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Hockey Talkie: Gretzky-ASG-Ovie Tidbits, NHL’s Visor Rule and Evgeni Nabokov’s FAIL

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Right off the bat, Happy belated 50th birthday to my boyhood hero Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all-time, and who will incidentally never read this birthday greeting. To read my old “meeting Gretzky” story, click here.

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While I didn’t see Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal being picked as NHL All-Star Game captains, I am interested to see who they pick first. And perhaps more interestingly, who they pick last.

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Are we going to find out after this season that Ovechkin had been using corked sticks prior to this year, or something to explain the slump? Could he have been injured this whole time and not have admitted it?

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now wears a contact lens to bring his vision up to 20/400 when playing

After seeing Joe Thornton get busted open above the eye with an unintentional(?) high stick from Vancouver’s Alex Burrows recently, I immediately thought to myself, how dumb is every player in the NHL that doesn’t wear a visor? If that stick hit “Jumbo” Joe half an inch down and to the right, he’s possibly blind in one eye for life, his career is probably over, and all for no good reason. I only inserted “possibly” and “probably” because Bryan Berard suffered an eye injury which he came back from, but needless to say, if he’d been wearing one, he would never have been in a predicament to make a comeback.

I’ve heard the negative side of the issue which is basically “you can’t see as well with them” and “he’ll be a worse player with one on because his vision is obstructed”, but I seriously don’t buy those arguments at all. The things are totally transparent for starters. Secondly, if they get dinged up, just replace them. For people like myself that have to pay $30 to $130 a piece for visors, this is a little easier said than done; but for guys whose yearly contracts end in a number with the word “million” after it, this is peanuts, and the trainer will even install it for you.

It’s strange too, because, as far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong), visors are mandatory at every level of hockey up to the NHL. That being said, you know that every player who’s in the NHL came up playing with one on, and we all started out wearing those ridiculous (but safe) full cages. And if you go a little further, a lot of players who were scouted to junior teams were observed playing well enough to commit to while playing with a cage on. So if we know that every player who makes it to the NHL has played well enough to get there with an “obstruction” on their face their entire career prior, we know that the “lowered playing ability” notion is complete garbage.  Didn’t Sidney Crosby wear a full fishbowl in the World Juniors and do just fine?

The only time I’ve had the opportunity to not wear a visor has been in beer league, or out on the pond. To be quite honest, when you get going skating fast enough, the wind starts drying out your eyes and they start to water a little bit, which starts to cloud your field of vision, and affects your play. To me that’s the only legitimate vision obstruction.

So it’s gotta just come down to aesthetics then, doesn’t it? The old cliché of looking cool? How many guys have to either have close calls, or actually have life altering injuries that mess their vision up (see: Bryan Berard) before the NHL mandates visors?

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The whole Evgeni Nabokov thing is one part ridiculous, and one part Jersey-Shore-level-drama-induced crazy. Interestingly, so is the NHL’s waiver system.

How a player can be claimed by one team after he’s been signed by another doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, but apparently it’s within the rules (explanations are welcome).

Doesn’t this seem a little Eric-Lindros-refusing-to-play-for-the-Quebec-Nordiques-because-they-were-brutal-at-the-time ‘ish?

Obviously Nabokov wants to play for someone who has a shot at the Cup, and if anyone does, it’s Detroit; so their signing him was an obvious ideal. But doesn’t every player want to play for someone who has the potential to win the Cup? I highly doubt there are many NHL’ers who don’t have hoisting the Cup over their head in the back of their mind somewhere, even if they don’t admit it on camera. So what gives Nabokov the right to be more selfish picky selective about where he plays than anyone who made it there by traditional means?

Playing in the NHL’s rival KHL is a bit of a blackballing move from what I understand, so for guys looking to make their way back into the NHL from there are far behind others trying to get the same chance. So the struggling Islanders, who need to fix a goaltending situation, snap up Nabokov, which they have every right to do. Evgeni then apparently hangs up on Islanders GM Garth Snow (later saying it was an accident), refuses to report to the team, and makes a statement saying,

I think I’m going to stay home for now, I’m sticking with my decision. It’s nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s just that I’m at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don’t see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that. I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, ‘Wow, what’s the point?”‘

 

Well, I’d say the point is to play in the NHL again, wouldn’t you? He may have put up some good goaltending numbers for a few seasons, but this guy is nowhere near a level that he can just pick and choose who he plays for. Maybe Ray Bourque got away with that in Colorado, but I assure you, Nabokov’s not there yet.

So now New York looks great because they have a bargaining chip they can easily double their money on if they choose (getting Nabokov at near league minimum is a steal) and they’re really no worse off considering their current standings position, and Nabokov looks like a selfish (albeit, rich) idiot sitting at home, suspended. Welcome back, Evgeni.

Hockey Talkie: 24/7, NYI, Kings Colors Contention, Price Pose, Langenbrunner Laud, Spin-O-Rama’s, Pro-tection, and Euro-League Relegation.

January 15, 2011 3 comments

So I, seemingly like every hockey fan, loved HBO’s 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic mini-series. I touched on it a couple of blogs ago already, and the topic’s generally been beat to death and forgotten by now, but there’s two points I still want to discuss: First, as cool as the series was, the build-up was for a gimmicky mid-season game. Doesn’t the series seem tailor-made for the passion and emotion behind the pursuit of the Stanley Cup in the playoffs, and for specifically, the Cup Finals? Wouldn’t your eyes be glued to your TV watching the triumph of winning and heartbreak of losing the toughest trophy to win in sports? The boyhood dream storyline, first and last shots at the Cup… can you imagine seeing Marian Hossa backstage at any point of losing 2/winning 1? It blows me away that Americans need hockey to be put in a football stadium (where I can’t imagine fans at the game can see any of the action on a playing surface that’s ¼ the size of the football surface, unless they’re watching the jumbotron the whole game, in which case why didn’t they just stay home and watch it on TV?) in order for them to flock to it. Part of me thinks someday they (Americans)’ll get our game, the other part thinks the US sell is a big waste of time and the NHL should just milk the Canadian loyalist audience for all its worth.

On a lighter note, one of, if not the funniest segment of the whole series was Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau Christmas shopping for his wife, getting distracted by a Haagen Daaz ice cream store, saying “it’s never too early for ice cream”, getting turned away because the store didn’t serve ice cream that early, getting rattled, and then leaving the store with a shoes for his wife that were admittedly the wrong size and color. I mean, fat guy hypnotized by ice cream? The comedy writes itself. Enjoy:

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In an ongoing effort to not be poor, I was seriously considering betting against the New York Islanders for the rest of the season to make some money; and it seems good that I didn’t follow through on the notion, because they started beating top teams like Detroit and Pittsburgh. Someone tell the Islanders they’re not supposed to play “spoiler” until the playoff push. Good for them frustrating top teams lately, as well as my interest in gambling.

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If the LA Kings were better in their earlier years, do you think they would have stuck with the purple and gold jerseys? The LA Lakers win titles, and they look good in those colors; yet the Kings were bad, and got mocked for them. Coincidence?

Same colors: One is adorned in rap songs, the other ridiculed through history.

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I really enjoyed Carey Price’s crossed arm pose after stopping Pittsburgh in a shootout recently, mostly because of the heat he’s taken in Montreal for so long; it was good to see him have some success and win some favour back.  I’ve secretly been cheering for him to shake the Halak-ian curse, and I think he’s pretty well done that, finally.  Then of course, the Habs lost to Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury jammed it down his throat by doing the same pose. Hmm, oh well, so much for that.

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I was surprised to see Jamie Langenbrunner not only traded from the New Jersey Devils recently, but also traded for so little. A guy that’s won 2 Cups, captained an NHL and Olympic team, and always put up consistent, steady point production seems worth more than a 3rd/2nd round pick. But there isn’t much value in anyone from the Devils these days. I think NJ got hosed in that deal; at least Langenbrunner gets to play for a good team.

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There’s been lots of talk about spin-o-rama goals in shootouts these days. My thought is I’m fine with them. My only potential beef is with goals like Mason Raymond’s ; I think he might have stopped moving forward, which is the only real shootout rule, besides the idiotics of Kovalchuk losing the puck and Stamkos falling (seriously, of all players, those two both f’d up clear, uncontested breakaways?).

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Ovie demo'ing the 2012 Oakley visor

I’ve never understood why pro players insist on things like wearing no helmet in warm-up, taking the earguards of their helmets, and wearing visors that are not approved by any standards association in the world. I just don’t get wearing less protection at the level full of the biggest and toughest players in the world, that theoretically could damage you more than anyone else in the sport. Did anyone see Scott Gomez a few years ago take a puck in the head during warm-up that ricocheted off the post and into his melon and bust him open? At literally every level of hockey besides pro, you have to wear approved equipment (minor, junior, college/university, & minor pro), so why do players shed all the gear they’ve gotten used to over their entire playing career to be less safe? It’s gotta be all aesthetics, right?  From a business standpoint, it’s a really dumb move — the pros wear all this special gear, and young minor hockey players want to wear it, but when they go to buy it, they find out it’s not approved by the safety standards that regulate equipment use at their level (The Oakley visors are the prime example, they’re illegal in every level up to pro).  These kids are the major market for equipment manufacturers because parents will buy their kids whatever they want, in contrast to the junior or college player who gets all their gear provided to them by their team. 

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And lastly, do you think European-League relegation theory would ever work in North American hockey, specifically the NHL–AHL and maaaaybe ECHL? The process is this: If you win your league, your team ascends to the league above and receives an inflated budget. If you finish dead last, you go down and lose money. Sure, this could introduce a lot of problems, most notably probably the last-place/first-draft-pick system, but it’d make for a little more competitiveness and exposure to unknown teams, don’t you think?

The Sting of Silver: a 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship Wrap-Up.

January 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Ahhh…. the first blog of 2011. Let me start off by thanking all you readers out there; viewership and interaction continues to climb every month, so thanks for tuning in! It’s been fun trying to keep your brains entertained and your interests’ piqued; I hope you’ve been enjoying new things like the video blogs, and with any luck you’ll keep coming back for more and bring your friends with you.

Anyways, enough mushy stuff. Some big hockey related events to chime in on, so lets get ‘er goin…

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Obviously the World Juniors ended in disappointment for Canada. It kinda bugs me a little that even at the U20 level, Canadian hockey players have nothing-less-than-the-best expectations placed on them. Now with 2 consecutive silver medal finishes, you know that Hockey Canada is going to re-evaluate the entire Canadian development program, and cue up some ridiculous overhaul project that is far from necessary, to see what it’s going to take to get back on top of the world.

It’s too bad that losing at this game sends our country into such a panic about the state of “our” game. The more that we do this, the more I inch to agreeing with the notion that we do have a bit of a status/superiority complex about this game of ours; if we’re not the best in the world at hockey, then Canadians from all walks of life seem shaken to our foundations, and our stumble is all any of us can talk about until we eventually redeem ourselves with another victory down the road (see: 2010 Olympics). The NHL has spent the better part of this decade trying to sell our game to the US television audience, as well as the global one; and the pace at which the world has caught up to us has been well documented since at least a decade prior to the 21st century. We really shouldn’t be astounded that other countries are good at hockey (or at least, that we’re not always going to be the best), and that other countries winning once in a while is probably a good thing for the game of hockey as a whole.

Perhaps if we had more sports that we as a country laid deep claims and dominance to, we wouldn’t be sent into such a tailspin everytime losses like this happen (much like the way the US and Germany generally dominate most of the events at Olympics, win a majority of them, and don’t bat an eyelash at slip-ups because there’s enough victory to go around). But then again, you’ll think I’m a bad Canadian if I suggest that notion, so disregard the last two paragraphs.

I mean, 2nd in the world just really ain’t that bad from any other perspective than the one of the nation that holds claim to inventing the game, and coined catch phrases like “The drive for 5”, and other catchy rhymes related to winning championships a whole bunch of times, often in sequences. But as Major Junior hockey gets more and more exposure every year, and specifically the players who compete in this tournament, you begin to see that a good percentage of these players are indeed NHL bound (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Shea Weber, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc etc…), and maybe the increased pressure of having a planet-sized microscope on them isn’t such a bad thing from a preparation standpoint, as it’s likely pretty close to what they’ll continue to experience in the next phase of their hockey careers.

chin up kid, you beat a freaking Gretzky record.

This year specifically, I think of Brayden Schenn. As always, Nike made a commercial campaign that stirred me like no other company can, and pretty well made me want to buy all the training gear that was being used in the commercial because of the emotional connection made to the players and the game. They had Luke Schenn speaking about how he and his brother, Brayden, have been neck and neck in accomplishments all their lives, with the exclusion of Brayden winning a gold medal at the WJC’s. And now, all we have left to assume is that Brayden has failed; which is insane, considering the fact that during this tournament, he tied a personal record set by Mario Lemieux for most goals in a game by a Canadian player (4), and surpassed Wayne Gretzky’s most points by a Canadian player record (18). I’d say anytime you can draw even or pass guys of that magnitude, failure is far from a correct descriptive term for you. Though as a big brother myself, it’s always good to have a leg-up when you can get one, especially with siblings that competitive  :)

On a comedic-interlude side note, I loved the Gord Miller-Pierre McGuire back-and-forth that saw Gord Miller getting what sounded to be genuinely frustrated with McGuire’s stubbornly ludicrous commentary; in particular after an icing call that neither couldn’t let go of their differing opinions of for a number of whistles worth of banter. People who know me know that I think Pierre needs to have his microphone “malfunction” more often than it does; most of me wished that Gord had finally snapped once and for all, and gave Pierre a good throttling right there in the booth. The audio would have been priceless.

Canada in the (Americans') houuuuuse!!!

For Canadians to be proud of:  We have the best fans in the world.  Have you ever seen a road team’s fans fill an opposing team’s home arena like the Canadians did?  Particularily astounding was the overbearing amount of Canadian fans present for the US-Canada game.  The team I played for in college regularly had more fans in opposing rinks than the home team did; and to have that 7th man support at anytime, especially on the road though, is a priceless,special kind of x-factor momentum swinger that truly can make the difference by the end of the game.  Of course, I never played in front of a supportive road crowd of the magnitude that Canada had, but I’d like to think I had a parallel experience on a much smaller-scale .  The States should be embarassed; that’s their house, they should have supported their team better.  Also, we beat the US, which is always good, and it was nice to avenge last year’s loss to them. 

In the end though, you just can’t give up 5 goals in a period, especially in the third period, and double especially if you go into that third with a 3-0 lead. I mean, that’s just inexcusable. It’s tough to say it was unexpected, considering how many come from behind victories they put up through the tourney. Hats off to them for doing it though. If Canadians can take any solace, maybe it’s that the Russians are stuck in Buffalo until they sober up.

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