Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Anaheim Ducks’

[Archive] 2014 interview with Matt Irwin

August 25, 2014 Leave a comment

on Twitter

My interview with San Jose Sharks’ defenceman Matt Irwin posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on March 26, 2014. The NHL sophomore went on to play his first season entirely in the NHL, with no AHL appearances. He boosted his game appearances from 38 to 62, added 11 assists to his 2012-13 total for a career high 17, finished with a career high 19 points and +5 rating. He also made his first ever NHL Stanley Cup playoff appearance and scored his first ever NHL Stanley Cup playoff goal in the first round against the LA Kings. 

The audio of this interview can be heard on XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast, or on iTunes

*********

Interview: Getting to know San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Matt Irwin

Matt Irwin2

He may not be a household name just yet, but San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin may work his way into your mental NHL player directory yet. Now in his second NHL season, the 26 year old British Columbian is continuing a trend from his amateur career that has seen his point totals, ice-time, and contributions to his team’s success dynamically increase every year.

Irwin spoke with me at length about his long road to the NHL and what he’ll have to do to stay there, the tough decisions he was required to make and small window of opportunity he had to live out his dream, past teammates that helped get him where he is now, current ones that help make him better, what the San Jose Sharks will have to do to win their first Stanley Cup, what it takes to be consistently inserted into a lineup full of Olympians, All-Stars, and Stanley Cup champions, and more.

*********

Let’s start at the beginning. In 04-05, you got to play three games of Junior A hockey just up the road from your hometown of Brentwood Bay, BC, with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. You didn’t record any points, but did skate alongside future NHLer Jason Garisson. In 05-06, you played alongside future NHLer Colin Greening in Nanaimo for 56 games and had 9 points. In 06-07 you exploded for 49 points, was the team’s top scoring d-man, the Clippers won the BCHL, and you were named the BCHL’s best defenceman. 07-08 was more of the same, as you’re again the team’s top scoring d man, and win league’s best defenceman. So explain your rather dynamic development in junior hockey — what did you take away from the guys you played with that went on to play at higher levels of the game, and how did it help influence your junior career to produce what it did? 

Irwin: “Those three games were as an affiliate player. I played Junior B with Saanich in Victoria, and got an opportunity to play in three games [with Nanaimo] and see what it was all about. It was a big step for me. From there, I got the opportunity to sign and play [the following season] with them for the whole year where I got to play on a consistent basis. Not a lot of power play time, more five-on-five minutes. The following year when everything picked up, Bill [Bestwick] gave me a great opportunity to play on the power play. The first five games of that year I had five or six goals. It was all happening really fast, I wasn’t expecting it. I was working on my shot, Bill had me working on it all the time. That’s where the offensive side of it started to come together.”

After you completed your junior career, you moved on to play NCAA hockey with UMass Amherst from 2008 to 2010. Instead of playing four seasons you only played two, joining the AHL’s Worchester Sharks at the end of the 09-10 season, and did not return to the NCAA. Why did you choose not to stay for all four years after taking the BCHL scholarship route rather than major junior? Talk about making the choice to abandon a fully funded education.

irwin hit2Irwin: “It’s interesting how it worked out. When you mention the WHL, I never had any interest in it at all until my 19 year old year of junior. At that point, it made no sense to leave Junior A and forgo a scholarship that I was about to get at that time to play only another year and a half of hockey, when I could play five and a half more years with the four year scholarship instead.

“I had full intentions going in when I stepped on campus at UMass of playing my four years and getting an education. After my first year, San Jose and some other teams were interested in bringing me out to their development camps. I ended up going to San Jose’s, and they showed a lot of interest afterwards, regardless of whether or not I wanted to stay at school or leave then. I chose to go back for another year at UMass, and then after my second year, they offered a contract. It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in terms of hockey. You’re leaving an education on the table that’s paid for, to pursue a dream that you’ve had since you were a kid with no guarantee that you’ll make it to the NHL, or even be able to stick in the AHL. It was a risk. I got a lot of support from my family. What they told me, and what made me make my mind up, was that school would always be there, but my window of opportunity to chase my dream to play in the NHL or play professional hockey at my age – I was 22 when I left school, so I was older — to establish myself at that level in the AHL and get a crack at the NHL wasn’t a large one. I figured that school would always be there. Jumping at the opportunity was something I had always wanted to do, and dreamt about as a kid. Afterwards, I could go back to school and go from there. I’ve been going back to school, and I’ll be getting a degree pretty soon, so everything’s falling into place.”

What are you going to graduate with? What’d you see yourself doing with that education if pro hockey hadn’t worked out? How are you taking classes while playing in the NHL?  

Irwin: “I hadn’t declared before, but it’ll be a Bachelor’s in Management Degree. I hadn’t looked too far into what I could do. It was more or less that I just wanted to get myself a degree. Something in the business world. I was deciding on what degree would interest me the most and which I’d be able to do the majority of online, so that’s where it went. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do if hockey doesn’t pan out. We’ll let those chips fall where they may and cross that bridge when we come to it.”

While with playing in the AHL with Worchester, you skated alongside Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels who were on their way up to the NHL, and Jonathan Cheechoo who was rounding out his North American playing career. Was it reminiscent of your experience in Nanaimo, playing with future NHL guys? What did you learn from them at that level, now only one step away from the top? 

Irwin: “It was huge going there. It was definitely an eye opener going to pro. It’s a totally different lifestyle. When you’re in school, you’re either in the books or involved in your social life and hockey, whereas when you move on to pro it’s pretty much hockey in the morning and then you’ve got the rest of the day to do what you want.

“You learn a lot from those guys that I’ve been around. Cheech was a great mentor for me to have my first year — a guy that had established himself as a goal scorer in the NHL, and won the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals in the league while he was in San Jose. Just to see how those guys prepare for practices and games, seeing them get called up, sent down, and how they react to being sent down. It doesn’t change their game. They get a little pace, they get hungry, and keep pushing forward because the ultimate goal is to stick in the NHL. You learn from different experiences, and I think that helped my game a lot.”

You played two more seasons with Worchester afterwards — At 25 years old, did you still think you had a good shot at the NHL, or were you starting to think about other options? Some guys at that age who are playing in the minors start thinking about other career paths, and ultimately some decide to move on, thinking their window is closed. 

Irwin: “Well I kept up the school thing, but I was still chasing that dream of playing in the NHL. Like I said, when I left school, my window of opportunity was very small because of my age, and it’s not too often you see guys that are 25 and older that are getting a fair crack in the NHL. There are a handful of guys, but your chances get smaller and smaller because there’s so much young talent coming up. I knew where I stood in the organization. They always believed in me, and told me that I was on the right track — right where they wanted me to be as far as development. I thank them and give them a lot of credit for staying with me, believing in me, and giving me that opportunity. The first year that I got called up I never played, my second year I got called up, didn’t play, but got to practice with the team for a week. That was a cool experience. Then when the lockout ended last year I got invited to training camp, and was able to play with the team for the majority of that season. I never gave up on the dream of playing in the NHL. When I was 25 it was only my third year of pro, so I knew if I kept going in the direction I was going, playing well and being dependable in Worchester, they were going to give me a chance up here in San Jose.”

Last season you got called up to San Jose for 38 games. Talk about getting to play your first NHL games after chasing your dream for so long, and what the season was like trying to prove you belonged up there. 

irwin hitIrwin: “It’s pretty cool once you step on the ice, you hear the anthem for your first NHL game, your family’s in the building… it was a cool experience, something I’ll never forget. But then you realize you want to stay there, and prove to yourself, the coaches, and your teammates that you do belong in this league. It’s very cliché to say, but you just come to the rink everyday, work hard, prepare like you’re playing the game, practice to get better, improve and challenge yourself, and translate that over to the game and play consistently. Do what makes you successful, don’t try to do too much. All those things were running through my head. I didn’t want to over think and do anything I wouldn’t normally do. I just wanted to stay consistent and do the things that had gotten me to where I was at that point. I knew what those things were, tried to stick with them, and help the team win.”

How noticeable was the jump in level of play? You took a very incremental route of levels to get to the NHL, and must have seen tangible spikes in talent and speed at every league you ascended to. Did it take some getting used to?  

Irwin: “I was comfortable. From the BCHL to college, it’s a different game. Every level you go up, it’s faster. You’re playing with better players. Every level above is going to be a little bit better, little faster, more structured. From the AHL to NHL, there are similarities. The North American style pro game is the same, but the skill level of players is a bit better. The AHL is a great league. It allows you to develop your skill set to translate it into the NHL. The league does such a great job of developing players, and teams do a great job of getting players and not bringing them up too soon, making sure that they’re ready. Once you’re in the NHL, it’s not so much about developing as it is about being able to step in the lineup, play, and contribute, while getting better at the same time. There’s not a lot of time to wait on development because they’ll just find someone else. It’s a business at the highest level. Once you’re there, you’ve got to do what makes you successful and keep getting better. As you go up, the leagues are obviously a little bit better than the one before, but those leagues before were very helpful and were great stepping stones to getting me where I am now.”

So far this season, you’ve played entirely with San Jose. You’ve appeared in ten more games than you played last year and have six more points, but have also missed 17 games as a healthy scratch.  Still, you’re playing between 15-22 minutes a night, and are getting up to 28 shifts a night. Do you get a sense that you’ve hollowed out some permanent real estate in the San Jose dressing room? What do you attribute your boost in production and ice-time to? 

Irwin: “Coming into this year, I wanted to establish myself as a legitimate top six defenseman in this league. This year there have been ups and downs. We’ve got a great group of d-men between the seven of us. Any of us could play on any given night. We’ve got some young d-men, and some veterans in Dan Boyle, Scott Hannan, and Brad Stuart. Obviously Marc-Edouard Vlasic too, who made the Olympic team and won a gold medal – he’s my age, but he’s played almost 600 games in the NHL. He’s another veteran presence for guys like myself, Justin Braun and Jason Demers, who are the younger guys that don’t have as many games of experience as they do. We have a really solid group of d-men that any one of which can play on any given night. When you do play, you want to take advantage of that opportunity, and help the team win. I’ve sat out my share of games this year, but it’s part of the learning process. You get to see the game from a different angle, and you realize that you actually have more time with the puck than you think you might. It’s good to step back from the game a little bit. Obviously you want to play, but when you do sit out for a couple of games, you’ve got to take it as a way to learn and improve yourself, instead of dwelling on the fact that you’re not playing and being a bad teammate. You’ve got to stay positive until you get that next opportunity to step back in and play.”

You’ve got a pretty elite group this year – 4 Olympians in total between gold medalists Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, bronze medalist Antti Niemi (also 2nd in NHL wins), and Joe Pavelski, in addition to some of the NHL’s elite in Joe Thornton (2nd in NHL assists), Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, and others. The team is currently 4th overall. Is this the roster of San Jose Sharks that finally get past the seemingly cursed third round? What will it take to do so? How is it playing with guys who have accumulated the accolades they have?  

Irwin: “Those are so pretty impressive names to have all in one locker room. When you first get to the team you get caught watching, seeing how they go about their business. It’s pretty impressive what they do, because they’ve been doing it consistently for so long. That’s one thing I’ve tried to learn from those guys — consistency. That’s one of the greatest attributes someone can have playing in the NHL — bring it every night, be consistent, and help your team win. We’ve got guys who have been around for a long time and have won Olympic medals, Stanley Cups, NHL awards, and have been NHL All-Stars. There’s a lot of that in the room, and they’re great for young guys like myself and the others to look up to, and learn from.

“As far as whether this is ‘the year’ for us to win it all, of course we think every year is the year for us, but the league is just so tight, and it’s tough. It’s not easy to win the Cup. If it was, we’d have a handful of them already. The guys in the locker room are determined, we have a great group of core veterans and young guys, and we feel strongly about this year. Our goal is to get home ice advantage throughout the playoffs in the Western Conference, and if we’re fortunate enough to make the Stanley Cup Final, get it there too. We’re chasing Anaheim for it right now. We’re comfortable at home. We play well there. You’d always prefer that seventh game to be on your home soil if it comes down to that. Last year we lost in game seven in LA. We felt like we played well enough to win, but we ran into a really good goalie. This year’s going to be a lot of the same. With the way the new playoff format is, we’re going to have to play out of our division first, so we’re looking at playing Anaheim, LA, or one of those teams in the first round. That’s a tough first round matchup, but you’ve got to get past those teams at some point to get where you want to go. I think our team is built to make a deep playoff run. We’re a big solid team that skates well and can score. I like our team, and time will tell when we get to the playoffs.”

How’s hockey in California these days? With Anaheim and LA now both having won Stanley Cups, and San Jose being in the hunt every year as well, there’s been a real evolution of interest in the game there, and competitiveness of the teams located in the state – especially when compared to how teams in that area traditionally fared in the 90’s and earlier.  

irwin body positionIrwin: “It’s great. Growing up as a kid, it wasn’t a hockey hotbed here. I didn’t know much about them. You watch the Mighty Ducks movies, and that’s pretty much all you know about hockey in California. But nowadays, it’s three teams at the top of the league almost every year. LA and Anaheim won Cups, and we’re looking for our first. It’s good for the state of California. More and more kids are getting involved in hockey. The youth programs around here are picking up steam. We’ve got a junior Sharks program that we just had our first graduate player of just suit up for us last year in Matt Tennyson. The grassroots of hockey in California are picking up, and the sport’s becoming more and more popular. I would like to think that’s in large part because of the success of the NHL teams in the area. Kids look up to us and they think hockey’s a pretty cool sport to get involved in. You see more and more players from California in the NCAA, major junior, and the pros. The number of guys from California that are making it to the NHL is going up. It’s good to see.”

Back to your Olympic teammates – did you notice any extra fatigue in them after the tournament, especially considering the travel? Did they come back totally gassed, or energized from the experience and ready to go? 

Irwin: “When those guys came back – we had Patty [Marleau], Eddie [Vlasic], Pavs [Pavelski] and Nemo [Niemi] who were all at the Olympics and all played deep in the tournament —   they were confident. They all had good tournaments. I think the hardest thing on them was the travel and the time change. Tthat’s probably where the fatigue came in, but you wouldn’t know it when we played the games. They stepped right back into the lineup, played their 20 minutes a night, and contributed to helping the team win. I think Pavs had a hat trick in his first game back. I don’t think fatigue was much of an issue. They got a lot of confidence from playing in the Olympics, and for us, that’s great. They represented their countries and our organization really well. We’re happy to have them back. They’re four of the best players on our team. They came back and didn’t miss a beat.”

Has there been any light back and forth between any of those guys regarding the different places the countries they represented finished at the Olympics? Is it a sensitive issue, or just water under the bridge?  

Irwin: “There hasn’t been too much chatter, really. There might be the odd poke here and there, but other than that, there’s not much that has been said. Coming back, the Olympics are behind them now, and the focus is on the stretch run for us. We’ve got 13 games left, and our goal is that home ice. I think they embraced the opportunity they were given at the Olympics, and here and there there might be a quick jab, but other than that, everyone’s focused on the Sharks and making a deep run.”

How did you spend the two weeks off you got during the Olympic break? It seemed like lots of guys did different things; some just trained harder, while others took time off to spend with their families and other things.

Irwin: “I went home to Victoria and spent time with friends and family. I helped out with my old Junior B team the Saanich Braves, and the hockey academy that runs out of my old high school. Other than that, I just relaxed, got engaged, and that was pretty much it.”

Regarding another current teammate of yours, what’s Raffi Torres like in the dressing room now that he’s returned, considering the drama he’s been through? Is it distracting at all to you or the other guys?

Irwin: “We’re all happy to have Raffi back. It’s been a long recovery for him. Any time you get a player back after they’ve worked so hard to get back into the lineup, the boys are excited. He’s a really good teammate. He was great while he was injured, which is tough because you might not feel part of the team when you’re out, especially for that long, and don’t travel or participate in practices. He was always around the room, chilling with the boys. When we got him back we were thrilled. He brings a presence to the lineup, adds depth and scoring, and he’s relentless on the fore check. He’s one of the better guys in the locker room. He’s funny. It was almost like he didn’t miss a beat – he had a couple of goals his first game, a couple more the next night, and he was playing physical, the way he has to to be successful. He helps our team out so much when he plays like that. It backs up our d-men, and backs other players off of them when they know Raffi’s on the ice. He’s the kind of player you need this time of year, and especially in the playoffs. We love having him in the lineup, and he adds a lot more depth to our group.”

In such a tight and dominant Western Conference, what’s it going to take to be the team that tops this year’s powerhouses like Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim? Who’s been the toughest for you guys to play this year, and who will it be toughest for you guys to beat in a deep playoff series? 

Irwin: “We always have tough games against LA. It won’t be a walk in the park for any team that makes the playoffs. There may be upsets based on your seeds and where you’re ranked going into them, but the parity in the league is so tight. There are teams on the wildcard bubble like Dallas who would be tough to play in the first round of the playoffs. Whoever you draw in the first round isn’t going to be easy, and as you go on it won’t get any easier. LA, Chicago, Anaheim all have great teams, big bodies, great players, depth throughout the lineup, rolling four lines – I think that’s what makes those teams so good, having four lines and six d-men that can play, and it’s not just a burden placed on two lines and four d-men to play heavy minutes. In a playoff series, that’ll take its toll eventually. To be able to spread the minutes out among the lineup is important. All those teams have that ability with the depth they have at all positions.”

As a defenseman, who’s one guy you don’t want to see bearing down on you on a 1-on-1 or an odd-man break? 

Irwin: “There are a lot of guys in this league that have the ability to make you look really funny if they get that chance. Datsyuk, Jagr – he’s just so good and so strong even at his age and with how long he’s been playing. He’s just a dominant force. He doesn’t look like he’s that fast, but he can move. His first couple of strides are so quick, and he’s a big body. He’s hard to get the puck from and he’s got great vision. Those types of players are the ones that on any given play can make you look silly.”

*********

on Twitter

2nd Quadrennial Double Championship Challenge!

May 20, 2014 5 comments

cup goldWell it’s getting on in the 2014 NHL playoffs, and it’s about time to dust of the old Double Championship Challenge for it’s second quadrennial go-round. If this seems Greek to you, click here to catch up on what the 1st Quadrennial Double Championship Challenge was all about. You may recall Rich Abney walked away with a championship t-shirt and four years of bragging rights in 2010 after picking the Chicago Blackhawks’ Canadian Olympic team members to win gold and the Stanley Cup in the same season.

So let’s have at it — cast your votes on who will win this quadrennial’s crown as outright best in the world.

Here’s who’s left:

Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp — Chicago Blackhawks [note: Keith & Toews can repeat as back-to-back DCC champs]

Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter — Los Angeles Kings 

Martin St-Louis, Rick Nash — New York Rangers

 Carey Price, P.K. Subban — Montreal Canadiens

Here’s who’s eliminated:

Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Patrick Marleau — San Jose Sharks

Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz — Pittsburgh Penguins

Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo — St. Louis Blues

Ryan Getzlaf , Corey Perry — Anaheim Ducks

Matt Duchene — Colorado Avalanche

  Jamie Benn — Dallas Stars

Patrice Bergeron — Boston Bruins

Here’s who did not qualify: 

Roberto Luongo — Vancouver Canucks

Mike Smith — Phoenix Coyotes

Shea Weber — Nashville Predators

John Tavares — New York Islanders

And unlike 2010 when Corey Perry joined Canada’s World Championship roster after winning Olympic gold in Vancouver, there are no players or staff that are representing Canada twice in the same season this time around.

Who’s your pick? Leave a comment to let us know! Choose correctly and you’ll be eligible to win an exclusive prize from Serenity Now…The SDC Blogs.

Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post with your name, your pick, and where you’re from. One vote only — no do-overs. Those who select correctly will be entered into a draw for the grand prize. Good luck!

 

XP PSP s01e14: San Jose Sharks’ Matt Irwin interview

March 29, 2014 Leave a comment

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

He may not be a household name just yet, but San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin may work his way into your mental NHL player directory yet. Now in his second NHL season, the 26 year old British Columbian is continuing a trend from his amateur career that has seen his point totals, ice-time, and contributions to his team’s success dynamically increase every year.

Irwin spoke with me at length about his long road to the NHL and what he’ll have to do to stay there, the tough decisions he was required to make and small window of opportunity he had to live out his dream, past teammates that helped get him where he is now, current ones that help make him better, what the San Jose Sharks will have to do to win their first Stanley Cup, what it takes to be consistently inserted into a lineup full of Olympians, All-Stars, and Stanley Cup champions, and more.

Click here to listen to the XP PSP audio podcast at Podbean

Download XP PSP on iTuneshttps://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/xppsp/id643817929

Click here to read the written version of this interview on The Score’s Backhand Shelf.

The cheapest Stadium Series tickets left; TJ Sochi T-Shirt

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

With the puck about to drop on the final 2 games of the 2014 NHL Stadium Series, TiqIQ.com has passed along some interesting data on average secondary market ticket prices for the March 1st Blackhawks/Penguins game in Chicago at Soldier Field. If you were planning on attending, but haven’t bought a ticket yet, here’s what you should expect to have to shell out:

-Current average ticket price for Saturday’s game: $230.77 (down 18% this week and 67% since its peak on 9/23/13)

-Cheapest ticket currently listed: $91 (originally $139), Section 432

-Most expensive ticket currently listed: $845 (originally $325), Section 308

Soldier Field Stadium Series seating

All I know is, if I’m gonna cough up $825 to sit in a seat in the farthest section away from the ice in the stadium, my seat better come with an open mini bar, and the NHL Network installed into the back of the seat in front of me.

Comparatively, here are the average prices for the previous four Stadium Series games of 2014, as well as the upcoming Heritage Classic, ranked from most expensive to least:

-Yankee Stadium – Rangers/Devils – $244 ($89)

-Yankee Stadium – Rangers/Islanders – $206 ($43)

-Winter Classic – Red Wings/Maple Leafs – $156 ($57)

-Dodger Stadium – Kings/Ducks – $199 ($117)

-Heritage Classic – Canucks/Senators – $182 ($74)

For more on this data, visit TiqIQ.com, follow TiqIQ on Twitter, or contact TiqIQ’s Director of Marketing, Stefan Mersch, at stefan@tiqiq.com.

*************

Speaking of buying things hockey related, I know a t-shirt worthy catchphrase when I hear one, and thusly I put one on one. After TJ Oshie’s unfathomable shootout performance against Russia, “TJ Sochi” was one of the best nicknames to emerge from the Sochi 2014 Olympics, so here’s what I did with it:

TJ Sochi shirt

 Visit my Etsy store and make this shirt yours before everyone forgets about that fateful night in Sochi! It may even help to cover the American shame of losing the bronze medal game 5-0 and finishing fourth, after posting a video like this:

Firing Bruce Boudreau Wasn’t Washington’s Best Play

December 4, 2011 1 comment

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 29/2011]

I don’t make a point of standing up for too many coaches, so hear me out.

Do the Capitals really think a major-junior coach (albeit former NHLer) ready to lead them to the Stanley Cup right off the hop? Because if Dale Hunter can’t do that, how long could he possibly last himself as Capitals head coach?

BetOnHockey_Boudreau_Jack_Adams_400x293.jpgUnder the four seasons of Boudreau’s watch, Washington won four division championships, a Presidents’ Trophy, an Eastern Conference title, the best regular season records in club  history, and a final record of 201-88-40. For you math wizards out there, that’s more than twice as many wins as losses. Boudreau himself won the Jack Adams Trophy in 07-08 as coach of the year, and holds the record for winning 200 games faster than any coach in NHL history. Apparently none of this was good enough to keep him gainfully employed in Washington.

This will be Dale Hunter’s first NHL season as a head coach. Or any level of NHL coach, for that matter. The only stat Hunter really has working in his favour is Capitals coaching history: when Boudreau took over the Capitals from Glen Hanlon in 2007, they had already played 21 games, and were doing poorly. The team is currently 22 games deep into the NHL season, and after Boudreau’s decrescendo, the Caps are once again doing poorly. This is the exact spot where Bruce took over and the team took off from four years ago, and it’s about the only thing I can see that Dale Hunter really has to cling to.

I can’t help but think that the players beat the coach here (or maybe the kids beat the parents, whichever way you want to look at it). It seems as though when Boudreau let the young squad off their leashes to run wild, score as many goals as possible and not play defence, the players were happy, but Boudreau was on the burner for not winning. Then he tried to round out the capabilities of the players by adding the defensive element to their game, but they wouldn’t have it. And they kept losing. More so than before, in fact. And Boudreau was in more trouble.

Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee said he believed Boudreau had lost the team, and cited Washington’s Nov 26th 5-1 loss to Buffalo and recent string of losses as evidence. New Coach Dale Hunter is a self-proclaimed players’ coach, but qualifies that saying “but the players will know when I’m mad at them. I’m stern on them because that’s the way you have to be to win games. Everybody makes mistakes out there, but if they keep making the same mistakes there will be repercussions.”

BetOnHockey_Boudreau_Bench_400x293.jpgDid Dale not see the HBO 24/7 special on the Caps/Pens 2010 Winter Classic showdown? In the history of the NHL, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of a coach who hurled more sternly-laced expletives at the Capitals roster than Bruce Boudreau did. He even benched the team’s star players to try to get a message across. We saw what happened when Bruce tried to get tough – they players put their tails between their legs and started laying eggs on the ice. I’m not sure that Hunter is prepared for what kind of reception his “bad cop” routine is going to get from the Washington Capitals locker room. And surely to the ire of Washington’s (supposedly) gifted offensive core, Hunter was also quoted as saying, “I don’t believe in run-and-gun hockey,” So much for going back to open season on cherry-picking slap-bombs, it seems.

And at what point do the Capitals’ franchise players finally look in the mirror and pose the question to themselves, “what if it was us all along?” How many times can Alex Ovechkin change gear companies, agents, and other variables before he decides to simply pull his socks up, dig the old Ovie out of the dress-up closet, and play some elite level hockey again? If the players truly decided that they weren’t going to put all their effort into games anymore in protest of their coach, then this team is dysfunctional on a level that people can’t even comprehend. If that sort of internally destructive behaviour is actually occurring, then this team will never win anything together, no matter who’s wearing shoes instead of skates behind the bench.

From the owners’ stand-point, I know it’s a good business decision to keep exciting players on your roster – especially ones locked into long-term contracts. But this is one instance where it should be the child getting spanked for being bad, not the dad. At the end of the game, it had to have been the players on the ice that performed, that onus is not ultimately on the coach. It’s going to take some growing up from the Capitals’ players before this team turns the corner on this forgettable season.

[update: Boudreau was hired only days later by the Anaheim Ducks to replace fired Randy Carlyle. As of December 4th/2011, the Ducks are 1-2 with Boudreau aboard. Washington is 1-2 from the same time with Dale Hunter]

[update 2: this video seems to accompany my article perfectly:backhand-shelf-bloge-salming-present-coach-killer]

Movember: Anaheim Ducks Style

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

So apparently this just happened to reigning NHL heavyweight moustache champion, George Parros:

Yes men (and the women who hate men’s facial hair), it is Movember again.  The Anaheim Ducks got in the spirit at the start of the month.  If you’re able to grow a bountiful stache, you can join in too, but do remember the whole movement is supposed to both raise awareness and funds for Prostate Cancer research.  So if you’re gonna grow, contribute too.

-SDC

Below is the press release I was sent:

=============================================================================================================================

For immediate Release:

The NHL’s George Parros and the Anaheim Ducks Kick-Off Movember “Growing Season” with Clean Shaves at The Art of Shaving

Washington, DC October 31, 2011.  In celebration of Movember, Saku Koivu, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Matt Beleskey, Sheldon Brookbank, Jonas Hiller, Ryan Getzlaf, Francois Beauchemin, Andrew Cogliano, Kurtis Foster, Dan Ellis, Luca Sbisa, and even George Parros shaved off his famous facial hair at The Art of Shaving Barber Spa in Washington Square to support the cause – a month long charity event that asks participants to start clean shaven on November 1st and then grow a moustache for 30 days to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.

For the next 30 days the Anaheim Ducks will be growing moustaches, the “hairy ribbon” for men’s health and the players growing them will be month-long walking billboards for cancers that affect men.  The funds that are raised in the US, which support the research and treatment of prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men, are directed to programs run directly by Movember and its men’s health partners, LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a Washington, DC based charity.

The Movember Foundation is the largest non-government funder of prostate cancer research in the world.  In the United States nearly 65,000 participants have raised $7.5 million for Movember’s US men’s health partners, and has funded research that lead to the discovery of a complete genetic map of prostate cancer, and the discovery of 25+ subtypes of prostate cancer– two essential steps to finding a cure to the disease which takes a man’s life every 15.6 minutes. 

THE ART OF SHAVING PROUDLY ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH MOVEMBER.  LEADING MEN’S GROOMING BRAND TEAMS UP WITH GLOBAL MEN’S HEALTH CHARITY TO RAISE AWARENESS OF CANCERS AFFECTING MEN.

New York, NY, October 5, 2011. The Art of Shaving is pleased to announce a partnership with pioneering global men’s health charity, Movember, in support of their 5th annual US fundraising campaign. Originally founded in Australia by a small group of buddies, Movember has rapidly become a global movement when guys can grow a Mo – slang for moustache – during the month formerly known as November, to raise awareness and funds for men’s health and cancers affecting men. Participation is not only fun, but simple. Once registered, men are challenged to start the month clean-shaven and grow a Mo. The moustache becomes the hairy ribbon for men’s health and the guys growing them become a walking billboard for 30 days. The growth of a new Mo inspires conversations about not often talked about topics – men’s health and cancer affecting them.

To kick-off the partnership, The Art of Shaving will make an initial donation of $10,000, while also encouraging The Art of Shaving Team Members across the nation to register at Movember.com and recruit. Additionally the brand will match team donations made via The Art of Shaving’s Movember team at MoBro.co/theartofshaving, up to an additional $25,000.

For The Art of Shaving Team Members, participation is part noble, part indulgence. To start Moustache Season clean shaven, The Art of Shaving invites all MoBros to register for the November 1st complimentary Movember Hot Towel Shave. To keep Mos well groomed throughout the rest of the month, The Art of Shaving is offering a $10 ‘Keep It Neat’ Movember Hot Towel Shave. Both services are redeemable at Barber Spa locations only and Mo Bros must register online. The Movember services are subject to appointment availability. Registration begins on Monday, October 17th at TheArtofShaving.com/Movember. All proceeds from the ‘Keep It Neat’ Shave will be donated to Movember.

As Damon Jones, a spokesperson for The Art of Shaving, comments; “The Art of Shaving brand aficionados are united by an appreciation of the artistry of a traditional barber shave experience and committed to achieving the perfect shave. We believe that this brotherhood of like-minded men can unite to help support this important cause, raising funds and awareness for men’s health issues while engaging in the ritual of the shave. ”

As Adam Garone, CEO and Co-Founder of Movember comments; “Last year Movember became a truly global movement. Through the power of the moustache almost half a million Movember participants raised $174 million making it the largest non-government funder of prostate cancer research in the world. Nearly 65,000 American MoBros raised $7.5 million.”

About Movember

Movember aims to forever change the face of men’s health through the power of the moustache, by raising awareness and funds that will reduce the number of preventable male deaths by cancer. Since inception as a charity event in 2004, over 1.1 million participants have raised over $174 M for the cause, with official Movember campaigns taking place in ten countries. For more information please visit http://www.movember.com. Movember is a registered 501(c)(3) charity.

About The Art of Shaving

Founded in 1996, The Art of Shaving is considered the world’s leading premium shaving brand with its aromatherapy-based grooming products, high-end shaving instruments, and a retail chain dedicated to men’s shaving. The Art of Shaving has trademarked its wet shaving system “The 4 Elements of the Perfect Shave” – Prepare, Lather Up, Shave, and Moisturize – and is recognized as one of the best-selling men’s brands at high-end department stores. The Art of Shaving Shops are found in 60 self-named locations across the US. The Art of Shaving is sold online at www.TheArtofShaving.com and at fine retailers such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy’s.  The Company, which was started in a kitchen, is now a worldwide organization still nurtured by the founders’ same talent and passion. They have succeeded in creating a brand with a mission, one that promises to be a household name for generations to come.

 

Nike Communications Press Contact: Desiree Gallas 646.654.3443 dgallas@nikecomm.com

Why The NHL vs Europe Exhibition Experiment is a Bad Idea.

October 4, 2011 3 comments

 

As mentioned last blog, The NHL’s New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, LA Kings, and Buffalo Sabres play a total of 7 exhibition games against teams in Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic before the NHL regular season gets underway. 

I think it’s a good concept; letting European fans see how their home teams stack up against teams from the best hockey league in the world.  But after EV Zug of Switzerland beat the New York Rangers 8-4 on October 3, I wondered, how can this possibly benefit the NHL at all?

The Swiss National League A (which EV Zug plays in) is no pushover of a pro hockey league; many former NHLers dabble in, or finish their careers there.  So you can make all the excuses you want – the Rangers played 4 games in 5 nights in 4 different countries (which they did, and that would be tough) and the other teams were well rested, jetlag, they played their pre-season roster, the European ice is too big (it is.), yadda yadda yadda; but at the end of the day, you have a team from the league recognized as the best in the world, not just beaten but routed, by a team from a relatively unknown league, comparatively.  All of a sudden, the best league in the world can’t be all that great because its teams are getting beaten by teams that are even lower than the NHL’s supposed European equivalent, the KHL.  And it doesn’t even matter that NHL teams win the other 6 games, because that’s what they’re expected/supposed to do.  Losing one game over there is a far bigger deal than sweeping every game they play and maintaining their hockey dominance.  The NHL has nearly nothing to gain (besides some minor fan support and merchandise/advertising sales, and having the players enjoying seeing the other side of the world or returning to their homeland) by playing these games and a lot to lose credibility-wise; European teams had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  The loss unnecessarily dropped the NHL down a few pegs on the international hockey landscape, and European hockey just gained a lot of cred in return.

And how in the world do some people from the NHL argue that they don’t want to send NHL players to the Olympics because of roster depletion, injury potential, and other nonsense; yet they won’t even blink an eye about sending 4 entire rosters of NHL clubs to Europe and exposing them to the potential of the very same pitfalls?       

Let’s be honest, as much as fans would like to believe professional sports leagues just want to treat them to competition featuring the best talent in sport, the league is in it to make money and sustain the multiple billions of dollars it has to hand out in player and staff salaries each year, bottom line.  I just don’t see how subjecting NHL talent/franchises to the potential of losing to teams in lesser leagues can be good for business.  The only way it really makes any sense is if the NHL has a serious plan to expand to Europe in the future.  If the NHL doesn’t plan to do this, the only reasons for them to be there in this capacity are either to:

1)      Crush European teams, and assert NHL dominance in hockey.

2)      Break the hearts of European fans as NHL clubs roll-over their hometown heroes.

3)      Milk all the merchandising and advertising sales possible out of a one-month promotion and playing schedule from a market that the NHL fears is cornered by European leagues. 

If an NHL club loses to any of these European teams, then all 3 points of this hat-trick attack plan are compromised.  After all, why would a hockey fan residing in Switzerland purchase an NHL pay per view broadcast, or plan a North American vacation and buy NHL tickets if they know their Swiss teams are better than NHL clubs?  And what Rangers fan is going to get more excited about cheering for his or her team knowing they get beat by Swiss teams?  What hope does that give them of their hometown team every winning a Cup again?   

As a fan, I think the European experiment is fantastic, and great for the growth of hockey, globally.  But let’s not kid ourselves, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman isn’t overly concerned about doing much for the game of hockey as he is making sure the NHL breaks into the American television market and makes a ton of money.  From that perspective, this move is quite a head-scratcher.   

 

    

%d bloggers like this: