Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Last night’s NHL action provided hockey fans with enough exciting plays that we deemed it worthy of a compilation.

For those of you pro-fighting, I ask: how much of a beast is Erik Gudbranson? Good. Night.

Enjoy.

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"Dear Hockey Gods, I know I said I wouldn't ask for anything else if you brought the Jets back, but..."

Growing up, my Methodist parents dragged me to church every Sunday. Like a good only child, I had plenty of quiet ways to entertain myself and keep up appearances, but the whole thing never really clicked with me.

Of course, the basics stick because they just seem like good common sense. The Golden Rule, some version of the Ten Commandments; many tenets of Christianity simply fall under what I would consider civilized behavior.

And of course, there are plenty of good stories from which to learn general life lessons. Believe me, I’ve thought of Job and his unwavering patience quite a lot this season as a Wild fan.

But in terms of having the belief in and passion for something, enough to make it the foundation of my philosophy as a person, I just couldn’t get on board with Jesus. I searched for other religions that felt more relatable, but by the end it, I just had a comfortable mishmash of ideals that felt right to me.

Then in my 30s, I found hockey and I was born again. It’s been the center of my universe ever since.

So, for a long time, I’ve been thinking about the religious-like fervor I and many others have for the sport. Let’s look at the evidence for hockey’s candidacy as not only the greatest sport in the world but one of the most fun religions:

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"We're sorry, Dustin. You're just not... Mike Richardsy enough."

The list of things I find magical and mysterious about hockey is a mile long, and near the top of it is the Captaincy of an NHL team (imagine me punctuating “Captaincy” with jazz hands).

While part of a captain’s role is well-defined and practical, it’s the maddeningly ethereal side of it that I’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours noodling over.

If you have a great captain, you may never even think about what he does to be great. It just happens. He’s gracious with the media, has his finger on the pulse of his team, and leads by example both on and off the ice.

He’s smart, heroic, and responsible. He’s the sort of guy you could take home to Mom and she’d end up liking him more than she likes you.  “You should have married that one,” she’ll say 20 years later.

The man with the C on his sweater is, in the eyes of his organization, the ultimate player representative for the team, embodying the qualities they want to portray to the outside world.

If you’ve picked the right guy, there’s really no reason to even think about it, other than the occasional, “Gosh, our captain is a bang up fella!”

But if your team hasn’t picked the right guy, the results can range from vaguely cringe-inducing to downright destructive.

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Screenshot from CrossingBroad.com

Gooood afternoon (or whatever time of day it is where you are). Today’s edition of the Backhand Shelf Podcast was a fun one.

At the end, we spend some time with Backhand Shelf writer Ellen Etchingham, who fills us in on how she came to be a hockey fan, and more importantly, how she came to be so damn good at writing about it.

We also touch on….

* What Crosby’s return means to the Penguins – will they become favourites in the East?

* Niklas Kronwall didn’t get suspended for putting Jakub Voracek into another dimension. I’m okay with it, Pizzo isn’t.

* Brian Burke hung up on a radio host for questioning his job status. Called him “gutless.”

* Dmitry Orlov shoved a linesman (as Pizzo put it “Elaine Benes style”). That’s frowned upon.

* Wagering Wednesdays. Last week’s winner picks a pret-ty, pret-ty cool name.

* And as always….much more.

You can listen to it here:

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Will he or won't he?

Don’t forget to tune into the Backhand Shelf live stream with Justin Bourne and Derek Snider all day today. They’ll be taking over your digital airwaves from 11-4 today and rocking your Trade Deadline world with their usual solid content from the Backhand Shelf podcast and Trade Deadline goodies.

Special guests will include:

Elliotte Friedman (HNIC – CBC) (He kicked it off and killed it)
Mike Halford (Pro Hockey Talk)
Jason Brough (Pro Hockey Talk)
Dave Lozo (NHL.com)
Katie Baker (Grantland/ESPN)
Katie Strang (ESPN)
Todd Lewis (Hockey Primetime Radio)
Sean Gentille (Sporting News)
Ryan Lambert (Puck Daddy/Backhand Shelf)
Cam Charron (Backhand Shelf)

Tune in to the show here.

The secret to Marty's success: His ancient chest protector smells so bad, it literally repels pucks.

I have a friend who is a huge Devils fan, at least in theory. She’s been so busy since college (10 years ago), she has no idea who’s on the team anymore, how they’re doing, or anything else.

“Are they in the playoffs this year?” she asks me.

The glaring exception is, of course, Marty Brodeur, who has been a New Jersey Devil since the Big Bang. So, as far as my friend knows, the Devils are still the Devils because Marty’s in the net.

Recently, the almost-40-year-old told media in Toronto that he’s having fun right now. He’s feeling good and is leaning toward sticking around at least another season.

As good as that news will be to my friend, if she ever even hears it, I had a moment of cognitive dissonance about it. Simultaneous, conflicting feelings of, “Uhhh, I dunno about that…” and “Good for you! Play as long as you want!” and “Oh please please please don’t Favre this thing!”

When I first started watching hockey obsessively, learning the game and studying goalies, I watched the Devils quite a bit.

Well, I watched Brodeur. This was before I understood goaltending technique, before I knew what solid, technically sound goaltending looked like, before my eye was trained by the other 99% of pro goalies who play variations on a butterfly style.

This post is basically just an excuse to run this photo.

And back then, he was a ninja. It looked as though he could play with both eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back. I couldn’t even always figure out what part of his gear or body had stopped a shot, but he almost always got something in front of the puck.

It was like he had Jedi powers: “This isn’t the net you’re looking for…”

Then there was that whole childishness with Sean Avery – the waving hands in in Brodeur’s face during play and then “Handshake Gate” (though that did spawn my favorite Averyism of all time “Fatso there just forgot to shake my hand, I guess”) – all of which seems like a million years ago.

The 2008-09 season cemented his Living Legend status for me. I knew if I ever met him, I would probably cry. Or faint. Or, at the very least, make awkward, inappropriate advances at him.

I remember his 552nd win to break Patrick Roy’s win record so vividly. Say what you want about the Devils and their suffocating defensive style, but you won’t convince me that it’s not incredibly special to be the winningest goalie of all time, and further, to have spent your entire career in the same organization.

For them to want you this long, and for you to want them, is extraordinary. Hell, to have signed a 6 year contract and actually have fulfilled it without either side so much as giving the other stink-eye along the way is mind boggling.

So far, that’s 18 seasons with the same NHL club, and 12 of those he played 70 or more games, most in the 75+ range. Only 6 have been fewer than 70.

And one of those 6 was last season. I watched him occasionally and was shocked by how “over it” he looked. Though really, that’s a completely reasonable state of mind. What’s left to prove? What’s left to accomplish? He just looked tired, and his back-up, Johan Hedberg was outplaying him on a regular basis.

This season, he’s finding more success, resting more, and his GAA and save percentage are identical to Hedberg’s. But I watch him and it saddens me to admit that I don’t enjoy it any more.

I suspect it is me and my expectations of what “great goaltending” looks like that have changed, but I watch him now and it makes me tense and nervous.

Hurricane Marty

It’s a muted version of what I feel watching video of goalies in the 70s, kicking, flopping, half-butterflying. Oh lord! Make it stop!

And I go back to my original conflicted feelings:  How much longer can this guy last? Not just physically, but mentally. How, when you’ve accomplished everything, do you continue to find the fire in the belly required to play at this level successfully? Especially in goal where the pressure is so high and inconsistency is so obvious and damaging.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that he does continue to find it, but I hope he doesn’t stay too long. As much as he’s earned the right to play until he says he’s done, I hope the same grace and wisdom and good humor he’s exhibited during his career comes to bear as he decides when to call it a day.

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, but there’s no doubt she’s warming up, and George Costanza Rules apply (as they always should): Leave on a high note.

But is it even possible for a player to leave with fans wanting more while not wanting more himself? Here’s to Brodeur pulling off one last feat of magic and doing just that.

Okay, this is kinda funny. I mean, that’s assuming he’s joking, which I am.

Craig Anderson is going to be out of the Ottawa Senators lineup for awhile after cutting his hand in the kitchen while cooking. This is what his GM thinks of that:

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