Sunday, January 30, 2011

The All-Star Game

I listen to a lot of sports talk radio. When my alarm goes off in the morning, the radio is tuned to my local radio station the Team 1040. I get up and have a shower. In that shower is a waterproof radio, tuned to the Team. If it's really early I shower one handed so I can hold that radio to my ear so I don't wake my kids. When I am shaving that same radio moves to the extendo-mirror next to the sink. As I go down stairs to cook breakfast, I turn on the radio in the kitchen. Then it's out to the car, where the presets and search buttons are just for show, and finally on to work where I slip in one earpiece attached to my iPhone that streams 1040 till I need a recharge, which happens 2-3 times a day.

So I'm a fan. I came by it honestly. I was a huge hockey fan that became sick of the shitty music local radio stations played. I still go through it every sunday when my beloved sportstalk is reduced to americans argueing about third string DB's in June or some cuban's E.R.A. in December, so I am forced to mash my way through the buttons of shitty song after shitty song. "Oop! That one was good! buuut now it's over and shit,shit,shit awww what's on CBC? Bark sculpter's memoirs.... Fine. Whatever." The sports guys know the score "hockey, hockey, hockey, baseball but don't go anywhere we're gonna talk hockey right after this" aaaand repeat. I eat it up.

I also find myself bouncing from (pure propaganda), to, to various blogs, to my twitter account where I am able to get the exact same information from tens of hockey writers that all break the same stories at the same time and retweet each other so I get the same info hundreds of times. Isn't it fantastic?! Anywhoo all this is not to impress you. Nor is it for you to pity my sad existence, but it is to say that I am plugged in to the hockey media machine. I ebb and flow along with it's moods and manias. I laugh at it's jokes and jeer it's villains. Like I said, I'm a fan.

If there is one thing I have learned from the media is that it HATES the All-Star game. Clever writers and pundits from across the country ridicule this semi annual event. They mock it's open shinny style. They tell us ad nauseum that the players don't want to be there. They dismiss it as nothing more than a corporate shmooze-fest and regale each other with humorous quips of what they would rather be doing than covering it. They brainstorm on countless roundtables as to how to make this out-of-date dodo watchable and pine for a replacement. Of course all this distain is tempered by a half-hearted "but the kids love it".

I believed them. How could I not? They're all so smart and I am just the stormtrooper waving Obi Wan and his buds through and telling my boys "These aren't the droids we're looking for". They all hate it so much! I must too.... Right? No. Wrong. Fuck that. Fuck those jaded fuckers that get to see every game from the pressbox and see these superhuman atheletes day in and day out. Their perspective is skewed. Yes, I know the All-Star barely resembles an NHL game. I know there is no hitting, the goalies get hung out to dry and everyone is going at 3/4 speed. I know there will be many awkward pauses as the CBC tries to manufacture excitement and intrinsically Canadian moments out of thin air. But it's this departure from reality that makes it watchable (not the CBC part. They do that shit every Saturday). I would propose that it's the Winter Classic that is in fact unwatchable.

The Winter Classic is essentially a regular season game handicapped by weather, pomp, circumstance, expectation and repetition. It was kinda cool once, in Edmo, with the Habs, in super frikkin cold weather. That's it! After that I just don't get it to be quite honest. I certainly couldn't imagine GOING to one. Picture yourself being half a football field away in row 86 watching ants scuttle about on an icecube. I think my upper deck row 8's at the call centre are shitty. No way I'm shelling out for that!

The All-Star game brings together most of the major stars in the game (Detroit gets to sit it out) to strut their stuff. So there are awkward interviews and technical delays. Hockey doesn't take itself so seriously that it can't laugh at itself. At least it shouldn't. I found myself watching the fantasy draft this year with anticipation for each name called. Sure there were some "three's company" moments, but that is to be expected. Look away.... It'll pass. The skills competition is honestly one of my favorites. Who IS the fastest skater? Who DOES have the hardest shot? Yes, the shootout challenge is stupid, but "holyshitdidyoujustseewhatPerrydid?" That stuff is gold Jerry... GOLD!

And the game itself? Who doesn't love watching their heroes go out there and play the best game on earth with the greatest skill on earth with no pressure, just for fun for once? I know I do. I love it. I'll have a smile running from ear to ear watching them float around and not hit because it isn't a real game and nothing is on the line except a car. A shitty $30,000 car for a bunch of multimillionaires. So if it's just for the kids, count me as one of 'em.

Don't believe everything you hear. Adios muchachos!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I just realized it has been over a year since my last post. Unacceptable. What really put me off was my Olympic experience. If you didn't know, I spent last year's winter Olympics as NBC's "Hockey Gaffer". That was my title! It said so on my NBC ID! Crazy. I fully intended to chronicle my time in Canada Hockey Place on this blog. Leaving for myself, if for no one else, a time capsule of thoughts and snapshots that I could for evermore look back upon. It didn't quite work out that way.
I was working 15 hours a day. We worked 5 games a day, 3 Men's 2 Women's. Watching first hand the greatest hockey I had ever seen ( and some shitty games too). Rubbing elbows with the elite of both the NHL and hockey media. Spending every moment of those 15 hours in fear that NBC would figure out that I had no business being there. In all reality I had every right to be there, but such was my fear of losing this precious gift that my paranoia took over. Plus I had signed a confidentiality agreement that specifically forbade me from posting info on blogs, facebook, twitter or any other social media. I wanted to write it all down but I was so fuckin' tired I couldn't. I spent every minute of every day protecting my opportunity to reach the Holy Grail.

And I got it.

I was in the building. No. That's not right. I was standing between Milbury and Jeremy Roenick shouting "C'mon Crosby!! Fuckin' DO SOMETHING!!" ... when he did.

I was there! I saw it with my own eyes. A moment I will never forget. Wearing my team Canada red jersey, my NBC garb long since discarded somewhere in the third period (what were they going to do? Fire me?). Tears streaming down my face trying to croak out the words to O Canada as our flag ascended to the rafters. It was beautiful. Aside from the birth of my children, the greatest moment of my life.

After that, everything else paled by comparison. I was exhausted. My family and I took a much needed vacation and when I got home I thought about resuming my blog. I wanted to recount the experience blow by blow, but the moment had passed and the memories too fresh, too jumbled. So I put it off.

Meanwhile the hockey season continued. The Canucks did well. They made the second round. They got assraped by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks for a second straight year. I had thoughts on all these things, but until I dealt with "the gig", I felt like I couldn't post anything.

It wasn't until tonight, when I saw it had been over a year since my last post, that I felt "Fuck it. Write something. Write anything".
So there it is. Hopefully now I can get back in the saddle and deal with the day to day trivialities of my Canuckleheads. Sorry for the absence, non-existent readership.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Number

I've only ever had two numbered jerseys in my life. Bure and Ohlund. The greatest forward in Canucks history (sorry Nazzy) and the greatest defenseman in Canucks history.

My Bure jersey was a gift from a girlfriend. I had asked her for an authentic away (black) Bure, tie down and all, for Christmas and she woke me up wearing that beautiful #96 and nothing else. It was a good day. I had opted for the 96 because Bure had just changed from his classic 10 to a flashy number that would be the wave of the future, signifying a new era. It was a new era alright. That number was cursed. It was the harbinger of death for the golden era of Canucks hockey. Soon after Pavel took to the ice in his new uni he sustained a catastrophic knee injury that wiped out his season. The following season was marred with injury as well and although "not superstitious" Pavel switched back to his number 10 for his final year as a Canuck.

I don't count the Messier 11. It was given to me by a well meaning family member and was signed by every Canuck player and coach. Every player that is except Mess himself. He told my family member "The rights to my signature are owned by a marketing company so I can't sign that". I keep it as a reminder of the dark days.

I had many inclinations towards other players. I had been burned badly on the Pavel jersey and wouldn't let that happen again. It was easy to love Mogilny's enigmatic skill. Trev, although lovable, was over represented. Jyrki Lumme was so bizarre I became fascinated with his vulcanesque demeanor. he was my favorite Dman until Ohlie came along and when he did I was sold.

The very fibre of the team was slipping through our fingers as we watched in agony, but there was one shining light. One bastion of consistency. He was young, huge, and skilled. Mattias Ohlund could lead the rush, hit like few others, and score timely goals. I ran out and got my away birthing whale 2 juuuust before Ohlies near career ending eye injury. Eventually things turned out okay, but for a while there, I was rethinking my jersey luck.

Which brings us to today. Although I proudly sport my blue and green #2 to games (my old black, blue and silver long since signed and retired) it seems I need to start searching for a candidate for number #3. This is not a task I embark upon lightly. I feel one has to have enough confidence in the name on the back to be able to shout "not as good as your momma!" back at anyone that tells you your namesake sucks. If I was to throw on, say, a Bieksa jersey just to stay current, I might have to agree with the drunken hecklers at the garage. And no good can come of that.

Candidates then:

Kesler - I spent too long shouting "Nice F*^cking play 1.9!!!!" to ever go back.

Burrows - Feel good story of last year. I'm not sure if you knew this but he made it from the ECHL aaaaaall the way to Vancouver's top line. True story. Pass.

Edler - During a preseason game a friend's wife asked me who this Edler fellow was. Having never heard of him I told her he was just one of many plumbers who show up in preseason never to be heard from again. She said "I like him and I hope he scores a goal." To which I responded "I will eat the plate your nachos were served on if Edler scores". He didn't. He did however ring one off the post, make the team and score quite a few that season, entrenching himself on the Canuck blue line. I still get texts every time he scores. No.

Leading me to my current front runner....

Christian Ehrhoff - I'm not sure how long his play will remain at this level, but he is impressing in ways I didn't imagine when he was traded for Patrick White. He may be too old and too German to warrant a jersey but he is definitely tops of my list as it stands. The toughest part would be wearing #5

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shifting Winds

During the dark years in the 90's Canucks fans had to have a back up team for the playoffs. Mine was the Red Wings. Stevie Y, Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov... what's not to love? They played with a skill and confidence that made them so easy to watch. Not to mention the annual veteran free agent parade that passed through the Joe. In the 90's, if you wanted cash you went to the Rangers or leafs, if you wanted a cup you went to the Wings or Avalanche.

Although the Canucks situation has vastly improved since those days, the wings have always held a place in my heart. But this is starting to change. The mighty Wings lustre is starting to tarnish. Gone is Stevie Y, time is starting to catch up with Lidstrom and their ability to attract the high profile vet at a reasonable price has come in to question. They still draft well but will they be able to hold on to those players?
All this leads to the burning question of our time? If not the wings... who gets my sloppy seconds?

The criteria are simple. No divisional foes, no Canadian teams and not the Rangers. That leaves 20 teams. time for a cull.
California teams? EAD. 17.
Florida teams? same, EAD. 15.
Mattias Ohlund. 16.
Teams having great up and coming Canadian superstars? That only proves you have been terrible too recently, sorry Thrashers, Islanders and Lightning. 13.
Mattias Ohlund. 14.
Teams that are flat out shit. Bye bye Hurricanes, Coyotes and Predators. 11.
Hitchcock. 10.
Turco. 9.
Just not interested. That means you Sabres, Devils and Blues. 6.

That leaves The Caps, Flyers, Bruins, Lightning, Hawks and Penguins. Both Philly and Boston have impressive, exciting teams with great goal tending stories...buuuuut their fans are douche bags so... 4.

Although I love Matty and both Hedman and Stamkos point toward a bright future, we are talking about playoff longevity here. 3.

Crosby... meh. Is it just me? 2.

On one hand I have been immensely impressed by the Hawks. Keith and Seabrook are absolute studs. Kane is a goal-sucking little bitch but man is he fun to watch. Toews, although not particularly flashy has a Stevie Y/Ron Francis air about him. Campbell is just a crazy bastard. Quenneville is a stellar coach and they roll line after line of skilled, tough, fast players with good sense at both ends of the ice.
On the other hand is Ovechkin. It's a toss up.

I'll stick with 2 for now.

Ohlund. 3.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Work has taken over life for the last little while so hockey has taken a back seat. During the last few weeks I haven't been able to break down the minutiae of the Canuck's play but here's the few observations I have made:

Hordichuck. redundant. He doesn't have the foot speed or sense to be an effective forechecker/grinder. His hesitance to stand up for his teammates or intimidate the opposition has taken over his play. Rypien has more than made up for Hordichuk's disappearance and Tanner Glass adds the size element if not the pugilistic prowess. Hordichuck = Expendable

Bernier. Stevie, Stevie, Stevie.... So hard to peg. He has some size but he's not hulking. He's not slow. His hands come and go. Is he an underachieving 2nd liner or a serviceable third liner? I think he will remain a third liner and I choose to be pleasantly surprised when he scores. As long as his contract remains manageable Burner represents the depth a winning squad needs. Any higher expectations will only lead to frustration.

Burrows. I have a theory on Alex's productivity. Burr is most effective when he plays with the highest of determination. When on his game his hustle, grit and beaking give opposition players fits. His rise from the depths of the minors to Vancouver's first line was fueled by playoff level intensity. His ability to play a desperate style in mid January while everyone else is skating in quicksand has allowed him to push past those with more raw talent.
Two problems. One. Maintaining that level of intensity over an 82 game schedule is hard. Maintaining it over multiple seasons seems impossible. Two. The "playoff gear" that Burrows has been able to find in the regular season leaves him with nowhere to go. When the playoffs roll around and everyone else steps up, Burrows has nowhere to go. His hustle is matched by the opposition and his lack of natural ability is exposed.
It's only theory, but I hope his recent lack of production is explained by a hidden injury and not complacency creeping into his game.

More ranting to come...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mitchell vs Ohlund

What happened?

Where did the love go for our boy Mattias Ohlund? The local media is in full flight towing the Canuck line on Mattias. "he was too expensive" "He's too old" "it was time for him to move on".

Have we, as Canuck fans, no regard for our legacy players? Mattias has been erased from our collective memories yet an explanation has never been given why.

I would propose that Willie Mitchell is no better than Ohlund. Mitchell is the same age, as mobile and equally defensive minded as Ohlund.

The differences?
-Mitchell is a BC boy. This is huge. locals have a way of playing large for the home team, not to mention they get huge love from the fans. See Brendan Morrison's Canuck tenure for proof.

-Mitchell is cheaper. Big willie style's cap hit is $250k less than Matty's. Does 10 years service and 2 under valued contracts deserve a lousy $250k? I would say yes.

-Mitchell is good in the room. This is anecdotal but possible. Ohlund was of another era but was he so bad for this team that we should discard the backbone of the defense?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


A post over at Hit the Post got me thinking about the Canuck monoculture.

When the Canucks made GM Place their home, they were bad. Although there was a ton of optimism surrounding the team, the potential never came to fruition. The team store had to sell something and no one was going to buy a Lonny Bohonos jersey. Throughout the late 90's one could find obscure replica and authentic jerseys from every team in he NHL.

As the team slogged toward respectability and Trev returned, the store started carrying more and more name and number Canucks sweaters. A fan could saunter in and pick up a Cassels or Baron jersey without waiting 4-6 weeks. Still, the store held the biggest names on the biggest sellers. A Sundin blueleaf or Bondra screaming eagle were still readily available. The orca still ruled though and there were no other Canucks incarnations allowed in corporate sellout place.

Then came the knit, away (blue) retro stick in rink.Killer jersey. I bought one for my buddy for Christmas and was jealous every time he wore it. This retro opened the door for discussion on the Canuck colours (again) and test marketed the eventual change. With the league trying a retro look in some markets (Calgary opted for the 'burning horse head') and Nike's marketing guru Chris Zimmerman coming on board the Canucks threw their marketing juggernaught into full gear. Within a couple of seasons of the lockout and an RBK jersey takeover later, gone was the burgundy and silver.In it's place was a sea of blue and green dotted with islands of "flying V's" and "plates of spagetti". There are few, if any teams in the NHL that have made as many wholesale colour scheme changes as the Canucks. Finally though, they were using this to their advantage, selling the popular blue scheme (including the ever popular stick in rink 3rd) while marketing the others as kitchy, retro alternatives.

All of this seems great for the Canucks. They have a steady revenue stream and successful marketing scheme that is raking it in. Herein lies the problem. Gone are any traces of the rest of the league. Even team Canada is banished from the racks. God forbid you are an out of town (enemy) fan and want to pick up a Cal Clutterbuck or Mark Giordano jersey. No chance. Not only are the Canucks losing out on a valuable source of revenue but the fans are losing out on seeing all those beautiful jerseys (no, not yours cowtown). It creates an insular fanbase that knows nothing of the league, only the Canult (TM).