What I Learned: The Dead Blog Challenge Wrap

The Dead Blog Challenge, designed to kick my ass into writing again, ended on June 30th, even though I kept going for a few days into free agency.  Of course, that was part of the point, to get a writing habit started and to keep writing (which is going to lead to the next challenge).  But I learned a few things along the way, and wanted to get them out in the world, and see what you thought.

Daily Writing vs. Daily Posting -

I believe in being consistent with putting content out there, but at the same time, I don’t believe in posting just to have something to post.  A few times through the challenge, I didn’t feel like writing about hockey, and I’m sure it showed.  It was mostly when there wasn’t much happening, and I didn’t really have much to say, but still had to put out a post, because that’s what I said I would do.  Hey, it’s called a challenge for a reason.

Unless you are paid to do it, I can’t say I believe in posting every day just to have something out there.  Phoning it in publicly when you don’t have something to say is no way to use your voice.  That doesn’t mean you can’t just share a photo or video or something simple, but to really dig into something you care nothing about is no way to go.  That’s a recipe for burnout.  And what’s the point of that, if you want to keep your blog going?  Why look at your blog staring you in the face, and hating it, all so you did that one post you didn’t really care about?

That said, I do believe in writing every day, or at least every day that you possibly can.  Hey, some of us have to work for a living, and can’t do everything we want.  It feels a little counter-intuitive, to write something and not post it, but not everything you write is going to be gold.  Sometimes, it’s best to leave even good ideas on the shelf to make way for the great ones.

Editing –

When I first started blogging, I rarely went back and edited before posting.  That was probably the stupidest thing I could have done.  I bought into the hype, and was just happy to be posting.  Now, looking back at some of those posts, the writing is absolutely embarrassing.  There are posts that should have never made it to the blog, and others that should have sat in the draft folder until I had a better head for editing.

Going back and rewriting is a great thing, so long as you believe in the process.  And if you rewrite, your proof should be right there.  You should be showing yourself exactly why you rewrite and edit, because your work gets better.

I wish there were a universal editing service, where you could submit your post to someone who could act as editor, and they would give your post a once-over for you.  Having that kind of outside perspective would be greatly educational.  I would love to submit a weeks worth of posts to Wyshynski or Eric McErlain to go over with a red marker, and show me what they would do differently.  And believe me, we all have plenty to learn about writing.

Comments –

I turned off comments for a while during the challenge, and truth be told, I missed them a little bit, even though most posts don’t get commented on.  I felt bad about turning them off, but at the same time, I tried to bask in the freedom of not needing to think about what other people thought.  That’s harder to do than it is to say, but still, I wanted to try it.

I got an email from a drive-by reader – they came from another blog I had talked about and linked to – who said that turning off comments was just my way of preaching from my pulpit.  Which is what blogs are anyways.  He thought that without comments, people couldn’t challenge my ideas or thoughts.  As though that were what comments usually are.

Take a look at the comments at highly trafficked blogs.  Look at Deadspin, or Puck Daddy.  Get outside the genre of hockey and read some of the comments you see elsewhere on the more popular blogs.  How much thoughtful commentary is there?  How much challenging of ideas do you see?  I’d say 70% of my comments are either conformation or spam.  Drive-bys make up for another 20%, with 10% actually having something challenging to say, or even discussing what was posted.

People don’t leave that many comments.  I know I don’t do it as much as I used to, but the way I have read hockey blogs, as well as the amount I read, have changed over the years.

When I started this blog, I wanted to jump into the discussion, but blogs are rarely about discussion, within the confines of the site they occupy.  Discussion happens between blogs, and in places like forums (when they are run well), or on twitter or facebook.  This isn’t to say that it never happens – I’ve had some really good conversations in the comment sections  of this blog a few times – but it’s rare.  Comments are a broken system for having conversations.  It’s part of why I started a podcast.  The conversation you have when using your voice and ears is very different from the conversation you have when stopping by the comments of a blog post you may never get back to.

By the way, I wrote back to the person who emailed me, and never heard back.  To their credit, they did poke around my blog a bit before emailing me.  Still, I guess it’s hard to send emails from way up high on my pulpit.  Either that, or they just didn’t really care.  I’m going to guess it was the second one.

Those who took up the challenge –

Several other people took up the challenge with me, which made it easier for me to complete it.  I don’t know if I could have done it with out them.  Most of the people made it through the 15 day challenge, with one person making it through the entire month long challenge with me.  A few people didn’t make it, but hey, that’s why the call it a challenge.  It’s supposed to be hard.  I hope that those who tried and didn’t make it start their own challenge at some point.  When they are ready, they will do it themselves, and be better off for it.

A few people said thanks for doing the challenge, but the truth is, I didn’t do anything.  They did the hard work, which was sitting down and writing the posts.  They kept their commitments, and they hopefully reaped the rewards.  Putting the challenge out there for others gave me more motivation when I saw how well other people were doing with the challenge, and gave me some more fun stuff to read.  I will say, in the most humble and undeserving way I know how, you are welcome.  But really, if you did the challenge, don’t pat me on the back, pat yourself on the back.  You did the work, and you deserve the credit.  I really should be thanking you.

 

So, challenges.  I need to figure out a podcasting challenge for myself.  Because I need to kick that thing back into service again for the season.  More on that later.

But the offseason is in full effect, and there won’t be enough to write about for a few months.  At least, not for me, and not for plenty of other bloggers out there.   So the challenge has to change a little bit.  I do have something in mind, so stop back in a day or two, and see what the next one is.  I think you’re going to like it.

Bye Bye, NBA, I’ll Hardly Miss You

As of 12:01 AM EST, July 1st, I like the NBA a lot more than I used to.

To all the NBA fans out there who are most likely going to lose a season, I am truly sorry for your loss.  I don’t wish you any ill, and know what it was like to lose an entire season of NHL hockey.  I had the luxury of spending most of the lockout in Boston, where hockey was still in full force, form the minors to college.

But in my own little world, right now, I’m dancing with my happy feet.

I’ve been fed up with the NBA ever since I started watching hockey, and it took time away from the NHL coverage.  I don’t care for the sport at all.  Shooting baskets is fun, but turn it into what we watch on TV, and I dislike it with all my burgundy-and-blue heart.

I hate the sound of basketball.  The constant squeaking of the shoes drives me nuts.  You know what sounds cool?  A hockey stop.  Skates on ice sound cool.

Sweat wipers?  Give me a break.  Could there be a less awesome gig?  If you need to wipe the sweat up from your playing surface, you need a better playing surface.  In hockey, if you sweat a little, it freezes when it hits the ice.  You skate over it, and you keep going.

March Madness can kiss my back side.  I hate March Madness.  This last year’s NCAA tournament was the most bearable yet, for some reason.  I hardly noticed it happened, and I don’t even know why.  But it can F off.  I hate it. HATE. IT.

And the basketball fights.  Or I should say, the “fights.”  It amazes me how a bunch of tall, built men can get into a scrap, and it looks like a slap-fest.  If you’re going to fight, do it.  I don’t need to make a comparison to hockey here.

The NBA has had a soft salary cap (basically, a luxury tax) for a long time, and the owners now want a hard cap.  They want more of the share of the pie.  The players say that won’t happen.  I have three letters for the NBA players. N-H-L.  It’s going to happen.

And when you consider this, from Michael Wilbon of ESPN:

The NBA, meanwhile, has teams losing real money. The league says 22 of 30 are operating in the negative; the players association would surely say it’s fewer than that. Either way, it’s reasonable — if not downright inescapable — to conclude there are NBA teams awash in red ink. It costs less for those owners to keep their arenas closed than to stage the games.

There isn’t much else to be done.  Also, will there ever be another reason for me to quote Wilbon again?  I hope not

So the NBA is locked out, the NFL is locked out (kind of, and the people paying attention think it won’t cost the season), and the NHL…

Well, they are just getting started.  And Versus just got a lot more popular.

See you for free agency.  It’s going to be fun.

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And that concludes the Dead Blog Challenge.  I’ll do a wrap up post on July 2nd, but overall, I had a good time.  Totally worth it, and I discovered a few things about my blogging as well.

Congratulations to Greg D’Avis for doing the entire 30 days of the challenge with me.  It was hard for both of us, and for the others who took it on, but it’s called a challenge for a reason.

Comments are back on, so you can tell me what an idiot I am again.

Paul Kariya: The Memory Remains

After a bit of a long day, I got home and decided to curl up with a little reading.  I don’t seem to take the opportunity enough, to just leave the computer behind, and just read.

Which led me to not thinking about the post I had to write when I got home, which put me in a time crunch.  50 minutes to put up today’s post, to do what I promised I would.

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I keep thinking about Paul Kariya.  When he and Teemu Selanne joined the Colorado Avalanche for a single season, there was promise.  This was still the Avalanche of old, with Forsebrg and Foote and Blake and Sakic.  This was right before the lockout, and even though Patrick Roy had left, and Tony Granato was starting his first failed stint as head coach, there was plenty of reasons to be excited.  It was the tandem that had wowed them in Anaheim before, together again.  And with a team to play with.  Just look at that roster. That’s a hell of a team, and you won’t find one like it any time soon.

Kariya, of course, was coming off the cinderella playoff run of 2003.  And we all remember what happened for Paul Kayira in the finals.

Heroics?  It’s hard, at times, to treat something that happens in a hockey game as heroics.  He certainly did the unthinkable.

It turns out, that the real cinderella was JS Giguere, who came back to win the Cup in 2007.  For Paul Kariya, his stint with the Avs the next season was hampered by injuries, and he was never the same player after 2003.  He did fairly well with the Nashville Predators, but wasn’t the difference maker he was with the Mighty Ducks.  Selanne, on the other hand, had much needed knee surgery, and has been unstoppable ever since.

I think about that clip, and that hit, which would be an illegal hit today, and I know that people want the heroics, the unthinkable, the guy who gets up off the ice and shows the crowd, the other team, the world what he is made of.  We want those stories, but what has to happen first, what makes the player get up off the ice, it isn’t sustainable.  It isn’t enough.  It isn’t worth it.

They have changed the “head-shot rule” to get as close to banning head hits as they can, without explicitly getting rid of them.  They are getting closer to getting rid of these stories, and I say good riddance.  There are other stories out there, waiting to be written.  How many more careers cut short do we need, all so someone doesn’t spend two minutes in the box?  For maybe two points in the standings?

Wouldn’t it be nice to see Paul Kariya like he could have been post lockout, instead of someone who just couldn’t find their place on a team, who couldn’t be the player they were.  That’s the tragedy here.  I loved seeing Paul Kariya get up off the ice, to come back and score that goal. We try to immortalize that moment, because that’s all we know how to do.  But it couldn’t last forever.

Nothing ever does.

Huntsville Havoc vs. Pensacola Ice Pilots: My First SPHL Game

Near the end of the season, I diverted to Huntsville, AL to take in a SPHL game, the first I had ever seen of that league.  I’d been through Huntsville a few times, but never to see a game.

Yesterday,  I showed you a few of the ‘lovely’ trophies the various Huntsville teams had won (and abused), but not the game.  This post will correct that.

The path to the arena was one of the strangest I have ever been in.  Construction routed us around to… well, you can see for yourself.

To the box office:

Main Hall

Past the Legends of Huntsville Hockey festivities:

WH014

Umm…. OK…..

End of Hall

Wait, this can’t be right….

What?

I mean, I was walking past dumpsters.  And this is how we get into the arena?

Nice Place

Even the entrance is marked exit:

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The concourse looks decidedly seventies sci-fi.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they built the place for filming scenes from Buck Rogers.  I loved it.  Of course there’s chuck a puck.

beede-beede-beede

The arena is split into a lower and upper level, with a walkway going 3/4 of the way around the bowl.

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But the lower bowl looks pretty nice, and has some table seating by the glass.

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My journey was not complete, since I was sitting behind the goal.  So I took the long and strange walk to my seat.  The blue curtains hid the construction going on.  I think it’s going to be a pretty nice place when they are done.

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Finally, I got to my seat, on the risers on the end of the rink:

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But the view was great, even with the goal judge box in the way:

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Meet Ryan Scott:

Ryan Scott

Poor Ryan got heckled the entire game.  Whenever the rush started, the fans behind me yelled “Look out, Scott!”  “That was close, Scott!”  Even just the random, “SCOTT!” for no other reason than to yell is name.  The night even included one of the greatest heckles of a goalie I have ever heard, even if it was a bit sexist.

The kids in front of me weren’t that amused at first, but they came around.  The one on the right kept saying, “Seriously?” But considering the look on his face, I don’t think he meant it.

Seriously!

All the way down the ice:

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Mascots!

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The Canucks have their green men, the Wichita Thunder have their one lone blue guy, and the Havoc… have this:

Wolf Dude has Nards

He kept the mask on the entire game. At one point, he ran around the arena  with his flag, and the kids chased him.  Hey, you gotta have your traditions, I guess.

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I’m posting this photo for Doogie2K. The Calgary Hitmen travel well.

Hitmen Jersey

The game ended in a shootout, without a single fighting major.  Take that, haters.  In fact, the level of play wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.  There were plenty of missed passes, missed opportunities, and defensive breakdowns, but there was a lot to like about the game as well.  The problem with the NHL is that it can be so over-coached, you wait for a mistake to create a scoring chance.  There were plenty of mistakes, but also plenty of chances the entire game.  Overall, I had a great time.

Thanks to Christopher Joy (aka SCOTT!) for the invite.  I can’t wait to go to another game with him.

Here’s the game sheet.

Huntsville Havoc and the Carnage

A few months ago, I stopped in Huntsville, Alabama to see a Huntsville Havoc hockey game.  If you didn’t go back and read that first sentence again, you are doing OK.  Yes, there is hockey in Huntsville.  There has been a lot of hockey in Huntsville, actually.

The game I went to was the day before the Legends of Huntsville Hockey game (again, if you need to take a moment to absorb that…). The Legends game is a charity game to help support autism.  And they had these kick-ass jerseys:

White Jersey Front

White Jersey Back

The team was auctioning them off after the game, which I wasn’t able to stick around for.  But if I could have, I would have gotten one.  That is a unique jersey.  The black one is even better.

Black Jersey

They also had a few… trophies…. on display.  Don’t ask me what they are, but we should all be lucky they are still with us.

Trophy with Dents

 

Trophy held together, barely, with masking tape

I asked one former player (and I’m sorry, I don’t know who it was) what the deal with these were.  He basically said that they are a little less careful with these things, since they weren’t the Stanley Cup.  No, they aren’t.

I will post photos from the game later, including one of the oddest arena entrances I have ever seen.  Thanks to Christopher Joy (aka Scott!) for inviting me to the game.  Hopefully, he can fill in a few of the missing pieces.

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This wasn’t the post I wanted to make, but it actually was more fun.  The one I spent an hour or so on, about the Central Hockey League and how they seem to be falling apart, might be a post for a later date, but it wasn’t coming together for me.  I guess that’s just how it goes, and when you don’t have to crank out six to twenty posts a day, you have that luxury.

 

Thin Air: Sunday Hockey Thoughts

The draft is over, the bloggers are back home, nursing their hangovers, and the draftees are admiring their new swag from their new team.  I hope everyone had a good time.  The draft is mayhem on the first day, but then things settle down on the second, despite the much faster pace.

So here are a few things I’ve been thinking about, with only five more days until free agency, and four more left on this challenge.

 

- Ryan Smyth: Real Denver Sport has a good roundup of what Smyth left in his wake after each team he served time with (and served time is fairly accurate, considering how bad a few of those teams have been).  I don’t think it’s quite the contrail of disaster that happens when Pronger leaves a team, but it’s pretty interesting.

I remember getting caught up in the excitement when Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan were signed in free agency to the Avalanche.  I thought it was a bold move, when a bold move needed to be taken.  Unfortunately, neither player are still with the Avalanche, and neither are the players who came in after Smyth and Hannan were traded away.  Tomas Fleischmann is set to become a UFA on July 1st, and as usual, all is quiet from the Avalanche camp with their desire to sign him.  He’s worth the money if he’s healthy.

- Realignment is going to be the topic of the season, and I don’t think any scheme will make anyone 100% happy.  I’m ready for it to happen, and would be perfectly happy to see the Canadian teams in the Western Conference split up. Keeping Vancouver out of the Pacific and Dallas in has always been a bit of a stretch.  After that, the eastern-most Western teams (get all that?) get screwed over for about half the season.  Aligning closer to time zones makes much more sense. But if this plan involves four divisions, I expect the league will do everything they can to shoehorn the Canadian teams together.  It makes business sense, even if it doesn’t make much hockey sense.

- Hand Paul Stastny the captain’s “C” and be done with it.  The guy is staying around, and he is the closest thing to leadership the Avalanche have right now.  Much like any goalie that has to play in the shadow of Patrick Roy, the captain will always be judged by how they perform in comparison to Joe Sakic.  It isn’t fair, but that’s how it goes.  Stastny is the most deserving, and no one else is ready to take up the job.  As good as Matt Duchene is on the ice, he isn’t ready to be captain yet.  He’s still growing, and needs the time to grow into the hockey player he has the potential to be.

- The Canucks are going to be interesting this offseason.  How do you blow up a team that came within one win of the Cup (I think of it as two games, since they had two opportunities to win it all)?  I don’t think you can, but you need to figure out what went wrong with the Sedin line quickly.  If you can’t, history is doomed to repeat itself.  There can’t be that many changes needed.  Perhaps they just need to avoid Boston next season.

- In the next CBA, the league needs to either create a wider gap between the cap floor and the cap ceiling, or increase revenue sharing, and how that sharing can be used.  Too many teams are being forced into salary structures they simply can not afford.  And the ceiling is too high anyways.  How many smaller market teams are losing money, while the bigger markets are getting richer and richer?  The revenues the league proudly states as growing aren’t coming from the smaller markets, but the smaller markets are just as important to the league as the larger ones.  It isn’t about the GMs saving themselves from themselves, it’s about the league saving itself from the first iteration of the cap era.  This thing needs to be refined.

- Also for the next CBA, I would love to see a limit to the number of no-trade clauses that a team can hand out.  Maybe five per team.  Maybe even shorten the term of a no-trade, perhaps to 2/3 of the contract length (if a player signs a 3 year contract with a no-trade, the first two years are covered by the clause, but not the third).  I don’t like seeing players treated like property, but the amount of no-trade clauses out there are staggering and barely managable.  Teams need options, and no-trades take away those options.

- Brad Richards is going to be the most watched UFA on July 1st, but I’m more interested in what will happen with goaltenders.  There are a few holes out there needing to be filled, and only so many people out there to fill them.

 

That’s about it for now.  To borrow a phrase from Buddy Oakes, more later….

Draft: Oh, What a Night

Oh, how wrong I was.

I thought, what’s the point?  Why pay attention to the draft?  What could possibly happen that’s all that intriguing? I went to skate for a bit before running home, and then to the Mile High Hockey party, and that’s when things got interesting.

Liles traded to Toronto:

You know what?  I’m OK with this.  The Avs had to do something, and Liles has been the 800-pound trade gorilla in the room.  I will miss him when he was good.  But I will not miss other aspects of his game.  Every player has trade-offs.  Liles seemed to have consistency issues.  Some days, he was your main guy on the power play, others he was sucking wind trying to backcheck back into position.  Now, with Shattenkirk and Liles gone, the Avs need to do something.  And Eric Johnson?  You had better be ready.  I will be chewing this one over with Jay on the next Avs Hockey Podcast, that’s for sure.

Setoguchi to the Wild:

Burns, sure.  Fine.  But Setoguchi?  For those who thought Carter got hosed in Philadelphia, how about being signed to a three-year deal the day before you are traded to Winnipeg Lite?  If I were Setoguchi, I would be circling the dates the Sharks play Minnesota, and talk to Andrew Brunette about how to make your former team regret their transgressions.

Campbell to the Panthers:

Dale Talon gets his man, and the Florida faithful have to be wondering what the he sees in Brian Campbell.  Campbell won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, yes, but he was less effective than most of the defensemen on that team.  If there is a place a contract like Campbell’s can be buried, it’s in Florida.  And Talon can say he is doing something to improve the team (Campbell improves the Panthers, which should say something about the defense in Florida).  But if this is the change the Panthers are looking for, they are worse off than I thought.  Also, they still need a goalie. They have a ton of cash to spread around, but still, what a move.

Avs take a winger instead of the best available defenseman:

I’m not going to pretend that I know what the best thing for the Avs will be in a few years when this pick starts to really pay out on the ice (even Duchene wasn’t perfect when he started his NHL career).  But man, is there ever a need in the Avs defense.  Maybe this is looking ahead and writing off other players that haven’t worked out so well.  Or maybe there’s just too many centers right now.  Whatever the rationale, the field was wide open, and the Avs got their man.  I just don’t know if I should be excited about him.

Siemens:

Somewhere, Alexander Semin is smiling, because he doesn’t have to be the target of stupid name jokes soon (as though he cares).  I must have been looking away when Siemens was picked by the Avs, because everyone says he looked quite upset when his name was called.  Then again, if ever there was a time to read too much into the facial expressions of a seventeen-year old, the draft is it.

A good night for USA Hockey:

Three players from the US NTDP (National Team Development Program) were selected in the first round, out of five total US born players.  Pretty good outing, USA Hockey.

Ryan Smyth:

How the hell was anyone taking the Ryan Smyth to Calgary trade seriously?  Sure, they are dumping salary with the potential (most likely as I write this) trade of Robin Regehr, but come on.  The Flames have $7 million in cap space, and Smyth is a $6.25 million cap hit.  Would it be worth dumping that much cap space for a player like Smyth.  No.  Come on, son.

So yeah, day two.  Meh.  It’s going to go fast, not like this long and dragged out event.  Even Versus couldn’t switch to bicycle racing fast enough.  Congrats to all the draftees.  I’m sleeping in.

Draft Day Decisions

Draftpreview

Like the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, I had a plan.  Unlike the Cylons, it didn’t involve wiping out an entire species, but hey, if it happened, then whatever.  I was going to be prepared for the first round of the draft.  I picked up the draft issue of The Hockey News at the airport for my flight home, and was going to read it.  I’ve had it in my bag ever since game seven of the Finals, and that’s where it stayed.  And now, it’s draft day, and I am totally unprepared.

In fact, I may not even watch the draft.  I’m thinking about going to stick and puck time at 3:00PM at the local rink (the draft starts locally at 5:00).  There are gatherings and draft parties hosted by the Avalanche and Mile High Hockey, and I’m not sure I’m going to either one.  I could have gone to the draft in Minnesota (like I did in 2007 and 2010), but decided to save my money this year and stay home.

I know, bad hockey blogger, right?

I went to the 2007 draft in Columbus, and had a great time.  It was my first draft, and it seemed really special.  At least, day one was pretty special.  I got to meet several bloggers face-to-face for the first time, watched Angelo Esposito’s draft position tank, and enjoyed the hell out of the night in general.  Day two dragged on, and took forever to get through.  At least, from the buzz of the first day, it seemed to take forever.  The picks were chosen at a quick pace.  When the Ottawa Senators asked for a time out (who knew you could do this) in a later round, the crowd booed them for holding things up.  I was at a loss with what to do after the draft.  At least half the media hadn’t stuck around, and the crowd in the stands made it feel like and endurance test.  No one was on the streets in downtown Columbus.  You wouldn’t have known there was anything going on that weekend.  It was a huge contrast to the previous day.  Still, for my first draft, it was fun, and completely worth it.

In 2010, I went to the draft in LA.  On my way to the Staples Center for the first round, I saw this sign outside a bar a block from the draft.

Filmfest

So you can see what the priorities are in LA.  Was the evening less magical than in 2007?  A little, but that’s to be expected when you do something for the second time.  I was at the draft to see people I knew from the blogging circles more than anything else.  But most of the people I wanted to see were busy doing media things.  I still had a good time overall, and it was great to meet people I had talked to online or over the phone.  But for the outlay of money, and the dud that is the second day, I just couldn’t justify it this year.

But that doesn’t really excuse why I’m not paying much attention to the draft this year.  And I should pay at least a little attention, because the Avalanche have the 2nd and 11th overall picks. Two years ago, they picked up Matt Duchene with the third overall pick, and I don’t know any Avs fans who have been disappointed with that choice.  This is a huge draft for them.

The reason I can’t get into the draft this time is that nothing I do is going to change anything that happens.  I could study, gnash my teeth, spout off with a few barely educated predictions as to who will get taken, what the Avs strategy should be, and in the end, they are going to pick who they pick, plug him into the system, and see what happens.  I’m excited for the Avs having a high pick (after last season, there isn’t much else to be excited about), but what happens is what happens.  I don’t need to be able to change it, but it’s not much to get worked up about.  I know that isn’t the point; nothing I do would change the outcome of a game either.  But this year doesn’t seem as exciting as the last few.

It’s more interesting to see what trades happen at the draft.  Put the GMs together right before free agency with plenty of bargaining chips (draft picks), and something is bound to happen. When Tomas Vokoun was traded to the Panthers at the 2007 draft, the Panthers contingent stormed past us, looking like a very determined bunch.  Even to someone on the outside like me with no experience in these things, we knew something was up.  It was fun to know something was going on, but even when the trade was announced, all we had was a story to tell.  It was fun, and it was interesting, but the same news could have been had at home watching TV.

So I may watch a little bit of the draft, and undoubtedly laugh as people harumph and get all twitter-pated at the choices made, how a certain choice was wrong, or how a pick doesn’t fit into a team’s system.  But in the end, I’ll let the experts weigh in and inform me.  That’s what this great big internet is for, isn’t it?

Down And Out

On Rioting

Queen Elizabeth Theater on the right

(image source: yfrogniamhsays)

The building on the right is the Queen Elizabeth Theater.  I was lucky enough to work there for five weeks last summer.  It didn’t have burning cars and rioters outside when I was there.  Wicked the musical is playing there now.  Here is an account of what it was like for a theater-goer when the riot was going on, from the Globe and Mail:

Heather Bourke was attending a performance of Wicked at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with her husband, right next to where the riots began. Ms. Bourke, 32, is 5-1/2 months pregnant, and the mother of a two-year-old boy.

The play started a minute or two after the game ended. It was quite calm. No one was concerned. At intermission the curtain went down and someone came on the p.a. and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, due to a situation outside, please remain inside the building.’ Everyone just froze.

Then everyone went to the windows and stared out. It was unbelievable. Right in front of us: cars on fire, people being beaten up all around us, every direction you looked – smoke. When I went back to my seat, I noticed that I was trembling a little bit. I’ve never felt the baby kick so much in my life. I think the baby was in distress because of my hormones.

After the play was over, we were told to remain seated while Vancouver Police worked out a safe way for us to leave. Everyone was pulling out cells and getting updates. We had no idea what was happening. It’s kind of scary when you don’t know how bad it is. Before we left, we got specific directions: You must turn right, do not turn left. A man sitting beside us with an 11-year-old daughter asked how we were getting home. He drove us right to our door.

When we would leave the theater via stage door, which is on the far side of the building, we would turn right, which would take us directly into the rioters in that photo.  We would take another right, which would put us onto the street with the burning car in that photo.

Walking Home in Vancouver

At that intersection, with the burning car, we would often take a left, and walk through the plaza of the CBC.

CBC on the Left

(Source: twitpic/@chriswalts)

That’s the CBC on the left.  We would walk by because I was always amazed that we worked right next door to it.  I wanted nothing more, during our stay in Vancouver, than to get a tour of that building, especially the radio studios.  It turns out, they don’t offer tours.  There’s a coffee shack at the far end of the building (from our perspective) that poured a damn fine cup of coffee, always made to order.  It was some of the freshest coffee I have ever had.

We would turn right on to Robson, walking past the library, and sometimes stop at the liquor store on the corner of Robson and Homer to puck up some beer, perhaps some Growers Peach, or my favorite Canadian beer, Thirsty Beaver from the Tree Brewing Company. Then down to Richards Street, sometimes diverting to the Red Card, a sports bar with some tasty pizza.

Red Card

(Red Card photo courtesy of Ryan Classic / @ryanclassic)

Or, even better, we would divert over to Granville for some five-pin bowling.  Five-pin bowling is a very Canadian type of bowling, a mashup of Candlepin and Duckpin from New England, and the standard 10-pin that ESPN seems to be enamored with.

The Lane The Pins

 

Ryan Classic Bowls My Lovely Assistant

(My lovely assistant on the right is Alix from The Humming Giraffe@alixiswright)

From our balcony at our apartment, we could see Granville Street.  The occasional drunk fool would stop in the alley our balcony overlooked to relieve his bladder, and you could hear the noise on the streets from the party crowd.  You could see the Comfort Inn and it’s attached bar, Doolins, from our balcony as well.

Comfort Inn and Doolins

(source: twitpic@chrissychrzan)

If you were to walk straight past that car, down the street two blocks, you would be at my apartment at the time, my temporary home.   This guy is having a rough go of it right next to my building.  And this ass wasn’t there when I was around.  There wasn’t tear gas or fires.  There was just a great city, with fun people, that I want to go back to.

You can imagine how the riots make me feel.  Every picture I saw, I wondered if I had run into those people.  I looked to see if I had been in any of the places that were being looted (Chapters, yep. Crepes, yep. Coffee shop, yep).  I felt sad to see a beautiful city like Vancouver destroy itself, for people to turn against their own.  The people who will suffer most from this are the business owners and workers who have to rebuild.  And all from an attack from it’s own citizens.  The pointlessness is deep.  It makes no sense whatsoever.  And the way I feel must pale in comparison to the way the people who live there feel.

Vancouver is at worst an expensive place to be.  But so much about the city is charming and wonderful.  Taking the mail run on a sea plane, or bicycling near the water.  Getting on a ferry to see what is around, or standing next to the bridge you may have seen in the closing credits of the CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.  Playing street hockey for charity, or even trying atrocious ketchup potato chips.  Walking along Canada Place and watching the planes land in the water.  There was so much to Vancouver, and so much more to see.

It’s a city that the locals are in love with.  That love runs deep, and you know it when you talk the the people who live there.  I wish Denver had that kind of love.  I hope it’s getting there.  I’d love to help get it there.

The riots can’t be simply explained away by talking about a few bad elements.  If you look in the pictures, you see all kinds of people, instigators, onlookers, encouragers, and yes, hockey fans.  They cheered, they cried, they tore apart their own city, and posed for pictures while doing it.  There were all kinds of people, and they came together first for a hockey team, and then to rip their own homes apart.  There is no explanation for it.  There is no covering it up with a few excuses, or that only a bunch of anarchists and thugs are responsible.  There were all kinds of people there.  And yes, even some true fans caught up in the moment.

You get a sense of how the reasonable fans feel now, their embarrassment over the actions of the rioters pour out on the web.  They keep apologizing, and trying to explain things.  But they shouldn’t have to.  We all know it wasn’t the majority of Vancouverites that turned downtown into a DMZ.  We don’t hold them accountable.  They feel the need explain it because they care.

In the end, it leaves a scar on the city.  They will clean up the mess, and they will rebuild.  A few stores will close down, burdened by the financial strain.  People will move on.  But they won’t forget.  They will walk by the rebuilt areas and remember what happened.  They will see the broken glass, smell the tear gas, and feel the heat from the fires.  And just like me, they will want to remember Vancouver as it was.

Game 7: Over and Out

My feelings about game 7 are a little bit tempered by the rioting that went on in Vancouver.  I will put up a separate post about that later.  For now, my thoughts are with my friends in Vancouver, like @ryanclassic, @alixiswright, and @alanah1.  I feel bad that they can’t celebrate a Cup win, and that they have to endure the aftermath on the streets.

___________________________

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/Tapeleg/status/76069193568624640"]

I tweeted that June 1st.  Hey, they don’t call it blind faith for nothing.  And that’s all I really had, faith.  It wasn’t knowledge, it wasn’t expertise, it was faith in the face of the evidence against, and defiance.  I knew the Canucks could win it, but I never believed the Bruins would lose it.

I’ve told this story before, but I’ll do it again, because it fits.  I was in Boston a little over a year ago, during the Olympics and regular season, and the talk of Bruins fans kept to leaning toward how the Bs had made a huge mistake signing Tim Thomas for as long as they had.  The consensus seemed to be that he was washed up, and the contract was a huge burden.  I told those fans to wait.  I told them you didn’t go from being a Vezina winner to washed up in one year.  Something was wrong, and it was obvious.  Thomas had hip surgery in the offseason, and came back.  A career year, and no real end in sight.

Smilling Tim Thomas

I was a sort of bandwagon fan for the Bruins throughout the playoffs.  I’d been looking for an Eastern Conference team for a long time, and kept coming back to the Bruins.  I tried to make it the Capitals, but that never really fit.  I spent eight months in Boston during the lockout, and learned to love that city (I really like Vancouver, but for all it’s beauty, it loves to take all my money).  Since the Avalanche never had a remote shot at the playoffs (when you hear fans bragging about having the second overall draft pick…), I was free to pick and choose who I wanted to win each round.   I have my own biases (as does every fan of the game), so there were a few teams that would never make it into my favorites, most notably Detroit and Vancouver.  My choices round-by-round were:

Round 1
Bruins
Capitals
Tampa Bay
Buffalo

Chicago
Nashville
Phoenix
San Jose

Round 2
Bruins
Tampa Bay

San Jose
Nashville

Round 3
Bruins
San Jose

Finals
Bruins

In the end, the thing I really wanted to see was Tim Thomas raise the Cup.  If there was a guy in the playoffs who deserved it most, it was Thomas.  While Roberto Luongo won a game or two for his team, he also was the reason they lost at times.  Thomas never lost a game for his team.  You could argue the wrap around goal scored on him eleven seconds into overtime in game two was his fault, as he was way out of position, but there were several things that went wrong on that play.  And in their losses, Thomas deserved more than he got from his teammates.  He got it in games six and seven.

Thomas was the clear Conn Smythe winner even before game seven.  I remember being at game seven in 2003 as the New Jersey Devils beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to win the Stanley Cup – which was where I learned to dislike the Devils – and watching losing goalie JS Giguere collect the Conn Smythe.  You could see how sad he was as he took his shinny trophy back to the room where his teammates sat in defeat.  It’s a great honor, but nothing like the trophy your entire team worked so hard for.  It affected Giguere and his game the next season.  He was a goalie that has always brought his emotions to the game, both positive and negative.  I didn’t want to see the same thing happen to Thomas.  Thomas always seems like calm and collected guy, until you piss him off.  I have been a huge fan of Thomas for a while, and want to see his continued success.  And even though it will never happen, he sure would look good in an Avalanche jersey. :)

Quick hits:

- Roberto Luongo is going to get blamed and called a choker.  He will, again, be called overrated.  Luongo was a great goalie through most of the playoffs.  He has a few bad games every so often, but he always springs back.  That he got scored on three times in the final game doesn’t make him a choker, it makes him human.  He has his faults, not the least of which is hubris, but he is still a good goalie.  If it weren’t for him, the Canucks would never have gotten as far as they did.  He won them games, and he lost them games.  But he won them a lot more than he lost.

- I took in the game last night at SoBo 151, Denver’s Czech hockey bar, and had a blast.  Wearing my Bruins colored Johnstown Cheifs jersey brought a few fans over to talk hockey and hang out.  Brian Engblom was there, fans of both teams were represented, and the mood was generally jovial.  The Canucks fan next to me was tense for most of the game, but wound up chatting more as the game wore down.  When the Canucks raised their sticks to the fans, the crowd, including the Bruins fans, applauded the team.  I shook a few hands and offered condolences to the Canucks fans in attendance.  The only indication of any animosity was the bottom line on the NBC broadcast, saying that rioting had started in Vancouver.  It’s what hockey should be like.

- Good for Coach Vigneault pulling Luongo near the end down by three goals.  Even if it looked like the game was over, he didn’t give up.  You have to give him credit for that.

- The handshake that happened on the ice was great, and is a wonderful tradition in hockey.  But the handshake on social media sites like twitter was just a good.  Fans that had been thrust together on opposite sides of the game were patting each other on the backs, congratulating and sympathizing, burying hatchets, and generally getting along for the first time in two weeks.

- The Canucks oscillated between looking beaten and being on the verge of taking over the game.  There were several times the Bruins let them back into the game, and they made some good plays along the way.  What took the Canucks back out of the game, over and over?  I really don’t know.

At the end of the season, it’s almost like there should be poetry.  Maybe I’ll try a crack at that tomorrow.  For the moment, wow, what a season.  October can’t come soon enough.

I am still collecting my thoughts on the rioting.  I’ll probably post about it later.

________________________________________

The Stanley Cup Dead Blog Challenge rolls on for some of us, while others have completed the first part that they committed to.  To those who made it to June 15th, congratulations. You should be proud of your work, and hopefully will continue to write, if not post, daily.  You have a good block of work that you can build on, and keeping with it is the best thing you can do for your writing and your blog.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Me, and several others, are continuing on until at least July 1st.