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Kittens and Sucker Punches

 

(Quick thought on this blog title – is “Sucker-Punching Kittens” the best band name ever, or is it just me that thinks that?  Just me?  Crap.)

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Ahhh, another beautiful day in the sports world.

A badass MNF game, a good slate of hockey, and the confirmation that yes… this week Bri and I get our first pet, a Scottish Fold/American Shorthair cat.  And, like a pregnant couple noticing everyone else who’s pregnant, we’re noticing all things cats.  For example, this lolcat is, um, noteworthy.  For being awesome:

Here’s the little bastard we’re picking up Wednesday:

Tyson (face tat)? Darius (street Bri and I grew up on)? Whaddya think for a name?

Tyson (face tat)? Darius (street Bri and I grew up on)? Whaddya think for a name?

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A friend of mine is playing over in Norway, and sent me this hilarious clip of himself I had to share - it’s basically a three-second flipbook, but on the internet.  It came with the caption “These Norwegians think they can run their mouths and nothing will happen”.  Cue the sucker punch.  Yeah.  Those Norwegians, man…

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Sooo, I just learned this yesterday, which basically explains: 2010 Olympic hockey?  Not gonna be played on “Olympic” ice.  Seems kinda counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

They didn’t want to take out seating, which makes sense.  As most of you know, an NHL rink is 200 x 85.  An olympic sheet is more like 200 x 100 (actually, it’s 60 meters by 30, making it 200 x 98.5), giving the skaters more room, but making the game less physical.  Ah.  Ohhhh…. less physical.  Did I just stumble onto another major reason?  Smaller sheet, more physical game, better for the Canadians?  Ignore this segment.

GO CANADA!!!

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Recently I linked to the Shane Doan article where he explained that “if we win, fans will come”, because I like to pat myself on the back.  It was my “I sorta made that point too!” moment.

Well, here I go again. 

Not sure if you read my last column for USA Today – basically it explained, from my point of view, that the game is less safe because of things like the salary cap and instigator penalties.

And, here’s the link to the article I wrote for The Hockey News on head shots.  And so, for the Bourne-on-Bourne back-pat, here’s New York Rangers coach John Tortorella a few days back- explaining we need to do something about head shots and the instigator penalty.  Not like it’s breaking news, but hey, indulge me.

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Those of you who follow me on twitter already read these, but they’re too good not to share with the blog crew.  The best TextFromLastNight ever came a few days ago:  “I guess I finally out-drove Tiger Woods this morning…”

Followed by the tremendous tweet: “@nealbrennan Tiger Woods: half black/half Asian. Beef with wife – black. Can’t control car – Asian.

Ohhh, the joke deposit these comedians found to mine…

Post-Thanks Thinking

 

So, the Mrs. rocked thanksgiving.  I accomplished the elusive six pound day – by “six pound day”, I mean that from breakfast to bedtime (according to our fancy new scale), I stuffed six solid pounds of delicious animal flesh and casseroles into my being.  Puke.

Since I’m already a Canadian cliche (career based on hockey), and spent yesterday being the American cliche (football, beer, general gluttony), today I thought I’d be a media cliche – here’s a list of (hockey writing-related) things I’m thankful for:

I got the magic fist

I got, the magic fist

Patrick Kane reeeeaally wanting his change. 

That was a fun story for everyone. 

You know those high-school movies, where they really exagerate the roles?  Nerd, jock, hot/mean-girls etc?  Doesn’t Patrick Kane remind you of one of the mean girls that makes everyone else feel bad?  I really get the vibe that he makes little sounds and gestures that make people feel bad without him ever using words.  Like “pssshh” or “cch” or just a f**king smirk.  Smug little bastard.

High Definition TV

Periodically, games on the Center Ice package aren’t in high-def, but I feel the need to check them out anyway.  It makes my eyes bleed.  Thank you, advancing technology.

"God hit 'enter' too many times between my nose and mouth, no?"

"God hit 'enter' too many times between my nose and mouth, no?"

Recently discovering how ugly Pascal Leclaire is

I’m really excited to have a new punchline.  I’ve been beating up the WNBA now for about ten months now, but really, he looks worse than they play.  Okay, that’s not fair to the WNBA.  He looks as bad as they play.  ….And they play BAD.

My commentors

That one is serious – it’s tough to read most hockey forums without trying to find a way to digitally punch someone.  Most people keep it pretty smart down there, have some great insights, and are consistently more funny than me.  We’re like a little family over here – don’t be afraid to chime in. 

On that topic, I have the power to completely edit anyone’s comment.  It’s hilariously unfair.  I’m dying for somebody to write something overtly ridiculous and hateful so I can edit their entire comment to say how awesome I am and how much they enjoy my awesomeness and they look forward to reading more awesomeocity from me.  That’ll be awesome.

Finally, the chance to play with Richard Park!

Finally, the chance to play with Richard Park!

John Tavares

God, it was agony watching an Andy Hilbert - AnyoneElse two-on-one last year.  One of those “I’m an Islander fan” years, where I’d be watching Columbus/Atlanta on another channel while their game would be on.  Thanks for finishing 30th last year, boys, you’ve made this year infinitely better.

 Ken Juba

He's lifetime-undefeated at this game. Legendary.

He's lifetime-undefeated at this game. Legendary.

 

My mom’s brother (and thus, my Uncle), was a sportswriter/editor for the Star Phoenix, the major Saskatoon newspaper for years.  I’m saving the whole explanation of what he’s done for me for another day, just know this – he edits every column I write, he works with media for a living (so his advice is money), and he makes sure I don’t do stuff like write about how disappointed I am in John Buccigross for not plugging a link to my blog anywhere in exchange for passing on the Brendan Burke story like he said he would.  See, if he edited my blog, that sentence wouldn’t be there.

NHL on the fly

Living in the US, it’s the life-blood of the hockey fan.  Now, if we could just get Kevin Weeks/Gary Green/Dennis Potvin/Dave Reid to un-suck, the show would be killer.  I KEEP MY RATES LOW, JUST READ THE RIGHT SIDEBAR.

But Leclaire's the ugly one, right Bourne?

But Leclaire's the ugly one, right Bourne?

Ovechkin

Anytime one player is that much better than the best players in a league, it’s confusing to watch.  Is Crosby’s shot soft?  Is Malkin slow?  Why is Datsyuk so lazy?  This guy throws the scale all off.

Boobs

Thought I’d clarify the gay thing.  Big fan of boobs over here.

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Forgot to put this up before: The Toronto Sun issues a “clarification” here.  ….Thanks guys.  The apology for misrepresenting who I am made it into a phone call as well.

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

 

I’ll be writing a “my life as a Seinfeld episode” piece soon, but really, nothing sums it up better than this.  Pure.  Comedic.  Gold. 

 

 

And the best clip….

CBC Interview on Homosexuality in Hockey (And More)

 

I’m surprisingly crappy at making the internet function as well as it can.  Surprising probably isn’t the right word.  In fact, it shouldn’t be in there at all.

I’m crappy at making the internet function as well as it can.

Basically, I don’t know how to imbed certain videos, so here’s the link to my CBC interview on homosexuality in hockey – I chime in at 6:25ish, but the whole thing is good.  And by good, I mean John Amaechi kills it, then I chuck in my opinon.

Hope you like it – I was about .2 seconds away from a sweat meltdown, so I’m glad the interview ended.

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My buddy Neil sent me this today – it’s similar to the article I wrote for the Arizona Republic to start the year – wait.  ITS THE EXACT THING thing I wrote about the Coyotes to start the year, only out of Shane Doan’s mouth, the teams captain.

But I’m still the asshole, right Phoenix?

Doan’s words

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One more thing – if you’re interested in hearing me say the exact same things, only in a different conversation, here’s my interview with NHL’s XM Home Ice:

http://www.xmhomeice.com/audio/09-11-26%20Justin%20Bourne.MP3

XM tweeted, before my interview –  ”Justin Bourne joins HTM to talk about coming out as gay Minor League hockey Player”.  My fiance, Brianna, has officially made the transition from “this is funny” to “straighten this the f**k out”.

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UPDATE – Spoke with the guy who wrote that I am, unbeknownst to myself, gay.  And somehow I feel bad.  He felt horrible, then I felt bad for being a dick to him about it.  Nice.

Brendan and Brian Burke. And Me.

 

Let’s hit the links.

Yesterday, ESPN’s John Buccigross posted the Brendan Burke story - as was to be expected, the article has been passed around on Twitter like  it’s running a five-on-three powerplay.  As a result, I’m back in the mix (“the mix”, being the 286 comments received on my gay slurs article for USA Today).

I did an email interview on the story for Yahoo! hockey blogger “Puck Daddy” (Greg Wyshynski).  You can check that out here.

Also, I responded via email to a Buccigross question – he’ll be running that response later today, and of course, that’ll be up on here when he puts it up.

For my Canadian readers, I’ll be going on CBC’s primetime show “Connect with Mark Kelley” if one of the Burke’s are unable to make it – that’s at five o’clock today.  All I can say is, I’m cut out for radio today, not TV.  I look like I got lost in the woods, found and drank some grain alcohol, fought Manny Pacquiao, then slept in a ditch.  In reality, I just haven’t shaved in a week and couldn’t sleep because of late-night rec hockey.  …and I may have had a Stella or two.

***AMENDED*** – Apparently, it IS for TV.  Five o’clock Arizona time on the CBC.  I just scraped a razor over my dumb face, and will be heading to the studio in a bit, if the CBC can track down a willing partner in this.

And again, I received further confirmation in my inbox today that, yes, I am indeed a “flaming homo”.  So… I’ve got that going for me.

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Since I’m receiving a bit of an influx in the ‘ol number-of-hits category today, I thought I’d direct some first-time Bourne’s Bloggers to a few things I wrote that managed to not suck.

*An inordinately serious column on leaving the game of hockey, for The Hockey News

*The “How I Met Your Mother” of Bourne’s Blog.  The story written for Islanders Point Blank on how I ended up engaged to Clark Gillies daughter, Brianna.

*And the story of how I ended up being a writer, for The Hockey News – I’m having trouble getting their site to work right now, so you can find it as the bottom article on this page.

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So that’s all you get today, friends.  Looking forward to more feedback, and when the ESPN bit gets posted, you’ll be the first to know.

 

NHL’s Quarterly Review

 

Alright, NHL, let’s do a little quarterly review and see if you deserve a raise.

Mmhmm…. yep… mhmm… everything looks pretty good.  Off to a real nice start.  Just a couple things:  We’ve discussed head shots a few times now, and it doesn’t appear you’ve done anything to fix that problem.  You see, we’re attaching a cover sheet to all our TPS Reports now…

Oh, and, tone down the injuries.  Then you can get your raise.

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Our USA Today bi-weekly Power Rankings came out today, and look pretty good.  My own Top Ten Teams is little different – here’s how I see it thus far.

  1. Chicago Blackhawks
  2. New Jersey Devils
  3. San Jose Sharks
  4. Washington Capitals
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins
  6. Calgary Flames
  7. Colorado Avalanche
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Columbus Blue Jackets
  10. Detroit Red Wings

We aren’t all going to agree, but feel free to sway my opinion – why am I wrong (or right) on this?  Oh, and keep in mind, it was submitted before last nights games.

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And the race for the Hart Trophy?  Here’s how I see the first quarter:

  1. Alex Ovechkin
  2. Ilya Kovalchuk
  3. Ryan Miller
  4. Anze Kopitar
  5. Marion Gaborik

Thoughts?

What about D-Rol? Can we call him D-Rol?

What about D-Rol? Can we call him D-Rol?

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How much higher would Dwayne Roloson’s status be if his name wasn’t Dwayne?  Dwayne has to be the english language’s worst male name.  Y’know, aside from some ahem… football player names (see: D’Brickashaw). 

Like Blaze.  Blaze Roloson.  We’d be like… “Damn.  That Blaze is quick.  What an apt name”.  Just like that.  That’s what we’d be like.

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Congrats to college teammate Jay Beagle on his first NHL goal.  Excuse me while I take a kerosene shower in a room full of candles.

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When USA Today ran my article on gay slurs, a lotta stuff happened.  All the sudden I was on the phone with GLAAD, discussing getting media trained to speak on TV about the issue.  And, courtesy a few less-than-polite readers, I found out that, apparently, contrary my own (or fiance’s) knowledge, it turns out that I myself am  not-so-into the ladyfolk.

bucciMost note-worthy was an email I got from Brendan Burke, son of Leafs GM Brian Burke.  After that, I corresponded with him and his brother, and got the go ahead from big Burke to write Brendan’s story.  That same day, Brendan found out he had the opportunity to have his story be seen by more eyes, and heard by more ears, so I let the story be told with the most exposure possible.  ESPN’s John Buccigross posted Brendan’s story today (and did a nice job), and tomorrow, he’ll be plugging Bourne’s Blog and running a little response I gave him during our email correspondance.  So everybody be on your best behaviour when our new guests arrive then.  Dress nice.

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Anybody else get the vibe that Detroit is gonna limp around all year, beat some teams, lose some games, start getting healthy in Febuary, start clicking in March, and be the world’s scariest 6/7/8 seed?  Y’know, assuming Jimmy Howard gets hot too? (insert “Chris Osgood is a Hall-of-Famer” comments here.  ….Yeah, and maybe he’ll bring Kurt Warner as his date to the induction)

I do love me some hip-hop culture though.

I do love me some hip-hop culture though.

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I’m really looking forward to the Flyers getting home ice in playoffs (again), looking nearly unbeatable (again), putting up a really good fight (again), and having their hearts ripped out by weak goaltending when they need it the most (again).

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I’m also really looking forward to the chaos that is playoffs, since some of the best teams in the league have mediocre goaltending.  I think Chicago and Washington have the best teams, but by having ”decent” goaltending (too generous?), the door gets opened up for teams like Calgary, San Jose, and… and… f**k.  Why am I having trouble convincing myself New Jersey is a top team, especially after such a great start?

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Thanks for your continued support of the blog.  If you don’t already, you can follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtbourne

Best Bar in Alaska

 

First, thanks to Tom May of Eagle River, Alaska.  Donations are what keeps Bourne’s Blog alive, and allows me to make it better.  I’m sincerely grateful.

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Hockey players, like most athletes (check that, most humans), like to drink occassionally.  After the game, there’s no better time to sit down, decompress, and have a beer.  After your “nutrition window” has passed (no later than 20 – 30 minutes after you stop exercising, eat/drink something with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio to help your muscles recover the fastest… interestingly, chocolate milk is almost the perfect answer), a beer or two is actually not bad for you.

Especially after the game, when the impossi-sleep phenomenon happens.  Chalk it up to adrenalin, or just the general alertness it takes to play a game as fast as hockey, but most guys have a zero percent chance of falling asleep soon after a game.  Sometimes you play the next day, maybe an afternoon game, and there’s just no hope. So a few beer helps.

Now that I’m done justifying alcoholism, let’s talk bars.

Of all the fancy spots and dive joints I’ve set foot in post-game, no place comes anywhere near one place:

F STREET STATION, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA.

(Yes, the store on the corner is called Once In A Blue Moose)

(Yes, the store on the corner is called Once In A Blue Moose)

Originally a pilots bar, it’s now the meeting place of the two major hockey teams in Alaska, the ECHL’s Aces and the WCHA’s Seawolves.

A smallish, well-lit bar, F Street (see also: ”Effer” or “The Streeter“) has a few unique, endearing qualities:

1) The Food – Anchorage, in general, has some really great seafood.  F Street combines this with the best qualities of pub food, for the most amazing halibut sandwiches and calimari in North America (of course, this is all personal opinion.  But it’s a blog, so fuck, you knew that).  Oh, and great fries.  And soups.  And burgers.  And… And…

2) The Drinks – Everything out of Mason Jars (excluding wine – but shots, mix drinks, beer, everything), and poured liberally.  Though Alaskan pricing is a complete hose-job (no drink specials allowed in the state), they tend to overlook a couple beverages on the bills of regulars.  Hence, they’re regulars.

Andi

Andi

3) The Staff – I’m not certain that everyone is still there, but I think they are.  They tracked down about five of the only six normal girls in the state, and hired them (commence with the hate mail).  Andi is the ring-leader, while Jill, Tiffany, Angela, Kim and the rest of girls are great too.  Oh, and they’re girls.  And it’s Alaska.  So [A] plus [B] eqauls [it's busy in there]. (Does Cartwright date Audrey now?  Did I hear that rumour somewhere, Alaskan friends?).  Also, I wanna say it’s Carlos that works the grill there.  He rules.

4) The Candy Jars - There’s probably three or four littered around the place – huge glass jars packed with candy, from mini-chocolate bars, to mints, caramels, candies, whatever.  And you just help yourself.  Not sure how many drunk nights you’d see a table of college kids eat like, half a jar, but it happens.  And they don’t care.

5) The Block of Cheese – sitting under the “for display only” sign (for health inspector reasons, I assume), is a HUGE block of cheese under saran wrap, with one of those cheese peeler draggy things.  And a tub of saltines, in packs.  And you grab a napkin, peel slabs of fresh cheese off, grab some crackers, and call it an appetizer.  It’s amazing.

6) The Bell – Ring the bell if you want to buy the house a round (before editing, that said “buy a roundhouse”.  I wonder if Chuck Norris serves them…).  Or, you can trick your first-timer buddy to walk in and ring the bell.  The regulars will lift their heads off the bar and cheer, I promise.  Actually, and more accurately, the bell is used by some guy who, wasted, rings the bell and runs out, thus disappointing a whole fleet of fellow boozebagians.

There’s a million little nuanced reasons to love the bar – all I know is any bar that’s fun at noon-on-Tuesday or midnight-on-Saturday is doin’ something right.  Nice decor too.  Copper roof.

Our team was fortunate enough to go out in nearly every city to which we ventured in college, and there’s still nothing like F-Street {Tangent brackets:  I vaguely recall two underage current NHL Gophers getting “shots on the house” post-game in Alaska – about 50% food colouring.  It was embarrassing hilarious unfortunate.}

Here’s some “honorary mention” names that come to mind from the road in college… thanks for showing me a good time. (I’d love a review of these places from locals):  Hooligans in Mankato (or South Street Saloon), Brothers (or Sallys) in Minneapolis, The Red Carpet in St. Cloud, The Downtowner in Michigan, Judy’s in North Dakota, that bar in Denver where Tom May poured an entire pitcher down his throat (not the Tom May that donated to the blog), and State Street Brats in Madison, Wisconsin.

 And last, a piece of F-Street (like I said, once a pilots bar) that’s permanently engrained in my memory, just above the urinal.  Ohhh, college.  Sighhh….

F Street Sign

Thanks for the pics Frank.

And For His Next Act, Dorsett Slips On A Banana Peel

 

And now, your bi-daily violent hit review – the hit-from-behind on Columbus player Derek Dorsett, courtesy James Neal.

First, thanks to Bob Mckenzie for the review of “I think there’s a chance there could be a suspension here”.  Let’s continue discussing while we scour the ice for the rest of Dorsett’s frontal lobe.

Second, WEAR A FUCKING VISOR, Derek. 

Third, okay, the hit is horrible.  Dorsett is really really hurt.  We need to stop this stuff.  ….But that was funny, right?  I mean, wasn’t it exactly how a vaudeville actor would have played “getting knocked unconscious?”  Or like, in a pre-teeny-after-school-special type show?  Right over backwards, arms out wide?  Okay, okay, you’re right, it was brutal.    ….Ohscrewyou, that was funny.

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Pre-season this year, I predicted the St. Louis Blues to be a sneak-into-playoffs type team, then they got off to a real crap start.  Then, I predicted the Coyotes to get off to a real crap start, and they came out looking like a sneak-into-playoffs type team (or Stanley Cup winner, depending on who you ask).

He shoots, he's old!

He shoots, he's old!

Though I’ve backed off on the Coyote bashing, I’ll take this chance to re-affirm my stance that the Blues are good.  With their goaltending, and depth at forwards, their ship has to turn around eventually.  And if not, I’ll start blaming totally arbitrary things like their schedule, or being stuck in a tough division with Nashville and Columbus.

I also predicted Chicago to win the Presidents trophy.  I’m not far off on that one, but I may have overlooked the fact that the Capitals division – Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida is the most nauseatingly poor grouping of teams since the WNBA (ahhh, felt good to get another shot in.  Been awhile).

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You can say what you like about last nights Toronto/Carolina game – battle for the basement, two teams who can’t hold a lead, whatever… but for fans buying a ticket to a hockey game, that was epic.

Not many fans out there appreciate the nuances of a fine goaltending duel - but they all love what they saw out there last night.  Props to those who stayed to watch the last 30 seconds after the ‘Canes did their best to puke the game away in the last minute.  No, no… not props.  Big ups.  I’m switching to using “big ups” more.  Big ups to ‘Canes fans.

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Stan, the very very Jewish man.

Stan, the very very Jewish man.

Everyone who had the Devils leading their division (vs. Philly, Pitt, the Rangers and… my Isles) raise their hand.  Liars.  Put your hand down.

On the topic of the Devils, I put in a call to my buddy Stan Fischler yesterday – “The Maven” as he’s affectionately known, deserves at least a whole post, and I will get to that.  For now, I want to do two things – One, thank him for applying to get me NHL credentials (I’ll occassionally submit pieces on the Coyotes for his newsletter, in exchange), and two, plug his new book Who’s Better: Rangers, Devils, Islanders or the Flyers? (Hint: it’s not the Rangers)

It’s a full comparison of each team’s history, everything from goaltending to tough guys to best Cup-winning team.  Oh, and I wrote the story of Dad’s end-to-end rush against the Rangers for Stan.  So, you know… that was sorta cool.

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Have a great weekend folks.  Oh, and watch this.  I legitimately “lol’ed”:

Bench Buddies

 

Isn’t that a chilling picture below?  Ugh. 

Also chilling – Chris Drury has been listed as “out indefinitely” due to “interment and severe post-consussion syndrome”.  As a frequent essay-length commenting friend of mine (Neil) recently pointed out, of all the head shots that deserve some attention, how has the Glencross/blindside/headshot/clippy-elbow-thing passed by without the usual horror?

And last, on head shots - this is my latest take on it, for The Hockey News.  When will the players do something about it?

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Sometimes, for some reason, your coach just thinks you mesh well with a particular player on your team.  Or that you’re the same type of player.  Or that you’re style’s don’t fit with other players.  Or something.  The point is, sometimes you just get stuck with some random dude on your team for like, the whole year.

And you hate the guy.lucic

Not just playing with him.  But sitting beside him on the bench.  All year.  Maybe he’s a guy who likes to draw up plays on his glove between shifts (because we run so many set plays in hockey).  Maybe he’s an apologizer.  Sorry bout that pass man, it rolled on me.  That was my guy, sorry.  I thought the d-man had him.  And all you can think is ihateyou ihateyou ihateyou ihateyou…

Basically, I was thinking about how I bet I’d really dislike Milan Lucic (no offense to anyone, but in general, I found “major junior” players to be retarded, and thus, less likely to be people I enjoy), which got me thinking about sitting beside some big mook on your line who says cocky stuff like “he’s lucky he saw me at the end or I woulda killed him”.  How was I suppposed to respond to those comments?  Yep, you’re the toughest.

It’s nice that I don’t have to worry about pissing off too many major junior players by writing that, because not many of them can read….

Sorry.  I’m having random bench flashbacks here, and typing them unfiltered through they keyboard feels good. 

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Dear rec league players:

Isn’t stopping like, the worst thing ever?  Seriously.  How much of a pain-in-the-ass is it when you know “wow, if I don’t stop and get that puck I’m gonna look suuuper lazy“.  Kills your whole momentum.  By the time you get up to speed again, you’re tired and have to change.

uuugggghhh stopping succckkksss

uuugggghhh stopping succckkksss

Stopping wasn’t my forte as a player.  Not that I wasn’t good at it, as much as I much preferred the large, ineffective circling swoop until I needed to hit top gear.  Coaches call that move the ”getting benched” or something like that. 

So with no coach, how great is never stopping?  I’m like the olympic logo in rec league.  All circles.

Man. 

I’m really diggin’ it.

Love,

Bourne.

Gary, Unharried

 

Everyone seems to hate Gary Bettman, and I think I’m supposed to too.  I’m just not certain why.

Sure, I know he can seem smug and unlikeable.  And I haven’t always agreed with everything he’s said, or the way he promotes (or rather, doesn’t) the NHL.  But overall, I think he does the job pretty well.

Canadians, more than anyone, hate the guy.  Check out the Macleans magazine interview with him.  I couldn’t get over the questions he was asked, like he has some grand plan to royally f**k the game, screw Canada specifically, then disappear into the mountains somewhere.

Look, I even used a non-weasely picture of him.

Look, I even used a non-weasely picture of him.

Somehow to the interviewer, the fact that Canada didn’t get another hockey team overshadowed the more important stats – that the league has been doing better in all the major categories (revenue, attendence, merchandise, etc.) for four years now.  The game is fun to watch again, players are earning fair contracts, and teams that we once feared we’d lose (I’m looking at you, Alberta) are on solid ground thanks to revenue sharing (and a stronger Canadian dollar).

I can’t imagine how much Bettman has learned in his days as Commissioner.  This guys knows the ins and outs of the job better than any new guy handed the baton would, and think – is there really a commissioner in any sport that’s liked?  David Stern (NBA) is an asshole, right?  Bud Selig (MLBA) is an asshole too, isn’t he?  And what of Goodell (NFL)?  What’s he so mad about in all his interviews?

It’s a tough, unpopular job.  You’re the figurehead that absorbs the abuse, in Bettman’s case, the chastising taken for trying to restore the league into the American consciousness.  Just because you disagree with the guy doesn’t make him a pedarest or something.  He hasn’t committed an actual crime along the way that I’m aware of, did he?  Did he test positive for steroids somewhere along the line?

There were times in the US when the NHL was a punchline.  Not only were no highlights shown on TV (or respect given anywhere, really), but I think I only heard about the league when metaphors for dead things were needed.  Yup. Dog got hit by a car. I walked out the front door, and he was just layin’ there, deader than the NHL.  Poor thing never had a chance.  Sports radio hosts crucified it.  These days, those same hosts are scrambling to get to know the league again so they can at least hold a conversation on our resurgent sport.

The league has done a great job of taking Crosby and Ovechkin, making them saviours, and watching the game grow with them.  Crosby winning a cup?  No small potatoes for a league that certainly needed a boost like that.  People actually tuned in to watch it happen (watch, this year it’ll be an Atlanta/Nashville final).

I’m not saying I wanna hang out with Bettman.  Let’s just acknowledge that he has done some good for the game, and that he might have one of the toughest jobs in America.  Probably the toughest job in sports.

If you read my blog, you probably like hockey.  And Bettman has done well to bring the game back into the “major four sports” category.  You can’t hate on that.

*****

Just don't eat me coach, and I'll listen... Just calm down, and don't eat me.

Just don't eat me coach, and I'll listen... Just calm down, and don't eat me.

Random sidebar: The coach of the Kansas Jayhawks football team is “under investigation” (what, for eating porkribs for breakfast?  Have you seen the size of this guy?) for apparently “grabbing a player, jamming his finger into his chest”… and something else inconsequential.  There might be more, but I just heard that much on SportsCenter.

I’ve been sitting on stories about my junior coach, waiting to turn it into a five part series or something but… f**k.  These kids are reporting their coach because he got slightly physical?  And they’re football players?  No wonder they’ve started losing games.

My junior coach had a “f**k up and get hacked” rule.  You didn’t listen, he shot a puck at you.  And not low.  He pinned me to the glass with his stick under my throat for laughing while he was explaining something.  Skated nearly the length of the ice after seeing me laugh.  It wasn’t cool, but whatever.  What, I’m gonna quit cause I have to listen?  Report it to SportsCenter?  Get a lawyer? 

Man up, Kansas.

*****

One more thing.  To the woman he did this to her poodle for Halloween… go sit in the corner and think about what your life has become.

poodle

 

Love-of-Team Tilts and The Skate-By

 

When Clark Gillies is your Dad, you can say this:

During the Coyotes/Lightnight game, Paul Bissonnette fought Matt Walker (first names learned after extensive Googling).  Bri, Clarks daughter and my fiance, says “Oh…. oh this is awkward.  I can’t watch.  *glancing through fingers* …Just so embarrassing…” 

I laughed my ass off.  Cause really… a fight where two semi-mad guys have good defensive jersey holds…. ain’t no Clark Gillies tilt (Bossy gets run in the corner just before the fight - long version is on YouTube): 

And actually, that video is a nice intro to this weeks USA Today column.  I write a bit of a theory on why we’re seeing more players get their cantaloupe’s cracked with no suspension and rarely a real follow-up fight.  Enjoy.

*****

I hate the “goal-score skate-by”.

HATE IT.

There’s no quicker way for your teammates to build lingering resentment towards you than to score a goal, and insist on skating somewhere past the closest guy to get your extra four seconds of glory.  Curtis Glencross, my teammate in Alaska, was the king of this.  He’d skate by your open arms after a back-door pass he tapped in to go jump into the glass.  God, he loved him some glass jump.

This was not me.  The whole fun of the celebration is the stupid nonsensical shit that gets said in the pile anyways.  Especially in college, where skating down the bench is allowed – guys are so fired up half they time they hustle more than they did on the actual goal.

But watching the NHL today, there’s still a large number of (*cough*euros*cough*) people doing the skate-by.  Which is why I was extremely happy to see the Penguins overtime winner the other day.  Dupuis scores, starts to skate mach six in the other direction, realizes that Staal went behind the net, stole the puck and passed it to him, and throws on the breaks.  I officially like Dupuis now.  Showed he has a conscience.

What a finish to that game.  You know it’s a dangerous 3 on 2 when Sidney Crosby has the least dangerous shot on the rush.  Attaway Billy G.

Best WCHA Rinks

 

In order, my top three favourite college arena’s to play in.  Really, they’re overall favourites too, because no pro environment can match having a live band, student sections, chants and all the goodies of a college game. 

Of course, my home rink, Sullivan Arena, is my overall favourite, based on the memories we had there, the fans, and the fact that to this day, its the best ice surface I’ve ever stepped foot on.  It’s like playing in fast forward it’s so hard and fast.  So this is just road rinks.  And just so you know, those of you who were in the student sections when I was playing, the “What’s-a-Sea-wolf clap-clap clap-clap-clap” chant isn’t original.  ITS A MYTHICAL CREATURE OF THE SEA, DAMNIT!

3. University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Ralph Engelstad Arena

Yep, it's purty.

Yep, it's purty.

An arena with a serious ”NHL feel” to it.  But man, when they fill their 12-13,000 seat arena, they make some damn good college-style noise.  You know when you’re skating onto the big stage of Ralph Englestad Arena that there’s NHL scouts there, and that you’re going to have to defend Jonathan Toews, TJ Oshie, Zach Parise, and the two most dangerous players (seriously, the following two were tougher college players to defend than the previous three) Ryan Duncan (what, 5’5″, maybe?) and Brandon Bochenski (somewhere in the AHL?).

“The Ralph” as its affectionately known, stands out on the North Dakota horizon like a bird of paradise hanging out with penguins.  In the midst of flat, cold winter sits this huge, sharp-looking brick building with logo’s everywhere.  You get excited to play there.  And why not?  You only get to play there a couple times a year, at best.

2. University of Wisconsin Badgers, The Kohl Center

Let the record show that I hate #31, Nick Licari.

Let the record show that I hate #31, Nick Licari.

Narrowly, oh so narrowly, in second.

As a freshman on the 8th seeded team, we went into Wisconsin’s Kohl Center to play their 3rd seeded Badgers in a best of three and won.

The next year, we blew a two goal-third period lead in game three (and by “blew a lead”, I mean Joe Pavelski “took the game”) to narrowly miss upsetting them in playoffs again.  But this building is amazing.

Seating somewhere around 15,000+ people, all of them in red, they make the visitors walk alongside the student section and band before and after each period, making for more than one fan-to-player altercation that I can remember.  The entire powerplay, they chant something similar to Atlanta Braves fans.  Our goalie’s helmet came off, they chanted “ugly goalie”.  The ref fell, the chanted “ice is slippery”.  They chant “sieve”.  They count the goals off after every goal.  “1! 2! 3! You just sucked!  You just sucked!  You just sucked!”  Our goalie literally got the words “band geeks” painted on the back of his helmet just to get some silent retribution for the years of abuse he took there.  Now, that’s a special environment.

And even though I missed when Heatley was there, doesn’t mean they didn’t have some great, hard-working players for us to deal with too – Adam Burrish, Jack Skille, Jake Dowell and the like were the third line grinders that always ended up beating us while we were trying to shut down the ever-flashy Robbie Earl and the steady Joe Pavelski.  Tom Gilbert running their PP was deadly.  And Ryan Suter was the only college player to call me a “bender”.  So I hate him too.

1. University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mariucci Arena

Banners tend to indicate success.

Banners tend to indicate success.

Ahh, the mystique of the Gophers.  The history.

This is like going to play the Yankees.  Everybody but Yankee fans hate the Yankees.  It’s rarely a passive “meh, they’re whatever”.  Minnesota loves their Gophers, and everybody else hates them.  But you can’t take away from the fact that they’re the best in baseball (or in this case, college hockey), and similarly, they have the most tools and money at their disposal to be great. It’s why Mass-holes would rather hate the Yankees than like the Red Sox.  And why it’s fun to go play them.

This place is number one for me strictly because its the best “college”-style environment.  They have gold seats shaped in a big “M” in the midst of the maroon ones.  I don’t think you’re allowed in the door without team colours on.  And the surface is roughly the size of the moon, and you’re chasing around Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo, Alex Goligoski and Blake Wheeler.  And Tomas Vanek.  And Keith Ballard.  And Eric Johnson.  And about 93 guys in the AHL.  And I’m sure I’m forgetting some huge names. 

There’s just something about being there that you have to experience.

*UPDATE – Major amendment to my original post.  When Minny scores, and the fans all do the “M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A… Minnesota! Minnesota! GOooooooooOOOO Gophers!” chant, and it’s a big goal, there’s just no feeling like being on the other side of that.  Instant momentum for the home team, no matter what happened prior.  It’s amazing.

So there’s my top three:

The Ralph.

The Kohl Center.

Mariucci.

Best. Punch. Ever.

 

There’s something unique about every city in the world, but no place has unique like Alaska.  When my uncle moved from New York, he had to have an NY parking ticket to commemorate his years there.

Ours wasn't nearly this "cherry".

Ours wasn't nearly this "cherry".

When I left Alaska, I wanted a couple of items to commemorate my time, too.  I’m still two items short of completing my mission.  One is a WLFHKY vanity plate from the Geo Tracker that my roommate and I spent $400 total dollars on and drove for three years (we left the car as a tip for our waitress on the way to the airport.  For real.  Title, registration, paperwork and all.  Thanks for the good service).

And second, for which I’d like to enlist the help of an Alaskan reader, if there’s anyway you can send me a placemat from Sea Galley, I’d be extremely grateful.  Our team ate pregame meal there for four years, and the mat lists everything you need to know about the state of Alaska, which of course we memorized as a part of our meal-time trivia game routine - if you were called on, you had to answer the state bird (Willow Ptarmigan), flower (Forget-Me-Not… I did), state gem (jade) and a million other things about the state that you weren’t aware it had an “official” one of (I had to google two of those three… embarrassing).

Also, as a mini-trivia question to those of you from Anchorage… what other facts are on the Sea Galley placemat?

*****

You know it's not my picture, cause this guy owns some crazy bike.

You know it's not my picture, cause this guy owns some crazy bike. But that's the highway.

The University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves do a rookie party like no other.  And I mean literally, because no other school has the option to drive you into the middle of the wilderness by a glacial river.  And let the record show that “drive you into the middle of nowhere” means stay on the Seward Highway for about 22 minutes from downtown, then decide that’s not “middle” enough, and continue on for two more unnecessary hours.

Here’s how the greatest punch I’ve ever seen got thrown:

Rookie party all starts back at the dressing room the day before the weekend, when the older three classes pair up, put the rookies in as many layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts and jerseys as possible, then stick them in the sauna while conducting a draft.  The sauna part is totally unnecessary, it’s just funny for the other guys cause the rookies need to leave the room for a bit anyways.

The oldest seniors get to draft the first overall rookie.  That lucky rookie (and everyone after) has to buy all the food and booze for an overnight trip for the three of you.  It’s about a 100$ hit, but after your rookie year the trip is free, so whatever.  The trick is to draft a rookie with rich parents so you can get steaks and good beer over hotdogs and Natty Light (those “are your parents rich” questions seem awkward the first week).

Upon your arrival in nowheresville, Edward 40hands is the first go-to drinking event of choice for most guys.

That’s when a 40 oz. beer is taped to both hands with duct tape, and can’t be untaped until both are empty.  It makes having to pee a difficult situation, so you better drink that second one quickly.

The night is highlighted by rookie olympics, which is essentially explained best by the sentence ”here, drink this, spin your head on this, run there, and drink that”.  The theme, if you’re still missing it, is that you drink a lot.

Billy Smith was a rookie (plays at Northern Michigan now) with Jolly (both born and bred Alaskans, which you can tell from a ten minute conversation with either of them), and neither of them tended to drink all that much all that often.  So chalk it up to that, cause these guys generally really liked each other.

I was walking by Smith when I heard him make a joke to Jolly.  Like a genuine, big smile, joke.  And while Billy smiled, Jolly pulled his left hand back, and in a smooth, natural, football throwing motion, punched Smith dead square in his mouth.  For no reason.

Wonder if that's the one Chad Anderson tried to ride?

Wonder if that's the one Chad Anderson tried to ride?

Smith fell back like he was about to make a snow angel.  Thinking there was gonna be trouble, someone went to get between the two when Smith bounced up, lips bleeding, smiling, and gave Jolly a big hug, then went on his way.  Happy drunk, huh?  End of event.  Nothing further.  It was the dudiest dude moment I’ve ever seen.

It’s the rugged Alaskan in them both.  Hell, I woke up my rookie year in a sleeping bag by a river – it had to be below freezing, maybe 7 a.m.  I moved my eyes, not my head (which was covered in frost), and there was a moose about 50 feet to my left.  This was my first month in Alaska, and my first “what the hell did I do to my life?” moment.  At least I didn’t get socked in the mouth, I guess.

Alaska.  Where dudes punch dudes near moose.  Now there’s a goddamn official state slogan.

Best. Coach. Ever.

 

Did I over-PC my blog?  I think I may have.  Lord knows I’ve been tap-dancing around issues lately, and that’s no fun.  So let’s collectively loosen up.

Let’s start with an unedited fuck you to Jose Theodore, who is apparently unaware that he’s my fantasy goalie, and so posted a 26.09 GAA with a .400 save percentage last night with no regard for my fantasy team.  Thanks.  That’ll be really easy to bounce back from with CAREY FUCKING PRICE as my other goaltender.

Sorry about the language.

Moving on.

*****

From the SPHL, here’s the type of person that made hockey so quittable for me:

 ’

Keep in mind that unless your coach has a YouTube worthy meltdown to get him fired, sometimes you’re just stuck with a dumbass for a coach.  On that train of thought, let’s put a positive spin on it…

The Best Coach I Ever Had

Still a taaad manipulative, but good at his job.

Still a tad manipulative, but good at his job.

The best coach I ever had was my coach for less than two months, Davis Payne.

After my senior year of college, I had a few classes to wrap up, so I wasn’t able to go anywhere to start playing professionally.  Fortunately for me, Davis gave me the chance to join the Alaska Aces and at least get my feet wet playing in the ECHL playoffs, since I was there anyways.  They let me miss games when I had tests to take, and took me on the road when I was able to go.  I felt like Mario goddamn Lemieux. “No, I’ll just play games, thanks”.

Certainly that doesn’t qualify him as a good coach though… this does:

We were prepared with Davis.  X’s and O’s-wise, I mean.

“Old school coaches” that GM’s and owners love to hire (“nobody’s slackin’ on our team!”) beat up the same tired mantra.  It’s about hard work.

Gotta be ready from the drop of the puck!  Finish checks!  Out-work ‘em down low!  Gogogo!  …Oh we lost?  We got outworked.  See you at practice tomorrow.

Davis would still preach hard work, but he prepares his teams too.  Before each game, the whiteboard was JAMMED with information.  Those crib notes included our opponents most used breakouts, their powerplay breakouts, powerplay setups, who to “key on” (who’s the most frequent PP shooter, stay in his lane), what their penalty kill setup is, goalie’s weakness etc.  Then, the list of all of our info… same stuff, other side.

He had it up as soon as we walked in the room, so guys could grab a coffee and study up before he came in and went over it all.

Between periods, he made adjustments.  “They switched from a box plus-one on the powerplay to an umbrella, here’s our counter-adjustment…”

And we had the confidence of absolutely knowing we were more prepared than our opponent, especially in the ECHL (the year before that season they won the Kelly Cup, and that year we went to the conference finals).  And having played for three other coaches in the ECHL, I can tell you that we were way, way (way), more prepared on that team than any other team I’ve been on since.

And so you work hard, but you don’t waste energy.  You’re in the right spots.

On that team, I never felt like I came to feel in the following seasons, like I was chasing the puck around like a cat after a laser pointer.  Ohthereitgoes!  Thereitisagain!  CrapIcan’tgetit.

Which is why I believe the style of coach needed in the NHL has changed, but some teams haven’t realized it yet.  Mike Kennan?  Gimme a break. 

If you think Mike Babcock has had so much success just because of Datsyuk and Zetterberg, you’re nuts (don’t forget he had, ahem, Chris Osgood in net).  Plenty of coaches have stars to work with.  “The wings dig up amazing talent” isn’t an infrequent comment.  My contention is that maybe they do, but also, maybe they just put them in the best situations to be successful, they way Bill Belichick makes good players great in New England.  No, no, it was that Matt Cassel has a rocket arm.  Was it?

So there ya have it.  Cheers to the Davis Payne’s of the world.

*****

Davis is now the Head Coach of the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen, and in my opinion, a likely candidate for Andy Murray’s job next year.

*****

In the eight playoff games they chucked me in, I think I had 3 and 2 for 5, but was semi-retarded the first few times I attempted his “layering” d-zone theory.  I was used to my college “cover their D” job as a winger, better known as “don’t let Alex Goligoski get the puck”, or the ”don’t ever let Matt Carle shoot” theory. 

Unwanted Puck Bunnies

 

First and very foremost today, HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY to my old balls brother, who a couple weeks ago wasn’t sure if he’d make it to today.  Well he did, bringing his total to 10,950 days of not dying in a row.  A pretty nice streak to put together.  Very consistent.  Love ya bro.

*****

I’ve been asked what I’d like my intro music to be for my weekly spot on XM’s fantasy hockey show.  Yes, I’m still giving advice on fantasy hockey despite being below .500 in my own league.  Hey, Butch Harmon can’t break 90, take a hike.  Any suggestions?  It’s gotta be something badass – after much cogitation, I’m thinking of using the ten-second-in point of “Hip Hop” by Dead Prez:

 

Wow, that sounds a little tinny on the computer.  I swear that baseline is cool in my car.

What about something from my favourite band, Jimmy Eat World?  A little Pain?

 

If you don’t like that song, you can stop reading here and go back to Rick Reilly.

*****

Frank (the Tank) from Alaska has fired me a few topics over the past couple weeks, and they seem like good ones to address.  I’ll start with a fun one today.

Unwanted attention from “puck bunnies” (simply to be known as “pucks” from here out.  That’s how they’re known in the locker room anyway.  It’s been minimized to ”she’s a puck” due to the ridiculous amount of words that follow “puck”).puck bunny 2

I’m in the midst of writing a column on the not-so-elusive puck bunny.  Her natural habitat is in the arena, and her modus operandi involves being ever-so-slightly underdressed and ever-so-boldly overmakeuped.  Yes, overmakedup is a word, just ask any middle school teacher.  The player’s Moms hate them, though their Dads are less inclined to feel as negatively about their existence.

The best of the best can earn an unflattering team-nickname-related monikers.  In my day, the Vernon Vipers girls were known as ”Viper Pipers”.  Please note that I had a girlfriend for all those years, as I’m sure my Mom and un-puck-like fiance would encourage me to point out here. 

Moving on.

But Frank makes a good point.  What about the girls who seem to want to be pencilled into that category?  What’s goin on in their kitchens?  The ones who’re conviniently (and conspicuously) hanging around the right places – by the cars, the post-game meal restaurant, wherever – even though nobody wants anything to do with them (“them”, being the specific, uninvited type).  I want one of them to walk me through their thinking.

What’s worse is that it makes it look like we, as players, support the pseudo-stalking.  No, I didn’t invite her.  I don’t know why she’s here either.  Who knows her?  If we find out that someone invited this same girl that’s been hanging around for the last three months, its a fine.  And nobody ever gets fined.  Some how these girls just keep showing up at the right places, like the locker room is bugged.

Forgot to photocopy her ID next to the #, apparently.

Forgot to photocopy her ID next to the #, apparently.

 I assure you, that behaviour is not encouraged.  My family doesn’t want to see my name on a non-hockey-specific sign. When the attention is a completely unprompted anomaly, how do you explain it away?  Why does our reputation always seem to be on the hook when some girls out there are simply a skateblade short of the scene in Psycho?

As I may have mentioned in an article that drew some uh, feedback, the hockey culture is incredibly misogynistic.  And I occasionally make jokes about oh, I dunno, the WNBA and the like, so I’m aware I’m no saint.  Thus, at the risk of once again putting myself in the crosshairs, let me lay out the reasons women should be at men’s hockey games (editors keep correcting my use of “girls” to “women”. I wasn’t aware being termed a “girl” was derogatory, as has been recently discussed in a comments section. “Lets go boys” might be the most overused mid-game expression in our sport, and my feelings aren’t hurt.  But anyway.  Onto the reasons).

1. You like hockey.

Crazy concept, I know.  A lot of women love the game for the same reason a lot of men do: … it’s great.

2. Your husband/fiance is on the team.

Obviously.  You’re married (or to be married).  End of explanation.

3. Your boyfriend is on the team.

Ah, the puck bunny loophole.  “Boyfriend” means different things to different people.  Memorizing a guy’s bio, listening to his interviews and staring at his picture may make it feel like you’re together, but unless you know his family, save yourself the hour of pre-game prep (minimum?) and go play Farmville.  Whatever that is.

4. Your son is on the team.

That should be the number one reason to be there, actually.

5. ….um… anyone got a #5?

*****

The floor is yours people.  Keep the sexist slander to a minimum, if you don’t mind.

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