Friday, April 29, 2005


World Championships: Will Cockiness Kill Canada?

Time to look at Team Canada and their chances for gold at the World Hockey Championships in Austria. Although some big name stars like Mario Lemieux, Rob Blake, Chris Pronger, and Joe Sakic said 'No', Canada still has a roster that 'pwns' - at least on paper. Ryan Smyth, who is really the true Captain Canada if we have ever had one, is wearing the C for Canada for the 6th straight World Championships.

Now, I wonder...Has all of the recent success (besides the two recent losses to the US in Gold Medal games) given the honchos at Hockey Canada a case of Big Head Syndrome?

I speak mainly of two negative traits that I've noticed with Team Canada this time out.

i. The lack of Game-Shape players - Only 8 of the fellows named below have been playing high-level hockey somewhere in the world this season, with another 2 playing in the very low minor leagues. Although Canada beat the Czechs 2-1 in an exhibition game yesterday, they have looked rather slow (so have the Americans) in the games I've seen on TV. Once the heated action starts, Canada could quickly see themselves out of breath once the European teams, full of game-shape players, skate circles around the donut-eating Canucks.

ii. The obsession with 'Size' and 'Physicality' - If this was the World Cup, or an NHL game, the Canadian roster would be absolutely perfect. In International hockey, however, size and strength is not such a great advantage as it would be in the NHL. IIHF refs are very prone to call penalties if you so much as blow a kiss too hard in another player's direction. The combination of out-of-shape Canadian players plus their propensity to bodycheck could equal a lot of Penalty Killing time for Canada...and to think Team Canada actually wanted an out-of-shape ape in Todd Bertuzzi, who's 'physicality' cost the Canadians in a previous World Championships (just ask Roman Cechmanek and Lubomir Sekeras).

Instead of taking game-shape players who have been skating in Europe this season (Daniel Briere, etc), and players with the most 'skill', Canada seems to have gone with a roster build to win in the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Final Roster

Martin Brodeur
Roberto Luongo
Marty Turco (Djurgaarden)

Dan Boyle (Djurgaarden)
Scott Hannan
Ed Jovanovski
Chris Phillips (Brynäs)
Wade Redden
Robyn Regehr
Sheldon Souray (Färjestad)

Shane Doan
Kris Draper (Motor City/UHL)
Mike Fisher (Zug)
Simon Gagne
Dany Heatley (Kazan)
Kirk Maltby
Patrick Marleau
Brendan Morrison (Linköping)
Brendan Morrow (Oklahoma City/CHL)
Rick Nash (Davos)
Ryan Smyth
Joe Thornton (Davos)
Scott Walker

The lines for Canada in the game vs. Czechia looked like this...


Redden - Hannan
Regehr - Boyle
Souray - Phillips

Doan, Draper, Maltby
Nash, Thornton, Gagne
Heatley, Morrison, Smyth
Marleau, Fisher, Morrow

Rick Nash and Joe Thornton played together with the Swiss Champions in Davos. It will be up to these big guys to supply the bulk of the offence. Size, Speed, Skill...Canada has it all. No other roster is as 'complete' as Canada's.

Canada will always be a favourite to win any tournament it enters, but this year's tourney could easily turn Gary Busey ugly for Canada if the lack of conditioning becomes an issue. It won't surprise me if Canada somehow finishes this tournament without a medal.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


World Hockey Championships: Check out the Czechs

(just how many bad puns can we derive from the name 'Czech'?)

The Czechs, after some major successes in the 1998-2001 period (Olympics, World Championships, World Junior Championships) have struggled in recent years to win medals. After 3 straight Golds from 99-01, the Czechs haven't reached the podium at the WC's.

With the NHL lockout, the Czechs had almost every big star to choose from in order to return to some former glory...and unlike Canada, the Czech players have all been playing hockey in a high level this season.

Let's have a look at the roster as it stands right now. The Czechs and Canadians are getting set to play in an exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena in Prague.

Tomas Vokoun (Helsinki/Znojmo)
Milan Hnilicka (Liberec)
Adam Svoboda (Nurnberg)

Jiri Fischer (Liberec)
Marek Zidlicky (Helsinki)
Jaroslav Spacek (Slavia Prague)
Frantisek Kaberle (Kladno/MoDo)
Pavel Kubina (Vitkovice)
Tomas Kaberle (Kladno)
Jiri Slegr (Litvinov)
Jan Hejda (Moscow)

David Vyborny (Sparta Prague)
Petr Cajanek (Zlin)
Radim Vrbata (Liberec)
Radek Dvorak (Ceske Budejovice)
Ales Kotalik (Liberec)
Vaclav Varada (Vitkovice)
Martin Rucinsky (Litvinov)
Petr Sykora (Magnitogorsk)
Vaclav Prospal (Ceske Budejovice)
Josef Vasicek (Slavia Prague)
Jaromir Jagr (Omsk)
Petr Prucha (Pardubice)
Ales Hemsky (Pardubice)

As of now, the forward lines look like this:
Prucha, Prospal, Martin Straka - P. Sykora, Vyborný, Hlavac - Dvorak, Cajánek, Rucinský - Vrbata, Vasícek, Varada

Of course, these lines are subject to immediate change at the whim of head coach Vladimir Ruzicka.

Notable Players Missing:

Even with the lockout, not every great Czech player was available for the squad or was even named to the team.

Robert Lang - Lang did not play professional hockey this season, citing injury rehab and 'spending time with the family' as reasons to take the year off. It was obvious that he wasn't going to be in consideration.

Patrik Elias - Apparently recovering from Hepatitis...that's what he gets for starring in porn.

Martin Havlat - He was with the team for the prepartion camp and some of the exhibition games, but did not make the final cut. After an uninspired playoffs, it looks like Havlat needed some tough love and couldn't coast on his immense talent.

Roman Hamrlik - Roamin Roman was outplayed by his non-NHL brother, Martin, for the entire season. Roman is just not at the level of the other top Czech d-men right now and this may represent a permanent career downturn.

Karel Pilar - Like Havlat, Pilar was one of the final cuts from the roster. With Zidlicky and Slegr around, the Czechs didn't need another offensive-minded Dman.

Robert Reichel - Recovering from a nasty hand/wrist injury suffered during the season, Reichel seems to consider his International career over. He could still help the Czech squad in a positive way, but he's more concerned with his off-ice responsilibies with his Litvinov club (as Sporting Director).

Petr Nedved - Traitor


Looking at this roster, the obvious weakness in goal could deflate a rather powerful roster from succeeding. Tomas Vokoun was horrible in Czechia, but then took off like a rocket in Finland. Which Vokoun will show up?
Behind him, Milan Hnilicka may have won the Top Goaltender award for the Extraleague, but he is truly a shaky goaltender and not one you want to depend on in a tournament like this (and he finished friggin 10th in every meaningful statistic!!).
3rd stringer Adam Svoboda better not see a minute of action. If he does, expect any shot from over 50-feet away to go in a la Chris Osgood.

The defence and forwards have the traditional Czech balance of strength, skill, and skating. I know some pundits question the 'smallish' defence of the Czechs (Slegr, Zidlicky, and Spacek won't scare even my mother), but they have succeeded with similar type groups in the past.

With the Canadians and Americans in poor game shape, and the Swedes weakened by many stars declining the tournament, the Czechs still look like one of the absolute favourites to win gold in Austria.

* Keep an eye on little Petr Prucha. At last year's WC event, Prucha was paired with Jagr on the Power Play and had 4 goals in 6 games. The little waterbug could be the next bright light to dazzle on Broadway if the lockout ever ends and the Rangers give him a real shot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Checking out the Czech Award Winners

The Czech Extraleague and the Czech Hockey Association gave out their various awards last night. Let's have a final look at the Extraleague's best for this season...

It was a big night for Tomas Kaberle as he took home the regular season MVP, Best Defenseman, and Top Player (as voted by the fans) awards.

Ales Hemsky surprised me by beating out Jan Lasak for the Playoff MVP award. Lasak didn't go home empty-handed, fortunately, as he won the absolute Golden Helmet award for his spectacular save against Liberec's Lukas Pabiska.

The one atrocity was the Best Goaltender Award that was given to Milan Hnilicka as awarded by the newspaper 'Pravo'. Hnilicka finished about 10th in every meaningful goaltending statistic, and was nowhere near the best goaltender in the league. This would be like giving the NHL's Vezina Trophy to Dan Cloutier.

Edmonton Oilers fan-favourite Jiri Dopita was also presented with a 16 year-old bottle of whiskey as thanks for helping Pardubice win their first title in 16 years.

Winner of 1st Division Promotion: HC České Budějovice.
Best Rookie: Tomáš Pöpperle (Sparta Praha).
Most Sporstmanlike Player: Martin Procházka (Rabat Kladno).
Best Referee: František Rejthar.
Best Coach: Vladimír Vůjtek (Vítkovice Steel).
Best Goaltender (Právo): Milan Hnilička (Liberec White Tigers).
Best Defenseman (Blesk): Tomáš Kaberle (Rabat Kladno).
Best Shooter (Sport): Jaroslav Balaštík (Hamé Zlín).
Golden Helmet: Ján Lašák (Moeller Pardubice).
Top Scorer Award: Michal Mikeska (Moeller Pardubice).
Playoff MVP: Aleš Hemský (Moeller Pardubice).
Boza Modry (MVP as voted by the players):Tomáš Kaberle (Rabat Kladno).
Playoff Champion: Moeller Pardubice.
Player #1 (Voted by fans): Michal Mikeska (Moeller Pardubice).
Best Player (Voted by fans): Tomáš Kaberle (Rabat Kladno).


Chris Cuthbert signs with CTV/TSN

When the dopey head of CBC Sports, Nancy Lee, saw fit to fire play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert with a letter sent via courier, we know Chris would end up with a job elsewhere fairly soon.

CBC's loss is CTV's gain, as Cuthbert has signed a new deal to cover hockey and football for the rival network.

It's kind of strange and amusing that CBC released a news item telling us that Cuthbert was hired by their main Canadian rival. (Story Link)

Both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun are reporting that Cuthbert, who was released by the network in late February, has signed a deal with CTV's main network as well as TSN.

He will most likely call both football and hockey for TSN and cover figure skating for CTV.

Cuthbert worked at CBC for more than 20 years, but his contract was terminated two months ago.
CBC lost the Olympic games to CTV/TSN, and now they let their best play-by-play man get away to the same rival. This is definitely the equivalent of getting kicked in the groin a few times.

Another plus - (hopefully) no more Randork!
If Chris Cuthbert's presence forces Dave Randorf out of play-by-play duties, TSN will have improved their presentation by about 4000%

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Whine and Cheese with Theoren Fleury

It doesn't appear that Theoren "Fleo" Fleury has conquered any of the demons of assholery that have helped kill his NHL career.

After his amateur team lost their Allan Cup Semi-Final game, Fleury decided to let the world just how honoured we should be that he chooses to play hockey in public. (Winnipeg Sun Story)

"Every single ticket for this event was sold out. Why, because of the Horse Lake Thunder," said Fleury. "Not because of the Thunder Bay Bombers or the Lloydminster whatever they call themselves. It was because Horse Lake was here."

"The only reason this tournament sold out was because of yours truly right here," continued Fleury. "We all know it and I'm going to say it: Once again Theo Fleury puts hockey on the map when it needs it the most."

Yeah, Theo Fleury is just right behind Wayne Gretzky when it comes to putting asses in seats, isn't he? Unlike Gretz, Fleury doesn’t show respect for those who apparently come to see him play...

"Look at the source. A guy that carries a lunch-pail to work every day, a frustrated human being, he doesn't want to face his problems head-to-head, so who's the perfect target? Theo Fleury. He's had success, he's had fame, he's had fortune. Those people have to yell at me to make themselves feel better about themselves. You know what, I'll take the high road."

Not that high -- he did scream at post-game photographers "You take another (bleeping) picture and I'll kill you. You (media) tried to chop us down every chance you could possibly get," said Fleury. "And now you got your story, and it's a hell of a story."

I'm sure many people used to find Fleury a sympathic figure - He grew up in relative poverty, was rumoured to be one of Graham James' abuse targets, and has battled with alcholism and Crohn's Disease.

At this point, I know I've had enough of his BS. With all of the money and success that he's had, there is no excuse for Fleury not being able to get some help for his problems. Fleury has it better than most people, yet he refuses to acknowledge as such and insists on living with a dark cloud over his head. I can't feel any sympathy for someone that apparently wants to live in misery.

At least Fleo hasn't lost his touch for an entertaining quote. Here are a few other classic Fleoisms.

** Canada's Theo Fleury on the play of goaltender Mike Richter (after the 1996 World Cup): "I think Mike Richter should never have to buy another drink in his whole life. If ever there was a national hero... he was everything for them."

** Theo Fleury, on John Vanbiesbrouck coming out of his crease and shoving JS Giguere: "Beezer dropped his purse halfway down. Pure WWF. Off the top rope. They should've had it on pay per view. I mean, I'm sure Giggy was shaking when he saw Vanbiesbrouck coming at him."

** The Rangers had been shut out in their three previous games. "Did you see the piano fall out of the sky?" forward Theoren Fleury said. "We've been carrying one around on our backs for three games."

Monday, April 25, 2005


Under 18 WJC: Kessel Kills Canada

Make that 2 for 2 for the USA over Canada in recent International events as the Amerikaners beat Canada 5-1 to win the Under-18 World Hockey Championships.

Phenom Phil Kessel continues to impress me every time I see him play on TV. Special 'K' had 2 goals (including a nice breakaway goal) and 2 assists in the game and finished with 9 goals and 7 assists in 6 tournament games!

Kessel has amazing skating ability, and seems to score some very Teemu Selanne-like goals in big games. IF the 2005-06 Draft Pools are combined, I would predict Kessel to go #2 right behind Sidney Crosby.

The scoreboard wasn't the only ugly thing about the game, from a Canadian point of view. Canadian Colton Yellowhorn was hit from behind (while playing his first shift of the game) while skating towards the boards to retrieve a loose puck.

Yellow Horn was about a metre from the side boards when he was driven head first into them by U.S. forward Justin Mercier with six minutes to go in the game.

Yellow Horn, a Lethbridge Hurricanes forward, was taken to hospital and was said to be experiencing neck pain, but was also said to be alert and conscious and able to move his fingers and toes. Mercier was given a match penalty.

Yellow Horn returned to the arena shortly thereafter to join his teammates and to collect his silver medal. Doctors said the injury is nothing more than a bruised neck and that Yellowhorn would travel back to Canada with teammates on Monday.
Watching the hit on TV, I saw Yellowhorn skating quickly towards the boards and get just shoved from behind by Mercier. This was the type of hit that could have easily paralyzed Yellowhorn, and Mercier should receive some suspension of X amount of games (3, 5, 6?) from a future International tournament. If not, than Mercier is getting off almost scot-free with just a 5-minute major. Just because THIS particular tournament is over doesn't mean Mercier should be able to escape from punishment. In this instance, it would be nice to see the IIHF take a page from FIFA's handbook and give Mercier some 'carry-over' penalty.

It wasn't a vicious hit, but it was careless. The STOP campaign certainly doesn't seem to have affected certain players.


In other U-18 Tournament news, EVIL Sweden beat the Czechs to win the Bronze, and the award winners were announced.

Directorate Awards:
Best Goaltender: Ondrej Pavelec (CZE)
Best Defenseman: Luc Bourdon (CAN)
Best Forward: Phil Kessel (USA)

Media All-Star Team:
Goaltender: Ondrej Pavelec (CZE)
Defensemen: Vyacheslav Buravchikov (RUS), Kristopher Letang (CAN)
Forwards: Nicklas Bergfors (SWE), Phil Kessel (USA), Martin Hanzal (CZE)
MVP: Phil Kessel (USA)

Final Standings:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. Sweden
4. Czech Republic
5. Russia
6. Slovakia
7. Finland
8. Germany
9. Switzerland
10. Denmark

Sunday, April 24, 2005


WC: Looking to Slovakia

The Slovaks are preparing to meet evil Sweden for one more exhibition game before the World Championships.

As Santa Claus prepares his shopping list for this winter, Slovak coach Frantisek HoHoHossa has cast aside a few players on his naughty list (D-men Andrej Meszároš, Tomáš Starosta, Peter Podhradský, Ladislav Čierny and forwards Roman Kukumberg, Jiří Bicek, Andrej Nedorost, Martin Kulha, Miroslav Zálešák and Martin Hujsa) and called on a few good boys as 28 players battle for a spot on the final team.

The roster, to date:

Goalies: Jan Lasak, Rastislav Stana, Krazy Karol Krizan

Defensemen: Martin Strbak, Lubomir Visnovsky, Rene Vydareny, Richard Lintner, Zdeno Chara, Radoslav Suchy, Ivan Majesky, Jaroslav Obsut, Dominik Granak, Richard Stehlik

Forwards: Zigmund Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Miroslav Satan, Pavol Demitra, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Michal Handzus, Richard Zednik, Vladimir Orszagh, Marcel Hossa, Ladislav Nagy, Lubos Bartecko, Peter Pucher, Juraj Stefanka, Branko Radivojevic

Out of the 28, I would expect Vydareny, Pucher, Granak, Stehlik, and Stefanka to be cut rather easily. That would leave 23, and leave coach Frantisek Hossa with one tough decision to make.

I was surprised to see Andrej Meszaros cut, but the Slovak roster has depth not available to them in other years, so it's understandable. Leafs draft pick Roman Kukumberg, a fine defensive forward, is a surprise cut to me given the lack of defensive forwards on the current 28-man roster.

* In other Slovak news, Marian Gaborik has been ordered to pay ex-agents Alan Walsh and David Schatia a settlement for what is estimated to be between 225,000 and 425,000$ for giving him bad advice and NOT negotiating his contract.

The American Legal System, punishing victims since 1812.

(assist to the Ice Block for the story)


Vancouver Olympic Committee Releases 2010 Logo

As we approach the 2-week sports party known as the 2010 Winter Olympics here in Vancouver, buildings, roads, and other stuff is slowly being cobbled together in anticipation of rowdy German tourists and confused Americans.

Yesterday, the organizing committee unveiled the logo we'll be using as we invite the world to Vancouver

The official spiel:
A uniquely Canadian symbol of friendship, hospitality, strength, teamwork and the vast Canadian landscape has been selected as the emblem for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The Vancouver 2010 emblem is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional inukshuk, a stone sculpture used by Canada's Inuit people as directional landmarks across the northern Canadian lands of snow and ice. Over time, the inukshuk has become a representation of hope, friendship and an external expression of the hospitality of a nation that warmly welcomes the people of the world with open arms. The distinctive formations are found across the country - from coastlines to mountaintops, from small towns to large cities - in a variety of styles.

Well, to quote Lyke Skywalker: "What a piece of junk!"

It looks like they gave a 5 year-old kid a bunch of used crayons and told him to draw a sumo wrestler.

...and I bet they spent $1.2 mil to choose this logo, too

Friday, April 22, 2005


Worldly Wrap, Yo!

Checking out the latest news from the world of hockey...

1. Just days after declining a World Championships invitation, Pavol Demitra has changed his mind and will play for Slovakia after all (YAY!). His wife, Maja, is due to give birth to twins. After consulting with doctors, Pavol decided tht he could make the tournament after all.

2. It will be Canada vs the USA again, this time at the World Under-18 Championships. Canada edged the host Czechs 3-2 in OT, but the Czechs think the Canucks got a little outside help.

According to Czech coach Bretislav Kopriva, referee Frank Awizus of Germany was incompetant simply because he comes from a 'non-traditional' hockey country.

"One thing, that surprised me, were the referees. An important game like this should be ruled by the best referees. Not by referees from a country, that hasn´t got hockey tradition."
C'mon Bretislav, that's a pretty weak excuse.

3. There were reports earlier this morning that Roman Turek was to terminate his contact with the Flames to remain with Ceske Budejovice next season.
Roman's North American agent, Rich Winter, denied this story. (TSN LINK)

"His contract expires at the end of this year, he has an option to extend it," Winter said. "I think the Czech team is perhaps announcing their intention aware of this fact. But Roman has not entered into an agreement with them, he has not negotiated an agreement with them so his future is as yet undetermined like about 690 of his teammates and opponents.

"They're jumping the gun, but we'll see what the end result is once we know what the landscape is."
Look, if there is a lockout next season, Turek was obviously going to stay in his hometown and help his club maintain their Extealeague spot. Would he really cancel a $5mil contract just to stay home and drink real Budweiser beer? Probably not.

4. My pal Joeri Loonen has been covering the 1st Division World Hockey Championships in Eindhoven. He has an excellent look at Lithanian forward Dainius Zubrus. Like countryman Darius Kasparaitis, Zubrus took a strange route to the NHL and was about to be drafted by the evil Russian empire.

We all remember when Zubrus first came into the NHL with the Flyers as an 18 year-old in 1996-97. Zubrus was a good skating tall forward and he was great in the playoffs with 9 points in 19 games.

Big things were expected for the big Lithuanian, but he's never been able to make the 'leap' and produce the numbers expected of him. Playing alongside Jaromir Jagr in Washington never seemed to get him going and certain nagging injuries helped keep him out of the starlight.

While Zubrus is a pretty solid 2-way player, it seems he peaked rather early and as he is 26 years old now, the next NHL season should pretty much show if he'll ever be more than a above-average 2nd line winger.

5. The bloody yanks beat Canada 5-4 in the last pre-tournament exhibition game thanks to a Mark "The Streaker" Parrish goal.

I was just watching the highlights and lowlights. The national anthem singer certainly had a night she'll want to forget...

The pre-game national anthems were not sung after the singer, Caroline Marcil of Montreal, tried twice to complete the Star Spangled Banner but forgot the words each time. Finally, she decided to go back toward the dressing room, presumably to get the words, but when she returned to the ice the carpet slipped out from underneath her and she fell on her rear end. It was then decided to proceed with the opening faceoff without the singing of either anthem

It was almost as painful for me to watch as it was for her ass to collide with the ice.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


NHL: Replacements are not the answer!

After yesterday's NHL Board of Governor's meeting, it's obvious that using replacement players is no longer a viable option for the NHL.
Story Link

The official statement from the NHL:
What we have said consistently is, we're planning on having a season.

That doesn't change. We're planning on opening on time. That doesn't change. What we're making clear, though, is the circumstances under which this will come about: We're still planning on going forward, we're still planning on opening a season on time, but we're making clear that we're not going to open on time if we don't have a new CBA with our players."
Is the NHLPA pleased about these developments?

According to a LEAGUE source, they wouldn't be...
"That's a huge blow to the union's stance," said a league source last
night. "I really believe that Goodenow felt if the league decided to
use replacements, it would have been devastating for (NHL) revenues.

"How could you possibly sell season tickets and advertising to people using replacement players? It just wasn't going to work. The union would have loved to have seen it because I firmly believe that using replacements would have had the league knocking on the doors of the real players to get a deal done."
Any time a LEAGUE source talks about what the NHLPA is thinking, you know the opposite is probably true.

Really, why would the NHLPA care one way or another if the NHL decided to use replacement players? If the NHL isn't playing AT ALL, they aren't making ANY revenues. If the NHL does use replacement players, it would ultimately blow up on them and they still wouldn't be making any worthy revenue (not to mention destroying the product).

Even the teams in non-traditional markets like Carolina and Nashville know replacement players won't fly. The only players available as replacements would be the grumbly ex-NHLers like Lonny Bohonos and UHL-type players with absolutely NO connection to the NHL. Why pay NHL prices, or even $20, to watch low-quality hockey when you can watch junior hockey, ECHL hockey, AHL hockey, or even real UHL hockey, for the same or lower prices? If the Canucks ever resorted to using replacement players, I doubt many are going to choose the faux-NHL over the Vancouver Giants. If people wanted to watch lower quality hockey, they would watch the AHL! Given the AHL's extremely weak ratings in Canada on TV (They won't even air playoff games since they don't make enough $$), how do you expect replacement players to draw the interest of the viewing public?

The fans might cheer for laundry, but we cheer for GUCCI quality threads, and not cheap Taiwanese-made Black Market knock-offs.

If the NHLPA doesn't use this as another reason to stall negotiations, then this news is actually good for the fans. Maybe the NHL can focus on 'negotiating' with the players and the PA rather than contemplating stupid business moves that don't move the sport forward.

As Bob Goodenow put it:
We have stayed out of the replacement player debate since we thought it was a poorly conceived and ill-advised strategy," said NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow. "Finally, it appears the League has come to realize it would be bad for the fans, the sport and the business. The NHL should focus its efforts on reaching an agreement with the players."

I'm not the only one pleased with the news that the NHL has had some sense knocked into them. Check out the Hockey Bird's latest rant on this issue. It looks like he still has a lot of passion invested in the negotiation process, while others like me have moved on to baseball, curling, or bocce ball.

I see this as a sign that at least some of the owners have had enough of the stupid poker game here and want an end to the lockout. This is of course good for us. It is also bad for Mr. Bettman. He has not delivered to the owners what he's promised and will now (I hope) come to an agreement with the NHLPA. Upon reaching this agreement the owners will see that the lockout could have been much shorter if not avoided all together. I'd expect Donald Trump to make a cameo and say, "You're Fired". Bye bye Bettman, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Amen. These negotiations aren't going to negotiate themselves into a settlement. It's time for Bettman and Goodenow to let the games be played on the ice and not in the boardroom.


Americans Pilfer Another Son of a Famous Hockey Player

Once upon a time, the bloody American's coaxed Brett Hull, son of Canadian Bobby Hull, into their fold and he went on to kill Canada in the 1996 World Cup.

The Yankees are at it again, as they've added Yan Stastny, son of Hall of Famer Slovakian Peter Stastny, to their roster for the World Hockey Championships.

Forward Yan Stastny, son of Hockey Hall of Fame player Peter Stastny, has been added to the U.S. roster for the upcoming world men's hockey championship.

Yan Stastny, 22, played the past two seasons for Neurnberg of the German Elite League. The five-foot-10, 189-pound forward had 24 goals and 30 assists in 54 games this season.
Like Brett, Yan was born in the USA and wasn't likely to find a roster spot with his native country. Yan won't have a Hall of Fame NHL career like Brett, but he's definitely making his father proud nontheless. Yan seems to have very little connection with Slovakia (even his name, Yan, isn't spelt the Slovak way), so this isn't really hurt the feeling of any Slovakian hockey fans.
Still, it just seems a little weird to me to see the kin of Peter the Great playing for the evil USA.

Little known fact people may forget: Peter Stastny once played for Team Canada! Peter played for Canada at the 1986 Canada Cup as he had defected from Czechoslovakia and couldn't play for them.

Once Slovakia gained independence, Peter returned to them and played for them in the 1994 Olympic Games.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Conservatives looking to draft Right-Winger?

As Canadians face the prospect of the minority Liberal government forced out of office and another federal election being held, the right wing Conservative Alliance is looking for star candidates to run for them.

Interesting that they are thinking of drafting former Canucks Right-Winger Russ Courtnall to run for them for the riding of Victoria.
Story Link (Pay Registration Required)

The retired NHL player confirmed on Sunday he has been approached by the Conservative party to run for the nomination in the federal riding of Victoria.

"It’s definitely flattering, but I haven’t made a decision," said Mr. Courtnall, a right-handed shooter who played the bulk of his 15 NHL seasons at right wing."

"I am considering it. We’re having a family dinner right now and talking about it."

"If I decided to go, it’s obviously a huge change in our lifestyle. But my family comes first."
Courtnall has been semi-active in the Victoria community with a twice-run golf tournament for charity as well as owning some premium fishing resorts on the West Coast of BC.

When Courtnall was speeding his way through the NHL, I always envisioned that he would be a rock star or an actor if he wasn't in the NHL. It's kind of hard to think of the guy as a politician.

Still, if a bumblehead like Ken Dryden can make Canadian Parliament, why not Courtnall?


The Negotiating Treadmill Rolls On

I have some sad news to report, folks...please, brace yourselves.

The NHL and NHLPA met yesterday for six hours, and *gasp*NO progress was made.

Please don't die of shock and dismay, for I would miss you, my loyal readers.

"While we discussed many of the issues related to the concept that we introduced at our last meeting, we were unable to make any progress today," said NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin.

"I remain concerned that the NHL is not serious about developing new concepts together and remains fixated on measuring all of our proposed concepts against a linked hard-cap system. I fail to see how we can make any progress if the NHL maintains their single-track approach."

Forget concepts, it's all about egos and numbers. Until both sides realize that this lockout is hurting both sides badly, they'll keep shooting themselves in the foot with more unproductive talks.

As apathetic as I am to the whole negotiating process now, it really does bother me at how unproductive these negotiations continue to be. I know the NHL and many clubs are poorly run, and it bothers me, as an accountant/businessman, to see my favourite sport continue to be carried by short-sighted morons who happened to 'know the right people'.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Bertuzzi gets his day in Bettman's court.

NHL Kommissioner Gary Bettman finally found time in his busy schedule between cancelling the season, burnings ants under a magnifying glass, and watching All My Children to have a hearing for suspended Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi. TSN Story

Suspended Vancouver Canucks' forward Todd Bertuzzi will finally get a chance to appeal for his re-instatement. TSN has confirmed that Bertuzzi will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman next Tuesday to discuss his application for returning to the league.

It's about friggin time! I ranted previously about the league's dawdling on this issue:

There are more than enough hours in Gary Bettman’s day to deal with non-CBA issues. Bertuzzi, at the very least, deserves to have some clarity and closure to his banishment.

If Bettman wants him out for another year, then make the damn decision and give Bertuzzi some ability to plan his future. Why should Bertuzzi twist in the wind and have any potential ‘career’ in Europe or anywhere else be hampered because Bettman can’t sit down for an hour and make a decision?
Notice how the NHL suddenly 'found' time for Bertuzzi's hearing once Team Canada announced its complete World Championships roster?

Was this a calculated move by Bettman to punish Bertuzzi one last time? I wouldn't put it past the little weasel.

I'm not a betting man, but I would guess that since Big Bert has already suffered a great deal (playoffs, World Cup, and World Championships) that Bettman will allow him to play pro hockey again in the fall; in the NHL or Europe.

Of course, Betty and Berty will also be discussing the ramifications of Steve Moore's lawsuits. I won't speculate on that part of the hearing, but it may factor into Bettman's decision wether to keep Bertuzzi's suspension going or not.

Monday, April 18, 2005


The Devil gets his Due

Miroslav SatanIt is fitting, in this season of cancelled NHL hockey, that the evil powers have dominated the European hockey scene.

Case in point: Slovan Bratislava, who captured their 5th ever league title (out of a total of 12 Slovak Extraleague seasons) with a 3-1 Game 7 win over HKm Zvolen.

Miroslav Satan, the Prince of Darkness, had a goal and an assist in the deciding game. The oft-mentioned Orszagh-Hanzdus-Zednik trio went pointless in Game 7. All 4 of these guys, and Lubomir Visnovsky, don't have much time to rest as they are expected to join Team Slovakia as they prepare for the World Hockey Championships.

Jozef Stumpel

"It must be allergy season! "

- - -

Pelvis has left the building!

Playmaker extraordinaire Scott Gomez has won the 2004-05 Most Painful Injury award after suffering a broken PELVIS. Gomez was slammed awkwardly into the bench door and his career as an Elvis impersonator is in serious jeopardy.

Scott Gomez
"Hey, anyone seen my pelvis?"

- - -

A Giant new Training Facility for Vancouver

The Vancouver Giants had to be raking in some serious coin this year with vastly increased attendance and corporate sponsorship. The hockey fans of Vancouver showed the Giants a lot of love this season when the Canucks and the NHL abandoned the people.

Therefore, it's great to see Giants owner Ron Toigo re-invest a large portion of these profits back into his team and the community with a new training complex.

"This summer, the Giants, in conjunction with the Delta Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Department, are investing $1.2 million for the development of current and future major junior hockey players with the opening of a new, state-of-the-art training facility at the Ladner Leisure Centre.

The new 8000-square-foot structure will include a 2700-sq-ft. weight room, video room, officies, and a new dressing room. The two-floor structure will have the weight room on the top floor, which will be open to the public. This new facility will be one that is sure to rival many work-out areas in NHL cities"

Vancouver Giants

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Quick Hits from the Hockey Bong

Congrats are in order for Ottawa's Jason Spezza, who scored himself the AHL MVP award.

Before Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza was the seen as the 'next one'...that was until Ilya Kovalchuk came along and overtook him in their draft year (2001). Although the level of hype didn't reach Crosby levels, Spezza was compared to Mario Lemieux for his combination of size and playmaking.

Since then, Spezza has had a bit of a bumpy ride to stardome. He struggled at the World Junior Championships, found himself traded twice in the OHL, and was often critized for what others perceived as 'cockyness' (Just because a kid is outgoing and not always full of cliches does not make them 'cocky')

If Jacques Martin wasn't playing stupid mind games with him and benching Spezza for looking at him the wrong way, Spezza was buried behind the Sens depth at center. This past season would have been Spezza's 'breakout' year for sure, but we'll have to wait another year to really see him wreak havoc on the NHL scoring charts.

- - -

The World Under-18 Championships are under way in Plzen and Ceske Budejovice of the Czech Republic. You can find out more information on the official homepage here.

Canada began the tourney with a 2-1 squeaker win over the frustrating Germans.

As usual, the Germans exhibited little offensive confidence and played the 1-4 trap to frustrating near-perfection. This means, unfortunately, that the Germans will continue to play this style for the rest of the tournament.

These tournaments often give the younger IIHF officials a chance to develop some experience. The arena in Ceske Budejovice also seemed to give a 17 year-old kid a chance to develop experience as the arena announcer. I don't think I've ever heard an arena announcer's voice crack before...(If you watch The Simpsons, think of that zit-faced youth who works at the fast food places).

...and yes, the Slovaks have the tournament's tallest player (Vladimir Mihalik is 6'7") and it seems to be an organizational policy to take 'tall' forwards. Many Slovak pundits worry that the Slovak federation is too worried about size over skill (Well, many NHL scouts are, after all) and the Slovaks will have a very tough time winning games. So far, the Slovaks are down 1-0 to the Czechs, they barely tied Denmark 1-1 in an exhibition game, and they lost their first game to the USA.

- - -

Slovan Bratislava and Zvolen will party for all of the marbles as Game 7 goes tonight in Zvolen. Vladimir Orszagh really put the hurt to Lubomir Visnovsky's ankle, and the two national teammates aren't exactly friends right now :)

Visnovsky, despite the hampered ankle, did score last game and has been still effective in limit the chances of the Orszagh-Handzus-Zednik 3-headed monster.

- - -

World Championships

1. Scott Walker was the last man added to Team Canada's roster. That means no Todd Bertuzzi (*big sigh of relief*)

2. Russia announced its training camp roster.

Canucks fans find it incredibly strange that Fedor Fedorov was named to the preliminary roster, but Artem Chubarov was not. Chubarov, despite his incredible offensive limiations, is a very reliable defensive forward and a good skating footsoldier. Fedor, on the other hand, is a useless sack of skin.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Hot Pants and Random Rants

I just don't get the typical Hockey Pants. I really don't. They aren't even 'pants'

Why would you ever design and wear padded shorts for a game played on ice? Really, it doesn't make sense to me to wear big black diapers and then have to use half a roll of tape to make sure your stalkings don't fall down.

Why don't ice hockey players wear normally looking pants? Is there an actual reason why they continue to use this severly outdated design?

I know the Hartford Whalers experimented with 'Cooperalls' once upon a time, and they use stylish hockey pants in professional roller hockey.

With the talk of Reebok designing 'sleeker' uniforms, why not convert all hockey shorts into full fledged pants? You could do a lot, stylewise, to add to the look and design of your average hockey uniform.

Hockey players, especially Cale Hulse, have some powerful and shapely legs. Why not show them off a little? (/fanboy mode)

- - -

Lance Hornsby and a few others are really feeling a little empty now, with the playoffs supposed to be starting now and all.

I dunno about you, but the withdrawl symptoms don't affect me any longer. I've jumped into my other drug(baseball), and I just can't feel 'anything' since the season was cancelled long ago.

Still, I found this line rather amusing:

The venerable hockey pools will go dry as well this month. Run from either the living room, office, internet or local bar, there will be no attempts to sneak in Vladimir Orszagh as a sleeper pick, or that smug feeling of projecting Carolina, Anaheim or Calgary into the final round.
As much as I love Vlado Orszagh, I can't imaging having to 'sneak' a guy like him into a pool. Would anyone else other than me and a few others want him? I don't imagine too many scraps have broken out over the rights to Matt Johnson, either.

Also, I'd think 'drunk' would be a more apt adjective to describe anyone who takes Carolina, Anaheim, or Calgary, or Vancouver in their playoff pools. (Does not apply to hometown fans)

- - -

Sweden announced their roster for the upcoming World Championships, and they will count on Daniel Alfredsson and the Sedinbots to lead them victory. Oooooh, I'm soooooooo scared.

I hope they lose every friggin' game. Thank you.

- - -

I know there's a grassroots movement to 'Free Stanley' from the evil clutches of the NHL. Now, they have actually managed to take this battle to court, where an annoyed judge can finally tell them that it's useless to resist the force.

I'd really like to see the next-best league (the AHL, in this case) award the Stanley Cup to their winner. Do you really think Jay Bouwmeester would fight harder for the Stanley Cup rather than the Calder Cup? Even if it's 'tainted', I would say 'hell yeah!'.

We are not privy to the trust agreement between the NHL and Lord Stanley's estate, so it's hard to say what the true arrangement is. I just doubt anything will come of it, and we'll be back to talking about the next round of unproductive CBA talks.

- - -

Tom Benjamin of the Canucks Corner Blog has two thought-provoking posts on Illegal vs. Legal obstruction and also the CBA Negotiations. You should definitely go read them...because I said so!

One quick point on the obstruction: I see a lot of 'illegal' obstruction at the Giants games I go to, and I recall seeing quite a bit of it at the last Canucks game I went to and also when I watch NHL games on TV. I really doubt Booby Clarke's assertion that the NHL is devoid of 'illegal' obstruction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Kudos to Kronwall - Slovan Denied

Detroit Red Wings defensive prospect Niklas Kronwall has been named the Eddie Shore Award winner for the 2004/05 AHL season. News Release Link

The Eddie Shore Award is given to the top defenseman in the AHL, and Kronwall is the first European defenseman to get the honour.

The six-foot, 190-pound Swede went into Tuesday's game against the Milwaukee Admirals leading the Griffins in scoring with 12 goals and 38 assists in 73 games. Kronwall, 24, would be playing for the Detroit Red Wings earning $950,000 US this season - at least 10 times his current pay - had it not been for the lockout. He was a first-round draft pick, 29th overall, in 2000.
I remember when the Wings selected Kronwall, and I thought "Well, that was a waste of a pick. Say Hello to the next John Slaney!"

Kronwall was small, thought of as soft, and didn't seem like NHL material. Given my position on the smurfish Lubomir Visnovsky over the years, this seems rather foolish in hindsight.

Fast forward a few seasons and he has excelled at every level. Kronwall is not the next Lidstrom, like some Wings/prospects fans seem to be harping, but he's certainly good in his own right.

Say what you will about the Wing$ 'buying' players and buying success (Hull, Hasek, Shanahan, Lang, Chelios, Schneider, etc), Detroit would never have had such a long run of success without the amazing drafting and development record that they do. It also helps when a lot of moronic GM's pass on amazing talents like Jiri Hudler and they just fall into your lap at the 58th spot.

As an Anti-Wings fan, this just pisses me off :(...but give credit where credit is due...the Wings just rule when it comes to unearthing hidden gems and they make good use of their draft picks (Which are usually lower on the list).

Slovan DENIED!

I've been hard on Zvolen's line of Orszagh-Handzus-Zednik because they are three of my favourite players and I expect a lot (more) from them.

It was nice to see them get jiggy with it as they accounte for ALL 5 Zvolen goals in a 5-2 victory over evil $lovan Bratislava. Slovan leads the series 3-2 as they head back to Bratislava for Game 6.

Handzus and his hair led the way with 1 goal and 4 assists. Zednik had 2 goals and 2 assists while Vlado Orszagh pitched in with a goal and assist of his own. Zvolen outshot Slovan 37-17 and was clearly in full desparation mode.

Miroslav Satan, despite his recently invisibility, still leads the playoff scoring race with 14 goals and 6 assists in 16 games. Richard Zednik is 3rd with 9 goals and 9 assists in 15 games (Whiny Zdeno Ciger is in 2nd. Bleccch!!)
Richard Zednik

Vlado Orszagh, on the other hand, has just 4 goals and 2 assists in 15 games. I know he's the defensive foot soldier for Zvolen, but he's clearly capable of more. Now would be a great time for him to just open up a can of offensive whoop-ass on Slovan.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Queer Eye for the Greek Guy

Image hosted by

Here's the Red Wings' Chris Chelios dressed up to fluff pillows and light incense with the Motor City Mechanics.

I really doesn't seem like his colour. Bruise purple might be a better look.

Monday, April 11, 2005


World Championships Roundup

With the European leagues wrapping up, entrant countries are starting to name and shape up their rosters for the upcoming World Championships in Austria.

Lots of news and notes to make note of.

Canada against the world - GM Steve Tambellini has named most of Canada's roster.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few players here who have been sitting on their asses the whole winter. I don't like the idea of taking any player who hasn't being playing professional hockey this year, and I think this will bite Canada in the behind when all is said and done.

There is also one spot left open for whomever Team Canada may want to add later (I hope it's not Bertuzzi)

Martin Brodeur
Roberto Luongo
Marty Turco

Ed Jovanovski
Wade Redden
Chris Phillips
Robyn Regehr
Scott Hannan
Dan Boyle
Sheldon Souray

Joe Thornton
Dany Heatley
Brendan Morrison
Rick Nash
Kris Draper
Shane Doan
Mike Fisher
Simon Gagne
Patrick Marleau
Brenden Morrow
Kirk Maltby
Ryan Smyth

Our enemies from the USA have a pretty good looking roster for this tournament (for once, eh!)

Goalies: Ty Conklin (Edmonton, Wolfsburg/DEL), Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders), Tim Thomas (Boston, Jokerit Helsinki/FIN).

Defensemen: Hal Gill (Boston, Lukko Rauma/FIN), Jordan Leopold (Calgary), John-Michael Liles (Colorado, Iserlohn/DEL), Paul Martin (New Jersey, Fribourg/NLA), Aaron Miller (Los Angeles), Andy Roach (St. Louis, Lausanne/NLA).

Erik Cole (Carolina, Eisbären Berlin/DEL), Matt Cullen (Carolina, Cortina/ITA), Brian Gionta (New Jersey, Albany/AHL), Adam Hall (Nashville, KalPA Kuopio/FIN2), Jeff Halpern (Washington, Kloten/NLA), Mike Knuble (Philadelphia, Linköping/SWE), David Legwand (Nashville, Basel/NLB), Mike Modano (Dallas), Richard Park (Minnesota, SCL Tigers/NLA), Mark Parrish (New York Islanders), Doug Weight (St. Louis, Frankfurt/DEL), Mike York (Edmonton, Iserlohn/DEL).

The Czech team looks quite strong, and my pal David Schlegel has an in-depth preview over at

I have to say, however, that the Czech goaltending situation looks awfully weak right now. If we are going by this year's performances, then Tomas Vokoun, Adam Svoboda, and Milan Hnilicka are like a leaky drainpipe waiting to explode. Oh, and Milan Hejduk is skipping the WC's, in case you are one of his fanboys/girls.

Joeri from let me know that the following players won't be suiting up for Russia

Yevgeni Nabokov (ill wife)
Nikolai Khabibulin (has conflcit with federartion)
Ilya Bryzgalov (AHL-playoffs)
Dmitri Yeremeyev: prefers to play for Kazakhstan.
Ilya Kovalchuk (if Bilyaletdinov will be in coaching staff, Ilya won't go. Ilya blames his coach for early playoff exit)
Sergei Fedorov (probably concentrating on his 'music' career)
Sergei Zubov

- Olaf Kölzig will miss the WC's for Germany with an injured knee.

- Finland will have to do without Tuomo Ruutu, Teemu Selänne, Jere Lehtinen, Saku Koivu, Aki-Petteri Berg, Mikka Kiprusoff and Toni Lydman for various reasons.

I'll be sure to have more on Slovakia in the very near future. I know Pavol Demitra and Peter Bondra are out for sure. Jan Lasak will be the definite #1 goaltender while Rastislav Stana and Peter Budaj will fight for the backup role after they had outstanding seasons in their own right.


Pardubice crowned, Zvolen on the brink - Bring me a drink!

I am certainly glad this weekend of hockey is over. None of the teams that I want to win was actually winning, and the announcement of Pavol Demitra declining a World Championships roster spot just sucks a big nut for me.

Is it just me, or are the players on the American women's team a bunch of cocky jack-asses? They certainly haven't changed much since Nagano...

The champagne is flowly freely through the streets of Pardubice as they celebrate their first league title since 1989 (when Michael Jackson was less than 30% plastic).

It was a clean 4-game sweep as Pardubice won it at home in front of a capacity crowd by a 3-2 count.

Jan Lasak was, once again, THE MAN with a 43-save performance. In every game of this series, Zlin was peppering Lasak with scoring chances and was denied almost every single time. If Lasak isn't named Playoff MVP (When they get around to announcing the award winngers), then something is seriously wrong with the world. Lasak finished with a 94.97% Save Percentage in the playoffs and a 12-4 record. Zlin's Igor Murin was in second place, way down there with 92.96% Save Percentage.

Oilers fans will be happy to know that the slick Ales Hemsky led all playoff scorers with 14 points (4+10) in 16 games. My boy, Jaroslav Balastik, finished just behind Hemsky with 13 points in 17 games (4+9) while Martin Erat also had a fine playoff performance with 12 points (7+5) in 16 games.
I'm sure Oilers fans will love to know that Jiri Dopita picked up his 7th league title...he's so clutch, ya know? :)

Back to Lasak: It's high time that the NHL gave him a second chance when the real games resume.

Lasak has proven himself to be an excellent goaltending at the World Level, the AHL level, the ECHL level, and now in Europe (Czechia and Russia).

Lasak is only 25, yet he has quite a lot of experience. What NHL team couldn't benefit from a young, cheap, quality goaltender who really does want to play in the NHL? Write a letter to your favourite team's GM and let him know that there is a quality goaltender out there that could provide, at the very least, a good backup backstopper.

If Jon Casey, Jim Carey, and Patrick Lalime were given second chances, why shouldn't Lasak? (Answer, because they aren't European)

My advice to Lasak: You need to really put on a fine performance at the WC. It seems dumb NHL scouts ignore league play all too often and put a lot of stock into very short-term tournaments (like how the U18 affects rankings a great deal). We can't be seeing any of the World Cup follies that plagued team Slovakia - It's time to bring home the bacon.

- - -

Over in Slovakia, Slovan took a 3-1 series lead with a 2-0 at home in the Satandome.

Slovan has done an excellent job of neutralizing the Orszagh-Handzus-Zednik line, and the other Zvolen lines are not picking up the slack. It really boils down to the Slovan non-NHLers outperforming the Zvolen non-NHLers.

I certainly hope this week brings better news...

Saturday, April 09, 2005


The Wind is Evil Tonight

"If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?" ~Vince Lombardi

Did you sense something strange in the air tonight?
Did you start shivering for no apparent reason at all?
Did you notice the black clouds in the sky?
Are your pets acting weird?

The wind was evil tonight, and the teams with the blackest of souls were having the brightest successes.

Let's start with the Women's World Hockey Championships, which was the usual Canada vs. USA battle (version 2646148937)

After winning the last 8 WWHC's, and outscoring their opposition 38-0 in this tournament, Canada fell to the evil Americans 1-0 in an evil shootout.

With the shootout loss, Canada falls to something like 2-372 in International shootouts all time (men's and women's hockey). If Canada is the King of the hockey world, than the shootout is the poison in the royal sirloin.


Over in Czechia, in the birthplace of Goaltending Satan (one Dominik Hasek), Pardubice put a chokehold on Zlin with a 2-0 victory. Jan Lasak has obviously been channeling the old Hasek (Hasek was the goalie tending the twine when Pardubice used to win championships) and had another 40-save performance. Lasak has enough clean sheets to start his own orphanage.

Blah! Pardubice leads the series 3-0 and I'm afraid that Jan Lasak has enough 'sudes' to last him another 4 games.

In Bratislava, Satan (the Miroslav version) sat back and had his minions do the dirty work for him. $lovan won 5-2 as the Orszagh-Handzus-Zednik line was completely neutralized. Miro did absolutely nothing but laugh maniacally and roast weenies on his pitchfork. Nice work if you can get it.

...and as if I needed more bad news, I find out that PAVOL DEMITRA will not be playing for Slovakia at the upcoming World Hockey Championships.


Good thing I didn't have a surgery scheduled for today, because I'd probably end up with a second head and an extra eyeball.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Oh my god, they killed Kenny!

It sounds like Islanders defenseman Kenny Jonsson may be through with the NHL at tender age of 30. TSN story link.

Sweden's Sport-Expressen reported Wednesday that New York Islanders defenceman Kenny Jonsson has decided he will play the rest of his career in Sweden and not return to the NHL.

The newspaper, citing sources, said Jonsson's motivation centered around his family.
This isn't the first time that we've heard a Swedish NHLer cry about his love for home-cooked meatballs and 'family'. Kenny may be only 30, but he's already played 686 NHL games and has been with the Isles for 9 seasons.

Nicklas Lidstrom was very public about bringing up his kids in the Swedish education system, but ultimately the Red Wing$ showed him the money and he quickly forgot about home.

Markus Naslund has made the same proclamations, as has Peter Forsberg (who seems too competitive to just walk home and away from millions and the thrill of serious injury).

Nothing official is reported on the New York Islanders official website, and the Swedish tabloids aren't known for their accuracy, so I'll believe it when I see it.

Still, this would be a crushing loss for an Islanders team that is just barely above the playoff water level and was looking to make the leap forward. With Roman Hamrlik, Adrien Aucoin, and Janne Niniimaa and Jonsson, the Islanders have an exceptional top-4 grouping that can eat minutes like Paris Hilton on her T-Mobile cell phone.

Jorgen Jonsson, Kenny's older brother, played one year in the NHL and decided that he'd rather go back to Sweden and be a star rather than be a 'role player' in the NHL.

Kenny, on the other hand, is a well-paid star and doesn't have that same motivation to go back. I find it hard to believe that his kids are really suffering in the rich New York burbs, and that Kenny really wants to pay the insane tax rates that he'll get hit with back in Sweden.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


You're too Shy-Shy. Hush-Hush, Eye to Eye

A look at the latest news and notes from the hockey world.

1. Pavel Kubina was hit with a rather big spanking for some recent public comments against referee Petr Bolina. (English Language Link Here)

NHL defenceman Pavel Kubina was banned for 15 games and fined 200,000 koruna ($1,050 Cdn) by the Czech Elite League on Wednesday for criticizing a referee.

Kubina, a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning playing for Vitkovice in his native Czech Republic during the NHL lockout, said referee Petr Bolina was bribed and put on an unprofessional performance officiating the seventh game of the playoff semifinal between Vitkovice and Zlin.
If there is an NHL season in September, then this fine won't mean much.

Still, it does seem rather harsh, doesn't it? Why 15 games?

2-3 years ago (I don't remember the exact date), the referees just got fed up with the physical and verbal abuse they received. (Just recently, a Slovak Leaguer was banned 5 months for shoving a linesman) The officials threatened to walk out on the league finals if the league administrators didn't start supporting them more and punishing players and coaches for attacking them. The league agreed, and now we have proof of the new system.

While European officiating is known for its lack of quality and its' members taking bribes, I was glad to see the Czech Extraleague finally give some support to the officials and follow through. North American hockey fans wouldn't believe some of the crap these officials go through. Screaming hockey parents are the least of their worries.

The interesting twist to this story is that the Extraleague is asking the Czech National squad to keep Kubina off of the World Championships roster. Given the importance of the event to the Czechs, I could see the National squad telling the League to mind their own business.

Still, this kind of thing has never been asked of the National team before. We'll see what kind of precedent is set.

2. Sidney Crosby - Is he bored of being told how good he is?

Probably not, eh!, but he did pick up FIVE more awards and was named to the QMJHL 1st All-Star Team. (Story Link Here

The booty:
Michel Briere Trophy (League MVP)
Offensive Player of the Year
Jean Beliveau Trophy (Top Scorer)
Michael Bossy Trophy (Top Pro Prospect)
Paul Dumont Trophy (Personality of the Year)

So, should Sir Sidney add another room in his parent's house for all of his hardware?

"I don't actually get to keep those big trophies, we get a puck and it doesn't take up that much room," Crosby said with a chuckle. "It's fun to be here and it's fun to win things, but you look at it as a bonus."

I guess not.

Extraleague Playoff Update

HKm Zvolen 4 - Slovan Bratislava 1 (Series tied at 1)
Game Summary

Zvolen got 2 goals and an assist from ex-Minnesota Wild forward Peter "The Breakaway Specialist" Bartos to beat evil $lovan and tie the series.

Hame Zlin 1 - Pardubice 4 (Pardubice leads series 2-0)
Game Boxscore

It was the same story in Game 2 for Zlin - They got the opening lead, outshot the horsemen, and ultimately lost the game.

Martin "The Nose" Altrichter did get the start for Zlin in goal, but he wasn't able to conjur the same magic he had last year. I'd expect Igor Murin back in the nets for Game 3.

"It's so hard to find a good barber in Zvolen"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Injured WJC18 Invitation Declines Brule

It appears that Vancouver Giants center Gilbert Brule will miss the upcoming World Under-18 Championships due to some rather well hidden injuries.
TSN Report

After already suffering a major disappointment this week when his Vancouver Giants were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs, Gilbert Brule experienced more of the same today when multiple injuries forced him to decline an invitation to join Canada's entry at this month's 2005 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships.

The North Vancouver native has been playing through a number of injuries this season. He played with a separated shoulder for much of the second half of the season. Most recently, while leading the Giants playoff charge, he has been playing through injuries to his elbow and lower back, and as he said today, these injuries have taken their toll.

I suppose these injuries could explain Brule's somewhat disappointing production in the series versus Kelowna. If Brule was playing through pain and injuries, he did an amazing job hiding it. From the outside, Brule looked fiery and competitive and didn't seem to be bothered by any injuries.

Still, I wonder if Brule would fight through injuries if the 2005 Entry Draft wasn't cancelled. Right now, Brule has no incentive to play at the WJC18 if he's in pain...but if there was a draft, it would be another story.

Extraleague Playoff Update - Evil Strikes First

Let's start in Slovakia, where evil $lovan Bratislava got a game-winning goal from (Miroslav) Satan himself and won 3-2 over Zvolen on enemy territory.

Slovan pulled a switch and put their usual #1, Pavol Rybar, back in net to start the series (Sneaky bastards), and he did well in thwarting most of Zvolen's balanced attack.

Over in Czechia, Pardubice weathered Zlin's storm and stole a 4-2 victory.

Zlin certainly wasn't showing any fatigue. Jaroslav Balastik, the official prospect of Hockey Rants, set up spunky dog-lover Martin Erat for the game's first goal just 35 seconds into the game. Zlin peppered Pardubice's Jan Lasak with 42 shots in total, and really outplayed the dark horsemen from Pardubice. Lasak, as he has been this entire playoffs, was spectacular and composed.

It's unfortunate that Zlin's goalie, Igor Murin, decided to ruin the party by letting in 4 goals in just 12 shots. Frustrating Oilers forward Ales Hemsky took full advantage of Murin's poor play and was the offensive star with a pair of goals and an assist.

Who will Zlin start in goal for Game 2? An interesting story from last year is that Igor Murin went down with injuries before the finals. Backup Martin "The Nose" Altrichter stepped in and dominated during the final series. Altrichter ended up winning Playoff MVP for his play, and it's not far fetched that coach Ernest Bokros could just throw Altrichter back into the fire and hope that lightning strikes twice.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Czech and Slovak League Playoffs: A look at the Final matchups

This year's Czech and Slovak Extraleague finals really pit the best of the best against one another. Thanks to stockpiling NHL players on top of already strong rosters, the 4 combatants proved the old adage "The cream rises to the top."

Here's a look at the matchups.


HC Hame Zlin (104 points, 1st overall) vs. HC Pardubice (97 points, 3rd overall)

NHLers and Notable Players:
Zlin: Petr Cajanek, Radek Bonk, Jaroslav Balastik, Petr Leska, Martin Erat, Roman Hamrlik
Pardubice: Jan Bulis, Ales Hemsky, Milan Hejduk, Jiri Dopita, Jan Lasak, Petr Prucha, Michal Mikeska

This matchup is historic since it will pit 2 Slovak starting goaltenders against each other for the first time in Czech League history. Former Nashville Predators prospect Jan Lasak (still Slovakia's #1 guy) will tend nets for Pardubice and face Igor Murin, another product of the Trencin machine. This fact isn't lost on many Czechs who decry the lack of their own great goaltending these days and consider Slovak hockey to be inferior.

This matchup will also pit the top defensive team (Zlin) versus the top offensive team (Pardubice) and will also showcare a contrast in styles - Zlin's blue-collar work ethic and attention to detail versus Pardubice's free-flowing star power.

Zlin: Last year's champions had a very tough road to the finals, facing a very strong 8th place team in Litvinov and then having to play 7 rough games against a determined Vitkovice squad. Zlin's smallish defence corps could be taken advantage of by aggressive forechecking, which is precisely how Vitkovice was able to break through. Luckily for Zlin, Pardubice's forwards are more finesse in nature and unlikely to cause the same ruckus along the boards. Zlin has more than enough talented defensive forwards (especially Cajanek and Bonk) to handle the deep forward artillery that Pardubice will fire away with.

Pardubice: Jan Lasak is generally a hot/cold type of goalie, and he's been white-hot through the entire playoffs. While Murin is the more steady of the two goalies, Lasak certainly has more talent and it will be bad news for Zlin if Lasak hasn't cooled down at all.

Pardubice, even with some off-season additions, still has one of the weakest defensive units of all playoff teams. Zlin has enough top talent to take advantage of this and if they get an early lead, Pardubice could be in trouble.

The horsemen (their logo is a stallion) will have to rely on their powerful offence, which feature the top 3 scorers in the Extraleague (Mikeska, Hejduk, and Bulis) and has carried them despite a coaching chance and questionable team character.

Prediction: I believe last year's champions, Hame Zlin, will be able to formulate a plan to shut down most of Pardubice's top guns and then take advantage on the counter-attack. Since Zlin is a bit tired out from their series against Vitkovice, Pardubice will and can take advantage of this to possibly win 1 or 2 of the first 2 games in the series.
I'll take Zlin in 7.


HKm Zvolen (107 points, 1st place) vs. Slovan Bratislava (107 points, 2nd place)

NHLers and Notable Players:
Zvolen: Richard Zednik, Vladimir Orszagh, Michal Handzus, Peter Bartos
Slovan: Miroslav Satan, Lubomir Visnovsky, Zdeno Ciger

Goaltending: Zvolen has the league's best goalie in Krazy Karol Krizan. The d00d with the mohawk haircut led the league in Save Percentage in both the playoffs and regular season. When he's not talking to his blocker, he can be counted on to make the big saves.

Slovan, on the other hand, kept changing between starter (and former Slovak #1) Pavol Rybar and Czech backup Pavol Barta (Dominik Hasek's backup many moons ago). It looks like Barta will get the starting job to start the finals and there is a considerable edge here for Zvolen.

Slovan: Slovan is deep and talented at every position and their roster has every type of player you could want to use puzzling together a playoff contender. As is always the case with Slovan, they have bought some of the best talent that other Extraleague teams have developed. Together with Miroslav Satan (Who is on fire right now), the unretired Zdeno Ciger, and super Lubomir Visnovsky, Slovan can roll out 4 units of good players. There are rarely any easy shifts against this team. They managed to deconstruct a very high-powered Trencin squad, which goes to show that this isn't your grandmother's Slovan Bratislava (think Sparta Prague and NY Rangers). If it wasn't for their revolving goaltender system, they would be an easy favourite.

Zvolen: This team has plenty of aging, yet effective, offensive-minded veterans to counter Slovan's younger guns - So much so that the NHL line of Zednik-Handzus-Orszagh is basically the 'defensive' conscience on the team. Zvolen, despite having a recent phobia to playing young players, has more of a 'home-grown' feel than $lovan.

Zvolen is also a much bigger and more physical team than Slovan, and was criticized by some Slovak pundits for being too 'North American', a so-called disease brought back by Richard Zednik and Vladimir Orszagh.

Their top scorer, Richard Sechny, finished only 8th in overall scoring and shows just how Zvolen relies on a more 'balanced' approach to its offence over the star-studded Slovan roster. Handzus and Zednik were only 12th and 13th respectively, but have been more effective in the playoffs.

Prediction: I like Zvolen's physical defence and advantage in goal. Unlike Trencin, I believe Zvolen will be able to stop Miroslav Satan from wreaking havoc and will be able to get scoring from all lines. For Slovan, I have to admit I am rather impressed with their defensive record this year. In past seasons, Slovan usually cruised on pure talent alone and always seemed to be a champion full of holes. While Slovan may not have confidence in their usual #1 goaltender, Libor Barta is still effective in his own right.

Prediction: Zvolen in 7 (As if I'd ever take $lovan!)

Monday, April 04, 2005


More Cheap Whine from the NHL

So, the NHL has decided to a file a second complaint against the NHLPA, TSN.CA REPORTS

As expected, the NHL has filed a second complaint of "unfair labour practice" against the NHL Players' Association with the National Labour Relations Board in the United States.

This complaint is centred on the NHLPA's apparent policy of decertifying player agents if they choose to represent replacement players. The league had threatened to file the complaint if the NHLPA did not provide a satisfactory response to correspondence of more than a week ago. That apparently did not happen, so the filing with the NLRB was made this afternoon.

The NHL is just like a spoiled little brat that complains to mommy because the babysitter wouldn't let him stay up after 9 o'clock.


Opening Day Jitters

The Vancouver Giants set a record for attendance in a junior game held in British Columbia with 16,183 fans, but it wasn't enough for the Giants as they succumed to the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 on Saturday. The Rockets, even without Shea Weber, were a tough defensive peanut to crack and took the series 4-2.

Game Summary

Disappointing? A little...but the series was great, the hockey was close and intense, the Giants played well, and the Rockets were simply a much better team through the series and the entire season.

Gilbert Brule's production in the series (6GP 1-3-4 PTS) and Andrej Meszaros' play in the last 3 losses were somewhat disappointing.

As for Adam Courchaine, this was his last kick at the can as this was his 'overage' year and he'll be in the AHL next season. Adam played with more intensity and urgency in the playoffs than he did cruising through the regular season. Adam finished with 4 goals and 3 assists in the 6 games, and he'll be a fine pro player if he learns to maintain that same level of competitive fire night in and night out.

With the Giants out of the playoffs, my attention will turn to Major League Baseball.

Sure, I'd rather be watching NHL Playoff hockey, but I'm also a big baseball fan. What I can appreciate about baseball is...

1. I can turn on the TV pretty much every single night and be assured that there will be a game on TV. With hockey, there are some nights (like stupid Canucks Pay-Per-View games) where there is no hockey to watch when I'm really in the mood for some. Baseball is a good mistress in that there are many teams playing many games and at least one will be viewable in Vancouver.

2. Baseball can be a 'passive' sport to watch. When I'm at my computer blogging or chatting away, I don't have to divert my full attention to keep up with the game. I can watch certain pitches, and listen to the descriptions to get a good idea what is on...not to mention the 1,000,000 breaks in the play. With hockey, you can't really enjoy the game unless you pay some close attention to it.

So, until the World Championships start up next month, I'll have a great diversion to keep my sporting jones in check.

On that front, here are my predictions for the MLB Standings and Award winners.



AL MVP: Eric Chavez, Oakland
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
AL CY YOUNG: Roy Halladay, Toronto
NL CY YOUNG: Roger Clemens, Houston
AL ROY: Jeremy Reed, Seattle
NL ROY: Jeff Francis, Colorado (Picking a Colorado pitcher? Yeah...)
AL MANAGER: Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox
NL MANAGER: Bobby Cox, Atlanta

OK, back to hockey...

The Women's World Hockey Championships are now underway and Canada won a very easy warm over Kazakhstan 13-0.

The poor Kazakhs had a 15 year-old girl in net and I don't think they got an official shot on goal during the first two periods. It will be hard for women's hockey to get more 'propers' until there are more than just two competitive teams.

...and the headline for this article reads: "Crucial week for NHL"

What the hell is so crucial about *this* week?

The crucial week already passed when the NHL declared the season dead.

The eleventh hour has come and gone," Detroit Red Wings goalie Curtis Joseph said. "If a deal couldn't get done in the eleventh hour, it's hard to tell what (urgency) there is now."


Saturday, April 02, 2005


Weekend News & Notes

I just witnessed the outdoor charity game they played in Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, in which Team East (aka Team Gilmour) beat Team West (Team Staios?) by an 11-8 score.

Despite the total lack of defense and intensity, I have to admit it was mildly entertaining to watch. They had the goalies (Brodeur and Joseph) miked and Randork/Healy were often conversing with them during lulls in their respective ends.

It was interesting to see a mix of current stats (Todd Bertuzzi, Ryan Smyth, Mike Comrie) mixed in with some retired stars (Mike Gartner) and some 'other' retired players (Steven Rice, Joe Cirella...odd choices. Did Tyler Wright turn them down?)

It was also strange to watch the game where the rink is surrounding by an empty football field. You couldn't see the fans in the stands unless they panned up far enough. The lights really glared off of the ice and it was very hard to see the lines and the puck. The players were also skating about 3 miles an hour, but there were quite a few breakaways and scoring chances. For once, Martin Brodeur did a fairly good job behind a crappy defense.

It was also raining during the game and the players had to battle with water and wind...yeah, you heard me.

The Vancouver Giants return home to Vancouver tonight facing elimination. The Kelowna Rockets won a fight-filled (after regulation time, anyway) 3-2 game on Friday night. As has been the case with every game this series, last night's game was thoroughly entertaining and a nail biter right down to the end. If the Giants should fall to the Rockets, this series will surely remind Vancouver fans of the 1989 1st round series against the Flames. The underdog Canucks took a powerhouse Flames team to seven games before succumbing to Joel Otto's controversial OT goal.

TSN's Bob McKenzie says we should brace ourselves for some pretty radical rule changes when the NHL stats up again.

Everyone knows changes are coming to the NHL's on-ice product, once it gets back on the ice, of course. Whether it's in the form of wider blue lines or more penalties being called or the introduction of the shootout or smaller goalie equipment, all these changes are coming, of that there is no doubt.

The big question, though, is how much further will the changes go.
How much further? How about BIGGER nets?

Is this picture of a proposed net a clever April Fool's Joke or more of Gary Bettman's bright ideas to fix the NHL's on-ice product.

Meanwhile, the AHL says the rule changes aren't really working for them. Watching the on-ice product, and noting the the Goals Per Game is only a little bit higher than previous seasons, it's obvious that the AHL rule changes are more cosmetic than anything.

Really, I'd figure the small increase in AHL offense is an effect of having a higher quality pool of talent (Guys like Jason Spezza, who wouldn't normally be there) and little to do with slightly wider lines.

Czech/Slovak League Playoffs Update

*ding**dong*, The clock has struck midnight

Hame Zlin fought back from a 3-1 series deficit in their series against Vitkovice thanks to a Game 7 win by a 4-1 score.

The game started well enough for Vitkovice. A dumb penalty by Vaclav Varada gave a penalty shot chance to Petr Cajanek just 4 minutes into the game, but impish Vitkovice backstop Marek Pinc stuffed Cajanek's solo effort,. Later, Varada made up for his blunder by giving Vitkovice a 1-0 lead in the 2nd period.

Vitkovice's lack of discipline would finally cost them as Petr Hubacek and Pavel Kubina both took penalties at 18:19 of the 2nd period. Petr Cajanek, still seething from missing his penalty shot chance, buried the biscuit to tie the affair in a easy 5-on-3 combination.

Petr Hubacek (The ex-Flyer) took another bad penalty early in the 3rd period, and Martin Erat made him pay with another Power Play goal. Cajanek would add 2 more in the period and notch a hat trick to send Zlin to the finals against Pardubice.

Before this game, Cajanek was really struggling offensively with just 2 goals and 4 assists in 12 playoff games. It's about time he got going, because Pardubice has a lot more fire power to deal with than the tough Vitkovice squad.

Over in Slovakia, the mighty Dukla Trencin machine fell in Game 7 to evil Slovan Bratislava by a whacked out 8-2 tally!, thanks to 3 goals by the devil himself (Miro Satan). Satan now has 13 goals in 12 playoff games and leads all playoff scorers with 18 points.

Despite the fact that $lovan kept changing goalies every 10 minutes during this series, they were able to effectively break down the usually tight Trencin defensive shell and hold the Big 3 off of the scoreboard just enough to win the series.

Marian Gaborik was the only effective player for Trencin in Game 7 with 1 goal and 1 assist while Pavol Demitra was -4 (with 1 assist) and Marian Hossa was -2 and pointless. It's such a shame that Trencin was blown out so badly in Game 7, but it also exposed the lack of quality goaltending on Trencin's roster.

Now the finals are set as HKm Zvolen (Handzus, Orszagh, Zednik), who have cruised through the playoffs so far, take on Slovan Bratislava (Satan, Visnovsky, Ciger) in a battle of the Top 2 teams (Both finished with 107 points this season).

It should be pretty obvious which team I'll be cheering for ;)

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