Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Jarret Stoll's Pet Cougar

Isn't love grand?

Rachel Hunter and Jarret Stoll, trying to break the Alexei Yashin/Carol Alt record for largest relationship age gap in the NHL.
Talk about dating someone out of your time zone!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Opening Up on Closed Captioning

By Gőlbez and special guest 'Aurian'

Closed Captioning (CC) is not something most hockey fans need or think about. I'm sure most of us have seen it, or played with the CC button on the remote a few times, but the captioning is always a few seconds behind the real action, and it's not something we need to have to enjoy the game.

I'm in that majority, but my many hours at the gym, on the cross-trainers, have been spent in front of TV screens, where the CC option is often turned on while I'm watching a sports game or highlight show.

I'm always amazed at just how 'butchered' some of the names can get. Pavol Demitra becomes 'Pablo', Pavel Kubina becomes 'Havlid Subpoena', Messier becomes 'Mess Yay', Bure becomes 'beret' or 'Bear A', and so on. It often seems like the typists who do the CCing have never watched a hockey game before in their lives.

Now, I know the players well and CC is not something essential for me. The errors seem more amusing than anything else. But, what about someone who needs CC?

Hockey Rants reader Aurian is someone who needs to use Closed Captioning to enjoy the full viewing experience, and contributes her thoughts on the issue

Why Captions are Important for me:

Even though people always tell me that the announcers are as annoying as hell and there isn't much point to captions anyways, I do find I miss the captions when they are not running. Watching a game, I don't always know who's wearing what number jersey for the opposing team, and the lettering on the jersey is often too small to make out. I like to have the captions running so I can go "oh, so that's how so-and-so plays!" I don't always catch why the play is stopped, what the ref is calling, who assisted on that goal, etc. The "public" channels (CBC, Rogers Sportsnet, TSN) all have captions, whereas PPV does not. I actually sometimes feel like I am not getting much value for my money because I am getting less from PPV :p
(Jes: PPV is never worth the money! *COUGH*)

How Captions work:

I had a captionist in one of my university classes that involved a lot of discussion in a big lecture hall. She captioned the discussion for me, so I watched her at work. She would program her computer to auto-type words if she typed in a few letters, especially for the longer ones. Before a class, she would find out the subject and program a list of new words into her computer. This is important for live stuff, because people can speak faster than someone can type properly (taped programs have FAR fewer caption errors and do not have the lag you see in live shows and games). Even so, she would still make mistakes. Usually caption errors come from typing phonetically or breaking down a name into similar words. However, sometimes I get the feeling that the captionist has never watched a hockey game or heard some of the names before :p

Caption follies:

The sports news shows usually are not too bad, because the speakers generally plan out what they will say. The games are the best source of bloopers. CBC is the best source for funny captions - they are the ones doing the "Brenda Morrison" on a regular basis.

I just watched a period of the Bruins-Rangers game and got the following:

Crueller took at shot at the goal (Cullen). The announcers discussed the trade of "Con Ray". Someone by the name of Peter Pwei ska is playing too (Peter Prucha). Also, at one point, the Vlaisers were up by three goals (NY Rangers).

I remember some great ones from various Canucks games. The captionists have just as much trouble with Bieksa as those Toronto announcers did. I've watched "Bert Fuzzy" and "Henry Sedin" play. I've also seen Cloo Tear and Longo in goal (insert bad pun there :p). There have been some minor gaffs like Sammy Salo, Kessler, and Burros.

If the networks are going to take the time to provide CC for the games, why don't they hire somebody who actually follows the sport? I can understand if some AHL call-up gets their name slaughtered, but how can you screw up a star like Bertuzzi? Give the captionists a roster list or find a hockey fan out of the bunch. There must be one.

Closed Captioning might not be important to everyone, but to those that need it, they do deserve to be able to watch a game without a whole whack o' errors.

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Monday, January 29, 2007


Markus Naslund: No Longer on Target

by Gőlbez

"Yes, I make $6mil more than YOU do!"

When you think of the today's best players, I'm sure the name Markus Naslund isn't near the top of your list. Sure, he's paid like a superstar, but 15 goals and 23 assists in 50 games is far from superstar production.

It wasn't so long ago that Naslund was one of the very best snipers in the NHL. Goalies wet their jock straps when Naslund curled around on the side boards and snapped off a quick wrister before they could blink.

While Naslund has certainly had a pretty decent month, complete with a 6-game point scoring streak, most fans in this city are wondering "What the hell is wrong with this guy?"

  • He misses Todd Bertuzzi - How much does he miss him? We're not quite sure, but we do know that Grumpy Bear did open up some ice for Markus to operate. Those two were also very 'special' friends, and Markus might just be a tad lonely without his teddy bear around. Naslund just doesn't show much enthusiasm at all. Yes, Markus was never the excitable type, but you can tell he looks like a dog who lost his master.

  • He's not skating - This much is obvious to everyone. Both Naslund and Brendan Morrison have both been guilty of not moving their legs as much as they should. The old Naslund was always flying around the ice. This year's Naslund has him cruising far too often. Is he getting slower in his old age, is he tired, or is he just not trying?

  • He's not shooting - Seeing a patented Markus Naslund laser wrist-shot has been a rarity this season. The speculation seems to be that his shoulder is hurt, and that is why he is passing the puck more and shooting less. Without his most deadly weapon in his arsenal, he's been downgraded to just another decent offensive player.

  • Looking at Naslund's splits from this season, we can see some trends...

    October 13 6 5 11 4 10 3 1 37 2.85
    November 13 6 2 8 0 10 1 1 54 4.15
    December 13 0 8 8 -2 12 0 4 21 1.62
    January 11 3 8 11 1 6 1 5 20 1.82

    The most glaring statistic, besides the awful Power Play numbers, is the proof that Markus Naslund just isn't getting shots on goal. He started off the year OK, getting 3-4 shots per game. In the last two months? Not even two shots per game. For your team's #1 sniper, this isn't nearly good enough.

    In the prior 6 seasons, Markus averaged 3.58 shots per game. This season, he's at 2.64 and dropping with each game. It's obvious that Naslund is doing more playmaking, and less shooting. This might be fine if the Canucks had other goal scorers to play with him, but they don't. Morrison is a playmaker, Jan Bulis is useless, Matt Cooke has hands of stone, and the Sedinbots have their own chemistry together.

    So, is Markus Naslund in a real decline, or can we ever expect him to be a bit more like the old Markus we knew and loved?

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    Sunday, January 28, 2007


    Meme Time! - "If I Were a Hockey Player"

    By Gőlbez

    It's been awhile since we had one of those meme fads make its way around the hockey blogosphere, so I'm up at 7:30AM on a Sunday morning and got nothing better to do.


    If I Were a Hockey Player:

    Team: Vancouver Canucks (gotta be the hometown)
    Uniform Number: 75
    Position: Left Wing
    Nickname: sadly, "Jessie" or "Golbie"
    Dream Linemates: Sidney Crosby at center, Pavol Demitra at RW.
    Rounding out the PP: Jiri Slegr and Zdeno Chara.
    Job: Mucking, Grinding, scoring the odd goal, and injuring anyone who breathes on Pavol.
    Signature Move: Having goals go in off of my ass.
    Strengths: Shooting, Work Ethic, Deflections
    Weaknessess: Passing, Skating
    Injury Problems? My right knee
    Equipment: Full visor with reflective blue tint (Ovechkin style), Mario Lemieux RH Koho stick, and anything-but-Nike to fill out the rest.
    Nemesis: Sean Avery (shutupshutupshutup!), Martin Brodeur, and Chris Pronger.
    Scandal Involvement: Shooting pucks at Gary Bettman during a warmup.

    Who I'd face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Toronto Maple Leafs. Crushing the lemmings after they come oh-so-close is too good to resist.

    What I'd do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Eat popcorn out of it, hold it, caress it, make sweet, sweet love to it.

    Would the media love me or hate me? Both! They'd love how I'd give it to them straight, but hate that I'd force them to pronounce my name correctly or get a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the head.

    Tagging Ingmar W Bergman (got off the damn WiiWii), American Hockey Fan, Mr. Reality Check, CasonBlog, Mike Chen, Zanstorm, and anyone who wants to take part.

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    Saturday, January 27, 2007


    Small-Town Hockey

    by Greg

    Missed this the first time 'round -- Patrick McGrath in Friday's New York Times, with a feature on high school hockey in northern Minnesota.

    It's a worthwhile read, though there's some odd editing (there's a mention of a legendary high school championship from 1969, but no further details are provided). And, it won't seem revolutionary to anyone who's read that subset of American literature that deals with small communities that orbit around sports (cf "Friday Night Lights").

    Still, it's a nice little feature, and it contains this insight into the life of Minnesota hockey legend Henry Boucha, discussing representing his town in that 1969 state championship:

    "Just playing for your community, that's the greatest gift for an athlete.... It's an immense feeling, like having sex for the first time."

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    Thursday, January 25, 2007


    Kari Lehtonen: The Role Player

    One of my other hobbies in life is video games, especially Role Playing Games (RPGs).
    That’s right, I’m a geek and you love me for it.

    You normally wouldn’t associate any professional athlete with RPGs. They don’t usually have time between practices, games, interviews, groupie therapy sessions, club hopping, and eating to play these type of games, nor are hockey players usually so geekish.

    Well, there’s always an exception to every rule and that would be the Atlanta Thrashees’ own Kari Lehtonen, the Finnish Groin Pull.

    It seems he’s a big fan of Final Fantasy X and X-2, and had two of the game’s female leads painted on his mask. Tres cool.



    (Edit: As per party pooper and Thrashers employee Ben Wright emailed me:

    I hate to burst your bubble, but Kari got that mask made without ever playing Final Fantasy. He just liked the art. Now he has the Kill Bill women on it.

    And hooray for Kari- who has been groin injury-free for 13 months.)

    Well, after my voodoo club meeting tonight, you can expect something to snap! >:(

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    Wednesday, January 24, 2007


    Not-Quite-LiveBlogging the All-Star Game

    Yes, I'm going to actually try and watch the NHL All-Star Game while doing a bit of homework, for no other reason that I believe in self-punishment.

    I'll just post random thoughts as they pop up

  • They need to make those pre-game introductions about 3 hours shorter. Yes, we need to know who is in the game, but why put the fans to sleep before the game even begins?
  • The opera singer singing OH CANADA = Awesome. I'm sure all of those Texans were confused as hell listening to all them foreign french words.
  • "The Wreckers" sang the Star Spangled Banner, and the CBC audio feed wrecked my ears. What the hell was that?
  • Shouting "STAR" by the Stars fan... been there, done that. Booooring
  • No Rory and No Pavol...bah!! What a screwjob!
  • Could the PA announcer for the Stars possibly have a lower voice? He must have a third testicle.
  • 1-0 East thanks to Briere. I know there isn't a lot of D at the ASG, but Phillipe Boucher gave little Danny enough time to check out the bunnies in the crowd before he buried that.
  • 2-1 West after Teemu Selanne rifles it. This may be a return to the 13-11 ASGames of ye olden times.
  • Now it's 3-2 East as Eric Staal scores. Could the stringbean wear his chin strap any looser? Talk about a picture perfect example of a helmet being worn improperly.
  • If you are a parent, would you really want your teenage daughter on the bench with a bunch of testosterone soaked players? At least Lindy Ruff's daughter is a bit too young for them...except maybe Alexander Ovechkin.
  • 3-3 after 1. A decent pace, and I haven't fallen asleep...yet.
  • Urge to kill...rising!! Gary Bettman's house could be burning and he'd be telling you that it's OK because he's saving on heating bills. WHY CAN'T THE GUY EVER ADMIT PROBLEMS? Other than that involving payrolls...grrr
  • Rolston broke the puck with that shot??!
    Oh, it's the mic, nevermind. Damn, that would have been something, though.
  • Why is Jim Hughson calling Lubomir Visnovsky "Lubie"? That is ...disturbing...
  • I know it's Dallas, but COUNTRY music? Oooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh man...
  • The NHL really should have hired ZLAD! That would have kicked some ass.
  • You know, if the West had a DEFENSIVE Dman like Rory Fitzpatrick, the East would have 3 goals, tops!
  • So, Tapeleg is also doing a bit of Not-Quite-LiveBlogging. As he notes, the railcam gets a big thumbs down. It's slow, and the angel is teh suck.
  • Why even bother having refs in this game?
  • Nothin much for Sidney Crosby tonight. It's too bad he has such a sucky player like Ovechkin holding him down :(
  • Ok, the unis might be liked by the players for being comfortable and all that, but the designs are still terrible. AS uniforms are rarely good, and you'd have to be a real supermark to want to purchase one of those 'beauties'
  • zzzz... game is such a bore now... please, just end.
  • 12-9 for the West (is best). First two periods were OK, but the 3rd period was more painful than the first round of auditions on American Idol
  • Who gets the fossil-fuel burning truck? Danielle Briere? WTF?? *sigh*
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    Kronwall: Just another senseless victim

    From Octopus over at The Face Off Circle, we get another example of a hockey player not wearing their helmet&visor correctly.

    Kronwall took a deep cut across the nose, after delivering this hard hit in the Colorado game.

    He's another guy, who doesn't know how to wear his helmet and visor correctly. It's always sitting too far back on his head, so he's looking under the visor.

    I suspect he'll be wearing a full face-shield for awhile, now. Maybe he'll get used to looking through the plexiglas, and start wearing his usual one properly.
    If you wore a jock strap, would you wear it over your ass, or only covering one ball? (well, you would if you are Phil Kessel).

    Why do players continue to wear their helmets too loose? Remember Donald Brasher getting whacked by Marty McSoreloser? Brash's head hit the ice because his loose helmet popped off. The damage wouldn't have been nearly as severe if the helmet was on properly.

    What's it gonna take?

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    Tuesday, January 23, 2007


    Following the Leader Isn't Always a Good Thing

    Gary Bettman

    So, I was surfing the internet tubules and came upon a story over at about the United Hockey League (UHL) struggling to adapt to the New NHL rules and keep their minor league identity.

    One thought instantly came to mind: "Why is the UHL adopting NHL rules?"

    What are the chances of a UHL player ever making the NHL? Slimmer than Nicole Richie after throwing up her dinner.

    When Michael Franke’s family bought the Komets in August 1990, he brought new marketing strategies to minor-league hockey. Almost 17 years later, he wonders if minor-league hockey hasn’t gotten too far from its roots.

    Particularly with rules enforcement, minor-league hockey has always been quick to follow National Hockey League guidelines. Franke says that has hurt the minor-league product.

    “As businessmen and women, we have to look at this and make sure we’re not doing the wrong things, because I think we are,” the Komets president said last week. “I think we’ve taken the element of fan appeal, which is very, very important to any business, and we’ve put it in the back seat. We’re too worried about what the NHL is doing.”

    While the NHL has tried to legislate some forms of physical play, Franke says that hurts the minor-league games because that’s not what fans want. The minor leagues follow the NHL’s lead closely because they’d like to be considered developmental leagues.

    “There’s only one league in all of minor-league hockey that truthfully is a developmental league to the NHL, and that is the AHL,” Franke said. “We are minor leagues that are trying to create a form of entertainment for the people who live in our towns. We have to put that in the forefront. There are a very, very small percentage of players who are ever going to go to the NHL from these leagues, and we can’t be worried about that. It’s not worth sacrificing your business for some rules that turn the game into a non-interesting form of entertainment.”
    Yes, the UHL is not a development league for the NHL and never will be. The AHL? Yes. The ECHL? Slightly. Fans have always been drawn to lower-minor and beer leagues because of the violence, physical play, and boatloads of offense. Just because the NHL changes things doesn't mean the UHL or any other league other than AHL should.

    This blog already documented how the lower-league refs were struggling to uphold the NHL's standards because their officials just aren't quite good and experienced enough.

    Note to UHL: You are in the business of entertainment, and fans of your clubs don't want an endless parade to the penalty box for touching a guy with a stick. While the changes may help the NHL, they won't necessarily make your league any better.

    On another note, the NHL decided to press on with the third year of their 3-year schedile rotation. Gary Bettman is so hard-on to finish his precious rotation that the league is basically screwing good marketing opportunities to save $5 on jet fuel. Say good-bye to a true Hockey Day in Canada next season.

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    Monday, January 22, 2007


    Separated at Birth: Dr. Evil and Jan Bulis

    Just the two of us, we can make it if we try
    Just the two of us. (Just the two of us)
    Just the two of us...building castles in the sky
    Just the two of us, you and i

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    Sunday, January 21, 2007


    Slegr's Soup

    By Greg

    There's a bunch of random hockey-related crap scattered around my house, and among the items most likely to make girls think twice about spending time with me are a few hockey-themed cookbooks. They're always useful -- there's no better way to convince people you're part of high society than by cooking them something out of "Cordon Blue Jackets," for instance.

    The other day, Jes -- who routinely holds posh dinner parties -- asked me for a Jiri Slegr-themed recipe (seriously). He asked the right man -- I'm the proud owner of a copy of the 1998 publication, "Goal Scorers & Gourmets: the Kansas City Pittsburgh Penguins Cookbook." It's a marvelous item -- hundreds of years from now, they'll be learning much about the late 20th century from the photos of Dave Hannan and Joe Mullen wearing aprons.

    The team at the time was pretty Czech-heavy, with Slegr, Jaromir Jagr, Jan Hrdina, Robert Lang, and Martin Straka, not to mention Peter Skudra, who I always forget isn't Czech. (Among non-Czechs, Aleksey Morozov contributes a recipe for pelmeni, which I'll have to try at some point).

    Slegr's recipe (ok, it's marked as "Jiri & Katerina Slegr," and I have a feeling Jiri's only contribution was in the eating) is for Garlic Soup, which sounded perfect today in a number of ways -- I've got a cold, garlic is the perfect food, and I've dealt with hockey players' recipes in the past. With the weather ugly, I stayed in this morning and made:

    Slegr's Garlic Soup

    4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
    2 potatoes, skinned and chopped
    1 or 2 cubes vegetable bouillon
    1 tsp marjoram
    1 tsp butter
    Bacon (the Slegrs leave this up to the cook's discretion; I used three slices and was happy with the result)
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 Jiri Slegr hockey card

    * Place the Slegr hockey card in a place of honor in the kitchen. Feel the positive energy.

    * Fry up the bacon in the same manner the Avalanche fried up the Red Wings last night. Crispy but not burnt is the goal. Chop that bacon.

    * Actually, while you're at it, you've chopped the potatoes ahead of time, right?

    * Pour two quarts water into pot. Perhaps I erred in not including "water" and "pot" in the ingredients. If you don't have a pot, go out and buy one, quick.

    * I usually like to have a nice vodka and limeade or three while I'm cooking. Today I didn't -- I was cooking at 11 a.m. and I have some standards, however low and rarely-applied they may be. Nonetheless, about now is a good time to fix one.

    * Add potatoes, garlic, butter, marjoram, bacon, salt, and pepper to the pot. Turn on burner. Watch pot, despite tales advising against such behavior.

    * When mixture begins boiling, add bouillon. Realize you've been spelling "bouillon" wrong all these years.

    * Let cook for, oh, about 20 minutes, stirring when you feel like it. Take this time to reflect on Slegr's many accomplishments. Listing his various teams alone takes up 20 minutes.

    * Check the potatoes with a fork. They should be soft.

    * Eat.

    It turned out pretty well -- it'll be a good dish when I someday host the "Czech defensemen who played for the Thrashers then went on to greater success elsewhere"-themed dinner. A Czech beer would probably taste great with it, but remember, we're applying standards this morning.

    Fun hockey-cooking-related fact of the day: Patrik Stefan's contribution to the Atlanta Thrashers' "Cooking With the Birds" cookbook was "Creamed Brains Soup."

    Disclaimer: this recipe was created by Jiri Slegr, not Greg, so if you get sick or die from it, you should not sue Greg. Thanks.

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    Patrick Roy is at it again!!

    By Gőlbez
    Patrick Roy

    In the Pantheon of hockey's jerks, Patrick Roy has always been one of the kings of the court. While he earned respect for his incredible goaltending abilities and successes, we've hardly ever heard a good word about his character.

    During last year's Memorial Cup, Roy was flipping his gums about the Vancouver Giants goaltending and sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. There was the primadonna whining his way out of Montreal, the domestic spat with his wife. and a whole mountain of other things that make you want to smack the guy with a rotten koho salmon.

    Well, Roy is back at it again with an assault charge levied against him.
    Former NHL all-star goalie Patrick Roy is facing assault charges after allegedly getting into a shoving match following a major junior hockey game in Chicoutimi, north of Quebec City.

    Roy, who both owns and coaches the Quebec City Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is accused of hitting an opposing team's owner.

    Police say about 50 fans of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens prevented the visiting Remparts players from boarding their team bus after a Friday night game.

    Roy reportedly then got off the bus and attacked the Sagueneens owner.
    Is anyone really surprised? The guy has obviously had some serious anger issues and can't let go of his competitive nature once he's off of the ice.

    Here's more from the Montreal Gazette:
    Saguenay police said a detective will be assigned to the case today. No formal charges have been laid yet.

    "A complaint has been filed (against Roy) and we are investigating," Constable Bruno Cormier said yesterday.

    "When we're done, it will be up to a crown prosecutor whether there will be charges."

    Police said about 50 Sagueneens fans stopped the Remparts players from boarding a team bus set to leave the arena following a hard-fought game that Chicoutimi won 3-2 in a shootout.

    According to the Sagueneens organization, a league official asked someone from the Chicoutimi club to urge the fans to disperse and to help the Remparts players get on the bus for the ride home. Pierre Cardinal, one of the Chicoutimi team's owners, stepped in.

    It is alleged that Roy got off the bus and a scuffle ensued. Police say they were told Cardinal was hit a number of times.

    The Remparts organization offered no comment yesterday. Roy's team plays this afternoon against the Rimouski Oceanic at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City.
    Now, I can understand the situation might have seemed dangerous and something needed to be done. At the same time, does Patrick Roy need to start beating on the opposing team's owner? NO.

    Where's Mike Vernon when you need him?

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    Saturday, January 20, 2007


    Vancouver Canucks 48-Game Review

    By Gőlbez

    Some people do reviews at the half-way point of the schedule, and some do them at the All-Star break. Me? I do them at Game 48 in honour of the strike-shortened season over a decade ago. So, there!

    Current Record 48GP 27-19-2 56PTS
    Goals For/Against: 124-122 (+2)
    Power Play: 17.4% (17th)
    Penalty Kill: 88.4% (1st)

    It really has been almost two separate seasons for the Canucks this year. For a long stretch, they couldn’t score more than 2 goals a game to save their lives. Just before the All-Star Break, they lost just twice in a span of ten games and were burying the biscuit with regularity old people take supplements to achieve.
    One worry I have, and that nobody mentions, is that the Canucks have a GF/GA differential of a .500 club. I don’t care if the Canucks have had lopsided games against and a hot streak, the smart money would be on a team like Calgary, who has a +22 goal differential. The Canucks are playing above their record, for sure.

    Here’s a look at the goalies and defensemen.

    Roberto Luongo – 45GP 27-16-1 2.38GAA, 91.8SV%
    It’s no shock that the Canucks’ surge has coincided with Luongo’s exceptional play as of late. He struggled during the first part of the season, but now he’s 7th in SV% and is proving to be worth every penny. The worry? He’s played more minutes than every goalie except for Martin Brodeur. Roberto Luongo has never played an NHL playoff game, and we hope he isn’t pooped out by the time the Canucks (hopefully) get there.

    Bonus point: He’s so good that ladies are getting his name tattooed on their asses.

    Dany Sabourin – 6GP, 0-3-1 3.02GAA 88.5SV%

    Poor Sabourin. He plays once a month, and gets chopped to death by the media when he does come in and can’t find Stella's groove. It’s so hard to gauge his talent, but last night’s shootout loss to Buffalo certainly proved that he isn’t horrible. I really think the Canucks should have kept Wade Flaherty or got a veteran keeper that could handle a role better than Sabourin. Dany has been a starter his whole life, so this role must have screwed with him.

    Ministry of Defense:

    Kevin Bieksa (48GP 8+20-28 -2) – He’s been labeled “Jovo Jr.” by some, and really does play a similar game, albeit feistier. He was expected to be a decent 3rd line defenseman, but he’s now a contender for the non-existant Most Improved Player award. The guy just has no fear and plays with the type of confidence of a 10-year veteran. He does make his share of boneheaded plays, but that comes with the territory. You can live with a few mistakes since the benefits far exceed the liabilities.

    Mattias Ohlund (48GP 9-16-25 -2) – Earlier in the season, Ohlund was completely lost on the ice. He was taking bad penalties, getting owned like real estate, and couldn’t handle the pressure of being THE MAN! When he was paired with Willie Mitchell, Ohlund was allowed to create more offense and that just turned his whole game around. He’s back and better than ever.

    Sami Salo (38GP 7-14-21 +9) – To me, Salo has been Vancouver’s best overall defenseman this year, and the Canucks were terrible without him. Salo, of course, was injured earlier this season, and that kind of thing has to be expected. It’s a shame he can never stay completely healthy, because the Canucks can’t afford to be without him.

    Lukas “Don’t” Krajicek (48GP 2-7-9 -12) – Earlier this season, I was most impressive with d00d’s mad skillz, and still kind of am. He’s a good skater and puckhandler, and it’s easy to see that. It’s also easy to see that he’s more than a tad timid and hasn’t put all the tools in the toolbox. Constant mistakes and a lack of offensive output have led to Lukas’s role being reduced more and more, and we see why Florida finally gave up on him. Is his promise ever going to show with something concrete?

    Willie Mitchell (36GP 1-3-4 -8) – The highly-paid defensive specialist with an 11-year old’s name, Mitchell has been getting rave reviews from coaching staff, media, and other bloggers. I guess I haven’t watched his game closely enough, 'cuz I just haven’t been blown away. I do realize that he helped stabilize Ohlund and does get the toughest assignments, so he’s obviously filling his role with SOME decency. We won’t see another Mitchell goal until about March, as his offensive ability rivals that of Wade Belak.

    Rory Fitzpatrick (32 1-2-3 +5) – So, Scott Niedermayer drops from the All-Star game and they don’t pick Rory, the 3rd leading vote getter, to fill in? More fraud! *hmph*

    Fitzpatrick has played a lot more than I would have liked/expected, but he’s done a decent job as a 6th/7th defenseman and hasn’t hurt the Canucks in his limited role. He does take a few dumb penalties due to a lack of skill and footspeed, but I have to say I’m pleansantly surprised at his play. At the very least, he’s given us one of the most interesting stories of the year.

    Alexander Edler (16GP 1-1-2 +3)
    The Canucks ought to keep drafting plenty of those lovely Swedes, because they seem to do a great job here. Maybe Vancouver reminds them of home? Who knows… In any event, I have been impressed with Edler during his two stints with the Canucks. He looks poised, appears to have some good skating ability, and should develop into something useful unlike…

    Yannick Tremblay (7GP 1-2-3 -6)
    He had one nice game and loaded up on Power Play points, and then sucked as he usually does. Thankfully, he injured or demoted or whatever. He’s just gone, praise Pavol!

    Patrick Coulombe (7GP 0-1-1 -6)
    He was the pleasant surprise of the pre-season, but looked woefully out of place during his short stint. He’s undersized and has a lot of developing to do before he’ll make the show.

    The forwards? Maybe I’ll do them at Game 50 or maybe tomorrow. It all depends on how much praise you give Pavol over the All-Star Break.

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    Friday, January 19, 2007


    Root, Root, Root for the Other Team

    by Greg

    In addition to hockey, I'm a pretty big American football fan. Yeah, I can hear the sneers and jeers ("that's a popular sport"), but I make no apologies. It's the only sport, in my opinion, that can match hockey for excitement. Well, that and cricket played in a minefield.

    During this season, I was a wreck. I root for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is the football equivalent of rooting for the St. Louis Blues these days -- "you guys tried hard" is about the best you can say. The Bucs went 4-12 this year, which for the football virgin, is not good.

    From day one, they were never in danger of making the playoffs. But that didn't keep me from working myself into a nervous wreck every Sunday, agonizing over every setback, pacing up and down in the sports bar, going insane with every win, becoming known as "the guy who drops a lot of beer glasses." Every Sunday, I'd go home, exhausted and shattered.

    Then, a funny thing happened. The regular season ended, Tampa Bay stopped playing, and I started enjoying football. The playoffs have been a lively ol' time, as I relax, enjoy, exult in good football, and never feel dread's cold hand on my heart. I don't care what happens! Let's just have fun!

    Back to hockey. With more games spread over a longer period of time, I don't feel the highs and lows so much (until crunch time) -- I just become a cynic, a fatalist. Every loss, I'm certain, will begin the Thrashers' long slide out of playoff contention. I while away my idle time dreaming up schemes to get Jose Theodore's work permit revoked. Things like that.

    Then when it gets to the playoffs, things heat up, and it's back to agony. Last season, I knew the Avalanche weren't gonna do anything. They obviously didn't have it in them to get to the finals. But every game of the postseason, I was acting like an expectant father, walking around the house as I watched, twitchy, nervous. Then when they were finally eliminated and I didn't have a stake, I was able to kick back and have a blast watching.

    The lesson in all this is, I don't think hockey is very good for my health.

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    Wednesday, January 17, 2007


    Edmonton Plans Worst Festival Ever

    As if Mark Messier's ego wasn't massive enough as it is, along comes another stroking.

    The Edmonton Oilers plan to do more next month than just raise Mark Messier's No. 11 to the rafters of Rexall Place.

    The NHL team and the city are planning two days of festivities to honour their favourite son.

    Get ready for Moosapalooza.

    "The (pre-game) ceremonies can get long and arduous as they were with Stevie Y (Steve Yzerman)" Oiler president Patrick LaForge told reporters Wednesday. Yzerman's No. 19 jersey was retired Jan. 2 in a 90-minute ceremony prior to the Detroit Red Wings' game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    "There was no opportunity for fans there to reach out to Stevie, and we want to do that here and we want to do it with Mark.

    "He's a native son and an Edmonton boy and he wants this."

    The man known affectionately as Moose will have his number retired in a ceremony prior to the Oilers' game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 27.

    The day before, thousands of fans are expected to jam the city's downtown Churchill Square to pay tribute to him.

    That night, Messier and others including ex-Oilers Kevin Lowe, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey will swap stories on stage at the city's Winspear Centre concert hall in a $350-a-ticket charity fundraiser.
    Long and arduous? Don't they recall Mark Messier's 9-hour suckfest with the Rangers? If there is anyone who has never reached out to fans, it's Mark Messier. Try getting an autograph from Mark Messier. You're more likely to win the Super 7 jackpot.

    Why does this dick-headed fraud continue to get the Royal Treatment? Are Oilers fans actually dumb enough to pay $350 for this crap?

    Fans jamming a downtown square? Where's a firebomb when you need one? If any of the Oilers bloggers actually attend this, I'm going to smack them around more than a few hundred times.

    Seriously, this has to be a joke. Right?

    Then again, the guy had a thing for black midgets.

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    Bad Uni Alert!!!

    If you happen to live in Milwaukee, and love to collect really awful sports uniforms, check out this promotion.

    (edit: Link fixed)

    Hawaiian Jerseys? OMG, no whey!

    This is in conjunction with the following promotion:

    Saturday, January 20 vs Toronto – Best Beer Belly and Beach Party Night
    The Admirals are looking for the best beer belly around in this off-the-wall theme night. Interested fans will compete for valuable prizes. Also, the Bradley Center will warm up in the heart of winter with a Beach Party theme. The Admirals will again wear Hawaiian-style jerseys. The first 5,000 fans will get leied as they enter the game & 2,500 kids 14 & under will receive a cool Milwaukee Admirals Beach Ball as the leave the Bradley Center.
    Beer belly night? Hawaiian Jerseys? Is this team drying to drive people away or do people in Milwaukee love this stuff?


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    It Was (Almost) One Year Ago Today...

    by Greg

    Last night's Thrashers-Kings game brought back a few unpleasant memories in the run-up. It came almost one year to the day after (just like now) a fairly hot Thrashers team, seemingly destined for playoff joy, met up with the Kings, and more or less saw their season go straight to hell.

    The 2005-06 version of the team was on a five-game winning streak (a team record at the time) before the LA game, and life seemed good. I ended up watching that game at the Righteous Room (a fine Atlanta establishment) with friends, and it was probably the most memorable game of the season for all the wrong reasons. Luc Robitaille scored a hat trick to become the Kings' all-time leading goal scorer, the Thrashers blew a lead, Mike Dunham couldn't match the lofty standard set by Jason LaBarbera, and the Thrashers lost 8-6.

    Still, that night, I just thought it was a bump in the road. Turned out to be much more -- that game kicked off a seven-game losing streak, followed shortly by Kari Lehtonen breaking in two, and the Thrashers missed the playoffs.

    So the timing of last night's game struck me as ominous. Of course, it was nothing of the sort, as Yutaka Fukufuji was no LaBarbera, Lehtonen was no Dunham, and the Thrashers rolled. I was initially supposed to be at the game, but begged out with a persistent and nasty cold. Good thing, too -- nothing I'd less like to see in person than a Marian Hossa hat trick. Dammit.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007


    The State of Slovak Hockey - Part II

    Continuing the previous discussion on the state of Slovak hockey, it seems the Slovak Extraleague and Slovak Hockey Federation have taken the giant step of creating an exclusive Under-20 team to play in the Extraliga.

    The league currently has 8 teams, so this U-20 team and a promoted Division 1 team will be added next year to create a new 10-team league. This is a very unique experiment geared to improve Slovakia's ability to produce good hockey players.

    There are still many details to sort out, such as scheduling, who runs the team, etc etc etc..and where will they get the players for this team? Most of the best Slovak juniors play either in the CHL or Czechia.
    1. The CHL will reduce their import limit to 1 per team, so more kids will be available.
    2. The other Extraliga teams will be forced to contribute their U-20 kids if they are selected.
    3. Having a team in the Extraliga will entice many would-be travelers to stay home and earn a regular paycheque in the Extraliga, rather than almost nothing in the junior leagues.

    Is this team likely to get slaughtered against older Extraliga vets? Yes, probably. Teams filled with junior aged players in previous seasons tended to get their asses kicked hard. Still, the juniors display a lot of hustle that the grumpy vets and lazy stars sometimes don't. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


    It is true that the Slovaks have done a much better job producing goaltenders (their biggest weakness) and defensemen. Long gone are the days of throwing out Roman Mega, Jaromir Dragan, or Pavol Rybar and praying that the opposition didn't score 14 times a period. Youngsters like Peter Budaj, Jaroslav Halak, and Michal Valent are very talented goaltenders who have taken the reigns alongside Jan Lasak, the best Slovak goalie produced since old Vladimir Dzurilla.

    The big problem is that the Slovaks just aren't producing many very talented forwards these days and it will catch up to them in a few years. Demitra, Satan, Bondra, Handzus, Zednik, Stumpel, and Palffy (retired, for now) are all 30+. A small core of Hossa, Nagy, and Gaborik are in their primes with just Svatos and Meszaros coming up behind them. There are a few other prospects like Marek Zagrapan and Stefan Ruzicka, but the cupboard will grow bare up front.

    Another problem that I see is that TOO many kids are going to the CHL, and it ends up hurting them. Instead of further developing their skills, they spend 1-3 years trying to learn an almost completely different game, and no longer work as much on their skills as supposed to trying to survive physical punishment and learn a new language.

    Many of these kids do not do well in the CHL, and end up returning home. Since their skills growth has been stunted, and they've been playing a different game, they often struggle to catch up and adapt back to the European game.

    Take Vladimir Kutny, a 6'4" giant from Trencin (and CHL teams love the tall ones) who came to the QMJHL and put up just 69 points in 187 games over 3 seasons.

    Kutny went back with Dukla Trencin last season and put up a whopping 6 points in 42 Extraliga games. He has just 2 points in 23 games this season. If he had stayed home the entire time, he likely would have developed his skills further and been a much better player for Trencin in a bigger role. There are many other examples of talented, but not great, Slovak players who end up being worse off for their CHL tenure.


    My Slovak pal, Daniel, had some further comments on why Slovak hockey is struggling to produce talented players up front and sucking so bad at the WJC these days.
    Here are some thoughts about the ”success” of Slovak national team on WJC. I can see four following main reasons:

    1. System of Play - As most of Slovak teams the players do not know what to play. There does not seem to be any team-work and/or system, which is a very important factor of European teams. Except for Slovakia and Czechia, all other teams were comprised of mostly Europe-skating players. All these players have played about 10 games on one team in last 3 months. The Europeans are not like Canadian or US players who are collected from plenty of different teams and leagues. The other teams need just couple of games to play well as a team. Slovak team showed chaotic play without any thought or system.

    2. Inability to score - Though plenty of kids were expected to be good scorers, a lot of them struggled to score, especially those who skate in the CHL. Except for Juraj Mikus, Sinkovic (both QMJHLers) and Mikula, the others are not any elite scorers on their teams this season. Slovaks created many good opportunities to score but they did not convert. For your information Slovaks outshoot all teams (GER, SWE, USA, SUI, BLR) except Canada but they lost all of their games except to Belarus.

    3. Coach - I mentioned the Jasko’s ”amazing” year. Well, he was fired by the hockey federation from the national team today.

    4. Suspect Nominations - It is up to the coach and his ”advisors” to do the best selection of players. There are always questionable players on the team every year. Ones who skate in NA are often preferred, although coaches cannot see them in action and have very poor information about their fitness levels.

    One example from last season: Juro Mikus was the best junior on Extraliga but coach sent him to 4th line to play 5-8 minutes per game while preferred Petruska or Lemesani (who played in NAHL). Best scoring junior duo in Extraliga Richard Lelkes (6+2) and Marcal Hascak (4+4) were ignored by Jasko. The player’s agents have very long fingers and push their kids to national teams all the time. Many kids who play in Slovakia feel they are omitted and have no real chance to play in the championships. In the last seasons the coaches always tested 25-30 Europe skating kids on two 4-nations tournaments (in August and November) however 3-4 ones were the favorites (and they have to play on WJC) while the rest of them have to fight for other 3-4 spots because the others spots were reserved for players from CHL.

    Just more food for thought.

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    Monday, January 15, 2007


    Random Bric-a-Brac

    A random grab-bag of assorted stuff...

    1. Joeri @ Eurohockey sent me a link to a story about SC Bern and SCL Tigers playing a hockey game in a soccer stadium.

    They broke a European record with an attendance of 30,076 fans, who watched Bern beat the Tigers by a 5-2 score. There were some ex-NHLers in the game, with Christian Dube getting 3 assists, and Christian Berglund and Simon Gamache each notching 2 points.

    2. To say that Marc Chouinard has been a tremendous bust for the Vancouver Canucks is to understate the obvious. He's below 50% on face-offs, which is supposed to be his best attribute. He's slow, clumsy, ineffective offensively, and has a rather poor work ethic for a 'role player'.

    If you ever needed proof of Jacques Lemaire's coaching ability, just look at Chouinard's career stats.

    Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
    00-01 ANH 44 3 4 7 -5 12
    01-02 ANH 45 4 5 9 2 10
    02-03 ANH 70 3 4 7 -9 40
    03-04 MIN 45 11 10 21 4 17
    05-06 MIN 74 14 16 30 1 34
    06-07 VAN 31 1 2 3 -2 6
    Career 309 36 41 77 -9 119

    Somehow, Lemaire coaxed two pretty useful seasons out of Chouinard. The rest of Marc's career has been atrocious.

    3. Marek Malik's amazing shootout goal last season was beautiful, but it wasn't the first time that such a goal had ever been scored.

    His inspiration? Robert Kysela, a well-known Czech Extraliga veteran who pulled this move out of his hat in 2001.

    This wasn't some meaningless post-game shootout for a bonus point, either. No, this was a playoff game (First Round match-up) pitting Litvinov against evil Sparta Praha. Kysela had a regulation time penalty shot against Petr Briza and made a name for himself with one of the more amazing goals in league history.

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    Saturday, January 13, 2007


    Swedish Advertising Update

    by Greg

    There are days when motivation runs low, and for whatever reason, one of your bigger accomplishments is a slow surf through Swedish hockey sites (I think I was looking for a Pavel Trnka update) while lying on the couch.

    Such a search actually proved slightly rewarding yesterday. If it wasn't for my utter torpor, I would never have found out about this:

    The rather scared-looking fellow is Luleå goalie Mattias Modig; winding up to shoot is forward Robin Lindqvist.

    As far as I can tell (I can't read Swedish -- though yes, thanks, I can read the "No Action Without Protection" bit), it's all part of a safe sex campaign. Certainly one I support, and hopefully quite effective. I'm trying and failing to imagine a North American team, especially down in the region where I live, taking on a similar task -- and I'm really having a hard time imagining NHL players suiting up for similar ads. I would imagine Modig is taking a bit of ribbing around the Elitserien for his role.

    (The second, less-goofy ad is here. I wonder if the condom company paid a product placement fee...)

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    Friday, January 12, 2007


    Selanne's Special Hat Trick

    Here's today's feel-good story, snark free.

    Story Link:
    It had been nearly six years since Teemu Selanne had a hat trick. None have been more special than the one he had in the Anaheim Ducks' 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

    Earlier on Thursday, Selanne had a phone conversation with a close friend in Finland. The friend has terminal cancer and asked Selanne to send him the puck if he had three goals.

    Selanne promised to oblige but warned the friend that he hadn't had a hat trick since March 29, 2001, in a game against the Ducks when Selanne played for the San Jose Sharks.

    "Today he found out that the cancer has spread to his brain," said Selanne, who has 19 career hat tricks. "I don't think he has much time to live. So I told him if I scored a hat trick I'd keep the puck. I told him the odds weren't very good that it would happen. Obviously it was really a sad day today, but what are you going to do? Life is not fair sometimes."

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    Thursday, January 11, 2007


    Canucks 2 - Wild 5: Post-Game Rants

    I just got back from tonight’s Wild/Canucks tilt at GM Place, where the Wild smacked the Canucks around and pwned them to a 5-2 victory.

    The game marked the triumphant return of Potatohead Gaborik, who didn’t tear his groin while flashing his famous speed and scoring 2 goals on Roberto Cloutier. The Canucks made it close in the 2nd period, but the Wild basically shut the door in the 3rd period the crowd went home unhappy (well apart from the 6 Wild fans in attendance).

    Here’s a brain dump that will clog the Hockey Rants toilet for a week.

  • Trevor Linden – D00d definitely has had the fork taken out of his back and looked about 5 years younger out there. He’s actually skating, hustling, and just about scored on a very nice individual rush effort. I wonder what performance enhancing substance he’s been using. LaKOTA?

  • GM Place is a great venue to do a little ‘bird watching’, as the place is filled with a lot of good looking ladies. At the same time, it’s very depressing for a single guy since these ladies are already hooked up with some preening moron.

  • Best Friends Forever: The Pavol and Potatohead spent a lot of quality on the ice talking to each other, leaving linemate Koivu out in the cold. The Wilds’ other slavs, Skoula and Radivojevic, also spent a lot of chit-chat time together.

  • Speaking of Martin Skoula, how is it that this guy hasn’t developed any further since his rookie season? He looks awfully clumsy out there at times and could easily be mistaken for a rookie, or Duvie Westcott.

  • There were quite a few women wearing those awful pink jersey/sweaters at the game. Every single one of them had dyed-blonde hair. Is that a rule? Can a brunette not purchase one of these garments?

  • I honestly do not mind if people leave the game early. It makes it easier for me to leave the game once it’s FINISHED. The fewer idiots that I have to come into close contact with, the better.

    Now, here’s a list of people that need to be disemboweled with a thrice-used toilet plunger.

  • These guys who wear a full business suit and tie to the game. It’s a sporting event, not a board meeting, you empty corporate assholes.

  • The pair of dweebs (and it’s always two of them) who (try to) start ‘The Wave’. Great, just great! Your mothers didn’t give you enough attention when you were kids and now you have to attract attention to yourself by inciting the crowd in a communistic cheer ritual. Sit down and have some herbal tea.

  • Anyone who partakes in the “Day-O” chant. Yeah, there are people who actually dig that crap. Do us all a favour and commit suicide, would you please.

  • Everyone who actually took and used a pair of those atrocious ThunderStix. Not only are they an incredibly stupid way to help destroy the Earth’s environment, but they are more annoying than David Pratt on a Wednesday.

  • These groups that feel the need to announce their presence by having their names put up on the electronic scoreboard. As if I give a rat’s ass that the people from “Rhino’s Pub” attended tonight’s game. I know which establishment I won’t be patronizing in the future.

  • The moron who controls the music at GM Place. I didn’t pay $100 to listen to sub-standard music, especially “Cotton Eye Joe”. Put on some more Rammstein and maybe I’ll let you live.

  • The punks who order two beers at a time (The “double-fisters”) and proceed to spill half of the cup’s contents onto the floor before they reach their seat. Get a lid for those, junior. These are the same punks that light their own farts and think Coldplay is worth listening to.

  • Finally, the concession stand worker who filled my cup completely full of ice before dispensing the Diet Coke. Hey, I paid $4 for that drink, so I want enough Aspartame to give me cancer next week.
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    The Battle of Crosbybechkin for the Art Ross

    The NHL must be loving this...

    Scoring Leaders:

    Name Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM
    Sidney Crosby PIT 39 21 44 65 14 34
    Alexander Ovechkin WAS 43 28 31 59 -2 40

    Yes, Crosby and Ovechkin are now 1-2 in the scoring race.

    Of course, Crosby has done more in less games and done more WITH less.

    While Oveckin has 22-goal scorer Alexander Semin and hard-working veterans Dainius Zubrus and Chris Clark to play with, Crosby has to make do with a rookie that looks like a member of the Addams Family and the 58-year old corpse of Mark Recchi.

    Oh, let's not mention +14 compared to -2. Maybe we should tout Sidney for the Selke trophy, as well.

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    Wednesday, January 10, 2007


    Rory Fitzpatrick: All Star Dreams...Shattered

    Poor Rory Fitzpatrick. For all of the bleedin' fan support 'e's received, the NHL kept 'im out of the All-Star game, ensurin' that many blokes won't even bovver ter tune in and wotch the bloody event.From CBC Sports:

    Despite a strong online campaign, write-in candidate Rory Fitzpatrick of the Vancouver Canucks fell just short of joining the Western Conference starting lineup for the all-star game, the NHL announced on Tuesday.
    Fitzpatrick received a record tally for write-in candidates, but finished third among defencemen in his conference with 550,177 fan votes.

    Yer know, I would 'ave tuned into the bloody ASG if Fitzpatrick were there, do wot guvnor! Now, is it? I'll go hammer and tack to not givin' a rat's ass about this borin' corporate schmooze fest.

    Do yer right trust the NHL votin' count, is it? Hmm, squire?

    How do we know that the bloody NHL didn't just fabricate these numbers out of fin air? Are we gonna cop an independent audit of the votes from an accountin' firm? I doubt it. This votin' Rudolf 'Ess is about as transparent as the air over Mexico City. Cor blimey guv!

    So, the bleedin' mainstream mediots and typical fanfellas will just take the NHL at their word wile puttin' their 'eads in the sand, init?

    Meanwile, right, ol' Rory 'as 'is dream at winnin' a new truck at the chuffin' ASG smashed by a bunch of baldin', right, not-so-well-endowed loryers from New York. This is just anuvver example that the bloody Powers That Be don't care about yer.


    This were all right well orchestrated by the NHL, o'course. Right. They milked some publicity out of the campaign, and then dropped 'im ter the chuffin' #3 spot in the previously released results. That way, the inevitable screw-Uncle Bob wouldn't 'ave a look so bad. If Rory entered the final stretch of the race in 1st or 2nd, there would be an outcry. Since 'e were already 3rd, the NHL could easily ensure that Rory didn't make it and claim that 'his campaign ran out of steam'.

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    Tuesday, January 09, 2007


    Hej, Hej, Hejda!

    Congratulations to Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jan Hejda, a Hockey Rants sponsored product of Slavia Prague, who scored his first NHL goal last night.

    The goal gave the Oilers a 2-1 OT victory over the LA Queens, so it was a biggie.
    Now, I know cheering for an Oilers player to score is akin to admitting to fantasizing about being adopted by the Canadian Tire family, but Hejda is worth the effort.

    So, here's the video of Hejda popping his goal-scoring cherry.

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    Monday, January 08, 2007


    The Czechs want bigger Cheques

    While the Russians are always in the public eye for their refusal to sign a transfer agreement with the NHL, the Czechs aren't exactly happy campers.

    While they reluctantly agreed to the current deal, you get the feeling that many of the Czech Extraliga executives would love for the Russians to win this battle and open up a free-market transfer economy for hockey players.

    From the Czech Business Weekly:
    Under the standing agreement signed by the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in 2005, the NHL paid $200,000 (Kč 4.1 million/€ 150,900) per player upon his departure to the NHL. Altogether, the NHL paid to European clubs $9.7 million last season.

    In late 2006, the NHL came up with a draft of a new deal that would pay $15 million to Europe per season over the next three years in compensation for departed players. The draft was presented to hockey representatives from the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland at a December meeting in Zurich.

    The new deal would relax the current regulation that only 45 players from one country can be drafted per season by the NHL. As a result, transfer fees could sink below $200,000 per player, said Martin Urban, general secretary of the Czech Ice Hockey Association (ČSLH). “Everything would now depend on the number of players leaving for the NHL,” Urban said.

    Although the new contract was disadvantageous, Czech clubs agreed not to object to it, said HC Pardubice general manager Zbyněk Kusý, who also works as the Czech national team’s general manager.

    “We’ve been ripped off by the NHL, but it’s better to get something than nothing, which would happen if we didn’t agree to the draft,” Kusý said.

    The NHL stipulated that the new agreement will become valid only if all seven European countries give their consent to the deal. The draft is now being considered by the national hockey associations.

    Ahh, Zbynek Kusy, GM of the rich Pardubice team who is always whining about something. Considering most of the other clubs can't get the lucrative sponsors to sign with their club, Kusy ought to learn to shut up more. (You can tell I don't think much of Pardubice, home of Hasek himself)

    The argument that the Czech teams might get screwed because more than 45 Czechs get taken in any one year might make logical sense. In reality, however, the argument is pretty much bunk once you realize that there will never be 45 Czechs taken in any one draft.

    2006 Entry Draft - 8 Czechs taken
    2005 Entry Draft - 12 Czechs taken

    That doesn't take into account that many players don't even make the NHL.

    Hmm, $9.7mil to European clubs at $200,000 per player equals 48.50 players. Who is the half player? Ummm...

    Anyway, $15mil per season at $200,000 a pop would be 75 players. Do you really think there will be 75 new players from Europe playing in the NHL next season? Of course not. The European clubs would stand to make more than the current price-per-player.

    This deal sounds pretty good for the European clubs, since you know the NHL will never go for the open-market philosophy of soccer. Really, what is to truly stop a player from going to the NHL if they really want to? Unless they get screwed into a lifetime-like contract that the Russian teams bully their players into, the player could just up and leave at any time once his club contract expires in Europe. The teams don't 'own' the players as much as they'd like to think they do.

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    Sunday, January 07, 2007


    Universal Choking Sign

    by Greg

    I was at work the other night, watching the Thrashers vs the Wayne Gretzky-led Coyotes (tm), when a friend walked by. "I was gonna go to that late," he said, "but this isn't even close. It won't even be interesting." Had to agree -- at that point it was 3-1, and while the Thrashers weren't at the top of their game, the Coyotes looked like they were wearing clown shoes. Right then, Atlanta scored another goal, to underscore the point.

    The next day, my friend asked what the final score was. I just sorta looked at him sadly, then got back to watching the Thrashers and Capitals start up -- and eventually end much the same way, with a blown lead and an overtime loss.

    I like concrete solutions to concrete problems, so the Thrashers' inability to hold a lead -- and at the risk of sounding/being hyperbolic, I don't think I've ever seen a team blow it so often -- frustrates me. I'd like a nice, simple reason that this keeps happening. Bob Hartley didn't make the proper animal sacrifices? Refs on the take? Thrashers are tired from Greco-Roman wrestling between periods two and three? Fine. Any of those would be fine. This maddening uncertain spiritual shrug of the shoulders, not so fine.

    Both goalies, granted, look to have a confidence problem. Every once in a while, the cameras will show Lehtonen or Hedberg after a goal, with the same scared look -- kind of a combination of Jocelyn Thibault and a veal calf being led to the slaughter. There have been times this season where Lehtonen gives up a goal -- and even if Atlanta's still up by two goals, if I see that look in his eyes, I think "welp, that's it for the Thrashers then." Unfortunately, more often than not, I'm right.

    (Of course, despite all this, the Thrashers are still up by eight points in the Southeast. Maybe the division really is weak.)

    Saturday, January 06, 2007


    Video of the Day - Retro Cloutier

    This is post #1,000, which is a nice round number...

    Rather than something big and explosive, like a Jaroslav Balastik goal, I'll post this very strange video.

    Dan Cloutier + old country style video =

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    Friday, January 05, 2007


    WJC: Slovaks Safe...for now...

    Canada/Russia in the finals again?
    Been there, done that, and have the media guide.

    Like most Canadians, I haven’t been able to get much into the tournament, and can't watch the final game because it's on when we're AT WORK. Good job, IIHF, schedule the final game for when your prime TV audience is at work and can't watch the games. Even the NHL wouldn't be that stupid.

    People have asked me to comment on the Slovaks' performance at this tournament, since every other blogger (except Greg) hates or doesn't give a rat's ass about Slovaks.

    I picked the Slovaks to finish 7th, and the fact that they were in the relegation round was no surprise. The level of hockey talent has fallen drastically in the country since the fall of communism, and the Slovaks have had major troubles at this tournament in the past few years.

    Going into yesterday's action, the Slovaks were in grave danger of being relegated, which is a fate I hadn't expected at all. I felt the Slovaks were a shoo-in to be safely in Pool A, and never thought they'd have to rely on another team to save their asses..

    Thanks to a 9-0 beating over the fascist Belarussians, and a Swiss cheese victory over the Sauerkrauts, the Slovaks managed to save their Pool A lives by the slimmest of margins, finishing 8th overall.


    Now, the decline of Slovak hockey has been fairly steep and I expect the country will struggle in the 2nd tier with the Germans, Swiss, and Belarussians for some time.

    Look at the Slovak stars in the league. Most of them are in their prime or over 30. Marian Gaborik is the rare exception of a Slovak star produced after the Velvet Revolution. Demitra, Satan, Bondra, Visnovsky, Hossa, Chara, and Handzus were all products or partial-products of the 'old' system. Sure, there are some talented youngsters like Andrej Meszaros, but certainly nothing like the glory years.

    Just to rehash some stuff I've probably already talked about...

    After the 'fall', the Slovak government no longer pumped lots of money into the hockey programs and schools (Since most kids played hockey in elementary and high school in their city). The split of Czechoslovakia also left the Czechs with most of the rinks and resources, and left the Slovaks with a very weak economy.

    Hockey has become a rich man's game, way more so than in Canada, Sweden, USA, and even Czechia. In relative terms, the average Slovak cannot afford to put their kids into hockey like the average family of most other big hockey countries. Many talented players never get a chance to play hockey, and a lot of the kids who do play hockey happen to be kids or relatives of former and current hockey players.

    While the Slovaks will always continue to have a strong hockey culture, the level of talent is not likely to return to the high levels experienced in the 90s and early 00s for a long time. The Slovaks are basically a feeder service for many other European leagues, with the rare exceptional Meszaros type coming out of the woodwork once a year. The Slovaks will likely have major struggles at the senior level (WC, Olympics) when many of the current stars get old and retire.

    Sure, Marian Gaborik is building a new rink on Trencin, but this won't help the average kid be able to afford expensive hockey equipment (in relative terms most equipment is priced higher in Europe than North America).

    My Slovak friend, Daniel, also offered his take on why the Slovaks did so poorly at this tournament.

    1. The development in Slovakia is poor. Plenty of kids leave to play in CHL and Czech leagues. All too often, it's a also case of stupid parents who think their kids are next Hossa, Gaborik or Palffy while they can't even skate.

    2. Poor nominations. Richard Lelkes and Marcel Hascak are two regular Extraliga players who weren't nominated and Lukas Bohunicky is a WHLer who should have gone. You probably don't know who they are, but you'll have to trust me on this one.

    3. Starting goalie Vladimir Kovac suffered an injury one week before the tournament and Branislav Konrad was forced into action as the #1 goalie.

    4. Perhaps the most important reason: Coaching!

    In Daniel's words:

    Jan Jasko should get to the Guinness book of records as the worst coach in history. Count with me what he recorded during last 365 days:

    He coached Zvolen but was fired during regular season 2005-06.

    Several weeks later was signed to coach Slovan but after eliminated in quarter-final was fired again.

    Just couple days later Nitra's GM fell in love with Jasko and fired Stavjana, during semi-series, to sign Jasko. Of course Nitra was eliminated soon and Jasko was fired again. Meanwhile he worked as assistant coach of Frantisek Hossa on the national team.

    Of course this "amazing" duo recorded the worst result of national team in last 6 years on WC (Slovakia was 8th). And his last success was this WJC. If you want to relegate Canada from pool A in next season please sign Jasko ;-)

    This whole WJC was disheartening for Slovak fans, but I feel that many future WJC's will be just the same. As long as the Slovaks keep producing a much lower level of talent than in the past, they'll keep struggling to maintain a Pool A presence in the face of increasing competition from the Germans and Swiss.


    As for the Czechs... just a few thoughts

  • 1. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec was surprisingly awful. He's a great young talent and I believe he's got a good shot at an NHL future, but a 2-3 record with a 88.97SV% was bad.

  • 2. Secondary Scoring: Where was it? The Czechs got good performances from Michael Frolik, Vladimir Sobotka, and Tomas Svoboda. Michal Repik? He finished with 0 points in 6 games. Other than those 3 forwards and Tomas Kana, the Czechs weren't getting good support.

  • 3. Defence - The Czechs had a group of offensive-minded defensemen and have had trouble producing some good defensive defensemen in some time. There seems to be a lot of moaning that the Czechs Extraliga and Czech hockey in general is not producing enough good solid defensemen.

  • 4. Too many CHLers! I realize that a lot of the talent has gone to the CHL over the past decade, but the Czechs always seem to have this problem of integrating the European and CHL players. The Russians, Swedes, and Finns don't have this problem because so few of their guys play in the CHL. The Slovaks and Czechs need to start taking more Euro-heavy teams.
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    Thursday, January 04, 2007


    Phil Kessel's Got Ball!

    When I first heard the news about Phil Kessel and his testicular cancer, I got the same squeamish feeling that most guys probably got.

    Pain + Groin Region = Major discomfort. Even talking about it or hearing about it causes me to shudder.

    I mean, can a guy really read about how royal bodyguards in ancient China had to have their balls smashed with rocks so that they wouldn't go and play chase-the-snake with the princess without going 'oooooooohhhhhhhhh, man!' ?

    You'd figure cancer would set a guy back for a long time, especially when it deals with such a sensitive area.

    Low and behold, Kessel is already back practicing with his team.

    Story Link:

    Bruins rookie forward Phil Kessel returned to practice Wednesday only a few weeks after undergoing testicular cancer surgery.

    Kessel participated in team workouts but avoided contact drills and said afterward he was feeling good about his progress. There is no set return date for Kessel, and he is expected to play Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    "I think I can [play], but it's whatever's best for the team," Kessel told AP on Wednesday.

    Kessel had the operation on Dec. 11 and had been skating with team trainers for at least a week. He does not require radiation treatment but will make routine visits with his doctors for physical exams and blood tests.

    "I missed it, because I love to play hockey," he told AP. "I watched some of the games, but it's hard to watch when you want to be out there playing but you can't."
    A month? It took only a month?

    Was his cancer small? Are treatments that good? Was this a cover-up for a STD he got screwing around with Boston bunnies?

    I would have never expected him to be back playing full-contact hockey in just a month. That's some speedy recoverin'

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    Wednesday, January 03, 2007


    Alex Burrows: About Freakin' Time!

    Alexandre Burrows, the guy with the English surname and French accent, hadn't scored a goal since his hat trick on March 22nd, 2006. This season? 0 for 38 heading into last night.

    He hadn't even had a point since November 22nd!

    Go figure that he'd go out and score an exceptionally beautiful goal, stealing a page out of the Miroslav Satan playbook. His goal proved to be the winner as the Canucks doused the Flames 3-2 (obligatory bad media pun)

    It's funny seeing coach Alain Vigneault and half of the bench trying their hardest not to laugh too hard. When I was watching the game, I couldn't believe what I saw, either.

    3 straight wins over the Calgary Flames = sweet.
    Alexandre Burrows 1st goal of the season = sweet.
    The sourpuss look on Dion Phaneuf's face = sweet.

    "Sweet, sweet fantasy baby!"

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    Tuesday, January 02, 2007


    Chelios' Chili House of Death

    Chris Chelios + Restaurants = Chaos.

    This wasn't simply breaking dishes, however. This is one for the 'strange but true' files.

    DETROIT (AP) - Two people were found stabbed to death Tuesday morning at a sports bar owned by Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios, police said.

    The victims, both employees of Cheli's Chili Bar, were found shortly after 9 a.m. on the restaurant's second floor, said police spokeswoman Yvette Walker.

    "We believe, just based upon the information right now, that it is a former disgruntled employee that may be responsible for these two murders," police chief Ella Bully-Cummings told the Detroit Free Press.

    Police were questioning other employees who were in the restaurant at the time. The three-story building sits next to Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.

    "We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred at our establishment this morning," Chelios said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the families of the victims _ they were wonderful employees and were part of our family."

    Chelios opened the sports bar and restaurant in 2005. The restaurant, which has a banner honouring former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman hanging from an exterior wall, had been expected to have a busy night Tuesday because of a ceremony at Joe Louis Arena honouring Yzerman.

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    Photo of the Day: Just a reminder case you forgot.

    Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Monday, January 01, 2007


    Hockey Rants New Year's Resolutions

    January 1st, the day that most of us rue the fact that we spent, ate and drank way too much over the holidays. In a vain attempt to make up for our hedonism, we resolve to be better people in the new year.

    This, of course, lasts anywhere from 1 hour to 2 weeks. Lose weight? Stop smoking pot? You know you can't keep those resolutions.

    So, Greg and I have made some resolutions that we will actually attempt to keep and may actually do so. Being the good citizens we are, we've also got some suggestion resolutions for our NHL friends.

    Jes: Will resolve to be nicer to Sweden, respond to emails much faster (within 2 weeks at least), blog about the hometown Canucks a bit more, and stop listening to so much Barber Shop Gangster Rap.

    Greg: Will be more understanding of the problems Canuck fans face

    For our NHL buddies:

    Alain Vigneault -- Keep line combinations together for more than two periods.
    Greg Millen - Stop repeating yourself.
    Alexander Ovechkin -- Pass the puck more often
    Jan Bulis -- Get physically involved in the play at least once a week.
    Nicklas Lidstrom -- graciously cede a spot on the All-Star team to Rory Fitzpatrick
    John Davidson and Larry Pleau - resolve to avoid signing anyone over 30
    Bob Hartley -- stop upsetting the poor Washington Capitals so much
    Doug MacLean -- stop quashing talent (cf. Balastik, Kloucek)
    Milan Hejduk -- place the little black rubber disk into the net more frequently
    Alanah/Canucks and Beyond -- stop making bets
    Petr Tenkrat -- score a few more goals to make Greg look good
    Comcast -- resolve to improve both their cable service and their hockey team
    Avalanche - Stop bombing Mako reactors
    Greg Millen -- Stop repeating yourself
    Jeremy Roenick - retire
    Don Cherry - Do some actual research before going on the air.
    Leafs fans -- look at an atlas.
    Gary Bettman - Tell the truth. It might hurt at first, but it'll feel so good later on.

    Let's hope 2007 doesn't suck as much as 2006 did.

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