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 Lids.com 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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bird Dogging

Courtesies of Puck Daddy comes this.

Dustin Brown, featured prominently in the post, is an Ithaca-area native. And since three of the Palm Isle's denizens are Ithaca College alums (or near-alums, cough cough), and The Rev. recently worked in Ithaca and remains in the general vicinity ...

we salute. All indications from local hockey types and former hockey parents are that "Brownie" is a decent guy, although he was good enough at an early enough age he didn't spend much of his adolescence in the area. And, he fight.

Ithaca and Syracuse churn out a few decent big-timers every few years. Next up is this kid. A local hockey parent I see at work told me Iles is the complete package, and another hockey family told me about their nine-year-old being in awe of him at this summer's Empire State Games (by all accounts he's another in a long line of humble, decent hockey kids). He's not huge (NHL goalie pad sizing rules, I'm guessing, are a topic of discussion in this household), but he's apparently pretty finished and has the composure.

Ok. A couple more paragraphs and I'm going to feel like an AAU basketball coach. Off to find NHL 09 ... .

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Watching the NHL with the third eye, Vol. II

This is the year without cable.

School librarian and budding independent photographer The Upstate Ice Girl will be home with the children this season, wearing her apron and (unbeknownst to her, but hey!, that's what Christmas is for ...) her ice girl outfit, while I grind away at the local community college, tracking down errant commas and style infringements. This decision results in a significant decrease in our income, and although we have an apple tree in our new yard, conventionally purchased groceries and other necessities will take precedence over the NHL Network and the 24 Islanders games not broadcast on Staten-Island exclusive Metro 3, or whatever becomes the Isles' home when Siena is playing Hofstra in men's volleyball (live!).

This could be catastrophic, but I live a well-sated hockey life, for the most part. There is the weekly ball hockey game. There is blogging (guess I'll be doing more of that), and reading blogs. There is the 25th anniversary copy of Slap Shot, calling my name as the wind changes and the leaves brighten. And there is NHL 09. (which I will try to locate today, but probably won't locate until tomorrow, at which time you will find a full review in this space.)

But I still want to watch the Islanders. (hold your applause fellow Islanders fans. cut the laugh track NHL press.)

Looked into Center Ice Online. I know there are blackout restrictions within range of local broadcasts. I can't find a map of said restrictions (or a guide/table/spreadsheet) on the web site. Fair enough. I figure I'll go through the first few steps of account creation, see if I can find the blackout information, then get the Ice Girl on the phone for help in the decision-making process. (goes something like this: I sold my guitar/your camera/one of the children -- for a fair price -- can I get hockey on the computer?)

"Center Ice Online can not be accessed from within your broadcast region."

Mother. F.

I know, as a formerly mediocre and passive newspaper reporter, I could get some background on this and discover the real reason I can't pay someone to watch hockey on the computer. Too hard. I'll chalk it up to evil evil evil Time Warner and what I will suspect is some ridiculous ploy to get me to buy something other than the $7.34/month 2-13 service that will bring me five games (go Pens! go Wings!) on NBC this season.


1. The first time I saw hockey on television I'm pretty sure Tom Mees was broadcasting a Whalers/Bruins game. I have fond memories of Tom Mees, if only because he didn't tell any jokes. You can watch more hockey now than ever before. I know this. Even Vs.

2. What with all of the other media options out there, including listening to Isles' game on web radio (thank you thank you thank you for not getting so goddamn greedy I have to pay for out-of-market streaming radio like baseball or football), I can stay abreast of developments. I would say I could also go to a bar and watch the game, but I'm liable to drop a season's worth of cable fees in a bar session, and let's say "I'm working on that this year."

3. The NHL Network, which I will get next year, is pretty good. Thanks. Whomever.

Here it is: The Islanders are getting pretty good at innovating and understanding new technologies. They're offering interesting tickets packages, great online features, and I'm guessing the trend will continue. The league needs to catch up. It's not a dire situation. I can find hockey, you can find hockey, and there's a certain sense in directing the game's die-hard fans to open their wallets for what they want.

But it's my job to bitch and moan, because I do it well. Let's get that Center Ice Online up here in the wilds of Central New York. And if you can't, I don't want to see any men in suits at my door when I find a P2P site to watch me Isles. I'll buy a hat, I promise, and we'll call it even.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What's a Canadian farmboy to do?

The great Warren Zevon died five years ago today. Before he left, he produced what may be the best hockey song ever. Thanks, Warren.

And here's to you, Mick Vukota and Ken Baumgartner.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back in the New York groove

We hope that you have enjoyed our simulation of the New York Islanders, wherein we built momentum and got your hopes up with some strong work and then pissed away the momentum by descending into a vast pit of laziness. Just know that we completely planned it that way and the month-plus without posts should not be seen as complete and utter apathy on our part but a brilliant, lifelike recreation of what it is to love the Islanders.

In any case, we'll get back to talking all things Islander soon. But first I thought I'd point out a hockey-related thing we can all get behind, whether we have kids or pets or neither. Sorry, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to reference Casey Kasem. Onto the serious stuff...

Kelly Buchanan is a NYC musician who suffered brain damage after being struck in the head by a street hockey ball while playing in Brooklyn. The injury, first assumed to be not so bad, eventually devolved into something very bad indeed. Debilitating headaches, vertigo, nausea, and some other not-so-great side effects came to visit Buchanan and now she can only walk with the use of a cane. Her doctor thinks she may have suffered permanent cognitive brain damage, but, by her own account, Buchanan remains upbeat and hopes to soon be able to walk without a cane and, indeed, play hockey (and music) again.

So, what does all this mean to you? First, wear a helmet. Just because it's a plastic ball doesn't mean it can't mess you up royally. Second, if you have some extra dough floating around, you could help Buchanan pay her medical bills by:

(a) buying her new CD, which she had hoped to release and play behind prior to the accident, here.

(b) donating some cash to her via the link here.

(c) buying a ticket to see members of Fountains of Wayne, Nada Surf, the Spin Doctors, and others at a benefit for Buchanan at the Knitting Factory in NYC on Wednesday, September 10. Tickets ($25) available here.

I don't know Buchanan at all, but I'm guessing that it sucks to have your life changed forever by a street hockey ball. I'm hoping you think the same. So if you can help, please do.