To catch up on the latest 3 episodes of XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast that I fell behind on posting, have a look at the episode summaries and links below for episodes 18-20 — and take a listen while you’re at it!
Episode 18 – Guest: Bernie Nicholls, 19 season NHL veteran, 3 time all-star.
Bernie and I discussed the All Sports Market Free App (the new sports stock market app Bernie is helping develop and promote), the world of sports gambling and what sports are easiest/most difficult to fix, the LA Kings waiving Mike Richards and whether we will see him in the NHL again, Bernie’s thoughts on the Slava Voynov legal situation, who the Kings should trade for prior to the NHL trade deadline to hopefully improve their chances of making the playoffs, why he engages social media more so than many older generation athletes, whether he wants to resume coaching in the NHL again, and a whole bunch more.
Episode 19 – Guest: Jim Paek, first Korean born hockey player to both play in the NHL, and win the Stanley Cup. Current head coach for the South Korean national hockey team.
Jim and I spoke about how he’s perceived in Korea’s hockey community and his desire to improve hockey in his home nation, the freedom he has to make team decisions, his Korean skills, the language barrier, and how he works through communication issues on the team, the use of foreign born naturalized players to better South Korea’s chances and the pros and cons of that approach, the pressure and expectations for the national team that his resume brings, how the team can compete against the world’s best nations in 2018 while currently ranked two divisions down from their level and the fairness of them being in the tournament, how hard it was to make it to the NHL as a Korean and how he got there, playing with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, playing under Scotty Bowman and working with Mike Babcock, what he learned from them, returning to the NHL as a coach, juggling being a husband and parent while being continents away from his family, and he makes a verbal commitment to help hockey in Jeju continue to grow!
Episode 20 – Guest: Aleksandar Jovanović, defender for Jeju United FC (K-League soccer in Korea).
Aleks and I discuss him playing on a team where virtually no one else speaks English and other cultural challenges of living/playing in Korea, the performance expectations placed upon import players, how the K-League stacks up against other pro soccer leagues, how many languages he speaks, Jeju United’s recent coaching change and what they need to do to become a Asian Cup qualifying team this season, his goals and aspirations for the team and himself this year, and lots more.
Podcast homepage: http://xppsp.podbean.com/
[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.
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!
I love love LOVE Matt Cooke’s regular season/1st round playoff suspension. Faaaaaaaar overdue. The guy did not deserve as many chances as he got to clean up his act. Only thing better would have been if it were for all playoffs, or more. I don’t care how good of a guy HBO’s 24/7 series made him seem like, and how much his teammates stick up for him, guys who play like that need to be removed from the game. Curious that the Mario Lemieux factor finally wrangled an apology out of him too.
I can’t help but think Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty was locationally circumstancial. Anyone who’s had their ribcage rattled off Sparrow Gardens’ mid-bench wood pillars knows what I mean (for those who don’t know, that was the now-demolished wartime built airplane hangar/converted home-rink of the Briercrest Clippers, the college team I played for). As absolutely terrible as the result was, the hit would’ve turned out ok anywhere in the rink there was glass, and it seems a little out of character for Chara to go out of his way to hurt a guy like that. I could be wrong. Maybe there’s more to the story that the camera didn’t catch; some stick work, or something that set him off. Good for the NHL in beefing up the stanchion padding in rinks, but do we really need that little media area anyways? I get the ongoing American media sell of hockey and every nook and cranny of the game to increase viewership, but that little hut that houses reporters to call color-commentary and jump on the team benches mid-game to bother coaches for questions doesn’t seem necessary. Not to say that the Euro’s are doing it right, but some of their rinks benches are completely open, and don’t even have a divisible separation point between both teams, besides a huge gap of space. But then again, both teams walk out to the ice side by side, like they’re not about to go out on the ice and try to kill each other, so take that analogy with a grain of salt.
Good call on the no suspension for Chara though, much to the chagrin of Air Canada, who threatened to pull its sponsorship of the NHL out if the league didn’t make its product safer. I respect the move, but it sure would’ve held more water if the 6 Canadian and 5 American based NHL teams spend between $2.5 – 3.5million per season each on Air Canada flights (via HNIC’s Jeff Marek on Twitter), and if Air Canada wasn’t such a terrible airline.
So I’ve entered the 1st round of playoffs in the Bourne’s Blog fantasy hockey league. This year marks the first year I’ve put money on the line, and the first year I won the 1st overall pick selection. I selected Alexander Ovechkin, on the basis that I thought he would be awesome yet again. Instead of awesome, I got above-average. And now, when I need him the most, Ovechkin has decided to take 7-10 days off, while each round lasts one week. FML.
Speaking of infuriating Russians, a lesser man would’ve taken the hint he wasn’t wanted, retired, and headed back to Russia after being traded for a conditional 7th round pick. Not Alexi Kovalev. A “conditional” pick seems like the worst one to get in a draft, and pretty well the absolute minimum of acceptability when it comes to collateral in a deal. Doesn’t conditional just mean that the team who’s offered the pick will make sure you get the worst choice possible in that round?
Penguins: “Our conditions… just make sure your pick isn’t taller than 5’5”, he can’t weight more than 165 lbs, and make sure he’s got no track record of doing or winning anything significant or noteworthy in his hockey career. Stick within those parameters and we’ve got a deal.”
Senators: “… that sounds fair.”
Both, under their breath: “ ………suckers!!”
Vincent Lecavalier did to PK Subban what Mike Richards wouldn’t, and would only talk about someone doing if he kept playing the way he does: I don’t get what Vinny was so mad about; should Subban have just let him stand in front of his goalie, or maybe politely asked him to move? Maybe he was just mad that a rookie defenceman has played more games, has more assists, and gets more minutes per game and shifts per game than him. Why do the league’s veteran players get so angry with young, quick, talented players who celebrate their goals, and play a highly physical and exciting to watch style of hockey? Surely a Cup champ and seasoned veteran can’t feel threatened by the presence of this new brand of player, can he? Subban sure seems to make a lot of other players mad for fairly perplexing reasons.
Speaking of rookies, Taylor Hall’s first NHL fight turned out pretty well worst-case scenario for him, with that resulting ankle injury. He picked up the Gordie Howe hat-trick though, so there’s that at least for him. That stat puts him in some elite company, and places him only 16 more off the lead set by Brendan Shanahan.
After being written off for most of the season, Jarome Iginla’s 30 goals/10 seasons milestone sure has redeemed him in the eyes of the hockey world.
Former Calgary Flame and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach, Tim Hunter is still an ugly, ugly man.
The slow shootout approach seems stopped more often than not. Get up some speed, move around; do something less easily read by a goalie.
I respect no-BS guys like Brian Burke & John Tortorella, but I think it’d suck to work/play for them. I’m sure Sean Avery hates every minute of playing for Torts, but at the same time, knows he’s exactly the coach he needs to get the best out of him. Burke won’t tolerate the media’s crap, and I love it. The NHL, and everyone really, needs guys that cut out the crap.
Some NHL teams should consider rescuing Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets and offer their entire roster for him. Now THAT’D be a hype-worthy deadline deal. Sure, it’d take a few years to rebuild your roster, but assuming you have a decent farm system (any farm system can’t be that far off pace of CBJ’s actual team), you’d be back up to par in no time, AND have the addition of a franchise player. Nash deserves better. I’m going to start a FREE RICK NASH campaign, I think.
On the Heritage Classic…..
-Did anyone else think the NHL is fairly stupid for not having the Heritage Classic be either Toronto vs Montreal, or Calgary vs Edmonton? I get the cross-continental viewership theory, but aren’t the afore mentioned rivalries a little more historic and television worthy? Based purely on rivalry/game-entertainment value, who’d you like to see in next year’s version? I’m thinking a Vancouver-Chicago one would be fun.
-Leave it to the USA to declare “Hockey Day in America” on the day Canadian teams play in the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Canada.
-Paul Brandt having a musical note on his Flames jersey in place of a number was ridiculous.
-Why did the Flames wear white pants???? So close to looking totally awesome. Then again, this is a team that throws salmon on the ice at home games, so not sure what I expected….
And finally, why does ESPN continue to push women’s pool, dogshows, and bowling more than NHL hockey? And why does TSN continue to pick up these feeds? This is exactly why players like Pacioretty get hit into stanchions protecting the league’s media gimmicks. Americans, watch hockey already so players stop getting hurt!
In honour of the 2010 #1 Overall NHL draft pick, the Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor Hall FINALLY scoring his first goal, I decided to look into some of the best all-time first NHL goals ever scored. Unfortunately for Taylor, he didn’t make the list. His teammate, Jordan Eberle did though [hint: he’s at the top of the list, and my pick for the Calder Trophy this year/lead all rookies in scoring]. Keep in mind that these are not ranked as the best goals these players have scored, they are only the best first NHL goals scored by players. Also, there are only 5, and the only ones I could post video evidence of. I have a feeling I’ve missed some good ones ( I can’t find Gretzky’s, and a whole bunch of others that I assume scored beauts), so feel free to chime in with some suggestions/corrections, but be advised, you have to defend your pick with video evidence 🙂 Please take the poll after you peruse the evidence and vote for your favorite, or specifiy an alternative!
So without further adieu, here’s how I’ve ranked the NHL’s best firsts, starting at the top:
1) Jordan Eberle toe-drag (ala announcer…”FROM FOREHAND TO BACKHAND!”):
2) Anze Kopitar OMG:
3) Mario Lemieux breakaway bury on the first shot of his first shift:
4) Jonathan Toews snipe:
5) Tyler Bozak dangle:
*honorable mention for situational awesomeness* Danny Syvret scoring in the Winter Classic:
So the “C” has officially been removed from Roberto Luongo’s che… err, chin.
“Lu” cited that carrying the title of team captain was a “precarious position to be in”, and perhaps “a little bit of distraction”; which are not exactly traits a person with the job description of stopping 100mph slap-shots needs to be worrying about while trying to catch a glimpse of the next slap-bomb coming from the point off of a wound-up one-timer through the 8 pairs of legs in front of him. That plus an entire hockey culture scrutinizing his selection as captain, and nit-picking all the pros and cons of it every night, maybe he’s better off without it.
Here’s the thing about being the captain of a team. Though the only literal privilege that comes with wearing it is being able to converse with the referees, it is a constant mental distraction.
In my minor hockey days, I had the “C” voted on my jersey for three consecutive seasons, and an “A” in my senior year at college. Every team has their own similar-but-different criteria for a captain to meet – skill, dedication, respect, inspiration, and plenty of other admirable traits. Sometimes it’s done by a team vote, sometimes it’s appointed by the coaching staff, and sometimes it’s a mix of both. Our college team had a neat tradition of having the current team’s captain choose a successor for the following season at the conclusion of the current one. Personally, I prefer the team vote – I think in the end, those are the guys that the captain is really leading, and I think that the players should be able to select who does that the best, in their opinion. I don’t like having the coaches pick the captain – I think that can create an unnecessary divide between team and coaches. Obviously there is a natural divide there already as coaches don’t compete on the ice (they just yell and tell players what to do), but when the captain is selected by them, and the assistants by the team, a we-chose-them-but-not-you mentality can develop, which can threaten the integrity of the captain, who may then be viewed as being a bit of a coaches puppet and remove some of the team’s respect that he desperately needs. But then again, none of that can happen as well, and everyone can get along just fine. It’s just a precarious selection process is all I’m saying.
There’s something very empowering about that letter “C” when it’s stitched on your jersey; it just makes you feel a cut-above – not in a pompous way, but in a humble way, as you know you’ve been entrusted with a very deep responsibility. You now have the task of not only being (and being expected to be) the best player you can be individually, but also getting the best out of your teammates every night in hopes of success. And you also have the duty of carrying yourself with class and respect off the ice. While you do your best to emulate the leadership characteristics of great captains like Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman, Messier (while you know you’re not as good as them, it’s cool to consider that you do share one thing in common with them), and perhaps former captain teammates as well, everyone else is busy scrutinizing your leadership style, and how effective (or not) it is. People who know me (or knew me during those days) know that I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy; so especially when I was younger, I constantly heard things like I was “too quiet” as a captain, and I took my share of heat. In the end I didn’t care what they said too much. I just did my best to do my job, which was mainly to produce on the ice and hope my teammates would follow by example, which I believe I did well.
After my third consecutive run as team captain, I didn’t receive another letter until my 4th year in college. To be honest, it hurt not having it, and my jersey always felt just a little naked without something sewn on the front left shoulder; it made me a little jealous of the guys who did get it instead. I spent a lot of time over the following years wondering what changed, what I had done wrong, and what I would have to do to get it back someday, some year. I heard a lot of the same “you don’t need a letter to be a leader” rhetoric over the years, which is true. I was always hopeful that my teammates would see me as a leader when it came to team voting time again though. At some point, I did just say “the hell with it” and tried to focus on my game, though it never really left the back of my mind. I think not having a letter and not caring about it did afford me the opportunity to focus on simple, individual tasks as a player, instead of a broad spectrum of responsibility that comes with worrying about leading everyone else as well. By my third year at college, and 8th year without a letter, I was my team’s leading scorer,
and probably playing the best hockey I ever had. By my fourth, I had an “A” voted onto my jersey, which meant a lot more to me than surely any of my teammates realized. To me, their scribbles of my name on a torn-off piece of paper pulled out of a hat, was them saying, “yeah, we do want you to lead us, we do think you’re worthy of it,” which, although it wasn’t the “C”, it was the recognition I know I had been looking for for such a long time. Our captain that year did a great job, but when I looked back on it, I much prefer being voted a leader by the boys than having it as an appointment. I always had the romantic idea of wearing that “C” just one more time in my career, and perhaps having that team be the last I would play for; but alas that opportunity hasn’t come yet.
So whether you’re 15 years old, or an Olympic gold medalist; if you don’t have thick enough skin to separate the mental battle from the actual game, then being a captain may not be for you. It’s something that can really mess with your head, if you allow it to. It’s not a responsibility that just any player can handle either. Franchise players like Mike Modano and Brett Hull were given the “C” for only a few seasons until they were replaced by other players in the role, as their coaches felt their leadership style didn’t “jive”, let’s say, which the coaches expectations (click the links to read the rabbit hole stories about them). I played with one player (who is probably the most skilled player I ever played with) who outright requested not to be given a letter at all. As much as I hate the Vancouver Canucks, I do respect and empathize with Luongo for enduring as long as he did, and all the other great captains who take their share of abuse for not leading their team to the Stanley Cup every year. Roberto did what was best for the team, which may be the best move he made as captain. Like most scenarios, critics seem to know exactly what a captain is doing wrong and all the things he should be doing in order to be a better captain; without a doubt, putting those same people in that same role would yield further incompetence in the eyes of other critics. Everyone seems to know how to do something better than the person they’re criticizing, and that’s just a fact of life. The best leaders find a way to lead despite all the negativity. Unless you’ve had a “C” on your jersey, there’s a lot more to it than you likely realize, so keep that in mind next time you think it’s such an easy job!