Saturday, October 27, 2007

Living and Dying by the Sword

There's been a 56 percent increase in fighting majors so far this season, and a 78 percent increase in games that have more than one fight. It's not just the usual suspects that have been dropping the gloves this season, even the stars have been getting into it. A lot of this has to do with the perception that the Ducks scrapped their way to the Cup last year so naturally there's going to be a copycat factor at play this year. However, there's a big down side to this approach as teams are discovering. Important players are being taken out.
Yes, fighting is way up in the NHL this season. And often it's big-name, big-money players dropping the gloves.

Wade Redden set the trend opening night, getting in touch with his inner-McGrattan, scrapping twice. He's been followed by the likes of Lecavalier (twice this week!), Staal (first ever), Ilya Kovalchuk, Nathan Horton (twice already), and Zdeno Chara, who Thursday broke both an 18-month fighting abstinence, and David Koci's face.

Welcome to the NHL's hot new reality show: Punching With The Stars.

Judge: "I thought the choreography was brilliant! Especially when you lifted up his sweater and smacked him in the ear. And the spewing of blood was a wonderful touch. Just try to smile more."

Oh, but there's a nasty twist to this show. Scrappers are going down faster than Marie Osmond.

At least seven players have been injured in fights this season, most notably, Edmonton Oiler Sheldon Souray, who separated his shoulder in a fight with Byron Ritchie of the Vancouver Canucks.

And hence we have a dilemma -- or at least NHL coaches do.

Do you really want your $5-million-a-year stud defenceman risking his season fighting ... Byron Ritchie?

"Probably not," admits a downcast Souray, who is likely out at least a month.

"It's crazy," says one NHL coach, who preferred his name not be used (speaking out against any kind of fighting is never popular). "The league is too close now. You lose a key player like that for four weeks, that could be your season."
Well, there's a large group of people that passionately believes in this stuff (me included), and the Ducks have created a new sense that by using these tactics a club can be successful. Just like the Flyers did in the 1970s.

So, it's back to the future for the NHL. For better or worse.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mic'd Up

Have you ever wondered what hockey really sounds like or what players and coaches talk about on the ice?

Well, now you know.

Hot Steel

The next great revolution in hockey?
A select handful of NHL players are about to begin using heated skate blades produced by a Verdun, Que., company to enhance performance.

Thermablades use a rechargeable battery and a microprocessor within each skate blade to maintain a temperature of 5 C. The warm blade increases the thickness of the water layer between the blade and the ice surface, and the company says its tests have shown this reduces gliding friction and starting resistance for skaters.

"The NHL is very interested in confirming the data provided by Therma Blade Inc. to establish the safety and reliability of the blade under NHL game conditions and we have agreed to allow a small group of players to test these blades in practices over the next few weeks," says Kris King, the NHL's senior manager of hockey operations.

Six to 10 players will try them first. If there are no glitches, the blades then would begin appearing in NHL games.
Seeesh, new uni's, new blades, what's next? Glowing ice? How about disco goals?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bowman to Toronto

...the rumour that just won't go away.
October 16, Globe and Mail: Among hockey broadcasters, speculation has Toronto Maple Leaf general manager John Ferguson fired in November if the team continues to lose more than it wins. Who would replace him? Colin Campbell, the NHL's Toronto based head of hockey operations, seems to be a favourite. But would the league allow him to leave his job in mid-season? Would Scotty Bowman take the job?

Two views Bowman:

- One broadcaster says Bowman would jump at the opportunity to run the Leafs if his contract matched that of Bryan Colangelo, who is president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors. (Both Raptors and Leafs are owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.) Bowman would want Colangelo's autonomy and a contract that matched his annual stipend of about $3-million (U.S.). If Bowman took over, he would "clean house," the source said.

However, Bowman is 74 years old. Physically, is he up to the job of rebuilding an organization? Apparently so. He's healthy and looking for a challenge. Both parents lived into their 90s.

A second view: "Scotty asked for a Colangelo type of contract in the summer," said a source. "I think he enjoyed being courted by MLSE. But ultimately he's 74 and he's very loyal to the Ilitch family (which own the Detroit Red Wings, for which Bowman is a consultant.) I think he really enjoys his grandkids and I don't know that he wants to get into the day to day operation of a hockey club."
Bowman has gone on the record at least eight times as stating that he's a) not interested in the job and b) very happy being a consultant to the Detroit Red Wings organization. The rumours, however, never end...
No, they never do.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Puck Rock

Bill Barilko 50 Mission Cap
By the Tragically Hip.

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer
He was on a fishing trip
The last goal he ever scored won the Leafs the cup
They didn't win another until 1962 the year he was discovered
My fifty mission cap I worked it in to look like that

More >>> Puck Rock.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Good Science Can't Save a Bad Idea:

The NHL's New "Uniform System."
By Brandon Keim

Basically, it stinks. Literally and figuratively.
Actual game testing was reserved for this season, when it was already too late to call the jerseys back. And that's when players pointed out something that Reebok might be forgiven for failing to anticipate, but can't be excused for not learning through real-life testing: just because jerseys don't absorb sweat doesn't mean the sweat disappears. Instead of being absorbed by jerseys and socks and evaporating, the sweat gathered underneath them.

By the end of pre-season training, players around the league vocally denounced the uniforms. Sweat, they said, now soaked their equipment, literally pouring into their gloves and skates, filling them like buckets and making it hard to play with the skill that Bettman and Reebok promised to "enhance." Unsurprisingly, players said the unbreathable uniforms were uncomfortably not. So much for 4 to 10 degrees cooler.

It also turned out that much of the savings in weight and drag came from making the uniforms more form-fitting than before, which in turn required the jerseys to be much more elastic. That makes it possible for players to pull jerseys over each other's heads during fights -- a very dangerous situation. But that's only when the fighters can actually get a grasp on the slippery fabric. When they can't, fights continue longer than before, rather than ending in a wrestling match -- again, a dangerous situation. Even if one feels that fighting doesn't belong in the game, it's there now, and isn't about to go away. For these players, the jersey puts them at increased risk of injury.

So what's Reebok going to do? At first, they and the league acted like nothing was wrong. Only after Sidney Crosby, the boy superstar on whom the NHL has placed its fading dreams of American success, complained did they say that the uniform system would be tweaked, though neither Reebok nor the NHL have been specific about any changes. A return to the old, perfectly good jerseys is, however, unlikely.

A decade of painful decline -- in the quality of the NHL game, the interest of its fans and the economic health of its teams -- has shown that Gary Bettman is incapable of learning from or admitting his mistakes, of which the new uniforms are merely the latest. Reebok's assorted scientific comparisons also left out the most important number of all: the new jerseys sell for twice as much as the old ones.
If it wasn't for bad ideas I'm not sure Bettman and company would have any ideas at all.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stop Hockey Violence

Oooops, I mean stop hockey violins...

Make them stop. There's no violins in hockey.

Although, I do have to admit, I kind of like their take on "Smoke on the Water".