Friday, September 13, 2013

The Weekend Getaway

In Friday's KHL action, Slovan Bratislava needed overtime to defeat host Medvescak Zagreb in the lone game of the afternoon. On Thursday night, Moncton defeated Halifax, 4-0, in the regular-season opener of the QMJHL.

In that game, the defending Memorial Cup champion Mooseheads were without Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, who are in NHL training camps. Neither one is expected back in the Q. MacKinnon is with Colorado and Drouin is with Tampa Bay.

While I am at it, here is the Buzzing the Net preview of the QMJHL Maritimes Division. Earlier this week I gave you links to previews of the OHL (East and West), QMJHL (East and West) and WHL (East). Still waiting for the WHL West preview.

Line change: the switch from hot and humid on Thursday to sunny and cool today in Manhattan has me anticipating the start of the NHL exhibition season on Saturday (the Capitals-Jets game from Belleville, Ontario, will be broadcast Saturday at 7 Eastern on the NHL Network). I know these games have no real meaning and you might catch a shift or two from a name player before the hopefuls take up the rest of the night's shifts. Still, it's hockey and I will view it as a great excuse to look forward to cooler days ahead.

Speaking of cooler days ahead, the Lounge will be taking a break for a visit to Maine and New Brunswick. I am reviewing my travel schedule and the QMJHL schedule. That Acadie-Bathurst Titan at Saint John Sea Dogs game on Sept. 21 at 7 Atlantic time is calling to me.

In any event, I'll set up a cold one for you when I get back into the Lounge on Sept. 23.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Small World and a Big Night

OK, I know I am getting a little too excited about hockey being back, and it will be back in North America tonight when Moncton visits Halifax to open the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season. That game starts at 7 Atlantic time.

But first I'm looking at the team photo of Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL. Nice uniforms by the club, and I might say that I like the numbers on the shins rather than on the shoulders (I'm talking to you San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres). And I am a big fan of the retro color selection of the goalie pads by goalie Barry Brust, front row left. Brown or some similar shade is what all goalies across this great globe should be wearing.

Note that the Cheechoo train (Jonathan, for those of you who prefer regular names) calls Zagreb home. In fact, look at the roster. Hugh Jessiman, Kyle Klubertanz, Brian Willsie, Kurtis Foster. Plenty of familiar faces working for the Croatian entry in the KHL.

And with that, let's get to the KHL scores for Thursday:

Avangard Omsk Region 4, Atlant Moscow Region 3
SKA St. Petersburg 5, Barys Astana 2
Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 3, Severstal Cherepovets 1
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 0
Ak Bars Kazan 3, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 0
Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3, Vityaz Chekhov 2
Spartak Moscow 3, CSKA Moscow 2
Dinamo Riga 4, Donbass Donetsk 2
Lev Prague 3, Dinamo Minsk 1

The standings are here. UPDATE: the roundup, with highlights,is here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Few Shots for the Road

A light day in the KHL, with just two games on Wednesday.

Admrial Vladivostok, still on that long road trip, defeated Metallurg Novokusnetzk in overtime, 2-1. Sibir Novosibirsk Region needed a shootout to get past Amur Khabarovsk, 3-2. The roundup is here.

With the NHL teams reporting to training camp. TSN has put up its season previews online. The NHL had their five-story-per-team 30 in 30 preview package last month. The links on this 30 in 30 calendar still work, so get on it.

Hockey's Future has a KHL preview with the focus on prospects who might someday appear in a rink on this side of the Atlantic or Pacific -- yes, we remember that Vladivostok, should it ever play host to a home game, is in the KHL these days. The link is here.

The same site has been breaking down the top 20 prospects for each NHL organization. The New York Rangers were the latest team posted. There have been 20 posted as of Sept. 11.

Buzzing the Net is previewing the QMJHL (East, West, Maritimes), OHL (East, West) and WHL (East, West).

The QMJHL Maritimes preview is scheduled for Thursday, when the league opens its regular season, and the WHL West preview should not be far behind. The OHL and the WHL begin regular-season play on Sept. 19. The USHL opens on Sept. 20.

The Hockey News website also is amid its schedule of short previews, as is The Score's Backhand Shelf blog and Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog. In addition, the Coming Down the Pipe blog has started its One to Watch series focusing on a young player for each NHL team.

There's a lot on the menu, so take your time and enjoy a cold adult beverage while you do your homework. The exhibition season begins Saturday, which is great news on a swampy day in Manhattan.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

KHL Payrolls, From Soup to Peanuts

The misnamed salary cap -- it actually is a limit on the size of a payroll -- in the KHL owes a debt of gratitude to the NBA and Larry Bird.

Back when Larry Bird was a youngster with the Boston Celtics and approaching free agency, the team appeared concerned that they would be losing the star because he would be the only one on the court if the Celtics were to meet the limit on payroll size. In the league office, the slide rules, calculators and finger counters helped devise a way for teams (I say plural but others say the Celtics) were able to keep their stars.

Teams could with seemingly no restrictions to keep their players, payroll limit be damned, while outside bidders had to mind their cap space.

The KHL does set payroll boundaries, but there is some wiggle room for teams to have top players. Here's the word from the KHL:

As a result of a ballot among the clubs’ owners, the salary cap for clubs competing in the Kontinental Hockey League season 2013-14 has been set at 1,290,300,000 rubles, based on the current average exchange rate of 33 RUB = 1 USD. The lower limit of the salary cap remains at 250m rubles. In order that the KHL may keep its world-class players, and to create the conditions to attract more star players to the Championship, the League has introduced a measure which permits clubs by way of exception to exclude from the salary cap the earnings of the following players: Anton Babchuk (Salavat Yulaev), Alexander Burmistrov (Ak Bars), Ilya Kovalchuk (SKA), Leonid Komarov (Dynamo Moscow), Sergei Kostitsyn (Avangard), Alexander Radulov (CSKA) and Ruslan Fedotenko (Donbass).

The journalist Dmitry Chesnokov tried to flesh this out more on Twitter:

Babchuk, Burmistrov, Komarov, S. Kostitsyn, Radulov, Fedotenko & Kocalchuk removed from KHL cap space consideration; will make combined $30m

He went on to add:

The 7 players, whose contracts do not count towards the #KHL salary cap, will make as much as the entire SKA team.

Upon being questioned by a reader, he added:

One player on each team may be designated to be outside the cap. The measure was put in place to lure Kovalchuk-caliber players.

The journalist Slava Malamud seemed to alert us about a Larry Bird rule on Twitter back in May 2012:

And here goes KHL, doing its thing again. The league announces that all returning Russian NHLers will not count against the salary cap.

The KHL release includes a link to a PDF, which lists the teams payrolls in alphabetical order. So, with some patience, here is the list from greatest to least, with the payrolls listed in U.S. dollars based on the Oanda currency exchange rate for the day:

1. SKA St. Petersburg -- $38,225,000
2. Ak Bars Kazan -- $32,631,900
3. Metallurg Magnitogorsk -- $31,092,500
4. Salavat Yulaev Ufa -- $30,409,300
5. CSKA Moscow -- $29,030,200
6. Traktor Chelyabinsk -- $26,422,400
7. Dynamo Moscow -- $26,027,600
8. Avangard Omsk Region -- $25,921,200
9. Lev Prague -- $22,300,300
10. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl -- $21,541,800
11. Donbass Donetsk -- $21,523,300
12. Atlant Moscow Region -- $18,436,300
13. Barys Astana -- $16,911,600
14. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk -- $13,826,700
15. Severstal Cherepovets -- $13,399,000
16. Sibir Novosibirsk Region -- $12,227,500
17. Vityaz Chekhov -- $11,790,500
18. Amur Khabarovsk -- $11,075,700
19. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg -- $10,579,900
20. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod -- $10,577,800
21. Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk -- $10,459,100
22. Spartak Moscow -- $9,756,010
23. Dinamo Minsk -- $8,808,920
24. Admiral Vladivostok -- $8,648,960
25. Dinamo Riga -- $8,043,020
26. Metallurg Novokuznetsk -- $5,837,180
27. Slovan Bratislava -- $5,593,570
28. Medvescak Zagreb -- $5,436,540

As you can see, with a payroll ceiling at $38,799,700 and a floor at $7,517,580, it appears three teams need to start spending to reach the floor. Another way to use this chart is to guess which team will get the most bang for the buck (rise from the ruble?) in the standings at season end. Those salaries that are not officially on the cap can be factored in as well. It will be fun to watch.

And with all that out of the way, here are the scores for Monday:
Avangard Omsk Region 4, Severstal Cherepovets 3 SO
SKA St. Petersburg 5, Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 1
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3, Atlant Moscow Region 2 SO
Barys Astana 5, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3
Ak Bars Kazan 3, Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 OT
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 5, Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0
Vityaz Chekhov 1, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0
Dynamo Moscow 4, Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1
Dinamo Riga 3, Spartak Moscow 1
Donbass Donetsk 4, CSKA Moscow 1
Dinamo Minsk 2, Slovan Bratislava 0
Lev Prague 3, Medvescak Zagreb 1

The roundup, with highlights, is here. The standings are here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Weekend Is a Blur

To know me is to, well, know that I loathe projects involving work on, in or around my house. Heck take a walk to a library, where there are more than 300,000 better things to do in there alone.

But I save a few weekends a year for work. This past one was one of them. Permit me to use this as a way to say I had no time to post on Sunday. But I am giving you a double shot of KHL today with games of Sunday and today. There were no games scheduled on Saturday.

It is nice to see that the KHL is putting together a daily roundup online and as well as a highlights package on their YouTube channel. It is a great way to see the differences in that league versus what we have grown up with in North America. The leagues in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and such would be well ahead of the game if they had seen fit to offer English language highlights to attract people to their teams and top players.

Look, all it takes is for someone in a booth to watch the highlights and offer quick commentary in English, French, Spanish, German and the numerous languages spoken across the former Soviet republics. The NHL's website comes with a number of language options, and it is not to sell the game to the locals, but to those abroad who want to take in the NHL experience.

So kudos to the KHL for taking this step, one that its elders in Sweden and Finland should have done, and much earlier, too.

Sunday's roundup is here. If you are scoring at home, Spartak Moscow goalie Jeff Glass is the man of the hour and the week with his second shutout in as many games. His latest effort came Sunday in a 5-0 victory over Slovan Bratislava. Glass is in his fifth KHL season, having spent five seasons in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators. He played his juniors at Kootenay in the Western Hockey League. Glass has been selected as the goaltender of the week.

Sunday's scores
Avangard Omsk Region 5, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2
Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 4, Atlant Moscow Region 1
SKA St. Petersburg 6, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4
Barys Astana 10, Severstal Cherepovets 1
Traktor Chelyabinsk 4, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3
Ak Bars Kazan 4, Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 SO
Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5, Vityaz Chekov 4
Dynamo Moscow 4, Neftekhimik Niznehkamsk 0
Spartak Moscow 5, Slovan Bratislava 0
CSKA Moscow 2, Dinamo Minsk 1 OT
Donbass Donetsk 3, Lev Prague 2 OT
Dinamo Riga 5, Medvescak Zagreb 1

Monday's scores
Metallurg Novokuznetsk 3, Amur Khabarovsk 1
Sibir Novosibirsk Region 3, Admiral Vladivostok 2

UPDATE: Monday's roundup is here.

The standings are here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Who Allowed Kvasha in the Door?

Oleg Kvasha, welcome back to the Lounge. Who did you bribe to get in here? Dear patrons, I used to assign Mr. Kvasha the booth near the washroom door, the booth of contempt. It's a tag I pretty much gave him just for showing up, which to me was pretty much all he did when he was with the New York Islanders, one of his three stops in the NHL.

No, I was not a big fan of his then. And you would be wise to see the amount of scorn I have scooped up for him as we proceed in this post.

There is a fine Italian restaurant in Corona, Queens, not far from the lot where Shea Stadium and its failed attempt at plumbing once stood. The fine establishment is called the Park Side, and it has a ring of tables that come with the famous names who once sat there as regulars. My favorite was the Dallas Green table.

With that inspiration, I might have to post a cheap plank with Mr. Kvasha's name in the booth of contempt. These days, Mr. Kvasha is a forward for Avangard Omsk Region, which opened its KHL season at home against the money men of SKA St. Petersburg. He had one shot, lost 58.3 percent of his faceoffs, had his usual tripping penalty and played 17 minutes 40 seconds of work.

In short, just what I expected from the man who came to the Islanders in the deal (hmm, who made that one?) that sent Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers prior to the 2000-01 season.

While Mr. Kvasha was up to his usual efforts, one Viktor Tikhonov, a notable bust with the Phoenix Coyotes when they were led by Wayne Gretzky, had two goals on four shots, won all of his faceoffs and no penalties in 16:52 of ice time for SKA. (Tikhonov did, however, make a great promotional video for the Coyotes, who were trying to attract fans with talking puppets.)

Final result, SKA St. Petersburg 5, the fighting Kvashas of Avangard Omsk Region 1.

In other scores: Vladivostok Admrial defeated Amur Khabarovsk in a shootout, 4-3. Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk beat Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, 2-1; Severstal Cherepovets over Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg in a shootout, 2-1; Neftekhmimik Nizhnekamsk defeated Ak Bars Kazan, 3-1; Salavat Yulaev Ufa over Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in a shootout, 3-2; Vityaz Chekov over Traktor Chelyabinsk, 5-3; Dynamo Moscow beat Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 3-1; Donbass Donetsk over Slovan Bratislava, 4-2; and Medvescak Zagreb defeated CSKA (which some of us used to know better as the Red Army team), 7-1.

When I get any firm roundups or highlight videos, I will update and post them here.

UPDATE: The KHL's official roundup, with two videos, for Friday's games is here.

One final note: I know that we are always told not to take everything from Wikipedia as fact. Given that, I was pleased to note that written on Mr. Kvasha's Wiki page is the tidbit that he is known as "the Chosen One." There are many things that I can make up. This is not one of them.

Now get in the booth, Mr. Kvasha. You have been chosen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Daily Afternoon Shot of KHL

More fun as hockey moves to Day No. 2 in the KHL (or Night No. 2 on your side of the Atlantic, if you have somehow stumbled upon the Lounge over there).

Spartak Moscow was the lone visitor to win, defeating host Atlant Moscow Region, 2-0. Rastislav Spirko had both goals for Spartak. In other games, Metallurg Novokuznetsk beat Sibir Novosibirsk Region, 3-2, and Dinamo Riga topped Dinamo Minsk, 2-1.

And while I'm waiting for the KHL to post the highlights video and roundup for Thursday's games, here's a KHL preview from R-Sport, which is always a good place to check when looking for KHL or Olympic hockey notes, like this one from Pavel Bure.

UPDATE: Here is the KHL roundup, along with a video from the Atlant-Spartak game. If you wait long enough, good things do pop onto your screen.

More good names to follow on Twitter are Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) and Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud). They are fluent in NHL, KHL and humor, so click on them early and often.

And while we're updating, here's Sean McIndoe's take on Team Canada Olympic anxiety in Grantland. He can also be found on his Down Goes Brown blog, as well as on Twitter (@DownGoesBrown).

Hey, You're the First Ones Here

Hey, thanks for sticking around, but you probably should have said something before I locked up the Lounge for the summer.

But, you managed to survive the darkness of the Lounge in summer. For your reward, it's time to talk hockey in an Olympic season.

The KHL is the first league to get going, with Dynamo Moscow defeating Traktor Chelyabinsk, 5-1, in the season opener on Wednesday.

Keep your ear tuned for the mention of Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, who's in a rather generous mood late in the game. Nice giveaway by the Traktor forward. An Even better conversion by defending champion Dynamo.

Love the enthusiasm of the announcer here. Nice job capturing the spirit of the first day of the best time of year, the hockey season.

For a quick catch-up on who or what is going on in the KHL this season, here are previews of the Western and Eastern conferences.

From here, we only move forward as more leagues come on line. The QMJHL opens its regular season on Sept. 12, with the OHL and WHL starting play on Sept. 19. The USHL begins its regular season on Sept. 20. With the juniors in action, the next league to start is the Big League, which will capture the bulk of my attention. The NHL opens on Oct. 1 with the AHL following on Oct. 4. From there, we turn to U.S. Division I college hockey, with the Atlantic Hockey conference schools leading off on Oct. 10. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, along with the WCHA, Big Ten, Hockey East and ECAC Hockey schools taking to the ice for regular season games on Oct. 11. The last league in the Lounge's personal view of the world on ice is the ECHL, which begins play on Oct. 18.

Got all that? Great, now what are you having? The Lounge is open.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's CBC, Before and After the Game

If I've said it a thousand times, well then it deserves to be said one more time.

The CBC understands the attachment that many fans have to the game. Whenever you catch the bug, you're hooked on the game, it's players and how they view the game. You want to see the game through their eyes. I do not care what the talking heads at NBC say most of the time, and this is quite true when the handshake line is going on and NBC interrupts that footage for more replays and much to much yap from Doc and Pierre.

But over at the CBC, they bring the fans closer to the players and their emotions, before and after the game. And with that, it also allows fans to confront their own emotions about the game.

That is good television. I am happy that NBC and the NBC Sports Network have the NHL contract in the United States. The league is in much better hands than Fox Sports or ESPN. But the NBC family would do well to study the production effort at both TSN and CBC before and after the game. Keep this in mind as you watch these videos. Consider how much you remember about the postgame effort by NBC and the NBC Sports Network last night.

What's that? You don't remember it? Exactly.

This effort from CBC is one you will remember.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Striking the Right Balance

A a loss for words after Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.

These 6-5 games are the ones that everyone seems to enjoy. That is, everyone but the coach, who is fearful of losing the game and his job, and the GM, who has similar career insecurities.

But the wide-open game, one we were treated to regularly in the 1980s, is an important counterbalance in the National Hockey League.

As much as I enjoyed seeing the Kings win last year with quick passes and a crushing, opportunistic forecheck scheme, the headlong rushes have their place in the game. To have the leading practitioners of the two dominant systems in the finals makes perfect sense. This meeting of two opposite minds, hopefully, will incite some greater coaching minds to create a hybrid that can both display the physical and the skilled.

Remember the Buffalo Sabres coming out of the 2004-5 lockout? They had all the speed and very little of the grit to hold up through a four-round tournament like the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So, enjoy what we are seeing now, and hope that we see more of the same, or nearly the same, from all 30 teams next October.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'll Have What They're Having

Another stellar start to the Stanley Cup Finals, from Hockey Night in Canada's opening video to the moments when, around 2:30 am, I got a few kind licks from my dog Jax as I was cleaning up the room after a full night of hockey, replays, reviews and all the talk shows that are broadcast once the game finishes.

Jax was either saying he missed me, or maybe he was saying thanks for the full, fun night of hockey.

Either way, he and I went to bed happy. Chicago 4. Boston 3. Triple Overtime. Game 1. Sounds like a good night blessing to me.

There will be more later today, but just for fun, go ahead and replay the video and take in the full sound of "Live Forever" by Oasis. These are good days, my friend. Don't miss a second.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Sight for Sore Eyes

I needed to walk the dogs, while allowing everyone else in the neighborhood to sleep. Early Thursday. Minutes to the start of the United States-Russia quarterfinal on the NBC Sports Network.

I roll out of bed and into my clothes like a fireman. No wasted moves, which is much easier when the temperature is warm outside. A few laps around the neighborhood and back in time for cereal and pucks. The Americans respond with a great effort to knock the Russians from the tournament with a 8-3 victory. That is the start of my Thursday, which will end about 18 hours later when I am done watching the "NHL Tonight" roundup show on the NHL Network.

If you are keeping score, that span covers the US-Russia game, followed by the other three quarterfinals at the World Championships (Switzerland-Czech Republic, Finland-Slovakia, Canada-Sweden)and the Boston-New York and San Jose-Los Angeles games in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Six games, two eyes, one man. Throw into that mix breakfast, lunch, dinner and a full day at the office and you know how tired my two eyes were.

The Web and mobile device apps allow me to take the game everywhere, which is an odd turn from where I was back in the early 1980s, when I would have to drive all over the back 40 (also known as northern Indiana) just to listen to a Blackhawks game on WIND-AM. Now, I can start the day watching the game on my big screen, watch more on my iPhone while riding the train to work, watching the rest of the daytime action on a small window on my computer screen while I work, and finally come back home and watch one of the night games on my iPad and then the nightcap on the big screen again.

With the sixth game finally over around 1 am Eastern and the "NHL Tonight" show done at 2, I crawled back into bed. A perfect day finally in the books. Two eyes, now closed. Time to rest. A new fix coming Friday evening.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Ugly Morning After

The distinct scent of loathing is all about us today. Many Canucks fans, looking for any tired excuse, are calling out the referees and the league for perpetuating the history of playoff failure in Vancouver.

The Canadiens are melting down while trying to explain why their more talented team is coming up short against the plodding Senators. I could not believe Mika Zibanejad's goal was allowed to count, but I've seen similar plays go either way, so the best defense for those situations is to keep the puck outside the net. And the Canadiens cannot do that.

And without Carey Price in net, Montreal appears closer to elimination. For two periods, the Canadiens played to the strengths of their game, leaving little to chance. But when decisions started to go against them (a faceoff is placed in the wrong circle), the Canadiens were not prepared. Having a second center who can take the faceoff on the appropriate side would have been great, and a good bet in the event of the first center being kicked out of the faceoff.

Still, you have to win the faceoff. Montreal did not, and today it weeps over the results.

But it still has a few games left to extend the second season. In Vancouver, it's the first day of another long summer.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Outbreak of Hockey Celebrations

Had to get this note up on the blog about a celebration at the IU graduation ceremony this weekend.

Hockey is personal, and when it's personal, you struggle to hold your emotions to the levels maintained by those who are too obtuse to understand hockey and how it can possess you if you joyously allow it to.

Nothing like maintaining family ties even when decorum would dictate you snuff your joy. Not a chance. Enjoy your public celebration. I'm certain Martha the Cleaning Lady (below) would approve.

Hockey at Chavez Ravine? A Big Yes

I am happy to hear there will be an outdoor NHL game at Chavez Ravine next season. Note, I am not a Dodgers fan, so I will refer to the structure built on the O'Malley landgrab as Chavez Ravine, the name the facility took when real baseball(the American League)was practiced there by any team playing the Los Angeles Angels of Los Angeles from 1961 through 1965.

Next Jan. 25, the formerly Mighty Men of Jade and Eggplant (Anaheim Ducks) will play the Los Angeles Kings at the Ravine in what will be a cool night for hockey. In Southern California, no January night spent outside is tropical. I expect a perfect night for hockey, which would include a Dodger Dog, a warm beverage or two and a Kings victory.

Many from the more frozen zones will complain about an outdoor event in Los Angeles. However, should they get a chance to be in Southern California for a few days, they will come running like the ghostly white and pink-fleshed folks from the Midwest (snowblowers, as my friend Steve the Anti-Puck calls them) do every January for the Rose Bowl.

Game Plan for Monday Night

I'll walk in the door, survive a strong forecheck by two dogs seemingly very happy to see me, and advance to the big screen.

Next, I'll put on the NHL Network, where the Bruins and Maple Leafs will commence at 7 Eastern (CBC and RDS in Canada). With a little time to spare, I will take my two dogs, a pug and a lug (a pug/black Lab mix that I rescued a year ago), and walk them around the neighborhood to keep them happy for the rest of the evening.

Upon our return, the dogs will hit the food and water dishes before finding a soft spot from which to watch me watch the games. At 7:30, the second screen will get the Capitals/Rangers feed (MSG Network in the New York area, NBC Sports Network in the rest of the U.S., TSN in Canada).

Around 8 Eastern, it's time to employ the iPad and the NBC Sports Live Extra app (too long of a name, people) to catch the Ducks/Red Wings game via CNBC. (The game is on TSN in Canada, or so the listings tell me.)

Finally, with the dogs near the point of total slumber at 10 Eastern, I will move to put the Blues-Kings game on the big screen. The game is being televised on the NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and the CBC in Canada. However, should the Bruins-Maple Leafs extend themselves deep into overtime, I'll employ my iPhone, using the previously mentioned Live Extra app, to watch the start of the Blues-Kings game until the the first game of the evening ends.

With any luck, the dogs and I will trudge off to bed around 1:45 am.

Rangers Promote Thrill-Deprivation Hockey

It's good planning to have the Capitals-Rangers series on during the afternoons. I'm making a push that any Rangers game be an afternoon start from now on.

John Tortorella's bunch plays the kind of game that grind every sense you might have for the game. I'd rather work on the house this spring than watch the Rangers, and you should know how strange it is for me to make that kind of statement.

Your team wins the shot-blocking contest already, John. Congratulations. The safe is death mantra that was the coach's during the run to the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning is long gone now. Bored to death is more like it. A day Rangers game would help fans get the rest necessary for the night games that can stretch to to 1:30 am Eastern.

Game 3 of the Rangers-Capitals series is tonight at 7:30 Eastern. Because that game is sandwiched between the Bruins/Maple Leafs (7 Eastern) and the Ducks/Red Wings (8 Eastern), I'll have a few contests on screens alongside the Rangers-Capitals feed to get me through to the Blues/Kings at 10 Eastern.

Might even try to find the audio feed of London/Barrie in Game 3 of the Ontario Hockey League finals as well. Why? Because I can. More later.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Sweet and Sour of Competition

Canadiens coach Michel Therien takes issue with the comments made by Senators coach Paul MacLean regarding the fallen Lars Eller and the blood-spattered ice in the wake of Eric Gryba's body check on Thursday night in Game 1 of the Ottawa-Montreal playoff series.

Adam Gretz of took down the comments of MacLean, who was frank in his assessment of the play, the pass by the Canadiens' Raphael Diaz and the dangers of playing hockey.

"I thought player 61, if I'm ... was it Eller that got hit? I'm really mad at player 61, whoever he is," MacLean said during his postgame press conference. "Because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn't looking, and that's always been a dangerous place. As far as I know, ever since I've been playing this game, that's a dangerous place to be. Bad things happen." MacLean continued: "I think it's a hockey play that ended up going bad for Lars Eller. Scott Stevens. Doug Harvey. That play has been there since this game has been around. I remember guys telling me don't go through there if you're not looking."

The Ottawa Sun's front page (PDF format) doesn't exactly take a diplomatic tone when coming up with the right wordplay for the tabloid.

So there you go, but in the whipsaw effect of this play and the reflex action of everyone involved, on the ice and off, is the belief that everyone is offering a portion of the truth here. Therien talks about the rules, but nothing in the rules directly -- not partially or close, but directly -- call the hit an illegal one. MacLean talks about hockey through the ages, as though what happened in prior decades is license to condone all actions in the context of the game amid the current climate of eliminating head injuries in athletics.

Keeping your head up is Rule 1, agreed. But from there, the rest of the rules must come from a collective concern about all players, not just the ones wearing your particular team's sweater. Updated information on Friday afternoon: Eric Gryba was suspended for two games by the NHL.

While listening to the Hockey Night in Canada Online recap podcast this morning, I could hear the panel try to cover all the angles, with each saying it was a hockey play gone bad. And while they took several strides to avoid putting Diaz on the spot for putting Eller in the danger zone, they could not help but describe his effort as a suicide pass or a tough pass to make.

You can do the calculations of what they were adding up to say.

It's a fast game and there are risks being assumed on every shift. The best that can be done now is to avoid reflexive comments while and being more reflective in tone after any incident.

You don't feel sorry for someone if you begin your sentence: "I feel sorry for Player X, but ... ."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Returning to the Fray

If that doesn't get you in the mood for watching the great game of hockey, then you had better turn back to watching baseball. Enjoy your long nap.

On Tuesday, I felt the hate for St. Louis deep in my gut. I wanted to toss a bottle across the room when the Blues scored the first goal against the Kings and I slammed down my fist on the table when they won in overtime. Then I watched the Ducks punk the Red Wings and I felt a little bit better.

That's me and the Stanley Cup playoffs. I (as if I could play this game) have a lot of scores to settle and a mountain of debts owed over the games that I have seen or will see before I close my eyes for good. So it is good to feel the blood moving quickly, the passion running high as I watch games each night.

And thanks, CBC, for showing how the game should be presented.

More later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gut Check as the NHL Beings Again

Three days of the flu seems like a rough way to prepare for the start of the NHL:2013.

If this short season will feel like being trapped in the backseat of a Tijuana taxi as it swerves and sideswipes its way toward either paradise or the lower reaches of hell (commonly viewed as the first mile you cover as you walk as toward town, if you exited the United States at the San Ysidro crossing ... at night), you might think that being down a few gallons of fluids while experiencing thought-crushing headaches would not put you in the proper mind for the great game of hockey.

Fools, I say to all of you. No pain, no gain. Nothing wakes you out of a soul-numbing layout like extreme nausea and baby bird sips of chicken broth. You come out of the flu with a hunger and thirst that grows in intensity the moment you realize you can eat this or drink that.

Three days into the young short-season, I have watched 16 games in full. I am back and I am stronger than before.

Wish I could say the same for the Kings, whose defense lost Matt Greene for the season and must still play minus Willie Mitchell. Those quick passes the Kings flashed in the playoffs? Replaced by tentative solo play that quicker skating teams feast on. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane were picking pockets like the young and tender sales reps for Chiclets that one tries to avoid upon crossing into Tijuana.

Bad positioning (see the Ducks/Flames game or the Rangers/Penguins game) and not knowing who should be on the ice (see the Flyers against the Sabres) and you have that feeling that no seat belt can help you overcome.

But you must learn to love the uneasy feeling. Use it to your advantage. You cannot be certain of anything. There will be plenty of surprises along the way.

The last time I walked into Tijuana, I was a few blocks away from my destination on the Avenida RevoluciĆ³n. I saw this rather tall woman in a rather short skirt part company with a man. And as the woman turned to her right, a bankroll the size of luxury toilet paper fell out of her bag and hit the rubble that passed for a sidewalk.

I called out to alert her. She turned, smiled and retrieved her not-so-small fortune.

"Thank you," she said in her best James Earl Jones voice.

I should have seen that one coming. Keep your head up out here. It is going to be that kind of season.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Center Ice Out, GameCenter Live In

Many cable providers do not assign the NHL Center Ice package to HD-capable channels. I know my provider does not.

This usually leaves me with two choices. One is to get drunk enough to not mind the fuzzy images on my HD screens. It's sort of a fun option, but highly unproductive.

The second is to adjust the picture to fill out the HD screen, rendering even the thinnest player as worthy of the nickname Gump. A lot of rotund looking players is the result of this option.

This season, I am going with GameCenter Live, which will allow me to watch out-of-market HD-quality feeds on my iPad2, iPhone5, Roku box (2XS), and Macbook. That leaves the Lounge's main HD screens available for the three locals (Rangers, Islanders and Devils) and the games on NBC, the NBC Sports Channel or the NHL Network channel.

(Not to mention the various AHL, college, junior and high school games I get via cable. OK, so I mentioned them. You knew that I would.)

My Macbook laptop will get the call on opening day, as NBC Sports will stream the Kings-Blackhawks game in the Northeast (Penguins-Flyers will be shown on traditional TV in this region). For those outside the Northeast who want to see the Pens-Flyers game, the NBC Sports website is your source for the game.

And the new Roku box will be the real rookie of the year in my house. Great thing about it is that it is portable and can be moved to any TV with an HDMI port.

Time to rest my eyes a bit. There will be a lot of action in the Lounge tonight. As a warm-up, the big HD screen in the Lounge will have Duluth East against White Bear Lake in a Minnesota high school boys hockey matchup starting at 8:30 Eastern on the Fox College Sports Central channel. The small screen will have the NHL Network's latest division preview, which is on at 7 Eastern and will be replayed at 10 Eastern.

And we are reading season previews from,,,,, The Hockey News and Hockey Prospectus. The Lounge reading circle should be done in time for the opening faceoff Saturday.

Now, like I said, I must get a little shut eye before tonight's action. Thanks for dropping in.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Season of Contempt

Although we know that the 2013 NHL season will consisted of 48 regular-season games, the exact dates have not been released yet.

But the basic matrix is 4 games each against 2 members of a team's division, with 5 games each against the two remaining members of a team's division. That gets us to 18. From there, a team will play 3 games each against the remaining members of its conference. No intraconference games this season.

A lot of 4-game weeks are coming as the league tries to wrap up the season before May Day.

If the above video can be used as a guide, familiarity will breed contempt this season. And as you know, hockey can break your heart. So date outside the conference. It's safer that way.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Things Just Keep Getting Better

Twitter has become much more interesting now that the lockout minutia (NHLPA execs are here, now they are there, NHL execs aren't here, etc) has been replaced by talk on who will be in camp, who might be bought out, etc. The boys are coming back.

And then there is Norm Macdonald, who is doing his best to make me interested in golf. Right now he is doing play-by-play on whatever event he has decided is worth 140 character bursts of chatter.

You don't have to be on Twitter to read his work -- you can use the link above or do a Web search of his name and Twitter -- but it helps if you want to read it as the thought moves from brain waves to nerve impulses at his fingertips.

Gotta go, I need to catch up with work and Norm's tweets.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Extended Family Returns

I remember various parental figures, as well as assorted aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, griping from time to time about supposed slights committed by people from the same group.

There was a note of bitterness, sometimes some notes carried the heavy toll of possible retribution, but all in all, it was my family being my family. Come the holidays, the issues and wishes of revenge were buried underneath the mounds of tamales, chicken in mole sauce, Mexican rice, soupy beans (my term for cooked pinto beans that have not been refried), fried potatoes with cheese and home-made flour tortillas, all of which made the Christmas Eve dinner so special and gut busting.

But finally there was a split, a divide that could not be bridged and the giant family meals ended. (Funny, the amount of food at the various splinter Christmas Eve gatherings only stayed the same, so more food for fewer people.)

That is pretty much where we are now that the good news has reached all precincts. A collective bargaining agreement for the National Hockey League is awaiting ratification.

Once the votes have been cast, presumably in the affirmative, we can get back to action on the ice, where the players belong and clearly wanted to be before the owners locked them out.

But there are fans who will not be back, having scratched the NHL off their list of things to watch. No return after a few weeks, or after a month. No return at all. That is sad, but true.

I am coming back, as I never left. My family members were in unions, and the plant where my father worked seemed to lock out employees around Thanksgiving. They did it a couple of times. All the while, neighbors and friends of the family would try to offer help, often in the hollow words of "you are getting paid to much" and "you should go back." (Those people will always be on my list of people to look up when I am sitting in for St. Peter. Yeah, I know I will never have that job, but I have the list in case I do get the gig.)

I take my inspiration from my father, who stayed calm and focused during these labor battles. I did not loose my head during labor negotiations at my workplace last year. (We eventually won a new Guild contract.) And I did not vow to never watch the NHL because I was not getting my daily fix of the game.

I stayed patient. I spent more time with my family. I spent more time walking the dogs, contributing to holiday conversations and helping out with the repairs and such around the house. When it came to getting that kind of work done, my wife humorously gave me the nickname Edward James Almost. (At least we laugh about the name and the devilishly sharp sense of humor she has.)

Well, I managed to learn how to "Stand and Deliver," being more like Edward James Olmos's character in that film. I hope to continue to contribute more around the house and here, in the Lounge, this year.

Thanks, guys, for getting my extended NHL family back together for the feast of hockey. And thanks to you patrons for checking back into the lounge. The first one is on me.