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America’s Ski And Snowboard Teams Unite In Title

The United States ski and snowboard teams will now have one name instead of the usual three used in the past. Earlier this week, leaders of the snow sports decided to unite the two squads with the official title of “U.S. Ski & Snowboard.” The new name was designed to eliminate separation of the two sports, while letting all the Olympic athletes know that they are a part of the same team.

Competition

The teams’ national governing body, consisting of close to 50,000 members, made the decision to combine the units. America sends nearly 100 athletes to the Olympic games every four years. The process of re-naming the teams took nearly two years for all the members and athletes to come to an agreement.

In addition to the name change, America will now use a single logo. This is an adjustment from the three logos the teams have previously represented. With the new look, comes new social media channels. U.S. Ski and Snowboards plans on re-branding its social media accounts to reflect the recent changes made to the teams. Several different logos have been used throughout America’s 112-year history of competitions.

Sponsorships

Another big reason for the changes may be sponsorship dollars. The joining of all three teams will give brands a larger exposure to possible new audiences. For instance, if K2 Snowboards signs on as a sponsor, it will be now be showcased throughout the snowboard and ski community. Each brand that signs on as a sponsor has the chance to completely alter its image and transcend across sports lines.

So far, America has nominated several athletes to represent the country at the upcoming 2018 games in PyeongChang. Premier athletes named to the team include Mikaela Shiffrin, Greg Bretz, Kyle Mack, and Jamie Anderson. Bode Miller was the most notable athlete that was not nominated. The Olympic gold medalist still has a chance to make the team, although it seems very unlikely with the games rapidly approaching. 

Remembering Snowboarding Legend Noah Salasnek

Snowboard icon Noah Salasnek, who rose to fame in the early 1990’s, passed away less than two weeks ago after a lengthy bout with cancer. While the news is sad, it is also reason to celebrate his legacy. The 47-year-old’s impact can still be noticed throughout the snowboarding community today.

Early Days Of Snowboarding 

The Lake Tahoe native revolutionized the sport during one of its most popular eras. What made Salasnek unique was his unusual blend of freeride and freestyle techniques. He is credited as one of the founders of this approach. His riding style endeared him to fans of the budding sport in the 90’s.

His greatest impact may be the link his style provides between snowboarding and skateboarding. Salasnek is partly responsible for bringing those two worlds together. Today, it’s commonplace to participate in both activities; skating in the summer and boarding in the winter. Many extreme athletes can thank Salasnek for that.

Salasnek Becomes A Star

Of course, Salasnek really made his name in the ‘New Kids on the Twock’ film. The movie was the first of its kind as it introduced these underground riding techniques to a mass audience. Salasnek, along with other riders such as Chris Roach and Shawn Palmer, forever changed the way future snowboarders view the slopes.  

After Twock, Salasnek was a wanted man in the industry. He was the center of a high-price sponsorship bidding war between several board brands. Eventually, he signed with Sims Snowboards. The company quickly produced Salasnek’s signature skate-truck board. It was high-profile sponsorships like this that helped create the market for the sports’ biggest names today.

In the end, Salasnek brought snowboarding to the mainstream. His rare blend of riding styles continues to influence the next generation of boarders. Noah Salasnek may be gone, but his legacy in the industry will live on forever.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Lacking Excitement Thus Far

After one week of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, one word comes to mind for hockey fans: ease. While the Canadiens and Rangers go toe-to-toe each night, the rest of the league has not followed suit. The first round of the postseason is generally the most balanced in the NHL. This has definitely not been the case so far in the 2016-17 season as it appears only three series will head to a sixth game.

Dating back to 2014, the league has seen seven series pushed to the brink, in the first round alone. Will we see any this season? It doesn’t seem likely as only a few series have been somewhat competitive. Toronto and Washington are tied at two games apiece, while Edmonton took a 3-2 lead over San Jose last night. When the NHL re-formatted its postseason, it did not anticipate this many submissive matchups.

Western Conference 

So, what has happened so far? Easily, the most surprising upset came in the west as perennial contender, the Chicago Blackhawks, fell in four straight games to Nashville. The Blackhawks finished atop the tough Western Conference with 109 points, while the Predators barely snuck into postseason play. The three-time Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, couldn’t even muster up a fight; getting outscored 13-3 in the four-game sweep. The Hawks were not alone, as the Calgary Flames suffered the same fate against the Anaheim Ducks, failing to win a single game.

For several seasons, the West has been the more dominant conference (they have claimed four of the past five cups). This postseason has exposed many of their supposed top teams as pretenders, not contenders. The Minnesota Wild, who finished second in the conference standings, seemed destined to be swept as well. They barely staved off elimination, heading into a fifth game against the Blues on Saturday.

Eastern Conference 

Over in the Eastern Conference, the story remains the same. The Pittsburgh Penguins made quick work of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that recorded the second longest win streak in league history this season. Although most of the games in this series were competitive, the Blue Jackets’ struggles in net were exposed by a potent Pittsburgh offense.

The Boston Bruins caught fire midway through the season when a coaching change was made. But, their postseason experience could be coming to a quick end tonight. The Ottawa Senators look to close out this series in five games. The Sens came into the playoffs with low expectations, due to nagging injuries to their best player, Erik Karlsson. Instead, this series has mirrored most of the other first round matchups: one-sided.

At this point, hockey fans can only hope the competitive play returns in round two. What separates the NHL from other sports is its balanced matchups in the postseason. While the NFL and NBA lack parity in the playoffs, the NHL has become famous for it. With a few more matchups like these, perhaps it’s time for the league to re-evaluate its playoff format in hopes of returning to the ultra-competitive series that fans have grown accustomed to. 

Shaun White Refocuses For Upcoming Winter Olympics

The 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang will pose many challenges to snowboarders from all across the globe. Competitors will be tested at two different venues: the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre and the Bokwang Snow Park, starting February 10th. One athlete looking to rebound from a turbulent outing at the 2014 Winter Olympics? America’s own, Shaun White.

White Disappoints At 2014 Games

The two-time Olympic gold medalist wants nothing more than to forget about what happened in Sochi four years ago. White disappointed, merely earning a fourth-place finish at the games. Since then, he has refocused himself on his training regimen. He is confident he can regain the form that helped him become the most recognizable boarder in America.

A lot went wrong for the 30-year-old in Sochi. Whether it was a minor thing, like not eating his usual steak dinner before competition or a big inconvenience, such as poor riding conditions, White could never find his groove. After his sub-par performance at the last games, White even saw a lot of sponsorship opportunities fall by the wayside.

White Focused On Olympics 

So, what will “The Flying Tomato” do differently in PyeongChang? First of all, White has brought in a new coach – JJ Thomas, who took home a bronze medal in the 2002 games. He is seeking to improve his physical fitness as well, working with Esther Lee, who previously trained Serena Williams. The new coaches have helped White maximize his time and efficiency as he gears up for the games. White knows he needs to be in peek physical condition when he competes in a few months. Right now, he is slated to participate in the halfpipe competition against Ayumu Hirano, Scotty James, Iouri Podladtchikov, and fellow Americans, Danny Davis and Chase Josey.

In only a few months, the world will find out if the adjustments have paid off for White. Can he channel the drive and focus that made him a gold medalist in 2006 and 2010? White certainly hopes so, and with his new training regimen, he seems poised to dominate the sport once again. 

Can Canada Break Its Stanley Cup Curse?

While snowboarding season may be winding down, the NHL’s current campaign is just warming up. The Stanley Cup Playoffs began last evening, with three more series getting underway tonight. Perhaps the most intriguing matchup pits the Washington Capitals against the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs. Led by rookie phenom Auston Matthews, the Leafs are viewed as the next great hope for our neighbors up north. Will 2017 finally be the year the Stanley Cup makes its way back to Canada?

The country’s beloved sport has seen a dry spell in championships recently.  The last time a Canadian team hoisted a Stanley Cup was way back in 1993 (Montreal Canadiens). Since then, the country has seen five of its teams fall just short in the Stanley Cup Final; Vancouver being the last team to claim second place in 2011.

Canada's Cup Drought 

This is a relatively new phenomenon for the northerners that once dominated the NHL landscape. Before Montreal claimed the cup in the early-90s, Canada won seven straight championships from 1984-1990 (thank you, Wayne Gretzky). The country has only come close a few times since, with Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary all sending the final series to a seventh game, before falling just short.

This season has seen a revival for Canadian teams across the Eastern and Western Conferences. Five of the country’s seven teams have qualified for the postseason. This comes just one year after the nation was completely shut out of the playoffs altogether. Now, the Leafs, Canadiens, Flames, Ottawa Senators, and Edmonton Oilers all have a shot at hockey’s ultimate prize. So, which team represents the best chance at bringing the cup back to the sport’s motherland

While the Leafs look to be contenders for years to come, it may be too soon for their young nucleus including Matthews and other emerging superstars, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Same goes for the Calgary Flames, led by a youth invasion including Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Ottawa may struggle in their first-round matchup against a tough Bruins squad, especially with a hampered Erik Karlsson. An entire country may rest its hopes on two teams: Edmonton and Montreal.

Top Canadian NHL Stars

The Oilers possess the most explosive player in the game in Connor McDavid. This year’s Art Ross Trophy winner definitely has his work cut out for him in the quarterfinals. Edmonton was victim of a rough draw; matching up with 2016’s Stanley Cup runner up, the San Jose Sharks. After dropping game one in overtime, will the Oilers respond with a win or will inexperience shine through when the going gets tough?

Montreal won the Atlantic Division, once again riding the strong play of netminder Carey Price. Price and company have come close to Lord Stanley before, and many pundits believe this is their year to win it all. But, will facing a high-flying Rangers squad knock the Canadiens out of the postseason prematurely, once again? The team that began the 2016-17 season at a scorching 9-1 pace, has since cooled off considerably. A game one loss to the blue shirts must have a nation wondering if their top team will let them down again.

Nonetheless, this season has definitely been a bright spot for the folks above the border. Vancouver and Winnipeg were the only Canadian teams to not qualify for the playoffs, already making this year a success for the country.  But the question remains, can hockey’s homeland end its curse and claim a Cup in 2017? With stars like Matthews, McDavid, and Price on their side, Canada may not have to wait much longer to claim its first championship in nearly 25 years.