Category Archives: NHL

And your losers are…

So this post is long overdue, but it has to be done. A few weeks ago, the NHL handed out its annual awards to recognize the best players in various aspects of the sport, both on and off the ice. However, what you don’t know is that the league also holds a separate voting for some of the league’s less-prestigious awards, honoring the worst players in said aspects. Of course, it would be a PR disaster to release these results, and you can imagine all the lawsuits, but lucky for you, I happened to steal a copy from Scott Howson’s jacket pocket while he was busy making his team terrible.

I know these awards are only supposed to be based on what happened over the course of the regular season, but much like the real “GM of the year” award, that doesn’t work too well here. So in no particular order, here are the results:

The Doug Mohns Honor, given to the league’s least valuable player (Here’s a little background on the name: Doug Mohns captained his team, the ’74-’75 Washington Capitals, to the worst record in NHL history. The spread? 8-67-5 (21 points). Yes, eight. Eight wins. The team won a total of eight games in an 80-game season (.131 winning percentage). And they only managed one of those wins on the road. They went a staggering 1-39 on the road. Also, they allowed 10 or more goals in seven of their 80 games: 11 percent. To clarify, yes, this is an NHL team, and they finished only 92 points out of first place in the division. Oh, and it was the team’s inaugural season as an expansion team. Rough way to start.):

Let’s be real, there’s only one winner (or loser, depending on how you look at it) here. And that player is none other than the $7.35 million man himself, Mr. Scott Gomez. Yes, in 39 games, Gomez managed to put in a number of goals that is just one of 10 numbers that can acceptably be spelled out by rules of AP Style: two. To make that number worse, he didn’t manage to score his first goal of the season until February 9, his 25th game of the season, which prompted the popular Web site didgomezscore.com. And that follows a seven-goal effort (80 games) in the previous season. Did I mention the Rangers managed to screw trade him to Montreal for their best defensive prospect? So congratulations, Mr. Gomez, you are absolutely deserving of the award of player least valuable to his team.

The Wade Redden Award (don’t worry, the name works because he’s no longer an NHL player nor will he ever be again), given to the worst defenseman in the league:

Dennis Wideman: He’s just not a good player. He never has been. Constantly out of position, always having a plethora of pucks bounce of his legs/skates and end up in the back of his own net, lazy decision-making…yep, this guy’s got all of the tools to earn this award…and to earn a nice $26.5 million contract, apparently (seriously, Calgary?). Oh, and he was a -7 in 14 playoff games.

Erik Karlsson: Oh, what’s that? He actually won the Norris Trophy (best defenseman) this year. Hmm, interesting, how foolish of me. Well, there goes my nomination and all my credibility I guess. WRONG. Since this award doesn’t necessarily go to the worst defenseman in the entire league (there are too many scrubs and no-names), but rather the most overrated one (it’s kind of an unsaid thing that goes with the award, you know, like how the Norris trophy is supposed to go to the best defenseman, but rather it goes to the one that puts up the most points). How is he overrated? Well, that’s just a tangent I simply don’t have enough space or relevant thoughts to put down here, but I’m sure you can expect an explanation from an awesome blogger in the near future (*wink wink*).

The Leafs: No, just the Leafs. Yeah, I got lazy, but…yeah, the Leafs aren’t good at defense.

And the winner is…well, I guess you’ll just have to wait for my next blog post to find out who I think the winner/loser is. …Oh, I already gave it away? Um, well, you should probably read my next post anyway.

The Wolf Stansson Judgement (yes, that is Iceland’s coach from D2: The Mighty Ducks) for biggest scumbag. And the nominees are:

Cam Janssen. Ah, yes, an excellent choice; a true scumbag in the very sense of the word. Here are some of the comments he made on some douche radio show (WARNING: contains very crude, albeit censored, language). He openly states that he tries to catch people with their head down and tries to hurt people to “put the fear of f***ing God in people’s eyes.” Yep, here’s a classic example of an idiot player that gives the sport its “goon” image that the league has worked so hard on to eliminate without removing the necessary aspect of fighting. Good luck trying to vouch for yourself when you talk to the Shanabanhammer after you inevitably take a cheap shot on someone. Try using the classic excuse “Oh, I didn’t mean to hurt him, it was an accident!” Mhmm, sure Cam, and you’re a good hockey player that belongs in the NHL. Oh, did I also mention he’s a giant homophobe? If you’re really curious as to what he had to say, check out the link to the other blog, but it’s really not appropriate stuff. But basically, he thinks it’s a good idea to beat up a homosexual hockey player for the sole reason of being a homosexual. Classy stuff, guy.

Raffi Torres. Mr. Torres has an outstanding list of credentials and a career of douchebaggery that make him an excellent candidate for this most prestigious award. Most notably is his recent assault on Marian Hossa during the playoffs that immediately made him infamous in the hockey world. Feel free to check out any of his other qualifications by YouTubing “Raffi Torres” (trust me, you won’t find anything involving actual hockey) or save yourself the trouble by entering “’Raffi Torres talent’” into Google (using quotes around that phrase in the search bar) and watching the search results top out at “zero”.

Matt Cooke: Sure, he didn’t really do anything last year, but what he’s done over the course of his career still has its ramifications on some of the people he’s harmed and still warrants notoriety today.

And the winner is…oh, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s a tie. Yes, there are no winners when it comes to biggest POS in the league, and each of these morons should be blacklisted from the sport.

The Empty Net Award, given to the goalkeeper who might as well have not even shown up. Keeping with the theme of talking about things that are most recent to my memory and not actually things that would make for a legitimate discussion of the original idea, your nominees are: Ilya Bryzgalov and Marc-Andre Fleury.

On one hand, you have Swiss cheese, on the other, you’ve got Swiss cheese that was left out in the sun and chewed on by. Yeah, both these guys were awful in this year’s playoffs. They posted a 3.46 and a 4.63 GAA (same digits, heh), respectively. However, they both did give us a very entertaining first-round series between bitter rivals the Douchebags and the A-holes Flyers and Penguins, so for that, I’ll give each of them a pass and declare neither of them winners. Er, losers. Whatever, you know what I mean.

So there you have it; there are some of the awards that the NHL loves to vote on but doesn’t want you to see. Don’t tell them I showed you the results. Stay tuned for next post’s to find out why the voters of the Norris Trophy are oh-so silly.

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All Star Game? More like, All Star..Lame..

I apologize for the headline, I need to work on that.

So, the 2012 All-Star Fantasy Draft was completed yesterday and was packed with surprises! Well, not really. It was pretty lame, which doesn’t qualify as a surprise, unfortunately. I guess it was decent, but that music they played after every damn player was selected was annoying as s**t. I did enjoy watching Carey Price (who is a really goofy bastard, apparently) “miss” captain Zdeno Chara’s handshake and have Chara sort of chase him into the seats and stare him down…and also Marian Gaborik walk over to Henrik Lundqvist’s side of the room before turning around to go to the correct team. Alright, fine, NHL, I guess it wasn’t that bad, it was somewhat entertaining, but it did get old after the first few picks and after they stopped talking to players. But anyway, it at least set us up for this weekend’s exciting events. And by exciting events, I mean, of course, the skills competition. Can’t really understand why they still have the actual All-Star game. What kind of ratings does that thing get? If I want to watch a hockey game, I’ll watch an actual hockey game when the points count. The skills competition is at least unique, exciting, and most importantly, is a competition.

Seriously, I’d rather watch Ovechkin make a clown out of himself for three hours than watch 35 super-skilled skaters and Dan Girardi (sorry, bud) lollygag around the ice and half-ass an offensive effort, while the goalies just hang back in their nets trying not to pull a Rick DiPiet– I mean hamstring. It’s just not entertaining.

The skills competition is great. It’s hockey-related, and it’s much more interesting than an effort-less hockey “game”. You get to see the players showcase their skills and have something to brag about to everyone else; they can tell their teammates and the other players, “hey, you see that? I’m the fastest skater in the league, fools!” or “hey, did you see how nifty and clever my moves are?” or, in Chara’s case, “hey, you see that? No, it was probably too fast for your puny human, non-giant eyes to comprehend; don’t try blocking that shot in a game or you might break an ankle and miss the playoffs. Seriously, Mr. Ryan Callahan” (seriously, Callahan).

And the fans love it! It almost feels like a refreshing break from an adrenaline-filled season. It’s different, and that’s what makes it great! There aren’t any faceoffs, offsides, 1-3-1 traps, officiating, heart-wrenching saves and posts, or Daniel Carcillo (WARNING: don’t have anything in your mouth when you click the link). Now that’s not to say that all those things are indefinitely bad (except for the last one, maybe), but they can become a bit monotonous over an 82-game season. The skills competition is to the regular season sort of like what a losing season must be like to a Detroit Red Wings fan: sure, it’s nice to win, but it’s probably annoying to win ALL the time. Right? (Tough to enjoy winning if you don’t know what losing is like? Uh, no good without evil? Er, no? Well screw you, Detroit fans.)

Not to mention that we get to see the more human side of players. Instead of crowding on the bench or drifting around the ice looking like they’re hating life, players are hanging out, palling around, and chatting it up while they aren’t performing in one of the events, and actually seem to be enjoying themselves; usually they’ll mic up a few players, and sometimes they’re actually funny. And who doesn’t love the shootout tournament? When do you ever get to see something like that in the regular season? ..OK, we get the shootouts in the regular season, but they really shouldn’t be there (that’s a story for another time). Still, one on one with the goalies until only one shooter remains is a pretty exciting deal (much better than 6+ shooters deciding a point in the standings), and the players have to love it..well, everyone except for Girardi, who will probably try to dive in front of the shots directed at Lundqvist (is there a shot blocking contest this year?).

Unfortunately, the league didn’t force the captains to split up the Sedin twins (don’t they get tired of each other anyway?), which would have been neat. Especially if they were in a matched against each in a competition like, oh let’s say the accuracy contest…people would be adjusting their TV screens like crazy (“Honey, it’s doing it again! We’re only getting half the picture, and it’s mirroring itself! I told you we should have bought the Japanese one!”). And who would they award the point/win to when they inevitably tie in every single event they compete  in?

The point is, the skills competition is fun for everyone involved: the fans, the players, the media, the Zamboni driver, the hot dog guy, Mike Myers…basically everyone except for ESPN. Screw those guys. The players don’t have to try that hard and it’s still exciting. We get to see how talented these guys really are, and they show us in a way much different from the standard stuff. I love watching players try to best each other in one-on-one situations. I love watching players, which includes the goalies, make asses out of themselves in the “creative shootout” competition (by the way, more of that, NHL); you just don’t get to see that kind of clownery on a regular basis unless you’re a fan of the New York Islanders or Columbus Blue Jackets.

There are many question to be answered: Will Chara break his own record for deadliest, er, fastest, shot? Will Gaborik score on arch-enemy Henrik Lundqvist in the elimination shootout? Will Pavel Datsyuk embarrass every single person in the arena whenever he touches the puck (spoiler: yes)? Will anyone actually care about the game? One thing is for sure, though: I’m going to be muting my TV when Lupul, Kessel, or Phanuef are participating in an event, or generally anywhere on the ice at all, because those Sens fans hate the Leafs, apparently. I hope Phil Kessel wins the MVP of the game and is awarded another car in front of those obnoxious, booing fans. And then he takes it for a victory lap around the ice…all while having a glove malfunction, of course.

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Oh, what’s that you say? Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup? Thanks for the update!

BREAKING NEWS!!!

I’m getting this from the top, and, bear with me, but it appears that Sidney Crosby has been cleared to return to the lineup, and…yes, I’m hearing that he WILL play tonight against the Islanders. It looks like I’ll have to do a bit of digging to find this story out, and…yes, it’s confirmed. Great news for hockey! Thank god there’s someone out there willing to talk about the great Sidney Crosby, even if the media try their hardest to keep us guessing at his status.

*Several hours later*

Ah, much must have passed in the past few hours, as there were several games going on simultaneously. Surely there must be multiple interesting and unique stories. Now to see what people are talking about in the hockey world and (Warning: the following link may contain graphic images of some schmuck with a creepy sharpie-drawn stache and multiple orgasms from NHL.com) HOLY S**T!!!

If you weren’t brave enough to click the link — and I don’t blame you  (screenshot of NHL.com’s front page) — let me summarize it for you:

Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Sid Crosby Crosby Sidney Crosby Crosby Crosby some crap about the Bruins winning 9 in a row Crosby Crosby Crosby oh that prick Kaleta got fined? Who cares what he did, it’s all about Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Olli Jokinen.

I also have to note that I didn’t even get all of it in that screen cap; there’s actually a fifth headline (“Sid powers Pens with 2 goal, 4 point return”) on the top of the right sidebar, an entire sidebar entitled “Crosby’s return tweets” in which other players tweet their tweets about the guy, and a poll at the bottom that asks fans to predict how many goals Crosby will score this season. I mistakenly cut the top part of the page too short and accidently circled the story about the Bruins getting their ninth straight. I apologize for that; anything I may type about or point out that is NOT about Sidney Crosby is completely by accident and as irrelevant to the world as irrelevant as the human appendix is to gunshots. 

 

It’s great that he returned to the lineup. It’s good for hockey. I may hate him (and don’t get me wrong, I DO hate him), but it’s good publicity and it’s the one hockey-related subject that ESPN and those other media goons are willing to talk about. But stop it. We get it. He’s a great player. Have some mercy on us non-Penguin/Crosby fans. I haven’t heard someone use a name that much since I heard Devil’s color guy Chico Resch talk about Marty Broduer putting on his jockstrap.

Neglecting to showcase much else that’s happened in the past 24 hours in the hockey world than Crosby is demeaning to the fans, the players, and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins roster (except for Matt Cooke). There may not be a TON going on right now, but at least let us figure that out for ourselves. I don’t need you to tell me what Crosby is eating for breakfast or what other players think about him (did I mention that I hate him?).

And it’s impressive that he scored four points (two and two) in his return to hockey after 10 months, especially considering the nature of the injury (concussion). He already has more goals in one game than Scott Gomez has scored all season. He may have even made a couple of really nice plays (I refuse to link you to any of them, as you’ll probably see them on your milk carton tomorrow morning anyway. Have you seen this man-boy?). Let’s also not forget the fact that he played against the Islanders (still trying to make it to the NHL) and that the Penguins are a very talented team with or without him (11-6-3 this year without Crosby and pretty good last year without him AND Malkin).

It’s upsetting to see his face and name plastered all over any place that’s talking about hockey. I can understand that his four-point return is a top story, but it’s not the first-, second-, third-, fourth-, AND fifth-most interesting story. NHL.com used 3/5 of its moving headline slots for a single player as well as the top five of its 10 sidebar headlines. That’s just upsetting. I’m willing to admit he’s a great player and is very newsworthy (I still hate him though), but one story is enough (or two even, I’ll give you two! I don’t know how you can make the same story into a pair, but it’s such a big issue I’ll cut you some slack), especially after we’ve had to hear about him for the past 10 months when he wasn’t even playing.

But let’s not pretend like NHL.com and other media are the only culprits of this reporting atrocity; that simply wouldn’t be fair. I also blame Alex Ovechkin.

Seriously, where are you bud? You’re supposed to be interchangeably #1 or 2 with the player in discussion. I have you on my fantasy team, and I’m not going to lie, Alex: I’m doing terribly. And I blame you. I drafted you with the number one overall pick. I trusted you. I put my trust in you and you betrayed that trust. You aren’t playing well, and therefore are not an issue in the hockey world right now. You’re betraying the entire league by allowing your arch-nemesis (at least in hockey, I don’t know his evil Russian counterpart) to thrive off your failures. Get better.

But I digress. Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby (I’m not even copying and pasting as a way to let out my rage) Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby Crosby…

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Nightmare scenarios

The NHL season is long and stressful for everyone involved, so let’s take a break from that and think about some crazy nightmare scenario that I hope never happens:

Imagine you’re the fan of an arbitrary hockey team…let’s say the New York Rangers — nay! You’re a player of the New York Rangers. After a long, grueling season where your team found itself under the microscope time after time, your team is down to its last two games. You’re neck and neck with a division rival (oh, let’s say the Philadelphia Flyers…just for argument’s sake, of course) for that final playoff spot. Both of your games are against that division rival. You’ve worked your ass off to get this close, made a dramatic run in the past few weeks, and you’re not about to let a bunch of scumbags take this opportunity away from you.

You need to win both to make it. You win the first of the home-and-home in your own arena in a close match. But there’s still game #82. And game #82 is a hard-fought one. It might as well be Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Everything is on the line: your pride, your fans’ pride, a chance to embarrass and eliminate a hated rival, and most importantly, a chance to make a run for Lord Stanley’s glory; the winner of the game advances to the playoffs, while the losers go home crying, or pursue an internship with a fashion magazine (again, it’s all hypothetical). There must be a victor, but the game is too epic to end in regulation; in fact, it’s too epic to end in overtime.

Wait, what? Anyway, someone must win. And what better way to decide whose season is over and who advances than a…SHOOTOUT!!!

It’s all the rage! One on one with the goalie! Six shooters! Two guys who try to stop the black circle! One puck! ZERO DISAPPOINTMENT!!! You don’t even have to understand the sport or any of the rules, because this event doesn’t factor any of that in! Yet this one event, that will presumably take just a few minutes, will surely determine our champions!

And what do we have here? It’s Olli Jokinen! Yes, this guy! The shootout and the game — nay, the entire SEASON — is on the line, and it comes down to this gentleman. If he scores, we move on to a bonus round! If not, his team’s season is over…after all they’ve fought for. Here he comes, skating in on some schmuck…Boo-shay? His name is Boo-shay? OK, whatever, and OH he’s stopped! Game over! Season over for one team! Wasn’t that fun, folks? Tune in next year for some Matt Cooke shenanigans!

Of course, that wasn’t a hypothetical nightmare I just made up, it actually happened. Even the Vogue magazine part.

The shootout has worn out its welcome. It was fun to watch for a year or two, and it may have drawn some positive attention to the sport, but the gimmick is done. Trash it. What’s wrong with ties? Or extended OT? A hockey game should not end in a skills competition. Teams’ seasons should not end short because they weren’t good enough on breakaways. It’s such a small portion of the game that determines such a large portion of the standings. It’s a silly way to determine winners, and losers, and it can happen in each of the 82 regular season games.

And that fact was made even more clear two nights ago by mega-troll Danny Briere (the same mega-troll that played an evil part in the previously-mentioned shootout).

Yes, that actually happened, and yes, it counted. And yes, the senior VP of hockey operations condoned it.

What’s that, you say? How could anyone in the league, especially that high up on the Bettman ladder, think it’s fine for a player to, on a shootout attempt, come to a complete stop in front of the net, snow shower the goalie while the masked man flops to make what appears to be an angle-removing play, and then simply skate around the frozen goalie and put the puck in the empty net…and be OK with that type of play having the potential to essentially determine who earns the extra point in the standings (fortunately, the Devils beat the Flyers in the shootout that night)?

Here’s what Mike Murphy, senior VP of hockey operations, had to say on CISCO NHL Live about the incident.

“Can the player come to a complete stop?”

“Absolutely…the puck cannot come to a complete stop. The player can stop as long as the puck is continuing to be dribbled or stickhandled or moved from side-to-side, and that’s the case with Briere last night.”

Let’s review:

-Player movement doesn’t matter (he can stop or even skate backwards).

-As long as the puck is moving, and not heading backwards, play continues. I guess moves where the puck actually does head in the opposite direction, like a toe-drag, still count.

-Oh, and there’s a specific rule that trashes everything the second rule stands for, allowing spin-o-rama type plays to be perfectly legal, even though the puck travels backwards about three feet.

So what do we have? According to the current rules, it is totally legal for a player to stop in front of the net as long as he continues to stickhandle from “side-to-side”. He can stand there as much as he likes…a quick second for a quick move like Briere used, or for 27 hours. There’s no limit, no rule disallowing it.

So, OK, that’s the current rule, so while what Briere did was technically legal (apparently), the rule needs to be amended, right?

Wrong, according to Murphy.

“Well, I think [if] you add too many words, you confuse the issue.”

Yeah, screw words! Screw reading! It’s too confusing. We can’t expect players to be able to skate on ice, hold a hockey stick, understand icing, AND learn a new amendment to the shootout, all at the same time! I mean, we just added the shootout a few years ago, I’m sure players are still adjusting to all the new updates. And don’t even get me started about the trapezoid! Can you touch the puck there, can you skate in that area, I mean what’s the deal???

Expect players to replicate Briere’s strategy and stop in front of the net until they have a sure goal. Expect seasons to be decided by a gimmick that gets more ridiculous every month, and by players as ridiculous as Olli Jokinen (bonus Photoshops; of course it’s from HFboards). And don’t expect the rule to change anytime soon, because you heard it from the top: the rule doesn’t need to be changed.

Oh, and unfortunately, that nightmare scenario, too, is real.

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The world needs a villain

The world needs villains as much as it needs heroes. There’s the paradigm that without evil, there is no good; there’s no love without hate. The same law applies to the smaller world of the NHL.

 

Sean Avery: one of the most hated players to ever play the game, and currently interchangeably #1 or #2 with Matt Cooke. Cries of joy were jubilantly sung when word was passed that he was waived and demoted to the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale (can we talk about what a ridiculous name that is, and how awful their jerseys are?). Some got even more excited when they heard he was considering playing in Europe. “We never have to see this scumbag in an NHL arena again!” said 90% of the league’s fan base and Marty Broduer.

But is that really what we all want? Is it possible that supporters of the anti-Avery agenda were speaking purely out of raw emotion and not considering all the things that make the sport great?

 

Everyone loves to hate someone, or something. In every context, people are going to have a passion both for and against at least one idea. It’s true. Think of any topic and you’ll quickly be able to recognize one thing you hate and one you love about it. Think of your favorite team. Think of your favorite TV show or movie. Think of your group of friends (there’s always “that guy”) Hell, think of your family. Now, think of how all those things would be without the thing(s) that you hate. It’s going to suck not having a scapegoat to blame when your team blows a 3-goal lead. It’s going to suck without that one character that you just want to see their face get punched in every time they make an appearance (I’m looking at you, Shooter McGavin). It’s going to suck not having a “friend” to talk smack about behind his/her back. It’s going to suck not having the one “screw up” in your family to make you feel better about yourself (if you can’t point him/her out, it’s you. Get your life together!). Everything is better when you have something to hate as much as something to love.

Now think of your favorite sport (in this case, it’s hockey. It’s not hockey? Let me direct you to the giant red “X” in the top right of your computer screen…don’t click it; I need readers). Now think of the players that comprise the sport. Think about every time you watch a hockey game and how you feel about certain players. In every game you watch, whether it’s a team you care about against a team you hate, or the Florida Panthers vs.  the New York Islanders, there’s going to be one player, coach, referee, announcer, vendor, or annoying fan in the background that does something you hate. You wish that scum was gone from sport and maybe even the face of the earth, at least for the time being. But if you look deep inside, you’ll thank the hockey gods that these people are around; it’s your disdain for them and how angry they make you feel that makes watching the game so fantastic. That’s what being a sports fan is all about. It’s the thousands of varied emotions you feel on a second-to-second basis, and how each moment makes you feel alive. You want to see a-holes get rocked by a George Parros uppercut; you want to see them fail at the sport; you want to see them get crushed into the stanchions by a 6’9″ Zdeno Chara body check (too soon?). You live for those moments as much as you live for the moments when your team wins; and for fans of a team that doesn’t win, you have to rely on those hate-driven bursts of glee to keep sane (I’m looking at you, all of Ohio’s pro sports).

 

Deep inside, you’re glad that Sean Avery was placed on re-entry waivers and could make his season debut as early as this Thursday (unless you’re an Avery-hating Rangers fan). Sure, you might hate New York sports already, but isn’t it much better to hate them with that loudmouth clown running around stirring the pot? Don’t you want to play the Rangers and obliterate them and that fashion-designing, stick-waving, name-calling bum?

And you hate Sean Avery for all the right reasons; he’s the ideal player to hate in the league. Despite popular belief, he is NOT a dirty player: he’s never been suspended for an on-ice action (nor should he have been), he’s never injured another player, he’s never thrown a bad elbow to someone’s head, he doesn’t take runs at players from behind, or generally do anything that Matt Cooke might do (which, this year, unfortunately includes putting the puck in the net). And that’s a good thing. You don’t want to hate a player because he’s a safety risk out on the ice, you want to hate a player because he’s either too good and wrecks your team or he’s just that douche from high school that you hoped would get caught for smoking weed in the bathroom.

And let’s not forget about HBO’s upcoming 24/7 (I can’t WAIT!). Assuming Avery will still be on the team by the time filming starts, he’s going to make the series a lot more interesting. Who doesn’t want to hear some of the stuff he says to players on the ice that make them hate him so much (some examples). What’s he like off the ice? What antic is he going to come up with next?

Bottom line is that Sean Avery is a character that brings some attention to the sport outside of the hockey community (see what he’s done for gay rights, which took balls, by the way); whether that attention is good or bad is up for debate, but the sport needs characters. The sport needs a villain, and I think we can all agree that we’d rather the villain be a loudmouthed bum than an elbow-happy, gap-toothed, dog-rapist faced scumbag (the ambiguity is intentional yet unavoidable).

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Not enough hockey

We all know how drab the offseason can be; there’s not much going on this time of the year, which sucks, because it makes summer — what should be a happy time — more depressing. It took me a while to make the transition from enjoying intense, fast-paced playoff hockey to….baseball…but I got there. It was a slow process, but I finally accepted that hockey wasn’t going on right now, and I’d have to settle with baseball (oh, the Mets), the only thing going on right now (pre-season football doesn’t count because it’s pre-season football).

Whether your team has a legitimate shot next year, is just mediocre, or you’re a New York Islanders fan (those are really the only three ways to feel about your team’s chances), I’m sure you’re excited about the upcoming season. Will I be able to celebrate in the streets of my city and rag on all my friends about how their team sucks and my Stanley Cup is better than yours? Is this the year that [insert your team’s problem here] finally [comes / gets his s**t] together? Will Rick DiPietro play in more than three games before getting injured (obviously not)? So many questions and so much hope for the upcoming season. (Only 52 more days!)

But while we all [presumably] love the game so much, there are,  of course, problems with the league and the way the game plays right now that should be addressed. The league, with its efforts spearheaded by Brendan Shanahan, the VP of player safety and hockey operations, is trying to figure out what needs to be fixed, and testing the proposed ideas in the second annual research and development camp. Let’s see what they’re thinking about, as well as some other issues I think need to be addressed:

Hybrid icing: A combination between icing the way it is now and no-touch icing, players would race for the puck, and, at the referee’s discretion, icing would either be waved off (if the attacking player would win the race) or called before any contact came with the puck/at the boards (if the defender would win).

Probably a good idea. There’s no need to risk player injury by hustling to the puck and then go crashing into the boards for their effort if a  winner can be determined ahead of time, thus negating injury. HOWEVER, there are a bunch of icing calls where the players are neck and neck and a clear winner can’t be determined. Also, it takes away the potential for a player to win a battle by tying up the other player and touching the puck himself, or having a teammate do it. But if the rule does help player safety, then definitely go with it.

No icing permitted while shorthanded: Like the rule sounds, shorthanded teams would no longer be able to get away with throwing the puck down the ice and go unpenalized (if one team can’t ice the puck, why can’t the other?).

I suggest a compromise: shorthanded teams would be called for icing, but they are allowed to make line changes. It would discourage shorthanded teams from icing the puck, but not penalize them so much that powerplays become nearly impossible to kill off.

Overtime changes: The proposed change suggests four minutes of 4-on-4 followed by three minutes of 3-on-3, and then a shootout (which would possibly include five shooters rather than three).

Just get rid of the shootout. Everyone is done with it. What’s wrong with a tie? I say one 10-minute period of 4-on-4, and if no winner is determined, the game ends in a tie. What’s wrong with a tie? Tying is like kissing your sister, as the adage goes. Better to kiss your sister than kiss your opponent’s ass in a shootout loss.

Offside changes: Amendment A) Teams that go offsides can’t make line changes. Amendment B) The ensuing faceoff will be in the end of the offsides team. (If both rules were instated, offsides would be just like icing the puck).

No, no, no. Teams are going to be offsides naturally if they’re trying to create offense. Yeah, let’s make teams AFRAID to go offsides. Don’t want to be screwed by accidently getting ahead of the play, trying to create offense? No problem! Just dump the puck in! We all know how exciting dump-and-chase hockey is. Fools.

Removing the trapezoid: Self-explanitory ( for those who don’t know, the trapezoid is the thing behind the net that indicates the only area in which goalies are allowed to play the puck behind the goal line).

Trash it. I never understood why they put it there in the first place. But while were at it, players should be able to make some contact with goalies that venture outside their crease to play the puck; I’m not saying allow goalies to be drilled, just allow players to bump them, thus discouraging goalies from going way out to play the puck but allowing them to do so in appropriate situations.

In-net goal line camera: Would place a camera inside the net that looks at the goal line to help solve any controversies about whether or not the puck fully crossed the line.

Why wouldn’t you? Even if it doesn’t work great, it certainly wouldn’t cause any more problems. It eliminates the problem of the crossbar getting in the way on the overhead shots we currently see.

Bear-hug against the wall rule (not in TSN article): Would allow players to hold the player against the wall instead of hitting them, in an attempt to prevent hits from behind/hits in vulnerable positions.

Well, it worked 80 years before the lockout, I suppose. It should prevent hits from behind that can really cause damage to players.

Those are the proposed changes the league is considering. But I think there’s a few more problems that need to be addressed:

Diving: One of the biggest problems in ALL of sports is when players try to trick the refs into believing that an infraction was committed when, on further review, there clearly wasn’t anything (see: professional soccer). Instead of just playing the game, players will fall to the ground, or jerk their head back, or grab their face, or roll around being unable to decide whether it’s their face or ankle that’s hurt, all in an attempt to draw a penalty.

While it can be very difficult to tell whether a player is faking it or not in real-time, it’s much less difficult to do so with slowed-down footage after the incident. I can’t get mad at all refs for not always calling dives, but I do get mad when the league does nothing about it. The solution is simple: Address each potential dive as you would a dirty play that warrants a suspension; review the tape after the fact, determine whether the player dove/faked something to trick the refs, and hand out a penalty (fine/suspension) if warranted. Since a dive is a dive, and there’s really no different levels of it, there’s really no room for case-to-case infractions (as there is with dirty plays), so penalties should be progressive and go something like this:

First offense: fine (I’m not an accountant, so we’ll say somewhere in the $20,000 range)

Second offense: one-game suspension

Third offense: three-game suspension

Fourth offense: ten-game suspension

Fifth offense: 30-game suspension

Sixth offense: Kicked out of the league

Harsh? Hardly. The game should have some integrity, and players shouldn’t be worried about trying to fool the refs. They should instead focus on playing the game. Strict penalties would greatly discourage people from doing something that shouldn’t be a part of the game.

Referee consistency: I’m not sure how one would go about fixing this problem, but, especially with the strict enforcement of minor infractions, there needs to be league-wide consistency on rules calls; specifically, hooking. Players don’t know what a hook is. The fans don’t. And it doesn’t seem like the refs do either. Is it lightly touching a player in the midsection with a stick, or is it going waterskiing on another player? I’ve seen it enforced both ways. These penalties, along with all others, need to be more consistent from ref-to-ref and game-to-game, and preferably, from an official’s call to his next (consistency within games).

Player safety: I’m really not qualified to offer a solution, so I’ll just mention that players’ safety, the head/brain area in particular, needs to be protected on a higher lever. I heard the idea of softer shoulder pads being thrown around (thus reducing impact of accidental shoulder-to-head hits).

Suspension consistency: We’ve all joked about how the suspensions handed out are ridiculous and make no sense, and come up with great ideas such as Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice, and hopefully that will change now that he’s stepped down. We all got our panties in a knot (for good reason, I might add) over Burrows’ bite and non-suspension in the Finals and have probably pretty much been upset with every suspension ever handed out. It’s tough, NHL, but fix it.

MORE GAMES ON NATIONAL TV: Not really a rule change, but it would help the game thrive, as it would my blood pressure. We don’t all get VERSUS (soon to be NBC Sports Network) or have the cash for NHL Network. NBC airs, what, 15 games during the regular season? It’s simply not enough for crazy hockey fans (you’re a hockey fan? Yes, you’re a bit crazy). Do something about it. I don’t care if it’s on a cable network like Spike TV or Oxygen (even if I have to sit through hours of tampon commercials), just show games that everyone can see on the air on a regular basis. Clean up your staff while you’re at it (i.e. Mike Milbury and the rest of those clowns).

 

I’m sure there are more issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure a better level of both play and consistency, but there are definitely some easy solutions for the game right now. Unfortunately, we’ll have another 52 days to think about it.

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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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