Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category
Friday, April 27th, 2012
After round one of the NHL playoffs, the teams with home-ice advantage are playing .500 hockey. They’re 4-4. That’s because unlike most other sports, hockey is the one where home ice is pretty much irrelevant, and it’s also unique among the major sports in that every team that makes the playoffs has a very real chance to win the Stanley Cup.
There is a very real reason for that – playoff hockey is different from regular season hockey. It’s tighter, rougher, and relies much more heavily on goalies. And the reason for that is that referees call the playoffs much differently than they call regular season games. They stop calling penalties by the letter of the law, and blow the whistle only for egregious fouls. This would be fine with me if they did the same in the regular season. But they don’t. And it creates a situation where a team can be a playoff style team while just squeaking in over 80 regular season games.
Then teams get to game 7. And the rules change again. Now the refs pretty much put their whistles away entirely. Which is not necessarily a problem – both teams have to deal with the same new rules – but it DOES create a whole new game, yet again. And any penalty call that might happen is bound to inflame fans because after the stuff they’ve let go, anything now seems like a chintzy call.
Not that I’m making any excuses for the Senators, or getting bitter over the Game 7 loss. It was a sensational game, and Lundqvist alone won it for New York. But these changes in reffing bother me. They create parity where there should BE no parity, because refs in hockey have more of an effect on the outcome of the game than they do in any other sport.
You almost never see an upset in the NBA the way you do in the NHL. The #8 team never beats the #1 team. As it should be. And yes, the NFL and MLB have the last-placed playoff team win the title now and then (like this past year in both), but they don’t let everyone into the playoffs like basketball and hockey. The St. Louis Cardinals were the 8th-best team in baseball. Which means there were 22 teams who were worse. The NY Giants were the 8th-best team in the NFL, better than 24 other teams.
Only in hockey can the 16th-best team in the entire league actually have a real shot at the Cup. The #8 seed in both conferences makes the playoffs, even though they are closer to the bottom of the 30-team league than they are from the top.
Imagine they changed the rules like this in baseball. Only the home plate umpire has the same level of influence as refs in hockey. So they want lower-scoring defensive battles? Alright, for the playoffs the strike zone will now be from the ankles to the eyeballs. And if we get to a game 7? Well then the strike zone will be bigger – any pitch the umpire thinks a batter might have been able to contact will be called a strike. How would that play, you think?
The point is, the best teams are (usually) the best teams for a reason. And the changes in refereeing do nothing but even the playing field unnecessarily. And even unfairly. I love playoff hockey, but every year I feel like the Cup champion was the luckiest team, and not necessarily the best team.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Everyone has noticed the trend in this year’s NHL playoffs. There are more head-shots, more players carted off, more serious injuries than in any playoff season I can remember. There are also more fights. A LOT more fights. There was a time when Zenon Konopka would never have stepped out of the press box for the Senators during the entire playoffs.
But then, game 2 of the Ottawa-Rangers series and there he is, skating around menacingly and glowering at people while Matt Carkner beats the crap out of Brian Boyle, making the most of his 40 seconds of ice time before leaving the game and being suspended. But Carkner was just standing up for little Erik Karlsson, right? Who got punched a couple of times by Boyle in the previous game? And that’s what hockey is about, right?
Well, let’s look at that premise for a second. Karlsson is roughed up, but not injured. Boyle takes a penalty, Karlsson stays in the game and runs the power play. A full 48 hours later, Carkner is going to send a message – you don’t rough up our stars! Boyle takes his pounding. Stays in the game. Then joins the Rangers on their 5-minute power play while Carkner leaves for good. But Boyle will know better than to go after those Senators players now, won’t he?
Strange, it almost seems like the 6-foot-7 Boyle didn’t get that message. He hit every Ottawa player in sight on Monday night. Oh, and scored a goal. The only goal. While Carkner served his suspension in the press box.
But the REST of the Rangers were intimidated after Ottawa came out fighting, right? Well, except for Carl Hagelin, I guess. I suppose he wasn’t too worried about Carkner, cause he was out of the game. And maybe he knew, after his elbow to Alfie’s head, that he would be ejected and therefore wouldn’t have to worry about Konopka either. Now he’s gone three games, but if Alfie’s gone three games also, it seems like a pretty good trade for New York.
It seems to me that it’s time to retire this old, tired, cranky-old-man adage that fighting prevents cheap shots. It doesn’t. Not even a little bit. We have seen more fighting AND more cheap shots than ever before in these playoffs, and the fighting comes solely as a result of the cheap shots and does nothing to prevent more of them.
Witness last night’s brutal headhunting hit on Marian Hossa of the Blues by Rafi Torres of the Blackhawks. No question about the intenet to injure. In the immediate aftermath of the hit, Brandon Bollig goes after Torres. You know, to fight him. Problem solved, right? Two messages have been sent – one, there are consequences. And two, you can’t intimidate us!
OK sure. But now, the Hawks are killing back-to-back penalties, while their star player Hossa is being taken out of the rink in an ambulance on a stretcher. And what will actually prevent Torres from doing something like this again? Only the suspension that comes along with the hit. And what will prevent another Blues player from taking a run at another star? Nothing.
I’m not saying take fighting out of the game. I AM a fan of hockey fights, and I think there’s a place for them in the game. What I’m saying is, shut up about this nonsense that fighting prevents cheap shots and dirty play, which NO true fan likes. It does nothing of the sort.
It’s the same mentality that looks back to the Broad Street Bullies and Boston Bruins of the 70s and says “those guys played the game right – tough, but not dirty”. Which is revisionist history at best, and completely insane bulls**t at worst. What was Bobby Clarke most famous for? Some goal, or his slash that broke the ankle of Valeri Kharlamov? He was the star, AND one of the dirtiest players of all time. Does your memory of the Bobby Orr Bruin glory days completely forget Wayne Cashman? And the myriad of injuries inflicted by both of those teams on opponents all over the league?
So keep fighting around. The crowds love it, the players want it, and it can serve a useful purpose – giving a team that emotional boost that comes from watching their guy land more punches than the other guy, or just getting out some frustration (which leads to the funny fights, like Crosby-Giroux the other day). Just stop pretending it’s anything more than it is, or that it prevents the really bad stuff. The days of Semenko creating a bubble around Gretzky are long gone.
Thursday, March 1st, 2012
March 19th, in Carleton Place – the NHL alumni vs. Law Enforcement All-Stars to support Special Olympics Ontario and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Players will include Rick Vaive, Marty McSorley, Mike Krushelnyski, Bill Derlago, Lou Franceschetti, Dan Daoust, Dennis Maruk, Mike Pelyk, Dave Hutchinson and goalie Mark LaForest. And Walter Gretzky himself will be there as ambassador to the game and title coach!
Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
It has been a trying time for the Hosers and for me. I have been fired as coach of our hockey team after a disastrous Beaver Cup performance, where we went 0-3, outscored 21-2 in our first game. A terrific comeback in our second game fell short as we lost by a single goal - but we couldn’t keep that momentum going. We were moments away from getting our first win in our third game, until the other team showed up and avoided the forfeit.
It’s the guys I feel bad for. Craig, whose offensive skills and speed were largely wasted by my inability to get him the puck. Mark, whose two goals in the first game consisted of our entire offensive output, and were overshadowed by the 21 goals scored by the opposing team. John MacLean, who, like his Die Hard namesake, didn’t need shoes OR socks to get the job done – rather than running over broken glass, he ran barefoot over the ice on the canal. Josh, a broomball star who remained in good spirits through the losses, even though he was clearly accustomed to victories. Mike P, who was willing to play the team system and stuck to his position even when that system broke down all around him. And Mike T, who stayed late for the last game even when I told him the wrong time, and was late for his Valentine’s dinner with his wife just to help out the team.
We let the fans down as well. Little Nadia, who was there from 8:00 in the morning watching that first drubbing, who coloured us a picture of Dora The Explorer and Boots saying “Go Hosers” – a picture that may have inspired us to a much better team effort in the second game. The good people at Malones, the bar in the Dows Lake Pavilion, whose tequila may have inspired us for that second game as well. The Works, who fueled us up with burgers – maybe THEY helped create that effort as well. And good ol’ Bruce and his family, who came to see the final game and politely clapped for the one solid defensive stop I made all day.
In the end, it was all about camaraderie, burgers, beer and fun. It had to be – it couldn’t be about wins! And we did have a blast. Great bunch of guys, too bad next year will be an all new team. With an all new coach!
Friday, February 10th, 2012
It has been probably 15 years since I last picked up a hockey stick and played a game of shinny at the Fisher Park outdoor rink near my house. I think in the intervening decade and a half, I have been on skates maybe ten times, each time in an effort to teach my stepson to skate. So, what I’m saying is, I will almost certainly be the weak link on the CHEZ 106 Hosers at this weekend’s Beaver Cup.
I am prepared, though. I sharpened my skates (or, more accurately, I paid someone else to do it for me), and bought a brand new $10 hockey stick when I discovered that my old one was about two feet too short for me now. And I set out my toque and mittens. So, I’m good. Oh, and one of the Hosers has pledged an extra helmet to help me look like I know what I’m doing. Thanks for that!
So I will be joined by Mark, Craig, Mike, John, Mike, and Josh for some good times on the ice, starting tomorrow morning at 8:00. My main function, I feel, will be as a coach, moreso than as a player. A team, you see, is only as good as its weakest link. And a coach’s job is to identify that weak link. And before even getting to the Beaver Cup, I think I have already done that. We’re several steps ahead already!
So, games at 8:00, 1:00 and 3:00, all at different rinks and all “Fueled By The Works” – which means we’re eating delicious burgers between games. At least I KNOW I’m qualified to do that. Go Hosers!
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
It’s time to introduce this year’s CHEZ 106 Hoser team for the Beaver Cup. This is the team I will be “leading” into the “competition” this coming Saturday at Dow’s Lake. Without further ado…
Mike Pashkoski – Mike says that he plays a great left bench, and needs Works burgers to help him put on some pounds – and if there’s one thing I know it’s how to help others gain weight!
John MacLean – First of all, he proved at Nakatomi Towers that he is indispensible in the event of a terrorist attack. And who knows, at the Beaver Cup? John also says he’s as fat and hairy as I am, and I know that will keep him warm while we spend all that time outside.
Michael Taggart – Michael is in it for “camaraderie, laughs, and hockey” – and I really appreciated that he said Hockey last!
Mark Waymann – Mark has played in the Beaver Cup before, although not with the Hosers. We needed someone who knows a little bit what’s going on. He also said in his email that Zeppelin rocks, and I happen to agree.
Glen Inglis – Glen coaches girls’ hockey, so he may be of value as an assistant (you know, if I make any bad decisions as head coach). Also, he comes with his own cheering section, which is nice. He’s an average everyday beer drinking 40 year old, so he’ll fit in just fine with the Hosers!
Josh Mills – John is 20 years old, and says he has been playing hockey ALL HIS LIFE! So…20 years of experience! He says he has great hand-eye co-ordination, which means he is less likely to spill beer or drop our Works burgers. Oh, and it might come in handy during the games also.
Craig Patterson – Craig is 21, an engineering student at Carleton, and he says his hands are so dirty, he’s sponsored by Purell. Which will be useful, I think, if things get chippy. We need a Chris Pronger type out there.
Eric the Intern – Eric is chubby, lazy and out of shape. He enjoys burgers and sitting down, and promises to cheer loudly for the Hosers for at least a few minutes in every game. He also needs someone on the team to lend him a helmet.
And there you have the 2012 CHEZ 106 Hosers! A team that, correctly coached and guided, should put previous editions of the Hosers to shame! Or at least, we’ll have a good time.
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Boxing is over. I decided this on the weekend as Bernard Hopkins became the oldest champion in boxing history with his light-heavyweight victory over Jean Pascal in Montreal. 46 years old, and he’s the champion. Any sport where a 46-year-old can be the best in the world is no longer a “sport”. There are now six “sports” I can think of where a 46-year-old can be the “best”. Curling. Golf. Archery. Chess. Croquet. And now boxing. It isn’t the fault of Hopkins who, much as I dislike him, is still a good fighter in great shape with solid skills. It’s that there are no more decent boxers in the world. There’s Manny Pacquiao and a million jars of mayonnaise. It’s over, boxing.
I LOVED the Red Sox-Cubs series over the weekend. Well, except for the results of the games, which didn’t favour my BoSox. But what other sport can see two teams play each other for the first time since 1918, and they play in…the same stadium in which they met 93 years ago? No arena in the world has the history of Fenway Park, and no sport has the incredible history of baseball. That being said, the “throwback” uniforms really showed that in some ways, baseball has improved a LOT over the years. I could barely tell who was who. The team in the potato sacks beat the team in the cut-up bedsheets, I think.
It’s too bad Canadians are paying little or no attention to baseball these days. Toronto isn’t going to win anything this year, or any year, but they have the best hitter in the bigs and the best reason to watch game in game out – Jose Bautista is a monster. 19 homers already? In the low-production post-steroid era? Ridiculous.
What’s Tim Thomas thinking, guaranteeing the Bruins win in the series? That’s just asking for trouble. If I’m a defenseman, I’m not even trying any more. We’ll just go ahead and win this one – the goalie’s got it. I’ll just skate around a little to make it look good.
Why is it even news when someone else gets drawn out to tell the world he saw Lance Armstrong using steroids? Is there a single person left in the universe who believes Armstrong, the greatest performer in the dirtiest sport in the world, was clean? And if you give him the “benefit of the doubt”, and say “innocent until proven guilty”, and all that crap, aren’t you just being soft-headed and a little hypocritical? Would you extend the same suspension of disbelief to Barry Bonds? Michael Vick? Mike Tyson? Or are you willing to ignore the mountain of evidence because Armstrong is such a good guy and has a great story? Snap out of it people – the entire myth of Armstrong, the great story, and his feel-good impact on the world is all based on a lie. All of it. Bite me Lance Armstrong.
There is, however, some good news in sports. And that is, the Badminton World Federation is mandating skirts for female badminton players. This might well have the effect of boosting ratings for televised badminton to maybe half the take of beach volleyball, after that federation mandated two-piece bathing suits.
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
Sometimes a movie becomes so engrained in one’s consciousness that it can’t help but affect one’s actions at some point, later in life, when a situation arises calling for, say, a mid-hockey-brawl striptease. I give you Colorado Eagles assistant coach Greg Pankiewicz on Friday night.
Too bad the video ends there. We missed the part where he glided to centre ice, ripped his pants off in one smooth tear, and called the opposing team’s goalie’s wife a lesbian. And the part where he was removed from the ice and watched the rest of the game from the press box, where he felt shame.
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
I was out at the Beaver Cup on Sunday, for the final game. Randall’s team The Hosers had played Friday night and all day Saturday, and had lost all their games but one, despite being surprisingly competitive for a team thrown together sight unseen over email. But that portion of the Beaver Cup was over, and the finals were going on (featuring teams that were not The Hosers) Sunday afternoon while I was out there for the First Annual Make A Wish Breakaway Celebrity Hockey Game, or as we were calling it, the FAMAWBCHG. I had to use the whole name every time I announced something, and the acronym was VERY difficult to pronounce.
For Sunday’s celebrity game, there were a number of local celebrities (and “celebrities”) on hand to participate in the game. On the high end was legendary hockey Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, and former Senator Jason York. Then there was Police Chief Vern White, TSN personality (and CHEZ alumnus) James Cybulski, and our own Randall Moore. And then Kurt Stoodley and Bill Welychka of A Channel, another guy from XM something or other, and the guy who showed up with Vern White.
Mr. Welychka was injured toward the end of the first period, landing hard on the little ice-level net thanks to some nifty and vicious stick work from Mr. White. Or something like that, I had a hard time seeing anything. At any rate, the game ended like 18-15 for the Red Team over the Blue Team. The Red Team was Denis Potvin’s team, the Blue Team belonged to our own Randall. Who lost for the fourth time in three days. Not that I’m rubbing it in or anything. He’s not going to read my blog. Actually, he’s on vacation for the week so by the time he gets back he won’t even remember my name. Either way, I figure I’m safe. After all, in the Celebrity Something Or Other Game, he was too scared even to drop the gloves with Denis Potvin, despite the invitation. I’m not the least bit worried. Well done, Beaver Cup!
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
It occurred to me while I watched the Grey Cup that although I am a bigger fan of the NFL, there are some things the CFL does WAY better. For example – when the referees announce a penalty, the CFL is vastly superior because the refs are allowed to say the NAME of the team that committed the penalty. “Unnecessary roughness, Montreal number 56, fifteen yard penalty, first down.” Simple, right?
Contrast that to the NFL, where the refs don’t seem to be allowed to mention teams by name. Let’s say there’s a kickoff, and it gets fumbled, and the kicking team recovers and runs it back. And there’s a penalty during the run back. The refs will come out and say something like this – “block in the back, by the defense, which was the receiving team, after the fumble recovery by the kicking team, which became the offense, during the runback off the turnover, number 21, half the distance to the goal, first down.”
It also occurred to me that the main reason I don’t care as much about the CFL these days is that we have no team here in Ottawa. I cheer for the Bombers, a little, and against the Argos and Alouettes, but without a real home team I can get behind, it’s tougher, and more of an effort, for me to follow the rest of the league.
I think the best tweet of all time belongs to Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills. He dropped a gimme, gift-wrapped pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone, in overtime, that would have given the Bills a gigantic upset win over the Steelers this weekend. Then he took to Twitter and – blamed God!
“I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...”
Amazing. I have always thought it was the dumbest thing ever when athletes thanked God for a win. If it was up to God, why the hell did you train so hard, and run all those sprints, and lift all those weights? Why wouldn’t you just show up and pray real hard? But even more so, I have thought that it’s terribly disingenuous for athletes to thank God for their victories but NOT to blame him for their defeats. Thank you, Steve Johnson. You’re the first one to do so, and you make me happy.
I think the reason Ottawa Senators fans are so quiet at hockey games is that beer costs forty-one dollars a pint. This might also contribute to the fact that Ottawa is the only Canadian team of note that doesn’t consistently sell out games. I have a solution that will fix both problems, and be a huge boon to Ottawa’s economy, overnight – tailgating. Legalize parking lot tailgating, and we’ll have a raucous, jam-packed arena every night. Problem solved.
I think the Yankees are very, very stupid. I hate the Yankees on principle, because they throw so much money at big-name free agents that no one else can compete. Except, occasionally, my beloved Red Sox. And on principle, I therefore hate Derek Jeter, the face of the Yankees for the past decade. But I am squarely on Jeter’s side in his contract dispute with New York. A franchise icon, the face of the most famous team in sports, still playing at an extremely high level, and you lowball him?
So the Yanks are willing to drive dumptrucks full of cash to the houses of CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira et al, but you want Derek Jeter to take a huge pay cut to stay? And you try to embarass him and tell him to test the free agency waters? You dicks. I hope he does – I’d love to see him in a Boston uniform – but this is a lot like one of those insurance companies that gives new customers an incredible rate, but keeps the rates of their longtime existing customers stupidly high.
I think the Heat struggling is good for basketball the way the Cowboys struggling is good for football. I love it when the most hated team is easy to cheer against – each loss makes more and more people happy. Then again, I think they had better make the playoffs – for the same reason.
Okay. That’s all I think right now.