Monday, February 28, 2011

Trade deadline live-blog

3:45 - Burke is addressing the media; the Leafs are done for the day, with just one minor trade (John Mitchell to the Rangers for a seventh round pick).

We've had a handful of names dealt in the last hour, including Jason Arnott to the Caps and ex-Leaf Frederik Modin to the Flames. More deals may still come in, although there's very little chatter right now.

So all in all, the 2011 deadline day seems like a bit of a bust. Of course, if you count the weeks leading up to today then we had plenty of action. But today... not so much.

Thanks for stopping by. I'll be taking a look at the deadline winners and losers tomorrow morning.

3:00 - The deadline is here. You will now be bombarded with dozens of reminders that trades can still "trickle in" as trade calls are completed.

2:35 - Finally, a quasi-blockbuster as Dustin Penner heads to LA. Seems like a decent return for the Oilers. Still no word on Hemsky, but maybe this will open the floodgates.

2:00 - We're up to four trades, with one hour to go. Everyone knows that the deals don't pick up until the afternoon, but it's starting to look like today could wind up being an enormous bust.

Ah well, at least I didn't try to liveblog it, right? Oh, right. Crap.

1:25 - Sorry about that Joffrey.

12:30 - Clarification: When I said that a quiet day would be a best-case scenario, I was referring to Brian Burke and the Leafs. Not, you know, everyone.

12:05 - This live shot of the Leafs trade deadline war room is oddly fascinating.

If Burke gets bored, shouldn't he walk into the room, dramatically swipe everything of the table, then storm away? Wouldn't that crash twitter instantly? He needs to make this happen.

Yeah Boyes!
11:35 - Hey, speaking of trades, remember the one the Leafs made late in 2003? They acquired Owen Nolan from San Jose in exchange for budding star Alyn McCauley, prospect Brad Boyes and a first round pick in one of the greatest drafts in history. Everyone hated the deal at the time (including Pat Quinn, who looked like he wanted to punch himself during the press conference announcing the deal), and in the years since it's appeared on various "worst trade ever" lists.

Is it time to have another look?

McCauley had injury trouble and was out of the league before he turned 30. The Leafs first round pick was used to pick Mark Stuart, who has had a pretty mediocre career so far. And Brad Boyes, who looked like a superstar just a few years ago, was just dealt for a second round pick in a salary dump.

Was it a good trade for the Leafs? No, since Nolan was hurt and never did much for the Leafs other than say "boo hoo", which was pretty awesome. I've been known to argue that Leaf trades everyone hates were actually good deals, but I'm not going to go that far here.

But was it a disaster? One of the worst deals ever? Maybe not.

11:00 - Have you ever had a guy in one of your fantasy pools who makes a terrible trade, followed immediately by everyone making fun of him, him getting defensive, and from then on every offer he sends out is terribly one-sided because he doesn't want to screw up again?

I'm kind of getting the sense that Joe Nieuwendyk may be that guy.

9:55 - Heading to breakfast. If you see a guy eating bacon and eggs and furiously hitting refresh on his iphone while his wife glares at him with her arms crossed, come say hello.

9:30 - Coffee acquired.

Some Leaf thoughts... I've spent the last two deadlines knocking Brian Burke for not doing enough. But today, I think a quiet day from the Leafs would be completely acceptable, and maybe even a best-case scenario.

I'm a big fan of what Burke has done so far -- the Kaberle deal was a borderline miracle -- but the team still has holes. They could use another defenceman or two, and there's still no center for Phil Kessel. But those won't come cheap, and it sounds like Burke has decided he won't overpay for J.M. Liles. That's the right approach.

Stick to the plan, Burkie. No panic.

Update: Mike Ziesberger says the Leafs are in on Stephen Weiss, but the asking price is Nazem Kadri and a first round pick. Just say no, boss.

8:40 - Welcome to the 2011 DGB Trade Deadline live blog. I'll be updating whenever something major happens, which means... see you all next year!

Well, it may not be that bad. Even though NHL GMs jumped the gun over the past two weeks, it sounds like we should expect anywhere from 10-15 trades this year. There could even be a few big names still in play.

I'll be updating once or twice an hour, so check back for the latest. For quick hits throughout the day you can also follow me on twitter, and there may even be some discussion on facebook.

Off to get coffee...

Friday, February 25, 2011

What an official NHL trade call sounds like

"Dean, we must have a bad connection,
every time I mention Brayden Schenn
I get discon... hello?"
It's been a busy lead up to the deadline for NHL general managers, who've already pulled off over a dozen trades including several blockbusters. Just as busy were the members of the hockey media who raced to break the news of each transaction as quickly as possible, often before a deal was officially done.

Fans may have noticed that these reports often allude to a deal being complete "pending a trade call with the league". The phrase brings to mind an intense conference call in which league officials grill the participants before grudgingly approving a deal.

But as it turns out, a trade call is simply a formality. And just like every other phone call you try to make these days, the entire thing is handled through an automated system.

Thanks to league sources, I got my hands on the top secret number and gave it a call. Here's a transcript of what I heard.


Thank you for calling the National Hockey League. For service in English, press 1. For service in French, press 2. For service in whatever language it is that Don Cherry is speaking, press 3.

You have selected English. Please listen carefully, as our menu options have recently changed.

If you are a GM calling to complain about a penalty, press 1.
If you are a GM calling to complain about a suspension, press 2.
If you are a GM calling to complain about a goal review, press 3.
If you are a GM calling to complain about having nothing to complain about, press 4.
If you are on owner calling to report that you have recently gone bankrupt, press 5.
If you are calling about a trade, press 6.

You have pressed 6. You will now be connected to the NHL trade hotline. At any time, you may press 0 to speak to Darren Dreger.

If you are calling to complain about a trade your son's team just made, press 1.
If you just realized you've accidentally traded for a good starting goaltender when you're trying to tank for the first overall pick and would like a mulligan, press 2.
If you are calling to report a completely fictional "rumour" in a desperate attempt to trick stupid people into visiting your terrible web site, press e5.
If you are calling to report a completed trade, press 9.

You have chosen to report a completed trade. Please note that we are currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes. If you are trading away a draft pick, please enter the round number now.

You have chosen to trade a first round draft pick. Is this pick lottery-protected in case you finish last? Press 1 for yes or 2 for no.

You have pressed 2 for no. Um, do you think that maybe you should rethink that? Press 1 for yes or 2 for no.

You have pressed 2 for no. Look, Brian, we've talked about this, wouldn't it make sense to at least ask if…

You have angrily mashed 2 for no.

Does your trade involve a player? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

You have pressed 1 for yes. Please note that due to high demand, we have set up a dedicated hotline for teams trading away Ian White. Please call 1-800-IAN-B-GON for assistance. Operators are standing by 24 hours a day.

Please enter the line that the player plays on, and then his salary followed by the pound key.

You have indicated that you are trading for a third-liner who makes $5 million. Are you drunk? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

You have pressed 2 for no. Please indicate why you are making this clearly terrible trade.

If you are trying to satisfy your idiot owner, press 1.
If you are trying to satisfy your idiot fans, press 2.
If you are trying to satisfy your idiot media, press 3.
If you stopped caring once it became apparent that you're being fired at the end of the season and figure all of this will be the new guy's problem, press 4.
For all of the above, press 5.

You have pressed 5. Your trade is ready for processing. In a few moments it will be finalized, and you may inform the players and announce the deal publicly.

One last thing: Did you remember to check and see if the player has a no-trade clause? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

You have drop-kicked your phone out an open window. Thank you for calling the NHL trading hotline. Good bye.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don Cherry's Hockey Night in Canada contract revealed

"Look, I don't care how hot it gets in the
studio, I want Ron to start wearing pants."
One of the hockey world's biggest stars has avoided pending free agency by signing an extension. But instead of a player, it was someone many Canadian fans would consider far more important.

Yes, Don Cherry will be back for another year on Hockey Night in Canada. The controversial but undeniably popular hockey personality has agreed to an extension with the CBC, and will continue to appear on Coach's Corner through at least the end of the 2012 season. The news will thrill many fans, and infuriate others. That divisiveness is a large part of what makes Cherry the biggest media star in the country, one who constantly makes headlines for his opinions on the state of the game.

Since this is hockey, the release announcing the deal included a line noting that "the terms of Mr. Cherry's contract were not disclosed". And while that may have been true initially, DGB spies were able to get their hands on a copy of the agreement.

As you'd expect for a star of Cherry's stature, the deal includes a long list of special provisions and clauses:
  • From now on, Cherry must agree to avoid the appearance of bias by being careful to refer to the Toronto Maple Leafs as "they" instead of "we", such as in "boy, I really really really hope they win tonight".

  • The deal is in the ten to twelve million range, assuming we're talking jacket colors.

  • As in previous contracts, Cherry must pretend to understand Ron MacLean's show-closing pun at least twice per season.

  • The deal has a no-trade clause, for reasons nobody quite understands but assume is related to that time the contract was left alone with John Ferguson Jr. for a few minutes.

  • Cherry will have rights to use footage from the show in some sort of hockey highlight video bearing his name, just on the off chance he ever decides that sounds like something he might want to do.

  • The CBC agrees to continue to only employ stylists who don't know that goatees went out of fashion in 1996.

  • Cherry will lead an annual seminar for all other former players and coaches in the broadcast industry entitled "A beginner's guide to having an actual opinion about something."

  • In addition to Hockey Night In Canada, Cherry will be contractually obligated to make guest appearances on other hit Canadian television shows, such as… um… geez… is Bumper Stumpers still on the air?

  • Cherry agrees to try to turn down the gangster rap that's always blaring from his dressing room by a few decibels, but he's not making any promises.

  • Coach's Corner will continue to have a fake opening that just leads to another commercial, which will fool you into prematurely shushing everyone in the room and then feeling like and idiot every single freaking time.

  • The contract will include a small raise for Cherry's support staff and administrative assistants, and a massive raise for the poor sap who has to do his closed captioning.

  • The CBC agrees to assist in international efforts to track down every existing copy of the 1993 novelty single "Rock'em Sock'em Techno", load them onto a rocket ship, and shoot it into the center of the sun.

  • Cherry will somehow continue to be allowed to be the only person on the planet to hold offensively out-dated and moronic views, such as expressing a preference for his own country.

  • In an effort to silence the chorus of critics who constantly demand that he be fired, each Cherry appearance will now be preceded by a brief reminder that he's just going to end up being replaced by Mike Milbury.

  • Cherry will be limited to no more than five sick days per year, although Bruin fans know that he'll probably get confused and accidentally use six.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Other Mario Lemieux grievances

"My goalie could beat up your goalie.
You know, in 20 years."
Mario Lemieux is cranky. And apparently he's not too concerned about who knows it.

After watching last week's game between the Islanders and Penguins turn into a gong show, Lemieux decided to share some feedback. He released a statement ripping into the league and its leadership, calling the events "unacceptable and embarrassing" and hinting that he could leave the sport entirely if things didn't improve.

Many applauded his stance, while others were critical or even accused him of hypocrisy. But those critics may want to brace themselves, because Lemieux may have more to get off his chest in the days to come.

What else could a millionaire hockey legend possibly have to complain about? Plenty, as it turns out. Sources in Pittsburgh tell me that the Islanders game was just the latest in a long list of things that are severely ticking Mario off:
  • Today's players don't seem to grasp the fundamentals, with many unable to execute even a basic "intentionally lose the puck in the defenceman's skates to distract him long enough to blow by him and score" move.

  • Hasn't played a league game for over five years now, so not really sure why Esa Tikkanen is still following him around and yapping in his ear all day.

  • Attempts to engage the current generation of stars in a productive discussion about player safety have proven frustrating, as guys like Marc Savard just spend the entire conversation staring quietly into the distance.

  • Is generally against hockey violence in all its forms, but won't hesitate to strangle the next person who starts talking about Kaberle-to-the-Bruins rumours.

  • While all the cheap shots and fighting during last week's rematch were hard to take, the Islanders really went over the line with that lengthy pre-game ceremony retiring David Volek's number.

  • Sort of feels like an idiot for picking up Peter Forsberg in his fantasy league.

  • While occasional encounters with diehard Penguin fans are nice, the endless gushing, autograph demands, and girlish squeals of admiration make it sort of tough to get anything done during meetings with Gary Bettman.

  • All these gosh darn Stanley Cup rings make it really tough to raise hand to give Garth Snow the finger.

  • The revelation that Zenon Konopka has a poster of him in his bedroom makes him question whether everything he accomplished in his career was really worth it.

  • You have one little physical confrontation with referee Kerry Fraser early in your career, and you can never go out in public again without every Leaf fan you see trying to hug you.

  • While he realizes that the NHL Guardian Project super heroes were meant to honour key aspects of a franchise's history, he's still not crazy about the Penguin's superpower being "mulletude".

  • Whenever all the owners get together for a scrimmage, Ted Leonsis won't stop asking him if he wants some advice on improving his game.

  • Ever since Sidney Crosby moved out, Saturday morning "chocolate-chip pancake and cartoons in pajamas" time just isn't the same.

  • Those 1987 Canada Cup team reunions just get awkward when everyone has to pretend to know who Doug Crossman is.

  • As a 45-year-old with bad hips and a history of back problems, must somehow come to grips with the fact that he could probably only score 120 or 130 points if he was still playing today.

  • Despite all of his frequent and passionate requests, it turns out that if you actually sneak up behind Mike Lange after a goal and scratch his back with a hacksaw he'll scream like a child and call the police.

  • Hey, you try writing a thoughtful statement about the current state of the game with Matt Cooke elbowing you in the head the entire time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A brief history of hockey brawls

This camera must have had
a hell of a shutter speed.
Seen any good fights lately?

Probably. In recent weeks we've watched Brent Johnson knockout fellow goaltender Rick DiPietro with a single punch. Boston and Dallas started a game with three separate fights in four seconds. Then the Bruins and Canadiens brawled, including another goalie scrap. And then the biggest explosion of all, at least so far, as the Islanders and Penguins rematch resulted in 346 penalty minutes, 23 games worth of suspensions, several injuries and a fine to the Islanders' organization.

So let the hand-wringing begin. But the league and its fans has been down this road before. And in fact, this latest round of incidents is only the latest in a long history of fights, brawls and general mayhem.

So join me in a nostalgic look back at some other well-known hockey brawls. You know, or else I'll punch you in the head.

March 5, 2004 - The Senators and Flyers combine for a league record 419 PIM after a series of fights are touched off by an argument over which franchise will destroy the careers of the most goaltenders during the rest of the decade.

October 2, 2008 - After the fifth different altercation to feature a player viciously attacking Sean Avery, the Dallas Stars coaching staff decides to just cancel rest of the practice and try again tomorrow.

April 20, 1984 - The Canadiens and Nordiques combine for over 250 penalty minutes and 10 ejections in a game that comes to be known as "la bataille du Vendredi saint" or, in English, "pretty standard for a game between Quebec and Montreal".

March 4, 2003 - An enraged Darcy Tucker dives into the Ottawa bench and remains there for several seconds, inadvertently becoming the third longest serving coach in Senators' history.

1982 to 1993, inclusive - In an extended incident that most hockey historians will later describe as "maybe a bit excessive", every single player in the Norris Division is involved in a spirited fight with every single other player at all times for twelve straight years, with the exception of Steve Yzerman.

March 15, 2006 - Chris Pronger is ejected from the game after a rampage that leaves seven players facing career-threatening injuries, which is unfortunate since it was a spring-training game between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

October 4, 2007 - A rare goalie fight during an intrasquad scrimmage leaves Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala facing significant injuries and lengthy suspensions, every Leaf fan really wishes in hindsight.

February 18, 1992 - Towards the end of a wild bench-clearing brawl involving such enforcers as Rob Ray, Brad May, Gord Donnelly, Jay Wells and Brad Miller, the Buffalo Sabres sheepishly begin to realize that the Hartford Whalers left two hours ago and they've all just been fighting each other.

December 23, 1979 - Mike Milbury climbs into the stands and beats a fan with his own shoe, in what everyone now agrees is probably the fifteenth or sixteenth dumbest thing he's ever done.

January 4, 1987 - Canada and Russia are disqualified from the World Junior tournament after a massive brawl that will be unanimously criticized by the media as "outrageous" and "shameful" and "totally going to screw up the 'you never see any brawls in international hockey' argument we make in all our anti-fighting columns".

May 11, 1989 - After an increasingly out-of-control Ron Hextall viciously attacks Chris Chelios in the dying moments of the Wales Conference Finals, concerned government authorities finally agree to green-light the top secret cyborg assassin program that will eventually lead to the creation of Felix Potvin.

November 7, 1998 - Red Wings and Avalanche players immediately engage in five separate and bloody fights as soon as the puck hits the ice, which really scares the crap out of the disabled child doing the ceremonial puck drop.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to never say anything interesting: An NHLer's guide

Shhh... You had me at "flurry of
roundhouse punches to the face"
If you're a National Hockey League personality, odds are you spend much of your day with a microphone in your face and somebody asking you a question. Many newcomers make the mistake of interpreting this as an invitation to share their honest thoughts and opinions.

It's not. In fact, there are only a few dozen acceptable answers to any hockey-related question, and you'll be expected to simply choose the right one and recite it verbatim. Sure, some will accuse you of speaking in clich├ęs, but it's better than the alternative: revealing yourself to have an actual personality, and being torn to shreds for it.

So for those of you who may be new to life in the NHL, here's a quick guide to the sort of things that are acceptable to say, and what you should make sure you avoid.

If you want to say: "Wow, a player on our team just committed a sickening act of violence for which he will surely be suspended."
Instead say: "I can't comment on that, since I haven't seen the replay."
But don't also say: "… because there was blood and bone fragments all over the scoreboard."

If you want to say: "Did we pay that guy too much? I think we paid that guy too much. Let me see the contract again. Oh man, we paid that guy way too much."
Instead say: "As per team policy, financial terms were not disclosed."
But don't also say: "… even though they'll be posted on seven seconds after you read this."

If you want to say: "Sure, fighting Brent Johnson sounds like a super idea!"
Instead say: "I think I'll just curl up in a little ball inside my net where it's safe."
But don't also say: "… hey, where'd this puddle come from?"

If you want to say: "Even though we're in last place and have lost seventeen games in a row, I'm not allowed to waive my no-trade clause because my wife says she really likes the shopping in this city."
Instead say: "I am absolutely committed to this team and want to win a championship here."
But don't also say: "Yes honey, I was just … no, just talking to some reporters and… yes dear, of course, I'll be home immediately."

If you want to say: "This player is lazy, doesn't try hard, stops caring entirely for weeks at a time, and all his teammates want to strangle him."
Instead say: "This player is enigmatic."
But don't also say: "… that's Russian for 'total headcase', right?"

If you want to say: "Our coach has been fired? Hallelujah! Now maybe we can all start trying again!"
Instead say: "It's always tough to see somebody lose their job."
But don't also say: "… now quick, somebody help me set his office on fire before they change their mind."

If you want to say: "Hey, you know what would be fantastic? If my defencemen could go one shift without turning the puck over, screening me, and then deflecting slapshots past me. Can we maybe try that once, guys, just for a change?"
Instead say: "We win as a team, and we lose as a team."
But don't also say: "… and after looking at this team, I've decided to go fight Brent Johnson."

If you want to say: "I'm pretty sure our star player might be dead."
Instead say: "He is questionable to return after suffering an upper body injury."
But don't also say: "… in the sense that, technically, his upper body was the last known location of his head."

If you want to say: "We are completely hopeless."
Instead say: "Hey, we just need a few bounces to go our way!"
But don't also say: "… like if the other team's bus bounced off of the overpass on the way to the game, we could probably pick up a point."

If you want to say: "Maybe it's just not working out here, I guess. Who knows? I can't get anything going, so maybe it's time for a change or something."
Instead say: "I want to be here. I love the city. I love the fans. I love the team. I want to be here for a very long time."
But don't also say: … all of the above, while blinking "Oh God, won't somebody please rescue me?" in morse code.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Inside Gary Bettman's Super Bowl party

Of course, Bettman immediately launched
an intricate conspiracy against the wings.
The NHL took a rare night off on Sunday. And as regular readers know, a night off usually means one thing: One of Gary Bettman's famous parties, where players and personalities from around the league gather to enjoy each other's company.

Scene: Gary Bettman's living room. Bettman is wearing a Penguins jersey with "Steelers" written on it in magic marker. Co-host Donald Fehr is wearing a cheesehead.

In the living room, a crowd has gathered around a large board that contains a traditional Super Bowl squares pool. One guest is finishing a lengthy dissertation.

Ted Leonsis: And that, my friends, is how to win a Super Bowl squares pool. It's the perfect strategy, and you should all thank me for sharing my genius with you.

Bettman: That's great, Ted. So are you going to buy a $2 square or what?

Leonsis: Uh, I'm a little short. Any chance somebody can chip in some of that?

Richard Peddie sighs, and hands over some change.

Leonsis (under his breath): Genius…

Bettman: OK, looks like the board is almost all filled. Has everyone had a chance to pick their square?

Fehr: Yeah, every single person at the party. Well, everyone except…

Everyone turns to stare at one guest.

Phil Kessel: Sigh.

Alexander Ovechkin runs over and snaps a photo.

Bettman: Leave him alone, Alex. OK, the big game is almost ready to start. Does everyone have a place to sit?

Cory Clouston climbs into his booster seat. John Ferguson Jr. sits down on the floor, facing the wrong way. Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland points out a comfortable chair in the corner.

Holland: I've thought about it, done my homework, weighed the pros and cons, and I've decided I'm going to sit right…

Garth Snow nonchalantly walks over and sits in Holland's spot.

Holland: Hey! Stop doing that!

Bettman: Tough break Ken. But there's still a bunch of empty chairs all around Phil.

Kessel: I hate you all so much.

The party is suddenly interrupted by the floor rumbling, followed by crashing sounds from outside.

Fehr (peering out window): Uh, Gary, there are 30 guys in tights running around outside, shooting lasers out of their eyes and smashing things.

Bettman: Thirty guys?

Fehr: Well, 29. Plus an angry tree. Who also seems to be wearing tights.

Bettman: Oh no. It's the heroes from our NHL Guardian project. Ever since we told Stan Lee that the entire idea was a terrible mistake, he's been threatening to unleash them against us.

Fehr: So wait, you're saying we're under attack from 30 angry heroes with super powers? What can we do?

Bettman: Brent?

Brent Johnson: I'll take care of it. Somebody hold my beer.

Johnson casually shakes off his glove and blocker and walks out the front the door. Three seconds later, he walks back in.

Johnson: They're all unconscious.

Bettman: Thanks Brent.

Johnson: Sorry it took so long. Hey, what happened to my beer?

Holland: Garth Snow probably took it.

Fehr: Uh oh. Gary, I thought we specifically said we weren't going to invite…

A figure emerges from the kitchen wearing an apron and oven mitts and carrying a tray.

Chris Pronger (cheery sing-song voice): Who wants some of my world-famous Super Bowl guacamole dip?

Everyone: NO!

Pronger: What? Why not?

Bettman: Well, for starters it's probably made out of ground up kitten hearts.

Pronger: Oh come on. Just because I occasionally play on the edge doesn't mean I can't be a well-rounded person off the ice. And it just so happens that I worked all afternoon on this special recipe because I thought that if I made you guys something nice then maybe, just this once, you'd start treating me like a friend instead of some kind of monster. I guess I was wrong.

Bettman: Wow. Sorry Chris.

Pronger: Sniffle.

Everyone digs in.

Bettman (mouth full): Wow, this is really good. (Chewing.) And where did you get the serving bowl that looks like a hollowed out human skull?

Pronger: "Looks like"?

Everyone spits out their food and begins retching.

Pronger: Boo-yah!

Bettman: Brent, you want to take care of this?

Johnson: I'm invincible, not crazy. I'm out of here.

Ovechkin: Me too.

Holland: Me too.

Garth Snow nonchalantly gets in Holland's car and drives away.

Holland: Oh come on!

Leonsis (disappearing out the door): This whole thing would have been so much better if I was in charge. Hey, can anyone spot me some cab fare?

Ferguson, Clouston and Peddie file out. Bettman and Fehr are left standing in the doorway.

Bettman: Wow. This place cleared out quick. I guess this is just another Bettman party disaster.

Fehr (placing an arm around Bettman): Yeah. But don't worry about it buddy. There's still time to make it to the party at Selig's house. I'll drive.

Bettman surveys the room, shakes his head, and turns for the door. He flicks off the light as he leaves.

Twenty minutes later, a lone figure still sitting in the otherwise empty room finally speaks.

Kessel: So do I get another car for this, or what?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A hockey fan's guide to the Super Bowl

Oh look, it's the Stanley Cup's younger,
scrawnier little brother.
After taking some time off for the all-star festivities, the NHL's regular season is back just in time for the weekend. And there will be plenty of action, thanks to a half dozen Friday night games and 11 more on Saturday. There are even three Sunday matinees on the schedule.

And then, nothing. The league has taken Sunday night off.

After some in-depth investigative journalism, I think I've uncovered the reason: apparently there's a football game that night. Presumably, the NHL has decided that it would be rude to overshadow another league's title game, and is allowing the Super Bowl to have the stage to itself.

That's a nice gesture, but it will be jarring for sports fans who binge on hockey all weekend and then have to switch gears. In an attempt to ease the transition, here's a list of some key differences between regular season hockey and the Super Bowl to watch out for.

The Super Bowl: If you see fans wearing cheese on their heads, you'll know that they are fans of the Green Bay Packers.
Regular season hockey: If you see fans with food on their head, you'll know that whoever is throwing waffles at the Maple Leafs that night has a weak arm and poor depth perception.

The Super Bowl: Any coach who wishes to issue a challenge will immediately drop a red flag onto the playing surface.
Regular season hockey: Any goaltender who wishes to issue a challenge will immediately drop Rick DiPietro onto the playing surface.

The Super Bowl: Many players express their unique personalities by growing their hair long, sporting intricate tattoos, and performing choreographed celebrations after big plays.
Regular season hockey: Many players express their unique personalities by choosing a nickname that consists of their last name with the suffix "er", instead of their last name with the suffix "ie".

The Super Bowl: You can buy commercial time, assuming you have a few million dollars sitting around that you'd like to waste on something that will have no discernible impact on your product's success.
Regular season hockey: Unfortunately, Ilya Kovalchuk doesn't hit free agency again until 2025.

Regular season hockey: That thing that takes twenty minutes to complete, plus commercials and breaks for the participants to rest, is called a "period".
The Super Bowl: That thing that takes twenty minutes to complete, plus breaks for the participants to rest, is called "Christina Aguilera singing the national anthem".

The Super Bowl: A pre-game coin flip is held to determine which team gets the ball first.
Regular season hockey: A pre-game coin flip is held to determine which team Mike Murphy will be masterminding a shadowy conspiracy against.

The Super Bowl: Over 5,000 accredited media members from around the world will cover the game.
Regular season hockey: No single game would ever attract that many reporters, as doing so would divert valuable resources from around-the-clock trade deadline coverage.

The Super Bowl: Expect to see thousands of towels being waved madly by diehard Steeler fans throughout the game.
Regular season hockey: Expect to see dozens of towels being thrown in by the Ottawa Senators during the opening shift.

The Super Bowl: The only thing we can say for sure is that when the final whistle blows, we'll be left with one winner and one loser.
Regular season hockey: There's a decent chance the game will end with one winner and one tie.

The Super Bowl: Expect to hear plenty of references to ex-Packer Brett Favre, the former superstar who embarrassed himself with one too many comeback attempts and eventually became a running joke in the sports world.
Regular season hockey: Thankfully, it's been years since Peter Forsberg… wait, he's what? You're kidding. Good lord, please say you're kidding.

The Super Bowl: If you see a player jump into the first row of the stands, it's because he's a Green Bay Packer and has just scored a touchdown.
Regular season hockey: If you see a player jump into the first row of the stands, it's because he didn't really appreciate that fan's most recent reference to his mother.

The Super Bowl: Pittsburgh is known for being involved in games that feature violent head shots, which are immediately followed by swift and severe sanctions from the league in an effort to reduce concussions.
Regular season hockey: Pittsburgh is known for being involved in games that feature violent head shots.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Waiver Wire: Evgeni Nabokov meets with Gary Bettman

You may have heard that Evgeni Nabokov isn't very happy. He recently went from signing a contract with the contending Detroit Red Wings to being claimed on waivers by the last place Islanders. So far he's refused to support, but he may be running out of options if he wants to continue his career next season.

So what's a goalie to do? If you're Nabokov, you arrange for a top secret hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman to plead his case. Luckily for us, DGB hidden cameras were there to record the conversation. I have to honest... I feel like it probably could have gone better for Evgeni.

(RSS viewers, click here to see the video.)

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• Follow Bloge Salming at his new home at Houses Of The Hockey.

The lyrics:

(Gary Bettman)
Take this guy! Take that guy!
Take that name! Make that claim!
The wire came down, gloves came off!
(Waiver Wire!)
[bleep] you, Nabakov!
Fool what you want? A forward or D?
Fool what you want? One goalie or three?
You sad? (Snap'em up)
Too bad! (Grab 'em up)
Should have stayed out of the KHL (Go to hell!)

(Garth Snow)
Garth Snow, GM of the Isles
And you won't be playing again for a while
Backing up Rick DiPietro
Always in rebuild mode
(Nabakov: "But I'd much rather play for a contender...")
You think I don't know that? (Charles Wang: BLAW!)
Nabby hold that! (BLAW!) Nabby hold that! (BLAW!) Nabby hold that!
From the Isle comrade, you know the pace
We're 900 and 99 points short of eighth place

Waiver Wire! Claim that fool!
Waiver Wire! Go take that fool!
It's the perfect timin’, to do some blind-sidin'
Go and grab your new fourth-liner! Huh!
Waiver Wire! Claim that fool!
Waiver Wire! Go take that fool!
Get him (get him) get him! Sit him (sit him) Sit him!
Grab him! (Nab him!) Grab him! (Nab him!)

(Kyle Wellwood)
The Sharks you know, they really friendly
Mention seafood, make me hungry
You doing what you should, a team's picking you up for good
But you're gonna need a crane if you're picking up Wellwood
Waiver Wire! Harpoon that whale!
You're gonna be sorry when I break that scale!
When you're picking a club, bring your damn lunch money
Cause those fools with the blogs and fat jokes ain't funny.

(Marek Svatos)
I tried to sign with the Blues, (Marek what you sayin?)
Then my agent calls me up and tells me I ain't playing
It's Predator time, Nashville time
(Waiver wire) It's yellow uniform time
I heard the Blues music but this player ain't dancing
They caught a Predator like they was Chris Hansen
Treating me like I'm some for-hire desperado
Doesn't matter to me as long as it's not Colorado

Waiver Wire! Claim that fool!
Waiver Wire! Go take that fool!
It's the perfect timin’, to do some blind-sidin'
Go and grab your new fourth-liner! Huh!
Waiver Wire! Claim that fool!
Waiver Wire! Go take that fool!
Get him (get him) get him! Sit him (sit him) Sit him!
Grab him! (Nab him!) Grab him! (Nab him!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Phil Kessel's all-star draft text messages

Looks like someone just figured out
how to slew-foot in Angry Birds.
The all-star weekend has come and gone for another year. The game was exciting, the skills competition was entertaining, and the various fanfest events drew solid crowds.

But of course, all anyone seems to want to talk about is Friday's draft. And much of that attention has been focused squarely on Phil Kessel, who had the unfortunate distinction of being the last player picked.

Kessel, to his credit, seemed to take the snub in the spirit of good fun. That was despite his admission that he spent much of the draft receiving a steady stream of text messages from his Maple Leafs teammates and others. Fans can probably imagine the sort of feedback he was subjected to as his evening dragged on.

Well, imagine no more. Thanks to my sources at the phone company, I've obtained a transcript all of Kessel's incoming text messages from draft night.

7:45 p.m.
Hey everyone… just a reminder that the draft starts at 8:00 sharp, and should wrap up around 9:15. Please be in your seat on stage a few minutes early. Uh, except Phil, who should feel free to just wander in an hour later if he wants to. We'll explain later. - Eric and Nicklas

8:15 p.m.
Hey Phil, I have your tie here all ready to go, hope I'm not too late. - Joe's Dry Cleaning

8:31 p.m.
Dude, switch seats with me? Jonathan Toews hasn't blinked in about 20 minutes, and I'm starting to fear for my life. - Corey Perry

8:37 p.m.
Man, you've been sitting there without moving for so long you're starting to remind me of me in every third period. - Colton Orr

8:45 p.m.
Watching the draft. I just wanted to let you know how impressed I am by all the poise you've shown tonight. Even in an event like this, you carry yourself like a winner at all times and I can not tell you how excited I am to have you be the franchise player that we build a championship roster around. - Brian Burke

8:46 p.m.
Oops. Sorry Phil, I meant to send that last text to Brad Richards. Could you walk over and show it to him? Not like you're doing anything right now. - Brian Burke

8:58 p.m.
Look Phil, it's nothing personal. It's just that we all know how effective you are in the games involving Zdeno Chara - Eric and Nicklas

9:07 p.m.
Phil, this is painful. A bunch of the TSN guys were talking and we feel terrible for you, and we'd like to take you out to breakfast tomorrow to get your mind off how bad your season is going. We know this great place that's famous for making the world's best waff… you know what, bad idea, forget we brought it up. - James Duthie

9:15 p.m.
So, um… draft schmaft? - Cliff Fletcher

9:18 p.m.
If it's any consolation, you're still my favourite player and always will be. - Peter Chiarelli

9:22 p.m.
Hey buddy, don't worry about it. All the negativity will come to a stop the second you record your first point during the actual game. - Dion Phaneuf

9:27 p.m.
I don't know who you are, but thanks for taking some of the heat off this weekend. - Stan Lee

9:30 p.m.
Hey, if it makes you feel any better I get picked last all the time too. And that's just in pickup road hockey games with the neighbourhood children. - Brett Lebda

9:37 p.m.
Could you share your thoughts about the experience of being the last one picked for a sports team? Ha ha, just kidding. Everyone single one of us already knows exactly what that feels like. - The media

9:45 p.m.
Sorry about making such a big deal of taking your photo when you were stuck there all by yourself. I just really wanted to capture the ending of a major hockey event in person, since when it's the playoffs or the Olympics I'm already sitting at home. - Alexander Ovechkin

9:52 p.m.
So we hear you had to just sit around for an entire draft, doing nothing, watching everyone else have all the fun. Welcome to our world. - The Maple Leafs scouting staff