Monthly Archives: June 2011

Have a little self-respect, re-defined

My last post was about having some self-respect on the ice. In that post, I was talking about something that isn’t that big of a deal when compared to the big scheme of things; hockey, in comparison to most aspects of life, isn’t that significant.

I’m sure the Sedins, who I have trashed for their lack of heart during the playoffs, have some respect for themselves, and others, outside of the rink. They’ve donated millions of dollars to charities. They’re very classy players on the ice; never will you see them throw a cheap shot or go after another player. They’re great teammates, from what I hear. Overall, they’re good people who should be respected as such, even if it’s hard to respect their abilities to perform when it matters.

It sucks when a large crowd of fans, a small group of fans or even just one fan of an athletics team makes all of the fans that associate themselves with the same team look terrible. As sports fans, we tend to stereotype an entire fan base based on personal experiences with fans of another team, or even just by what we see in the media.

I’ve had a lot of experiences with Vancouver fans in the past few weeks; granted, they were all via the Internet, but I got a taste of what a Vancouver fan was like in general. Long story short, I began to dislike Canucks fans, mostly for defending acts such as the Burrows bite, essentially arguing that black is white. Were they all obnoxious and unreasonable? Of course not. But my experiences, as a whole, swayed my opinion that the majority of Canuck fans are annoying and frustrating to deal with, and towards the end of it all, I couldn’t stand Canuck fans.

But that’s just playoff hockey. Yes, I am a Rangers fan, and will be one forever (unfortunately), but I supported Boston throughout the playoffs. So of course I am going to dislike the fans of the team of my “opponents.” It’s not a big deal, and I would have been totally over hating Canuck fans after Game 7, just like all the players got in that line at center ice and shook hands after everything that took place on the ice and the media. I would have gone back to hating the Flyers, the Penguins, the Devils, the Islanders, and a few select players from those teams and other teams.

Everything would have been pretty normal if not for the events following the game.

I could list a bunch of descriptive words and phrases about what took place that night and try to describe it. I can tell you in detail how what I witnessed from a couple of thousand miles away made me feel. But nothing I say could do it justice.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, some hooligan-Canuck fans decided it would be just a swell idea to riot in the streets of Vancouver (some great photos here, actually) after having their hopes of their first Stanley Cup being trashed by the Boston Bruins (the riots actually started a few minutes before the final buzzer, as the game was decided rather early for a Game 7). And as a hockey fan, a sports fan, and even just as a person, I am offended by those actions.

I get it. You’re upset. You’re team lost. Hockey might be all some of you have in Canada have (although Vancouver has an MLS team, too: the Vancouver Whitecaps). I’m sure getting all the way to Game 7 of the finals and losing [pretty badly] must have been devastating. Going 40 seasons without a Cup must suck. Who knows when you’ll get another shot at it.

But how are you going to act like that? How are you going to embarrass yourselves and your entire city because your favorite hockey team didn’t pull through? Do you realize how you look, what image you portray?

“What, we lost at hockey? BREAK AND BURN EVERYTHING!”

“Aw, yeah, bro! Sick idea!”

I cannot deal with that mentality; I can’t deal with those people who think ruining a city is an acceptable way to deal with defeat.

But it’s even worse than that. These people were going to riot REGARDLESS of the outcome. People brought backpacks filled with all kinds of tools useful for rioting to the viewing area outside the arena. They had planned to riot before having any idea of what the outcome would have been. They did it in 1994 after losing to the Rangers, and, keeping with tradition, some decided to trash their city at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Let me be clear: these people whom act like that aren’t fans. Maybe they care about the team, maybe they don’t. These are the kinds of people who go to events and partake in various shenanigans just to fit in with everyone else. The people who really don’t care about anyone else. The people who join clubs, sports, frats, or any group just so they can be at the top of the social ladder, fit in and not be ridiculed or have to deal with being different; the “cool” kids, if you will (and it was mostly teenagers and young adults who participated).

I have a problem with those people; it upsets me that they exist. Not only do those terrible people make me lose hope for sports fans, and even humanity in general, they just make everyone around them look bad. They make all Vancouver Canuck fans look like hooligans. What’s going to happen when the average fan passes another wearing a Canucks jersey on the street, or come into any sort of contact with someone who classifies his fandom for the Canucks? He/she is instantly branded as a rioting moron, based on what he/she has seen or heard — a hooligan who deserves no respect. It’s not fair to those fans. It’s not fair to hockey fans! When it comes to hockey, all you see through the big sports media are the bad things that go on: the cheap shots, the goonery, the injuries, players being carried out on stretchers, biting, taunting…and now, rioting.

As hockey fans — as sports fans — let’s not be so quick as to categorize all Vancouver fans into the category of  “classless” and “rioting morons”; like this guy (NSFW: language, some violence), they’re not all hooligans. Let’s not let the acts of a few very, very stupid people taint what was a very interesting Stanley Cup; we should either be celebrating/honoring a Bruins victory or getting a fire lit under us after watching those intense, grueling playoffs about the next hockey season starting in a few months in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, our favorite team will come out on top. We shouldn’t be talking about some stupid people who decided to disregard ethics and instead wanted to satisfy their own personal rage. We should instead be talking about hockey-related things, perhaps how the Canucks seemed to lack the heart necessary to win, or how Timmy Thomas put on one of the best goaltending performances in postseason history, or how Roberto Luongo and the Canucks couldn’t get the job done on the road, or how rookie Brad Marchand made a name for himself, or seeing how scary/intimidating/inspiring Zdeno Chara can be after two months of playoffs and a Cup (I’ll probably add to those ideas, stay tuned).

Riots should not even be the discussion. They shouldn’t be making headlines; we shouldn’t be talking about 100 arrests and stabbings on the night the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophies were awarded. The acts of a few shouldn’t outweigh the efforts of athletes who have battled for their fans, the sport and the sacred Stanley Cup for the past few months. Hockey should not be overshadowed by public stupidity. I can only hope that people aren’t encouraged by what they saw. I know that the majority of sports fans wouldn’t even think to trash a city, win or lose.

As that one brave Vancouver resident said, it’s their city. What are they doing? What’s the point of rioting? If only there were more people like him present, and that bandwagon mentality wasn’t so powerful, we could be talking about hockey and none of this stupidity would even be an issue. The rioters embarassed themselves and the city. They’ve forever tainted the image of themselves, the city of Vancouver, the Vancouver Canucks, and all hockey fans in one night. Have a little self-respect, for yourself and for the city you live in.

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Have a little self respect

Poise. Some athletes have it, some don’t. As for a few players on the Vancouver Canucks, they haven’t  shown that they have it, at least when they play in Boston.

Roberto Luongo, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are the top-three players on the Canucks in terms of talent: Daniel Sedin scored the most points (41-63-104) in the regular season, earning him the rights to the Art Ross Trophy in a few weeks; Henrik, who plays on a line with his brother, was not far behind (4th overall, 19-75-94). Luongo also posted great numbers in the regular season: a 2.11 GAA (2nd), a .928 save% (3rd), and 38 wins (T-1st) and is a finalist for the Veznia Trophy (which he will lose to Tim Thomas).

And it’s not like they haven’t done well overall in the postseason; well some of those players at least: Henrik is 2nd in points behind David Krejci and Daniel is T-3rd (20), although their +/- hasn’t been great (Henrik a -7 and Daniel a -5). Luongo, on the other hand, hasn’t lived up to expectations. He was yanked twice in the Chicago series that almost ended in disaster (games 4 and 5) and was pulled in favor of Schneider for the Game 6 starter. And we all know how poorly he’s done this series, on the road at least. He started the series off great with a shutout and then a 2 GA performance. Then, in Boston, in all went downhill: EIGHT goals against in Game 3 (apparently, Luongo wanted to stay in the game), and four goals against in 20 shots in Game 4 before finally pulled early in the 3rd. Then, in the last game, he let up three goals in just eight shots (8:35 in net) before getting the cane yet again. What do all these numbers add up to? A GAA on the road in the finals of…get ready….8.05, and a save% of… .773.

How can one play so well at home (2 SO, 3-0) during the finals and then just not even show up for the road games? Is it possible that Roberto Luongo does not actually make the trips to Boston, but rather, has the team employ a homeless man that looks like him to play in his stead? Did he hear that Boston doesn’t have a seawall and just decided, “eh, screw it”? Of course, you can’t put all the blame on Luongo, it seened like the team in front of him gave up after giving up a few goals on the road. Seriously, it looked like they stopped trying after the first period in those games. Whatever the case, Luongo will start in Game 7, which, given his recent home performances, is probably the right decision.

Then you have the Sedins. Great talents, and they played well for the first three rounds in the Western Conference, but haven’t really done much in the finals (1-3-4 for Daniel, 1-0-1 for Henrik, with three of their points coming in Game 6 when the game was over). But let’s put their numbers aside. Let’s put aside the fact that they’ve spent more time on the ground, presumably after a weak dive. Where are the spines of Daniel and Henrik? As I mentioned in my previous post, in Game 4, pest Brad Marchand  jumped off the bench, intentionally bumped into the Sedin (I forget which one), who was lined up for the draw by the Bruins bench, and proceeded to give him a couple of whacks with his stick. And what did Sedin do? Nothing. Just took it. He didn’t even react. That was curious.

And then, late in Game 6 with the game already decided, I saw something I never thought I would see in a hockey game — a playoff hockey game: Marchard grabbed Daniel (I had to look up their jersey numbers to know which one it was) by his jersey, and then for no apparent reason, started to jab him in the face with that hand (which he definetely shouldn’t have done). Not just once or twice, but SIX TIMES. And again, what did Sedin do? ABSOLTELY NOTHING!!! He doesn’t even look at him!!! Really, Daniel? You wear a letter, and you’re going to let a little shrimp like Marchand bully you with only a few minutes left in a game that’s decided? I guess he was trying to draw a penalty? But who cares at that point, show a little self respect and send a message for the final game of the series, that you aren’t going to be bullied like that! It reminded me of one of Sean Avery’s many shenanigans, but done totally wrong.

The three  Canucks players mentioned here have embarassed themselves in their three road games this series. Lucky for them, Game 7 is in Vancouver, where at least one of them has performed well so far. But why can’t they perform in Boston? Is it something mental? Is the city of Boston their weakness or is it finals games on the road in general? I would think a player with some mental fortitude would at least show something in every game and at least show up and show that they want to be there, regardless of location. It brings into question their poise, ability to perform when the going gets tough, and ability to perform in the biggest games of their careers.

Game 7 will be tight and low scoring, as have all the games have been, which thus far have ended in Vancouver’s favor. Luongo will show up and put on a performance. Tim Thomas will show up and put on a performance. As cliche as it sounds, it’s going to come down to who wants it more. As much talent as some of these players have and as well as some of them have performed, look for a grinder to score the game winner, someone who is more renown for their hard work ethic rather than scoring prowess, as has been the case in the past few SCF  Game 7s. The Sedins have an opportunity here, they can erase the image they’ve created here in the finals of being soft and lacking poise by being the hero. If the Canucks lose, they will be the target of blame and possibly ridicule for years to come. And lucky for them, it only takes one to clear both of their names, because everyone outside of Vancouver assumes they’re the same person anyway.

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60 minutes

In hockey, players look up to their teammates with a letter on the front of their jersey for inspiration; a player with an “A” or “C” on their chest is supposed to set an example and lead their team. When the team is down and showing no signs of life, a leader on a complete team will step up and say something or do something to get the team going. That idea is even more prevelant when it comes to the NHL playoffs, the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Vancouver Canucks, as much talent and potential they have, seem to lack those kind of players. After being humiliated in Game 3, both on the scoreboard and in terms of physical play, I think we all expected the Canucks to come out in Game 4 guns blazing and putting up a fight for 60+ minutes. It didn’t happen. Overall, they played decent hockey for two periods but were hurt by some poor Roberto Luongo goaltending (who let up four goals on 20 shots) and ran into a hot Tim Thomas.

But then the third period was a joke; as a hockey fan, I was embarassed to watch a team put forth the weak effort the Canucks did for a STANLEY CUP FINALS GAME. It just seemed like, after the second period, they gave up. They showed no emotion on the ice or the bench for pretty much the entire period. The players weren’t even hitting or retaliating to being hit, they just took it.

I feel like the lack of heart the team showed starts with the leadership on the team. Now, I can’t say how the players are behind closed doors in the locker room, but the Sedins, who wear two-thirds of the teams letters (Henrik the “C” and Daniel an “A”), just don’t seem to play with any heart. I was talking with my friend (a Bruins fan), and I told him that they don’t seem to have/show any emotion. He said no, you’re wrong, they do show an emotion: fear. It couldn’t have been put any better. In the first period, Bruins’ pest Brad Marchand, who had himself a great Game 3 and Game 4 (by the way I LOVE his game), decided to mess with one of the Sedins (again, I just cannot differentiate the two, and I don’t think you can either, test your abilities for yourself!): Marchand jumped off the bench, intentionally bumped into the Sedin, who was lined up for the draw by the Bruins bench, and proceeded to give him a couple of whacks with his stick. And what did Sedin do? Nothing. Just took it. He didn’t even react.

Is that how you want one of the leaders on your team to react? I get that he probably was more focussed on playing the game than geting involved with the chippiness, but he didn’t show any emotion there. I have to think that his actions, as well as his brother’s — or lack thereof — rubs off on the rest of the team; the only thing I’ve noticed the Sedins doing this series is scoring one goal and “falling down” a lot. VERSUS panned to the Vancouver bench a few times in the third; there was no emotion to be seen on any of their faces. It was dead silent, and they looked down, and beat. How can you do that for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals? I noticed only two players on the Canucks who, despite being down 4-0, seemed like they cared at that point: Alex Burrows (the instigator of the mini-brawl involving Thomas) and Ryan Kessler, who usually wears the other “A”. That’s the kind of heart you want players showing, even if it’s just starting a scrum in a game that’s already been decided. Play to the end. One player needed to step up and say something and get his team going; it didn’t happen on the ice/bench (from what we could see) and I don’t feel like that happened in the locker room. In fact, it took the actions of the Bruins’ players to get the Canucks to show anything at all in the third.

Of course, there was probably an emotional letdown from a weak goaltending effort…by Roberto Luongo — not Cory Schneider, who looked SOLID in his slightly-less-than 20 minutes in the third. Which raises the question: who starts Game 5 for the Canucks? No doubt the thrashings the Bruins gave the Canucks and shoddy performance by Luongo shattered his confidence. However, he’s 9-3 at home these playoffs (won his last 4 home starts) with solid numbers, including two shutouts. Schneider has shown he can make some saves and at least appear to not get rattled like Luongo, who has already been pulled four times in the playoffs. It’s a tough call for the Canucks. If Schneider starts Game 5, and he does a decent job and stays healthy, Luongo’s playoffs could be done; if he wins or does a decent job, they’ll stick with him for Game 6 in Boston, where Luongo has failed miserably and lost all his confidence. If they take it to Game 7, and Schneider played the last two games, I’m not so sure they want throw in a goaltender who seems to be a bit fragile mentally when the going gets tough and sat the last two games; he’d be defeated if he got benched.

Can’t wait for Game 5. Hopefully, the Canucks respond and we actually get a hockey game instead of one team playing a team who isn’t mentally and emotionally strong enough to play a full 60 minutes, possibly (and hopefully) more.

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For the life of me, I’ll never understand hockey players.

On VERSUS’ post-game show, Jeremy Roenick said that the series “just got ugly.” If the series wasn’t already ugly, I can’t imagine what to expect in these coming games.

Playoff hockey really brings out the best of some players, but more significantly, the worst of players. Players will do anything to win. Anything. It’s these things that the players do that make the game — that make this series — look ugly.

It’s players like Aaron Rome neglecting to let up when he needs to, sending another player to the hospital with a probable concussion. It’s the persistent, um, let’s say “falling” of the Sedin twins (I don’t know if one does it more than the other, but who can honestly tell the difference between the two?) in an embarassing attempt to draw a powerplay. It’s the biting, and the following taunting by dangling/shoving fingers in front of another player’s face, alluding to that play. It’s the league’s permission of those kinds of plays to go unpunished. It’s giving a player a relentless facewash and shoving his face to the ground for going hard to the net. It’s slashing another player in the legs before the puck is even dropped. It’s punching a player in the back of the head then mockingly waving one’s fingers by his mouth, inviting him to bite it. It’s leaving one’s feet and leading with the elbow in an attempt to hit a player with a few minutes left in a game that’s already been decided. It’s all the cross checks, the late hits, the hits from behind, the slashes, the unessesary roughness, the taunting, the mouthing, and the general lack of respect exhibted by the players to the other team.

Maybe this ugly nature of playoff hockey is why major leaders in sports media, such as ESPN, refuse to broadcast NHL games on TV and cover the sport adequetally. They see these kinds of plays and realize that hockey can be very gritty, ugly and unsuitable for most viewers. Maybe they’re justified in not wanting to take a chance with a violent sport that isn’t popular as it is. If the biggest headline and highlight coming out of a game is frequently “player bites player” or “player concussed by late hit”, what kind of a message does that send viewers?

As hockey fans, we love most of this stuff. We love the intensity the players put forth; it’s the emotion they show that allow us to exert our emotions. We love the competiveness. It doesn’t get any more exciting than playoff hockey.

I’ll always wonder if the players enjoy the playoffs as much as we do, between the physical and emotional tolls a playoff run takes. I wonder if the players genuienly hate each other as much as they appear to on the ice; with all the cheap stuff and “gamesmanship” that goes on, I don’t understand how they could.

But of course, when it’s all said and done, all the players will line up at center ice, shake each other’s hands, and congratulate the other player on a hard-fought series, as if nothing really happened, as if that’s what they expected from each other. When it’s over, the players seem to be buddy-buddy with each other and show a great deal of respect for their opponents, whether they won, lost, took a cheap shot, got under someone’s skin, or even bit someone. They typically forgive each other like it’s not a big deal, like it’s how a competitor would act. After everything that happens, how can they do that? For the life of me, I’ll never understand hockey players.

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Hey guys, it’s cool, it’s the playoffs…I guess

This just in: NHL announces that biting another player is perfectly acceptable.

As I’m sure you were made aware (several times), in last night’s game, Alexandre Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s hand during a scrum behind the net at the end of the first period. While the play resulted in a roughing minor to Bergeron and double-minor in roughing to Burrows, nothing further was handed out when Bergeron showed the refs his bitten fingers (which, according to the NBC crew, had blood on it). According the official rules, Burrows should also have been given at least a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct: “Any player who is guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to hair-pulling, biting, grabbing hold of a face mask, etc. If warranted, and specifically when injury results, the referee may apply Rule 21 – Match Penalties.” So, the refs missed that call.

And that’s fine. I’m sure it was hard to see during the chaos; in fact, the ref’s head was turned towards Bergeron when Burrows did the said biting. I’m sure none of us had any idea until we saw the video replay(s). And of course, Burrows, who has a history of questionable plays (look it up if you want) and even a suspension, was aware enough of what he was doing to grab Bergeron’s hand and hide it behind his own hand, obscuring the biting action from clear view.

And that was apparently enough to fool the NHL. According to NHL.com,  National Hockey League Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy reviewed the tape and claimed that there was no “conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron.” 

Right…Burrows grabbed Bergeron’s hand, put his mouth around his fingers (sorry, I’m not sure if it’s possible to describe in a way that’s not dirty), covered Bergeron’s hand with his own, bent his head down, and stopped yapping (which is something he LOVES to do) for a second, just so it LOOKED LIKE he was biting on Bergeron’s hand. Great prank, Burrows! And Bergeron really added to that sell by going over to the refs, claiming he was bitten and showing them his bloody fingers. Clearly they were in on it together!

Seriously. That’s the only other possibility other than “Burrows bit Bergeron.” Why would someone do all those actions if he wasn’t biting down? So it LOOKED LIKE he was doing something that’s suspension-worthy? So he’d get suspended or penalized for doing nothing? I don’t understand.

I’d be more OK if the league’s public reason for the non-suspension was something along the lines of, “Well, Burrows did bite Bergeron, but come on people, it’s the finals, these things happen; also Burrows is an important player, and you know how we treat the better players” (which could very well be the actual reason). I would disagree with any reason the league could pass forth for not suspending Burrows, but their actual reason, that they could not determine intent or the actual action, is probably the worst, and it’s just embarrassing. Burrows bit Bergeron, you can’t deny it. And he intended to do it; you can’t bite and not intend to.

Aside from the fact that there’s no doubt that Burrows bit Bergeron’s hand (intentionally…I guess I have to add that), I feel like the league HAD to suspend Burrows based on the fact that the entire NBC crew was making a big deal out of the situation; pretty much every commentator/analyst commented on the incident and said that it was something he can’t do, and it was brought up several times, including during VERSUS’ post game. Since everyone watching the game was made aware of this point, and since everyone watching saw the biting incident, the NHL should have suspended Burrows, even if for nothing more than protecting the league’s image.

Game 1 of this series was ugly enough. The Bruins are probably going to go after Burrows. Game 2 will be even uglier. There was already one injury last game (Dan Hamhuis, some time after hitting Milan Lucic and receiving a David Krejci cross-check). It’s playoff hockey, so it’s going to be more intense than most games, but you can’t let someone bite another player and get away with it with no penalty; it sends a terrible message, to both the players and the fans.

I can’t wait to see what someone does next to warrant a non-suspension. I mean, it’s the playoffs, anything goes, right?

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