Up Here

On this flight, there is no sign of the tension below. Thousands of feet above the world, the only sports represented here are the University of Wyoming wrestling team, and my lacrosse jersey. You wouldn’t know that the greatest trophy in sports was going to be handed out tonight. I’m on an Air Canada flight to America. How fitting. But here, there is nothing.

There was always this promise of air travel, that it would take you from your life at home, and transport you somewhere else, away from your troubles and concerns. I’ve taken a lot of flights over the last decade and more, to places across the United States and Canada. The travel, it was a function, and most of it was fun. Now, it’s a burden. But today, it feels serene. It feels different.

I don’t fly as often as a hockey player must. Every away game means at least one flight. I used to fly at least every other week. I remember a few years ago walking up to the Au Bon Pain in the Atlanta airport, and finding the familiarity comforting. That’s a sign, isn’t it?

But here, on this flight, the tension is washed away. I can watch Johnny Depp play a ridiculous lizard on a small screen in the seat back in front of me. I can type away at my little tablet, and listen to the radio. And game seven? It doesn’t exist. For a moment, I had forgotten that it was even going to be played.

Tonight, after the Cup is handed out, as one set of fans become insufferable for one reason, and the other set of fans become insufferable for another, we will go on. Lebron James was kind enough to remind us that after the games, we common folk will still have our personal problems, and we can go back to our small lives. Which I think we will all be a little better off for.

I’m leaving behind, in Toronto, a temporary home. I never got the feeling I had the last time I was there. I never felt like I could make room in my life for that city. Much has changed there, and the direction it’s gone, either positive or negative, is arguable. It’s a matter of taste. As great as parts of the city are, there are parts I can do without. Every city is like that, but Toronto wore both on it’s sleeve this time.

I’m happy to be watching the game in Denver tonight. I talked about the new Canucks jerseys you saw everywhere in Toronto. It’s a different kind of bandwagon fan in Canada right now. I hate the term bandwagon, but I’m struggling to come up with a different term. The fans who just want to see Vancouver win to see the Cup in Canada. And really, am I any different, hoping for a Bruins win? I have more invested in being against Vancouver, but I’ve liked the Bruins for a while now, and Tim Thomas is…. well, he’s Tim Thomas.

Up here, 35,000 feet above Colorado, it doesn’t feel like game seven. It doesn’t register that fans – and friends – in distant places don’t like each other because of things they are wildly out of their control. Up here, you wouldn’t even know that the hopes and dreams of the players, things they have worked for their entire lives, will be summed up in one game, only a few hours long, and only a few hours away.

I can’t wait until we touch down.

__________________________

I wrote this post on my flight to Denver, and edited and posted it from Denver International Airport.

Winter Classic Post: Can’t Live Without It

It wasn’t a question as to wether I would watch the Winter Classic (can you call something classic before it happens?), it was if I would enjoy it or not. How good a job would NBC do? How good would the NHL do? Was it going to be old hat?

Last year versus this year couldn’t be more different for me. Last year, I was in Detroit, cold and hellish. I was sick, over the city, and ready to move on to Pittsburgh, which was my next stop (note that I was in Detroit and Pittsburgh over the season last year. coincidence?). I was staying downtown right next to the Joe Louis Arena, and my view from my apartment was of Windsor, which was strategically placed by the Canadians to make Detroit dwellers jealous of quality roads and air. This year, I am in Tempe, AZ, in a nice spacious house, it’s warm enough for short sleeves, and after the game, I drove with the windows down. Last year felt a little more winter, and I watched on the CBC. This year was a little surreal. But I was entertained.

Here are my thoughts:

The first period was exciting, but once the Wings got ahead, the tempo and even perceived interest in the game was sucked out of the Blackhawks. Late in the game, the announcers lost interest as well.

The seventh inning stretch was horrible. All the anticipation of “take me out to the ball game” destroyed by bad singing and a hockey rewrite that didn’t hit a single point with me.

Lilija went off for roughing, but this is what it looked like on NHL.com right after the penalty:

Screenshot 01-38

Removing sweater? In this weather? I know they were calling everything in the first, but removing the sweater was a little much. That, my friends, would be a ticky tack penalty.

The Blackhawks going to the funeral story is nice. It’s a great showcase of the humanity of hockey players. But the NHL and NBC took the story and overproduced it into a lifetime network movie. I didn’t need that. I was disappointed beyond description as to the treatment.

Oh, I didn’t mind the Blackhawks jerseys as much as some.

How was that for a national anthem? It was fine doing the Canadian anthem, but the American national anthem was awesome.

Kudos to the hockey blogosphere for it’s involvement for this event. A few high points:

SB Nation and Puck Daddy had to have the most epic of live blogs. I thought it was a little too big and quick to enjoy as well as watch the game. Good job for the execution, but still, it was a little unwieldy.

Super kudos go to Eric McErlain at AOL Fanhouse. The game was good, don’t get me wrong, but Eric, unlike NBC (and most likely, the NHL) figured out quickly that the real story wasn’t in the press box, and after the first period feistiness ran out, wasn’t on the ice either. Two points were never the important part of the game. Eric ventured out in the crowd and talked to the fans. There isn’t a more tortured fan than the Blackhawks fan. I don’t even think the Leafs fans really compare. Eric was out there talking to them, and putting it out for us to see. If anything, there wasn’t enough of this. I think Eric needs a runner to upload the videos for him so he can stay out in the crowd more (note to Eric: I will make myself available).

So really, good job overall, NHL. And decent job NBC. Let’s do it next year. But let’s skip the olympic year, OK?

Avs Beat Detroit, And It Feels Good. Although….

Not to be “that guy” or anything, but the Avs beating the Red Wings may have been able to look a little better in the doing. I mean, I’m not as curmudgeony as this guy, but still (Shane, I kid)

I missed the first two periods of the game thanks to a paying job (hey, if I could blog and podcast for a living, trust me, I would), but I caught the third period on. And I was worried the entire way. Here’s why:

  • The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup by having a purpose to their plays. Tonight, the Avs did not. Things happened for the Avs when they had a reason to what they were doing. Instead of shoving the puck up ice just to get it a little farther up ice, a pass would tend to work out. Often, there would be a player open for a pass, but a basic clearing attempt was made that would wind up on a Red Wing stick. Lack of purpose in Avalanche gave the Wings more chances than hard work. Desperation has it’s place, but not like this.
  • Look, the Wings punched a few Avs in the face and got away with it. But Lappy wasn’t just selling the punch he received, he was rolling back prices like a US auto maker (hey, the Detroit auto show was cancelled. Best part of the city taken away). And hey, a few non calls went the Avs way as well. But a punch in the face 15 seconds after the whistle doesn’t deserve a “hey buddy.” A call maybe?
  • Know what to do when a top two defenseman loses his stick. Don’t make him ask for a stick. Seriously, I heard Adam Foote ask for a stick, and I was watching the game on my laptop.
  • Tyler Arnason. Hit the damn net. Two successive shots go wide of the net on either side. Number one center? I’m fed up with this mouth breather.
  • A Red Wing breaking up the center alone should be unacceptable. Look, they are going to complete their passes. Never assume they won’t.

I have no idea how Peter Budaj looked in the second when three goals against happened in four minutes, but I will assume he was awesome and was let down by the defense, because he was AWESOME in the third, and the shootout. Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years.

The victory in the shootout was a solid victory for the Avs. Detroit and their fans will take a point out of the game as being a condolence, but in the end, it is empty to losing to an Avalanche team that isn’t that far removed from the team that was swept out of the playoffs last season. Sure, they got a point, but it doesn’t mean anything to them. The Wings will make the playoffs, we all know that. “Giving up” one point is meaningless to the Avs and Avs fans. Taking two points from the game, knocking on the playoff door, and doing it without a center worth mentioning is more important than anything the Wings get. The Wings will not need one point to make the playoffs, they will get plenty from the rest of their division. This is a victory that Avs fans should be proud of.

Nuff said. I have to go to Tempe, AZ. Wish me luck.

Stanley Cup: Bummer

First off, congratulation to the Detroit Red Wings. After winning the Presidents Trophy enough times, they have certainly earned it. They fought hard, played well, and all that.

After that—–

Crap.

Look, I don’t care what the Red Wings fans think about my choice of teams, and I do not care what the classless fans have to say. There are some decent people who are Red Wings fans, and I welcome their input, but after that, I do not care. It’s the jerks that get all the airtime, and they should find a venue that let’s them be jerks as much as they feel like. Start a blog, I did.

I am finding out something about myself in this moment. It isn’t so much the players, and it isn’t even the uniform, that I hate to see win the Cup. They actually earned it. It’s the fans who act like jackasses I hate to see get to bask in it’s glory. They behave like they were on the ice, and they use the term “we” way too often. I don’t think that bad behavior should be rewarded, and too often, it is. Fans who waive their fingers in other fans faces deserve to have them bitten off.

I would remind the Red Wings fans that they hold a very classy individual, Steve Yzerman, in a very high regard, they should emulate him. Don’t act like a jerk. Parity means nothing is forever.

As for the game itself, the Penguins, as much as they own the victory of Game 5, they own the defeat of Game 6. They were owned much of the third period, Fleury knocked in the game winning goal with his own ass, and the chances the Pens had were never used.

For the wings. Osgood stole a goal from Gary Roberts, who played 7:14 and had one of the best scoring chances of the game.

That’s it, the season is over. The cup is handed out, and nothing is going to be the same starting tomorrow. The Wings team that won, the Penguins team that lost, none of the 30 teams are going to be the same. As of this moment, thirty teams are in the mix.

Go.

Oh, What a Night.

Game 5 just ended, and I am so tired. I have to be up at 5:15 AM, so I have little to say.

The Stanley Cup Finals are still on. That makes me happy.

Pens Crap the Bed: SCF Game 4

Man, what a crap ass game of hockey, FOR THE PENGUINS!!!!

I’m mired in the postgame coverage on ESPNews (seriously, they have hockey coverage, must mean there’s no NBA tonight), and these coach interviews remind me of why I don’t want to be a “professional” sportswriter. Actually, listening to the post game interviews by Crosby and Fleury after game 3 really drove it home. Crosby may be billed the most exciting player in the NHL (or at least shoved down our throats as the most exciting), but he could put you to sleep in the postgame. BORING!!!

Speaking of Fleury, he looked like ass all night. He could make initial saves, but even saves that were directly in his glove seemed to magically bounce out into danger zones. I really think he should have had both of the goals the Wings scored, and he had a one second delay every time he came out to play the puck. Mostly, he looked unfocused, and that affected the game greatly.

Not that he was the reason for the loss, but he certainly was one of the reasons. Let’s list the others, shall we?

Malkin can’t score. The only thing he put in the net was himself. I think he had a few good chances, but chances don’t win cups.

If you can’t score on a 5 on 3, that’s one thing. But the Penguins couldn’t even gain the zone, and the last minute was ridiculous.

Crosby was the only one with any energy in the third. He was the only one chasing the puck, and the only one trying to work outside his little bubble. I don’t give Sidney props much, but he deserves some credit.

In the third, the Penguins weren’t taking any chances on defense, and not only gave up one zone, they were giving the Wings the entire damn rink. I can’t think of a time in the third (or the rest of the game, come to think of it) that a defenseman pinched in the offensive zone. If you are down by one, take a chance once in a while.

Hossa was certainly the best player the Penguins had tonight, but he wasn’t enough, and shouldn’t have to be. There should be enough talent around him to make a difference. Remember earlier in the year when Hossa was the dog of the league? The man was doing everything tonight. In fact, he did the only thing.

You will notice that I am saying nothing of the Wings. That’s right. I’ll leave it at that.

I spent the night online at the live blog of Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski, It was a great time, with plenty of the funny. See you there for game 5.

Wake Up, Fleury

I took some crap for posting this before, but I think it holds true more than a year later.

The problem with Fleury

The only thing  Fleury diesn’t have to answer for is scoring goals.  I think his worst moment was when he gave hockey fans a reminder as to why a goalie doesn’t usually clear the puck, and certainly up the middle.  Talk about a move that could seriously bite you in the ass.

A series may no be a series until it goes to the second city, but everyone in the Penguins organization has to be worried.  I’m worried.

Versus mentioned that the last time a goalie shut out the first two games of a SCF, it was Brodeur in 2003.  Well, the Ducks came back and made a series of it, and hopefully, the Penguins can find it in themselves to do the same thing.

Oh, and maybe with a few less cheap shots along the way.  But hey, I see cheap shots going both ways.  Whatever it takes.

Avs Wings Game 4: Forsberg Out

In the “Oh, Ya Think?” category, we get this info from the Rocky Mountain News:

Forwards Peter Forsberg and Ryan Smyth will not play tonight when the Avalanche tries to avoid being swept by the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the teams’ Western Conference semifinal series at the Pepsi Center.

Not really surprising, but this, at the end of the article, is telling:

Quenneville said the team likely will go with Jeff Finger as a seventh defenseman for tonight’s game.

What does that say about the defense? Is Hannan still hurting? Are they as worn out as the Minnesota Wild were at the end of round 1?

It’s going to either be a great game tonight, or a bloodbath.

Avs – Wings Game 3: Arrrrgh!!!

With an 8:00 AM call, and two shows tomorrow, I have to go to bed right now. That doesn’t leave me much time to talk about the game, but let it be known that I am not happy. At all.

But the Avs are now down 3 games to none, and there isn’t anything they are willing to do to stage a comeback. Just the look on Andrew Brunette’s face during the interview at the second intermission told all the story you needed: frustration, shell-shock, confusion. It’s team wide.

More tomorrow, when I get a chance.

Ryan Smyth Out

The Detroit News is reporting that Ryan Smyth is out for game 3:

Down 2-0 in the best-of-seven to the Wings in the Western Conference semifinals, the Avalanche took another hit Tuesday when forward Ryan Smyth (foot) was scratched for tonight’s Game 3.

Smyth apparently suffered the injury while blocking a shot in Game 2.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Smyth’s return to the lineup is day to day.

This is no good. Time to look at that roster sheet again. The article mentions Hensick, but we will have to wait and see.

I think my DVD Recorder just threw up in it’s mouth a little.