Tag Archives: NHL

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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Just want to give a shout out to ESPN…

I’m done with you. You guys have become the second-worst “news” network on television (a close second to Fox News). I can’t believe you claim to be a sports news medium. You don’t cover sports. You cover entertainment. You cover the easiest thing that will draw ratings, which is usually a product of your own design.

Let’s start by mentioning your hypocrisy, because it probably is one of your biggest weakness (or strengths, not sure how it works in the corporate world). And what better example than the Lions/49ers “handshake” incident:

One week. You talked about the handshake that, even by your own admitting, “didn’t matter”, for an entire week. And I don’t mean just lightly mentioned it; you guys took it to the extreme, and it became THE issue of the week. The event that every single “analyst” on your network, including Skip Bayless, who I’m pretty sure is exclusively told to take the minority side of every issue (in addition to making an ass out of himself), simply passed aside as an incident in which two coaches let the emotions get the better of them after a hard-fought game. It happens. Worth mentioning, but nothing worth getting invested in.

But that’s not your biggest sin. You condemned media for mentioning the pointless issue because talking about it would “overshadow the great game that was played.” After making that claim, what did you do? Talked about it. For a week. Every day. You analyzed the event to no end, trying to draw something that wasn’t really there. You brought in “experts” to talk about it. You brought up past altercations between coaches, trying to compare the most recent scrum to those in history. You didn’t talk about the “great game” that was played. You talked about the meaningless altercation at the end of the game that really had no relevance or effect on anything, then talked about how the altercation had no relevance or effect on anything. Instead of talking about that game, football in general, or really anything else that actually had any importance, you chose to talk about the handshake that “didn’t matter” and was a “non-issue”. Non-issue, huh? Do you guys listen to yourselves talk?

Let’s continue with your hypocritical nature. You condemned LeBron James for “The Decision.” And rightfully so. We should definitely go after the network that chose to air that self-righteous prick making a big deal about which team he was going to sign with, because clearly, it’s not that big a deal, and we shouldn’t be portraying it as such. Oh, but, which network decided to have a one-hour long segment about the superstar and his decision? To which network should we bring the torches and pitchforks (I got mine for Christmas)? Surely, it couldn’t have been ESPN, the network that criticized him for making such a big deal about his signing…oh, it was? That’s strange. Did you guys know about that?

Also, I never thought a network that supposedly prides itself on bringing up-to-date sports news would rely so heavily Twitter. To be fair, Twitter can be a very useful tool, as it can deliver news as it’s happening to a mass audience, often quicker than any TV or radio network can. But that’s not how you use it. I don’t want to know what LeBron has to say, via Twitter, about the NFL lockout. I don’t want to see what LeBron, via Twitter, has to say about baseball. If I want his, or anyone’s, meaningless, non-expert opinion on an issue unrelated to them, I’ll go to Twitter myself. How does anything an NBA basketball player has to say about any issue outside his own sport, or outside his team for that matter, make news, especially when it’s usually some kind of joke or personal nonsense? How many times am I going to change the channel to ESPN looking for news and find you guys talking about Twitter or airing a minute-long segment of what your anchors are doing “behind the scenes”? I’m glad you guys are having fun out there, but…I don’t care.

I won’t even get into Tim Tebow, because the entire world is sick of hearing about him. But you know what you’ve done, and what you continue to do.

Because you, the “Worldwide leader in sports coverage” (or some other BS like that, I really don’t care what your slogan is), have such a stranglehold on the national sports market, people are going to tune in to you guys and take in whatever garbage is spewing from your mouths.

 

Being unemployed (*hint hint*), there’s not much more for me to do than sit here and rant and watch TV; and let’s be honest, television today is awful, especially in the morning and early afternoon. So during this time, I usually tune to SportsCenter, because I’ve accepted the fact that there’s nothing else on, and I’m curious to see what’s going on in the world of my favorite hobby, sports. But I can’t do that anymore. You guys are phonies. You don’t cover sports news; you cover senseless issues that nobody except you and your wallets, and by proxy, your entire audience, care about. You’re making America stupid. You’ve become Access Hollywood: Sports Edition (please note that I have no idea what Access Hollywood actually talks about, but the name is fitting). Through your “work”, casual sports fans are going to know more about LeBron James’ leg hair than they are about relevant issues going on in the world, such as, oh, let’s say an entire hockey team dying in a fatal plane crash.

What’s that? No idea what I’m talking about? “Hockey?” you say? Yeah, it happened. You don’t remember when, at the end of the year, you listed professional athletes that died in 2011, and neglected to mention a single hockey player? When you forgot about the 26 players (plus 11 staff members) that died in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash, and the three players who died over the summer? “That happened?” you say? And when that “slip-up” was brought to your attention, as if only to appease those who knew and cared about the deaths, you said you would run an updated segment listing the excluded players. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…the updated segment was only for some — not all — SportsCenters, of course. I guess those athletes were only worthy of mentioning to a few select audiences.

What sports are you supposed to cover? All of them, you say? Interesting. I still cannot believe you claim to be the “Super awesome sports network that covers all the important sporting issues of our century! Come see us talk about LeBron James’ underwear and compare Tim Tebow to Abraham Lincoln!” Is that your slogan, ESPN? I truly forget, and I apologize for that. You see, after so long of watching your crap, my mind, too, has turned to crap. I no longer have the ability to perform decent research and understand an entire story before bashing my head on my keyboard and releasing the unfiltered garbage to the world. You aren’t even trying anymore.

The last straw, in accumulation with many other outrages, that triggered my fury was an event that occurred on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. I turned you guys on, hoping to get some balanced coverage about all the important stuff that happened in the past day of sports (heh, I know, stupid, right?). What was I thinking? Anywho (I only use that word when I’m trying to be as condescending as possible), I was hoping to get your take on the biggest hockey event of the season so far: The Winter Classic (oh, I should probably explain what that is…hockey is a sport in which two teams…). I was hoping to see what you guys would say about it, and therefore what opinion would be generated by your zombified masses.

I can’t say that I’m surprised, or disappointed, at your coverage (or lack thereof), but it was pretty embarrassing. I mean, why bother to mention that the event even took place if you’re not even going to explain what happened? Here’s my summary of your guys’ summary of the event:

-Hey, look everyone, hockey is still a sport! And they’re playing….OUTSIDE?????

-OOOOHH, eye black, that’s adorable, they think they’re a real sport, like baseball or football!

-Second period! (that’s where the game starts, right?)

-Ummm this guy has great hands and he scores (by the way, someone scored before that, but we won’t tell/show you, you’ll just have to figure out why the scoreboard already read 1-0)

-Third period! The score is now 3-2! I think one team may have scored three to come back from a 2-goal deficit, but who cares. Oh! And there are just 19 seconds left! Isn’t hockey exciting??? Anywho, it’s total chaos, this guy covers the puck in the crease, and it’s a penalty shot! It’s like a shootout! And since shootouts are so thrilling, and pretty much the only relevant part of hockey, we’re going to show this replay twice (don’t worry about the goals, guys, we’ll show you what’s really important)

-Oh, he made the save and the game is over

-The coach’s post-game comments! Look at how he rips the refs! Why is he ripping the refs, you ask? We have no idea! And neither do you, because we didn’t bother to show any of the controversial calls/non-calls…but I’ll be damned if a coach calling out the refs isn’t entertainment, even if there’s no context!

-The NHL Eastern Conference Standings, blah blah, …we apologize for that brief delay in which we didn’t relay actual sports news to you; we now return you to your regularly schedule programming, the wonderful Miami Heat!

-(I just want to clarify that I am not mocking John Buccigross, who covered the Classic and this segment here, or make him look bad; it’s not about him, and he did a great job with what he was given, and he does a good job covering hockey in the minimal time it’s allotted.)

You spent more time talking about a team (the Heat) that receives more coverage than the sports of hockey and soccer (two of the biggest sports in the world, and, despite your beliefs, both very popular sports in this nation) combined than you did the biggest hockey event of the season so far (it was sort of like the NHL’s Superbowl..they even had an unnecessary fly-over by jets and a crappy intermission musical performance). No, wait, let me clarify…you spent more time talking about an individual player who receives more coverage than the sports of hockey and soccer combined: Dwane Wade. As if LeBron wasn’t enough.

Well, to be fair, I can only assume he got that much coverage; my outrage caused me to immediately change the channel to anything else than your garbage, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. But, with nothing else on TV, what did I change it to, you ask? Looney Tunes. Yes, I would rather watch 50-year-old cartoons that I’ve seen hundreds of times as a child (OK, fine, also as an adult) than what’s supposed to be a live, daily update, complete with invigorating discussions, of what is happening in the great world of sports. Because, quite honestly, EPN (not a typo), finding out and analyzing how Bugs Bunny is going to outsmart Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and other great characters, is much more intellectually stimulating than finding out how LeBron James puts his pants on, which apparently, isn’t one leg at a time like the rest of us.

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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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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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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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