Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

(Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images)

Early Wednesday morning, we found out about a massive mess left behind in Switzerland by Tyler Seguin. It was an amusing little story about a 20-year-old kid unaccustomed to living on his own. It was quickly overshadowed by another mess, this time created by Tom Anselmi and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, as they fired Brian Burke as the Maple Leafs General Manager.

The Leafs were a mess when Burke was hired and they’re a mess now. That’s not to say that Burke didn’t make some good moves as GM for the Leafs – he definitely did – but the overall results have remained the same, missing the playoffs in all four seasons of his tenure. it could even be argued that the Leafs have gotten worse, as their goal differential has been worse every season since 2007-08 before Burke took over. The Leafs won 36 games that season. They’ve only bettered that total once, winning 37 games in 2010-11.

So who left behind the bigger mess: Seguin or Burke?

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So… what are we doing here?

For the third time in the last 18 years, not a single National Hockey League has been played at the Christmas break. If Gary Bettman keeps signing collective bargaining agreements that aren’t sustainable to the future health of the league, I hope the next guy is a little more forward thinking…

Anyway, there’s been enough wrapping our hands around Bettman’s non-existent neck. He’s been great for the corporate side of hockey, the business owners and the season seat holders, none of which are going to up and leave the NHL as long as it’s a trendy way to entertain clients. Nobody’s given up on tickets, even though it’s just as embarrassing to be a fan of hockey these days as it is for Shane Doan to be a player. I’d include writers in there, somewhere, but we don’t matter as much as players and fans in the way the game is played or presented.

It’s December 24th and there’s no labour agreement. I think a number of outside observers believed that the National Hockey League could not be so stupid to withhold a few million dollars to guarantee the league would not play the Winter Classic, or at least the first week of January, but that was months ago we made that projection, and we’re talking about business owners who decided to put teams in Glendale, Sunrise and Atlanta.

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Earlier today Puck Daddy ran a post about the Bikini Hockey League, with Greg Wyshynski doing a running diary of the league’s promo video (above). We heard about the league awhile back, but now seeing it assembled, I feel the need to share a few thoughts on it. I feel ranty.

The concept seemed ridiculous from the get-go (the Lingerie Football League’s “success” aside), and of course, it is. First off, there’s no shortage of places to direct your eyes if you’re interested in seeing exploited women (try the internet). Secondly, it’s assumed that the hockey isn’t going to be especially spectacular, given that it’s clearly not even the focus of the league, as evidenced by the fact that actual hockey highlights make up less than a minute of said video.

So who, then, is the target audience: men who want to ogle women? (Has to be a better avenue than this, creeps.) Women who like to watch women’s hockey…but not real hockey, roller hockey where the hockey is secondary to the cleavage? (Can’t be a very big group there.) Honestly, I cannot figure out how the organizers plan to get a return on their investment, aside from the fact that Wysh and I are spreading it around and creating a buzz for it like assholes by taking it even semi-seriously. It’s like I’ve fallen prey to a troll who took the time to assemble an entire league to troll me. But fuck it, whatever, I clearly took the bait. Read the rest of this entry »

What we should be talking about

(Jared Wickerham, Getty Images)

Of all the things the lockout has taken away, the thing I miss the most is the conversations, arguments, and debates I would be having with other puckheads. One of the great benefits of NHL hockey over other forms of hockey is that it is pervasive. Here in BC, I can bring up the latest Canucks game with most of my friends and they will have seen the game, allowing us to start from a shared point of reference. If, instead, one of us brings up the latest Abbotsford Heat, Chilliwack Chiefs, or Aldergrove Kodiaks game, we can’t have a debate or argument: one of us is simply informing the other of what occurred.

Instead of conversations about the NHL, we find ourselves talking about the NBA, the trades made by the Toronto Blue Jays, and what the Vancouver Whitecaps need to do during the offseason. I have opinions – strong opinions - on the viability of the Princeton Offense in the NBA, particularly with veteran players who have played a very different style of game throughout their careers and – oh god, someone stop me.

Sometimes we even resort to topics of conversation that aren’t about sports at all.

When the conversation does turn to hockey, it’s all kinds of wrong. Instead of what we should be talking about at this time of year, it’s all idiotic nonsense with only the most tenuous connection to the game we love. While it’s all well and good to proclaim that “hockey still exists,” and I have many times, we lose something when we’re not all following the same league. We lose the common ground.

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Women's hockey offers few monetary or social rewards, but on the bright side it is full of badasses.

“Are you coming?” she asks. “On Saturday?”

The question is pointed in a particular direction, but it’s meant for the whole dressing room. Unfortunately, sans context, nobody knows what exactly it means, and the response is a mixture of open confusion and distracted fidgeting. On the far wall, a dark-haired woman with a thin face looks up from her sock-taping and asks the question everyone is obviously thinking: “What’s Saturday?”

“The Furies game. At the ACC.”

“Ohhhhhhhh yeah,” says the room, immediately buzzes into five or six distinct discussions about the game. We all got the email, with its faintly proud, faintly pleading subtext: we’ve got this big game, please please please come out, we need a crowd, we need to show the Leafs they made a good decision, we need to matter, just this once.

“I thought that was next weekend?”

“Nope, it’s this Saturday.”

“You know, I’ve never been to the ACC.”

“Really? You should go. It’s… nice.”

“You should go to support them; they’ll never get to play there again. Dream come true.”

“It’s free anyway.”

“The games are usually out at the Mastercard Centre. Ten bucks, not bad.”

“How’s the level of play?”

“It’s good. It’s fast.”

This entire situation is odd. The women I play with aren’t fans. They don’t watch hockey, unless it’s other matches in their own league or other teams in the same tournament. They love the game, of course, but they love in their own bones and muscles, not mediated by pixels and popcorn. Those mythical hockeyists who don’t give a fuck about the NHL? I have met them and they are me. Or, maybe me twenty years from now, after I’ve reconciled myself to life on the margins of hockey.

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Kevin Paul Dupont has been covering hockey for 35 years and currently writes for the Boston Globe. His first official season on the NHL beat coincided with Don Cherry’s last year as a coach for the Bruins, so you know he’s been around a while. Over the last couple decades, Dupont has had a front row seat for the rise of the internet to prominence in news media. Now, people are more likely to get their news from websites, blogs, and apps, words that didn’t exist when Dupont started in the industry, and newspapers are dying across the continent.

Understandably, Dupont doesn’t seem too happy with this development and, over the last week, has taken potshots at bloggers via his Twitter account. His most recent attack is the most baffling, essentially claiming that bloggers are simply bad, immoral people.

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Courtesy Chris Creamer

This video popped up online last night at some point. Chris Chelios, Cam Neely and Wayne Gretzky, a few of hockey’s major stars at the time of the first NHL lockout all the way back in 1994, all spoke up against then-new NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Until that point, the NHL only had a “president”, but when Bettman took over from Gil Stein in 1993, he became the first commissioner. We know this already, but part of the issue with Bettman, and something he’s never been able to shake off, is the idea that he’s not a hockey guy, that he’s just some American lawyer determined to take over the game. Here’s the video:

There’s a great picture, one I couldn’t find online, of Gary Bettman just after he was named commissioner. He’s sitting on a beach somewhere, a young-looking lawyer in an oversized black and orange NHL jersey and cap and the most disingenuous smile you’ll ever see. In short, not a hockey guy. Neely saw it, Gretzky saw it, but Chelios had the best comments, in retrospect:

If I was Gary Bettman I’d be worried about my family or Gary Bettman’s family I’d be worried about my well-being now. He’s going to affect a lot of people you know and some crazed fan or you know, a player you know they might take it into their own hands and figure they’d get him out of the way and things might get settled. You hate to see something like that happen but he took the job.

The main thing is he doesn’t know anything about hockey, that’s obvious. You know he doesn’t recognize players like Jeremy Roenick and Brendan Shanahan in the meetings and you know, whether it’s just little man syndrome thing or whatever…

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