Hockey Talkie: Winnipeg Jets, Draft, Oilers – Smyth, Taylor/Tyler Trump, and the Creepy Keeper of The Cup.
Do you remember in 1994 when the unnamed Baltimore franchise competed in the CFL, and then won the Grey Cup the following year? It looked like we might be getting to that point with the “Winnipeg NHL franchise”, until mercifully, they officially introduced themselves as the Winnipeg Jets at the 2011 Draft. Great move. I understand the arguments to have called the team other things to be more provincially inclusive, or go in a different direction; but in the end, the team did the right thing – they gave the people what they wanted. Gonna be awkward when the Phoenix Coyotes play their first game at the MTS Centre though. Now all they have to do is swindle Teemu Selanne out of Anaheim and they’ll be set. Also, jerseys and a logo would be nice.
On the heels of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and with last year’s #1 overall, Taylor Hall, ascending the podium with the Oilers brass to announce the first overall pick, I had a thought a while back….with a Stanley Cup ring in his first year in the league, did Tyler Seguin check-and-mate the Taylor vs Tyler debate? Seems like the ultimate trump card, does it not? These guys are going to have long, successful careers in the league, and the debate will probably live on for years, but at this point, Taylor’s got a whole lot of catch-up to play; especially while still a member of the cellar-dwelling (albeit youthful talent laden) Oilers.
Speaking of the Oilers…. You know you’re either Canadian or just plain nuts when you voluntarily request to move from +30° C LA beach weather to -30° C Alberta blizzard weather, as Ryan Smyth is trying to wiggle his way back to Edmonton. I really respect what Smyth has done in the NHL, and for team Canada and all, but where does he get this crazy notion he can play for anyone he wants to? Even though he’s following all Wayne’s team footsteps, Gretzky went where he was told in the end (PS – you should watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Kings Ransom” on the Gretzky trade for that whole story). It just seems a little arrogant for Smyth, which is extremely out of character. With LA nabbing Richards from Philly, I’m sure the Kings aren’t exactly clambering to pick up the pieces after his departure. It’s too bad, because he was one of LA’s more productive players last season, right into their playoff run.
Good to see the Columbus Blue Jackets finally acquiring some talent to help out Rick Nash from doing everything. I was seriously thinking of starting a FREE RICK NASH campaign to try and get him traded to team with a chance to win, but with these latest developments, I may have to sit on that one for a little longer.
Phil Pritchard, aka the” Keeper Of The Cup” sure does polish the Stanley Cup a disturbing, creepy amount, wouldn’t you say? The guy is with the trophy every day of his life; have you ever seen him not rubbing that Cup down with that little grin on his face? I thought he might go all Smeagol/Gollum and run out and stab Zdeno Chara this year after Bettman took the Cup away from him and gave it to the Bruins’ captain. He probably could’ve claimed the riot tweaked him out, and gotten away with it.
Brad Marchand is the NHL’s new Claude Lemieux, pest/irritation wise. With those babyface red cheeks of his and inability to grow facial hair, perhaps just less assuming, but just as ratty.
And lastly, even if you didn’t like the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, you gotta agree, seeing that Stanley Cup hoisted is absolutely extraordinary. What an exclamation point of a literal life-long journey for those fortunate enough to win it. The most difficult trophy in sports to win, and the biggest and most impressive looking for a reason. I wonder if any of this year’s draft picks will be lifting the grail above their heads, ala Tyler Seguin, at the conclusion of next season?
There’s just so much ammunition to fire.
First of all, the Canucks BA-LEW ( with a GAA of 8.05, Ba-“Lou”, perhaps?) IT, and successfully, once again did NOT win the Stanley Cup; once again shattered the hopes and dreams of fans who, quite frankly, should have known better, and sent the city into a cannibalizing, lawless, character-altering, violent riot.
I’m going to tackle this in two parts: the hockey part and the insane aftermath part.
Hockey-wise, the Canucks had everything going for them in Game 7 (the home-ice advantage winning pattern seemed to be the primary leverage, as well as the Olympic hosting/Cup winning tradition), and none of it ended up mattering because the goalie who was supposedly the best in the world let in too many goals, and the regular season’s leading scorers didn’t score any goals. You can collect all the regular season trophies you want — President’s Trophy, Western Conference Championship, Art Ross, maybe even a Vezina Trophy – but if the players who won or helped win those trophies don’t perform in the final circumstance, said team will never win the Stanley Cup, THE ultimate trumping trophy.
It’s pretty brutal when the team that was picked to win the Cup before the first puck of the season was dropped can’t even score a single goal in a franchise-defining game like in this year’s Game 7. I hate to question the heart of players in that situation, but it seems like Boston was the only team that showed up to play that night, and they were unquestionably the better team at the game of hockey (which it should all be about, but more on that later).
On paper, the Canucks should have Harlem Globetrotter’ed the Bruins; instead they got their show ran by a team whose top scorers had at least 40 less points than theirs, a goalie who beat them up, and a 43 year old (Mark Recchi, who seems like he could still play 2 or 3 seasons with his level of production). Don’t you dare blame it on injuries either, as both teams were filled with players ready to fall apart if a strong enough gust of wind blew through the dressing room. If you’re going to do interviews and tell people how playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was something you dreamed of as a kid, or how your team is going to become legends after you win (Kesler), try not to embarrass yourselves and your fans in your home rink by not even scoring one measly goal in the most important game of your lives.
Now, regarding the riot that followed. I mean, it was just so predictable, wasn’t it? If you Google image search “Vancouver Riot”, you have to specify which year you want pictures from (seriously, look for yourself). Like I said, fans were told their team was going to win it all from the outset of the season (and every season prior). You place that level of expectation on a city that still had memories of 1994’s Game 7 failure in mind, mix it in with being dubbed “Canada’s Team” (though every team from a Canadian city left standing in the playoffs is named that), and the further expectation of living up to the Olympic success in that very building, as well as the sea of people outside of it watching it on the big screen; was the outcome anything but predictable, especially from a riot-prone city? It became more than just about a hockey score a long time ago.
Everyone, from Vancouver’s mayor and the Premier of BC to the Canucks’ staff and players, have vocally condemned the riots, and rightfully so. What those people did was atrocious. Their actions were comparable to those of the citizens of Middle Eastern countries today amidst conflict – only instead of fighting for their democratic freedoms and right to live, these jokers were fighting and burning police cars because their favourite hockey team lost.
While everything about the riot bothers me, one thing that bugs me just a little more is the blatant minimization of the participants by the afore mentioned delegates. Every commenter has gone out of their way to say that the people rioting were a small, isolated group of anarchists, which were not Vancouver Canucks fans. And while perhaps (and hopefully) that is true, I just don’t see how you can tell me that out of the thousands of people congregating in downtown Vancouver outside of Roger’s Arena, and the nearly 20,000 people who were inside the arena, and would eventually leave and join that mass, that not one of those who started/participated in the violence was a Canucks fan. Wade through the uncountable amount of riot pictures and video; these people are wearing $200 replica Canucks jerseys with the name of their favourite player stitched on the back, they paid thousands of dollars on tickets to go to games, they painted their faces, dressed up in team colors…. Those just aren’t the kind of investments a non-fan makes. If these people aren’t fans, I just have to wonder – what exactly is the criteria for being a Canucks fan? Wasn’t it the Vancouver organization that came up with the “We Are All Canucks” marketing campaign slogan? I support the condemning of rioters and their actions, and even the disowning of fans actually; but denying that these people were fans of the team seems like a stretch, even for a city in full-blown damage control. Vancouver, you have plenty of upstanding citizens and loyal, civilized fans (very encouraging to see the droves of people coming out to clean up the city the next day); but for once just admit, you’ve got a whole lot of crazy ones too. How many more riots will it take before someone finally admits this? For those who make the case that Vancouverites would have rioted no matter what the outcome of the game, I counter with Newton’s Third Law (For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction); they went bananas in the best, most peaceful way possible when Canada won Olympic gold in 2010 in the very same location, but in times of defeat the people congregated in that area seek to implode the place. For their team being 40 years old, “bad” Canuck fans sure act like adult-sized, criminal versions of small children throwing tantrums because they didn’t get what they want.
And what is there exactly to be cheering about, when you’re standing on top of an upside down, burning police car, with your hands in the air, yelling at the top of your lungs, posing for pictures? Morons, I tell you. Probably the same people that smashed the windows of the Chapters and didn’t steal a single book. And did it annoy anyone else that the media was more concerned about discovering the identity of a couple making-0ut during the riot than idenitfying rioters they said they were going to punish to the full extent of the law?
For me, it all comes down to this tried and true formula, yet again: The Vancouver Canucks choked, and their idiot fans took it too far and rioted. Every reason I don’t cheer for Vancouver underscored itself once again; not for the first time, and likely not for the last. Don’t worry, Ryan Kesler, at least Kevin Bieksa thinks you’re a legend.
Told you so!
This year’s Stanley Cup Final is just so incredibly polarizing in terms of how valuable home-ice advantage is, it’s amazing. Name another series where you’ve seen one team lose on the road either by shutout, or only by 1 goal (and not score more than 2), but then upon returning home absolutely obliterate their opponents by scores more fitting of low-scoring football games. I’ve never been much a believer in home-ice advantage affecting the outcome of games – obviously it’s nice to play in your own digs, not have to travel, have extra prep time, the comfort of your own dressing room, and the support of your home fans – but in the end, all those things are only small advantages, not game outcome determiners; and all those things can go right out the window if the visiting team gets up a goal or two. But to see the home team’s scores in each game; it’s enough to think that those little advantages have added up somehow. Besides the fact that the Stanley Cup will be awarded in the next 2 games, it’ll be interesting to see if the winner claims victory on the road or at home. As I’ve written about before, for the winner’s sake, I hope it’s on their home turf (which now, can only be Vancouver).
Speaking of which, I’ve been contemplating my storied anti-Vancouver Canucks stance more and more as the Canucks have pushed the envelope as far as they have this season. If I had to whittle down to the root of my hatred, it’s always come down to 2 ultimate factors: 1) The Canucks are always heavily favoured to win by local fans and media, always choke, and have never won the Cup; and therefore 2) their crazy, rabid riot-prone fans cannot accurately claim them to be the best (though they have always continued to do so) without having done just that. You may or may not hate the Oilers, Flames, Leafs, Habs, Ducks, Bruins, Hawks, Avalanche, Stars, Wings, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, or Penguins; but the fact remains that those teams have all got it done (at least once), and they and their fans will always have that to hang over Vancouver and their fans until they win.
I guess it comes down to your fandom rooting – I respect a fan that has been cheering for their team from the start, through the dark times, and finally has their cheering rewarded; but I also respect cheering for a team that is rooted in success. Both Finals teams offer desirable conclusions to both scenarios.
My latest thought on my personal stance is that if indeed the Canucks were to finally win their first Stanley Cup, I would have to at least reconsider my policy on cheering against this seemingly cursed-to-lose franchise, and perhaps even motion to enter fandom of said team. Geographically, I should be on board as a resident of BC (though I’m from Kelowna, not Vancouver; a city that prides itself on not being Vancouver), but truth be told I’ve always been an “against-the-grain” kind of guy, and have no problem cheering for or aligning with the less popular. This is a whole other ball of wax too; as it’s come to my attention that the Canucks are the object of many people’s hate throughout this continent (outside of BC of course); and that in itself, is oddly attractive to me.
I can’t say I care for bangwagoners, and I would be afraid of being viewed as such. If I were a current Canucks fan that learned someone like me was considering jumping ship to their side, I probably wouldn’t welcome me with open arms after the deserved slogging I’ve given them since I was aware they existed. Hey, if Wayne Gretzky can jump ship from endorsing Coke to Pepsi, and Bret Hart can come back to WWE, then maybe I can come around on the Canucks. I have to admit, I love the U2 game-entrance music, and the Vancouver fans are probably the best at singing O Canada as a group.
I’m not saying this will actually happen (they have to win first, of course), but it’s running through my mind. I think in the end I’m most likely too far gone, but it may be a very brief window to rid some hate from my brain. Maybe I’m just proving myself a poor anti-fan.
And lastly, the Miami Heat. I don’t have much to say other than wow, that sure didn’t work out like it was supposed to. Quite frankly, I think Lebron deserved the negative attention he drew, but I can’t say I wanted to see such an incredible athlete lose. They probably should have paid more attention to the Mavericks though, who apparently also really wanted to win. One other thought I had was of Gretzky and the Oilers’ dynasty days – they didn’t win the Cup the first time they made it to the Finals either (I know the Heat have won before, I am comparing the current roster to that roster), and we all know what ended up following. I’d be very surprised if Lebron James wasn’t an NBA Champion at some point.
As one of the focuses of this blog is self-promotion, I’d like to use this post to promote the Dryland Hockey Training Camp that I will be leading at Blackbelts gym, starting on June 21. The camp will run twice a week; Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm, and continue on for a 6 week period. You can sign up for the entire camp, or drop-in casually. The program will aim towards improving players’ aerobic and anaerobic fitness, as well as their speed, strength, quickness, flexibility, and quick thinking, while utilizing the dynamic, plyometric and resistance training techniques that are most beneficial and parallel to the motions and actions hockey players perform during a game. And perhaps best of all, we’ll be training outside, under the beautiful summer sun. The later start time will allow for a more reasonable temperature to train in, while still being hot enough for everyone to work on their tans.
We will be working towards helping players to peak in their fitness for the month of August, the month when most junior hockey rookie and main camps will commence. Personally, I always dreaded this time of year. But the condition you arrive at camp in is, more often than not, a direct indication of what level you’ll find yourself fitting in at on the team; at least in the beginning. In a nutshell, if you’re concerned about either making the team, or contributing to your team, taking your off-season fitness seriously is worth your time, effort, and money.
I am fortunate to be friends with a guy whose dad played in the NHL during the 70’s and 80’s, and one story I remember his dad telling me was regarding his training camp experiences, and the shift in mentality about them during his era of play. Basically, in those days, training camp was the time NHL players would actually start working out and getting in shape for the season, so it wasn’t uncommon for those camps to be pretty lackluster, lung-capacity wise. Everything was well and good with that status quo until the rookies progressively started to come to camp already in shape, and well ahead of the pack in terms of fitness, in hopes of taking away a roster spot from a veteran. While some of the older players may have mocked or ridiculed those players for doing so, the result was that those rookies were indeed getting their names written on the game sheets, while those who were less prepared saw their starts diminish. Veterans began to take notice of the smaller numbers appearing on their paycheques, and started to shape-up, literally; realizing their spots may not be as secure as they may have once thought.
And progressively, over time, that approach and mentality shifted to the product we have now: players devoting their entire summers, starting immediately after their last season game, to preparing themselves physically for next season; either in hopes of cracking a lineup for the first time, or just to keep their spot on the team depth chart and/or payroll. And if you were to ever watch game film from the 70’s and now side by side and compare the levels of play and role of physical preparation, the products are clearly night and day, and the proof is very obviously in the pudding.
Players competing at all levels of hockey are welcome to join the camp. Drop by Blackbelts (behind the Lake Country Tim Hortons’ in the Lakewood Mall), or call in (250 766 5665) to reserve your spot, as space is limited! You can also leave a comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get your name on the list. If you’re taking your hockey training seriously this summer, I hope to see you at camp!
Apparently the NHL and True North Sports filmed an alternate ending to the May 31/2011 press conference announcing Winnipeg’s purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers and subsequent return to the NHL. After the deal concluded positively, this ending was trashed, and never meant to see the light of day…. Luckily for you, we here at The SDC Blogs employ the resources to find such material meant to be seen by the public eye. Have a look at how much different that announcement may have turned out: