Saturday, December 31, 2005


WJC: Liveblogging the USA/Canada Game

Here I am at the Pacific Coliseum and the place is packed and pumped. The media centre was also packed (as you'd imagine).

I asked again, but there are no media guides for Switzerland or Norway :(

A heavy anti-Amerikan atmosphere and, given the political things going on out there, this is definitely 'the game' of the tournament. Ahh, lots of boos for the ref.

Ahh, it's VINNERBORG, the evil Swede robot!!!

One thing I like about International games is that they don't make you stand through the anthem(s) before the game. Nope, the players stand in a row and the captains exchange banners and phone numbers.

Well, here comes Team Canada and the place is LOUD!! Damn, my ears are almost bleeding :)


The first period is, this is the first time in a long time that I've been to a game with this much atmosphere. This is 'edge of the seat' stuff. 2-1 for the good guys after 1.

  • Wendel Clark gave an interview during a TV timeout. He got a good cheer when introduced, then when he mentioned the Toronto Maple Leafs he was booed loudly ;)

  • I don't really like these new uniforms. The logos are small and the font sucks. They do make the players look thinner. Women would like them :)

  • This ref sucks!! Vinnerborg should not do any further games.

  • "LUUUUUUUUC!" - Wow, this guy is already popular and he has yet to play a game for the Canucks.

  • Lots and lots of people wearing Team Canada uniforms. Vancouver is a preppy town and people don't generally wear hockey unis to the games. It's nice to see a huge sea of red and white in the stands.

  • OOOH, they are giving away a car! Bobby Orr is going to be the 'judge' and he gets a standing ovation and a "BOBBY, BOBBY" chant. Wow! Too bad I can't get a free Chevy Impala.

  • ---

    End of the 2nd... 2-2 thanks to a goal by Peter Mueller. How did Canada get caught sleeping on their own PK?

  • Vinnerborg still sucks

  • The mid-period interview? Bubbles and someone else from The Trailer Park Boys. If you are Canadian, you know this show :)

  • With as much action as there has been, I am surprised both teams don't have 25 shots apiece right now. The official scorekeeper must be stingy tonight.

  • It's shaping up to be a good 3rd frame.


    Well, it was a great 3rd frame, albeit marred by that ugly incident.
    My game recap is up at right HERE.

    Yep, Jack Johnson won Player of the Game after the crap he pulled.

  • Vinnerborg was MUCH MUCH better in the 3rd period. He actually seemed to let the players played and called the good calls in that period. Maybe he'll have learnt something tonight.

  • More Cowbell? Yep, someone in Section 22 had a cowbell.
    Do cows even wear cowbells any more? That question is now on my mind...

  • The media centre...definitely pro-Canadian :)

  • Coach Brent Sutter looks like he gets about 2 hours of sleep a week. When this tournament is all over, he needs to reward himself with a good 15 straight hours of sleep and a shot of NyQuil.

  • To all readers and passers-by, have a great New Year's Eve and let's hope 2006 is an even better year for all of us.


    New Year's Weekend Musings

    I attended the Finland/Norway game last night, and it was refreshing to see German ref Frank Awizus call far fewer penalties than the damn Russian and Swedish refs from the previous nights. There weren't many penalties to call, but I saw a few skirmished and unimporant away-from-the-play things let go that the other refs would have called. The game started at 8:30(!), but went by quickly as there were few stoppages in play. Tight and efficient, at least for Finland.

    Finland/Norway game recap here.
    Other games recapped here.

    Poor Norway had the support of the crowd as it was obvious that they were badly outmatched. I had to laugh when the crowd was chanting "Let's go Norway!" and then the Finns scored a quick goal as if to say "Shut the hell up, fools!"

    Now, the name Frank Awizus seemed familiar to me, so I googled my own site and VOILA!

    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."

    Well, Awizus was pretty damn competant last night and a refreshing change from the previous games. To those who think this is just Canadians whining, it's not. People (players and media) from all countries are shaking their heads at the poor quality of officiating at this tournament.

  • Oh, damn Czechs beat the Slovaks 5-3. Poor Michal Valent (my boy) has a save percentage of 75% and has probably lost the starting job for the rest of the tourney...on the other hand, the 1-2 Slovaks have the #1 and #2 scoring leaders in Marek Zagrapan and Stanislav Lascek.

  • Other weekend stuff:

  • The Hockey News has a year-in-review article for people who like those sorts of things.
    Dec. 19: Larry Robinson resigns as Devils coach, chalking up his decision to stress headaches.

    Later that day, team doctors officially diagnose Robinson’s ailment as “MissingStevensAndNiedermayeritis of the roster”
    Is that the disease that has turned Martin Brodeur into a below-average goaltender, or was that simply "OverratedBythegeneralmediaandfanbaseitis??"

  • Lost in the midst of this WJC action and the NHL is the fact that our WHL Vancouver Giants are now on an 8-game winning streak and are tied for first in their division! All of this without Gilbert Brule. Way to go, boys!

  • Canada lost the Spengler Cup final to Magnitogorsk 8:3 :(

  • I know I panned Luc Bourdon a bit when he was selected by the Canucks in the first round of the 2005 draft. He looked like a bit of a weak pick, but that also had to do with my ignorance of who he was. Now, everything he has done since being drafted has proven me wrong and I'm happy to see the Canucks appear to have a real gem on their hands. Bourdon has been great offensively and defensively for Team Canada at the WJC so far. Goalie Corey Schneider, on the other hand, looks a little shaky.

  • It's Canada vs. the Evil Empire (aka The United States of America) in the big matchup this afternoon. It would be nice to see Bourdon score the winner on a floater past Schneider :)

  • My November St. Louis Blues team report is now up at

  • Have a good weekend! Go Canada Go! (grrrrrr. Damn yanks!)

    Friday, December 30, 2005


    Blues Swoop in for Vladimir Orszagh

    Hey! Not only is Vladimir Orszagh coming back to the NHL, but he's joining the St. Louis Blues.

    Sorry, Phoenix, but you can't sneak and old, cheap pro past Larry Pleau. (at least this one doesn't suck ala Stephane Richer, Bob Bassen, Dave Ellett, ad nauseum) -- The basement-dwelling St. Louis Blues have picked up Vladimir Orszagh off of waivers, Sportsnet has learned, a day after the forward was signed by the Phoenix Coyotes.

    Orszagh, who has been playing in Sweden since the lockout, had to clear waivers as a member of the Coyotes, meaning another team could swoop in to claim the right winger. Enter the Blues, who sport the worst record in the NHL at 9-22-4 with 22 points. He is expected to join the club sometime during the next seven days, once the immigration process is completed.

    Phoenix had signed Orszagh to a deal reportedly worth $625,000. He's played 82 games for Nashville in 2003-04, scoring 16 goals and adding 21 assists.

    "Vladimir is the type of player who can excel in many different situations, including at both wing positions," Blues genearl manager Larry Pleau said. "We are excited to add him to our organization, and I anticipate that he will make a strong contribution to the Blues for the next couple of years as a solid forward."

    I'm sure he's pissed at having to join a club that has a 0.000000000000000000% chance at the playoffs, but I'm quite happy that the Blues got a little more Slovak again. Ever since the Blues got rid of their Slovaks, one by one, the Blues have been getting that much worse.

    Coincedence? I think not!


    WJC Day 4: It's "Officially" Crappy!

    I took the day off from covering the WJC yesterday, but I did catch the second half of the Canada/Norway game. For the second straight game, Norway got great goaltending, but we were also subjected to the worst officiating ever. recaps here.

    I thought Swedish ref Marcus Vinnerborg was horrible, but last night's game took the proverbial cake. It was long, frustrating, and basically a battle of Power Plays and patience.

    ...most of the game was a snoozer because Russian referee Rafail Kadyrov rarely removed the whistle from his mouth. He seemed to take the International Ice Hockey Federation's instruction to crack down on hooking and obstruction to heart, calling 21 minors in the first 33 minutes of the game.

    He called 45 in total and incurred the wrath of the 16,083 at Pacific Coliseum several times as the game had little flow and the Canadians were unable to generate much excitement, with the exception of three goals in a two-minute span in the second period.
    After the game, Brian Burke said that it was impossible for there to be a more incompetent referee. He also criticized the linesmen for making mistakes.

    Now, this quote irks me:

    ''I want the players to know the level of play that they can play so that they can show their skills,'' Bob Nicholson said. ''At this time, we knew there would be a learning curve with the officials. Hopefully they're going to get on a curve here that it's going to be more consistent."
    This is a major international tournament. This is not a time for teaching and learning 'new' methods! If the standard wasn't in place before the tournament, subjecting the fans, the teams, and everyone else to crappy and inconsistent officiating is the wrong thing to do! The officials at any IIHF tournament, especially a major A-level tournament, should be the best of the best. There should not be 'junior' officials or some random guy from a Russian tavern.
    Can we expect this kind of crap in the Olympics or will we get NHL referees that will do a much better job? (Providing Mick McGoo is not one of them)

    In other WJC news, the 2005 Canadian Junior Team that destroyed everything in its path was named Team of the Year by the Canadian Press.
    Poor HC Ceske Budejovice gets robbed again!

    Thursday, December 29, 2005


    Vladimir Orszagh returnes to the NHL with Phoenix? has reported that Vladimir Orszagh, one of my favourite players, has decided to leave evil Sweden and sign with the Phoenix Coyotes (one of about a dozen teams interested in his services)

    From the mouths of devils.

    I Coop Arena pågår just nu en presskonferens med anledning av att Vladimir Orzagh skrivit på ett två års avtal med Phoenix. Denna säsong och nästa. Enligt det gällande avtalet med Luleå Hockey har han rätt att skriva på för en NHL klubb men enligt avtalet mellan Internationella Ishockey Förbundet (IIHF) och NHL har han INTE rätt att göra detta. Avtalet mellan IIHF och NHL är klart med att alla spelarövergångar skulle vara klara innan den 15 augusti 2005. Om Orzagh ändå väljer att fara riskerar han att bli avstängd nästa säsong. Vi vill betona att Luleå Hockey har inte gjort något fel och avtalet mellan Orzagh och Luleå Hockey är glasklart med att han får gå, men IIHF tillåter inte att han spelar för Phoenix eller någon annan NHL klubb.

    And you'll notice the frickin' Swedes can't even spell his name right! :)

    Update: Here is an item from Sportsnet.

    The Phoenix Coyotes have signed former Nashville Predators forward Vladimir Orszagh, Sportsnet has learned. Orszagh, who has been playing in Sweden since the lockout, still has to clear waivers as a member of the Coyotes, which means another team—specifically his former club the Predators—might swoop in an reclaim the right winger. The deal is reportedly worth $625,000. Orszagh played 82 games for Nashville in 2003-04, scoring 16 goals and adding 21 assists

    Orszagh made a name for himself in Sweden back in 2000-01 when he left the Islanders to play for Stockholm. Orszagh tore through the Swedish Elitserien with 23 goals in 50 games (Impressive totals for a boring, defensive league). This breakout season put him back in the spotlight and the Predators took a chance on him...and he became a key member of the Vowel Line and so on.

    This year, he recovered from a major knee injury and decided to rehab in Sweden before making his way to the NHL. In 19 games for Lulea, Orszagh had 8 goals and 5 assists along with a +12 (!).

    I'm still waiting for an item on the official Coyotes site.



    Day 3 wasn't exactly the best day for 'my teams', although I still had an enjoyable time at the USA/Finland game. Full game recap here.

    (The other games are recapped here.)

    Americans: Our friendy neighbours? Ha!

    Notes and totes:
  • The crowd was vehemently Anti-Amerikan and I loved it :)
    There were at least 10 different chants of "Let's go Finland!" or "U.S. Sucks!", and I'm sure the Finnish players were shocked as nuts to be playing in front of such a 'home' crowd.

  • My girlfriend claims that Americans cheer for Canadians at hockey games that don't involve the US? Is this true? I find it hard to believe that.

  • The referee Vinnerborg (damn Swede) was one of those stereotypical crappy International refs. Wow, he had absolutely no control over the game and made way too many weak calls. The fans were booing the ref louder than the Americans by the 3rd period. There were 50 PIM's in all and the game was an endless Power Play contest.

  • How high is my seat? Well, if I stand up, my head touches the roof of the Pacific Coliseum. Yep. The roof has this yellow foamy/asbestos type substance and about 30 years of dirt and dust on it.

  • The Finnish Media Guide - Just under 60 pages, but the players have no real profiles...just pictures and vitals. What is funny is that the guide is full of many advertisements purely in Finnish.

    Now, who is the media guide usually for? Well, most of the people reading it will be the English-speaking media. Having ads in Finnish (see the title of the post) seems like wasted money to me (well, they do help fund the team which isn't a bad thing).

  • The Americans had this odd uniform combination: Dark blue uniforms with white helmets. They looked like cheap bubble hockey players.

  • I've now had enough free popcorn to last me an entire year and I plan on having more. The media centre doesn't really have a lot of free food, but there is free popcorn and drinks (soda, water, juice).

  • I saw a few Americans warming up for the game by playing soccer. I don't know which players I saw, but they were really small and looked like they were 15! The Americans seem to have a 'boy band' quality to them.

  • Really, Vancouver was a hockey nut's paradise last night with 2 WJC games and the Canucks game downtown. A good crowd (at least 12,000) attended the late match between the US and Finland. I just wish the games didn't start at 8:00pm because I didn't get to sleep until 12:30 :(

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005


    WJC: Day 2 Thoughts and Musings

    I was surprised and impressed that just under 12,000 people actually showed up to watch a junior tilt between Switzerland and Norway. Those in attendance were treated to a pretty good game as the Swiss could manage 'only' a 2-0 victory against the weakest WJC team. Norwegian goaltender Rubin Smith (there's a Norwegian name for you) was the star of the night with a frantic 44 save performance. Full Game Recap Here.

    Some random observations:

  • One of the Swiss journalists was pissed at his own team's efforts. It was kind of funny to see him get so frustrated because his team couldn't score. So much for journalistic neutrality ;) Then again, he writes for a site called HOCKEYFANS.
  • Since this is an 'International' tournament, the public address announcers make all announcements in both French and English, for the benefit of the 5 Francophones in attendance. It is interesting to hear them read the rosters and go back and forth between French and English.
  • The PA announcers also made very good attempts to get the foreign surnames correct. See? It doesn't take much effort, and they did a pretty good job. Why can't all media 'talkers' take a little time to learn the names correctly? It's not that hard.
  • The crowd was mostly neutral, but there was a pretty loud "Let's Go Norway!" chant in the section below me during the second period.
  • The media centre was pretty dead, as you might expect. There was 10 or less total media people on hand after the game, compared to the packed house for the Canada/Finland match-up.
  • Media Guides: The Swiss and Norwegian teams don't even have media guides!! Nothing, nada. You'd think the Swiss, with all their damn Francs, would be able to afford to put out some sort of propaganda.
    Throw me a frickin' bone here!

  • The other game of the night, which I wish I could have seen (Damn interior towns!), featured Slovakia versus Latvia. The Slovaks have played some sloppy hockey and managed to win 7-4 despite being outshot. The Latvians beat the Slovaks in a pre-tournament game, and I fear the Slovaks are going to get killed by Russia and Czechia.
    The dynamic QMJHL duo of Marek Zagrapan and Stanislav Lascek both had 5 points each on the night, and are tied with the USA's Phil Kessel and Chris Bourque for the scoring lead.
    Full game recap here.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005


    Spengler Cup: Canada's "Other" Team

    With all of the recent fuss over Canada's Olympic team and how so many great players couldn't fit onto the roster, it's interesting to compare and contrast the roster for Canada in the Spengler Cup.

    Now, I know the Spengler Cup is historic in Europe and all that blah blah blah, but to Canadians, it's more of a 'what the hell?' curiosity than anything else. With the WJC and the NHL in full stride, I'm sure the amount of people watching the Spengler Cup on TV is less that that who watch anything on the Discovery Channel.

    Hmm, it's the NHL rejects club...

    Zenith Komarniski
    Brandon Reid
    Jason York
    Glen Metropolit
    Jeff Toms
    Dale MacTavish
    Josh Holden

    This looks like one of those teams in sim leagues. You know, the ones that are really poorly run by a GM that trades every decent player for draft picks? They will have 50 draft picks and a roster full of these rejects and minor leaguers.

    It's also interesting to see a couple of legitimate prospects like Ian White and Doug Lynch at the tournament, although they are good candidates to become NHL rejects as well.

    Monday, December 26, 2005


    WJC: Day One Thoughts from the Perch.

    Canada got off to a great start with a 5-1 victory over the feisty, but overmatched, Finnish squad. Canada looked a bit nervous early on, but really pounded the Finnish players like the object of the game was to get the most hits. Finland was never really in the game as the Canadian forecheck was relentless and effective. My recap can be found here.
    Anyway, this game was the first I have ever covered as a member of the press, and it was an interesting experience, to say the least.
    I was taken to my seat by walking the catwalk that runs over the ice, right under the roof! It's quite an experience to look down on the ice from a bird's eye view, and definitely not for those afraid of heights. The wooden planks making up the catwalk floor were awfully creaky.

    I sat up above the nosebleeds with 2 Swiss journalists, one of whom works for, and they were very bitter that the seats were so bloody awful. They were surprised that last year's tournament in Grand Forks offered much better seats to journalists, and I agree that I was shocked by how high they were. I am not a whiner, but it's awfully hard to write about a game if you can't make out the uniform numbers on any of the players. The damn flags also blocked the scoreboard, so we spent half of the game watching from the media room in the basement.

  • Media Guides: Once again, Team Canada has a massive media guide that is as thick as a novel (148 pages!). You get a boatload of personal information on the players and staff, along with a bunch of statistics from past tournaments. 1974? Yep, I can look it up and see that Doug Jarvis led Canada with 7 points in 5 games and Canada won the bronze medal. Team USA has a thick guide (82 pages) but it's filled with a lot more advertising than the Canadian guide. I can't wait to pick up the Norweigen team's guide. It may be a whole 5 pages thick.

  • Canada coach Brent Sutter got a lot of questions after the game, but poor Finnish coach Hannu Aravirta didn't get a single question! I would have asked one if I could think of a relevant question to ask.

  • TV Delay - Yes, it's real and noticable. While watching the game down in the media room, we could hear the crowd scream almost 2 seconds before we saw the goal on the TV sets. It's basically like listening to a game on the radio while watching it on TV, only in reverse.

  • Justin Pogge - He had a quiet night, but I was impressed with his game and his side-to-side mobility. Poor Finnish goalie Tuuka Rask had to deal with a defense that didn't clear rebounds very well and he was almost helpless most of the night.

    I am curious to see how many people will show up for tomorrow's tilt between Norway and Switzerland. You could probably score some cheap tickets on craigslist or ebay, knowing that most people bought the ticket packages mainly for the Canadian and US games.


    World Junior Championships: Shall we begin?

    The World Junior Championships begin today as Canada takes on Finland, the land of cellphones and boring educational games..

    I'll be covering the tournament for, so I'll get a first-hand glimpse of some of these prospects I've only been able to see on TV or in print. I'll be covering the tournament from a more European angle, since there is more than enough coverage of Team Canada from one of many Canadian media websites.

    One constant theme I keep hearing me, and it bugs me, is that Canada is a great 'underdog'


    Sure, we don't have the powerhouse team that killed everyone last year, but is Canada an underdog? You know that Slovakia, Sweden, the Czechs, and almost every other country is scratching their heads and wondering "why are those Canadians so damn whiny?"

    Canada is NOT A FREAKIN' UNDERDOG! They may not be the odds-on favourite, but they, as always, have an incredibly strong team and will be one of the favourites to win the gold yet again.

    Really, the media needs to stop creating panic where none exists.

    Be sure to check out these articles to get yourself into the WJC spirit:
    Group A Preview (eurohockey)
    Group B Preview (eurohockey)
    Slovakia Preview (eurohockey)
    Top 10 Non-Canadian Players to Watch (TSN - Bob MacKenzie)
    WJC Preview (Globe and Mail, James Mirtle)

    Sunday, December 25, 2005


    A Special Christmas Message

    Somewhere in Nova Scotia...

    Friday, December 23, 2005


    Random Celebrity Sighting

    So, I was walking down ROBSON STREET at lunchtime and who should happen to walk right past me but CBC's Kelly Hrudey, himself.
    D00d is really short and had a very worried look on his face. (Some last minute Christmas shopping, Kelly?)

    The guy walking next to me says "That was totally Kelly Hrudey".

    Yep, that was the highlight of my workday.


    A Little Christmas Cheer

    Let's head into Christmas on a good note, shall we?

    Just days after the Czech Junior squad had their hotel rooms robbed by some petty thieves, Hockey Canada played Santa Claus and delivered some Christmas cheer.

    From the Winnipeg Free Press

    CHILLIWACK, B.C. -- They were robbed at Chilliwack's Best Western Rainbow Country Inn, but a pot of Hockey Canada gold has saved the day for the Czech Republic junior team.

    Just four days after about $15,000 in cash was stolen from their hotel rooms, members of the Czech team were breathing a sigh of relief yesterday after Hockey Canada replaced the money.

    "Hockey Canada called me and apologized for what happened and said: 'Tell the players (Hockey Canada) will give the money back and to concentrate on hockey and the tournament,"' a relieved Czech general manager Petr Misek said from the hotel.

    "We know we are getting our money back. It's nice -- this could happen anywhere."
    That was extremely generous of Hockey Canada. They didn't even trumpet the announcement on their website, preferring to just keep the whole incident on the down-low and the focus on hockey.
    Now, I am just wondering why the Czechs are carrying around $15,000 in cash and leaving it in their hotel rooms? O_o

    ...and the Photo of the Day; Guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

    Happy Festivus, and may Santa Claus mistakenly bring me your gifts.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005


    Slovakia Announces Olympic Team Nominations

    The Slovakians also announced their Olympic Hockey Roster nominations today.
    Unlike the Czechs, the Slovaks don't have the great depth and quality of NHL players, so a few of the players come from leagues in Europe.

    The Slovaks also chose to nominate their 3 Taxi Squad members.

    Full Roster:

    Ján Lašák (HC Moeller Pardubice, ČR)
    Karol Križan (MODO Hockey, Švéd.)
    Peter Budaj (Colorado, NHL)

    Zdeno Chára (Ottawa, NHL)
    Martin Štrbák (CSKA Moskva, Rus.)
    Ivan Majeský (Washington, NHL)
    Andrej Meszároš (Ottawa, NHL)
    Radoslav Suchý (Columbus, NHL)
    L'ubomír Višňovský (Los Angeles, NHL)
    Milan Jurčina (Boston/Providence, NHL/AHL)

    Marián Gáborík (Minnesota, NHL)
    Richard Zedník (Montreal, NHL)
    Jozef Stümpel (Florida, NHL)
    Miroslav Šatan (New York Islanders, NHL)
    L'uboš Bartečko (Lulea, Švéd.)
    Marcel Hossa (New York Rangers, NHL)
    Pavol Demitra (Los Angeles, NHL)
    Ladislav Nagy (Phoenix, NHL)
    Michal Handzuš (Philadelphia, NHL)
    Marek Svatoš (Colorado, NHL)
    Peter Bondra (Atlanta, NHL)
    Marián Hossa (Atlanta, NHL)
    Richard Kapuš (Novokuzneck, Rus.)

    Taxi Squad:
    Dominik Graňák (Slavia Praha, ČR)
    Ronald Petrovický (Atlanta, NHL)
    Branko Radivojevič (Philadelphia, NHL)

    Overall, this roster isn't all that much different than what I had expected.

    1. As always, goaltender remains the big question mark for the Slovaks. Krazy Karol Krizan has long conversations with his goalposts about the economics of oil prices, but he's also taken the Swedish Eliteserien by storm with some amazing goaltending. He's playing better in Sweden then he did in Slovakia, which is quite a feat. If Lasak can't play (he's been injured), I'd think Krizan could take the ball and run. Budaj doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in me.

    2. Big Milan Jurcina makes the squad in the most surprising nomination. I am amazed that former NHLer and national team stalwart Richard Lintner or Dusan Milo didn't make the squad. Jurcina is a good prospect for the Bruins, but his game is still raw.

    3. Richard Kapus? Well, he probably won't play much, but he's pretty much garbage in my opinion. You folks probably don't care much about him, but more than a few Slovak fans are probably thinking "What the hell?"

    4. and a final congrats to Andrej Meszaros. This isn't the first taste of international competition for Andrej, as he played for Slovakia in the World Championships a couple of years ago. It's just been a dream season for Andrej as he's adapted quickly to the NHL.

    Von Dutch? D00d, that's weak! Last week!

    One last note, why do Canadian sources, such as TSN, not release a full damn roster when they do a press release? Really, is it that damn hard? Obviously, it is for them as they just write a story about some of the names that make it without actually showing the whole roster in one, nice easy list.

    EDIT: Many people seem to be surprised that Ziggy Palffy was left off of the roster.
    Well, Palffy 'retired' from International competition after last summer, so he basically took himself off the team as he felt that he was too old and tired to play for Slovakia any longer. He's still a very effective player, so it's a bit puzzling that he chose to do this.
    Then again, he is a lazy SOB...


    Czech Republic Announces Olympic Nominations

    The Czech Republic announced their Olympic Hockey Roster nominations earlier today.

    Dominik Hašek (Ottawa Senators, 40)
    Milan Hnilička (Bílí Tygři Liberec, 32)
    Tomáš Vokoun (Nashville Predators, 29)

    Pavel Kubina (Tampa Bay Lightning, 28)
    Jaroslav Špaček (Chicago Blackhawks, 31)
    Marek Židlický (Nashville Predators, 28)
    Tomáš Kaberle (Toronto Maple Leafs, 27)
    Filip Kuba (Minnesota Wild, 29)
    František Kaberle (Carolina Hurricanes, 32)
    Marek Malík (New York Rangers, 30)

    Jaromír Jágr (New York Rangers, 33)
    Robert Lang (Detroit Red Wings, 35)
    Petr Průcha (New York Rangers, 23)
    Milan Hejduk (Colorado Avalanche, 29)
    Václav Prospal (Tampa Bay Lightning, 30)
    Martin Ručinský (New York Rangers, 34)
    Aleš Hemský (Edmonton Oilers, 22)
    David Výborný (Columbus Blue Jackets, 30)
    Martin Straka (New York Rangers, 33)
    Martin Erat (Nashville Predators, 24)
    Petr Čajánek (St. Louis Blues, 30)
    Rostislav Olesz (Florida Panthers, 20)
    Jan Bulis (Montreal Canadiens, 27)


    1. Only a single player (3rd string goalie Milan Hnilicka) on the roster is not in the NHL. This speaks to the number of Czechs in the NHL and the fact that there aren't many very strong players in Europe that could really surpass anyone named to the current roster. Jiri Dopita is old and quite slow these days, and the likes of Martin Prochazka aren't any better than the players named.

    2. The one real shock, to me, was the exclusion of Jiri Slegr and the inclusion of Marek Malik. Malik's play was awful in the Czech Extraliga last year and the big ice does not agree with him. While he is a solid NHL defenseman, I feel he'll be a liability for the Czechs if he plays in this tournament. Slegr was the Czech's best defenseman in Nagano and has a lot more experience than Malik and a lot more speed.

    3. Two other exclusions will be surprising to some: Radek Dvorak and Roman Hamrlik. I believe Hamrlik basically 'retired' from International play, although I could be wrong. As for Dvorak, if they wanted a speedy, defensive forward, I would have taken Dvorak over Jan Bulis. (Not that Bulis is undeserving)

    4. Who starts in goal? Dominik Hasek has returned to form, but Vokoun has played out of his mind and he was great for the Czechs at the World Cup. This will be a tough choice.

    5. Martin Havlat, Jiri Fischer, Patrik Elias, and Josef Vasicek were all included due to injury. If Elias recovers in time, he may be put onto the Taxi Squad.

    6. The Taxi Squad does not have to be named right away, so we could yet see Dvorak and maybe Elias named to the team at a later date.


    Bertuzzi and Jovanovski Celebrate Their Nomination

    Aww, Todd and Special Ed are so happy together...

    "I can't see me lovin nobody but you, for all my liiiife"

    Todd still has one more Olympic hoop to jump through, however, as the Canadian Olympic Committee (ie. More Red Tape) has to approve his inclusion.
    The controversial decision to include Todd Bertuzzi on Canada's Olympic hockey squad could still be scrutinized by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

    Bertuzzi, long a favourite of the Wayne Gretzky-led braintrust that chooses Team Canada, could still be barred from the Turin Olympics in February if the COC decides to exercise its final authority on who represents Canada.

    According to an online report, the COC will discuss Bertuzzi's selection in a conference call Thursday.

    Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson had confirmed to The Globe and Mail that the COC had contacted him with its concerns over Bertuzzi as well as Shane Doan and Dany Heatley, who were also named to the team on Wednesday.

    According to the Wednesday Globe article, a COC official said the committee would be troubled by the inclusion of any of the three, but that traditionally it has gone along with selections made by sports federations.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005


    Team Canada Announces Olympic Squad

    So, Kevin Lowe (filling in for a grieving Wayne Gretzky) took to the podium and, in typical pomp-and-circumstance, announced Team Canada's 2006 Olympic team.


    Martin Brodeur
    Roberto Luongo
    Marty Turco

    Rob Blake
    Adam Foote
    Ed Jovanovski
    Scott Niedermayer
    Chris Pronger
    Wade Redden
    Robyn Regehr

    Todd Bertuzzi
    Shane Doan
    Kris Draper
    Simon Gagne
    Dany Heatley
    Jarome Iginla
    Vincent Lecavalier
    Rick Nash
    Brad Richards
    Joe Sakic
    Ryan Smyth
    Martin St-Louis
    Joe Thornton

    Bryan McCabe
    Jason Spezza
    Eric Staal


    Somehow they found a regular roster spot for Todd Bertuzzi, but ONLY a reserve spot for superior players such as Eric Staal and Jason Spezza? No Sidney Crosby? No Brendan? What a crock...

    (edit 7:10pm)
    Let's face it, Canada is a nation with loads of hockey talent. We could have two teams that could compete for gold. There will always be players that are deserving and won't make it. I won't bitch about the whole roster, but there are a few things that I'll comment on.

    1. It appears that Team Canada's 'braintrust' decided on this roster months ago, and that the play of the player this year had very little to do with the selections other than the Taxi Squad. Gretzky was whining that the December deadline didn't give him enough time to scout other players, but it's obvious they weren't going to let current play influence their minds that were already made up.

    2. Tom Benjamin opines that Todd Bertuzzi is a unique player that brings something to the team that guys like Jason Spezza and Eric Staal do not.

    To which I reply: What does Todd bring that Staal, Spezza, and Crosby don't? The ability to float like a butterfly and the ability to take bad penalties at inopportune moments (just ask Roman Cechmanek)? Canada doesn't need those abilities, ktxu. Eric Staal plays a big forward's game and Spezza has enough size to keep away pesky defenders. Sure, Bertuzzi can keep the puck like few can, but he isn't even the best and most deserving Canadian forward on the Canucks.

    3. Brendan Morrow - He's been a Team Canada pet in the past and he's having a great season for Dallas (10g, 27pts, +9). I am quite surprised at his omission.

    David Johnson of points out "Kris Draper is having a poor year in Detroit this year. He has just 1 goal and 7 points and has by far the worst +/- on the Red Wings at -6 (next worst is -2). Shane Doan is not having a spectacular season in Phoenix either with just 6 goals, 22 points and the second lowest +/- on the Phoenix at -7. These guys were selected to be defensive players but there are clearly better choices to play this role."

    Brendan Shanahan - He's having a great offensive year, but he's also had the fortune of playing numerous against incredibly weak opponents in the Central (aside from Nashville). I'm not too surprised that he was left off of the team.

    Adam Foote - Foote has aged about 10 years in the last 2, because he's playing like Mark Messier version 3.0 this season. Foote may have been a great soldier in the past, but he may very well be a turnstile during these Olympics.

    Bryan McCabe - He's defensively shaky, but the perfect Taxi Squad member. He's incredible offensively and would make a fine 7th defenseman and Power Play specialist.

    Croneyism? There will be cries of that, just like there was in 2002 and 2004. I believe Ryan Smyth is a deserving member of this team, and Shane Doan is a talented player. I'd be worried if the players chosen were liabilities, but Smyth and Doan have played for Team Canada in the past and played well.

    One last comment: Although there are questionable choices, we must remember that NHL statistics aren't the be all and end all of making up a team for an International tournament. The Czechs and other European counties have thrived in the past by taking players that are questionable or average NHLers. The Czechs had guys like Jaroslav Spacek, Martin Prochazka, David Moravec, Frantisek Kucera, and Jiri Dopita on their team in Nagano and they played like All-Stars.

    The international game is a different animal and the ability to adapt quickly to various factors and is key. The team Canada has on hand has that experience and, for the most part, the kind of skillset that allows them to succeed in the international arena.


    WJC: Czechs robbed in Kelowna

    The Czechs and Canadians took to the ice in Kelowna for an exhibition game, which the Czechs lost 2-1.

    Saldy, it seems the poor Czechs were robbed during the game. No, not by goalie Devan Dubnyk (who had to do very little), but by a bunch of cowardly thieves.

    CHILLIWACK/CKNW(AM980) - Not a great week for the Czech Republic Junior Team taking part in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver.

    Last night they lost an exhibition game against team Canada in Kelowna, 2-1.

    Even worse the team had their hotel rooms ransacked and robbed sometime Saturday evening.

    RCMP will only say they are investigating a series of room break-ins at the Best Western in Chilliwack where the team was saying.

    However, sources say thieves stole personal items and cash from the rooms of the players.


    Now, I know Kelowna is in the sticks, but could someone remind the Kelowna Capital News that Czechoslovakia has not existed for over a decade?

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005


    Canucks/Kings: Post-Game Thoughts

    For the first time in many months, I was able to see live NHL hockey at Generic Motors Place. Luck (but not Luc Robitaille) would have it that I would also get to experience my first (dreaded) shootout, in which the Kings prevailed for a 4-3 score.

    Observations and Musings:

    1. The new offensive zones look even bigger than on TV. The neutral zone is smaller than any Kariya brother.

    2. The new RBK (Reebok) ads on the blue and red lines (scrolling sideways and downwards on the boards) look like Japanese characters for some unknown brand. It took me half the game to realize what exactly the letters were for.

    3. Pavol Demitra was TEH BOMBZ0RZ all night long. It doesn't surprise me that he got over 28 minutes in total ice time since he seemed to be almost everywhere. Pavol finished with 2 assists and was hauled down on a short-handed breakaway and somehow not awarded a penalty shot. The fact that Daniel Sedin was awarded the game's first star says more about the homerific Sportsnet crew than of Pavol's play.

    I also noticed that Pavol got rid of the Gretzky half-tuck, for what that's worth.

    4. Anson Carter played a very inspired game. Why couldn't he do this all the time? I'm sure his former Kings teammates were wondering "Where the hell was this guy when he played with us?"

    5. It was a nice contrast of styles between the two goaltenders. Alex (B)Auld relies on his positioning and size while Mathieu Garon relies heavily on his reflexes and athleticism. If Auld didn't let a softy PP goal by Derek Armstrong, the Canucks could have taken the game before OT.

    6. Canucks fans are a whiny bunch of preppies. I knew that already, but damn, do they whine about EVERYTHING! If the guy is holding the other guy's stick, don't boo the ref for an obvious penalty call. Morons.

    7. The Shootout - So contrived. It has a level of excitement, but not the real 'spur of the moment' excitement that really gets your adrenaline pumping. I found the OT and late game action to be much more exciting than the skills competition at the end.

    8. Sean Avery - Got in a nice scrap with Jovocop and the crowd was definitely hoping for a KO punch ala the Deadmarsh fight. I noticed that Avery rarely sat down on the bench, as he likes to stand near the divider and keep his yap flapping all night long. I'm sure his teammates must get sick of his constant yapping. Between him and JR, you'd never be able to get in a minute's worth of meditation on that club.

    9. Kevin Bieksa (defenseman) also made his NHL debut for the Canucks. It didn't take him long to get in the coach's doghouse with a roughing penalty 10 seconds in to the game.

    10. Alexander Frolov didn't finish with any points (Though he got the lone shootout goal), but he continues to impress me more every time I see him. You probably hear his name and think of 'finesse' offensive-minded forward. Well, Frolov is a strong kid and works very hard. His playmaking could use some work, but he has everything that I would want in a player, except for the fact that he's Russian. ;)

    11. Mattias Norstrom - D00d looks a lot smaller than I remember and also skated better than I remember.


    Jeremy Roenick left off of Team USA; Blames Aliens, the Illuminati...

    To no surprise, Jeremy Roenick was left off of Team USA's Olympic squad.

    We knew JR would whine about it, but this is gold! (not of the Olympic variety)

    Roenick sounded off against USA Hockey Monday after his Los Angeles Kings earned a 4-3 shootout victory over Vancouver Canucks, saying he was left off the team "because (USA Hockey has) been blackballing me since September."

    "I think they were holding the fact I haven't played in the last two World Cups against me. I'm a lot better player than my points indicate,'' said Roenick, who has six goals and seven assists in 32 games this season. ''I'm one of the guys that have gotten the USA to where it is today.''
    Jeremy, this isn't 2002 and Salt Lake City. This is 2006, you are 35 years old, and have just 11 points in 31 games this year. You'd have trouble making Team Latvia, with your play and obvious decline this year.

    Monday, December 19, 2005


    Golbez's Gifts to NHL Clubs

    I know I ragged on USA TODAY'S Ted Montgomery before, but now it's time to give him a few props for a few chuckles in his Gifts to each NHL Club.

    And since ripping off somebody is the kindest form of flattery, Santa Golbez is back and it's time to give some gifts of my own to the various teams.

    Atlanta - How about a new groin for goaltender Kari Lehtonen? Without it, his NHL stardom is in real jeopardy. Defence lessons for Marc Savard and Ilya Kovalchuk might be included as stocking stuffers.

    Anaheim: For the OLD Brian Burke to make an appearance and stop overpaying for any player with the surname NIEDERMAYER.

    Boston: New ownership? Bruins fans don't have it as bad as they might think, it's just that Bostonians are natural whiners (Especially Red Sox fans). They don't seem to want anything else, so we'll give them a new owner. ("Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome George Steinbrenner!" )

    Calgary: A team barber. Does anyone other than Jerome Iginla know how to get a decent haircut?

    Carolina: A clock that never strikes midnight.

    Chicago: Ted's got the right idea "Eighty-two 'Hawks games on TV in Chicago and the suburbs, like in a lot of NHL cities. Note to the Wirtzes: No one is going to decide not to go to the game because it's on TV, and you're likely to earn a few new fans by putting your product in millions of homes."

    Colorado: The return of David Aebischer's confidence.

    Columbus: You already got Gilbert Brule and Jaroslav Balastik? What more do you want? I'd give you new management, but you don't deserve it :)

    Dallas: What do you give to that relative you really hate? How about a Chia Pet?

    Detroit: What do you get the team that has had everything for years? Nothing, that's what!

    Edmonton: From Ted "A refund on the money they gave to Michael Peca." ;)

    Florida: The sudden death of Mike Keenan and some defensive help for poor Roberto Luongo.

    Los Angeles: Hmm, Ted suggests "A nickname for the Pavol Demitra-Craig Conroy-Alexander Frolov line. How about "We Three Kings?". I could go for that, and a muzzle for Sean Avery.

    Montreal: The French don't believe in Santa Golbez, so "NO SOUP FOR YOU!"

    Minnesota: How about a good playmaking centerman to help Marian Gaborik?

    Nashville: Some playoff success and some fan support. This club has built 'the right way' and deserves to be rewarded...although those mustardy uniforms are a sin against fashion.

    New Jersey: How about we do a double-gift and give the Devils to a more deserving Winnipeg?

    New York Islanders: For Mike Milbury to trade himself to the Flyers.

    New York Rangers: For Mark Messier to stay far, far away from the team for as long as possible...and how about some PR for Petr Prucha?

    Ottawa: How about a smack in the head for Martin Havlat?

    Philadelphia: Losses. Lots and lots of losses.

    Phoenix: An apology to Wayne Gretzky. You whine a lot, but you aren't as bad as a coach (so far) as I'd thought you'd be.

    Pittsburgh: For the aliens to return the real Sergei Gonchar back to earth, and a new, working heart for Mario Lemieux. Oh, and some more press for Sidney Crosby. The kid never gets any attention.

    San Jose: per Ted "A great big thank you note addressed to the Boston Bruins."

    St. Louis: Umm, everything?? Ted suggests "A scrapbook of the last 26 years, filled with lots of highlights from 26 consecutive playoff appearances. They'll have plenty of time to look it over this spring." ...and next spring, and the spring after that.

    Tampa Bay: Some Grecian Formula for Dave Andreychuk. Dude's hair is whiter than fresh snow.

    Toronto: 300 bottles of Johnson & Johnson's "No Tears" shampoo to wash away those tears from all that whining.

    Vancouver: Ted suggests "A season-long supply of handkerchiefs so Canucks fans can wipe the sweat from their brow every time an opposing player shoots the puck on net from center ice." Well, since Cloutier is gone, we no longer have such worries. We could use a good defensive defenseman and a backup who doesn't suck.

    Washington: Some help for Alexander Ovechkin and more "Bottled Youth" for Olaf Kolzig.

    Sunday, December 18, 2005


    A closer look at Joey Kocur

    'Tis the season to be sharing, so Octopus over at The Face Off Circle forum decided to share this old story about Joey Kocur which is quite interesting. Making a living as the team goon has it's share of costs, just ask Nick Kypreos.

    Edumicational fact of the day: Kocur is a Slovak surname which translates as 'Bobcat'. It's really pronounced 'KOHT-sur' and not 'KOH-sir'. Now, read the frickin' article.


    The Hockey Stick Is A Pro's Big Weapon Right? Not Always --- For Hitman Joe Kocur, It's His Fist -- and a Scarred And Swollen Mess It Is

    By Robert L. Rose. Wall Street Journal. New York, N.Y.: Apr 5, 1988.

    If the hand popped onto the screen in a horror movie, the audience would cringe.

    The knuckles are red and puffy. A hideous scar extends from one finger to the wrist. There are two open sores: a small one on the pinkie and a large one on the knuckle by the middle finger. The overall appearance is a little like raw meat, yet the hand is leathery to the touch.

    The owner of this monstrosity is Joe Kocur, a pro hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings. Mr. Kocur (pronounced KOHsur) is a big bruiser of a man whose main function is unique to the North American version of his sport: not to score goals, steal the puck or make deft passes, but to batter and intimidate the foe. He is what in hockey is known as an "enforcer." His season statistics as the Red Wings enter the National Hockey League playoffs tomorrow: seven goals, 24 fights.

    Fighting in pro hockey has long been controversial. To some it is a barbaric sideshow to a game of finesse, but others see it as good, clean fun -- that just happens to fill arenas. The debate, in any case, rarely focuses on the physical results of the slugfests.

    But to see Mr. Kocur's right hand up close is enough to make one blanch. Cynthia Lambert, a hockey writer for the Detroit News, calls it "a grotesque sight." The middle knuckle looks as though it had swelled to double or triple normal size, only to have someone slice off the top with a knife. Unfortunately, the sore developed in a more painful way, the bulging skin worn away by repeated blows to opponents' teeth and helmets.

    The long scar dates from a particularly violent encounter. A punch to a minor-league opponent's teeth ripped a long gash down the back of Mr. Kocur's hand. (The other guy was knocked out.) Two days later, Mr. Kocur was in surgery as doctors tried to halt an infection spreading into his arm.

    Infection is a constant threat, and trainers must clean Mr. Kocur's hand after practices and games. While playing, he wears a special glove, stitched at home by a trainer, that allows extra room for soft bandages. Of course, that's of limited value in a sport where fights begin with the dropping of the gloves.

    Mr. Kocur concedes that the mangling will be a worry after he retires -- when, he says softly, "arthritis comes." Traumatic arthritis, this is called. The team doctor, John Finley, says Mr. Kocur risks permanent damage, and perhaps sooner rather than later. "I'm not saying he has arthritis now," Dr. Finley says, "but it's certainly possible he could develop this from the repeated trauma."

    Off the ice, Mr. Kocur often tries to hide the hand. The problem is, it's too sore to put in a tight pocket. Teammate Harold Snepsts, who fought Mr. Kocur twice while playing for another team, describes the feeling: "When your knuckles are dented in, you might just scrape a sweater and it will hurt."

    The Red Wings are considering paying for plastic surgery on Mr. Kocur's hand after the season. "Whatever is needed, we're going to take care of him," says Coach Jacques Demers. Mr. Kocur is reluctant. NHL careers are tenuous, and he fears that surgery could disrupt his, despite a three-year contract. Besides, why repair what next season will only tear up again?

    This doesn't mean he doesn't do what he can to protect his right hand. For instance, he is working on improving his left. Before the season began, the team sent Mr. Kocur and fellow hitman Bob Probert to a boxing trainer, Emanuel Steward, who helped them with their left hooks.

    Though damage to his fist could end Mr. Kocur's career early, not using it would finish him even quicker. Mr. Kocur doesn't hide his "policeman" role. Asked why he was penalized for roughing an opponent in a recent game, he replies, "I was punching him in the head. I knew I'd take a penalty, but he hit Stefan {Greg Stefan, a goalie}. Nobody hits the goalie."

    The team says this kind of action protects its valuable players from abuse. "Joey knows his role," says Coach Demers. He cites the time a St. Louis player swung his stick at a Red Wing not known for his fighting skills. "I told Joey to go out there and tell him not to do it again," says the coach. The message got through, if not necessarily in words.

    Mr. Kocur's function in the NHL was clear from the start. In his first full season, his 377 penalty minutes led the league and shattered the team record. He had 42 in a single outing, spending two-thirds of the game in the penalty box. "If the fighting is there, he's going to have to answer the bell," said Brad Park, his coach at the time.

    That he does. A 195-pound former Saskatchewan farm boy, he has powerful arms, the right one two inches thicker than the left. Scar tissue has made his right hand brick-hard. And when he winds up, says assistant coach Colin Campbell, "Joey throws his punch from Virginia." Mr. Campbell makes the statement in Maryland.

    Smart opponents try to do one of two things about this weapon: grab the hand to deflect it, and tuck their heads so that if the blow does land, it hits their helmets. A helmet is not kind to a bare fist.

    Neither ploy worked for a Quebec player in a recent game, and the man left with a broken nose. In another fight, Mr. Kocur cut a Boston opponent. Though rivals have hitmen too, the team of Kocur and Probert may be hockey's most devastating. They fight half their matches at home in Detroit, in the appropriately named Joe Louis Arena.

    Fans love them, especially young women. A best seller among team memorabilia is a $12 T-shirt labeled "Bruise Brothers."

    Yet it could be argued that Mr. Kocur is a hazard to his own team. Statistically, when Mr. Kocur (who plays right wing) is on the ice, the Red Wings are less likely to score and opponents more so. Coach Demers says Mr. Kocur's playing skills are improving, but hockey is a sport where hitmen come and go.

    So Mr. Kocur is philosophical about his fist. "You do what it takes to stay in the game," he says. "I can't get away from doing what I do best."

    Asked where he would be if there were no fighting in pro hockey, he replies, "Home watching it on TV."

    Saturday, December 17, 2005


    Blues' Tkachuk injured again. Here we go again!

    If the Blues are going to lose, at least they are losing in the most spectacular fashion.

    Just as Keith Tkachuk was steamrolling his big booty over the competition (8 goals and 7 assists in 9 games this year), it turns out he'll be out with another extensive injury. (TSN Story)

    St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk will be out four-to-six weeks after being struck in the right hand by a puck during the Blues' 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.

    Tkachuk was injured during his second shift of the second period when he was hit with a shot from Blackhawks defenceman Jim Vandermeer. Tkachuk left the game and didn't return.

    This is a short time after returning from injured ribs. Yep, it's just been that kind of year for the Blues.

    Will his loss really affect the fortunes of the Blues? Even with Tkachuk's scoring, the Blues were 2-4-1 since his return and those wins came over the crappy Dinner Jackets and the Penguins. The difference will probably between losing by 4 goals every night instead of 2 goals.
    While I don't feel sorry for Tkachuk, I do feel sorry for the poor woman at work who has Tkachuk in her pool. She was quite excited (well, more like "It's about bloody time") when Tkachuk finally returned and KT managed to pick her out of the basement. Now that KT is out again, she'll have to get reacquainted with Mr. Cellar.

    Oh, and KT is now questionable for Team USA's Olympic team. As a Canadian, this upsets me not.

    The news gets even worse for Blues fans...
    The Blues also lost goalie Curtis Sanford, who was injured in the second period when St. Louis defenceman Eric Weinrich collided with him. Sanford sustained a hip flexor pull, and Kitchen wasn't sure how long he'd be out.
    Returneth the Patrick Lalime? Really, this season has become darkly comical for Blues fans. I can't help but laugh at how everything is just imploding...but I look at the future for the Blues and I almost want to cry. Yep, our team is going to suck for quite a long time. :(

    Friday, December 16, 2005


    Friday's Lightning Round

    ...and we're not talking Tampa Bay, here!

    The Canucks beat the Flyers 5-4 in their only head to head meeting of the season. That means I get bragging rights over my girlfriend (the Flyers fan) for an entire year! :)

  • Alex Auld was sure quick to quiet down the panic in other parts of Vancouver with a fine 39-save performance over the evil ones from the City of Brotherly Love. (How did Philly get that nickname? It doesn’t fit, at all!)

  • Yes, I am one of those fans who is somewhat delighted to see Cloutier is injured. It may be creepy to some, but Cloutier is not the goalie I want in the net. If the Canucks are forced to play Auld, then so be it. (And that is why Canuckville is a goalie graveyard. There are 1000s like me who are just as grumpy)
  • Fred Meyer IV? Yep, that’s the name of the young man who dressed up for the Flyers last night. Is he the first ‘4th’ player to play in the NHL?
    And what’s up with fathers naming their sons after themselves? Really, after the 2nd time, it gets pretty old and creepy.

  • Here is an answer to the question I'm sure has been burning through your mind.

  • Jaroslav Balastik might be having a nightmare season for the Dinner Jackets, but he's still got more goals (2) than Sergei Fedorov (1) and Rick Nash (0) combined.

    From the mailbag, a sharp observation from ‘Phil’
    Now that penalty shots are a regular feature in NHL games (shootout) its amazing to see how poorly trained most pro players are at the fundamentals of taking a penalty shot.
    The basic problem I see is a general lack of skating speed as the player moves in.
    They often cruise in stickhandling and weaving back and forth - trying to look cool in my opinion. By the time they get near the goal, the goalie has an easy save to make weather its a deke or a shot. Speed is critical to taking a penalty shot because the shooter has to be moving forward much faster than the goalie can back up. The goalie comes far out at first to take away the shot then quickly backs up to handle a deke if the player doesnt shoot. If the shooter is waltzing in, then it requires a perfect shot or spectacular deke to beat him.

    Phil is absolutely right in his assessment, and it’s old hockey lore that I observe to be true on many occasions: Speed kills! If you come in slowly on a goaltender, you are giving him the ultimate advantage. If you come in with speed, you force the goalie into an uncomfortable situation and the goalie often has to make the first move/guess. A goalie just can’t normally move the way he wants to when he has little time and has to back up quickly as supposed to having all the time in the world and standing fairly still.

    The big difference, for the attacking player, is adrenaline. In a game situation, the player knows he has a player or two or three chasing him and he better get his ass moving and get a shot off quickly. The player’s basic instincts take over, and we know that the basic instincts separate the creamers from the dreamers. (Oh, that doesn’t sound right)

    In a shootout, a player has too much time to think and they override their basic instincts. The players also have no pressure and tend to go in much slower than they would in a real breakaway.

  • PJ @ scored an interview with Capitals fan-friendly owner Ted Leonsis.

  • Two things that stick out…

    We are not going to look at our website as being a brochure for the team, we are going to look at it as where our fans live online. And it is where the Caps and the fans intersect. And we are going to try to make it a hub for all of our activities. We have a very lively community.
    The New NHL has meant a new approach to the internet for the NHL and its club sites. I agree that the official and team sites are less ‘brochure’ oriented and getting to be more interactive. I’ve seen more interviews, features, and even blogs than we saw in the past. Ted and the Caps have always taken the lead, and it’s nice to see the NHL follow suit.

    2. PJ scores “Typo of the Month” honours for spelling Alexander Semin’s last name as “Semen” multiple times. D’oh!

    Thursday, December 15, 2005


    Wayne's World: Retire Yzerman's #19 for Team Canada?

    What the frick? Has Wayne Gretzky gone drunk with power?

    It was bad enough that Wayner the Whiner was guaranteeing Steve Yzerman and his reconstructed legs a spot on Team Canada for the Olympics, but now he wants to ensure nobody can use #19, for now and forever.


    One week after announcing that he's withdrawing his name from Canadian Olympic team consideration, it appears that Steve Yzerman's No. 19 won't be going to the Turin Games either.

    According to a story in the Detroit Free Press, Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky is considering not allowing any players on the team to wear Yzerman's number.

    ''Wayne says in all likelihood that jersey's going to be retired,'' said [Darren] Pang. ''Wayne's really something, that way. He just thinks so highly of Mario (Lemieux) and guys like Steve.'
    Yep, the “Old Boys Club” mentality is at work again. I don’t blame Steve for any of this, since he’s probably just as surprised as the rest of us.

    Stevie Y has had an awesome NHL career, but has he done anything at the International level to justify having #19 retired for Team Canada in his honour? Mario has played in very few tournaments, and spurned Team Canada many times in the past, yet we should retire #66?

    As a rule, national team numbers should never be retired unless there are some incredibly special circumstances. Why should a future hall-of-famer like Joe Sakic be denied #19? Why should Brad Richards, Shane Doan, or anyone else who uses #19 be denied their usual number?

    The only Team Canada uniform number I would ever consider retiring would be Ryan Smyth’s #94. Has anyone done more for Team Canada than Ryan Smyth, aka “Captain Canada”? I can’t think of any.
    Look at the number of World Championships Ryan Smyth has been in, plus the World Cup and the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Smyth has answered the call for Team Canada more than any other player I’ve grown up with, and he’s done so in the typical “Canadian” way (heart, soul, sportsmanship, and all that crap).

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005


    Canucks' Cloutier Out 4 Months: A Blessing or a Curse?

    Vancouver Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier will be out 4+ months after opting to have knee surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. (TSN STORY)

    Now, the bandwagon yuppie fans are all in a tizzy (When they aren't worrying about what the latest cell phone fashions are) and there about going to be a steaming pile of big rumours flying around (“Bertuzzi for Luongo!”), but I think this could end up as a blessing in disguise.

    This season, Alex Auld has come from behind Cloutier’s shadow and established himself as a steady goaltender with good fundamentals and the ability to stop the puck. This is in relation to Dan Cloutier, who is fundamentally weak and not very good at stopping the puck.

    Dan Clouter – 13GP 8-3-1 3.17GAA 89.2SV%
    Alex Auld – 20GP 11-6-1 2.58GAA 90.9%SV

    Alex earned another victory last night against the red-hot Rangers, and I think he’s got the pedigree and ability to take over the reigns from Cloutier on a full-time basis.

    Still, I know Auld hasn’t proven himself over the long term, and the Canucks do need to get someone better behind him. Maxime Ouellet and Rob McVicar scare their own teams more than opposing shooters.

    With the Canucks so close to the salary cap as it is (barely squeaking under thanks to call-ups), and with so few tradable assets in the development system, how the Canucks possibly get a good goaltender to play behind Auld?

    I just can’t see GM Dave Nonis breaking up the team as it is, given at how this is Canuckville’s best shot at the cup for some time, so I believe he will be conservative and try to search for a cheap option that can play a decent load of games in a 1b or 2A role. I just don’t see a Luongo/Bertuzzi deal, as much as I’d love to have Luongo.

    So, what’s available to the Canucks? Cloutier’s salary is $2.5mil, so the Canucks have the pro-rated amount of that available since Clouts will be on the DL for the rest of the regular season. We have to remember that many teams are still in the playoff hunt or believe they are in the hunt, and that other clubs will likely want someone decent and useful in return for a goalie.

    As Spector notes:

    Spector's Note: Cloutier's injury explains why the club recently signed a minor league goalie [Sebastien Centomo]. The salary cap is the main stumbling block for Nonis. I'm sure he'd love to acquire a goaltending stud like Luongo, but the only way he can do that is to give up comparable salary or shed enough salaries to fit in the netminder's contract, and that might mean cutting depth elsewhere to do it. Like McKenzie I expect Nonis to stick with Auld whilst keeping his eye peeled for a potentially affordable veteran, but if Auld proves capable of carrying the mail, he could stick with the backup until Cloutier returns.

    I won’t create rumours, but here are some thoughts…

    1. Martin Prusek – Recently waived by Columbus, Prusek is a talented Hasek-wannabe and had better that than Patrick Lalime while playing in Ottawa (OK, that isn’t saying much). A salary of $625,000 is cheap and Prusek could easily handle a good workload and provide quality goaltending.

    2. David Aebischer – at $1.9mil, he’s not a great bargain but he could play a lion’s share of games. The Avalanche have obviously grown weary of his shaky goaltending, but perhaps a chance of scenery could help David rediscover his game. 89.0SV% in 19 games.

    3. Kevin Weekes – This name alone is enough to scare Canucks fans. With the evil Swede Lundquist getting the #1 duties in Gotham, the Rangers may be more than happy to dump Weekes and his $1.9 salary. Weekes played fairly well when giving #1 duties in Carolina, and I wouldn’t feel nervous with him as a part of a duo with Auld.

    4. Roman Cechmanek – OK, stop laughing. Roman is a free agent playing in Czechia, and you know no other club would claim him on waivers if the Canucks wanted to sign him. Yeah, I know this will never happen, but sometimes drastic situations require some creative solutions. Sign Roman to a moderate deal and grab some Maalox.

    5. Stick with Auld and pray that whoever is behind him doesn’t suck. If the Canucks can’t find any outside help within a decent cost range, it may be time to give Auld a large chunk of games and hope Centomo or Ouellet or McVicar can play above ECHL level in goal on some nights. Given how Auld tired near the end of last season with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, I somehow doubt that GM Dave Nonis will just do nothing.

    6. Patrick Lalime - Dear god, NO!

    In any event, I am looking forward to the Alex Auld Era. I hope he can continue his fine play and show Canuckville that he, and not Cloutier, should be the #1 man permanently.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005


    Bloggers Face Off on Face-offs

    Face-offs are a topic that most people think of in simple terms:

    “Winning Face-offs is GOOD! Good teams win lots of face-offs!”

    The mainstream media, colour commentators, and your father all told you that one of the keys to winning hockey games was to win face-offs.

    Well, it’s time to dispel that myth and poke holes in that theory.

    I started questioning the status quo when I first had a gander at Daryl Shilling’s Ultimate Standings from 2004.

    The #1 and #2 face-off teams? Anaheim and Carolina, finished in the bottom half of the NHL. While we can see less successful face-off teams tended to finish lower in 2004, past results, and current results, indicate that face-off wins don’t correlate strongly with overall success. Ottawa finished 4th worst in face-off win% in 2004 yet had no trouble winning games.

    James Mirtle recently had a post about this season’s face-off winning percentages. I had a look and you can see that the top teams in the real standings are all over the place in that ranking. Therefore, winning face-offs isn’t exactly correlating to success this season, either.

    Eric Cartman over at The Puck Stops Here decided to delve into this topic further in this post. He makes a great observation about the basic statistics and how unimportant face-off wins just may be.

    If we look at the statistics James Mirtle quotes 29 of 30 teams are well within 4% of the 50% success rate which is average. Four percent is one in 25 faceoffs. The difference between a good faceoff team and an average one is winning one in 25 extra faceoffs. The difference between a bad faceoff team and an average one is losing less than one in 25 extra faceoffs. That is not very much at all. The lone exception to that is the Edmonton Oilers who have a 56.2% faceoff success rate. The difference between the best team on faceoffs (and the one outlying point) is winning slightly over one in sixteen extra faceoffs. This is why there is little correlation between faceoff wins and winning hockey games. There is little difference between the faceoff success rate of the best and worst teams in the league.

    While it is a good thing to have a player or two who is very good on faceoffs, as it will earn your team a few more puck possessions, I would not be too concerned about it. You could just as easily find players who do not giveaway the puck or frequently take the puck from the opposition to more than make up this difference.

    Now, cranky Tom Benjamin took Eric to task for his, and mainstream media land’s assertion that hockey is a game of puck possession in this recent post.

    This is a relatively new piece of conventional wisdom, something that came along at about the same time that hockey announcers were handed the new statistic to deliver up to fans. "Hockey is a game of puck possession," declared every colour analyst, "And puck possession starts with the faceoff..."

    Offense in hockey is about finding (or creating) open ice and moving the puck through it to the opponent's goal. Give any NHL player open ice and he will carry or pass or shoot the puck through it. Defense in hockey is about denying open ice to the offense. The key is the ice - open or not - not puck possession. If the ice is open, the puck is moving through it, and if the ice is not open the puck is usually going to get turned over. The position of the faceoff is more important than who wins it. The puck marks the amount of the ice controlled by one side or the other, much like the football marks the amount of territory controlled by football teams.

    I have to agree with Tom, cranky as he is. Hockey has far more turnovers and changes of possession than any of the other major sports. Systems such as the “Left Wing Lock” and the “Neutral Zone Trap” are based on positioning players and angling the opposition into certain areas rather that ‘what do we do with the puck once we got it’. As Tom notes, teams willingly give up possession of the puck when they dump the puck into the corner and clear the puck down the ice. You would never see a team do that in any other major sport.

    The major hole in the face-off statistic is that it isn’t broken up in any meaningful way. If we could show face-off wins and losses by zone, situation, and other factors, we could analyze this statistic and see if they are teams and players that are genuinely better at winning ‘key’ face-offs. There are plenty of face-offs in the neutral zone that are rather meaningless, yet winning a draw deep in the offensive or defensive zone could be important.

    On the other hand, the %'s might be rather similar overall and will be spread out so much that we can't read anything meaningful from them. Until we can see such stats, we'll never know.

    Now, I do believe that there is an advantage to having an ace face-off artist like Rod Brind’Amour for key situations, as long as that player doesn’t suck at other aspects of the game (Hello, Mr. Jason Bonsignore), but the team should not overpay for such an ability. If you are protecting a 3-2 lead late in the game, you want to win face-offs and it can be important. Of course, getting the 3-2 lead depends on many other factors more important than winning draws :)

    Still, I can think of two real-life examples where the team won a key draw and ended up ‘losing’.

    1. The Atlanta Thrashers win a draw deep in their defensive zone to defenseman Gord Murphy. Lubos Bartecko immediately jumps on Murphy (Figuratively speaking), steals the puck, and fires a quick goal. So, the Blues score a quick goal from a key face-off loss.

    2. The Florida Panthers win an offensive zone face-off deep in the Blues’ zone back to defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Spacek fires a shot which is blocked by a charging Pavol Demitra. Demitra is sprung on a very wide-open breakaway and scores roof-daddy on Sean Burke. Another face-off loss and another quick goal for the Blues. (If I had bandwidth, I’d upload the video evidence).

    So, in the end, I do believe face-off wins, as they are calculated now, are rather worthless for predicting success. They are a nice showy stat, and can perhaps tell more about an individual player than an entire team, but they aren’t as useful as the mainstream mediots would have you believe. Leave it to Bloggers to open up a can of reality for you.

    Monday, December 12, 2005


    Canadian Blog Awards: Hockey Rants = #1 Loser!

    So, the Canadian Blog Awards are finished and Hockey Rants didn't manage a Top 3 finish, proving, once again, that DEMOCRACY DOES NOT WORK!

    Now, I am quite used to not winning popularity contests (apart from the Ugliest Kid award in High School), but this loss really stings a little given the blogs that did finish in the Top 3.

    Now,, which finished in 2nd place, is a great site and worthy of its finish. If I wasn't voting for myself (People who claim not to vote for themselves are lying. You know it. Your mother knows it. Oprah Winfrey knows it), they would have had my second round vote.

    No, my beef is with the other two sites.

    Hockey Certainty finished in 3rd place. This is a blog written by a Leafs fan and has very little in the way of actual content, let alone any quality content. I wouldn't wipe my pasty, tender butt-cheeks with that crappy site. It really is an insult to the good blogs (Do people honestly think Game Certainty is better than James Mirtle's site or the Battle of Alberta site? WTF?) that anyone other than the author would vote for such a site. I guess he got the Leafs/Lemmings vote, because it certainly wasn't on merit.

    And #1? RaptorBlog.

    That's right, a BASKETBALL blog won the BEST SPORTS BLOG category for the CANADIAN Blog Awards. As much as RaptorBlog is a high-quality site, the fact that a BASKETBALL site won is just shameful.


    Are you frickin kidding me?

    The next time a stuckup Canadian fan rags your country/city for being a non-hockey country/city, just point them to this result and rub it in their faces.

    (Basketball? People in Canada actually watch basketball? *shakes head*)


    WJC: Team Canada Survivor

    Since the World Junior Championships are no real deal in any other country but Canada, we make up for the lack of international fanfare by treating this tournament like one of the biggest events of the year? Stanley Cup, World Cup, Olympics, and the WJC make up the Big 4 for Canadians. Trust me, the World Championships of hockey pale in comparison to the World Junior Championships.

    As such, there is a great avalanche of hype that surrounds the tournament for the two weeks preceeding the tournament, and Team Canada gets 99.9% of the focus.

    Take Day 1 of Training/Selection Camp reporting. A war in Iraq? How can that possibly compare to Angelo Esposito having to cut his long hair?

    If any of the 34 players invited to the Canadian junior hockey team's selection camp were wondering what they have to do to make the team, scissors is one answer.

    "For starters, some of them have to get haircuts," head coach Brent Sutter observed Sunday after the players reported to camp at Pacific Coliseum. "I like ears. I want them to look classy and look as a team."

    They're in Sutter's army now.

    "If he wants me to get a haircut, if that's what it takes to play on this team, then that's what I'll do," declared long-locked forward Angelo Esposito, who is the youngest player in camp at 16.

    Hey Sutter, just ask Ryan Smyth is having long hair is a detriment to playing hockey? It looks like someone's been taking Dick Cheney's "Satisfy Your Childish Hunger for Power" self-help courses.

    From now until the tournament, there will be no shortage of news on anything trivial such as players getting haircuts.

    For the kids, however, this may be the first taste of real failure for some of them. Up until this tournament, the kids coming into this camp have always been the cream of their crop in their respective atom, midget, etcetera leagues and have probably never had to face the cruel reality of being cut for any team.

    Now, any kid that is cut from Team Canada gets to face a large throng of mediots at 7am after the coach has told them, "Sorry kid, you didn't make the cut!"

    If you get cut from any other junior team, you can slink home quietly and only your family members will laugh at you. If you get cut from Team Canada, you have do to your best to choke back tears while being expected to be a 'good loser' in front of cameras and reporters.

    Or, you can be like Ramzi Abid and declare jihad on Team Canada for leaving you off the roster AGAIN (Too bad I lost the quote on my old computer). Since the kids trying out for this camp will probably have a shot with next year's team, don't expect any tirades for the fear of screwing their shot next year. Too bad, since I'd love to see a kid say what he really thinks of coach Sutter.

    Selection Camp Rosters here.

    Friday, December 09, 2005


    IDOLizing the Hurricanes

    With "PuckIt" and the Caniac Nation crying that nobody loves them, I'd thought I dedicate a little blog post in their honour ;)


    The Mike Comrie/Tommy Salo "Affair"

    Hockey Rants gets a lot of search hits for "Mike Comrie Tommy Salo Wife", or variants thereof. Thanks a comment in one of my old posts by my online Oilers pal, Big Dan, people end up here searching for some juicy gossip regarding the affair Mike Comrie had with Salo's old ball and chain.

    Since James Mirtle thinks I am a great perveyor of smut, I might as well oblige as to not disappoint my "peeps".

    Big Dan gives us the scoop
    When Salo found out about it and confronted his wife, she packed up and moved back to Sweden. Salo became very depressed because he missed his wife and kid and he let his play slip as a result.

    Lowe didn’t know about this and picked up Salo’s $3.9 million option in June, 2003 (which was stupid any way you look at it).

    Kevin Lowe then got so pissed off at Comrie when he heard about this that he played hardball in the contract negotiations (Comrie became a RFA on July 1, 2003). Lowe also found out that the affair caused friction in the dressing room not to mention the ownership group (Bill Comrie sold his share and moved away from Edmonton). Some players felt bad for Salo. Some, I guess, thought Salo should suck it up. Salo didn’t win many fans or allies by never taking the blame for a bad game or a bad goal. He always had to be coddled by the dressing room staff. And as his play got worse and worse, teammates disliked him even more.

    Lowe also didn’t like the fact Comrie came back prematurely from injury in the 2002-2003 season, totally refused to back check, tried just hard enough to earn his fat bonus, and then totally disappeared in the playoffs. Very selfish kid!

    So, the Oilers struggled out of the gate. Comrie’s holdout was being a huge distraction (a lot of Oilers felt bad for him), Smyth was playing center (because Reasoner was hurt and Marchant/ Comrie were gone), and Brewer was struggling because his long-time defense partner Niinimaa was gone.

    The biggest reason for the slow start to the season was the fact Salo ABSOLUTELY SUCKED in 2003-04. I mean, not mediocre and inconsistent like in 2002 and 2003. I mean, not even good-enough-for-the-UHL bad. And Lowe was paying $4 million for his services. Conklin looked like a superstar compared to Salo.

    Even the outdoors game and the acquisitions of Oates and Ulanov in December couldn’t turn things around. Once the soap opera ended with Comrie & Salo being dealt, and Lowe picking up Nedved, the Oilers went from four games under. 500 to unbeatable. Their magic run almost resulted in a playoff spot if not for your crummy Canucks beating us in the final game of the season.

    That is what some friends of mine have said about the behind-the-scenes problems for the Oilers in 2003. And that is why Comrie is PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE in Edmonton. He even got booed at a charity game in Red Deer! Total scum of the earth.


    Now, I have heard very weak rumours that Comrie was dealt from the Flyers to the Coyotes because he then went and slept with Ms. Eric Desjardins. I always figured it was his crappy play that got him traded, but once a player, always a player.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005


    "I'm Back!"

    Thanks to an attack by a Swedish hacker/terrorist, my old computer was completely fried and buried at a local Vancouver computer cemetary on Monday. (RIP Big White)

    At long last, I got a new machine and am back online from home. Now I won't feel so damn far our of the loop on most stories and can get back into the flow just in time for the World Junior Championships. We now return to the *cough* high-quality *cough* posting you are used to on a nearly-daily basis.

    Oh, and...

    damn right!


    Old Dogs can learn New Tricks

    With an increase in scoring in the NHL, it seems a few 'old dogs' have rediscovered the offensive talent they used to have once upon a time.
    I bet you didn't pick any of these 3 in your hockey pool at the start of the season.

    #1: Alexei Zhitnik - Any Sabres fan could tell you that Zhitnik appeared to lose his offensive talent at the same time Grunge music went out of style. Zhitnik was then paid a king's ransom this offseason to join the Islanders and most, once again, questioned the sanity of GM Mike Milbury.

    2002-03: 70GP 3-18-21 (9PPP)
    2003-04: 68GP 4-24-28 (14PPP)
    2004-05: 27GP 3-19-22 (16PPP)

    #2 Eric Desjardins - Flyers fans said Eric was finished before this season began, as The Garden apparently looked slower than Derian Hatcher with a donkey on his back. It's too bad for the Flyers (well, not really HAHAHAHAHA) that Darren McCarty crunched Desjardins shoulder like a Kit Kat bar and Eric will be out for about 2 months.

    2002-03: 79GP 8-24-32 (8PPP)
    2003-04: 48GP 1-11-12 (3PPP)
    2005-06: 18GP 2-14-14 (9PPP)

    and how about #3, Teppo "Repo Man" Numminen. Cast aside into hockey exile (aka Buffalo), most fans probably forgot that he is still playing.

    2002-03: 78GP 6-24-30 (16PPP)
    2003-04: 62GP 3-14-17 (7PPP)
    2005-06: 28GP 0-18-18 (10PPP)

    As you can see, I was highlighting the Power Play Points (PPP), because a large part of the "new NHL" has been the large increase in Power Play opportunities. It seems these two old dogs have been making the most of their opportunities and have put up offensive numbers comparible to what they did much earlier in their careers.

    It's funny, then, how some of the old forwards like Mario Lemieux and Jeremy Roenick don't seem to be under the same spell. The top scoring list is rittled with young forwards, but we see a few older guys in the top defensive scoring leaders.

    Surprise/Surprise: +/-. After the Top 4 (All Senators), #5 is Joe Corvo (Who??!?) of Los Angeles with a +20

    On the other end of the spectrum, old men Mark Recchi (-19), and Mario Lemieux (-17) bring up the rear just ahead of old standby Bryan Berard (-16).

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005


    Yzerman withdraws from Team Canada consideration

    So, Steve Yzerman saved Team Canada (Wayne Gretzky) the grief of leaving him off of Team Canada for the 2006 Olympics and saved his own face by being 'excluded'

    DETROIT (CP) - Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman has withdrawn his name from Canadian Olympic team consideration.

    A Detroit spokesman confirmed Yzerman phoned Olympic boss Wayne Gretzky to say he would not play in Turin.

    Yzerman is a decent role player for the Red Wings this season(8 points and -3 in 19 games), but injuries and age have robbed him of much of his ability and speed and he is no longer a world-class player. Why he was even considered has more to do with 'tenure' and the old-boys-club mentality that exists in much of hockey. Team Canada is not a union, and roster spots should be given on talent, not tenure.

    Now, it's time for Mario Lemieux (-17 !!!! this season) to step aside and let somebody younger and more able take his place. Gretzky and Team Canada shouldn't have to feel any pressure to take a Lemieux. Sure, Mario might be a potent Power Play threat, but he's an awful liability and there are other players just as good or better on the Power Play these days.

    Even though it's a good decision not to take Lemieux to Turin, you know Gretzky and the Team Canada brass will get way too much grief for leaving "Super Mario" off of the team. Can Mario show some rare class and do what Yzerman did?


    WJC: Young Canadians looking up at the favoured Americans

    The World Junior Championships are fast approaching and since the tournament is in Vancouver this year, I have 300 times more reasons to get excited (Yes, I came up with the number using the same scientific numbers that major media outlets use in their Power Rankings)

    One reason that Canadians should be nervous is that our team is young (Only Cam Barker is a returnee), and has no Vancouver Giants!!!

    Yes, Gilbert Brule is injured and Marc Fistric (Dallas Stars 1st rounder) was left off of the squad entirely? What a crock!!

    From Bob MacKenzie, TSN's Insider

    This year's edition of Team Canada will be relatively young, with more than half of the team likely to be comprised of 18-year-olds, those born in 1987 or later, as opposed to 19 year olds, those born in 1986 and in their final year of junior eligibility.

    Perhaps no national junior team in recent memory has such wide-open competition for positions as this year's squad. Head coach Brent Sutter will be using the final evaluation camp, which begins a week today in Vancouver, to decide which two goalies, seven defencemen and 13 forwards give Canada the best chance to upset the pre-tourney favourite from the United States, as well as perennial contenders from Russia and Finland, amongst others.

    I am also nervous at the very thought of Devan "5 Hole" Dubnyk getting any playing time in goal for Team Canada. Carey Price of the Tri-City Americans (Whom the Canadiens stupidly picked over Gilbert Brule) would be my #1 selection, but he doesn't instill the same "I'm 100 times better than you!" attitude that past Team Canada goalies have.

    MacKenzie also risked a hanging by declaring the obvious fact that Team USA is favoured to kick Canada and everyone else to the curb.

    Here's something that has never been said leading up to any World Junior Hockey Championship - the Americans are the favourites to win the gold medal.

    Heavy favourites.

    Up front, Team USA is blessed with incredible offensive firepower and marquee talent. There is sensational Phil Kessel, the University of Minnesota freshman who is likely to go No. 1 overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Edmonton Oilers first rounder Rob Schremp of the London Knights, Anaheim first rounder Bobby Ryan of the Owen Sound Attack as well as a host of other first-round thoroughbreds like Chicago's Jack Skille, Phoenix's Blake Wheeler, St. Louis pick T.J. Oshie and Everett Silvertip Peter Mueller, who is a potential top five pick in this year's draft.

    Well, we knew last year that Team USA was shaping up to be the favourites and Team Canada would be young and have a tougher road. Canada, however, is Canada and we'll always have strong teams. Team USA apparently has some infighting (so very American, mind you), Sweden is as useless as ever, Slovakia and Czechia are going to ice some of their weakest teams in years, so it should be a good 4-team race between Canada, USA, Finland, and Russia.

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