Saturday, March 31, 2007
With their win over the Bruins today, Atlanta is all but assured of its first playoff spot -- beating a team led by Petr Tenkrat is a pretty excellent gauge of postseason hopes. They've got the 93 points James Mirtle requires for an Eastern Conference team, and that's good enough for me. It would be beyond improbably, at this point, for the Thrashers to drop out. I've been nervous up to now, every shootout loss to the Panthers producing a near-panic, but now I think I can breathe a bit. The Thrashers are in the drivers' seat for a division championship -- if they somehow drop out of the playoffs, it'll be so amazing that it'll be almost a privilege to watch.
But that really isn't enough.
The article that Jes cites here only briefly touches on the on-ice product, but if the Thrashers don't get past the first round, it's going to be a bigger blow than missing the playoffs last year. I don't buy the G&M's assertion that "the future of the franchise ... could be at stake," but it'll become a lot harder to finally make a real dent in the city.
The Thrashers, right now, are at the best point they've ever been at. Each win adds to a franchise record for points, but more importantly, there's a real buzz about the team. Games are selling out (granted, yes, with copious freebies in the mix). At work, people are talking about the Thrashers rather than the onset of the (eccccch) Braves' season.
But there was a buzz last year, too, when they came back from the lockout -- and they lost it. People have been hearing for years that the team is on the verge -- they've been told that Kovalchuk, Heatley, Hossa, Lehtonen was going to put the team over the top -- and they have a grand total of zero playoff games to show for it, while fellow expansioneers Minnesota and Nashville have at least seen the postseason. The Thrashers are stuck in the virgin club with, God help us, the Blue Jackets.
Also adding to the problem -- Atlanta is a very transient city. People come here for a few years in their 20s and 30s to work for Delta or CNN or Coca-Cola, but not a lot put down deep roots. I'm from Colorado -- most of the people I know are from Illinois, or Michigan, or Texas, or New York. There's actually a lot of hockey fans down here -- problem is, they're Rangers or Bruins or Red Wings fans. I've been in town as long as the Thrashers have, and it's only in the last couple years that they've risen to become more than a curiosity in my heart. The people who are growing up with the Thrashers as their primary hockey team are still a decade away from earning a wage. If Atlanta has hopes of winning over the current 20- and 30-somethings, they've got to win now.
Things look good for the Thrashers right now. Despite all my misgivings at the time, the trades for Zhitnik, Tkachuk, and Belanger look really good. The goalies are achieving consistency at the right time. People are talking.
But go four-and-out against the Lightning in the first round? None of that's going to mean anything.
What happens when you gather some of the internet's best veteran hockey bloggers and stick them in one place?
Pillow fights? Peeing in the snow? Exchanging Barry Manilow records?
Yes, and also lots and lots of posting at the NHL FANHOUSE, a new site established by the folks at AOL.
I'll be joining the eclectic cast featuring Eric Big Mac McErlain of Off Wing Opinion, Tomberto Luongo of Sabre Rattling, James Mirtle the Lady Killer, Tyler Mellow Dellow of mc79hockey, and JP the Closet Crosby Fan of Japers Rink.
Be sure to visit us over at the NHL Fanhouse, and help us increase the influence of bloggers in the internet tubes.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Troubling Financial Signs for the Atlanta Thrashers?
While the Atlanta Thrashers look to be in a fairly safe position to make the playoffs (a 5-point cushion), David Shoalts of the the Globe and Mail takes a look at the team's financial situation, and sees some troubling signs.
Both Waddell and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman say they are not worried about the future of the franchise in Atlanta. But there are troubling signs aside from attendance, which is improving this season but still among the worst in the NHL.
According to my recent post on the matter, Atlanta ranks 21st in home attendance. This is not a surprise, given that Atlanta seems to be a weak market for most of its sports teams in terms of attendance.
The improvement is a whole 500 fans per game.
The Globe and Mail obtained the NHL's private statistics on net gate receipts, ticket giveaways and paid attendance from the start of the season to Jan. 31. They show the Thrashers were among the league's worst in every category.How did the G&M get private statistics? The NHL must have a motive in mind for releasing these numbers...can you guess what it is?
For example, the Thrashers led the NHL's 30 clubs in the dubious honour of most ticket giveaways each game. The league's numbers show the Thrashers gave away an average of 2,827 tickets a game in their first 25 home games. This appears to be part of a promotional effort this season, as it is a whopping jump of about 840 per cent from last season, when the team's average was 336 a game.No wonder Greg gets so many freebies :(
Giveaways are understandable in a new market, as a team wants to generate support. One of the best ways to get new hockey fans is to expose them to live games.
Still, 2,827 is way too many free tickets per game...
"Our comp tickets are high and need to come down, no doubt," Waddell said. "But our gate receipts are up this year. That's the important thing." He also argues that the tickets for seats in the luxury suites, which are rented annually, are included in the giveaways because the league has no other category for them.I'm calling BS on that one.
The league's numbers through 25 games do not support Waddell's contention on gate receipts. League documentation shows that the Thrashers' net gate receipts, after taxes, were an average of $487,890 (all currency U.S.) a game for 25 home games to Jan. 31. That was 26th in the NHL and 0.02 per cent less than last season. The Leafs led the league with $1.514-million a game.Well, the ESPN attendance is likely announced attendance, as this figure is the one that showed a jump.
However, the Thrashers say their attendance has improved and is up about 6 per cent overall from last season, although it's not clear whether that figure refers to announced attendance, which the league uses as its official figure for publication, or paid attendance, a figure the league closely guards.
"We're in a different [type of] market," Waddell said. "People weren't [angry] last year when we missed the playoffs, they were disappointed. They felt bad we didn't get there and that's why they rallied around us this year.
"So this is a pivotal year for our franchise. People hung in with us all year. We have to see it through."
Not only are the Thrashers near the bottom in attendance — a fact that Waddell says is eased because the club owns the arena — the club's ownership has gone to court to resolve a dispute related to control of the company that owns the hockey team and the Hawks of the National Basketball Association. Bettman tried to broker a settlement this season and failed, meaning the court action will likely continue.
The fact that the teams own the arena is HUGE, and means that the revenue that they earn from beer, hot dogs, concessions, t-shirts, etc...isn't being considered by the G&M and not released by the NHL.
It looks like the same old story of team's crying poor and not declaring all of their true revenue. Is the NHL using the G&M in it's constant PR "we are poor" war? It kinda looks like it. Is the G&M using the information to make a southern franchise look bad? It kinda looks like it.
(thanks to "Progressive Rocker" for the story tip)
Photo of the Day: The Sweet-Talking NHL
No, but he's still sleeping around with that slut, NBC.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Hockey News Player Survey
Yes, I am the last hockey blogger on Earth to mention the Hockey News Player Survey. I pride myself on being 2 days behind the times. Why do you think I enjoy Disco so much?
Basically, The Hockey News polled 283 NHLers to find out their thoughts on the game.
Some of the responses might surprise you...or not...
Some other interesting tidbits if info from the survey
It's also obvious that some took the opportunity to make a few funny answers to the questions...
Oh, and the players luv Joe Sakic...
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
A Brief Look at Post-Lockout NHL Attendance
I was looking at the NHL attendance figures provided on ESPN.com, as I periodically do, just to see any possible trends and items of note.
Here are the figures from 2005/06 compared to this season's numbers.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
HNIC: Now with 15% Less Maple Leafs!
Some big news in the world of broadcasting this week as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) extended their deal to host Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays.
From the Mother Ship:
The CBC and the NHL announced a new television deal Monday that will keep Hockey Night in Canada on the air until 2014.Seven more years of Donald S. Cherry? *headdesk*
The six-year broadcast deal, which includes national English-language broadcast and multimedia rights to NHL games in Canada, will begin when the current agreement between the CBC and the league expires after the 2007-08 season. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
"Can you imagine seven more years of me? How can it get any better?" Don Cherry, co-host of Coach's Corner, told CBC Sports Online.
"I'm very happy. [Hockey Night in Canada ] should be on the CBC. It's been on the CBC [since the 1950s] and this is where it belongs."
The Don is right, though, that HNIC does belong on CBC and some traditions should never die.
The best part is now that us non-Leafs lemmings won't have to subjected to seeing Toronto EVERY FRICKIN WEEK!
Bettman said the new deal will feature fewer Toronto Maple Leafs games during the regular season, with more dates being allocated for other Canadian teams.Some have complained that the CBC is a dinosaur and wouldn't be missed in hockey broadcasting. Well, phooey to them, because I like the way CBC respects the game of hockey (just see Hockey Day in Canada) and presents a product that is lower on frills than the bombasts at TSN and Sportsnet. I need Pierre McGuire's "Monsters" as much as I need a colon cleansing.
"The mix is not going to be what it's been in previous years," Bettman said. "We decreased the number of the Leaf games and increased the number of games of the other Canadian teams that can be made available."
Still, if the CBC is going to make tweaks to HNIC, perhaps Gary Bettman can force the following...
Given how much the CBC has lost in the past few years (CFL, Olympics, etc...), the CBC really needed to cement this deal to retain any relevance. What other shows on this network are worth watching? The Mercer Report? This Hour has 22 minutes? ...that's about it...
NHL's Bargain Boys: Andrew Brunette
Most bargains in the NHL come in the form of superstar youngsters, such as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, who are signed to entry-level deals and have yet to cash in on the big contract, or other young player players who haven't quite made the leap and are still rather cheap.
With the advent of increased free agency, finding a veteran bargain is going to be more important to clubs faced with cap restrictions.
Enter in Andrew Brunette, who skates slower than Rosie O'Donnell chasing a Chihuahua up a staircase, and makes a whopping $800,000 US a year.
After 3 decent seasons with the Minnesota Mild (164 points in 245 games), the offensive-minded winger wasn't finding a lot of love on the free agent market. Slow skating, pillowy soft giants who don't put up huge numbers can sometimes have a hard time finding a good home (ask Jason Allison and Oleg Kvasha about that some time).
Alas, Brunette had to settle with the Avalanche, who were one of the few teams interested in his services, to the tune of $800,000 a year. Yes, even Jan Bulis makes more than that, and he has far less of a track record behind him. It's not like the Avalanche was banking on Brunette to be more than a decent 2nd liner that they could plug onto a team facing some cap issues, so the signing didn't get much attention.
What the Avalanche got was a tremendous bargain, and a player that has meshed perfectly with Joe Sakic. As it stands right now, Brunette is 20th in league scoring with 25-51-76 in 75 games. Contrast that with Markus Naslund and his $6mil salary, which has produced 55 points in as many games.
Chemistry in hockey is a funny toy, and sometimes the right combination can turn an average player into a star. Remember the old Czech unit of Hlavac-Dvorak-Nedved for the Rangers? Hlavac and Dvorak were rather useless as offensive players in every other situation, yet found the magic with each other.
Brunette has been the perfect foil for Joe Sakic, as Andrew passes the puck well, goes hard to the net, and is good at finding open spaces in the offensive end.
Brunette has also been durable, with 3 complete 82-game seasons to his credit, and 2 81-game seasons as well. For what the Avalanche are paying the guy, they are getting both production and a reliable name to slot in the lineup each and every night.
Just think about it: Signing Brunette for peanuts allowed the Avs to spend over $5mil year on a luxury backup goaltender. Nice!
Monday, March 26, 2007
Markus Naslund: Vancouver's Struggling Star
Back on January 29th), I blogged about Markus Naslund's struggles offensively. For whatever reason (missing Bertuzzi, injury, etc), Naslund was far from Vancouver's best offensive weapon, despite the fact he's being paid a superstar's salary.
At the time of the post, Naslund was on a bit of a hot streak and looked to be out of the funk.
For the next 2-3 weeks after that post, Naslund started firing the puck more, playing with a bit more life, and was piling up the points fairly consistently. It looked like we had more of the old Naslund back. Sure, he wasn't the scary-good sniper we'd come to know and love, but we were happy to get about a point a game out of the guy.
Unfortunately, Naslund has fallen back into a funk that's even worse than any point in his Canucks career. In the last 8 games, Naslund has just 1 lone assist, and has developed no chemistry with newly acquired Bryan Smolinski nor Jan Useless. During last night's 5-4 shootout loss to the Crapalanche, Joe Sakic was a man on the mission while Naslund just stood there and watched. It was a great example of where Naslund's head is right about now.
MONTH GP G A Pts +/- PIM PPG PPA SOG S/G
October 13 6 5 11 4 10 3 1 37 2.85
November 13 6 2 8 0 10 1 1 54 4.15
December 13 0 8 8 -2 12 0 4 21 1.62
January 12 3 9 12 0 6 1 6 24 2.00
February 12 5 7 12 1 2 3 4 39 3.25
March 12 2 2 4 -1 6 0 0 27 2.25
Somehow, Naslund managed to do quite well in January despite not shooting the puck much at all. February looked like Naslund had perhaps recovered from his shoulder problems, as he was firing the puck on the net a whole lot more.
In March, Naslund's shots on goal has dropped off again, and he hasn't produced a single Power Play point! It's gotten so bad that coach Alain Vigneault actually took Naslund off of the Power Play completely for a brief spell.
The Canucks awesomeness in the standings has really masked Naslund's poor offensive output and hardly anyone outside, or even inside, of our little section of the globe has noticed. I'm just worried that Naslund won't be there when the playoffs start. As good as the Sedinbots are, they can't do EVERYTHING.
At this point, it looks like Naslund will have to be traded in the off-season. There is no way that the Canucks can justify spending $6mil a year on a guy who's been relegated to a 2nd line offensive threat. Yes, his defensive play has improved quite a bit, but we're paying him to be an offensive star, not a Mike Sillinger clone.
On a more positive note, congratulations to Henrik Sedin for breaking Andre Boudrias' 30-year old record for assists in a season (62) for a Canucks player. With 3 assists in last night's game, Henrik now has 63 on the season and a few more games to pad his new record.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Skating on Thin Ice
It's been a hell of a frustrating week, hockey-wise -- too busy at work to watch much of anything, and both the Thrashers' and Avalanche's hot streaks thudding to a halt. Making it more frustrating is the mental gymnastics, trying to figure out what outcomes are best for each team. For the Avalanche, it's easy -- Colorado win, Calgary lose (and thanks loads, Red Wings -- the one time in my life I root for you guys, you lie down and die). For the Thrashers, I've resorted to "Thrashers win, teams beneath them lose." That way I don't have to think too much.
So all that, combined with the obvious ramping-up of global warming (87 degrees in March? Even in Atlanta, that's a bit much), sent me scurrying back to the vaults this week, taking a little trip back in time, reading one of my favorite -- and forgotten -- hockey books:
"Thin Ice: A Season in Hell With the New York Rangers" by Larry Sloman
I don't have much patience for most hockey literature's wholesome sappiness -- reading worshipful crap about strong-willed, hard-working, milk-drinking young men makes me roll my eyes and do mouth farts. "Ratso" Sloman's "Thin Ice" is the perfect antidote -- he hung out with the 1979-80 New York Rangers, a team that seemed poised for greatness before the season, and collapsed and splintered by the end. But the action on the ice is secondary -- the real story is what happens when a bunch of small-town Canadian kids end up in the world's biggest party city, and the world's biggest media fishbowl. They don't end up drinking milk.
It's hard to imagine a book like this being possible today -- athletes are far too careful about their images. The day-to-day behavior makes L'Affaire Tranahan look pretty tame. Constant parties, one-night stands, Hunter S. Thompson-level drinking, and Sloman -- as a friend/hanger-on to the team -- was front-and-center for all of it.
It helped that the team had a colorful cast of characters -- coached by Fred Shero, and featuring guys like Phil Esposito, Pat Hickey, Don Murdoch, Ronnie Duguay, Ron Greschner, Barry Beck, Nick Fotiu -- good tales abound. If you've ever wanted insight into John Davidson's sex life, look no further. The supporting cast is just as crazy -- loony worshipful fans, groupies galore, and celebs like Andy Warhol, Kinky Friedman, Cheryl Tiegs, and Reggie Jackson make appearances. It's hockey on the floor at Studio 54.
Lots of little subplots -- Murdoch's partying problems, splits within the team -- and Sloman's blunt, sensationalistic style make this a pretty good read. As does the goofy/new age mindset of the late '70s -- witness Pat Hickey talking about working with alpha waves, or his quote here:
"What we do and how we affect people is very sensual, even sexual. We get girls in the crowd going the same way that rock stars do. Like I'm very spastic and spontaneous on the ice. I enjoy being flipped. When the defenseman goes down and I go up. It's jarring for someone to watch, but for me it's like art...."
Try to imagine anyone today -- even your Jeremy Roenicks -- saying something like that. Or Ulf Nilsson saying "I get a hard-on when I score a goal."
It's not a perfect book -- Sloman is a little too proud of his association with the Rangers -- but goddamn it's fun. If you like hockey and don't hold things sacred -- hunt the corridors of your local used bookstore (or one of the online places) and get this. It's not literary greatness, but it's one of my all-time favorites.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Those Damn Pesky Wild(s) >:(
It's been harder to cheer against the Minnesota Mild this season now that two of my favourite players, Pavol Demitra and Marian "Potatohead" Gaborik (BFFL), have teamed up together to provide them with the Supersonik Slovak Scoring Duo.
The Canucks? They have zero Slovaks and two Czech bald guys. As hard as Jan Bulis might try, he can't really emulate The Pavol.
It doesn't help that the Wild don't have many players, other than EMO Wanker/Foo Fighter wannabe Brian Rolston, that I despise with much fervor.
As awesome as the Canucks have been since Christmas, the Wild have nearly as good, and now have a team record 8-game winning streak, leaving them right on the Canucks asses like a couple on Davie Street.
The Wild also set a team record with their 43rd win, and don't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.
Comparing the Canucks and Wild's records for 2007, we see a lot of ass-kickery.
Vancouver Minnesota Edmonton
JANUARY 8-1-3 7-4-2 sucky
FEBRUARY 8-3-1 8-2-2 suckier
MARCH 9-1-1 9-1-1 suckiest
Of course, much of this has to do with the return of Potatohead from an injury which cost him about 20 games. Once he returned, Demitra rediscovered his touch and now the Wilds are on fire. D'oh...
Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra have been on the same NHL team for 75 games, but they're making plays like a duo that's skated together for years.
Gaborik scored twice and Demitra had a goal and two assists as the Minnesota Wild won their franchise-record eighth consecutive game, beating the St. Louis Blues 5-1 on Thursday night.
"I try to look for him every time when I have a puck," said Gaborik, who has combined with Demitra for 66 points in Minnesota's last 24 games. "I make those three or four steps, and I know the puck's going to be there. It's good to know that. We've been great that way, and it's working."
Every time I watch the highlights, I'm waiting to see the Minny highlights and watch these two perform some on-ice magic.
Yeah, I find myself cheering when the Wild score (only for these two, anyway), which is just....wrong!!
If the Canucks get knocked out of the playoffs, and Minny is still in it, you know who I'll be pulling for...ohh...my stomach hurts just thinking about it. If the Canucks and Wild had to meet, it would be hard to cheer against Pavol.
So much anguish...
These guys are far cooler than you could ever hope to be!
Party Pics: Sergei Fedorov's Blonde Bombshell
It's time, once again, to get aboard the
It seems Sergei Fedorov definitely has some standards for his women
1. Peroxide Blonde - Check
2. Big Bombs - Check
3. IQ below 85 - Check
4. Easier than scoring against Dan Cloutier - Check
Of course, this isn't the first time Sergei's been caught out and about with a buxom blonde thing...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Canucks 2 - Predators 0: Post-Game Recap
Thanks for the generosity of one of our vendors here at work, and my astute rigging of the prize draw, I scored 2 tix to last nights Preds/Canucks tilt. Free tickets, ftw! This was my first chance to see the Nashville Preds in person, awful uniforms included.
It was a typical Canucks game as they beat another good team in a low-scoring affair. Nashville looked absolutely flat, and got very little going on the Canucks, who out-shot the Preds 30-20 and won 2-0.
Jan Bulis, of all people, beat Tomas Vokoun with a looooooooong slapshot that was weaker than my gramma’s tea.
I love his quote after the game...
”It was a shaky goal," he said. "In warmup he skates around the red line and I know him a little bit, and I said, `Come on, let one in for me, so I found it a pretty soft goal from his point of view, and I was kind of laughing if he let it in."
So, onto my love rocket climb!
Just then, some generic Yaletown Yuppie chick buys a NyQuil cup of Chardonnay. Mystery solved.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Today's random, assorted thoughts.
** Ingmar W. Bergman, Evil Swedish Blogger, scored an interview with an unnamed Swedish NHLer over at his site.
If you are trying to find out who Player X is, let's narrow it down...
a. is far too cool to be one of the Canucks' Swedes (Naslund and Sedinbots)
b. is not Pavol Demitra
c. is not too tall in stature (The toilet seat reference in Part III)
d. is a huge movie buff (especially James Bond)
e. is likely between the ages of 26-31 (given the TV pop-cult references)
f. lacks a social life and has hours to spend IMing Ingmar
g. is a veteran of the labour process and knows the 'game' well enough.
h. snores like a chainsaw
i. hates Wrestling, but knows enough about the catchphrases to be 'in'.
j. likes the overrated TV show, "Heroes".
k. Music: likes heavy metal. Metallica, Linkin Park, Korn etc.
l. very interested in the Penguins blogs (hmmm...)
Now, get to work!
** Didya know that Shanny is into Trannys?
Well, thanks to Canucks and Beyond and Page Six, you do now!!
LINDSAY Lohan continued her New York party over the weekend. On Saturday night, she and her pals, deejay Samantha Ronson and p.r. powerhouse Lisette Sand-Freeman, hit the Beatrice Inn before going to The Box at 1 a.m. - where Lohan got up on the stage and sang while doing a “stripper dance” to thunderous applause. She got off easy - after her, New York Ranger Brendan Shanahan was blindfolded and ball-gagged as trannies danced around him.
I guess Ms. Craig Janney isn't the thrill ride she used to be.
** Roy over at Wild Puck Banter (aka, the Marian Gaborik House of Worship)had a list of his 5 least favourite Canucks of all time.
In case you are wondering (I know you are), here is my list.
1. Mark Messier - This bald-headed egomaniac certainly had an impact on the Canucks after coming over from the Rangers. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very bad one, as he was paid $6mil a year to float, destroy the team from within, and not make the playoffs. Messier proved what a fraud he is and was more interested in hanging with Hollywood North celebrities than playing hockey.
2. Todd Bertuzzi - A man-child with loads of talent and absolutely no motivation, Bertuzzi single-handedly destroyed the playoff hopes of the Canucks in his final two seasons here. Paid no attention to defence, rarely gave an honest effort, and was more trouble than he was worth.
He may have given some money and time to charity, but rarely gave you a reason to like him and pull for him. I'd defend him more if he wasn't such a lazy, prickly guy.
3. Jarkko Ruutu - This 'pest' did little but take loads of bad penalties and skate around with that shit-eating grin of his. I actually enjoyed it when he got his ass punched around. Jarkko provides no real benefit to a club, and the Canucks are much better off without him.
4. Felix Potvin/Dan Cloutier (tie) - Two of the worst goalies in Canucks history. I don’t dislike them personally, but I was certainly very happy when both of them were booted out of here. They were overrated from the start and I knew they would always be bad. Potvin never did learn that staying back way in your net is not a good thing. If Cloutier was our enforcer, I'd probably love the guy.
5. Alex "Mood Ring" Mogilny - Loads of skill and talent, but little personality. From his actions and words, I always got the feeling he never really liked hockey, and was obviously playing simply for the paycheque.
** Hockeysfuture.com has released it's Spring 2007 Top 50 List.
Here is how the teams fare in the Top 50.
Not great news for Atlanta, Tampa, Carolina, Colorado, and Dallas. Boston, St. Louis, Chi-Town, and LA fit in very nicely.
Of course, as M-E Vlasic, Paul Stastny, and Patrice Bergeron will tell you, prospecting is hardly an exact science.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Kaberle's ... Khicken Paprika?
This is sort of post-recycling -- or post-regurgitation, if you will. After the success of Slegr's Garlic Soup, Jes asked if I had any more Slavic hockey recipes simmering on the stove. I referred him to a dish (and post on my blog) from last summer, whipped up by hero to millions Frantisek Kaberle. Jes tried it and found it good, and asked me to retroactively cross-post.
So here we are. (Note: this originally ran right after the Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup, hence any dated references -- I've tried to remove those, but I'm sure I'll miss some.)
I've probably made it clear that I'm a big fan of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman František Kaberle. I regretted it (mostly alone) when the Thrashers gave up on him; I cheered and felt vindicated when he had a (for the most part) solid Stanley Cup final, including the Cup-winning goal. Since a) the Thrashers didn't have Kaberle in 2005-06, and b) Kaberle scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2006, it logically follows that c) if the Thrashers had kept Kaberle, they would have won the Stanley Cup in 2006. Makes one think, no?
There's a lot of reasons I like Kaberle. He's Czech. He's got movie-star looks. He was easily the most skilled defenseman to wear a Thrashers jersey in their 24-year existence. There's his eight Norris Trophies, his numerous scoring records. He's a great, great man.
And he's also accomplished in the culinary arts. (ok, his wife is.) A while back I mentioned the Kaberles' contribution to "Cooking With the Birds," the Thrashers' cookbook of a few years past. Unfortunately, I didn't give the real recipe, just a parody involving tons and tons of butter. Six people died recreating that fake recipe, and for that, I apologize.
So I stepped up to the oven, and here we are:
Kaberle's Chicken Paprika
1 chicken breast fillet, boneless and skinless. The cookbook recommends Butterball. Guess what company was one of the cookbook's sponsors. I used Publix brand, with no ill effects.
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sour cream (2007 note: Jes sez, don't use no-fat sour cream -- too runny)
2 tbsp flour
for "side dish":
Place a photo or reasonable substitute of Frankie K somewhere in the kitchen. Make it an honored place. A place of respect.
Put on some good music. I suggest Dvořák's (Antonin, not Radek) Symphony No. 9 in e minor, F. Kaberle, conductor.
Cut the chicken into small pieces.
Wilt the onion in the melted butter.
Add paprika, chicken, and salt. Brown it. Add water, cover and simmer until tender (about 40 minutes worked for me -- though the cookbook says 45. I probably shouldn't quarrel over details with František Kaberle, author of "Underworld," "End Zone," "Libra" and other critically-acclaimed novels.)
Now's a good time to make the side dish. Take vodka. Pour it into a glass. Maybe people tell you that it's too early to drink. But it's a hot day (if you're in Atlanta, and if not, well, it gets hot other places). You work hard. Don't you deserve this? Yeah. You do. Treat yourself. Anyway. Vodka. I don't know what kind Frankie endorses, so you're on your own here. Top it off with limeade.
Doesn't that taste good? Doesn't the world seem a little better? Go ahead. Have another. Repeat until the chicken is done.
Once the chicken is tender, remove it from the pan. Mix the sour cream with flour. I usually eschew sour cream in all facets of my life, but Kaberle is a Nobel laureate and I am not. I'd follow his orders if I were you. Stir the sour cream/flour mixture into pan, simmer the gravy for five minutes.
Strain the gravy over the chicken. Serve with pasta. Another vodka/limeade might be good about now, too.
Enjoy it. Feel grateful that a man such as František Kaberle shares his gifts with us.
Crosby vs. Ovechkin: The Fashion Files
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin participated in a recent off-ice photoshoot to show off their typical casual styles.
Sidney's black shirt with dark blue jeans is a simple combination that can blend in nicely in most situations. It's modest, like Sidney, and doesn't stand out much. It's hard to score any negative points with a simple style like this, other than the fact it might remind you of Simon Cowell.
Ovechkin, on the other hand, can't decide if he's a geeky EMO loser or a rebel "Sk8r Boi". It's obvious that Ovechkin is an attention whore and is trying way too hard to look cool. All that's missing is the iPod. Pull up your frickin pants, son!
Winner: CROSBY - Without even trying, Crosby wins this contest hands down. While Sid may look a tad generic, Ovechkin comes across as a poorly dressed cliche in desperate need of some loving from his mother.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Does the NHL need Expansion?
Terry "My brains are" Frei of the Denver Post, who also writes for ESPN (which gives you an idea of how much he knows about the game), thinks the NHL ought to expand further.
Sorry, but I'm about to use a word many consider an obscenity.Having a new arena means diddly squat if the fans don't attend. Florida got a nice new area, as did the Predators, but the fans simply don't care enough about hockey to support those two franchises strongly.
Expansion. (Jes: Maybe in Utah, where alcohol is considered a deadly sin)
In the wake of the arena deal in Pittsburgh that comes after years of maneuvering and bluffing, the Penguins seem destined to remain in western Pennsylvania.
Kansas City, with a new downtown arena operated by the Anschutz Entertainment Group about to open, probably won't land the Penguins. Neither will Las Vegas, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, Ore., or Hamilton, Ontario.
Here's what the NHL should do: Award expansion franchises to two of those cities for 2008-09.
All things equal, my choices would be: a) Kansas City, which benefits from having a new arena and no NBA competition; and, b) Portland, which has a deep hockey tradition with the minor-league Buckaroos and major-junior Winter Hawks, and has become disenchanted with the Trail Blazers.
Portland is a good junior hockey town, and has always been mentioned as a good NHL destination, but what makes Frei think NHL hockey would necessarily work down there? Does Portland have the corporate base to support an NHL team? If not, it would be Nashville II.
Of course, technically it would dilute the talent pool, but it's funny how the folks who whine about that possibility the most long for the days when the NHL virtually was a Canadian, or at least a North American, closed shop. The internationalization of that talent pool - the same thing has happened in baseball and basketball - has changed that picture. Plus, the expansion of NHL jobs by roughly 6 percent isn't going to make that much of a difference.Mr. Frei obviously thinks all fans who hate expansion are Canadian blowhards like Cherry that would like to see the league free of those damn Euros.
Umm, no, but I would like a league where a guy like Alex Burrows doesn't have a regular job (Yes, Burrows works his ass off, but his talent level is non-existent at the NHL level. Just watch him try to handle the puck some time). The NHL's talent pool has already been quite diluted, and another two teams means even less stellar players to spread around.
The NHL doesn't get enough credit for this, but for all the carping from its dinosaurs, the league was ahead of the NBA in opening its doors to Europeans, and unforgettable competitions such as the Summit Series between the Soviet Union and Canada set the stage. Swedes and Finns came and then the defecting Eastern Europeans, such as the Stastny brothers and Alex Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov, before the Iron Curtain fell, the Soviet bloc crumbled and nations such as the Baltics and Slovakia were reborn.
1. Since when is 'the Baltics' a nation? Slovakia is a country, yes, but The Baltics? Umm, there are quite a few Baltic nations, such as Lithuania and Latvia, which have very little in common with each other. I guess this is what passes for geography in Colorado.
2. The NBA has only RECENTLY delved heavily into the European pool, whereas the NHL jumped in quite deep in the Early 1990s. Europe has been mined of talent for the NHL, and there isn't exactly a large pool of quality NHLers-in-waiting over in Europe.
Anyway, Frei does a horrible job of trying to connect the NBA to the NHL, without realizing that the NHL has a handful of struggling franchises and doesn't need more. A better solution would be to move some of the worst franchises into stronger markets, rather than dilute the talent pool further and create even more weaker franchises that have to be supported with revenues from the strong Canadian clubs. This would also, perhaps, prevent us with being subjected to poor sports opinions from the likes of Terry Frei.
Party Pics: Kiprusoff and Phaneuf are Smokin!
It seems the spirit of the 1970's New York Rangers hasn't died out completely.
Here's Miikka Kiprusoff and Dion Phaneuf at a classy strip club, smoking on a couple of cancer sticks and enjoying the company of a few bunnies.
Now, Kipper is a known smoker, but Phaneuf? Should a d-man playing 25+ mins a night really be inhaling cigarette smoke?
Methinks one Sutter brother won't be too happy to see this!
(Edit: Looks like the evil bastards over at The Battle of Alberta beat me to the punch.)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting
Mirasty the Nasty!
Who says fans don't like fighting in hockey? (Buttman)
Who says the Quebecois hockey players are softies? (Cherry)
Well, beer league hockey in Quebec has always proven that Quebecers like a lot of violence with their hockey.
It's Friday night and for just over 2,000 people in this town of 35,000, that means it's either hockey night or fight night.
Luckily, they can get both in the same building.
The Colisee Cardin in this town about 65 kilometres northeast of Montreal on the shores of the St-Lawrence River was packed on Friday for a North American Hockey League game between the hometown Sorel-Tracy Mission and the rival St-Jean Summum Chiefs.
But more important than the game itself for the crowd of 2,115 was the highly anticipated fourth instalment in a season-long series of fights between the league's undisputed heavyweight Steve (The Crash) Bosse of the Chiefs and Jon (Nasty) Mirasty of the Mission.
While the NHL tries to clean up its public image in the wake of the Chris Simon stick-swinging and Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incidents, the North American Hockey League -- not to be confused with the U.S. junior league that goes by the same name -- brings in fans with the promise of rough hockey and lots of fights.
For instance, Friday night's game had a Wrestlemania-style billing of Bosse-Mirasty IV, and there was no doubt right from the opening warm-up that's what the fans were there to see.
"I would say three-quarters of the people who are here came to see them fight,'' said Jean Guevremont, 22, a Mission season-ticket holder from nearby Berthierville.
Surely, these guys must have at least a little skill?
In 88 career games over three seasons with the Mission, Mirasty has eight goals, 11 assists and 771 penalty minuteserrr...
Bosse is in his fourth year in the North American Hockey League, and in 127 career games he has two goals, four assists and 898 penalty minutes.
OK, maybe not.
If I ever do head to Quebec, one of the things I absolutely must do is go to see one of these WWE-on-ice productions. If you are going to allow fighting, you might as well go all the way and make it front and center.
Friday, March 16, 2007
10 Reasons to Boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Communist China
Being a blogger, I tend to get more SPAM than a Hormel employee.
Once in awhile, I'll get something thought provoking, or just plain 'WTF?'
File this one under 'thought provoking', as the Olympic Games Virus spreads through Vancouver.
Thanks to the Powers That Be, BC Taxpayers are being gouged on expensive projects to host a 2-week party. Who benefits? The big developers, the Olympic cartel and the politicians.
Now, the reason the Olympic cartel chose Beijing for 2008 was to 'open the country to Democracy'
Well, we know that it really means 'sweep the bad stuff under the rug for 3 weeks until the world looks away'
Nine Reasons Why the Free World with The Leadership of America Must Boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Communist China
By Demetrius Klitou
1) Human rights are practically non-existent in Communist China
Religious persecution, imprisonment and murder of non-violent political dissidents, torture, organ harvesting and sentences to hard labour are widespread.
2) The lack of freedom of the press and safety risks for foreign reporters
Many foreign websites are banned from being visited within China, foreign reporters are prohibited from interviewing anyone without previous permission from the government, and the content of all broadcasting is severely restricted. Foreign news media reporters have been arrested and sentenced to prison under vague and wide-reaching security laws.
3) The 1980 Olympic Games in Communist Russia were boycotted by 64 states, under the leadership of the U.S.
Beijing is not any different from Moscow in 1980, which was also the capital of a Communist police state.
4) Communist China constantly threatens to attack Taiwan
China's government passed a law that explicitly calls for military intervention in response to any intention by the democratic government of Taiwan to declare independence. Military manoeuvres indicate that the Communists' military is preparing to enforce this law.
5) Beijing has the most polluted air in the world
Studies and satellites photos have proven that Beijing suffers from extremely high nitrogen dioxide levels, vitally dangerous to the health of the athletes.
6) China is plagued by widespread social, political, and economic unrest
A surge in huge land grabs and forced evictions by the Chinese government for reasons of economic expansion and Olympic Games preparations have sparked thousands of protests. The government has murdered hundreds of protesters.
7) The Chinese have been bribing and threatening large numbers of members of the International Olympic Committee
A number of U.S. Representatives, for example, Congressman Tom Lantos, have stated this on national television.
8) A boycott has some potential to serve as a strategy to encourage human rights in China
Only the greedy and foolish global elite think this is true.
9) Holding the Olympic Games in Communist China contradicts the Olympic Charter
The Olympic Charter defines the philosophy of Olympism as the "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles" and its goal of promoting "a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."
Thursday, March 15, 2007
When Bad Goalies Go Good! O_o
The Forechecker, one of the web's best hockey bloggers for stats analysis, looks at how goalies are faring in shootouts in his latest FoxSports column.
Last week I dug into the offensive end of NHL shootouts, so now we need to give the goaltenders their due.While a player may just totally blow a shot, the goaltenders need to get more credit for forcing a miss.
As we consider goaltender success during the shootout, a significant aspect to contend with is the quantity of Missed Shots (roughly one out of eight shootout attempts misses the net entirely). Within the table below, I'm including them in a "Stop Pct.", since by definition, Missed Shots aren't included in a goaltender's regular save percentage.
When it comes to the shootout, however, I'm inclined to give the netminder some credit for forcing the shooter into an untenable option. So let's get to the results, including the 2005-06 season, and this year up through the games of Feb. 4:
Who's at the top? That might surprise you...
Goaltender Attempts Goals Saves Missed Stop Pct. Normal SV%
Marc Denis, TBL 32 5 24 3 .844 .887 (42nd)
Kari Lehtonen, ATL 39 7 28 4 .821 .911 (13th)
Henrik Lundqvist, NYR 63 12 40 11 .810 .912 (12th)
Rick DiPietro, NYI 67 16 48 3 .761 .918 (7th)
Tim Thomas, BOS 54 13 39 2 .759 .910 (17th)
Pascal LeClaire, CBJ 33 8 20 5 .758 .897 (34th)
Manny Fernandez, MIN 51 13 29 9 .745 .911 (14th)
Ryan Miller, BUF 43 11 25 7 .744 .910 (15th)
Marty Turco, DAL 55 15 29 11 .727 .909 (18th)
Mathieu Garon, LAK 29 8 19 2 .724 .905 (25th)
I added in their regular SV% and rank, and you can see that Rick DiPietro is the only Top 10 goalie that really rocks in the shootout. The rest of the group is a mish-mash of mediocre goalies, with Marc Denis, one of the worst, as the king of the shootout.
Fortunately, the playoffs will eliminate this joke of a skills competition, so guys like Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo won't have to worry about their poor shootout records when the games mean more. These stats are strange, and basically just tell you that regular goaltending ability doesn't seem to correlate well with shootout ability.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Asshat of the Day: Patrick Roy, the Sore Loser.
Patrick Roy sure seems to win this award quite often. Why can't somebody just smack this asshole with a Canadian Tire snow shovel?
Not too long ago, Patrick Roy got in some trouble for beating up the owner of the Sagueneens. Patrick Roy got off pretty much scot-free, since he's rather oily and things don't tend to stick to him.
Well, Psycho Patty was at it again with his actions in a recent QMJHL game.
Down 5-3 late in the game, Patrick Roy decided to send out his goons to rough up the opposing team, rather than try to score and come back in the game.
Hockey legend and Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy is in the middle of another junior hockey brouhaha with members of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
Roy and Sagueneens' coach Richard Martel were each fined $2,000 by the Quebec Junior Hockey League on Tuesday, two days after they engaged in an animated shouting match from their respective benches during a game.
Officials called the game, which Chicoutimi won 5-3, with 15 seconds remaining in the third period following a huge brawl.
At one point, Chicoutimi coach Richard Martel took off his jacket and invited Roy to fight.
Neither coach ended up leaving their bench.
Roy, who both coaches and co-owns the Remparts, called on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to crack down on coaches who goad the opposing team's players.
"That kind of attitude has no place in the league and we should throw out those who act like that," Roy said.
Ahh, you gotta love that quote from Roy, who has pretty much let his rage get out of control more times than a 3-year old child can count.
Who was it that put their goons on the ice? Oh, that would be Patty. Geez, Patty, are you really shocked that a brawl started? Can somebody say, 'Sore Loser'?
Obviously, Patrick Roy has competitive issues and seems to think that he is above the rules and the law. It's time for the QMJHL to stop treating Roy with kid gloves and come down hard on the guy. Roy has a track record of bad behaviour, and it won't get better if people continue to allow him to run rampant over people.
NHL: New Draft Changes are in Order
The NHL decided to make some changes to the Entry Draft right out of the radar of most every hockey fan and expert.
Sources tell TSN that NHL teams have voted 23-6 (with one abstention) in favor of introducing a ranking system that places a greater emphasis on playoff performance than regular season results.Could it be the Red Wings proposed this format because they often choke in the early rounds and want a good draft position for themselves? It's not as if they need it! Give them all of their picks in the 5th round and they'd be just fine.
Under the existing format, non-playoff teams were placed one through 14 with the lowest regular-season point totals getting the higher pick in the draft, subject to the draft lottery which allows the winning non-playoff team to move up as many as four places.
The remaining 16 teams were seeded 15 through 30 based on inverse order of regular-season finish with one exception - the Stanley Cup-winning team automatically received the 30th and final pick of the first round.
The new format will work as follows:
- The 14 non-playoff teams will be seeded in inverse order of regular-season finish, just as they used to be, with the draft lottery remaining the same.
- Teams that lose in the first round of the playoffs, except those that won regular-season division titles, will be slotted next in inverse order of regular-season point totals.
- Regular-season division winners that did not advance to the Conference finals will be slotted next, in inverse order of regular-season point totals.
- Teams that make the Conference finals will be slotted next, in inverse order of regular-season point totals.
- The two teams that make it to the Stanley Cup final will get the final two picks - No. 29 for the Cup finalist and No. 30 for the Cup champion.
It is a little more difficult to explain than it was, but the basic premise is the farther a team proceeds in the playoffs, the later it will pick in the entry draft.
The concept was initially proposed by the Detroit Red Wings, who argue that playoff success is the true measure of a team's success in any given year and the draft order should reflect that.
I don't mind that a team's performance in the playoffs has a greater importance for the draft. Why should a 15th overall team finish as a Stanley Cup finalist and then draft in the middle of each round? On the other hand, you can get a powerhouse team that has one bad playoff round, and then they get a plum draft position. Of course, the mid-to-late first round isn't nearly as important as the Top 10 picks, so this won't exactly tilt the Earth's axis.
So, who voted against the change? I'm always curious as the reasons why particular teams go against the grain
Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks - Worried about poor draft position after a bad playoff round?
New York Islanders - Would this affect them anyway?
Florida Panthers - Given their lack of playoff success, this ruling won't affect them for years to come.
Washington Capitals - Same thing.
Minnesota Wild - Probably don't want to be penalized for good playoff showings?
Well, what's done is done and now teams can be somewhat compensated for playoff choke. To those who value the playoffs more than the regular season, the new system should really emphasize that fact.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Pavol Demitra: Enforcer?
Pavol Demitra is awesome at many things: passing, shooting, stick-handling, skating, fashion, and Sudoku.
As the great ones often do, Pavol felt like he needed a challenge, so he took up...fighting?
Yeah, apparently Pavol Demitra came to the aid of his BFFL, Marian Gaborik, and used the old UFC ground-and-pound on Marc Savard to score the KO victory.
From Wild Puck Banter:
Near the end of last night's win over the Bruins, Marian Gaborik took a clean hit behind the net from Andrew Ference. Pavol Demitra immediately came to his defense, dropping the gloves to fight Marc Savard. This is Demitra's first fight this year and it really wasn't much of a scrap. It's not exactly breaking news, but Marian and Pavol are pretty tight. They sit together on the bench, chat it up during practice and I wouldn't be surprised if they wear matching outfits on the road.
It certainly wasn't much of a scrap as Demitra scored a quick victory. Need evidence? Here it is...
Ph33r the Pavol!
Monday, March 12, 2007
Why Hockey is Better than Baseball
It's March, which means Spring Training has begun for my second-favourite sport: Baseball!!
Still, this IS a hockey blog, and I am Canadian, so I am obliged to point out what makes Hockey #1 and baseball a distant #2.
Here's one (edited) list, from Hockey vs Baseball, by Dan "Curly-Haired Boyfriend" Shaughnessy (published in the 1992 Flyers' Wives Fight for Lives Program)
1. Contact is allowed. Think about it. What Roger Clemens did in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series would go unnoticed in any hockey game. Give the ref a little shove. Tell him you'll find out where he lives. Tell him to have another doughnut. Nobody will say you're stressed out. It's no big deal. (Jes: Umm, give the ref a little shove and you can expect a nice long suspension)
2. Hockey players don't make as much money. They're more in touch with you and me. (Ok, so this one is becoming outdated....)
3. Hockey has Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones. Basball has Jose and ??? Canseco (Original line was Esther Canseco, but I think we're a few wives down the line now, with little improvement.)
4. Hockey is fast, faster, fastest. Baseball is glacier slow.
5. Carla, the waitress on Cheers, was married to a hockey player.
6. Hockey players don't do as many autograph shows and they come much cheaper.
7. Baseball players live on the disabled list. Hockey players take 30 stitches to the hand, spit on the wounds, and go back on the ice for more.
8. Hockey had The Rocket before baseball.
9. Hockey skills are instantly visible. When Bobby Orr played, a novice viewer immediately knew that Orr was the best player on the ice. Take your son to see Will Clark and the big guy might strike out four times and make you look bad.
10. Slapshot was better than Bull Durham.
11. Hockey has Gordie Howe. Baseball had Steve Howe.
12. Hockey coaches can dress like adults. (Jes: Imagine Marc Crawford wearing a Kings uniform. Exactly)
Here are a few others...
13. Hockey Hair (Sopel, Smyth...) - Much better than bad afros and cornrows.
14. Ice Girls vs. Ball Girls - No contest
15. Steroids Scandal. What steroids scandal? NHL actually tests for steroids, and we know it wouldn't be quite as beneficial for a hockey player (ask Brent Sopel).
16. Hockey has Brent Sopel - Baseball has no Brent Sopel
17. Hockey preseason games have fights - Baseball preseason games have regular players leaving after 3 innings of 'work'.
18. Lou Pinella might be a fiery guy, but he'd get his ass kicked by any NHL coach not named Paul Maurice.
Soccer Stealing Ideas from Hockey?
Soccer (aka Football) is the world's most popular sport outside of North America, where it's just Saturday morning TV filler.
(D'uh, Big Moose, we already know that)
Soccer certainly doesn't need a whole lot of help from Ice Hockey, which ranks about like 200th in world sports popularity. Right?
Well, apparently not...
Two moments in World Cup history are guaranteed to start arguments between soccer fans - Geoff Hurst's winning goal for England in 1966 and Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" strike for Argentina 20 years later.
Adding fuel to bar room disputes, modern TV technology now shows up egregious errors by referees who wrongly disallow or award goals when the ball did not cross the line.
That is why Fifa, world soccer's governing body, is considering bringing the sport into the 21st century by looking at introducing goal line technology.
It is not a novel idea - tennis, basketball, rugby and American football have used computer technology or video replays for years to help officials make the right call.
In ice hockey, the use of video to show if the puck has crossed the goal line has become a familiar feature of National Hockey League (NHL) games for a decade.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has said goalline technology will be in place at the 2007 World Club Cup in Tokyo. A Fifa committee is assessing various forms of technology and whatever they choose will be operational by the December tournament.
Wow, the NHL actually having an impact on the world's biggest sport?
Perhaps soccer ought to take a few more hints from hockey to make their sport more interesting
1. Allow some actual body contact - Why punish a player for simply breathing on the guy? Allow some body shoving is the guy has the ball. If he's such a good player, he ought to withstand a clean body-check.
2. Fighting - OK, so soccer players fight like sissies, but why not let the fights happen on the field instead of the stands? Wouldn't you like to see David Beckham's face smashed by a good left bitch-slap from Thierry Henry?
3. Pipe in god-awful emo rock music over the PA. Why let the fans chant and moan this 'whoooooa-whoooa-whoooa' crap that makes no sense? It's obvious that the fans are so bored with the game that they have to resort to singing and chanting. By blaring Nickelback over the stadium speakers, you'll calm the crowd down and allow them to sit there and shut up instead of lighting flares and throwing toilet paper onto the field.
4. How about some real uniforms? What pride can Manchester United really have when the players are running billboards? Did you know their team mascot/name/logo is the Red Devils? Well, I don't blame you if you don't, given how their 'logo' is a small one-inch patch on the upper right of their jerseys.
5. Allow some real numbering - Ever notice how all soccer teams give players numbers in the 1-20ish range? Why can't players wear #88, #69, or #99? How many good strikers have worn #9? Exactly...
6. Stop calling players by one name - It's bad enough that the players suck, but you can't look them up in a phone book to throw a bomb through their frickin' window! Which RONALDO are you talking about? The ugly gap-toothed caveman from Brazil or the pretty boy Metrosexual from Portugal?
7. Have the playoffs AFTER the season, and not during the season. There is simply a lot less thrill to the regular season when there is nothing to play for until the NEXT season.
Or, you can just watch hockey and forget about soccer. North Americans are great at that.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Chris Simon Suspended for the Rest of the Season
New York Islanders forward Chris Simon has been suspended for the remainder of the 2006-07 regular season and the entirety of the Stanley Cup playoffs.This is exactly the suspension that is deserved for this action. Some might feel its not fair enough, some may say it's too harsh, but like Goldilocks, I think it's JUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUST RIGHT!
Simon is suspended a minimum of 25 games, including Saturday night's game against Washington plus the 14 that remain in the 2006-07 regular season. If the Islanders do not qualify for the 2007 playoffs, or play fewer than 10 playoff games in the 2007 playoffs, Simon would serve additional games at the start of the 2007-08 regular season to satisfy the minimum term of the suspension.
''The National Hockey League will not accept the use of a stick in the manner and fashion in which Mr. Simon used his Thursday night,'' said Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations. ''As a consequence of his actions, Mr. Simon has forfeited the privilege of playing in an NHL game again this season, regardless of how many games the Islanders ultimately play.''Now, I wish that the NHL would consistantly adhere to this standard more often. Why is it that only the 'goons' merit such harsh penalties? Hmm?? I'll be happier once I see this kind of penalty handed out more often.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Hockey Across the Ocean
For a bit of a change-up...
The playoffs are well under way in the Czech Extraliga (my European league of choice), and Misha passed along a few links regarding the postseason over in the land of great beer and beautiful women.
Czech television has a site up entirely devoted to the playoffs here -- lots of news that I can't read, and lots of video highlights that speak a universal language. Misha says they're broadcasting the games live online, though isn't sure if that'll work outside of the Czech Rep. I've yet to be online at the right time (if I've calculated right, they usually start about 11 am Eastern time).
And over at Eurohockey.net, there's a comprehensive review of the regular season. Plenty of familiar names to North American fans (and the interesting news that Vladimir Ruzicka is coming out of retirement in case of shooutout emergencies).
I'll close this off by irritating Jes thoroughly: Go Sparta!
Labels: Czech Hockey
Friday, March 09, 2007
Chris Simon Suspended Indefinitely
What you gonna do when everybody's insane
So afraid of one who's so afraid of you
What you gonna do...
Per Sherry over at Scarlett Ice, Colon Cleansing has spun the Wheel of Injustice and Chrissy Simon has been suspended indefinitely, pending a hearing.
From the NHL:
New York Islanders forward Chris Simon has been suspended indefinitely without pay, pending a hearing, after being assessed a Match penalty for deliberate injury of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg during NHL Game #1009 Thursday night.
The penalty was assessed at 13:29 of the third period.
A date for the hearing has not yet been scheduled.
So, will Chris Simon be made a sacrificial lamb ala Marty McSoreloser? It's very likely. It's very easy for the NHL to suspend a goon (although Cam Janssen might not agree and bodycheck me into next week) who the league won't really miss as supposed to a star player. We'll have to wait and see how much actual punishment comes down in Colon's Court of Confusion.
How much would Alex Ovechkin get if he pulled the same stunt? 3 games at most...
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Asshat of the Day: Chris Simon
Simon says, "I'm a cheap-ass thug!"
Another vicious 'head shot event' in the NHL tonight as Chrissy Simon went nutso on Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers.
Hollweg drove Simon into the boards with a hard, clean check. Simon got up angrily and met Hollweg as they came together again. Hollweg fell to his back and rolled over onto his stomach by the boards. He was motionless for a few moments, and was bleeding from his chin when he got up.Now, isn't Chris Simon supposed to be a tough guy? an enforcer?
Simon, who gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the second period, was ejected -- slapped with a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure
Hmm, now what kind of tough guy can't take a clean hit? It reeks of big baby who couldn't stand being hit just a little. I'm always amazed at how so many NHL players get made after a clean hit, and act surprised as if it wasn't coming.
Now, the question is "How many games will Colon Cleansing Campbell give Simon?"
Based on the standards we've seen this year *cough*Janssen*cough*, probably 1-2 games.
It would be nice for the NHL to stop following poorly-established precedents and start nailing these idiots with some serious penalties. Simon's high-stick was an obvious intent to injure and could have caused something far more serious to Hollweg.
Let's start seeing some 10 game suspensions for this kind of crap. A match penalty isn't going to do anything in the long run.
Jason Spezza's "New NHL" Injury
Nobody does METRO quite like Taylor Pyatt and his permanent mascara, but Jason Spezza comes close with his latest injury.
From the Ottawa Citizen:
Jason Spezza may have to look into getting himself a personal shopper.Injuring your back while shopping, welcome to the "New NHL".
At the very least, he may have to take seriously coach Bryan Murray's suggestion that he get "hooked up" so he has someone to do his shopping for him.
For Spezza, a shopping trip on Monday was able to do something that Buffalo's Andrew Peters was unable to do two weeks ago: knock him out of a hockey game.
It might be an NHL first.
Clearly chagrined, Spezza said yesterday he wasn't "going to get into too many details" of how he suffered the back injury that forced him to miss Tuesday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and could keep him out of tonight's game here against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Who could blame him?
You wouldn't want people to start joking that you hurt your back reaching for your wallet.
But Murray helped out by sketching the broad strokes of the misadventure, saying Spezza told him he had been sitting in his car and got out, but then felt a tightness in his back.
"I guess he had to go shopping," Murray said. "He should get hooked up and then he wouldn't have to do that. ... It got better (Tuesday), but not to the point where he felt he could play in the game.
What's next? A lower body injury from a hair-removal procedure? Day-to-day with Botox inflammation?
Photo(s) of the Day: The Softer Side of Hockey
The things Sid will do for the NHL...
Get a frickin room, you two!
Some guys REALLY like Peter Forsberg...
Now, that's team chemistry!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Jeff Cowan: Lunchpail Hero
The Canucks/Bolts game last night was excellent. No, the match-up itself was completed lopsided as the Bolts didn't compete, but it was great that the Canucks beat an opponent by more than 1 goal and totally dominated a high-scoring team as they won 5-1.
Would you ever have expected the Canucks to hold the high-flying Lightning to just 17 shots?
That wasn't the only story of the night, as this guy named JEFF COWAN seems to have come out of nowhere to become the offensive leader of the Canucks after another 2-goal effort.
BY THE NUMBERS
First 23 games as a Canuck: 0 goals, 0 assists
Next 3 games as a Canuck: 5 goals, 0 assists
Until recently, Cowan was one of the most anonymous Canucks grinders in team history. I had no idea this guy has over 350 NHL games to his credit!
Now? He's got ladies throwing their bras on the ice, as happened last night after he scored his second goal of the game.
It's great to see a hard working guy like this get his time in the sun. Thanks to Josh Green's injury, Cowan gets a bit more ice time and makes the most of it. He's now got 5 times as many goals this year as Alex Burrows. Yeesh.
Here's a video clip of his first goal from last night, as he scores in his typical go-to-the-net hard style. It's not pretty, but it's been working for him.
Some other love for Cowan around the blogosphere...
Canucks and Beyond:
There aren’t too many things cooler than watching an undervalued 4th line player score at will for three games straight, making himself one of the stars of the night at every opportunity. I mean, 5 goals in three games? Talk about a hot hand, especially for a player who hadn’t scored in the previous 14 years.
And another shocker to add to all that shocking revelations about tonight's game... Jeff Cowan had another 2 goal game. WHO IS THIS GUY? Loved the crowd at GM Place who started chanting "COW-AN! COW-AN! COW-AN" after he scored his 2nd of the evening. He totally deserved it, and I'm happy the fans are recognizing the effort he's been giving every night.
Waiting for Stanley:
PS: I absolutely encourage more of the bra-throwing whenever Cowan scores. I don't think I have ever seen that happen before in NHL history. Hats off to whoever did that. Love how the ref used a stick to spoon the under garment off the ice! haha
God, this is beautiful how the Canuck fans are rallying around this team.
Not to mention that the bra was apparently big enough to hold actual watermelons in each cup. There must have been one jiggly woman walking home last night.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Arturs Irbe Lives!
Not too long ago... well 2001-02, Arturs Irbe's great goaltending helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a surprising Stanley Cup Finals birth. The little Latvian, who is more likeable than chocolate ice cream, was almost on top of the world.
Unfortunately, the next two years saw him fall off of a cliff, eventually landing in the ECHL in 2003-04 after putting up a horrid 87.7 SV% in 34 games in 2002-03. Even Dan Cloutier was better than that! (barely...)
The NHLPA bigwig faded into obscurity quite quickly, landing in Austria after the lockout, where he played for Salzburg, and then for Riga, in his home country.
Irbe, now 40, made big waves in Slovakia a few months back when he signed with HK Nitra. Obviously, Irbe is one of the biggest foreign names ever to play in the fledgling Slovak Extraleague.
Doesn't he look so cute? awww...
Well, it's too bad that his skills have continued to deteroriate, as he provided some of the worst goaltending in Slovak history.
My friend Daniel reports:
Irbe definitely left Nitra yesterday. Arturs was huuuuuugest disappointment of this season. All fans especially Nitra's ones expected elite preformances from him. But if you check his stats you realize the Save Percentage 81.35% compared to (teammates) Konrad 92.44% or Racko 90.3% is real disaster. Nitra needed elite goalie for the playoffs but he wasn't able to fullfil their expectations.
Yep, in 6 games, Irbe put up a stinking 5.31GAA and 81.35SV%.
Don't expect a comeback any time soon.
Party Pics: LA Kings at the SI Swimsuit Models' Party
Anze Kopitar and Patrick O'Sullivan. Aren't they up past curfew?
The players got bored with the models, so they ended up taking home this fine stud, instead.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Photo of the Day: An Indecent Proposal
Actually, it seems more of a demand than a question O.O
(Those Avs fans are strange folks, I tells ya)
Game Recap - Thrashers vs Hurricanes
A rare Sunday afternoon tilt yesterday -- giving me the opportunity to go, and since (as previously noted) I generally work when the Thrashers are playing, I have to take such opportunities. Live hockey always has to take precedence. If I were getting married, and I found out there was a game that day, the wedding would have to be called off. Seriously, the Thrashers don't put their schedule together in a very Greg-friendly way (granted, since a Greg-friendly way would mean tons of Sunday-Monday games and 11 a.m. start times the rest of the week, I can't really blame them).
It was "Mullet Wig Day," as pictured right, leading to secret hopes of a hat trick, and thousands of mullets drifting down to the ice. Mullet humor isn't exactly Candide, I know, but some of the stuff was pretty funny. Lots of beer helped.
More ominously, it was the Hurricanes, a team that always makes me nervous -- there's the secret fear, deep inside, that every team that has won a Stanley Cup is automatically better and thus will always win. That fear eased some when I saw John Grahame in goal and David Tanabe getting major minutes, but still -- I spent most of the game just waiting for the inevitable turning point, when the 'Canes would remember their rights as Cup winners, and storm (HA!) back to slap the Thrashers around. It doesn't help that they have all-time favorite Frankie Kaberle back there -- watching him, for me, is like seeing your ex-girlfriend doing really well, living high, flashing her Stanley Cup ring around, while you're in line at the methadone clinic. To counter Kaberle's presence, I had to go all-out and wear the Kloucek Thrashers jersey (only worn in extreme situations), again, pictured right (below mullet).
The most encouraging thing about the game was seeing how much better the Thrashers were, when they were on, when they were focused. Unfortunately, they weren't always on. I don't know if it's a concentration issue, if it's cute Atlanta girls in the stands, if they'd been dipping into the same Heineken stocks as me, but there were times when all skaters on ice seemed distracted, counting the bolts in the floor at the Boston Garden, that sort of thing. A collective fog. Add to that an Atlanta tradition -- at least one bozo turnover in front of the net per game, preferably one per period, usually jump-cutting to Kari Lehtonen looking sadly at the puck behind him -- and you understand why I spend entire games looking nervous.
Lehtonen was great, but he often seems jittery -- leading in turn to me being jittery. He started out last night looking shocked after every shot, sort of a "GAH! Some lunatic is shooting PUCKS at me! What the hell is this??" reaction. The one goal wasn't really his fault, from my end of the ice -- the result of one of those aforementioned turnovers -- but I'd just like to see a bit more ice in those veins (figuratively, of course -- I have no desire to actually see the contents of anyone's veins).
In any case, the game really rested on the shoulders of hero to all, best hockey player ever Marian Hossa. Two goals, nearly a third (and my vision of raining mullets), heady defensive play. And one silent arena when he went hard into the boards and lay there for a minute. Without him, we're nothing. Having Garnet Exelby protecting him from the uncharitable thoughts of opponents isn't enough -- it may be time to hire two large men named Vito to "visit" opposing players before the game and "suggest" they stay away from Hossa. Just a thought.
To sum up: Thrashers won (one of those "four-point games" everyone likes to talk about), the Lightning got stomped the night before (by the Panthers, a team that seems to exist solely to frustrate better division rivals late in the season), and far away, the Avalanche beat Team Twizzler. A really fine Sunday, and I (and my Kloucek jersey) celebrated by going off and getting drunk. Hurrah! I humbly request more Sundays like this.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
A Little Relief
Just in time for the Czech Extraliga playoffs -- Vaic Fan has returned from his or her hiatus.
Far overdue -- the world of hockey punditry hasn't been the same without VF.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Start Stocking Up on Eric Belanger Jerseys
The trade deadline is in the past, the world has continued on its axis despite at least two Thrashers deals (Zhitnik and Dupuis) I was less than thrilled about. The flurry of activity was enough, at least, to earn the humble birds a place in the august pages of the New York Times today (thanks to reader Wayne for passing it along). The article centers around a sports theory I'm not sure I really buy into -- that deals reinvigorate a team on a mental level. Sure, I buy it (generally) that having Keith Tkachuk on the ice is a positive. But I'm not so sure that someone's going to say "holy crap, I've got a locker next to Alexei Zhitnik now. As soon as I get his autograph, I'm going to try harder."
With the Zhitnik and Tkachuk deals taken care of, that was enough for everyone to cite the "New Look" Thrashers winning over the Bruins earlier this week, but c'mon ... it was the Bruins. They've pretty visibly given up. Tonight's game -- against a team north of the Atlantas in the standings -- was a much better gauge.
And, hey, success. I had to listen on the radio -- couldn't pick up a televised broadcast at work -- but everything seemed to be going pretty well. Heard Tkachuk's name surprisingly little, but Eric Belanger's post-trade bounce continues, the announcers were very into saying Pascal Dupuis's name, and when they got up by one goal on the Senators, the Thrashers actually scored the next goal rather than giving it up. A new development, and a promising one.
I'll actually be in attendance for Sunday's game against Carolina -- who beat the Thrashers pretty soundly last time they met. It's on. My enthusiasm is rekindled. Folly though it may be, I've got some faith in this team again. (Check back in two days to see how that holds up.)