Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Its Been A Long Time Running Its Well Worth The Wait









Gord Downie is the man.



I've seen the Hip in concert four times. They put on a great show, driving growling guitars and Downie of course, in turn mumbling, then roaring, meandering around Canadiana, obscure and not so obscure references to Tom Thompson and the Kingston Pen and cordouroy roads, drifting off onto tangents, thoughtful and then mental, screaming about Bobby Orr and bears and Cape Spear. the crowd entranced by this everyman as he wanders about the stage.



Part of the appeal of the Hip and of Downie in particular, I think, is that they are regular guys. Part of their fame lies in their failed sorties into the States and many Canadian expats have the shared experience of seeing this great Canadian band, perhaps the greatest Canadian band, playing in a bar in front of a few dozen people, usually all Canadians stunned at their good fortune to be living in a town where the Hip have come to play. I have a friend who saw them in California nearly twenty years ago, he has pictures of them in an empty club and after the show he hung out with them at the bar, drinking beer and shooting the shit.



I've seen Downie out and about a couple of times. The first time I ran into him was one of those first warm days, you know the ones, hot and sunny, out of nowhere after months of grey aching cold, the days when the patios overflow with sunstarved Canadians, faces turned to the sky, beer poured down throats. One such day after work a few years back I dropped by the Dora Keogh, one of Toronto's best pubs, copper covered tables and fine pints of Guinness. As I fired back one pint and then started on another I noticed your man leaning against the bar. He had obviously been enjoying the sunshine most of the day, likely with a some beers in his backyard, his face was red and shining, his eyes squinting drunkenly in the darkness of the bar. More than anything I noticed that he has massive hands. Just absolutely huge.



It was a year or so later my uncle and aunt were staying with us, visiting from Fernie. One night we ordered Indian from our local joint, the best around, one of those little hole in the wall places where the food is both cheap and outstanding. We've never had better except maybe, maybe, when we were in London and stumbled into a place in Soho. Cost an arm and a leg though.



So my uncle and I headed down to pick up our order and as we sat at a table and waited (we always have to wait when we go to this place, its well worth it though, you can't rush art) a fellow rode up on a bike and came in to get his food. It was Downie. I pointed this out to my uncle, who was quite impressed with the fact that the laconic man sitting a few feet from us was the frontman for a band so famous that even he, in his sixties, knew who they were.



That's the thing about Downie. A regular dude with that spark of genius and charisma. he knwos a good pub and great Indian plus he's a Canadian icon.



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When it comes to the Hip we all know their standards but like all great bands there's depth to their work. After their first album where other than the first few songs its mostly throwaway you can go album by album and from the first song to the last you can find something in each one. And so it is in the song Long Time Running. from which I found the title of this post. Just a little song buried deep in an old album and its just fantastic.



Its been a long time running indeed for the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins. The Canucks' history has been a mediocre one, forty years of mostly nothing punctuated with laughable uniforms, bad trades and the Bertuzzi/Moore disaster. Forty years with little to show for it. What did Tyler Dellow once say? Oilers have five, Flames have one and Canucks just don't matter. Something like that. It was true but it may not be for much longer.



The Bruins have a long rich history but much like the Philadelphia Flyers its been a while for them. Since 1967 only Montreal has been to the Finals more than the Bruins but since 1972 its been a long list of good clubs that have fallen just short of the summit.



So we have an Original Six club and a Canadian club and so for the fourth year in a row we have a glamour matchup. Its nice to see. For a while there it seemed that in hockey, baseball and American football it was an annual matchup of obscure clubs where nobody cared. In hockey we had matchups like Dallas and New Jersey or my favourite of all time, Jersey and Anaheim. Baseball had a stretch where the World Series was either won by the Yankees (spits although those Yankee clubs were more likeable than the bunch from the last decade), Florida or Arizona. And football saw carpetbaggers like the St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowls.



I'm old school as you know. If I had my druthers every league would fold a third of their clubs. Having teams where people don't care, where there is no history of the game, where the club is on life support year after year ... well I don't get it. And I understand the diehard fans of these clubs in trouble and I feel for them but honestly if you are going to have a team that is marginal in terms of its revenues I would say that having it in Winnipeg or Quebec City makes far more sense than having it in Atlanta or Phoenix. Harsh? Maybe so. But if the league is going to pour tens of millions of dollars into franchises it just makes sense to pour that money into clubs where more than ten thousand people care about whether the team lives or dies. And yes I know its about American TV blah blah blah. They've been shooting for that brass ring since 1967 and its gone nowhere. The NHL is a smalltime league run by smalltimers. Play to your strengths and start by folding as many Bettman franchises as you need to.



For me the return of a franchise in Winnipeg is absolutely wonderful news. Les Nordiques next please.



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Before I actually talk about the final I want to touch on something that is really shitty and that is the fact that barring a miracle the Oilers are a million years away. Management is betting on a Chicago or Pittsburgh turnaround while the cynics amongst us point to the Islanders or soon to be deceased Thrashers as a greater probability based on management's lack of acumen. But there is a third possibility of course and that is the Canucks' model (you may also call this the Sharks or Sens' model). For Vancouver it has been over a decade since they drafted the Sedins and there were quite a few steps back before they got to where they are today, which is still four wins short of taking it all. Looking at the Canucks' roster and that of the Oilers one can only get a sinking feeling. Only Gilbert and Whitney could crack the Canucks' defence corps. Amongst the forwards Hemsky could play in their top six and Horcoff would be their third or fourth centre and Taylor Hall could probably find a spot on the roster somewhere but even Eberle and Paajarvi would likely be plying their trade in the minors, which is no slight against those two kids really, they are better players than Tanner Glass for example but they are not primetime NHLers just quite yet.



And that's about it. Gagner and Cogliano would not make that roster. No Smid or Foster or Vandermeer and none of the fourth liners. And the goaltending? Oh my God.



Are there kids coming? There sure are and we already know that there are some dandies. But holy fuck do the Oilers ever have a long way to go.



----------------



As for the final well remember when I was talking about those awful matchups of a decade ago? Well the last few years have seen a renaissance and its wonderful. In baseball we have seen celebrations for long suffering fans of the Red Sox and the Giants and the White Sox and the Phillies. In football Super Bowls have gone to flagship franchises in Green Bay and Pittsburgh and Boston (again!) and to the club from New Orleans. And in the NHL we have seen the Wings and Penguins and last year the club from Chicago take it all after nearly a half century of frustration. And so this year it will be just under or just over forty years of waiting washed away. Its going to be an explosion of joy and its probably going to be on the west coast.



One never knows. I figured the Flyers to be heavily overmatched last spring and they could have won that series. Bob MacKenzie was hearkening back to 1995 when everyone figured the Wings would roll right over the Devils and instead were swept and it was shortly thereafter that the Flyers were expected to pound Detroit and were swept themselves. Every series takes on its own life and can turn on a bounce here, a flip of the coin there. Maybe Boston will match up really well with Vancouver, maybe their style will throw a wrench in it. I don't see it but we won't know until they hit the ice.



I look at the rosters and I see a sawoff in goal and two clubs that have terrific depth up front. Last game the Bruins started with Peverley on the fourth line for Chrissakes. They are deep but so are the Canucks and if Malholtra can play and be effective then that's a real boost for Vancouver. The difference is on the back end. I suspect that we will see Chara and Seidenberg take on the Sedins (likely fronted by Bergeron) and that may be a matchup the Bruins can win, meaning they might shut the twins down. Then of course they will roll the dice and hope that their remaining units can win the day. But the Canucks are so deep on the back end that a Bruins' team that has issues scoring may really struggle and unless Kesler is really hurt I think he can run roughshod over Krejci if that's the matchup. He's a guy who sawed off Toews after all.



I wouldn't write off the Bruins and I think they could win this thing but unless Thomas really gets on a roll I think the Canucks' forwards just destroy the second and third pairs of D on Boston.



Vancouver in six.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Going With The Flow



When it comes to parenting we're who some of our friends refer to as 'the strict ones' as in 'we should give our kids to you for a few days, you guys would straighten them out.' Are we tough? I don't think so. We're a little old school. Early bedtimes. No candy or junk except on special occasions. Limited time with the TV, computer and video games. Chores.



But they get an allowance for those chores and when special occasions roll around we break out the sugar and sometimes we let them just veg in front of the TV for hours. Its pretty well common sense how we do things or so we think so and of course as a parent I believe you have to feel that way. You know you're going to screw up and you've always got to try and get better at it (I've learned how to control my temper far better as the years have rolled on, for example) but I think you have to believe in how you are raising your kids one hundred percent. You have to know that the way you are doing things is the best way, you have to work at it but you have to know that its the right way.



And I think every parent feels the same way. The majority of our friends parent the same way but we have those who spoil their kids (so we feel) and we have those who don't discipline their young ones and we have those who won't commit to anything that doesn't fit in with 'the schedule'.



I don't understand any of those tacts (although I have friends who can't believe our kids are in bed by seven most nights either) but it may be the last that baffles me the most. My old man told me weeks after we had our first that I had to remember that while we give everything to our kids we need to remember that they have to give a little too - after all we had a life before they came along. (This may explain why Dad missed all of those family functions because he had pressing business at the pub. I kid. I kid.) But Dad's point was correct and we have not lost ourselves in our role as parents. Our oldest was barely a month old and we had her at a Halloween party at friends and over the years our kids have been dragged hither and thither, to parties and pubs and wanders about the city and family reunions into the wee hours up in Goulais River and the end result is that they can roll with the punches. Fourteen hours in a van on the TransCanada heading east? No problem. Dinner parties until midnight at the neighbours? Bring it on. Dinner on the road, literally? Now we're talking.



Meanwhile we know folks who pack up at 5:30 because they need to get home for the nightly bath and bedtime which cannot be a minute late. I don't get it but you know what? I'll just shut my mouth because a)its none of my business and b) they believe that's the right way to do things.



Of course its not but anyhow .... ;)



So our parenting methods are paradoxical. We are strict but easy going depending on the situation. One thing that we have never been pushy on is the toilet training. We have friends who have had their kids trained early and those who have not and damned if I know the first thing about it. We tried our first because we thought she was ready because of her age and that lasted a day and then we knew that she was not. Since then its been wait and wait and then give it a try and its worked out. So our youngest will be three in six weeks and a few weeks ago after we returned from the Dominican we said hey its probably time. The first morning there were a few accidents but then the rest of the day was fine. Day two had one mishap and the next day nothing and so it went. She still has the odd slipup, usually when she's tired out but the transition has been easy for the most part and now except for the nighttime diaper we are done after thousands of diapers over nearly eight years. Isn't that fucking mental? Once she is night trained I won't change another diaper until we have grandkids and maybe not even then.



No more diapers until I need them, so we have a few years at least.



The one quirk (there's always a quirk) is that our youngest didn't want to have anything to do with pooping at first. She's okay now but for the first week or so she was holding it in until the inevitable explosion came, usually in the morning when she woke up and realized that she had a diaper on that she could fill.



So one morning I got up and the wife was at work and so its one of a few days a week where I have the kids sunup to sundown. The baby is calling and so I get up to start the day and I go in and I get the wipes because I can smell what has happened already.



A three year old doesn't poop like a baby anymore. A three year old can shit with the best of them and this one morning I was subjected to probably the worst one in nearly eight years of changing diapers. We're talking a couple of days saved up and its like one of those homeless guys you pass on the street, the stink is just so godawful and its got to be about four pounds of solid shit and I'm gagging like I've just been gassed in Belgium, I can barely fucking stand it. And she's giggling away 'I pooped I pooped'. Yeah no fucking kidding. Thanks a million.



----------------------------



The Oilers signed Ryan Jones today and apparently its for two years for ~ 3 million. Jones is an odd player. The underlying numbers hate him (read FastOils's comment in the thread) and really so does the eye. He's forever falling down and for a guy whose role is to grind it out he's not one to hit or grind or do much of anything. But he can score goals. He scored eighteen of them. And he's engaging, he's on Twitter and he either is an everyman type of guy or plays one very well (most likely the former - he just seems like a simple guy who enjoys himself) and so he is a fan favourite.



There was little doubt that the Oilers would at least try to sign the guy and really its hard to get too upset about this at all. The term is fine and at least this year he isn't going to be taking up a roster spot for anybody on their way up. Omark has a spot now and one has to guess that Hartikainen has also earned his place but there are no other kids to make the jump on the wing this fall. With Jones signed the wingers suss out this way: Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Hemsky, Jones, Omark, Brule, Hartikainen.



Maybe they flush Brule or maybe they stick with him and try and get some value but until the Hemsky contract gets resolved I think what we see is what we get. They flushed Liam Reddox and while I liked the little guy quite a bit of course he just was not that good. Having said that he could PK and he was better than Jacques and MacIntyre so hopefully we will see an upgrade of some sort, a vet who could PK and add some size would be nice. I really don't expect much though.



Back to Jones. As I said at this term and money its alright. Hey its even possible that he could turn into a guy who can help a winning team down the road, although its pretty unlikely. Hard to get too worked up about it at all one way or another. Its not a gamble at all and if he can become better then its a win. I don't expect that but after years of flushing guys and not replacing them I certainly can't get upset about the Oilers keeping guy who at the very least can play in the NHL somewhat.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stan Mikita













Regular visitors here know that Stan Mikita was my boyhood hockey hero.



Stan Mikita came to Canada as a boy, sent here by his parents to live with his uncle and aunt, to find a better life, away from wartorn Europe. Stan was what they called a DP back in the 1940s, short for displaced person, not a friendly term. As a youngster Stan Mikita learned to fight back pretty early. He carried that chip on his shoulder all the way to the NHL where he earned a reputation as a tough (and dirty) player. He fought to establish himself in what was a tough tough league and he became one of the greatest players of all time. When he retired he was third all time in scoring. People forget Stan Mikita sometimes. He was one of the best ever. He could skate like the wind and he was perhaps the best playmaker to ever play before some guy named Gretzky came along. He could score goals. He took care of his own end and he killed penalties and he won faceoffs. He was a beauty.



News today that Stan Mikita is facing his toughest fight yet, as he battles cancer,



Good luck Stan. I know you'll face this foe with the courage and toughness that marked your career and I hope that you beat it. I really hope that you beat it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Questions



When your team never makes the playoffs, when they are out of the race every year before the snow flies and you are subjected to months of boring depressing poor hockey, interrupted only by a monthly success that we like to call the Greyhound Handjob in these parts, then the arrival of the playoffs is welcome. Meaningful hockey, played with passion and excitement, by hockey teams that range from good to excellent.



The only sour note - realizing that your sadsack squad is miles away from being good enough to even win a series. And competing for the Cup? We're talking travel to Jupiter far away, pal.



Oh well, what the fuck, right? At least we have teenager hockey players who are awesome! And a new arena coming!



A couple of nights ago I wandered down to the far western reaches of Queen Street with my partner in crime. It began as a lovely warm night and degenerated into another fucking deluge as we tried to make our way to a second bar. We were left soaking and bitter. Well, not really bitter.


When we get together we talk about books and music and politics and our kids and beer but mostly we talk about sex and hockey. Because we are men. And last night was no different. I'll not get into the sex talk because quite frankly I'm starting to worry about myself a little. Our trip to the DR was pretty well awesome in that regard and since our return I have essentially obsessing about those tropical goings on to the point where I can barely go out in public due to the constant boner I have. Its kind of raging right now. What can I say? My wife is fucking hot and I'm a dude. I should just get over it I guess.



So to hockey. The game was on and we witnessed the Canucks just kicking the shit out of San Jose. The Sharks can totally come back but the Sedins are rolling now, hell the whole club is, and imagine that they are without Malholtra and Samuelsson. Could Vancouver not win the Cup? Of course but right now I think they're looking to be in pretty good shape barring a catastrophic injury.



My pal is a fan of Les Sabres and so we were talking about who we were rooting for this year. Since 2006 I've been pretty happy with what has happened in the playoffs. Out of the eight finallists I really could only object to the Ducks on the basis that they were generally douchebags, had their genesis in a Disney movie and were one of Bettman's pet franchises. On the other hand Ottawa is a Canadian club. Detroit and Chicago are original six clubs and have long histories and of course we all know my connection to the Hawks. Ending their Cup drought was just outstanding and I celebrated that triumph by drinking a lot of wine and having sex on our couch. With my wife too, not the usual solo act that happens there. You haven't really lived until you have had crazy sex while Duncan Keith mumbles and slurs through his broken teeth in the background. Adds an element of danger because its like a hobo is in your house watching you do it.



Oh those precious moments.



Chicago beat one of the '67 expansion clubs and love them or hate them (most do the latter) Philly is one of the premier franchises in the league. And the two previous years we had the Wings and Pens, another '67 club, probably the most successful one of those.



So its been quality. None of that old New Jersey/Dallas shit.



This season its a little more difficult to figure out. Who do you go for when you don't have a real interest? Here's what I go by, in no particular order:



Pool.


The franchise.


The players.



Pool



Does it matter? Sure it does. I knew a guy in school who was a huge Leafs's fan. Every pool he entered he chose all Leafs because he couldn't bear to cheer for anyone else. Easy easy money, this was before the Gilmour trade, one and done pretty well every year.



So presently I'm in third with eight of my ten players left. Not bad eh? The fellow ahead of me and the fellow behind me each have four guys left and all of them are Tampa players. The guy in first, about six points ahead of me and fading, is down to two Bruins and Pavelski.



So I need a Canucks/Bruins final. And if I were to really get greedy I need the Bruins to win quickly and in low scoring games and I need the Sharks to come back and push this to six or seven. If I am arrears but get Vancouver and Boston in the final then as long as that is not a sweep and we get some goals I should be good. I'll be rich! Rich I tells ya.



Well maybe not rich but a little bit of money so I can go get some beerth.



So Vancouver and Boston.



The Franchise



When it comes to sports I'm a traditionalist. I like old timey franchises in all sports. I respect clubs that have a history of success but having said that I don't like clubs that have a fanbase of frontrunners (the Yankees, Manchester United). And if I were king of the world and that day is coming so watch your step the first thing I would do would contract teams in all sports. I'd be a dick like that because I think less teams is better. Seriously, thirty teams in the NHL? Unfuckingnecessary. They should tie that runt Bettman to the back of a truck and drive down the old cordouroy road to my camp a few times for all of the teams he has added. And yes I know he answers to the owners etc etc. Fuck him anyhow.



Anyhow these novelty franchises in the south don't do a damn thing for me and yes I know that there are passionate fans and you bet that I'm not one of those guys who smiles when I see one of them fail. Losing your team would be heartwrenching. And in a few cases - San Jose, Nashville, Carolina, Tampa, it appears that there may be roots taking hold. And that's great. But I can't cheer for a sunbelt team over an original six club and while the Canucks' fans are apparently the biggest bunch of douchebags going I really can't comment on that because I only 'know' three Canucks' fans. My cousin, who is an absolutely terrific guy. Oilogosphere commenter Temujin who seems a totally decent sort. And Tom Benjamin who may be a little cranky but certainly seems a fine fellow. That's the thing. Here in Toronto there are no Canuck fans - maybe if there were I'd feel a little more strongly about them. Other than the cowards and punks who attacked Theo Fleury on twitter after Chicago was defeated in game seven I haven't really seen a lot of evidence of the fanbase being bigger tools than, say, the Oiler fanbase, which God knows has its share of assholes and idiots. Although the whole Looouuuu chant is pretty goofy.



The Players



You always want to think (or at least I do) that the guys on a team are the same as the guys on your own club team. A bunch of terrific guys who kid around before the game, treat each other like adults, go out for a couple of beers afterwards. Most of the guys I've played with (and against) over the years have been pretty good guys and of course there have been dicks as well. And with the sense of entitlement and ego that any professional athlete will have you know that probably you're going to have more than your share of dicks on any club even though anecdotal evidence seems to point to most NHL guys being decent sorts. Shayne Corson anyone?



Still its hard not to look at the remaining teams and check out the guys on the roster. Are there any ex Oilers? When the Ducks won the one thing that made me happy was that Todd Marchant got to hoist the Cup. Are there any longtime veterans who are getting what may be their last or only shot? Marchant again. Selanne. Sopel. Hossa. Guerin. Brian Campbell. Hal Gill. And finally are there any guys who just seem like cool guys? Or conversely are there a lot of jerks?



San Jose already has two strikes against them and what can I say but I cannot and will not ever cheer for a club that has Dany Heatley on it unless its Team Canada. Buddy is a fucking choking prima donna tool and if he ever won the Cup I'd cry bitter tears and put a gun in my mouth. There's no such thing as justice or karma but please please never ever let me see his name engraved on the Cup. And that goes for junior douche Ian White as well. I like Dan Boyle and I like my old Auntie Niemi and I don't mind Marleau or Thornton at all but no Shark Cups unless 'Heater' that big idiot and White are long gone.



The Canucks? Well here they fail somewhat although again I must admit I don't hate them as much as most. Burrows is a twat and I'd prefer Kesler to be a little less dirty and a little less of a diver (although Messier and Anderson, to name a couple old Oilers, were about as filthy as you can get). The Sedins are dull but I think that's mostly because they are Swedes. Bieksa is a dick and Luongo's flopping about is plain silly. When the Canucks play the Oilers I dislike them intensely. When they're caving in the Sharks I kind of enjoy it. And yeah I'd like to see Raffi Torres win the Cup just because I think he would go on such a fucking weird emotionally fraught bender afterwards that he would become a legend and we'd never see him again.



Now if you really want to see a bunch of guys to cheer for its obviously Tampa. You have your ex Oilers - Roli, Brewer, Bergeron. You have Marty St. Louis. You have Stamkos who seems like a pretty happy go lucky fellow. There's Vinny Lecavalier who gives millions of dollars to the childrens' hospital in Tampa. There is Dominic Moore and Bergenheim and Nate Thompson and the veterans Ohlund and Kubina. Other than superdouche Steve Downie there's whole lot of guys you want to see do well.



As for the Bruins well you have Michael Ryder who is easy to cheer for he's such a cement and I've always liked Chara and Bergeron and Andrew Ference. Adam MacQuaid is from the Island and played his junior in my hometown so that's a couple of big checkmarks in the black for him. And Tim Thomas is Tim Thomas.



So there's a fair amount of players to cheer for on each team. Well except for the Canucks.



So who am I hoping for, other than the Jets? Well I have to say a Vancouver - Boston final would please me most of all. That would be four straight finals with some cachet.



If it gets to that then we'll revisit the issue but before the playoffs I was kind of hoping for Boston and really I can't say that anything has changed there. Don't think anyone is stopping the Canucks though.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Putin's Invitation



My Dearest Comrade Horcov. Greetings from Motherland! Spring is finally raising sleepy head from endless steppes, sniffing at air curiously like great snuffling bear. It has been typical winter here which means to say it has been the shits. Of course you know of what I speak, being in northern outpost where you are. I am sure that same chill winds that ached my bones travelled across world to freeze your balls as well. In that way we are like brothers, no, under same stars. Do you feel connection? I certainly do. And that does not make me gay, even if I am sounding like that.



Enough with lazy chit chat though comrade! I am writing you with invitation of great import to our glorious Mother Russia! You may be last hope for us. As you know our once glorious hockey reputation is in ruins. Like aging starlet with addiction to methamphetamines and vodka who has had many children we are no longer so wonderful, instead our tits sag and you could drive nineteen thirties combine up into our uterus, except that the uterus has fallen out onto ground. Have I pictured a painting that is graphic enough for you comrade? Our great hockey team is in shambles.



Yes we beat Canada's fifth string team last week and to that I am saying big fucking deal comrade. We then lost to Finns! It was like 1939 all over again. We have great stars on our team and Finns have Miku Koivu and a bunch of nobodies and they beat us! Fuckity fuck Comrade! Ovechkin and Kovalchuk are worthless. If it were old days they would be reassigned if you know what I mean. (I am making throat slitting gesture popularized by big hairy Phil Esposito in 1972). Useless twats with fat bellies and gold bing bing around their necks. Ovechkin lives with mother did you know that Comrade! I weep for our country. No wonder we were embarassed by Canadian gorillas in Olympics. It would be like having little girls leading regiments in Stalingrad, having these two in charge. We would all be speaking German and having no senses of humour of that was the case. It is an awful disgrace comrade and I am miserable about it. Indeed I have begun drinking even more than usual. I know I know, how is that possible? I will tell you how, because I am Russian man, not little fat baby with shaving commercials. If I wanted to shave and look like woman I would have lion lick my face if it would even dare to do it.



I must apologize Comrade. I know that my rage is not becoming. In my defence it has been endless winter as usual and I am cold and tired a little bit. Perhaps age is catching up to me. Plus I think I may be a little depressed. I look at my legacy and I see nothing. I will be forgotten comrade, I believe that is my fate. Everyone remembers Lenin and Stalin and Khrushchev banging his shoe and great eyebrowed Brezhnev. And Gorbachev, who ruined it for us, with his bald head and purple map of Sicily or whatever the hell that thing was. They will be remembered! But not I, no I am like those guys who came between Brezhnev and Gorbachev, nobody remembers them. You know the guys. The little old guy with glasses and big fat red faced guy. See I don't even remember them. Excuse me comrade. I need to get a hold of myself.



OK I am now back. Many apologies for outburst of emotion. I am a little hormonal these days and frankly the drinking is starting very very early. Still I am happy to say that I have plan to fix everything. Olympics are coming here comrade! Here! This is chance to redeem our glorious Motherland and also to make for myself place in history. I will be remembered as great leader who brought victory!



I must be honest first of all. I wanted Datsyuk for job but he will not return my calls. Never mind. You are good second choice, no? And as good soldier I know that you will be, well, good soldier.



What is he saying, you may ask yourself? Also, what am I doing here? With my job and my wife and my big American automobile. Hahaha. That is joke comrade. It is riffing on weird eighties guy David Byrne. I am relieving tension likely caused by my Datsyuk comment. Have no fear comrade, I know you are man for job. We are going to be starting training for Olympics this summer comrade! Yes, I know how exciting! And you comrade, you are the man I want to lead Russian team to glory.



I know you are thanking me already but there is more, as they say on corrupt Western infomercials. Except I will not be sending you second machine that turns lights on and off when you clap hands or extra set of knives to chop chop chop, no comrade, this is even better. We will be holding training camp at my dacha in Crimea!



I know I know, I can only imagine immense boner such news causes you. In between most excellent workouts designed by my old comrade from KGB, er, local Golds Gym, I mean to say, team will bathe naked in invigorating Black Sea. And comrade, it will not be all business, no no. There will be much pleasure in form of excellent Russian vodkas and, best of all, my staff of lovely Ukranian women. They are of finest peasant stock Comrade, let me tell you, they are thick of calf and of waist and their buttocks are enormous, more cushkin for the pushkin, eh hahaha. And let me be telling you, after hours of callisthenics in hot sun there is no better reward then to have them come to you in sauna, to remove their shapeless black cassocks and allow you to lick their gigantic salty nipples.



And my friend they are indeed salty after hours they spend in hot sun sweating in fields. It is one of my most beloved pleasures this licking.



So what say you comrade? I know you will say yes. It will give you new life and purpose after another disaster in your Canadian working place. It is like old days in Russia which I miss very much I must say. It is five year plan that failed but now those in charge say, no matter, new five year plan. Perhaps fucking midget Comriev was right, it is like Communism. Of course, he would know, eh Comrade, wink wink, nudge. lol as the worthless western teenagers say.



Like Soviet, the leaders are untouchable and you have Pravda, er Journal, to parrot management. Only difference is those who are unworthy get sent to teams that win. In old days we would take them into swamp and bury them. It is a Reversal of Fortune, no? Except Jeremy Irons is nowhere to be seen.



The more I am thinking about it the more great ideas I am having. Sooner or later there will be discontent and at that point perhaps if this thing in Sochi does not work out it will be time for me to move on. Tell drug overlord of Oilers that if he ever needs new manager that I might be interested. I have experience and idea of job with no repercussions is appealing to me. At some point sleep eyed ditherer will be taken to woods to be scapegoat. It is good for me to have options.



By the way comrade next time you see Khabibulin give him slap upside head. It is absurd what he has done, throwing away all of that money with poor play and off ice actions. He is disgrace. He was washing up even before they signed him. There is no way he will get money next year what with poor play and being over thirty five. Nobody will sign him and certainly not for any length of time or any amount of money.



Bah! We have our work cut out for us comrade but I know you are strong of heart and back, if not really of much else.



Haha I am joking comrade, just a little teasing at your expense.



I await your arrival with excitement. Remember - vodka and salty nipples. It will be most excellent summer.



Your friend. Vlad.



***just a quick thank you and glove tap to Downright Fierce who drew the totally awesome Horcov pic up top - check out his other work if you have not already.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Choking Chokers and Those Who Are Not



Went splitsies on my predictions last round. Eight and four now. Had an inkling about Tampa but really did not expect them to win. Absolutely thought Detroit would knock off San Jose but they ran out of bodies. This team is getting old. They're still fantastic but Holland is going to have to do some fancy juggling to make sure they don't fade back into the pack now that it looks like the Lidstrom era is winding down. Way too many guys on the wrong side of thirty.



Of course when one of those guys is Pavel Datsyuk perhaps its not so bad after all. A couple of weeks ago Tom Benjamin was musing about the Selke nominees, stating that he's take that lot (Datsyuk, Towes, Kesler) over the Hart nominees (Perry, St. Louis, D. Sedin) any day. No disagreement from this corner.



I was indisposed for most of the second round, really missing the meat of the matter and so take the comments that follow with a grain (ok larger than normal grain) of salt.



I find the whole idea of players being clutch or chokers to be, well, not entirely untrue but certainly extremely iffy. Its all a narrative of course and the media feed the beast. I thought Joe Thornton played a great game last night but I have found that for at least the last two playoff seasons he has been topnotch. If San Jose had lost he would have been gutted by the media but they won and so the monkey is off his back. No word on what will happen if they lose to the Canucks. As for Patty Marleau he went from being gutless to being the hero all in the time it takes to tap one in. Marleau strikes me as the quiet type and he's streaky and like most streaky scorers he can either look great or terrible. He actually scores a lot of goals in the playoffs, though apparently not in games six or seven until last night. So he scores and now he is no longer a choker, he has guts and heart and all that good stuff. Until the next round.



Its all part of the mythology surrounding the game. The funny thing of course is how so many of the great clutch players just happen to be amongst the greatest players of all time. Facing tighter checking and better clubs did not stop the likes of Gretzky, Orr, Richard, Messier, Mario Lemieux, Sakic, Yzerman, Esposito, Forsberg and so on because they are the pantheon by which everyone else is measured. One other thing - they all won. Patrick Roy's playoff gaffes, and he had a few, are forgotten because of the Stanley Cup rings blocking his ears. Marty Brodeur too.



As for your lesser lights well you have interesting cases. I'm not talking about your Fernando Pisanis and John Druces, your Bergenheims and Wards, guys who suddenly go on a tear. I'm talking about Kesler and the Sedins and our friends in San Jose, the guys just down the ladder from the superstars.



If you have the rep you have to do one of two things. Win or produce other worldly numbers. Marian Hossa's numbers in the playoffs ranged from good to terrific in his five playoff years before last season. When he played with the Pens he had twenty six points in twenty games. Or well, maybe you just have to win if you're certain players because until last year Hossa had that rep. Poor playoff performer. After a season where he averaged over a point per game. Tough crowd if you're European I think. And then he won that Cup and now its ok.



Jonathan Toews had no goals last year in the Finals. Of course he had that World Juniors' gold and that Olympic gold but winning the Cup? Well those zero goals are forgotten.



Clutch.

Right?



(By the way I have absolutely no explanation for Claude Lemieux. He was a good player but in the playoffs he was all world. An outlier I guess? Anyone?)



So for Kesler and the Sedins, Thornton, Marleau and Heatley there is a lot riding on the next two weeks. For Kesler, who singlehandedly trashed Nashville, there is less at stake, but for the others this series might make or break their reputations, at least until next season. Vancouver goes to the final and the Sedins make a lot of noise? They're looking good. Another series where they do little? You can bet there will be calls for their heads. A San Jose win and Thornton would be vindicated. Marleau too probably. Heatley, he who scores all of his goals against the Latvias and Japans and Frances of the world, is so thoroughly unlikeable, would have to go on a tear to erase his noshows in 2007, the Olympics of 2006 and 2010, his disappearing act every year when the going gets tough.



And of course in my own little way I just revealed another contributor to all of this. Heatley, being a douchebag, gets no rope at all. I may not believe in choking except when it comes to the shrivelled little ballsack between the legs of number fifteen. Then its all true, every last bit of it. ;)



So who will go to the Finals? Well for my pool I need the Canucks and Bruins to win. I'm a strong third and still have eight of ten players left. Ideally the Bruins would sweep and the Canucks would win in six or seven. Probably be all set then.



But ... while that is also the final I would like to see (I would like to see Boston win and I do not want Heatley anywhere near raising the Cup) I'm thinking its not going to work out that way.



In the East I would pick Boston if Bergeron is healthy and so that is my caveat - if he plays every game this series then I'll go with the Bruins. Without him though, well that's a huge loss. Only Chara would be bigger imo. They are deep up front, yes, and of course they have the big man on the back end, but I think Bergeron's loss might tip it in Tampa's direction. Roloson is playing superbly and Yzerman has just loaded this club with solid veteran players - Kubina, Gagne, Moore, Bergenheim, Brett Clark, Brewer. Just a long list of professional players and what appears to be a terrific young coach. Of course if Chara can shut down St. Louis, well then ....



Damnit I don't know. OK I'll go with my gut. Tampa in seven. Sadly.



As for the west I like Vancouver's D a lot more but San Jose has the edge up front. The Sharks have talisman Antii Niemi between the pipes and like last year when he looks shitty he really looks shitty but when he looks good he's damn good. A very small part of me would like to see San Jose win because I like the whole Niemi story. Wins the Cup, gets dumped, goes to arch rival, struggles, finds his game, has new club on a roll. I don't blame Chicago, I think Crawford is actually probably a better goalie. But I like Niemi. He's a Finlander after all.



Like the eastern series this is a pick em to me. I look at the Canucks and I see the Sedins doing fuck all and I think they can't do it but then again San Jose is San Jose. They can't win, right? Right? They barely beat a Wings' team that was old and broken down. Plus they have Heatley and Ian White. Fucking assholes.



Hmmm.



Ok Canucks in seven although its a tossup. In the end I think San Jose's backend is just too iffy and the Sedins are too good to not come through.



And if they don't?



Chokers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A New Calling



When we first started talking about what to do for our tenth I was thinking of Europe first of all if we could manage getting away for a week. Maybe Paris or Venice. Or Spain. I dig Europe but Jenn suggested one of these all inclusive deals down in the Caribbean. We'd never done one of those and honestly it did not appeal to me. I'm not a big sitting in the sun guy, not a huge sitting around and do nothing guy.



Or so I thought.



We went to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, to an adults' only (cue the porno music and the hedgehog Ron Jeremy delivering a pizza) resort called Catalonia Royal. For a week we sat in the sun on the beach and by the pool, drank colourful drinks loaded with rum and sugar, read books, smoked, ate and ate and ate and also engaged in a wonderful activity that the Europeans refer to, I believe, as "sexual intercourse".



Whatever you want to call it its a humdinger of a way to spend your time.



When you're biggest decisions are beach or pool, where to go for dinner, Coco Loco or Tom Collins then the stress tends to flow out and away from you and so it did. Not a discouraging thought for seven days and indeed for the first days after we returned, my mind in an alcohol soaked, sun baked, sex drained daze that has probably never been seen.



So yeah we'll likely do it again.



There was no television, no phone, no Twitter or email or Blackberry. Internet was confined to two minutes each morning to check the hockey scores and so we missed Bin Laden's death, the rise of Harper and demise of the Liberals and Bloc and Jack Layton as leader of the opposition (I grew up with Trudeau as PM, near the tail end of the LPC being in power pretty well nonstop since the end of the Great War with the exception of the Chief. If you're my generation or older these election results are absolutely astounding.).



Also Tampa sweeping the Capitals and the Bruins exacting revenge on the Flyers and San Jose jumping out to an insurmountable lead.



Or maybe not.