The Instigator Podcast 5.8 – Gear Talk with Rob LaLonde

Rob LaLonde of Buffalo-based Buttendz joins this week’s podcast to discuss his company’s incredible rubber butt end product and his time paying professionally in the ECHL and AHL.

Catch the Instigator on iTunes and on Stitcher by hitting the links.

Dollar Tape Club: A new, affordable option for buying hockey tape

There’s nothing worse than digging in your bag as you’re ready to re-tape your stick and realizing you’re out of tape. Or worse, having your clear snap off before you’ve taped both socks.

Luckily, there’s a new, affordable option to ensure you’ll never run out of tape again. Dollar Tape Club was the brainchild of Daniel and Adrian Sosa and offers players the opportunity to order a set amount of tape that will come on a monthly basis. Not unlike Dollar Shave Club, except with hockey tape, Dollar Tape Club is drastically more affordable than buying tape in a pro shop while also ensuring players still receive top-quality tape.

I got my first month’s order in just last week and I can confirm that the tape is no different that Renfrew, Howie’s or any other brand name products you’d find at your local hockey shop. I reached out to the guys at Dollar Tape Club to find out a little more about how they do things and how they can sell their tape so cheap. Continue reading

Q&A with BASE Hockey on the best sticks money can buy

I’ve had the chance to correspond with a handful of hockey personalities this summer. People tapped into the industry working for companies like CCM and Warrior. I also had a very unique opportunity to do a Q&A with Ron Kunisaki, one of the founders of BASE Hockey.

If you haven’t heard of BASE, don’t worry. They’re a stick manufacturer who doesn’t bother trying to run with the bigger name companies in terms of marketing or endorsements. Instead, they put their money where their mouth is. Ask anyone who has used their products – there are way more guys out there than you’d think – you won’t hear a bad thing about them. Check out the Q&A below and then check out BASE to see their entire product line.

Q: Mind giving a little more history about BASE? Just talking a bit about how you got started, the products you produce and your general mission?

Ron Kunisaki: The inspiration for BASE Hockey was borne out of a conversation between Cliff Ronning, Al Iafrate , Holmes Ghassemi and myself in early 2010. As veterans of the hockey stick business and the NHL, we recognized the need to bring to amateurs the shooting evaluation and stick customization offered to NHLers. Cliff is almost autistic with his trained eye, memory and stick spec expertise. Al understands shooting mechanics better than anyone. Combine these unique talents with their NHL career and experience as NHL Pro Reps, and you can understand why their career paths merged into BASE.

We developed proprietary software, hardware and protocol using high speed video to analyze a player’s shot and identify a player’s optimal flex, curve and lie. We then built our own stick factory in Tijuana, Mexico and our first Fitting Center in Vancouver. Simply put, we built from scratch the ability to deliver to amateurs the high-end  analysis and custom sticks provided to NHLers.

With the design team, manufacturing plant and retail fitting center built in 2010, BASE began providing  custom stick fittings, instruction and custom sticks in 2011. In addition to improving your game, all of our sticks are sold factory-direct to customers to keep pricing low. Continue reading

Northtown Center changes not for the better

A little while back plans were put in place to roll out significant improvements to the “feature rink” at the Northtown Center in Amherst. The renovations were going to focus on the antiquated design of the benches and penalty boxes while also installing new boards and seamless glass.

The new benches, boards and glass at the Northtown Center. Not pictured: Horrible attacking zone dimensions.

UB Bull Run happened to have some specifics on the project when it was announced and I had the opportunity to play on the rink for the first time since the project wrapped last night. I can unequivocally say that the cosmetic improvements were great, but the playing surface was sacrificed as a result. Based on the way the rink is laid out, it’s a shame that a junior program and competitive collegiate team will use this rink as their home for the coming winter.

The most noticeable difference is the gleaming new boards and glass. Seamless glass runs between the hashmarks with traditional, blue trimmed stanchioned glass rings around behind each net. In addition, the penalty boxes and benches were expanded from their previously miniscule dimensions to just kind of small dimensions. The boards are fresh and look great and the entire package will look very cool for UB and Jr. Sabres home games as the blue stanchions will look right at home. However, the new boards provided the opportunity to alter the layout of the rink and those in charge of the Northtown Center took the bait. I wish they hadn’t. Continue reading

The Ultimate Football Movie Roster

A little while back I had some fun and put together a definitive hockey roster made up solely from characters in fictional hockey movies. The rules were pretty simple; Team could only feature players who appeared in a movie that featured hockey and movies based on true stories did not qualify for the roster. So I decided to follow the same rules and craft a football team roster out of fictional movies.

Movies (I also used one TV show) about high school, collegiate and professional teams were considered and each player was evaluated for his play on the field, not the level they played at during each film.

Funny enough, most football movies only focus on quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and the middle linebacker. Shocking, I know. Rarely are significant characters written in at other positions. However, I scoured these films and managed to fill an acceptable 22-man roster. There simply wasn’t enough depth at each position to provide backups. So this won’t be a two-deep depth chart but will have a few additional players (WR and DB) to accommodate for subpackages. Additionally, I went with a 3-4 defense due to the abundance of talent at the linebacker position in literaly every football movie.

Front Office

frontofficeOwner: Christina Pagniacci (Any Given Sunday): I’m not much of a Cameron Diaz fan (I think she’s pretty obnoxious) but Pagniacci was willing to do anything to get her team to succeed. That’s the type of trait in an owner I like to see. Deep pockets and looking attractive in yoga pants helps and I’m certain Pagniacci meets all three criteria.

GM: Tony D’Amato (Any Given Sunday): This is a promotion for the firey head man from Any Given Sunday. Of all the coaches in football movies I feel like he has the aggressive approach I’d want to see out of my GM. Ensuring he gets along with his owner is another story.

Head Coach: Jimmy McGinty (The Replacements): In hindsight, McGinty may actually be a better choice as a GM. He did a hell of a job picking a competitive roster for the Washington Sentinels and I’d imagine he’d be equally adept with a full year of roster management. That being said, he takes a pragmatic approach to the game and gets the most out of his players. A great fit for my team.

Offensive Coordinator: Coach Klein (The Waterboy): SCLSU’s Bourbon Bowl victory allowed Klein to find his manhood. It also allowed him to rediscover the offensive genius that penned the magical green notebook that would have made him a shoo-in for the University of Louisiana position all those years back. This type of dynamic thinker is who I want dialing up the offense.

Defensive Coordinator: Montezuma Monroe (Any Given Sunday): It’s Jim Brown, c’mon son. The on-field results really spoke for themselves. The Sharks had a hard hitting, aggressive defense. Given the linebacker corps I’ve rostered, I think Monroe will be a great fit.

Special Teams: Farmer Fran (The Waterboy): Special teams, go run laps with Farmer Fran. Continue reading

The Ultimate Hockey Movie Roster

After seeing Buzzfeed post in which they theorized to be the ultimate fictional baseball team, I got to thinking about putting the same practice to work with a hockey team. The premise is simple enough; create a roster of players from any relevant hockey movie that isn’t based on a true story or a documentary.

Obviously the market for baseball (and football for that matter) movies is significantly larger than hockey, I came up with a handful of films to pull players from and came up with a 23-man roster and partial front office that I would feel very confident in putting on the ice.

This isn’t supposed to be an all-star team, but one that has role players that would fit on a typical roster. In addition, since I have a pet peeve about assigned jersey numbers, I also gave each player their jersey number or one that closely corresponded to what they wore on camera. Oddly enough most hockey movies recycle the same numbers for specific roles. Continue reading

Social Media: You can do better

Twitter and sports were almost made for each other. Twitter, the ultimate tool of short, immediate news bursts couples beautifully with the world of sports for fans, teams, players and media members to come together in a shared space of discussion and news.

Of course, having all of these personalities in the same place without any sort of filter can cause problems. It is sort of like the lunchroom when one of the monitors is out sick; mass hysteria.

The problem that arises in the world of 140 character blurbs is that sports geniuses, world-class athletes and mouth-breathing Neanderthal fans all exist in the same place. What this leads to – depending on what you expose yourself to – are sometimes volatile flame wars fought two sentences at a time behind the protective wall of your phone, tablet or computer. These are battles that are always won by the aggressor. The rare exception is if you’re capable of carrying on a multiple-tweet debate with this person without devolving to name calling, profanity and generally off-the-handle responses. Continue reading

Brotherly bond runs strong with Belangers

Something I wrote for the ACHA website

Over twenty years of “what if” and “if only” were wiped away one evening while Neeco and Wolff Belanger were relaxing on winter break. It was then that Neeco came to the snap decision to transfer home to play alongside his brother at Northern Michigan.

The Belanger brothers are two years apart; Neeco is now a senior at Northern while Wolff is a sophomore. Neeco, however, does have an additional year of DII eligibility and will be able to use it as he wraps up his education – he changed his major last year while still at Lindenwood.

Neeco, a two-time National Champion and captain with Lindenwood (DI) had returned home for break and was preparing to have a minor procedure done on his knee when his plans changed.

“Through talking with my brother and talking with some coaches that I could put it off and play,” he said. “So I decided to put it off until the end of the season and play with my brother for as long as I can.

“I hadn’t planned on playing the rest of this season until the doctor said I could play on it and it wasn’t going to make it any worse. Also realizing I could play with my brother and live at home at the same time kind of sweetened the deal.”

So the eldest Belanger took the necessary steps to withdraw from Lindenwood and transfer his credits to Northern Michigan while also planning to suit up for the spring semester. While the process came down to the wire, Neeco was able to join the team for the second semester this season. Continue reading

New Haven athletes reach out to Sandy Hook students

The tragedy that struck Newtown, Connecticut is something that has not only shaken a community to its core, but has drawn the eyes of the nation to the small town.UNewHaven30total

Of all the eyes directed towards Newtown, so many have stepped forward to offer their thoughts, prayers and support for the grieving community. Thirty of those individuals offering their support made the short drive down from New Haven to find out exactly what they could to.

The University of New Haven lacrosse and hockey teams put together plans to send a group of players and staff to Newtown to provide support for those in the community. After finalizing plans on Sunday evening, the group of 30 made the 45-minute drive to Newtown in order to spend some quality time with the students, staff and family members from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“One of the lacrosse coaches had coordinated with their team to head down there,” junior James Kiley said. “We have a very close relationship with the lacrosse team and we really wanted to help.

“This was around 10:00 last night and we quickly posted something on Facebook about getting some of the guys together. For a last minute plan, we managed to get 15 of the 26 players on the team.”

The 15 players joined 15 lacrosse players for the trip to the Newtown Youth Academy for the day. Of those who couldn’t attend, many had already gone home at the end of the semester, while others were obliged to take their final few exams for the fall semester. Many of the players sent out last-minute emails to their professors hoping to be excused for the trip and many of the teachers obliged – no small concession during exam week.

The visit was spent with students from various grade levels from Sandy Hook playing games and reading stories together. The time was spent to allow the children to have some fun and to provide an outlet from what was such a horrible tragedy.

“It was a fun time and the event went very well,” Kiley said. “Everyone appeared to be very grateful that we were there and we were overwhelmed by the support the 30 guys received.”

Sandy Hook’s students and administrators weren’t the only ones able to use the New Haven athletes as an outlet; parents from the community were also present during the day. As Kiley described, the players were able to spend time speaking with various parents on a number of different topics in hopes of keeping their spirits up and their focus elsewhere if even for a short period of time.

While the media presence remains significant, Kiley mentioned that what he and his teammates offered did not go unnoticed. In fact, the Newtown Youth Academy director made sure to express his gratitude and exactly what the visit meant for the students and parents.

For the New Haven hockey team, their connection will not end with yesterday’s trip. While plans are still coming together, they expect to host a memorial fundraiser for the victims and families of Newtown.

Of course, the weight of what has transpired in Newtown continues to hang over the Nation’s collective conscious. For a team that resides so close, the sentiment has not been lost on the very players who came to Newtown looking to help. That was unchanged after the day transpired.

“For me, it was sad knowing that the kids know what happened yet not really realizing exactly what it all means,” Kiley said. “We were all moved by what we were able to do today and I was personally honored to have been a part of it. I can’t begin to explain how honored and proud I am of my team and the lacrosse team.”

How to Keep Busy Between Fantasy Seasons

Guest post from

Millions of people around the country have suddenly seen loads of free time on Sunday and Monday nights that they didn’t have before. Why has this happened? Anyone with a fantasy football team could tell you the answer with ease. The fantasy football playoffs have started, leaving only those with the best of teams left to spend their Sundays obsessively tracking their players’ football stats as the NFL games are played.

For the rest of us, we await the beginning of fantasy baseball season. Unfortunately, we have nearly four months until baseball games start. While many of us will draft our teams in March or even February, we’re left with a boring stretch of a few months that might force us to (gasp) be more social on the weekends.

How can you keep busy during this downtime? Here are a few ideas.

One way you can consider keeping busy is via fantasy basketball. You’re probably thinking that you’ve missed the boat since the season started over a month ago, but it isn’t too late to get involved if you decide try your hand at daily fantasy basketball. How does that work? It’s simple – you draft a team, but you only own the team for one night. You compete in one day contests against other GMs, and the teams with the highest fantasy point totals that night win.

It’s a great way to enjoy the action without having to be as committed as a normal full season fantasy league would require you to be. If you’re busy on certain nights, no sweat – you simply don’t need to draft a team. And then once baseball season rolls around, you don’t have to worry about juggling multiple teams like you normally would.

You could ordinarily do this with hockey too, but it’s unfortunately looking less and less likely that we’ll have a season this year. This is all the more reason to get involved with basketball. It brings even the most mundane of games (i.e. Timberwolves vs. Bobcats) to a new level, where every minute of the game matters more than you’d ever expect.

So give it a whirl. And if you really can’t stand the thought of fantasy basketball, the new seasons of Homeland and Californication on Showtime could always help to fill the void.