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.