Wysh and a Prayer: Clever Headline, eh?

Last night, flipping between hockey games in my current hovel in Memphis, TN, I saw this tweet come across my twitter feed.

And my immediate thought was this: You better tell him who the hell you are.

Greg Wyshynski has been the editor of Puck Daddy for Yahoo! Sports for years, leaving AOL Fanhouse to start the site.  If you are reading this blog, you probably know who he is.  He’s orbited some blogging controversies lately, like the removal of Harrison Mooney from the blog.  He’s criticized often, sometimes pretty rudely.  His mentions on twitter usually feature the words “idiot.”  He takes a lot of crap.

He is also a friend.  Well, friend might be a strong word.  We have walked in the same circles for years, but I don’t call him up to chat and visa versa.  I really like Greg, I have hung out with him, seen a Washington Capitols game with him, and if I’m around, he tries to make time for me.  Better than acquaintances, but not quite call you up friends.  I don’t know what you call that.  Stephen King says in his book On Writing that you should think of an ideal reader and write to impress them.  When I was writing regularly on this site, I had two: Eric McErlain and Greg Wyshynski. If something I wrote was enjoyed by both, I had the perfect post.  I have a ton of respect for both those guys.  Love them to death.

My problem with Greg (or more accurately, my issue with what Greg does on his blog) has been what I considered an unnecessary meanness to the tone of Puck Daddy.  I didn’t like some of the directions the humor on PD went, and some of the choices in posts were maddening (the one with the kid picking his nose at a game was one of the worst).  Mind you, some of those posts are not ones Greg created, but he sets the tone of the site.

Some of it has come from Greg.  I took an exception to one of his jokes in a post a while back and said something about it (it was a throwaway fat joke).  I said something about it, Greg and I had a few (respectful) tweets back and forth about it, and that was it.  After that, I noticed a slight shift in tone in PD.  I don’t know if I had anything to do with that (I kind of doubt it) or if it’s simply a perception on my part, but I haven’t seen the kind of cruelty I used to see in their pages.

Back to the moment at hand, Greg and NHL Ref Tim Peel.  Peel has been an object of scorn for a long time on Puck Daddy.  He receives quite the thrashing on the site, and if something about Peel comes up, I tend to skip it.  I know the gag.  After a while, it’s wash, rinse, repeat.  It’s the same with a few of the recurring columns over there.  Nothing to see, move along.

Wysh and Peel in a bar.  It sounds like the setup to a gag, but no, they were meeting to have drinks and finally get some face time with each other. Greg wrote about it:

NHL referee Tim Peel and I are at Foley’s pub in New York, which is the only logical place for a hockey summit. He’s between games, having officiated in Washington the night before and headed over to New Jersey on Friday night. He’s affable, engaging, the kind of guy who gives you a tap on the knee before hitting a punchline in that “you’re going to want to hear this one” way.

And he’s sitting across from a guy who’s ridden his ass like a jockey for the last two years.

If you are in to verbal bloodsports, this is where you lick your chops and sit on the edge of your seat.  Here comes the smack down.

Anyway, here’s Peel, beer in hand, explaining that for all the derision, all the criticism, there was one thing that really hurt.

It was when he was named to officiate the Sochi Olympics hockey tournament in Dec. 2013, and our response was to publish a laundry list of his mistakes in the NHL. But it wasn’t so much that as the headline that got to him: “Tim Peel is an Olympic referee; what’s Russian for ‘blown call’?”

It was at that point, he tells me, when he realized that there was this permanent stigma attached to his name; that when his two young children are old enough, that they’ll search out their dad on the Internet and this is what they’ll find.

Yeah, that.  No smacking around, no sparing, just two people talking about the one connection they seem to have, the critic and the subject.

Whenever I think about PD, I have to remember that it was started in the era of the “snarky hockey blog.”  Sites were springing up left and right with a new model of success: we are snarkier than the last guy.  For a while, it works.  Heck, maybe it still does work.  Some of those sites are still around.  Some are doing really well.  Some simply burned out and faded away.  It’s a race to the bottom.  The problem with a race to the bottom is you might just win (h/t to Seth Godin for that).

Many of them deal in what I like to call “artless snark.”  Doesn’t need much explanation, does it?  Maybe a better way of putting it is the mean and cruel joke.  The throwaway.  It isn’t really snark, it’s just an excuse for a cheap shot.  And PD has peddled in those wares plenty of times.

So what next?  From the post on PD:

I couldn’t quite tell if he ultimately found our coverage amusing. I got the sense this meeting was so I could put a face to the name and he could do the same. That it was an informal request for fairness in criticizing him, and maybe not to be so abjectly nasty about it.

The former, frankly, I think we’ve done for years. Tim Peel can be a bad referee. His mistakes aren’t just goofs, they’re glaring, embarrassing moments. There’s a reason fans know his name, and it’s not because we write blog posts about him. It’s because he makes questionable calls, be it because he’s serving the League’s best interests or because he just didn’t get it right. If there’s any caveat I’d offer here, it’s that he’s not the only NHL referee to make these calls, although you’d think it based on fan reception.

That said … yeah, we could be nicer. Admittedly. He’s a good guy. He’s trying. Maybe we drop the banana peels at the very least. Because ultimately the goal is to criticize his performance, not crush his soul.

Nicer is a good start.  Even better would be dropping the meanness.  Or at the very least, make better jokes.  Evolve from the standard gag.  If you can’t make a new and better joke, maybe you shouldn’t make one in the first place.  Running gags are great, but has the gag worn thin?  It’s worth asking.

We like to think that the hockey players, refs, executives or anyone we write about shouldn’t care about what we say, and if they do, that’s their problem.  Free country, free speech, blah blah blah  (if the best defense you have for what you say is free speech, upgrade what you say).  But we know that isn’t the case, ala Phil Kessel for example.

I know I couldn’t take it.  I’ve shut off comments on the blog, taken social media hiatuses, and even thrown friends to the lions because I tend to be too thin-skinned around that kind if derision.

PD has gone away from criticism plenty of times.  While he says “ultimately the goal is to criticize his performance, not crush his soul,” Greg possesses the self-awareness to know this hasn’t entirely been the case.  He has defends his work enough to know where he strikes a chord and where he doesn’t.  He has also made editorial decisions to remove some of the bad choices and address them head on with the readership (case in point, the nose picking post mentioned above).

My hope is that PD moves away more from the cheap shot and mean streak the blog has been infused with for so long.  I believe Greg and his group are capable of better.  Not everything he does has to be a perfect journalistic output or a crusade for social justice.  But I would love to see the tone of the blog even out a bit.

Good for Greg for meeting with Tim Peel.  He said some things that were pretty mean about Peel, and he faced him.  It can be uncomfortable to do, but I believe when you write something about someone, you take your licks.  I did the same with Adrian Dater, and Greg did it here.  It is a surprisingly liberating thing to do.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens the next time Peel makes a mistake.  I’ll certainly read that article.

Kessel and the Lack of Kindness in Hockey Coverage

Did you see Phil Kessel lash out at a reporter yesterday after Randy Carlyle was fired from the Leafs?  The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk asked Kessel if he was uncoachable.  It’s a pretty rough question to ask.  Kessel, obviously miffed, answers, which takes some courage and anger management skills.  Then Feschuk presses and asks again, which is where things go awry.

It reminded me of something I saw in the Edmonton Sun after Viktor Fasth was pulled from a game and yelled at the Oilers bench:

There was a scene in the Oilers dressing room as the media headed to the goaltenders corner.

“What was your mindset when you can off the ice?” came the first question from Mark Spector of Sportsnet.

“I gave up three goals,” said Fasth. “It’s not good enough.”

Your correspondent then asked him what he screamed at the players on the bench.

“Is that really the story, you guys are looking for?” said The Professor (apparently of journalism), Ben Scrivens, sitting beside him.

“Yes,” your agent replied.

“Stay out of our scrum. That’s the story we’re looking for. We’ll ask the questions here,” said Spector.

To me, that’s crazy.  This is how you talk to people you cover?  This is how it works in a locker room?  It’s amazing players keep their cool at all.

Let’s go back to Kessel for a moment.  He is the poster child for what is wrong with the Leafs, fair or not.  He is the guy who was traded for by a previous regime to a team that made the most of that trade.  And it’s the Leafs, which means that the media coverage, and therefor the beatings in the press, are constant.  Warranted or not, that is the hot seat he sits in.

Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy had some background on Dave Feschuk’s history with writing about Kessel (sorry for the lengthy quote, but I think it’s needed here):

This isn’t just some random reporter asked Phil Kessel, essentially, if he killed his second coach in Toronto. This is a guy who has written in the last two years that:

The Leafs should trade Kessel while his value is high. Also, David Clarkson had “a Bruins-worthy heaviness and has scored 30 goals in a season.”

The Leafs might not be able to win with Kessel; or as he wrote, “Can the Leafs win anything of significance if their pudgy designated goal scorer happily sports multiple chins in a league dominated by gluten-free, goji-berry-favouring fitness nuts? Can the Leafs win if their best player, the fastest skater on the team when there’s a goal in his sights, becomes a slow-as-anything laggard when coach Randy Carlyle asks for extra effort near the not-so-merciful conclusion of a long practice?”

– Having exhausted his “the Leafs lose because Phil Kessel is fat” ammo, Feschuk used an anecdote told by assistant coach Steve Spott as a coaches’ clinic to paint Kessel as an un-coachable prima donna.

That’s a lot of pushing from one guy towards one target.  Is anyone shocked that Kessel would push back?  Does anyone think Kessel has no right to push back?

It gets me thinking about compassion and kindness in the reporting we see.  I am trying to remember the last time we saw something that wasn’t snarky (which was the quality so many hockey blogs prided themselves on to be different and edgy), mean, entitled (including these-millionaires-aren’t-performing-to-expectations), or cranky when dealing with players that aren’t perfect or preforming well.  Aside from articles surrounding tragedy, there doesn’t seem to be much.  But you can easily find a link to some unnecessarily cruel shot at a player or coach.  That’s easy.

Maybe I’m looking at it because I finished reading Boy on Ice recently, which was a very unflinching look at Derek Boogaard.  I didn’t know what to expect from his life and career, but it certainly wasn’t that.  It certainly wasn’t someone as shy and quiet as that.  I can’t imagine how, after reading the book, he handled the New York media.

This isn’t hug-a-player month.  I’m not saying we should be all Kumbaya and start asking why we can’t all just get along.  But does it have to be this tough all the time?   How hard is it for players to sit there and take it, day after day?

There is a certain meanness that sells in hockey and sports reporting.  Some of the writers I respect the most don’t travel in those realms (I’m thinking specifically of Roy MacGregor).  I’ve been guilty of it myself.  I’ve made jokes that aren’t the kindest things to say.  I also know that I don’t say them out of meanness.  Maybe that’s an excuse.  It’s something to look at.  But as I’ve said in the past, when you say something about someone, you take your licks for it.  You can’t disparage someone taking a shot back at you.

It’s refreshing to see a player push back.  Especially one so maligned as Phil Kessel.  He may deserve criticism, but there is a line I feel Feschuk crossed.  I would love to see Kessel not take any more of his questions, or tell the Leafs PR department not to allow Feschuk into his scrums any more.  I don’t know if that is a doable thing, but wouldn’t it be nice?

That is a media scrum I would love to see.

Lake Erie Monsters vs. Texas Stars: Cleveland Rocks


I am not a basketball fan.  I don’t have any connection to the sport.  To me, the fact LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers is little more than trivia and something to spout uneducated opinions on.  It makes little to no difference in my life.

Were I a hockey fan that lived in Cleveland, it would mean a heck of a lot to me.  The Lake Erie Monsters are an AHL team that plays in the house that LeBron built – or more accurately, the house that LeBron wildly improved.  The team is owned by Dan Gilbert, who happens to own the NBA’s Cavaliers.

That means that the Quicken Loans Arena – thankfully and after this.known as The Q – is the beneficiary of the return of LeBron.  Some of those benefits can be seen in similar marketing efforts.  Some of those can be seen inside the stadium itself.  To say that LeBron a big deal in Cleveland is an understatement.

As a hockey fan, it’s not something I see very often.  Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Washington has Alex Ovechkin, Chicago has Toews and Kane, there are a  few others around the league.  None of them have the hype that LeBron carries.  Even after his first year back with the team, I doubt that hype will die down.  The Monsters, a minor league team playing in a major league city, are nearly invisible by comparison.

This is not a bad thing.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  If people come to the Cavs games, they will see more about the Monsters, and hopefully buy tickets.  How much crossover between basketball and hockey has been debated to death.  But anything that brings fans to the arena is a good thing.

Let’s take a walk around The Q.

(click any photo to make bigger)


The Q is, without a doubt, a major league arena.  It was built in 1994 and looks good.  It has wide concourses, plenty of food options, and all the modern conveniences you expect from a modern building.

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Some Monsters signage.


But don’t be fooled.  Everything else is LeBron and Cavs.  Here are a few of the banners around downtown.

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Speaking of downtown, the cities I’ve been in lately (Johnstown and Wheeling) have been falling apart.  Cleveland, for all the grief it gets, has a solid downtown.  The area around the arena is full of sports bars and restaurants.

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Some of this is due to the Cleveland Indians playing next door to The Q at Progressive Field.  Rather than just a single arena or sport to fill the area, there is something year round downtown.

Here’s one way you know you aren’t in a small town that’s falling apart and trying to rebuild: they don’t have gigantic chandeliers over their streets.  This is in Playhouse Square, the Cleveland theater district.


Another place near the arena is the block at 4th Ave.  Plenty of restaurants and bars here, and even a bowling alley.

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The Return of LeBron brought improvements to the arena.  For instance, this gigantic HD scoreboard. The Monsters are still adapting to it.  Much of the pregame video was in standard def and looked pixellated.  Most of the graphics throughout the game looked good in HD.


The team store is neat, if lacking in Monsters gear.  Another one is on the concourse with more hockey stuff.


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How basketball-centric is The Q?  I don’t believe women are required to have a basketball when going to the bathroom, but…


The team takes the ice through a big inflatable monster head.


It’s probably hard to tell, but the glass in the arena is brand new.  The only hockey glass I’ve seen that was cleaner was at the Denver Coliseum before the Denver Cutthroats started their season, or even practicing there.


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Here is something I’ve never seen before.  Security guards in the penalty box.  I guess they do this all the time.  I wonder if there is a story behind why.


The Monsters scored the first two goals of the game on their first two shots.  Good thing, because after this, the Stars called their time out, settled down, and dominated the play for the rest of the game.  The Monsters were outshot 36-24, took six minor penalties to the Stars’ two, and gave up the tying goal in the last minute of play.  It was an ugly game for Lake Erie.


Look at the flex on that stick.



The game went to overtime, where Michael Schumacher (24) won with a nice backhand goal.

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Monsters win!!!


The game sheet can be found here.


After the game, the players came to the concourse for autographs.  The line was phenomenal.


The mascot.


Here is the ice crew, the Mullets.


Unlike some of the games I’ve seen lately (Keystone, Dayton), this was the most professional presentation for a minor league game I can remember seeing.  It was like being at an NHL game, which shouldn’t be surprising.  It’s run by a major league team ownership.

That ownership, and the major presence of the Cavaliers, made this an interesting experience.  Many of the places I’ve been this season have been dominated by hockey.  Here, the team did their best to make everything feel like they were just as big as the NBA team, while still looking like all the hockey was simply going to be wheeled away into storage until the next game.

None of that is a complaint.  This is an AHL team living in the shadow of an NBA star and his team.  Knowing their place in the world seems to suit them fine.

Thanks to @MetalTodd for providing me with a ticket and hanging out .  I think the best way of putting it is that he sponsored me being there.  It was great to meet him and hang out.  He is also taller than Jay, my partner at the Avs Hockey Podcast.

If you’ve read this far, you are hopefully enjoying these reports from the minor league world.  Thanks for that.  These are fun to make, but they do cost a bit of money to do (gas, ticket, the occasional hotel).

@ScottPantall suggested two things.  One was a book of the places I’ve been, perhaps a photobook or coffee table book.  The other was something like Patreon, where you, the readers, could help sponsor my journeys.  Scott said he found my blog because of these trips a few years ago, and I know others have as well.  So far, it’s been a labor of love, but it’s also something I wouldn’t mind paying for itself.

So what say you?  What sounds right or wrong about those ideas?  With Patreon, there are possibilities to scale what I made and do something different and special for sponsors.  A book would be interesting as well, or even something smaller and lighter, like something magazine sized.  I have more photos that don’t fit into blog posts, and there are potential ways to do more.  The comments are open, and you can tweet me as well.

Thin Air: Welcome Back, NHL

Some hockey notes after the first day of the NHL regular season:

– Well, that was fun.

– Tommy Wingels got two goals last night, and nary a mention of his efforts.  His second goal was quite nice.  But he’s Tommy Wingels, so he won’t get the credit he deserves.  Still, the Sharks got their “revenge” last night, if you can call one game, even if it is a shutout, revenge.

– If you watched NBC Sports Net for both games last night, the Bruins – Flyers game was crisp and tight compared to the Kings – Sharks game.  Neither west coast team could complete a pass to save their life.  I’m sure this will clean up soon enough.

– During a commercial break, NBCSN ran an ad for (insert forgotten sponsor here) that was 30 seconds of explaining hockey.  It was hockey 101, and as awful as it was for those of us who get what icing and offsides are, it must have been soul-crushing for Mike Milbury.  I’m not a fan of his blustering, but even he doesn’t deserve that kind of punishment.  Explaining hockey to the masses isn’t his job, and yes, I know he is a media guy explaining hockey to the masses.  We, as fans, don’t deserve this either.  Please, turn it off. Frog. Fraud.

– Milbury also said there needs to be an end to fighting.  Of all the things you wouldn’t have expected from opening night, this was maybe top of the list.  He said the injuries are too much, that too many guys are getting concussions.  I wonder, given his previous comments, if this opinion sticks.  I think it’s great that he has changed his mind.  It shows he’s thinking about things.  Malcolm Gladwell would be proud.

Greg Wyshynski wrote a post addressing what is seen as a conflict of interest in the “Chris Pronger to the NHL Player Safety Department” rumor.  According to Greg, it’s not a conflict of interest because Pronger isn’t really a player, even though he is still paid as a player.  He doesn’t play, so no problem.  Also, this:

Q. OK, so let me proffer this: What if I don’t want Chris Pronger in Player Safety because I think he’s an insufferable [expletive]?

Now you’re making sense.

OK, that might be a wee bit of a factor shaping opinions on this.  Wysh make a few arguments that make sense and one involving Marc Savard that makes no sense.  There is some other stuff thrown in as well of little consequence.

All of this is cheap window dressing to state my own opinion.  Simply put, taking a paycheck from a team and the league simultaneously is wrong.  It is a conflict of interest to take a paycheck from both sides of a collective bargaining agreement.  Pick a side of the table.  Change sides of the table.  But you can’t sit on both sides.  No matter how I feel about Pronger, this is a situation that shouldn’t happen.  There are other people who could do the job.  If he wants to when he is off the Flyer’s payroll, great. Until then, no.

– I’m off to Wheeling, WV for a Wheeling Nailers game.  The Nailers just surpassed the Johnstown Chiefs, who moved out of Johnstown a few years ago, as the longest operating ECHL franchise with 23 years.  In the business of minor league hockey, that’s a good run.  Also on the docket this month, Dayton, OH, Toledo, OH, and maybe some Ft. Wayne Comets.  If you are in the area, let me know.

Keystone Ice Miners vs. Michigan Warriors: What Just Happened?

Sometimes a team just has to get out-of-town, and that team often seems to come from Port Huron, MI.  When saw my first game in Port Huron, they were the Flags of the UHL.  They were the Beacons, until the team moved to Roanoke, VA for one season before folding (There was also a Port Huron Flags of the IHL in the 60s and 70s).  There was the Port Huron Ice Hawks of the short-lived NEW IHL, which was what the UHL rebranded itself as to stay alive.  That didn’t work and the Ice Hawks folded.  There was also the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the NAHL, which is where we pick up the story.

This season, the Fighting Falcons moved to Connellsville, PA.  They are now known as the Keystone Ice Miners, the team name being the same as the youth hockey organization that resides at their rink, The Ice Mine.  That rink… well, you should see for yourself.

Ice Mine Exterior

That doesn’t look bad, right? That doesn’t look like a rec league rink, right?

Then you step into the lobby, and the first thing you think is, this is a rec league rink.

Oh no, where am I?  Do I have to rent skates for these guys?

When you walk in the front doors, to your left is the rink entrance.  Everything else looks normal for a rec rink.  Concessions, video games, skate rental.  But there’s this little dark corner to the right, directly behind where I was standing when I took this picture.  It looks spooky, like this is where you enter the surprise House of Terror that doesn’t happen to be marked with a sign and no one talks about or acknowledges exists.  Or a storage area that everyone knows to stay away from except for Bobby Jenkins, the kid down the street, who wandered in there one day and has never been the same since.  To this day, the only words he says are “cattle” and “orange-fish.”

What horrors lie beyond the corirdor of doom? Let's find out!

So you know I’m going down there.

Oh, that's it?  Well, that was anti-climatcic.

Yep, a full-scale roller skating rink.  None of this says much for what I should expect on the other half of the building.  Hockey lies beyond, though, so I must see what it has in store.

Let’s go in, shall we?  First we must get our hand stamped by a rather creepy security guard, and go through what it looks like to enter an actual ice mine.


Can someone turn on the lights?  Oh, they are on?  Oh.  Well, can I get a flash light?

What I am about to show you might scare you, especially if you only watch NHL hockey and NHL rinks.  Those with weak hearts should keep reading.  It will do you some good.  You have been warned.

Yes, Virginia, they do play hockey here.

Oh. My.

I think it’s important to point out that this is a general admission game, which is good since there are no seats.  There are benches, and some of them had cards taped to them, reserving them for season ticket holders.

You must be in the back row. Lucky you. No, really.

There is also no installed sound system, so on the penalty box side of the rink, they have four plastic, self-amplified speakers set up.


And the only way for them to be heard across the ice was to make them REALLY LOUD!!! No one sat in front of them.  The national anthem was heard in the next county.

After the jump, the thing that made me laugh the most at a hockey game ever.

[Read more…]

Thin Air: MacKinAgain

Some hockey thoughts from the Southwest of America:

– I haven’t watched an ounce of Olympic hockey.  Let’s get this out of the way now: I’ve been busy.  No, really.  I probably could have, but I truly have another thing that is keeping me full time busy, and hockey is just going to have to take a back seat for the moment.  I don’t even know who plays or played today.  Seriously.

– Last Olympics, I watched the final game with my buddy Jay Kumar, then we recorded some podcasts after (his and mine).  It’s going to be hard to trump that experience.  Jay is awesome, and a treat to watch a game with.  In fact, I seem to have luck with people named Jay.

– Should the NHL participate in the Olympics?  I have mixed feelings on it.  I would like to see the amateur players get back in the game, and if there are going to be so many restrictions on other Olympians, they should apply to the hockey players as well.  But the cat is out of the bag, and the only way to remain relevant and not wind up with an asterisk on the Olympic records is to keep the NHL in.  No one cared about the World Cup of Hockey (except me), and few care about the World Juniors and World Championships.  Everything else is also ran.  I think they stay, and the IOC makes a few more concessions to the NHL, which is not their usual MO.

– I took a few skills classes in Tempe, AZ these past two weeks.  Our coach was great.  At 9:00PM, he holds a rookie class, where people who can sort of propel themselves while skating on their ankles do a few things with a puck, then slam into the end boards because they can’t stop.  The entire time they are doing drills, the coach is yelling at them.  “Butt on the boards! BUTT ON THE BOARDS!!!”  I watched this before my first class and thought, I hope this guy is our coach.  This is awesome.

Sure enough, he was, but the yelling was not there.  We had a neutral zone passing drill, and he was encouraging and firm.  After a few drills, he explained the point of what we were doing, then told us to have a good scrimmage.  What an absolute blast.  I got home at close to three in the morning (scrimmage until just past midnight, change, gas up the car, drive to Tucson), and was pumped to do it again the next week.  Hockey is alive in the desert.

– Adrian Dater says, via twitter, that Ryan O’Reilly will not be traded from the Avs (stick tap to Lyle Richardson for the pointer).  Proof there is a new attitude in Colorado?  In the old regime, money and being butt-hurt would have trumped any stats.  In the old regime, O’Reilly would be gone this month, or the end of the season, and we would never see the GM poke out from his hole, see his shadow, and blow six more weeks of BS up our backsides.  Let’s get this straight: something considered a ‘cancer to the locker room,’ or a ‘business issue’ can be worked out.  And winning, just like it brings back the fans, brings the players together.  A lot more than losing will.

– Next trip, Vegas, baby.  Or more specifically, I finally get to see my first Las Vegas Wranglers home game, at Orleans Arena.  And this is going to be their last season there (unless they work out a lease deal, which it sounds like they won’t), so I have to get there while the getting is good.  But also, this is their annual Midnight Circus, which means they will play the game at midnight, and they will have circus performers. I’m not kidding.  The Wranglers have the best promotions.  It also helps that the opposing team is the Colorado Eagles, and I just so happen to have an Eagles jersey with me.  Want more Vegas?  Check out this great oral history of the movie Swingers.  If you’ve ever dreamed big and thought there was no way you could do it, read this and remember that this is the guy who directed Iron Man.

– We play this little game on Twitter every Avalanche game called #AvsTwitterPsychic.  All you do is guess who scores the first goal for the Avs, and you get a retweet.  So far, Nathan MacKinnon has a team-leading 9 first goals.  He has a team leading 22 goals.  He’s fourth on assists and third in points.  The kid is good, and playing like an NHLer much earlier than a lot of rookies.  Matt Duchene took several years to break out of his junior habits.  As much as I would love to see Kevin Shattenkirk still playing for the Avs, he took some time to break out of his college style (but he has, and it didn’t take that long).  MacKinnon doesn’t stand out as a rookie, and I mean that in the best possible way.

– Quick survey time. Do you skate?

Crowdsourcing Time

Time for some crowdsourcing.  This was my tweet from last night:

1) Buy RV.

2) Spend a year on the road watching and playing hockey all over the country.

3) ?????

4) Profit.

Fill in the ????

Comments are open. Go.

My First Round Bandwagon

The Avs are out of the playoffs.  They were out before they even stepped foot on the ice at the beginning of the season.  The playoffs start in less than an hour, and I have to pull for someone.  Here are the teams I am hoping do well in the first round.





Chicago vs. Minnesota:  Chicago

This is ‘the team that did well in the regular season’ vs. ‘the team that paid to do well’.  Everything may reset at the start of the playoffs, but they dominated in the regular season, and earned my respect.  And they are GENERALLY a pretty clean team.  Go Blackhawks!

Detroit vs. Anaheim: Anaheim

I will NEVER root for the Red Wings.  Go Ducks!

Vancouver vs. San Jose: San Jose

I will NEVER root for the Canucks. Go Sharks!

St. Louis vs Los Angeles: St. Louis 

If the Kings hadn’t won it all last year, this would be a lot harder.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat Cup winner, but St. Louis has been through a lot.  It’s time for them to have some success.  Go Blues!





New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh: New York Islanders

It’s time for the die-hard fans to get their due.  They deserve it.  Go Isles!

Ottawa vs. Montreal: Montreal

This is a tough one.  I’d say I’m 51-49 in favor of Montreal.  I just feel slightly more connected to them.  Go Habs!

New York Rangers vs. Washington: Washington

I don’t care all that much about this series, but it’s usually a good match-up.  I’m enjoying seeing Ovechkin stick it to his critics (including myself).  Go Caps!

Toronto vs. Bruins: Toronto 

In nearly every other matchup, I would have picked the Bruins (maybe not against the Islanders).  Here, I want to see Toronto do well.  If only Dion Phaneuf didn’t play for them.  Oh well, no one is perfect.  Go Leafs!


Think I should pull for someone else?  The comments are open, try to sway me.  Killing me with kindness is better than the other way around.

Thin Air: Whatevs

Some hockey thoughts –

– Whenever someone is hurt in the eye area, the visor debate rages again. And what I find funny is how outraged that people get, not over the visor issue, but that the issue comes up when there is an injury. Of course it does, that’s just how people work. Relax.

– OK, so visors. I said it before, I will say it again. If the NHL and NHLPA don’t mandate visors, insurance companies will make it happen. Otherwise, premiums will go up, payouts for eye injuries won’t happen, and you can bet someone is going to be angry. So visors, it’s going to happen, like it or not. The only questions are when, and who is going to push it though, the league or outside forces.

– I think visors should be mandatory, and you can grandfather them in for all I care. BUT, you have to remove the extra two minutes for instigating with a visor on. It’s a mixed message, even if it’s just one more punishment for an instigator. The two things shouldn’t be tied together.

– Mike Milbury: Why do you people pay attention to what he says? Actually, it’s a simple answer: he has a voice, and he uses it. I don’t mean voice as in vocal chords. I mean voice as in he has something to say, says it with conviction, is consistent, etc. Every time he says something stupid or controversial, which is by design, you get all outraged and point out how his opinion doesn’t matter because of what a bad GM he was. But if the audience gets all butthurt about him, he is going to keep going because he is getting ratings for NBC. If you are talking about Milbury, Milbury keeps talking. Simple equation. Let the man go, already. He’s wrong, we know it, move on.

– Voice, or a lack thereof, is why people DON’T pay attention to hockey blog number 728. Without voice, what is the point of writing? Without voice, you’re just typing. There’s enough typing as it is.

– The Chicago Blackhawks…. Damn… Marion Hossa was out of the lineup on Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Then Patrick Sharp went down. So who scores the overtime winner? Dan Carcillo. That isn’t just a good team, that’s a team that believes in themselves. Teams with that kind of confidence don’t quit. It’s exciting to watch.

– Last night was probably the best game the Avs have had in a while, but the defense was still shown as weak and porous. If the Avalanche had defensemen as quality as their forwards, they could be a decent team. And they only have two good lines of forwards, and two serviceable lines behind that. Ryan O’Reilly is rusty, and I think he will be a shadow of his former self all season long. He’s just that far behind. The team is going to struggle this season, no matter what.

– The worst job in hockey? Being a ref for my rec league game on Sunday. My god, did we give them the business. How easy it is to forget that refs love the game just as much as the players. To suffer the abuse they get and still go out there game after game, it can’t be easy. And the abuse trickles down from the NHL. If the players didn’t chirp every call, it wouldn’t happen nearly as much at the lower levels. You don’t see it tolerated nearly as much in any other sport. I would like to see more unsportsmanlike calls for abusing the refs. It wouldn’t take long for things to change.

– That said (and maybe this post should just be called “That Said”), considering the news that a player in Switzerland is now paralyzed from the neck down because of a check from behind, I would almost rather be a ref. No, check that, as soon as I heard the news, I said to myself, I would rather be a ref.

You can only control yourself on the ice. I’ve been shoved from behind a little close to the boards before. It was less scary in the moment, but afterwards, I knew what happened, and what could have happened. I know people who have been called for shoving a guy from behind two feet off the boards and were mad they got called because, according to them, they guy had the puck. It was plainly boarding or roughing or whatever you want to call it. It was dangerous, and to them, it was justified. Like I say, you can only control yourself.

I’m not interested in being that guy. From Jack Jablonski to Travis Roy, there is no way I want to be in that position. Those two people are fine character people. I can’t say anything bad about them. But I would not want to be in their position, over a hockey game. I’m sure some jackass would think that’s a lack of commitment or some stupid BS, because people are stupid. So yeah, if the game gets any more dangerous, I’ll pick up a whistle. Gladly.

Puckmarks: What Is That?

This is Puckmarks, showing some of the interesting pucks I find around the rinks.  If you have an interesting puck you found, hit me up in the contact form, and / or put it on twitter with #puckmarks.

Odd pucks seem to find a way into my hockey bag..  I once marked my pucks with a silver sharpie when I saw someone else do it, but I quickly learned that a puck is a puck, and if you care too much about a certain puck, you will lose it to the hockey gods, or the puck bag of some coach.  To me, a puck is a puck when I’m practicing with it.  If it’s really special, I will save it, but a puck from the hockey shop is a puck.

I once saw someone at a stick and puck session with an NHL logo puck (and I’m being vague here for a reason) shooting it and retrieving it over and over.  If it flipped over so he couldn’t see the team logo and he lost track of it, he would start scouring the pucks on his hands and knees, flipping them over until he found his puck.  Even if he was in the middle of the net and other people were waiting for him to get out of the way.  One special puck.  Why not put it on your bookcase, then?

So I bring a bunch of pucks, and I try to leave with the same number I came with.  I sometimes come away with a puck that someone has marked up.  So this is a place to show you some of those.

I got this puck at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge, CO.  It’s one of my favorite places to skate, and they have outdoor stick and puck times.  When the snow is coming down lightly and there are only a few people out, it’s almost like hockey heaven.


And it’s marked that way on both sides.



Got an interesting puck?  Do you mark yours up?  Let me know.