I’d like to start this blog by thanking the Los Angeles Kings, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the New Jersey Devils. Because of you three, there is no NHL playoff hockey for the next two nights. I can see this happening when you get to the Stanley Cup Finals, but when we haven’t even hit the conference finals yet it’s a little tough to take. It’s not that I’m marking my schedule and making plans to watch playoff hockey; that ended last round when the Bruins exited stage left. I just enjoy watching hockey.
No NHL hockey does not mean there isn’t a wealth of other hockey options going on around North America though. I figured that we could delve into the other interesting leagues and championships that you don’t get to hear about too often. Unless of course you listen to a NHL playoff game called by Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick and Pierre McGuire who always give mention to leagues and champions that the majority of their viewers haven’t even heard of.
In the American Hockey League (AHL), one team, the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs), punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals where they await the winner of the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) and the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers). I called down to Matt O’Dette today to see how the city of Toronto was celebrating their playoff run. He says that a few people have jumped on the bandwagon, but that it’s definitely a Leafs city. On the eastern side, (yeah, I know, Toronto isn’t in the AHL Eastern Conference? Then again neither is Charlotte, NC) the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay Lightning) and St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets) appear headed on a crash course for the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Central Hockey League has already crowned its champion, the Fort Wayne Komets, after they took four of five from the Wichita Thunder. As Bartl already mentioned, it’s almost a sure lock that they’re coming to the ECHL next season. Not only are they a great organization and would be great for the league, but they have 86-year old legend Bob Chase (who Emrick interned for) calling their games. He’s broadcasted Komets games since 1953. Let that sink in.
Of course there’s always the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. Las Vegas and Florida will get underway next week. It should be entertaining with Florida being the hottest team over the last part of the season and Vegas taking out the defending champions in Alaska.
The Memorial Cup is right around the corner as well. For those that don’t know, it pits the winners of the three major junior hockey leagues along with a host city into one, four-team round robin tournament. The host city is Shawinigan this year. Props to anyone who can tell me where that it is and what their team name is without looking it up. Tweet @BroadcastHolt if you know!
In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), the Saint John Sea Dogs are up 3-0 on Rimouski. FYI, Rimouski was where Sidney Crosby played. The Dogs won the Memorial Cup last year and are likely headed there again this year. I have to give a mention to my hometown brethren Charlie Coyle who is leading the league in scoring and will be suiting up for the Minnesota Wild next year. I played on a line with his sister Jess when I was in squirts. She still swears she’s a better player. In the OHL, the London Knights have a 3-1 series lead over the Niagara Ice Dogs and in the WHL, the best series going, the Portland Winterhawks and Edmonton Oil Kings are deadlocked at 2-2 heading to game five tonight.
In the American-based junior leagues, the United States Hockey League (USHL), which is the top league or Tier I, the Waterloo Black Hawks and Green Bay Gamblers will meet in a best-of-five championship series. The Gamblers are a bit of a powerhouse here, having been to the final in each of the last three seasons.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other top junior hockey league in the States, the North American Hockey League (NAHL), which is a Tier II league, who as Doc mentioned during the Rangers-Capitals game last night, crowned their champion earlier this week, the Texas Tornado. Texas, based in the Dallas area, was the host team and got an automatic berth to the six-team final. They ended up winning two straight overtime games and won the entire thing. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not that a team with a 3-5 post-season record won the cup, but hey that’s why you play the games I suppose. Frisco, where the Tornado is based, was a fun spot to visit many times two seasons ago now when I was in Corpus Christi.
I think that pretty much covers the entire non-NHL hockey landscape around North America. My apologies to the New Jersey Outlaws (Federal Hockey League) and Columbus Cottonmouths (Southern Professional Hockey League) who won titles this year, but were too far in the distant past for me.
Hope you enjoyed the twirl around the hockey world. If you didn’t, at least now you’ll know who Doc and Pierre are talking about when you hear them mention teams over and over for the next few weeks. Enjoy the playoffs!
Until next Thursday #Condorstown…
Ryan Holt recently completed his first season in #Condorstown and celebrated his 24th birthday on Monday by working for the man. The off-season is killing him and he needs hockey back at Rabobank Arena immediately. Follow him on Twitter @BroadcastHolt or e-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.