Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: An NHL year in review

Hey guys, how many of these can you
win before salary cap incompetence
forces you to tear the team apart?
As we prepare to ring in the New Year tonight, I thought I'd try something unique and spend some time taking a look back at the past 12 months.

What's that? It's not unique? Every blog in the world is doing the same thing today? Hmm. OK, let's try this again.

As we prepare to ring in the New Year tonight, let's engage in the rich and greatly beloved tradition of taking a look back at the past 12 months. Here are some of 2010's most memorable moments in the NHL.

January 31 - The Maple Leafs acquire defenceman Dion Phaneuf from the Calgary Flames, filling a critical void that came to light when it was apparently discovered that nobody on the current roster knew how to work the volume knob on the dressing room stereo.

February 28 - Sidney Crosby scores the dramatic winning goal in overtime of the Olympic final, then puts his gold medal in his trophy case next to his Stanley Cup ring. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin scores the dramatic winning goal in overtime of the Olympic final, then puts his copy of NHL 11 back on the shelf next to Guitar Hero.

April 21 - Trailing the heavily favoured Washington Capitals three games to one in their opening round playoff series, Montreal Canadiens' coach Jacques Martin makes the controversial decision to bench starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak and replace him with a 6-by-4 brick wall with a picture of Jaroslav Halak painted on it.

June 9 - Moments after Patrick Kane's overtime winner ends the Flyers' championship hopes, a disappointed Chris Pronger concedes that Chicago was the better team, offers his sincere congratulations to the Blackhawks' players, and then turns and walks slowly to his car while dragging a Stanley Cup-shaped duffel bag behind him.

June 22 - In the biggest trade of draft weekend, the Bruins send Dennis Wideman and two draft picks to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Nathan Horton and the right to not have any of their players get suspended anymore.

July 20 - While being announced as the new coach of the New Jersey Devils, John MacLean declines to offer detailed thoughts on his new team. "I believe you can't truly evaluate a team until they have ten wins," he tells reporters. "So check back with me some time in early November."

July 31 - While spending his day with the Stanley Cup, Antti Niemi wonders if it's a bad sign that his named is engraved as "miscellaneous replaceable starting goaltender".

August 9 - An arbitrator rules that the New Jersey Devils' front-loaded contract offer to Ilya Kovalchuk is in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement. In a punishment that many feel is overly harsh, the team is forced to indefinitely employ Ilya Kovalchuk.

October 7 - The season kicks off in Helsinki with the Minnesota Wild hosting the Carolina Hurricanes as part of the NHL's comprehensive program to get Finland to stop bugging them about getting an expansion team.

October 31 - After their unsuccessful attempt to playfully frighten him, Brian Burke lectures the group of children on his doorstep that trick-or-treaters never yelled "boo" when he was in Vancouver.

December 7 -After his introduction of new mayor Rob Ford at his first council meeting creates controversy, Don Cherry explains his conservative views by saying he's been in Toronto for years without ever meeting a single decent left winger. "Tell me about it," says Mats Sundin.

December 28 - Calgary General Manager Darryl Sutter makes the difficult choice to resign his position. He later explains that he reached his decision based on the Flames' lacklustre record, a desire to spend more time with his family, and the fact that team president Ken King was dumping the contents of his office onto the front lawn and setting fire to it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Scouting the World Junior Championships

Rare recent footage of a hockey player
wearing a maple leaf celebrating something.
The eyes of the hockey world are focused on Buffalo this week as the annual World Junior Championships gets underway. Ten nations from around globe are represented at the tournament, each hoping to be the last team standing when the gold medal is awarded on January 5.

Of course, that's a more realistic goal for some teams than for others. Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of all ten teams participating in this year's tournament.

The good: As tournament host, will be bombarded with "Go Canada Go" chants that are slightly less deafening than in other years.
The bad: A United States team made up mostly of young college kids has never won a
major hockey tournament on home ice, presumably, since that seems like the sort of thing American sports fans would probably bring up every once in a while.

The good: After checking and rechecking the tournament roster rules, team officials have confirmed that Evgeni Nabokov is not eligible to participate.
The bad: Many players have spent their entire lives in places like Siberia, and may have a difficult time adjusting to the harsher living conditions of Buffalo.

The good: Have made good progress in their quest to earn a World Junior medal, thanks to a national program called "Operation Convince Them To Start Giving Out a Medal For Sixth Place".
The bad: As always, you can distract them during the game by yelling "Hey Teemu!" and waiting for half the players to turn around and say "Yes?"

The good: Are unlikely to get blown out more than four or five times.
The bad: Due to a linguistic misunderstanding over the term "World Junior Championships", have sent a team consisting entirely of small children who have the same names as their fathers.

Czech Republic
The good: The team seems fired up thanks to a passionate pre-tournament motivational speech from the country's best-known hockey ambassador, Jaromir Jagr's 1991 mullet.
The bad: The national program is so badly underfunded that they often can't afford to supply star players with basic necessities, such as vowels.

The good: Goaltender Robin Lehner is a Senators prospects but has not spent much time in Ottawa yet, so he may still have some vague clue how to make an occasional save.
The bad: Not to be nitpicky, but they maybe should have hired a head coach who speaks Swedish.

The good: Virtually the entire roster is able to focus exclusively on this tournament, without the distraction of thinking about future professional careers.
The bad: In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to stop producing decent hockey players in 2000.

The good: Islander draft pick Nino Niederreiter will be extra motivated to do well since he knows it's his last chance to win anything until he reaches unrestricted free agency.
The bad: Everything the nation knows about hockey comes from a single smuggled in copy of NHL '93, so their entire offensive strategy consists of lobbing weak wrist shots at the goaltender and hoping he slides all the way across the crease for no reason.

The good: Starting goalie Lars Volden is a Maple Leafs prospect, and will be gaining invaluable experience on how to get completely shelled in Buffalo.
The bad: They'll find it nearly impossible to field a competitive team thanks to an obscure tournament rule that stipulates that their roster must consist entirely of Norwegians.

The good: Will be one of the hungriest teams at the tournament, since as per Canadian law they won't be given any food or water until they've won the gold medal.
The bad: Will be under more pressure from home fans than any other team in the tournament, given that they're the only team from a country where fans are aware this tournament is taking place.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Behind the scenes at the NHL's Christmas pageant

Youngest player on the team.
Scene: A stage in a school gymnasium. An audience slowly files in to take their seats in rows of folding chairs. Behind the curtain it's chaos, as cast and crew work on last minute preparations. In the center of it all, a man hops off of a director's chair and tries to address the group.

Gary Bettman: Attention! Everyone, can I have your attention?

Nobody notices him amid the noise and chaos. Bill Daly, wearing a "Santa's Little Helper" hat, hands Bettman a director's megaphone.

Bettman (shouting into megaphone): Attention everyone!

No luck. Nobody can hear him.

Bettman (sighing): Pierre, a little help please?

Pierre McGuire: HELP WITH WHAT?

Immediate silence.

Bettman: Thanks Pierre. OK everyone, listen up. This is a very big night for all of us. The NHL's annual holiday pageant is one of the league's most important events, and our friends and family want to see a good show.

Bettman peeks his head out between the curtains and surveys the audience. Colin Campbell is standing on a chair in the front row, holding a video camera and waving furiously.

Bettman (closing curtain): Yikes. Alright everyone, this gym holds hundreds of people, so for you Thrashers and Islanders this will be the biggest crowd you perform in front of all year. Let's make it count. OK, where's my Santa Claus?

Bruce Boudreau: Ho, ho, [expletive deleted] ho.

Bettman: And where are Santa's elves?

The Montreal Canadiens' top two lines: We're here.

Bettman: Great. And what about Scrooge?

Daly: Uh, he said he had something to take care of.

Daly motions offstage, where Lou Lamoriello is handing pink slips to all the stagehands.

Bettman: Good ol' Lou. Hey, did we ever end up getting any volunteers to play the Three Wise Men?

Ron Wilson, Brian Burke and Richard Peddie: Sure did!

Daly and Bettman stare in horror.

Daly: Um… maybe we can write their scene out.

Bettman: Good idea. OK, has anyone seen Tiny Tim? Adorable little guy, looks so grownup in his big boy suit and his scrunched up angry wittle face…. Oh, there he is!

Cory Clouston: This is degrading and I'm not doing it.

Bettman: Oh, you're doing it, junior. Now you're supposed to be disabled. Do you know where we could get some crutches?

Clouston: I'll go ask Pascal Leclaire, he carries a few spares with him at all times.

Bettman: Good idea. OK everyone, let's run through the big dramatic scene with the three ghosts. Is the Ghost of Hockey Future here?

Sidney Crosby appears, wearing a white Penguins road jersey with the number 87 on the back.

Crosby: I'm here, boss.

Bettman: Great. And what about the Ghost of Hockey Present?

Crosby changes into a #87 black Penguins home jersey.

Crosby: Right here.

Bettman: Wonderful! And what about the Ghost of Hockey Past?

Mario Lemieux: I'm here.

Bettman: Hey, where's your costume?

Lemieux: Please tell me your weren't actually serious about making me wear that.

Bettman: Of course!

Lemieux sighs heavily, then pulls on a #87 Penguins third jersey.

Bettman: Perfect!

Lemieux (storming off): Learn some history.

Bettman: Wow, who's the cranky old guy?

Daly: I have no idea. Sid said he knew him. I think maybe it's his grandfather.

Bettman: I don't like him. Scrooge, take care of him.

Lamoriello (pulling a pink slip out of his pocket): With pleasure.

Daly: Um, sir, we may have a problem.

Bettman turns around to find Pascal Leclaire slumped on the ground, bleeding heavily, with shards of jagged bones jutting out of all four limbs.

Bettman: Dammit Pronger!

Daly: Uh, actually, Chris Pronger's not here this time. He's on the IR with a broken foot, remember?

Bettman: Oh. Then who…

Clouston: Actually, don't worry about it. This happens to him three or four times a week.

Leclaire (barely conscious): Butterfly... landed… on me….

Clouston: Get up, Pascal. Even without functioning limbs you're still better than Elliott.

Bettman: OK everyone, it's almost show time. I think the crowd is getting restless.

(From the crowd, a lone voice can be heard shouting "We want Greg! We want Greg!")

Bettman: Bill, what's the status? Are we ready to go?

Daly: Well, Pascal Leclaire just wandered by the decorative candles and caught himself on fire. Pierre McGuire is refusing to perform his Silent Night solo because he doesn't understand what the word "silent" means. And Bruce Boudreau just taught the little children an alternate version of Rudolph where all the reindeer are from Nantucket.

Bettman: I see.

Daly: Oh, and Lou Lamoriello just had security escort the Baby Jesus out of the building.

Bettman: So basically the whole thing is a disaster.

Daly: An unmitigated, unprecedented, unsalvageable disaster, yes.

Bettman: Well then, you know what we have to do.

Daly: Call Matthew Hulsizer and see if he wants to buy it?

Bettman: Good job, old friend. And Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NHL letters to Santa

Santa began to find the letters from
Maple Leaf fans increasingly disturbing.
With Christmas just a few days away, children around the world have been busy writing their personal letters to Santa Claus. But in the hockey world, everyone is still a kid at heart. So during the occasional break from the rink, various grownups around the NHL have been working on their letters.

Thanks to some spies at the post office, I've intercepted a few examples. Here's what's on the minds of some of your favourite hockey personalities as the holidays approach.

Dear Santa,

What's this I hear about my son Gregory being on your naughty list? Look, pal, I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job, but if Gregory doesn't have a shiny new Xbox under the tree on Christmas morning then [name redacted to protect privacy] might just get his little red reindeer nose torn off.

Just a hockey dad venting,
Colin Campbell

P.S. Please run this letter through the shredder once you're done reading it. Long story.

Dear Santa,

Some of the Maple Leafs players were trying to tell me that you're not real. They said you were a work of fiction, nothing but a pleasant fairy tale for small children to believe in but not something that any respectable grownup should take seriously.

Is that true? Because if so, I'd like to invite you to the MLSE Christmas party. I think you'd get along great with all our constant talk about making the playoffs.

All the best,
Ron Wilson

Dear Santa,

You may have seen my recent comments to the media, in which I complained about my ice time and hinted that I'd like to be traded to a team where I could play on the first line. To help make that happen, my Christmas wish is for a list of NHL teams that haven't employed a pro scouting staff since 2006.

Alexei Kovalev

Dear Santa,

Do you allow your reindeer to take part-time jobs once Christmas is over? Because if so, we'd like to hire Rudolph to stand directly behind Roberto Luongo every time we play the Blackhawks.

Mike Gillis

Dear Santa,

I'm writing to apologize for my previous letter to you, where I thanked you for my $100 million contract and made reference to "our little agreement" that was signed in the summer and came due in October.

I'm sure that was really confusing for you, since you had no idea what I was referring to. My bad. I accidentally switched a couple of letters when I was addressing the letter.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Dear Santa,

For Christmas, please bring me an expensive high-definition big screen television. Please also leave the receipt, since I'll be immediately taking it back to the store to exchange it straight up for a broken VCR.

All my best,
Mike Milbury

Dear Santa,

Just wondering, but do you send out change of address card? Let's just say I'm pretty sure I won't still be living in this city next year.

Darryl Sutter

P.S. Come to think if it, better send one for my brother too.

Dear Santa,

When you're done with it, any chance I could borrow your bright red velour coat with the big fur collar and cuffs? The bosses at Hockey Night in Canada are telling me I need to tone it down with the wardrobe, so I'm looking for outfits that will make me look a little bit less ridiculous.

Don Cherry

Dear Santa,

This year please bring me one pair of dress socks, a ball of string, and one slice of plain whole wheat toast. I wouldn't want to open anything more exciting than that at the team Christmas party, since I might accidentally show some genuine emotion and then coach Snorey McPaint'n'Dry will send me back to the pressbox.

Your pal,
P.K. Subban

Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year, I'd like to ask for a [expletive deleted] toy train, a [expletive deleted] toboggan, and most important of all [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] peace on [expletive deleted] earth.

Bruce [expletive deleted] Boudreau

P.S. Time to grab your sack.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What we learned from the premiere of 24/7 Penguins/Capitals:

The show was named after the cumulative
score in a typical seven game series
Wednesday night marked the debut episode of 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, the league's latest and perhaps most ambitious attempt to gain traction with casual sports fans south of the border.

The series, part of HBO's successful franchise of sports-based reality shows, will chronicle the Capitals and Penguins in the weeks leading up to their January 1 outdoor showdown at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The producers have been given unprecedented access to both teams, and the result is a stunning look inside the inner workings of two of hockey's most popular organizations.

In this week's hour long debut, fans learned plenty about each team and about the league's behind-the-scenes planning for the Winter Classic. While it's difficult to narrow down all the memorable moments we were treated to, here's a list of some of the most stunning revelations from the show so far.
  • Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is apparently a big fan of South Atlantic archipelagos, because every second thing out of his mouth is "Falkland this" and "Falkland that".

  • In an attempt to boost ratings in the all-important youth demographic, the role of Chris Kunitz is being played by Robert Pattinson.

  • Every episode of the series will begin with a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Jaromir Jagr trade.

  • Winter Classic organizers are being constantly harassed by phone calls from Ty Conklin asking which team he's supposed to be playing for.

  • According to a recent survey, a majority of Washington Capital fans believe that their current losing streak is the absolute worst thing that's happened to the franchise since its inaugural season in 2006.

  • While organizing the traditional pre-Classic alumni game, a bitter dispute over which team should get former star defenceman Sergei Gonchar was interrupted when he sheepishly explained that technically, he's actually still playing in the NHL.

  • The league initially wanted to hold the Winter Classic game in Washington, but could find no evidence that FedEx Field is capable of hosting professional sporting events in January.

  • Sidney Crosby travels with an entourage of three people with tasers who's only job is to immediately shock him if he starts to do or say anything interesting.

  • The NHL's top secret contingency plan in case of a rain storm involves just making all the players skate around holding umbrellas.

  • Washington owner Ted Leonsis is convinced that the Capitals' current losing streak is his fault for not blogging hard enough, and has tearfully vowed to blog harder than ever before.

  • Gary Bettman has already met privately with the game's officials to instruct them to call a tight game, avoid any questionable calls, and make sure the game comes down to a shootout between Ovechkin and Crosby if they ever want to see their missing families again.

  • ESPN has committed to devoting more coverage to the Winter Classic than they have for any other NHL game of the post-lockout era, thanks to the presence of an intern in the third deck recording video clips on his iPhone.

  • So yeah, it turns out Mike Green is actually like that in real life.

  • Your expensive new television's warranty doesn't cover damage sustained when you instinctively leap off the couch and roundhouse punch the screen, as you recently found out thanks to an unexpected closeup shot of Matt Cooke.

  • A frustrated Boudreau has had to repeatedly remind his players that yes, they're on a reality show, and yes, the vote may very well have been unanimous, but he still doesn't have to bring anyone his damn torch.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great moments in shootout history

Some day, you punk kids will learn to have
some respect for terrible, whiny goalies.
The shootout has long been a topic that divides hockey fans. Many feel that it's an overly long and drawn out skills competition, a cheap gimmick that diminishes the emphasis on team play and tarnishes the integrity of the game. Others disagree, pointing out that it's actually not all that long.

The shootout was back in the spotlight yet again in recent days, along with a debate over what constitutes proper shootout etiquette. From Flames' goalie Henrik Karlsson's fist-pumping save celebrations to Oiler rookie Linus Omark's premature spinorama, it seems like we may be faced with a sudden need to establish a shootout code of conduct.

But while the shootout may cause its share of headaches, there's no disputing that it has also created some unique hockey memories. Here's a sampling of some of some of the most indelible moments from the brief history of the NHL shootout.

December 10, 2010 - A disappointed Linus Omark is forced to switch to Plan B after officials refuse to allow him to bring his ladder and bucket of confetti onto the ice.

November 2, 2009 - Continuing his impressive streak as the only player in NHL history to be successful on every career shootout attempt, Gregory Campbell scores on his patented move of skating directly at the goaltender while yelling "get out of the way or my dad will suspend you!"

October 21, 2008 - In an effort to improve their chances of taking home two points, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson pulls Vesa Toskala before the shootout begins and replaces him with an old shoelace dangling from the crossbar.

November 27, 2010 - Olli Jokinen streaks in across the blueline, kicks the puck up to his skates and executes a breathtaking spinorama before being stopped by an arena worker who explains that game is already over and the Flames lost 7-1 in regulation.

January 1, 2008 - After giving up the game-winning shootout goal to Sidney Crosby to end the first ever outdoor Winter Classic, the Sabres' Ryan Miller comforts himself by telling reporters "Oh well, at least I know that's the worst game-ending five hole goal I'll ever give up to that guy on national television".

March 24, 2010 - Despite scoring on his first career attempt, Canadiens' defenceman P.K. Subban receives near-unanimous criticism from within the hockey community after he briefly cracks a facial expression.

October 25, 2005 - Amid echoes of shots and clouds of gun smoke, the first shootout in Dallas Stars history resumes after the public address announcer sternly admonishes the Texas crowd that that's not the kind of "shootout" they meant and they know it.

November 10, 2010 - Crafty veteran sniper Ilya Kovalchuk takes full advantage of an advanced scouting report that Sabres' goalie Jhonas Enroth has trouble with slow rollers towards the side boards.

April 11, 2010 - The Flyers eliminate the Rangers from playoff contention on the season's final day when Chris Pronger scores the winner on a move he calls "glue the puck to the front of a stolen zamboni and then run over Henrik Lundqvist while he's taking a drink from his water bottle".

March 11, 2009 - The Vancouver Canucks lose a heartbreaker when Alex Burrows is denied on a brilliant goalmouth kick save by Stephane Auger.

November 3, 2009 - Players begin to realize that the best way to score on Ottawa's Pascal Leclaire is by coming in as slowly as possible, since given enough time he'll eventually keel over from some random injury and you can just tap it into the open net.

February 13, 2008 - After being given a rare shootout opportunity, a confused and frightened Tomas Kaberle spends the next 45 minutes circling the offensive zone in an desperate attempt to find someone to pass to.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Signs your players have quit on you

Maybe I should start a blog so that
they'll ban me from the building.
We're well into the season's second quarter, and that means we can finally stop with the caveats about how it's too early to make any firm judgements and get down to reckless speculation about which coaches are about to be fired.

The season has already seen one coach lose his job, with the Islanders relieving Scott Gordon of his duties in November. There's also been plenty of early-season speculation around Toronto's Ron Wilson and New Jersey's John Maclean, and the circling vultures have also been spotted in cities like Calgary, Buffalo and Ottawa.

As soon as a coach's job seems to be in jeopardy, attention inevitably turns to the players. How are they reacting? Do they seem to be working harder to save his job? Or have they committed the ultimate sin and quit on their coach in an effort to speed his exit?

Accusing players of giving less than their best can be a touchy subject, but there are some telltale signs that it could be happening. So if you happen to be an NHL coach of a struggling team, you'll want to keep an eye out for these subtle sign that your players want you out.
  • The chants for you to be fired are getting louder and louder, which seems like a bad sign since you're sitting on the team bus on the way to the game.

  • Every time you try to address the team during a timeout, you can't help but notice the players all looking at their "What Would Ken Hitchcock Do?" bracelets.

  • Star players are occasionally deviating from their assignments during the crucial final minutes of close games; for example, instead of your first line winger being one stick length from the top of the faceoff circle with backside coverage of the point man and an active stick clogging the passing lane, he's in the dressing room playing Xbox with the starting goaltender.

  • In addition to "Jim from High River" and "Bill from Strathmore", the post-game radio show has started getting calls demanding your firing from "Jarome from the first line".

  • When the team captain says "We're all doing our best to win for our coach" during a post-game interview, he makes those finger quotes for the words "best", "win" and "coach".

  • When you angrily tell your lazy star player that he can either do things your way or pack his bags, he just looks up from the pages of his 15-year $100 million contract and asks "Sorry, do I know you?".

  • During the team Christmas party, all the players' children keep climbing up on Santa's lap, pointing in your direction, and making a throat slash gesture.

  • After you call a player into your office to discuss a mistake they made in the previous period, he replies "Gosh, I hope you're not that critical of me next game when you're on the TSN intermission panel."

  • During practice, Jason Spezza and Alexei Kovalev aren't trying as hard as usual during the "commit a lazy neutral zone turnover then nonchalantly circle back without bothering to cover anyone" drills, although come to think of it why do we even have those in the first place?

  • While you realize that an occasional accidental puck shot into the bench is an occupational hazard that you just have to deal with, it still seems excessive to have it happen thirty or forty times during the pregame warm-up.

  • Nobody has come right out and told you that you're about to be replaced by some unqualified rookie who talks a big game but is in way over his head, but they've already arranged for Don Cherry to introduce him.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A hockey fan's guide to modern TV technology

This 2010-11 Tyler Bozak highlight video sucks.
Hockey Night in Canada will break new ground on Saturday when the game between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens marks their first broadcast available in 3D.

That's great news if you have a 3D-ready television. But most hockey fans don't. And in fact, many hockey fans are still watching the game on old-fashioned sets without any of the bells and whistles that so many others now take for granted.

My guess is that many of those late adopters might consider upgrading to a more modern system in time for this weekend's game. And if you're one them, I'm here to help with this handy guide to help a hockey fan get up and running with the latest television technology.

Getting Started
First step: Go buy an expensive television and home entertainment system, bring it home, and hook it up. Go ahead, I'll wait here.

Are you back? Great. Let's make sure you're ready for some hockey. First, press the power button on one of the seven remote controls you now own. No, not that one. The one that's kind of greyish. No, the other one that's kind of greyish. You know what, just hit the power buttons on all of them. Good, we're ready to get started.

High-Definition Television
A top quality high-definition television can produce up to 17 million colors, which is enough to display almost half of the colors present in one of Don Cherry's jackets. To hook up your high-def TV, follow these steps:
  • First, tune your television to your favourite sports channel so you can see what the anchors look like in standard definition.
  • Next, locate the HDMI cable and plug it into the back of your TV.
  • Now check the screen and see what the anchors look like in high-definition.
  • Finally, yank the HDMI cable out of the television and throw it out of the window before collapsing on the ground, clawing at your eyes in horror.
Watching Television in 3D
If you've purchased a 3D set, put on your special glasses and wait for something to be projected directly towards the screen. If you're watching a made-for-3D movie, this will happen every few seconds. If you're watching anything else, this will happen never.

Helpful hint: When watching hockey in 3D, it's probably a good idea to look away from the screen any time James Wisniewski starts getting angry.

Stereo Sound
Your new entertainment system will feature stereo sound that delivers a much richer experience. Set up the various speakers in strategic locations around the room, and soon you'll be enjoying the sound of your friends telling you that you didn't put them in the right place.

You'll also be able to hear enhanced audio during hockey games, such as hits rattling off the glass, players calling for passes, and enhanced crowd noise. (Please note: Crowd noise not available for games broadcast from the Air Canada Centre.)

The Personal Vide Recorder
A personal video recorder (or PVR) is a device that allows you to pause, record, fast forward and rewind live television. While it can be used for any type of programming, it's especially useful for sports fans who want to record games to watch later.

Your system will come with a handy onscreen guide that will make the process easy. Scroll through the menu to find the game you want to record. Notice that the guide is helpfully set to record the game from 7:00 to 9:30, which is fine since nobody really wants to watch the end of the third period anyway.

When it's time to watch the game you've recorded, you can fast forward until you see something interesting happening. Then you can fast forward past that while you try to remember where the rewind button is. Then you can rewind too far and miss it again. Then you can accidentally press the "live" button, skip directly to the end of the game, see the final score, and throw your remote control out the window. Don't worry, you still have six more.

Helpful hint: Remember to feel slightly guilty about fast forwarding through the national anthem.

The Blu-ray player
A Blu-ray player is a device that allows Calgary Flames fans to watch movies during the playoffs.

Still having problems? Try some of these fixes to common issues.

Problem: I recorded my favourite team's game and decided to watch all their goals, fights and big hits, but I ended up just fast forwarding and fast forwarding until the game was over.
Solution: Stop cheering for the Ottawa Senators.

Problem: My TV is stuck on an image of Sidney Crosby, and the Penguins aren't even playing in this game.
Solution: You have accidentally switched over to an NBC broadcast.

Problem: I'm pressing my remote control's "mute" button, but the announcer just keeps getting louder.
Solution: You are attempting to mute Pierre McGuire. Nobody can mute Pierre McGuire.

Problem: The picture starts out sharp and clear for the opening faceoff, but becomes increasingly blurry as the game goes on until it is almost impossible to tell what's happening.
Solution: You're a Leaf fan. Try not to drink so much during the game.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Come on down: A history of the NHL's game show appearances

He later became a Leaf fan and
changed his name to Guy Frowny.
The NHL made an unexpected pop culture appearance this week when the Maple Leafs were the subject of a question on the game show Jeopardy!.

The question ("In action since 1917, this sports franchise is now largely owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan") may have been somewhat ironic given recent news of a potential sale to Rogers, but it wasn't especially difficult. Two of the three contestants knew the correct answer, including Tom, the eventual champion. Hey, plan the parade, right?

But while it was certainly fun to see the Leafs make a cameo on one of the world's most popular game shows, it wasn't an especially rare sight. It may surprise younger fans to learn that the NHL actually has a long and distinguished history of showing up on some of television's most beloved games shows, albeit with mixed results.

Here's a few of the more memorable examples.

2008 - After multiple attempts to explain the rules of the bidding portion of the game, exasperated producers for The Price Is Right are forced to disqualify Glen Sather after he is unable to grasp the concept of "without going over".

1994 - While trying to figure out a way to get the blood and shards of teeth out of his hair, Family Feud host Richard Dawson vows to never again get lippy with the Sutter brothers.

1999 - Despite following the proven formula of using a bland former lawyer as host, the NHL Network is disappointed by the negative critical reception and record low ratings for their production of Win Gil Stein's Money.

2004 - During an uncomfortable episode of Wheel of Fortune, Gary Bettman spends 20 minutes squinting at a board reading "NOBODY IN PHOENIX ENJOYS WATCHING HOC-EY" without being able to solve the puzzle.

1995 - The Hollywood Squares becomes incredibly dull and begins to plummet in the ratings during the years after special guests Jacques Lemaire and Lou Lamoreillo develop a strategy that involves never doing anything except going for the block.

2005 - An outraged Kyle Wellwood storms off the set off Tic Tac Dough after learning that he is playing for an assortment of cash and prizes, and not for actual tic tacs and dough.

2009 - In a short-lived effort to appeal to hockey fans, NBC launches a show called Deal or No Deal or To Be Honest I'd Love To Make a Deal But I Can't Do Anything Until The Trade Deadline Because of This Stupid Salary Cap.

2010 - Lightning goaltender Dan Ellis declines an invitation to appear on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on the grounds that it would just end up creating more problems.

2007 - A special "Enforcers of the NHL" edition of The Weakest Link unexpectedly turns out to be the series' final episode, although it does teach viewers a valuable lesson about what happens when you accidentally call Link Gaetz "weak".

1984 - Frustrated Press Your Luck host Peter Tomarken stops the show to explain to a St. Louis Blues fan contestant that while inconsistent goaltending is certainly an issue for any hockey team, there's still no need to punctuate every spin with cries of "No Wamsleys!"

2006 - "NHL Arena Music Director" week on Name That Tune ends up being a disaster when it turns out that none of them are able to name any tune that isn't Welcome To The Jungle, Cotton-Eyed Joe, or that one where they just keep saying "Woo-hoo".

1986 - A young John Ferguson Jr. appears on Let's Make A Deal, trades a brand new car for a goat, and then immediately gives the goat a no-trade clause.