposing arenas in our division.  There will be USHL teams I do not believe I will be able to reach, mostly Eastern division teams, but it will serve as a neat comparison of life in DI vs. life pre-college.

This past weekend I visited two new arenas:  Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines, IA and the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids, IA.  I intend to publish articles reviewing the visiting fan experience in these two arenas, plus the Icebox Arena in Lincoln, NE, the Tyson Center in Sioux City, IA, the ice arena in Kearney, NE and hopefully Scheels Arena in Fargo and the new arena in Sioux Falls, SD this season.

Sunday's Review:  Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines, IA

Buccaneer Arena, home of the Western Division Des Moines Buccaneers, was built in 1961 for an IHL franchise (The Des Moines Oak Leafs).  It holds just over 3,400 people.  The Buccaneers took possession of this arena in 1980.

The exterior of this arena is basically a harbinger of the interior.  It looks run down and obsolete on the outside and manages to look even older and more obsolete on the inside.  There were many different architectural structures blended together for this building.  For example, the interior wall setup is a lot like a deluxe bowling alley (in fact, go to the Bowler in Fargo and you'll have a good feel).  The arena itself seems shoehorned into the facility, which suggests to me that the building was inadequate from initial construction.

Inside you see old wooden bench-style seating.  There are "suites" or something to that effect upstairs that featured glassed in restaurant style seating.  In fact, it's a lot like the type of seating and setup you'd find in a bowling alley's bar and lounge... complete with arcade games.

Ok, ok, I'm being VERY harsh on this arena, but it is what it is.  Truth is:  Des Moines is too large for an arena like this to still exist beyond that of a place kids can go to learn how to skate or, worst case, the local high school can use for its hockey club.  The Buccaneer program is a VERY good program and deserves FAR better, but alas.... 

If you have a bad back or issues with severely uncomfortable seats, you'll hate this arena.

Facility Grade:  D-

Enough facility stuff... how was the ice?

Actually, the ice seemed to be pretty good.  The boards were rather tricky, though.  I like that, though.  Part of the challenge a road team has going in is the arena itself.  The road team should really be in a hostile environment (non-violently speaking).  

Ice and Boards Grade:  B+

Home Fans

The announced attendance for the game I witnessed, a 4-0 Des Moines victory over Omaha,
was 1,700.  I think they count sold tickets, because I severely doubt more than 750 people were in that arena.  The home fans were passionate and got into the game...as long as they were scoring.  Since that's all Des Moines did that game, I did not get to see what the flip side of the fan base looked like.

I wasn't really treated poorly despite the fact I'm loud and rather gregarious when I get into the game.  In some ways, this is disappointing.  Part of the fun of visiting arenas is the light hearted banter between fanbases.  Perhaps the fact that, of the 750 in attendance, maybe 12 of them were Omaha fans (no, I'm not exaggerating here.  It gets worse... just wait until the next review). factored into it, but I was left alone.  The two guys behind us, though, were razzed quite a bit though. 

The Cowbell/Vuvuzela Factor:  This is a huge factor in the USHL.  I'm not sure how much cowbells and vuvuzelas appear in college or higher levels of hockey, but it's something I do not believe makes an atmosphere any better.  In the case of vuvuzelas, I think they downright destroy atmospheres at sporting events not called "Soccer games in South Africa."  In Des Moines, this was a non-factor.  There was one vuvuzela in the arena and he only blew it when the Buccaneers were entering the arena, exiting the arena, and after they scored.  Newsflash:  That's how it should be.  End Rant.

Fan Score:  B

Food/Drink:

I'm a Coke fanatic, so the fact they served Coke here is a HUGE plus.  They join only Sioux City thus far as being the only arenas to offer Coke products to their visitors.  Not a make or break deal, but it does matter to me.  Also, they served their soda in 20 oz. bottles.  I LIKE this.

Food here constituted the typical arena fare plus Dominos pizza.  All of the food was horrendously over priced (like all arenas).  They also had brats, which I was told, were good.  The hamburger I had was absolutely terrible.  I've only had two arena burgers in my life I couldn't stomach enough to finish off.  This one and the TD Ameritrade Park burger I had at the outdoor game.  Couldn't even save it by drowning it in ketchup.  The pizza was fine.

Food/Drink Score:  C-  (would've been higher but the hamburger was simply awful)

PA/Intermission stuff:  The Intermission entertainment featured a chuck a puck and an air guitar competition.  Yeah.  Air Guitar.  Yes, it was as awful as you think.  Still, it was unique among all the arenas I've been to. 

The Chuck A Puck was rather lame and noncompetitive with one bit of an eyebrow raiser.  It is a typical chuck a puck with local businesses donating some stuff to the arena for giveaways, but instead of requiring the winner's puck to land on the target, they'll take the nearest puck to the target as the winner... so no prizes were left unclaimed.  Which brings me to the eyebrow raiser:  My buddy played and won 3 prizes.  We weren't from Des Moines and would have taken delight in giving away the prizes if we knew what they were.  Only, the prize lady conveniently changed two of the three numbers when she discovered we'd won 3 times.  This left us feeling like we'd been jobbed.  We got the fact that it isn't that much fun to give prizes to the opposing team's fans, but:

1.  We won
2.  We spent money on YOUR team to get the honor to do so. 

The prizes cost the team nothing, so why do this to us?

On a more humorous note:  They tried to have cheerleaders at this event, but they couldn't skate.  That's no big deal honestly, but the fact is they had those poor high schoolers dancing right up against the boards... and most of those girls weren't tall enough to have anything more than their heads visible above the boards if they stood up straight.  So, when they did their routines with ducks and weaves and whatnot, their heads looked like they were bobbing up and down below the boards.  It gave quite a visual to behold.  Poor girls.

Entertainment grade:  C

The PA guy was rubbish.  Look, there's very little the PA guy has to do to make me happy:  Know the player's names and numbers, and keep talking while the puck is in play to a minimum is basically it.  The PA guy couldn't be bothered to learn the Lancers' players names.  He pronounced them all wrong and they weren't even that challenging (especially considering all the Eastern European players Des Moines has on their team).  Palynychev is easy to prounce.  So is Zajc.  But Angello or Bigelbach?  Nope.  Too hard.

PA Grade:  D-

Overall Experience Grade:  C

The biggest thing Des Moines could do to improve this team (which is currently undefeated and VERY good), is to build these guys a real arena.  Nothing too fancy, just... not obsolete.  Style?  See Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.