Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Night of Hockey with my Boys...

...and my youngest son's new girlfriend.

The game was Portland Pirates vs Charlotte Checkers and final score 5-4 Charlotte. I have only been to a handful of hockey games but enjoy live sports... who wouldn't! The fighting is a bit much at times but am told it is part of the game. Spending time with my sons is always THE BEST!!!

The venue, Cumberland County Civic Center, is small enough so every seat is a good one which helps with the enjoyment of the game. We enjoyed doing the YMCA dance in our seats, trying to convince the half-dressed, cute girl to throw a t-shirt our way, tried to be crazy enough to get the camera to put us on the big screen (which did not happen) and eating greasy, cheesy, fattening food. TOO much fun! I recommend any family or group of friends to give a game a try instead of a movie... but be warned you might get hooked!

Back to the game... the players are young and talented. The game is slow enough for a novice to keep up but fast enough to not be boring. I felt bad for the visiting team, from Charlotte NC, because there was no one clapping or giving a yell when they scored.

We didn't get our free fries from McDonald's because our team did not score five points, bummer.

I highly recommend checking out your local farm league for whatever sport(s) you enjoy... it is a great deal financially and loads of fun for family/friends.

I would love to hear your experience, please share!

The Playoff March: Two Weeks To Go

LeafsTHE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Leafs needed to win at least two of their three games this week and that’s exactly what they did. They feasted on two equally horrid road opponents in the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche, and played very well against the Detroit Red Wings before finally surrendering the lead for good midway through the third period.

THE PATH TO 90 POINTS: With the Leafs loss last night, the only way the Leafs can reach 90 points is to run the table. Can they win their last six games in a row? I think it’s safe for Phil Kessel and the rest of his teammates to make reservations for early morning tee times at the best golf courses Southern Ontario has to offer. Four wins is attainable. Five is a stretch. Six is next to impossible.

THE COMING WEEK: The Leafs have a home game against the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres, travel to Boston to take on the Bruins on Thursday night, then end their two-game road trip in Ottawa to face the lowly Senators. If the Leafs pick up six points, it still won’t be enough to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Buffalo must lose to them in regulation or else I can’t picture a scenario where the Leafs make the playoffs. Not even if the Montreal Hooligans continue their week long goalless streak.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

They Have To Be First At Something

PadresIt’s hard to be a San Diego Padres fan. We were promised a pony, or at least a few championship teams and quality free agent signings, when we voted for the financing to build Petco Park in the Gaslamp Quarter. Since then the Padres have done a good job of dumpster diving for free agents in order to stay competitive with the Dodgers and Giants, and they occasionally win a division title to keep the fans happy.

I don’t think they’re going to be too happy after this report appeared in Forbes magazine:

Padres President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Garfinkel took exception Wednesday with a Forbes article that said the Padres had a major league-leading operating income of $37 million last season.


Forbes said the Padres grossed an estimated $30 million in revenue sharing in 2010, although MLB has never announced the revenue sharing figures.

Also, the article said the Padres were one of three franchises that did not increase in value last season. The New York Mets and Cleveland Indians were the other two. Forbes said the average increase in valuation for a major league franchise was 7 percent in 2010.

For years Padres fans been screaming for the team to open their books to prove they’ve been losing money year after year but to no avail. This latest news not only makes the Padres look like they’re lying about their finances, but makes one wonder if they had the money to re-sign Adrian Gonzalez rather than trade him to their major league affiliate in Boston.

Monday, March 21, 2011

2 College Hockey Stories of Note

The first, is the possible formation of a new league in Men's Hockey. The Big 10 Athletic Directors have proposed having the Big 10 League in 2013-14.  Penn State from the independents, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State from the CCHA and Wisconsin and Minnesota from the WCHA.  A 6 team league that could expand by as many as 6 teams in the future could be a good thing.  It might bring in more players and better players to the college game.  It might also spur more competitiveness from the schools going to the Big 10 league.   After all, they did have one of the schools, Michigan, receive an invite for the NCAA Hockey tournament this year.  It might cause a couple of programs that have slipped a little, Minnesota, Wisconsin, to start climbing towards the top again since the more powerful competition won't be in conference.

And second, the NCAA Hockey tournament brackets were revealed this past weekend.  The committee screwed up the Basketball selections and seedings, it was nice to see that they didn't get it right here either.  Ineptitude must be maintained across the board at the NCAA.  The 5 automatic qualifiers were Air Force, Miami (Ohio), Yale, Boston College, and North Dakota.  Air Force was the only one of those teams not to get a #1 seed.  Apparently they were seeded the worst team in the field, because they got the overall #1 seed, Yale in the 1st round.  The Atlantic Hockey Conference wasn't even close to the rest of the conferences out there in terms of rankings and competition.  Of course, it would be poetic justice if Air Force could beat Yale twice in the same season.  The East Coast teams were the last ones to be eliminated from consideration.  Dartmouth, Boston University, and Maine are the 3 teams rated highest that didn't make the field.  Rensselaee from ECAC Hockey made it into the field rated lower than Dartmouth from the same conference.  Maine cost themselves an appearance by losing to Merrimack twice at the end of the season.  BU had a down year for them.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how the Maine Black Bears had swept a home series against North Dakota.  And the Zebster rightfully was proud of his team.  However, if you take a look at the season, it wasn't Maine going to hostile environments that had good teams waiting for them, it was North Dakota.  And during the non-conference schedule, the Fighting Sioux grew up as individuals and as a team, where teams like Maine and Boston University didn't do that.  So now it is tournament time, North Dakota is one of the favorites because they have played ranked teams throughout the year and know what it is like to face the top teams while BU and Maine sit at home because their schedules didn't prepare them adequately enough for the pressure of playing top teams.  While others, like Wisconsin, just weren't good enough to come out of the best conference in the nation, the WCHA.  The tournament starts this weekend, so good luck to those out there that happen to have their favorite team in the tournament.  To the rest, come jump on a bandwagon before it's too late.  GO SIOUX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Playoff March: 9 Games To Go

LeafsTHE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Toronto Maple Leafs needed to earn six points from last week’s games and they only mustered four. The week began with a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting, but the Leafs rebounded with a 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. As I had predicted last Sunday, the Florida Panthers would not be an easy opponent and they proved it by thumping the Leafs 4-0. Toronto finished out the week with a surprising 5-2 win against a Boston Bruins squad that still looks like it could at least make the Eastern Conference Finals.

THE PATH TO 90 POINTS: The Buffalo Sabres, who currently occupy eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, are on pace to finish the season with 90 points. The Leafs currently have 74 points with 9 games to play. To get to 90 points and to have any shot at a playoff berth the Leafs must go 8-1-0 or 7-0-2.

Realistically the season will be over when they face the Montreal Hooligans** on April 9th.

THE COMING WEEK: The Leafs have three road games on tap starting with a stop Tuesday night in Minnesota to play the Wild. The Leafs will visit Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night and then end their road trip in Detroit to take on the Red Wings. The first two games are against teams that are very beatable. Minnesota is 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, and the Avalanche are a pitiful 1-8-1 in their last 10. The Red Wings are 5-3-2 and represent the one team left on the schedule that the Leafs would most likely lose to if they indeed go 8-1-0 the rest of the way.

I predict the Leafs will go 2-1-0 on this road trip. Since this week’s schedule is against Western Conference teams, the good news is if they play in a “three-point” game and either win or lose in overtime or a shootout the extra point won’t hurt them in the standings.

** Read this blog post to understand why I won’t refer to Montreal’s hockey team by their real name anymore and this link as to why Hooligans is a better name.

Stop the "Start and Park" racers in NASCAR

I have been a fan of racing all my life.  In fact my entire family, besides my wife, are racing fanatics.  My father drove street stock Wissota cars until an accident in Miller, SD caused him to spend 6 months in the hospital.  Later he owned teams and hired drivers for tracks in Huron and Aberdeen, SD.  I remember going to the local dirt track and my mom and I screaming for our favorite drivers.  (Dave Marlowe need not apply).  We all have our favorite drivers and teams.  We even rib each other about how our drivers do during the season.  However, there is one thing that we all hate and want abolished from the land of NASCAR.  That is the ability of teams to start and park.

We had another instance of that in the Nationwide series at Bristol.  The thing here is that the driver didn't want to follow that order.  Jennifer Jo Cobb wanted to race.  She was expecting to try and finish the best that she could in the event.  10 minutes before the start of the race, her owner told her to drive and then come in and park the car.  She disagreed and then her owner said that he would have NASCAR Black flag her because she wasn't following his orders.  So she took her own pit crew, since he didn't bring the team's pit crew and she took the tires that she bought to run this race and left.  He was able to get another driver.  Of course the car made it's first lap at Lap 141 of the race.  Chris Lawson, the relief driver, made a whopping 4 laps in the car.  I applaud Jennifer Jo Cobb for her stance that she was there to race and will race to the best of her ability to win the race.  And it's going to be a black mark on her record because she had enough balls to tell a stupid owner that doesn't have the finances to compete in the Nationwide series that she was there to try and win the race. 

This is stupid.  NASCAR needs to haul this asshole owner into their trailer and have a nice discussion with him and the rest of the start and park owners out there, yes even Joe Nemechek.  They should set the firm rule that if you have 3 start and park races in a season, then you are automatically done racing in that series for the rest of the season, both owner and driver.  If you don't have the financial backing to race an entire race, don't show up.  I am tired of having race teams that know they won't be finishing the race.  They run 20 laps, take the car to the hauler, pack it away and wait until the race is over and get out of the track immediately.  There are other levels for these owners to have cars and actually race for the victory.  Look at the Late Model, ARCA, or Featherlite Series.  The Top 3 divisions of NASCAR look amateurish when these things happen on a weekly basis.  And I'm tired of caring about things that look like an amateur circus, even though I have 30 years of fandom to look back upon.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A New, Disturbing Trend In Sports Blogging

Forgive me for venting but I’m seeing a disturbing trend in sports blogging.

Earlier this week the Washington Redskins, with nothing better to do than sue reporters that dare tell the truth about owner Daniel Snyder, made The Washington Post remove the name Redskins from their “Redskins Insider” blog that follows the team. The blog is now called “Football Insider”. The Montreal Canadiens, who are equal with the Redskins when it comes to churlish behavior, made The Montreal Gazette change the name of its “Habs Inside/Out” blog to “Hockey Inside/Out” on Friday.

Are you kidding me?

It’s too bad I don’t write for either of those newspapers or else I’d change the name of the Football Insider blog to something like Snyder’s Next Tantrum, or better yet Racial Slurs Insider so anyone reading it would know which team they were following.

For the Habs, it could be much worse. How about blog names like A Pain in Pacioretty’s Neck? Or because of the shape of the Habs logo, Who Left The Toilet Seat Up?

Heaven forbid the Boston Red Sox ever demand the owner of this blog to change the name due to copyright infringement. First, I’m sure the owner of this blog would do it to comply with their wishes if it ever happened but unlike newspaper-run blogs I won’t stop at calling the blog “Baseball Tavern” to appease them.

I’d likely suggest a catchy blog name like Up Robbie Fowler’s Nose to take a jab at Liverpool.

Or better yet, if the Red Sox stumble out of the gate and the San Diego Padres pick up where they left off last season I’ll make jokes about the Red Sox unofficial AAA team outplaying them.

Hopefully it will never come to that.

Saturday Morning Bracketology

This morning I woke up to a near busted bracket in the Southwest. Thanks to some upsets by Richmond, Morehead State, Florida State and Virginia Commonwealth the only teams I have still playing are Kansas (my Final Four pick), Illinois, Purdue and Notre Dame.

And how did the high and mighty Big East do? Louisville and Georgetown, whom the experts said would be safe to advance to the Third Round and beyond, both lost.

On the positive side, I correctly picked UNLV to lose. When the Runnin’ Rebels play at home they have a huge advantage, and when they hung tough against San Diego State during the Mountain West Conference tournament I didn’t give them proper credit because I knew once they were away from home they would be a different team. And they were. They got stomped 73-62 by Illinois and it wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.


My father and I had a discussion last night about SDSU and he’s afraid they may not do well against Temple later this evening. I’m here to tell you the Aztecs are for real. I checked out common opponents the Aztecs and Owls had during the regular season and both teams played on the road at California, aka Cal-Berkeley. Temple lost to the Golden Bears 57-50 on November 26th. San Diego State whooped California by twenty on December 8th.

The news on the Aztecs gets better. UConn had to rely on Kemba Walker’s second-half heroics to defeat Wichita State 83-79 in the first round of the Maui Invitational. SDSU ran past the Shockers 83-69 at home on December 5th in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge after taking over the lead for good early in the second half.

If the Aztecs end up playing Cincinnati in the Sweet Sixteen, they also have a common opponent in Miami (Ohio). SDSU played them on the road and whooped them 77-56 in the CBE Classic on November 22nd. Cincinnati also defeated Miami (Ohio) on the road 64-48 on December 21st.

While Temple, UConn and Cincinnati are good teams, the Aztecs shouldn’t be worried. They can beat these guys if they get over their NCAA tournament jitters like they did against Northern Colorado.

What about Duke in the Elite Eight? They also stomped on Miami (Ohio) 79-45 early in the season but they also have blemishes on their schedule with losses against Florida State, St. John’s, Virginia Tech and North Carolina during the regular season. It would be an intriguing matchup, but it’s one that would open the country’s eyes and let them see San Diego State as at least an equal to the best teams in the East. And if Duke stumbles on its way to the Elite Eight, I like the Aztecs’ chances to advance to the Final Four even more. Arizona got Jimmered big time and Texas wasn’t the most consistent team against middle of the road competition down the stretch.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The East Coast Bias™ Busted My Bracket

2011 NCAA Final FourIt was the first day of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament and one of my four brackets has already been busted. I was foolish enough to pick St. John’s to go to the Final Four. After all, St. John’s finished in third place in the much superior Big East Conference. They should be a safe pick to knock off Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight, right?

Wrong. Once again the East Coast Bias™ is just that, a bias not based on fact. St John’s lost by fifteen to Gonzaga, the same team that my alma mater San Diego State beat on their home court 79-76 back in November.

Pardon me for this outburst but the East Coast Bias™ can (censored). The Big East is so overrated as a national power. How can a team with eleven losses be the eighteenth ranked team in the nation? Can anyone out there justify this lofty ranking? How about Louisville? They got knocked off by 13th seed Morehead State.

As for San Diego State I can walk proud. My Aztecs took care of business against Northern Colorado, beating them 68-50. SDSU let Northern Colorado get within three points early in the second half before they beat them like a dirty rug, just like they beat up on Jimmer Fredette and BYU last weekend and just about every opponent they faced during the regular season.

The Aztecs take on Temple Saturday and if they win they’ll likely face Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen.

As for the Big East, I expect more of those “great” teams to fall in the coming days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Enslave Me, Please?

Adrian PetersonI’m trying not to laugh too hard over this but let’s get real. I am the polar opposite of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson when it comes to football talent, speed, strength and size. I’m also the polar opposite when it comes to how we related to regular folks.

These were Adrian’s words to Yahoo! Sports writer Doug Farrar just before the lockout.

"It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it's how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey — without us, there's no football.'

"There are so many different perspectives from different players, and obviously we're not all on the same page — I don't know. I don't really see this going to where we'll be without football for a long time; there's too much money lost for the owners. Eventually, I feel that we'll get something done."

There is absolutely nothing that could turn off Joe or Jane Six-Pack in this labor fight more than a professional athlete complaining about his working conditions when sports fans like me have to worry about our own job security every morning we roll out of the rack. Especially when the entry-level salary for an NFL player, and an undrafted one at that, is over $300,000.

In case you’re keeping score at home Peterson is scheduled to make $10.72 million in 2011. Or to put it in terms easier to understand, Peterson makes in one rushing attempt what I and many of you out there make in a whole year.

I’d love to put on the pads and be a slave for that kind of jack.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Playoff March: Game 69 Checkpoint

THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Toronto Maple Leafs managed to earn three out of six points this past week but should have done more. They started the week with an overtime loss to the lowly New York Islanders at home, then lost to a reeling Philadelphia Flyers team. The Leafs salvaged a win at home against the Buffalo Sabres last night, but they had to come from behind in the third period to earn the two points.

THE PATH TO 88 POINTS: With 13 games left in the regular season, the Leafs need to earn 18 points. Time is running short for them to climb past the Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers for the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Leafs can get to 88 points if they go 9-4-0 or 8-3-2. Super rookie James Reimer is now the unquestioned number one goalie but he cannot play the rest of the string without a break. At some point, either Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Jonas Gustafsson will have to make a spot start to spell him so he doesn’t wear down in these final weeks.

THE COMING WEEK: The Leafs have four games on tap this week and they must get at least six point to realistically stay in the playoff race. Their week begins with a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are 1-4-2 this month. Wednesday ushers in back-to-back road games against the Carolina Hurricanes and then the Florida Panthers. The Leafs end the week with a home game against the Boston Bruins.

Realistically, the Lightning and the Hurricanes represent the Leafs’ best chance to pick up points. The Panthers have been playing well the past week and the Bruins can’t be expected to continue their current losing streak, which as of today stands at four games.


IN MEMORIAM: I’m saddened to hear of the loss of former Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings winger Rick Martin, who died of a heart attack today. Not only was he a seven-time All-Star for the Sabres, but through no fault of his own was a symbol of why the Kings were so bad during the 80’s until the arrival of Wayne Gretzky. Coming off what turned out to be a career-ending knee injury, Martin was traded late in the 1980-81 season to the Kings for a 1981 third round choice plus a 1983 first round choice.

Martin played four games for the Kings, one during the 1980-81 season and three more the following season before he was forced to retire in mid-December 1981. In those four games, Martin scored five points and would have been a welcome addition to the Kings had he been healthy.

As for that 1983 first round draft pick, the Sabres used it to select Tom Barrasso, who would have solved the Kings goaltending problems after Mario Lessard was forced to retire himself after suffering a knee injury.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Blame The Players In The NFL Labor Dispute

I have had a mad-on about the NFL CBA meetings.  It has gone on for about a month now.  And I am surprised at myself.  I am not upset about the owners and the decisions that they have made.  I am plenty PO'ed at the NFLPA.  These people have decided that they are going to hold their employers over a barrel and not try to be true partners with the NFL, but they have decided to try and beat the owners and the League itself to enrich themselves.

The pie for revenues are estimated at $9.3 Billion this past year.  The owners took $1 Billion off the top for expenses.  So that leaves $8.3 Billion to be divided by the owners and the players.  And here is where the players are just being too greedy.  They get 59.6% of that $8.3 Billion.   That is over $4.9 Billion that is going to the NFLPA.  That leaves $3.4 Billion for the League and Teams.  So the players are actually taking in more revenue than the league and it's teams.  Holy crap.  A business that says that the only some of the employees get this percentage of revenue.  And they have no risk in the profitability of any team or the league.  Add all the other employees of the teams and the League and the revenue that the owners get would probably be down between 25-30%.  Now add all the expenses and other things that the teams and the league have to pay for.  And now tell me that the owners are making unreasonable demands.  They aren't and most everybody knows it.

And in looking at the League's proposal that they gave to the NFLPA, it is more than fair.  For the Salary Cap, the NFL went up to what the union wanted but only after 3 more years in increasing the Cap incrementally.  They worked on a Rookie compensation package that would keep the money down for Picks 1-16, but the rest of the players drafted wouldn't get any less and the money that would have been paid to untested rookies would go to veteran players and retired players.  Hmmm.  It seems to me that the NFLPA is supposed to be working for the players of today and the retired players.  That looks like a good proposal to that end.  The owners also agreed to pay up to $1 Million in salary for a player that was hurt a year ago and couldn't return because of the injury.  Damn.  Looks like the NFL is willing to help those that might have problems with injuries.

Another thing that the owners cave on is the 18 game schedule.  They were willing to work with the union and see if they could negotiate about an 18 game schedule.  That was a non-starter for the NFLPA.  $82 Million from the owners going to retired players.  The opportunity for current players to stay in the medical plan for life.  Where else do you get that opportunity?  And more rules and implementation of safety standards and player health.  That should have satisfied cheapshot artists Hines Ward and Rodney Harrison.  And yet, that wasn't good enough.

Why wasn't it good enough?  Because the players got bad advice from DeMaurice Smith.  This wasn't about trying to find agreement to prevent problems, this is a bold money grab by the union.  No private corporation should have to open their financial statements to the employees.  Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Ben Leber and every other player only should have financial information to one team, and that is Green Bay since the team is publicly owned.  They are employees, not stockholders or partial owners, they are employees strictly.  And the players aren't thinking about this past season when there were more blackouts than there have been in the past 15 years.  Ticket prices are priced sky high and in case they haven't been out in the real world, there is a tough economy out there.  People are feeling the crunch, but yet the players listened to their union head and are trying to grab more and more money for themselves.  It isn't about the players before or after them.  This is about the current players wanting more money, pure and simple.

If you look at my fandom, I primarily root for my team, not individual players.  When Warren Sapp played for the Buccaneers, I rooted for him each and every week.  When he went to the Raiders, I wanted him to fail to prove that he wasn't that good.  The NFL is more about the true Superstars and the Teams rather than the players.  Tell me that Buffalo Bills fans are cheering Chad Greenway and the way he plays each and every week.  They aren't.  Why?  Because he doesn't play for their team.  The name on the front of the jersey means much more than the name on the back.  And I am tired of the names on the back of the jersey trying to make themselves more important than they are.  And until the players can figure that out, we are going to have bad blood between the owners and players when it comes to financial negotiations. 

It is the union's gambit that their favorite judge, Judge Doty, from Minnesota will find in their favor for almost every ruling.  And you will see after there is a new agreement, that the NFLPA will reconstitute with the same people on top showing the world that this decertification was not serious.  It is the ploy of the money hungry players to get their employers to pay them more than the employer wants.  And that is the bottom line for this problem.  And that means that the problems come from the players and the former NFLPA.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Could I Quit The NHL?

NHL LogoFor the past week I’ve seriously thought about this idea. It’s not just the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty that’s making me contemplate the idea of not watching the NHL. It’s the lack of respect today’s players have for each other.

During last night’s game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs, I witnessed two players avoid serious injury because of an opponent’s lack of playing skills. In the first instance, Flyers forward/super pest Daniel Carcillo beat Leafs defenseman/iceberg Mike Komisarek to the puck in one corner of the Leafs zone. With Carcillo’s numbers staring him in the face Komisarek cross-checked Carcillo in his lower back, causing him to hit the boards face-first without a chance to protect himself and his legs splayed at very awkward angles. It’s amazing that Carcillo was able to play later in the period.

The second incident also happened in the first period. As Leafs forward Colby Armstrong crossed the blue line and into the Flyers zone, he wound up to shoot the puck into the corner. About a half-second after Armstrong shot the puck, a Flyers forward gave Armstrong a healthy shove in his shoulder and the side of his head, sending the Leafs forward flying horizontally into the boards head-first. This time there was no penalty for interference or roughing, only Armstrong getting up and slowly skating to the bench with a suspected shoulder injury.

I love hard hits, but only when they’re clean. As the past two seasons have gone by, I’ve witnessed more reckless hits than I ever have at any other time in my life and it’s gotten to the point where I don’t enjoy watching the game as much as I did. When will the senseless headhunting stop? Do we need another Bill Masterton tragedy to remind us how dangerous hockey is without dirty play from the likes of Randy Jones, Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows?

I’ve walked away from a sport before. I’ve never really come back to baseball after they cancelled the World Series nearly two decades ago. I’ve been to one baseball game since then, and the only reason why I went is because my then-employer paid for the ticket. Could I do the same with the NHL? I’ve had it with how Commissioner Gary Bettman has mismanaged the league over the past decade and the way I’m looking at my situation my free agency period begins on July 1st.

The NHL has their work cut out for them if they want me to continue paying for the NHL Center Ice package. There are other things I can do with my time. The CFL is an entertaining football league. I could spend more time watching motor sports. College football and basketball are now very popular here in San Diego.

I could also watch minor league hockey like I did in the mid-80s. Back then we called it the Los Angeles Kings.

They Said It

"Air Canada is a great brand, as is the National Hockey League. And if they decide they need to do other things with their sponsorship dollars, that's their prerogative, just like it's the prerogative of our clubs that fly on Air Canada to make other arrangements if they don't think Air Canada is giving them the appropriate level of service." – NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, March 10, 2011, in response to a threat by Air Canada to pull a multi-million dollar sponsorship.

I have a rule not to write a post about something that pisses me off for at least twenty-four hours. It’s now been over forty-eight hours and the anger I have over the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty will not go away. In fact, my anger has risen to the level I have for people like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Chairman of the Board of National Organization For Marriage Maggie Gallagher.

There is only one way this anger will go away. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has to go.

Chara Pacioretty HitOn Tuesday night, on the anniversary of Todd Bertuzzi’s assault on Steve Moore, I was horrified to learn that Pacioretty had suffered a broken neck and a severe concussion, eerily similar injuries that ended Moore’s career. Some people, such as NHL lackey Mike Murphy, believe the above photo is from “a hockey play” and that Chara is not a dirty player because he doesn’t have a record of disciplinary action.

I once knew a guy in high school who didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was a wonderful guy to talk to whenever I ran into him at one of what seemed like a hundred weekend parties. After we graduated, we went our separate ways. I went to college and got my degree. The student I bumped into at parties? He murdered and is on death row awaiting his fate. To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t have a criminal record before he committed his crime.

Come to think of it, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit had a clean record before he and his family checked out too.

Now I’m not saying Chara is a killer, but to say he didn’t mean to hurt Pacioretty because he’s got a clean record is a load of what’s in the bottom of Chara’s shorts. I played hockey in a beer league in what wasn’t the safest of rinks. The boards had no give. The ice in the corner of the arena where the Zamboni was kept wasn’t level near the boards. There was Plexiglass on only part of the rink and the rest was covered in netting. There were divots in the ice from the figure skaters that used the rink during normal business hours. We only played a twenty-game season but by the fourth or fifth game every player could point out the dangerous places in the rink and changed their play accordingly to avoid serious injury.

As for Bettman, his public posturing to major sponsors and his handing of the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes proves he runs a garage league that quite frankly doesn’t deserve a national TV contract, let alone struggling franchises in the Sun Belt. Moving existing franchises to non-traditional markets was a mistake from the beginning and telling us that poor ownership is the problem doesn’t work. The Leafs have horrible owners and yet they still make money. The Pittsburgh Penguins were in and out of bankruptcy more times than Elizabeth Taylor has been married and yet they survived the darkness that was 70s and 80s.

It’s time to get rid of Bettman and find a real leader who can elevate the NHL so it’s at least on level ground with the NBA rather than re-runs of the PBA on ESPN Classic. I don’t buy Chara’s excuses, and I don’t care for the NHL’s disciplinarians that are ruining the game – and I’m sure the casual hockey fan shares my view.

Two games if you make misogynist comments about Elisha Cuthbert but none for a broken neck? Give me a break, but not in my fourth cervical vertebrae, okay?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

I could care less

  • about Tom Brady's hair or his lack of dancing skills
  • whether Shaq could have saved the Notorious BIG
  • that some Miami Heat players can cry
  • at the risk of exile, I don't care a whole lot about preseason baseball, other than the fact that it means real baseball is nigh
  • about the NFL labor negotiations because they're frankly not telling the media and thus us anything useful, and there's nothing we can do about it anyway
  • and I certainly don't give a rat's ass about Charlie Sheen

The reason I don't care about these things is pretty straightforward...they're not worth caring about or spending any time thinking about.  The reason that I'm writing this post is because I seemingly can't get away from these topics, due in large part to the voracious appetite of sports fans, particularly here in New England, for apparently any tangential sports news, and also because we have two regional sports networks and all of the other local sports media trying to fill their air time and pages.  I admit I'm spoiled and appreciative of the fact that we care enough about our local teams and sports in general that we can support these networks but the negative side effect is that they often have to fill air time with non-stories...over and over and over again.

With the NHL and NBA regular seasons winding down and the NASCAR season just begun, say nothing about college hoops and hockey or the EPL, aren't there enough real sports stories out there to fill up air time?

What could you care less about?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Brent's NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Qualification Possibilities

Since I have a week off from both school and major amounts of work, I figured that I would go through the 2 Conferences of the NHL and look at the playoff probabilities of each team.  The teams have played about 3/4 of their schedules and the races are tight to get into the playoffs.  I am glomming off the updates that R.J. is giving on his beloved Maple Leafs.  So without any further ado, lets dive into the Eastern Conference.

Teams That Will Not Make The Playoffs:

Ottawa Senators:  This team was at one time a juggernaut in the East.  After dismantling those perennial playoff chokers, the Sens have fallen on hard times.  The 1st Line of Greening, Speeza, and Butler doesn't scare anybody.  The free agent signing of Sergei Gonchar hasn't paid dividends, but the acquisition of Craig Anderson might pay off for them in the future.  When you have rookies on the 1st Line and in your top defensive pairing, you know that you will have growing pains.  That is what Ottawa is experiencing right now.

New York Islanders:  Perennial losers.  The owner is peculiar and the GM doesn't get what the NHL is trying to transform itself into.  Perfect case in point is the defense that Garth Snow tried to muster for Trevor Gillies.  After a 9 game-suspension for his hits and conduct against the Pittsburgh Penguins, his 1st game back he goes right to the head for a cheap shot on Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild.  Gets a 10-game suspension.  And Snow is arguing that he was trying to get back for a check that Clutterbuck put on a different Islander.  One that Clutterbuck was sent to the penalty box for.  Even Mike Milbury says that the league needs to get rid of this guy.  Anyways, the Islanders might have had a chance this year, but 7 players are on IR including DiPietro and Weight.  They have a good young 1st line.  But the goaltending of Montoya and Lawson aren't going to steal too many games for you.

Florida Panthers:  They are under the 1st year of rebuilding under new management.  But there are signs of life for this franchise that hasn't been in the playoff for a decade plus.  Tomas Vokoun is one hell of a goalie and if they can get him under contract for long-term, the goalie situation is set.  Stephen Weiss is a 1st line Center that they can build around.  Getting Sergei Samsonov from Carolina should help with the speed that he possesses.  And after trading most of their veterans before the trade deadline, the Panthers came away with lots of draft picks for the upcoming draft.  If they can draft kids that can contribute in a couple of years, the lean times in Miami could be coming to an end.

Teams That Need To Play Well and Need Help

New Jersey Devils:  The Devils fate could be decided in their next 6 games.  They play the Islanders, Senators, and the Thrashers at home and away.  If they can go 5-1 in those winnable games for this streaking club, they would be right in the middle for the final positions of the playoff race.  The final 6 games are equally as important.  They will be playing teams already in playoff spots or fighting to make the playoffs in the East.  The one thing that shouldn't happen to this team is letting the pressure get to them.  They are a veteran team that got off to a horrendous start and got their Head Coach fired.  Currently they are 9 points away from 8th place Carolina with 2 games in hand.  My percentage that they get into the playoffs:  15%.

Atlanta Thrashers:  The Thrashers wouldn't even have a chance for the playoffs except for the play of Dustin Byfuglein this year.  Acquired from Chicago, he has played the way he did in last year's playoffs.  The offensive lines aren't as talented as others in the East.  Byfuglein is in the 1st pairing of the Defensemen and is a converted forward.  Basically, they are playing above their skill level.  When Andrew Ladd is your leading scorer, you shouldn't be anywhere the playoffs.  Their remaining schedule does not give them any favors.  They have 11 games left against teams that would be in the playoffs right now.  For them to qualify for the playoffs they need to turn around the cold streak that they are on and get White Hot immediately.  Otherwise, they can kiss their chnaces at the playoffs goodbye.  Playoff Qualification Percentage:  5%.

Teams That Will Go Down To The Final Week Of The Season To Decide If They Get Into The Playoffs

Toronto Maple Leafs.  I will give Ron Wilson all the credit in the world for this one.  The Maple Leafs in the playoff at the start of the season made me laugh.  But yet, they are right in the middle of the scramble in the East.  The thing that I think will cause the Leafs to ultimately fall short is a small 3-game road trip out to the West.  The play the Wild, Avalanche, and Red Wings.  I see a 1-2 record in those 3 games and I don't think that they can overcome that.  They have picked up points in 9 of their last 10 games, but I don't see them continuing that pace through the end of the season.  Playoff Qualification Percentage:  25%.

Buffalo Sabres.  Ryan Miller is starting to look like the Miller of old.  He has started the last 9 games and has given up 3 goals or less in each of those games.  The schedule is filled with team fighting for the playoffs.  The thing that has given them hope is their record against the Northeast.  They are 12-6 in division and have 2 games in hand over Carolina.  Look for the Sbares to squeak into the playoffs and cause some havoc.  Playoff Qualification Percentage:  65%.

Carolina Hurricanes:  The Canes are in 8th right now, but hanging on by a thread.  They added leadership and physicality on the blueline at the trade deadline.  It might help with the playoff push.  They are 9th in Goals For, so there wasn't a big need there.  I don't know if they did enough for the blueline.  The schedule basically has a big game each and every time they play.  I wish that I knew that the Hurricanes had explored a blockbuster trade for Rick Nash at the deadline.  Rumor had it that the Blue Jackets were willing to explore such a thing.  Playoff Qualification Percentage:  40%.

New York Rangers:  This helter skelter team has looked good the past 2 games, while the past month hasn't been quite as bright.  Marian Gaborik is back and figures to score during the home stretch.  John Tortorella is trying to instill some discipline and defense into the team.  The schedule isn't that difficult and they should make the playoffs unless they melt down like their coach has been known to do.  Playoff Qualification Percentage:  55%.

Teams That Should Make It Into The Playoffs

Montreal Canadiens:  Winners of 4 of their last 5.  They are 9 points ahead of Buffalo, who is in 9th place.  The Habs are looking forward to Tuesday's game against Boston to try and get closer to the Bruins and the Division lead.  I don't think they will overtake Boston for the division, but shouldn't have too many problems staying in 5th or 6th place in the Eastern Conference.  Carey Price has shown something this season that may help the Habs down the stretch.  Playoff Qualification Percentage:  75%.

Teams That Will Make It Into The Playoffs

Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh Penguins
Tampa Bay Lightning
Boston Bruins
Philadelphia Flyers

Liverpool v Manchester United

The combination of John Henry and Tom Werner (Boston Red Sox) buying the Liverpool Football Club, an increasing interest in soccer cultivated over the last few World Cups and the fact that my buddy Rick is a big fan of Manchester United, I've found myself wanting to know more about the English Premier League and watching some of Liverpool's matches, to the point where I've decided to be a fan of Liverpool.  Since Manchester United was coming to Anfield today to play Liverpool, I decided to boldly challenge Rick to a blog challenge; but I did it backwards.  I figured since ManU is the better team and Rick knows much more about this stuff than I do, I should make the challenge such that he would have to write the blog post; ie, winner boasts about their team winning, as opposed to the usual loser posting about the winner.
Well, that backfired on me as Liverpool dominated play and easily beat ManU today 3-1, the lone Manchester goal coming in extended time long after the match was decided.  So here I sit trying to write something intelligent about a sport I know very little about.
I'm also at a disadvantage because no embed videos are yet available from this match, so that you'd be able to see the great dribbling play by Luis Suarez (Fernando Torres who?) around three defenders in tight to the goal to set up the first goal of the game and the first goal of Dirk Kuyt's hat trick, instead of me trying to describe it to you.  If I saw play like this every time I watched a match, I would quickly become a fan of the game.
I will say this:  I enjoyed the game very much, doing in large part obviously to the fact that my team dominated from the outset; if you get a chance to see highlights of this match, I urge you to do so; and hey Rick, you didn't see that coming, did ya?  I expect to see a crow-eating comment to this post.

The Playoff March: Game 66 Checkpoint

Toronto Maple LeafsTHE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Toronto Maple Leafs posted a 2-1-1 record and earned five points. This puts the Leafs in tenth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 67 points. With sixteen games left in the regular season, the Leafs are now four points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot. Between them and the Hurricanes are the ninth place Buffalo Sabres, who have 70 points and two games in hand.

The Leafs started the week with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, who are now two points behind the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings. Ideally, you do not want to have a “three-point” game, but if you must play in one and lose, it’s better to lose to a team behind you in the standings so they only gain one point on you instead of two.

On Wednesday, the Leafs hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in back-to-back games against the two NHL teams based in Pennsylvania. In yet another three-point game, Mikhail Grabovski scored the game winning goal in overtime. Since Pittsburgh is out of reach in the Eastern Conference standings, it was a case of “no harm, no foul” when the Leafs gave up the “pity point” to the Penguins. The following evening the Leafs traveled to Philadelphia to play the hated Flyers, and Darryl Boyce came through with the game winning goal late in the third period to secure the win.

On Saturday night, the Leafs fell flat against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. They gave up three first-period goals thanks to horrid defensive play and turnovers in the neutral zone and never recovered. Super rookie goalie James Reimer was pulled after two periods and Jean-Sebastien Giguere only faced six shots in mop-up duty.

THE PATH TO 88 POINTS: To finish the season with 88 points, the likely point total needed to secure eighth place, the Leafs need to get 21 points in their remaining sixteen games. That means they need to post at least an 8-3-5 record but they will be in much better shape if they go 9-4-3 or better. To reach that goal, the Leafs need any combination of four points in the next three games.

THE COMING WEEK: The Leafs are on their normal Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule. On Tuesday they travel to Long Island to play the Islanders, then host the Flyers and the Sabres to close out the week. Going 2-1-0 is not only an attainable goal, but they must avoid losing to the Sabres on Saturday night, even if it’s in overtime.

THE X-FACTOR: The Buffalo Sabres have two games in hand on the Leafs, but have you seen their schedule? Of the eighteen games left in their season, fourteen of them are on back-to-back nights. That in my mind makes Buffalo’s path to the playoffs tougher, but in the end the Leafs cannot depend on a tired Sabres team to choke down the stretch. They have to continue playing as if every night is a playoff game if they’re going to play beyond April 9th.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A New Chapter Begins

Today is a glorious day to be a Raiders fan. The ghosts of ineptitude and underachievement have been exorcised from Oakland. Two former first round draft picks, both of whom have strong cases to go down as the worst busts in recent NFL Draft history, are no longer with the team and/or no longer have homes in the area.

Robert Gallery, the Raiders first round pick in 2004 and the second pick overall, was selected to become the cornerstone of a rebuilt offensive line but in the past seven seasons fell way short of expectations. He ended his Raiders career as a serviceable guard, but serviceable is nothing compared to the All-Pro he was supposed to be. When you think of serviceable you think of someone like journeyman Richie Incognito, who elevated his play to the point where his propensity to draw penalty flags becomes unnoticed.

Gallery, who in all likelihood deserves a contract similar to Incognito’s, had the audacity to ask for $8 million a year to remain with the team. The Raiders rewarded Gallery with the front door, as they should have. Owner Al Davis can’t afford to overpay so many underachieving players like he used to. The Raiders are a winning team, and signing free agent players to a Bay Area Premium is no longer necessary.

Gallery still has his NFL career, but there’s no way he’ll get anything near $8 million a year to play guard at below a Pro Bowl level.

In unrelated news, TMZ reported that the Bay Area home of former quarterback JaMarcus Russell is in foreclosure proceedings. The first overall draft pick in 2007 was shown the door last spring by Davis after fleecing the Raiders out of approximately $32 million in guaranteed money, but where did it all go? His jeweler? Las Vegas? Friends and family? Purple drank? All of the above? It really doesn’t matter where the money went but the fact is Russell owes nearly $200,000 in past due mortgage payments, or roughly what he could get if he sold his diamonds to a pawn shop.

If I were Russell I’d start working out so he could resume his football career to make more money, even if the only football we’ll see this fall could be the Canadian Football League. I hear the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could use a starting quarterback.

Do I sound bitter? Of course. Seven years of losing seasons will do that to a Raiders fan, but today I’m feeling fabulous because two players who are examples of what’s wrong with the NFL and it’s current labor negotiations got what they deserved in the end.