Hockey

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins

I have watched quite a bit of hockey this year, and I am sad to see this season end without a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Pens fans should have had the chance to watch their team raise the cup on their home ice, but what are you going to do?

My observations are:

Nashville's fans are amazing, but they have to stop throwing dead catfish on the ice.

The turnout around Nashville's arena is like something out of an owner's dream. The people who partied outside in Preds jerseys and brought their support of the team to downtown Nashville demonstrates that this is a franchise that will stick around.

The fans inside of the arena stood and clapped for the opposing team at the end. This is beyond classy and is unheard of in many, many arenas throughout the league. Nashville is now a real hockey town, and they should be accorded the respect that goes with it. They turned out for the series, the local celebrities showed up, and the people there made it work. Anyone thinking of signing with the Predators was just shown a damned good reason why doing so would be a no-brainer. They support their team in Nashville, and they understand the game.

The Pens are probably going to dump some players and that's good for everyone looking for playoff experience. A three-peat? Nope, don't think so. This series should have been over after the 4th game. In all four of the first games played, Nashville was the better team in every one of them. They didn't get the breaks they needed on the road, and that's what sunk them.

The NBC announcing crew is the absolute worst in all of hockey. Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire are unlistenable. I simply do not care where these guys played their junior hockey, and the wordplay and the double entendres are difficult to endure. We have watched much of the series with the sound off. I don't care about Eddie Olczyck because there is furniture in the room with more insight. I miss Bill Clement, I wish Coach Barry was out there, and virtually all of the NHL teams have announcer pairs that could do a better job. Bob Miller will go down as one of the all-time greatest announcers in NHL history, and he never got the break he deserved. NBC's crew couldn't hold a candle to Bob Miller. 

Not impressed with the idea that we'll have a "new" franchise next year. The Las Vegas Golden Knights? Really? Okay, then.

Darryl Sutter is Out of a Job

This really surprised me today:

The Los Angeles Kings have fired coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi, who led the franchise to its only two Stanley Cup championships.

The Kings on Monday also promoted former defenseman Rob Blake to vice president and general manager, while longtime executive Luc Robitaille will be their new team president in charge of all hockey and business operations.

Everyone knows why the Kings had a rough year. They lost Jonathan Quick at the beginning of the season and didn't find a suitable replacement. They had a roster that couldn't get it done, but it's not like they don't have the talent around which you can build a great team. How does firing Sutter fix the roster problems the Kings face in the years ahead?

How do you do that to the guy who brought two Stanley Cups to a franchise that had none? Hockey is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kinda sport, and that's how they're doing things in Los Angeles. If they can get a good coach and get back into contention, well, I guess that would prove me wrong. I was of a mind to see them make roster changes and come back next year and do fairly well, but how likely is that now?

Fake Tickets for the Stanley Cup Finals

I wonder how often this goes on:

Pittsburgh police say two Massachusetts men printed up bogus Stanley Cup Final tickets and tried to sell them outside the Penguins arena.

Police say Quincy resident John Green and Wareham resident Ronald Seeley were spotted Wednesday outside Consol Energy Center, where the Penguins were hosting the San Jose Sharks in the second game of the best-of-seven series.

One witness told police the men offered to sell him six tickets for $200 each. Police say the face value of the tickets is at least $235 each.

Police say the men tried to drive away but were caught with nearly $1,400 in cash and 18 fake tickets. Police say the men were trying to rip some of the tickets up.

Professionals? Irate Bruins fans? Or were they just preying on people who showed up for the game and tried to buy some tickets from scalpers outside of the arena?

None of the above. Anyone who sells you tickets for LESS than their face value in a ridiculous quantity isn't holding the real thing. We're talking about the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. These guys should have held out for five hundred bucks a ticket and they should have gone with selling them in pairs. Now they get to deal with the cops in one of America's best hockey towns. I still don't know how they thought selling the tickets below face value was a winning strategy.

If you're going to scam people, at least know your product. Maybe this is how Bruins fans operate--to them, a Pens-Sharks matchup probably looks like a $200 deal.

The National Women's Hockey League

Women now have their own professional hockey league:

On Sunday, all four teams of the National Women’s Hockey League, the first-ever pro league for women, will drop the puck on its inaugural season. The Connecticut Whale will host the New York Riveters in Stamford, Conn., while the Boston Pride will visit the Buffalo Beauts. All four teams feature 18-player rosters stocked with Olympians and collegiate All-Americans with a $270,000 salary cap.

Make no mistake. The NWHL may be a fledgling, but it’s also legit. The teams will play 18 games apiece, all on weekends, with twice-weekly practices. There is a scheduled All-Star weekend (Jan. 23-24), a postseason in March and a draft in June. The league has received funding from private sponsors along with the NWHLFoundation, which directly supports the league as well as girls’ youth hockey. Teams will battle for the Isobel Cup, named for the daughter of the Stanley Cup’s namesake. Not too shabby for an entity that many of its own players weren’t sure they’d get to see.

This is fantastic. I hope they're able to expand quickly and add teams from the upper Midwest. There's no reason why there shouldn't be a team based in Minneapolis-St. Paul. In fact, there should be a team based in Wisconsin as well.

When the league gets underway, I think people will see that the level of play will really shine. Olympic hockey and college hockey at the women's level is very well played. You can see the skills and the dynamic of the game when you watch these events. Couple that with the fact that women's hockey is gaining traction wherever it is offered and it won't be long before we have at least a dozen teams and a television deal.

Garth Brooks Defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning

Talk about not planning for all of the contingencies:

Garth Brooks' hat trick of concerts scheduled for Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena this weekend have been canceled due to the Stanley Cup Finals. The country icon was slated to play once on Friday and twice on Saturday, but that now conflicts with Saturday's game 2 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks.

When the shows were booked months ago (a year ago or more?), no one bothered to think of the playoffs, and that's okay. You have to assume that every team everywhere is going to tank and blow it and lose a wheel or two on the way to the playoffs. Now that the Tampa Bay Lightning have confounded everything holy in the world with their success, will there be any other conflicts?

Probably not, unless someone has reserved the Amalie Arena for a show on the day of a possible game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, which is a thing no one ever plans for, apparently.

If you read the article, it's like the end of the world, except for the fact that people will get refunds.

Manufactured Outrage in Hockey


The hit sustained by Patrick Kane warranted a penalty, and the scrutiny that it got, and nobody is happy that he's going to be out of hockey for the next three months. The era where headhunters and goons deliberately injured scorers is long over, and the game isn't about that sort of thing anymore. This is the modern era of the NHL, which is a faster game played by skilled puck handlers. It's physical, but it isn't like we see chiclets on the ice every night.

I mean, the guy apologized. In the olden days, which nobody remembers, who cares what they did? These are millionaires who hop from team to team.

A fear of revenge would mean nobody would ever get on the ice. Come on.

Evander Kane Wears Sweatpants When He Wants To


I don't know what to make of this--is it the nineteen somethings again? Are we really going to rehash how important conformity and self-sacrifice are to the ethos of professional hockey? Would The Great One ever wear sweatpants when there was a rule about suits and does this mean that Evander Kane is the devil and a blistering, pus-erupting cancer on the ass end of a reconstituted franchise on the edge of nowhere?

Winnipeg has hockey again, and the sport has always struggled to figure out how to send professionals to the hinterlands to play a team sport in a socially acceptable way that will satisfy the puritan nature of the sport.

Sweat pants? Good God, man. At least wear khakis.

It's Chicago in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

 

 

 

In his first game as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, against theNew York Rangers in an Original 6 matchup, Patrick Sharp looked around cavernous United Center and that's what he saw. Six.


Actually there were some 9,000 in the building that distant night, although that figure might have been a matter of creative arithmetic. In any case, a depressed Sharp had come from a first-place team inPhiladelphia to a city where the Blackhawks couldn't get arrested.


(These were the pre-Patrick Kane taxi-in-Buffalo days.)


"It's been a big change, that's for sure," said Sharp, who arrived in December 2005, back in the bad old days of the late owner, Dollar Bill Wirtz. "Years ago I would have never expected this turnaround so quickly. It means a lot to everybody, but especially to guys like (Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook) and myself, who have been here through some pretty tough years ... I challenge anyone to find a better place to play in the league right now than Chicago."


"I just remember the first handful of games I played at home, it was pretty ugly still," said captain Jonathan Toews, who started in 2007-08. "Our people have done a great job promoting the team, but nothing is better than having a team that wins games and plays an entertaining style of hockey." Chicago has come all the way back to the Stanley Cup final, a testament to the enlightened ownership of Wirtz's son Rocky,Joel Quenneville's coaching and one of the NHL's deepest teams. The Blackhawks moved into the final with a 4-2 victory in Game 4 over the valiant, but outmanned, San Jose Sharks to complete a sweep. The final will start Saturday here if the Philadelphia Flyers eliminate Montreal on Monday, enough time to fit Keith, a Norris Trophy finalist, for seven new teeth and further amp up the city in which hockey used to feel like a root canal just five years ago.

 

 

What hockey needs is a bit of parity, and I think they're beginning to find it. To see a franchise like Chicago, let alone Washington D.C., make strong showings in the playoffs is a good thing for the sport. Once the teams are putting quality product on the ice, and once the quality of the games starts to really take off, the league has to find a way to be seen on television in the United States and around the world. Someone has to break through and show people that it really is the greatest of all sports, bar none.

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