Notes From a Night of Hockey

The bad part about having a night job is that I don’t usually get to watch hockey when I am working. Lately, that hasn’t been the case, and I have been able to watch game after game. So I thought I would throw out a few notes from what I saw:

Avs squeak it out: I had to leave after the second period, but what I saw of the game had me excited and scared all at once. The stick handling of Andrew Brunette in a tight space was incredible, but the goals that Jose Theodore gave up to tie the game at two – after the Avs lead 2-0 – had me more than a little concerned. I didn’t get to see the goal that tied the game, but I know in my heart that Peter McNab used the line, “Who else but Joe Sakic?” And he would be right. The shootout had me concerned, since the Oilers have made the circus stunt their bitch this season, but Roloson was like a ghost. Nowhere to be found. Avs pull out two points, give up one that may not touch them in the end, and are tied with Dallas and Calgary. Which leads us to…

Bobby Lou pulled… again: Roberto Luongo is starting to get used to that baseball cap. After flying all over hell, creation, and Florida, Luongo made it to Minnesota in time to see 33:28 of action, enough to let every goal of the game in. At this point, the Canucks can’t buy a win, and the question as to where Lou’s head is at has to be asked. If it’s where it should be, B.L. should have taken the night off, put the faith of the franchise in Sanford, and stayed behind in Florida with the newborn. It would be understandable, and while the defense obviously supported Sanford after the change, you have to let your backup, even in the final push, take over and guide the game. Maybe it was time for a change in goal before the Canucks even got there. I would like to thank them for not making that change.

How many PIM can you have in a game… legally?: The Thrashers spent the game in the box. At one point, they had five players in the box, four sitting and one standing. Mostly, it was because the refs were calling anything that moved – I think a guy in the 12th row got two minutes for slashing – but also because coach/GM/all-around-calm-and-nice-guy Don Waddell told the refs in terms that everyone watching the broadcast could easily understand, what he though of their calls. While he may have been right at the time, a little bowl of STFU cheerios may have been a better breakfast. If you don’t like the calls these refs are making, wait two day until the next game, when you won’t like the calls the new refs make. And sit down. You look like a tool on television. I work with tools. Nuff said.

2:15 for tripping to Adam Foote: How long was Foote in the box for? The penalty box attendant didn’t seem to let him out when his penalty was over, but I didn’t have the sound on, so I couldn’t tell what was happening. Anyone? I will say this. The guy who mans the penalty box used to be my neighbor last year, and this guy was not he. In other words, this was a sub. The off ice officials for the Avs games drink at a bar I go to in Denver, and if I were home, I would ask them about this. Next time.

Wings get points and I don’t care: I have better things to do than worry about them. They are in, the Avs are not done yet. I will worry about them in the playoffs. For now, whoopee.

NCAA Hockey: I hate March Madness, because it takes away from some really important hockey. This year, I have a bit of an opportunity to watch some college hockey, and I’m really enjoying what I’m seeing. It’s a bit unrefined, and a little too much B.S. involved, but it’s still a lot of fun. Tomorrow, DU plays for their lives. Should be good.

Colorado Eagles win first game of playoffs: Another Colorado hockey team did well tonight, as the Colorado Eagles beat the Youngstown Steelhounds 6-4. These are the quarterfinals of the run to the Presidents Cup in the Central Hockey League, and a game one victory, when there is heavy travel soon to be had is important. Especially when the series split, with Colorado having home ice advantage, is 2-3-2. You can win one and still lose the series away. go figure.

That’s enough for tonight. My stay in Toledo comes to an end in a few days, and I will be drinking with Greg from the Post Pessimist Society. That is going to end in a hangover of epic proportions. Stay tuned for my pain.

Keeping an Eye On the Games

Tape Central is up and running in full swing tonight. How am I keeping an eye on the games?

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No Touch Icing: Another Solution

No-touch icing has been on the minds of the hockey pundits lately, and for good reason. After Kurtis Foster broke his leg slamming into the boards after a race for the puck, the issue was brought into focus again, and the call went out for change. The debate has simmered down a little, but there is still a little discussion to be had. And frankly, it isn’t a bad discussion to be had.

No-touch icing is already in use in the minor leagues (CHL and ECHL, for instance), and in USA Hockey, so it isn’t unusual. Much like the visor issue, the NHL is behind the curve again. The problem isn’t that it hasn’t been tried, the issue seems to be about excitement. The fans like the race to the puck. And broken legs and concussions be damned, there is going to be that race.

To me, the problem isn’t that there is a race for the puck. The problem is that it ends at the boards. If the race for the puck ended in the middle of the ice, there would be no problem. At worst, you would see the occasional twisted ankle, but major injuries would be gone (until someone did something really stupid, which seems to happen every year). It seems so simple a concept that it is easily overlooked. The race isn’t the issue, it’s where it concludes.

I’ve been thinking about compromise lately. How to keep the race alive, but bring it’s conclusion away from the boards. I have an idea.

I don’t know how many of you follow outdoor lacrosse, aside from unfortunate news stories. In the game, since you are dealing with a hard rubber ball thrown around with sticks that have nets on the end, the ball goes out of bounds quite often. The determining factor as to who gets possession of the ball afterwards is who is closer to the ball when it goes out of bounds. Actually, the determining factor is who’s stick is closer. It’s a race for the ball that is fast, hard and physical.
Here is how the rule reads from the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse rule book, Rule 4, Section 6 – c – 3:

3. When a loose ball goes out of bounds as a result of a shot or deflected
shot at the goal, it shall be awarded to the team that had an inbounds
player’s body nearest to the ball when it became an out-of-bounds
ball, at the point where it was declared out of bounds.

The same could be implemented in hockey, or at least experimented with. When the puck crosses the line, the linesman, or ref, depending on who was in better position, either blows the play dead for icing if the player from the defending team is closer, or waives off icing if the offending team’s player is the closest, and play continues. Most of the “battle” would happen in open ice, taking a lot of the risk out of the race for the puck. The race itself would conclude away from the boards, and there wouldn’t be the danger of positioning for a puck touch rather than a hockey play. Players skate in to the end boards differently if there is a play to be made, rather than stretching to touch the puck for an icing call.

I realize that it could be a photo finish to tell which player is closer to the puck or line, and mistakes are going to be made. Hockey fans are not a tolerant bunch when it comes to making mistakes, especially by the officials, so this could add a little more unwelcome scrutiny to the refs. Mistakes on icing are rare, and usually only detectable by HD video super slo-mo replay. That is why there would have to be some experimentation and testing involved, before bringing it to the game. Who can make the call? Can a ref cover for a linesman that is caught out of position? If two players were equidistant to the line when the puck crossed, icing could be waived off, or not, depending on what the NHL wanted in the rule book. Would it be who was closer to the line, or closer to where the puck crossed the line? How do you determine when to blow off an icing call if the players are close to the goal line? All questions to be answered, but all addressable.

What do you think? Do we really need to change the system? Is another rule change going to bring something better to the game? Is no-touch the only alternative? What do you think of lacrosse icing? Comments are always open.

Toledo Walleye: Really

Toledo, OH has been quiet on the hockey front this season, while the Toledo Storm shut down operations for the season while they await the construction of a new arena. Along with that, the Storm are undergoing an identety change. Here’s a little primer from Wikipedia:

Their franchise was bought by the Toledo Mud Hens AAA Baseball team who will operate the team, under a new name, in a new arena expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2009 season. The team is currently in suspended operations while a new arena is built for them in downtown Toledo, and was expected to return to ECHL during the 2009-2010 season. On February 20th, 2008, it was revealed that the team’s new name would be the “Toledo Walleye”[1].

So, the Mud Hens thought that Walleye was decent enough name? Did they not see the outcry and finger pointing when the Lake Erie Monsters were reported to even consider the name Walleye?

But what gets me is that the team isn’t even starting to play until the fall of 2009, a year and a half away, but they want you to buy their gear. From their homepage at www.toledowalleye.com:
Walleye Frontpage

Be the first to get the new gear? What is this, Pokemon? They are a year and a half away from taking to the ice, and the “fans” should get their merch now? Aside from the colors mimicking the Denver Nuggets, a toothless yellow fish with a hockey stick is the sure source of pride for a minor league hockey team. The money for new jerseys should be pouring in.

Right now, there are 12 shirts, 5 hats, a puck, a mini-stick, and a sweatshirt listed for sale online. I can’t stress this point enough: they haven’t even played yet.

I’m going to get a puck. Nothing screams collectors item like abject failure.

Race to the Playoffs: Clogging the Neutral Zone

I can guess what XM radio is talking about today, and that’s how tight the standings are in the West today.
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The Avs didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to the Wild last night, and the Canucks didn’t do anyone any favors by having a veritable scoring frenzy (3 goals for the Canucks are a lot theses days.). The problem the Avs have now is that every game they have left is against division rivals.
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Which means that every point lost goes directly to someone you are battling for a playoff spot. An overtime win against a division rival is one point given away you could miss the playoffs by. Winning in regulation is the only way to go. And every game is going to be scrappy.

Avs better get some mojo, and fast.

Tulsa Oilers vs. Mississippi Riverkings: Meh.

Tonight’s game between the Oilers and the Riverkings was not exactly full of promise, since the RK are fighting for their lives right now, and the Oilers are already dead (much like the NHL version). All that was on the line for the Oilers was pride, and sometimes, pride is not enough. At least, not enough to play a halfway decent game of hockey.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to dissuade you from taking in an Oilers game. By all means, if circumstance should find you in or near Tulsa, you should go to a game, and certainly next season, when I am told a new arena will open downtown. And it looks like the cat’s ass, which is a good thing. For now, the cat has the better deal, and the Oilers may have to sign him to a contract next year. That is, if they want to have a full bench.

But the Oilers, who are out of the playoffs according to math, the law, and the new testament, decided not to show up for the game tonight, at least not in any way that would have won them a hockey game. They did show up in the penalty box. Hell, they set up a nice condo in the penalty box.
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A few double minors didn’t help them, along with some plain idiocy. For instance, the spearing double minor to Kal Magnussen was such an obvious penalty, done right in front of the ref. It not only negated a penalty on the Riverkings, it put Tulsa on the PK. Then a roughing and a slash a minute thirty later put the Oilers down by two men long enough for the ‘kings to score. Twice. And that was the game.
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And the worst part? The Oilers have to play in Colorado for the weekend, with a Saturday night game in Windsor against the Eagles (1st in division) and a Sunday game against the Rage (2nd in the division).

Let’s get to the photos.

On the drive in, I passed the Kansas Coliseum, home of the Wichita Thunder. A barn, I saw the longest minute of hockey in this arena, in 2005.
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The Tulsa Convention Center is just that, and not your new fancy CC, it’s your old CC, built when attaching a rink was a good idea. It does remind me of Amarillo, where the rink is attached to the theater, but a little cleaner.
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Here’s the layout of the place. A little 1970’s, ya think? I’m reminded of Buck Rogers.
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Hockey is not the only thing in town. For example….
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The arena is a lot like the one in Roanoke, and that is not a complement.
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On to the game. Which was notable for… FIGHT!!!!!!
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Line Brawl!!!!!!

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This guy handed out free taco coupons after the first goal, another highlight from the game. Who wears a tux to a game, and doesn’t own the team? In Tulsa?
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This came at a point when the Oilers didn’t need anything other than a mercy killing, or a really fast clock. The game was over, and they weren’t playing for pride, just fighting with it. There was no message to be sent, nothing to be gained. But it was probably the only thing the fans could go home happy with.
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The new arena looks like it could be cool, at least on the outside.
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I don’t have any idea what it’s going to look like on the inside, but I have great expectations. A nice new place for all of Tulsa’s minor league teams to play.

I’ll let my experience in Tulsa be summed up with one last picture. I have been in beat towns before. Really beat towns, where hockey isn’t even an afterthought, and Les Miserable coming to town is an event. But this is the most beat thing I have ever seen.
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That is beat.

Tomorrow night, if I get up in time, and drive like hell, I am seeing a game in Bossier City, LA, another CHL matchup. It will probably be my last live game of the year. You gots to do what you gots to do.

Tulsa vs Mississippi



Tulsa vs Mississippi, originally uploaded by Tapeleg.

2nite, I am in Tulsa, OK for a matchup between the (Tulsa) Oilers and the Mudbugs. The Oilers are out of the playoff picture, and have a hard road trip for the weekend, playing a 7:05 game in Windsor, CO (Eagles), then a Sunday game in Broomfield, CO at 3:05. It ain’t easy toiling in the minors. My program is signed, they are playing Peaches by the Prrsidents of the U.S.A., and there is no jumbotron.

Trust me, I’m not complaining.

Rage at Eagles: 2 of 2



Rage at Eagles: 2 of 2, originally uploaded by Tapeleg.

Tonight is part 2 of the home and home between the Rocky Mountain Rage and the Colorado Eagles. The Rage won last night’s game in the shootout 4-3, and outshooting the Eagles 44 to 31.

This is the final time the two teams meet up this season, which is significant, considering they will have played each other 12 times this season. 12. How will the series end? Bad blood, maybe. The Eagles hold a one point lead over the Rage for the division title. Should be a battle. Ga.e of the night. More later.

CHL Hockey: Eagles at Rage



CHL Hockey: Eagles at Rage, originally uploaded by Tapeleg.

Instead of watching the Avs take on (care of, hopefully), I’m seeing part one of a home and home between the Rocky Mountain Rage and the Colorado Eagles. Fifteen dollars got me in the door, and 2 got me a program. Hard to beat that. Sadly, I left my camera at home, so it’s camera phone for me tonight. I won’t forget tomorrow night. At stake tonight is first place in the division, with the Eagles enjoying a 2 point lead, and both teams having almost the same record (35-17-5 vs 34-18-5). Should be a good tilt.

Pens vs. Caps: What a Finish?

The game on NBC was exactly as billed, right until the end. Backstrom puts it in his own net? Like that? That was put in with purpose. Not just a small mistake, but a hard shot directly into his own net. A mistake like that is a learning experience, but more so when it absolutely costs you two points. The reactions of Huet and Ovechkin were the dead on for the situation, frustration after a hard period of hockey, a tough fought game, and then your own player ends it for you. There was no direct, on ice blame towards Backstrom, but there didn’t need to be.

Still, what a game.