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Sports Prediction of the Year

 

I love sports for a million different reasons.  Last night was the best example of reason number 834,777 that I’ve ever seen in my life.

#834,777  - the random prediction come true.  You know, when you’re sitting at your cubicle and you call your shot with the crumpled paper – “Off the printer, clip the water cooler, then garbage”.  Bam.  In the garbage. 

Whether you call it a prediction, or a called shot, you have to love those moments.  And it’s just as great to call someone elses shot.  It’s fun being the guy standing behind your buddy while pointing Out-Of-Bounds right, just before he tees off… only to have him hammer it Out-Of-Bounds right.

Listen to the call by the Mariners announcer before the game - a prediction about a kid who’s never hit a big league homerun.  I so so apologize that the only place I could find the clip was from *shudder* Rachel Maddow (poorly clipped too.  The announcers start getting excited earlier in the count when it starts looking possible).  But you’ll enjoy it:

Sick.

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Sooo, what the hell?  Hossa is out til “late November”?  And I was so pumped about picking him up as a third rounder in the Bourne’s Blog Hockey League.  Don’t worry though, I just checked out my team and we’re still stacked.  There was nooo bias in my “Carey Price is going to have a good year” comment from the video blog… Noooo bias at all.

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And last… It’s official.  I’m a USA Today staffer.

The blog on their site was sort of a “tryout” period, so thanks for all your support – especially you, Alaska and New York.  You combine for almost 50% of my blog hits (with my long-time hometown of Kelowna contributing about 1-2%… thanks Mom, Dad and Bro).  To those of you who’ve linked to my blog, and promoted me on hockey forums, blogs and everywhere else… more thank you’s.

I’ll be writing a bi-weekly NHL column called “Other Side of the Glass”.

So, throughout the year, I’ll be looking for NHL topics to write about.  Given that the column isn’t all that frequent, I’ll have ample research time.  Hit me up if you think you have something story worthy!

Two Videos, One Face-Punch

 

The Detroit Lions finally w0n a damn football game this Sunday, the first since 2007.  And so, things are finally turning around for this group of bright-eyed hopefuls.  Could it be because of a very special visit from some very special friends?

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Okay, you get one punch, free of consequence, to anyone in America (I narrowed it to the US, cause otherwise you’ll get all intelligent on me and pick someone like Kim Jung Il).  It’s the fight-club game, but not limited to celebrities.  Who’s it gonna be?

Mine?  The guy who runs TMZ.

It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure of the wife’s, so it’s on occasionally.  Unbelievable show.  Has to be seen to be believed.  They chase psuedo-stars around and yell questions at them, then make snide remarks about the responses.  Boggling, boggling stuff.  I’ve been boggled.

My selection is a right cross to the mouth-hole, preferably while he’s talking.

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 Alright, as I promised, here’s another Bourne’s Blog prediction, video style.  Ignore the fact that it looks like I recorded this while sleep-walking.  I get started on these things pretty early.

 This one focuses on a couple overlooked teams that aren’t real threats to win the cup, but will be better than what analysts are giving them credit for.  Coulda picked Nashville from the West, but I hate them, so it would’ve been hard.  Your thoughts? 

The Good Kind of Media

 

In regards to a few commentor debates in the past, the most relevant video I’ve ever seen just showed up in my facebook inbox.  This came courtesy a dear friend, Christina Aaron – thanks Chris!

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Okay haters, the following comment is officially void: “I used to watch SNL when it had ________ on it – back when it was good“.  It’s time to give it another chance.

Kristen Wiig might be the funniest person on the planet at this point.  She was damn near the only funny part of “Knocked Up” (as the station exec. implying Katherine Heigl she should lose weight – without actually saying those words).  Below, she’s rocking her semi-frequent role as “prominent travel writer, Judy Grimes” from SNL’s season premiere.  Sorry you have to slog through a commercial:

 

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 As possibly the last fan of Brett Favre (despite my protests to his return), I thought I’d run the “highlight of the weekend”, possibly sponsored by Bengay:

Just another great comeback orchestrated by Brett Brettersons

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Okay, one last vid for the day.  I’m a closet “homestarrunner.com” fan.  I realize there’s no cool way to say that, so I thought I’d just run the second (of 15) “teen girl squad” videos and let it speak for itself.  These cartoons are priceless.  If you like this, you’ll like the rest.  They just get better.

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And I’ll follow that up with a little depth.  I’ve always been a major sucker for piano.  This one, “Hometown Glory” by Adele, is currently in heavy rotato in the car.  Simply put, it’s beautiful. 

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I thought some stuff like that might make your Monday better.  Always helps me!

A Few Quick Thoughts

Alright, let’s talk game one of the WNBA Western Conference Finals tonight!  ………..ahhhhh, I’m just playin’.  This is a sports blog.

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A little Gretzky reflection yesterday brought this thought a-bubblin’:  How amazingly underpraised is his slapshot from his playing days?  Everyone talks about the vision and playmaking (both head and shoulders above anyone), but man, that guy played in the treetrunk era of sticks and could knock waterbottles off like he was looking through a scope.

{The year after my Dad retired, he took my bro and I through the Kings dressing room – Gretzky signed his silver aluminum game stick and gave it to my brother and I (did you know he had custom foam grips on those?  Not tape?  Weird).  Oblivious to the fact that the stick may be something of value aside from the fact that it was reeeally shiny, we used it in the house on occassion.  Which, in retrospect, was a great call - the smudged writing looks super.}

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I recently tried to pretend that I was pleasantly surprised by the “tier one” rec hockey in Phoenix.  It was a lie.  If it were an aroma, it’d be bad enough to make you dry-heave.

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The NFL network provides original programming, up-to-date news around the league, and neat shows that play NFL audio, or tell the whole story of famous games in history.

The NHL network is re-playing the 2008 playoffs (fair enough), sandwiched by mediocre games from playoffs in the 80′s and 90′s.  It’s like ESPN Classic: Just Kidding Edition.  Can I get some current NHL news, more than a preseason game a day or something?  Why has the NHL not hired me yet? 

Hell, I’ll sit behind a desk and let someone take cellphone videos of me talking about recent happenings around the league so Americans can have some idea of what’s going on in the world of hockey.  That might even be the name of the show… “Recent Crap That Happened, with Justin Bourne”.  Who wouldn’t prefer that to game five of the 1989Wales Conference semi-finals?

Somebody, run that damn station, please!  At least hire some kid to sneak into TSN and record their show Blair Witch style, so we can get some coverage, anything!

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I spent years with my nose in the air, claiming I prefered beer bottles to cans.  But after some introspection, I think I’ve been living a lie.

I like the *crack!Pzzszszszs* sound of the can.  I like playing with the tab.  Denting the empty’s.  I mean, some beer, like a Corona, has to be in the bottle (and of course, good beer, like microbrews).  But for those times when I’m having more than one, I think I’m coming to grips with the facts that I like cans.  Anti-foaming agent and all.

Come on passionate beer enthusiasts (a great, well-established trait of my readers) – whatcha got in the fridge?  Bottles or cans?

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If I have any sway over the next few minutes of your time on the internet, I want you to spend it watching Louis CK clips on YouTube.

I know he’s growing in popularity, and starting to drift into the mainstream a bit more, but god does he deserve it.  For those of you who’ve been with my blog from it’s inception, you know I consider myself a bit of a stand-up comedy connoisseur.  I’ll get you started.  Enjoy! 

(Language advisory – F-bombs abound)

A Matt Moulson Story

 

Matt Moulson has scored a couple times in the past two games for the Islanders on passes from John Tavares.  The following is a story about the week we both tried out for the Vernon Vipers in 2001.

I showed up for my 18-19 year old season and started sizing up the competition.  I was one of about four players already signed by the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL after my stellar year playing junior B in Osoyoos, BC.  Moulson was a lock for a spot on the team, but hadn’t been signed yet.

And fortunately for him, he happened to be a lot better at hockey than first impressions.

Moulson, all growed up.

Moulson, all growed up.

He showed up at the arena for tryouts with a glossy blue button-down shirt buttoned multiple buttons down with a gold chain and slicked back black hair.  He was… confident.

And he was good.  Very good.

Tryouts consisted of a few practices, then being separated into three or four teams, and playing a mini-tournament while the coaches watched.  Our coach was the notorious hard ass, Mike Vandekamp.

The more I think about Mike and my junior years, the more I think they were book worthy (I kept a thorough journal of the madness).  That whole unwritten book could probably be summed up in two words: toughness mattered. 

In reality, fighting mattered.  Over my days as a Viper, I saw our trainer get told to beat up our opponents mascot (and saw the resulting assault charges), watched my coach thow my stick like a javalin at our opponents, saw our team bombarded by navel oranges, saw a steel gate thrown at our opponents coach, and saw much, much (much) more.  Toughness mattered.

Matt Moulson wasn’t tough yet.  Our captain also happened to love Vandekamps style, and hated that this kid thought he was a fancy-pants.

During intermissions of those tryouts, fights were set up between kids for the next period like Don King was the assistant GM.  It “never came from the coaches”, but we all knew it did.  Someone would walk into the dressing room and say “Waddell, you’re fighting Singer next period”.  The whole group of players trying out were basically Roman gladiators looking for the thumbs up or down from Caesar Vandekamp (22 fights in the final scrimmage, with me accounting for 0.0% of them).  I’m not gonnal lie, it was more than a bit scary.

Apparently, there's life after getting cut in junior hockey

Apparently, there's life after getting cut in junior hockey

So, our captain (this time on his own merit) sent word to our dressing room that he was fighting Moulson next period whether Moulson was fighting him or not.  Matt had four goals in the previous game.  Four.  Moulson was so good they had already put him up with a bilet family and a teammate - who, as fate would have it, happened to be the captain.  He must’ve thought “why should I have to fight anyone?  I should have fighters protecting me.”

What basically ended up happening, is that our captain chased the kid all over the ice.  Moulson wouldn’t fight him.  They were roommates for the year, for f$@%s sake.  After a couple periods, most people couldn’t figure out why Moulson wouldn’t just drop his gloves, seatbelt the guy, and go down.  Just get it over with.

Well, our captain eventually caught him and Moulson did exactly that.  He held on so tight he broke or dislocated his fingers, I can’t remember which.  Either way, our coach was so disgusted by the performance that he cut the guy in the next day or two.  He was second or third in points during camp at the time, tall, and could skate like the wind.

And that was the last time I saw Matt Moulson.

Oh, and for the record – our scrappy team advanced all the way to the BCHL league finals that year before losing in game six to a Chilliwack team that had NHL names like Jeff Tambellini, David Van Der Gulik, and Gabe Gauthier.  We were probably a goal scorer short of being national champions that year.

In retrospect, it’s funny how three people I ended up liking (coach, captain and Moulson) were involved in such a string of shitty decisions.  Who knows where the kids career would be if he had made the team.  Maybe he gets buried by a coach who thinks he’s soft, doesn’t play, and quits at 20.  It’s a crazy game, dude.

Nathan Lawson (AKA Nate the Great)

 

The following article was written for NHL.com when Lawson was to make his NHL debut last season.  I’ve decided to tweak it, and run it on my own blog after Lawson played his first NHL exhibition game last night.

 

Nathan Lawson has given me more “is this guy serious?” moments than Flava Flav, starting with his first recruiting trip when he told me “It says Nate the Great on my helmet for a reason.” 

Lookin' sharp in the Seawolves gear

Lookin' sharp in the Seawolves gear

That was the first time I’ve seen his smirk – the “I’m aware that sounded ridiculously cocky, so I’m smirking to show that I’m aware of that… but it doesn’t mean I don’t mean it”  smirk.

I’ve shaken my head in disbelief, and spent more time discussing his on-ice antics than it ever took for him to perform them.  From the three years we spent as teammates in college to the one together as professionals, the guy has been a constant conversation piece.

The University of Alaska Anchorage has always had great goaltending.  Being comparatively under-talented in the WCHA has meant that the Seawolves have needed strength in net to stay competitive.  So when Nathan Lawson committed to our school, it meant big expectations on the kid.  And he exceeded them.

“Laws” is a bit quirky, as goalies tend to be.  And when I say quirky, I mean borderline nuts (but in a light-hearted, happily neurotic sort of way).  Watch him in pre-game warm-ups.  Some guys have routines, Lawson has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Upsetting his pre-game routine is dangerous and ill-advised.  He’ll de-friend you in real life like its Facebook. 

To start the game, and before every period, he skates to the bench, takes his helmet off and stares straight ahead.  While looking completely crazy (like there’s any other way to do this), he unscrews the lid on a water bottle, leans back and dumps the full contents over his head, helmet and glove, which is placed behind his head.  It’s similar to the Lebron James chalk throw, just with more crazy and less fanfare.

That pose, with good angles... frustrating as a shooter

That pose, with good angles... frustrating as a shooter

Lawson left college a year early to give the pro ranks a try.  I was playing for Utah in the ECHL at the time, and Nate was in Phoenix, our first opponent of the season.  One start and one shutout later, he was on his way.  But as a goalie, keeping a spot on professional teams is a totally different situation.  There’s only room for two per team, so in an NHL/AHL/ECHL organization, that means six goalie jobs.  When a seventh one comes in as part of an NHL deal, there’s a trickle-down effect.

The leap between the ECHL and AHL isn’t all that huge, and the gap between the AHL and NHL is even smaller. A thin line separates many players – and sometimes all it takes is one scout, one GM or one coach to push for a player and create the opportunity for them to thrive.  The line is even thinner for goaltenders, and sometimes the difference between a career-ending cut in the ECHL and making the NHL is that one opportunity.

In Utah, our coach called me early in the season and said “I see this Lawson kid is on waivers. Is he any good?”  After giving Lawson a review that Paula Abdul would call “too generous,” Nate was a Utah Grizzly. 

Nice highlights.

Nice highlights.

Like many others, all the guy needed was the right opportunity.  Nathan’s rookie season in Utah was solid, showing what many of us already knew – that he’s the real deal.  And he joined the Isles organization at the right time, with Rick DiPietro’s injuries the past couple seasons. An unfortunate part of minor league hockey is having to root for other people’s injuries to get your chance.

From that, the “trickle-up” effect gave Lawson the American League opportunity he deserved last season, and he capitalized on it.  In 31 games, Laws went 19-9 with a 2.16 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage.  All-Rookie Team starter.  Not bad, right?

Even the Islanders seem confused about their situation in goal these days, but after signing Biron and Roloson, they remembered to sign Laws.  Had Bridgeport not needed him so badly during their stretch run last year, he probably would have seen NHL games – an odd reason to have to miss your chance at games in “the show”, really.

#52 - The guy's an original

#52 - The guy's an original

The reason Nathan Lawson is a stud in net is simply this:  He thinks ahead of the game.  Not in milliseconds, or seconds, but whole plays.  You can watch a Nathan Lawson goaltended game and think “Wow, he had an easy night.”  But it wouldn’t have looked that way had another tender been in net.  Other goalies are making diving glove says, Hasek-esque rolls and desperate scrambles.  Nate is square, up quick, and positional.  He’s usually so crisply controlled that he rarely needs to do anything SportsCenter worthy.

The nice part about Nate though, is that if he needs the spectacular save, it’s in his arsenal.  He has sharp post-to-post speed to go with his strongest attribute, his ability to play the puck.  Like Marty Turco of the Dallas, Nate is often used as a sixth defenseman; a guy to go back on dump-ins and make outlet passes.  He springs players on breakaways, and ices the puck on the penalty kill.

But fans will love his Sean Avery-like antics in the crease best. Lawson is the first goalie I’ve played with who can be a Darcy Tucker level agitator.  Teams love to hate him.  He is the uncompromising evil villain to them, and they can’t let it go.  Often, in college, we would talk to players on the opposing team after the game, maybe out at the bar, or just in the hallway.

In my beloved Isles colours. Trippy.

In my beloved Isles colours. Trippy.

“What was with that cross-check in my back?” is fine fodder for conversation, and everyone has a good laugh and lets it go. 

They can’t let go of Laws.  They don’t even want to let it go.  They’d ask:  “What’s he really like?  Is he actually that cocky?  He thinks he’s just the best doesn’t he?”

And Laws loves it.  He plays better when he’s fired up like that.  Guys crash his crease, spray him with snow, fall on him after whistles.  Laws dives when he gets clipped and hustles the refs between whistles.  His home fans adore him and opponent’s fans loathe him. 

Laws played in his first NHL exhibition game last night.  I have no doubt he’ll end up with 1,000 new fans and 10,000 new enemies around the league in no time.

NHL teams don’t like to take risks on players who aren’t drafted, partly because it reflects poorly on their scouts.  But this is a situation for somebody in the organization to look great, discovering a diamond in the rough.  If Laws gets enough games to get comfortable in those Islander colors, I’d bet Isles fans would get awfully comfortable with him too.

It didn’t take me long.

The Preseason Marathon

 

A little pre-season insight:

For players whose season is going to start in the ECHL, the preseason is longer than Islander fans tolerance for losing.  And slightly more like Chinese Water Torture.  With less pay.  You’re being evaluated  *drip* You’re being evaluated *drip* You’re being evaluated *drip*.

For them, it seems like it takes a lifetime to get to a meaningful game.  The NHL team invites all their guys under contract (plus hopefuls), while knowing the majority of them are going to play farther down the ladder.  They just want to check if their unpicked fruit has ripened.  A chunk of these guys at camp are on three-year NHL deals, and the team simply knows that they’re paying to have the guy in the last year of that contract, if at all.

Also, capable of doing an amazing "Herbert" from Family Guy

Also, capable of doing an amazing "Herbert" from Family Guy

{Tangent #1 - I wrote a column for Hockey Primetime about my thoughts on development here.  If I were an NHL GM, I’d leave the developing to someone else.}

{Tangent #2 - One of those three-year-contract guys that will pan out is Andrew Macdonald, Islanders defenseman.  Guy got so crazy good, so crazy quick in the ECHL it was scary.  Spent last year being great in the AHL.  Got NHL games.  Keep your eye on him, he’s a gifted player… and looks like Brooks Orpik.}

Those ECHL players will start the ride at rookie camp in June.  Then the main camp in September.  It’s a week to ten days of practices and exhibition games, being constantly evaluated at everything you do (including social interactions).    Then they’ll get sent to the AHL camp.  The same week to ten days happens there, albeit with less media pressure and less perks.  Then ECHL camp.  Subtract media and perks again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

For those guys who do the three league countdown, they’ll show up at NHL camp around September 12th, and play their first game in the ECHL nearly a month later, around October 7th (then the kicker – you don’t get paid for three weeks.  By November, they’re near starvation.  If I was a part of a players union, guys would get paid something for training camp).

It’s a tough time of the year for those guys, and I feel their pain.  Nothing pummels the ego quite like getting cut twice to start the year.  Re-hashing that ride, I can’t help but notice how comfy this couch is…

{Tangent #3 - No preseason is as miserable as the college preseason.  Arrival: mid-August. First game: mid-October. Two months: takes two years.}

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"What a sports nut, huh?"

I watched a special on the guy who holds the ball for the kicker in football (Usually the 14th string QB, no?).  He’s a Superbowl champion.  First guy to run out of the tunnel ahead of the team too.  And I quote: “I was so excited, there was no way anyone was beating me outta that tunnel”. 

…Hmm.  Yeah.  …Yeah, you proabably deserved that honour.

But after thinking about it, is there any job in sports that holds a less-appealing goat to hero ratio?  You know, as far as the potential to become one or the other goes?

Two percent chance of being a hero.  Tops.  Maybe a bad snap is corraled, and you get the ball down in time for the kick (which is rarely noticed anyways.  It’d have to be a real bad snap). 

 

For every time you save a play, there’s probably 650 ruined by flubbed snap catches and bad ball placement.  650 – 1 goat to hero ratio?  Laces out, Finkle.  

(*goat-to-hero figures may not be precise)

Blog Comments, And My High Horse

 

A few words about negative comments left on my blog, or anywhere else.  So lets get to it.

Those comments?  

They’re welcome.

In some cases (and believe me, not all), I’m writing about things that matter to people, and taking a stance on those issues.  Not everyone is going to agree with that stance, and it’s great when the writing can start a conversation between both sides of an issue.  As my uncle recently pointed out, getting bad comments isn’t a bad thing – getting no comments is a horrible thing.

So here’s the comment that inspired these thoughts:

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Josh:

I love reading your blog Justin, but your little rant about Morency seems nothing but petty, it makes you look ridiculous, and makes you look like a horrible teammate. The guy was nice to you when your illustrious ECHL career brought you to Bridgeport, and you thank him by blogging that he’s a crappy player with little to offer in the professional ranks. Nice, dude. I admit I never got higher than Bantam A, went to UND for something other than hockey, and don’t know anything about a professional locker room, but that’s really shitty to rag on someone still with the organization.

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And I appreciate the comment, as much as I disagree with it. 

So for future reference, I’d like to qualify the rules of the relationship with my old teammates, and with my readers:

I’m not going to go all “Jose Canseco”.  But, I am going to be honest about what I’ve seen and what I know.  That’s my pledge to my readers on here, USA Today, The Hockey News, Hockey Primetime or anywhere else.  I’ve got the advantage of being able to provide a player’s perspective.  People read my blog for its candor and insight (and for the occasional chuckle).  I think people appreciate that combination, partly because most players don’t take the time (or may not be able) to put down “what its like” on paper.  And, I’m hoping by not pulling punches, people will want to read this stuff all the more.

I have the option to accept or delete comments on my blog, and I choose to never delete.  In this case, I’ve decided to make it a whole entry and use this (to quote the President) as a “teaching point”.  In no case (barring serious personal attacks or bad language) will I not accept a comment.

So there.

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JETS PATRIOTS TODDDAAAAYYYYYYYY!

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One last thing before I dismount my high horse.

The Clark Gillies Foundation is an um, foundation… put together by.. uh… Clark Gillies.  Believe it or not. 

Clark has raised volumes of money for children with physical (and financial) diabilities in the tri-state area.  They’ve pledged to raise a million dollars, and have already built a pediatric wing in the Huntington Hopital.

If you’re in for a lil tear-jerker, this is the link to the video on the foundations facebook page.  I highly recommend it.  I also intend to link to their fancy new website (that I wrote the copy for, back-pat back-pat back-pat) when it’s up and running.  That’s all for today folks.  Back to sports tomorrow!

The Phaneuf Hit on Okposo

 

Ahhh Crap (with a capital C).  Phaneuf destroyed Okposo in an exhibition game last night.

Follow my logic here – I’m not sure if I’m mad at the hit or not:

If I say I’m mad at Phaneuf for crushing him in an exhibition game, I’m going to get responses like “you can’t turn off competitiveness” and “once guys are in a game, it’s become their nature to take advantage of guys with their head down”.

But that’s just not the truth.  As a guy who’s played in plenty of exhibition games, I can tell you those games don’t matter to the guys who already have guaranteed roster spots.  Those guys just aren’t playing with the dial set to “kill”.  The dial is set to “just get through this”.  They need to play to feel the pace, get that game cardio up and get their feet wet.  It’s a joke to them.

So I don’t really get this hit.

It’s not like they’re interdivisional rivals (or even in the same conference), so what was that all about?  Just being awesome?  Teeing up on a guy for kicks?

I know Opo has to have his head up there, please don’t leave that comment, I know.

Guys will still hit guys in preseason play when the opportunity presents itself; it’s hockey.  You have to remember how contact feels after a summer of shinny.  But you don’t need to put a guy in a dangerous situation. 

Here’s the one reason I’m not that upset with him for the hit:    I think he did let up a bit.

He drops his shoulder, sure, but I think this could’ve been worse.  He could’ve put more into it.  So in the end, I’m not sure what to think of the hit.  “Unnecessary” comes to mind though.

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Here’s where hockey blogging about ex-teammates gets tough.  I played with Morency (the guy who jumps off the bench to grab Phaneuf).  He’s the nicest guy on the planet.  He works harder than any teammate I’ve ever had.  But he plays like a donkey.

It boggles my mind that the Isles continue to keep this guy in their system.  The fans love him, of course.  And I love him.  Pascal, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

But you play like a donkey.

Pascal is tough for a smaller guy (it helps that he’s jacked).  He’s the definition of agitator.  He runs guys, chirps from the bench during his extended stays there (sometimes entire games), then fights anyone who’ll fight him to justify his spot on the roster.  To his credit, he’s making a hockey career out of what he’s got.

You’d say he’s the consummate team guy, sticking up for every little indiscretion against his linemates, if it wasnt motivated by the complete opposite concept from “team”. 

He’s not skilled enough to play in the AHL without being a fighter and an irritant.  So he has to create opportunities to show that he’s doing something out there.  He’s the guy after the whistle face-washing guys just hoping something will come of it so he can do what he does best.

He takes penalties behind the play, and does stuff like jump off the bench to fight guys that would punch the accent out of his French.

I like Pascal.  He’s a fun, sincere guy to BS with, the nicest guy to the callups in the dressing room, and the first to lend a hand.  But he’s kinda bad at hockey, and plays a role I don’t think is necessary.  Sorry bro.

If you want to watch him in action, there are about 15 of his fights on YouTube.  I’m just running this one cause I was on the ice at the time and bummed cause one of my three shifts that period gets cut short.

Pre-Season NHL Stuff

 

Thoughts from my first Phoenix Coyotes pre-season game:

(1)  Matt Greene, now of the LA Kings, played for the U of North Dakota when I was in college.  I always thought he was a bit of a liability for them (based on his big, lumbering nature), but UND was one of a few teams that had an NHL (as opposed to olympic) sized rink in college, so he made it work.

Plus, if he hit you, it hurt really, really bad.  He was unaware of the battle going on between him and my roommate Charlie Kronsch.  The battle was that Matt frequently gave Charlie stitches in the chin (wearing the full cage in college makes for a lot of chin stiches), and Charlie wanted to return the favour.  But every year for poor Chuck, here’s your new zips, courtesy Greener.  Final score, Greene, 17, Kronschnabel, 0.  Oh, and by the way Char, Greene is in the NHL now.  18-0.

(2) When the puck first drops to start the game (especially during camp, pre-season, and weekend games), its understood that the pace is freaking intense – like, max effort, until that first whistle.  “Set the tone” stuff, ya know?  It has to settle down from there.  It was nearly ten minutes before the Yotes game saw a whistle, and I got a big kick out of guys trying to keep the pace up on their second, and third shifts.

(3) Was Balsillie there?  No, seriously, was he?  I couldn’t help but think he had to be watching from somewhere, if he’s such a big fan of hockey that he wants to own the team…

(4) They asked the fans “Shane Doan Trivia”, which I found hilarious, because…. what are their options?  Coyote history trivia would just end in “Doan” anyway, so you might as well narrow it down a bit, right?  Nice move.

(5) I feel really bad for writing an article about the Coyotes sucking after having been to a game.  The article I wrote, sadly, was accurate – just seeing the fans that do support them and hearing the interviews with the guys made me feel a bit guilty.  Sorry, guys.

No Waaay?

No Waaay?

Way!

Way!

(6) The highlight of the night was a Shane Doan jumbotron commercial for a bank, where a fan is taking money from the ATM, and Shane misunderstands the meaning of “free checking” and hits the guy from behind.  He has a line at the end of the commercial, and that’s when it hit me.  Shane freaking Doan is Keanu Reeves.  Right?  I mean, isn’t he?  The hair… the tone… it was all just so obvious this whole time.  I cannot believe I missed this prior to now.

(7) The rink setting in Phoenix is amazing.  One of the best I’ve ever seen.  Not only is the rink nice, new and ideal for watching a game, but everywhere outside it is just so great.  Fountains with half-Bellagio water shows, a Jimmy Buffet margaritaville, restaurants and bars, Irish pubs and shopping, it’s just too perfect.  If they do manage to survive, I’d go just to linger outside under the misters and drink a few pints in front of the outdoor TV’s.  Heaven forbid this team starts winning, they might just get popular.

(8) They charge more for Pittsburgh and Detroit games.  Just thought I’d pass that along.

(9) They still charge $8.25 for a beer.  Isn’t that unbelievable that they can do that?  A draught beer costs a restaurant something like 37 cents.  Movie theater owners would hear that mark-up and call it preposterous.  I’d have boycotted if it wasn’t a Coyote’s pre-season game, which are the most drink-inducing words you can string together on this side of “bachelor party”.

(10) I’m still a big fan of the sleek RBK jerseys (though not the Coyotes colors/logo).  Nice evolution to the look of a hockey player.

(11) Just how dumb is wearing no visor nowadays?  I don’t even feel the need to make my case beyond that sentence.

"The look"

"The look"

(12) There are few things as satisfying as skating behind a d-man into a nicely chipped puck with a ton of speed already going.

(13) The t-shirt shoot: I think they shot 900 t-shirts to the 450 fans, (both ballpark figures).

(14) Bryzgalov just looks like an NHL goalie.  They have that structure and size you don’t see from the amateurs.  He also has the tendency to get beat five-hole like NHL goalies, a phenomenon that never ceases to boggle me.  For some reason, I think 40% of goals in the NHL are scored five-hole.  It’s absurd.

And that was game one, pre-season.  I’m looking forward to going to more games and having my “to write about” list grow.  I think I need to write about the momentum of skating, and what a bitch having to actually stop is.  Not that I chose to stop all that much, but still, I hated it when I had to.

Video Blog – NHL Predictions

 

Every few days leading up to the NHL season, I’m gonna run a video blog with a couple predictions for the season.

This is my first crack at it, so cut me a little slack.  To make it easier, I’ve made the first two predictions my “safe” ones.  It’ll be harder when I start trying to defend predictions like “The Vancouver Canucks will struggle in the regular season, but have a great playoff run”.

Oh, and one other thing before the vid – I went to the Coyotes/Kings game last night and have a crazy long list of things to write about today, so look for that in the next day or two.  Unfortunately, I won’t be linking to what I promised yesterday (my take on the Coyotes sitch) because (thankfully) the Arizona Republic bought the article to run in their NHL/Coyotes preview piece in a couple weeks.

(By the way – thanks to those of you who’ve made it so I don’t have to charge for “premium content” or anything of the sort by donating a couple bucks to the cause.  Makes the time put in easier to justify!)

The Land After Time

 

I stumbled onto a massive discovery.  In trying to run some early morning errands, I had to kill some time waiting for the bank to open.  I went to the mall, only to see a sign saying that the stores weren’t open there either.  Yet people were still walking into the place.  Old people.

If we could mine the precious deposit of old people that were in the mall before it opened we could start a nursing home.  They were everywhere.  Alone, in couples, men, women, with ipods and walkmen, jogging shoes and stretchy pants.  They were using the closed mall as a big track to walk laps around.

Hundreds of them.

I took a few steps in and got caught up in the current… it all made sense:  Air conditioning, nicely sanitized tile, a food court (with a cafe that opens early to cash in on these clunkers), and it occured to me:  this is exactly the same thing I used to do when I was 12, with my friends.  We’d go public skating, move around in a big circle, be social, listen to music, and grab a hot chocolate from the concession stand. 

The ciiircle of life…….. it’s a wheeeel of fortuuuuneeee…  What a discovery.

*****

Green Bay Packer Nation probably owned a collective 23 rafillion Favre jerseys.  I’m not proposing that the “Favre goes WWE villain and switches teams” moment wasn’t genuine, but how much money do you think they made selling new GB Pack jerseys to slighted fans who didn’t wan’t to wear a jersey with “Arnold” on the back anymore (read: Benedict)?

And how many Rodgers jerseys have they sold?  This guy could be the best QB in the league this year.  How well timed was his rise to prominence right when Favre basically tore down the un-built statues of himself in Green Bay?

*****

Does anybody else think that the mom and kid in the AT&T rollover minutes commercials have a priceless chemistry? (Can’t believe I’m about to run an AT&T commercial after they grinded me for $43.57 as a broke freshman in college, but it really does make me laugh)

 

*****

But if there’s a set of commercials you have to watch, it’s ESPN’s “this is SportsCenter” commercials.  Spend some time on YouTube.  I still love this one:  “…that was a poor effort”

 

Scott Van Pelt is priceless.

*****

I’ll link to my take on the Phoenix Coyotes situation later today or tomorrow…  I know you need your hockey news fix.

In the meantime, I have a light-hearted article up on www.hockeyprimetime.com – my thoughts on the experience of sharing a cold tub with another dude after a hockey game.

Also, tomorrow:  The first of a series of video blogs on the upcoming NHL season.

Things That Matter: Sports and Music

 

 

Music:  It’s so deflating that my passion for football is shared with a group of people who feel that an “Opening Kickoff” concert would be best played by the Black-Eyed Peas and Tim Mcgraw.  I stomached every second of every song just so nobody could invalidate my hatred with a “you have to really listen to it all” garden-variety response.  It’s awful.

Its a real testament to technology that the Black-Eyed Peas can be successful in the music world today.  F*** they’re painful.  And then Tim Mcgraw gets up and plays the exact same song I would write if I were trying to do a parody of everything that’s awful about country music – “Southern boys like beer and football and hats and rodeos…” (*may not have been exact lyrics).

Musically, I’ve got broad tastes – I’m all over the map.  And I’d never try to defend the rap music I listen to when I’m in a good mood.  With the baseball “up-to-bat” songs, I just like a little swagger in the step if you’re not trying to funny with it.  Maybe this one’s not quite up-to-bat worthy, but it definitely gets the “volume up” honor when it comes on in the car {random thought: the car is almost officially named.  Public release coming soon}. 

 

Bourne – alienating hockey fans through rap music, one reader at a time.

*****

Football:  Steelers tight-end Heath Miller has a farmer tan so ridiculous that the white-ness extends past his jersey length.  I love it.  Way to really emphasize your whiteness in the NFL.

*****

Football:  Troy Polamalu is freaking scary.  Could you imagine playing “jackpot” with him as a kid?  “500, dead or alive”… annnddd Troy gets 500 points.  Again.

*****

Hockey:  How much does watching old highlights of NHL games half-taint the stats of players in those days (sorry Dad… I’m just sayin…)?  The goaltending is sinful.

I was watching a game on the NHL network - some classic game, mind you - that ended in a triple overtime, on-the-ice five-hole shot, and not a single player tried to behead the goalie who let the shot in.  If an unscreened shot goes in on-the-ice five-hole nowadays, goalies (by law) have to let every fan in the first three rows punch their face.  And teammates get two punches.

*****

Hold on, lets waste 45 seconds as a group...

Hold on, lets waste 45 seconds as a group...

Baseball:  Why do I have to sit through intentional walks in baseball?  For that matter, why does anybody? 

If the team wants to put the guy on base, can we not accomplish that using our big-boy words?  Like, exchanging dialogue with the ump wouldn’t be okay? 

“We’re just going to throw four pitches very far away from the plate because we’d like this player to get to first base.  Permission to skip those steps?”

“Yes.  Take your base.”  Done.

Or even better… you can put the guy on base in one pitch by just hitting him with the ball.  Maybe you miss him with the first couple (evasive bastard), but you can save time by trying again on the next pitch.  If I pitched in the AL and didn’t have to bat, I’d have 0 intentional walks, and 53 intentional rib injuries (a new – but valued – stategory).

Are You Ready For Some Football??

 

Things I felt like bringing up today:

Google Analytics, as I’ve mentioned before, is amazing.  Without telling me the specific information on users, it tells me fun stuff like what cities people are checking my blog from (shout out to readers in Nykoping, Neuilly-sur-Marne, Ramat Gan, and Cagayan de Oro…seriously), what site referred them to me, and what internet connection speeds my readers were using that particular day. 

Where am I going with this? 

I have to know:  Who the hell are you, people connecting via dial-up internet??  It’s not even cheaper at this point.  I’d never checked that stat until yesterday, when four of my readers apparently connected via dial-up.  I just want to know so I can call every single one of you and knock you off your respective modems.

*****

NHL TV’s “portal” site is pretty neat.

This summer I met a couple of the guys who were working on the launch of this site, and it really did turn out great – fully functional, with plenty of hours to be wasted.  And the best part is, each team has an individual page (great news for all you rabid Hurricanes fans), and each video comes with the “share” URL, so I can chuck them into my blog when relevant.  Or when not.  I’ll wait for something good to go up before I waste your time.

*****

Today’s walk-up-to-bat music is probably “Run This Town Tonight” – Rihanna, Jay Z and Kanye, off Jay Z’s just-released album, Blueprint III (of course, I’d have the music guy start it after Rhinna’s part – possibly cutting right to Kanye’s verse {2:50}).  Parental Advisory – Explicity Lyrical Content:

 

PS – Kanye’s — “Whatchu think I rap for, to push a f****n Rav 4?” — is my favourite rap line in awhile. 

*****

 And the big news:

HEEELLLLLLOOOOOOOO FOOTBALL SEASON!  I feel so… American for being this excited.  But I can’t help it, I just am.  

football football football football

football football football football

The new look Jets with Sanchez under center?  Rodgers ready to throw a disgusting amount of touchdowns?  Brett goddamn Favre is a Viking?  They’re letting Michael Vick play again?  It’s all too much.

The NFL is the only sport that holds a candle to the NHL in the “highlight montage to music” category. 

Can’t we make this a channel?  Just non-stop videos of music paired with crazy-sick sports highlights?  Who wouldn’t watch this?  The Masters has ownership of first place overall on “montages-that-make-me-wanna-cry”, but the NFL and NHL share first place in “montages-that-make-me-want-to-punch-every-face-I-see-in-the-next-ten-minutes-cause-I’m-so-fired-up”.

So grab your case of beer, book your Sundays off, and get into it.  Jets at Houston this weekend, J-E-T-S Jets-Jets-Jets!

Top Ten Canadians in the Game

 

NHL.com lists the ten best Canadians in the game today (in order) as:

1. Sidney Crosby   2. Martin Brodeur  3.  Jarome Iginla   4.  Marc-Andre Fleury   5. Chris Pronger   6. Ryan Getzlaf   7.  Rick Nash   8. Roberto Luongo   9. Joe Thornton   10. Vincent Lecavalier

Though not ridiculous, it’s a tad nostalgic.  Chris Pronger is the fifth best Canadian hockey player alive today?  Don’t take the following as not liking any of the above guys, I just thought I’d mix in my own thoughts, and hear some of yours (okay, you can take it as me not liking Pronger).

Oops, I'm really, really good.

Oops, I'm really, really good.

{First, I’m finally impressed with a US hockey team, which makes me a tad nervous for Canada.  It was a hassle when every country in Europe starting getting really good (go back to producing bums with eight “i’s” in their name, Finland), but now the US?  That’s annoying.

Names like Parise, Stastny, Kane, Kessel, Kessler, Ryan and Booth point to a pretty strong future.  Young, fast and a talented — all of ‘em.}

But back to our Canadian top ten.

1. Sidney is a given.

But I just can’t give Martin Brodeur the title of #2.  This is always a tough point to make, because folks can drag up stats (career GAA of amazing-point-five, save percentage is ninetywhatever-point-awesome), but come on.  I could drag up Bobby Orr’s amazing numbers too, but you wouldn’t want him (the 61 year old him) starting at defense in 2010, would you?  Brodeur’s great, but on the downslope of his career (and never exactly been known for his fitness).

Marty has become a staple of Canadian big game hockey and I love him to death for that.  But, Canada should probably move on.  Cam Ward didn’t crack the NHL.com top ten, but wouldn’t you like to see him wearing a Team Canada jersey at the Olympics?  It’s not like Carolina’s teams have been stacked, but he’s made them successful – this guy is a big game goalie too.

Oops, I'm really, really good.

Oops, I'm really, really good.

Our best Canadian goalies today are Luongo (what goalie would have won a cup backstopping the teams he has?  Don’t give me that argument), Cam Ward, and Marc-Andre Fleury (who I’ve always liked, despite the fact that everyone in Canada hated the disappointment he “was” before June of this year).

One – that’s right, ONE – defenseman made that list, and it was Pronger.  More than taking away from Chris, who admittedly is still in the upper echelon of defenseman (hanging on… losing… grip… must… hang on), I have to give credit to two other guys, Mike Green of Washington, and Shea Weber of Nashville.

I got more texts from hockey-playing friends watching NHL playoff games last year about Mike Green than anyone else.  He does some amazingly nifty little things that make a big difference.  To be a scorer in the NHL today is tough to do, but this guys’ stat-line from last year as a defenseman was 31 goals, 42 assists for 73 points… in 68 games.

Oh, and he’s 24.  His defensive game has gotten better every year, and will continue to.

As ridiculous as it seems now, I was Shea Weber’s instructor at Dave Roy’s “Edge of Excellence” hockey school.  I was 18, and Shea was 15.  He was probably bigger than me by three inches then and just under twice as fast.  I made a huge difference in his life. 

“Yep, you’re doing it right.  Yep.  That was good.  Uh-huh.”

At this point, he’s not even freaking human.  Punishingly physical, with a booming slapper and great foot speed, I bet there’s a lot of GM’s who’d take him over Green.  He’s Pronger 2.1 – the next edition.  Toting less lumbering largeness (a mere 6’3″ 210), he carries his size more like Duncan Keith than a Todd Bertuzzi, and is frighteningly better every time I see him play.

"Hi I'm Jon. I'm allowed to drink this year.  Neato."

"Hi I'm Jon. I'm allowed to drink this year. Neato."

Oh, and he’s 24.

I think a list of our top ten Canadian players today needs to pay closer attention to the way the game is being played now.  Vinnie Lecavalier is a great player, and plenty physical to boot.  But remember how it looked when the international teams were bombing around and we were trying to Eric Lindros/Keith Primeau them into the ground?  We couldn’t catch them.

Vinnie isn’t that big slug type of player; I just think the new type of goal scorer is more evasive than invasive.  Doesn’t Jonathan Toews strike you as a more effective guy in today’s game?  The guys scored 34 times as a 21 year old captain last year.  He’s following in Lecavaliers footsteps as the young captain, but is already trouncing the numbers Vinnie put up at that age.

So without further ado… My list:

1. Sidney Crosby

2. Ryan Getzlaf

3. Jarome Iginla

4. Roberto Luongo

5. Rick Nash

6. Mike Green

7. Jonathan Toews

8. Joe Thornton

9. Shea Weber

10. Cam Ward

I’d put those guys out against any country, any day.  (Wait, except Russia.  Not sure what they’re doing over there, but it’s starting to resemble cheating).

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