Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What I've Realized about the NFL in the Ray Rice Abuse Scandal

Perhaps one of the hottest topics right now is the Ray Rice suspension. For those who haven't heard or taken the time to follow what has happened, let me recap. Ray Rice was a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens and three-time Pro Bowler as well as Super Bowl champion. Up until recently, Rice has been considered a stand-up guy who never had any run-ins with the law or made any crazy, controversial statements. This all changed earlier this year when a security video at a casino showed Rice and his then fiancee, Janay Palmer, enter an elevator, apparently arguing, only to exit with him dragging her unconscious body. Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, suspended Rice for two games because it violated the player code of conduct clause (yeah, that actually exists). The incident occurred in February, and by March, Ray and Janay married by pushing up their initial wedding date. After some pressure from society about the leniency in Goodell's action or inaction, Rice was then suspended for the maximum six games but remained on the Baltimore Ravens roster. In the early morning hours of Monday, September 8, TMZ obtained the video footage from inside the elevator which depicts the physical altercation that took place between Ray and Janay. As soon as the video surfaced, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens terminated his contract.

The Beginning and the First Video
When the story first broke and the only evidence was the footage outside of the elevator, the Ravens defended Ray Rice, and head coach John Harbaugh referred to him as a stand-up guy. Many Ravens fans who didn't want to believe that their favorite player could have been caught in a domestic dispute. They wanted to believe that it must have been an accident or misunderstanding. After all, there hadn't been any indication throughout Rice's career or even in his college days that indicated that he had violent tendencies. I was listening to Damon Amendolara (@DAonCBS) on the DA Show on CBS Radio, and I agreed with him that there is nothing wrong with giving your favorite player the benefit of the doubt. For a lot of fans, this was somebody you rooted every Sunday for and watched with wonder as he blew the competition away and almost defied the odds considering his size. I don't think they were necessarily turning a blind eye, but I think those fans just wanted to hear the whole story.

For me, I felt that the facts were: 1. They entered the elevator in a heated debate. 2. Rice exited the elevator while dragging Palmer's body. Because there was a noticeable absence of panic and a need for an ambulance because his fiancee fell unconscious, given those facts, I believed the allegations of abuse. I mean, let's say I was arguing with a friend in an elevator, and if I really didn't touch her, but she lost consciousness and fell on the floor, I would be trying to do CPR, calling for an ambulance, and be in an absolute panic as to what medical condition would have put her in this state. If he had at least been concerned that the supposed love of his life was face-planted on the ground, I might have thought, maybe she tripped or something. Maybe. But he was cool as a cucumber and even kind of nudged the body with his foot. For me, I felt that it was apparent a physical altercation must have occurred inside the elevator which ended with her on the floor. This sure sounds like a domestic violence case, and this is exactly what the police concluded.

Okay, so a player that was once thought of as a good man is now charged with hitting his fiancee, which is definitely not acceptable. And when the NFL was supposed to punish Rice for violating the good conduct clause, Goodell only suspended him two games. This outraged not just sports fans but also society because domestic violence is a cultural problem. Major new sources began to cover the story and weigh in with opinions. It was ridiculous to think that Rice was only being suspended for two games. It was a joke. The NFL appeared to not care about women and did not take domestic abuse seriously. Phil Taylor's column "Message Unsent" in Sports Illustrated's August 4, 2014 issue had an excellent point that "[n]othing in Goodell's words or actions conveyed a sense that he was disgusted. Hows is anyone supposed to believe that the league truly cares about the welfare of its female fans after this? Putting players in pink cleats during Breast Cancer Awareness month suddenly seems like cynical pandering." He is exactly right. Goodell's lenient sentencing for Rice demonstrates that there is a disregard for women. And having players don the pink gear is going to look like nothing more than a farce. This is also conveyed in the NFL's treatment of its cheerleaders who are grossly underpaid and mistreated. I was surprised that in the materials I have come across regarding this topic, only Taylor's column even commented on this fact because the Raiderettes's suit was still pending at the time of this incident. The New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills, and the Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders are also filing suits, so this is by no means a problem within one organization.

These suits also highlight how the NFL devalues women. In a recent ESPN article about the lawsuit, I learned that the cheerleaders are often not paid on a regular basis and only receive a paycheck at the end of the season. Not to mention, they make far far far less than minimum wage. The Raiderettes are paid $125 per game, which roughly equates to about $5 per hour. However, in July, their pay was increased to $9 per hour. In California, the minimum wage is $12 per hour, and there is a strong push to increase it to $15 per hour. This also does not include payment for the practices three times a week. Nor does it include the other appearances they are obliged to make throughout the season. The women are also expected to pay for any damages in their uniforms. From what I've read about the equipment managers who work directly with the players, they are not responsible for the tears or stains that they may incur while on the field. The teams pay the launderers to fix those items. Further, the women are expected to keep up a team-approved appearance from their own pocket, which includes manicures, pedicures, makeup, and more. The article cites that the cheerleaders are expected to pay for their own cut and color at team-approved salons. For those men who may be reading this, an average cut and color costs anywhere between $100-$200 or even more depending on the salon. I met a man who had been a lawyer then saved enough money to pursue his dream of being a broadcast journalist. Even at the studio, the broadcasters were given the option of having their hair cut at a studio-approved salon for free or at a reduced rate (from what I understood about half of what the salon usually charged). Despite the fact that the NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, cheerleaders are the lowly dregs. What surprised me most in that article though was that the women were subjected to weigh-ins. They are docked pay if they do not keep within a certain acceptable weight limit. I thought that was banished in the days of Gloria Steinem when she went undercover in the Playboy Club. To subject the so-called Football's Fabulous Females to this, just made me sick to my stomach. It's barbaric.

However, what truly hits home to the NFL's disregard for women is the culture of abuse that keeps the cheerleaders in check. According to the ESPN article, the cheerleaders are threatened that they are disposable. If they decide to gain too much wait, miss practice, or do not follow any of the strict rules in place, they are told that it would not be difficult to find a replacement. This culture of intimidation is what is used to ensure that the women stay within the "sisterhood" of cheerleaders. They are lead to believe that they have been chosen to be part of a special sorority but that privilege can be revoked at any time. While the NFL players are given incentives to perform well through bonuses and perks on top of generous salaries, the cheerleaders are bullied into accepting whatever morsels they are given because they are replaceable. And this is where I find any words that Goodell or the NFL offer to be hollow because this culture of misogyny lies within their own organization.

Marriage and the Second Video
While I have no knowledge of the relationship between Janay Palmer and Ray Rice, I don't think that marrying him necessarily proves his innocence. There are those who point to the fact that she married Rice despite the incident as evidence that he must not be abusive because she never would have agreed to wed him in the first place. Well, I don't believe that. First, in some cases of domestic violence, the abuser may express some remorse. He may apologize and promise not to do it again and begin to treat the victim in a better manner. This is often why the victim forgives the abuser and agrees to remain with him. I do not know if that is the case with Palmer and Rice, but it is a known cycle to happen. Second, the marriage was pushed up to an earlier date. Why the rush? Well, I am not a lawyer, but I do know that husbands and wives cannot testify against each other, except under certain circumstances. I am not saying that this is what happened between Palmer and Rice, but it does make me question why the sudden urgency to marry. Weddings usually involve a lot of planning and revolve around a particular date. If there had been a set date, why move it up a few months ahead with little notice, and why at such a particular time shortly after the scandal broke?

With the release of the second video that clearly shows Rice punching Palmer twice, the second hit leaving her unconscious, it was evident that there no longer was any doubt about what happened inside that elevator. The NFL claims to have never seen the video and immediately suspended Rice from indefinitely while the Baltimore Ravens moved forward in terminating their contract with the running back. There are several things that happened at this point that I want to make a comment.

It is important to note that TMZ paid to obtain the video from inside the elevator, not the NFL. This is important because I believe that the NFL either wanted to be able to claim plausible deniability or just did not care enough to find out what really happened. Either way, it continues the idea that women and domestic abuse is not an agenda that the NFL deems notable to pursue. First of all, there had to be a video from inside the elevator. Anyone who has ever been to a casino or seen Ocean's Eleven (the George Clooney one, not the Sinatra one) or CSI: Las Vegas knows that casinos have cameras everywhere, except inside the hotel rooms. Goodell and everyone involved knew there had to be a video. There has been some back and forth as to whether or not the NFL had actually seen the videotape in question, but I don't think that is the point. The fact of the matter is that whether or not it had been seen or not, the NFL is a large enough conglomerate to have had the means to obtain the video and keep it if it had wanted to. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had the power to cancel the very popular television show Playmakers because he deemed it to be detrimental to the image of the NFL. In my opinion, if a commissioner of the NFL can do that, he can certainly obtain a security videotape from a New Jersey casino, just as TMZ did. I am also inclined to believe that even if the NFL had obtained the videotape from inside the elevator, they may not have actually watched it, so they could claim plausible deniability later. By this I mean, the NFL did not deny that a videotape ever existed, but when they claim that it had never been viewed, they can then go forward in "honestly" saying that they were unaware of the exact nature of what happened in the elevator. In this way, it makes it possible that evidence may have been sent over in a box, which then may have went purposely unopened and unexamined, so they could claim that none of this had ever surfaced in their investigation.

The last thing I want to say is that it should not have taken the second video to surface in order for any action to be taken. If the NFL really wanted to take a stance on domestic abuse, they did too little too late. Of course, the prosecutors also made a slight fumble in letting Ray Rice off so easily, but the NFL is a enormous conglomerate with far-reaching power. It is impossible to ignore it, and they know it. This is why when they could have made a statement they didn't. I don't think they had to suspend him indefinitely right off the bat, but a two-game suspension was a joke. And I say that he should not have necessarily been banned because everyone deserves a second chance. If Rice would go through counseling (and not with Ray Lewis, as he had offered), go through proper legal channels, and truly learn from his mistakes, I think it would be acceptable for him to return, granted there is no history of abuse that is uncovered. But when I look at the enormous fail combined with the culture of intimidation that they subject on their cheerleaders, I begin to realize that the NFL obviously cares little for women. If there is ever a call for feminism, this is it. We should not be living in a world where this type of behavior is acceptable. If those women against feminism really believe that inequality is a myth or that domestic violence doesn't target women, they are so obviously wrong.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why I Love Hockey

First, thank you to everyone who has followed me from the beginning. I apologize that I went AWOL for a while, but I am back. I first started this blog at the suggestion of my best friend in the world because she thought it would be a good idea to share my opinions on the internet. I'm pretty sure she just wanted me to stop boring her to death, so you have her to thank for unleashing me onto you. But I really have to thank her for encouraging me to do this because I have found such wonderful people through the blog and on Twitter. I'd like to thank John Harris, Will Moriarty, and the OT Mafia for being like one big extended family. Although I haven't been in touch for a while, none of you have been far from my thoughts. You guys are and have been the best, and I hope that you will forgive me for my absence. Also a special thank you to Chris Townsend who has been so encouraging in the few times that we have met, and I hope that I can give this blog enough momentum to hopefully be a guest on his show. What can I say, a girl can dream, can't she? That being said, let me get started.

A former schoolmate of mine posed this question to me: "Why should I care about hockey?" I responded that it wasn't any business of mine what he should or should not care about, but it got me thinking about why I love hockey. I enjoy sports, and I constantly listen to sports radio. However, of all the sports, it is hockey that has won my heart. For me it all started when I dated a guy in college (of course all roads lead back to a guy) who is an avid LA Kings fan. While we were dating, we went to many Kings games. I found Staples Center to be mesmerizing, and I was instantly sucked into the excitement. My first Kings game was probably in 2003 or so, and it was not a great time in the organization's history. However, I completely fell in love. The game is fast-paced, and it is isn't overly technical. When you compare it to football, it's amazing how little time is actually allocated to making plays, and there are so many stoppages for various reasons. I am in no way saying that football is boring, but it takes a great deal of time and energy to understand the line of scrimmage, all the fouls, etc. Hockey, you basically watch them drive at the opponents' nets, and you don't have to understand all the technicalities at your first game. So I was riveted as I watched Mike Cammalleri, Ziggy Palffy, and Alex Frolov skate across the ice. I was even fortunate enough to watch a win that first time! Palffy easily became my favorite player. While I enjoy football, hockey is just on another level for me. There is a sort of elegance to it that I cannot quite find the words to explain.

But I'm not going to lie. I love the fights! It's not as though I watch just for the fights because that is ridiculous. There is no way to predict a fight, especially in this era, but I enjoy watching two guys duke it out on the ice. I remember when George Parros was coming up with the Kings. I remember my then boyfriend telling me that he was learning to fight from the great Marty McSorley, who was an analyst for the Kings at the time. It was then that I learned about enforcers and the pests. Sean Avery is probably one of my favorites because he was a King. I know that a lot of people think he is a jerk, and he might be. I don't know. I've never met him. However, I find him hilarious. He runs his mouth like an idiot at times. In a pre-season game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Denis Gauthier hit Jeremy Roenick which led to a concussion. I believe Avery went out to retaliate, but Gauthier refused to throw down. In a post-game interview, Avery basically said that it was typical of a French-Canadian to hide behind his visor and pretend to play tough. Teammate Luc Robitaille, a Hall of Famer and most winningest left-winger, was asked to comment since he is from Montreal. Luc replied with something to the effect that this wasn't the first time Avery had said something stupid, and it wasn't going to be the last. While I'm sure there are people who find this offensive, I just had to laugh because it is exactly something that Avery would say in the first place. And the Sean Avery Rule is probably the most inventive way to be such a jerk that the league actually made a rule to prevent it from happening again. For those of you who don't know, before 2008, there was no actual parameters given when screening the goalie. Okay, I'll back up here. Obviously, the main idea of hockey is to get the puck past the goaltender and into the net. In order to make it harder for the goalie to see, the opposing team may place a player in front of him to prevent his line of vision and maybe have another player sneak the puck past and into the net. This is called screening the goalie. Despite the NHL having been formed in 1917, no one had actually decided to stand before a goaltender and wave his arms around like a maniac until Sean Avery of the New York Rangers did just that in front of future Hall-of-Famer and already legendary Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils. It was such an outrageous, yet devilishly ingenious, move that the NHL amended the rule to disallow such action. Here is a video, so you can witness Avery in all his glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec_2oKWe2Gw.

However, not all enforcers are like Avery. In fact it wasn't until much later that I learned that enforcers, or goons (like that movie with Stiffler), aren't really goons at all. For example, George Parros has a degree in economics from Princeton University. He may be a tough guy on the ice, but he is very sharp! Another Princeton alum is another former Kings player Kevin Westgarth who received a degree in psychology. He also met his wife, Meagan Cowher, daughter of famed NFL coach Bill Cowher, at the university. Westgarth also played an instrumental role for the NHLPA during the most recent lockout. Despite the fact that he is mostly known for his size and inclination to throw down on the ice, he also understands the complicated mess of a collective bargaining agreement. John Scott who most recently joined the San Jose Sharks is another example. Scott holds an electrical engineering degree from Michigan Tech. Although not exactly an enforcer but does use his size to his advantage, Douglas Murray, formerly of the San Jose Sharks and now with the Montréal Canadiens, has a degree in hotel management from Cornell. When the Sharks played an exhibition game in Germany in 2010, Murray was instrumental in setting up travel itinerary and finding hotels. Despite the fact that many people think these goons are just big morons on the ice, it isn't actually true.

Which leads me to another reason why I love hockey: the players and coaches. The majority of players seem like good people. I'm not saying that they are all angels, but there are many who have good hearts. They know they are fortunate to be making the kind of money they do and also to be living out their childhood dream. For example, when most people think of former Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella, the words "rude," "obnoxious," and "hot-tempered" most likely come to mind. What people don't know that when he isn't in coach-mode (yeah, that's a thing), is that he is a very nice person. I had the opportunity to meet him a couple years ago when he was coach of the New York Rangers, and they came to play the San Jose Sharks. He was at the Tank about 9:30 am or so, which was approximately a couple hours before his team would practice before the game. He was in shorts and an Under Armour type shirt because he was going for a run around the parking lot at the arena. There were a few fans hanging around, and he was very polite. He would autograph anything presented to him, but he asked not to take pictures. Although he didn't give a reason, one could assume, he didn't want a picture of him all sweaty in his jogging outfit to start filling the internet. He was happy to talk to anyone who approached, and he definitely was not the guy you would see in interviews. I also read an article in ESPN (see article here: http://espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/10922185/former-new-york-ranger-michael-del-zotto-stays-touch-superfan-trades-espn-magazine) about his special connection with a young boy with cerebral palsy. The New York Rangers participate in a charity organization called Garden of Dreams which helps to fulfill the wishes of children who are in need or sick. One lucky Rangers fan was able to attend a practice and game with his family. This child had struck a chord with Tortorella that they continued to keep in touch even after he was fired from the Rangers, and he even paid for an exercise machine that the child needed. Despite his salty disposition in the media, he has a very kind heart.

Another example is Scott Hartnell. He's a bit of a pest on the ice. He can deliver hard hits, but he also scores. He has a very fun-loving personality, and it makes it easy to want to root for a guy like that. While he was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, a fan noticed that he falls on his own accord a lot. As a joke, the fan started a fall-count on Twitter. Hartnell took notice, and he turned the counter into a charity. He would donate a certain amount for every fall he made that would be spread among three charities that were important to him. He encouraged fans to also donate.

Similarly, Dustin Brown of the LA Kings is known as a hard hitter. Although it is debatable how accurate hit counts are, Brown is often in the top five in the league when it comes to hits. Because of this, he decided to donate $50 for every hit he made for a season. He also challenged fans to donate a per hit amount. This campaign won him an NHL award to honor his charity work. When I hear stories like these, it makes me proud to be a hockey fan. I feel like I'm supporting the good guys. I am in no way saying that there aren't players in other sports who are like this, but I enjoy learning more about the hockey players I love to watch on the ice.

But what I love about hockey most of all is how it makes me feel. Every time I watch a game, I can almost feel the chill of the ice and the excitement in the arena when I attended my first game. Even when I receive the latest issue of The Hockey News or The Fourth Period, I feel more alive. Hockey gives me something to look forward to, and I have something of an obsession for it. I am constantly on the hunt for things I can learn about the sport, its players, its coaches, and its history. With every game, I love rooting for the teams and players. Even as I watched my Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, I could not help but feel a bit of my heart crush as I looked at the faces of Dominic Moore, Henrik Lundqvist, and Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers. As happy as I was for my team and my favorite players, a part of me ached for those who had just been defeated because I feel like I know them. Dominic Moore had a great comeback season after losing his wife just the year before to cancer. Henrik Lundqvist has been such an elite goaltender but has yet to win a Stanley Cup for such a storied franchise, and his career is edging closer to an end. Martin St. Louis is a player who went undrafted but through determination and hard work, he has become one of the greatest scorers and is still seeking another chance at glory. At the same time, I was thrilled to see how elated Marian Gaborik and Robyn Regehr were to finally win that elusive Cup. I could almost feel how ecstatic they must have felt to be able to put their lips to the Cup at long last. Several organizations gave up on Gaborik being the star they needed to win it all, but he proved them wrong. Regehr was so close when he was with the Flames in 2004 but lost and hadn't been as close to winning since. These emotions are what make me love hockey.

What sports do you love? Why do you love them? You can share them in the comments section or tweet them to me @SportingAJenda.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fighting in the NHL

This is my most favorite time of the year as the NHL has started up again. I am still wrapping my head around seeing Vinny Lecavalier as second-line center on the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is exciting to see all the new line-ups and just finally watching games that mean something. But part of my excitement is hampered by all this talk of the hot-button issue of fighting in hockey. For those who are unaware, this is a divisive topic in which there really is no middle-ground. Although I have heard persuasive arguments for both sides, I not only prefer fighting in hockey but I also believe there is a place for it.

One of the best arguments that I have heard denouncing fighting hockey is that it is unnecessary in order to win championships is from Drew Remenda, the color analyst for the San Jose Sharks. He used the Detroit Red Wings as the best example for this because they have the longest consecutive playoff appearances to date of twenty-two years. They have eleven Stanley Cup wins, and they have the lowest number of fights when compared to all other teams in the league. Remenda makes an excellent point, and he is absolutely correct when he emphasizes that the Red Wings win because of their fast-skating and incredible stick-handling. But I'd also like to point out that they also have Todd "I Almost Killed a Man" Bertuzzi on the roster. Jordin Tootoo is perhaps the hired gun of the current group, but he doesn't quite fit the image of an enforcer/pest type. And let's not forget that Darren McCarty, Brendan Shanahan, and Martin Lapointe have been big parts of the Red Wings past. However, the Red Wings are the lone team who are able to have success with this system. They are the outlier. It has become far more the norm to utilize one or two players to be the tough guy on the team. These tough guys are more like pests rather than the enforcers in the old days. These pests are intended to rile the other players, throw down the gloves when necessary, but they have to have a more dimensional game. There has been value attached to players like Brandon Prust, Steve Downie, Scott Hartnell, and Steve Ott. They aren't merely hired guns but have to be able to score or offer something other than pure fighting. Thus, fighting has decreased over the years and hasn't always had the same "I'm going to kill you" feel to every scuffle that breaks out on the ice.

One of the arguments for fighting is that fans will not watch hockey without it. Drew Remenda pointed out that hockey fans will continue to watch the games without fighting, but they would not watch it without scoring. That makes sense, but I think this slightly misses the point. Hockey fans will watch hockey because they love the game. Fighting is like the decorations on a cake. They aren't necessary in order to enjoy the cake, but they do make it just a little bit better. Not every game has a fight and that does not make the game any less enjoyable (well, unless your team suffers a heart-breaking loss or gets completely embarrassed). However, fighting can draw in new fans which is what the NHL desperately needs. I am not saying that people will not become fans of hockey because there wasn't a fight, but when there is a fight, people become far more curious about the professional sport that stops in order to allow two players to duke it out where they stand. Suddenly, hockey becomes all that more fascinating. I remember taking a friend to her first hockey game, and she was amazed, "They can just fight like that?" Yes, yes, they can, and I love it. I have also heard people who have brought a friend who has never been to a hockey game before being fascinated and thrilled by seeing a fight. And I have never heard anyone ever say, "Our team won which was great, but there was a fight. That was awful." I guess there must be some people who feel that way, but I have never met them.

An argument against fighting is that it is too dangerous. In my opinion, this is not entirely true. In the majority of fights, the players might have a few cuts and/or bruises on their face or torso but not much more. They usually do not require any extra attention from the trainers because of injuries. What has brought the issue of fighting back in the limelight is that there was a lot of heated reaction after the George Parros-Colton Orr fight in the Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens game which opened the NHL season on October 1. During the fight, Parros tripped and fell head first onto the ice and was trotted off the ice in a stretcher. It was later determined that Parros had suffered a concussion and was required to spend the night in the hospital. All of a sudden, this fight (which had been their second of the night) reignited the debate. However, I think this is a very poor example that simply focused on the outcome. Yes, the fight technically ended because Parros suffered a concussion. However, he fell. He tripped, not punched in the head until knocked unconscious nor intentionally pushed to the ice. This scenario could have also happened if he had tripped from a chip in the ice.

There is far more danger in the (legal) hard hits delivered throughout the game. Studies have proven that the punishment the bodies of hockey players take from hits is what causes concussions far more than fights. The NHL has taken leaps and bounds as compared to other leagues since Sidney Crosby suffered his concussion in 201. I would even argue that had the player not been the Christ-child of hockey, the league would most likely not have been as tenacious in its efforts to protect its players, if they pursued the matter at all. Not only have the rules changed to eliminate the more dangerous plays (i.e. hits from behind), but how players recover from concussions has also changed. Sidney Crosby was the first professional athlete to dictate his return rather than the organization or trainers to simply medically clear him and put him back on the ice. It was a few months after Crosby was cleared to play that he actually returned because he could tell from how he felt that he was not ready. Trainers and doctors have become more willing to allow players to use their own intuition in an effort to help them recover from concussions.

Furthermore, the Blake Geoffrion story also exemplifies why the game of hockey is more dangerous than fighting itself. For those who are unaware, Geoffrion was a player for the Montreal Canadiens who had been playing for its AHL affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs during the lockout when he suffered a career-ending injury. During a game against the Syracuse Crunch, Geoffrion was skating at full speed along the boards with the puck when Jean-Philippe Cote delivered a legal hip-check which flipped Geoffrion upside-down and in the process Cote accidentally fractured Geoffrion's skull with his skate. Geoffrion had to undergo brain surgery to remove fragments of his skull from his brain and have a plate inserted where the bone was broken. And this was from a legal hit, an inherent danger in hockey. Another example of how hits are more perilous than fights is the infamous Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty. During a game in the 2010-2011 season, Chara delivered a hard hit to Pacioretty which unfortunately collided him with the stanchion. He suffered from a fractured cervical vertebra and a severe concussion. The hit was deemed to warrant an interference call as well as a game misconduct, and the NHL pursued an investigation to determine if further punishment was necessary. The league ruled that there would be no further reprimand would be warranted because they did not feel Chara intended to hurt Pacioretty and that it seemed that the unfortunate injuries Pacioretty suffered was due more to where on the ice he had been. The league then moved to remove the stanchions from all arenas in an effort to avoid another incident. Although the hit was not within the rules, this injury was incurred from a hit not a fight.

Another danger of the game of hockey is blocking shots. Players sacrifice their bodies in order to stop an opponent's puck from finding the net. In a recent incident, Gregory Campbell of the Boston Bruins broke his leg blocking a slapshot during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not an injury due to fighting. Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings has been known for using his head in order to block shots. In the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings were facing the Vancouver Canucks, and in one of the games, the Kings were trying to hold their one-goal lead. Greene dove down on the ice as Alexandre Burrows took a slapshot at the net, but he dove a couple seconds too early. He was completely flat on the ice, and as he turned his head to the right to see where the puck would be coming, he realized it was coming just over his head. As any gritty hockey player would do, he raised his head to stop the puck with his face. He made a conscious decision to stop the puck at all costs because it is the playoffs. Of course, he repeated this same act in a regular season game during the 2011-2012 season, and I'm sure this will not be the last time we will see him do this. Taking slapshots to the head is far worse for your health than any fist coming at you.

To address the issue of whether or not there is a place for fighting in hockey. I believe that there is. Sometimes the fights that occur at the end of blowouts are superfluous, but the majority of fights are intended to rile up the players or to respond to a hit from the other team. Every so often, a team might start a game without energy, and the pest of the team will try to engage in a fight in order to inspire his team to have passion to play. Some critics don't feel that these fights are necessary, but I think if it gets the team going, why not? In an 82-game season, it is difficult to always be running on all-cylinders. If this is going to give you that competitive edge, do it. But where fighting really has a place is responding to the other team. Some teams are more physical than others, but an effective way to limit a team that may be bullying another is to hit back. This sends the message that if you're going to hit us, we're going to hit you back. In a game against the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller felt that Milan Lucic had been too physical in his front-of-net play which ended in Lucic crashing into Miller so intensely that he suffered a concussion. Part of the problem is that the incident reached that height because the none of the Sabres players tried to pick a fight with Lucic to send the message that his antics would not be tolerated. This incident also lead to the Sabres acquiring John Scott and Steve Ott to add toughness to the team. The Miller-Lucic incident is exactly why fighting has a place in hockey. Hits are what causes more physical harm to players than fights, and fighting can limit those more dangerous hits that can lead to injury. Lucic kept rushing the net because no one stopped him.

One last point I would like to make is that this is the beginning of the season. There will be more fights during this time of year as younger players desperate to have a spot on the roster may engage in a fight in order to attract the attention of the coach. Sometimes those players who do not necessarily have the talent to be a top goal-scorer will make up for that with the heart they show by demonstrating that they are willing to drop the gloves for the team. They will literally fight for a spot on the team. For example, Hugh Jessiman formerly of the Florida Panthers engaged in a fight in his NHL debut. He had failed to make the team at the beginning of the season but injuries warranted a call up to the majors. In an effort to make an impression on the coach as a bid to keep him on the team, he fought one of the toughest players on the opposing team, Troy Bodie. Although the ploy did not ultimately work, it demonstrates why some players will be anxious for a fight. Last season, Frazer McLaren of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tye McGinn of the Philadelphia Flyers engaged in fights to begin their debuts with their respective teams in a similar effort to show how they could be useful to their teams.

Although the topic of fighting in hockey will go one to be debated, I strongly feel that it is still necessary to the sport, and I highly enjoy it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tweets of the Week


Here is this week's edition of Tweets of the Week. Don't forget to tweet (@SportingAJenDa) or email (thesportingajenda@gmail.com) your favorites! Thank you all for another great week of laughter!

@Mike_Danton: What’s with these pro athletes that throw their careers away with murder charges? Geesh ... #Idiots #Oops #FootInMouth #NFL #NHL

@Steve_Dangle: I tried to type in all of Patrice Bergeron’s injuries into WebMD and my computer burst into flames.

@RattoCSN: Now that I know about Patrice Bergeron, I’m thinking Gregory Campbell should have been listed as day-to-day.

@richcluneshow: I’m not gay, but im kind of a lesbian. Enjoy #PrideTO week love #dicky.

@lyndsay6_16: Damn weddings! Damn them straight to hell. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t have to miss hockey for it.

@Hartsy19 (Scott Hartnell): “@cvaloppixox: @Hartsy19 you’re awesome” so is that make out sesh in ur profile pic!!! #xxx

@Patrick_ONeal: I will always remember/miss doing bench interviews w/ Bernier employing very distracting tactics, ie butt massages with goalie glove.

@mstyczen (Mike Styczen): Best twitter response ever via the @CalgaryPolice (https://twitter.com/mstyczen/status/348911260760416257/photo/1)

@BurkieYCP: Remember that time there was a major NHL trade and one of the immediate concerns was his availability for a gay pride parade?

@PinkValkyrie: Damn it! I forgot to practice my “upward facing t****” this weekend!

@JoeYerdonPHT: Why didn’t dude get hooked up with the Wile E. Coyote bat-man suit from Acme? #Skywire

@TonyMarinaro: Chris Nilan: “Patick Kane, I’ll tell ya, I banged him earlier this week”
Me: “Good for u. (Laughs) I am so immature...”

@Mendy87: We Kane. We Shaw. We Crawford. #Blackhawks @darrenrovell

@Willinthe713: In my day, you young whippernsnappers, any pitcher who intentionally walked a guy to get to Albert Pujols had to commit seppuku. Times change.

@CopaCavanna (Alan Cavanna): Yes. This went across the local #clt news :). Can’t make this up. (https://twitter.com/CopaCavanna/status/349365407808897024/photo/1)

@BaileyLAKings: Come on Patrick Kane get your boy a better camera. Disposable cameras cannot take a photo of the cup! It’s 2013 (https://twitter.com/BaileyLAKings/status/349369374093762560/photo/1)

@SoVeryAwkward: That awkward moment in Titanic when Rose says she’ll never let go, and lies. #WorstLies

7. @stephaniejoplin: why am i the only person in a group of girls who remembers to bring money? magically your wallet gets lodged in your tight a$$? funny!

6. @HarrisonMooney: Man, that Letang offer. I can’t even imagine being offered $54 million over eight years and being like, “No. F*** you. More.”

5. @shortsweetkate: White people love instagramming their food.. #fact

4. @TheAlSpencer: I’m getting sleepy damn that last tweet woke up.I guess I’ll brush my teeth Because my dream girl won’t like a funky breath.

3. @Willinthe713: Brian in Boca just called me “Judge Will” in a text asking my thought on A. Hernandez case. I’m...honored??

2. @Kato_Kaelin: I swear I did NOT live in Aaron Hernandez’s Guest House. #havemyowncouch

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tweets of the Week

I have decided to add a new weekly blog that I hope you all will enjoy. I'm going to be doing a Tweets of the Week feature in which I will put together the top seven tweets of the week. Why seven? Because there are seven days in a week... I encourage you to tweet me @SportingAJenDa or email me at thesportingajenda@gmail.com if you have something that would make the list or have found something for consideration. I hope you enjoy! Don't forget to follow these accounts because they are awesome, and let's face it, we all need to waste spend more time on Twitter. You are welcome.

Tweets that didn't quite make the list but were nonetheless enjoyable:



@TheFunkeMonkey: Fine, I just wanna see Chris Bosh devour Newman from Seinfeld. Black market dino DNA doesn’t play, brah. #Velociraptor
@wilw: The Blackhawks power play makes me feel like I’m watching my Kings. Thanks, guys. You don’t need to do that, and I appreciate it.
@DownGoesBrown: This is playoff hockey why do the teams keep scoring goals I’m so confused.
@HockeyBroph: Can you imagine Crawford and Reimer tryimg to High 5 each other?
@HalfordPHT: No, Torts doesn’t fit Canucks “image”. But their old intro vid had Raymond ordering sushi to the tune of a pan flute, so maybe change is OK.
@mayorNHL: Rumored Sutter quotes following the surgery... Coach-What was the doctor’s name?... “None of your business, this isn’t Grey’s Anatomy.”
@BaileyLAKings: Why does lebron call everyone dog. That is an insult... Cats are cool
This tweet really should have have been Tweet 7.5: @DonCherryParody: YKNOW I BET KANE LIKES BEATIN UP THE BROOINS BECAUSE THEIR SWEATERS ARE THE SAME COLOURS AS TAXI CABS
7. @twolinepass: the pats signed tebow so hernandez would have access to a white bronco. anyway have fun on twitter today folks #staysafe #stayhydrated
6. @strombone1: I'M WILLING TO STAY, BE THE BACKUP AND PLAY FOR FREE IF THEY LET ME SIT IN AT EVERY TORTS PRESSER! #MAN #MYTH #LEGEND
In case you need some context, this tweet is from Roberto Luongo's account.
5.@SportsHutch: In honor of Carlos Lee's retirement, I am currently eating nachos and chili cheese dogs for lunch, @SeanCablinasian
4.@TheFunkeMonkey: @TravisRodgers Will you please ask Alex Morgan how its possible that wombat guy is allowed to play on a women's team? Thanks.
3. @bigmeanjohn: @BryanBenway i wish aaron hernandez would give my ex wife a ride sometime...
2. @PinkValkyrie: I'm gonna be such a girl this morning so remind me later to crack open a beer, watch some sports, and scratch my ass. #XX
I love this girl. She and I are so similar. We like and do the girly things but cannot get enough of sports! Don't forget to give her a follow!
1. @TulsaNightCalls: @SportingAJenDa started a FFl u in?
Thank you, Robyn, for remembering me and inviting me to play in your fantasy league. That totally made my week!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Hockey Geek's Guide to the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals

For hockey fans, this is one of the most exciting times of the season. The Stanley Cup Finals are finally here! This is a bittersweet moment as some of the best hockey is played at this time, but it also marks the long wait for September when the season starts up again. For NHL fans this year's Stanley Cup matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins is special because it marks the first Original Six* matchup since 1979, or at least that is how Gary Bettman would like fans to feel. What also makes this year's Stanley Cup winner, regardless of who it is, different from the last nine years is that it will NOT be a new team. That is correct. There has been a new winning team drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup for the last nine years, but that is about to end. The Chicago Blackhawks won back in 2010 when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Boston Bruins won it the following year as they took down the 2011 President's Trophy** team, Vancouver Canucks. Coincidentally, the Bruins will again be facing another President's Trophy team as the Chicago Blackhawks went on their historic point streak by not losing a game in regulation for 24 games during the regular season. Both teams have changed dramatically since they last won, so let's take a look at how they have changed and whatever really interesting but totally useless factoids we can find.

Boston Bruins
New Additions:
Jaromir Jagr: The future hall-of-famer was acquired by the Bruins from the Dallas Stars for prospects Lane McDermid and Cody Payne along with a conditional pick in the 2013 draft at this year's trade deadline.
Wade Redden: Another 2013 trade deadline acquisition, the St. Louis Blues traded for a pick at this year's draft.
Kaspars Daugavins: He was claimed off waivers from the Ottawa Senators at the end of March of this season. He is now taking the place of Gregory Campbell since his injury.

Who Has Left:
Mark Recchi: The Recchin' Ball retired after winning his third Stanley Cup in 2011.
Michael Ryder: The right-winger signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars after winning the Cup but has since been traded to the Montreal Canadiens.
Tomas Kaberle: Here is an intriguing signing. The Bruins traded for Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who received prospect Joe Colborne, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft. After winning the Cup, Kaberle signed with the Carolina Hurricanes who traded him to the Montreal Canadiens and is rumored to be a compliancy buyout.
Shane Hnidy: The defenseman quietly retired after fifteen years in the league.
Tim Thomas: This is perhaps the most surprising change to the Bruins roster. The goaltender announced that he would take the 2012-2013 season off but would return the following season. Perhaps he was avoiding the lockout or disliked how the Bruins intervened with his political FaceBook statuses.*** In any case, his rights were traded to the New York Islanders during the shortened 2013 season.

The Youngsters:
Torey Krug: The undrafted defenseman has been clutch for the Bruins and has already notched six points in nine games during his first postseason.
Dougie Hamilton: The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Matt Bartkowski: The 190th pick overall in the 2008 draft taken by the Florida Panthers but traded along with Dennis Seidenberg in 2010 to the Bruins for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller, and a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. He was also a piece in proposal the Bruins had made to the Calgary Flames for Jarome Iginla at the 2013 trade deadline, which was kiboshed when Iggy decided to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Scoring Scenario:
-David Krejci had 23 points in the 2011 postseason. He already has 21 points.
-Nathan Horton notched 17 points during the last Stanley Cup bid and has tied that before entering this year's Finals series.
-Zdeno Chara posted nine points in 2011 and has exceeded that to net eleven points.
-Milan Lucic had twelve points in the last Cup run and already has thirteen points.
-The rookie Torey Krug has an impressive six points in nine games.
-Daniel Paille notched six points in the 2011 postseason and will enter this series with five.
-Shawn Thornton has upped his game since the last run in which he only had a point. He now has four.

Impressive (but Useless) Factoids:
-Nathan Horton leads the B's with two goals, one each in the 2010-201 and the 2011-2012 seasons, against goaltender Corey Crawford. Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, and Chris Kelly each have a goal.
-Chris Bourque is the son of hall-of-famer Ray Bourque.
-This will be Chris Kelly's third Finals appearance in his career. He played in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals with the Ottawa Senators in which they lost to Anaheim Ducks before winning with the Bruins in 2011. Therefore, if the Bruins win it again, he will be two for three.
-Jaromir Jagr has won the Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. The second Cup was coincidentally against the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Bruins win it again, Jagr will be three for three.
-Jay Pandolfo also has won the Stanley Cup twice but with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and 2003. He was also a member of the 2001 team that made it to the finals but lost. This could also be Pandolfo's third win, but he would be three for four.
-Shawn Thornton was a member of the 2007 Anaheim Ducks team that defeated Chris Kelly and the Ottawa Senators to win the Stanley Cup before winning for a second time with the Bruins in 2011. Amazingly, this tough guy would also be three for three like Jagr should the Bruins win.
-Andrew Ference has a single appearance in the Finals in 2004 with the Calgary Flames before winning for the first time with the Bruins in 2011.
-Wade Redden has never won the Cup but was on the Ottawa Senators team with Chris Kelly that lost to Shawn Thornton and the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

 Chicago Blackhawks
New Additions:
Michal Frolik: The Blackhawks traded Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan to the Florida Panthers for goaltender Alexander Salak and Michal Frolik during the 2010-2011 season.
Johnny Oduya: The Winnipeg Jets traded Oduya for second and third round picks in the 2013 draft at the 2011-2012 trade deadline.
Michal Rozsival: The defenseman signed with the team before the lockout at a free agent.
Daniel Carcillo: The left-winger signed as a free agent in 2011 and in 2012 was awarded a contract extension to play through next season.
Sheldon Brookbank: Brookbank signed as free agent in 2012.
Ray Emery: The backup goaltender signed in 2011.
Viktor Stalberg: The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Stalberg along with Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis for Kris Versteeg and prospect Bill Sweatt.
Michal Handzus: The San Jose Sharks traded the veteran for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft at this year's trade deadline. I would also like to make a special note that he was very impressive against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals. The Lokomotiv tragedy**** in which he lost many friends really affected him and his game, and it was not until that series that the old Hands of Zus came out. If any player would stand out against my favorite him, I am happy for Zus and wish him the best of luck.
Jamie Kompon: After winning the Cup with the Los Angeles Kings, the assistant head coach did not have his contract renewed and joined the Blackhawks. He spent six seasons with the Kings and was a large part of the success of its defense and penalty kill. Chicago's penalty kill has vastly improved, and I give the majority of the credit to Kompon.

Who Has Left:
Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and Akim Aliu were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) for first- and second-round picks in the 2010 draft, Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, and Jeremy Morin after winning the Stanley Cup. This huge multi-player transaction occurred because the Blackhawks had a major salary cap crisis following their win.
Kris Versteeg and prospect Bill Sweatt were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico, and Philippe Paradis at the end of the 2010 postseason.
Antti Niemi: The young goaltender who outplayed Michael Leighton of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup win signed with the San Jose Sharks and was a Vezina Trophy***** candidate for the 2013 season.
Troy Brouwer: The defenseman was traded to the Washington Capitals in 2011 for a first-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Tomas Kopecky: His rights were traded to the Florida Panthers in 2011 for a seventh-round pick in the 2012 or 2013 draft.
Andrew Ladd: Immediately after winning the Cup, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) for Ivan Vishnevksiy, not to be confused with Visnovski, and a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Brian Campbell: On the draft floor of the first day of the 2010 draft, those watching the draft watched the agent for the defenseman on the cell phone working a deal that sent Campbell to the Florida Panthers for Rostislav Olesz.
John Madden: The non-football-related veteran signed with the Minnesota Wild but retired in 2012.
Jordan Hendry: After suffering a significant injury in the 2010-2011 season, Hendry signed with the Anaheim Ducks but has since remained in the AHL.******
Adam Burish: After winning the Cup, Burish signed with the Dallas Stars as a free agent. He now plays for the San Jose Sharks.
Colin Fraser: The center was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft a the conclusion of the Stanley Cup win. The Oilers then traded Fraser along with a seventh-round draft pick in the 2012 draft to the Los Angeles Kings in 2011 for veteran Ryan Smyth. Despite my initial outrage at this deal, the Kings won the Cup (so Fraser's second) in 2012, so all is forgiven, because I know Dean Lombardi really cares.
Nick Boyton: The veteran was claimed off waivers by the Flyers in 2011 but has since retired.
Cristobal Huet: Unable to find a position in the NHL, he went to play overseas following the Stanley Cup win.

The Youngsters:
Andrew Shaw: The 139th overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Brandon Saad: The 43rd overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Marcus Kruger: The 149th overall pick of the 2009 draft.
Nick Leddy: The 16th pick overall in the 2009 draft by the Minnesota Wild. In 2010, the Wild traded Kim Johnsson and the rights to Leddy for Cam Barker.
Brandon Bollig: An undrafted player who provides a physical aspect to the Blackhawk's game.

Scoring:
-Bryan Bickell had one point in 2010 but has sky-rocketed in production this postseason with thirteen points already
-Marian Hossa notched fifteen points in the last Cup run and already has fourteen before this series begins.
-The top three in points in 2010 were Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp. This year the top three in points are Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane. Despite the changes that this club has undergone, the core has remained intact and on top.

Impressive (but Useless) Factoids:
-Patrick Kane is the only Chicago Blackhawk to have scored a goal on Tukka Rask. It was during the 2009-2010 season.
-Daniel Carcillo last played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers against the Blackhawks. This will be his second appearance in four years, and if Chicago wins, he will have one win in two tries.
-Ray Emery was the goaltender in the Stanley Cup Finals for the Ottawa Senators in 2007. With a Stanley Cup win, he will be one for two.
-Marian Hossa has made four Stanley Cup appearances in the last six years. He first made it to the Finals in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Penguins who lost to the Detroit Red Wings. In 2009, he played for the Detroit Red Wings who lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Finally, in 2010, after three consecutive years, Hossa finally hoisted the Cup with the Blackhawks. If Chicago win again, he will be two for four.
-Although the Los Angeles Kings will not be vying for a back-to-back win, assistant coach Jamie Kompon is. After winning it all with the Kings last season, he will be back at it this year.

Preview of the Matchup
The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks present a matchup of a team of bigger, tougher, and slightly older players against a group of faster, puck-dazzling, slightly younger players. If Chicago can set the fast-skating pace that they love, I think the Bruins might be a glide too slow to keep up. However, the Bruins can deliver some hard hits that can definitely slow the game down. The Blackhawks also have to watch out if Zdeno Chara decides to snipe because we have all seen his All-Star slap shot clocking in at 108.8 mph. Ouch! I think Tukka Rask might be the better goaltender of the two, but I don't see Corey Crawford having a meltdown to become a Tomas Vokoun or a Marc-Andre Fleury, no offense. Rask will have the tougher task of stopping the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and, surprisingly, Bryan Bickell. I am interested to see if Patrice Bergeron will entice one of the Blackhawks to a taste of his hand.******* Both the United Center, where the Blackhawks play, and the TD Bank Garden, where the Bruins play, can be very intimidating places to play. Stealing a road game is going to be difficult. I think the Blackhawks will win Game One because it will be the opening to the series in their house. Game 2 will be all that more important because if the Bruins can steal the second game, I'm not sure if the Blackhawks can steal one at the Garden. I give a slight edge to the Bruins but slightly. Can't wait for Wednesday night for game one!!!

*Orginal Six: Considered the first six teams that made up the NHL. These teams include the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens (yes, I spelled that correctly), New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

**The President's Trophy is awarded to the team with the best regular season record in the NHL.

***The first incident involved Tim Thomas posting on his FaceBook page that he had declined to make the traditional White House trip the Stanley Cup winning team makes because he did not believe that the government was leading the country in the right direction. This spurred a lot of discussion as to whether this was professional or not and why he even posted that particular statement in the first place. The second incident involved his posting that he was in agreement with the values of the owners of Chick-fil-A who did not support gay marriage. This was interesting because of the close affiliation between the NHL and the YouCanPlay Project, an advocacy group for gay and LGBT athletes. And of course, this spurred numerous conversations on whether people were pro- or anti-chicken sandwiches. In both cases, the Boston Bruins issued statements that they did not support his statements and that it should not reflect the team's beliefs. I believe there were also some reprimands for Thomas's little rants.

****On September 7, 2011, the airplane transporting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) crashed. There were no survivors. The team included several former NHL players. It is one of the great tragedies in sports history.

*****The Vezina Trophy is given to the goaltender who plays the position best in the league. It is named after Georges Vezina.

******The American Hockey League, the minor league affiliate of the NHL.

*******In Game One of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins engaged in an altercation with Alexandre Burrows. The two exchanged words, and at one point, Bergeron put his hand up to the face of Burrows. Bergeron claims that Burrows intentionally bit him, while Burrows defends that the bite was more incidental contact because of the situation. The NHL did not suspend Burrows for the incident because they could not cite intention, and he was allowed to continue the series.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Few Notes on Round Two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs

I am so excited as the NHL heads into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year's match-ups are quite intriguing. There are two sets of Original Six match-ups, two California power houses, and rhyming teams.

Western Conference

1. Chicago Blackhawks v. 7. Detroit Red Wings
Here is the Original Six match-up for the Western Conference who are also division rivals. The Chicago Blackhawks dominated the league as not only won the President's Trophy but they also did not allow a single regulation loss in twenty-four games, a first in NHL history. They appear to be the team to beat in the West, and until the Pittsburgh Penguins had their trade deadline frenzy, most experts were already giving the Cup to Chicago. With the offensive power this team has coupled with Crawford's solid performances in net, they will be a very difficult team to beat. All I know is that Marian Hossa was probably praying for Detroit to win because he did not want to be seeing Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks, after what happened last year which also coincidentally was in round two...

Detroit has had its struggles throughout the season, and this team is not the usual stronghold that we are used to since the losses of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. However, what the Wings have going for them is that they still have the veterans like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Todd Bertuzzi to name a few who have the experience and talent to help this team win. And if goaltender Jimmy Howard can keep top form, the Wings will make the Blackhawks work to get those wins. Almost all the experts had the Anaheim Ducks wiping the floor with Detroit but when that didn't happen and Detroit won game seven at the Pond, Detroit has its mojo going while the Hawks have been sitting around for a week. Yes, mojo is the technical term.

I would also like to point out that these two teams will be seeing a lot less of each other with realignment in effect for next season. Chicago and Detroit will no longer be in the same division and will only meet twice in the regular season but do have potential for post-season match-ups. These two teams have a long history together, and as an NHL fan, it is bittersweet to see these two battle out far less during the season. I realize that the playoffs are what truly make a rivalry, but the regular season drama is also a lot of fun.

5. Los Angeles Kings v. 6. San Jose Sharks
Here is another pair of division rivals, but they will continue to remain in the same division even when realignment takes effect. What is interesting here is that California hockey is becoming an NHL power house. This year all three California teams (Anaheim Ducks also made the post-season) made the cut-off, which incidentally is the same number of Canadian teams that made it as well. However, as we enter round two, only one Canadian team, the Ottawa Senators remains.

These two teams last faced each other in the 2011 post-season in which the Sharks beat the Kings in four games to two in the first round. Both teams have changed remarkably since then, and notably Los Angeles has won the Stanley Cup. These two teams always battle it out, and I would not be surprised if this goes the full seven games. They are often split the season and go 3-3 in their series, but the playoffs are always different. San Jose is coming off a huge series in which they swept the Vancouver Canucks, but the Kings also won their last four games in their series against the St. Louis Blues. Both teams have excellent goaltenders. Antti Niemi of the Sharks has been superb and is a Vezina finalist this year, and Jonathan Quick was the Conn Smythe winner last year with the Kings. The Kings have had some offensive woes in their series against the Blues, but St. Louis is also a complete shut-down defense which may account for that. However, if the Kings cannot find their offensive swagger, the Sharks will easily defeat them. I fully expect Kyle Clifford of the Kings throw-down with Raffi Torres of the Sharks during this series and will be completely disappointed if this does not happen.

Eastern Conference

1. Pittsburgh Penguins v. 7. Ottawa Senators
Just like the Western Conference, we see another one seed playing the seventh seed. This is the rhyming match-up. The Pens versus the Sens. I'm going to be brutally honest here. I am not a huge fan of the Senators, so I am not that familiar with the team. I think Pittsburgh will win this series, but I also believe that they have to win this series. After making the moves to acquire Jussi Jokinen of the Carolina Hurricanes, Douglas Murray of the San Jose Sharks, Brenden Morrow of the Dallas Stars, and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, the Pens absolutely have to make it to the finals in order to even begin to think that all that work at the trade deadline was worth it. I am pretty sure heads will roll in the Penguins organization if the Sens take them down. So, I'm sorry Canada, but this is probably not going to be your year... again...

However, the Penguins are going to have to work to beat the Senators. There has been some issue with goaltending as Marc-Andre Fleury has not been what he was when the Penguins last won the Cup in 2009. In fact, head coach Dan Bylsma pulled him in favor of Tomas Vokoun during the last series and is expected to start against Ottawa. However, Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson described how his complex approach to outwitting Vokoun, "You've almost got to make him think that you think that I think what he thinks." If he can do that, Alfie is the smartest hockey player out there, hands down. Despite my doubts in the talent of Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, he has been stellar. I always thought of him as an average goaltender, but something clicked for him when he was traded from the St. Louis Blues to the Ottawa Senators (oddly enough Brian Elliott who was the other player in that trade also went on to outplay his contract). When Anderson faced the New York Rangers in the playoffs last year, I thought he elevated his game because he was up against Henrik Lundqvist, last year's Vezina winner. It is almost like in tennis when you play someone who is better than you. You feed off of his or her level of play and begin to elevate your own game. So I thought Anderson was a bit of a flash in the pan, but he has been able to surprise. If he can continue to keep in his top form, despite Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, James Neal, and company, the Senators have more than a fighting chance.

4. Boston Bruins v. 6. New York Rangers
Here is the other Original Six match-up. I am not entirely sure what to expect. If the Rangers can carry the momentum from their series agains the Washington Capitals, this will probably be over pretty quickly. However, the Rangers sometimes seem to lose motivation when it counts the most and the Boston Bruins will capitalize, and this series could be going to a game seven. Both of these teams have had game sevens in their last series that took place Monday night (5/13), so neither team has the benefit of extra rest. However, the Boston Bruins will not be able to leave Toronto until Tuesday morning, so they have the slightest disadvantage of not being able to get back to work as quickly as the New York Rangers. I do not think that this is a huge problem in terms of preparation or any real disadvantage, but it could possibly be a mental block for the players. I believe this series will be physical and nasty. The Mighty Bs play a tough game, but head coach John Tortorella prides himself on making the Rangers a team of grinders, and no, he isn't making a lunch order. The Rangers have slightly more pressure to win because of the acquisitions of Rick Nash, Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard, and Derek Dorsett. I cannot wait for this series to start! By the way, welcome back to the playoffs Rick Nash!