Archive for February, 2016

Coach’s Corner Rewind: February 27, 2016

As you can tell, Ron MacLean was not in studio to do “Coach’s Corner” because he was preparing to host Sunday afternoon’s edition of Rogers Hometown Hockey from Victoria, British Columbia. Here’s what Grapes talked about in the last edition of “Coach’s Corner” before the Trade deadline:


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Get to Know the Venue: Coors Field

25 years ago, the Colorado Rockies became the 28th franchise in Major League Baseball, joining the Florida Marlins in the great expansion of 1993. In their first two seasons of play, they played at the home of the Denver Broncos, Mile High Stadium. At the same time, their new home, Coors Field, was being built on the edge of LoDo (Lower Downtown) at the intersection of 20th and Blake Streets.

Coors Field was built as a retro-modern ballpark built from brick and steel, seating 50,000, and features a clock tower at the park’s home plate entrance. The ballpark is the highest in the Major Leagues in terms of elevation, and in the upper deck, the 20th row of seats are not colored forest green, but in majestic purple, to mark Denver’s official elevation altitude of 5,280 feet one mile exactly above sea level. One feature that carried on from Mile High Stadium is a seating section called the Rockpile. The original Rockpile was the right field bleachers at Mile High Stadium. Coors Field’s Rockpile is located in straightaway center field above the batter’s eye. The Rockpile is the cheapest ticket at Coors Field, with seats going for as low as $4 ($1 on game day for kids under 12/senior citizens over 55), depending on who the Rockies’ opponent is for the game. And since this is Coors Field, Coors Field became the first Major League ballpark to have an in-house brewery. The SandLot Brewery, which is located in right field, opened on the same day as the first Rockies game at Coors Field back in 1995. Founder/Head Brewmaster Dr. Keith Villa and fellow Brewmaster John Legnard use the brewery to create Artfully Crafted beers, such as  Slugger Stout, Right Field Red, Power Alley ESB, and a fan favorite called Bellyslide Wit. Bellyslide Wit, a variation of the Belgian Wit brewed with a hint of Valencia orange peel, was so successful, Villa wanted to sell the beer outside the ballpark. During a tasting, an administrator for the Coors Brewing Company said “You know, a beer that tastes this good comes around only once in a blue moon.” And for the next decade, the beer that was ballpark-exclusive suddenly became Blue Moon Belgian White wheat ale. In the last 20 years, Blue Moon Brewing Company has become one of the largest craft beer brands in this country, with Blue Moon Belgian White winning the Gold Medal at the World Beer Championship in 1995 and Silver Medals in 1996 and 1997. In 2008, the SandLot Brewery renamed itself as the Blue Moon Brewing Company at the SandLot, and this past off-season, became a year-round destination.

When Coors Field was designed, it was designed with an abnormally large outfield in mind. Since a baseball in flight travels farther the higher the elevation is above sea level, a ball that is hit 400 feet at Yankee Stadium would go 40 feet longer at Coors Field. In 1999, a Major League-record 303 home runs were hit out of Coors Field. To help find a way to “neutralize” the ballpark, a scientific study determined that it wasn’t the thin air that was the cause of all those home runs hit out of the park, but rather how dry the air was. A ball stored in dry air is more harder, and when hit, is susceptible to stretch when hit by a bat. In 2002, a room-sized humidor to house game balls was built to control humidity surrounding the ball, and hopefully, “neutralize” the ballpark. In the humidor’s first year of use, the number of home runs hit at Coors Field decreased from 268 in 2001 to 232 in 2002. In 2014, renovations removed all but the first five rows of seating in the upper deck of right field to create The Rooftop at Coors Field; a 38,000 square-foot food, drink, and entertainment venue open to all guests throughout the game. The final feature of Coors Field is located underneath the Rockpile. The Water Feature located between the Batter’s Eye and the bullpens was designed to bring the Colorado wilderness into the ballpark. The Water Feature consists of a pond lined with native rocks and trees, three 10-foot waterfalls, and seven fountain jets, which shoot water approximately 40 feet into the air before every game, after every Rockies home run, during the seventh inning stretch, and after every Rockies win.


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NHL Network and MLB Network Join Forces to Promote Colorado Stadium Series Game

During the NHL All-Star Break, I explained how MLB Advanced Media is changing the way how people look at hockey. Today, to help promote Saturday night’s Stadium Series game at Coors Field, NHL Network and MLB Network are cross-promoting by having some of each personalities appear on the other network. It all started yesterday when The Rink at Studio 42 was built:


Built in the same way the rinks were built at Wrigley Field for the 2009 Winter Classic, Fenway Park for the 2010 Winter Classic, Citizens Bank Park for the 2012 Winter Classic, Dodger Stadium for the for the 2014 Stadium Series game in Los Angeles, Yankee Stadium for the for the 2014 Stadium Series games in New York, Nationals Park for the 2015 Winter Classic, and Coors Field for the for the 2016 Stadium Series game in Colorado, this 20′ x 40′ synthetic rink, built by xHockeyProducts (which was co-founded by former journeyman goaltender Peter Ing and 14-year NHL defenseman Bryce Salvador), will be used as a demonstration area like what the diamond in Studio 42 is used for on-field demos during MLB Tonight. This morning, NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes spoke with Hot Stove co-host and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds and talked about how goaltenders prepare themselves to stop a shot in a similar fashion to a batter anticipating a pitch. After that, Reynolds tried his hand to put a puck past the former 11-year NHL goalie.

This afternoon, Kevin Weekes hung out with Quick Pitch host and MLB Network reporter Heidi Watney as she did “Heidi’s Headlines” on Intentional Talk in full goalie gear.Cb7PEtgUsAA89o9

Tonight on MLB Tonight, NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp and MLB Network analyst “The Mayor” Sean Casey will participate in a shootout on The Rink at Studio 42. The rink will used all this week as NHL Network and MLB Network join forces to promote Saturday night’s Stadium Series game from Coors Field in Denver, so if you’re watching one, the other, or even both, you’ll get to see how baseball and hockey, two VERY different sports, are somehow connected.

UPDATE (2/24): This was the clip aired on MLB Tonight last night that featured Rupp and Casey:

UPDATE (2/26): Here’s all the full-length clip links from MLB Network’s NHL Week:


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Coach’s Corner Rewind: February 20, 2016

In case you missed Coach’s Corner last night on Hockey Night in Canada, we find out the answer to the question of is P.K. Subban really the scapegoat for the Montreal Canadiens’ recent on-ice struggles?

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Off the Ice: Mike “Doc” Emrick to call Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Games

We know NHL on NBC lead play-by-play announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick is good at calling hockey games. But he did call other sports, like the NFL in the early 1990s, water polo at the Olympics, and even figure skating during the 2012-13 NHL lockout. Now Doc gets his hand to call something different: call selected Spring Training games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s no surprise he loves the Pittsburgh Pirates, but surprisingly, the 2008 recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award has called a baseball game only once, while he was in college at Kent State. To prepare for this, Doc has spent the last few weeks at the Pirates’ Spring Training home in Bradenton, Florida, getting to know the team, and calling a simulated game with Root Sports Pittsburgh lead announcer Greg Brown. Take it from NHL/PBC on NBC/NFL/MLB on FOX play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert, who filled in for Doc calling NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry games the last few weeks: transitioning from sport to sport is not that easy. The NHL is fast-paced, whereas MLB is much slower than the NHL and usually has filler-material between pitches and at-bats. And that’s where Doc fits in. Not only is he a great play-by-play announcer, but a great storyteller. He talked about the time former Pirates closer Kent Tekulve dropped the puck at a Penguins game just days after he had heart surgery. So in the words of Greg Brown, clear the deck — Doc is coming.

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Get to Know the Venue: TCF Bank Stadium

After 27 years being co-tenants with the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins inside the Hubert. H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minnesota Golden Gophers football returned on-campus; this time, at TCF Bank Stadium, where this Sunday, the biggest event in the State of Hockey will happen as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild will faceoff in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

Before playing in the Metrodome, Gopher football was played at Memorial Stadium. The 57,000-seat stadium opened in 1924, and in its lifetime, saw the Gophers won six national championships. However, by 1982, Memorial Stadium was in disrepair and a brand new domed stadium in downtown Minneapolis was ready to welcome the Gophers into an NFL-quality venue. The stadium was demolished in 1990, and the McNamara Alumni Center and Freeman Aquatic Center were built on the site.  A preserved entryway from Memorial Stadium serves as an entrance to the Heritage Gallery inside the McNamara Alumni Center.

In 2006, Minnesota state legislature approved funding to bring back Gopher football back on campus. TCF Bank Stadium was built very similar to Memorial Stadium, a 52,000-seat horseshoe stadium with the open end giving a view to the Minneapolis skyline. Each of the names of the 87 counties that make up the state of Minnesota is carved in limestone around the stadium. The west end of the stadium, which houses the main scoreboard, has eleven 18-foot tall markers, representing the eleven native tribal nations that call Minnesota home. Where the Minnesota Wild will dress, is the largest dressing room in football. And the best part of the stadium? It was built with expansion in mind. Foundations for a potential third deck are laid, and if Minnesota wants to, the third deck would expand seating capacity from 52,000 to 80,000.

TCF Bank Stadium was built at a cost of $303 Million, and opened on September 12, 2009, when the Gophers christened the stadium with a 23-19 win over the Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy. The Gophers are 23-19 at the Stadium, with its most-attended game happening last season, as 54,147 saw the Gophers kick off the 2015 season with a loss to the #2 ranked Horned Frogs of TCU, 23-17. Originally, TCF Bank Stadium did not sell any beer/alcohol. However, that policy was modified to sell alcohol only in premium seating and the west end of the stadium. It is the only stadium in the Big Ten Conference to sell alcohol. The policy was also approved prior to the Minnesota Vikings calling the Stadium home while the Metrodome site was being transformed into the Vikings’ new home, U.S. Bank Stadium. TCF Bank Stadium’s first Vikings game happened on December 20, 2010, a Monday Night Football game against the NFC North division rival Chicago Bears. the game was the first game outdoors for the Vikings since the last game at Met Stadium held on that day, 29 years prior. That game was historic for a number of reasons: it was the last game Brett Favre played in his 18-year NFL career, Bears kick returner Devin Hester broke the NFL record for most career return touchdowns, and the Bears clinched the NFC North with a 40-14 win over the Vikings. Four years later, the Vikings held temporary residence at TCF Bank Stadium. Overall, the Vikings were 11-6 when playing at TCF Bank Stadium, with their last game, the Vikings’ first outdoor playoff game since the 1976 NFC Championship game, a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, 10-9, when Blair Walsh shanked a 27-yard game-winning field goal wide left.


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ICYMI, Charles Barkley Makes a Guest Appearance on Hockey Night in Canada’s Hockey Central Saturday

James Naismith, inventor of basketball, was born in Almonte, Ontario on November 6, 1861. He created the sport at the age of 30, using a soccer ball and a peach basket. He created the program at the University of Kansas in 1898, the first true powerhouse of college hoops. Fast forward nearly 50 years later, and the Basketball Association of America had the Toronto Huskies come in as a charter member. They lasted only one season. 45 years after the disbandment of the Huskies, the National Basketball Association expanded outside of American borders and awarded two expansion franchises to start play in 1995: the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies.  After six years in Vancouver with minimal success, John McCaw Jr., who bought the Grizzlies and Canucks from Arthur Griffiths in 1997 announced he would sell both teams and the building they both played in, which is now known today as Rogers Arena. The Aquilini Group bought the Canucks and the arena, and Chicago businessman Michael Halsey bought the Grizzlies and relocated that team to Memphis. The Grizzlies became not only Toronto’s NBA team, but Canada’s NBA team. It all started with a little Vinsanity. Then came the rise of Chris Bosh. Then came the emergence of current Raptor stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. And just a few years ago, We The North became the Raptors manifesto, and its face was a “outsider from the north side”; a boy from Scarborough named Aubrey Drake Graham, who first made a name for himself as Jimmy Brooks from Degrassi, now making a name of himself as October’s Very Own Drizzy. It was this face that made him the Raptors’ Global Ambassador, and brought the NBA All-Star Game to Toronto. Rewind thirty some years earlier, and the NBA started broadcasting on the Superstation, TBS. Four years later, TBS’ sister network, TNT, began broadcasting the NBA. In 2003, a new deal between ESPN and Turner Sports created NBA TV, made TNT Turner Sports’ sole home for the NBA, exclusive broadcaster of the NBA All-Star Game, and ABC the exclusive home of the NBA Finals in the United States. Just a few years before the deal created today’s NBA, Charles Wade Barkley, the 1993 NBA MVP and 11-time NBA All-Star power forward, finished his 15-year playing career in the NBA. As one of the great characters in NBA history, the transition from player to TNT studio analyst was seamless. Not only was he adding basketball insight, he was a fan of all sports and pop culture. In 2003, Inside the NBA, TNT’s postgame show, was revamped into the spectacle that is known today. So what does this all have to do with hockey? Yesterday, on Hockey Night in Canada’s Hockey Central Saturday, to promote the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto, Rogers decided to have Sportsnet NHL analyst Nick Kypreos interview “The Round Mound of Rebound”.

Even with that interview and demo, not even the most interesting question known to man was answered: who dresses better — Don Cherry or NBA on TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager?


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