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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HYS The Hague vs. the Heerenveen Flyers (part 2): Hockey in Europe

HockeyZonePlus contributor Brian Pike is currently living in The Hague, Netherlands, working for a large international organization. As a Canadian hockey fan who's never been outside of North America before, curiousity about European hockey is high. The local team is defending league champions HYS The Hague, who play in the 8-team Eredivisie, the top league in The Netherlands. The game took place on November 13, 2009, against the Heerenveen Flyers. Here are Brian's observations as a non-Dutch speaking but passionate hockey fan from De Uithof, HYS's home rink,"live blog" style from his hand-written notes. Part one, covering the warmups to the end of the first period is here. Today we present part two, picking up in the first intermission with the score 2-0 Flyers. All photos were taken by the author.

First Intermission: There's a speed skating rink in this complex. I've never actually seen people speed skating for fitness, like how people run around a track. It must be a European thing. The view of the speed skating rink is from a window in the business concession area of the hockey rink, where they're selling wine and chips.

- My search for something more substantial than chips to eat ends in failure when the large concession stand in the corner of the rink promising "BEER AND HOT DOGS" doesn't have any hot dogs. Because of the 8:30 game start and me not eating beforehand, I'm so hungry.

- On the way back to my seat I see a guy wearing a Hartford Whalers jersey. Long live the Whale!

2nd Period: #16 for HYS The Hague goes straight into the opposition end after the teams come out of the dressing rooms and starts a chat with #4 on the Heerenveen Flyers. Initially I wondered if #16, who's name is Ronald Wurm, is some kind of Avery-esque disturber. But no, they just have a very friendly chat. Kind of disappointing, really.

17:40: HYS look a bit disjointed. A defenseman nearly puts the puck into his own net on a straightforward clearing attempt out front of his net. This is probably not good.

17:19: And a partial breakaway for the Flyers #7, Bert van den Braak (you've got to love Dutch names) results in a goal. It's 2-1 for HYS now, but you get the feeling the home side might be in a bit of trouble...

16:35: On a power play HYS goalie Tim Knudsen tries to play the puck up ice but his pass is picked off. The Flyers guy tries to go back against the grain and shoots high blocker, but #49 comes up with the save. Really bailed himself out with that one.

13:32: After an ineffective HYS power play, the Flyers promptly take another penalty, as an HYS player was breaking for the net and gets his stick on a quick pass across, but not quite enough for the redirect. I thought the defenseman played it fine, but he gets called for hooking anyway. Maybe the Eredivisie is cracking down on obstruction near the goal.

11:45: #24 on HYS, defenseman Josh Mizerek, feathers a beautiful saucer pass along the blueline to the other point. He looks like a good player at this level. Never made it higher than the ECHL in North America, though. That pass is the highlight of this power play, as there's no real chances. HYS are going to regret not scoring on these opportunities, I think.

11:05: Wurm gets called for cross-checking. Honestly, it looked like he just pushed the guy to me. Maybe the way the boards rattled when he pushed the guy into them startled the referee.

10:31: A slap shot from the point by John "Flash" Gordon (I don't really know if his nickname is Flash. If I personally knew anyone with the last name Gordon, though, they would automatically be "Flash" to me) beats Knudsen clean, with perhaps a slight screen in front of him. According to HockeyDB, Flash played NCAA hockey at Hamilton College, then played for Heerenveen in 2007-08, HYS in 2008-09, and now he's back with the Flyers this season. I wonder if he was traded or if it was free agency? Either way, the home crowd should be booing him, clearly. No one does, though.

8:08: Nice glove by Stephane Cesar, the Flyers goalie. He hasn't seen much action this period but has been sharp after some early jitters.

8:00: An HYS defenseman gives a Flyers forward a shove along the wall. The six kids sitting in front of me with one beleaguered set of parents watching them start hooting. It's pretty funny.

6:02: Alexander Selivanov's linemate blows the saucer pass across to him on a 2-on-1. Selivanov, the biggest former NHLer in the Eredivisie (that I know of), looks a little frustrated by the talent level of his teammates sometimes. On the other hand, he doesn't really have much to complain about, since he's been invisible all period. Tampa Bay Lightning fans are saying "That's the Alexander Selivanov we know!"

5:22: Coincidental roughing minors to HYS's #44, Marcel Bruinsma, and the Flyers' van den Braak for a pretty minor scrum/facewash incident. The crowd really gives it to van den Braak when he gets to the box, which is fantastic. van den Braak doesn't take it sitting down, though; he gets up and starts yelling back. At this point I start noticing just how little separation there is between the crowd and the players. Nothing happens, of course, but it's worth noticing. Somebody tries to throw a napkin or a similarly flimsy bit of paper at van den Braak. It doesn't make it. This is as close to a fan/player incident as we get.

4:30: Selivanov seems to inspire his teammates to try and make way too many cute passes to set him up. That doesn't work too often. The kids sitting in front of me all get cups of a foul-smelling sugary concoction to drink. Which is just what a bunch of overstimulated 8 year old boys need, obviously. I cringe a little.

2:40: Knudsen flashes the leather for two nice stops in a row. The game is slowing down a lot from all the stoppages.

1:20: An HYS forward in on the forecheck plants a solid check on one of the Flyers defensemen. One of the kids in front of me barks like a dog for ten seconds in appreciation.

:30: Knudsen gets caught on his puckhandling again, and once again it almost ends up in his own net. Honestly, if he's this aggressive on the puckhandling every night, the opposition probably gets a goal from it once every two games or so. This time he bumps the puck right out into the slot with his paddle instead of covering it. Dumb. Luckily it gets cleared.

Second Intermission: Once again, the second the buzzer goes, half the crowd immediately heads out one of the rink's many doors to get a smoke. Is the number of smokers higher in Europe than back home? Probably.

- The arena zamboni sucks. It stops ten feet into it's run and needs a full minute of prodding before it gets going agin, then it leaves huge dry spots all over the ice. It's a big go cart that spills hot water, people, it's not supposed to be this complicated...

Third Period: Would someone PLEASE come over here and high five these kids??? PLEASE. Come on (picture on left).

19:25: A hit in the near corner. One of the kids quacks like a duck.

18:30: I become aware of the arena music. It's like a bad 90's arena mix CD (2 Unlimited, that kind of thing) crossed with tunes they played at the old Junior B rink in Wetaskiwin when I used to watch games there with my Dad, with the occasional happy Dutch kids song tossed in. Van Halen's "Jump" just started playing. They loved that song at the Wetaskiwin Icemen Junior B games.

16:38: van den Braak takes another penalty, a rather questionable hooking call, and the fans give it to him again. Awesome. He just sits down this time, though, rather than yelling back. Probably a good idea.

15:39: The referees give the Flyers a make-up call with a hooking penalty on HYS's #91, Jan Bohac. Don't tell me make-up calls don't happen, because they do, even here.

13:28: Just after Bohac's penalty expires there is, as Oilers radio voice Rod Phillips would say, a mad scramble in front of the HYS net. In the confusion, the puck comes back to the point and the Flyers player floats one over a sprawled shot-blocker that somehow finds the top of the net. Not sure who the shooter was, but forward Hans Kroon gets credit, so it might have been tipped. "Flash" Gordon gets the second assist, and it's 3-2 for Heerenveen.

12:47: With HYS threatening, #63 on the Flyers, Jamie Visser, gets a completely mystifying holding penalty that confuses everyone. Nobody saw it, nobody knows who's getting the penalty until they pick out Visser, and I think they might've even blown it dead when HYS had the puck. Bad refereeing is the same all over.

12:05: When HYS has pressure on the power play and the fans want a goal they start going "aaay-YUP, aaay-YUP." This is fantastic. The first fans who start doing this at an NHL rink, I promise I'll cheer for your team for the next two years.

10:31: The power play doesn't go anywhere. Shortly thereafter the Flyers have a 2-on-1, only to be foiled on a classic pass block with the outstretched stick by #19, Victor Ignatjev. He's had a good game. Apparently, Ignatjev had a cup of coffee in the NHL back in 1998-99 with Pittsburgh and played in the old International Hockey League, back when they were on equal footing with the AHL. He'll be 39 in April, but he can still play.

9:15: The Flyers really have all the momentum after that penalty kill. Offensive zone pressure results in a holding penalty to HYS defenseman Brian Mullally. The Heerenveen coach appears to have called a timeout. Odd.

- Ok, apparently it wasn't a timeout, because this is way too long a break for a timeout. I have no idea what the delay is. There's no announcement. Not that an announcement in Dutch would help me understand what's going on, but hey, other people might like to know.

- A good five minutes later, play is blown in again. Weird. I have no idea what that was about.

7:44: #76 on the Flyers, Erik Landman, just saved a goal by sliding behind his out of position goaltender. He looks like quite a strong two-way player. Of course, the bad news is that this chance happened with his team on the power play. They're looking a bit disjointed.

7:09: Selivanov takes a dumb slashing penalty. He may have just killed his team's comeback chances with that one. Selfish play.

6:10: Heerenveen kind of look like they're just trying to kill time on this power play. Maybe the big chance against on the last one was a confidence killer?

5:53: Apparently, it was all just a cunning ploy, because after a minute of hanging back on the power play, Flash hits a streaking Paul Vincent and he breaks right up the middle, untouched. He's stopped, but Visser scores on the rebound. On a related note, look at Vincent's HockeyDB page! He's played EVERYWHERE. He's played in leagues I've never heard of. What the heck is/was the ACHL? The QSMHL? The WHA2? Anyway, I'd like to stress once again what a bad penalty that was to take by Selivanov.

4:32: Mizerek eliminates his man behind the net who had the puck in his feet. Good solid defense, but the referee calls charging. This is a HORRIBLE penalty call. I mean, he was standing still! You cannot get a charging penalty when you are standing still. This is contrary to the very nature of charging.

4:20: Wow, "Radar Love" comes over the arena speakers! We're back to the Wetaskiwin Junior B playlist. What's next, "Living on a Prayer"? We can only hope!

3:56: Nice arm stop on the redirect by Knudsen. Selivanov and #20 Matt Korthuis, the penalty killing forwards, have spent the whole time on the kill looking for breakaway passes. This is not going to end well.

3:35: Knudsen looks like the only one on his team who still cares. An HYS defenseman makes a lazy turnover but Knudsen stops the ensuing breakaway. His skaters left him out to dry on that one.

2:30: The kids in front of me are apoplectic, screaming for HYS to score. I like their enthusiasm.

2:20: The Flyers jump on another turnover and van den Braak streaks in alone. He's stopped, but Landman scores on the rebound. One of the kids sounds like he shouts "f*** you" at Landman, but I can't be too sure. It might've been Dutch. Hopefully.

2:04: The kids turn on each other, attacking with empty pop bottles. This is actually more entertaining than the end of this 5-2 game.

1:14: "Cotton-Eyed Joe" comes over the speakers. Back to the bad 90's arena "classics" playlist. The crowd is deathly silent.

:49: Landman and Ignatjev are given coincidental minors for no particular reason. The official scoresheet actually has it as a hooking penalty on Ignatjev, and a diving penalty on Landman. That kind of says it all about the quality of officiating in this game. You can't even chastise the referee for forgetting his glasses, because he's actually wearing glasses under his visor and helmet. Seriously.

:00: Mercifully for the home team, the game finally comes to an end. Ignatjev is named player of the game for HYS, really for a lack of any better options. I look at my watch and find it's 11:15, then wonder what that delay in the middle of the third could possibly have been for. Time to see if I can figure out Den Haag transit in this end of the city to get home.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

HYS The Hague vs. the Heerenveen Flyers (part 1): Hockey in Europe

HockeyZonePlus contributor Brian Pike is currently living in The Hague, Netherlands, working for a large international organization. As a Canadian hockey fan who's never been outside of North America before, he hopes to see games from as many nearby European hockey leagues as possible, time and travel budget permitting. First up is local Eredivisie team HYS The Hague, the defending champs of the 8-team elite league in The Netherlands. The game took place on November 13, 2009, against the Heerenveen Flyers. Here are Brian's observations as a non-Dutch speaking but passionate hockey fan from De Uithof, HYS's home rink,"live blog" style from his hand-written notes, starting with the pre-game warmups. All photos are taken by the author.

15:00 to Faceoff: Welcome to De Uithof! This rink is in the far west of the city, and man, is ever hard to get to. Still, hockey night tonight! I'm excited. Living in Toronto during the last NHL season I never actually got to a live game, so the last game I've seen in person was probably during the 2007-08 season in Calgary. Go HYS!

14:10: This is a pretty nice rink. There's only around 2500 seats, so it's small, and it has an amateur rink kind of feel, with just a small scoreclock at one end and no glass along the sides. It reminds me a little of the rink in my hometown, where I used to go see Heritage Alberta Junior B League games with my Dad. I like it here already!

13:30: Something else amateurish: the volume of the pre-game music keeps going up and down. "Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson goes from screaming loud to whisper quiet. I guess Manson would just be happy he still gets played anywhere at all, at any volume.

13:10: The HYS starter is BIG. He's #49 in our single-page folded program, Tim Knudsen. The Internet Hockey Database reveals that he played 85 or so games in the UHL before coming over to Europe. So he's probably a better goalie than me, but probably not as good as Vesa Toskala, somewhere in that range. Wait, that's probably unfair. Nobody's as bad as Vesa Toskala right now.

11:15: The jerseys HYS are wearing are just AWFUL. They don't have names or numbers on the back, just a big circular ad for a local store. Hopefully these are just the warmup jerseys. The Heerenveen Flyers jerseys, meanwhile, are a rather ugly mustard yellow with blue numbers and a Comic Sans-like script for the player names. At least they have names and numbers, though.

9:55: Look, just outside the blueline! It's #77, HYS star winger Alexander Selivanov! Tampa Bay Lightning fans who followed the team in the mid to late-90's may remember Selivanov as the winger with the decent shot who scored 62 goals over three seasons from '95 to '98 before being traded to Edmonton the next year. He scored 27 goals as an Oiler in the 1999-2000 season, spent the next year with Columbus, then moved to Europe. In all he had 121 goals and 235 points in 459 NHL games. How does a 38 year old ex-NHLer fare in the Dutch League? We'll find out...

7:26: The pecking order in warmups between the starter and his backup has always fascinated me. I like it when you can tell who the starter is because he doesn't even try to stop half the shots he faces, or tries to glove every single shot because he wants to warm up the trapper, while the backup is trying groin-straining cross-crease lunges.

5:38: Apparently, you can't escape Nickelback by going to Europe. Damn. A song of theirs comes across the loudspeakers, and I recall the time I told a group of college kids they were "everything that is soulless and wrong in Canadian music." Oh well, at least it's not that Black-Eyed Peas song. You know the one I mean.

4:55: Man, does this ever seem like a long warmup. HYS look like they're running out of drills.

2:00: We must be wrapping up, it's semi-circle at the blueline shooting time. I think this is the last full team drill the world over in warmups.

The sound system issues continue, as a loud and lengthy blast of screeching feedback comes through the speakers for a full minute, then repeats off and on as the announcer, a woman in her late 40's who's probably one of the player's moms, tries to ask everyone if they're READY FOR SOME HOCKEY TONIIIIGHT. Or at least, I assume that's what she's saying. I don't know any Dutch.

The First Period: After a quick zamboni run, the rink is ready to go, the lights dim, and the Beastie Boys "Fight For Your Right" blares out of the rink speakers. A kid of probaby 10 or 11 in full gear walks unsteadily up the hallway to the ice. Sure enough, he's carrying a flag, and starts doing laps around the ice. Honestly, who started this particular bit of pre-game absurdity? I seem to remember seeing the Ottawa Senators do it on TV once or twice. As if to put an exclaimation mark on how silly the exercise is, after slowly taking three laps around the ice, the kid breaks for centre and falls hard on his backside while pretending to plant the flag on the dot. You can practically feel the tears of humiliation in his eyes as he leaves the ice. Poor kid.

20:00: Thankfully, HYS have indeed changed from their no-numbers warmup sweaters into a rather fetching dark red on a deep navy blue scheme. Superb. I like these jerseys so much that if I get into another game before I leave The Hague I will most likely pick one up. We go straight into the opening faceoff without any national anthem. After years of North American sports where the anthems always start things off, this feels surprisingly wrong to me.

19:31: We have our first whistle when the puck goes over the boards where there's no glass, and the second comes eight seconds later on an offside. Not exactly a roaring start. The eight-year-olds sitting in front of me are already restless.

18:35: The Flyers goalie is all over the place early. He looks nervous. HYS is clearly trying to get him going side-to-side and overcommit.

18:07: HYS's goalie, meanwhile, clearly loves to skate out and handle the puck. Knudsen has that kind of Roberto Luongo/JS Giguere look with the thick shoulder pads. His legs aren't as long, though. The Flyers goalie, Stephane Cesar, has more of a Martin Biron look; he's taller, but he looks smaller than Knudsen. Cesar is apparently from Ottawa and played in the OHL for a few seasons.

16:45: Nice breakaway stop by Knudsen as a Flyers player snuck behind the defense.

16:15: HYS answers that when a player breaks straight up the middle between the Flyers D, but his shot misses high blocker. I suspect things are starting to pick up.

14:57: Another nice stop by Knudsen on a Flyers player who walks straight out of the corner. Where's Derian Hatcher to drop a guy walking out of the corner when you need him?

14:07: Fifty seconds later, Selivanov misses on a breakaway. The hair on both coach's heads goes a little grayer from the lack of defense. Selivanov seems like he's taking exceptionally long shifts.

11:45: HYS had all the momentum early, but the Flyers are starting to carry the play now.

11:31: No sooner do I write that than HYS's Marcel Bruinsma of Abbotsford, BC, buries a wrist shot from the circles, shooting between the Flyer's defenseman's legs. Nice shot.

10:30: Selivanov, long known for his soft play in the NHL, pushes a Flyers defender off the puck in the corner right onto his ass. Lightning fans reading this won't believe it for a second.

10:17: Jan Bohac, #91 for HYS, skates right through the Flyers D on another breakaway. He's stopped, but Heerenveen's #10 is called for a slash. It's the first power play of the game. HockeyDB says that Bohac was a third round pick of the Senators back in 2000 but that he's never played in North America. He looks like a good player at this level, with size and skating ability. He also looks like he's missing the hockey sense to play at a higher level. I don't think Sens fans should be holding their breath waiting for him to make the show.

8:31: Selivanov finally leaves the ice with 14 seconds left on the man advantage after being out for the whole power play. Not too many good chances, but HYS almost caught the Flyers goalie going the wrong way once.

7:32: The Flyers come right back with pressure after killing the penalty and HYS defenseman Brian Mullally takes a tripping penalty.

6:53: #19 on HYS, Victor Ignatjev, has a filthy mouth. After missing a clearing attempt killing the penalty he fires off several f-bombs until the puck leaves the zone. I cringe on behalf of the parents who've brought the six eight-year-old boys sitting in front of me. They'll be hearing "f**k" repeatedly during the ride home, I just know it.

5:22: Just ten seconds after the HYS penalty ends, confusion at the Flyers bench results in a too many men on the ice penalty.

5:06: And just 16 seconds into the PP, HYS scores on a cross-ice pass from Bohac to defenseman Carl-Johan Johansson, who gets just enough of it to re-direct it into the net. 2-0 HYS.

4:30: The Flyers look like they've lost all composure, as they take another penalty during HYS pressure in their zone, this time for hooking.

3:50: Selivanov starts the power play, but doesn't get much done, so the second unit with Bohac comes on. Seems like the first unit just spends their time trying to find Selivanov, who's usually idling in the right side corner. Get in the slot, Selivanov, TAKE IT TO THE TOUGH AREAS. Somewhere, a Tampa Bay fan says "that's the Selivanov I remember."

2:08: After the power play, HYS's energy line comes on and promptly takes an offensive zone tripping penalty. HYS's coach tears out a chunk of his own hair. Andri Salomonson is the culprit, not to be confused with former Devils and Caps winger Andreas Salomonsson, who's currently playing for Modo, and probably tickled at the prospect of playing with Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund. And who can blame him? I've been looking at flights from Amsterdam to Stockholm and Modo's schedule myself...

:31: The best chance on the PP comes from a weak short side attempt that Knudsen easily gloves. And that ends a fairly entertaining first period.

Look for Part 2 of Brian's blog of this game to appear in mid-December.

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