Wednesday, December 31, 2008

State of the Union(dale)

Well, at least things ended on an up note: a home victory with Jiggs McDonald doing the play-by-play (no--OK, some--offense to Howie Rose). And December is finally over.

The bad news is January might be just as bad. February and March aren't looking so hot either. April should at least be brief.

Yes, the season is not going well, even by rebuilding standards. But there are enough glimmers of hope around to at least keep me interested and marginally happy. And, as an Islanders fan, "marginally happy" is a beautiful thing. I'm not saying I'm rushing home to catch Islanders games just yet, but when I do get home and settle in, I don't get really angry. I haven't even had the urge to pick up anything close and throw it through the TV screen in the hopes that it hits either Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais since I don't know when. That's what we call progress.

So, yeah, anyway, let's take a look at the bright side (yeah, the bright side...why didn't those guys get their own show?):

First, Doug Weight is showing himself to be just the guy the Islanders need for rebuilding. He works hard every shift, leading by example, and seems to relish his role as an elder statesman on the roster. Plus, get this, he would like to stay in Long Island to play for the Islanders! Who knew God still made people like that? The cynic in me wants desperately to point out that all this means the Islanders will likely trade him at the deadline, but we're trying to kill the cynic in me and flush him out rectally. So here's hoping the Isles do the right thing and keep Weight around.

Second, the Okposo/Comrie/Comeau line's been looking good these last few games, and our Blessed Lord and Savior Okposo has looked particularly strong with the puck, which is encouraging. So that's nice.

Third, even the last two losses of the month--to Buffalo and the Rangers--showed the Isles playing with a little bit of spark, or at least about 450% more spark than they were showing throughout the month. So that's something.

Finally, well, I don't have a "finally" right now, so let's just dwell on those three things while we continue to think.

Anyway, 2008 (at least when it comes to hockey, lest you think we were moving toward some profound philosophical conclusion on global affairs...I assume that Jaroslav Falconerov and Sweet Fancy Moses are busy preparing that, explaining their absence here) was about as rough as I expected it would be. Sure, I thought there would be more than two wins in December, but sometimes my thoughts are wrong (so, so wrong). And if I wasn't OK with periods of deep despair, I would have denounced my Islanders fandom long ago. So I'm hunkered in for the long winter.

Every now and then, though, you can see that spark on the ice, see that the Isles haven't given up yet. And that makes it all--the constant mockery, the knowledge that it will be a slow turning--a little more palatable (which, for you Rangers fans having someone read this to you, is a big word that means "acceptable").

Keep hope alive. And your groins in playing shape.

Happy new year everybody. Happy birthday, Country Joe.

ADDENDUM: It seems that the Isles waived Mitch Fritz (Clap! Clap!) on Wednesday, which is, of course, sad news here on the Isle. With any luck, no one will pick him up and he and his quick-bleeding face can stay in the organization. But if this is good-bye, then, thanks for the memories, pal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heaven Must be Missing a Center

I’m going to take a page out of the Craig Carton playbook and start this drumbeat now if no one else has yet—John Tavares must be drafted if the Islanders get the opportunity. Sure, I just really found out about him because of that sweet goal in the World Junior Championships, but don’t act like you’ve been keeping a steady eye on his development with Oshawa. Besides, you can’t blame me for thinking about a juicy first overall pick at this point. So tell your Congressman, your friends, tell your ‘massage therapist’ that you want John Tavares in an Islander uni this time next year. Feel free to come up with a good, easy chant we can shout during Islander games… Oh, hell, it’s gonna be “We want Tavares! CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!” no matter what clever thing we come up with. And if we friggin’ trade down again I have all of you to blame for not helping me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Canadian Double Standard

Tonight, the Vancouver Canucks honor one of the all-time good players in NHL history, Trevor Linden. And no, that’s not a typo. Trevor Linden was a good player. Nothing flashy. And yet, he’s treated like a god amongst the Canuck faithful and some of the Canadian media. And for what? He was a good ol’ Canadian boy playing for a Canadian team.

Look, I don’t want to take anything away from Trevor Linden. I really don’t have any issues with the Canucks retirement of his jersey. Here on Long Island I’m no stranger to a team reliving the past as a way to deflect attention from the present. But what does strike me about Linden was his ineffectiveness here on Long Island along with several other notable Canadian favorites.

And hell, who could blame them? There were more than a handful of reasons to be disappointed in playing for the Islanders. Things were a little different ten-plus years ago when these guys donned the fishsticks. ‘Financial crisis’ doesn’t quite capture the circus that was the time. One horrible year after another killed attendance in the Coliseum and after all, the bright lights of Nassau County aren’t exactly comparable to pretty much anywhere else.

Linden is not alone as far as former Islanders being honored in Canada. Wendel Clark was honored earlier this year by his Toronto Maple Leafs. And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone throws a party for Kirk Muller. These three have more in common than just playing for the Islanders but that they failed to live up to expectations. Each one was a little different, but they were part of a long chain of disappointments. What separates them from the pack, however, is the fact that these bleed-maple-syrup Canadian boys seemed to lack that same 110% they gave with their former Canadian teams.

But the fact remains that these players did not live up to their billing, regardless of what happened off the ice. Clark’s numbers dropped considerably when he was on the Island, Trevor Linden was prone to long slumps and the Kirk Muller incident finally torpedoed Don Maloney’s questionable GM tenure and launched Mike Milbury’s. But this was all glossed over by the hockey and Canadian media when covering these careers.

Now none of this would be a problem except for the insistence that men like these gave their all, night-in and night-out, unlike those without Canadian passports. And here in lies the Canadian double standard: Canadians highlight everyone else's problems and forgetting their own.

I have to disagree slightly with some of the Rev’s comments from earlier this year. Players from different countries are different. The truth is that Europeans grow up with a different view of the NHL than North Americans. They don't follow teams, they follow fellow countrymen. They do watch live broadcasts of the World Championship every year and come out en masse to see the finals in those tournaments. Their style is a little different because of the rules and rink size, etc. And when they play abroad, they may not have the same motivation--just like so many Canadians that have played on Long Island.

And then we see European players return home when they still have a few years left simply to play in front of their own people. So at the end of the day, Europeans come with some different values. It doesn’t make them soft but spending years living in a different country—check that a different continent—can’t be easy. Yet the NHL is full of Europeans leading in a variety of categories so they can’t be too much softer than their Canadian colleagues.

Look, the point is that the Canadian grizzled hockey machines are myths. Everyone’s human and has their hang-ups. So as our colder North American brethren salute their legends, remember that even they didn’t always have all that heart with which Don Cherry speaks so highly of. Or maybe I’m just a silly, na├»ve hockey fan from the US.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You know you're an Islanders fan when... have the thought "well, I just hope they don't give up 10" at least three times a year.

To be fair, when you play Pittsburgh, you know it's only a matter of time before Pascal Dupuis burns you.


On the bright side, um, well, hey, the Sound Tigers are doing pretty good!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Let the Adventure Begin

I am boring. Very boring. About a year and a half ago, I was being chased through the streets of a Transylvanian town by a Gypsy prostitute. Now I wear a tie and sit at a desk under florescent lights and make nice with the retired gentlemen at work. I’m not ready to go all “Frank’s Wild Years” but I could use a little spice. That’s where you, the many, many readers of this blog can help. I’m going to go somewhere and do something on the weekend of January tenth. I’d like people to think of a trip I can take somewhere in the name of hockey. Budget is very limited. After we get some (any) submissions, we’ll post some sort of poll. I’ll do whatever wins and document the trip. Feel free to add conditions or an itinerary. Hope this works.

And after thinking about it, this is a bit of a "Tinsel and Rot" rip off (check out Mr. Bad Example's blog on the left) but I don't care.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sign of the Times

Seems like everyone's getting laid off these days. I couldn't believe it when I saw that MSG Plus's power play clock lost it's job. I thought for sure it would have it's job locked up. I mean, power play clocks have been around forever, but apparently we're living in a new age where a simple clock is past it's usefulness. Not all is lost, however, because it was apparently important to flash the second period shot totals in the middle of the third when no one was talking about it. Anyway, I guess no one and nothing is safe in this economy.

At least MSG has kept things like this frequently updated Web site:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All is Dead

Completely, unforgivably off-topic, but if you have a few tens of millions of dollars you'd like to invest in a profitable business that might help your community and leave you with a clear conscience at night, buy your local Gannett newspaper and turn it into a vibrant, local, proud, snarling, pissy, exciting rag.

Those motherfuckers are finally pulling the guts out of the business they bled years ago, putting the ax to hundreds of reporters/editors/photogs across the country, most of whom had valiantly carried on despite being owned and manhandled by a company that hates news, can't get by on profits of 30-35 percent in some cases, and turned some decent newspapers into insufferably boring, stale, dry, gutted, cheap, soulless, lifeless, bloodless, gutless, lying! (life is exciting motherfuckers! but it certainly isn't presented that way by your local Gannett paper) sacks of fish wrap shit.

I know some really good people who have done excellent work at Gannett papers, despite the ridiculous over-management, shitty pay, shitty benefits, where's the union? hours, etc. Today I think of them, and I think of the business I entered at 19, smoking an unfiltered Lucky Strike, full of a lot of shit, but right there on the streets, reporting. And I've left that behind. Wisely, as I have a family to feed and clothe.

The Internet is not going to kill news. And I'm not even certain it killed Gannett. But they would like you to believe it.

If I were a millionaire, my ass would be buying a small paper today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who the fuck is wearing this?

It's called the fucking "Corleone."

How about a royal blue capper to go along with the new/old jersey? How about a nice, vintage puff-on-top winter knit?

How about you realize despite the fact Long Island is full of Long Islanders, hockey fans are generally not the types to be found on this.

Of course, I'm sure I will soon stand corrected. Mediocre One, I will leave that to you.

But that's an ugly-ass hat.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Real Life turns into NHL 94

Ryan O'Byrne decides he hates himself

My original, Islander gut reaction was, “Jesus, is this what we need to happen to win?” But the truth is the goal only tied the game. The Islanders killed some penalties and then Park and Guerin came up clutch in the shootout. We’d all love for the Isles to be Red Wing like and make their own opportunities but we’re not there yet so it’s a good sign that when doors open, they can walk through.

And let’s all have a drink for Ryan O’Byrne. Not only did he have a brain fart in the wrong town but he’s a Cornell alum. Not that I’m a Cornell alum but just read the previous post and you'll understand. Anyway, Canadian fans need to chill just a bit.

Watching Hockey with the Lazy Eye, Vol. I

Credits due to the folks across the Internet-o-sphere who paid appropriate homage to Paul Newman/Reg Dunlop, acknowledging in his death the actual weight of the role and looking back, thinking, "Slap Shot actually is a good movie, not just some hockey slobs version of a Caddyshack."

It isn't On the Waterfront, but if you've lived in a town that looks a lot like the Charlestown/Johnstown of Slap Shot, there is a darkness captured in the mill, in the brown winter jackets, dirty snow, worn-by-wear jeans, and cheap hats that looks a lot like November through April in Binghamton or Syracuse, or whatever place is home. That's what hockey feels like. Snow on the curbs, wet road, bare trees, canadian beer, and cars covered in salt.

And that's what missing at this past weekend's hockey visit, Cornell University, whatever the charm of Lynah Rink and the active student cheeering section.

The Upstate Ice Girl and I cashed in a grandma-babysits chip Saturday night and watched the Big Red take on Dartmouth in Ithaca. I've been to at least one Cornell game each winter since a high school friend/Cornell student starting passing tickets my way in college back in 1995.

Lynah is fun. The students have a series of ritual cheers they perform throughout the game, and they go off script often enough to keep it fresh and funny. During the Dartmouth game, the student section engaged in a battle of wills with the Dartmouth goalie, imploring him to "bend over" during a Big Green powerplay. He would not oblige. For at least 1:45. Finally, the Big Red cleared the puck on net, and he went to a knee to steer the puck to the corner. Big cheer, some laughs. (elynah is a great, comprehensive site for learning Cornell cheers, checking out pictures, etc.)

Lynah has a low ceiling, old wooden beams, and concrete benches for bleachers. The fan involvement and passion nearly reminds me of the Old AHL I used to watch in Binghamton, but with a key ingredient missing. The Dirt.

A visit from Rochester or Syracuse was a serious event in the days of the Binghamton Whalers, and, to a certain degree, the Rangers. I was too young to attend Dusters/Johnstown games, but I have a feeling that might have had a little spice, too.

Dusters at Philadelphia Firebirds

Two years ago I forgot my place at a Cornell game and stood up to admonish the Big Red captain, Byron Bitz (who, coincidentally, I saw playing for the Providence Bruins a few weeks ago during a hockey trip to Albany).

It appeared Bitz had been on cruise control most of the evening against Dartmouth, so when he finally laid a body to the opposition with 1:10 remaining, I leaped up and screamed something along the lines of, "if you'd done that 25 minutes ago I might not want to rip that 'C' off of your chest, you pu..." and as I saw the heads turning, that final epithet weakened and went unfinished, a bit like Joe McGrath in the lockerroom at intermission of the Federal League championship, had he collapsed while struggling through "puuusssies."

So I'm not arguing for vulgarity (today), as I like to be able to take my kids to a game and not have to explain what someone means by "cocksucker." But I always find myself missing "The Dirt" when I am in Lynah.

I miss the Binghamton/Syracuse girls dressed for bear, hair to the ceiling, leather coats and boots glistening, lips begging come hither. I miss the drunk dancing, the kids running up to the glass with an eye cocked over the shoulder waiting for the usher to bring them back. And I miss the broken bar signs outside of the arenas, palm trees or overflowing mugs that had once been proudly lit from within only visible now in the lights of passing cars.

Cornell is nice. And think that's what's missing.

In the catacombs of the Old Bird, the Broome County Veterans War Memorial

The Islanders

Well, frankly, I haven't been watching much due to scheduling conflicts, road trips, and the impending holidays. I'll get back to it soon enough.

I like what I read. I watched the Vancouver game and felt the Islanders were the better team for the night, and it seems they're carrying that energy forward, for the most part.

The Nielsen thing sucks, but I think the whole "let's talk about head shots" thing is something I'll think about before I write what everyone else is writing. We'll get there.

Ok. We'll try to stay with it ... .

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Plea

Before mustaches were retro

I am sick of league tyranny. The NHL under the Bettman administration has been one disappointment after another. One year the refs call penalties one way, the next they call it another way. Schedule formats change, conferences shift and unprofitable expansion is embraced. And yet, the league slavishly clings to one of the most outdated tenets of the game—three periods.

The current format today is as old as it is unfair. The first written record of ice hockey period lengths comes from an 1883 three-team tournament at a Montreal winter carnival. It was the first championship of hockey and featured TWO 30-minute periods.[i] This became the standard until the 1910-11 season which saw the format change into our current three 20-minute periods.[ii] This format has been with us now for… carry the one… 98 years!

And as we can see from the on ice product, this is outdated. The game of hockey wants to be a faster game? How about being done in 40 minutes instead of 60 minutes? Look at other sports—the NFL, NBA, and MLS all have two halves. Yet the NHL continues with its archaic, and may I say uneven, three-period system.

There are those who would point to my affiliation with the Islanders and their penchant for blowing leads in the third period (hereafter referred to as the ‘turd’ period) as the reason for making such a plea but to them I say, “OK, we get it Mr. Douchebag, you can read. This is me clapping slowly and sarcastically for you. clap… clap… clap…”

In conclusion, I would like to ask all readers to please write Gary Bettman and insist that he bring the NHL into the 21st century and dispense with turd periods. Thank you.

[i] Fischler, Stan. “The Great Book of Hockey.” 1991 pg. 3.

[ii] Ibid. pg. 19

Friday, November 7, 2008

This Just Says it All

Normally we do our own work here, but we're not "on top" of this, and this can't be ignored.

PuckDaddy is on top of it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No We Can't

A trend perhaps? Throughout the second period, I was going to write a post entitled, "make me stop" where I started to talk about how the Islanders may be for real and that I'm getting genuinely excited about the team. No need, I've been stopped. In trying to understand these collapses, I first put the onus on the players. But then I thought, in all sincerity, that perhaps there's a flaw in the game plan and it just takes other teams a little while to see the holes and they're then able to exploit those holes in the third period. Of course, those holes may also be called Gervais, MacDonald, Polk, or Tambellini.

Before I go totally negative, let me say that Hunter looks good this year. Damn good. The numbers aren't there yet but he plays smart and seems to play position well. Like what I'm seeing from him. I predict he gets hot in the second half of this season.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes we can!

I feel better now.

Big win tonight, with strong goaltending from Joey Mac and a good job of taking it as it comes from the offense. And that was the kind of third period I was hoping to see. It wasn't a perfect game by any means (plus, there was no Fritz-Orr, but there'll be time for that later in the season), but if the Isles can win some games like these, it'll make the clunkers a little easier to take.

I generally don't like to gloat, particularly so early in the season, but I'm not sure how many gloating opportunities this season will present. So, though I'm sure it will come back to haunt me, please enjoy the results of my indie film shoot after the game:


Monday, November 3, 2008

Campoli scores twice, one counts, Isles win

I don't think I can handle an in-depth update after that ... but hey, you won't find me complaining.

Give this team credit for finding some wheels after giving up another three-goal lead. They're entertaining even when they're awful. And they weren't awful tonight, save for the third period. (can I get away with writing that? dear reader?)

I still believe, Mr. Bad Example. I think I'm getting a little delusional, but I still believe.

I'm making a list. Someday I'd like to have the pleasure of looking at it and thinking, "naw, I shouldn't actually make an in-person visit to every single media member who maligned Islanders fans for the past 10 years, should I?"

Somebody Canadian explain the CBC to me, please

passport please

I don't get P.J. Stock

The same network that employs Don Cherry lets P.J. Stock talk on its radio and television shows. I'll give you Don Cherry as a kind of guilty, almost/sort of justifiable pleasure. Maybe he's giving a voice to the Great Forgotten Classic Canadian Hockey Fan, made nearly extinct by new age queers who like Europe and composite sticks.

But I can't excuse P.J. Stock. He's another practitioner of schtick, but with none of the self-awareness or flashes of humor Cherry brings to CBC. He's got the charm of a drunk spoiled frat boy thumbing your eye. No smarts. No charisma. No nothing.

P.J. Stock feels sorry for the Islanders franchise, and can't understand why a team in such a great market, with an owner who has "so much money," is not constantly successful. ("hello P.J. Stock, my name is the Nassau Coliseum ... nice to make your acquaintance." and, while we're at it, "hello P.J. Stock, my name is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I am surprised someone so staggeringly uninformed, arrogant, and grating could be hired by the network that claims it is home to hockey.")

And Jeff "Barley Sandwich" Marek, who never met a guest and/or CBC personality he couldn't agree with, went right along with P.J. on Monday's Hockey Night in Canada radio show as Stock went off on Garth Snow and the Islanders. "What kind of team is this? Where's the character guys to teach the young guys? Where's the veterans?" And, I swear, this was after he rattled on for a minute or two about how the Islanders are "too old."

Too old. The Islanders are too old.

Look, there was a guest on before Stock (I tuned in late and missed his name) who actually had some nice things to say about Garth Snow and, especially, Scott Gordon's aggressive system, so I'm not accusing the show of anti-Isles bias (wouldn't matter anyway), but I am accusing them of anti-listener/viewer bias.

P.J. Stock offers no analysis other than his recollections of the "code" as it was employed during his NHL career. And most of the time he's spouting so much shit you can almost hear the players he competed against laughing from their tree stands in Saskatchewan.

The anti-Islanders prattle between Marek and Stock degenerated into a conversation about the leadership qualities the Isles are lacking, pointing the finger at Bill Guerin and Doug Weight and wondering why the Isles would bring Kyle Oh!poso up to the team and not have him play with veterans. Stock said, "All of the old guys are playing together."

"Islanders Move Okposo to Top Line." Newsday, Nov. 3, 10 a.m.

I honestly don't give a shit if Bill Guerin says three words to Kyle O! all year. The franchise has a coach whose job it is to teach the young guys how to play. But, I also know neither P.J. Stock or Jeff Marek has any clue what kind of lockerroom the Isles have, or what kind of leader the Isles have in Bill Guerin. It must be a special Canadian news media power to see inside the minds of hockey leaders and neophytes, because I hear a lot of spouted bullshit about the various off-ice qualities of certain players who are "leaders."

I'm not convinced any of these commentators have a damn clue what they're saying. Too often I imagine younger players rolling their eyes when so-called "character" guys give them another speech full of the same old tired bullshit lines rolling across the Canadian prairies for ages.

I met some Canadians this weekend, and they were really nice

So forgive me for this one ... .

Speaking of Canadian bullshit, here's Daryl Sutter on Doug Weight's hit: "It used to be 90 percent Canadians and 10 percent Americans. So it's changed, even though it's our game, and we should be able to legislate that. It's our game. It's nobody else's game. It's not the Europeans' game. It's not the Americans' game. It's our game, and we should have the say in it.

"If there's a guy who is only going to hit a guy because he's trying to hurt him or if he's going to hit his head, that's where the players should control it. Because that's a lack of respect. That's not how we used to play."

I like the Sutters, for obvious reasons, and I forgive them their reactions to Doug Weight's perfectly legal, moral, and ethical hit because they are protecting one of their own ... but "it's our game"?

That provincial bullshit belongs back in the 70s or 80s.

I actually agree with Sutter on many points. But the issue of big hits and their effects on the human body is for more complicated than "Americans and Europeans are pussies trying to steal our game and our women." Watch an old game. I've seen more hitting in the first period of the Islanders (big, high-speed collisions) than you'll see in a week of hockey from the 80s. The players were slower, especially on third and fourth lines, and they wore pads that looked like rolled up athletic socks taped to their shoulders. You couldn't risk those kind of hits every night.

It goes on, but suffice to say limiting the game to only Canadian players is not going to fix everything Daryl Sutter thinks is wrong with the NHL.

Anyway, it's my game Daryl. I play in the driveway, I buy the hats, I buy the T-shirts, I play the games, I teach my kids to love it. You don't get to claim it for anyone.

Bill James, the baseball writer, discusses the problem with the societal view that professional athletes are somehow exceptional individuals (this is where the "clutch" argument begins) as opposed to people who are just very good at their chosen professions, much like you are very good at reading blogs whilst getting paid to pretend you are doing something else.

Daryl Sutter must be full of a lot of shit if he thinks he can tell us all who owns the game of hockey.

Game update, 9:13 p.m. (full post tomorrow)

It's 3-3 right now. I'm gonna get drunk.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dodging Lions and Wasting Time

I should have known better.

I should have known to just stay home and watch the game on TV.

I should have known not to splurge on a higher-priced ticket.

I should have known that a 4-1 lead going into the third meant nothing.

But I didn't. And so now I am back in Jersey after the first trip to the Coliseum this season and what might be the most demoralizing sports experience I've ever witnessed in person. And that is saying something, because I was also in attendance at the infamous Islanders-Rangers "chicken dance" game (if you think I'm going to YouTube to get you a link to that, you're crazy) and one of the Mets-Phillies implosion games in 2007.

Maybe it's a little hard to grasp that if you weren't there. Sure they blew a three-goal lead in the third period, but they've done that sort of thing enough that it shouldn't be a complete surprise. But what made it worse was that the Coliseum may have had more Habs fans in attendance than Isles fans, and I seemed to be surrounded by them. So every goal in the third brought about a rowdier celebration, culminating in the postgame "Ole, Ole, Ole" parties that every poutine-eating douchebag was photographing and recording for posterity on the concourse (seriously, Habs fans, don't gimme this Ole bullshit). After tonight, I finally get why people hate the Canadiens. For the first time in my life, I'm with you, Leafs fans.

I should also point out that I saw several people wearing Yankees hats and Canadiens jerseys. Nice combination. You could wear a giant vibrating dildo on your head and a complete Nazi storm trooper outfit and still not look more physically repulsive. Congratulations!

But back to the game. For two periods, it was the greatest game ever!

That's all I want to say about the game at this juncture, because I have my health to think about.

Of course, I should mention... Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!) Mitch Fritz!

Good first bout. I was hoping for the clap chant afterward. No luck. We'll get there. I thought of starting it myself, but I was alone and had already yelled so much during the fight that the people around me may have been frightened.

After the game ended, I sat in my seat for about 10 minutes, partly out of sheer disbelief and partly because I needed to calm down before I made my way to the concourse. And in that time, I thought back on the game I'd just seen, the last few years of the Isles, the last two seasons of the Mets and wondered if it's not too late to say goodbye to all this and pursue something new, perhaps an avid devotion to the musical theater.

But I know I will be back at the Coliseum. And at Citi Field next year. Why? Because I'm stupid. were expecting something profound?

But, yes, OK, also because, despite everything, despite all my brain tells me, despite all the demoralizing train rides home from Hempstead, I still believe.

However, I also believe that next time I'm getting the cheaper seat.

Live Game Breakdown: Isles vs. Canadiens, 11/1/08

Highlight: Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!) Mitch Fritz!

Lowlight: Let's just go with the entire third period

Food consumed: pretzel, chicken tenders, and some fries before I lost the desire to eat anything

Merchandise purchased: nothing, though I did get a free t-shirt from the Sports Soup people

Best jersey spotted: (tie) Hubie McDonough and this guy

Friday, October 31, 2008

We're Getting There

Having already discarded the idea of the Isles making the playoffs, a sense of serenity washed over me last night as I watched them outplay the Flyers in Philadelphia and then lose in the OT. I believe I am discovering that joy I had been seeking in watching what I know will be a losing team.

Mark Streit has been an absolute pleasure to watch. I am hoping he is not Mariusz Czerkawski V. 2, a very good player on a lousy team and a so-so player on a good team. (although, I guess at the point the Islanders become a "good team," I would be remiss to dwell on the play of Mark Streit.) He makes excellent decisions in both zones, attacks the net when the play is there, and has the kind of patience with the puck in his own end that instills something I remember feeling years ago after drinking 10-12 beers: confidence.

Trent Hunter has found himself, making his presence known on nearly every shift, playing strong on the puck, and, finally, shooting! Shoot shoot shoot. He's got a good one.

Nice to have Andy Sutton back. Nice to see Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!) Mitch Fritz! (all credits to Mr. Bad Example for that one ... .) And, once again, MacDonald is holding on.

Kyle Oh!poso is playing well, although he was a little bit lost on the shuffle last night. He's hitting people when he needs to, and doing some nice things around the net. It will come. I believe.

If the Isles had Martinek and Witt, they win this game. Looking forward to Saturday.

Now if we can get Scott Gordon to drop a few Stengel lines ... .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Return of Herrmann Monster

(he hates Rangers too)

I have to keep this short. But this? Really? When you hear imminent news of departure, you write these ridiculous stories every week. We haven't heard that news.

We know the Lighthouse deal is important, etc. But where is this nonsense coming from? The team is terrible. The team has been terrible before. It's not surprising. The Islanders are supposed to be terrible this year. That's. How. You. Get. Better.

Charles Wang, for all of his failures, owns a team that has made the playoffs four times in the past seven years. That's not that awful. Also, he's never given any (any!) indication he wants to move the team. He wants to develop an entire fucking neighborhood/city around the fucking Coliseum. That is good. That is a nice, good thing. Yeah, he's going to make money. Someone makes money on almost every thing in the world that is good, even peace, love, dope, and anal beads.


The Isles looked pretty good for two periods. They don't finish well, but they did skate, forecheck, etc. for at least 40 minutes. They wilted in the third and got all disjointed, but I'm not going to complain. The Rangers are good. There, I said ... oh fuck it. There is nothing that pisses me off more in sport than seeing asshole Rangers fans at the Coliseum. Go back to Manhattan where you live ... oh wait, no one can afford to live in Manhattan. Go back to Jersey, or Rockville (is that even a place? I'm from Binghamton, fuck you), or wherever you motherfuckers live, and cheer against your hometown team in your living room, you insufferable twats.

Here's one huzzah! for our man Kyle Oh!poso. He looked good last night. I saw four of five good shifts, and we're Islanders fans, we'll take it.

It's snowing six inches up here today. I'm putting on the foil.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joy of Losing

Jim Baumbach at Newsday makes this point that the Islanders are "basically hockey's version of the Tampa Bay Rays, circa any year from 1998-2007." Brace yourselves, because a lot of losing teams across the sports spectrum are going to be the subject of similar columns this week.

Baumbach thinks the Isles, like the Rays, should lose and draft well. I agree, although it's probably easier to do so in baseball, provided you believe in things like numbers and stats, and find trading partners who insist so strongly on giving you Scott Kazmir even your idiot GM can't turn down the deal.

Back from the digression.

I agree with Baumbach, although he's taking a "no shit" kind of stance. He also advises against fans getting too frustrated with this year's installment, likely a reaction to scattered booing and empty seats last night on the Island for a 5-3 loss to the Stars.

I would advise the same, but it won't do any good as some people like to boo, and most people don't like to buy tickets to watch terrible teams. (and I don't blame them.) Bad hockey is not a pleasant thing to watch.

I am going to try to find some joy in the Islanders' haplessness this year, although I think it will be a struggle.

Can't Anybody ...

There is joy to be found in lousy baseball. It's difficult to say why. I would have thought a terrible baseball team would actually win more percentage-wise than a terrible hockey team, but the Nationals won about 37 percent of their games this season. Last year's worst hockey team, the Lightning, won about 38 percent of the time.

It's easier to brush off a loss in baseball, but it's also much harder to make the playoffs. Maybe it's the nature of the game -- I find sports that require constant strategic interaction between players -- football, hockey, basketball -- tough to watch when played "ugly." There's nothing aesthetically pleasing about 30 percent from the field, Roman Hamrlik moving the puck out of his end in the Islanders days, or the Oakland Raiders. They might make a few plays worthy of bumbling blooper reels, but mostly it is frustration and boredom to watch a poor team swamped by a better team. See: Dallas Stars v. New York Islanders, Oct. 23, 2008.

You can make the argument that baseball is not as "passionate" a game as hockey (or football and basketball), and I would grudgingly agree (except in the case of basketball), as I don't think baseball's drawing attraction is "passion," at least in the body contact and physical pain/striving sense. And that makes it easier, at least for me, to enjoy a losing team.

I know I'm failing on this point. I accept it. Stick with me.

I would like to derive the kind of pleasure watching this Islanders team I am often able to derive from watching bad baseball teams (coincidentally, I'm a Mets fan). Aside from ignoring obvious mistakes, bad penalties, and missed scoring opportunities, I think the key lies in thoughts such as "hey, I really like those throwback third jerseys," "Ice Girls are hot," and "think of the bright side, if this team is good in 10 years, DiPietro will still be here," etc. Also, looking for nice outlet passes, decent shifts from youngsters, and trying not to think of Deb Kaufman (you motherfuckers).

That's all I got. Advice will be accepted.

I think I need to lay down.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Get in your mouse and get out of here

There's something about watching former athletes who've become caricatures revert to the anger and intensity of their playing years that is mildly frightening (see: Barry Melrose after Kolzig's mishandling of the puck last night). Like the drunken clown in Uncle Buck, the characters of our childhood should not so easily let slip their adult failings.

Unless, of course, your hockey team sucks and your crazy old goalie has a senior moment ... Viva Les Isles!

Actually was able to watch the final three minutes of regulation and the brief overtime period. Sharp extra effort by Hunter. Thought Frederick Meyer IV looked pretty good, and glad I wasn't watching when they blew the lead.

I guess all is right with Islanders' world this morning, as long as you ignore the mounting injuries, the still-awful jerseys, and Tampa Bay.

Florida on Saturday, and maybe that motherfucker Tomas Vokoun. (see Puck Daddy readers? There's your hatred ... I give myself over to the fantasy dark side.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wrestling Shit

You'd think I might have the energy to get the hair up following yesterday's debacle on the Island, but I don't. Apparently Adam Mair has a bad knee, so Craig Rivet was only coming to his defense by jumping into the fight with Nate Thompson. That's a dog shit move, even if Mair was hurt. (hey, can't every team afford to dress players and have them sit on the bench like Ricky?) But that's Sabres hockey. Horseshit.

Classy stuff from Kaleta, too, but who really cares? The Isles were so bad they didn't even earn the right, in my book, to fight. We know they're going to be terrible some nights and look like world-beaters the next, but this was a little bit too much of a circus for me. Of course, it doesn't really compare to the idiot's circus Gordon and Snow are running with DiPietro, Martinek, and whoever else might be hurt. I'm with Botta at Point Blank, and I've written about it before, this dumb game Snow is playing with injuries and now DiPietro makes this team a joke.

Where have you gone, respectable PR department?

The Isles, who are often times innovative and interesting in terms of publicity, are absolutely turning the PR aspect of this organization into a disaster. Today on the oh!fficial Isles site, there is no mention of yesterday's game in the main story bar. That's fucking childish. "Fun Filled Day at the Coliseum" is what passes for this organization's game story.

I can handle the losing. I can handle the coaching carousel, and whatever other indignities the organization will cook up in the next few years. But putting on a petulant, arrogant, smarmy public face pisses me off. Tell us who the fuck is hurt. Write game stories when the team loses.

Join the NHL. Act like a major league team.

Jesus Christ, and I'm a Mets fan too. My wife wonders why I play video games ... .

Monday, October 13, 2008

How Do You Make a Columbus Day of SGML Coding and Stomach Pain Worse?

You listen to Rick Jeanneret do his spastic goal calls six times, missing one due to your stomach graciously beckoning you to the office bathroom.

It will be a long season. We all knew that, particularly when we found out that Deb Kaufman (I will not recognize her married name) would be off the Isles telecasts. It just would've been nice if the Isles could've made it at least five games in before delivering an effort in which, if my listening skills are sharp, everything done falled apart. Sigh.

Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!) Mitch Fritz!

Friday, October 10, 2008

quick thoughts on opening night

They don't look that bad, but I just don't see where any goals are going to come from other than lucky bounces and drunk goalies. Some of that, I think, is because right now the young guys look as if they are primarily mentally occupied with being in the right place and not fucking up. Fine.

My hope is that in a few months they feel comfortable in the system (which did, on the few occasions it really fired, look promising) and start feeling the game rather than feeling the system.

MacDonald was great. He looked comfortable, which is a good sign, because by November he could be the number one.

They miss Sillinger. And they miss Guerin. (oh yeah, he was there. sure.)

One final thought: The officiating in this game was awful. Awful. Awful. Both ways. Jesus Christ I hope they don't keep this shit up for the season. These calls are just phantom calls. I hate this "stick is in a certain position means hooking" nonsense. That logic doesn't even fly in basketball.

Ok. Done.

Streit is nice on the powerplay. He makes a noticeable difference keeping the puck in the zone and making sound decisions.

That's all I've got for now. Those last 30 seconds were pretty exciting. Brodeur is good. Whew.

Now, call up Mitch.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Economy on Ice

Ice time is expensive. And ice time with sticks and pucks and mountains of reinforced Kevlar gear, especially here in the States, is even more expensive.

There's an intern in our athletics department who played for St. Catharines, and in the OHL (Mississauga, I believe). He said he almost played in Buffalo for a year, but "they wanted me to pay them like $10,000 to play, and I had to buy my own equipment." Fuck the heck?

I have an ethereal embedded mental concept of money, but I do read every day it is updated, and a few other links that spring from there, and I have eyes and ears, so I know we are possibly, completely financially toe-tagged as a country, as a hemisphere, and maybe as a world. That's why I'm planting a giant garden next year, learning to hunt, buying a horse, and building a still in the basement of my 178-year-old house, which actually was home to a functioning basement still during Prohibition.

And I don't know what this means for hockey. Forbes thinks it do. (thanks to Puck Daddy for picking this up this morning.) At least for a few hockey teams, the magazine thinks the recession/depression/biblical catasrophe means emminent relocation.

Now, sit down for a moment, preferably not in a rocking chair, because ... yes ... the Islanders are amongst the doomed.

If the Lighthouse Project goes through, it's very possible the Islanders would be off of this list. I'm tempted, largely because I read every day it is updated, to suggest that the suburban concept of Long Island Living might suffer greatly in this financial crisis, but that kind of thought is way beyond my scope. I do know the Lighthouse idea fits it with some of the concepts of post-suburban devlopment (I'm completely making that up to appear to be smarter than I am), but it's overall location might be a strain. (no trains lead up to the site - but that might be rectified.)

If Long Island suffers greatly, the Islanders suffer. But, I'm not sure if everyone is suffering so badly that relocation would even be possible. Who's going to buy a hockey team in a depression? The same investors who were going to buy the Chiefs? In short, if Forbes thinks it has some window on the future that will help them understand the larger ramifications of a massive financial collapse that appears to be in "phase change" right now (I can read!), they actually are much dumber than I am, because at least I can admit I don't know a fucking thing. Now, go read The Black Swan.

What about the kids?

As much as I enjoy the Islanders and all of the misery that implies, my understanding of NHL finances is so limited my thoughts on the topic are as meaningful as a piss in the ocean. But, I do have a pretty good grasp of what it's like to live on a short budget, with kids, and with kids you'd like to see on skates someday. This Thing is going to have a great effect on youth hockey in this country, I foolishly predict.

1. Ice time is expensive.

2. Driving to fucking Detroit or Ottawa every week with cars carrying two or three nine-year-olds because adults are crazy is expensive.

3. Composite sticks are expensive. (And if you can tell me why anyone playing at any level below the NHL or at least major junior needs a $100 hockey stick, I will listen, and then throw up on you.)

Hockey has always been a middle-class game, even in Canada where teams essentially are subsidized. (think of football. would it be the National Game if kids had to pay for equipment and field time?) And that is pronounced in America. As the middle class gets pinched and choked, the luxuries get pinched and cut.

I don't know that it is a bad thing. Local programs might actually get a boost if travel hockey is cut down to size. Kids whose parents aren't angling for a scholarship might actually stick with hockey past the age of 9, when, insanely, dumbass-crazy adults start making levels out of travel teams.

It might shrink, the whole thing. Southern hockey might suffer. It might once again be a very specifically regional game. I think that's Ok. (and I am not one to slag hockey fans in Florida because "they don't know the game" or some horseshit, as if this is such a complicated game you couldn't possibly grasp the nuances without having watched Don Cherry every Saturday since you were four.)

In the end, our immediate worlds might get a lot more simple and localized in the coming years. Hockey might do the same.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mediocre the Magnificent Throws His Turban in the Ring

Carnac attempts to predict Georges Laraque's PIMs

Anyone who knows me or who has seen college videos of me knows I love to make an ass of myself and with that, I bring you my 08-09 season predictions!

Armed with a basic knowledge of spreadsheet programs, Yahoo’s NHL page, a six-sided die and a quarter, I entertained myself during the debate trying to find the dumbest way to predict the NHL’s standings for the upcoming season. Mission F-ing accomplished. I took it upon myself to meticulously chart every NHL team’s post season performance since the lockout. Of the many things I learned, it turns out when you plot 30 separate data sets it makes the graph look like a wild, colorful spider web. I personally think spiders are freaky. I almost dropped a load in my shorts a few years back when a spider the size of my big toe was defying gravity about three feet above my bed. I saw a tarantula the other day at this weird conference I went to and I’ve got to say that it’s a really boring animal. What the hell was I talking about…

I weighted each team depending on their performance in the post season then used the dice and coin to settle any ties. If I was smart I would have used the regular season standings since that is what I was trying to predict but smart = uninteresting as far as I’m concerned so lets keep rolling. I decided to put my predictions to the test and take on San Francisco hockey elitist Ross McKeon’s predictions… Ok, his was the first standings projection I came across that wasn’t friend-of-the-Palm-Isle Puckdaddy’s. Truth is, I don’t really know much about McKeon and this blog is in no position to pick a fight. Sorry for the whole ‘elitist’ comment… Visit Ross’s page here.

On to the predictions!

Mediocre One’s Ross McKeon’s

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Pittsburgh Penguins Philadelphia Flyers
New York Rangers Pittsburgh Penguins
New Jersey Devils New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders New York Islanders

Northeast Division
Ottawa Senators Montreal Canadians
Buffalo Sabres Ottawa Senators
Montreal Canadians Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres
Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs

Southeast Division
Carolina Hurricanes Washington Capitals
Tampa Bay Lightning Carolina Hurricanes
Atlanta Thrashers Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals Atlanta Thrashers
Florida Panthers Florida Panthers

Western Conference

Central Division
Detroit Red Wings Detroit Red Wings
Nashville Predators Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks Columbus Blue Jackets
St. Louis Blues Nashville Predators
Columbus Blue Jackets St. Louis Blues

Northwest Division
Calgary Flames Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers Colorado Avalanche
Minnesota Wild Minnesota Wild
Vancouver Canucks Vancouver Canucks

Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars Anaheim Ducks
Los Angeles Kings Phoenix Coyotes
Phoenix Coyotes Los Angeles Kings

Now, the truth is I hate predictions. Anyone doing a prediction (and taking it seriously, I might add) should have some stake in their prediction. The Sports Network (TSN) predicted that Ovechkin would be 5th in scoring with 50 goals. Turns out he was 1st with 65. That’s a pretty big swing, 15 goals, so what’s the sense in trying to guess if it’s obviously too hard? I’ve never seen accurate predictions so if some web site wants to predict stats and mess up my fantasy draft they should at least have the stones to write a big article at the end of the season and grade their projections as well as remind us at the beginning of the following season.

Then other people go too far in the opposite direction. I watched the NHL network’s preview of the Western conference and you’d think every team in the West is going to win the Cup this year. Say something negative, I’m begging you (Gary Green...). Yes, every team in the NHL is talented on some level but that doesn’t do anyone any good. Give us a simple “headed in the right direction” or “headed in the wrong direction” and back it up with some substance that goes beyond the moronic obvious observations which are all-too prevalent amongst hockey commentators. In fact, the following phrase should be banned: “…has a good relationship with the coach.” 99% of players have a good relationship with the coach so let’s can the heavy stuff. Everyone in the NHL wants to win but it’s a matter of who is on a team and the team’s overall strategy that affects 95% of a games outcome according to a stat I invented to make my point.

Since it’s late and I think my point has drifted a bit I just want to say that someone has to hold commentators accountable for their predictions. And I’d like to take up that mantle. In the coming weeks, I’m going to collect different projections of standings and stats and grade them at the end of the season. My prediction is that it’s too hard to make predictions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Random Thoughts a Few Days Before Opening Night

*I have nothing against Seven Mary Three. In fact, until last week I couldn't tell you the last time I had a thought about them. But I do know their big hit is "Cumbersome." And that song's chorus declares, "I have become cumbersome to this world." So, all I'm saying is that they're not exactly the first band I'd want to charge up the opening night crowd if I owned a hockey team. But I don't own a hockey team. Charles Wang does. And so, get ready to rock to the sounds of Seven Mary Three, Islanders fans! And Seven Mary Three, get ready for a steady mix of hardcore apathy and unrelenting verbal abuse from the Coliseum faithful!

*There is no place of commerce more baffling than the NHL Store in NYC. First, it is almost impossible to buy a T-shirt in the store that costs less than $40, which is a hearty, Hollwegian check from behind on Joe Six-Pack (wink). Second, there is that monumentally stupid area devoted to Reebok sneakers. I understand that it is officially "The NHL Store Powered by Reebok," but, really, who's coming to the NHL Store to buy a pair of sneakers? Couldn't that space be better used? And that brings me to my next point: how is it possible that the official store of the National Hockey League does not have a constant supply of winter hats in stock? Granted, we are not yet officially in wool hat weather, but, last I heard, hockey's a cold-weather sport. So wouldn't it make sense to have, you know, a few winter hats available for hockey fans? Is that a crazy idea? There isn't one in the whole store. Unbelievable. Finally, the NHL Store is having a big party to kick the season off. And what's the best time to have that party so that hard-working hockey fans can attend? That's right, Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Perfect. Also, I was in there tonight and there was absolutely no indication that there'd be any sort of party on Friday. Good job with the advance promo. What a waste.

*Speaking of wastes, Sirius is currently airing a commercial urging Sirius subscribers to get the new "Best of XM" package that features Captain Excitement Gary Bettman pushing the NHL on XM and highlighting his own weekly show as a reason to add the channel. I can't think of a worse marketing campaign.

*Kudos to the Islanders off-ice team yet again for their wide variety of ticket packages available this year. I do take issue, however, with the Victory Plan, a four-game package in which you get one free game for each Islanders win, thus potentially making it an eight-game package. In theory, a great idea. In practice, it finds a way to make me even angrier at the Islanders for losing. Now, when (OK, OK, if) they lose, they're kind of stealing money from me. That'll perk me up while I'm taking the bus to the train to another train to my apartment in my two-hour-plus odyssey from the Coliseum to Jersey City. Thanks, guys! I have been patiently waiting for an addendum to the Victory Plan that would ensure my involvement. I would be willing to buy into a plan, where, if the Islanders lose, I get a free room at the Marriott, Charles Wang calls in to work for me, and one or two Ice Girls visit for a postgame cheer-up session. Just an idea.

*Mitch Fritz starts the season in Bridgeport. Connecticut, here I come!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Sounds of Bliss

(painting by William Roy Brownridge)

This may be the ideal season to be gauging the Isles' progress by the tenor of the radio announcers' voices rather than by the sights and hollow sounds projected by my television.

The mistakes on ice, neatly summarized by the shifting of names, rather than by the visual evidence, will be easier to take. And the feats of the young players will get a lustrous halo.

It is ground well-covered by writers, but there is something to the glamour of sports in my childhood. One televised game each week, and the radio companion for weeknights, was not preferable in the most direct sense, but it did serve to build the legend. That could also be childhood delusion via memory at play, or simply age, as I got so jittery and irritated playing NHL 09 and then watching that ridiculous debate last night I went to bed and read a book about Bobby Orr. And I was happier, and calm, and settled.

The Federal League, our version of fantasy hockey, drafts tonight. I am ill-prepared. But that same strategy of ignorance to the narrative helped me win a baseball league this year. (don't tell me baseball is much easier to discern from the numbers column ... I know.) My team is "Poodle" (see: Slap Shot), but I think I might have to come up with something more clever, although I am beginning to detest anything clever largely as a result of reading too much Internet. I had one team named "PIMs Win Cups," which I used in a league in which I was lectured after complaining about the absence of PIMs on the stat chart.

So it might just be Poodle.

I can't think of an Islander worth drafting high. DiPietro might make a good late-round pickup. Or Steit, I guess. I would be wary of his plus/minus, whatever the points. (Save the lectures on the meaningless nature of this stat. I know. And, it's fantasy, a crucial point being that it is not real.) And I'm not big on drafting defensemen.

I'm also not big on drafting good hockey players, but that is a story for another time.

A Few Words concerning NHL 09
NHL 09 isn't frustrating just me, if the Internet forums are any indication of the wider opinion. It just feels awkward, which isn't necessarily a tangible thing, but it is there. I feel as if the players often are compelled to turn the wrong way, whatever tricks of "vision control" I try.

Most importantly, the goal scoring feels like a chore, and doesn't have the sort of "anything can happen" vibe I would like to see. This isn't a problem on the "pro" level. But if you've played this game much during the past two years, pro isn't a challenge. On all-star the whole thing feels like a chore.

A lack of penalties called, especially against the CPU, is another significant problem. I suspect this may be addressed in a patch, as the EA Vancouver team has been exceptional at addressing issues. And, I felt much the same about 08 as I feel now about 09 prior to one patch and a few roster updates that largely dealt with the most prevalent issues in the game. For now, I practice a bit and hold out on a franchise.

Lying About Injuries is Dumb (except when it is smart because the league allows it)
This business of not telling anyone about injuries in the NHL is stupid and cynical. This isn't the fucking pre-cursor to Desert Storm, or whatever. It's a hockey team. Someone in Toronto needs to step in, set a league standard, and enforce the standard. GMs look like clowns playing this dumb game with reporters.

Ticket holders and Centre Ice subscribers have a right to know as paying customers what kind of product they will see on the ice, in general. Sure, the coach is going to sit people, etc. But this gives a shabby, amateur appearance to the league. And Garth Snow is one of the most consistent and smarmy offenders.

The onus is on the league, because the present situation only gives GMs incentive to lie, as they can prevent other teams from fully understanding their roster situations in trade/waiver deals, thus protecting their leverage, so to speak.

It might work for the teams, but it doesn't work for the fans. And the fans are ... oh yeah ... I forgot. Well, we can always go fuck ourselves.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!) Mitch Fritz!

I will admit that I know precious little about Mitch Fritz. In fact, up until about two days ago, I had no idea he was with the Islanders. But the combination of his stature (6'8"), past success in amassing penalty minutes (a total of 355 in 2001-02), and the undeniable chantability of his name has me rooting hard for him to make the team (despite the fact that he played for the Wolfpack last year). There are, of course, a few tough guys on the Isles (though I must admit that Brendan Witt's toughness took a hit for me when I saw that video of him making out with his bird on Islanders TV), but they're missing a guy like Fritz—or at least a guy like Fritz seems to be. I say take a chance on keeping him around, or at least bring him up for Rangerks games.

Plus, you've gotta love a guy whose first Google hit is a video of him housing Colton Orr.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Fantasy Champ

I won my (our) fantasy championship last year after years of disappointment and frustration. It took a lot of effort and time and was completely unfulfilling. However, if anyone out there is still trying to win their fantasy league, here are some tips I wrote last season and would like to pass on to you for the upcoming season:

Fantasy Hockey: Let’s talk about it. I won last year’s league which pretty much makes me a fantasy expert. I thought that I could shed some pearls of wisdom which should keep me from discussing the state of hockey on Long Island.

One: Divorce your wife, break up with your girlfriend(s), and disown your children. Quit your job, sell your home, move in with a family member.

Two: Do some research. You want to get the most points you can get out of every draft pick. F-ing duh, right? Well, you’ve got to get equal or more value compared to the other players being drafted and name recognition can really cloud your judgment. I used to be tempted by people who were good in EA Sports’ NHL 95 too, but last year I hadn’t even heard of most of my players before I did some reading. It’s all about trying to find breakout years. In short, don’t draft Rangers.

Three: Don’t sit on your laurels. And I’m going to skip the obvious “I don’t even know what a laurel is” joke. People seem to go with the “don’t fix what’s not broken” approach which is wrong. There’s no way to check, but I’m positive that point production from all the teams increases over the course of the season so a good team at the beginning of the year may not actually fall in production, but as everyone else trims the fat, the pack catches up. Just make sure that if you’re going to pickup, drop, then pickup the same player, don’t do it all in one night. HOO! Lookout, inside joke coming through…

Four: If your goalie wasn’t drafted by the New York Islanders, than there’s no guarantees. If you think I’m being too kind to the Islander’s, read my other blog entries. Goalies are temperamental and I can’t think of a funny simile, but they are. Plan on picking up a good goaltender off the FA list in the first month. Osgood, Leclaire, Thomas, and Gerber were all sitting on the FA at the start of the season last year . Draft picks are valuable so you’re better off going after skaters who are much more reliable season to season even if it means you struggle for a few weeks with a crappy second goalie. And for feck’s sake, don’t draft more goalies than you can start at one time.

Five: No extra points for being a defenseman. Nick Lidstrom is a god. A hockey god. There’s rarely a ‘god’ category, though, so if he scores 60 points a season, you get 60 points. Draft a forward who scores 80 unless you get wet for plus/minus like I do.

Six: And now watch as I contradict myself; Go for the name recognition off the FA list. If you need some goals and everyone on the FA list sucks, pickup someone who’s been to an all-star game even if it was a hundred years ago. I fell for some rookies who had a hot month and ended up dropping them faster than Matt gave up on this blog. Hejduk had a slow start and I picked him in time to benefit from a six-point night. Bertuzzi was a similar story. I missed grabbing Recchi who got hotter than my sack in August.

Well, that’s it. My team should be vying for last place by the end of October. “Fenian Brotherhood, 2003 Champions” shirts still available.

Hanging up the Blades and Retiring the Axe

A lot of people have talked about how Paul Newman was a fantastic actor and an even better person so I won't rehash any of that here on the blog as true as it is. I'll just make one request--if you've never watched Slap Shot with special attention paid to Reggie Dunlop then you should. Everyone loves the Hanson Brothers, but until you're effortlessly swapping Reg Dunlop lines with your friends, you haven't watched the movie enough.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Reggie Dunlop and Paul Newman

Our college floor hockey team was called the Charlestown Chiefs. We still talk about "the Chiefs" getting together when my old college friends call.

We love Slap Shot. This isn't unique to hockey fans. I am from Binghamton and live near Syracuse. I've worked with countless people who tell stories of seeing Paul Newman during the filming of Slap Shot in the area.

We love Reggie Dunlop, and we love that real movie fans know this role represented a major turning point for his career. Paul Newman was no longer just good looking. Reggie Dunlop is an underrated performance, often overshadowed by the schtick of the Hanson Brothers.

And we love Paul Newman. The Sting, Nobody's Fool, that list goes on for a long time. We drank some of his Newman's Own coffee this morning, not knowing.

I don't usually get too worked up when celebrities die, because I don't know them. But Paul Newman reminded me enough of some of the important people in my life that I feel this one.

My facebook update said Thursday morning, for no particular reason other than I was thinking about hockey, "Bryan wants to thank Reg Dunlop. So, thank you."

Now it says, "Bryan wants to thank Reg Dunlop. And Paul Newman. We'll miss you."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Optimism's for the weak

Early prediction: This quote from Scott Gordon after last night's Isles-Flyers exhibition game will be repeated almost word for word at least 47 times this season:

"I thought we had a great first 15 minutes," said Head Coach Scott Gordon. "Then we stopped skating in the last five minutes. In the second period, we didn't come close to approaching what we did at the beginning of the first period. In the third we got it back. The second period was the only downside of the game. We generated some scoring chances. We gave more chances than I would have liked in the crucial areas. Tonight we played with a bit younger lineup and their top six forwards were pretty good."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

hey, are we playing hockey here? (a treatise)

It isn't 70+ degrees at night anymore up here in the coyote-infested wilds of the New York state (a new, coy way of authors telling the world they are hip enough to inhabit the same legal borders as the New York City, but grounded and rustic enough to live amongst the dogs and pigs and be-hatted gents sprouting Palin-induced boners and chaw stains), and we are finally feeling hockey, blowing two-months' worth of dust off of the Slap Shot DVD case, downloading Leo Sayer songs, buying the children 9" CCM gloves because they are finally big enough in the hands to justify the purchase, and, in general, feeling a little bit alive, centered, and hockey-ready after a long year that saw The Rev. Zamboni successfully (so far) deal with a troublesome problem-drinking issue, general malaise (boo hoo), and a move further into the snow belt of Upstate New York, which is the proper damn name and punctuation for the region, copy-editing pontifications on capitalization be damned.

The Zamboni Family caravan recently emptied its contents in Tully, New York, bringing The Reverend closer to the ball hockey paradise that is his community college of employ, closer to the War Memorial in Syracuse (Slap Shot fans will recognize the importance), and closer to the kind of oppressive winters that bring a smile to The Reverend's face and draw sneers from co-workers and acquaintances when their warnings about "that awful tunnel of snow on I-81" are met with a grin and "I'm looking forward to it. I hate this 70-in-September shit."

I hope to not be eating these words in a snowbank on the highway this winter, watching one of those G.O.D. tractor-trailers bearing down on the black commuter Zamboni model, but it's a cosmic chance I am willing to risk if the payoff is snow and ice and clean air.

Song break
I am determined to make the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" the goal song of choice at some hockey rink this winter, if only at the Coliseum's NHL 09 doppelganger. I am playing it now for some energy, and the Zamboni brothers, all four years of them combined (and one of them having recently dropped a bomb in his diaper), are break dancing ("great dancing" they call it) on the cheap Asian rug. And the soon-to-be two-year-old just served two minutes in the box for putting hands in poopy diaper. Bad penalty.

The Islanders
I see a Rangers' fan Facebook update, "excited to relax, settle in, and watch some hockey tonight. Pre-season hockey, but it works." Or something to that effect. It breaks my heart a little, because I still have not solved my "how to watch hockey" problem. We are stuck with channels 2-23, which is plenty good for sating my thirst for football this year (goes in cycles), but all but useless for hockey. Even the Time Warner Sports channel that seems like it might show Crunch games is beyond my purview. (it's make me feel dumb even typing "Crunch." Someone should be stripped naked and thrown on the ice for that one.)

I like the reports from camp, all of the "overspeed" stuff, Oh!poso on camera, and the surprising and wonderful commitment from Newsday to continue and even expand coverage. And Scott Gordon canceling scrimmages, which I don't understand, but I like, for some reason. Good to hear the usual nonsense about a first-round draft pick playing well (good for the OHL, I guess), and good to see a few new hats in the bin for the Isles. Otherwise, I am guessing this might be the year of hockey as it lives in the corners of my life, and you will need to rely on the other of the Palm Isles' denizens for your seeing-eye updates.

The Issue of Youth Hockey
The oldest will be old enough to begin playing next year. He'll need some learn-to-skate sessions, and then some "which handed are you?" clarifications, but otherwise he seems excited about the whole prospect of being on skates and getting to wear a helmet (the best part). I don't have the "kids make up for your athletic shortcomings" gene, although I do believe in getting them involved in a wide range of activities, even against their budding wills. There will be some sports, some music, and some other things mom will organize. There will be time in the distant future for deciding upon genuine interests and talents. In the meantime, we sample.

I did not play hockey as a child. Growing up in what is now called the Greater Binghamton Area, and was then called Binghamton, hockey was a popular spectator sport, but limited in its youth offerings. To get involved in true ice hockey in Binghamton you needed money, a parent who was interested in searching around and finding hockey, and then, more money. Despite the number of hockey fans in the area, most of them had become hockey fans with either the Broome Dusters in the 70s or the Whalers in the 80s, which meant very few of the parents of my parents generation had played hockey as children. Thus, we played basketball, and street hockey (driveway hockey) in the neighbourhoods.

I learned to skate (let's use the term loosely) my freshman year of college. I learned on roller blades, and although I can make it around a rink a few times without serious injury, never really translated that skill to the ice. It is a shame, and one I hope to rectify in the next few years. In hockey I found not only the sport I love beyond all others, but also a sport in which my temperament (lousy), athletic ability, and sensibility fit perfectly. I will be visited by friends this weekend whom I have known since I was 17 years old. Friends I met in some ways through hockey, or friends with whom hockey is a common, binding thread. Friends who were in my wedding. Friends who have watched me pout and moan and whine like a child and have forgiven me, friends who have seen me do worse and forgiven me, friends who have seen me in my best moments, and have forgiven me yet again. And I think three of them can skate on ice.

Hockey is no replacement for the most important bonds, but it is an undercurrent and a base.

And I want my kids to have the opportunity to experience that kind of feeling, but also to experience the feeling of flying down the ice (real ice, real skates, etc.), pulling the puck to the forehand and driving the net, whatever the result. But I also don't want to drive to Detroit every weekend for tournaments against six-year-olds.

Youth hockey has lost its mind in this country, partly thanks to the pressure of competing with the Canadian system, partly because adults are insane. Imagine a schedule as concocted by seven-year-olds, "first, we play at the tennis court in Rec Park. Call Jimmy and make sure his mom knows we'll be there, she'll make hot chocolate. Next, we play in Tim's attic with the Nerf balls and mini-sticks. Then, we finish in my driveway because the plow will have come by and we'll have that awesome snow bank again ... ."

I'll leave you on that high note.

Late addition: I am reading, "Searching for Bobby Orr." Pretty weak title, but it seems very good thus far. I'll keep you posted.