Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canada Wins Gold

Sidney CrosbySo where were you for The Goal?

Twenty years from now, you'll probably still remember. I was watching the game with three-year old Little Goes Brown (nicely recovered from the day's earlier unpleasantness). When Crosby scored, my natural instinct was to grab her and hold her over my head like the Stanley Cup. She thought that was hilarious, and told me she wanted to walk on the ceiling.

So that's what we did. While Team Canada piled onto the ice and the crowd went crazy, I helped my daughter do a victory lap around the basement ceiling. At that moment, I felt like I wanted to do one too.

It was a good day at DGB headquarters. It started with a voicemail from Wendel Clark ("I hear you have some sort of blog. Good luck with that"). And it ended with the most ridiculously cliched hockey game you could imagine. Really, hockey gods? Sidney Crosby? In overtime? You really think anyone's going to believe that?

Two weeks ago, nobody thought it would end this way. After all, if you were going to scrap these two teams and form a Team North America, which US players would make the squad? Parise and Miller for sure. Kane, probably. Maybe you could make a case for a few more to round out the checking line.

But the team would be dominated by Canadians, because we have the best players in the world, at every position, for any particular skill, for every situation. And yet the US gave us all we could handle.

Not many of us gave them a chance. I know I didn't. But down two goals, in front of a hostile crowd, outmatched by a mile on paper, they almost pulled off a miracle. Any American hockey fan should be proud of these guys.

And now it's back to the NHL grind. The trade deadline countdown starts now. Then the stretch drive. Then the playoffs, which I'm told is some sort of tournament thing. And of course, we'll get to hear all about how the NHL isn't sure about continuing to play in the Olympics, because if there's on thing this league is good at it's identifying something its fans love and screwing it up.

But that all starts tomorrow. Tonight, I'm going to do one more quick lap around the ceiling.

Update: I'll be on Rink Side Radio tonight at 9:00 EST to talk more about the gold medal game.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Busy week ahead

It's been a little slow around here lately. I'm sorry about that. The NHL has been on break, of course. But more importantly, it turns out my recent "two whole posts a week" pace was unsustainable, and I think I'm a little burned out.

But the vacation is over, because it's going to be a busy week in the hockey world.

First up, of course, is tomorrow's Gold Medal game. At the risk of modestly overselling it, this game is the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the world. The game is expected to draw a Canadian televisions rating of over 50 million, since most of us will be watching on multiple TVs just in case one of them turns out to be bad luck. I'm picking Canada to win, especially since I'll be sneaking into the athlete's village tonight, kidnapping Ryan Miller, and replacing him with Cheryl Bernard.

All that is to say that it should be a memorable afternoon. I'll be following the action on twitter.

On Monday, we'll move right into trade deadline mode. Side note: If any GM out there pulls off a Sunday midnight trade and ruins the post I've been working on for Monday, I will hunt you down. Fair warning.

The actual deadline will fall on Wednesday, March 3, and I'll be liveblogging all day. Join me, as we ponder questions such as:

  • Where will Alexei Ponikarovsky wind up?
  • Um, are there any other players on the trade market?
  • Hey, any update on where Alexei Ponikarovsky will wind up?
  • Wasn't being an NHL fan way more fun back before the CBA screwed up trading?
Once the deadline has passed, it's on the playoff push. Or, as Leaf fans typically call it, "Four months to think about who we'll be taking with our first round pick". Or, as Leaf fans will call it this year, "Two years and four months to think about who we'll be taking with our first round pick".

There may also be a few surprises between now and the end of the year. It should be a fun time. I hope you'll drop by for some of it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vancouver 2010: Worst Olympics Ever?

Wait, isn't this blog supposed to be about hockey?
Kyle Wellwood's backyard barbeque
The Vancouver Olympics are now halfway over and organizers have been subjected to harsh international criticism, including some that has gone so far as to label them the "worst ever".

While my first instinct as a Canadian is to defend the Games, the truth is that the event has indeed seen several high-profile problems. Is it the worst ever? I'm not sure. But it's been far from perfect.

I've kept track of the issues I've noticed since the Games began. Here's a list of a dozen serious problems that I think we'd all agree have marred the games so far:
  • Despite the numerous guarantees all over their flyer, lazy Dominos Pizza guy failed to deliver Wayne Gretzky to the outdoor cauldron in 30 minutes or less.

  • The biathlon has featured slower than normal times, as competitors are unable to resist the urge to stop and take a few shots at Ben Mulroney.

  • The controversial decision by skiing officials to replace the traditional Men's and Women's Downhill with the far more challenging Men's and Women's Uphill.

  • Due to communications breakdown, nobody remembered to tell the American hockey team that they're not supposed to be good.

  • While the opening ceremony does traditionally feature elements which celebrate the host nation's shared cultural identity, the two-and-a-half hour musical tribute to "Why we all hate Toronto" seemed excessive.

  • Despite vows that the new figure skating scoring system would prevent judging controversies, eyebrows were raised when the men's event was won by Swedish legend Gillis Grafström despite him not attempting a quad and also having died in the 1939.

  • Both Canadian and American women's hockey games have been difficult to follow due to shoddy Vancouver scoreboards which do not have enough space to display triple digits.

  • Stringent drug testing lead to a scandal in the curling competition, when it was revealed that some teams were falling slightly short of the sport's strict minimum blood-alcohol level.

  • Frustrated American fans have been forced to endure delayed coverage, such as NBC broadcasts from that afternoon, MSNBC highlight packages from the previous day, and Rick Reilly jokes from 1993.

  • Apparently forgot to tell the Russians that there's an Olympics this year.

  • Over halfway through the Games, the much-hyped Canadian men's hockey team has failed to win even a single medal.

  • In hindsight, it's probably a bad sign when the guy in charge of operating the opening ceremony hydraulics system has a resume that includes "Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, 2004-08".

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Hockeenight podcast: DGB gets Naked

On Monday, I made my fourth appearance on the world-renowned Hockeenight podcast. My most recent appearance, alongside PPP, was well-received. While we'd hoped to appear together again, this time I ended up going solo due to an unfortunate incident involving PPP being superkicked through a plate glass window.

Topics covered included:

  • Vesa Toskala: merely bad, or historically bad?
  • The absolute worst case scenario for the Leafs/Ducks trade (spoiler: there isn't one)
  • Why the Dion Phaneuf deal is far riskier, but still a good trade
  • The Cam Barker trade, and whether the Hawks will need to make more cap moves
  • Olympic men's hockey discussion and predictions
  • The opening ceremonies in Vancouver, and what may have really caused that torch malfunction
  • Somebody may or may not have made a horribly inappropriate Olympics joke
  • The entire podcast getting sidetracked after I receive an unexpected e-mail from Bif Naked
Listen to the whole thing here:

Can't get enough moustache jokes? You can find the rest of my appearances here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Team Canada welcomes the world: The lyrics

People seemed to enjoy yesterday's Team Canada rap, in which the players from the men's hockey team wished a friendly welcome to competitors from other nations. We've even had a positive response from international readers (with the exception of fans in Finland who still want my head on a pike for being mean to Vesa Toskala).

A few of you had requests: for a downloadable file, and for the full lyrics.

First up, the mp3 is now available from Bloge Salming. You know this already if you visit his site frequently. If you don't, you're missing out. Go there now.

Next up, the lyrics: Below is a quasi-official version. MC Bloge may have freestyled a little here and there depending on whether the muse moved him at a particular moment, but they should be pretty close.

Team Canada's Olympic Welcome

Sidney Crosby vs. Russia
First off, [bleep] Ovechkin and his video game
Losing big to the Kid is your claim to fame.
You claim to be a player but I've got your Cup
Had a 2-0 series lead and then we [bleep]ed you up
They say Russia looks scary, we shouldn't blow you off
But It's hard to take you serious with that Morozov
Nabokov as your goalie what a [bleep]ing facade
You had to battle Toskala for your starting job
And I hope that your goalies lower lumbar's tough
Sore back when Markov throws them under the bus
And hey Ilya... Duncan Keith is going to fill ya
Keep your head up Malkin or else Pronger's going to kill ya

Expect diving calls when you see the Kid.
Protect your balls when you see the Kid.
You tried to kill me and I tried to choke ya
now you're about to feel the wrath of Nova Scotia
You're gonna get lit up

Jarome Iginla vs. USA
Get out the way, yo, get out the way, yo
Iggy just hit the ice
Americans love to talk and now it's pissing me off.
So son you better run before the visor comes off.
Can't wait for the day that we play the States
Games end more lopsided than Ryan Miller's face
Your defence is going to stop me? Your higher than Kordic
If you reckon for a second that I'm scared of Brooks Orpik.
Can't believe you think you've got a chance against the best
When your roster looks weaker than Patrick Kane's chest.
You're thinking of a medal but it's just a dream
Brian Burke + Ron Wilson = last place team

Rick Nash vs. Finland
Finnish All Stars I hope you hear all the pundits
Mikko Koivu [entire line bleeped out for reason Bloge and I will explain some day]
We've got Jarome Iginla and he tips us off
On all the ways he scores in practice on Kiprusoff
We're going to beat you down and I don't mean maybe
Cause your first line center looks like an ugly baby
I'll be as strong as Popeye when he's eating his spinach
When the medal round starts you'll all be finished.

Did you get it guys? Finished?
Babcock: Yeah, we got it Rick.
It's like a pun!
Babcock: Great work Rick.

Martin Brodeur vs. Czech Republic
I'm from N-E-W Jerz where lots of trapping occurs
Going to put the Czechs in a world of hurt
Elias might be my teammate when the season's on
But in Vancouver when we play you [bleep] it's [bleep]ing on.
Kaberle will get sunk. We'll take out Jagr the punk
And then we'll give Marty Havlat a big kick in the junk
If you left the country you'd be far better off
We'll be bouncing Czechs worse than Sergei Federov
Win with the trap and the offensive zone cycle
Bad sign when your taxi squad has Robert Reichel
Need a team effort for a legitimate chance to win
It helps that they found Kuba under Spacek's chins

Scott Niedermayer vs. Sweden
People want to talk about the two Sedins
Little jokers, go play poker with Mats Sundin
Daniel Alfredsson is known for his leadership and class
But shoot a puck at me again and I'mma bust your ass
So you won Gold in '06, duly noted again
Gustavsson's heart just exploded again
Vancouver hates Ohlund, the boos they're given him
Modin is [bleep], even the Leafs got rid of him
You might have a shot if you can just stay loose
But better pray that you don't play against Belarus.
Is Murray even Swedish? How bout Johnny Oduya?
So many holes in Lundqvist with all the pucks we get through you.

Mike Green vs. Slovakia
Crosby: Aw, yeah, and don't think we forgot about you Slovakia. Tell 'em what we got in store for them, Mike Green! Mike? Mike?
Green: Um... yeah, I didn't make the team.
Crosby: Wait, seriously?
Green: Yeah.
Crosby: You're like first overall in scoring.
Green: I am aware of that.
Yzerman: Awkward!
Crosby: Holy [bleep], we are stacked!

Nash: "Finished" also means done!
Babcock: That's great Rick...

(Side note: If you liked this or any other video, don't forget to rate it and/or favorite it on youtube. Let's help Bloge Salming own the podium.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Team Canada's friendly welcome video to the rest of the hockey world

This is a bit of a strange one. Mike Babcock and Steve Yzerman decided that as host nation, it would be fun to have the team record a friendly welcome message to the other teams. They googled "hockey videos" and ended up flying my pal Bloge Salming and I into Vancouver to spend some time with Team Canada during their first practice this morning.

I thought the whole "welcome video" concept was a great idea and after a bit of a slow start, the players really got into it. But once we were done, the coaching staff changed their mind and didn't want to use it anymore.

I have no idea why. I thought it was a great example of Canada's polite and welcoming nature.

Go Canada go.

Update: Lyrics can be found here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An open letter to Vesa Toskala

Terrible goaltender
What's Swedish for "GTFO"?
Former Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala was recently quoted taking a few shots at Toronto, telling reporters that he was looking forward to an opportunity to "wash that blue and white out of my gear".

Toskala is certainly entitled to his opinions. However, in the spirit of respectful dialog, Down Goes Brown would like to offer the response below.

Dear Vesa,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll pause for a moment while you configure your screen reading software.

It's now been ten days since you were traded. Soon you'll be making your debut with Anaheim, pending the resolution of some visa issues that were presumably caused by a customs agent who was a Ducks fan. In any event, it was probably a pleasant change for you to be involved in a story where something was actually denied entry.

You're currently involved in a mini-controversy with your new team, who have denied your request to wear your familiar #35. They're apparently unaware of how important that number is to you, given that it represents your approximate career save percentage. But let's not focus on Anaheim -- instead, let's take a look back at your time in Toronto.

You came to Toronto three years ago when you were acquired in a trade by John Ferguson Jr., which should have been our first hint as to how things would turn out. In your initial training camp you managed to lose the starter's job to Andrew Raycroft, which is somewhat like losing a slam dunk contest to Stephen Hawking. But eventually you assumed the starter's role, and fans in Toronto had a chance to get to know you.

You had your good points. For example, fans never had to worry about an extended streak of poor performances since you could always be counted on to fake a groin injury as soon as things went bad. You were responsible for more groin-related fakery than Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. The only legitimate lower-body injury you ever suffered was a chronic distended bladder, caused by your unfortunate habit of taking a small sip of water after every goal against.

Despite that, fans were prepared to embrace you. Toronto is a town that loves its goaltenders, from the prickly Ed Belfour to the comatose Felix Potvin. We were ready to make you our next goaltending idol, like Curtis Joseph. Instead, after three seasons the only Joseph-inspired activity we wanted to see you involved with was a roundhouse kick to the face.

(And yes, I could have also gone with "getting hit in the face with a Wendel Clark slapshot". But that would involve a puck making contact with you, and we have no actual evidence that that's physically possible.)

Since the trade, we've learned that you didn't enjoy working with Leafs goaltending coach François Allaire, who described you as "not a guy who likes to build relations with coaches". In fairness, Allaire was probably difficult to work with since his three Stanley Cup rings would distract you when he tried to point out that you had your pads on upside down. Word is you had trouble adapting to the famous "Allaire style", which includes such complex techniques as "Don't stand with your entire body inside the net", "Hey maybe try opening your eyes for a change", and "Seriously, get out of your net before I run over you with this zamboni".

Anyway, you may be gone, but we'll always have the memories. For example, you once allowed a 185-foot dribbler to beat you in Long Island. Many physicists would argue that it's impossible to get beat top corner by a puck that's actually rolling, but you managed to prove them wrong. Then you outdid yourself this season in a game against the Sabres, when you managed to reach out with your glove hand and deflect a harmless dump-in straight into your own net. The goal was watched with disbelief by Leaf fans around the world, who until that moment had been unaware that you actually owned a glove hand.

All this is not to say that everyone in Toronto is happy to see you go. The local twine-repair industry, until recently a multi-million dollar business, has fallen on hard times. But local environmentalists are thrilled that MLSE has significantly reduced its carbon footprint, since it will no longer have a red light bulb that stays lit for most of every game.

It didn't work out for you in Toronto, but I'm sure Leaf fans join me in wishing you best in your future endeavors. Good luck the rest of the year in Anaheim, next year in the KHL, two years from now in ECHL, three years from now in the GTHL, and, eventually, as the starter in Montreal.

Just get the hell out of Toronto. And don't let the door handle slip untouched through your fivehole on the way out.

Your friends,
Leafs Nation

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Down Goes Brown turns two

Yay.As you may be aware, I store a lot of useless hockey trivia in my head. That sort of thing doesn't leave a lot of room for, well, anything else. So I'm pretty bad at remembering things like people's names, dates, or really anything else other than what the CBC's pregame montage music was before game six of the Leafs/Sharks series in 1994.

So it's no real surprise that I forgot somebody's anniversary yesterday: mine.

Two years and a day ago, Down Goes Brown launched. February of 2008 was a wonderful time to be a Leafs fan; John Ferguson had just been fired, Cliff Fletcher was the interim general manager, and fans couldn't wait for the massive rebuild that was about to take place as soon as the minor matter of all those NTCs could be worked out. The era of trading away first round picks was long gone, a return to the playoff was right around the corner, and it seemed like a great time to launch a blog.

The very first post was a short recap of a win over the Habs. It also featured a line about Kyle Wellwood being fat, which I decided would be pretty funny as long as I didn't beat the joke into the ground.

Two years and 369 posts later, the site's grown beyond anything I'd ever expected. In the site's first six months, I was thrilled to get 1,000 visits in a week. These days, I sometimes get that many in an hour.

The one and only reason for that growth is you, the DGB readers who make a point of stopping by, subscribing, and occasionally linking back from forums, blogs facebook, and twitter. Interacting with fellow hockey fans is easily the most enjoyable part of all of this. Thanks to everyone who helps spread the word.

If you're relatively new, here's a recap of DGB's first year. And here's the recent list that covers the most popular posts of year two.

Thanks again for your continued support. Back tomorrow with a new post, in which I say a heartfelt goodbye to a recently traded Maple Leaf.

(Oh, and just in case you were wondering: "I Will Not Go Quietly", by Don Henley ft. Axl Rose.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hacked: Gary Bettman's Gmail account

Ever wondered what kind of e-mail shows up in the inbox of the commissioner of a big time sports league? You have? OK, well what about the commissioner of the NHL instead?

An inside source tipped me off that all of Gary Bettman's official league correspondence goes through his Gmail account. And let's just say Gary's every bit as good at picking secure passwords as he is choosing new markets for expansion.

Here's a screenshot I was able to grab before I was booted off their servers:

Gary Bettman's gmail
Can't see the image? Want to download it? Here's the small version, and here's a larger one that's easier to read.

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