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Thursday, December 27, 2007
You Want To? Okay, Good Luck Man.

Hilarious audio/video here of George Laraque asking his dancing partner if he wants to fight.


Sunday, December 23, 2007
Smart Development

I've long trumpeted that the WCHA is the best conference in college hockey. Now in Patrick Reusse's annual hockey column in today's Star Tribune, we have affirmation of that claim (and more) from Tom Kurvers:

Kurvers played four seasons for Minnesota Duluth. He was the Hobey Baker Award winner in 1984. He played 11 seasons as an NHL defenseman. Now, he sees hundreds of games per year.

"The best league in this country is the NHL, obviously, but do you know what's the second-best league?" Kurvers said. "It's the WCHA.

"There are more people in the arenas than you find anywhere except the NHL. There are only two games a week, and that makes the games more intense than in the American League.

"The WCHA is the second-greatest place to play hockey in the United States."

Kurvers also goes on to point out what players miss by leaving early:

Kurvers paused, then offered this example: "Look at Jack Skille. He scored the winning goal in the national championship game for Wisconsin. He still could be playing for the Badgers, twice a weekend in front of 11-, 12,000 cheering, fired-up fans in Kohl Center.

"Instead, he's 60 miles down the road in Rockford [Ill.] in the AHL, playing three times in four nights in front of a few thousand people ... all in the name of development."

Instead of the on-going rush toward "development" and always moving up to the next level, young hockey players should be advised to pause more often and enjoy where they're at. They're so busy chasing their dream, they may not realize that they're already living it.


Friday, December 21, 2007
Sid The Kid Flips His Lid

Gordie Howe Hat Trick by Sidney Crosby.

You gotta love this stuff!


Thursday, December 20, 2007
The five percent Nation of pay-per-view

What a game. Wild and Rangers. Shanahan, Drury, Gomez, and Jagr pay one of their rare visits to St. Paul to take on the streaking Wild. Up and down action. Great hits. A little scrap. And Marian Gaborik nets five, yes FIVE goals in a 6-3 Wild win. Incredible. I just hope JB enjoyed watching it as much as I did.

What's that? The game was on Channel 45 KSTC and they don't get that down Rochester way? What a shame.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007
No More Maroon But Plenty Of Gold

Okposo Departing Gopher Hockey Team to Sign With New York Islanders:

University of Minnesota sophomore Kyle Okposo has chosen to forgo the remainder of the 2007-08 season and his career with the Golden Gophers to sign a contract with the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League.

Okposo was the Islanders' first-round draft choice and the seventh player taken overall in the 2006 entry draft. He is the eighth Minnesota player to leave college early for the professional ranks since the end of the 2005-06 season. Okposo is departing today for the Czech Republic as a member of the United States' under-20 national team that is competing at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championships and will join the Islanders following the tournament.

"While I'm disappointed Kyle is leaving at this point of the season, his dream has been to play pro hockey," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "It is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position. I think our team has made strides the last few weeks and I'm looking forward to the second half of the season."

It's been a disappointing season so far for the Gophers and for Okposo in particular. It sounds like the Isles were concerned (with good reason) about his development and were pushing him to leave. He probably figures (with good reason) that the Gophers aren't going anywhere so he has little to lose by leaving early.

You never know how these things will work out, but at this point I don't think Okposo is ready for the NHL and could have used at least another half season of college hockey. He's also never going to get those carefree days of college life back either. Playing in the NHL is a job. It pays well, but comes with a lot of responsibility.

And Okposo will likely spend some time with the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgetport before he's up for a regular stint in New York. The grind of minor league hockey may cause him to regret his decision on more than a few occasions.

Good luck to Okposo. Let's hope he's another Vanek and not another ____ (fill in the blank with name of one of many college hockey players who left school early and failed to live up to expectations in the NHL).

Somebody should make sure Sisyphus isn't around any sharp objects tonight. A long year for the Gophers just got a little longer.


Friday, December 14, 2007
Different Language, Same Great Game

A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Russian Super League hockey game in Chelyabinsk. Hated Moscow Dynamo was in town to take on the hometown Traktor squad at the Sports Palace Yunost. Palace probably is not the best word to describe the 3500 seat Soviet era arena.

The scoreboard was straight out of the early '70s (other than the short-short wearing cheerleaders who danced underneath it--they're hard to see in this picture). The seats were really just long benches--with very little leg room--where upwards of sixty people squeezed in between the aisles (we were probably sitting in spaces #27-#32--smack dab in the middle). Ninety percent of the stands were on one side of the rink, the rafters were pretty low, and there was little in the way of amenities as far as food and drink went. The subterranean bathrooms smelled as if they hadn't been cleaned since the days of Brezhnev.

The very visible presence of well over a hundred policemen in the arena didn't enhance my feelings of security. These weren't the "emergency response life-saving" kind of cops. They were the "beat your ass with a club until you submit and sort it out later" variety. Their uniforms and headgear was more paramilitary than police and they arrived at the rink in canvas-topped, open-backed army trucks. You got the impression that if there was any trouble at all their approach would be to crack heads and ask questions later.

But the arena's shortcoming and daunting security were more than made up for by the passion of the fans and the quality of the hockey. When we walked through the parking lot before the game, we saw lots of fans partaking in the Russian version of tailgating: groups of three and four guys standing around the open trunks of their cars pounding beer and vodka in ten degree temps. It reminded me of high school. This pre-game imbibing proved necessary as alcohol was not served inside the arena.

The crowd reminded me somewhat of the SRO crowd at North Star playoff games at Met Center. Male, mostly blue collar, tuned up, hardcore hockey fans who weren't shy about letting people know how they felt. There definitely wasn't a "family friendly" section. When the Dynamo players took the ice, they were greeted with a torrent of boos and profanities (as translated by my Russian coworker). It was a nice way to build up the energy in the building and establish dramatic tension before the national anthem and opening faceoff.

When the puck dropped, EVERYONE was seated--their eyes intently focused on the game. And NO ONE got up during the entire first period of play. They were there to watch hockey and that's what they were going to do. It was a welcome departure from what you see at most professional sporting events in the US these days, where the action on the ice (or the field or court) is just a part of the overall entertainment package.

One thing that was a little distracting was the prevalence of advertising. From the boards and ice to the players jerseys (by the way, I picked up a very sweet away Traktor jersey the day after the game and it drew rave reviews at Thursday morning hockey this week) extending even to the referees, there were logos everywhere. It was a bit like NASCAR on ice. A hell of lot more exciting though.

There was no doubt that the fans were fully engaged in the game at hand. Even though there were only 3500 on hand (a sellout), they were quite loud. Constant chants would spontaneously break out (unprompted by the scoreboard). I couldn't understand most of them, but usually they evolved into some form of "Trak-tor Chel-ya-binsk! Trak-tor Chel-ya-binsk!" or just "Trak-tor! Trak-tor! Trak-tor!" The quality in this very short video clip isn't great (cell phone), but it gives you an idea what it was like.

Judging by their reaction to close plays at the blue-line and appreciation for quality play in all three zones, the crowd was also very knowledgeable about hockey. They were also quite proud of the Russian style of play. After a Traktor player scored a nifty wrap around goal, a nearby fan (who obviously knew I wasn't Russian) tapped me on the shoulder, gave me a thumbs, smiled broadly, and exclaimed, "This Russian hockey. Good hockey!"

I couldn't disagree with him. The style of play was notably less physical than the NHL, but the skating, stick handling, and passing was a joy to behold. Rather than just pounding the puck at the goal and crashing the net, the Russians really look for the pretty passing play. Make no mistake, they can still shoot, but the focus didn't seem to be on the booming slap shot as much as you see in the NHL.

The play was up and down the ice. No one was playing a trap and usually they only resorted to dumping the puck when nothing else was available rather than as part of a system. It made for a crisp and relatively fast game (just over two hours total). The fact that they didn't wait for television commercials also helped keep things moving and keep your interest on the ice.

The NHL is moving toward more of a blend between the North American and European (including Russian) styles. I wouldn't want the League to lose the physical side of the game (or the fighting), but putting a bigger premium on the sort of speed and skill you see in the Russian Super League will only make the NHL better and more enjoyable to watch.

Because I certainly enjoyed watching the hockey in Chelyabinsk. It probably helped that when the buzzer sounded and it was time for the post-game handshake, the hometown squad had gutted out a 3-2 victory. The players and the fans were able to celebrate before heading out into the cold Chelyabinsk night.


Friday, December 07, 2007
A Day Which Shall Live in Infamy

Willie Plett showing what he thought of Hockeytown.


Won't You Take Me To...


After concluding that Detroit, with poor attendance at Red Wings games, no longer deserves the moniker "Hockeytown U.S.A.," Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber analyzed three cities, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and St. Paul, to find a city deserving of the title. The decision to go with St. Paul should hardly be a surprise, but Farber notes that St. Paul is Hockeytown for much more than simply its devotion to the Wild:

The Wild has sold every ticket to every game since it entered the NHL as an expansion team in 2000, but it has never tried to bigfoot hockey in a city that was home to America's iconic coach, Herb Brooks; the No. 2 U.S.-born career NHL scorer, South St. Paul's Phil Housley; the only cartoonist to draw a Zamboni-driving bird, Charles Schulz; and the leading state high school tournament in the nation.

This is the unwritten hockey schedule in the Twin Cities: boys' hockey Tuesday night, girls' hockey Thursday night, the University of Minnesota Friday and Saturday nights. Boys and girls also play on Saturday afternoon. It is no coincidence that the Wild often plays on Wednesday and Sunday. This is a franchise respectful of the game, aware of its niche and almost obsequious in its treatment of fans.

About frickin' time. Detroit's claim to "Hockeytown" was always a joke. A bunch of bandwagon jumpin' Red Wing fans does not Hockeytown make. I can recall the good ol' days of the Norris Division when the Wings were not good and their attendance was pitiful. The title is now where it has always rightfully belonged. As the capitol city of the State Of Hockey, St. Paul is Hockeytown.


Friday, November 30, 2007
Blood is in the details

This might be the best announced hockey fight I've ever seen/heard.

Listen to the detail the announcer gets into in describing Derek Boogaard's little bro scrapping.



Just got back from a hockey game between Traktor Chelyabinsk and Moscow Dynamo. We were packed ass cheek to ass cheek in the rink with 3500 other passionate and very knowledgable hockey fans. I mean that quite literally, for there was no room between you and the person next to you and very little in front or behind. The hockey was excellent and the crowd greatly enjoyed seeing their beloved Traktor team pull out a tight 3-2 win. My ears are still ringing from the chants of "Trak-tor! Chel-YAH-binsk!" that spontaneaously erupted every few minutes. A much more complete report will be posted at a future date including pics and possibly even a little video.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Rinks Of Ramsey County

We've had four hockey games so far this year. Keeping in mind that I live in St. Louis Park--a suburb just west of Minneapolis--the locations haven't exactly been commuter friendly:

Ken Yackel-West Side


Biff Adams

Aldrich Arena

Quite the swing through the East side of town. At least tonight at Aldrich we had showers for the first time all year. I think it's time for a little geographic diversity in the schedule.


Monday, November 12, 2007
What are you lookin' at, butthead?

In the category of Best High School Football Captain In The Fifties Name For A Hockey Arena, the winner is Biff Adams in St. Paul. Don't see a lot of youngsters named Biff these days.


Saturday, November 10, 2007
You Got It!

This is beautiful.

Do not click if blood and hockey make you squeamish.

The Elder Throws A Right: Great clip. I love how the announcers enjoy a good scrap. And notice how the Bruins bench and the crowd react. Only an idiot would seek to take fighting out of hockey.

JB Chucks a haymaker:
One of the announcers says "Koci looks like he's making a donation to the Red Cross!" Great line.


Saturday, October 27, 2007
Make It Twelve Out Of Thirteen

Kangas Stands Tall as Gophers Hold Off Buckeyes:

Minnesota freshman goaltender Alex Kangas had a memorable first career start and the Gophers withstood a furious third period rally to defeat Ohio State 2-1 on Friday at Mariucci Arena.

Kangas had 32 saves and stopped 21 shots in the third period, including several miraculous saves in the final three minutes as the Buckeyes outshot the Gophers 22-3 in the final period. However, Minnesota's two-goal lead entering the third period was enough as the Gophers improved to 4-2 overall and posted their first home sweep since Nov. 18-19 of last season against Wisconsin. Ohio State dropped its fourth straight and fell to 2-4 overall.

The Buckeyes, who have lost 12 of 13 all-time meetings with Minnesota, had four shots in about a 30-second span late in the third period. Ohio State had another shot that was headed in the goal, but stopped by a Gophers' defender. The scramble came shortly after Minnesota killed off Ohio State's only third period power play.

The big kid looked good between the pipes, but the Gophers overall lackluster offense--especially the lousy power play--is still a concern.


Friday, October 26, 2007
Meanwhile, In The Only College Sport That Really Matters...

Gophers Rebound for 3-1 Win Over Ohio State:

A dominant first period sparked the Minnesota men's hockey team to a 3-1 non-conference victory over Ohio State on Thursday at Mariucci Arena.

The Gophers scored a pair of goals and outshot the Buckeyes 16-2 in the opening period, holding Ohio State without a shot on goal for nearly the first 16 minutes of the game. Minnesota's win overcame a pair of losses in its conference-opening series last week at Colorado College and improved the Gophers to 11-1 all-time against Ohio State and 3-2 for the season.

Who own the Buckeyes? Owns, owns.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Teaching The Kid The Ropes

We had our first good brawl of the NHL pre-season last night when the Rangers faced off again' the Islanders.

Skip to the 4:00 mark to see the goalies duke it out.

The AP described the tussle thusly:

"When [Simon] is trying to fight two guys at once, then I had to step in," DiPietro said. "All you're thinking is to help your teammates. It was a crazy game. A lot of crazy stuff happened. One good thing is that we're fighting for each other."

DiPietro squared off in a position ready to fight, removing his gloves and mask and pulling up his sleeves.

Montoya, who hasn't played in a regular-season NHL game, skated past DiPietro and seemed to not be interested in fighting or unsure of what to do. He had one fight last season in the AHL.

DiPietro, who fought former Islanders teammate Arron Asham in practice last season, signaled to Montoya to take off his gloves and mask as if to teach him the tricks of the trade. With a wide grin on his face, DiPietro grabbed Montoya and punches flew.

"You've got to defend your teammates," Montoya said. "The second you cross the blue line, that's what is going to happen. He's a tough guy, but at the same time he was going out of his way to try and start something. So I just had to do my part."

As Montoya lost his balance, DiPietro pulled him and the two fell with Montoya on top. DiPietro quickly jumped up and landed on top as punches continued.

It's kind of touching the way DiPietro would take a kid like that under his wing and show him how things are done in the bigs.


Saturday, July 21, 2007
Put A Lid On It

King heps me to The economics of hockey helmets:

James Surowiecki's new essay in the current issue of the New Yorker reminds one of an interesting insight from Thomas Schelling:

Back in the nineteen-seventies, an economist named Thomas Schelling, who later won the Nobel Prize, noticed something peculiar about the N.H.L. At the time, players were allowed, but not required, to wear helmets, and most players chose to go helmet-less, despite the risk of severe head trauma. But when they were asked in secret ballots most players also said that the league should require them to wear helmets. The reason for this conflict, Schelling explained, was that not wearing a helmet conferred a slight advantage on the ice; crucially, it gave the player better peripheral vision, and it also made him look fearless.

The players wanted to have their heads protected, but as individuals they couldn't afford to jeopardize their effectiveness on the ice. Making helmets compulsory eliminated the dilemma: the players could protect their heads without suffering a competitive disadvantage.

I'm not a hockey expert (and perhaps what I claim in the paragraphs below will prove it), but it seems that not all hockey players are created equal. Some are better than others. (Perhaps missing teeth are a sign that person is a better hockey player, because they tend to have control of the hockey puck more often, and are therefore frequently running up against beefy opponents determined to take it away.) Assume also that, as in any sport, the really good players are outnumbered by the lesser-skilled ones. So maybe the secret preference of a majority of hockey players for a helmet requirement is simply signalling that most mediocre hockey players are hoping to handicap everyone, on the chance that the better ones will suffer most.

This would dovetail nicely with the incentives of the owners. Because the NHL is a business, I'd imagine that the owners would always prefer to have more spectators. I also suspect that I'm not alone in believing that hockey is more exciting when there are lots of players getting slammed into walls. But that sort of thing might happen less when nobody has an incentive to wear helmets. Thus, the helmet requirement prevails.

Not sure I'm buying the talent evening angle on this one. I don't see the benefits of not wearing a helmet as being significant at all. Not wearing a face shield does offer one a better field of vision, but a helmet? Hockey helmets themselves don't interfere with your peripheral vision.

The real explantion for the difference between the what the players did and what they said in the secret ballots is simple: image. Hockey players love the tough guy image. There's nothing worse than being thought of as "soft." The guys back in the seventies knew in their heads that wearing a helmet made sense, but there was no way they were going to risk looking weak in front of their peers so they went without a lid.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Nice Leagues Finish Last

King heps me to The Sports Guy on the NHL draft:

4:22: Here's a cool wrinkle for the first round: Before every pick, each GM walks up to the stage flanked by four cronies, then stands in front of the podium and announces his pick. Imagine if the NBA did this and we could see the likes of Elgin Baylor and Kevin McHale announcing their own picks? Can we make this happen?

Anyway, Chicago GM Dale Tallon is "proud" to introduce tiny Patrick Kane as his No. 1 pick. This kid looks like an altar boy. I'm not kidding -- he actually looks like an altar boy. I hope his tremendous upside potential involves puberty. More importantly, what the hell happened to the NHL? As if things weren't already bad enough, the league's No. 1 overall pick is an undersized American who looks like the third singer in a boy band? Can we start sending them FEMA money or something?

It's just too bad that the best the NHL could come up with is a clean-cut youngster as their number one pick. I'm sure Simmons would have been much happier if a multi-tatted bad boy sporting shades, bling, and 'tude had strode up on the stage. Maybe we'll get lucky and learn that Kane has failed the league's drug tests or been arrested for beating up a stripper.

In a time where the sports pages are filled with news of drug-enhanced home run kings, the latest perp walk of the NFL's Most Wanted, and 'roided up wrestlers committing triple murder/suicides, the NHL's #1 draft choice looking like an altar boy seems to present the league with an opportunity to differentiate itself rather than a cause for concern.

At least Simmons recognizes a sweet sweater when he sees one:

5:57: Minnesota takes centre Colton Gillies at No. 16. I'm digging some of these names. Colton Gillies. Keaton Ellerby. Logan Couture. I swear, Steven Seagal played a character with one of those names.

(Wait, that's a sweet Minnesota Wild jersey Colton's putting on! What a beauty! It's a blood-red sweater with green patches on the arms, a green bottom and a circular green and white logo in the middle. Very handsome. Have you seen those? That's the first NHL jersey I've liked since the Original Six.)


Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The Best Things in Life Were Free

Interesting video links copped from Bill Simmons' highly entertaining online chat this afternoon at ESPN.

Ulf Samuelsson knocks out Wayne Gretzky's wife, with Swedish narration.

Wendel Clark knocks out half the NHL, set to the music of Metallica. The savage beating of an old North Star at about 3:10 is particularly noteworthy.

Howard Cosell calling an obstacle course race on Battle of the Network Stars, a competition sadly marred by a Cathy Lee Crosby groin injury.

As I sit here flipping between MASH reruns and the BET '07 awards, I painfully remember all of that stuff was on the tube before the advent of triple digit cable bills.


Thursday, June 14, 2007
Morning Has Broken

It was a glorious morning. The first rays of dawn just starting to peek through hazy clouds. The sky streaked with color. Birds singing.

No better way to greet it then with a little pre-work hockey. A slight fog still hovered over the ice when we started skating and although it was quickly dissipated, the air was a good bit heavier than normal. Nothing like a little sweat to get the day started. Throw in some skatin', shootin', scorin' and even a nice little scrap (not involving me) that drew blood and it really don't get any better.


Friday, June 08, 2007
Cooling It

Okposo Stays, Goligoski Still Undecided:

Kyle Okposo made his decision. He's staying on at the University of Minnesota for another season. The Sophomore forward passed up the opportunity to turn pro today. He was drafted by the NY Islanders last year as the 7th overall pick. "After meeting with the Islanders to discuss my future, I felt it was in my best interest to return for my sophomore year," Okposo said in a statement released by the University today. "This is where I want to be to develop into a better player. I'm enjoying my time as a Gopher and am looking forward to helping us defend our WCHA Championships."

Somewhere Sisyphus' mighty heart is all a flutter.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The Man's Too Big, The Man's Too Strong

Sigh. Even without Pronger, the Mighty F'in Ducks were able to hold off the Sens and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals. It's going to be a sad day when we have to watch Lord Stanley's prize be paraded through the streets of beautiful downtown Anaheim. California will now join North Carolina and Florida as home to the most recent Cup winners. That just ain't right.


Thursday, May 24, 2007
Late Opener For Duck Season

There are a multitude of reasons that the NHL's television ratings are hovering slightly below Tommy Thompson's Q Score these days. It certainly doesn't help that the Stanley Cup playoff games are being televised by a "network" whose usual programming features heavy doses of rodeo and kickboxing and is located in the wasteland channels on most cable systems, sandwiched between "The Hallmark Channel" and "FitTV."

I also wonder how much the recent Stanley Cup Final matchups have hurt ratings. With Anaheim surviving a late onslaught by the Wings Tuesday night, this year's Finals will feature the Ducks facing off against the Ottawa Senators. While hardcore hockey wonks like JB Doubtless and Learned Foot will no doubt appreciate the intriguing nuances of the matchup, I imagine most casual hockey fans won't exactly be captivated by it.

This year's pairing comes on top of these recent Finals:

2006 Carolina Hurricanes versus Edmonton Oilers

2004 Tampa Bay Lightning versus Calgary Flames

2003 New Jersey Devils versus Anaheim Mighty Ducks

2002 Carolina Hurricanes versus Detroit Red Wings

Looking at the list, you only find one "Original Six" team. Half the Finalists are fairly recent expansion teams or, in the case of Carolina, a team that had relocated and has yet to really establish any kind of history or tradition. While having Calgary, Edmonton, and now Ottawa is great for Canada, you really have to go back to 2001 when Colorado (with Raymond Borque) faced New Jersey to find a Finals that had any real compelling storyline or teams that would attract TV viewers in the United States.

So far this year, the Stanley Cup (or the Stanley Strap as JB prefers to call it) playoffs have been a bit of a letdown, which hasn't helped ratings either. Although there have been a few great individual games, there haven't been a lot of overtimes and, with only one series going to seven games, we have been left with a decided lack of drama.

When they finally get around to dropping the puck again (nice scheduling there NHL) on Monday night, I hope to see this change and would love to see seven hard-fought, close contests in the Finals. With Ottawa hoisting the Cup at the end of course. It's bad enough that the Lightning and Hurricanes have recently had their names engraved on the hallowed trophy. If the team with the gayest (in the playground sense of the word) name in all of sport--Mighty (cringe) Ducks--wins the Cup, Lord Stanley will be spinning in his grave.


Sunday, April 22, 2007
Great Moments In Playoff Hockey

Near the tail end of last night's Canucks-Stars Game Six, Dallas captain Brenden Morrow injured his knee when he got tangled up in front of the Vancouver net. It was difficult to tell what happened from the replay, but apparently Morrow thought he had been done wrong.

He hopped on one leg over to the Canucks bench and appeared ready to go into it if necessary to achieve justice. Meanwhile, one of the Canucks on the bench was yapping at him the entire time, no doubt him with names which called his manhood into question. Morrow took a jab at the bench, before deciding that discretion was the better part of valor. From the Hockey News:

Morrow hopped and skated off--putting no pressure on his left foot--with 2:20 left in the game. Before getting off the ice, Morrow stopped in front of the Vancouver bench and threw a punch at Alexandre Burrows, who appeared to slash the Stars captain's left leg only seconds earlier.

"It took every part of me to hold back," said Morrow, who plans to play in Game 7. "I went over there for a reason and talked myself out of it."

Morrow, who was done in the game anyway, was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty. So was Jeff Cowan after the Vancouver left wing got involved in the fracas with Burrows.

Game Seven is tomorrrow night in Vancouver and it should be a fiesty affair. Will the Canucks choke away another 3-1 series lead? I certainly hope so.


Monday, April 16, 2007
Ducks Unlimited?

For a Wild fan, watching the first three games of their series against the Ducks has been an exercise in frustration. But, as a long-time hockey observer, I have to admire the game the Ducks are playing (despite the fact that they have perhaps the gayest name in all of sport). The Stanley Cup playoffs are a grueling marathon that have only just begun. However, if the Ducks can avoid serious injuries and continue to play their disciplined, almost flawlessly executed system, I would not be surprised to see them sipping from Lord Stanley's Cup come June.

There's been a lot of angst among the Wild faithful about their pitiful performance on the power play. And while some of criticism directed at the team's power play efforts are deserved---memo to Wild players: the back door ain't open despite your continued attempts to force it--a lot of credit has to go to the Ducks penalty kill. They stay home, shut down the passing lanes, don't panic with the puck, and almost always wait for the good clearing opportunity. It's textbook penalty killing.

Overall the Anaheim approach is simple: keep the other team high and outside in your defensive zone, pound their D with your big, physical forwards in their zone, play smart on special teams, throw the puck at the net whenever you can (something the Wild could learn), and take advantage of your opponent's miscues. It's a solid game plan, which the Ducks are executing to perfection. Against such a machine, the Wild's Stanley Cup dreams are nearly extinct


Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Must See TV

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight. Pour yourself a tall glass of whisky, commandeer the remote, and sit back and enjoy the best drama in the world of sport. I know JB will following that routine this evening.

Hang on, I'm getting some breaking news off the wire here.

What? The Wild/Ducks game won't be shown in Rochester? My that's a shame. Don't worry JB. It's just NHL playoff hockey. I'm sure you won't be missing much.


Saturday, April 07, 2007
Spartan Will Truimphs

Congratulations to the 2007 NCAA Hockey Champions, the Michigan State Spartans. Not too many people expected them to reach the Finals, but they definitely earned it tonight.

It's also fitting the five-year WCHA stranglehold on the championship trophy should be ended by a former WCHA team. Let the party in East Lansing begin.


Friday, April 06, 2007
Crown Of Thorne

The stage was set. All four of the teams that I had picked had reached the Frozen Four in St. Louis. I was leading every pool that I was in. Side bets were placed with shady characters to maximize my winnings. Come Saturday, when North Dakota beat Maine to win the NCAA championship, I would bask in the glory and new found riches.

But a funny thing happened on the way to my coronation as "College Hockey King." First, the now once again hated Black Bears from Maine choked away an early two goal lead and lost to a very average Michigan State team. Then, the Fighting Sioux played an inconsistent and at times downright idiotic game against Boston College and fell 6-4. Nice hustle on that first empty-netter boys.

Just to add salt to my wounds, ESPN2 "gave" us the announcing tandem of Gary Thorne, the most overrated hockey announcer in history, and Barry Melrose. Melrose is pretty entertaining when he's talking NHL puck. But he knows nothing of the college game. Calling North Dakota "North Carolina" near the end of the game didn't exactly add to his college hockey cred.

Thorne is simply insufferable. Clichés drip from his tongue like a leaky faucet, he often makes elementary errors in describing the action, and incorrectly identifies the players. And yet, he's considered the best announcer in the game. I just don't get it.

I'd rather listen to that pompous Bahstan booster, who does some of the regional games from the East, and a milquetoast, yet competent announcer than be subjected to the Thorne/Melrose misery again.

Oh, Saturday's game? I don't see Boston College having much of problem with Michigan State. Let's say 5-2. But then again, what do I know?

JB Chimes:

Thorne is indeed one of the worst announcers ever. What amazes me about his career is how he oversaw a ridiculous rating decline during his long tenure at ESPN yet was never held responsible for the mass of viewers that left and never came back.

The man is a patsy, a brown-noser ("Who ever told you you could work with men? Where did you learn your trade? You fairy, you company man...I don't care whose nephew you are, I don't care whose *rump* you're *kissing*, you are going down. I am going to Mitch and Murray!" GGGR lines) . He glommed on to every new NHL trend and bullshit rule and toed the Gary Bettman line, accepting his new alien overlords with glee.

Rot Thorne, rot!

I would love to play Ricky Roma to his Williamson some day. And I wouldn't need the Glengarry leads or a Cadillac to do it.


Thursday, April 05, 2007
Go Tell The Spartans...

...that their cause is futile. The puck has dropped in St. Louis and the first national semi-final is underway. It's very early, but Maine already has a 2-0 lead over Michigan State. I never thought I'd say this, but Go Black Bears! Pride and prizes on the line overcome my traditional antipathy toward Maine.

This also means our poll has closed. And 72% of you believe the University of North Dakota will take home yet another NCAA hockey championship. Six in a row for the WCHA would suit me, and my NCAA pool picks, just fine.

UPDATE: The Spartans score to cut it to 2-1.

UPDATE II: D'oh! The Spartans aren't dead yet and have tied the score at two headed to the third.

UPDATE III: Final--Michigan State 4 Maine 2 Thanks for nothing Maine. Lousy Black Bears.


Friday, March 23, 2007
Quick & Dirty Puck Picks

I've already filled out enough NCAA hockey brackets and can barely recall who I picked to win what anymore. Since the first puck drops in about two minutes, I'll skip the analysis and scores and get down to my nitty gritty upset-laden predictions:

Northeast Regional

New Hampshire over Miami
BC over St. Lawrence

BC over New Hampshire

East Regional

Clarkson over U. Mass
Maine over SCSU

Maine over Clarkson

Midwest Regional

Notre Dame over Alabama-Huntsville
Michigan State over BU

Michigan State over Notre Dame

West Regional

Minnesota over Air Force
North Dakota over Michigan

North Dakota over Minnesota


North Dakota over BC
Maine over Michigan State

North Dakota over Maine

Game on.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Rabid Fans?

Someone might want to check the drinking water in Stearns County for traces of lysergic acid diethylamide. In his NCAA hockey breakdown, Sisyphus at Nihilist In Golf Pants notes that the St. Cloud Times has a posted an interactive NCAA hockey pool. And it looks like a number of delusional Husky fans are actually picking SCSU to win the national championship.

SCSU? The team that's never won a SINGLE NCAA playoff game and was thumped by North Dakota and beaten by the Badgers last weekend? C'mon, it's one thing to support the local squad, but you gotta be somewhat realistic, don't ya?

UPDATE: I don't know what's worse: the delusional Husky fans believing that SCSU will win the title or Mark Yost (the guy who had SCSU and Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five championship game) picking BU? Both teams are dogs. Me thinks that Mr. Yost should stick to subjects that he's a bit more versed in.


Thursday, March 15, 2007
State Of Hockey, Not Stickball

The WCHA Final Five kicks off tonight, so it's time for my annual college hockey prognosticating. Sometimes the crystal ball is quite clear, as it was a few years ago when I picked nearly every game of the WCHA Final Five and NCAA tournament correctly. Sometimes things are a bit foggier, like last year when I picked the Gophers to hoist the Crusaders on their own Holy Cross. Ouch, that one still hurts.

Let's get down to business:

* Fans attending tonight's game between Wisconsin and Michigan Tech should be sure to down several cups of coffee before the contest. I see a real snoozefest a comin'. A tight game that could go either will go to the Huskies 2-1.

* The WCHA team that I think is playing the best hockey right now is the extremely politically incorrect University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. They shouldn't have too much trouble putting SCSU down 5-3 in the Friday semi.

* I have no confidence in this Gopher squad and their silly hair-dyeing ways. Shaky goaltending and a young team does not usually get you far in the playoffs. I wouldn't be shocked in the Gophers fell on Friday, but I gotta think that they should have enough to get past Tech 4-3 in the other semi.

* That sets up a UND-Minnesota final. The Sioux dominated the Gophers in a late-season sweep at Mariucci and I think they will do the same on Saturday, something along the lines of 4-2.

My NCCA tourney picks will come out after the seedings are announced.

I do want to note that Mark Yost, "pride" of Brooklyn, is picking a St. Cloud State--Wisconsin final. We'll see who has the true hockey cred after this weekend.

UPDATE: Round one to Mr. Yost.


Monday, March 12, 2007

After Saturday night's 5-1 loss to Roseau in the Class AA state high school hockey championship, I was feeling a mite sorry for the boys from Grand Rapids. For the second year in a row they had reached the championship game only to run into an overpowering opponent (last year it was Cretin). I was pulling for them for no other reasons than that they had the sweetest uni's in the tournament (unchanged for many a year) and that losing the big game two years in a row would be a bitter pill to swallow.

However, this story reminds us once again that it's just a game:

Saturday proved to be an emotional day for Roseau High School hockey coach Scott Oliver, and not only over the action on the ice.

That morning, Oliver said his final goodbye to his nephew, Marine Sgt. Chad Allen, 25, of Maple Lake, Minn.

The marine was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb on Feb. 28. His funeral was held Sunday morning at Maple Lake High School.

U.S. and Minnesota flags flew at half-staff in his honor at state buildings while, across town, Roseau became Class 2A boys' hockey champions.

"It's been a long day, and it's a day that I knew was going to be coming" said Oliver. "Here you are, you're at the state high school hockey tournament, one of the greatest events you can be a part of. And we've got servicemen and servicewomen over there, and they're at risk."

A fact that we don't do enough to remember here on the home front. Chad Allen R.I.P.

UPDATE-- J.D. e-mails to ask:

Speaking of unchanged uni's for the Grand Rapids hockey team, seeing them in this year's tournament reminded me of when I first saw them in a state tournament, decades ago. They were the Grand Rapids Indians then, and they had cheerleaders who took to the ice wearing Indian headdresses. Whatever happened to skating cheerleaders, anyway?

Good question. The State High School League would probably make 'em wear helmets these days, thus destroying much of the appeal.


Saturday, January 20, 2007
A Greet Day For Hockey

Hockey Day Minnesota:

Get your morning skate in early the morning of Saturday, January 20, 2007. Beginning at noon, you've got a date with your couch and television set for the rest of the day.

The Minnesota Wild and FSN North have proclaimed January 20 as "Hockey Day Minnesota," and 11 consecutive hours of hockey will be shown, highlighting the game from peewees to the pros. Three games at three different levels ? St. Paul Johnson high school at Lake of the Woods high school at 1:00 PM, Denver University at the University of Minnesota at 5:30 PM and the Dallas Stars at the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 PM ? will highlight the day.

Throw in the pond hockey tourney and Lake Nokomis and it don't get any better.


Friday, January 19, 2007
Little Fish, Big Pond

Tomorrow, the 2007 U.S. Pond Hockey Championships kick off at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. The event was moved from Lake Calhoun after the most recent bout of unstoppable global warming made the lake's ice unreliable. We must ACT NOW! before another winter event is forced to relocate. What about the children?

I will be playing in said tourney (although not until Saturday) along with a few other names from team rosters that you may recognize from their days as big men on campus:

-Jesse Bull

-Garrett Smaagaard

-Josh DeWolf

-Ryan Trebil

-Justin McHugh

-Bryan Bonin

-Peter Armbrust

-Matt Henderson

-Erik and Krissy Wendell (playing on the same team of course)

Then we have some teams that appear well-stocked.

First, playing on a team called "Johnny Upton & Associates":

-Nick Checco
-Mike Crowley
-Brian LaFleur
-David Paradise

Then, another team named "Tail Gators" loaded with:

-Brett Abrahamson
-Daniel Hendrickson
-Eric Pagel
-David Spehar

"Team Bullet" boasts:

-Dan Trebil
-Bob Dustin
-Charlie Wasley
-Greg Zwakman

And finally "Team Duluth" with:

-Dylan Mills
-Ryan Coole
-Stu Senden

Last but not least the political:

- Playing for the alleged "A lot better last year" team, 2002 candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State, Buck Humphrey

Game on.


Monday, December 04, 2006
Shot And A...

Interesting article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal on the low rate of shootout success in the NHL:

This may seem like a nightmare for a goalie, but it doesn't work out that way. Last season, the goalie saved 52.4% of the shots and the skater missed 14.0%, leaving a 33.6% scoring rate. That rate has declined this year, with goalie saves up to 56.2%, misses staying about the same at 13.5% and goals declining to 30.3%.

It's surprising that it's not higher. Before the advent of the shootout, I think that success rate for penalty shots was over 40% in the NHL.

It makes Saturday night's shootout performance by the Dallas Stars all the more remarkable. They were three for three against the Wild, including an absolute beaut by Mike Ribiero that sealed the deal.

A win in four or five shootouts could make the difference in whether a team makes the playoffs. Given the implications, you would think that NHL teams would be working hard on raising that rather pathetic rate of putting biscuit in basket.


Monday, October 09, 2006
Always On The Sunny Side

Yes it's true that the Twins magical ride ended with a train wreck last week. And the Vikings have about as much offensive fire power as U.N. peacekeepers (one side benefit to that is no longer having to listen to hacky announcers talk about "all the weapons" in the Vikings offensive arsenal as we did for so many years). And the Gopher football squad continues to major in finding creative ways to lose. The Timberwolves are already praying for that golden draft lottery ping pong ball. Heck, even the Gopher hockey team got off to poor start by losing to the hated Black Bears of Maine on Friday night.

But there is one brilliant ray of hope for the local sports fan. Your Minnesota Wild have flown out of the gate and opened the 2006-2007 campaign with a pair of victories. Only six more months until the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. So close we can taste it?


Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Lesser Of Two Evils?

1941 USSR vs. Nazi Germany

1980 Iran vs. Iraq

2006 Wisconsin vs. Maine in tonight's college hockey national championship semi-final


Gopher Gone Wild

More bad news for the Gopher pucksters.

Irmen Leaves For NHL's Wild:

The Minnesota Golden Gophers' 2006-07 prospects sustained another blow Wednesday with the departure of junior forward Danny Irmen, who renounced his final year of college eligibility to move into the professional ranks.

Irmen, a native of Fargo, N.D., signed a contract with the NHL's Minnesota Wild, team president and general manager Doug Risebrough announced.

The deal begins with the 2006-07 season, but Irmen is expected to play the remainder of this season with the Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston.

Somewhere, Sisyphus' mighty heart is breaking. Again.


Monday, March 27, 2006
Elder The Magnificent

ATOMIZER: "I hold in my hand an envelope. As a child of four can plainly see, this envelope has been hermetically sealed. It has been kept in a #2 mayonnaise jar since noon today on Funk and Wagnall's porch. No one knows the contents of this envelope, but you, in your divine and mystical way, will ascertain the answers to these questions having never seen them before."

ELDER: "May the winds of the Sahara blow a desert scorpion up your turban."

(The Elder holds the envelope up to his forehead)

ELDER: "Mark Yost, Hugh Hewitt, and Sisyphus.

ATOMIZER: "Mark Yost, Hugh Hewitt, and Sisyphus.

(Sound of an envelope being ripped open)

ELDER: "Name three people supposedly wise in the ways of hockey who picked teams to appear in the NCAA hockey championship game that were eliminated in their FIRST game of the tournament."

Yes indeed, this weekend was a good time to separate the wheat from the chafe when it comes to college hockey wisdom. Mark Yost, columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and host of the Patriot Insider radio show, picked Minnesota and Harvard to meet for the title in Milwaukee. Hugh Hewitt, geriatric talk radio host and alleged "Hockey Commissioner of Minnesota", had Miami of Ohio (snicker) and Harvard playing in the big game. And Sisyphus, humorist and founder and sole member of the Barry Tallackson Fan Club, went with his heart instead of his head by predicted that his beloved Gophers would face off against the Colorado College Tigers. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Meanwhile, I had a bit of trouble of my own going 7-5 overall. I missed the winner of the battle of Boston (for some reason I wrote BC at one point and BU later in the same post) and the hated Black Bears of Maine stuck it to me by winning the East Regional after I predicted an early exit for them. Then there was the Gophers gacking and Cornell getting lucky and rallying to beat CC. This is the second year in a row that Cornell was one game away from the Frozen Four and lost it in overtime. Such a shame.

So I only have two of the Frozen Four. But those two are the teams that I have meeting for the National Championship in two weeks: North Dakota and Wisconsin.

One final note. Last week, I grudgingly allowed that the CCHA was the second best conference in college hockey. After the CCHA's pathetic performance this weekend (1 win, 4 losses), I amend my statement to say that, with two teams in the Frozen Four, Hockey East is the second best conference in college hockey. Not that it's going to matter much in a couple of weeks when we see another all-WCHA final.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Later this afternoon, pucks will be dropped and the NCAA Hockey Regionals will begin. Time for a quick skate around in response to my tourney picks before the fun starts.

Mark e-mails to complain about my lack of faith in our local lads:

Damnit, Chad. ND 5, Gophers 3? Why? One bad game and you toss them over the side?
I swear by all that is holy, if you've cursed my team I will never forgive you.

Because of your parochial and misguided attempt to earn "street cred" with the college hockey watchers who read Fraters, you have forgotten the first rule of college tournament play: look at the sweater you have hanging in the closet and then pray for irritable bowel syndrome to cripple everyone else who tries to skate with the Gophs.

Fine, Chad. Fine.

Sorry Mark, but I'm a conservative. My views are founded on observation, facts, and reason. You and your bleeding-heart Utopian comrades can rely on your feelings and sing "Imagine" all you want, but wishing it does not make it so.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be cheering for the Gophers as much as anybody (with the possible exception of this nutter). But I gots to calls 'em like I sees 'em.

By the way, I don't need to earn any college hockey cred. I've already got that in spades.

Next we have Dan, who's managed to sober up long enough to compose a semi-thoughtful e-mail:

I'll give you some credit, picking Minny to lose to ND shows that you are able to maintain a modicum of objectiveness about the teams' various prospects.

But, "Wisconsin is overrated"?? Well, as the #1 seed in the tourney, they couldn't be underrated, so you were working from a reduced set of options.

And, "Saturday's loss in the third place game doesn't bother me much."? It only cost you the #1 overall seed, which means going through much easier competition, both in the opening rounds and the semifinal game of the frozen four. I mean just look at the 1's and 2's in each side: Cornell, Harvard and MSU versus NoDak, Miami and BU. Yikes on the latter.

"Fragile psyche"? I'll admit, they looked a bit lost when Elliot went down mid-season, but I think they just realized that he was covering up for a lot of weaknesses on defense. They were coming around with a freshman in goal when Elliot came back. And 4 of the 7 losses were to Denver and (gulp) the Goophers, so not exactly easy competition. If Elliot is on his game, the Badgers are in the final game.

OK, OK, you put the Badgers in the Semis, so how can I really complain? Well, you're a Goopher fan, so I can't help myself (and your colors are ugly).

Here's to a Goopher/Badger final.

Anybody but Maine,


I don't think that the third place game meant that much. The Badgers were already going to Green Bay. The Gophers and Sioux were set for Grand Forks. Sure, Bucky technically may have an easier opening game, but I wouldn't look past Bemidji State.

Wisconsin's been overrated all year. There's something that's just not right about the team. They rely on Elliot too much and, despite some obvious big league talent (Gilbert, Pavelski, Burish, etc.), I don't know if they have the kind of clutch playmakers you need to win a championship. Take Ronnie Earl for example. No doubt that he's a heck of a talented player, but too often he looks soft in the heat of battle. He goes down easier than Paris Hilton. If it comes down to an overtime situation with the game on the line do you want him or Ryan Potulny? I thought so.

I do like Dan's closing sentiments on Maine, although I have been getting a lot of e-mails like this one from Amy:

I really do have to ask.... Why the intense antipathy towards Maine? I haven't seen this kind of antipathy outside of BU fans in Ages. Other than that one strike, you guys are fun to read. Keep writing.

Amy (Incorrigible Minneapolis based Maine fan who is tired of paying for riots insighted by Gilded Rodents.)

I've addressed this issue a couple of times in the past, most recently in a post called 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.

Fortunately, the Gophers did defeat the hated Black Bears last year. I think that most real college hockey fans outside of Maine share my views. If you think I'm harsh on Maine, you should spend a little time with New Hampshire fans. They're brutal.

Finally, a CCHA supporter who wishes to remain anonymous, comes out of the closet and admits the obvious:

I love your blog and visit the site often. As much as it pains me to say this, your predictions on Michigan State are off by one game. Michigan State will likely come out on top of Wisconsin but like you I think NoDak will be crowned champion. I believe that the partisan sports writers who create the national polls feel sorry for the teams outside the Midwest (for confirmation compare the polls which are based on feelings and then look at the PWR and KRACH ratings on USCHO). I realize that this may be humbling to the WCHA partisans but the CCHA has more teams in the top 20 of the quantitative methods than the WCHA this year. However, I am inclined (grudgingly) to agree that overall historical performance favors the WCHA as the strongest league in Div. 1 hockey.

This from a UAF (remember them from earlier this season Minnesota, Michigan, and Miami (Ohio)...don't forget the "(Ohio)" fans?) hockey fan who would desperately like to believe that my alma matter was only knocked out the NCAAs by a soon to be crowned champ.

Please don't use my name if you choose to publish this as there are some who believe that Div. 1 Hockey is a code word for CCHA and I fear these people ;)

This gentleman is to be commended for his honesty and forthrightness. And I will say that the CCHA is undoubtedly the second best conference in college hockey.

Now, the time for chatting is over. The time for serious hockey begins. Stock up on your beverage of choice (Sierra Mist in the case of JB Doubtless). Secure the remote. Lock up the dog. Put the kids to bed ("But dad, it's still light out.") Settle in your couch's ass groove and enjoy a fantastic weekend of college hockey.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated

The selections have been announced. The brackets are out. And this Friday the battle to reach the 2006 Frozen Four in Milwaukee begins.

If you prefer to view the college hockey world through maroon and gold colored lens you can get your Panglossian predictions here. But I believe that most of you want the straight scoop on the tournament from a source with a proven track record. That's why you seek the wisdom of The Elder.

The guy who predicted that North Dakota would knock off Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five semi-final. The guy who assured Mark Yost that St. Cloud State would lose to North Dakota on Saturday night and thus not earn a place in the NCAA tourney. Sure, I was wrong about Friday night's Gopher-SCSU tussle, but I doubt if even the most rabid Husky fan (no pun intended) saw that one coming.

Anyway that was just the warm-ups for the real action that starts Friday. Let's make the rounds.

Last year's all WCHA Frozen Four, and the subsequent whining from all the lesser conferences, led the selection committee to institute an affirmative action policy this time around. They put all four WCHA teams (read the good teams) in two regionals, ensuring that there will be at least two non-WCHA teams in the Frozen Four. Not that it will matter at the end of the day anyway, but it's pretty pathetic when unqualified schools are allowed to play in the Frozen Four in the interests of "fairness." We'll start with the weak sister regionals.

East Regional (Albany)

No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 New Hampshire--One of these years, New Hampshire will put it all together and win the NCAA hockey championship. Right after hell freezes over. Michigan State 4 UNH 2.

No. 2 Harvard vs. No. 3 Maine--For no other reason than my intense loathing of the Black Bears, I'll take the lads of Harvard by a 3-2 score.

Regional Final: Michigan State is closer to being in the WCHA than Harvard, therefore they win 2-1.

Northeast Regional (Worcester)

No. 1 Boston U. vs. No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha--Jack Pah-kahs Terriers have too much bite for the cold Omahaians. BU 5 UNO 3.

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 3 Boston College--Miami of Ohio. 'Nuf said. BC wins 4-3.

Regional Final: Boston's not much of a college town, so this is a tough pick. Let's go with BC 3-2.

Now let's get to the real games.

Midwest Regional (Green Bay)

No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Bemidji State--Wisconsin is overrated. Bemidji almost knocked out Denver last year. Still, it's in Green Bay and they are from the premier conference in college hockey. Badgers 4-2.

No. 2 Cornell vs. No. 3 Colorado College--Not one of CC's better teams. But Cornell? The Big Red? Not. CC 3 Cornell 1

Regional Final: An all WCHA affair just as God intended. Wisconsin's a team with a fragile psyche and if the Tigers get up a couple of goals early, Bucky will roll over. But I just don't think this CC team has enough. Badgers punch their ticket to Milwaukee 3-2.

I just realized that so far I'm picking all the top seeds to advance, which is probably a certain kiss of death.

West Regional (Grand Forks)

No. 2 North Dakota vs. No. 3 Michigan

The maize and blue might as well not even take their ugly football-looking helmets out of the bag. The Sioux are not only at home, they're on a roll. And they will roll all over Michigan. Sioux 6 Wolverines 2.

No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 4 Holy Cross

One of the nice things about the NCAA hockey tournament is learning about quaint schools that you rarely if ever hear anything about. For example, Holy Cross is a Catholic college located in Worcester, Mass and they got into the tourney by virtue of their victory over hockey powerhouse Bentley. Yes, it's a good thing to become more familiar with these smaller programs. And then to kick the living crap out of them. Gophers 19 the politically incorrect Crusaders 2.

By the way, no sooner does the horn sound than you pretty much forget everything about the little school that you've just blown out. Don't believe me? Where in the hell is Mercyhurst at again?

Regional Final: What a showdown. Bitter rivals with long and storied histories meeting for a chance to go to the Frozen Four. Saturday nights in Grand Forks don't get any hotter.

Last year, these two squads met in the Frozen Four (did I mention that it was an all WCHA affair?) with the Sioux coming away victorious. This year, the Gophers have taken three out of four from the Sioux including a sweep up in Grand Forks that marked a turning point in Minnesota's season.

But in playoff hockey, it's all about what have you done for me lately. The Sioux are coming off a WCHA Final Five championship and seem to be jelling at the right time. Their youngsters are really starting to stand out and Parise has been solid, if not spectacular, between the pipes.

The Gophers haven't done much for me lately. Saturday's loss in the third place game doesn't bother me much. Friday night's shootout with St. Cloud State does. Mediocre goaltending and inconsistent, at times lackadaisical defensive play will not get you far in a single elimination tournament. It appeared that the Gophers had tightened up their defensive game and both tenders had strong efforts as the season closed. But the sloppy play and weak goals cropped up again in the playoff series against Anchorage. The Gophers had too much firepower to lose either game to the Seawolves, but there were disquieting signs in the sweep.

Those signs were fully on display on Friday as the Huskies downed the Gophers in OT 8-7. It was a poor defensive effort from top to bottom. Goalies, defensemen, and forwards all bore a share of the blame. After watching that fiasco, I just can't see this squad making the Frozen Four.

Unless of course Briggs steps up and the team plays solid defense. For now, I'll take the team with the mo'. North Dakota 5 Minnesota 3.

Frozen Four


Wisconsin versus Michigan State--It kills me to do this, but I'll take the Badgers 2-1.

North Dakota versus Boston U.--A rematch of the '97 title game. Let's go with same result and score. UND 6 BU 4

A rematch of the WCHA Final Five semi-final. Same result, slightly different score. UND 4 Wisconsin 2

That will make it five straight NCAA championships for WCHA schools. The way it should be.

UPDATE--James from No Cal, a guy who actually knows his college puck, e-mails:

Dammit, I was hoping you were going to convince me that the Gophs had a real chance at the Championship. Unfortunately, though I've been a Briggs fan for a couple years now, I have to agree that he's not turned out to be what I hoped. And the Gophs giving up 8 goals to the Huskies was just inexcusable. This was a Husky team that lived and died on defense and couldn't score on Courtney Love. The Gophs got lazy and complacent toward the end of the season. Six games against UAA and UMD do not make you playoff ready.

So you're probably right. Unfortunately. I hope you're wrong (except abooot Maine. God how I hate them), but I fear you're right.


Friday, February 24, 2006
Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty

In the aftermath of the US Olympic hockey debacle in Torino, it's time to take a good hard look at the roster. And then blow the hell out of it.

There are some who pine for a return to the days of an all amateur lineup. Tim from Colorado is one:

Now that the Soviet Empire has been broken for a decade or so, can we please go back to letting true amateurs participate in the Olympics, including hockey, and basketball?

If I'm only going to see one goal scored, I'd rather see it scored by a kid who, at that moment, is living the dream of all dreams.

Is that so wrong?

Yes Tim, it is. Very wrong. Don't misunderstand. Watching these overpaid, oversexed NHLers go over there and then bitch and complain about having to make their own travel arrangements is not exactly my idea of the Olympic ideal. But from what I understand they will be participating in the 2010 games in Vancouver. And I'm not real crazy about the amateur angle either. Why?

Because you gotta consider where this amateurs would come from. College hockey teams. Good college hockey teams. Which means that the WCHA would be stripped of many of its top players for most of the season. Oh sure, just to be nice that's probably throw a token player in from the ECAC, Hockey East, and the CCHA. But c'mon, we all know that the best hockey and therefore the best players in college hockey are in the WCHA. And I don't want to ruin a season of WCHA hockey just for the Olympics. No sale.

So we're back to a Team USA composed on NHL players. But not the current crop of desiccated husks that have long since withered on the vine. It's time for fresh blood. It's time to go Logan's Run on the roster:


Rick DiPietro--Not an impressive performance in Torino, but he's young. Keeper.

Robert Esche--Esche? Meh. He's cut.

John Grahame--He's thirty so he's the cutting edge. But with such a boring name, why keep him? Cut.


Chris Chelios--Old as the hills, but what a warrior. It's been a great run Chris and we thank you for service. But it's time to hang 'em up.

Derian Hatcher--His best days are far behind him. Cut 'em like he cut Selanne.

Jordan Leopold--Probably the second best USA defensemen in Torino. Definite keeper.

John-Michael Liles--Another good young blue liner. He stays.

Aaron Miller--Cut

Brian Rafalski--I like your hustle Rafalski. That's why it's so hard to cut you.

Mathieu Schneider--Cut.


Jason Blake--Known as "Rat Boy" in college. Another hustler, but just a bit old. Cut.

Erik Cole--Part of the wave of the future.

Craig Conroy--See ya.

Chris Drury--On the edge, but worth keeping.

Brian Gionta--How can you not love this guy's work?

Scott Gomez-Ditto.

Bill Guerin--Bye bye Bill.

Mike Knuble--Later Mike.

Mike Modano--I like Modano's speed, but after his whining about not being treated "princessy enough" I'm don't want to see this primodano again. You won't have to worry about your hotel in Vancouver Mike, you'll be at home.

Mark Parrish--Keep him, but get him on the ice more.

Brian Rolston--Rolston played well in Torino, but he's just a tad too old.

Keith Tkachuk--Thanks for showing up Keith. I noticed that you even made it on the score sheet a few times. By taking lazy, dumb penalties. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Given your lethargic play in Torino it wouldn't surprise me if it did.

Doug Weight--Time to toss this dead weight overboard.

It's high time for a youth movement for Team USA. They might not necessarily win, but at least they would play with passion and intensity.

UPDATE--Modano skips final meeting for U.S. team and heads home:

Mike Modano packed up his stuff and left Italy on Thursday morning, skipping a final meeting with his Olympic teammates after they were eliminated a night earlier in the men's hockey quarterfinals.

USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said the longtime Dallas Stars forward -- who sharply criticized team management after the Americans' elimination Wednesday -- was the only member of the 23-player squad not to gather at the arena where the Americans were knocked out by Finland.

Classy Mike, real classy. I guess he had to catch an early flight. That's what happens sometimes when you have to book on Priceline.


Thursday, February 23, 2006
The Feminization of America, Part 9,456,421

Waddell choked back tears as he tried to explain why the team he built was bounced out of the games with just one win and no medals.

"We came here with higher expectations, and it's disappointing. But you have to move on," the Atlanta Thrashers general manager said.

This guy was one of the leaders of the USA hockey team. The General Manager. One of the doofusesseses responsible for putting together that scraggly collection of has-beens and never-weres that were Team USA and he's crying?

Is there any wonder why they didn't win?

There are damn few times when a man is allowed to cry.

In the movie "We Were Soldiers" Mel Gibson (playing Col. Harold Moore) cries at the end of the battle because his men died and he didn't. Allowed.

When the Elder took a slapshot with a frozen tennis ball from that wicked Northland stick he had held over the stove for an illegal curve that hit me where I live after I had just said "Wait a minute" and wasn't looking. Allowed.

When you put together a golden rolodex group of old whiners who can't score, then proceed to post a 1-4-1 record at the Olympics. Not allowed.

UPDATE: I guess the game wasn't a TOTAL loss:

United States penalties throughout the third period -including a 4-minute, high-sticking call against Derian Hatcher, who knocked out two of Teemu Selanne's teeth and bloodied his mouth--cut off any chance of a comeback.

After watching Selanne whine to the refs in the game against Canada, he had that coming. See, I can find the silver lining in anything! That's why people love my positive, upbeat attitude and utter lack of cynicism.

THE ELDER ADDS: Actually I believe that it was a wrister (and a twisted one at that) that got JB's attention on that cold winter day. God I loved that magical wooden Northland with the metallic blue stripe down the side and the ridiculous heat-induced curve. Backhands were a little tough, but on the forehand that baby was a lethal weapon. The laughter(mine) and tears(JB's) of all those years. Good times. Good times.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006
That's How We Skate

Later this morning, I'll be heading out to play in the inaugural U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, being held on Lake Calhoun. Based on the number of former Gophers and other guys who played D1 college puck on the team rosters (you'll recognize quite a few names), the chances of our squad bringing home the coveted Golden Shovel are probably not good. But that's not why we play game. It's all about having fun playing the greatest sport in the world (sorry Hugh, cribbage is not a sport). Did I mention that there's a Summit beer tent as well? It really doesn't get much better.

If you happen to wander down to the tourney and see a team sporting some of the ugliest yellow sweaters in the history of hockey, that's us. I'd tell you to look for the guy with the missing tooth, but that probably wouldn't narrow the field much.

As our beloved governor might say, "Drop the fu...puck."


Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Pond's Good For You

If this state had a real hockey commissioner instead of an AWOL paunchy pretender to the throne, he no doubt would be on hand to drop the puck at the opening face-off of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, which will take place on the frozen surface of Lake Calhoun on January 20th-22nd.

As I true citizen of the "State of Hockey," I will be there playing with a team called the Minneapolis Millers. I understand that Governor Pawlenty will also be on hand for the festivities. Maybe I'll have a chance to chat with him about the possible political implications of having a hockey commissioner who lives in California and thinks a wrist shot is what the doctor gives you after you trip over the curb and fall while jogging.


Thursday, January 05, 2006
Hockey Night In Slovenia

Even by North American standards, this is a heck of a nice little scrum. Look for the bald dude to employ a few headbutts at around the three minute mark.

(Courtesy of da Cake Eater)


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