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Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Playing Politics With Puck

Does not go over well with our neighbors in the Great White North:

Not that anyone thought December politicking was a good idea to begin with, but to add insult to injury, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe chose to announce that in his opinion, La Belle Province should ice its own team at international hockey competitions.

This is, of course, impossible as current International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) rules allow for just one team per country for tournaments such as the World Championships and the Olympics.

Quebec would have to separate from Canada to earn independent team status.

Is there any group in the world more whiny than the Quebecois? I guess that's what happens when you combine French with Canadian. As usual, the rest of the country is not particularly amused:

Technicalities aside, Duceppe's announcement was the political equivalent of a four-year-old screaming at the top of his lungs for attention--and like exhausted parents we all stood up and ran to see what he wanted this time.

In other words, we took the bait, our ensuing national fury evidence that the separatist was far off-side with his declaration.

Politicize anything, but leave our hockey alone, was the resounding cry from across the country.

Besides, with an election looming, Canadians have more important things to focus on:

So let's all agree that we need to set some rules for election decorum. Let's leave hockey in the political neutral zone and focus on important issues such as the economy, health care, education, and the frightening fact that Stephen Harper's hair never, EVER, moves.

You might be able to keep hockey out of politics, but you'll never be able to keep out hair. When it comes to Canadian politics, I always go with the guy with the better mullet.

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Friday, November 25, 2005
Puck In The Mouth: It Hurts On So Many Levels

If you tempt fate often enough, it's inevitable that you'll end up getting kicked in the teeth. Or taking a hockey puck there.

A while back, the face shield on my hockey helmet broke. I've been wearing a full-shield ever since I received a stick induced gash on my face playing roller hockey about seven years ago. A lot of blood, a trip to the emergency room, stitches, and a scar were enough to convince me that playing without a full-shield was fool hardy. So I planned to replace my recently broken shield at the soonest available opportunity. Soonest available opportunity being whenever I got around to ordering a replacement on the internet. In the meantime, I played a few times sans shield without incident.

I happened to mention this to JB the other day and he advised me that he had an extra shield available that he was not planning on using. Yesterday, he handed off said shield to me at our Thanksgiving gathering. By the time we got home last night I was exhausted after a grueling day of eating, drinking, and being merry. My plans called for a little pick up hockey on Friday morning to work off the rust built up after not skating for a few weeks due to my recent traveling. Before I hit the sack last night, I briefly considered the idea of installing the shield. Nah, I thought, I'll skate without one tomorrow and put it on before my game on Sunday.

So this morning it goes down like this. Guy on the other team is in the corner with the puck. I skate toward him with my stick extended so I can block any attempted pass. He does attempt to pass and I do block it with my stick. Actually it was more of a deflection with the puck leaving the ice and drilling me on the upper lip.

Pain. Blood. Teeth? At first, I thought I lost my front teeth. But I couldn't feel 'em loose in my mouth and I couldn't see 'em on the ice either. I went to the bench and grabbed a towel to stem the flow of blood. One of the other guys who was playing was a doctor. He checked my mouth and recommended that I get stitches. And see a dentist. My teeth weren't gone. But a few had been pushed further back in my mouth by the impact of the hard rubber biscuit. And one had been fractured.

The nice thing about the emergency room in the morning is that you don't have to deal with the usual late night suspects or the long wait times. I was able to get right in and received excellent care from the crew at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Wife and son met me there and Nathaniel was quite interested in watching dad get sutured up.

After being injected with enough Novocain to make an elephant comfortably numb, I received three stitches on the outside of the lip and five on the inside. And a prescription for Percocet. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get the good stuff that got Favre hooked (Vicodin), but, after having your upper lip rearranged by a hockey puck, any painkiller is a good painkiller.

Target wasn't particularly crowded considering it's "Black Friday" (a light snowfall may have dampened shoppers enthusiasm) and I was able to score my Perc without undue hassle. I also picked up "The Simpson's" Season Six DVD since it was priced at a mere eighteen bones and I figured I might have significant couch time over the next few days. My appearance drew more than few odd stares at Target, enough so that I was tempted to go John Merrick on them and start screaming, "I am not an animal! I am a human being! man!"

I'm at home now and the 'Cain is beginning to wear off. It'll soon be time to start riding the Perc Train. More later (including a pic) if time and consciousness permits.


Sunday, November 06, 2005
Breaking News: Underage College Kids Drinking

Local television news station Fox 9 lead off tonight's 9pm newscast with a shocking undercover expose that showed Gopher hockey players under the age of twenty-one drinking ALCOHOL at a Dinkytown watering hole. Shocked, shocked I am that the lads would dare engage in such behavior.

College students drinking illegally? Next thing you're going to tell me that they're also having casual sex!

Memo to Channel 9: I have a hunch that you would find similar behavior among athletes at just about ANY college in the land. In fact, I KNOW that it's common at many other WCHA schools. I won't name any names, but if this such a BIG STORY in your eyes, you might want to take a drive up Interstate 35 some day.

Memo to the Vikings: Thanks again guys. Your ill-advised actions have now brought every other local sports team into the glare of the media moral spotlight. Let's hope the Timberwolves are keeping a low profile.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The Pond Would Be Good For You

Bill e-mails to alert us to the announcement of the first ever U.S. Pond Hockey Championships:

Minnesota hockey fanatics are hoping Mother Nature will send a cold blast their way in January so they can pull off the inaugural U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.
On a balmy fall morning Tuesday, two hockey-playing Minnesota governors - one current and one past - were on hand as organizers described the three-day event set for Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

It's being billed as America's largest outdoor pond hockey tournament.

"While we all enjoy the pristine venues of professional, high school and college hockey these days, there's something to be said for the elements, the unnatural, the unpredictable and irregular pattern of pond hockey," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was flanked by former Gov. Wendell Anderson, a member of the 1956 Olympic team that won the silver medal.

The tournament, set for Jan. 20-22, will feature up to 96 men's and women's teams of four people each. They'll play on 24 rinks shoveled off prior to the games by the two teams on deck.

Winners of three divisions will have their names etched on a giant golden shovel.

No word on whether they considered calling it the "Ralphie Classic" after the state's dishonorary hockey commissioner. If you want more information on the event you can check out the official site. I definitely plan on lacing 'em up for this baby. It could be interesting if the guy who claims to enjoy chasing people around with his big stick finds a team to play on as well.

Just the latest example that demonstrates that Minnesota is indeed the State of Hockey.


Friday, September 30, 2005
Start Planning Your Riot Now

Kessel Impressing Teammates at Minnesota:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby. The University of Minnesota has Phil Kessel.

Crosby has drawn comparisons to countrymen Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, while many consider Kessel the top American prospect since Mike Modano.

"He's the real deal," Gophers teammate Gino Guyer said. "He gets up and down the ice, he's a good playmaker and he has a really heavy shot."

The Gophers won an intense recruiting battle for Kessel, who chose Minnesota over Wisconsin, located in his hometown of Madison.

That really makes it all the sweeter for Gopher puck fans, doesn't it?

The 6-foot, 190-pound forward played the last two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

He led the Under-18 team in goals (52), assists (46) and points (98) last season on his way to breaking the team record for goals in a season.

In two seasons with the bantams in Madison before he left for Ann Arbor, Kessel scored 289 goals in 157 games.

That's what you call Talent with a capital T.

Lucia has been hesitant to heap praise on a freshman, but one of the things that drew Kessel to Minnesota is the fact that he's one of a handful of stellar freshmen in this class. He joins goalie Jeff Frazee and forwards Blake Wheeler and Ryan Stoa as perhaps the best recruiting class in the nation.

To paraphrase Bob Johnson: It's a great year for hockey. Gopher hockey, that is.


Saturday, July 30, 2005
Scouting 'Em Out

In January of 2003 I had a chance to watch then fifteen year old Sydney Crosby play hockey and I opined:

Perhaps even more impressive than his five points were a couple of passes he made, including a back-handed cross-ice saucer pass that had NHL written all over it. Remember this kid's name. You might be hearing it a lot in the future.

Two and half years later, guess who was the #1 pick in today's NHL draft?

As expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Crosby first overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft Saturday afternoon in Ottawa.

Crosby, who turns 18 on Aug. 7, is the most anticipated hockey prospect in years. The prodigious forward was a star with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League during the past two seasons.

One other draft note: two Minnesota kids were taken in the first round today (three if you count Brian Lee who hails from Fargo and played at Moorhead). Anyone want to guess how many Colorado natives went that early?


Thursday, June 09, 2005
Lambert Lambeau Field Finally Being Put To Good Use

Shawn e-mails to alert us to breaking news about Hockey at Lambeau Field:

Lambeau Field will be the site of a college hockey game next February, the team announced today. The historic field will be converted into an outdoor ice hockey stadium for the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, featuring the Wisconsin Badgers skating against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

"The Packers organization is honored to join two outstanding collegiate hockey programs in creating a new chapter in the history of Lambeau Field," said John Jones, Packers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. "Wisconsin and Ohio State have produced many great football players for the Packers and the NFL. Now the Badger and Buckeye hockey players get a chance to compete on Lambeau Field."

The game is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Feb. 11, 2006.

"Two outstanding collegiate hockey programs" is a bit over the top, don't you think? We're talking about THE Ohio State here. At last spring's NCAA Regional at Mariucci, THE Ohio State hockey team's appearance generated such excitement on campus that at least eleven of the university's 58,000 some students actually bothered to make the trip. The school does not exactly have a rich hockey tradition by any means.

"Our goal was to create special events like this at Lambeau Field ever since the stadium renovation was completed nearly two years ago," Jones said. "The Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic will bring a mid-winter economic boost to the Green Bay area as we showcase collegiate hockey on football's hallowed ground.

"The game itself will be the highlight of a weekend of ice-related activities at Lambeau," Jones said. "We're currently exploring a number of options for the Frozen Tundra weekend. We're considering skills clinics for youth hockey players and other possibilities for the general public." The game will also serve as the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Benefit Game, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the Hall of Fame.

I'm guessing the extent of the "ice-related activities" in Green Bay in February will be ice fishing and putting ice in the many thousands of drinks sure to be consumed.

Jones adds that a February hockey game at the renovated stadium is a natural fit. "Lambeau Field will be buzzing with activity, much like Packers game days," Jones said. "We're expecting a real festival atmosphere. Fans can enjoy the food and refreshments at the concessions stands, while taking in the fast-paced action on the ice."

Yes, the fans certainly will be "buzzing" as they are at Packer games. What the hell is a "real festival atmosphere" anyway? This is supposed to be college hockey not a Phish concert.

The portable rink will be set up on the north half of Lambeau Field. Total seating of 38,000-40,000 is expected for the game, including indoor club seats and private boxes. Portable bleachers will be placed on the field at the south end of the rink.

40K at an outdoor college hockey game? Even though half the crowd is likely to be soused and confused Packer fans bellowing, "Where's Bret Favre?", that could be a lot of fun. Sigh. If only we had a competent Hockey Commissioner, Minnesotans might be able to enjoy such a contest too. Enough is enough, Governor Pawlenty. It's time for new blood.


Friday, April 08, 2005
The Wisdom of Crowds?

James Surowiecki has written an excellent book called, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. It's a good read and I agree with most of Surowiecki's arguments that groups of diverse, informed people are better decision makers and predictors of future outcomes than individual "experts." However, there is always an exception to every rule.

And this exception is the voters in our poll to pick the next NCAA college hockey champion. 33% of those who voted picked Minnesota. The Gophers fell to North Dakota 4-2 last night. 27% went with Colorado College, which lost to Denver 6-2 yesterday. 16% took the Denver Pioneers and 13% the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, who will face off on Saturday in the title game.

Only three out of ten still have a chance to be right. Not exactly confidence inspiring numbers.

Then there are the Badger fans. This poll started over two weeks ago, the day before the NCAA Regionals began. At that time Wisconsin was still alive. One day later they lost to Michigan and were eliminated from post-season play. And yet, the votes for Wisconsin continued to roll in, as recently as yesterday. Cheeseheads.

For the record, I picked Colorado College and North Dakota to meet in the championship game. I probably underestimated just how good Denver is, but I don't think too many people, even die hard Sioux fans, thought that UND would be playing for all the marbles on Saturday night. It should be a great game, with both teams playing their best hockey of the year. My heart says North Dakota, but my head says that the Pioneers will repeat in a close one. Let's go with 3-2 Denver, very possibly in OT.


Sunday, March 27, 2005
Enter The Condor

Sixteen college hockey teams entered the weekend hoping to win a place in the Frozen Four in Columbus on April 7th and 9th. Five teams from the WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association) qualified for the NCAA playoffs. It was my opinion that they were the best teams in the country and that the WCHA was easily the best conference in college hockey.

But in my wildest dreams I would not have imagined it possible that we'd see an all-WCHA Frozen Four. I did predict that Denver, Colorado College, and North Dakota would win their regionals, and despite some rough spots, they did just that. All in all I was ten up and two down on my regional picks, missing the Cornell/Ohio State game (a game that OSU probably deserved to win) and the Minnesota Gophers earning a trip to Columbus.

Despite that fact that they would be playing on home ice, I had my doubts about the Gophers. One of my main concerns was their ability to put the bisket in the basket, which turned out to be a well founded worry as the Gophers scored all of three goals over the weekend. They faced tough goalies in both games and needed overtime to best Maine 1-0 on Saturday and Cornell 2-1 on Sunday.

I attended Saturday's game against Maine, but was not able to make use of my tickets on Sunday (it was Easter after all). Fortunately my in-laws have a big screen television and, despite the fact they are not hockey fans, they didn't mind me watching the game (except perhaps after my joyous screaming after the first Gopher goal rudely roused my father-in-law from his nap).

Cornell employed a rope and dope style of hockey, playing a conservative, defensive game and relying on their excellent goalkeeper, David McKee. McKee turned away the Gophers time after time and late in the second period the Big Red took advantage of a Gopher breakdown to score a short handed goal, which briefly gave them a 1-0 lead. The Gophers tied it less than two minutes later when Andy Sertich swept a backhander past McKee. That was the end of the scoring in regulation.

Overtime hockey is the best and worst of times for a fan. The tension is incredible and the fact that at any moment you could experience the highest of highs or the lowest of lows is gut wrenching. Gopher fans were lucky in this regard in the games this weekend as the both contests ended early in the extra session.

Evan Kaufman was the hero on Saturday. Today it was Barry Tallackson's turn for glory. The big winger has been something of a disappointment for Gopher fans over the years. He seems to have the talent to be a star, but only shows it in frustratingly irregular spurts. Fortunately most of those spurts take place in the post-season and once again Tallackson came through today when he banged a rebound past McKee less than five minutes into overtime.

An all-WCHA Frozen Four that includes the Gophers? It doesn't get much better than that. The Gophers will be hard pressed to continue their success in Columbus, especially since they face North Dakota in the semifinals and the Sioux might be playing the best hockey in the country right now. But for now Gopher fans can certainly savor a very special weekend of hockey. No one more so than the President of the Barry Tallackson Fan Club. Cheers Sisyphus!


Saturday, March 26, 2005
Two Tickets To Paradise?

Attention hockey fans in the Twin Cities area! I have two tickets for Sunday's NCAA Regional hockey final between Minnesota and Cornell that I won't be able to use. The winner of the contest advances to the Frozen Four. The game starts at 2:30pm and is at Mariucci Arena. Drop me an e-mail if you're interested in them.


Friday, March 25, 2005
Hail Columbus

For the third straight year, Bill from Rocks Off and I will face in off in our NCAA college hockey challenge. Two years ago, I came close to running the table, missing only one game in the NCAA tourney. Last year, Bill bested me, evening our series at 1-1.

Bill has posted his picks already and we definitely are not on the same page this year. In fact, we only have one of the same teams in the Frozen Four. This should make things very interesting.

Anyway, here's my take.

East Regional


Mercyhurst 1
Boston College 5

Boston University 2
North Dakota 3


Boston College 3
North Dakota 4

Midwest Regional


Colgate 2
Colorado College 4

Wisconsin 2
Michigan 3


Colorado College 5
Michigan 3

West Regional


Maine 3
Minnesota 4

Ohio State 3
Cornell 2


Ohio State 4
Minnesota 2

Northeast Regional


Harvard 3
New Hampshire 4

Bemidji State 3
Denver 6


New Hampshire 1
Denver 3



North Dakota 5
Ohio State 4

Colorado College 2
Denver 1

National Championship

Colorado College 4
North Dakota 2

Yes, my picks do reflect a definite WCHA bias (as does the poll we're currently running). But I don't think that there is any doubt that the WCHA is head and shoulders about the other conferences. WCHA teams have won the last three national championships and North Dakota was only inches away from winning it in overtime 2001. This year they have three of the four #1 seeds, and even though you can debate whether the Gophers really deserved one or not, it's hard to argue with the notion that the WCHA has the best teams in the country.

For me, it comes down to CC and Denver. Both are strong, evenly matched teams and if they played a seven game series it would no doubt go the distance. This time I'm giving the nod to CC, but it would not shock me if Denver were to repeat.

What of the Gophers? This is not their year. The defense is young and needs more experience. The goaltending is now a question mark after Briggs' shaky performance last week. Johnson is solid, but not the goalie you want to ride in the playoffs. They also lack scoring punch and don't get consistent play from enough of their forwards. I could easily see them losing to Maine in the first game, especially if Howard (the Black Bears goalie) plays well. But I just can't pick them to lose to Maine. My heart will not allow it.

I'll be down at Mariucci for both of Saturday's contests, but will have to settle for watching Sunday's regional final on television. 2:30pm on Easter Sunday? Nice timing.


Monday, March 21, 2005
Remember (Why You Hate) The Maine (Hockey Team)

Outside of the WCHA, I can't think of a college hockey team that I dislike more than the Maine Black Bears. There's just something about the squad that rubs me the wrong way. There's an arrogance and attitude that they carry that transcends individual players and seems to be a trademark of the program. Perhaps it's the painful memory of the 2001 NCAA East Regional quarterfinal game in Worcester, MA (which JB Doubtless attended), when Adam Hauser literally handed the game to Maine in overtime. Hauser's choke led to my prediction that just as the Vikings would never win a Super Bowl with Denny Green as coach, so the Gophers would never win a NCAA title with Hauser between the pipes.

Of course, just a year later Hauser would prove me wrong by helping the Gophers win the 2002 National Championship. And as sweet as it was to end a twenty-three year championship drought, it was all the sweeter for me because the Gophers beat Maine in the title game in St. Paul. The way that some of the classless Black Bears conducted themselves after the game did little to change my opinion of the team.

Now the Gophers will get another crack at Maine in this Saturday's West Regional at Mariucci Arena. I'm not all that excited about the Gophers chancing of reaching the Frozen Four this year. Their defense is inexperienced and prone to make mistakes and they don't have enough scoring punch up front (memo to Gino Guyer: Exactly how many great chances do you need to score anyway?). Which is okay, because with Kessel and Wheeler on the way, the future looks pretty damn bright.

But if they are going to fall short, all I ask is that don't do it against Maine. Just beat Maine baby. Everything after that is gravy.


Monday, December 27, 2004
Hockey Fix

With no NHL season and most college hockey teams taking a break, it's a tough time of year for those of us who follow puck. Thankfully, we now have the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships taking place just down the road in Grand Forks, North Dakota and Thief River Falls, Minnesota to fill the void. On Saturday, I watched Team USA (the defending champs) battle the Russkies on ESPN2 in a highly entertaining contest that ended with a 5-4 U.S. victory.

Tonight, the U.S. faces off against the hated Swiss at 8pm (also on ESPN2).

This is dang good hockey featuring some of the best young players in the world including a number of sure-fire future NHL stars. The last time I saw Sydney Crosby play, he was fifteen and playing for Shattuck-St. Mary's in a game against my high school alma mater (which I attended with JB Doubtless immediately after the unforgettable 2003 Hugh Hewitt On Ice event). Now, Crosby is one of the stars for Team Canada, as evidenced by his three point effort in Canada's 7-3 tournament opening victory over Slovakia.

We very well could be headed for a rematch of last year's championship game between the Canucks and the Yanks. Now, wouldn't that be fun eh?


Saturday, September 11, 2004
We Wuz Robbed

Last night, my wife and I attended the World Cup of Hockey semifinal showdown between Team USA and the fightin' Finns at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. And there is no doubt that we were robbed. Robbed of the fifty some semolians per ticket that I had plunked down to gain admission.

Losing to Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, as the US did yesterday, is nothing to be ashamed of. The Finns sport a roster consisting mostly of NHL players, including many recognized stars. It wasn't the 2-1 loss that was so disappointing last night. It was the lousy, dull, uninspired style of play that we were forced to endure. The first period and half may have been the worst hockey that I have ever witnessed at that level.

The crowd was muted and quiet through most of the game, but you can hardly blame us. If the players didn't seem to care (especially certain members of Team USA), why should we? I was hoping for a little international flavor at the event, but that too proved to be a letdown. There were a few scattered Finnish fans waving blue and white flags. But there wasn't any singing or chanting, and they were mostly content to politely cheer for their boys in blue.

By far the largest contingent of fureners were from the Great White North. Lots of Team Canada jerseys, and a surprisingly significant showing from hardcore fans of the long gone (to Phoenix) Winnipeg Jets. Poor bastards probably came down to see some high quality puck and has to sit through the crap that passed for world class hockey last night.

There has been squawking about the difficulties in selling tickets for the World Cup games in St. Paul. Look, I'm a huge hockey fan. I love to play and watch the game. In fact I skated earlier this morning. But the 2004 World Cup did not capture my interest. A big part of the problem is timing. It's early September here in Minnesota and we're still trying to cling to the last vestiges of our all-too-short (especially this year) summer. The Twins are closing in on their third straight division title and the over-hyped Vikings open play this Sunday.

Even though it's looking more and more like there won't be an NHL season this year, and the World Cup may be all we get, it's hard to overcome the feeling that it's just not time for hockey yet. After watching last night's dreadful display of dreck, it's a feeling that I most heartily share.


Saturday, September 04, 2004
Team USA Triumphs, Vanek Vaults, And A Plugger Passes

Good news last night in St. Paul, as the US got off the schneid with a 3-1 win over hated Slovakia in the World Cup of Hockey. The US ends the preliminary round with a 1-2 mark and will likely face either Canada or Russia in a quarterfinal showdown next week.

Bad news for Gopher fans:

Thomas Vanek gave up his final two years of eligibility to sign with the Buffalo Sabres.

It could be a very long year for the Gophers.

Finally sad news of an ex-Star:

Paul Shmyr, the former NHL and WHA defenseman who was captain of the North Stars and the Edmonton Oilers in Wayne Gretzky's first season with the team, died Thursday after a 10-year battle with throat cancer in Surrey, British Columbia. He was 58.

Shmyr, a native of Cudworth, Saskatchewan, played 511 games in the WHA, including 160 with the Oilers, and 343 in the NHL with Chicago, Minnesota, California and Hartford. He captained the Oilers in 1978-79 -- their last season in the WHA. The rugged defenseman played for the North Stars in the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons.



Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Fair Weather Fans In Fair Weather Cities?

Does the triumph of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals mean that the future of hockey is bright in the Sunshine State? Consider what's happened to hockey in the last few years in other warm weather cities:

Anaheim supposedly proved that hockey works in California last spring, when the Mighty Ducks came within a Game 7 of the Cup. This March the Ducks had an announced crowd of 12,747 (capacity 17,174) for a rematch of the conference finals with the Wild. A scan of the crowd suggested more empty seats than occupied.

Just Tuesday, Anaheim General Manager Bryan Murray bolted the Ducks to become head coach in Ottawa. In parting, he said, "I wanted to come back to a hockey country where hockey meant something."

Carolina supposedly proved that hockey works in the South in 2002, when the Hurricanes advanced to the Cup finals. This season, they drew fewer than 10,000 fans to 25 percent of their home games. Attendance bottomed out on Jan. 25, when 7,596 showed up to see the Buffalo Sabres.

I would love to believe that winning the Cup will bring success and security to the Lightning franchise for years to come. But I don't have much confidence that two years down the road Tampa won't be in the same boat as Carolina and Anaheim, with sagging attendance and little interest in the team.


Big Skates To Fill

Gophers defenseman Keith Ballard is moving on:

The answer came Tuesday, when Ballard signed a three-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes for the NHL rookie maximum of $1.185 million per year. Ballard said the money and opportunity were simply too good to pass up, which convinced him to skip his senior season. He ends his Gophers career with 33 goals and 67 assists in 123 games.

Lucia knew Ballard and forward Thomas Vanek could turn pro this summer if offered substantial NHL contracts. Vanek is enrolled in summer school, and as of Tuesday, Lucia expects him to return for his third season with the Gophers. Though the coach is sorry to see Ballard leave, he understood.

He understood just how difficult it's going to be to replace Ballard's stellar defense and offensive abilities, especially on the power play.


Monday, June 07, 2004
You Probably Haven't Noticed But...

There's a pretty compelling Stanley Cup Finals going on between Tampa Bay and Calgary. The Cup winner will be determined tonight in Tampa in a game seven showdown. The last two contests have gone to OT, and the way the series has gone so far it wouldn't be surprising to see another sudden death finish. Go Flames.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Running Into A Brick Wall

Last year I picked eleven of the twelve regional NCAA hockey playoff games correctly, and thirteen of fifteen overall including the Frozen Four. This year my prognastications have been a miserable failure. In the twelve regional regional contests I went 7-5, and only correctly picked one of the teams going to the Frozen Four, the Maine Black Bears.

My competition didn't fare much better, but nevertheless, I am forced to concede victory to him. He went 8-4 in the regionals and nailed two of the Frozen Four, Maine and Boston College. Since I had Maine losing in the national semifinals I can't pick up any more wins. The game that made the difference between us was the Michigan-BC contest that went to OT before BC pulled it out 3-2. Had Michigan won, I would have a one game lead, and two teams left. Such is life.

The one factor that I didn't give enough weight to in my soothsaying was goaltending. In a single game elimination tournament, the keeper is the X factor. I knew that Maine had a good un' and that Al Montoya of Michigan was solid between the pipes, which lead me to pick both teams to reach the Frozen Four. However, I overlooked Adam Berkhoel of Denver and Isaac Reichmuth of UMD. When I attended the WCHA Final Five, Reichmuth looked average at best in a 7-4 loss to the Gophers. But on Sunday he was the difference in the Bulldogs 3-1 win. Kellen Briggs did not play poorly for the Gophers, but he didn't make the key saves that Reichmuth did.

Despite the fact that they knocked out my beloved rodents, I'm going to be pulling for UMD to win their first ever national championship at the Frozen Four in Boston in a week and a half. And no sooner do the doors to one competition close, than another opens up. Jonathan at, recently seen snowboarding with John Kerry, wishes to wager on the outcome of the UMD-DU national semifinal. I wasn't aware that there were any real hockey fans out in Colorado other than the bandwagon jumpers who cheer for the Avalanche, but I certainly won't hesitate to take up the challenge.

The prize? Loser buys the winner a copy of Hugh Hewitt's forthcoming, sure to be best selling, fair and balanced book on politics, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat : Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It.

I've already read the manuscript of course. Hugh sent me a copy to proofread and provide feedback. I don't want to break any confidences here, but let's just say that my favorite red pen got quite a workout. Repeat after me Hugh, I before E except after C. So simple and yet apparently so easy to forget.


Friday, March 26, 2004
Let The Real Madness Begin

The NCAA hockey tournament is once again upon us. Sixteen teams, four regionals, four coveted places in the Frozen Four in Boston. Last year I went 13-2 in my NCAA tourney picks and chased my competition (Will who?) from town. This year I'm hooking up with a new challenger, Bill Tuomala from Exiled on Blog Street, and the field is so wide open that any team could conceivably take the whole thing. Here we go:

East Regional

#1 Maine vs. #4 Harvard
Maine has a great goaltender. Harvard finished strong. Maine prevails in a tight one 3-1

#2 Ohio State vs. #3 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been up and down all season and lost their WCHA playoff series to Alaska-Anchorage. Ohio State won the CCHA tourney last week. Momentum favor the Buckeyes 3-2

#1 Maine vs. #2 Ohio State
Another very close contest but Maine moves on 2-1

Northeast Regional

#1 Boston College vs. #4 Niagara
BC lost five of it's last six. Niagara has been here before. BC has too much talent to lose 5-2

#2 Michigan vs. #3 New Hampshire
Two teams that were in last year's Frozen Four. I'll take the Wolverines 4-2

#1 BC vs. #2 Michigan
Michigan returns to the Frozen Four for the third straight year with a 3-2 win

Midwest Regional

#1 Minnesota vs. #4 Notre Dame
The Gophers are rolling, but best not look past the Irish who have a number of quality wins this year. Goaltending is probably Minnesota's weak spot, and if Briggs is off his game Notre Dame will win. I think Briggs will be just good enough, with some help from Thomas Vanek, to earn a 5-4 victory

#2 Minnesota-Duluth vs. #3 Michigan State
The Bulldogs are hurting after last week's WCHA Final Five. Junior Lessard will play, but he won't be anywhere near 100%. Still they should have just enough to get past the Spartans 4-3

#1 Minnesota vs. #2 UMD
This game is tough. I'm uneasy about picking the Gophers to beat the Dogs again just over a week after their 7-4 win in the WCHA semis. But when you get to the post season it's all about momentum and who's hot. The Gophers are, the Dogs aren't. Let's say a gut wrenching 6-5 OT thriller for the Maroon and Gold

West Regional

#1 North Dakota vs. #4 Holy Cross
That thing I said about anybody winning the tournament? It should have been anybody BUT Holy Cross. The Sioux will have a little extra fire in their bellies after losing the WCHA Final Five Championship last weekend, and they will cruise past the Cross 6-2

#2 Denver vs. #3 Miami of Ohio
Denver is a tough team to figure. They finished the regular season very strong before being swept by CC in the WCHA playoffs. I'm going with a minor upset here by taking Miami 4-3 in OT

#1 North Dakota vs. #3 Miami
With Denver out of the way, the Sioux should have an easy road to Boston ahead of them. They bounce Miami 7-3

The Frozen Four

Maine vs. Michigan
The Wolverines have been stopped in the semifinals each of the last two years. This time they get it done by beating Maine 3-1

Minnesota vs. North Dakota
While I would love nothing more than seeing a Minnesota three peat, their run ends here. The Gophers beating the talent laden Sioux for a second straight time is just not probable. North Dakota wins 4-3

Championship Game
North Dakota vs. Michigan
The Sioux have too much offense for the Wolverines and will win their eighth national championship by a final score of 5-3.

For those fans in the Twin Cities who are concerned about watching the games on television due to the Victory Sports brouhaha, fear not. The three local cable operators have agreed to accept Victory's offer to get the games for free:

The package includes games involving the Gophers, who will play Notre Dame at 11 a.m. Saturday. Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota's games also will be seen. Comcast will show the available contests on Ch. 13, Time Warner on Ch. 23 and Charter on Ch. 14 in the south and Ch. 65 in the north.

Pull up an easy chair, crack open a beer, sit back and enjoy. It just don't get no better.


Sunday, February 08, 2004
Ugly Canadianism

Needless to say, prejudice and ethnic strife are plagues on humanity. But when it comes from Canadians, it somehow seems quaint. This report from CNN/SI, on CBC hockey broadcaster Don Cherry getting a 7-second delay on his broadcasts based on his habit of spewing controversial rhetoric:

The move was prompted by remarks made two weeks ago during a discussion on visors. Cherry implied that players who wore them lacked courage -- he said that they might be viewed as "sucks" -- and noted that it was mostly European players and "French guys" who had donned shields.

These are two of Cherry's favorite hobby horses: Europeans and French-speaking players. He has been relentlessly critical of both over the years. On a Coaches Corner segment a few weeks earlier, he said drug use in junior hockey was confined to the Quebec leagues. While continually wrapping himself in the Canadian flag, he once dismissed Nagano Olympic flag bearer Jean-Luc Brassard, a mogul skiing champion in 1994, as "that French guy." His Canada apparently does not include Quebec.

I've never heard of anyone "wrapping themselves in the Canadian flag" before. It sounds funny. Like a way to keep warm after returning from a late night Moosehead-fueled outhouse run and finding yourself locked out of the cabin without your toque.

Believe it or not, I'm not a sophisticated viewer of hockey so I can't honestly appraise Cherry's characterization of European and French speaking players as cowardly "sucks." My planned viewing of the NHL All-Star Game this afternoon on ABC (broadcast live from the Saintly City) just took on some additional gravitas.


Friday, April 25, 2003
What Is Your Quest? To Seek Lord Stanley's Cup

Mission: Find a bar in Chihuahua, Mexico to watch tonight's Wild-Canucks game. It's on the Deuce which probably won't help matters. Surprisingly enough there's not a ton of hockey fans in Northern Mexico. Somehow though it must be done. Last night I was able to catch the end of the five OT Stars-Ducks battle in my hotel room. The announcers were dubbed in Spanish but who needs their obvious "insights" anyway?

If tonight's game was starting a bit earlier I might just try to catch it at the hotel bar. From 6pm-7:30pm every night they have happy hour. Free beer and mixed drinks for the guests. A not the rail pour crap you usually get either. Some top shelf rums, vodkas, gins, and of course tequilas. Now that's what I call a happy hour. Viva Mexico!


Monday, April 14, 2003
The Thrill is Gone

Final results of the NCAA college hockey picks show Will the Thrill posted a respectable 14-5 mark overall while I came through with an impressive 16-3 finish, my only errors being the WCHA and National championship games (never pick the team you're rooting for) and the BC-Cornell regional final. Unbeknownst to most this was a "loser leaves town" showdown and so Will is packing his bags as we speak to catch the next Greyhound to Grand Forks.

All kidding aside Will has elected to leave the Fraters staff (Will, you will receive your last check after turning in your badge and keys-especially the one to the liquor cabinet) to pursue outside interests and perhaps even take a short sabbatical from writing. We wish him the best in his future endeavors and remind him that the Fraters legal team will be monitoring his coming activities carefully for any violations of his iron clad non-compete clause.


Thursday, April 10, 2003
Keep On The Sunny Side, Always On The Sunny Side

Today a lot is being written about how wrong so many people were about the war in Iraq. While I agree that these doom and gloom prognostications should be called into account I'd prefer to focus on the positives. A city has just been freed from a brutal dictatorship . It's a sunny and balmy sixty six degrees here in Minnesota. And tonight I'll be enjoying a hockey double header with the University of Minnesota facing Michigan at 5:00pm CST in the NCAA semifinals followed by the playoff debut of the Wild versus the Avalanche at 8:00pm CST. It is a beautiful day.

So let's concentrate on the good. How about remembering someone who was right about the battle of Baghdad?

Speaking of positives here's an NCAA hockey semifinal update: New Hampshire 3 Cornell 2

I wonder if there was anyone out there who nailed that score?


Monday, March 31, 2003
When It Comes To College Hockey, Respect Your Elder

Those of you who took took my NCAA college hockey tournament picks and ran down to your local bookie are happy today. (By the way, if anyone actually knows a bookie who takes college hockey action drop me a note.) I went 11-1 in the twelve games played over the weekend and was only a disallowed third period BC goal away from running the table. Will the Thrill turned in a decent performance himself going 9-3 but with only the three Final Four games remaining he's going to be hard pressed to rally.

Here's where we stand after the WCHA Final Five and the NCAA Regional games:

Elder 14-2 minus 52 goals differential
Will the Thrill 12-4 minus 48 goals differential


Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Now That's What I Call March Madness

Before we commence with the feudin' with Iraq an important matter needs to be addressed:

The WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul which kicks off Thursday. For us college hockey fans ( .00067% of the US population according to 2000 census figures, just ahead of transsexual Eskimos) the WCHA Final Five is the start of three weeks of nirvana on the ice ending with the Final Four (I refuse to say "Frozen Four") which will held in Buffalo this year on April 10th-12th.

In the interests of a little friendly inter-staff competition Will the Thrill and I will face off in a series of predications beginning with the WCHA Final Five and ending with the Final Four. Here goes:

#4 North Dakota vs. #5 Minnesota-Duluth

UND hasn't been faced with the prospect of having to win the "play in game" in the WCHA tourney lately as they're usually among the top teams in the league. Meanwhile Duluth hasn't even made the Final Five for five years. Duluth has been hot lately while the Sioux limped through the second half of the season. This will be a wide open affair with goaltending proving to be the difference. North Dakota has plenty of offensive firepower but their net minders have been suspect all year. The Dogs win 5-4 possibly in OT.

#2 Minnesota vs. #3 Minnesota State-Mankato

One message for all those Maverick fans looking for hotel rooms in Buffalo. Don't believe the hype. MSU had a great regular season but I still don't believe that they're for real. Last weekend's playoff performance against a feeble Wisconsin team did nothing to dispel my doubts. The Gophers are rolling and, even though Mankato always plays 'em tough, will be too much for the Mavericks to handle. Minnesota 5 MSU 3.

#1 Colorado College vs. #5 UMD

The Dogs dreams end here (although their play-in game victory might be enough to gain an NCAA spot) as CC just has too much talent for them. CC 6 UMD 3

#1 Colorado College vs. #2 Minnesota

This could be a great game with the Gophers playing in front of a friendly crowd and CC probably the best team in college hockey. I still don't trust Travis Weber as a big game goalie and CC should be able to beat him often enough to win. Of course I thought the same thing about Doogie Hauser last year and he proved me and a lot of other critics very wrong. I'd love to be wrong on this one too but I gotta go with the Tigers say 4-3.


Friday, January 31, 2003
The Next Gretz?

Last Friday, we had the pleasure of watching fifteen year old phenom Sydney Crosby play hockey. Crosby is from Nova Scotia and has been widely hailed as the next Gretzky. This season he is playing for Shattuck St. Mary's --a prep school in Faribault, Minnesota--and they were facing Benidle-St. Margaret's high school which has emerged in recent years as a powerhouse.

Crosby did not disappoint as he tallied five points in leading his team to a 7-2 victory. When we arrived at the game we didn't know which number he wore but within five minutes it was apparent that #9 was by far the best player on the ice. Perhaps even more impressive than his five points were a couple of passes he made including a back handed cross ice saucer pass that had NHL written all over it. Remember this kid's name. You might be hearing it a lot in the future.


Wednesday, January 01, 2003
Are They Making Ice Yet?

Growing up as a boy in the 70's in Minnesota playing hockey outside was a part of my life. It usually wasn't "pond hockey," although if we had an early freeze with no snow we might skate on nearby Lake Minnetonka, but rather at the local outdoor rink and warming house next to city hall. It was probably about a half a mile from home by car but if you took the railroad tracks on foot it was only half that long. Every year there was an anticipation to the start of the outdoor ice season and we'd be checking the status of the ice constantly once the weather cooperated and they started flooding the rink.

My brother and I used to tramp down to the rink almost daily once it opened carrying our sticks and skates over our shoulders like a couple of hobos. On Saturdays we sometimes would also be toting bag lunches that Mom packed for us since we'd often spend the whole day skating. We always wanted to play hockey at the rink but it wasn't always possible. If there weren't enough guys for a game we'd spend hours ripping "slappers", often until our sticks broke. If there was snow on the ice and we couldn?t shovel it off we'd take off our skates and play "boots" with a tennis ball.

When you were younger you always wanted to play with the "big kids" on the hockey rink and took every opportunity to hone your skills and prove that you were good enough to skate with them. Then one day you were a big kid and you got to make the rules. Like no lifting of the puck. Or a goalie has to stay in the net. And throwing your sticks in the middle and having somebody--with their hat pulled over their eyes to avoid favoritism--throw sticks to each side to pick teams.

We played for hours at a time stopping only when we were exhausted or it was time for the rink to close. Sometimes when the weather was really cold they wouldn't open the warming house. We'd go down there anyway and lace up our skates in the elements trying to get them on as quickly as possible to avoid the bitter cold that stung your bare hands as you tugged on the laces.

We didn't learn breakouts or how to play a neutral zone trap but we did learn how to skate and stick handle as that was what the game was all about. We played for the sure joy of hockey and the camaraderie that we experienced with our fellow rink rats.

Inevitably the weather would warm and the ice would be gone. We usually would make at least one more trek down to the rink in the look for pucks that had been shot over the boards and lost in the snow during the winter. The spring thaw left them exposed and some years we would find thirty or forty of these black rubber treasures. We'd bring em' home and store em' in the garage to wait for the next season.

Today, I live less than a block from an outdoor rink in a suburb of Minneapolis. And just like when I was a kid once December rolls around I start checking almost daily to see if they've started flooding it. The season seems much shorter now. I suppose that's the influence of me getting older. Everything seems to go by much faster. But I still try to get out and skate as much as I can every winter.

I can't go to the local rink anymore and expect to find a game. It seems as if few kids skate outdoors these days and most of the time I'm the only one down there. I lace up my skates anyway and can spend hours skating and shooting on a quiet winter's night. The sounds of the game are much more noticeable outside. The puck slams off the boards and echoes into the darkness. You actually hear your stick as it hits the ice on a shot or when your skates cut up the crisp ice as you turn and glide across it.

On Saturday mornings, I set off early in quest of a game. There's a rink at Lewis Park in the nearby suburb of Edina with immaculately groomed ice where a good game can usually be found. Fifteen to twenty guys, ranging anywhere in age from twenty to fifty, gather there on Saturday mornings and we can play for two to three hours before the ice gets too chewed up to carry on. There's nothing better than playing outside on a sunny day with temps in the twenties. After a short time you're down to a sweatshirt and jeans or sweatpants but you're not cold at all. In fact you're working up quite a sweat skating up and down the ice, stick handling and passing around eight or nine guys trying to stop you, all the while trying to remember if the guy in the red hooded jacket is on your team or not. Just like being a kid again.

Are they making ice yet?


Friday, October 18, 2002
A good night to curl up with a good hockey team

Miserable, cold, gusty, overcast, gloomy, gray day here in Minnesota. The kind of day that makes you not wanna get out of bed in the morning. The kind of day that makes you want to go home at lunch, climb into a warm bed, and nap away the afternoon. The kind of day that makes you want to go home at the end of the workday, throw down some chow, pour yourself a single malt, open a bottle a bottle of pale ale, and flip on the tele to watch the defending national champions of college hockey battle a highly ranked foe from the east. Thank God I don't live in Duluth, St. Cloud, or Mankato.


Monday, October 14, 2002
Savard Smoked Em'

Saint Paul's remarks on smoking and professionial athletes immediately brought Dennis Savard to mind. The flashy center played for the Chicago Black Hawks in the '80s when a heated rivalry existed between my dearly departed Minnesota North Stars and his club.

Many was the night when Savard broke my young heart, using his blazing speed and lighting quick spin moves to blow by the North Star defense and light the lamp behind Beupre or Meloche. I was later stunned to learn that Dennis not only enjoyed a post game heater or two but that he actually liked to puff a couple of nails between periods during games. Kent Hrbek smoking and drinking is one thing, I mean how much wind do you really need to play first base? But an all star NHL center? Now that was a man's man.


Friday, June 21, 2002
National Hand Holding League?

Report from that the NHL is going to install "safety nets" at all arenas next year following the death of that kid in Columbus.

All I gotta say is that this idea originated in Europe which says just about enough for me. Why don't we just enclose the entire playing surface in a Plexiglas bubble so that there is no chance that a puck could ever enter the crowd? Wouldn't that be even safer? What about the childrens? Maybe all spectators should be required to wear helmets as well. It is indeed a sad day when the NHL starts kowtowing to the safety nazis.


Friday, June 07, 2002
Nothing Could Be Fina...

Then to cheer for Carolina. Against all my instincts that scream out against the idea of the Stanley Cup ending up in North Carolina and being as used a chaw spittoon I find myself pulling for the gritty Canes to knock off the Wings.

There is just something about that smug "Hockey Town USA" attitude of the Detroit fans that annoys the hell out of me. And that whole octopus thing is tired and played out. Every time some a-hole chucks one on the ice I get to hear Gary Thorne relate the story about the meaning behind it and how its such a tradition and blah, blah, blah. Yes, I know the frickin' history as does every other halfway knowledgeable hockey fan and I don't need to hear it any more. Besides there are now four rounds to the playoffs and you need to win sixteen games to snatch the Cup so until you can find me a sixteen legged mutant octopus (a natural product of evolution according to Mr. Burns) I suggest you use the eight legged ones for Chinese aphrodisiacs and keep them off the ice.

Add to that the the fact that after defeating Colorado it was assumed that the Wings would easily eliminate Carolina and then the debate could begin as to whether they were the greatest team ever. Let's stop this nonsense right here and now. They are not the greatest team ever and aren't even close to it. They might be the most impressive collection of players who once were stars of the game but the vast majority of Detroit's team has seen better days.

Yzerman, Hull, Chelios, Shanahan, and Robitaille are undisputedly some of the best to ever play the game and they all will probably end up in the Hall O' Fame someday. But they are also all well past their prime. Fedorov still has speed and is a tough defensive forward but I would say he too is on the downward slope of his career. Even Hasek who is currently one of the best goalies in the game is not as good as he was three to four years ago when he won the gold with the Czechs and led the Sabres to the Cup Finals. Comparing these Red Wings to the Islander teams of the early 80's, the Oilers of the mid-late 80's, or the Habs of the late 70's? As John Stossel might say, "Give me a break".


Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Stanley Cup Nod Offs?

Is it just me or have the playoffs thus far been a collective yawn? Perhaps it's due in part to the screwy scheduling(some series have played four games while some have only played two-the Blues & Hawks played Saturday in St. Louis and then Sunday in Chicago while the B's & Habs play Thursday then don't play again until Sunday and both games are in Boston!) and ESPN's penchant for showing the same series time and again probably contributes as well. Plus the fact that many of the more interesting series are out West has probably limited my viewing and thus appreciation. But it seems like the thrilling OTs have been few and far between and too many games are one sided shutouts. Here's my breakdown after the first week of the opening series and what I've gotten out of them:

Worst Series:
Ottawa and Philly. So far the Flyers have scored one goal in three games and yet only trail the Sens two games to one. Ottawa has hardly been lighting it up either scoring a total of six goals so far with three of them being empty netters. These games are boring as all get out and yet so far every one has been on either ESPN or ESPN2. Yawn.

Best Series:
The Bruins & Canadians might be a great one but so far ESPN has only shown one of the two games. I was glad to see that tonight's contest is on so I can catch some more of this rivalry. The series that I like so far is Colorado-LA. All three games have been televised and they all have featured up and down action, hard hitting, and a growing dislike between the teams. Plus both squads have talented players who can put the puck in the net. In three games the teams have totaled nine goals each and watching Sakic, Forseberg, Allison(my God he's a big son of a B with hands), and Palfy is a treat especially after you've sat through a Sens-Flyers bore fest.

Biggest Upset:
The Nucks taking two at the Joe was sweet. But if the Wings can win tonight and even the series at two it's over baby. This series is interesting in that the Canucks are a clear dog to the high powered Wings but expect for the opening game there has been little drama. If it goes seven it could be fun.

Who Cares?:
Carolina-NJ. This has got to be the least interesting series going. Yes, Jersey's got Brodeur and a lot of playoff experience but I have a hard time getting into this one. I didn't see much of the first two games but they were both low scoring duels where Carolina won despite being outshot by a significant margin. Finally on Sunday I have a chance to watch a whole game and the Devils blow em' out early and cruise to an easy win. I don't care who wins this series just get it over with.

Muddling Through:
St. Louis-Chicago and San Jose-Phoenix. Talk about lack of drama. I haven't been able to see a lot of the Sharks-Yotes series but I gather I'm not missing much since all four games haven't really been close. I have seen some of the Blues-Hawks and it's doing nuthin' for me. After the Hawks split two in St. Louis you'd figure they'd come out for the home crowd on Sunday flying high. Instead they fell on their faces and got dumped 4-0.

Can't Even Judge It:
Islanders-Leafs. The Isles haven't been to the playoffs for years and the Leafs are one of the classic NHL teams so I figured this could have some viewing interest. Apparently ESPN doesn't feel this way since they haven't shown one game of this series yet. Yeah, can't enough of that heated Philly-Ottawa rivalry and by all means show me the Devils-Canes showdown everyone is talking about. There is a very good chance that the Islanders will be eliminated without me having a chance to watch two minutes from one of their games. That just ain't right.

Lest you think I'm giving up easy on my beloved sport I'll have you know that I still have faith that the playoffs will shake off a poor first week and turn the intensity and action up another notch so that I can continue to tell people that there ain't nothing better in sports than the Stanley Cup playoffs. Three OT games tonight would be a great start.


Friday, April 05, 2002
Evil Close To Home

When President Bush detailed what he termed the "axis of evil" during his state of the union speech he clearly forgot to mention one group operating within our own borders which perpetrates more evil against ordinary American civilians than even the most hardened terrorist has dreamed of. The name of this unholy organization? The NCAA.

What other word but evil can be used to describe a group that absolutely prohibits the sale of alcohol at it's hockey tournament? Last night I attended the semifinal game of the "Frozen Four" in St. Paul along with 19,244 other fans(around 19,212 were men judging by the bathroom lines) and was forced to watch the entire contest without enjoying even a solitary beer. Hockey without beer? It just ain't right. And when the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers allowed a 3-0 third period lead shrink to a one goal margin with a minute and a half left and you could cut the tension in the building with a Somali machette I damn well needed something to calm my frayed nerves.

Is is not bad enough that the NCAA forces fans to sit through endless public service announcements during breaks in the action lecturing us on the evils of gambling and drugs and touting such dubious goals as "diversity" and "youth leadership"? Must they also take away the simple pleasure of sipping a brew while watching the best college hockey teams battle for the championship? It's a sad statement on our society today that after a hard day of work a man can't head down to the local arena, scalp a ticket minutes before game time, and be allowed to responsibly consume a few drinks.

If nothing else I would think the greed of the NCAA would overcome it's otherwise silly sensibilities and cause it to sell beer at the games. Think about it in economic terms. The NCAA probably gets at least 10% of the concessions at the events if not more. Let's just say that 10,000 folks in the crowd would choose to drink alcoholic beverages if they could do so. That might be a bit on the high side but just go with me here. If these 10,000 drink an average of three drinks each at $5 a drink we're talking $150,000 gross. Going with the 10% take that would net the NCAA $15k a game. Multiply that by three games and you're talking nearly fitty grand. Let's see. The NCAA makes money and their fans are happy. Perish the thought.

Evil. Pure evil I tells ya.


Wednesday, March 27, 2002
The Grind of Playoff Hockey

Last night my hockey team was eliminated from the playoffs and I can now understand the mixture of disappointment and relief that an NHLer experiences when the 'offs end for their team. The playoffs are a gruelling test both physically and mentally and they leave you worn and torn in both areas.

It's tough for a recreational player like myself to suddenly have to play four games in five days considering me and my teammates usually lace em' up once a week. The real challenge however is the drinking. It's not easy to psyche yourself up for the daunting gauntlet of a case of beer in the room immediately after the game followed by a trip to the local watering hole for several pitchers of beer. To say nothing of the drive home half in the bag hoping against hope that cop doesn't turn around and follow you.

Then it's home to unpack your sweat soaked gear while trying not to wake your wife and have her realize that it's been four hours since your game ended and "you're just getting home now?"

The next morning comes with the inevitable hangover made worse by the fact that you maybe got five hours of sleep and are even more dehydrated than usual after drinking cause' you played hockey last night too. You stumble off to work, coast your way through a day of corporate drudgery in a complete fog, wanting only to go home and sleep and then you remember that you've got another game that night and the whole cycle will repeat itself.

You really gotta love the game to endure the challenges of the playoffs.


We are the wind beneath the right wing.

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Soldiers' Angels

Spirit of America

Tee It Up For The Troops

World Vision



Keegan's Irish Pub Thursdays at 8pm