Ovechkin Snubs ASG Because He Doesn’t Want To Be A Distraction: Too Late

This is becoming the week of no shows.  Just yesterday, we had Tim Thomas staying away from the White House because of his non-political political beliefs.  Now, we have Alex Ovechkin bowing out of the All Star Game because he is currently suspended from the regular season for three games.

Ovechkin isn’t suspended for the All Star Game, of course.  He’s suspended for the regular season.  Ovechkin could go, but is choosing not to, because he doesn’t want to be a distraction at the ASG.

It wasn’t long ago that hockey fans were complaining that Ovechkin hadn’t earned a slot in the ASG, considering his numbers.  He has twenty goals and nineteen assists for 39 points, which aren’t bad numbers.  But they aren’t standard Alex Ovechkin numbers, unless you consider he is on pace for more goals than he had last season.

Ovechkin was quoted by the Washington Times (via Puck Daddy) as saying:

“My heart is not there. I suspended, so why I have to go there?” Ovechkin said. “I love the game; it’s great event. I’d love to be there, but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I suspended, I have to be suspended. That’s why I give up my roster [spot].”

There is almost always something lost in translation with Ovechkin, so I don’t know if he actually means wondering why he has to go to the game, and more of why he should go to the game.

Is his point being made?  Does he actually have a point to make? The speculation and tin foil hats came out when Crosby didn’t go to the ASG because he was believed to be protesting the NHL’s stance on player safety and head shots.  The NHL eventually changed their policy on head shots, but if Crosby wanted to publicly protest head shots, he could have said so.  He could have eaten the potential fine for speaking out against the NHL, even if it wouldn’t have been a savvy PR move.

I don’t think there is much of a protest here.  Ovechkin was suspended for a reckless hit on Zbynek Michalek, and he seems to accept the suspension, unlike Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. From his blog, Ted’s Take:

I do not agree in any way with the suspension of Alex Ovechkin for 3 games. I support Alex Ovechkin. He is our bedrock player – our Captain; and he and his family know that we are always here to support him.

Well, isn’t that nice?  You support him?  You are paying him enough, you should support him, but what that has to do with his suspension is beyond me.

The problem is that the All Star Game is looking less and less star-studded right now.  There are more players bowing out and injured every day, and losing a player like Ovechkin certainly damages the luster of the game.  But the All Star Game is nothing more than a commercial for the league. A poorly produced one at that.  They need the stars to show up to make it a commercial worth watching.

But you can not tell me that the All Star Game is that important, when the league thinks this is a good idea for ASG entertainment.

Tim Thomas Knows A Snub When He Dishes One

Oh Timmy. Timmy, Timmy, Timmy.

I’ve expressed my love for Tim Thomas in the past.  Any goalie who is willing to check a player to the ice rather than make a conventional save is aces in my book.  Just look at this check he laid on Jason Blake.  I like Thomas’ attitude in the game.  Which I thought this photo summed up perfectly:

NewImage

Well, all good things come to an end, don’t they?

Today, the Boston Bruins were at the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama.  Better late than never, I guess.  At least, most of the Boston Bruins were at the White House.  One conspicuous absentee was American born goaltender Tim Thomas.

When it was announced that Tim Thomas was playing for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in 2010, Thomas was interviewed on the ice at the Winter Classic.  He was given a United States flag that flew in a combat mission in Iraq with the US Rangers, and told that every player would be adopted by a Wounded Warrior.  Darren Pang said that it must mean a lot to him.  Thomas responded:

“Yeah, it does. I mean, I’m American to the bone.”

Yep, American to the bone.  But doesn’t go to the White House.  Because of politics.  What’s more American than snubbing the President over politics?

When Thomas accepted the honor (and he was the one who pointed out over and over that he this was a dream come true for him), he didn’t mention that he would only be honored to play for the part of America he agreed with.  He didn’t say he was only playing for the red states or the blue states of America.  He was playing for the United States.  Did he let his politics get in the way when his opportunity came along?  Did he say that he didn’t care for our nation’s leadership and therefore couldn’t represent our country in the Olympics?  No, he didn’t.  He honored America by showing up and doing his job.

The issue here isn’t that Thomas wanted to express himself by not showing up to the White House, it’s that he did it in a stupid way.  He did it with a short-sited action that hurt his teammates, and upset plenty of fans of hockey.  And the only impact he made was on the world of hockey.  The people who agree with him will still be his fans, the people who don’t might not like him as much, and people who don’t like the Bruins will continue to not like them.

It should go without saying that Thomas has every right to do what he did.  That we have to qualify his rights says how ridiculous the rhetoric has gotten.  He wasn’t required by the team to be there, and it’s a credit to GM Peter Chiarelli that he didn’t make the appearance at the capitol mandatory.  He didn’t make it mandatory even though he knew Thomas didn’t want to go.  Of course he has the right to express himself, even if it is in a stupid way that winds up backfiring.

At the game, we all shut up for the national anthem, whether we think it should be played before sporting events or not.  When a soldier is singled out to be honored at a game, you applaud them, whether you agree with the war they fought in or not.  You pay your bills, even if you think they are too high.  You drive with car insurance.  You do the right thing, because that is the society that we collectively chose to live in.

And you show up at the White House when your team is asked, because it is an honor to be invited.  Whether you like the President or not.  You do the right thing.  Because doing the right thing is supposed to be American as well.

So how do I feel about Thomas?  Disappointed.  It could be pointed out that he has always been a conservative, and an active one at that.  But being conservative or liberal doesn’t give me a reason to like or dislike you.  Members of my own family are politically 180 degrees from me, and I still love them.  It’s how you act that matters.  And this was an act that I don’t respect.

_________________________

After I wrote this, NHL.com posted this statement from Thomas:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

I think it’s fine he feels this way, but he is either in denial or naive if he feels this isn’t about politics.  His beliefs he acted on were political. But it isn’t his job to think, it’s his job to stop the puck.  Maybe he will start thinking later.  And somehow, I doubt this is the last public statement he will make about this.  Wait and see.

Update: I like Jason Cohen’s take on Thomas calling this a statement “not about politics or party” :

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/jason___cohen/status/161601587859570689″]

My apologies if my grammar wasn’t perfect in this update. :)

Goon, A Good Movie That Isn’t More Than That

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to see the movie Goon, based on the small press book by 

(I posted the red band NSFW trailer below. It’s better)

One of the things I’ve been asked a few times is whether or not, in the context of the awful tragedies that unfolded this past summer, if it was tasteless to release a movie that ‘celebrates’ hockey fighting.

The short answer is no, it isn’t tasteless.  And the movie doesn’t necessarily celebrate hockey fighting.

The movie follows someone who stumbles into a ‘career’ as a minor league hockey fighter, and who not only likes his role in the sport, finally finds one place where he is comfortable in life.  He is still a square peg in the round hole of hockey, growing up with little to no ambition to be involved in the sport, beyond going to games with his super fan friend.  His family wants him to do something more with his life, but while his brother is a doctor, he isn’t going to go down that path.  He is invited to a tryout with the local hockey team for his ability to fight.  When he finds hockey, it’s a cultural learning curve for him, and some of the comedy from the film comes from that.  And some of the comedy comes from the fighting.

There’s the one punch knock out.  There’s the fight with his own teammates.  And while, like most movies this side of the latest Mission Impossible, our hero tends to bounce back from the fights and injuries a little too quickly, over time you see the accumulated effects of the fights.  But still, the fighting is mostly… funny.

Yeah, I said it.  There is some slapstick to the fights.  And like all good movies, the context is certainly being manipulated.  When a fight is meant to be funny, you know.  And when one is meant to be dark and upsetting, you feel it.  The movie plays both sides while focusing on how those sides affect our hero.

Then you think of the classic hockey movie to end all hockey movies, Slap Shot.  The comedy came from hockey fighting and violence on the ice.  We are much more forgiving of Slap Shot because of the era it was filmed in, and we take it in that context.  Just like people are taking the idea of Goon in the context of the era it’s being released in.  But make no mistake, Slap Shot would be a crap movie if all the scenes with fighting and violence were taken out.

I feel like I’m defending something that doesn’t have to be defended.  Fans of hockey and casual observers had their attitudes shifted, or at least questioned, after the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien.  And still, hockey fighting exists.  Sites like hockeyfights.com are still running.  Puck Daddy still posts videos of the fight of the night.  Fighting is still part of the rules of hockey, and still accepted at the professional level.  It seems like everyone likes a good fight, but don’t like to look at it afterwards, like a drunken one night stand.

When I became a hard core fan of the game, I didn’t understand hockey fighting.  I didn’t realize why it existed.  Now I understand why it is part of the sport, even if I think it is less useful or necessary than before.  I think it’s being phased out, which isn’t a bad thing.  There are fewer and fewer reasons to ask the players to police themselves, and fewer players in that role that I want to see make that judgement call.  Players and enforcers are bigger and stronger, and there are more opportunities for injuries in fights than ever before.  Maybe in the past, when players drank beer after the games and workouts consisted of having a walk around the block, getting punched in the head repeatedly by a 1970s era doughboy wasn’t that dangerous.  Today, things are different, from bigger players to more practiced and skilled fighters dropping the gloves.

I can understand the world turning it’s back on hockey fighting while ignoring the long term effects of boxing and cheering on UFC fights.  It’s only a little hypocritical in the larger picture, but that’s fine.  The fans can be more than black and white about the issue.  Hockey fighting can be harsh and awful AND at time necessary and worthy of attention.  The people who fight in hockey can be celebrated AND their chosen skill can be less acceptable than before.  The conversation and attitudes can evolve beyond hockey fighting being simply good or bad.

There is more to the movie Goon than a few hockey fights.  It’s a story that centers around a hockey fighter.  And it is a comedy.  In fact, it’s a damn good comedy.  And if you aren’t so turned off by the subject going in, you might enjoy yourself if you see it.  It has all the elements of a good hockey movie.

And it deserves your time, attention and money much more than the latest Michael Bay blockbuster.  There are plenty of people willing to go to Transformers 10: Turn On Your Headlights.  Goon is a movie for us.  It was made by hockey fans, and you can tell.  See it before you decide what it really is.

UPDATE: This is the red band (NSFW trailer) which is much better than the one above.  I think it better represents the movie and it’s story.  Remember, NSFW language:

Year of Pucking Dangerously

When I look back at the first year of this blog, a few things strike me:

- I didn’t rewrite enough.  There were some bad choices, but that’s what you get when you don’t write enough for years, then try to do it publicly.

- I had a lot more fun that year than in any year following.

- I had a lot of passion for the game. And I wonder where that passion went.  It certainly isn’t there like it used to be.

But the other day, something occurred to me about the passion part: The passion for the game is still there, it’s the amount of passion that’s diminished.  And I don’t mean the passion related to the game specifically, I mean the passion for ANYTHING.

(yes, I am going to talk about myself for a minute here.  There are a lot of sentences that start with the letter I.  You can skim this part if you want)

The last few years have been a struggle.  You probably don’t care for any details, but if you want them, you can sit down with me at a bar or a game and I’ll give you the short version.  Part of the struggle has been finding the passion for things I care about.

For a while, that translated into wondering what I cared about, even though I already knew what I cared about.  It was the same things I cared about for years, I just didn’t feel like I cared enough about it.  Hockey has been  one of those things (among others).  I could still care intensely about the game when it was on, I would still love the hell out of going to the rink and practicing on my weak skills, I would still get excited when it was time to talk about hockey, and when I sat down to write about hockey, I mostly enjoyed that as well.

What I didn’t feel was a right to feel good about it.  I didn’t feel motivated to get up and do something about it.  I would make excuses not to write.  I would make excuses not to play.  I have two great people who agreed to podcast with me, and I have made excuses not to record with them or anyone because of the slightest difficulty.  They deserve full apologies.  They will get them.

This is stupid, isn’t it?  Anyone with a computer and the internet can start a hockey blog.  The successful ones do two things well: write and stay with it.  And I’ve kind of done both, but only kind of.  I put down the blog, pick it back up, put it down, and rinse and repeat.  I got very discouraged with my podcast, even though I believe in the medium and believe in the format and idea behind it.  I didn’t push though that discouragement when it struck and didn’t fight hard enough to get back on track.  I think we all have periods we doubt ourselves; it’s our reaction to it that makes us who we are.

The long and the short of it is I used to believe more in the things I made, and more in the things I liked to do, and I let other people convince me otherwise.  I’ve had a few experiences recently that have reminded me otherwise.

We are a few days into the New Year, so this post would have been more timely a few days ago.  That’s OK, I took my time to consider this, and what to do about it.  I don’t believe in New Years resolutions.  We tell ourselves we are going to do something, then it falls apart and we wind up with another excuse to be mad at ourselves.  We make a resolution to lose 40 pounds, and as soon as we skip a day of exercise, we give up.  Hard resolutions are ridiculous.  I like the idea of setting a goal, or a theme.  Or even a few of them.  So here we go.

The Year of Pucking Dangerously:

I love hockey.  It’s in the title of this blog and it’s there for a reason.  I love to watch it, I love to talk about it, and even at the low level of skill I have, I love to play it.  So this year, one of the themes is hockey.  Not just collecting jerseys, but getting more involved and invested in the sport.

Yes, that means more blogging.  Not daily, but can’t I manage maybe two posts a week?  It’s a lot more than I have been doing lately.  And as out of practice as I’ve been, I don’t expect the first posts will be any good.  Some of them may even be crappy list posts and just general and short thoughts, but they will be there.

It means more podcasting.  I blew up the podcasting schedule for The Rink after wanting to relaunch it this season.  The biggest issue has been the quality of the internet connections foisted upon me (if you didn’t know, I travel for a living and don’t often have quality internet connections, and since the podcast tends to rely on a decent Skype connection…), but even then, a few month off is way too much.  The biggest thing we can build for ourselves on the internet is a reputation and the trust of the people who read or listen to what we do.  Frankly, I blew it, but plan to earn it back.  If you were disappointed in my output, I will be trying to rectify that.  Believe me, I have been disappointed as well.

It means learning to play hockey.  I am fairly out of shape, and while dropping some pounds and gaining some wind would make a good resolution, that isn’t the real goal.  The real goal is to be able to play hockey better, to the point where I am not embarrassing myself on the ice, and can maybe play in a charity game or two.  Which means carrying a little less James around on the ice and getting in shape enough to not be exhausted at the end of the night.  It also means getting more skill and vision on the ice itself.  It’s been long lamented that armchair fans of the game don’t understand what the game looks like when you are in the middle of it, and I can tell you for a fact, it’s true.  And yes, that means you will be hearing about rec hockey here on the blog.  But hey, this has never been a strictly NHL blog, and it’s my voice here, so I get to make it what I want.

 

There are other goals for this year.  I will be starting my own side business.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I didn’t know what to start.  Now I do.  I might reference it every so often here, but I plan on keeping it separate from hockey.  I plan to put a little more effort into my Pod Geek site.  Again, I don’t have to post every day, but I plan to post more than I have, and with a better understanding of what my direction is.  I will cut myself a little more slack.  I tend to beat myself up a lot when I don’t follow through with my plans or ideas, and I’m going to do that a lot less.  And I’m going to start saying ‘No’ a lot more, and follow though on when I say “Yes” more.  In an effort not to disappoint, I say yes to more things than I should, then don’t execute the ones I should have said no to in the first place.  That’s going to change.

So there you have it.  Laid out for you, trying to be accountable, trying to come up with a way to actually do the things that I care about and made a habit out of pushing to the back burner.  Life is way to short not to do the things you want.  It’s time to do more than see what happens, it’s time to make it happen.

(And a big thank you to Greg from The Post Pessimist Association blog.  He listened to me complain, talked to me, and helped me get to the point where action was the only step to take.  I seriously would be wallowing in a pool of self-pity and anger if it weren’t for him right now.)

Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Omaha Lancers: On the Road Again

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a game on the road and done a post game… post.  So bear with me here, as I’m a little rusty.

I’m in the middle of a drive from Denver to Minneapolis, where I will be spending the next 6 weeks, and of course, I had to look for hockey along the way. The only game I could find was in Sioux Falls, SD, between the Sioux Falls Stampede and the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.

You would be forgiven for not knowing about the USHL, but if you’ve ever watched the NHL Draft, you have heard it mentioned.  Along with the NAHL, the USHL is an American junior development league.  Most of the players are looking for college scholarships or to be drafted.  It’s the American equivalent to the CHL Canadian junior league, only smaller and less prestigious.  Apparently,  it’s more authentic to ride a bus around the prairies of Canada in the freezing cold than it is to do the same in Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska.  And probably a little more challenging.   The US National Team Development Program plays in the USHL, so they have that going for them.

But we aren’t here to talk about practice, we’re here to talk about a game.

The arena is housed in the Sioux Falls Convention Center, and while the outside looks new, the inside looks anything but.  First, the outside. which is attached to the Sheraton hotel.

Once you get inside, that’s when things look a little different.

Whoa. That’s a barn.  Or a shed.  Or a… thing.  It’s hard to describe, but it has similar properties to the rink in Port Huron.  Mostly in the quality of seats, and that the “upper” sections are truly upper.  They are well above the ice.

That seating is about eight to ten feet above the ice.  And it wouldn’t be that bad if the slope of the seats were at a severe enough angle to be able to see the action on the near boards.  But it isn’t, so you are constantly wondering what is going on when the play comes too close.  I recommend that if you go to Sioux Falls, you sit higher up where you seem to gain an advantage, or in the pricey seats along the boards.  And I don’t normally recommend sitting along the boards. See what I mean?

Check out those Omaha Lancers jerseys.  It’s like some weird hybrid of a Montreal Canadiens jersey and a Flyers jersey.  How cool would that look in the right orange with a Flyers logo?

OK, on to the game:

Referee Kevin Curtis (the ref with two first names) was not well liked by the home crowd.  He made one bad penalty call, and one tough goal call that was, in my opinion, the right call.  The crowd disagreed, as the net came off it’s moorings, but as a Stampede player kicked the puck into his own goal, the goal was counted.  The net wasn’t off enough to make a difference, so the right call was made.  For a minor league ref, especially one without the benefit of a ‘War Room’ in Toronto, that is a pretty good night.

Action!

 

 

 

 

This is something you don’t see in the NHL, but you often see in junior and college hockey.  When a goal is scored, the team congratulates the goalie as well.

Stampede Head Coach Kevin Hartzell did not look pleased the entire game.  He was yelling at his players and trying to direct and motivate them, but looked like a coach with a losing record.  Probably because he does have a losing record this season.

Your final, Lancers 3 Stampede 2.

It’s unfortunate that a controversial goal was the difference maker in the game, but I think the right call was made.  In the end, that’s all you can ask for.  And a little entertainment.  And I was certainly entertained.

It’s good to be back on the road and seeing hockey outside the world of the NHL.  I love it out here, and hope to see more games around the nation before the season is over.  In fact, I have some other things coming up that I will update you on in the next few days.