While one of his NHL alumnus has already advanced to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, another still waits to earn their berth to the very same dance with the New York Rangers. But in a game so littered with gratuitous superstition, former LA Kings captain and club’s all-time single season assists and points leader Wayne Gretzky was recently spotted rubbing elbows in a Chicago jewelry store. Unless Wayne had a sabotage of Blackhawks players planned and was using this appearance as a clever diversion, the Windy City is probably not a place Kings fans would want him to be while LA jousts with Chicago for the 2014 Western Conference title.
But conspiracy theories aside, here’s the scoop on what Gretz was doing at Razny Jewelers in Chicago:
BREITLING HOSTS HOCKEY GREAT WAYNE GRETZKY AT EXCLUSIVE EVENT AT RAZNY JEWELERS
Guests Meet ‘The Great One’ and View Newest Timepieces from Breitling
Wilton, Conn. (May 27, 2014) – Breitling, the Swiss watch manufacturer, celebrated the expanded collection of Breitling timepieces available at Razny Jewelers with a special evening with friend and fan of the brand, Wayne Gretzky. Guests came from all over Chicago to see the newest Breitling watches – direct from their global debut at this year’s Baselworld – and to pose with the hockey legend while enjoying canapés and cocktails.
“It is a pleasure to be here in Chicago with Stan Razny and Wayne Gretzky. Both are legends in their own right,” said Breitling USA President Thierry Prissert. “Razny Jewelers is a family-owned business, like Breitling, and a longtime supporter of the brand. We are thrilled that they recently expanded their entire Breitling collection into a new corner of the store.”
Guests were able to view pieces from Breitling’s latest collection, including the Chronomat Airborne, making its worldwide debut in the United States, the Navitimer 01 46mm, the Navitimer GMT and the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04. Each of the new watches houses a Breitling Manufacture movement, has a five-year warranty and is chronometer-certified by the COSC, the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute.
“I’ve been a huge Breitling enthusiast for many years, so it was wonderful to join them tonight to see the new collection of watches and meet some of my fans at Razny Jewelers. Chicago is a great hockey town and I know they look forward to some great games in the playoffs,” said Gretzky, a hockey hall-of-fame athlete.
ABOUT BREITLING: A specialist of technical watches, Breitling has played a crucial role in the development of the wrist chronograph and is a leader in this complication. Léon Breitling founded the company in 1884 in St. Imier, Switzerland, and chose to devote himself to the exclusive and demanding field of chronographs and timers. Breitling developed the first independent chronograph pushpiece in 1915 and then added the second pushpiece in 1934 to complete the final configuration of the modern
chronograph. In 1969, the brand introduced the first self-winding chronograph movement. Today Breitling is the world’s only major watch brand to equip all its models with chronometer-certified movements, the ultimate token of precision. Breitling is one of the rare companies to produce its own mechanical chronograph movement, entirely developed and manufactured in its state-of-the-art workshops with its quality guaranteed by an unprecedented five-year warranty. This family business is also one of the last remaining independent Swiss watch brands, celebrating its 130-year anniversary this year in 2014.
ABOUT RAZNY JEWELERS: Razny Jewelers is family owned and operated. The Razny family represents the world’s top brands and offers custom creations. Razny Jewelers is always on the cutting edge showcasing the brightest stars in the jewelry and Fine Swiss Timepieces’ world. For over 60 years, Razny Jewelers has defined the essence of what a fine jewelry store should be to their clientele. Razny Jewelers is dedicated to the best combination of old-world and modern values. They are one of the only jewelers in the Chicago area that fabricates custom creations truly by hand. With several bench jewelers on staff, custom jewelry remains their specialty. Their careful attention to perfection and unrivaled craftsmanship turns dreams into reality. In addition, Razny Jewelers has Certified WOSTEP Watchmakers on premises to service your timepiece requirements. Razny Jewelers’ integrity, honesty and commitment to unparalleled personal service bring their customers back time after time. Razny Jewelers are located in Addison, Highland Park and Hinsdale.
ABOUT WAYNE GRETZKY: The greatest ice hockey player of all time has been a Breitling ambassador since 2011, Canadian-born, Wayne Gretzky is a living legend in the world of ice hockey. He is renowned for his professionalism and his fair play. He also has a record-breaking list of achievements to his credit, including four Stanley Cup Championships, 61 NHL records, and being named 18 times to the All-Star teams. In tribute to his absolute superiority, his famous jersey number, 99, has been retired by all NHL teams.
CONTACT FOR HIGH-RESOLUTION IMAGES AND MORE INFORMATION:
Centigrade for Breitling / Lindsay Paterson / email@example.com
T +1 323 556 8854 Extn 41154 M +1 949 204 7059
W centigrade.com twitter.com/centigradeworld facebook.com/centigradeworld
Centigrade, Inc. 8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 350, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 US
He hasn’t even played one NHL game yet, and already Justin Schultz is starting to annoy me.
The Edmonton Oilers agreed to terms with the 22 year old on June 30, ending months of speculation as to which NHL uniform would have his last name stitched on the back of it.
Prior to the media inventing the “Schultz Sweepstakes” schmozzle that began to elevate his billing to an inaccurate Sidney Crosby level (you may remember the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes of 2005), the kid did a lot of things right – he played Junior ‘A’ hockey rather than Major Junior, which qualified him to earn an NCAA scholarship, plus he got drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008, before his arrival at the University of Wisconsin in 2009. He’s even from my hometown of West Kelowna, BC, Canada, and played with our local junior hockey team (Westside Warriors of the BCHL) from 2006-09. I’ve never met him, but there are a lot of reasons why I should back the kid.
But here’s where Schultz gets a little squirrely to me. My beef boils down to him seeming like a guy that started to believe his own hype, got a little selfish, and dictated his own future in a game that so many young, hopeful players would do/accept anything in order to play at its top level. And if you sense a tinge of jealousy in that statement on my part, it’s because I’m stocked full on it. I just don’t see how a player who hasn’t competed in a single NHL game could have so many teams falling at his feet to sign with them, especially a defenseman. It’s all just so…. Eric Lindros/Quebec Nordiques-ish.
Chronologically speaking, the first thing that bothers me is his seemingly cavalier approach to his college career. His play spoke for itself, winning him seven NCAA awards and two finalist nominations for player of the year while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, so clearly he earned all the on-ice accolades he collected while there. But after playing out three of (presumably) four years of his eligibility/scholarship, Schultz withdrew from school, and walked away from another free year of education, and likely whatever degree he was working towards.
That move pretty well nullified his rationale of not playing Major Junior hockey in the first place (assuming he had the option as a teenager), and pursuing the college route that every hockey parent hopes their hockey playing child with NHL aspirations will choose instead.
On a personal note, as someone who played college hockey, earned a degree, and is still paying off student loans six years after completion, this move grinds me a little extra. I mean, he couldn’t have waited one more season, graduated, and jumped to the NHL the following season? There’s always the possibility of injury, a down year, or some other stock-dropping scenario to that option, I suppose. And also, when your paycheck is going to start including millions of dollars every year, securing a strong education for the purposes of landing a good paying job to secure your future in a struggling economy probably isn’t a high priority anymore.
Secondly, as an afore mentioned player who would have killed to play in the NHL myself, Schultz turning his nose at the team that drafted him rubs me the wrong way too. Granted, the Ducks sat on him long enough without pulling the trigger that he had the right as per the CBA to entertain offers from the 26 teams that expressed interest (just who were the four teams that didn’t even try, by the way?), so it’s not like Schultz technically did anything wrong here – it’s just that I never had any NHL team interested in me and would have taken anything passed my way (I’m not the only one), especially from the team that claimed me first; whereas Justin Schultz has size and a ton of talent that rightfully garnered him a plethora of interest from nearly every team in the world’s best hockey league once he became an option. The notion of rejecting an NHL team absolutely boggles my mind. If roles were reversed, I’d like to think I would have chosen loyalty and stuck with Anaheim, personally. I was never good enough to find myself sitting in the position he was though, and maybe if the freedom of options that were plunked in his lap were given to me, I very well may have gotten selfish with my future residence too — especially if I had received a persuasive phone call from Wayne Gretzky to try and seal the deal.
Without knowing him personally, I doubt Schultz desired the attention his situation drew, but it certainly was enough to generate an amount of widespread interest that I assume produced a better offer than Anaheim was tabling to him. Good on the kid for getting the amount of money and location that he wanted, not many players get to do that.
Whether you agree with what he did or not, the deal’s done, and the onus now is on Schultz alone to deliver on his own hype. I don’t see it being easy for him – he’s used to playing less than 50 games a year in the NCAA against lower (than the NHL’s) caliber, compared to the NHL’s 82. The NCAA has produced its share of future NHL talent though (Toews, Parise, Miller, Thomas, Keith, Heatley, Kesler, St. Louis, Kessel, etc), so don’t look too far down your nose at the talent pool he most recently developed in. Also, he’ll be no stranger to the travel rigors of playing all over the continent, so that will work in his favor. But beyond that, I don’t have any other bones to throw him.
As we’ve been doing since this all started, all we can do until October when Schultz lines up for his first faceoff as an Oiler is continue to speculate as to whether he will turn out to be the star that some believe he will be, the bust that others predict, or just an average player in the league. Playing alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Nail Yakupov can’t hurt his chances of success – but we’ll see how reality plays out soon enough.
And truthfully, although this little situation does annoy me, I am pulling for the hometown kid to live up to his billing.
After about four years of being on the receiving end of folly and failure, things are finally turning around for Dustin Penner.
Though it was indeed a big goal, Dustin Penner may have confused his OT series winning tally in game 5 of the Western Confernce final with one that won the Stanley Cup or Olympic gold medal – after a few well deserved fist-pumps, Penner yard-saled his stick, and then later in the handshake line felt his gloves no longer needed to be on his body either. Through the whole sequence of events from goal scored to the end of the handshake, Penner is the only guy without his stick and gloves.
But good for him really, and why not – this is a guy that has taken nothing but heat since leaving the Anaheim Ducks after winning the Cup in 2007, and had his commitment/ability/dedication/conditioning constantly called into question. He even threw his back out while eating a stack of pancakes, and got divorced shortly after.
That’s not to say any of it was undeserved (aside from the pancake incident), but it wasn’t until this year that he really got called out on the hockey end of his woes. Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi once suggested Penner may be a better fit for a rec league softball team, and Darryl Sutter called him horseshit and healthy scratched him in February. Whereas the criticism was purely vocal up until the Sutter era in LA, the Kings were the first to act on it and actually put the $4.25 million cap hit on ice for being awful. If tough love ever worked out, this may be the prime scenario. He’s about ¾ of the way from coming full circle though – only a Stanley Cup will bring him around the full 360.
In the meantime though, you chuck that gear Penner, you’ve earned it. Now just don’t go saying anything stupid….
Apparently Wayne Gretzky thinks this year’s version of the Kings is better than the squad he captained to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993, and has horses on LA and NYR to root for…. though being the diplomat he is, doesn’t count out New Jersey. He also makes a case for Darryl Sutter as a candidate for the Jack Adams. With the way he’s turned around guys like Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown (two guys primed for relocation at the trade deadline), it’s really not a stretch of a thought. I’ve posted before that I hope if a team Gretzky used to play for wins the Cup this year, he finds a way to get down to ice level and give the ol’ grail one last hoist. I’d say he’s earned it after all his post playing career follies. Full story: http://www.sportsnet.ca/fantasy/hockey/2012/05/24/hockey_hearsay/
In other absurdities, the LA Dodgers want the Kings to play in the Winter Classic game — at Dodger Stadium. In California. Apparently they have the technology…..
Celebrities are emerging as tweet-happy Kings fans…. of course, LA is no stranger to stars while they all film movies in town, and have the Lakers, Dodgers, Clippers, and Kings in town, but some are making their fandom known on Twitter too. Here’s some of my favorite celeb Kings tweets to date: Matthew Perry tweets about traffic issues while en route to Kings games, tweets pics from ice-level at Staples Center, offers congratulations, feels adulterous when attending games played between other teams, and even tries to rally support for Anze Kopitar to be on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL ’13 — amongst plenty of other pro-Kings tweets.
Rob Lowe hasn’t forgotten his roots as Dean Youngblood, and offered the team congrats from the fictional hockey prodigy he once played.
And perhaps my favorite thus far, Rainn Wilson (aka Dwight Schrute from “The Office”) inquired about attending a Kings game, and had LA’s Twitter respond by saying they’d deliver them to him encased in Jell-O. The terms were accepted, and Wilson even live-tweeted game stats during the game he attended, amongst other musings. And ironically he even crossed paths with Matthew Perry whilst enjoying the evening.
Will Ferrell has been known to make an appearance at the Staples Center for a Kings game as well.
What have I missed? What are you favorite celeb sightings at Kings games or Kings tweets you’ve read?
The Kings’ media department continues to rule…. not only does their Twitter account dominate, their webpage throws the occasional knock-out blow too. Here’s their follow up on kings.nhl.com to all the LA local TV stations screwing up everything there is to screw up about their team on TV: That’s gold, Jerry, gold.
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 2, 2012]
A puck bucket full of hockey thoughts to tee up….
Four of the eight teams remaining in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs have direct ties to Wayne Gretzky – The Great One played 18 games with the St. Louis Blues in 1996, 234 games with the New York Rangers from 1996 – 1999, coached 4 seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005 – 2009, and played 539 games with the LA Kings from 1988-1996, captaining them to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history. Had the Edmonton Oilers not been laughingly awful yet again this past season and lived up to hype and expectations, this could have been an all-Gretzky playoffs. Gretzky was known to have been vocal about wanting to win just one more Stanley Cup before he finished his career – is it that far-fetched to think that if one of those teams manages to win the Cup this year (there’s currently a 50% chance of that happening), Wayne might find a way to sneak on the ice and hoist the grail one last time?
Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings, they’re beginning to draw a lot of similarities to the underdog 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens – both entered the playoffs as the eighth seed of their conference, both eliminated the President’s Trophy winner of that season in the first round (Montreal beat Washington, Los Angeles ousted Vancouver), and both had/are having unexpected success in the second round (Montreal eliminating Pittsburgh, LA currently mauling St. Louis). The main difference though, is that it took Montreal 7 games to win both of those series – it only took the Kings 5 in the first round, and they are in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 series lead now. Of course, Montreal was beat in the third round, and LA’s playoff fate is not yet written. Los Angeles’ main criticism heading into this year’s playoffs was their inability to score – coming off a series sweep over St. Louis most recently, and with three players in the NHL’s top 25 playoff scorers (Brown, Kopitar, Richards), that ailment seems to be cured. Their goaltender remains a standout, and they’re shown their toughness is not an issue either, mixing it up frequently in both series. While both the Habs and Kings teams look similar, LA looks to be well on their way to faring far better.
A moment of discussion about a frame from game 2 of the Rangers/Capitals series…. The score was 3-1 Rangers with roughly 8 minutes to play in game 2, at which point Washington took a Too Many Men penalty. Caps’ coach Dale Hunter elected to have Alex Ovechkin serve that penalty. The announcer was quick to point out that Ovie’s serving of the penalty was a strategic move in hopes of springing him on a breakaway at the conclusion of the infraction, which is all well and good. My counterpoint to that is that on every team and every level I’ve played on, the player that generally went over to serve a bench minor penalty was an “expendable” player – maybe a fourth line or injured player, or just someone who wasn’t getting a lot of ice time for whatever reason that game, and it certainly wasn’t by any means because our coach had a strong confidence in their breakaway ability. So from that standpoint, it looks like Ovechkin may simply have been chosen for removal from participation in the game for 2 minutes when their team needed 2 goals really badly in a short amount of time if they hoped to win the game.
The chance of that breakaway opportunity actually occurring is relatively slim and more of a crapshoot; a hail mary play that is too low percentage to gamble on when the puck could just as likely be in a precarious scoring chance against Washington when the penalty expires. It seems like a positive spin a coach might pose to a psychologically fragile player that needs positive reinforcement to perform well so they don’t conclude that they are the team’s expendable player while sitting alone for two minutes or less. By the strategic logic, Hunter should have put Matt Hendricks, Washington’s shootout goal leader through the regular season, in the box for the opportunity at an uncontested run to the net.
It’s not like Hunter is afraid to clip Ovie’s wings if he’s not performing either– Ovechkin played 21 minutes in game 2 and was a -1 in the loss, while in game 3 he only saw 13 minutes of play (the least he’s ever played in a single playoff game), and scored the game winning goal. So the query point I want to raise is this: do you think Ovechkin serving that bench minor penalty was a strategic move for a chance at a scoring chance, or was it a knock towards his expendability and/or need to improve from coach Dale Hunter?
Further, the Caps should maybe consider making Ovechkin a dman if he’s only going to score from the point now.
The 2012 World Hockey Championships are nearly underway in Finland/Sweden, and the world’s “best” will be competing to improve their world rankings – Canada currently sits at fifth in the world, and will be looking to improve on that seeding with a decent roster, but one that does not include names like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton, and many other big name players that are available, but have elected not to compete for reasons of varying legitimacy. With many national rosters in the same boat, is it even fair to place as much value on this tournament as there is? Is there no way that this tournament can be played out at a different time of year where all of the world’s best hockey players can compete against each other to determine the world’s best? Or is it possible that the world’s best hockey players simply aren’t taking the tournament seriously enough when they should be jumping at the chance to wear their county’s colors on the international stage?
[Originally post on www.betonhockey.com on January 25th, 2012]
Well it appears I got my wish, and partially to my own chagrin. Alex Ovechkin will not be attending or participating in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game after all. Not because the vote for him to be there (which was clearly based on his reputation, not his current point total) was reversed, but because he’s pulled himself out.
Ovechkin was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for his hit on the Penguins’ Zbynek Michalek. Interestingly, the Penguins defenceman was not hurt, and Ovechkin was not penalized during the game for the play, but those points are apparently neither here, nor there. Ovie sat out his first of three on Tuesday, and is not permitted to return to NHL action until the Capitals play the Montreal Canadiens on February 4th. Since this prohibition period overlaps with the 2012 NHL All-Star Game on January 29th, Ovechkin has taken it upon himself to suspend himself from the All-Star Game (in addition to the Skills competition, which he “retired” from earlier in the season) as well.
Now some might call this Ovechkin taking the “high road” and doing the right thing – he does make a good point after all. But those in the media looking for a juicy storyline may see this as Alex either protesting the suspension laid down on him by the league, Alex just wanting to take a few days off (ala Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk in 2009, who declined their invitations, and were promptly suspended one game each for doing so), or maybe, just maybe, Alex realizing he’s not an all-star this year. Having an off-year or not, Ovechkin is a superbly talented hockey player that brings more than his share of much needed attention to the game. But what is this All-Star Game really all about? Or perhaps more importantly, after holding this game for more than 60 years, what has this game become?
Here’s what we know: these days, the ASG is lauded every year as being a farce of hockey. There’s no hitting in the game, and there’s a school-yard style team picking format; yet the NHL still keeps tally of nearly 30 individual records (most goals, assists, games played, and even penalty minutes, to name a few), charge over $100 for tickets, and give away a vehicle to the game’s MVP (Hey all you millionaires that all own 10 cars already, we’re going to get the 50 richest of you together all in a group to play a game, vote for the best, and then give him another vehicle that he’ll never drive, and will probably give away. Sound good? Great. Good talk, guys.). So someone tell me, are we fans and the participating players supposed to take this game seriously, or not?
If we aren’t, then Ovechkin should go/should be made to go, because it doesn’t matter what he’s done this year, it’s all about his entertainment value, and the extra dollar amount his presence at the game can generate through advertising, ticket and merchandise sales – and no one in the league is more entertaining at his peak than him (though Ilya Bryzgalov has been heating up lately). And if only for this reason, he should be there so Phil Kessel could have his moment of revenge to photograph Ovechkin being picked last.
But if we’re supposed to take it seriously, and get excited about the prospect of someone like Steve Stamkos or Rick Nash breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of four goals in a game, or Mario Lemieux’s record of six points in a game, then Ovechkin should not be there for a number of reasons: one, because he’s legitimately suspended, and shouldn’t be able to pursue those feats while barred from the game; two, because he simply hasn’t been good enough to be there this year; and three, because lots of other guys deserve to be there ahead of him this year and pursue those milestones.
So NHL, what’s it going to be? Is this game worth me clearing my weekend schedule to watch your programming, or should I just trust that Sportscentre will be able to piece together a decent enough highlight package for me to get the gist of it? At least I know there won’t be any idiots skating around in it wearing sunglasses and a Tilley hat with flags stick out of it this year.
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 8, 2011]
Is it possible that Alex Ovechkin’s best and most productive days of hockey are behind him?
Probably not, but let’s speculate some evidence of why they might be, if indeed they are.
Last year, in the first ever fantasy hockey pool that I paid money to take part in, I somehow lucked out and drew the first overall pick. At the time, it was a no-brainer and generally assumed that your first pick would be either Ovechkin or Crosby. I picked Ovie. Mainly because in his past 4 of 5 seasons, he had 100 or more points, and seemed like he could score whenever he wanted to. He was just always dangerous if he had the puck. The guy scored a goal sliding on his back on the ice while doing a barrel-roll for crying out loud. Now, you may argue that I did get the better choice of the two considering Crosby’s season-ending injury, and that Alex finished ahead of Crosby in points. But, for the guy that was supposed to finish first overall in scoring, instead he placed seventh, and scored 24 fewer points than he did the season before. I made an early exit out of the fantasy pool and lost all my money. **Screams in my best Captain Kirk/George Costanza Wrath of Khan reference impression** OOOOOOVVVVVVIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
We’ve since learned that he was injured – as he took 10 games off before the playoffs, and has eluded in interviews to rehabbing over the summer during his training. Whatever was bothering him then, may continue to linger. When an injury site is vaguely referred to as an upper or lower body injury, it’s hard to speculate the possible extent and long term effects on the injury. BUT, from experience, between a torn ACL in my knee, broken collar-bones, pulled groins, and minor neck, back, and shoulder issues, they all had range-of-motion limiting effects on me, though I eventually healed and played through them all. Wayne Gretzky’s back injury in 1991 was one that had lasting effects on his career and offensive productivity until he retired. As of this post, Ovechkin’s sitting at #39 in league scoring, averaging less than a point a game, and sitting at -1. For him, that’s unheard of. Since 2008, his point totals have been slowly diminishing, and so have his shots on goal (you know, scoring chances). In 2008, he took 528 shots. The following years, he only took 368, then 367 shots. And with those lowered totals have also come less wild, pre-meditated stick-burning goal celebrations. While he’s still excited when he scores, his reactions are noticeably subdued, for him anyways.
He’s changed his gear this year too, switching from CCM to Bauer. Hockey players are very particular with their gear, and once a player finds a setup they like and seems help put pucks in the net for them, they’ll quite often remain loyal to that brand forever. This move may be purely monetary, but it may also indicate that Ovechkin’s lost confidence in his previous equipment to help him score goals. And further, it may have damaged his confidence in himself to score goals. You could always tell in Ovie’s goals, skating speed, interviews, and off-ice antics, that confidence has never been an issue for him. When you’re a player of Alex Ovechkin’s caliber, you can’t afford to have anything get you “in the head” if you hope to score torrentially like you once did.
And further on confidence, even his coach, Bruce Boudreau has shown lower confidence in him; benching him on November 1st, in favour of other players. Boudreau was quoted as saying, “I thought other guys were better than him …I’ve got to put out the guys that I think are going to score … I just didn’t think Alex was going to score.” Moments after Boudreau cold-shouldered him, Ovechkin was cussing like a sailor at the snubbing. Ovechkin’s used to being the go-to guy when the team needs a goal, and in these key situations, he’s starting to not be the guy Boudreau taps on the shoulder first anymore. That can’t be good for the ol’ ego.
And further still, Ovechkin’s the Capitals captain. What are other players supposed to think of their leader when they see him not chosen to lead them? The C may simply be too much responsibility for him, ala Mike Modano, Brett Hull, or any other former NHL captains that have either surrendered their C, or had it taken away by their coach/team management.
Boudreau’s not exactly innocent of blame here either. He’s spent so much time trying to change Ovechkin and the Capitals’ overly offensive playing style over the last couple of seasons that Ovie couldn’t even be his old-self if he tried. His most effective style – the kamikaze-bull-in-a-china-shop-shoot-and-score-from-anywhere-blow-guys-up-and-there’s-no-need-for-defence- style – has been rendered obsolete. Bruce, you seriously want an offensive juggernaut to turn in his guns and become a 2-way, defence-first, responsible, playmaker instead? Has anyone told you who plays for your team, and what they do best? Sure, balance out weaknesses, but come on, no other team has the scoring personnel that Washington does. Last I checked, you still have to score more goals than the other team to win a hockey game, right?
Ovie could be just plain distracted too. He’s doing endorsements and/or commercials for Bauer, Nike, Mr. Big, Eastern Motors, ESPN, and probably forty companies based in Russia. Maybe making money’s beginning to take mental precedence over being a dominant hockey player every year?
Some speculative conspiracy: George Laraque recently wrote in his book regarding steroids in the NHL, saying that,
“I can give you some clues here that will help you identify the ones using steroids, if you really feel like it. First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held. In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”
I’m not going to say Ovechkin was/is on PED’s, but his production did begin to decline post 2010 Olympics. Heck, even during the Olympics. Ovie’s former other-worldly talent, speed, and scoring ability suddenly turned suspiciously average. Like Tiger Woods, but without the TMZ scandal.
And finally, the guy just can’t seem to win the big one. Besides the 2008 World Championship tournament that’s attended by a fraction of the best players in the world, the Stanley Cup, and the Olympic gold medal (the real world championship in my view) continue to elude him. Could frustration over continual early playoff exits, and Crosby’s ongoing trumping of him be wearing him down too? Is it possible he’s become complacent with just being really good and making a lot of money? Is it feasible that with Sidney Crosby sidelined, Alex doesn’t have the competitive drive to try and be better than Sid, his arch-nemesis, the player he’s most often compared to?
I love watching Alexander Ovechkin, and I truly hope he gets back to form and proves all of this wrong. He’s been the face of the league since he’s been around, and if he can get his act together, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be. But the question is, will he?
Blogging has always been fun for me, but some days the enjoyment of it kicks up a couple of extra notches. The day (about a month ago) when a large, rectangular cardboard box showed up at my front door was one of those days.
You see, the packing slip attached to the outside of the box was from a little hockey company called Easton; you know, the inventors of the Easton Aluminum, one-time sponsor of my hockey-hero Wayne Gretzky, and general hockey technology innovators/changers of the hockey stick world’s landscape. I had been in touch with them via Twitter ( I suggest you follow them too @Easton_Hockey) and at my request, they had agreed to send me a Synergy EQ50 to review on this very blog. I since have unsheathed it from its cardboard capsulation, and used it a number of times. And this brings us to now, where I get to tell you what I think of it.
I didn’t want to play only one game and give you an opinion, as hockey players know it takes time to get to know a new stick. As summer hockey games can be sparse, I took my time and played 4 good games in June with it before offering this assessment, which I believe to be objective in fact, and subjective in feeling.
The first thing I noticed about the Synergy EQ50 was that it is light. Now I know that’s a pretty obvious thing to say about a composite hockey stick in 2011, but considering that I was coming out of a Bauer Supreme one95, an extremely light stick itself, I think that is saying something. The adjustable, weighted counterbalance system installed in the removable butt-end is intriguing. It features 4 removable weights that you can interchange to find your ideal butt-end weight, to assumably balance the added weight in the blade (more on that later). I never thought this was a point of concern with my sticks before, but they pay smart people good money to come up with ideas like this, so let’s entertain the notion. My theory was that since my last stick didn’t have such an option, I would keep all four in while I played to see the maximum effect. Truth is, I can’t say I really knew what the difference/improvement was, other than the stick felt perhaps slightly heavier in my top hand. All four weights are still in.
Where I did notice a difference however, was in the stick’s blade, which also features afore mentioned counterbalance weights; which are in contrast, permanent fixtures. In making and receiving passes, the blade feels much thicker than say a Bauer or CCM product (which, from my personal experiences, seem to push thin blade technology). I’ve heard that a thinner blade helps you “feel” the puck more, but while using the EQ50, I truly felt I could control passes noticeably better (no matter how errant the passer had made them), and in return I could send a much crisper and solid pass right back. My assessment is that the added blade weight had a lot to do with that.
Shooting-wise, things only seemed to get better. There is an adjustment period to any new stick, but once I had the EQ50 dialled in, I can truthfully say I was shooting pucks better than I ever have. I’m not going to lie and say that it increased my shot speed by 20km/h or something insane; that kind of improvement can only be made by the stick’s operator. The main instance I noticed shot improvement-wise was in my one-timer. Admittedly, one-tee’s have never been a shot to boast about for me, but in lining a few up with the EQ50 and its thicker blade, I found my stick absorbing the pass like never before, and thusly return cannon-firing them at the net like never before, ala Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion (every action has an equal and opposite reaction). Where I might have fanned on the same shot before, I felt like the EQ50 was far more forgiving and responsive. After seeing the results, I was looking and calling for as many one-timers as I could to bomb. One even managed to sneak over a goalie’s shoulder and go top cheese, which was, to say the least, fun J I believe the weighted blade lowers the stick’s kickpoint; another plus for noticeably better shooting, in my opinion. Hey, the NHL/world’’s hardest shooter Zdeno Chara and his 105.9 mph slap-bombing Synergy EQ50 can’t be wrong, can they?
Cosmetically, after 4 games, the EQ50 seems to have the same condition that my previous Synergy had; the outer grip layer seems to be flaking off for some odd reason. It doesn’t affect the stick’s performance in any way, however.
Now that you’ve read what I think, here’s what Easton’s website says about the EQ50:
- Own the puck with the ultimate combination of balance and control
- Visible Focus Weight Technology™ (15 grams) redistributes weight to the impact area to control hard passes and keep the puck on your blade
- Customizable weighted end cap for optimal balance with adjustable swing weight
- Kevlar® wrapped shaft for impact protection and vibration dampening
- Multi-Rib™ and Micro-Bladder™ blade
FWT- Focus Weight Technology™ is used in the blade to provide an incredible feel for handling the puck and in the shaft to counter balance the stick for added control.
CONTROL: Engineered to keep the puck on your blade to control the game
PASS: Redistributes and focuses weight in the ultra-light blade to catch the toughest passes
SHOOT: Delivers more power and velocity making your shot unstoppable
BALANCE: Weight at the end of the stick counter balances the blade for optimal swing weight
CUSTOMIZABLE: Weighted end cap is adjustable to optimize balance at any length. Fully customizable from 6.5-26.5 grams
I can’t say that I think any of these statements or claims by Easton are at all erroneous. This stick delivers on its promises, and would be a great investment for any player in the market for a new stick. I personally saw improvement in my game with it, and I have no reason to think it wouldn’t do the same for you.
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.
Hockey Talkie: Bobrovsky, Skinner, Worlds, Chi-Van for Winter Classic, Quiet Room Exploit, Coyotes, and Thornton in Flip Flops.
I love TSN analyst Jay Onrait’s comparisons of Sergei Bobrovsky’s pulls and starts to a cop being pulled off a case, surrendering his gun and badge/getting them back & being reinstated on the case. The frequency of his being “hired” and “fired” from the “force” is comparable to George Steinbrenner’s yo-yo’ing of Billy Martin. It’s a classic tale of guy who’s dug himself a hole with a shot at redemption; but instead of realizing that potential, blows it and finds further condemnation, constantly restarting the cycle. For all we know, he could be living out a real-life hockey player/fictional cop version of Groundhog Day; having to get it right to proceed in life. The vids will clutter the blog up, but below are some links if you ‘re totally lost on what I’m talking about:
Also, why do Philadelphia and Washington refuse to spend money on a dependable goaltender?
Some perspective food-for thought…. With 63 pts this season, Jeff Skinner entered himself into the all-time-leading-scorer-as –an-18-yr-old conversation. As remarkable as it was for him (while simultaneously nullifying the Taylor/Tyler debate), that total still put him behind Sidney Crosby’s mark as an 18 year old…trailing him by 39 points (102); and also behind Wayne Gretzky (110 in WHA, 137 in NHL). As good as Skinner’s numbers were, they’re barely halfway to the best ever.
BUT consider this too: Skinner and Ilya Kovalchuk both had 31 goals this year, and Skinner ended up with 3 more total points than Kovy. The fiscal difference between them? $97.3 million in salary. So there’s that side of the coin as well.
Now Skinner’s competing for Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championships, and doing just fine for himself. I may have touched on this before, but this tournament just isn’t a fair portrayal of the world’s talent in the game; and I maintain that the Olympic tournament should be the measuring stick in world rankings. Currently, Canada is ranked #2 behind Russia. But why? Because Russia does better in tournaments where the world’s best talent is still competing for NHL teams? In a tournament where rosters are seemingly allowed to change as frequently as teams desire? Canada destroyed Russia in the Olympic tournament where the world’s best players were ALL playing for their respective country. A true world championship should be contested by the world’s best players; the IIHF Tournament does not offer this. Why do they refuse to hold the tournament at a time where all players are available? The potential for credibility is right there, but it seems more like pride that is holding the IIHF back from changing more than anything else. In the meantime, Canada will continue to send the best they have available at the time and on short notice to top up their roster as best they can.
And a little further on Worlds rosters…. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf, James Reimer, and Luke Schenn were all good to go for Canada at the Worlds, but Phil Kessel said he was too tired to play for the US. Feel free to insert your own American joke. On the one hand, I think Kessel deserves the lambaste for this, but on the other, I think it speaks at least a little to how unimportant some players view this tournament. Playing for your country is an absolute privilege; it’s too bad that the IIHF refuses to present a tournament that all players wouldn’t waste a second thought on whether they would join their country’s roster or not.
Can the NHL go ahead and book the Chicago Blackhawks/Vancouver Canucks for next year’s Winter Classic? Great rivalry that has developed there; would make an entertaining HBO 24/7 special too. They’d need to do it in Chi-town though, unless they’re prepared to deal with hockey’s first ever rain delay.
Glen Healy is approaching Pierre McGuire-level ridiculousness in some of his HNIC on-air commentary. Though I hate the Vancouver Canucks, and a high-percentage of their fans, I do at least respect the Green Men. Healy has, for whatever reason, decided to make it his mission to slag these guys at every on-air opportunity he gets. Truth is, as annoying as they are, the Greenies are just fans who have paid their ticket money, are excited about and supportive of their team, and aren’t hurting anyone around them. If Glen Healy has a problem with fans, he might want to remind himself of who paid him his 14 years worth of NHL salary.
I thought about this when Brent Seabrook got concussed by Raffi Torres in the first round….The NHL’s new “quiet room” rule (a player that receives a headshot has to sit in a quiet room for 15 minutes and be evaluated by a doctor, good idea) seems easy for a team to exploit to get an opposing team’s good player off the ice for 15 solid minutes. I don’t know that any player/team would stoop that low, but when you think about it, if you can get a dangerous scoring threat or an impossible to beat defenceman off the ice for nearly an entire period, that doesn’t hurt your chances of winning the game.
It’d be too bad if the Phoenix Coyotes ceased to exist; I do like their red and white howling coyote jerseys. It’d be a shame to have to ditch them. Also, how unfair was it to the Coyotes that the media decided to talk about their pending relocation the entire time they were in the playoffs? They never had a chance this year. Oh, Glendale’s going to bail them out again next season now? Wow, glad we had to go through that unnecessary hype and conversation a few weeks ago.
Everytime the San Jose Sharks lose a game in the playoffs, I’m pretty sure Joe Thornton thinks to himself about how much more comfortable his flip-flops and boardshorts are than his hockey equipment at that moment.
Ok, first some shameless self-promotion…. I’ve been published! Like, in a real newspaper! “The View” in Lake Country will be printing my stuff every two weeks, both in ink and online. Here’s a link to the first one. If you live in the Winfield/Lake Country area, be sure to pick up a copy and have a gander. Check out their website too, and follow them on Twitter.
Ok, some hockey…..
As much as I hate the Vancouver Canucks, I do have to be objective from time to time, and give them their due. They’ve had an unreal season. The Sedin’s are running things. Can you imagine how many points Daniel would have had last season, had he not gotten hurt? Nearly comparable to what Sid Crosby might have ended up with minus his concussion this season. That ‘C’ might even have ended up on his sweater, rather than Henrik’s. Well, enjoy your President’s Trophy win. And remember, that award is for REGULAR SEASON accomplishments. If you’d forgotten that the playoffs are a whole other world, I’m sure a first round meeting with the Blackhawks will jog their memories pretty quick. For the past 2 seasons, the President’s Trophy winner has lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Bruins, Captials), and it has been a curse to many other winners too. Vancouver residents, have you purchased your 2011 riot protection gear yet?
Also, Alex Burrows leads the NHL in all-time most “what, no call?” looks at referees.
Speaking of Crosby…this is out of line, but it’d be funny if his returning to the NHL now because Mario Lemieux told him if he didn’t play again, he’d have to move out of his house and get a real job. Luckily for Sid, he’s been out of Mario’s for a while now. Supposedly.
I don’t get why a respected veteran like Mark Recchi would say something stupid like a guy with a fractured vertebrae was embellishing. He said it was to take some heat off of Zdeno Chara after the Pacioretty incident, but I mean come on man, that’s pretty low. Those who argue his “veteran savvy” in diffusing a volatile situation can’t possibly compare what Recchi said to Gretzky showing up at Marty McSorley’s trial and drawing the media to the front of the building while Marty made a slick escape out the back. This is more like Chara did something regrettable, so Recchi went all topper, and said something stupider than Zdeno actually performed. Just seems unnecessary, unclassy, and disrespectful, especially coming from a 2-time Stanley Cup champ, multi-time all-star, and future hall-of-famer. Whatever. The Bruins slaughtered the Habs in the rematch, and basically just pwn them all around now.
TSN’s Oilers documentary, “Oil Change” seems like it was named with wishful thinking. They’re still awful, just like last year. What is it exactly, that changed? I’d still like to see more of this and HBO 24/7’ish NHL programming next season; and as I’ve mentioned before, it’d be unreal to shoot a show like this in the Cup finals.
With the baseball season underway, go ahead and try to justify why MLB teams need to play 162 games a season. No really, go ahead, I dare you. Can’t do it? Shocking.
I loved this little quip from President Obama on the NFL labor dispute, especially the little smirk at the end: http://youtu.be/-x9NDSxGV90 Figure it out NFL. Or your fans may be forced to endure a “New NFL“, too.
Is it just me, or does Andy Roddick seem like he’s trying WAAAY too hard to be the John McEnroe of this generation of tennis, verbally? I guess pro sports are entertainment after all; I’m sure sports not included in the “big 4” need to try a little harder to compete for viewership and advertising/merchandise sales.
Annnnnd, some non-sense……
I’ve purchased 3 Tim Hortons’ Roll-Up The Rim To Win Cups, and had one winner (coffee), leaving me with a .333 winning percentage. Could be better. But then again, it could be worse, and I could be addicted to coffee.
If you can’t pay your debt to the mafia, and they break your legs, or whatever, does that clear your debt, or do you still owe? Do they keep breaking more things until your cough up the cheddar, or does the bodily harm cover it?
If we all collectively start ignoring Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, & Justin Bieber, will they all go away and disappear from conversation?
Piers Morgan is the worst interviewer on TV. And of all-time. Someone make him go away. Who thought he’d actually work out as a follow-up to Larry King?
Scream 4? Come on….seriously? They actually thought it was a good idea to make another one of those? The Arquette split must’ve been more expensive than either David or Courtney realized it would be.
Instead of going on detox diets, why don’t people just not-tox in the first place? Wouldn’t that save a lot of time, pain, and money?
Is it just me, or do most minimum wage jobs require a lot more actual, physical work than most high paying jobs?
Whomever ended up with 555-5555 as their phone number must regret accepting those digits.
The band Rush, to me, is as rap music is to my dad: Bothersome noise. Turn that crap off!