Friday, November 23, 2012

Billy Conn


I wrote about this years ago and its apropos to what I'm about to say.

I'm so old (HOW OLD ARE YOU? (and if you get that gag you're my age)) that I remember when boxing mattered. I remember watching heavyweight title fights with my grandfather and dad in my grandparents' house in Pincourt, a suburb of Montreal. Ali. Norton. Foreman. Joe Frazier. Earnie Shavers. Spinks. Larry Holmes. On regular TV, none of this pay per view crap!!

Boxing may have died anyway, anyone who has seen poor Shawn O'Sullivan certainly can see why its best if it went away but I wonder sometimes if it would still be as big as it was before it started going to Pay per View and all that. Out of sight out of mind and I'm sure I'm simplifying it all. The corruption, the multiple associations, the lack of charismatic stars, I guess they all contributed.

Anyway when I was a kid I knew boxers past and present and my favourite old timey story was Billy Conn's first bout with Joe Louis. Here is what I wrote a few years back:

One of the great sports stories, certainly one of my favourites, is the story of Billy Conn. Conn was the light heavyweight champion of the world back in the day, a great fighter, and his fight with Joe Louis is considered one of the greatest fights of all time. Louis outweighted Conn by over thirty pounds when they met in 1941; both men were in their prime but Conn was the heavy underdog.


For twelve rounds of the thirteen round bout Conn beat Louis. Going into the final round Conn had the fight clearly won. His corner advised him to stay clear of Louis for the final round; the fight was won, there was no need to go after the bigger man.

So Conn charges out for the final round and goes for the knockout.

Louis knocks him out with two seconds left.

After the fight Conn was asked why, with the fight so clearly won, he threw caution (and sense) to the wind. He answered that he was an Irishman and it was his nature. He had to go for the knockout.

He had no regrets. He's rather lose being true to himself then win hanging back.

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Got in a discussion on the Twitter today and figured I'd expand on it here. I fucking love twitter, its mental, but sometimes its hard to get your point across, it can get fragmented.

Here's the thing. There's a lot of noise surrounding this whole mess. You have your hockey 'journalists' (HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAAH sorry, oh jeez), many who are in the pocket of one side or the other. You have player agents, representatives of the owners and the players and you have the fans, many of whom are biased one way or the other, some who are not.


I'd like to think I'm in the middle of it or at least that I am unbiased. I know people who are kneejerk for the owners and I know people who are the same for the players. Of course there are also a lot who don't care either way.

In 2004 I sided with the owners. It wasn't a question of thinking that the players were greedy or that the owners deserved this or that. I felt the system was out of control. I remember one game I was watching between the Wings and the Oilers and the Wings had a power play and the six guys on the ice made more money than the entire Oilers' roster.

I wanted some competitive balance. So when they introduced a cap and they rolled the players' salaries back I didn't cheer or anything but I wasn't unhappy with the result.

So here we are, seven years later, and the guy who drew the last CBA up is back to try and a)fix what he fucked up last time and b)get more money for his bosses.

Now as to a) well nice job pal and I know the owners like the guy well enough but if I were one I'd be asking where he got his law degree when he wrote a document with loopholes that took clubs and agents about a minute or so to figure out. You fucked a season to get an agreement that you wrote. You got Goodenow's head on a pole outside the city gates. You won. Except you're so dumb that the guys you 'beat' actually won in the end.

Now Lockout Gary really can't win, not until the share is 80/20 for the owners or something like that (so according to the NHL business model, about twenty years or in three more lockouts) because he has a ton of franchises that cannot keep up. Ideally they'd fold eight franchises or so but of course this won't happen and neither is bigtime revenue sharing. So as the cap goes up the zombie franchises will stumble along, bleeding money.

Of course Gary has gotten the owners to pass a law so that he only needs a small minority backing him to do as he sees fit. You see they're his bosses but he's a smart guy. He really is. They may be his bosses but if has a small group on his side then he can drive the bus. And he is. Not all the way, of course, but a lot more than a lot of people think.

Anyhow back to b) and this is the end game here. The owners want more money, its as simple as that, and Damien Cox (first and last time I refer to Mr 'Tom Gilbert and a top prospect for a 7th rounder derp' in a positive manner but oh well, blind squirrel) had it quite right when he referred to the fact that one of Bettman's huge problems is that he can't articulate why the league is doing what its doing other than to say that they want more money. Which is fine, except its hard to sell. The only folks who support the NHL these days are those who figure the owners deserve to make as much money as possible because they're billionaires and ergo they deserve it basically whereas the players should shut up and play and why damnit they should play for nothing its just a game, why I'd play for nothing herkl jerkl derp. And the players are dummies because hockey players.

 (As an aside I know some perfectly lovely folks who support the owners. I do.)

Of course the argument that its just a game and they should play for peanuts is about as stupid as you can get. Its a billion dollar industry and there are less than seven hundred guys who are good enough to get paid. Its capitalism, sort of, and these guys should get paid. My guess is that if it were a true free market they would be getting paid more. Of course for a lot of 'capitalists' capitalism is for the bosses, not the workers, similar to the idea that profits should be private but losses socialized.

Funny double standard there.

Anyhow that's neither here nor there. I would say actually that while some of the players are dumb (come on down take your pick) the vast majority of them know exactly what they are doing. Heck for some of them this is their third work stoppage (LOCKOUT GARY!!) - for guys like Yakupov and Nugent Hopkins this could be the first of three or four for them - so they know the drill. So to say that they are blind or being led against their will or any of that is a bit of nonsense.

 They're going to lose. The best they will get is 50/50 and they've lost some of their cheques already. They'e going to lose. But you know what?

 THEY DON'T FUCKING CARE!

 They're hockey players. They have lived lives that are based on competing for square inches of ice, literally. They have been taught, since they were boys, to play through pain, stick together, fight through the check, don't stay down, don't back down, don't show weakness. In some cases they literally have to fight for their jobs.

 There are men and women all over the world who fight for their rights. They get locked out or they go on strike and sometimes they die and these are people who make a lot less than professional hockey players. They make mere dollars a day, if that. They have everything to lose and often do and yet they do it. Maybe its principle. Maybe its stubbornness. Maybe they do it because they are tired of getting pushed around or being told what to do. But they do it.

 Our company was in a situation a number of years ago where we were for sale and things looked bleak. We would have probably lost our jobs if we had been sold to certain interests. In the end we were bought by our founder and the first thing that happened was that everyone took a paycut. Money was tight. Except a few of us, individually, said no.

 I would not have quit, certainly not, but I told your man that I couldn't take a cut, it wasn't in the cards with a young kid and another on the way and that if I had to then he'd have to understand that I'd do what I had to do.

 I work for great people, it goes without saying. They found some money for me. I stood up for myself and it worked out. And I did so in a case where they could have easily said 'no sorry' and would have been justified doing so.

So why wouldn't NHL players do the same? Why wouldn't they say 'hey honour the contracts we signed this summer', its only what's right. Because it is.

 And here's the other thing. I went searching and (glove tap to Tyler Dellow) checked out the NHLPA constitution and if you look at Article III on Membership you will see the following:

Section 1. All players who are on an NHL Club roster shall be eligible for membership in the Association.
  Because what a lot of people are saying is that the players are throwing away big money (which many are) and for quite a few they will have a short career and this is it for them. They are blowing their only chance at an NHL payday.

 But (and I may be reading this incorrectly but I do not think I am) the fact is that the NHLPA is ~ 700 members. They are the existing roster players on NHL clubs. Lets look at Edmonton's roster, courtesy of CapGeek. We're looking at the roster players. Unless I am mistaken these are the members of the NHLPA. The NHLPA does not include guys like Toni Rajala and Alex Plante.

 How many of these roster guys are fringe NHLers?  How many of them might not be in the NHL next year?

 And look at the money these guys are making and think about what they have made.

 Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky have all made over thirty million dollars. Hall and Eberle are signed to contracts which will take them over that number. Barring disaster Yakupov and Nugent-Hopkins will do the same. Whitney and Khabibulin have made over twenty million. Nick Schultz has. Sam Gagner, at 23, has made probably over fifteen million.  And you have young Schultz, Petry, Smid and Dubnyk. They're all going to get paid. That's fifteen guys already. Andy Sutton has made over thirteen million over the last five years. Eric Belanger, fringe player, has made eight million over the last five years.

 Do you see where I'm going with this? Then you have Ryan Jones, who has averaged over a million over the last four years and who does enough to have a career for a while yet.

 The number of guys who might really be getting hurt by this lockout? Maybe six guys. And one of them, Teemu Hartikainen, is probably going to win a job with the big club when they start playing again. He's just starting out. If anything the lockout is helping his career. And Darcy Hordichuk has hung around for years, making 800000 a year, year in, year out. Has he blown it? Maybe he's that dumb. Somehow I doubt it.

 So you have Lennart Petrell, Corey Potter, Ben Eager (who has made over six million dollars) and Theo Peckham.

 That's not a big majority of guys fretting about their future. And if Eager has any sense (unlikely I know) he really should be okay as well.

 Now a lot of folks told me today that I don't know the spending habits of these guys but this is what I do know. This is anecdotal but I am a cheap bastard and I would bet money that the vast majority of these guys have more money in the bank than you and I ever will. These are guys who rent houses togther for crying out loud. Rookies live in vets' basements or above their garages. For many of them their idea of a good time is deer hunting in Saskatchewan. They are notoriously cheap. Are some of them dumb? Sure. Will some of them piss their money away? Sure. But the fact that every once in a while a guy like Bryan Trottier goes bust because of bad business decisions does not mean that this is happening to the vast majority of these guys. They have financial advisors. They are businessmen themselves as many old timers moan. Its pretty hard to spend a million bucks when you spend most of your time either playing hockey or preparing to play hockey. A lot of these guys drive beaters for crying out loud. They're Finns and Swedes and Canadians. Have you met my Dad? Have you met me? CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH!

 So lets review. We have a group of guys who are getting asked to take less money even though business is booming by a bunch of billionaires whose representative is an arrogant, smarmy liar. Their profession requires that they be stubborn, that they stick together, they they fight (often literally) for everything. They went through this seven years ago and nearly everybody predicted that this would happen again. And they are, for the most part fabulously wealthy. The older guys have banked more money than you or I will ever see. The younger guys still have their paydays to come. And a large number of them are playing somewhere. They're not making the money they would be in the NHL but they're making money regardless.

 So why are they going to cave again?

 Maybe they do but I suspect that, like Billy Conn, its not their nature to go down without a fight and if that means taking less then so be it. Are they stupid because of it? I don't think so. I know some do but part of this is ingrained in them and part of it is that they can afford it (if they couldn't they'd be playing right now) and part of it is the principle of the thing.

 I know that sounds crazy to us ordinary schmucks, some who are probably struggling to make ends meet, but I don't blame them a damn bit. If I were in their shoes and I could afford it (and I could because I throw nickels around like manhole covers let me tell you) I'd be right at it.

 NOW DRINK!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Man In The Window

 After our parent/teacher interviews last night (and yes both of our older kids are doing great, thanks for asking. No interview for the youngest, likely will have to book a week for that one.) we had an hour or so to kill so we figured we'd take a run to a neighbourhood fancy burger joint we hadn't been to in a while. I was going out for some pints with a pal later so we didn't have time for a fancy but when I first asked Jenn out it was over a burger on the way back from Panmere Beach on PEI (I was giving her a lift home from a gathering) so it was just like old times except for the fact that we were in Toronto, we own a house and have three kids. And over fifteen years have passed us by.

 Fucking mental.

 So we're eating our massive fancy burgers and onion rings (Great Burger Kitchen btw I recommend it), sitting at the rail overlooking Gerrard Street, chatting and watching the world go by, its an interesting one down that way, when all of a sudden this little guy walks by, looks at us, does a doubletake and comes ambling over to the window. He proceeds to press his face against the glass, staring at our burgers. His eyes bug out, he sticks his tongue out and licks his lips, he mashes his face into the glass as if hoping that by the sheer will of his appetite our tasty burgers will come through the glass into his gaping maw.

 I'm killing myself and Jenn is aghast - Oh my God she says what is wrong with this guy? OH MY GOD!

 He pries himself away from the glass, leaving slobber marks there, walks away and then suddenly turns and opens the door to the restaurant. Jenn grabs my arm and shrieks, Oh my God he's coming in here!!

 And then I introduced her to my buddy Scott, 49 year old grinding winger on Capsule Music.

 Best. Ever.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Hall of Being Famous And Pretty Good




I love hockey. Love it. Even NHL hockey, although I prefer Olympic or some other form of best on best tournament. I loathe the entity that is the NHL though. And I am indifferent or hostile (more the former than the latter, hostility is not really a big part of my makeup) to a few of the more famous events linked to NHL hockey - the All Star Game, the annual awards and the Hockey Hall of Fame (granted its not the NHL Hall of Fame but there is a tie there, why else is Bettman even invited).

I like the actual Hall of Fame itself, don't get me wrong. Its a pretty cool place. Its the membership, the honoured members, that bug me. There are too many of them. Way too many. The bar was lowered a long time ago and now anyone who was a pretty good player waltzes right in. Sometimes they wait a while but they get in all the same.

(Just as an aside I don't have a beef with the idea that a guy may not get voted in when he is first eligible but then get in later. There is a difference between, say, Wayne Gretzky, and, um, how about Peter Stastny and its okay for that to be part of the process.)

There is a site by a guy named Arthur Chidlovski. He has a nice workup of the 72 Summit Series but also he takes a look at the Hall of Fame - he actually created a committee and they go through eligible players year by year and put together their own Hall of Fame. Here is part of his introduction:

(this is) the very problem of the Hall of Fame: there are so many people elected that few know (or have even heard of) all of the honoured. The level of excellence has been lowered so that if one wins five Stanley Cups, the expectation is they should be enshrined.


And then he has this beauty quote from Phil Esposito on his induction:


Said the man who trailed just Gordie Howe on the NHL's all-time goal scoring list when he retired in 1980, "It wasn't that big a deal to me because I feel there are some players in the Hall who shouldn't be there, and as a result it sort of cheapens it for everyone."

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What Chidlovski did (until 2007) was go through the eligible players year after year with his committee and try and create a truly elite hall of fame which also looked at international players a lot more than the present hall does. Players have to wait 5 years before they are eligible and need 15 of the 20 votes to be inducted. They are brutally tough markers, for example Stan Mikita, one of the truly great players of all time, does not get in on his first try. He was a guy who was first team all star centre six times (only Gretzky has more) so yeah I think he merits induction on his first try. Anyhow his case is an illustration of how tough they are.

(An aside, Oiler (and WHA) fans will be happy to note that Wild Bill Hunter is a part of this hall, inducted in his third year of eligibility.)

I'd highly recommend taking a look at this site. You probably won't agree with everything, I don't, but its a great exercise. Chidlovski includes eleven players who are not in the present Hall of Fame. He excludes 128 (!!!) from his Hall.

 Now he stopped tallying votes in 2007, as noted, so it seems likely that a few of those excluded would eventually make it in. A few guys who are locks are not in yet because of the five year wait - Bourque, Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Fetisov. Mark Howe and Grant Fuhr are already pretty close in his tally (interesting that Howe looks to be a shoo in for an elite Hall of Fame but waited forever to get into the everybody gets in club that exists now) as is Tony Esposito but other than that there are plenty of guys who would never get in - Larry Murphy, Ciccarelli, Sittler and Cheevers amongst them.

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Those four names are a good starting point. I grew up in the 70s and so I recall Cheevers and Sittler and I witnessed the careers of Murphy and Ciccarelli in their entirety. I wouldn't call any of them Hall of Famers with the possible (slightly) exception of Sittler and I have to say that that may be more due to the fact that he was so famous.

Were these guys all really good hockey players? Sure they were. Absolutely. But none of them pass what I call 'the sniff test'. I saw all of them play many times and I would never think 'Hey that guy is a Hall of Famer. That guy is one of the all time greats.' A guy who was a controversial choice a few years back, Glenn Anderson, a guy who would not be in my Hall of Fame either btw, that guy, in his prime, he was a guy who for a few years you would say that guy is a Hall of Fame player. When the Oilers were running rampant it was Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson and Coffey. Seriously. He was with those other guys based on what he was doing on his own.

Maybe, maybe Sittler I could say that about. But I don't think so. And while I could briefly say that Anderson could pass the sniff test, I don't think Sittler could.

Is that my subjective take? Sure but I'm not sure how else to go about it. You can look at awards and end of season all star teams but John LeClair was an end of year all star five times (first team twice) but I wouldn't even rate him in Sittler's class (only one second team selection - its tough to get those nods at centre, the talent runs so deep). You can look at stats (Sittler had four seasons of 40 goals plus and another four just under 40) but Steve Larmer had five season of 40 plus and another four over 30 plus he didn't miss a game in 11 seasons and was an outstanding defensive player.

So why is Steve Larmer not in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Seriously though, why isn't he?

(I have no doubt that he will get in at some point but if you saw Larmer play you would rather have him on your team than a whole lot of guys who are in there now.)

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The problem with the present Hall of Fame is that it is too inclusive, the bar was set low early and remains low so its hard to deny new 'very good' players as they become eligible.

Bob Pulford is in the Hall of Fame. Bob Fucking Pulford. Now the Original Six era was a different era, sure, and he was a checker but he scored over 25 goals once. Once.

Stan Mikita was also an excellent defensive playerwho played in the same era as Pulford. After his first two years in the league he scored more than 25 goals fourteen straight years except for one year where he scored 24.

Pulford's highest point total - 56. Over 19 straight years Mikita had more than that except for his second year (53) and two of the last three of that run (49, 55) when he was almost 40.

Don't mean to pick on Pulford here (well yeah I do because he basically destroyed the Blackhawks' franchise) but he doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, not one that has a guy like Stan Mikita in it. Sure he won a lot of Cups but if Mikita was a Leaf he wins just as many or more (this is another issue with the HHOF - if you are a soldier on a great team it counts somehow in how you are rated a player. Craig MacTavish awaits his call from the selection committee. So does Butch Goring.).

(Meander meander digress digress).

So we have a Hall of Fame loaded with sixties' Leafs (yes they won a ton of Cups but how many all time greats were on that team really? A wonderful team but one that was greater than the sum of its parts, did I get that right?), guys who piled up the stats in the go-go eighties and nineties, supporting cast members on dynasty clubs, guys who were really good but not great. The Hockey Hall of Fame ladies and gentlemen.

In my Hall of Fame there's no place for Dick Duff, Bob Pulford, Allan Stanley or George Armstrong. There's no Mike Gartner, Bernie Federko, Dino Ciccarelli or Larry Murphy, probably no Adam Oates either. There's no Clark Gillies, Glenn Anderson, Bill Barber, Joe Mullen.

In my Hall of Fame I want the all time greats. The guys who, when they played, were the absolute best players in the game.

I don't want the guys who were really good.

That's what we have now. Its a shame but its too late to raise the bar now. How do you tell Steve Larmer he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame when he was a better player than a bunch of his contemporaries who are already there. The numbers say so. His individual and team accomplishments say so. He belongs and he will get in.

But at the top of this post there are pictures of three guys who played for Chicago.

Can you honestly say that Larmer deserves to receive the same honour as the other two?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remember

I originally posted this on Remembrance Day 2008. I haven't been able to say it any better since.

The men in this picture are Canadians celebrating their great victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917. They are all gone now. Some of them are buried in France or Belgium; they never made it home. Others survived to return to Canada.


In every small town in Canada you will find a hockey arena, a LCBO (or its equivalent) and a war memorial. I have seen them in Fernie B.C. and in Truro, Nova Scotia, in university residences and the avenues of Toronto, in the centre of Charlottetown and in the centre of my own hometown of Sudbury. Even in Goulais River there is a war memorial with far too many names on it, young men who left their little town and never came back, including Private Ivan McLean, killed in the slaughter at Passchendaele.
I was at a funeral in PEI last summer, held in a tiny old church on a slight rise, overlooking rolling green fields and down below, the Northumberland Strait. The church was built in the 19th century, it was stifling hot the day I was there, though it was just May. A simple beautiful building, built near a crossroads, it has served the farmers who lived in the countryside around. And on the wall, at the entrance, a plaque with six names on it, farmers' boys who lie buried in Flanders, have been for nearly a century and will be there for eternity.

Sixty thousand Canadians perished in the Great War and forty thousand more in the war that followed just over twenty years later. Just boys most of them. They marched cheerfully to Europe in 1914. It was a time of innocence and they believed in their country and their Empire and in the fight against Germany. A war that never should have happened, millions of men slaughtered, drowning in the muck, blown apart by shells, machine gunned as they attacked impregnable positions, led by donkeys who had no idea of what they were ordering these boys to do. The same foolish old men who botched the war botched the peace so that barely twenty years later Canadians again marched off to Europe, many sons of the survivors of World War One. This time they marched with caution and knowing of the horrors that lay ahead yet they marched just the same.

Ask the Dutch or the French or the Belgians what Canada means to them. The sacrifices made to destroy a brutish ideology and save the world are not forgotten there and thankfully, after years of neglect, are not forgotten here. On Sunday morning take a moment and honour the young men and women who fought (and fight) for our country. You may not believe in the war, whether it be the useless slaughter in France ninety years ago or the current conflict in Afghanistan, but honour these boys who fought for their country. We live in a country whose freedoms and prosperity are amongst the greatest enjoyed in the world. So much of that is because of men like those in the picture above, the best that Canada had to offer.

Think of their sacrifice. Think of their courage. Be thankful for where we live for we owe so much of what we enjoy to them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Lucky



This would be a perfect story to tell if the NHL was actually deigning to hold a season. I know that that is a ridiculous expectation, especially considering that they have locked out the players twice since the Rangers won the Cup in 1994 but then again these guys couldn't organize a sandwich run without lighting themselves on fire. Incompetents. In any case here goes nothing.

So Capsule was relegated after last season and I, for one, was frustrated by the turn of events. We had been in this division for a few years and age and the loss of a few quality players (we lost three of our four best players after 2009/2010) has meant that we weren't in the mix like we once were. Even two years ago we finished middle of the table, one of those years where we were seventh of ten but three points from fourth. Last year though, well, last year was a tough one. A lot of 3-1 and 2-1 losses, which is usually how it goes with us. A lot of games where we deserved better than we got but whe you end up at the bottom of the league usually you have to admit you deserve to be there. I coached a team once that lost a lot of games like that. After a half dozen tight losses where we bemoaned the defensive breakdown or missed chance or soft goal that had cost us the game we figured we'd be right in it once our luck turned. After fifteen games of the same we came to the realization that we really just weren't that good.

And so it was with last year's Capsule club. We lost a lot of games 3-1 or 4-2 or 2-1 because for the most part our offense is of the pop gun variety and as a club we're pretty old so that we've slowed down and thus our D get beat by younger faster guys enough that we're going to give up a big play against the flow of play now and then. So we'd outplay and outshoot a club but in terms of pure scoring chances, well we'd get killed there. A half of a dozen five bell chances beat one or two and a couple dozen muffins from the outside anytime.

 What rankled for me is that we may have been bottom of the league but we were competitive. We beat most of the teams above us and we got blown out only a couple of times. So a big part of me thought (and thinks) its bullshit. If we can play with those guys then why move us down the ladder?

A bit of this is raging against the dying of the light stuff mind you. We're in the bottom division now. My first year with Capsule we were fodder and then got relegated, we had four years in the next division and I think three or four in this last one. We have nowhere else to go now unless we find a true old timers league or play shinny once a week or break up the old gang and find a club that will take on those of us who still want to play competitive hockey.

Its a discouraging thought but I will be 45 in a month and our oldest player is a year from being 50. You'd never know it, mind you. But the years are marching on and while this sounds a bit crazy I'm suddenly aware of my own mortality and so the big trip I'm planning for Jenn's 40th birthday (two years away) may get pushed up if I can get the cash together for it. Mental, eh? I'm still a young man by any measure but ... well I look around at my peers and see the grey hair (where there is hair) and I wonder ....

Anyhow we're in a new league and most likely we will be able to play here for many years. We've barely had our full team together and every game it seems we've missed a few of our top players and yet we are sitting strongly in third and have outplayed the opposition in every game. Most teams have a few guys (or more) that you can pick on and so we've had three games where we've had easy wins already, which is about three more than we had all of last season.

I've had a good start. I've played some centre, which I prefer (and am better than on the wing) and have played well in all but one game. Its a lot weaker division. I'm no star by any means but last night we played a team with one or two good defenceman and I beat one of them easily on the rush. Most teams have a few guys who are quite weak. We may be old and slowing but we can all give and take a pass and we can all skate and so one of our biggest issues has been letting teams back into games after we roll over them early.

I had a good summer season, had my chances, but for the first time in probably forever I ended up without a goal. Picked up my fair share of assists and had a solid year but not a goal. Now when you play ten games its not the end of the world but still you like to score here and there you know.

So winter season starts and second game of the year the opposing goalie, who liked to wander, came way out and managed to play it into my winger and I picked up the puck in the corner and fired it into the gaping cage. Then two games later, I scored off the rush on a nice wrist shot (if I do say so myself) and then, on my next shift, I centre it and watch as it banks off a defenceman and in.

On fire. Three goals. Four games.

Last game we were tied late and swarming the net. The puck was sitting there. My linemates were tied up, goalie was down. My normal reaction to this would be to shovel the puck into the goalie. What did I do? Perhaps buoyed by my start, perhaps realizing I had all of the time in the world (I did) I picked up the puck, took a look, took a step back to get a better look (!!) and fired it top corner.

And just then the goalie lurched up and the puck went off his head and over the net.

Seconds later I called for the puck in the slot, got the pass, on my stick and off, corner picked, shot low and hard, perfect.

Kicked out at the last second.

And last night, pouncing on a puck turned over by a stumbling Dman, by him in a flash, hard in, quick check, all of the time I needed, a look, the natural predisposition to try and shove it fivehole and then, looking at my options, seeing the spot high blocker, the shot as he goes down, hard, on target,

The clang off the post.

I'd lol except this is my life when it comes to scoring goals. Even when I'm actually doing things right, have the time, pick my spot ....

Well lets just say we're six games in and I've already seen the highs and lows of the dice. And don't even get me going on the goals against. I've been my usual quality on the other side of the puck (came back hard on a 2 on 1 last night to break it up last second in the slot) but have seen four of the last five goals against go in on my watch, no fault of my own.

Its enough to make a man drink. /drinks

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Rod Hockey Man

The boy is four games into his hockey career and he has already told us that he prefers it to soccer, which he has played for years, and that he wants to play next year. He is enjoying it, apparently, I say apparently because getting anything out of him these days is a difficult proposition. One word answers are in vogue suddenly.

'Did you have fun?'

'Yes'

'How was hockey?'

'Good'

His team is pretty good (2-1-1 so far) and one of my best friends is coaching him. He's an excellent coach and wonderful with the kids and my son couldn't ask for a better introduction to the game and I'm sure this helps because quite frankly the boy is terrible.

He's the smallest and probably the youngest in a two year age division and his skating is a ways away and so there are long stretches and entire shifts where the puck comes nowhere near him and when it does he swipes at it, often misses and then watches as the play goes the other way. Jenn has seen him play once and she found it painful, its hard to see your kids struggle.

He has to start somewhere though and his last game he improved quite a bit, he has a bad habit of pushing with his right leg when skating (he did this last year during lessons as well) and I reminded him before the game to use both of his legs and to keep pushing and so he was quicker and suddenly he was around the play a lot more. He had a shift at centre so he got to take some faceoffs and get his nose dirty a bit there and as the game wore on he got into a few of the scrums and whacked the puck the right way and overall it was a great day for him. When the puck was in the other team's zone he was able to skate quickly enough to get near the net (and actually had a chance in the slot all alone, unfortunately it was a swing and a miss). Baby steps, right?

Talking to my buddy last night at our Capsule game he said that the thing about the boy is that on the bench he is constantly asking questions so my guess is that much like his old man, he is probably going to be one of the smartest guys on the ice. Hopefully he will have better physical tools (!) ;) but for now whenever one of the other parents asks me which one is mine, I just point to the guy playing his wing. While the majority of the other players follow the puck like a rugby scrum, back and forth, back and forth in a mass, you can see my little guy, much like a rod hockey player, up and down his wing, up and down his wing. So he's got the playing your position thing down anyhow.

Of course the main thing is that he is enjoying it. Nothing else is important really and i have to say that I am very happy that this is the case. Its made for a great autumn.

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I think at this point there's going to be an NHL season. If the rumour is correct and the NHL is going to cover existing salaries then really there is no reason for a deal not to be made.

There is a small part of me, a cynical twisted part, that would like to see it all go up in flames. I love hockey and this fall I've watched the boy play and my own season has had a great start and we're very busy otherwise, we're always busy these days, and so I really haven't missed the NHL or the Oilers at all. Once winter comes I will also be playing outdoor shinny once a week and will probably help to flood the neighbourhood rink and once that is up and running the boy and I will hopefully spend some time there workingon or games.

I'm really looking forward to it.

Watching Katz botch what was a pretty terrific deal for a new arena because of greed or ego or 'negotiating tactics' has reminded me that the Oilers remain an organization that is entirely unlikeable as well as incompetent. I'm sure that when they return the addition of further young talent will probably push them up the ladder of the standings, finally, and Yakupov and Schultz will make the team that much more fun to watch.

But it would be nice if the public face of the organization itself wasn't one of slimy incompetence. Cheering for a club that is such a disgrace requires some serious compartmentalization, much like Bill Clinton claiming he didn't have sex with that woman or a Republican being gay.

As for the NHL well if it were my NHL there would be eight or nine teams folded and I'd start with those clubs that are apparently driving the bus on this latest lockout, those clubs that will never succeed until the revenue split is 90/10 in favour of the owners. A lot more teams make a lot more money than people think but when you have teams losing twenty, thirty, forty million dollars, the only way they will ever make a profit is if you have a cap around twenty to thirty million dollars. And that's not going to happen.

With a third of the league always going to lose big bucks you're never going to find a system where everyone makes money unless you have full on revenue sharing and that won't happen and shouldn't. Its one thing to have a league where you have a couple of big money makers, a majority of clubs who make money and are strong and a couple of small markets. The NHL will never be that league. And there is never going to be that massive TV deal and with every interrupted season you kill your revenue sources, you alienate sponsors and fans, you stop any momentum you've built.

Nothing good is going to come out of this lockout except I would guess that its the loathesome commissioner's last, more because of his age than anything else. What a legacy he will leave. Failing franchises everywhere, three lockouts, a league that still, as it always has, gives the impression of making things up as it goes along. As Mario Lemieux said, a garage (garbage) league.

But they'll be back. And pretty soon I guess.