Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The NHLPA's leaked Executive Director job application form

Not sure why, but I'm getting a
bad vibe from this guy.
While no deal has been reached officially, it now seems all but certain that Donald Fehr will be the next man in charge of the NHL Players' Association. The job has been vacant for almost a year thanks to infighting and indecision within the association, which has already parted ways with three different bosses since the start of the 2004-05 lockout.

Fehr may be a newcomer to the sport of hockey, but he's a well-known figure among North American sports fans. Fehr was in charge of the Major League Baseball Players Association for 24 years, a period that saw several work stoppages including the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

While it's too early to know the impact that Fehr would have in his new role, we may be able to learn a few things from the way he got it. According to my sources, the NHLPA asked every potential candidate to fill out a simple one-page application form. I've obtained a copy of that form, and I think it sheds a lot of light on how Fehr managed to secure the job.


Thank you for applying for the position of Executive Director of the NHLPA. To help us determine your qualifications, please fill out this application form and hand it to the on-duty manager. Please note that only those applicants selected for an interview will be contacted.

First Name:
Last Name:
Does your name lend itself to any cool headline puns that describe how scary you are?

Please list your desired salary for this position:

Please list the percentage of that salary that you are willing to have randomly placed into an escrow that you do not understand:

Describe any previous job experience you have which would be relevant to a position at the NHLPA, such as working at a daycare or as a public safety investigator specializing in train wrecks.

Rate your knowledge of hockey on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "poor" and 10 is "extremely poor".

Hours during the day that you are available to work:
Hours during the middle of the night that you are available to be fired:

List any experience you have in dealing with cripplingly short-sighted work stoppages. (Use the back of the paper if you need extra space.)

This is probably a long shot, but by any chance do you have experience working with uncharismatic, condescending and universally despised professional sports commissioners?

Please describe your level of expertise when it comes to hacking into an e-mail system.

If you wrote anything other than "absolutely none" for that last question, please crumple your application into a ball and toss it into the nearest waste basket.

Place a checkmark next to any of the following that you feel you would be able to acquire on behalf of the players:
( ) Two weeks of vacation during the regular season
( ) Four weeks of vacation during the offseason
( ) Twelve months of vacation during the 2012-13 season

Please look at the attached photo of Gary Bettman making his very best "intimidating face". Write down the total number of seconds you were able to stare at it without laughing.

It's a long story, but we're going to need the successful candidate to let Eric Lindros follow them around 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You're cool with that, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?

Any future threats of a work stoppage are likely to be extremely unpopular with hockey fans, many of whom would take it as a devastating betrayal on the part of a sport they've cared for deeply since childhood. How convincingly would you be able to fake caring about that?

Bonus grammar question: Why is it a "Players Association" in baseball, basketball and football, but a "Players' Association" in the NHL?

Finally, and most importantly: In the space below, please describe in detail how you plan to react when we all inevitably rise up and backstab you in 12 to 18 months.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Should the NHL keep going to the Olympics?

Um, why does it say "Expires in 2014"?
This week's World Hockey Summit in Toronto brings together many of the brightest minds in hockey to discuss and debate the game's future. And while the agenda is packed with controversial issues, the biggest headlines will likely surround the NHL's future participation in the Olympics.

Hockey fans seem to enjoy seeing NHL players compete for gold. But some critics feel that the league would be better served by bringing back the World Cup instead, while others argue that there are simply too many international tournaments clogging up the hockey calendar.

What should the NHL do? It's a difficult debate, with plenty of good points on each side. After talking to several hockey insiders, I feel like I've got a good handle on the various arguments that will be presented this week. I'll list them here, and let the reader make up their own mind:

Pro: Olympic participation is extremely popular among players, at least according to the janitor we talked to when we called the NHLPA head office and asked to speak to the person in charge.

Con: The three-week tournament can impact the rest of the regular season by creating significant injury risk and increased fatigue for star players, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage for teams like the Oilers that don't have any.

Pro: Russian players were humiliated in a blowout loss to Canada in Vancouver; in 2014, it's only fair that they get a chance to be humiliated by the Canadians in front of their home fans, too.

Con: Foreign time zones can often cause games to be played in the middle of the night, instead of first thing in the morning the way NBC would prefer.

Pro: Sending the best players to the Olympics would create the opportunity for the sport to add to the long list of amazing international hockey memories we've enjoyed over the years, such as "The Miracle on Ice", "The Miracle on Ice", and also "The Miracle on Ice". (Point submitted by the Association of American Sportswriters.)

Con: You allow a few NHL superstars to participate in the Olympics, and the next thing you know one of them is riding around awkwardly in a pickup truck with a torch during the opening ceremonies.

Pro: International overtime rules make it possible for a team to be eliminated from the playoffs during a shootout; it wouldn't be fair if only Ranger fans ever got to know what that felt like.

Con: Olympic participation could be replaced by the return of a summertime World Cup, which would be great news for foolish bloggers who commit to writing twice-weekly hockey columns without first checking a calendar to make sure it's not the middle of freaking August.

Pro: Having NHL players in the Olympics offers the league a rare opportunity to finally spend some time talking about Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

Con: Olympic participation results in the cancellation of the annual All-Star Game, causing crushing disappointment for fans who enjoy hockey but can't stand seeing it played by players who seem to give a crap.

Pro: If the NHL had not gone to Nagano in 1998, the league would never be seeing the influx of highly skilled Japanese players it has now.

Con: The league's participation in the Olympics is almost unanimously enjoyed by fans, and therefore goes against their apparent business model.

Pro: International rules ban fighting during games, resulting in foreign players making the most hilarious faces when the Canadian team jumps them in their hotel lobby instead.

Con: Let's face it, any hockey competition that can result in a team run by Brian Burke and Ron Wilson making the playoffs is clearly deeply flawed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A look back at the RDO camp

The Canadian version of "Inception" bombed.
Hockey fans had a chance to look into the future this week during the NHL’s research, development and orientation camp in Toronto.

The two-day camp, which wrapped up Thursday, featured a series of experimental rule changes and rink modifications that the league wanted to test in a real world environment. The rules were tested during a series of scrimmages played by several of next year’s top draft prospects.

Some of the potential new rules amounted to minor tweaks, while others were radical changes. Most will never make it to a live NHL game, but that’s no reason not to spend some time looking back on what worked and what didn’t.

One of the league’s top priorities is to come up with ways to create more offence. For example, one proposed change would see the width of the blue line doubled. This would create more offensive chances, presumably as attacking forwards blow past defencemen who are busy saying “Hey, is it me or is the blue line twice as big as it was yesterday?”

The league is also experimenting with alternate placement of the faceoff circles. One proposal, expected to result in marginally increased scoring, would see all offensive zone faceoffs take place six inches inside the defensive team’s net. There’s also talk of creating more room at the end of the rink by making the nets more shallow, which would be accomplished by encouraging them to spend all their time listening to pop music and reading Twilight books.

It’s a good start, but there is room for more creativity. How about awarding one goal for any puck shot into the stands that KOs that fan who keeps standing up to wave at the camera while talking on his cell phone? And if none of those changes work, the league could always go to plan B — goodbye goalie water bottles, hello goalie tequila bottles.

The league also looked at continuing to restrict line changes. One new rule would see teams that went offside be unable to change lines before the next faceoff, similar to what happens now with icing. This change is expected to be popular with the many fans who find themselves saying things like “This game is OK, but I’d enjoy it more if the players were constantly vomiting from exhaustion.”

This ongoing war on line changes is expected to someday culminate with coaches having the option to disable line changes altogether, but only if the opposing coach gets up to use the bathroom and leaves his Xbox controller lying around.

Icing has always been a mixed blessing for hockey fans. On the one hand, races for the puck are exciting. On the other, exploding hip fragments can sometimes fly up into the stands and get in your beer. The NHL is trying to find a way to keep the former while minimizing the latter.

The answer appears to be a concept called hybrid icing, which is just like regular icing except it gets better mileage. Experts agree that it will cost twice as much and cause your insufferable granola-snorting neighbour to strut around like he’s better than you.

Finally, the league spent a significant amount of time experimenting with new formats for overtime and shootouts. They had a look at various creative ways to end a game that have never been tried before, such as “2-on-2 overtime”, “extended five-man shootout”, and “Edmonton Oilers victory”.

Who knows, maybe someday they’ll try something truly radical: Replace the traditional shootout with a brand new concept in which each team chooses five players, all of whom take to the ice and attempt to score a goal at the same time as if they were playing actual hockey and not some glorified skills competition.

In any event, its nice to see that the NHL is willing to experiment. If nothing else, all of the strange rules and modified rinks gave fans an opportunity to see things they will never see again.

Like 2011 draft prospects playing in Toronto.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Behind the scenes on Kaberle deadline day

See Tomas, normally the eyebrows would
be divided somewhere around here.
The eyes of the hockey world were focused sharply on Toronto on Sunday. With long-time defenseman Tomas Kaberle's no-trade clause coming back into effect at midnight, the Leafs were faced with a race against the clock to find a trading partner.

And while the day ultimately ended without a deal for Kaberle in place, it wasn't from lack of trying. Top secret sources tell me that Maple Leafs' general manager Brian Burke and his front office staff spent the entire day locked in their MLSE war room fielding offers.

Here's how the day went down:

7:32 a.m. - Burke makes a point of once again complimenting John Ferguson Jr. for having the foresight to negotiate a trade window into Kaberle's contract, before politely informing him that he'd still prefer not to have his windshield squeegeed that day.

7:49 a.m. - Burke stops at a Tim Hortons drive-through and asks for the largest box of Timbits they have, since he wants to make sure each of his assistant GMs gets one.

9:05 a.m. - Attempted talks with New Jersey go nowhere when Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello responds to every proposal with a sarcastic "Gee, I'm not sure, let me go ask Gary Bettman if I'm allowed to do that".

10:21 a.m. - The scouting department for the San Jose Sharks calls to thank the Leafs for sending over that footage of Kaberle in action during the postseason, but wonders if they also happen to have any that's in color.

1:51 p.m. - After three straight hours without being able to get a dial tone, the Leafs' front office staff begins to notice that the service technician who showed up that morning to work on the phone lines actually looks a lot like Rick Curran with a fake moustache and pair of wire cutters.

2:35 p.m. - As rumours begin to circulate that Kaberle may not be moved after all, the Leafs PR department is deluged with requests from media getting a head start on their upcoming seven-month "Kaberle Trade Deadline 2011 Watch" series.

3:42 p.m. - Tampa Bay emerges as a potential destination, but talks proceed slowly as Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman constantly interrupts Burke to ask if he can remind him how 2010 Gold Medal game turned out.

4:11 p.m. - The various assistant GMs all agree that while the handwriting is lovely and the photo is a nice personal touch, now probably isn't a good time to show Burke the "Thanks for Tyler Seguin" card that just arrived in the mail from Peter Chiarelli.

5:25 p.m. - The Detroit Red Wings express some interest in acquiring Kaberle, but eventually decide that now isn't the time for a youth movement.

6:46 p.m. - Tomas Kaberle himself calls to say that while he can handle Ron Wilson spending all day in front of his house waiting to drive him to the airport, he could do without him also constantly honking the horn and revving the engine.

7:20 p.m. - The Leafs' continue to struggle to find a market for defensemen when Dave Nonis is unsuccessful in his attempt to tip the pizza deliveryman with the rights to Jeff Finger.

8:49 p.m. - After being put through to voicemail for the fifteenth time in a row, Burke starts to get a sinking feeling that Darryl Sutter now has caller ID.

10:47 p.m. - Potentially promising negotiations go sour when Burke realizes that all those phone calls from the GM who seems to love soft European player who don't play defence are actually coming from the next door office of a confused Bryan Colangelo.

12:01 a.m. - A bruised and battered Richard Peddie tries to figure out what it was about his "Hey, gang, there's always tomorrow" pep talk that made everyone so cranky.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A buyer's guide to the remaining NHL free agents - 2010

Boogard got how much?
As hockey's off-season drags on, there are still dozens of unrestricted free agents who haven't found a team for the upcoming season. Many will end up being exiled to Europe or even retirement, while others will manage to find a job in the NHL.

But which ones? Here's an honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of some of the best known free agents remaining on the market, along with a prediction of where they could ultimately wind up.

Antti Niemi
The bad: Was easily the most over-rated Stanley Cup winning goalie in the entire league last year.
The good: Doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit", although technically that's also true of all the other words in the English language.
Where he'd fit: Philadelphia, according to everyone in the entire hockey world who doesn't work in the Flyers' front office.

Lee Stempniak
The bad: Only seems to play well in Phoenix, which pretty much limits him to one-year offers.
The good: Hasn't played for the Maple Leafs since the trade deadline, so most of the loser stench has worn off by now.
Where he'd fit: Any team that only hired a scouting staff in mid-March.

Paul Kariya
The bad: Most scouts agree that his dimples are slightly less adorable than they used to be.
The good: Was at one point, many years ago, Paul Kariya.
Where he'd fit: Pretty much any team that's looking for a veteran scoring winger to play on a line with Teemu Selanne.

Ilya Kovalchuk
The bad: May have suffered a series of undisclosed head injuries during his career, based on his apparent willingness to commit to spending 17 years in New Jersey.
The good: Will no doubt be well-rested after the upcoming year-long work stoppage that he caused.
Where he'd fit: Any team that's been smart enough to preserve some cap room in 2027.

Owen Nolan
The bad: Is widely recognized as one of the worst NHL players that Belfast, Northern Ireland has ever produced.
The good: Can offer detailed scouting reports on the 30 NHL teams, all of which he's recently played for.
Where he'd fit: A team that believes it is one salt-and-pepper goatee away from contending.

Kyle Wellwood
The bad: Has occasionally experienced minor conditioning setbacks, which some bloggers have cruelly exaggerated to get cheap laughs.
The good: Is an extremely well-rounded player. Often appears to be everywhere on the ice at the same time. Has an overwhelming presence which can dominate the dressing room. Is unanimously considered to be one of the hungriest players in the league.
Where he'd fit: Any roster with a large hole to fill.

Miroslav Satan
The bad: Is always going on and on about his theory that the whole thing was just a dream by Leonardo DiCaprio's character, which is odd since he's talking about the seventh season of Growing Pains.
The good: Was an alternate on the NHL's millennial All-Miroslav team.
Where he'd fit: The New Jersey Devils, according to the International Union of Hilarious Newspaper Headline Writers.

Jose Theodore
The bad: Goal scoring totals have dropped significantly since 2000-01 season.
The good: Has been known to entertain teammates with hilarious made-up stories about winning the Hart Trophy.
Where he'd fit: Any NHL team where he wouldn't have to worry about once again losing his starter's job to Cristobel Huet. So, any NHL team.

Darcy Tucker
The bad: Is too old and broken down these days to randomly leap into opponent's benches any more; now just sort of limps over and then tumbles in.
The good: Critics who accuse him of being dirty don't have a leg to stand on, mostly because he's blown out both their knees.
Where he'd fit: Sami Kapanen's sweat-drenched nightmares.

Vesa Toskala
The bad: Often reminds you of the love child of Hardy Astrom and Andre Racicot, assuming that child was forced to play goal before developing gross motor skills.
The good: Has never been one of those irresponsible goalies who takes a brand new set of equipment and then spends the season ruining it by letting a bunch of pucks hit it.
Where he'd fit: As the backup for whatever ECHL team John Ferguson Jr. is working for these days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Kovalchuk hearing: The top secret transcript

Lou Lamoriello in happier times.
NHL arbitrator Richard Bloch announced his decision in the Ilya Kovalchuk case yesterday, ruling that Kovalchuk's controversial 17-year contract with the Devils is null and void.

But while the decision itself was made public, the details of last week's hearings were not. Until now.

My spies were in attendance for one session of the hearing, and recorded a complete transcript. I'm republishing it below so that NHL fans can understand the case that Bloch was dealing with, and judge for themselves whether justice was done.

(Scene: a courtroom. Richard Bloch is presiding, with various other NHL personnel on hand. Several NHL stars are sitting in a small waiting area in the back of the room.)

Bloch: OK everyone, let's get started. In this morning's session we heard from several league officials. Gary Bettman testified about the discretionary powers available to him as commissioner, Bill Daly explained his interpretation of the CBA, and Lou Lamoriello threw several jars of jam at my head.

Lamoriello: It slipped out of my hand.


Lamoriello: Fifteen times.

Bloch: Anyway, this afternoon we'll be hearing testimony from various NHL players. The first to take the stand will be Ilya Kovalchuk. Let's get the biggest question out of the way first: Ilya, do you really intend to play the entire length of this contract?

Kovalchuk: First of all, I just want to say how disappointed I am that my integrity is being called into question here. Yes, of course I plan to play through the end of this contract. And in fact, I have every intention of playing well beyond that.

Bloch: Wow. Seriously?

Kovalchuk: Of course. Plenty of guys play past the age of 34.

Bloch: Um… Ilya? You're 27 years old and you signed a 17-year contract.

Kovalchuk: Exactly. So 27 plus 17 is... hold on... carry the one, and... oh. Hey, wait a second. Oh man.

Bloch: ...

Kovalchuk: Seriously, Lou? You actually thought anyone would buy this?

Bloch: Incoming.

(A jar of grape jam smashes against the wall behind Kovalchuk's head.)

Bloch: Thanks for your testimony Ilya. You may step down.

Kovalchuk (doing an old man voice): Hey, it's me, 44-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk. When does the game start? I want to make sure my grandchildren have time to feed me my pre-game meal of mashed bananas.

Bloch: That will be all, Ilya. We'll now begin hearing testimony from other NHLers who have signed similar deals which have been approved by the league. Our first player will be, let's see... Oh no.

(The sound of smashing windows and car alarms can be heard from outside.)

Bloch (into intercom): Security, we have a Code Orange.

(A chainsaw slashes through the wall, carving out a hole through which a figure emerges.)

Chris Pronger: Boo-yah!

Bloch: OK, let's get this over with. Chris, you signed a seven-year extension when you were already 35 years old. Why should we believe that you'll still be playing when that contract ends?

Pronger: Well, keep in mind that I've never relied on skills that fade with age, like speed or hand-eye coordination. My game is based on abilities that tend to remain consistent over time.

Bloch: Size? Positioning? Defensive awareness?

Pronger: Elbowing people in the head when they're not looking.

Bloch: Of course.

Pronger: Hey, is this going to take much longer? I haven't slashed anyone in the throat in like 15 minutes, and I'm starting to get the shakes.

Bloch: I think you're all done. Our next player to testify will be Islanders' goalie Rick DiPietro. Thanks for joining us, Rick.

DiPietro: No problem.

Bloch: Now Rick, your 15-year contract was the longest in league history when it was signed. Can you explain the process that lead to the deal?

DiPietro (now slumped over in chair):

Lamoriello: Um, I think he's unconscious.

Bloch: From sitting down? Wow, he really is injury prone.

Lamoriello: No, actually while you were talking Pronger ran over and elbowed him in the head.

Pronger: Boo-yah!

Kovalchuk (still doing old man voice): Dangnabbit, Pronger!

Bloch: OK everyone, let's settle down. We have several more players to hear from. In fact, as I look over into the waiting area I see that… Oh for the love of…

(In the waiting area, Marian Hossa, Mike Richards, Roberto Luongo and Henrik Zetterbeg are laying in a pile of twisted limbs. There is blood on the ceiling. The only movement is from a dazed Alexander Ovechkin, whose attempt to commando crawl to the exit is cut short when he's hit in the temple with a jar of strawberry jam.)

Lamoriello: Boo-yah!

(Pronger and Lamoriello high five.)

Bloch: OK, it's time for my decision. I'd like to render my ruling based on the details of the CBA, but my copy has jam stains all over it. I'd look through past rulings for precedents, but Chris Pronger just set my law library on fire. And I'd flip a coin, but Ilya Kovalchuk took my spare change and is mailing it to his imaginary grandchildren.

Kovalchuk (shaking fist): Get off my lawn!

Bloch: So here's my ruling: You people are lunatics. The contract is voided. And if I ever see any of you again, I'm calling the police. This hearing is adjourned.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Off-season winners and losers - 2010

Unlike Kyle Wellwood, the road was signed.
August is traditionally the dead zone on the NHL's calendar, and this year seems to be no different. While we're still weeks away from the start of training camps, it's fair to say the most of the off-season action is long gone.

That makes this a good time for some reflection. With the draft complete, several trades in the books and most of the major free agents signed, the league's teams have had plenty of opportunities to reshape their rosters. And as always, some did a better job than others.

Let's take a look back at some of the NHL's biggest winners and losers from this summer.


New York Rangers - Their annual "free agent signing which everyone agrees was the most outrageously over-priced mistake of the summer" ended up being a lot cheaper than usual this year.

Calgary Flames - Signed free agent Olli Jokinen, finally filling the "over-paid third line center" void created by the deadline day trading of Olli Jokinen.

Washington Capitals - Moved quickly to address the biggest reason for last year's crushing post-season disappointment by somehow convincing the Montreal Canadiens to trade Jaroslav Halak to the Western conference.

Atlanta Thrashers - Acquired several players from Chicago's Stanley Cup-winning roster, ensuring that for the first time in sports history a Google search for "Atlanta" and "Hawks" and "championship" will not yield zero results.

Buffalo Sabres - Didn't allow trivial distractions such as trades or free agency signings to sidetrack them from what was really important: Calling Ryan Miller every day to ask "Just checking, but you're still our starting goalie, right?"

Ottawa Senators - Announced the hiring of 51-year old Rick Wamsley as goaltending coach, immediately making him the best goalie in franchise history.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Acquired winger Ethan Moreau who, as a former Edmonton Oilers captain, will no doubt provide his new teammates with invaluable feedback on what not to do.

Detroit Red Wings - Boosted their offensive depth chart with the signing of free agent center Mike Modano, who is presumably the son of that guy who was really good for the Minnesota North Stars back in the early 90s.


New Jersey Devils - Foolishly based entire free agency strategy on the assumption that the specific terms of the CBA would be adhered to.

Toronto Maple Leafs - Their savvy acquisition of Brett Ledba to fill the role of seventh defenseman was offset somewhat by the fact that their first-line center on opening night will also be Brett Lebda.

Chicago Blackhawks - Were forced to part ways with nine regulars due to the salary cap, and now face the daunting task of somehow defending their championship with only Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Marion Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook and a half-dozen other stars.

Florida Panthers - Despite best efforts, have likely not done enough to satisfy the expectations of their die-hard fan.

Vancouver Canucks - Lost backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft to free agency but have yet to find a replacement equally skilled at stopping NHL shooters, such as a wet sheet of paper mache.

Los Angeles Kings - In hindsight, attempt to boost employee morale by giving entire front office staff the summer off may have been a mistake.

Boston Bruins - Short-sightedly drafted future franchise player Tyler Seguin with the top two pick acquired from Toronto, leaving virtually no room on roster for franchise players available with Toronto's top two pick in 2011.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Georges Laraque's Green Party election platform

We heard some strange news in the hockey world this week, when it was announced the former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque had been named deputy leader of Canada's Green Party. While Laraque has been vocal about several causes over the years, many assumed that his role with the Green Party would be more about generating publicity than actually setting policy.

It turns out we were wrong. Drawing on his hockey experience, Laraque has actually developed a detailed platform that he plans to implement once the Green Party wins the next federal election. Thanks to some of my spies in the political world, I've managed to obtain an advanced copy.
  • From now on, Habs fans will be strongly encouraged to only flip over and set fire to fuel-guzzling SUVs and Hummers.

  • If you see somebody littering on the street, you are now legally obligated to run up and pull their sweater over their head.

  • Update labor laws to make it illegal to fire a guy while he's doing relief work in Haiti, not that any self-respecting organization would ever do such a thing.

  • Do away with the term "prorogue"; replace with "assessing parliament a ten-week misconduct".

  • Goodbye, arena hot dog guns. Hello, arena tofu guns.

  • Reduce excess power consumption due to red light bulbs being left on at all times by deporting Vesa Toskala back to Finland.

  • Ban the census, or at least that one question about "How many times have you had your ass handed to you by George St. Pierre?"

  • The national anthem will be modified to officially include the last line "Now drop the damn puck"

  • Canada will be restarting its dormant space program with the goal of sending a manned spacecraft into the center of the sun. In related news, we would like to thank Sean Avery for volunteering for the mission shortly after we snuck up behind him and hit him over the head with a tire iron.

  • Reinstate the death penalty; apply it retroactively to anyone who used to do that cheap breakaway move in NHL 94.

  • In recognition of Canadians' intense interest in offseason hockey transactions, see if we can somehow get the first day of unrestricted free agency declared a national holiday.

  • Rather than going through an extensive set of parliamentary approvals, Canada will now be able to declare war on another country simply by standing next to it and muttering "Let's go".

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A professional athlete's guide to Twitter

No really, we'd love to hear
more about your Belgian waffles.
Twitter is all the rage in the online world, and these days more and more professional athletes are joining the craze. From legends like new Miami Heat star Lebron James to fourth-liners like Coyote's enforcer Paul Bissonnette, it seems like every day brings a new headline someone from the sports world making news with their tweets.

But while sharing with fans may seem like a good idea, many athletes end up having a negative experience on the site. That's because there are several common mistakes that athletes make on Twitter, and those mistakes can cause serious damage to even the biggest star's reputation.

It doesn't have to be that way. So if you're a professional athlete who's thinking about joining Twitter, read on for some simple guidelines that will help you ensure that your time on the site is beneficial for both you and your fans.

Launched in 2006, Twitter is a web site that allows hundreds of millions of users from around the world to look at pictures of a whale being carried by birds. On rare occasions, the site also allows users to share short updates called “tweets” with their followers.

By tweeting, you can keep fans up to date on what's happening in your career. Think of it as being just like getting to know your fans in person, except without all the paternity suits.

When to tweet
Fans are fascinated by the inner workings of professional sports, and especially love to get updates from inside the stadium or arena. However, use discretion to make sure you are only sharing information at appropriate times.

Good: Just finished warm up. Feeling good about our chances in tonight's game, and know that we will all give 100%.
Bad: In locker room. Team doctor says that despite the concussion symptoms, I should be fine to get back out there and banana toolbox salamander.
Worse: Leading the offensive rush across the Maple Leafs blueline. Hey, look, here comes Dion Phaneuf, I wonder if he'll want to [CONNECTION LOST].

What to tweet
Sports fans are fascinated by the day-to-day lives of professional athletes, so they'll appreciate updates about just about anything you happen to be doing at a particular moment. For example, you could tweet about what you're having for lunch. Just be aware of any unintended messages you may be sending.

Good: Just ordered a pizza, which is my favourite food because I'm a regular guy just like you.
Bad: Just ordered crowned rack of lamb, which is my favourite food because I'm like a million times better than you.
Worse: Just had my chef prepare my favourite meal: Baby seal heart wrapped in bacon, wrapped in $100 dollar bills, which are then wrapped in bacon.

Blocking users
Unfortunately, you will occasionally encounter users who are aggressive or obnoxious. While Twitter does have a “block” feature, using it is considered a breach of etiquette and will make you appear thin-skinned and petty. Instead simply send one of your bodyguards to their house to kill them.

Typos are common on Twitter, and generally aren't considered a big deal. If you realize you've made some, a simple apology and explanation will suffice.

Good: Sorry for all the typos. I'm not used to the keyboard on my new phone yet.
Bad: Sorry for all the typos. I haven't had to pay attention in any academic course since I was fourteen years old.
Worse: Sorry for all the typos. It's hard to type when your fingers are all swollen from years of HGH.

Using acronyms
When communicating online, users will often use abbreviations and acronyms. This is especially true on Twitter, where every character counts.

For example, one of the most common abbreviations is “LOL”, which stands for “laugh out loud”. When used properly, it indicates that there is something about the previous statement which you found humorous.

Good: The sick child I'm visiting in the hospital just told me his favourite knock-knock joke. LOL.
Bad: At training camp watching Albert Haynesworth try to do a sit up. LOL.
Worse: And then I told Jim Gray that I only made up my mind that morning. LOL.

In conclusion
The world of Twitter can be confusing for beginners. By following these simple guidelines, you can make sure your time on the site is an enriching experience for both you and your fans.

And when in doubt, remember the one golden rule for professional athletes on Twitter: Just look at what Chris Bosh is doing.

Then do the exact opposite.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

DGB hits the Post

Get it? "Hits the post"? That is some
professional level punning right there.
You may have seen this already, but I thought I should do a quick post on some site news: As of last week, I've partnered with the National Post. You'll now be able to enjoy DGB content in the Post's print edition, as well as on their web site.

What does this mean? A few things:
  • I'm actually going to have to write something at least twice a week. (The current plan is to have new material on Tuesdays and Fridays, although that could always change.) So if you see somebody throwing an empty bottle through the screen of a TV tuned into the NHL Network while screaming "WOULD SOMETHING HAPPEN ALREADY?", that's me.

  • The content will still be cross-posted on this site. That means you can choose whether to read it here, on the Post's site, or in the paper. Personally, I'd recommend reading all three and then playing a fun game of "Find the joke the editors took out".

  • Additional content, videos, and embarrisngly amateurish photoshops will continue to appear on this site on other days.

  • I am now one step closer to achieving my longterm career goal of someday getting destroyed by the Cox Bloc guys.
If you're not familiar with NP's Posted Sports blog, it combines breaking news with some of the more offbeat stories that wouldn't ordinarily make it into a daily paper. It's one of the better MSM sports blogs out there, and I'd recommend it for a spot in your bookmarks or RSS feed. You can also follow them on twitter.

It's early, but so far all of this has been a lot of fun. The only downside is that I didn't get one of those slick National Post-style headshots, which apparently means I drew these black lines all over my face with magic marker for nothing. Probably shouldn't have gone with the permanent. Live and learn.

Anyway, this seems like a good opportunity to once again offer up a sincere thanks to anyone who has become a DGB reader. Whether you're one of the dozen or so who've been here since the beginning or just found me last week, any success this site has had is all thanks to you. I owe each and everyone one of you a beer.

(Note to self: Find out if the Post allows expensing beers.)