Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ode to Brendan Burke

Brian Burke has always been a figurehead in the NHL spectrum that I've always admired.

He has a way of being the most honest and outspoken member of the general managers, and is never, ever afraid to say anything.  But it was last year that we got to see a different side of Burke--acceptance.  His son, Brendan, was playing hockey as a goaltender in high school and became a student manager at Miami University of Ohio, and it was in those years at high school he discovered his homosexuality.  He quit the high school team because he was afraid of his teammates figuring out.

Turns out, he had one HELL of a group of guys at Miami University of Ohio, because all of his teammates, including the coach, Enrico Blasi, gave him full support of his orientation.  No questions asked.  It wasn't a big deal at all.  Huge praise came to the Burke family, with tons of support coming from fans and the press alike.

Goes to show you, homosexuality in the athletic world means absolutely nothing in a negative sense, when you put your mind to it.  John Buccigross wrote a long article for ESPN, and TSN did a long interview with both Brian and Brendan Burke, continuing to spread the word of the acceptance of not only his sexuality, but the fight to accept gay athletes.

It just felt like for the first time in a while, a great man with a great passion and great vision would stick around and make a huge impact in the world.

Then, it happened.  One year ago, while driving in Indiana with a friend, Mark Reedy, the horrible road conditions forced Burke to lose control of his car and hit an oncoming truck...and that was that.

Brendan Burke, dead at the age of 21.  An unspeakably awful tragedy that struck the hockey world and the sports world right at the heart.  It goes to show you that sometimes, the wrong people are taken away at the worst possible times.  But what Brendan Burke did for the world was take the first of many bold steps in the fight for acceptance.  He was an advocate, but not a martyr.  He and his mission will be forever missed.

Continue to rest in peace, Brendan.  One day, that vision will be complete.  You took the biggest step that nobody had the courage to.

Because you were a Burke.  And the Burke family does bold things all the time.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

The Winter Classic is coming up.

There's one problem. I have a feeling the word Winter should be put in quotation marks, because the weather looks awful. As of Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 51 degrees, and a 70% chance of showers. According to several sources, rain is not good for the ice surface.

The NHL has said if it can't be played on New Year's Day, it would be played the day after. Luckily for them, Mother Nature says mostly cloudy with a high of 35 degrees. That's better, but it's no true "Winter Classic".

In years past, the WC has been in Boston, Chicago and Buffalo. There's a key and significant similarity between these locations--they are consistently cold. With it a little bit more south than in years' past, the NHL took a gamble on it being a little warmer, and with questionable weather as a side effect.

The choice to have it in Buffalo in the midst of lake effect snow season was genius.

Problem is, that created expectations beyond what's conceivably possible.  It should be snowing.  It should be freezing cold.  But it shouldn't feel like Spring and it shouldn't be raining.  For the NHL, this is a disaster.  If it doesn't happen on New Year's Day, that alone, I feel is a disaster.  If the NHL were smart in this instance, they should start putting the rain date in their advertisements.  If someone turns on NBC when the game were on and they see other programming, they won't know what happened.

Let the fans that aren't privy to that information know that it will be played the next day.  I'm not sure why the NHL hasn't said that at all yet.  That may be partially because they aren't counting their chickens before they hatch.  Either way, it should have crossed their mind at this point.

A few suggestions for next year...pick a more established rivalry, not a manufactured rivalry.  And pick a better location.  I could go on about how the League should spread the wealth in different teams instead of having Pittsburgh twice, but if anything,  I just feel like they should have picked a better location.  Stay north.  The mid-atlantic is a mess this time of year.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stupid Shootouts

I'm sick of the shootout.

You've heard both sides of the argument before.

One side says it's great for the game. It's great to showcase the talent of the stars in the League. It decides ties in a timely manner. It's exciting. I mean, we've seen some pretty dazzling goals in the shootout, like Marek Malik's stunner through the legs in the umpteenth round against the Washington Capitals, or Mike Ribeiro's through-the-legs-one-handed-shot, or Brad Boyes' sheer dangles on a few occasions.

But I'm just sick of it.

There's only so many times you can dedicate your life to a hockey game, watch a really good one go down to the wire, head to overtime, and just get the feeling that you're destined to go to a shootout. So many tight checking games with low scores go to shootouts where the tight checking is out of everyone's hands. It's up to a skills competition to decide it.

Case in point, tonight's affair between the Penguins and Capitals.

That's not fair.

For those who do or don't know, I'm a Flyers fan. I know for a fact that the sole reason the Flyers made it to the playoffs was because of a shootout on the last game of the season. It was an unforgettable moment. But that isn't how it should have happened, in the true spirit of the game. I can't say I'm a hockey purist, but what I can say is if a game is an example of hard work, then let the hard work continue. Let overtime be five more minutes. Ten minutes of 4-on-4 will give a better chance for a game to end.

Five minutes is enough to make a sandwich, but it's not enough to solve a hockey game.

Make the overtime longer. We'll see less of this shootout gimmick, and more hockey games solved by the game of hockey itself. If a team is more of a grinding team, let them grind out the win. If a team is more of a skill team, let them dazzle you to the win. But don't make it a skills competition. Because it's not in the spirit of the game.

Do you think shootouts should exist?

I don't think so at all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hockey Passion At Its Finest

HBO just recently premiered its flagship sports program for this winter: Penguins/Capitals 24/7. I got a chance to watch it recently, and I didn't know how I was going to feel about it going in. Candidly, I'm a Flyers fan first and foremost, but a fan of the game of hockey overall. I enjoy watching the game and every team fight their heart out night in and night out.

And that's exactly what HBO encapsulated in its first episode of this four-part special. I don't like the Penguins, I don't like the Capitals, but the passion that these hockey players exhibited in the show, right from the start, was extremely refreshing. These are two really good teams in the NHL--admittedly overplayed in the media, but...HBO captured the essence of these two teams really well.

Since it's presented as a drama, there are times where people might think that the producers scripted some of the moments, but as a hockey fan, I'd like to think that's not true. Sometimes, you can't script using the f-word 15 times in a span of 1:22. We know Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals is a hothead to start with, and we know that Alexander Ovechkin is rather flamboyant with his mouth too. We know that this is entirely conceivable.

And the Penguins seem to have so much fun together. Everyone seems to love to hate Evgeni Malkin (and I can see why). As I was watching this program, I just grew to have this gigantic respect for these two teams. You could see how confidently serious the atmosphere is when a team is on a gigantic roll, and you could see how depressingly desperate a team is when they can't find the answers (and as of the 3-2 loss to Boston tonight, they haven't found them yet).

On the broadcast side of things, you see the game. As a broadcaster, I bring you the game. But as the HBO cameras roll behind the scenes, you can clearly see the frustration, the passion, the determination, and the sacrifice that goes into every single game that these players play. Broadcasting seems so simple when you see the game as it is. It's a back and forth affair, trying to accomplish one goal.

But this special has added a new-found appreciation of the game for me. And I hope that it has for everyone else too. It's wonderfully produced, expertly shot, seamlessly's just a beautiful program that captures why we all love hockey. Even if we don't like the teams involved.

Give it a watch if you have HBO, or if you hit the NHL's YouTube channel, you can watch it there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Avs Make it 4 Straight In Windy City

4 Straight. Twice in 2 days.

Two great stats there. The Avalanche's current streak, and the number of times they've dealt the hawks a loss. Today's recap will have a special element to it. We here at MHS have a man on the inside. Friend of the blog Tim Vander Tuuk was nice enough to forward along some audio from the Avs room.

Craig Anderson was a different goalie from the other night in Denver. I said after Monday's game that tonight would be a tigher affair. Anderson seems to read my stuff, or he came up with it on his own..He also took responsibility on himself for the two he let through..

I mentioned the streak above, Andy has a bit about that, and on new acquision Tomas Fleischmann (CTL C/V'ed once again)who had a hat trick tonight.

If you sense a re-occuring theme here, it's defensive tightning. Matt Duchene talks about it, and how the team started and ultimatley ended tonight..

The Avs try and make it 5 in a row Friday night when they face Ottawa at Pepsi Centre. It's an important home stretch for the club, as they don't play on the road again till Dec 30th where they travel to St. Louis. But we're not going to look ahead quite that far.

What's better than 4?

- Jaye

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guest Post

Thanks to Matt from Down Goes Spezza

So as we get close to the start of 2011, we're beginning to see what teams are in it, and what teams are out of it. Needless to say, that's gonna make the trade market the place to be. We've got a few possible deals that might begin to go down. We think they're plausible. (All salary numbers from CapGeek)
Free Agents:

Evgeni Nabokov (G):

Possible destinations: Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida (Pending a Vokoun move), NYI (Pending Rick DiPietro's annual stint on LTIR), Colorado

Tampa: Needs goaltending, has an amazing offense but suspect D after the top pair. Also has the cap space to make a move happen.

Toronto: Needs goaltending as well, but has a suspect offense and underachieving D, could be the fire Ron Wilson needs to help the Leafs move forward

Florida: Could use Nabby to finish off the season if Vokoun gets moved.

NYI: He's the best option short of trading away the young future forwards of the team for Vokoun which I can't see happening.

Colorado: If Anderson can't stay healthy, having a Nabby/Budaj would work for them.

Now trades:

The Flyers need to unload salary to keep under the salary cap. Any of the 4 players above could be moved. (Ed. Note - You knew this was coming)

Matt Walker (D):
He's in a rehab assignment with AHL Phantoms right now, could be back next week or so. (Note: Walker was re-injured during this assignment, he's now on LTIR)

Possible Partners: Jiri Hudler for Nik Zherdev and Matt Walker

Like last year when the Flyers sent Tollefsen for Leino, Hudler could come for Zherdev and Walker. The cap hits would wash because of the LTIR exception on Walker.

Brian Boucher/Mike Leighton (G): One of these guys is the odd man out in Philly with the emergence of Sergei Bobrovsky, who's early Calder Trophy worthy performance has the Flyers sitting with the 2nd best record in the NHL as of the writing of this post,

Possible Partners:  

Mike Leighton (G) and Daniel Carcillo (LW) to the Bolts for Steve Downie (RW)

Bolts have the cap room for this deal, it solves TB's goaltending if they can't sign Nabby. Also, Carcillo for Downie basically trades the same type of player but allows PHL to stay under the cap.

DGS Dream Trade:

To DAL: Andrej Meszaros (D), James van Riemsdyk (LW) Mike Leighton (G), Nik Zherdev (LW), 1st round pick

To PHL: Brad Richards (C), Trevor Daley (D)

Yeah, it fits under the cap per cap geek.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We're Back, So is Stammer.

Oh, hello there. It's been a while hasn't it. My apologies, my day job has ramped up and hence, my blogging time has been reduced.

Tonight we had a bunch of games on the sked. The Penguins kept their unreal streak going (12 games now) and Sidney Crosby extended his points streak. (but what's with the 'stache?) 4 games went to OT and one went to shootout. The Avalanche extended their winning streak to two and the Capitals losing streak to 5.

In one of those overtime games. We welcome tonight's Man Crush.

He came in on a 6 game goalless drought, that ended tonight. Two ginos.

Tonight was supposed to be all about Markus Naslund. His number being retired by the Canucks for reasons still unexplained.

Steven Stamkos came in, said 'fuck it' as the Canuck fans said 'fuck you'

3 points tonight, welcome back.

(Yahoo! Images/Getty)

- Jaye