Player tracking to enhance hockey broadcasts next season

Montreal company Sportlogiq teams up with NHL for new technology

At the 1996 NHL All-Star Game in Boston, Fox and the NHL introduced a puck tracking system that superimposed glowing lights around the puck. When a player’s shot was strong, it glowed red; if it was weaker, it would be blue. Fans didn’t like it, and when Fox lost its NHL rights after the 1997-98 season, the glowing puck died with it.

Over twenty years later, the league reintroduced its new player tracking system at the 2019 All-Star Game. Next season, NHL fans will get to see these player tracking systems implemented in broadcasts for the first time, and a company from Montreal will help release the new technology.

Sportlogiq currently works with 27 NHL teams to track player movements on the ice. Their system uses an algorithm that tracks players through broadcast cameras, but the NHL will place sensors on players’ equipment and pucks.

“Player tracking includes where a player is on the ice, how fast they’re skating, and everything else to what they’re doing on the ice,” said Christopher Boucher, Sportlogiq’s VP Sports Development, Analytics & Hockey Operations. “What’s tracked is location of all players and every puck possession event that occurs. This allows us to have information on players and teams.”

Although Boucher couldn’t go into more detail, Sportlogiq will be providing the optical solution for the NHL’s puck and player tracking technology next season. During the broadcast, fans will receive extra information about what’s happening on the ice.

“This can benefit fans in a few ways because, at the broadcast level, there will be more insights, such as the speed of players or speed of a shot,” Boucher said. “Then there will be more interesting stuff in terms of analytics. While a team is on the ice, we will be able to show the strength of one team over the other with a little widget on the screen.”

Like anything new, Boucher warns there will be pushback from fans, the same way Fox’s glowing puck was cast aside. The NHL and its broadcasters will go through a trial and error period next season to determine what fans prefer.

“There are broadcasters who have tried some stuff, and we’ve been involved too,” Boucher said. “That’s going to continue, and when they find something fans enjoy, they’ll run with it.”

Boucher added that younger fans will be more willing to accept the new technology, and that’s who they have to gear their product towards.

“I don’t think [the pushback] is a question of mentality, but a question of being able to process more information more quickly,” Boucher added. “My kids, as an example, they don’t just watch TV. They have the TV, their phone, and YouTube on. Younger kids can process more information a bit better, so they’ll have an appetite for it.”

Although advanced stats are on the rise, fans still prefer talking about the simple stats, such as goals and assists. But Boucher sees a future where fans talk about these advanced stats too.

“Obviously, the goals and assists, and [Connor] McDavid beating guys one-on-one will always be the more important story,” Boucher said. “But once [player tracking systems] are there and digestible on screen, then people are going to start talking about it. It’s going to take some time.”

Main graphic by Ana Bilokin.


Capturing the best of the Stingers

Our photo team caught the emotion and action from this year’s athletics season

The 2018-19 Concordia Stingers athletic season has come to a close and The Concordian has captured most of what these student-athletes accomplished. The men’s rugby and basketball teams took home championships this year, while the women’s basketball team surprised everybody by qualifying for nationals. Our photo team followed the Stingers teams along the way and captured some of the best moments from this season.

The emotional side
The action
Behind the scenes

Roller hockey lacking popularity in Quebec

Playing the sport is the best way to improve at ice hockey

Kévin L’Heureux has played roller hockey all over the world, including in Italy and China. When he plays in Montreal, he goes to Le Rinque in Town of Mont-Royal, the only rink that hosts indoor roller hockey in the city.

“Before Le Rinque [was built in 2017], we didn’t have a spot to train for roller hockey, but now we do,” L’Heureux said. “But the sport is not seen enough; it’s not talked about, it’s just not known.”

L’Heureux plays defence for the Montreal Ducks in the highest level of amateur roller hockey in the city. The Ducks play in the Montreal Roller Hockey League with four total, with three seasons each year—one in the summer, fall, and winter. The Ducks compete in tournaments across North America, and some of their players have played for other competitive teams in the United States and France.

L’Heureux (third from right) during his time playing in France in 2011. Photo courtesy of Kévin L’Heureux.

L’Heureux played in France in 2011, and in the United States with the Hartford Fireants for three years. He took his roller hockey career to a new level, however, with the Canadian national team. L’Heureux played at the 2017 WRG World Skate Championships in China and the 2018 World Inline Hockey Championships in Italy.

“It was an incredible experience—you see how popular the sport is,” said L’Heureux about travelling abroad to play. “Around the world, it’s growing in popularity, but here in Quebec, it’s really hard to develop the sport.”

The defenceman says roller hockey isn’t growing enough in Quebec because of the lack of space and resources. L’Heureux also coaches roller hockey to young kids once a week, but still admits he doesn’t have very many kids attending his practices.

“We’re trying to teach more kids because it’s the sport that most resembles ice hockey,” he said. “The better you are at roller hockey, the better you will be at ice hockey.”

Despite the name similarities between ice and roller hockey, L’Heureux said there are many differences between the two sports. Roller games are played on a surface of 164 by 82 feet (versus 200 by 85 in ice hockey), with four skaters on each team, plus a goalie. The goalie also wears roller skates, which makes the position more challenging to play than in ice hockey, or even a ball hockey.

“When you skate, you have to push harder on your legs to go faster,” said L’Heureux about how the technical aspects of roller hockey are different than on ice. “You can’t take two strides then glide like on ice. Then what gives everyone trouble is stopping. When you do a hockey stop, your weight is on your front leg. But in roller hockey, it’s on the back leg, because if you do it with your front, for sure you’re going to break your ankle.”

With a four-on-four game in a smaller rink, roller hockey’s style of play is a vast contrast to ice hockey’s dump-and-chase, “hit whatever you see” mentality. Teams in roller hockey maintain possession as long as possible, and only give up the puck when they make a mistake. “There’s a lot of skating, and it’s all about positioning,” L’Heureux added. “It really is different from ice hockey.”

For players who pick up the sport for the first time, L’Heureux warns they need to have patience, because of its steep learning curve. “If you don’t give it time, you’re going to get discouraged,” L’Heureux said. “You can’t just say, ‘This is too hard for me, I’m going to play ball hockey instead.’”

Main photo courtesy of Kévin L’Heureux.


Colour commentary: Learning what it’s like to work for a student newspaper

Valuable lessons gained in two years as Sports Editor

Two years ago, when I started as the Sports Editor of The Concordian, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had just finished my first year in journalism and didn’t have much experience with handling a publication. I also didn’t know what it was like to write for a newspaper, which is a declining industry.

Two years later, as I’m writing my final Colour Commentary, I can safely say my experience in this role has been surreal, and I learned quite a bit while doing it. Sure, people don’t pick up physical newspapers as much, but we’re still trying to put our best content out there.

The biggest thing I learned was time management, and how to roll with the punches. I remember before my first issue in August 2017, I sat in front of my computer trying to figure out how to get everything done. When the stories I wanted in that first issue had setbacks, I panicked. I kept questioning how I would have my section ready in time or how I was supposed to do this for the rest of the year.

Each week during the first year, I learned how to deal with those problems. A dozen issues in, I got the hang of it; I planned my content in advance, and always had stories prepared. That’s the challenge of working with a weekly newspaper—stories might be timely, but you need to get things done.

Having other student journalists write stories also taught me how to be patient and how to deal with people. I always felt like the writers and I were part of a sports section team, so I wanted to treat everyone properly. It can be intimidating, especially for first-year students, to approach the student media, so I hope they felt welcomed.

Publishing a newspaper is a team effort, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best teammates anyone could ask for. I see how hard the other section editors work, making their pages look fantastic every week. Each editor brought a different style, but all together, the paper was second-to-none.

We definitely wouldn’t have had such fantastic teams the past two years without our Editor-in-Chiefs, Katya Teague then Maggie Hope, and our Managing Editors Alex Cole and Candice Pye. Of course, our Production Editor Loreanna Lastoria made everything look so great.

I want to thank Mackenzie Lad, Alex Hutchins, Kirubel Mehari, Hannah Ewen, and Gabe Chevalier for spending countless hours at games taking breathtaking photos. I wouldn’t have published anything without those. Without our copy editors the past two years—Valeria Cori-Manocchio, Katerina Gang, Kylee Ross, Rebecca Luger, Victoria Lewin, Katelyn Thomas, Juliet Booker, and Kayla-Marie Turriciano—our articles wouldn’t have been so easy to read. I also have to thank the copy team for making me a better writer.

The Concordian teams of 2017-18 and 2018-19 absolutely killed it, and I’m looking forward to what this paper will do in the future.  


Colour commentary: Fighting in hockey is not necessary

Paul Byron’s injury sparks debate about the NHL’s “code”

After Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron suffered a head injury in a fight against the Florida Panthers’s MacKenzie Weegar on March 26, it’s time to revisit the debate about fighting in hockey.

Probably the most violent contact sport besides boxing and mixed martial arts, fighting has been part of hockey since its inception over 100 years ago. Things change over the course of a century, including the rules of hockey, so why is fighting still a part of the game? It’s because hockey players are way too traditional.

Byron injured Weegar with a hit to the head on Jan. 15, and was suspended for three games. Weegar suffered a concussion but returned to the line-up on Feb. 2, missing only four games. In the first meeting between the Canadiens and Panthers since, the six-foot tall, 200-lb Weegar challenged the five-foot, nine-inch tall, 163-lb Byron to a fight early in the first period. With a clear size advantage, Weegar landed an uppercut, which knocked Byron down, and he missed the rest of the game.

The Canadiens are in the middle of a playoff hunt and can’t afford to lose their assistant captain. Was the fight really necessary? I don’t think so, since Byron already served his three-game suspension. Weegar and Byron fought because of the NHL’s ancient “code,” the unwritten rule that players have to stand up for themselves or their teammates with a fight.

It’s an unwritten rule that comes from the dinosaur ages of hockey. It’s completely unnecessary in today’s game, and needs to be phased out in order to avoid injuries. Habs forward Andrew Shaw told Arpon Basu of The Athletic that the code is “a thing that hockey players do.”

How about this: don’t do it—it’s not worth it. There’s ongoing research about concussions and how it affects the brain long-term. Unlike a broken bone or a pulled muscle, effects of concussions can linger, and for some players, it could last years.

Like Weegar, and likely now Byron, I suffered a concussion in February while playing hockey, and it sucks. My opponent only received a two-minute minor for the check to the head, and wasn’t suspended, but I didn’t go after him the next time we played.  

Going after an opponent to avenge a previous injury is childish. I’m sure Weegar didn’t intend to hurt Byron, but the whole situation could have been avoided if there was no fight.

I don’t know if fighting will ever be banned from hockey, but staged fights like these are barbaric and useless. You play hockey to score more goals than the other team, not to knock your opponent out. Try boxing if you want to knock someone out.


Head coach Tenicha Gittens wants players to get stronger

Stingers hope to learn from first experience at nationals in 20 years

A year after finishing the regular season with a 4-12 record, the Concordia Stingers women’s basketball team made it all the way to the U Sports nationals this season. They qualified after losing in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) final against the Laval Rouge et Or, and were eliminated by the McMaster Marauders in the quarter-finals at nationals.

Despite their successful season this year, head coach Tenicha Gittens believes her team needs more depth. “Our bench has been thin all season long, so when we get [to nationals], it does matter,” Gittens said on CJLO Sports on March 11.

Injuries contributed to the short bench this season. Rookie Nelly Owusu was injured before the regular season began, and hasn’t played since, shortening the roster by one. “She was a big part of what we wanted to do,” Gittens said. “She was part of our starting line-up [in preseason games]. I think if she had been healthy throughout the season, she would have been fighting for the rookie of the year.”

Caroline Task (pictured) finished third in league scoring with 15.6 points per game. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Looking ahead to next season, Gittens hopes to increase the team’s roster through recruiting, but doesn’t have any official commitments right now.

“Not having Nelly, this is where it really hurt us, in this postseason,” Gittens added. “To have her in that rotation would have done wonders for us. It would have been a completely different basketball team.”

Leclerc was the third-straight Stinger to win the RSEQ rookie of the year award after Task won in 2017, and Coralie Dumont last year. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

Gittens wants her team to get stronger physically for next season, to avoid any future injuries. “Physically, I thought we were weaker than most teams out there, so that’s something we have to get better at,” she said. “We have the talent, we’re just inexperienced. There’s ways we can get around that, and it’s just building our mind to sustain [the season].”

The Stingers benefitted from having the U Sports and RSEQ rookie of the year, Myriam Leclerc. She led the RSEQ in points and assists per game, with 18.8 and 4.6, respectively. Leclerc was also named to the U Sports second all-Canadian team, and the RSEQ’s first all-star team.

Guard Caroline Task was also named to the RSEQ first all-star team, and rookie guard Areej Burgonio made the RSEQ all-rookie team.

“[Leclerc] is just a special talent, and every once in a while, you’re lucky enough to get a talent like that in your program,” Gittens said. “She does everything. She’s a shooting point guard, she’s a passing point guard, and she gets buckets at will […]. She’s a tremendous talent and she’s raised everybody’s level of play.”

However, Gittens wants to see Leclerc get stronger over the summer, just like the rest of the team. “She’s been banged up all season long, but she’s one of those players that’s going to play through [injuries],” Gittens added. “She literally has to be broken to stop playing. We saw that in the final against Laval, when she didn’t play the second half because she physically could not go anymore […]. After that final game at nationals, she told me, ‘Coach, I’m going to be tank this summer,’ so she knows what she needs to work on.”

Burgonio (pictured) averaged 4.1 points in nearly 24 minutes per game this year. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

At the national tournament in Toronto, the Stingers lost to McMaster 86-68 in their first game. The Marauders went onto win the national championship, beating the Rouge et Or in the final. In their consolation game against the Acadia Axewomen, the Stingers had a two-point lead after three quarters, but they ultimately lost 86-74.

“It was a disappointing end to the season,” Gittens said. “But we ended the season at nationals, so even though it seems like losing those two games made the season a wash, we have to remember we got to this point. I knew our biggest challenge going in would be the inexperience of it all, and I knew the other teams going had a taste of nationals.”

The Stingers last played in the national tournament in 1999, and started with the seventh seed as a wild card berth. About this year’s trip to nationals, Gittens said: “We enjoyed the banquet and being treated as one of the top eight teams in Canada, because they have to soak all of that in. We watched basketball and just kind of learned from the other teams that kept moving on.”

If they do get back to nationals next season, they’ll know what to do.

“The experience [at nationals] was definitely the biggest takeaway,” Gittens said. “You try to get them to buy in and believe, and kind of sell them on a dream that they can get there. Now they know the path to take.”

Main photo by Gabe Chevalier.


Stingers experience nationals for the first time

Losses to Ryerson and Saint Mary’s give Concordia vision for next season

In their first U Sports nationals appearance since 2012, the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team lost both of their games in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In their quarter-final game against the Ryerson Rams, the Stingers lost 87-47; the Saint Mary’s Huskies beat them 84-67 in a consolation game.

“It was a first experience for all of us at nationals, players and coaches included,” said head coach Rastko Popovic on CJLO Sports on March 11. “We knew it was going to be a different experience since it’s something we never lived before. You can’t just imitate walking into a big [arena] like that.”

Adrian Armstrong shoots a free throw during the RSEQ final. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Dalhousie University hosted the nationals at the Scotiabank Centre, which has a seating capacity of over 10,000 people. The Stingers qualified for nationals after winning the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship on March 2.

In their opening game, the Stingers played a strong Rams team that lost in the final last year, but won bronze this year. The Rams had five players 6’7 or taller, while the Stingers’s tallest players—Aleks Simeunovic, Olivier Simon, and Matthis Guerut—are all 6’7.

Popovic said he spoke to other coaches before playing Ryerson, and they all said the Rams do a good job at contesting inside shots. The Stingers’s game plan was to shoot three-pointers, but they went 3/36 from three-point range, which hurt them on the scoreboard.

“We knew we were going to have to make some three-point shots to stay in the game,” Popovic said. “Early in the game, it didn’t help that we fell behind 12-0. We had some great looks, but they just didn’t fall down.”

Adrian Armstrong, who made a team-high 56 three-point shots this season, went 2-12 in the game against Ryerson. The Stingers did a better job with their threes in their second game, going 12/32, but Saint Mary’s did better with their overall shooting.

“It was a great learning experience, but we’re disappointed with the results,” Popovic said. “Now we have a good idea of what it takes to make it to the next level.”

Near the end of their game against Saint Mary’s, Popovic subbed off fifth-year guards Garry Merrisier and Ricardo Monge for the last time in their Stingers careers. Popovic said it was an emotional moment for the whole team.

“We see these guys more than we see our family some days,” Popovic said. “We spend a lot of time together at practice, in the weight room, individual workouts, etc. So these guys are like my family. You never think about that moment until it comes, when you realize this was the last time they came off the floor.”

The head coach was already thinking about next season with some of the substitutions he made in the last quarter of that final game. Rookie guard Tariq Bakri-Hamad, who averaged 1.6 minutes per game this season, played 12 minutes against Saint Mary’s and scored 10 points.

“Against Saint Mary’s, we made a run [and cut their lead] in the second half,” Popovic said. “Tariq was on the floor during that run so those are very valuable minutes for him.”

The players will take a break to focus on their exams, but Popovic wants to see them in the weight room as soon as possible. Even though the 2019-20 regular season starts in November, the Stingers could be playing preseason games as early as August.

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad.


Maurice Simba not taking NFL draft for granted

Offensive lineman held pro day for scouts in Lachine

Maurice Simba has taken another step towards his dream of playing professional football. The Stingers’s offensive lineman held a pro day for NFL scouts at the Catalogna Soccerplexe in Lachine on March 12.

“Personally, I think I’m very satisfied the way the day went,” Simba said. “I can say I gave all I could, and I hope the scouts saw that and liked it. I’m looking forward to what will happen.”

Simba’s 6’8” frame is taller than the average NFL lineman. Photo by Nicholas Di Giovanni.

Scouts from the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets tested Simba through various drills. He bench pressed 25 reps of 225 pounds, had a 19-inch vertical jump, a broad jump of six feet, 11 inches, and ran his 40-yard dash in 5.99 seconds.   

“For sure I would have liked to run a 4.4 [in the 40-yard dash] but it’s hard to do when you weigh 343 pounds; it’s just not realistic,” the six-foot-eight lineman jokingly told reporters. “As an athlete, you have to be great everyday, so that’s why I train. What I did today won’t change anything, and I’m just going to continue working hard.”

The lineman just finished his fourth season with the Stingers, and has been attracting scouts throughout the year. The CFL ranked Simba as the 18th-best Canadian prospect, and fifth-best offensive lineman in their September 2018 list. They ranked him 11th on their prospects list in December 2018 for the draft in May.

Scouts from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs attended several Stingers games this past season. In January, Simba played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in California alongside some of the best American prospects.

“I always keep my head down and I don’t take anything for granted,” Simba said. “The NFL is not granted for me, nothing is set that I’m going to play in the NFL […]. Any opportunity I have, whether it be in the CFL or NFL, I’m just grateful to be here.”

Simba’s journey to become a football player is quite impressive. Born in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Simba moved to Quebec at 18 years old to rejoin his mother, who left home when he was three. The 24-year-old barely knew what American football was when he came here, but has been playing for six years.

“I’m very lucky for what’s happened in my life the past couple of years,” Simba said. “This [pro day] is a way for me to say thank you to Concordia University and to the city of Montreal for giving me these opportunities. For an immigrant like me who arrived [six] years ago, to get these chances, it really means a lot.”

Simba normally played left tackle this season, but admits he would be able to play anywhere along the offensive line if asked. The scouts had him do drills for both the left and right tackle positions.

“Right now, I want to play everywhere. If you pay me, I can play centre,” Simba added. “I’m too broke right now; I just want to help my mom. But honestly, I just want to show scouts [that] if they give me a chance, I’ll show them I can play, whether at guard or tackle.”

Simba will attend the CFL national combine in Toronto from March 22 to 24. The NFL draft is on April 25, while the CFL has theirs on May 2. “If I get drafted [in the NFL], thank God,” Simba said. “But in my head right now, to not be disappointed, if I don’t get drafted, I just want to an invitation to a rookie mini-camp to prove what I can do. If the coach tells me no, I’m still a Canadian citizen and I can play in the CFL.”

Simba ran the shuttle run drill in 5.76 seconds. Photo by Nicholas Di Giovanni.
Simba trying to follow Canadian lineman

A scout from the Kansas City Chiefs visited Montreal in the fall, and that team isn’t shy about drafting Canadian linemen. They drafted Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, where he’s been their starting guard since the 2015 season. Duvernay-Tardif is one of 12 Canadians who played in the NFL last season.

“He’s one of the most impressive guys I’ve ever seen,” said Simba about Duvernay-Tardif. “He really taught me humility. I met with him last year and the first thing he told me was thanks to my size, I have a shot.”

Simba said Duvernay-Tardif taught him what it takes to play in the NFL. “Even when scouts came to watch me last season, he told me, ‘Play your game as if they weren’t there,’” Simba said. “He’s a good mentor for me, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

Simba also said he would like to see more Canadians and U Sports players get a shot in the NFL, but they need more visibility first. “My goal is to give chances to other guys that the scouts could see,” Simba said. “Yeah, this year it was [me], but hopefully next year they will be back.”  

Main photo by Nicholas Di Giovanni.


Colour commentary: Hockey rink not a place for unjust behaviour

Trash-talking part of the time—just don’t cross a line

In a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning on March 11, Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly allegedly said a homophobic slur to the referee. After an investigation, the NHL concluded that what sounded like an anti-gay remark in the arena’s mics did not come from Rielly, and he was not disciplined.

Although Rielly did not make the remark, reactions on social media to the NHL’s investigation were worrisome. I went on Twitter and Facebook after it happened and kept shaking my head as I read through comments. The people who believe “the world is too soft” and “people get hurt over anything” were out in full force, showing their ignorance to matters like this. But the one comment that got me thinking the most was, “What happens in the rink stays in the rink.”

In other words, whatever unacceptable behaviour someone does in the rink, doesn’t hold them accountable outside of it. It doesn’t work like that. Although Rielly didn’t actually use a homophobic slur this time, they’re used way too often in sports, especially in hockey.

I’ve played hockey my whole life, and there will always be insults on the rink—it’s part of the game to get into your opponent’s head. The most homophobic sayings I’ve heard were probably when I played bantam or midget. Unfortunately, words to describe members of the LGBTQ+ community are used as insults. I’m not going to lie, I used to say those things on the ice until I learned it was wrong.

It continues to amaze me that some adults believe using homophobic slurs are acceptable as insults because it happens in a hockey rink. How someone acts on the rink is also how they act off of it. Eliminating homophobia in all aspects of life starts by stopping it in the places where it’s most common.

Hockey probably has to be one of the worst sports for gay athletes—there are still no openly-gay players in the NHL, while Michael Sam in the NFL, Jason Collins in the NBA, and Glenn Burke in the MLB were some of the first few athletes to come out in North America’s major sports.

However, the NHL does a good job at promoting inclusivity through its partnership with You Can Play. It’s an organization founded in memory of Brendan Burke, the son of NHL executive Brian Burke, who came out as gay in 2009, a few months before he died in a car accident.

I understand insults are part of hockey, but homophobic slurs don’t belong on the ice—or anywhere for that matter. Not using those words is really simple—just call your opponent stupid or something. Or as my dad always told me, “Respond by putting the puck in the net.”


Growing from the success of March Madness

The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers had gained popularity since Final Four appearance

Any Concordia student who watched the 2018 March Madness—the national tournament for university men’s basketball in the United States—probably remembers the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers for its similarities to Concordia. Their maroon and gold colours replicate those of the Stingers, and like Concordia’s Loyola College, Loyola University Chicago was also founded by Jesuits.

Head coach Porter Moser (centre) celebrates the Ramblers’s appearance in the Final Four. Photo by Hanako Maki / Loyola Phoenix.

Despite the connections between the two schools, what the Ramblers did on the court is what they will be remembered for the most. They upset everybody as an #11 seed in the South Region to make the tournament’s Final Four, before losing to the eventual finalists, the Michigan Wolverines.

“There are days when it doesn’t feel real,” said Loyola Phoenix sports editor Nick Schultz, who has covered the team since the 2016-17 season. “I’m from a town of about 4,000 people in central Illinois, and there I was in the Alamodome in San Antonio [for the Final Four] with 70,000 of my closest friends. It was wild.”

The Ramblers, who won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) championship last year and played in their first March Madness tournament since 1985. Being in a city like Chicago, with one team in the NHL, NFL, and NBA, plus two teams in the MLB, the Ramblers lack coverage from mainstream local media.

“I was the only one there every game last year,” said Schultz, who saw the Ramblers’s popularity grow throughout the season. “Then the Chicago Tribune started coming when Loyola beat the number five team in the country [Florida Gators] in December. Then they started winning through conference play and the Chicago Sun-Times started showing up, then all the TV stations, then ESPN. It was weird seeing the evolution.”

Once the Ramblers got to the national tournament in March, one person was stealing headlines, and it wasn’t a player. Jean Dolores Schmidt, known as Sister Jean, is a 99-year-old team chaplain for men’s basketball. She travelled with the Ramblers throughout last spring’s tournament and offered her support.

“We know how special she is and how much she means to our program,” said Bill Behrns, the assistant athletic director of communications. “It was great to let the world know how much she means and everything she brings to the university. She’s a truly special individual with an unbelievable passion for life.”

Sister Jean was on hand to witness the Ramblers’s unbelievable finishes to their first two games in Dallas, Texas. In their round of 64 match-up against sixth-seeded Miami Hurricanes, after Miami missed a free throw with less than 10 seconds left, the Ramblers were still down a point. Instead of going for an easier two-point shot, guard Donte Ingram made a three-point attempt to win the game with no time left.

Clayton Custer (on the ground) watches his game-winning shot go in against the Tennessee Volunteers. Photo by Ralph Braseth / Loyola School of Communication.

Two days later on March 17, 2018, the Ramblers played the third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers. The Ramblers moved on to the next round, the Sweet 16, after Clayton Custer’s shot with three seconds left took a lucky bounce off the rim to fall in.

Schultz and the other staff members of the Loyola Phoenix had to quickly plan to cover the next rounds in Atlanta, Georgia. “It was the first NCAA [National Collegiate Athletics Association] tournament game any of us had ever been to, let alone covered,” Schultz said. “It was a unique experience to be there for that buzz-beater [Ingram’s three-pointer], and that’s when we looked at each other and realized this could be a thing.”

When the Ramblers returned to the university after their upset wins, Behrns saw a different morale amongst the students. “The good thing for us was to see the amount of school spirit and pride people had on campus,” he said. “It was something we had struggled with for a while, so that was fantastic. It was good to see people wear Loyola gear for the first time in a long time.”

The Ramblers went on to beat the Nevada Wolf Pack in the Sweet 16 on March 22, 2018 and the Kansas State Wildcats in the Elite Eight to clinch their spot in the final weekend in San Antonio, Texas. There, they lost to a strong Michigan team, but it was a magical run that will forever live on in the school’s history.

“During the run, what the country saw and what the world saw from our players and staff, that was genuine,” Behrns said. “That’s really how those people are on and off the court; it wasn’t an act or anything that they were putting out there.”

Since last year’s March Madness, Schultz has seen his school’s popularity grow nationwide. He said he’s talked to first-year students, who aren’t necessarily basketball fans, but had heard about the team’s success.

When head coach Porter Moser joined the Ramblers prior to the 2011-12 season, he wanted their home court, Joseph J. Gentile Arena, to be loud every game.

“At that point in time, when he said that, we laughed at him, because they [weren’t] going to sell out and Loyola is not a sports school,” Schultz said. “They just had their sixth sellout of [this] year, and they never had six sellouts in a year. Because of the attention they got in the Final Four, people are coming to games.”

With new recruits coming in, the Final Four appearance will help the Ramblers in the long run. Schultz said Moser is considered a top recruiter, but national exposure motivates high school players to play at Loyola.

“It gets your foot in the door with recruits,” Behrns added. “Now people know who we are; they know our brand and our style of play.”

The Ramblers lost in the semi-final of the MVC championship this past weekend and will not play in this year’s NCAA tournament. But their magic from the 2018 March Madness will live on forever.

Main photo by Hanako Maki / Loyola Phoenix.


Colour commentary: Carey Price not appreciated enough

Canadiens goalie record-setting win is another accomplishment in great career

I remember the first time I watched Carey Price on TV; Canada was playing the United States at the 2007 World Junior Championships, and the semi-final game went to a shootout. The shootout lasted seven rounds but Price made three huge saves, including the last on Peter Mueller, to send Canada to the final, which they won. I remember thinking, “Wow, this guy is a Montreal Canadiens prospect.”

Fast forward 12 years, and Price is more than just a Montreal Canadiens player. On March 5, he tied Jacques Plante for most wins in franchise history, with 314. In a franchise that’s been around for 110 years, with its many legends and all-time greats, Price is now number one for wins.

Although Price has often been criticized, Canadiens fans of this generation are so lucky to have him. I don’t think we truly appreciate just how good Price is.

With a career 314-220-67 record, Price also has a career .918 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average (GAA). Since becoming the Canadiens’s full-time starter in 2010-11, he’s only had two seasons with a GAA higher than 2.50: 2.59 in 2012-13, when he played 39 games, and 3.11 last season when the Canadiens finished third to last in the league.

We definitely can’t forget about Price’s 44-win 2014-15 season, in which he had a career-best 1.96 GAA, which is just mind-blowing. It’s a no-brainer that he won the Hart Trophy as the league’s best player that year.

There is one thing missing from Price’s trophy cabinet, and that’s a Stanley Cup. Pessimistic fans will be quick to criticize Price’s career with the Canadiens for this reason, since Plante and Ken Dryden won six, while Patrick Roy won two with the Habs and two more with the Colorado Avalanche.

However, these Hall of Fame goalies had Hall of Fame players in front of them. Price doesn’t, except for a potential Hall of Famer in Shea Weber—who’s only been with the Habs since 2016. Plante played on the 1950s dynasty team, which included 12 Hall of Fame members from Jean Beliveau to Maurice Richard. Dryden’s team in the 1970s had 11 members in the Hall of Fame.

It’s a shame Price couldn’t have played on better Canadiens teams. They came close in 2014, as he carried them to the Conference Final before getting injured. This season, he’s helped carry the Habs past expectations as they continue to fight for a spot in the playoffs. We can only hope this young team will improve and Carey Price will finally win his Stanley Cup.


Stingers had a long journey to the championship

Basketball head coach Rastko Popovic is proud of everybody involved

The Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team played their first preseason game on Aug. 6, 2018, against the Ole Miss Rebels. Almost seven months later, the Stingers won the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship, beating the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins, 73-69.

Since the Stingers last won a title in 2012, they changed their coach from John Dore to Rastko Popovic. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

“To become a champion, it’s a long road,” said head coach Rastko Popovic after the Stingers’s win against the Citadins on March 2. “You don’t just show up; you have to put in the work. I told our guys that game against Ole Miss paid off.”

From that first game against the Rebels, the Stingers played 33 preseason, regular season, and playoff games. They won 20 times, and had an 11-5 regular-season record.

“We struggled with some injuries, but I thought we had a pretty good regular season,” Popovic said. “We had some losses near the end, but you can’t expect to win every game in our league when you play each other so many times.”

For most of the Stingers, this championship title has been the result of hard work throughout the years. They last won the title in 2012, before Popovic was named head coach in 2015. Under him, the Stingers lost two semi-final games in 2016 and 2017, before losing last year’s final to McGill.  

“We just had progression every year, but lost a couple of tough games in the playoffs,” Popovic said. “You have to learn the daily habits of becoming a champion and you have to live by that. We pushed our guys, and I’m so proud of our guys.”

Although the team had a handful of rookies this year, they might not have won the championship without help from their veterans. Fifth-year players Garry Merisier and Ricardo Monge stepped up and performed when it counted—Merisier played 22 minutes and collected four rebounds in the final, while Monge had a team-high 19 points and made four of his six three-point shots.

“Big-shot Rick, MVP, team captain, whatever you want to call him, he does it all for us,” said guard Adrian Armstrong.

Monge, who won the RSEQ’s MVP trophy, played in the last home game of his Stingers career, and his teammates saw it as inspiring. “We were going to ride or die with him making [important] shots,” said forward Olivier Simon. “He’s been working on shooting all year. He has confidence [in himself], so we’re not surprised.”

One of Monge’s biggest shots of the game came right at the end of the third quarter, while the Citadins started to come back. He made a three pointer, giving the Stingers a 48-43 lead heading into the final quarter. Popovic said it gave his team energy for the fourth, and helped them win.

“This is the materializing of all the hard work I’ve put in throughout all these years,” Monge said. “It never happened for me, but it feels good to win my first championship.”

The point guard said only his team knows exactly what they had to go through to reach this point in the season. “We worked so hard, we’ve been through so many ups and downs,” Monge said. “Practices in cold gyms, hot gyms, it’s just a grind. It’s really special.”

Popovic added his team wouldn’t have won the championship without the work from everybody around the team. “I’m so proud of our coaching staff, our therapists, everybody in the [athletics] department,” he said. “This is for everyone involved with Concordia basketball, from the alumni to the supporters. Everybody has a piece of this [trophy], and helped us and seen our progression since day one.”  

The Stingers will now play at the national tournament in Halifax from March 8 to 10. When they last won the RSEQ title in 2012, they lost two games at nationals. Popovic played at the tournament for the Stingers in 2005, also in Halifax, and lost in the final.

“It’s the first time at nationals for all these guys,” Popovic said. “Going to nationals is the best experience of your life. You represent your school and it’s just a great reward for all the hard work these guys have put in.”

The players want to represent not only their school, but also the RSEQ as a whole, as they are the only team from Quebec. “We want to go out and show Quebec is one of the stronger conferences,” Armstrong said. “Obviously, we had some respect this season being ranked [in the Top 10], but it’s not enough.”

Main photos by Mackenzie Lad.

Exit mobile version