Hey New York Rangers fans, Vector Media is “dropping the puck” on NYR’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the New Jersey Devils with double-decker buses that will provide NY Ranger “Fan rides” around MSG – Times Sq 42nd street and back. Fans from all over the country will come in for a chance to receive a free ride on the double decker buses and show their team spirit by joining the traveling Pep Rally and cheering for the Rangers. The buses will have former Ranger players (TBA) and video crews who will be filming the action – throughout the game they will show clips of the fan rides on the giant screens in MSG. All New York Rangers fans are eligible to ride the buses! The bus rolls Wednesday, May 16th; Wednesday, May 23rd; and Sunday, May 27th; running from 4-8pm every night. Check out www.vectormedia.com for more info. And if you’re in the New York area, hop on!
Speaking of the Rangers, you need to check out DJ Steve Porter’s latest remix — “Next Question” featuring John Tortorella. Phenomenal. I love these.
I’ve been a big NHL and WWE fan since I was a kid, so it’s always fun for me when those worlds manage to collide with each other. The 05/14/12 edition of WWE Raw was filmed live from the Consol Energy Center, and a handful of Penguins players in attendance were not immune to public address from John Cena and John Laurinaitis:
This is not the first time the Penguins have crossed paths with WWE — in December 2011, CM Punk tweeted a pic from his meeting with Penguins perennial heel Matt Cooke, who signed a stick for him (perhaps still trying to get over as a good guy at the time).
I spotted this kid at the school I work at, who sure seems to resemble Dustin Byfuglien quite a bit, wouldn’t you say? Is it possible that in one of Big Buff’s drunken boating excursions, he managed to cross the Pacific Ocean and impregnate a Korean woman with his love child? #unsubstantiated #speculation
If Fan Support Could Earn You Regular Season Wins, The Winnipeg Jets Would Have a Great 2011/12 Season.
Now that all the Winnipeg Jets’ hype and nostalgia has worn off, and they’ve got the tributes, name and jersey speculation, and that season opener out of the way, I think it’s time someone said what a lot of hockey fans have been afraid to say for fear of lynching via Winnipegers….. The Jets might be really bad this year.
Before I dive in here, let me iterate that I am very happy for the fans of Winnipeg to have their team back, and that their loyalty makes the MTS Centre a phenomenal venue for a team to play out of. After getting throttled 5-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on October 9th (all the Habs had to do was raise the puck to beat Andrej Pavelec 5 times), fans were still standing and cheering in the final minutes, whereas most fans of most teams would have left early to beat the traffic and get home at a reasonable hour. Winnipeg Jets fans are a special breed, and I dig that.
But let’s objectively look at this team and assess their odds: The Thrashers finished 25th out of 30 teams last season. The Jets’ were only a .500 hockey club through 7 pre-season games, where they were middle of the pack in Goals For (18), and near the bottom in Goals Against (19). Their franchise players are probably Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Nik Antropov; who, while all good players, aren’t exactly known to be mentioned in the same discussions as Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, Toews, and the rest of the NHL’s elite. Besides some draft picks, Tanner Glass and Kyle Wellwood would be the team’s only major off-season acquisitions; and neither of them earn more than $800,000, a fair indication of how valuable and talented the Jets feel they are (compared to the majority of NHLers, whose contracts all contain at least 7 digits). Jets’ owner, Mark Chipman, has mentioned that Winnipeg will not be a team that threatens the financial upper boundaries of the NHL’s salary cap, so we shouldn’t expect any major signings either. As I alluded to earlier, between Andej Pavelec and Chris Mason, their goaltending is suspect at best. And to top it all off, they’re being led by AHL absorption/call-up coach, Claude Noel; questionably ready to be coaching at the NHL level. Also, this band of players has a habit of having one or two of them randomly faint during games (Pavelec, Meyer).
The only real ”Ace In The Hole” that the Winnipeg Jets have is that fan base. The MTS Centre will be loud and proud every night, no question. But the problem is that they only play half of their games at home. Subtract a few games where Jets fans may drive to (Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and snowbirds vacationing in Phoenix), and that intangible becomes null and void. Combine that with the team’s Southeast Division travel schedule that contains multiple trips to Florida, and 2011-2012 may be one heck of a long season for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans. My Stanley Cup predictions don’t feature Winnipeg in the equation. For their sake, I really hope I’m wrong.
Ok, back to me
I’m not even an official Chicago Blackhawks fan, but I hate seeing what’s happened to them.
To see last year’s Stanley Cup champions reduced to backing into the 8th seed playoff spot via hopes of others’ misfortune, and now having their asses handed to them by their archrivals is really quite stark in contrast to the Hawks club that celebrated curbing the greatly publicized Chicago Cup drought not so long ago.
There are two things that strike me about the situation. One is that it really speaks to the team aspect – how many “cogs” working in harmony it takes to win a championship. When you think about the Chicago Blackhawks, the names that come to mind most often are probably Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Obviously they have other strong players, but those two are largely painted as the poster boys for that franchise; and rightfully so. When the team’s “gutting” unfolded last season, the optimistic ones surely felt that as long as those two were on the roster, they’d be ok. It’s right about now that the (at times) overshadowed, and perhaps underappreciated necessity of now delinquent Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, and Anti Niemi (the latter few got their share of attention, mind you) would be welcomed in their lineup. Even with guys like Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, heck even coach Joel Quenneville, they just can’t pull it back together to what it was.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those dealt away are the secret to success, because with four of those players on teams not even in the playoffs this year, clearly that’s not the case. The point I want to make is to show another example of how a team will not necessarily survive on talent alone – look at Montreal again in these playoffs for example – and how necessary it is for the “stars to align” to bring that just-right mix of guys together who can truly function as a working unit and accomplish an ultimate goal. It’s a lot easier said than done; just ask Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya about their conspiracy to both take less money to play together in Colorado to try and win a Cup in2003.
I really wanted good Canadian kid Jonathan Toews to come out on top, and prove everyone wrong by winning again. I sort of get the feeling Patrick Kane’s content with scoring the Cup winning goal last year (I would be too) and is more worried about looking cool while chewing on his mouthguard/negating it’s entire safety function in an era of hockey where the league is trying to reduce head injuries. Anyways, long point short, this year’s Blackhawks seem like a band that used to be really awesome, split up to do solo records, and never really recaptured the glory they once had; better together than apart. Unless there’s some miraculous 7-game comeback, we’re going to see a new Stanley Cup champion this year. I wonder if Dustin Byfuglien thinks now that taking less money to stay on a good team might have been a better idea now? They sure could use him in front of Luongo.
And since we’ve dipped into the head injury topic, my thoughts on Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook are that the initial penalty called was correct – Seabrook did not have the puck. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a suspension, but I’m not upset there wasn’t. There were just so many intangibles to factor in to the result though; Seabrook has a concussion history (and it’s insane that he doesn’t wear a new-era memory foam concussion padded helmet), Torres has a suspension history, and the NHL gets eyeballed by the world every time a bodycheck is thrown. Torres is a role player that is, quite frankly, doing his job: blowing guys up with bodychecks and creating puck turnovers. The new NHL has been phasing out the fighter position for a while now, and the latest revelation seems to be the big-hitters are the next queued for extinction. You can see it right in Raffi’s facial expression to the referee after the call was made; while some would read it as a “I didn’t do anything ref!” look, I saw it as a guy who legitimately is unclear as to what he is and isn’t allowed to do anymore in terms of body checking anymore.
I really think that’s a huge notion to consider, especially in the playoffs. The quest for a championship requires such a level of focus and perfection that for a player to be second guessing his limitations on the ice will most certainly at some point be the difference of a player that would normally get hammered by Torres instead get around him, make him look ridiculous, and probably earn Raffi a spot on the pine, or worse, on the healthy scratch list next game.
It reminds me of one of my first games playing in France. Prior to playing there, I had largely defined my style of hockey as quite physical, because that’s what had brought me the most success at every other level. In fact, I had that style drilled into me since the age we were allowed to run into each other in minor hockey. We were playing a game on the road, and I went to finish my check on a guy into the boards who had just released the puck in enough of a time frame that I felt I was in the right to complete the hit, which I did; a pretty routine play back in North America. Whistles, a stoppage in play, and an escort to the penalty box later, I assumed I had done something wrong (though I couldn’t confirm it because everyone was talking in French). A teammate then joined me in the box. I asked him what was going on. He relayed to me that I had been assessed a 10-minute penalty for a “vicious” hit (I’ve hit guys a lot harder with worse results), and he was there to serve an extra two. When I finally got out of the box and back into the game, I played very tentative because I couldn’t understand what I was allowed to do (the language barrier didn’t help), and I was largely ineffective from there on in.
So that brings me to my next point – for the sake of the players, and everyone’s general understanding, the NHL needs to clearly define some rules. No more shades of grey; whatever the ruling is, just tell us and the players, so they can go about figuring out how to play correctly, and we can all stop squabbling about it. The North American style of hockey is largely physical, and that’s what we were all raised on. There’s already (nearly) non-contact hockey in Europe. That’s their style and that’s fine and dandy for them. Over here, players run into each other and get blown up (as well as scoring goals periodically). This monster that’s been created by the new rules is something the league needs to learn to manage better before the NHL decides to introduce touch-football rules. Whether the game is supposed to be full of clutching, grabbing, and fighting, or speed, finesse, and concussions, please someone just let us all know so we can keep up and eliminate all the second-guessing for the sake of the game we all love.
Hockey Talkie: Brodeur, Byfuglien for Norris, HBO 24/7, Sutters, Spengler, Waffles, & The DiPietro Deficiency.
Could the New Jersey Devils’ situation be any worse? Dead last in the entire league (as of Dec 28/10), their bazillion-dollar signee, Ilya Kovalchuk sucks, and their former best-goalie-in-the-world is anything but, often injured lately, and having a tough time doing the most important thing about the goaltending position job description – stopping pucks. You gotta think Martin Brodeur is, at least, contemplating retirement at this point. No disrespect to him, but I mean he’s won everything for a goalie to win (3 Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold twice, 4 Vezina’s, multiple All-Star selections; holds 20 NHL records, including most wins, shutouts, most games and minutes played, even scored a game-winning goal). But really, at this point, what is the purpose in him hanging around, especially when he’s now playing for the worst team in the league? After all his accomplishments, it’d be a shame to see him fizzle out and get Chelios’ed in his remaining time.
Speaking of bad teams, how many more stints on the IR for Rick DiPietro until the New York Islanders decide buying out the remaining 11 years on his contract is actually the better option? Tough for the Isles to get the most bang for their $67 million bucks out of a constantly injured goalie who hasn’t played an entire season since around the time he signed that contract.
Dustin Byfuglien’s the early favourite for the Norris Trophy, no? He’s 13th in league scoring as I write this, and there is not another defenceman on the list until Nicklas Lidstrom at 26th. He’s even got more points than Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Dany Heatley, Evgeni Malkin, Teemu Selanne, Joe Thornton, Martin Havlat, Rick Nash, and Patrick Kane, to name a few. To be fair, he is currently 65th in +/- rankings, which may or may not be a more important measure of a defenceman’s worth, depending on who you are. He’s still got my vote, for now.
Like many of you hockey folks, I’m loving the HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road To The Winter Classic miniseries. I know lots of people are talking about it, so I’ll try to raise a few points that aren’t being beat to death, too badly.
One – Bruce Boudreau has been getting a lot of heat for his constant cussing in the dressing room and on the bench. My response to this is that the only people balking at this have to be people who are either over-sensitive, or just have never been in a hockey dressing room before; because, and I hate to break it to the weak at heart, but that’s exactly the way hockey dressing rooms and coaches are during the game. They get frustrated when things don’t go right, and when you’re as emotionally invested in the game and the success of the team as a coach has to be, f-bombs begin to flourish, especially in a slumping team situation. Personally, I love the fact that he’s not pulling any punches or walking on egg-shells just because there’s cameras around him all the time.
Two – I love seeing that NHL players are pretty much like every other hockey player that plays on every other team in the world and every other level (minus the skill level and multi-million dollar contracts, of course). It should be pretty obvious, since they all came up through all the same developmental leagues that all other players do to get where they are, but there’s something humanizing about seeing a teammates pulling hotel pranks on each other during road-trips, coaches telling players to “pack up your stuff so we can get the f— outta here” after a road loss, generally being jokers off the ice, and then really dialling in their serious side when it’s time to perform on the ice.
Three – as cool as this build-up to the Winter Classic has been, and as amazing as that game will be, this kind of TV series is tailor-made to a Stanley Cup Finals showdown, is it not? I know the big sell is the Crosby-Ovechkin matchup for American viewers by the networks, but isn’t the confrontation for the Cup, aka the biggest prize in the sport, even easier for fans to invest their advertisement-susceptible eyes to, compared to a gimmicky mid-season outdoor game?
And further, isn’t it a testimony to how unnecessary it is to advertise hockey in Canada that, compared to the Winter Classic media blitzkrieg, there has barely been a mention of the upcoming Heritage Classic outdoor game between Calgary and Montreal? You mean to tell me the mention of Jarome Iginla vs Josh Gorges isn’t enough to put butts in seats, and eyes on TV’s?
Even though I’m an avid Calgary Flames hater, it’s unfortunate to see Darryl Sutter “resign” as team GM, after team CEO Ken King asked him too. Seems like an either-quit-or-you’re-fired face-saving situation for Sutter; which, if you’re going to publicly announce that you ask a guy to quit, you might as well just fire him. I don’t support Flames success, but I have to admit, Sutter has been the only guy to get any out of that organization in recent history, including brother/head coach Brent, who barely batted an eyelash at the situation, citing his family’s unparalleled ability to separate family from business. Man, that’s got to be an awkward family to be around at Christmas.
I love the Spengler Cup. I wish it could be rescheduled so it actually got some coverage, instead of being overshadowed by the WJC. With personnel like Mark Messier coaching, Hockey Canada obviously supports the team; why aren’t they allowed to sport the official Hockey Canada jerseys like every other legit Canadian team representing Canada in international play? Surely HC just doesn’t want to desecrate the uniform with all those euro ads, right?
And finally, I’m loving the waffles being thrown on the ice at Toronto Maple Leafs games. It’s just such an amusing item to throw. It causes a delay of the game, bla bla… some one could get hurt, yadda yadda… let’s be honest, if the Leafs keep sucking, and Kessel keeps not scoring, they’ll be thanking their lucky lifetime season-ticket holders that something as soft (and delicious) as waffles is all that’s being thrown on the ice.
First off, congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on winning the Stanley-Freaking-Cup (as though they all are collectively reading this blog and saying, “hey thanks man”), and to Rich Abney of Kelowna for winning the 1st Quadrennial SDC Blogs’ Double Championship Challenge! Along with his prize, Rich receives 4 years of bragging rights. Keeeerr-rap (doubly for runner up Ryley Herzog, who will be hearing about it at Chevy’s Source for Sports for the next four years J). It was looking like Ryley and the Flyers had a chance of pulling one over on all of us with that Bruins/Habs massacre, but alas…
What a great playoffs overall. Complete with a standard Canucks exit, Pronger’s puck stealing/Carcillo antagonism vs Byfuglien/everyone, Joe Thornton and San Jose’s meltdown, Pronger vs. Burish chirps, awesome NHL “History Will Be Made/No Words” commercials and CBC video montages, 3rd string goalies becoming starters and fading out 1st stringers while fading in huge contracts next year (see: Rask, Halak, Niemi, Leighton, etc), Keith losing 7 TEETH mid-game and continuing, Crosby and Ovechkin eliminated early by an underdog, Hossa rescinding his Cup curse, Vince Vaughn, the rejuvenation of hockey in Chicago and the end of the longest running championship drought, a mullet and a mystery OT Cup winning goal (and a Crosby-Olympic-Golden-Goal-esque one at that) by Kane, a prophetic mural, the Conn Smythe and yet another championship for overshadowed (until now) Jonathan Toews; hard to find anything bad to say about that guy.
The Stanley Cup is just simply awesome. Winning it is an un-top-able feat (no, not even Dilbert’s Topper could); truly the most difficult trophy to win in sports, by all accounts of comparison of every other sports’ playoff formats. In no other sports are you required to win 16 games and not lose more than 3 per series to secure final victory. And when you do accomplish said task, an achievement-appropriate sized trophy awaits you; also the biggest in all sports. Often described as the lightest 34 pounds you’ll ever lift over your head, most dreamers will never have the opportunity to find out what that really means. From the first moment video cameras show the Cup in the building to well after it gets lifted over the captain’s head, I get perma-chills and goosebumps every year.
Justin Bourne did as good a job as anyone could on describing what winning the Cup means here.
I had one idea about something to change in the playoffs though. You see, it’s always better to win the Cup at home, in front of your own fans. The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia was dead silent when Patrick Kane scored to win, and rightfully so. How much better would that moment looked on TV if the Madhouse on Madison had the chance to chant “Chelsea Dagger” alongside Toews’ Cup hoisting?
So here’s my idea: for sure in the Cup final, and perhaps in the previous series’, once a team has won three games, the remaining games should be played at that team’s home rink; unless the other team wins 3, in which case the series would shift to that team’s rink. It might play havoc with some arena scheduling, but I think it’d make for a better winning atmosphere. Your thoughts???
Well, that’s it for hockey for a while. Cripes (I’m sure the female readers out there are breathing a sigh of relief). No, I won’t watch baseball in the meantime. Trying reeeeallly hard to give the World Cup and soccer a chance…. but can someone score a goal or two already? 90 +minutes and 0-0 draws are not helping the cause. It seems too exciting of a tournament to have play that boring, doesn’t it?
Well here it is folks, the last DCC update before we declare a champion. Many have fallen, and only few remain standing. Only one can stand alone and be declared as THE SMARTEST MAN ALIVE! Our remaining contestants are Rich Abney with the Blackhawks, and Ryley Herzog with the Flyers. Ryley was a late entry, actually only committing when the Flyers were down 3-0 in the Boston series, so interesting turn of events there. Interesting side bet by Adam Whitmore, who’s banking on Patrick Kane to come up short again, and walk away with 2 second place finishes this year. Rough round for my bro Rob Cunning — had bet on the Sharks, and is also a Habs fan — and we all know how both those series turned out.
I gotta go with Chicago myself here. The media’s trying to spin Philadelphia into a team with that actually isn’t a grossly exaggerated underdog, but, come on, they are just that. In all honesty, Byfuglien for Conn Smythe doesn’t sound that crazy. Lots of good candidates for that hardware though. That mural that an overzealous Chicago artist (that consequently sucks at drawing faces; apparently local Chi-Town artists didn’t ascend from the “Dark Days” along with the team) doesn’t seem so crazy painting a pig wearing a Blackhawks jersey Jonathan Toews with the Stanley Cup in the background now, does he? Or is it more due to having signed Marion Hossa, in which case Chi-Town is screwed and Hossa will never be seen again after this season?? Hawks in 5???
We’ll see what pans out — good luck to our finalists!