Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Tale of Two Shootouts

Don't you just love this New NHL?

I watched the Blue Jacket Wild game last night which featured not only a shootout but a Sudden Death Shootout the first ever in the NHL. Instead of a dreary 1-1 tie ending as a dreary 1-1 tie like in the OLD NHL there occurred a mesmerizing 2-1 victory that people particularly Columbus people will talking about for years. On and on it went not only beyond the first three shooters but going all the way into the 5th round of sudden death where Letowski finally won it.
Letowski explained that by studying the approach his teammates took throughout the game he was able to beat Roloson for the game-winning score.

"A lot of the guys were trying to deke him and he was staying right with them," said Roloson. "I thought my best chance was to take a quick shot because that's how Hartigan scored."
Meanwhile down in Charlotte where I think the NHL's most exciting young up and coming team plays they had a wild shootout of a totally different but more traditional nature take place.
The Flyers led 2-0 early and 5-3 heading into the third period, but the Hurricanes outscored them 5-1 in the final 20 minutes. Carolina fought back with three straight goals to take a 6-5 lead on Staal's third of the night. The Hurricanes answered Sim's tying goal with Cullen's score.
Like I said a more traditional shootout won by the Canes going away 8-6. Aaaaaah, the New NHL, don't you just love it? All kinds of shootouts taking place.

Shootout Solutions

I'm basically OK with the Shootouts although I'd like the league to tweak the rules a little. They should make the Shootout 7 rounds instead of 3. It makes it much more of team participation contest than one between a few specialists. Plus, I've seen comebacks staged within Shootouts where clubs that started slow were able to win it in the later rounds... often pretty dramatically. Also I'd like to see the goalies have to go against each other in a round preferably the last round if it ended up tied. Pretty wild but hey, what the hell. However what I'd really like to see would be 5 minutes of OT after the first 5 that was 3 on 3 hockey played pond hockey style... no offsides, you can pass from anywhere to anywhere, first one to score wins or then we go to a Shootout.

Just a thought.

I'll be gone and without internet connection for a couple of daze, see you early next week.

Friday, October 28, 2005

NHL Lite ?

Some prefer a little more grit with their pucks

Has the life been bled out of the new NHL in order to jazz the game up a bit and boost scoring? Some people think so and they don't think it's a good thing.
There's one problem. Serious fans, the people who pay attention even when the puck goes a few minutes without entering a net, don't recognize their game. The greater number of scoring chances, the improved flow, the restored advantage that good skaters have over plodders -- those are all welcome changes. But to achieve them, the league has bled out the physical play and passion that gave the sport its edge.

We've seen a lot of speed-driven, 6-5 gunfights. But with players paranoid about drawing whistles, those games often look more like All-Star workouts than Slap Shot grudge matches.
I think the games doing just fine. You have to expect this sometimes rough period of adjustment we're witnessing but players will adjust. Already I think thats happening with the recent games I've seen. The physicality and aggression are starting to comeback as players get more comfortable with understanding and mastering the basics of the new game. The game's doing fine and will get even better as we move beyond this introductory phase.

Denver Welcomes Todd

Folks were very vocal but things didn't get too out of hand.
One ugly moment, caught by a local TV cameraman, came when a fan dumped a beer on a woman wearing a Bertuzzi uniform.

The most telling sequence, though, came after Colorado's first goal, 2:37 into the first period. Joe Sakic scored and, with the celebration in full force, the Canucks thought they'd sneak Bertuzzi into the game.

Nobody missed it, though, when he climbed over the wall and onto the ice. Boos drowned out the chorus of "Rock and Roll, Part II" blaring through the sound system.

From there, the booing continued steadily _ every time Bertuzzi came onto the ice, every time he came close to the puck and especially when he got an assist on a third-period goal.

With the clock running down, the fans filled the arena with an obscene chant about Bertuzzi. Only when he was knocked down by Ossi Vaananen, then later hammered into the wall by Rob Blake, did Bertuzzi's presence on the ice garner cheers.
To be continued...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mile High Maelstrom

A Villain Comes To Town

Tonight's the night the Canuck's play the Avalanche in Denver and it'll be Todd Bertuzzi's first visit since breaking Steve Moore's neck on March 8 2004. What more really can I say that hasn't been said ? The seething masses should be extra fired up for this showdown between high-flying divisional rivals.... with a bitter history.
"You're going to have fans throwing stuff at him," said Avs fan Jeff Richards. "They're going to be spitting on him when he comes out."

Matt Schrad has already planned what he's wearing to the game. "I'm wearing an inmate's jersey with his number on it," said Schrad during Colorado's 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night.

Larry Skeim and his wife Gina were a little more restrained in their resentment. Both think Bertuzzi got off lightly with a 17-month suspension, most of which was served during the NHL's labour dispute that cost the 2004-05 season.

"The mood of a lot of fans is Moore is not back playing," said Gina Skeim.

"We don't know if he's ever going to be back playing. Bertuzzi's career goes on and Moore sits."
Often times with these kind of build ups nothing happens which hopefully will be the case here but with all the passion and emotion involved it should be at the very least... a highly charged atmosphere. Definitely must see Hockey. Which reminds me, have I told you all how much I love my DirecTv CenterIce Package ? Well I do, I really, really do. It gives me Hockey, Hockey and more Hockey... it's TOTAL BLISS!

50 in 50 Club

Frankly I think any discussion about scoring 50 goals in 50 a games is a little preposterous at this stage of the leagues comeback BUT I think it's another good sign for the NHL's future that people are at least now entertaining the very real possibilities present in the new league for such goals to be reached.
It's been 13 years since Alexander Mogilny became the last player to accomplish 50 in 50.

"It's tough to score 50 in 82 games," said Jagr, who has 10 goals in his first 10 games. "Fifty in 50 I don't know if anybody can do it, even if the rules have changed. That's tough. Wayne Gretzky scored 50 in 39 and that's a record that I don't think will ever be broken."
Like I said talk like this is good for hockey's comeback, there's a buzz building about the scoring and excitement happening at games. I really don't think we'll see a 50 in 50 possibility... yet... but we're definitely headed in that direction and that's a very good sign.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Hockey Tragedy

Lord Have Mercy

We all know how Hockey can be a dangerously violent sport where terrible injuries can sometimes happen... even during routine play. All of us hope and pray that these types of injuries never happen, unfortunately this was just such a case where it did happen and the results are sadly tragic.
Mongrain said the Moncton players are trying to come to terms with what happened. He said psychologists have met with the team in group sessions, but the shock of Savage's injury is having a profound effect.

Team captain Scott Toner said each player is dealing with the tragedy in his own way.

"You hear about these things but I don't know if anybody on our team has ever experienced something like this with another team or even in life with a loved one," Toner said.

"It's so tough when the guy sitting next to you might never do that again."
If you have a moment to spare I encourage you send a prayer or thought to Sebastien, his family and his teammates. There's powerful mysterious mojo in heartfelt prayer and you can never underestimate it's ability to help comfort and heal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Grow Your Own

Homegrown... it's the Best

The new CBA and it's resulting salary cap is forcing teams to concentrate more on developing talent from within their organizations rather than from without. Some teams have always gone that route but for others it's a BIG adjustment from their previous strategy of simply buying talent.

So, how well does your team grow it's own... talent? Does it grow good stuff or is it weak?
Edmonton showed the biggest difference between drafted and homegrown players, having provided five undrafted players their NHL debut. Almost seven percent of the players (48) on NHL opening night rosters were never drafted. Five of those 48 were goaltenders.


Naturally, astute trading and player acquisition are as much a part of the process of building a contender as drafting. To isolate the drafting prowess of teams over the long haul, we break down the number of players in the league as a whole that each team originally selected. New Jersey leads, with 36 former draft picks on opening night rosters league-wide, while Tampa Bay drafted the fewest among non-expansion teams, with just 12 players.
I figured Jersey to be one of the stronger clubs at drafting and developing talent but a real surprise was Colorado's ability to identify and draft goaltending talent.
The Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise drafted an astounding total of eight goaltenders listed on NHL rosters on opening night. They include David Aebisher, Peter Budaj, Marc Denis, Manny Fernandez, Brent Johnson, Phil Sauve, Garth Snow, and Jocelyn Thibault. Four non-expansion franchises do not have any goaltending picks in the league: Vancouver, Los Angeles, Calgary, and Tampa Bay.
Amazing indeed.

Premature Puckelation ?

Lets' not get too excited too fast there Commissioner.

Reports from around the NHL have been generally positive regarding the re-launch of the league. HOWEVER, there's no denying the league continues to face some thorny issues and problems, the major one being the health of a number of franchises. So, for that and a few other reasons some feel the Commissioner should back off a little on the excessive exuberance he's been displaying recently... at least until clearer trends are known in a few months. (reg. req.)
...Commissioner Gary Bettman has made appearances in which he has declared that sweeping changes in rules, rink dimensions and goalie equipment have resulted in a faster and reinvigorated game, and that attendance across the league is the proof.

Suggesting otherwise is just "looking for a negative story that isn't there," Bettman said.

"All of our franchises will be fine," he said. "Everybody associated with the game is delighted we're back and things are as positive as they are."

Let's examine that for a second.

In Philadelphia, Detroit, San Jose, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Minnesota, Vancouver, Montreal and Pittsburgh, that is true, with those arenas at about 100 percent capacity.

There are other cities where attendance is not that high, but ahead of the end-of-season averages for the last season played. And there are cities in which average attendance is below what is was in 2003-04, and that cannot be denied.

Attendance is down in Washington, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Dallas, Columbus and Chicago. Washington has had three crowds of less than 11,000 in the 18,277-seat MCI Center, with a low of 10,002 vs. Tampa Bay on Oct. 16.

And no matter what the teams do, there will be lots of games at Buffalo, New Jersey, Florida and other cities that will be way below capacity.

This is quibbling with what Bettman has said, but he is getting ahead of himself. The commissioner should stick to the assumption that it will take a season or two to judge whether the game's popularity really does come back enough to state that the NHL is a viable 30-team league.
Meanwhile waiting in the wings should one of the US franchises falter are cities like Quebec, Hamilton and... this one.

Personally I'd love to see a team back in Quebec someday and one way or another I definetly think the league will have teams that will be looking to move.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Fine Art of Hockey

The Slapshot Tour

It's a traveling art show currently touring Canada's fine art galleries honoring the great game of hockey and it's wild characters.
The Ottawa show generated a fair bit of buzz.

Hipsters and jocks played the latest hockey X-BOX game off a set of sweet flat screens while an enthusiastic crowd seemed to marvel that not only is hockey back, it's in art galleries!

Passersby to Artguise pressed their faces to the glass while Vaughn and his business partner Brandon McVittie put up the show. Opening night saw a motley mix of urban scenesters, visual arts aficionados and hardcore hockey players and their fans packing and closing out the place.

Ottawa minor league hockey bruiser Ken Tasker -- who last dropped his gloves for the Toledo Storm --turned up, popped out some fake teeth and posed, gap-toothed, beside the artwork.

American-based artists are the mainstay of Slapshot, which also features some Canadians and a couple of international representatives.
If you figured a art showed called "Slapshot" featured hockey art from the pugilist period... you figured right.
The Slapshot Tour passes over the artful skaters and skillful passers to canonize hockey's most infamous enforcers.

Semenko, who made his living casting menacing glances at anyone who brushed up against linemate Wayne Gretzky, is immortalized by BUCK, a Los Angeles design firm, in an intricate and dominating 4' by nearly 3' silkscreen done in Oilers blue and orange.

New York photographer Heidi Hartwig took the New Jersey Devils' Danekyo as her inspiration for tight focus photographs of knocked-out front teeth and a "loyal 'til death" tattoo.

Leafs bruiser Tie Domi pummels some unfortunate in Toronto-based Greg Durrell's blood-red silkscreen.

"This era of hockey is really easy for Canadians to have a vocabulary for -- these were our goons," says Vaughn. "I also loved there are women in the show... It's not just from a male perspective."
Hockey in Art Galleries... Who'd ever a thunk it? You can find some photos from the party on Slapshot's website. Looks like a good time was had by all.

Cyber Pucks: the next-gen.

Soon XBOX360 will be launched and a exciting new generation of hockey game simulation will begin. Here's an insiders look at what's coming.

The following is from a interview with Ben Bishop NHL2K6 Producer:
IGN Sports: What can we expect to see visually from the game?

Ben Bishop: This is what we spent a great amount of time on, trying to give the game that next-gen look and feel. I think what's special about the Xbox 360 is all of the little details we can now throw in to make the total package that much better and more immersive. You'll see things like ice spray a lot more now.

...The crowd is totally 3D now and they just look so much more like they're alive and vibrant and a part of the game. You'll not only see them going crazy at the right times, but we have specific reactive pockets. You check a guy against the boards and you'll see the fans in that area flinch or get up and bang the glass. The fans just feel like they're so much more involved.

Reflections on the glass is another big thing we've been able to add. Other games have done this in the past, but it looks so much more realistic now, and so does the ice.

...Jumbotrons are part of the experience now. You'll see the score working up on the jumbotron, you'll see cutscenes on the jumbotron, so you can see the view from the fans.

Player models look amazing now. We spent a ton of time just going back over and redoing all of our player heads to give them more detail. Guys with five o'clock shadows have those five o'clock shadows. Guys like Jeremy Roenick really stand out because he has that grizzled veterans looks about him. When he skates by, you're like wow, that's Jeremy Roenick.

...And the last thing I want to mention about the visuals is that we've not only been able to add the reflections that I talked about, but refractions. If you're looking through the glass from the fans perspective, you'll actually see a little bit of a warbled effect. It looks like you're not looking directly at the guy, but you're looking at him through the glass. We're also able to show through the reflections of the ice the textures of the players skating by, the jumbotron, and even the banners that are hanging around the arena
Very cooool, it appears the hockey immersion factor will be kicked up by quite a few notches on the new machines.

Finally, although accurate stats are a little hard to come by the feeling is although scoring is up dramatically around the NHL... Gordie Howe Hat Tricks might be down which have some concerned.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hockey Survivor Island

Who Will Get Voted Off?

There's a unbelievable amount of talent the Canadian Olympic Team has to chose from as they put their Gold Medal defending squad together and sadly there's going to be a lot of Canadian world-class players that will not make it to the ultimate "Show" this year. A lot of very tough decisions will have to be made shortly by team officials, who will stay?... who will go?
Don Cherry suggested recently that Canada could send three men's hockey teams to the Olympics and come home with three medals.

He's not far off (yes, I agreed with Grapes and Hell has indeed frozen over).

From the looks of the list of 81 players put together by Hockey Canada, which in fact would comprise three teams and 12 spares, the real difficulty will come when Wayne Gretzky and company have to whittle this star-studded lineup down to just 23 names.
Yeah, I tend to agree with Grapes too. Unfortunately they can't send more than one squad so the pressure really is on Gretzky to put a winner together. It'll be interesting to see if his loyalty to Yzerman and Lemieux wins out over the choosing of younger talent in their prime. Survivor Island indeed.

Shootout Solution

Nothing has caused more discussion and disagreement amongst hockey fans than the new shootout rule. Some really have their panties all in a wad over this... some really like it, some don't and some might surprise you.
Although it is highly popular among American hockey fans, a lot of Canadians still don't like it.

Strangely enough though, a highly unscientific survey -- a series of chats with the players themselves -- would indicate that the players enjoy it.

The goalies? Reviews are mixed. They tend to say that they like the shootouts when they win, but for the most part, they accept it as a form of entertainment that is necessary to help the game recapture its fan base.

Most criticism from fans seems to center around the argument that the game shouldn't be decided by a skill competition. I tend to agree so here's my idea instead of shootouts.

Shootout Powerplays
Visiting team goes first on a 2 min. 5 on 3 powerplay. If they score then the home team gets their 2min. shot and they have to score in order to keep the rounds going otherwise it's... goodnight, everybody drive safely home. If visiting team doesn't score in their attempt then home team can end the game by scoring with their chance. A short handed score automatically ends game in scorers favor otherwise they go back and forth until a victor emerges. Kind of like what they do in college football.

Anybody else got any bright ideas?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Greek Tragedy on Ice

Act II

The drama continues tonight in Vancouver as Bert and the Av's meet for the first time since the opening act and the unfortunate events of March 8, 2004. High drama indeed as the Av's enter from stage right, not quite the kind of drama the new NHL wants... but it's there nevertheless.
Fans are bracing for war and the league is watching through a microscope, which almost always means that nothing explosive will happen. But it's a stop-traffic game just the same - even if the participants don't want to admit it.
I agree in that I don't expect much to happen tonight except hopefully a GREAT game between high-flying divisional rivals. This is a very important game for the Av's they need to win it so as not to let Vancouver get too far out ahead of them early here in the season. However the game next week in Denver could be a totally different matter all together. See you then for... Act III ... and more high drama.

A Song for Ace

When I'm in the mood for some kick-ass Celtic Punk Pub-Rock played loud with bagpipes (who isn't from time to time) I turn to the Dropkick Murphys from Boston, Mass. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find they have a song paying tribute to former Bruin and fan favorite Ace Bailey on their new CD.
The Boston-based Murphys--vocalist Al Barr, bassist Ken Casey, drummer Matt Kelly, guitarists James Lynch, guitarist/pianist Marc Orrell, multi-instrumentalist Tim Brennan and bagpiper Scruffy Wallace--lift their pints of Guinness in honor of several warriors on their fifth studio release.

"Your Spirit's Alive" pays tribute to two hometown hockey heroes, Boston Bruins-great Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Boston University-standout Mark Bavis, both of whom died in the crash of United Airlines flight 175 on Sept. 11, 2001.

... The reason we mentioned Ace Bailey on "Your Spirit's Alive" was, for one, the guy was on the Bruins' Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1970 and '72. He then went on to play for the Detroit Red Wings and a few others before retiring in 1981 and becoming a scout. He earned seven Stanley Cup rings both on and off the ice. That's the kind of guy that deserves a song, or at least a mention, wouldn't you think?
Yeah... I totally agree.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sophomore Sensations

The media has been focusing a lot of attention on the rookies coming into the league this year like Crosby and Ovechkin but there's a stellar second year crop of exciting young players that are making their mark too.
The marquee rookies we know about: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin are living up to expectations and leading their teams in scoring.

But alert poolies know the NHL also boasts a very impressive sophomore class. No fewer than eight second-year pros are currently leading their NHL teams in points or goal scoring, and most should remain offensively consistent all year.

Five are from Canada - Carolina's Eric Staal, Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Montreal's Michael Ryder, and Florida's Nathan Horton - and it's not hard to imagine these emerging stars suiting up for their country in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

From Europe, there's Marek Svatos in Colorado, Anaheim's Joffrey Lupul, and Chicago's Pavel Vorobiev. He's off to a slow start but let's add Tuomo Ruutu of Chicago to this list of sensational sophomores although he is currently nursing a sore back.

Obviously talented, these players are also remarkably mature. Perhaps that poise is one wee bit of good that's come out of the NHL lockout. Many of these young pros played in high-flying Europian leagues or in the AHL, logging quality ice time where if there was an NHL season last year they probably would've been mired on third and fourth lines.
I think we're really seeing a changing of the guard with all these first and second year young guns coming into the league and establishing themselves. It's exciting watching this infusion of talented new players and it bodes very well for the NHL.

Bettman's Star Rising

Not many would've predicted this a few short months ago but for the moment anyways Gary's star is ascending dramatically with the early season success of the NHL.
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman's had been falling faster than George W. Bush's popularity. It was Bettman who locked out the players. It was he, a non-hockey guy recruited from the National Basketball Association, who had taken the NHL to the precipice of an abyss too frightening to contemplate.

He was seen as the neatly groomed little fellow whose carefully crafted lawyerly words seemed at odds with the gravity of the longest and most passionate labour stoppage in professional sports history. The league appeared intransigent, the players the aggrieved parties.

"He's gonna kill the game" was a familiar comment from fans.

Flash forward 15 months and the role reversals of the disputants has been breath-taking. Bettman -- dare we say it -- is now wearing the white hat.
Like I said it's been quite an impressive turn around... we'll have to wait and see if it stays that way. There's plenty of possible road blocks to ultimate success that still must be negotiated but I have to admit his efforts and direction so far have been praise worthy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Orchestrated Brutality

Hockey's Dark Side

This kind of B.S. really turns my stomach.

Hockey violence which is so much a accepted part of the tradition and culture of the sport sometimes steps way over the line. This is one of those times.

Hockey coaches "ordering kids" to beat the hell out of each other.
Watching fistfights

McClean was the DeWitt police chief for seven years, retiring in 2004. Before that, he was a lieutenant with the Lansing Police Department.
He was at The Summit last Tuesday evening to watch his 6-year-old grandson, who's in an instructional hockey league.
McClean noticed, on the rink adjacent to the one his grandson was on, a group of about 20 teenagers in practice hockey gear standing in a semicircle at center ice.
Two or three adults, who appeared to be coaches, stood against the boards, observing.
In the middle of the circle, McClean said, two players who had shed their helmets and gloves were engaged in a fistfight.
"It was not just wrestling or grappling," McClean said.
"One had the other in a headlock and was pounding him in the face with his fist. The fight continued until the loser fell to the ice."
McClean added: "Our first thought was that a fight had erupted during a practice game and the coaches, in a terrible decision, let them fight it out."

But it was worse than that, McClean said.

"To our disgust," he wrote, "when the fight was over, the coaches motioned for two more players to step forward, drop their protective gear and square off."
McClean said he witnessed four or five such fights before it was over.

"We saw a number of kids injured and saw blood on the ice," he added.

Making amends

McClean said that he contacted me to atone for his failure to stop what he called "coach-sponsored assault."
"I feel guilty for not intervening," he said. "I don't know why I didn't. I guess I was shocked and mesmerized. We need to put a stop to this."
Here's more from another article on this story from the Lansing State Journal.
Debi Haigh of Eagle, at The Summit with her 9-year-old daughter, said she saw the same thing McClean saw.

"I was stunned," Haigh said. "One boy took a heck of a beating. He skated to the side holding his nose and wiping tears."
We usually don't find out about this kind of crap, it's done for the most part in secret and the kids are intimidated into silence by the very real fear of retaliation. When it does surface like in this instance I think the so-called adults involved should be dealt with severly.

Michigan law allows prosecution of anyone who encourages minors to engage in assault. I think they should apply that law in this case.

Update 10-21-05:
A youth hockey coach who allegedly ordered his players to go at each other with bare knuckles at an Oct. 11 practice session is under investigation by Michigan State Police.

Police became involved after the mother of one of the fighters filed a formal complaint, according to Detective Sgt. Kyle McPhee of the Lansing Post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Alexander the Great

Hockey's New Human Highlight Reel

So far in this young season I think Alexander Ovechkin is the guy that has been the most impressive rookie on the ice in this new NHL. His amazing speed, lateral movement and overall feel for the game is something very special and extremely fun to watch.
"He is an exciting player," Philadelphia Assistant General Manager Paul Holmgren says. "Every time he gets the puck, he is trying to make something happen. He works just as hard in the defensive zone as the offensive zone."

Ovechkin is hoping everything will lead to a major prize.

"I want to be rookie of the year and win a Stanley Cup," he says.
Well Alex I think you got a good shot at the Calder but the Stanley Cup is out of reach for your club... this year anyways.
In addition to all his offensive talents he also plays excellent defense and hits like a runaway bull.
Ovechkin already has produced his share of highlight reel plays, and not only on offense.

On opening night against Columbus, Ovechkin delivered a bone-jarring hit on Radoslav Suchy only 40 seconds into the game that displaced a medal support holding the Plexiglas in place.

Ovechkin, who turned 20 last month, also knocked down a puck out of the air in game against Carolina on Oct. 12 and beat goalie Cam Ward with a backhand before crashing into the net.

Every Ovechkin goal elicits an elaborate celebration.
His maturity and the way he conducts himself both on and off-ice has also brought much praise from knowledgeable observers.
Ovechkin possesses eye-catching skills: outstanding speed, an accurate shot and the innate ability to anticipate a play. But Washington GM George McPhee says Ovechkin's mental makeup impresses him as much as anything.

..."He has tremendous character," McPhee says of Ovechkin. "He knows his place and how to carry himself around the other players. That's what usually separates the good ones. They have the physical abilities, but it's the character and what's inside. Those mental intangibles make the big difference."
Crosby's a very good player and will be a star in the NHL but Ovechkin plays hockey in a different realm... a higher one... and I think he's the one with a better chance at becoming a Superstar. So, the race for the Calder this year is by no means a one person contest, Alexander Ovechkin is making sure of that. If I were a betting man I'd put my money on the Big O to upset Sid the Kid for the trophy.


The best Hockey Video Game on the market in my opinion and those of many others will be the ONLY one available for the much anticipated launch of XBOX 360 which happens in November.
NHL 2K6 for the Xbox 360 looks to be a hit for the casual or hardcore hockey fan as it keeps the wonderful gameplay of its predecessors while adding great detailed graphics. Of course, NHL 2K6 will be helped by the fact that it is also the only NHL game coming out upon release for the Xbox 360 in November; obviously EA missed the boat on that decision.

In other gaming news I'll give you one guess which country has Hockey Games dominating it's sales charts ...occupying 5 of the top 6 spots?

Pond Hockeyapalooza

The game which many believe is played in it's purest form on ponds both here in North America and around the world will be on display this January in Minnesota where the first National USA Pond Hockey Championship will be held.
It's being billed as America's largest outdoor pond hockey tournament.

"While we all enjoy the pristine venues of professional, high school and college hockey these days, there's something to be said for the elements, the unnatural, the unpredictable and irregular pattern of pond hockey," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was flanked by former Gov. Wendell Anderson, a member of the 1956 Olympic team that won the silver medal.

The tournament, set for Jan. 20-22, will feature up to 96 men's and women's teams of four people each. They'll play on 24 rinks shoveled off prior to the games by the two teams on deck.

Winners of three divisions will have their names etched on a giant golden shovel.
Finally, sorry I haven't been updating the Goal per Game stats lately but last nights average did jump back up to 7.2 after spending a couple days in the Dead Puck Era range of 5.0 which I attribute like Tom Bejamin to the ref's starting to back off on the calls. Maybe the league sent out a memo after reading Tom's mighty fine post.
The one good thing about zero tolerance is that the officiating can be very consistent. Everything seen is called and most things are seen, or at least they were in the first week. I think that consistency slipped in the games I saw this weekend.
I totally agree Tom, hopefully they're back on track.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Buzzing the Net

Return of the Prodigal Son

Tonight the "Great One" comes back to where it all started.
Gretzky is still revered in Edmonton, where he led a group of free-wheeling youngsters in a dizzying offensive overhaul of the game before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.

And it may be a bit surreal for the Coyotes to travel along Wayne Gretzky Drive to what's now Rexall Place, where the Great One performed magic for years. They have to pass the bronze statue of a much younger Gretzky hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head - a feat he repeated four times in Edmonton but never anywhere else.

A Night at the Rink

My favorite hockey writer/TV talking head took in a recent Philly - Pitt game and here's his entertaining take on the new NHL.
The game is fast. Up and down. At times, it almost looked like an All-Star Game, and that is not good. They need to find a way to keep the battle in the game without taking away the speed and stickhandling. Mickey was skeptical. He said he enjoyed the territorial game but didn't embrace the new flow.

I had no cup-holders in my seat. I was shocked -- $85 tickets and no cup-holders.

Hockey Bio-Terror Alert

The hidden dangers that can maim even kill a hockey player.
What's growing on your hockey gear? Hockey Hangout asked this in a recent press release promoting their equipment drying and organizational system. The answer; nasty bacteria that has hospitalized and literally threatened the life and limbs of hockey players at all levels including the NHL.

The NHL Left Speechless

The King of the hockey quote has left the building and has retired. Who will replace the King?
Who will call out a coach or call his GM cheap? Who will moan about rule changes and slander owners? Where, in fact, will the next crop of talkers/loudmouths come from?

The Hockey Poll Report

Two new polls ranking the top teams have just come out one for the Pro game and one covering the colleges who have started their season also.

Hockey, it's good for you.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Let Us Prey

Nashville Predators Feasting On NHL

At least in the early going they're feasting. They're one of only two unbeaten teams at 5-0 with a few of those wins coming on the road.

A lot of people (including me) picked the Pred's as their breakout team this year and so far they haven't disappointed. This young, hard skating, disciplined and cohesive team is really playing well together at the moment.
Rookie Predators defenseman Ryan Suter had a pair of assists, one on Sullivan's goal and one on Hartnell's. Winger Martin Erat also had an assist on Hartnell's goal. Erat has not scored goal this season.

"Marty hasn't scored and no one is asking me about that," Trotz said. "Everyone wanted to know about Leggy. Both of then are going to be fine. But both of them have to add some elements to their game. They have to do more puck chasing and cycle chasing and they have to crash the net more to get their chances. They have to have some more grit."
The team has been going so well that right winger Steve Sullivan was named the NHL's Offensive Player of the Week for the period ending October 16.

So watch out for this club and pray they don't prey on your team.


Here's the Best and Worst of the NHL... so far in this young season.

Young guns - So far the overall product the NHL has put on the ice gets my approval. The goals are up and the flow of the game is much steadier. But the best thing is that the young players are making their presence known. And I don't just mean Crosby and Ovechkin, but other players like Eric Staal, Jason Spezza, Henrik Zetterberg, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Jason Williams, all of whom have found success early on.
Hockey Violence to be Curbed......... in Europe.
The SIHA promised to intervene decisively against badly behaved fans and in cases where security regulations are breached. Banners or chants with offensive or racist content will no longer be tolerated.

Patrick Reber, spokesman for the SIHA, says clubs are no longer prepared to pay thousands of francs in fines for troublemakers throwing objects and setting off fireworks and smoke bombs in their stands.
Speaking of violence, back here in the states watch out for the Boogie man. He might be coming to a town near you soon.
Boogaard's assault on Brennan was premeditated; he stalked Brennan from the faceoff when the two were on the ice together for the first time. Boogaard was avenging a fight during the American Hockey League playoffs, when Brennan was with the Chicago Wolves.

Boogaard said Brennan gouged his eye so hard, it messed up his vision.

"It was good to get that one out of the way," Boogaard said. "I was looking forward to it all summer."

He finished with 10 penalty minutes in 4:24 of ice time.

Finally here's oddmanrush's Dave Bidini Hockey Foreign Legionnaire of the month*.
Lang began playing hockey at the age of five, and he has brought his passion for the game to Bulgaria. In the autumn of 2003, Lang was invited to play with CSKA Elite, an independent team no longer in operation. It was his experience with this team that sparked his interest in encouraging the further development of hockey in Bulgaria. While he had fun playing with CSKA Elite, the poor management of the team, broken promises to the players, and mismanagement of funds inspired Lang to try to improve the conditions for the players. It became his mission to both promote the sport and make a business out of it.
We here at Odd Man Rush applaud Angus Lang's efforts in helping grow the great sport of Hockey in Bulgaria... Godspeed.

*The award is named after the author of The Tropic of Hockey a great book about his adventures playing hockey around the world. I highly reccomend it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Giants get their Leprechaun

Belfast Hit by a Fleury of Hockey Action

Finally after having to sit out the start of the season Canada's Little Big Man Theo Fleury took the ice for the Belfast Giants and the results were.... GIANT.

3 goals, 4 assists, 1 fight, a brawl and 1 arena full of delighted Irish Hockey fans.

The Theo Show Opens
The Odyssey crowd cheered his every move, waving their Canadian flags wildly as the game went on.

The chant of "Theo!, Theo!" rang around the arena. It was that sort of memorable night.

"It's been about seven months since I've played a game and it was fun to go out there," smiled Fleury.

"It was a big night for the hockey club and for the supporters and everywhere I've played throughout my career I've always been able to rise to the occasion. I heard the fans and it's nice to be appreciated. I thought everyone played well," said Fleury.
I guess it kind of figures Theo's long strange Hockey Odyssey through the Wide World of Hockey would find our hero stopping over in war-torn Northern Ireland and playing at a home rink called... Odyssey. Here's more rave reviews.

Son of Slap Shot

Since were talking Irish Hockey, Christian Hanson the son of Dave Hanson of "Slap Shot" fame will attend Notre Dame this year with hopes of turning that programs fortunes around. Hmmmm, I guess it figures the son of one of the infamous Hanson Bros. would end up playing for the "Fighting" Irish.

The Other NHL

Yes folks, thats right, there's another one. The Native Hockey League or as they call it up north... The Little NHL.
Thirty-five years ago, a small group of native bands came together and created the Little NHL Hockey Tournament so aboriginal youth could get a
chance to showcase their skills on a national level.

For these aboriginal children, the tournament became their voice in the world of hockey.

And it continues today, stronger than ever.
Many current NHLer's have played in the "other" NHL including San Jose Sharks star Jonathan Cheechoo.

NHL GAME RECAPS for 10-15-05

1986-87 - 7.4 - The Golden Era
2003-04 - 5.1 - The Dead Puck Era
10/15/5 - 5.09 - Last night's games

One day after entering Golden Era territory with a 7.6 GPG league scoring dips into Dead Puck Era territory with a 5.09 GPG. Such is the wild scoring swings that fans will experience in the New NHL as all the kinks are worked out of the new operating system thats just been installed. It will be a little "buggy" for awhile I imagine.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The New NHL... Fan's are LOVING It

Two New Polls Give Two Thumbs UP

Decima Research and the National Hockey League Fans' Association recently completed polling of over 3,400 North American Hockey fans and the results were very positive to say the least.
"People are neither dismissive nor cynical," Decima CEO Bruce Anderson said Friday. "They believe that the changes will matter and some of the early evidence, such as the rate of goal-scoring, bears out their expectations."

The poll found 600 respondents - or 40 per cent - who regarded themselves as typical fans of the game. Among those fans, 67 per cent said the new rules will make the NHL more exciting to watch and 81 per cent said their curiosity has been piqued to see how the rules play out over the course of a full season.

In addition to Decima's random poll, the same survey went to the 28,000-member base of the independently run NHLFA. Among the association's 1,900 online replies, the responses from what Decima describes as the "hardcore fan" were equally favourable.
Here's some highlights from the survey:

- 80 per cent of those surveyed approve the stiff new penalties for diving (82 per cent of "hardcore" fans like it)

- 74 per cent like that two-line passes are now allowed (86 per cent of hardcore)

- 68 per cent like the smaller goalie equipment (86 per cent of hardcore)

- 60 per cent like the larger offensive zones (78 per cent of hardcore)

- 54 per cent approved the use of shootouts to settle games tied after regulation (60 per cent of hardcore)

The only rule change among the 10 surveyed that didn't win a positive review is the one limiting the area where goaltenders can handle the puck.
I find it somewhat amazing that "hardcore fans" seem to be even more receptive to the new changes than the casual fans. All in all these polls are just two more signs that the NHL is roaring back.


NHL Public Enemy #1 gets Schnozz Slammed !!!
You can bet there was a collective cheer later in the day from Maltby's peers around the league when they finally had the opportunity to watch the video of the roundhouse left hook that pancaked Avery's nose in the waning moments of the Red Wings' 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.

His schtick obviously having worn thin throughout the league, Avery has become the most targeted man in hockey.
I'd have to whole heartily agree, that schtick of his has worn extremely thin. Thinner than Kate Moss ...if you can imagine that.

GAME RECAPS for 10-14-05

1986-87 - 7.4 - The Golden Era
2003-04 - 5.1 - The Dead Puck Era
10/14/5 - 7.6 - Last night's games

* Last night was the first time since I started running this little feature that the GPG got into Golden Era territory. The first of many visits I hope.

I'd like to close by sending a shoutout to my buddy Tom for being a dedicated fan of this blog, glad to be of service my friend... and to everyone else who's been stopping by... Thanks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Blueliner Blues

These are tough, tough times for D-men. In one fell swoop the new offensive minded NHL has made playing defense a whole lot different and more difficult for these guys. Even more so than goalies D-men are being asked to make HUGE adjustments to their games. A lot of what they've been taught and have used to play good sound defense over the years is illegal now. Practically overnight ingrained habits and styles have to be dropped or changed. It seems like during this rough period of transition they're spending more time in the penalty box than on the ice. It's enough to try the souls of good men.

It's the Blueliner Blues

....the true victims so far, caught in the collateral damage of the NHL's new unobstructed path to offensive nirvana are the defencemen.
Senators defenceman Chris Phillips:
"Playing our position is a lot harder than it was."
Body position and fundamentals take on even added importance for defencemen.

If the rules continue to be called this way, the qualities scouts look for in defenceman will be re-ordered.
"Already, it's changing what we look for in defencemen," said one NHL scout watching last night's game. "The two most important qualities now are quick feet," he said, and tapping his temple: "A quick mind."
Here's another thing defencemen have to contend with now:
Forecheckers that are no longer being held up under the new rules are free to come blasting into the corners on D-men retrieving pucks.
Philadelphia Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock made the point the other day defenceman are going to start letting the forward get in their first on purpose and turn the tables on them.
The defencemen need to take it out on somebody.
Now there's an example of that "quick mind" quality the NHL is looking for from their defensive players these days.

The goalies also feel that "open season" has been declared on them and they're tired of being run in their creases.
"The forwards are really taking advantage of this right now," Brodeur said yesterday in a phone interview. "They know everybody now can be a tough guy in front of the net. You don't pay the price anymore. That used to be a tough job, standing in front of the net, but now everybody can go. And they're taking liberties."
It's too bad the goalies can't come up with something as innovative to get back at their tormenters as the D-men have. I guess they might not be as "quick minded" as their blueliners are... otherwise I guess if they were they wouldn't be goalies.

GAME RECAPS for 10-13-05

1986-87 - 7.4 - The Golden Era
2003-04 - 5.1 - The Dead Puck Era
10/13/5 - 6.8 - Last night's games

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Back to the Future

Retro Hockey Show is all the rage... for the most part.

Return with us now puck fans to those thrilling days of yesteryear where hockey was played on wide open spaces and scoring, comebacks and excitement ruled the day.

That 80's Show
"It's a new game, a totally new game," Ian Laperriere of the Colorado Avalanche said. "This is what the fans said they wanted, and they've got it."

The NHL proudly boasted that five teams had already overcome two-goal disadvantages, a rarity in previous seasons when obstruction ruled, and 10 go-ahead goals had been scored in the final five minutes of the third period.

"The game is going back and forth a lot quicker," Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. "The players love it and I hope the fans do."
Well, so far it's playing to mostly rave reviews and buffo box office.


The new NHL rule changes are even impacting the way hockey scouts evaluate talent now.
The question arises: Do the radical changes in the game mean scouts will be looking for a different type of player in the future? With a premium on skill rather than size? Has the ship come in for special, diminutive players in the mould of Martin St-Louis?

"You're asking the right question," says John Stanton, an amateur scout with the Los Angeles Kings. "We are looking at that, big time."
It looks like the small and speedy are going to have a real chance for a change in the new NHL.

GAME RECAPS for 10-12-05

1986-87 - 7.4 - The Golden Era
2003-04 - 5.1 - The Dead Puck Era
10/11/5 - 6.2 - Last night's games

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Goon Game Gone?

Fighting Way Down:
(scroll down)

Drop of 40% over 2003-04.
Twenty-nine of the 40 games,
or 72.5%, have been fight-free.

There's a feeling among Hockey fight fans and some players that the latest rules regarding fighting in the last five minutes of games is just part of a ongoing effort by the NHL to eliminate fisticuffs entirely from the sport.
Never before has the role of enforcer been in such flux.

Between the instigator rule, which adds a two-minute penalty and a 10-minute misconduct to those who start fights, and a one-game suspension for those instigating in the final five minutes of regulation or in overtime (not to mention a $10,000 fine for the coach), dropping the gloves has become costly.

And with the salary cap complicating personnel decisions, players who bring nothing more to the ice than brass knuckles are luxuries teams cannot afford.
Many seeing the trend in fighting being reduced year by year feel the role of the enforcer may soon be... going... going.... GONE.
Cairns said he's concerned that the NHL's recent legislation is part of a grand scheme to ban fighting.

"I don't think they should," he said. "Instead of trying to hide the fact it's a violent game, we should embrace it, because that's what a lot of fans like about hockey. It's a rough, on-the-edge game."

...Sometimes, Cairns said, when an opponent runs into the goaltender or takes a cheap shot at a star player, the enforcer has no choice but to go after him last five minutes or not.
And of course you have the ever-present self-serving newspaper columnists that like to put their two cents in for eliminating fighting
Nobody has ever retired rich by overestimating the intelligence of NHL mayhem maniacs, whose second-favorite sport is rubber-necking at the scene of a car crash.

Rather than try to win a broader audience through speed and finesse, the league keeps pandering to the same head-banging crowd that passionately believes Whitesnake was the greatest rock band of all time.

Which might explain why hockey is doomed to never be a major-league sport in the USA.
Yeah, right.

Early season fighting stats do indicate fighting is down big time but I think this is mainly due to the state of flux brought on by all the new rules being implemented and players having to deal with a lot of other issues on ice at the moment. Like trying to figure out HOW to play this game now... but for the most part I don't think this new rule will effect fighting much in long run, especially once the teams get deep into the rivalry series the NHL scheduler has set up for them this year where things will tend to get pretty heated. If two guys want to go they still can, even in the last five minutes, the rule only comes into effect in the case of instigation. This is basically the Todd Bertuzzi rule, the NHL's lame reaction to that whole sordid affair.

Cairn's brings up a excellent point though that could pose a huge dilemma for players and coaches. Say your goalie is run big-time by some cheap shot artist late in a game and the guy who did it won't drop his gloves, what do you do? Take the f#@kin punks head off anyway and get fined up the wazzu and suspended along with your coach or do let the jerk skate away?

I guess you wait till the next game and take his head off in the FIRST five minutes instead of the last five. I'm not sure this is what the NHL had in mind when they came up with this particular brain child but I bet it is the way outlaw hockey justice will adapt to the new rule and is handled in the future.

Hmmm, I guess I answered my own question.

GAME RECAPS for 10-11-05

1986-87 - 7.4
2003-04 - 5.1
10/11/5 - 5.3

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Welcome to the Revolution

The Revolution will be Blogged

Rebels have stormed the NHL walls and have taken control of the game. Some of the rebel leaders are feeling pretty good about how the offensive insurrection has gone so far.
As much as Shanahan would like to turn back the clock and not have had a lockout and a lost season, he says, "As crazy as this sounds, having the hockey people off for a year gave us time to step back and re-examine the game. ... And this may have been the best thing to happen for our game and our fans."
So all you supporters of the revolution (you know who you are) give me a big old..... REBEL YELL !!!

And give me... more.
Goals Way Up
A total of 255 goals, an average of 6.4 per game, have been scored in 40 games. The figure represents a 41% increase over the average of 4.5 goals scored in the first 40 games of the 2003-04 season.
................ MORE ...
The people who should know can sense the shift, see it, feel it. "I felt it in the second and third periods (Saturday) night," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "It opened up ... it was ... fun."
The NHL and fun have not often been mentioned in the same sentence for quite some time.
About as close as you got was when the NHL put the "fun" in dysfunctional over the last 16 months or so.
But take a look around now.
................. MORE!!!
Man, whoever drew this up on the chalkboard deserves a raise.
Damned if it doesn't all seem to be working, though.
There have been waves of chances in the games I've seen this season.
However not everyone has been happy though and a few feel they've been targeted by the insurgents.
Kolzig stopped short of saying the league has singled out goalies, but said he wants referees to crackdown on goalie interference with the same vigor as abolishing the game of obstruction.
"I just wish they'd watch out for goaltenders a little more," he said. "It's tough enough trying to stop the puck without having guys falling on you and saying it was accidental.
"With the [defensive] systems teams played up until this year, goal scoring was down and save percentage was up. They want to get it back to old style hockey, the 7-6 and 6-5 games. By taking some of the goalies' advantages away they've achieved that. The easiest way to increase goal scoring is to target the goaltender."
All I can say is... Viva la Revolucion!!!

RECAPS from Monday's games 10-10-05.

1986-87 - 7.4
2003-04 - 5.1
10/10/5 - 6.6

Monday, October 10, 2005

Desperate Hockey Housewives

...and girlfriends too.

Some (many?) of the wives and girlfriends of Hockey loving guys out there are sadly missing what was for them was the wonderful season of no hockey that they experienced last year. Now they're bumming while their spouses/boyfriends are cheering because...

"During hockey season, our life is totally taken over by hockey and I didn't realize how badly that was happening, until the strike came along," Lauren Burrows, who is engaged to a hockey fanatic, says.

"And then all of a sudden there was this beautiful freedom from hockey that I didn't know that I needed."

"I can't say that our relationship is in trouble, but I must say that watching hockey several nights a week, including the nights that he goes to play hockey, can get a little boring," Burrows says.

With their husbands distracted, like-minded women are even seeking out support in online forums.
Dr. oddmanrush's advice to Hockey lovers caught in these types of totally dysfunctional relationships is to........ RUN !!! Find yourself someone who's as passionate, committed and crazed as you are about this sport. They are out there. It might not be easy to find them but it's totally worth the effort. I know because I was lucky and blessed enough to find one. If a goofball puckhead like I can do it... so can you.

Hockey loving women are the best, DON'T settle for less.

GAME RECAPS for Sunday 10-10-05.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rink Revival

Finding My Religion... (it is Sunday after all)

Hockey is my religion and as I once again watch it's holy services being held on the arena ice altars of the NHL after a extended exile in the wilderness I'm finding that my religion and it's most fervent followers have been rejuvenated... reborn.

At last, the National Hockey League is back. This is the NHL we remember fondly: The goals, the big hits, the arena rocking.
What happened Saturday night at Mellon Arena was hockey at its finest. Yes, hockey the way it was supposed to be played.

"It's exciting," Lemieux said after the game. "It's great for the game, it's exciting for the fans. They don't want to see 1-0 games."


Truth be told, hockey had been missing for a lot longer than the NHL's 300-plus day lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Even for a diehard fan, the NHL had become difficult to watch in the last decade with its soccer-like scores, the clutching and grabbing and the New Jersey Devils' dreaded neutral zone trap. It was a lousy product. But, if this game was any indication of what the "new" NHL is going to be like, I'm buying it.
See, people are being converted and even some of the harshest critics of the sports controversial leader are now singing his praises to the high heavens... well, sort of.
Often referred to in these pages as a cross between Lord Voldemort, Darth Sidius and Viktor Tikhonov, the diminutive NHL commissioner finally did something that could well keep him out of the villains' hall of fame.

Little Man Gary came up big.

The looong stormy period where the faith of many was challenged by the trials and tribulations of the Dead Puck Era and the year of Great Darkness is over and the true believers are now witnessing the coming of a glorious new day.
"The game looks much nicer now," Montreal Canadiens forward Alexei Kovalev said last night. "The refs can't keep up because the game is going so fast. It's fun to watch."

The fast and furious, you should know, wasn't just contained to the Air Canada last night. In Pittsburgh, the Boston Bruins stormed back from a 6-4 deficit in the third to win 7-6 in overtime on Glen Murray's goal, his fourth point of a night that featured Sidney Crosby's first goal to go with two assists.
When was the last time you read that kind of story line out of an NHL game?
Well, it also happened in St. Louis, where the San Jose Sharks trailed 5-3 entering the third period and fought back to win by the same 7-6 score on Jonathan Cheechoo's goal with less than two minutes left.

Are we having fun yet?

You bet we are and nowhere is that joy being felt more deeply, passionately and dare I say spiritually than in Hockeys' Holy Land.

Senators winger Bryan Smolinski an American talks about playing in this religions homeland.
"Coming to Canada to play hockey is like coming into a new religion," he said. "You don't realize it until you're in its grasp."
"The birth of babies were missed because the Leafs or the Habs were playing.
"The kids on my street were coming up to me and telling me, 'That was a goal you scored the other night in Toronto.' They want to know what Wade Redden and Dany Heatley are like. For a hockey player, this is Nirvana."
I'm really going to have to make a pilgrimage to Hockeys' Homeland some day and visit the sacred sites. Maybe go have my picture taken with it's Holy Grail. <<< That picture I love on a couple different levels.

So on this traditional day of worship remember to give thanks, praise God and pass the....... puck.

Reccommended Reading:

The Joy of Sports
"For sports fans who want to know why they're so committed, this book may provide an answer... an exhilarating exercise full of uncanny insights into the motives and metaphysics of sports and seventh-inning stretches of legend and nostalgia."
Publishers Weekly

RECAPS 10/9/05:
Another big night in the NHL last night with lots of interesting stuff happening, Crosby's first goal, Gretzky's first win, couple of 13 goal games, a couple of OT games and a couple of Shootouts. Here's the RECAPS.

(all emphasis mine)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Prophet sharing... and other stuff

Want to know who the first coach to be fired will be, how many points Sidney Crosby will score this season or what team won't be as bad as you think? Well this guy here seems to think he knows....
unlike all the other pundits who think there are too many variables to accurately predict what will happen this season, I've got it all figured out. Now I'm going to share it with you.
And when these things come true -- and they will -- please remember where you first read it
Aaaah, like I said he seems to think he knows.

Meanwhile in Minnesota the Gov. (not Jesse the body Ventura) used a word that rhymes with puck to lead the crowd in a cheer on opening night
It was the governor's tripping over the word "puck" that provoked the snickers. Instead of telling people to drop the puck, he used a very similar-sounding word that made him sound more like Tony Soprano than his usual smooth-talking self.

Some people don't like that "Thank You Fans" slogan the NHL has put on the ice. They want to know... Thanks for what?
Although it's good to have the NHL back playing, it's difficult to forgive and forget.
Seeing the message "Thank you fans" painted underneath the ice at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night sent a twinge of anger up my spine.
In another sign of Hockey's continued world wide growth, popularity and health the Corpus Christi Rays of the CHL have added a Mexican born player to their training camp roster. If Brian Baxter Arroyo-Lopez makes the team he will become the first Mexican born athlete to play professional hockey in North America.

Rayz General Manager/Senior Vice President Larry Linde said...
“When you consider how well hockey has been received in South Texas it makes sense to try and extend it south of the border. Our Hispanic fan-base is passionate, knowledgeable and excited about Rayz hockey.
Rayz Head Coach Ken McRae added...
“He’s got good size and some international experience. The scouting report on him is that he skates extremely well and can handle the puck. I’m curious to see what he’s all about. The pro game is a different game than what he’s used to but he’ll have every opportunity to make our club.”
Pretty cool... que no? Odd Man Rush extends best wishes for success to Arroyo-Lopez.

Finally here's your NHL game recaps from last night (10-7-05). It was another exciting night of Hockey, the third one in a row... the streak continues.

Will it ever end?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Big Opening for NHL

The relaunch of the NHL for the most part went spectacularly well. Congratulations are in order. Attendance was 98% of capacity and that set a opening night record for the league. Television ratings also were good both in the USA and especially in Canada where they were very, very good.
Wednesday's season-opening doubleheader shattered all records for NHL viewership on the network, and rated as one of the most-watched nights in TSN's 21-year history.

"It exceeded our wildest expectations," said an incredulous TSN president Phil King. "Hockey is back in a huge way, that's for sure. It was just unbelievable."

A few numbers for your consideration. The Senators-Leafs early game, combined with a regional Flames-Wild telecast in Alberta, pulled in 2.1 million viewers. It peaked at 2.7 million during the overtime and shootout won by the Sens.

That's more than double the previous NHL high on TSN (a 2004 playoff game), and the first time a regular-season NHL game even cracked the one million mark. It was also the third most-watched event in network history (the top two, both over three million, are world junior hockey finals).

There's more. Game 2 of the twinbill -- Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes in Vancouver against the Canucks, along with an Oilers-Avalanche game in Alberta -- teamed up for an audience of 1.3 million.

TSN research indicated 6.4 million Canadians watched at least some portion of the NHL doubleheader.

"We knew going in that it was going to be one of the biggest nights in TSN history, but not like that," said King. "It was our day to shine.
All in all it was a good opening night all the way around, which I think is a good omen for the future.

The result, for the most part, was exactly what the NHL wanted - more freedom for the most talented players to make plays, and more goals.

A total of 95 were scored on the night, an average of 6.33 per game. In 2003-'04, the average regular season game produced 5.19 goals.

''It's definitely a fun game without all the clutching and grabbing,'' said Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund. ''They're letting us play hockey.''
However there were a few holdouts who were still upset and unwilling forgive and forget including this one particular Canadian that caught my eye.
"No, I'm not watching any NHL hockey. None. Not goin' to any games, not gonna watch any games on TV, not gonna read anything in the sports pages. F@#k 'em. F@#k 'em all," groused McCoveny, an insurance claims adjuster. "They're all a bunch of selfish pricks, the owners, the players...their...wives...
Their wives?

The second night wasn't too shabby either. Here's the National Hockey League Game Capsules from 10-6-05.

Like I've said before put those shades on because the future's so bright your going to need them. I bet Mats Sundin wished he had put his on.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Early Numbers

Using my free NHL CenterIce for a week offer I caught most of the games last night and for the most part was happy with what I saw. ESPN this morning is confirming more or less what I witnessed from last nights play:

Scoring: UP 36%
Penalties: UP 44%
Attendance: UP 4%
Ticket Prices: DOWN 7.5%

Except for the penalty number which I suspect will go down as the season progresses those are all positives.

It's a Blog World After All

Speaking of ESPN they may no longer have the TV contract for the NHL but to compensate they got into the Blogosphere in a fairly big way for opening night with contributors at a number of games. Here's some exerts:'s Scott Burnside checks in from Pens-Devils (7:20 p.m. ET): As a Canadian, it's still a bit startling to show up to an arena like the Continental Airlines Arena and see full-fledged tailgating going on. Sausages on the BBQ in the backs of pickup trucks or under portable awnings. In Canada, you'd never see that! Restrictive laws surrounding the consumption of alcohol, plus the fact that it's freezing cold outside most Canadian rinks once the hockey season is in full swing, makes such revelry unknown.
Hockey Tailgating? Now there's a good sign. contributor Damien Cox checks in from the Sens-Leafs game at the ACC (7:59 p.m. ET): As has been the tradition in Toronto, the 48th Highlanders drum and pipe band has hit the ice prior to game time, as has been the case for every Maple Leaf opening night since 1931. They will conclude, as has been a more recent tradition, with The Maple Leaf Forever. But before they do, yes, Stompin' Tom Connors has stepped out to do a live version of The Hockey Game. What can I tell you it's a Canadian thing.
Here's more on Stompin' Tom Connors and his song The Hockey Game.

And finally this from the Flames - Wild game:
Johnson (9:13 p.m. ET): Jacques Lemaire is using Wes Walz, Matt Foy and Stephane Veilleux against the Iginla line, which went shotless in the first period. Iginla's looking PO'ed. You get the feeling he may drop the mitts to give his passionless side some life. ... Calgary has doubled its shot total to six in the first 3:31 of the period. ... Kiprusoff's double save on Todd White and defenseman Willie Mitchell keeps his team within hailing distance.
Check out ESPN's complete Blog coverage from last night.

Opening Night blog: Hockey's back

It like the games played last night was pretty good and also like the games should steadily improve as the season progresses.

For a look at the summaries of all of last nights games go >>> here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hockey Days Are Here Again


Tonight's Match Ups

New Hockey From A - Z

Fearless Puck Predictions

Don Cherry Prophesies

New Puck TV Coverage

30 Players to Watch This Season




Tuesday, October 04, 2005

O Canada

Cup Headed Home ?


This season could shape up to be the best chance in quite awhile for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. All six teams should make the playoffs and a couple have legitimate shots at raising the Cup.
Canada, it would appear, is prepared to compete in the new NHL, and possibly dominate. Five of the Canadian teams Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton are solidly ensconced in the upper half of the league going into the 2005-06 season. A sixth, Toronto's Maple Leafs, could also be a playoff team, particularly if the risk-laden, off-season acquisitions of Eric Lindros and Jason Allison bear fruit.
The rise of the Canadian teams has been ongoing for some time, of course, spiritually ignited, some could argue, by the embarrassing effort to get the federal government to cough up cash to underwrite their losses. Once the feds got cold feet, the teams got down to fixing their own problems and, bolstered over time by a resurgent Canadian dollar, have done just that.
It's been eleven looong years since a club from Canada last won Stanley. That represents the longest drought suffered by the Great White North in NHL history going back to 1926 and 2005/06 very well could turn out to be the season the suffering ends.

I got no problem with that.

Here's a look at and analysis of the six Canadian teams and their chances at winning the Cup.

And how are the Canadian fans reacting to the new season and it's possibilities? In a word they're ecstatic.
In Canada, the return of the big-league version of the national game, beginning with the end of the lockout in July, has been greeted with something approaching ecstasy. All of that talk about greedy players and myopic owners and a commissioner who didn't really understand the sport -- gone. All of those pledges to never, ever attend another NHL game, never watch one on television, never crack open a sports section if there was a hint of hockey on the cover -- forgotten. Many a pox was placed on both their houses, but now the game comes back in an atmosphere of universal love.
Here's more on the ecstasy of the Canadian fans.

Let the games begin.

Monday, October 03, 2005


It's your Hockey duty

Well, it's not really your duty but what the heck else do you have to do today? Vote for the Division, Conference and Stanley Cup winners in addition to team individual awards. Find out how your choices match up with the voting that's already taken place.

Your polling place is located >>> here.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Crystal Puck Gazing

Do it for too long and you'll go crazy

Trust me.

With the start of the season just a matter of days away there still is no consensus emerging from hockey fortune tellers regarding how the grand experiment will go. That however hasn't stopped any of them from gazing into their crystal balls... err I mean pucks and reporting back on what they see.

Some are pretty positive. In fact this one lists 12 reasons why he is and we should be also.

here's #...
8. Shooting the puck will be back in style. It won't be like the 1970s and '80s when Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy used to roar down the wings and uncork long slap shots past netminders. The science of goalkeeping won't allow a complete return to those times, but forwards are now getting up to top speed through the neutral zone. Also, downsizing the goalie equipment has made more of the net visible. If there is more net showing, players will shoot. Count on that.
Others whose job it is to know these things have absolutely no clue what to expect or how to handicap the races and it's causing some big headaches. for oddsmakers - they'd sooner take an Al MacInnis slapper to the groin than go about hanging NHL lines, a market where their profit margin has always been razor thin.
"This is creating a huge headache for us," says oddsmaker Shane Catford. "There are a lot of things that we still don't quite have figured out."

...for now, sportsbooks and their customers find themselves on even ice when it comes to betting the new NHL. It's nearly impossible to say which teams will thrive in this reconfigured league, but with scoring the order of the day, look for clubs that can ripple the mesh.
"The more skilled teams that struggled in the past, when defense ruled, will likely rise to the top,” predicts Murphy. "Detroit, Dallas, and Colorado are the teams that will probably still be overvalued in the early going."
And then there are the cynics (no, not the rock band).
So how do you like the new NHL?
Because, after all, it's your NHL.
It certainly isn't mine any more, despite what the ads say.
My NHL wouldn't have 20 power plays a game in order to end "obstruction," only to forget about it during the postseason. And you and I both know that will happen.
But hey, there's now a tradition of having one set of rules for the regular season and another for the playoffs. Like, for example, ending those first "meaningless" 82 games with a shootout — that contemptible sideshow that ensures a winner in every game it's featured in, without a single pass being completed or a defenseman on the ice.
Why not just have them play a hand of Texas Hold'em instead?

Maybe then ESPN would have invited us back.
Ooooouch! That one left a bruise.

Me? Well I'm still Mr. Positive. The league has survived many other tough times they will these. As far as the rule changes go did you know that at one time a player couldn't pass the puck forward or that the net had no crossbar? The sport has weathered rule changes before, I'm not worried about it now. The game is much bigger than the people who run it, play it or watch it and it will be just fine. So relax... rejoice and enjoy it's long awaited return. Besides, I just noticed DirecTv turned on OLN for me... for free!... AND I saved a ton on my car insurance!


See, how could I not be positive? I'm seeing a future so freakin bright I'm just going to have to put some cool shades on. Wait a minute... this all couldn't be because I've been staring into the Crystal Puck for far too looooooooong? Could it?


... to be continued.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Cluster Puck

There's some very interesting round table like discussions taking place over at Battle of Alberta amongst members of the Canadian blogging community on various topics related to the upcoming NHL season. Great stuff.

Check it out:
NHL Brainstorm!

They're up to part 2 at this point (#3 is Sunday) in what appears to be a continuing series. It's Canadian only for now but who knows maybe they'll open it up here stateside, especially to bloggers covering the Northwest division.

Battle of Northwest

Bring it on.

Anyways, back to Alberta and our friends up north from... la belle province sans merci. If anyone is interested in learning more about the unusual and fascinating dynamics of this complex place of great hockey, great beauty and so much more you might want to check out:

Against the Grain:
An Irreverent View of Alberta
Books explaining Alberta are needed. Despite what the rest of Canada chooses to think about Alberta, it has now become necessary to make conversation with this brash, unruly and unpredictable province. No matter how intense the desire to avert the eyes, ignore Alberta, that strategy just won't work any more.

And books about Alberta are useful because they offer information on this now-unavoidable power within the national family, although no one book will provide a curious or dismissive out-of-province Canadian with a definitive answer. Alberta is a chameleon, prone to instant switchbacks, various disguises and multiple identities. Reader beware.

Indeed... beware.