Amanda Kessel’s College Career is Over

Per the Grand Forks Herald, Amanda Kessel’s college career is over. She has been sidelined since the Olympics with concussion issues. We here at Watch This are, of course, saddened to hear she won’t be playing, but glad she’s taking care of herself.

Kessel’s health is the most important thing and I don’t want to detract from that, but I’d feel like a bit of a liar if I didn’t admit this news makes me angry. She is a phenomenal player who will never get the chance to show the world what she can do her senior NCAA season. Female athletes are too often sidelined by the combination of a drastically shortened career – which makes playing in the Olympics, even while unhealthy, all the more important – and a lack of funding/support. They have to train virtually constantly without a hope of the eight-figure payoff the best men in the world get regularly. Pardon my French, but it’s bullshit.

Anyway, screw this, let’s all watch Amanda Kessel highlights:

NWHL: I Guess We Need A Blog Post About This

Let’s begin this by getting people up to speed on the National Women’s Hockey League/NWHL if they aren’t already. Zoë Hayden has a roundup of links here, along with some valuable commentary.

My first reaction to the NWHL was suspicion. What can I say? I’ve been burned before, especially with women’s sports. Minor and women’s sports leagues are a magnent for hucksters – people who have a plan or a dream that may or may not have ideological purity, but definitely doesn’t have a solid financial plan beneath it. It want to say that upfront because I’m not in this to be a Debbie Downer; it’s just that I also have been through the cycle of elation and dissolution before, as a fan.

I’d like to see the NWHL succeed. I think they’re already outpacing the CWHL in terms of monetary plans and goals, in part because they seem to be approaching building a league from a model grounded more in minor-league business practices than collective-funding business practices, like the NWSL or the WNBA has utilized. The NWSL and WNBA, though their funding comes from different sources, are both under the auspices of larger organizations (national teams and the NBA, respectively), and that grants them the kind of geographic range that the CWHL has attempted, while having nowhere near the level of support from hockey organizations.

But as much as I hope the NWHL will create competition and force the CWHL to also be better, I have some concerns. Rylan’s five-year plan sounds interesting, but launching in the fall with 20% of funding secured now doesn’t seem that much different from the CWHL’s whole “we’ll pay players eventually” bit – though obviously in the US, rather than Canada-and-Boston. Additionally, the NWHL’s social media presence & media availability – both key to running a modern sports league at pretty much any level – does not yet look particularly good. The logos are good, but it remains to be seen if good logos and smart marketing can overcome the reality of a swamped region with tons of teams in varying sports at varying skill levels. X-Files style, I want to believe, but that doesn’t always translate into a league actually working.

Anyway, I’d like to see the NWHL go far, and hopefully eventually absorb or be absorbed by the CWHL. I think it’s easy for people to forget that tons of leagues in North America have started up and failed and merged with one another in the history of men’s sports. Major league sports was not always a “succeed right away or be forever jeered at” kind of venture, and the expectation that women’s leagues be out-of-the-gate on a level, funding- and publicity-wise, with men’s leagues, is wildly unrealistic. Starting small and regional is smart.

(An aside: I’ve seen a lot of “this is so discourteous and disrespectful!” stuff re: the NWHL forming with a team in Boston. The Blades’ relationship with the CWHL as a whole is less than rosy right now. They do not get even their equipment covered 100%, as far as anyone can tell. The CWHL has shown a distinct lack of interest in expanding in the US or even providing equitable funding and treatment for the Blades, so I don’t think the NWHL – or Blades players – owe them much of anything as far as respectfully abstaining from Boston competition. We’ll see what happens with the Blades, but either way, I don’t think women’s sports leagues need to be held to a different standard of competition and capitalism than the rest of the world.)

NOW, A WISH LIST:

  • Please, NWHL, market fun hockey. Market a good atmosphere. Do not do the CWHL’s route of charity-project, role-models, love-of-the-game stuff. There is nothing wrong with being role models, but emphasis on the games being a fun time would also be nice. Hockey is fun, watching it is fun, please approach selling your product from this angle.
  • I’d like to see some kind of minimum salary. If it’s not feasible right away, it should be part of the five-year plan. It’s massively unequitable to just say “players can negotiate their own salaries”, for obvious reasons; Hilary Knight’s agent is probably better at negotitation than a less well known player’s.
  • Please make merch readily available. Recruit people who know what The Youth want to wear & carry. Sell it on accessible websites with cheap shipping. Sports merch from lesser-known teams is absolutely a status symbol among young hockey fans. Take advantage of this.
  • SIGN MARIE-PHILIP POULIN TO PLAY IN BOSTON THIS IS A REASONABLE REQUEST
  • Poach Florence Schelling. Do it!
  • Don’t collapse in 5 years due to bad marketing and infighting and a general inability and unwillingness to be creative in business models and draw from other minor leagues’ experiences

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll think of others. In the meantime, I’m gonna slink back into my cube with my eyes to the sky. I WANT TO BELIEVE.

Inferno Keep The Beat, Blake Bolden, and Matchsticks and Gasoline

  • January 24th Brampton @ Toronto Highlights, including some of the GREAT saves:

CWHL – Jan.24/15 – Brampton at Toronto from Jenmark Digital Media on Vimeo.

 

 

The CWHL’s American Problem

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This picture is a joke. I don’t think the CWHL is magicJack levels of being close to collapse – though, honestly, we probably wouldn’t know if they were, and they’re not really significant enough for it to be a legitimate comparison. Still: jokes!]

So, this weekend, am I right?

I heard rumblings that something was going on with the Blades’ contracts – and American players in general – a little before the cancellations became public. My first reaction was worry, but it was followed very closely by irritation. We here at Watch This Hockey know a few things about the contract disputes:

  • American players are unsatisfied with the way labor and contracts are managed
  • American players may or may not play in the All Star Game
  • We had reached out to players for interviews, but they backed out, worried that speaking with bloggers would result in them being blackballed from the league
  • We contacted the CWHL for a statement regarding the rumors (and fact of game cancellations). We have not heard back.

Any statement I could make would be based on speculation. The safest speculation I can make is that American players in the CWHL are not satisfied with how the CWHL is treating their American contingent, so let’s go with that.

Obviously, most of the cities that were talked about as candidates for expansion are American. I think anyone with half a brain can see that the CWHL is very oriented towards Canada – and, you might say, why shouldn’t they be? They’re the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, after all. I’m an American and from North Carolina besides, which means I’ve done my fair share of mocking the “hockey is Canada’s game” stuff, but on some levels it’s true. Canada produces tons of hockey players, they fund their hockey programs extremely well, they have more rinks, they have a longer history with the game. So – why not? Why not focus on Canada?

A few reasons, actually. Minor things, such as: marketing, sustainability, visibility, sponsorships. Long-term success of the league. Long-term success of women’s hockey in general.

The United States is, as much as any country can make such a claim, a hotbed of activity for women’s sports. We have a functioning women’s basketball league, the WNBA, that is only partially owned by the NBA. We have a fledgling soccer league, the NWSL, that is largely the result of cooperation between Mexico, USA, and Canada’s soccer leagues. We have collegiate basketball, soccer, hockey, and other sports. The US Women’s National Team in soccer regularly sells out arenas on tours before or after international competition. Our bona fides are, well, bona fide. And that matters, because the CWHL is in the business of convincing a saturated sports market that women’s hockey is worth paying to see.

Hockey is undeniably more popular in Canada, but Canada still has only slightly more people than the state of Texas. The United States is home to both huge media markets and huge – comparatively speaking – women’s sports markets. And, perhaps most importantly, some of the biggest names in women’s hockey aren’t Canadian. Jincy Dunne will be playing for Team USA in a few years, Lord willing and the river don’t rise. Meghan Duggan is a huge name; the Lamoureux twins are well-known; Hilary Knight and Anne Schleper both suited up for NHL practices; Julie Chu’s narrative at the 2014 Olympics was both high-profile and landed her a Bounty endorsement. For sure, Shannon Szabados, Marie-Philip Poulin, Caroline Ouellette, Hayley Wickenheiser, and others are big names, and rightly so. They’re hugely talented. But the other major powerhouse in women’s hockey is the United States. And that’s leaving aside the fact that Noora Räty and Florence Schelling both were hugely visible in the Olympics, are both very talented – and are both not playing in the CWHL.

One of the best known facts about women’s sports at a high level is that the peak of competition is international; the Olympics is the biggest competition these women are likely to ever see. It’s not in the CWHL’s interest to embrace nationalism to the point of discouraging competition. The competitiveness of women’s hockey is regularly called into question; the way to fix that is not to deny regular practice and competition to everyone but Canadian players. Women’s hockey ebbs in visibility during Olympic years; the way to fix that is not to refuse to put teams in American markets. I’ve complained repeatedly about the CWHL’s lack of marketing smarts, Internet fluency, and so on, but I assumed that was them cleaving too closely to an outdated marketing model. This weekend’s events have made me wonder if the league is even being led by adults, much less business-savvy ones.

The CWHL is not a church or a non-profit. Their job is to sell a product, not adhere to a certain ideology. Obviously there are limits on this, such as “don’t kill someone”, but embracing the American side of women’s hockey is hardly tantamount to murder. I’m disappointed in the CWHL for their handling of these disputes – the lack of transparency, combined with the fact that players are hesitant to talk to us for fear of immature retaliation, is incredibly concerning. I don’t know what their roadmap is, but I can’t see a world where shutting out American players makes business sense. It’s amazing to me that the CWHL continues to insist on this ridiculous “for love of the game” narrative – with heavily implied nationalistic overtones – when the NHL, and in fact every major hockey organization, values practicality and profitability over pond hockey ethos. I don’t have a suggested solution, aside from hiring someone who knows how to update websites, put out regular press releases, and not treating American players like also-rans. But there are some very obvious holes in their business practices that need filling.

I’ve watched plenty of women’s sports leagues collapse due to shortsightedness. I’d like for the CWHL not to be the most recent in a long line of failures. I have no idea if that’s coming or not, but American players being this dissatisfied with their only current option to play even semi-professionally is really not promising.

Get it together, CWHL. Love, an American.

New Writers Announcement

Hello hello! Long time no see, for me at least. This is a quick note to let readers know that we’ve undergone a bit of restructuring. Outlook Hockey will no longer be covering the CWHL (congratulations on the job with the Blades, Mike!), and so Kate and I are opening up the site to some of their writers. Kate and I have been sick and busy, life is a process, etc., but in the next couple weeks we’ll be setting them up here and they’ll be posting pieces. That means, among other things, that we’ll probably be fostering greater diversity of opinions. We are no longer the borg: exciting times. Kate and I will, of course, still be writing.

To the Outlook Hockey writers – welcome aboard! We’re happy to have you.

Update on Watching CWHL Games with Chromecast

Update on watching CWHL games with Chromecast:

You may remember my post last year about watching streaming hockey via the Chromecast. I wanted to provide a quick update on this, as I’ve recently been using my Chromecast a lot to watch various things.

Continue reading Update on Watching CWHL Games with Chromecast

Looking forward to the CWHL Draft!

Looking forward to the CWHL Draft!

Somehow, we’ve rolled around again to August, and that means things will soon be starting to move on the CWHL front. We’ve been very lazy on the blog front this summer (mainly because we’ve been very very busy elsewhere), so we figured we’d recap some of the upcoming events, and start to get women’s hockey back on our minds again.

The CWHL Draft

Player registrations are due for the Draft by August 12th, and new players will be signed on August 19th. Notably, this is only for new players– we probably won’t know who, of the players whose CWHL right are already taken, will sign with a CWHL team for the 2014-2015 season until closer to October.

Florence Schelling, for example, was drafted by Montreal, but has played for Brampton in the 2012-2013 season. With the 2014 Olympics and a bronze medal behind her, will she return to the CWHL or will she return to the Swiss leagues?

Another Olympic goaltender, Shannon Szabados, is returning to the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) for the 2014-2015 season. The Calgary Inferno has her CWHL rights, but she has yet to play for the team.

We’ll have more on who shakes out where as the season approaches.

CWHL Expansion

Despite rumors that a potential new expansion team might be on board for the 2014-2015 season, there has been no official word yet on an expansion team, and with the Draft looming, it seems very unlikely that an expansion team will be playing this upcoming season. That doesn’t mean we won’t have an expansion team announced, however, and the Draft seems like the perfect time to us to announce it.

For further reading on the possibility of a CWHL expansion team, check out Pat Borzi of espnW’s excellent article on the different proposals, and Mike Burse of The Hockey Writer’s more in-depth look at the Minnesota proposal

CWHL Schedule?

We don’t have the full schedule yet, but Montreal’s twitter has confirmed their home opener as October 14th, vs the Boston Blades.

Other news!

Friday Roundup: Clarkson Cup, Frozen Four, and weekend reading

Friday Roundup: Clarkson Cup, Frozen Four, and weekend reading

Concept art for the 2014 Clarkson Cup Championship rings tweeted out by Caroline Ouellette.
Concept art for the 2014 Clarkson Cup Championship rings tweeted out by Caroline Ouellette.

IT’S FRIDAY, EVERY ONE! This has been a long and trying week for me, so I’m glad to see the tail end of it. However, the ongoing Clarkson Cup games have been a bright spot, so let’s recap:

  • Wednesday: Toronto beat Calgary, 3-2, and Boston beat Montreal a very tightly contested 1-0
  • Thursday: Boston beat the Furies, 2-1, and Montreal beat Calgary 5-4.

As of the time of this post being written, Calgary is out of Finals contention, but have one last game this morning against an unbeaten and Finals-bound Boston. Montreal and Toronto will play for that second Finals slot versus Boston this evening. Finals will be played on Saturday, at 2pm EDT. However, they will not be streamed live. They will be shown on TSN midnight Saturday and Monday at 7:30 pm, EDT. No word yet on what those of us south of the border or otherwise out of TSN coverage will be able to do.

The commentary on these streaming games has been done by Nicco Cardarelli, whose voice may be familiar to you from regular-season CWHL streaming games, and Asher Roth, who you may remember from last year’s Clarkson Cup commentary. They’ve been pretty charming in their enthusiasm for the CWHL and women’s hockey in general, and have been great about interacting with questions or comments tweeted at them during the games. A little startled by how much interest the Clarkson Cup has been getting outside of Canada, however. 🙂 Aly Munro has been doing some great interviews rink-side, and commentary as well.

NCAA Frozen Four!

Minnesota is set to take on Wisconsin today at 5 PM EDT today! For an excellent preview of the game, check out Nicole Haase’s over at Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

Mercyhurst takes on Clarkson at 8 PM EDT today as well! This is Clarkson’s first trip to the Frozen Four. Remember, all of these games will be streamed on NCAA.com.

The winners of these games will meet in the National Championship game on Sunday, at 3 PM EDT. The Patty Kazmaier will be awarded on Saturday, as part of the NCAA Championship weekend.

Weekend Reading:

I know, I missed the normal link round-up for this week, but here’s some stuff to read while you’re waiting to find a copy of the Clarkson Cup final to watch:

How to Watch Women’s Hockey: Chromecast edition

How to Watch Women’s Hockey: Chromecast edition

So, at this point, I hope you know the CWHL streamed one game a week this past season, and all of those games are archived, free to watch, on the CWHL website. Also, all but the final of the Clarkson Cup will be streamed (and I am watching Toronto play Calgary while I write this), also for free. There’s also a decent handful of women’s hockey games to be found on Fast Hockey, if you poke around. (Generally, USA Hockey will have stuff up there.) And, you know, it’s fine to watch hockey on your laptop, but I’ve gotten totally spoiled by watching NHL hockey in HD on my giant-ass 50-inch TV, and it’s hard to have friends over to watch the hockey game when you all have to crowd around your laptop. So, my mind turned to how to get that stream on my TV.

There’s a couple of options here. If your laptop has a HDMI port, and your TV does too, that works pretty well! Buuutttt sometimes your laptop is like my laptop, and pitches a shit-fit over displaying on a screen that much bigger than the native one. It can also distort the video, depending on how the streaming video is encoded. So I started investigating other options among the various add-ons, and the cheapest I found was the Google Chromecast. It’s marketed at $35 US, and it’s pretty easy to get a hold of—you can buy it from Google directly, or, at least in the US, go to just about any major electronics retailer to pick one up. It has also been released in Canada and Europe. It’s a small dongle that plugs into a HDMI port on your TV, and needs to also be plugged into an outlet.

The Chromecast’s main claim to fame is that as long as you have Google’s Chrome browser, on just about any platform (including mobile and Linux-based systems), you can stream that browser tab to your TV. Since the CWHL stream works just fine in Chrome, I figured I’d try that out.

Setup was pretty easy—you plug the Chromecast into the HDMI port on your tv, plug the included USB power cable into the Chromecast and into an outlet, switch your TV input to the HDMI port, and get walked through a really simple set-up process on your laptop or mobile device. (I use Ubuntu on my home computer, and Google warned me that the setup process was not fully supported on my operating system, but I did it on my Android tablet instead, and it worked just fine.) You then have to install a Chrome plugin to be able to “cast” your browser to the Chromecast, but again, pretty simple. You end up with a “Cast to Chromecast” button on your browser bar.

Since I was doing this on a night without a live-streamed game, I pulled up an archived CWHL game, buffered it a bit, and then tried to cast the game to my TV. It worked, but the dual-streaming (on my laptop, and then to the TV) was much more laggy than normal. Unwatchably laggy. However, when I did have a picture, it was much better than the normal video quality on the CWHL stream; it was about what I would normally expect of an HD NHL game on cable. Sound quality was also great. However, that laggy-ness when streaming wasn’t gonna work for me. So I poked around a bit more.

Now, what I hadn’t realized before I started poking around for this, is that the CWHL archived game links are just links to the raw .MP4 file. So instead of just clicking and streaming the game, I right-clicked on the link, and saved it to my computer. It was a pretty big file, about 1.5 GB, which makes sense if it’s a roughly 2 hour HD file. Then I opened this file up in Chrome, and that streamed just fine. Emboldened by my success, I went on to try streaming on my iPhone and Android tablet.

Now, if you own an Android-based mobile device, you might have noticed that the CWHL games don’t stream well on them, because it’s a Flash-based player. However, you can still download the archived files and play them using a video app on your device. There are some Android apps that will stream to a Chromecast, too—I tried this using an app called Real Player Cloud, which aside from playing videos, also syncs videos across devices and a web player, like the Dropbox service does for files. It’s really nice because the service will also reformat the video on the fly for different video resolutions or devices. There’s an Android app, iOS, and a web player, and you get a couple of gigs free space—enough to throw up a CWHL game or two, but not very many.

On my iPhone, streaming the CWHL games has always worked great, if a bit small on the screen. Streaming the game and streaming it to my Chromecast was, again, too laggy to be worth it. Downloading the file and streaming it with Real Player Cloud, however, worked like a charm.

So, tl;dr, sadly, the Chromecast isn’t going to fulfill my dreams of streaming live CWHL games to my TV. However, it does work very well for streaming local files to my TV—and you can download CWHL games locally. I’d been planning on having some friends over to watch the Clarkson Cup games, so I’ll be using my Chromecast to do that later this week. Tech-wise, I felt it was pretty easy to set up, and aside from downloading new games, was mainly one-time set up.

Frozen Four and Clarkson Cup: more women’s hockey coming down the pipeline!

Frozen Four and Clarkson Cup: more women’s hockey coming down the pipeline!

The Olympics are over and with them, most of the women’s hockey fervor has died down. But these women aren’t just folded into a drawer during the 3 years they’re not playing in the Olympics. Two major events are coming up: the Clarkson Cup playoffs and the NCAA Division I playoffs. We’ll be covering both, with recaps of the playoff games and the Frozen Four games.

Clarkson Cup

Clarkson Cup logo
CWHL Clarkson Cup Logo

With nine games and just two weekends left in the regular season, the CWHL drive for the playoffs is in full swing. The top four teams in the league will advance to play for the Clarkson Cup. Unlike the NHL’s Stanley Cup, the tournament is single-elimination, not a series format. The games will be played over March 19th – 22, in Markham, Ont.

The current top four are the Montreal Stars, the defending Cup champions the Boston Blades, the Toronto Furies, and the Calgary Inferno. The Inferno are nine points ahead of the remaining Brampton Thunder. However, Brampton has five games left to play, while Calgary has three, all of which are against Brampton, so that playoff berth isn’t assured yet. The Furies and the Blades are also only a point ahead of Calgary, with games left to play, so this could be interesting.

Several of the Olympians who left their CWHL teams are expected back for the post-season, which could tip things depending on who returns where and how that affects line ups that haven’t had them all season.

All of the Clarkson Cup games will be streamed online for free except for the final championship game. That will be shown live on TSN; we’re looking into options for those of us outside of Canada, and if we find something legal, we’ll share that.

 

Date Match Up Time
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 3rd vs. 4th 11:00am EST
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 1st vs. 2nd 7:30pm EST
Thursday March 20, 2014 2nd vs. 4th 11:00am EST
Thursday March 20, 2014 1st vs. 3rd 7:30pm EST
Friday, March 21, 2014 1st vs. 4th 11:00am EST
Friday, March 21, 2014 2nd vs. 3rd 7:30pm EST
Saturday, March 22, 2014 Championship Final 2:00pm EST

NCAA Div I Championship

With Selection Sunday this weekend, the NCAA Div I teams are really starting to shift themselves out. In case you need a refresher on how the women’s tournament here works out, the 8-team tournament takes the top four teams and seeds them 1-4. The other four teams are placed in brackets based on strength, but only if the pairings don’t result in additional flights. This is unlike the men’s tournament, where they try to set up matches that will increase attendance. (You can find the rulebook on this here if you’re VERY curious.) For an example of how this could work out, and a good run down from Boston College’s perspective, take a look at Grant Salzano’s article over at BC Interuption.

This weekend, like we said above, is Selection Sunday, when the teams are finalized and seeded. The, on March 14th or 15th, there will be the Quarterfinals, and then on the 21st, the Semifinals. Then on March 23rd, the Championship game will be played.

Once the tournament gets into the Semi-Finals and Finals, it’s called the Frozen Four– because there are four teams left. Got it? Good.

The Patty Kazmaier award, which is awarded to the top women’s ice hockey player in the US, is generally given during this weekend as well. This year’s finalists have been selected– you can see them over at USA Hockey.