Monday, March 31, 2008

The Trifecta!

Assholes. (to clarify -- all Rangers fans are assholes, but in this case, I was criticizing in particular those Rangers fans who engage in homophobic chanting at the Garden. Because we know no one from Long Island has ever had occasion to express an anti-gay thought ... .)

When Tradition and Taunts Collide: Gay Hockey Fans Criticize Garden

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Lemonade

Sometimes when things are at their darkest, God gives you some light.

I don't care if it isn't true. I just hope that Isles fans who will be at the Coliseum for the Rangers' last visit of the season are now crafting their chants. Not since "Crackhead Theo" have we been given such a gift.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Trying To Make Lemonade

At this point, it's tough to even fake interest in the season, but every once in a while, something nice and sweet comes along that makes you remember how much you still love hockey. Or hate the Rangers. For me, that was this picture:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Herrmann Monster is stealing my ideas (and yours), and Cassie Campbell is a dumb jock

Stating the obvious, but that's Ok.

Stamkos though? If that happens, there will be two blowbacks:

1. Stamkos will tell the Islanders to go screw. This may actually be a boon for the Islanders, who can get three or four third-liners and another slow, defensive defenseman from whichever Canadian team Stamkos decides he will play for (I am going to dangle dangle as long as I please ...).

2. A Canadian hockey writer will have have an embolism, and Colin Campbell will award Stamkos to the Canadian team drafting nearest to the top as a supplemental measure of discipline to the Islanders for letting that goddamned indian step on Jarko Ruutu.

An unrelated note
: Cassie Campbell, a dumb jock, pontificated on the "new Russian" players once again on last night's HNIC radio show. She actually said (and Jeff "Barley Sandwich" Marek nodded in audio approval) that Evgenny Malkin is "playing like a Canadian." Fucking A. I'd like to revise my ratings: No. 1 Penguins, No. 2 Capitals (we'll get to Detroit). And when one of them wins the cup, I'd like them to personally thank the fine fans of Canada for making them better people, i.e. not lazy, stupid, "high maintenance" (Cassie's words) Russians. She even used the "common perception in this country has been ..." to qualify her stupid statements.

Next up, Marc Stein of ESPN saying, "it's nice to see a PG like Chris Paul bucking some of the stereotypes aboat black players in this country -- they're selfish, lazy showoffs. I'd even say he's playing more like a white person."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's that time of year when you have to pick a team to root fo'

Dangle that preposition, Ovie ... .

It's that woeful time (sometimes delayed until after the first round of the playoffs) when we Islanders fans must choose our weapon for the upcoming playoff season. Past years have found me rooting for the Sabres (geographic proximity), anyone playing the Rangers (the Sabres), and, begrudgingly, the Senators, largely because, as the son of our pediatrician once explained, they kept hockey in Binghamton. In the West, I've done the Memorial Dave Eadie Wish I Was Canadian thing and rooted for the Flames, Oilers, Canucks, Oilers, and Canucks, again, I think.

Let's have a look at this year's potential rootees.

Eastern Conference
Standings as of March 18

1. New Jersey Devils. With a rabid fanbase, an exciting, rush-first style, and sweeping winter vistas, the Devils are an NHL marketer's dream. Not to mention, the team recently opened a new arena in close proximity to Islanders fan Mr. Bad Example, who has attended more games than any other New Jersey resident in the Prude's first season. In all seriousness, the Devils are a drag, but I like Sutter, Brodeur, and Doc "Looks Like my Dad" Emrick enough that the Devils may trump some other Eastern Conference teams in the Rooting Ratings, depending on how the seeds fall, and grow.

The Verdict: If they play the Flyers, I'm a Devils fan. We'll make 'em a four seed.

2. Les Canadiens (Habitants). Usually, I am ambivalent aboat the Canadiens, largely because they've been ambivalent about playing hockey for the past decade or so. When they played the Bruins, I rooted for the Bruins, having once lived in Massachusetts. This year, I kind of (sort of) (maybe) like the Canadiens. I don’t live in French Canada, or pretend I live in Ontario (Dave Eadie), so I don’t have any cultural antipathy for these drunk, smelly, provincial jerkoffs.

The Verdict: They play real defense, Kovalev is Awaken, and they still have nice jerseys. So Ok, let’s have a little maple syrup in our whiskey, and place Les Habitants in the three slot.

3. Les Hurricanes. Go here. Any real dislike I have for the Hurricanes has nothing to do with their players, their coach, or their fans (who are probably mostly old New York and Connecticutans anyway). But I remember the Binghamton Whalers, Peter S., and some good brawls in the Old Veterans Memorial.

The Verdict: Go Whale. Let’s make these hillbillies a six seed.

4. The Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm close to getting juvenile and feeling a "shut the fuck up already about the brilliance of the Penguins" backlash. I like Malkin, think Crosby is overrated (Ovienevulov any day for me), and think Mike Therrien has entered Doc Rivers territory as it relates to a shitty coach riding a good team. Casey Stengel once said (or is said to have said), the manager's job is not to lose. Or something. Michele will lose the Penguins the playoffs. I know it.

The Verdict: Five seed. At least they play entertaining hockey. And, for Chrissakes, bring some yellow back into those jerseys. I'm having flashbacks to the “everybody is black and gold or silver” look of the mid-90s.

5. Ottawa Senators. Well, balls to John Paddock. I liked him in Binghamton, but he definitely lost the team (translation: the Ottawa media) this year. I don’t understand how Bryan Murray doesn’t get fired – I’m tired of GMs (paging Lou Lamoriello, Don Waddell … are there more?) firing coaches and then coaching. Fire yourself jerkoff, you hired the guy who couldn’t coach. Emery sounds like a pain in the ass, but if he were playing in Carolina the nonsense he pulls wouldn’t warrant a sports brief. Problem is, he sucks in net. But we knew that in Binghamton. Kudos, once again, to Bryan Murray.

The Verdict: Number two. I don’t think Spezza could lead a pack of rats into a cheese factory, Gerber will be wetting his bed by Game Two of the first round, and Martin Lapointe has lost a step, if this is 1998. Here in 2008, Marty Lapointe is bad. The Binghamton connection keeps this team near the top, but, depending on the series, I could be swayed at the last minute to bump up a lower seed. And, oh yeah, Brian McGrattan can kiss my ass.

6. New York Rangers. If the standings remain as they do today, these assholes would play the Hurricanes. I’m not saying the Hurricanes can’t beat them (they can), but this is as good a reason as any to switch to put the division winners in the playoffs, but in the seed corresponding to their point total (if they finish with the lowest number of total points, make them the 8th seed … sucks for the 9th seed, but this sucks worse). The Rangers are playing well, but they seem to need Sean Avery to do everything for them but slip their cups into that little pocket in their compression shorts. And, I don’t think a team can win in the playoffs if it is depending that much on Sean Avery. Pests are wonderful in the regular season. But don’t tell me Brad May won the Ducks the cup last year (I’m looking at you, Mr. Canadian Hockey Writer), because that’s bullshit. Good players win cups, and the Rangers don’t have (m)any.

The Verdict: Eight, but only because I’m sticking with a ranking system. There is no team in sports I wouldn’t root for if it were playing the Rangers. Yankees included (Wiffle Ball?).

7. Boston Bruins. Give ‘em a point because I lived in Massachusetts and saw how desperate the remaining 9 or 10 Bruins fans were getting, and that was 1999-2000. Give ‘em a point because I’ve seen them in person four times. Give ‘em a point for not fucking up the RBK sweater thing, and actually improving the look of the “B.” And give ‘em a point because the Dropkick Murphys write songs about ‘em. I don’t love this team, but in an Eastern Conference that makes me feel a tit ambivalent, I like ‘em.

The Verdict: For Vladislav Falconerov, we rate the Bruins No. 1.

8. Flyers. An unlikable team followed by annoying, insufferable, whining twats gets more unlikable when they put a pinhead behind the bench who sends them out on goon patrol all year. Second only to the Rangers on the “Fuck Them” list. I hate the Flyers. Have fun with your goalies. Seems like that “anyone can be a No. 1 netminder” philosophy is starting to pay off. Fuckers.

The Verdict: Seven, but only because of immovable circumstance. If the Rangers play the Flyers, I’ll cry.

Can they make it? I don’t think the Sabres can make the playoffs, and I don’t think they should, considering this year’s run would likely be an Islandersesque affair of truly dull proportions. In light of last year’s inspired playoffs run, and the fanfare it entailed, it would make me sad to see the Buffalonians half-heartedly cheering on their soon-to-be-swept club in the playoffs. That might hit too close to home. The Capitals are a fun team, and I almost think they could surprise someone (the Devils?) in a first-round series, and a little playoff experience this year would make them flat scary coming into the fall of 2008. I’m going to root for them, but I don’t see it happening. Not yet, at least. I actually enjoy the Panthers, who I began rooting for in recent weeks in a Canadiensesque reversal of opinion, largely because I think Olli Jokinen is still an Islander. I’d like to see them sneak in, and I think it could happen. It’s all interdivisional from here on out (I believe … I’m too tired to look it up), and that may help. I think.

Tomorrow: The West.

You know you're an Islanders fan when... see Tim Robbins coming out of a Pogues show and the first thing you think of to say is "Rangers suck!"

I didn't say it because it was a dark street and I didn't want to freak him out. But I thought about it. Unfortunately, I'm a thinker, not a doer.

Sean Avery was apparently at the Pogues show I was at the next night, and I'm glad I didn't actually see him. Something may have had to be said.

Now let's go back to awaiting the Great Coming of Okposo that the Islanders Web site wants us to be so excited about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If That Game Wasn't Rock Bottom, I Don't Want to See Rock Bottom

That is all.

In defense of a better bad team (or, we're tits up for now, but we'll survive)

If you've read the email debate, you can see I've been equally frustrated and bored with this Islanders team. And, because I am, as my wife says, irritable, I felt the need to voice this displeasure.

But, I remind myself, this is exactly what I expected and, in some ways, hoped for out of this team.

They are painfully dull. They play hard most of the time, make as many mistakes as most teams (but with fewer talented oh!ffensive players, the mistakes are lit like flares), and go through the same kind of stretches of shitty/too-good play as most teams in the parity-stricken NHL.

Contrary to what you'd think would be my stance, I actually can handle, and in some ways don't mind, a losing team. When I was 13, this was not the case. I cried once when the Washington Redskins beat the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, not because I was a Vikings fans, but because I was a Giants fan and hated the Redskins. Now, I don't really even watch football.

And I root for the Mets. I won't make the jokes, but you can.

I am happy Garth Snow did not mortgage any prospects this year, although he may have not had a choice in the matter since most of the Islanders prospects don't seem to be of the attractive-to-other-NHL-teams kind, but nonetheless ... . And, in an odd way, I am happy he didn't spend much in the lead-up to the season, although, again, he might not have had a choice.

What I am saying: This was a throw-shit-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of year. (I know, that's been the case for the past four years ... we move on.) Comrie stuck. Witt continues to stick. Martinek is getting stickier and stickier, and getting hurt less. Richard Park sticks. The fill-in defencemen stick, as fill-in defencemen of the future. Vascicek, Fedetenko, MAB -- no stick. Bill Guerin, I'm not sure. He sticks, I guess, but we need more shit to throw up there next to him.

So the Islanders keep a few of these guys. Tambellini, Comeau, Bergenheim, Nielsen, and (I would assume) Oh!poso come back in the late summer/fall as full-timers with energy, and really (! hope springs eternal in late July) this is a fun team next year. Even if they lose.

Best case: We're two/three years away from a legitimate playoff team with a young core and a solid goaltender.

There's your inspiration for the day.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Great Email Rivalry Debate ...

It took a little while, but some of the denizens of The Palm Isle have finally exchanged email worthy of publication. These should be pretty self-explanatory. Enjoy.

Mr. Bad Example: If you’re bored. Mike and the Mad Dog are live from the Coliseum. They just interviewed Snow. Wang's next, I think.

Rev. Zamboni: Why I can't blog anymore:

Dubie pulls a double vs. Rangers

Islanders coach Ted Nolan made the boldest decision of his two-season tenure this morning when he announced backup Wade Dubielewicz will be in net against the Rangers tonight at Nassau Coliseum with franchise player Rick DiPietro fresh and ready to go on the bench.

Has everyone given up? Sure, it was a nice effort against the Rangers, but so what? And really, Dubie's been "hot" against those cocksuckers, but Rick DeePee is here for 15 fucking years for a reason.

I don't know. What a mess. They're boring, stale, lifeless, and shitty. And if this is still a rivalry, wake me up when it's over. Nobody in the media has the balls to say this game has no firepower, no hatred, no nothing. It's another game for these fuckers. Not us. But who cares about us? Until they meets in the playoffs again, I declare the Great Rivalry dead.

Disgruntled. Obviously.

Mr. Bad Example: With all due respect, you, sir, as an upstater, do not have a right to call the Great Rivalry dead.

I think you're discounting the effort that the players put in to these games. I only saw one period the other night, but it seemed like both teams were going all-out to me. Unfortunately, the Isles at all-out, well, that's not so impressive.

I think it's an odd decision to start Doobie, but I can handle it. DiPietro hasn't looked right the last few games, and bringing him in cold in a Rangers game has the potential for disaster. We'll see what happens with Doobie.

DP's due up next on the FAN.

Rev. Zamboni: Well piss off then. Do I have a right to determine who the Sabres are rivals with?

I'm sure they're putting a great deal of effort into the game. They looked good the other night. But when I think of rivalry, I think of (not just fights) but some general dislike, discord, what not. It's a rivalry in hibernation then.

I think the real problem is you spend the whole season watching the team, and by February or March you've heard the same old tired bullshit cliches from players and coaches that I want to drive down there and punch someone. I'm sure they're lively and passionate in private practices and in the lockeroom ... but this is supposed to be entertainment, not corpse-watching. I would like to hear someone say in an interview how much they hate those cocksuckers on the Rangers, or something. Maybe we should sign Roenick.

I'm bored. I guess that's the problem.

Mr. Bad Example: Yes, you may determine who the Sabres are rivals with. No problem with that. And if you haven't gotten used to being bored in February and March by now, there may be a chance that you're not cut out for this Islanders fandom thing.

I think with free agency such a big part of professional sports, players are increasingly more hesitant to badmouth a team that might be offering them a huge contract in the offseason. It's not like it was with those Isles-Rangers games in the 1970s and 1980s, when players were with the teams for entire careers, or at least more than a few seasons. I doubt it will ever get back to that level, but I don't think that means the rivalry's over. It's just changed. And I think there's plenty of dislike on both sides of Isles/Rangers. Maybe it's not expressed in interviews, but I think it's still there.

Then again, maybe I'm just full of shit.

Rev. Zamboni: I know. I was just irritated. And tired. And yes, I am used to being bored this time of year, but it's not making it any better.

Sabres, I say, are rivals with Philly, rivals in hibernation with the Leafs, and rivals with the Senators. Maybe.

Ok. I'm gonna watch the game now.

Rev. Zamboni: BTW, (Mediocre One), are you dead?

Mr. Bad Example: Well, turns out it wouldn't have mattered who was in goal. That game was eerily similar to last Saturday's against the Flyers. Absolutely no sense of urgency in the third period. I suppose anything's possible, but I officially can't see this team going to the playoffs. Any hope I had went away tonight.

Let's go Predators.

The Mediocre One: Sorry I was out for my Mom's birthday dinner, which is code for "I was out for my Mom's birthday dinner." This was her actual birthday for those of you who were here last Saturday.

I know you don't get to see all the Isles games but I think you need to chill just a bit. Maybe go for Arena Football or UFC or something. I know they don't have the craziness of past series, but with the standings the way they are, no one wants to take a penalty. Blame the three point games for making such a tight playoff race. Otherwise, I thought it was a pretty exciting home and home, with the glaring exception of tonight's third period. Enjoy it while you can because it's as close to playoff hockey as you're going to get.

And fuck the players on the ice, they have almost nothing to do with the rivalry. I see some douche wearing an Avery jersey and I suddenly want to knock him down in the street. He could be a Tibetan monk for all I know, but he's got seriously fucked up taste in hockey teams. Anyway, were you ready to pronounce the rivalry 'dead' after the brawl in preseason? Get DiPietro in the game – he's hated.

Rev. Zamboni: you can blow me too. I didn't say the rivalry is dead for fans and I love the Rangers. and I didn't say they don't play hard or care. you guys are like Canadians: the first thing I say you don't agree with you jump up and say I'm not a real fan and I don't really understand the passion because I'm not from the right place. I'm sorry I don't get the intricate and complex natures of your exclusively regional sports rivalry. Maybe you can enlighten me ... .

I said it hasn't had the same intensity on the ice, and you need the occasional playoff series to juice up a rivalry. and, I didn't realize I couldn't get a little bored with a team without being told I'm not really cut out for this watching a hockey team on television thing. Christ. you guys need some air.

I was just bitching about how boring the team is and how sweet and Lady Byng-ish this game has become because you're the only two people I know of who care.

and I know you get to see all the Isles games (how many games do I need to watch to be a real fan?), but sometimes you sound like you're getting paycheck from Nassau. and thank you for your continuing advice on how to watch a losing team. I haven't figured out by now that this team probably won't win a cup.

now go watch basketball, you fairy. you company man.

The Mediocre One: All I'm saying is that I enjoyed the games until the third goal last night and that you're wrong for thinking otherwise. Sure the Islanders' game plan is about as complex as the Ithaca Chief's and there weren't any fights, but it was nice to see some hitting and intensity and no short handed goals. And unless you were ready to declare the rivalry dead during the pre-season brawl, then I think things will be ok. Sim will be back next season, or they'll get someone else to be a pest in the off-season and we'll be back to chicken dances and turtle-ing. And I made the comment about not seeing Islander games because if you think they were "boring, stale, lifeless, and shitty" during the last two games, then you'd be REAL disappointed when you see them play someone else. In a season of downs and downs, the last two games were a little refreshing for me.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to James for insisting the Islanders were a better-than-eighth-place team. I officially stand corrected.

Mr. Bad Example: Why does (the Mediocre One) get to blow you and I just piss off? It
seems unfair to me, but I suppose I'll accept the terms of the agreement.

I think The Mediocre One and I are less likely to declare the rivalry dead because we've spent our childhoods and teen years hearing it from Rangers fans. That's all.
And I think that speaks to his point about the rivalry – it's never really been about the teams on the ice. All rivalries are mainly about the fans. The only reason the players care is because they're playing to crowds full of rabid fans. And as long as Rangers fans are loud-mouthed douchebags wrapping themselves around decades-old chants, there will be a rivalry. When Rangers fans stop being slack-jawed ass clowns, then you will be able to declare the rivalry dead.

Rev. Zamboni: Points taken. And yes, the past two games were far more entertaining than some of the crap from the previous weeks, although last night was pretty frustrating to watch with a house full of children and a wife who doesn't want them to learn dirty words.

And yes, as much as I hated these two Rangers fans I played baseball w/in high school, I was not at the time an Islanders fan, so taunting was restricted to "you are an ugly hick with those sideburns," "your friends are dirtbags," "you are a dirtbag," "you will never get laid," and "fuck you, geek." So, it's there, but not as directly.

So Ok. I am in agreement with Mr. Bad Example that this is not a playoff team, and also thinking it might be a more productive offseason if they don't, however miraculously, make the playoffs, as there will be more pressure on Snow. We shall see.

I still think Nolan is a good coach, although, after some thought, my feelings about DiPietro not starting were made more clear to me when the Rangers lined up at center ice and the Islanders team leader was sitting on the bench. That felt funny. He looked pissed, and I imagine it affected the team in some way.

Go Isles anyway. And yes, for goddsakes, fuck the Rangers.

(sorry about the blowing thing, too, The Mediocre One and I have a little history there ...)

The Mediocre One: In the spirit of honesty and Ranger hating, I was never really taunted too much by Ranger fans – there's a bit of a safer balance here than in Staten Island I imagine. My high school history teacher laughed at Ranger fans when Leech broke his leg after getting out of a cab and slipping on a patch of ice. I remember exactly what he said: "Mike, can you explain to me how a man who makes his living on ice can hurt himself getting out of a cab?" Of course, he was a Flyers fan that posted a picture of an Islander logo with the hockey stick replaced by a golf club on the door to his classroom...

Anyway, being and Islander fan is a state of mind and I argue that season ticket holders really can't be very big fans so time and place must be overrated.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Core of the Four Weekend

First, let's get the ugly stuff out of the way. This weekend, the current Islanders did an awful lot of sucking. Saturday's game (ticket graciously provided by the Mediocre One and Father of the Mediocre One...muchas gracias) was the more disheartening of the two, as you would have had a hard time believing that the Isles were playing a game that had the potential to end with them moving up to the eighth spot. The intensity just wasn't there, and if you lack intensity for a late-season home game against the Flyers, something is seriously wrong. But we know that, don't we?

Anyway, it was a rough game to watch, particularly when the Isles were on the power play. And the fact that the previous sentence could have been written about, say, 90 percent of the Isles' games in the last three years is probably as good a statement as any that times are tough.

Sunday's game was a little better effortwise, and it brilliantly demonstrated another major flaw in the severely tarnished diamond that is the Islanders: the lack of anyone with a pure scoring touch. Sure, there were a lot of shots, but few were really threats and a bunch were taken from angles that assured saves without rebounds. And when there were rebounds, the front of the net was emptier than Oleg Kvasha's head. Bad news, Jack.

But, hey, enough about the present and dismal future, let's celebrate the past, specifically the Core of the Four, who were feted before Sunday's game in grand style, with a breakfast and autograph signing, followed by a team lunch, then the Walk of Champions, and, finally, a ceremony in the Coliseum that was criminally underattended. How there can be that many empty seats for such a ceremony is baffling. I guess you can blame it on too many celebrations of the Cup teams, but Yankees Old-Timers Days don't seem to have trouble drawing people. And even a fair number of the people who actually made the effort to get to the Coliseum early seemed unimpressed. Disheartening. As was the misspelling "Ledgend" in one of the in-game contests. And, really, if I could punch each and every person who voted on the Mobile Phone Poll that the record the Isles hold for consecutive playoff series won is 9, I would. The fact that that answer was in the lead the last time I looked in the third period is proof enough that the Islanders aren't having too many celebrations of the Cup teams.

Anyway, regardless of how anybody else at or not at the Coliseum felt, I was pretty excited. Then again, I'm a guy that likes the past. I spend a lot of time on eBay looking for postcards of the places my family went to on summer vacations. I still have a keychain from my college newspaper on my ring of keys. I like Irish literature. Celebrations of the past are right up my alley. So I plunked down money for Bob Bourne, Al Arbour, and Stefan Persson's autographs in the morning (the latter's signature is badass), took pictures with some of the legends, milled around the lobby after that trying to catch some free signatures from the others (almost everyone was ace throughout the day), snagged a good spot at the Walk of Champions, made sure I was in my last-row seat in plenty of time for the pregame ceremony, and hung around afterward to get some more of the guys to sign the LP you see in the previous post. Plus I got to talk to a bunch of righteously cool Islanders fans (don't get much of that kind of interaction in Jersey City) and hang out with some entertaining collectors.

It was a good day, so good that by the time I went home, I was almost over the fact that the Isles let four points slip away. Almost.

Anyway, here's some photos. I've got a bunch more, but these are the best of the batch.

Al Arbour:

Stefan Persson:

Anders Kallur:

Dave Langevin:

Gord Lane:

Me and Lorne Henning:

Me and Bob Bourne:

Gratuitous Ice Girls Shot:

Trots and Bossy (from here on out, I'm guessing it's clear who these fellows are, but I'm a stickler for consistency):

Bob Nystrom:

Denis Potvin:

Bill Torrey:

The Core of the Four wave to the too-small masses:

The present-day Islanders come out to meet the Core:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Full report from Core of the Four Weekend forthcoming. Brief summary: It was a good hockey weekend, nearly ruined by the playing of two hockey games.

More tomorrow, or maybe Tuesday.