Thursday, December 20, 2012

Five hockey books for your last-minute shopping

One of the cool things that happens when you write a hockey book is that… hey, have I mentioned that I wrote a hockey book? I totally did write a hockey book. I probably should have brought it up on twitter or something, because I’m sure people would have been interested in hearing more information about that.

OK, I’ll shut up.

But as I was saying, one of the cool things that happens when you write a hockey book (which I did) is that other people who write them too start sending you free copies. So this fall, in between bouts of vaguely annoying spamming, I’ve been reading some excellent hockey books.

If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet (and let’s face it, you haven’t), here are five titles to consider stuffing a few stockings with this year.

Journeyman, by Sean Pronger

Sean Pronger spent a decade in the NHL, including brief stints with… well, everyone. This is his story, and while it doesn’t involve the thrill of a championship or detailed descriptions of what it’s like to win hardware at the NHL awards show, that’s kind of the point. This isn’t the typical superstar’s biography – Pronger takes you the life of an NHLer who’s often just barely hanging onto a job.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, although I admit I got a weird vibe from the chapter titled “That time my younger brother strangled the blogger who kept making fun of him” that just reads “Coming in the next edition”.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Scouting the 2013 World Junior Championships

Craig Leipold saw the word "ufa"
and immediately offered the
tournament a 14-year contract
he had no intention of honoring.

It's almost World Juniors time again, with the eagerly anticipated annual tournament kicking off next week in Russia. Here's an advanced scouting report on the ten teams competing to take home the gold.

United States
The good: Top prospect Seth Jones is the son of former NBA star Popeye Jones, but chose to pursue a career in hockey instead in an attempt to maximize the percentage of his career he can lose to lockouts.
The bad: Have had to waste valuable training camp time repeatedly ejecting undercover Russian spy Alex Galchenyuk and his ridiculous cover story about being born in Wisconsin.

The good: Are apparently the defending champion, according to North American hockey fans who just Wikipedia'd last year's tournament because they stop paying attention once their team is out.
The bad: Goaltender Oscar Dansk was a high pick in the 2012 NHL draft, but it was by Columbus so it's possible he's never actually been on skates before.

The good: Are said to have their most athletically gifted team ever.
The bad: That means that this year when somebody yells "Oh no, Team Canada is taking a slapshot, everybody run!", some of the players will be physically capable of running.

The good: The national program continues to produce excellent players.
The bad: Many of them are unavailable for this tournament because, following long-established Slovakian law, the country's five best players each year are merged Voltron-style to create a new version of Zdeno Chara.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Countdown to drop dead - A look ahead to a month of CBA talks

Seriously, who still leaves voicemail?

There's no denying that last week's dramatic breakdown in negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA was bad news for hockey fans holding out hope for a partial season. After a bizarre Thursday session that left Don Fehr shaking his head and Gary Bettman shaking in anger, it feels like we're closer than ever to writing off the 2012-13 season completely.

But despite all the doom and gloom, observers kept reminding us of one positive: there's still time. While we don't know when the season would be cancelled, most experts agree we should have another four weeks or so before doomsday.

Will that be enough time? Nobody knows. Here's a look at how those next few weeks might play out.

December 14 - Gary Bettman makes a proposal to the NHLPA that he swears is the league's best and final offer, and everyone believes him because he'd certainly never lie about something like that.

December 17 - The two sides find common ground for the first time in months when everyone in the room is able to agree that Steve Fehr's sweaters are starting to get ridiculous.

December 20 - Your children are disappointed to find out that the man with the long straggly beard and the big jiggly belly sitting by himself at the mall is actually just a locked out NHL player who didn't bother to find a job in Europe.

December 24 - The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is fired from his job at Proskauer Rose for not making enough people miserable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

20 years ago today...

This happened:

Happy anniversary, Rob and Sylvain. And wow, I'm getting old.

(Glove tap to @checktheticker for the heads up.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The NHLPA's advance scouting report on today's session with NHL owners

Hi guys… your pal Donald Fehr here. As you know, you've been selected to represent the NHLPA in today's special "players/owners" meeting. The league released the names of the key owners and league officials who'll be representing them over the weekend, which gave me time to put together this scouting report on the key stakeholders you'll be dealing with today. Have a look, and make sure you're prepared.

And remember, if at any point you get confused or lose track of our negotiating points, just look for the window washer outside who looks mysteriously like me wearing a mustache made of duct tape.

Mark Chipman, Winnipeg Jets

He's not allowed to take his finger off his
mouth unless Jacobs says it's OK.
Strength: Many of the negative feelings in this dispute have revolved around contract rights for top-tier players, so it will probably be super helpful to include an owner who doesn't have any.

Weakness: Occasionally annoys fellow owners by saying crazy things like "Hey, did anyone notice how moving that struggling southern team to a better market made us all way more money?"

Jeffrey Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning

He has two hands and his eyes open,
so he's the new starting goalie.

Strength: He also has ownership stakes in Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox, so even if this meeting ends in a full-scale fist fight it will still be the most successful thing he's been a part of all year.

Weakness: Every time the negotiation teams agree on an updated set of rules regarding unrestricted free agency, he sneaks over during a break and writes "(except for Stamkos)" in tiny print at the bottom.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Forbes Magazine excuses

Much like the magazine article,
this card is mostly red ink.

As if NHL fans haven't been bombarded with enough dollars and cents talk recently, Forbes magazine chose this week to release its annual summary of NHL finances. And while the figures got plenty of attention thanks to some headline-grabbing claims (like the Leafs now being worth $1 billion), they were also roundly criticized.

You might expect the notoriously secretive NHL and its teams to deny the accuracy of the Forbes numbers, especially during a lockout. But even unbiased observers were quick to point out apparent issues in the report. In fact the closer you dig into the numbers, the bigger the problems appear to be.

But why? How could such a well-respected magazine make such a mess of things? I wasn't sure, so I figured I'd go straight to the source. And it turns out that putting together an estimate of the NHL's business is tougher than it looks. According to my spies at Forbes, here's what they say went wrong:

  • Although we appreciated the Phoenix Coyotes taking the time to share their in-depth business plan with us, we're still not sure whether or not "waltz into Glendale city council, give them all wedgies, and take their lunch money" counts as hockey-related revenue.

  • We couldn't get a detailed answer about Winnipeg's revenue forecasts, because every time a Jets executive would start to answer a question Jeremy Jacobs would yell "Silence, peon!" and hit him over the head with a folding chair.

  • While we did manage to get hold of an internal spreadsheet detailing all of the Toronto Maple Leafs future revenue projections, we couldn't figure out what all those sideways 8's mean.

  • We tried to reach out to the Vancouver Canucks front office about their finances, but apparently it takes those guys six months just to make a simple decision about their net assets.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A look back at the superstar careers cut short by the last NHL lockout

How YOU doin'? Oh, right, I knocked you unconscious.

As the lockout continues to drag on, some pessimistic fans have already started wondering which players may not return if the 2012-13 season is cancelled. If the NHL and NHLPA can't figure out a way to make a deal and save the season, we may have seen the last of popular veterans like Teemu Selanne, Martin Brodeur, and Daniel Alfredsson.

Hockey fans have been through this before. When the 2004-05 season was cancelled, it cost fans the chance to see one more year from several hockey legends. Here's a look back at some of star players whose careers were cut short the last time the NHL scrapped an entire season.

Adam Oates - Retired after the lockout but attempted a brief comeback in 2009, we assume, since that's the only logical way to explain a guy with 1,400 career points not making the Hall of Fame until this year.

Al MacInnis - Decided to use some downtime during the last lockout to try out his slapshot with one of those fancy modern superfelx sticks, at which point he was immediately kidnapped by government scientists who used him to power the Large Hadron Collider.

Ron Francis - Was so well-respected during his long career with the Whalers, Penguins and Hurricanes that some fans paid tribute to him upon retirement by creating bizarre Photoshops of him wearing a Maple Leafs uniform for some reason.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A moment with the guy who has to answer the phone when Gary Bettman orders a pizza

Let me have one with that topping that only irredeemably
evil people like. Yes, yes, of course I mean pineapple.

Hello, thank you for calling the pizza delivery hotline. How can I help you?

You say your name is Gary, and you need some pizza delivered to a very important negotiation meeting you're currently having. Well we can certainly do that, sir. What size pizza would you like?

Hmm, we don't really have "record-breakingly large but about to get a lot smaller". I'll just put you down for a medium, which comes to $10. Sound OK? Great. And what toppings did you want on that?

Oh, you guys are having some trouble agreeing on that part. I see. Not even speaking the same language, eh? I can imagine that could be frustrating. Well, how about we just divide the whole thing right down the middle?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Grantland: The first draft of Gary Bettman's awkward Hall of Fame speech

You may have seen Gary Bettman's speech at this week's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It was mostly awkward and completely unnecessary... but if not for some last-minute edits, it could have been a lot worse.

Click to visit Grantland and read: The First Draft of Gary Bettman's Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Things overheard at last night's Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony

"Almost as cool as a Cup ring, am I right?" joked
Joe Sakic right before the uncomfortable silence.

In a welcome break from the never-ending CBA negotiations, last night saw a positive NHL story: the induction of the four newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. During an evening of celebration in Toronto, the Hall welcomed Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure to its ranks.

DGB spies were in attendance, and reported back on some of the most common things heard during the evening's festivities.

  • Uh oh, Mats Sundin has become confused and disoriented. Pavel Bure stood beside him for a few seconds, and it was the first time he'd ever had a decent winger next to him.

  • Joe Sakic's speech tonight was incredibly gracious without a hint of negativity, which is a nice change from that time they tried inducting him into the international snowblowing hall of fame.

  • Is it just me, or is Adam Oates asking Bure a lot of oddly specific questions about the best way to deal with overly cocky Russian snipers?

  • Did you hear, Brendan Shanahan just suspended the entire Hall of Fame induction committee! No, really, they're all dangling from a frayed rope under the 401 overpass.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Checking in on the NHL stars playing in Europe

Meet you back here for the 2017 lockout?
The NHL's work stoppage continues to drag on, leaving locked out players unemployed and on the sidelines. Or at least it does for the players who haven't already found a job somewhere else—and lately that list is shrinking rapidly.

It seems as if most of the league's top players have already found new jobs in one of the various European leagues, with new names being added to the list every day. So let's take a moment to catch up with the some of the NHL stars who are currently playing overseas.

Rick Nash - Agreed to terms with Swiss league powerhouse HC Davos after they were willing to meet his critical contract demand that they be absolutely 100% sure that they don't play in Columbus.

Paul Bissonnette - His new contract with the British league's Cardiff Devils gives the veteran enforcer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be known as "the guy with the relatively nice teeth".

Nicklas Backstrom - Briefly created controversy by wearing #99, which is associated with Wayne Gretzky, before switching to #69, which is associated with that fat guy with the mullet in your ball hockey league.

Alexander Semin - Got tired of constantly being referred to as "the enigmatic Russian"; signed with his hometown team in Russia so that he could try constantly being referred to as "the enigmatic local boy" instead.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Inside Gary Bettman's annual Halloween party

Well then next time, tell your friend
not to get lippy with Ben Eager.

Scene: An opulent mansion. The home is decked out with Halloween decorations, and various guests are milling around in costume. The doorbell rings, and is answered by a man dressed as a giant padlock.

Gary Bettman: Come on in!

Bill Daly enters, dressed as a giant crow with an "S" painted on his chest.

Daly: How's the annual Halloween party going, Gary?

Bettman: I'll be honest. I'm picking up on kind of a negative vibe this year.

He looks over to the other side of the room, where Donald Fehr and several players wearing cattle costumes are glaring back at them.

Daly: Understandable. Nice decorations, though.

He motions at a row of tombstones featuring a Thrashers logo, tickets to an Islanders game, the 2004-05 season, and the phrase "actual credibility".

Bettman: Thanks. I just wish Katz would stop trying to sneak an Edmonton Oilers one in there. But the costumes are cool. Ryan Suter went as a spinning weather vane, and the Sedins were great in that two-piece horse costume right up until David Booth showed up and started shooting at them.

Daly: And what about the guy in the straightjacket outside howling at the moon?

Bettman: Oh, that's just a hockey blogger trying to figure out how to put a fresh spin on his 27th consecutive lockout post.

Daly: Poor guy.

Bettman: Yeah. Sad, really.

Friday, October 26, 2012

New at Grantland: What sport should hockey fans start following instead of the locked out NHL? A DGB flowchart

If you're like me, you're rapidly getting sick of the NHL and its perpetual lockouts. Maybe you've even considered dumping the league altogether and finding something else to watch. But what? Where should a former diehard hockey fan turn for their next obsession?

Well, it depends. But luckily I'm here to help. So head on over to Grantland to check out my latest flowchart: What sport should hockey fans start following instead of the locked out NHL?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good signs and bad signs in the ongoing CBA talks

After realizing that Fehr's "counter-proposal"
would consist entirely of crotch-chopping,
Gary Bettman gave up and went home.
Last week brought a flurry of CBA news, including an unexpected offer from the owners and several counter-proposals from the players. And while that lead to a brief burst of optimism, the week ended without a deal in place and with the two sides seeming as far apart as ever.

The whole process has felt like one long case of one step forward and two steps back, with every positive sign immediately followed by a negative one. Here's a look back at the ups and down of the current state of negotiations.

Good sign: Two sides have essentially agreed on the definition of hockey-related revenue, with a few exceptions.
Bad sign: One of those exceptions is the service charge on season ticket cancellations, which currently projects to be the league's top revenue source this year.

Good sign: The owners have wisely suggested that the best way to move forward is to ensure that both sides are speaking the same language.
Bad sign: The players still selfishly insist on speaking one of those languages where the phrase "signed contract" has meaning.

Good sign: While the owners were widely criticized for their use of an expensive public relations firm, at least we know that the NHLPA would never waste time on annoyingly transparent PR spin.
Bad sign: We know this because, in an odd coincidence, every player in the league tweeted about it at the exact same time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A brief history of Dominik Hasek

Not saying he was unorthodox, but this photo
was taken during the national anthem.

One of the most colorful careers in hockey history came to an end last week when 47-year-old goaltending legend Dominik Hasek finally hung up his pads for good. Hasek had expressed interest in an NHL comeback during the offseason, but the lockout and a lack of interest spelled the end of his hopes for playing one final year.

Hasek will no doubt be a first-ballot hall of famer, and he's earned a place in the discussion for the greatest goaltender of his generation. Here's a look back at one of the sport's most memorable legends.

April 14, 1984 - Disappointed by the fading prominence of the local Czechoslovakian breakdancing scene, a teenaged Hasek asks his guidance counselor if there are any other careers where he can spend all his time randomly spinning around on his back for no reason.

August 7, 1992 – The Blackhawks trade Hasek to the Sabres for Stephane Beauregard, reasoning that they couldn't turn down the chance to acquire a player so good that he was once actually traded for future Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek.

February 11, 1995 – In yet another example of the sort of unbelievable rumors that can plague professional athletes, Hasek hears a crazy story that somebody somewhere may have come up with a new goalie mask design since 1983.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The time Islanders coach Mike Milbury decided it would be a good idea to try to intimidate Wendel Clark: An excerpt from "The Best Seat In The House"

As some of you know, Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes and I are old friends going back to our days in journalism school. In a neat coincidence, we both had our first books come out within days of each other in September.

"The Best Seat in the House: Stories from the NHL Inside the Room, on the Ice and on the Bench", Ian and Jamie McLennan share some of the inside stories from McLennan’s career as a backup to some of the NHL’s most legendary goalies. It’s a great book and I hope you check it out.

I thought the excerpt below would be of particular interest to DGB readers.


Wendel Clark Shows Off His Toughness and Leadership

When people think about Wendel Clark's career, they automatically picture him wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. After all, for almost a decade, Wendel had blue and white coursing through his veins and he was one of the most popular sports figures in the history of Toronto.

I was fortunate enough to play one season with Wendel with the New York Islanders in 1995-96. We had a very odd mix of players on that team and we were like a franchise with no clear direction. We had some really good young players like Ziggy Palffy, Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe. But we also had a collection of veterans, including Wendel, Pat Flatley and Derek King, who wanted to win right away. We had Mike Milbury running our team as the head coach and we finished in last place with just 54 points.

Having Mike as a head coach was a unique experience because he often had some very strange ideas about how to play the game and how he should motivate his players. And that would sometimes clash directly with a guy like Wendel, who was a no-nonsense person both on and off the ice.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Welcome to NHL replacement player training camp

Well, he's still better than Racicot.

OK everyone, skate over here to center ice and take a knee. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started. Welcome to NHL Replacement Player Training Camp.

As you know, reports surfaced this week that the NHL might consider using the threat of replacement players as leverage in this ongoing labor dispute. And while nobody really seems to think it will happen, we have to be prepared. So thanks to all of you for answering the ad we posted in dressing rooms in midnight beer leagues around the continent. Let’s get you ready to be NHL players!

OK, so we need to make sure that you’ll be able to play an NHL-style game. So let’s work on some drills. What’s that? Skating, passing and shooting? Hey rookie, does this look like 1993 to you? No, we’re going to spend the morning on shot-blocking, clogging the neutral zone, and an obsessive focus on positional play. Hey, who’s ready for some dump and chase drills?

Great work, everyone. Well, except for the one guy over there signalling that the dump-ins to the corner should count as a goal. I think you’re looking for the replacement referee camp for the NFL, sir. It used to be next door.

So how do the rest of you think things are going so far?

Hmm… OK, that was actually a test. I just wanted to see what you’d do when asked a simple question, and unfortunately several of you gave answers that were thoughtful and interesting. That won’t do. You guys will need stay behind tonight to take the remedial “How to never say anything interesting ever” course. Those of you who just stared at the floor while mumbling cliches, good job.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The discarded out-takes from the NHLPA's message to fans

Hey, remember that NHLPA video from a few weeks ago? You know the one: various star players looking into the camera, earnestly describing their love for the game and their frustration over the ongoing lockout? Let's be honest -- it was pretty darn effective.

Of course, not every player who auditioned made the cut. And a few of them took more than one take to get their message just right. The NHLPA kept the good stuff for the final product, and tossed the rest in the trash.

Luckily, Bloge and I happened to be hiding out nearby and were able to grab the out-take reel.

>> More Bloge Salming goodness
>> Follow Bloge Salming on Twitter

Lemieux: Was deceptively fast going from center ice to the goal, often arriving before the opponent's defence was ready for him.
Roy: Was deceptively fast going from the goal to center ice, often arriving before the Avalanche's goaltender was ready for him.

From An in-depth comparison: Mario Lemieux vs. Patrick Roy, one of 24 chapters of brand new material available exclusively in The Best of Down Goes Brown.
Buy today: | | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Nook | Chapters/Indigo | Kobo | iBooks

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This is non-core: The agenda at the latest round of CBA negotiations

"Seriously, thanks for taking some of the heat off."

The two sides in the ongoing NHL lockout spent most of the weekend holding face-to-face meetings in New York. That sounds like good news, until you find out that the talks focused exclusively on what the participants refer to as "non-core" issues.

Yes, despite a lockout that's already cancelled the entire pre-season and could begin wiping out regular season games as early as this week, the two sides apparently decided not to bother discussing critical issues like the division of revenue, free agency or limits on contract length. You could forgive hockey-deprived fans for wondering what the point was. After all, if you're not going to cover the important issues that are standing in the way of an agreement, what's left to even talk about?

Plenty, as it turns out. Despite a strict code of silence surrounding the proceedings, my spies were able to get a hold of the agenda for one day's worth of meetings. Here's what a day of "non-core" negotiations between NHL owners and players looks like.

9:00 a.m. - A relieved Gary Bettman announces that now that the NFL replacement refs have been removed due to their unprecedented incompetence, they've all gone back to their regular full-time jobs of managing the owners' public relations strategy.

9:30 a.m. - The owners and players engage in an extended argument over whether the coins that Flyer fans repeatedly pelt their families with during the first game back should count as hockey related revenue.

9:55 a.m. - The owners reassure a furious Donald Fehr that Jim Devellano's recent comments about an unwritten rule against using offer sheets was completely false, in the sense that they're pretty sure they actually did write it down at some point.

10:15 a.m. - A sheepish Darryl Katz apologizes for his earlier outburst in which he threatened to move the meeting to the boiler room unless everyone agreed to pitch in and buy him a pony.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Other ways that NHL teams are cutting costs during the lockout

Stanley practices his hitchhiking in
an attempt to find a ride home.
We're now into week two of the NHL lockout, and the financial impact is starting to be felt around the league. But while locked out players have the option of finding jobs overseas, the same can't be said for team employees who are falling victim to layoffs and cutbacks as teams tighten their belts in anticipation of an extended lockout.

Perhaps the most unusual example came last week in Florida, where the Panthers reportedly laid off their mascot. But they weren't the only ones making cutbacks. The Ottawa Senators announced significant staffing reductions, and the Vancouver Canucks informed employees that they'd be forced to work four-day work weeks and accept a 20% pay cut.

Other teams around the league haven't announced major cuts yet, but with everyone feeling the financial pinch every dollar counts. Here are some of the ways that various NHL franchises are trying to save money during the early days of the lockout.

Winnipeg Jets - Now that he's signed a long-term contract, we can probably go ahead and disconnect that giant fluorescent heat lamp we hung over Evander Kane's house to make him think this city sometimes get sunlight.

Toronto Maple Leafs - Make sure the team bus doesn't waste gas on any long and costly trips by firmly wedging a former goaltending coach underneath it.

Minnesota Wild - Lay off the executive vice president in charge of reminding owner Craig Leipold that he's been complaining about massive contracts for years and it would be completely ridiculous of him to start signing them right before a lockout and oh wait I guess they already did that in June.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Sorry, have employed Steve Mason for the past few years, are unfamiliar with the concept of saving anything.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Take the quiz: How well do you really know the CBA negotiations?

For the last time Brian, no, we can't
just lock out the players from Ontario.
The weekend's expiration of the NHL collective bargaining agreement made official what everyone already knew was inevitable. We have a lockout. Again.

If you're like most fans, you've probably already formed an opinion about who's right and wrong. You've probably also shared that opinion, loudly, to anyone who'll listen. But do you really understand the complex details behind these negotiations? Take this quiz and find out.

In late July, the NHL responded to the NHLPA's request for more financial information by turning over 76,000 pages. Why were the documents so long?
a.) For sake of completeness, the document listed everyone who's ever been rumored to be buying the Phoenix Coyotes.
b.) For reasons nobody's completely clear on, the package contains all of Mitt Romney's old tax returns.
c.) The owners wanted to make a note of how much they hated Bob Goodenow, so the middle 75,980 pages are just the repetition of the word "very".

The players submitted a counter-proposal in August, but the owners didn't immediately offer an official response. Why not?
a.) It was a contract offer, so out of force of habit the owners immediately tried to figure out how to front-load it.
b.) One of the rich owners asked if the proposal included a comprehensive revenue sharing to help the struggling smaller markets, and then they all just laughed and laughed until it was time to go home.
c.) They were advised to completely ignore it by that one really hardline guy in the group who nobody recognizes but who come to think of it looks kind of like David Stern wearing Groucho Marx glasses and giggling.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Don't Call It A Rollback: Gary Bettman's old-school message to the NHL's players and fans

Hey, did you hear about that new NHL video game that’s just been released?

No, not that one. Please. Hockey teams actually playing hockey? That’s so 2011.

This new game is a little bit more… realistic. And unlike that other one that puts all the focus on the players, this hot new release knows who the fans really want to see.

RSS readers, click here.

I can't wait for the sequel to come out in a few years. And a few years after that. And a few years after that...

Lyrics after the jump.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An in-depth review of NHL 13

The two logos in the bottom corner mark
history's last known example of the NHL
and NHLPA being on the same page.

Today marks the official release of NHL 13, the latest version in the much beloved series of hockey video games from EA Sports. Fans around the world are busy downloading the game or lining up at stores in anticipation of seeing what the developers have come up with for 2012.

Of course, this year's version may be more important than most - after all, thanks to the pending lockout the game could be the only NHL hockey that fans get to see for months. But is it any good? I got my hands on an advanced review copy, and I can report that the results are mixed.

Here are some of the new features, latest improvements and unfortunate bugs that can be found in NHL 13.

What's New

  • The developers are hyping that the new "True Performance Skating" system, although there are still moments when the skating animations remain completely unrealistic. For example, when I skated towards a defenceless opponent while controlling Raffi Torres, my skates stayed on the ice.

  • Players will be able to choose from five different difficulty settings: Easy, Medium, Hard, Impossible, and "Guy who has to handle public relations for the NHL owners".

  • "NHL Moments Live" is a new feature that promises to let fans relive the most memorable moments from recent seasons, which has Edmonton Oiler fans excited since previous versions of the game never included the draft lottery.

  • In a nice bit of cross-promotion, the game will access the worldwide database of FIFA Soccer 13 owners, find the one with the most pathetically abysmal record, and promote him to president of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

  • The game can also be purchased in a special "Stanley Cup Edition". It turns out to be exactly the same as the regular version, except when you try to take it home from the store Gary Bettman will refuse to hand it over until you've posed awkwardly for photos with him while everyone boos.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Team Canada's 1972 Summit Series application form

While hockey fans may have missed it among all the lockout doom and gloom, Sunday was an important anniversary in hockey history. The day marked forty years since Canada and the USSR took to the ice at the Montreal Forum for game one of their infamous 1972 Summit Series.

Most Canadians know the story of the series by heart. But did you know how the team was put together? Hockey historians recently unearthed the original application form that was sent to Canadian players, and DGB spies were able to send me a copy.


Thank you for your interest in playing for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. To help us narrow down the list of candidates, please fill out the application form below.

Your name: _______________________
Your position: ________________________
NHL team that you play for: _______________
(If you wrote “Montreal Canadiens”, skip the rest of the form; you’ve made the team!)

What was your first thought after series organizer Alan Eagleson initially approached you about participating?
( ) “It would be an honor to represent my country.”
( ) “This sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
( ) “It will be interesting to travel all the way to Russia.”
( ) “Hey, that’s weird, my wallet is missing.”

What is your primary reason for wanting to join Team Canada for the Summit Series?
( ) Have always admired the passion of Canadian hockey fans, and think it would be fun to be booed mercilessly by them the first time we have a bad shift.
( ) Will be a nice change of pace from the typical 1970s player’s pre-season preparation of trying really hard not to chain-smoke quite as much while grilling ribeye steaks three meals a day.
( ) Hoping assistant coach John Ferguson brings his adorable five-year-old son to the practices, since it’s so cute how he falls for the “trade me two dimes for a nickel” trick every single time.
( ) Honestly, just want to be close to Phil Esposito’s sideburns.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book update: Shipping any day now, some e-books available right now

It's been a few weeks since I shared the exciting news about The Best Of Down Goes Brown. In that time I've had several people send me questions, and had a few more updates from the people in charge. So with just a few days left before the book becomes officially available, this seems like a good time for an update.

Wait, what? You have a book?
Yes. You can find out all about it here, or just keep reading since I'm going into third-person spam mode starting... now.

Wow, that sounds awesome! Where can I buy it?
Thank you, fictional question-asker who sounds sincere and not like shameless marketing at all! You can pre-order the paperback version today from sites like,, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Wiley.

It should also be available in bookstores throughout North America, although it will probably be easier to find in hockey markets. If you're outside North America, check your local online store – many of them seem to be stocking it.

I haven't bought an actual book since the 1990s. What about an ebook version?
This was the question I heard most often over the last month, so I'm happy to confirm that there will be various ebook options. I'm told that there will be versions available for the Kindle (Amazon) and the Kobo (Indigo), as well as an ePDF available directly from the publisher. These versions should be appearing on the sites shortly, perhaps before the print version ships.

In fact, appears to have their Kindle version available already and the Apple iBook version is available too. My guess is the other ebooks will start coming online fairly soon. And I'm told the book is also listed as coming to Google Play in September.

I pre-ordered the book from an online store. When will it ship?
The book is being printed pretty much any day now, and will be sent to the resellers shortly. It should start shipping from online stores shortly after, as well as appearing in local bookstores once they have time to shelve their new titles.

I keep getting emails from (insert online bookstore here) that say the release date has changed.
Ignore those. One of the things I'm learning through all of this is that pre-order ship dates are often basically guesses, and as time goes on they get updated often with newer, less accurate guesses. The book should ship early September-ish or maybe sooner, and that's pretty much as specific as anyone seems to be able to get.

Do you make more money based on what version or where people buy it from?
Not really. It varies slightly but not enough to make a difference, so please buy whatever you want from whoever you want.

Can I get an autographed copy?
I will totally sign your book if you run into me in a bar and/or mail your copy to me. However, be warned that I haven't hand-written anything legibly since I first got the internet in 1995, so you could achieve the same effect yourself by just taking a sharpie and scribbling all over the front page.

Hey wait, are you going to turn into one of those people who clogs my Twitter feed with annoying retweets of positive reviews from random people all day?
Probably. Sorry about that in advance.

Which posts are included? What's the new stuff?
Here's a full list of chapters. The new stuff is bolded.

Foreword by Bob McKenzie
Foreword by James Duthie
1. A Complete Transcript of Every NHL Game Ever Broadcast
2. The Ten Greatest Coaches in NHL History
3. The Other Former NHL Stars Who Interviewed for Colin Campbell's Job
4. Know Your Sports: The NHL vs. the NFL
5. A Look Back at Game Seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final (which, due to a scheduling error, had to be published twelve hours early)
6. Take the Quiz: Do You Have a Concussion?
7. The Code: Hockey's Unwritten Rules Revealed
8. A Moment with the Guy Who Has to Go Out and Fix the Glass When It Breaks
9. What an Official NHL Trade Call Really Sounds Like
10. The Signs of the Hockey Zodiac
11. The Not-So-Original Six: A Look Back at the NHL's First Expansion Teams
12. The NHL's Top-Secret Flow Chart for Handing Out Suspensions
13. A Brief History of Mats Sundin
14. Signs Your City May Not Be a Viable Hockey Market
15. Behind the Scenes at the Rehearsal for the Presentation of the Stanley Cup
16. You Wanna Go? A History of Hockey Brawls
17. From the Archives: The 1993 Leafs/Kings Game Six Live Blog
18. An In-depth Comparison: Mario Lemieux vs. Patrick Roy
19. The NHL's Plan for Appealing to Video Game Fans
20. A Period-by-Period Recap of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final
21. Know Your Sports: The NHL vs. Soccer
22. Behind the Scenes at an NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Session
23. Other Complaints about Brendan Shanahan
24. Leafs vs. Habs: Hockey's Greatest Rivalry
25. The Details of Don Cherry's Contract
26. An In-depth Comparison: Daniel Alfredsson vs. Zdeno Chara
27. Take the Quiz: How Will Your Team Do this Year?
28. Behind the Scenes at NHL Referee Tryouts
29. Come On Down: A History of NHL Game Show Appearances
30. The Official Map of an NHL Rink
31. A Brief History of Wayne Gretzky
32. How to Spend Your Day with the Stanley Cup
33. Determining Whether a Goal Should Count: The NHL War Room's Top-Secret Flow Chart
34. Know Your Sports: The NHL vs. MLB
35. The Pros and Cons of Fighting In the NHL
36. An NHLer's Guide to Never Saying Anything Interesting
37. Democracy Doesn't Work: A History of All-Star Voting
38. Take the Quiz: Should You Rebuild?
39. A Tale of Two Homecomings
40. The NHL's Hall of Fame Application Form
41. Rating the NHL's Relocation Candidates
42. What an Offi cial NHL Suspension Call Really Sounds Like
43. Other Mario Lemieux Grievances
44. Understanding the New Wave of Advanced Statistics
45. A Brief History of Teemu Selanne
46. Other Ways NHL Teams Use Home Ice Advantage for an Unfair Edge
47. Seventh Heaven: When One Game Decides the Stanley Cup
48. How to Dominate Your Fantasy Hockey League
49. A Period-by-Period Recap of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final
50. NHL Hockey, Then vs. Now
51. An In-depth Comparison: Eric Lindros vs. Peter Forsberg
52. Take the Quiz: Was that a Dive?
53. No Ties Allowed: A History of the Shoot-out
54. So You Want to Be the Commissioner: The NHL's 1993 Job Application Form
55. The NHL's Top-secret Flow Chart for Dealing with Scandals
56. Nobody Remembers Number Two: A History of First Overall Draft Picks
57. How to Become an Ironman
58. Behind the Scenes at NHL Fan Training Camp
59. Signs You May Be Injury Prone
60. Inside the NHL's Legal Brief on the 2011 NFL Work Stoppage
61. An In-depth Comparison: Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin
62. Make His Head Bleed: A History of the NHL in Pop Culture
63. When a Day with the Stanley Cup Goes Wrong
64. Breaking Down the Battles: Inside Canada's Provincial Rivalries
65. Welcome to the Doghouse: A History of Coach vs. Player Feuds
66. Know Your Sports: The NHL vs. UFC
67. A Hockey Fan's Guide to Modern TV Technology
68. Behind the Scenes at the Matt Cooke Suspension Hearing
69. A Complete Transcript of Every Post-game Call-in Show Ever Broadcast
70. Dear Son, Welcome to Life as a Toronto Maple Leafs Fan

I have a short attention span. Remind me again where I can buy this?
Thanks again, ficitonal question-asker who's actually starting to get kind of pushy. Order today from sites like,, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Wiley.

OK, I read the book. Now what?
If you've read the book and enjoyed it, probably the single biggest way you could help spread the word is by writing a review on one of the major sites. For a relatively unknown author without much marketing budget, a positive review on a major site is priceless. So if you'd like to help spread the word about this book, please take a few minutes to add a review to your favourite book site.

(If you read the book and didn't like it, you can send me a nasty email instead. I promise that it will ruin my day and make me drink too much.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Winners and losers from the NHL offseason

Last week’s hockey headlines were once again dominated by the ongoing collective bargaining talks. With every talking point, sound bite and cancelled meeting being debated and analyzed in agonizing detail, it almost feels like the days of talking about actual hockey are a distant memory.

But before we move into full-on lockout countdown mode, let’s take one last look back at the 2012 offseason. Despite the spectre of an expiring CBA overshadowing everything, it was still a summer full of wheeling of dealing for most of the league’s teams.

Here’s a look back at some of the winners and losers from the NHL offseason.

Winner: Carolina Hurricanes – The Jordan Staal trade has lead the front office to realize that the fortune cookie message reading “Go out and acquire the all-star brother of that player you already had” makes a lot more sense when you flip it over and notice that the other side says “Unless it’s Tomas Kaberle”.

Losers: Nashville Predators – While it’s always inspirational when the franchise’s star player believes the team is ready to soar upwards in the standings, some teammates are starting to worry that that’s not the actual meaning of that “Flyers 4ever” tattoo Shea Weber keeps trying to hide from everyone.

Winners: Montreal Canadiens – Assuming the lockout wipes out the first 70 games of next season, may finally get a full year out of Andrei Markov.

Loser: Tim Thomas – The Bruins’ lovable franchise player can’t shake the feeling that everyone has been acting weird around him ever since that day a giggling Tuukka Rask casually asked him what his Facebook password was.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What NHL negotiators can learn from the NBA and NFL lockouts

Gary Bettman is asked how big a set of balls it took for
the owners to make their last offer with a straight face.
Whatever sense of optimism existed in the NHL's ongoing collective bargaining talks ended quickly last week, thanks to Gary Bettman telling reporters that the players weren't yet "taking into account what recently happened with the NFL and the NBA."

Some cynics viewed the comment as transparent posturing, but let's take Bettman at his word. Maybe the key really is to look more closely at what the NFL and NBA went through to get new CBAs last year. After all, both leagues went through difficult negotiations that threatened their seasons. Maybe Bettman's right, and the key to NHL labor peace can be found by looking to the competition.

It's worth a shot. Here's an in-depth look at how the CBAs compare in the three leagues.

NBA: In order to get a deal done, owners made concessions on the salary floor and minimum spending requirements.
NFL: In order to get a deal done, owners made concessions on their demands for a longer schedule.
NHL: The owners just heard you say the word "concessions", and just made themselves a note to get food and drink sales excluded from hockey-related revenue.

NBA: Players signing long-term contracts can make more money by staying with their current team rather than signing elsewhere.
NFL: Players signing long-term contracts know that their deals aren't guaranteed, and ask for large bonuses up front.
NHL: Players who signed a long-term contract this summer thought it was kind of strange how the owner responded to every demand by typing "minus 24%" into a calculator and then giggling to himself.

NBA: The players got 51% of league revenues, leaving 49% for the owners.
NFL: The owners got 53% of league revenues, leaving for 47% for the players.
NHL: Gary Bettman is pretty sure that both sides can make well over 50%, just as soon as he figures out how to implement the shootout and bonus point into a CBA.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Other "thank you" newspaper ads from NHL stars through the years

Rick Nash said his final farewell to the city of Columbus last week. Days after being traded to the New York Rangers, Nash purchased a full-page ad in the Columbus Dispatch, featuring a personal letter thanking Blue Jacket fans for their support.

While the move was widely hailed as classy, it wasn't especially original. After all, star players taking out a full-page ad on their way out of town has become a hockey tradition. There's practically a template at this point, and Nash followed it to the letter: The player's name at the top, the big full-color photograph, the personal note at the bottom.

Where have we seen that before? From plenty of other star players who were moving on, as it turns out. Let's take a look through some newspaper archives around the league.

Here's a good example of a classy goodbye by a departing free agent.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A hockey fan's guide to the Summer Olympics

It was a flame that cost a fortune but didn't do
anything, so the locals called it "Dennis Wideman".

It's been a slow week for hockey news, but that's probably just as well. After all, nobody is paying attention to the NHL these days. That's because the eyes of the world are focused on London, as they play host for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

There's no doubt that millions of hockey fans will be tuning in to get their offseason sports fix. If you're one of them, here's a handy guide to the various similarities and subtle differences between the NHL and the 2012 summer games.

The Olympics: If a seemingly endless stream of teams are emerging one-by-one until over 200 have made an appearance, you are watching the "Parade of Nations" at the Opening Ceremonies.
The NHL: If a seemingly endless stream of teams are emerging one-by-one until over 200 of them have made an appearance, you are listening to Shane Doan's agent list the teams his client is currently negotiating with.

The Olympics: If you see somebody peering intently at a target to see where it was hit, you know that a judge is attempting to determine the winner of one of the shooting competitions.
The NHL: If you see somebody peering intently at a target to see where it was hit, you know that Brendan Shanahan thinks this is an especially important suspension decision and wants to double-check where the dart landed.

The Olympics: South Korean archer Im Dong-Hyun has become the feel-good story of the games by setting a world record despite being legally blind.
The NHL: Nobody who was legally blind has ever set a world record, unless you count "Most times designing the latest New York Islander uniforms".

The Olympics: In an amazing display of the human capacity for synchronization, two athletes from the same team can execute an incredibly intricate dive at the exact same moment.
The NHL: In an amazing display of the human capacity for synchronization, every hockey fan reading that last sentence immediately thought "And here comes the Vancouver Canucks joke…"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - That time Pat Quinn screwed up the lineup card during a playoff game

In his defence, he did write "overrated waste of money"
so the officials should have known who he meant.
Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - An ongoing series to honor the greatest, completely meaningless moments in Toronto Maple Leaf history.

Imagine that you're the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs…

Wait! Stop crying. We're not done with the hypothetical yet.

Imagine that you're the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it's about ten years ago. See! Much better. It's before the salary cap, the team is good, and you're in the playoffs every year.

In fact, imagine you've got a big playoff game coming up this very night. In the final moments before the teams take the ice, what do you need to do?

As best I can figure it, as coach of the pre-lockout Maple Leafs you basically have five jobs:

  • Remind everyone not to bother ever coming back past the red line and helping Curtis Joseph in any way
  • Double-check the line combinations to make sure Mats Sundin isn't playing with anyone good
  • Tape the emergency ketchup packets to Tie Domi's forehead (Ottawa Senator games only)
  • Stop by Richard Peddie's office to meet the candidate he's interviewing for the GM's job and wonder how they both managed to get their ties stuck in the fax machine
  • Make sure you've successfully completely the incredibly simple task of filling out the lineup card correctly

Could you handle all of that? If so, you're one up on Pat Quinn, coach of the Maple Leafs squad that faced the New York Islanders in the opening round of the 2002 playoffs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The pros and cons of matching the Shea Weber offer sheet

Shea Weber debuts his "Just realized
the Predators could match" face.
Shea Weber dropped a bombshell on the NHL last week when he signed a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. The heavily front-loaded contract would see the restricted free agent collect over $50 million in the first four years of the deal, making him the league's highest paid player during that time.

The Predators have the right to match the offer, but the contract seems to have been carefully designed to force Nashville general manager David Poile into an almost impossible decision. Does he let his best player walk away, receiving four first round picks as compensation but potentially devastating both the team's fanbase and its playoff hopes? Or does he match the offer, knowing the burden of the contract's first few years could put the financial health of the franchise at risk?

It's a tough call, and so far there's been no indication which way Poile was leaning. So since he still has a few days to make up his mind, I thought I'd try to help out. After talking to sources and crunching the numbers, here's my list of the Nashville Predators' pros and cons of matching the Flyers' offer sheet for Shea Weber.

PRO: The contract is front-loaded and doesn't call for Weber to be paid very much over the final three seasons, which is great since those will be the only ones actually played thanks to the lockout this contract will cause.

CON: The process of matching the offer may be confusing, since the section of the NHL owner's manual that covers dealing with offer sheets for star players simply reads "Remind the other team that we all got together a few years ago and secretly agreed to never actually use those".

PRO: The Predators have been receiving revenue sharing payments from the league's wealthier clubs for years, and Maple Leaf fans would probably enjoy seeing MLSE's money go towards signing a big name free agent for once.

CON: Weber has expressed a desire to play in Philadelphia and upsetting him could make life difficult around team headquarters, according to the janitor who would be in charge of cleaning all the David Poile face smears off of the windows.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NHL owners' other leaked CBA demands

During a break in negotiations, Bettman takes a
moment to consider plans for his sun-blocking device.

Any sense of optimism over the NHL's upcoming CBA negotiation disappeared last week when details of the owners' initial offer to the players leaked to the public. Despite some early hope that the two sides would learn from past mistakes and find common ground quickly, it looks like fans are in for another contentious battle.

The owners' initial offer - which includes slashing the player's share of league revenues, a five-year limit on contracts, the elimination of arbitration and significant changes to free agency - has no chance of being accepted. But while some have chalked the proposal up as just a basic negotiating tactic, others see it as a signal that the league is intent on undergoing yet another long work stoppage.

And that's just based on the high-level details that leaked out - it turns out that the actual proposal included plenty more for players to chew on. My spies were able to get their hands on a copy of the offer, which sheds light on some of the additional demands that NHL owners are insisting on seeing in the next CBA.

  • The league and its players must work together to come up with new revenue streams that could add millions of dollars to the league's bottom line, such as having Cam Janssen bring a swear jar to all his radio interviews.

  • Columbus would really like us to consider another round of expansion, since they're running out of teams to laugh hysterically into the phone when Scott Howson calls with his latest Rick Nash proposal.

  • Any time the NHLPA starts talking about how the union will absolutely refuse to bend on certain key principles, the owners reserve the right to order in for pizza and then drum their fingers nonchalantly when Bob Goodenow shows up to deliver it.

  • We're going to need to roll back the salary of every active NHL player, with the exception of Brad Richards, since according to this magazine we picked up the poor guy can't even afford to buy clothes these days.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Behind the scenes of the 2012 Free Agent Frenzy

Just a reminder that there was a time when Zach
Parise was capable of actually signing something.
The last 48 hours have marked the “free agent frenzy” period in the NHL – the first opportunity for unrestricted free agents to consider offers from teams around the league. Despite a relatively thin crop of available players this year, fans were expecting plenty of movement and big dollar deals. They weren’t disappointed.

By the end of the first day, reports had the total spending spree at almost $200 million. That total only grew on Monday, with several big names who sat out day one coming to terms.

It all made for a hectic few days, and you’d be forgiven if you missed a few details here and there. Here’s a rundown of the major moments the past two days.

Sunday, 8:48 a.m. – For the fourth straight day, Dennis Wideman wakes up muttering “I had the craziest dream” before realizing he was indeed sleeping on a giant pile of Jay Feaster’s money.

Sunday, 11:03 a.m. – People all around Toronto take a break from thinking about free agency to head out with friends and family to celebrate Canada Day – or, as the entire Maple Leafs roster refers to it, “only three more days until July 4”.

Sunday, 12:42 p.m. – As the first signings trickle in, HBO 24/7 producers go ahead and start writing the “Jonas Gustavsson shuts out the Maple Leafs” epilogue for this year’s final episode.

Sunday, 2:13 p.m. - After spending the entire day frantically working the phones, the Minnesota Wild front office decide that everyone in the media has now heard that they plan to be in on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and they can maybe call a few hockey players now.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Free Agency Preview

The last known photo of these two without a
trillion dollars stuffed in their pockets
Tomorrow marks the start of the NHL's annual free agent frenzy. This year's crop is thin on big name talent, but there should be enough top tier players available to ensure that tomorrow will be a busy day.

Here are some of the players who'll be getting the most attention once the clock strikes noon tomorrow.

Ryan Suter

The good: It's extremely rare to have the opportunity to see one of the best defensemen in all of hockey patrolling your team's blueline, so Suter was pretty lucky to get to watch Shea Weber all those years.
The bad: Unlike all his brothers and cousins who are cool about it, when you ask him what it was like growing up on the famous family farm in Viking, Alberta he just stares at you like you're some sort of idiot.
Worth noting: Has been so torn over which of his many potential destinations to choose that he's spent several nights wide awake, pacing his bedroom floor in his favorite Red Wing footy pajamas.

P.A. Parenteau

The good: Shows surprising speed, according to Nassau Coliseum security guards who watched him sprint out of the building the second the season ended.
The bad: Has racked up impressive assist totals with the Islanders over the years, but there's no way of knowing if he could also do it with good players.
Worth noting: His signing will be our only chance to read the headline "Ownership and P.A. reach agreement" for the next six months.

Ray Whitney

The good: Has been a team leader in Phoenix for the past two years, so is probably getting really good at fake-laughing at a teammate's twitter updates.
The bad: Was teammates with Raffi Torres for an entire season and never once pushed him out the cargo door of a moving airplane, so how good a guy can he be?
Worth noting: The league is trying to cut down on ridiculously back-loaded contracts that take a player well past the typical age of retirement, so they'll probably veto any Whitney deal longer than three weeks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Other NHL brother acts

The Courtnall brothers persevered and made the
NHL despite growing up in a town with no barbers.
The weekend's NHL draft unexpectedly turned into a family reunion, thanks to a pair of high-profile players being traded to the teams that already employ their brothers. The Penguins made the first move on Friday, dealing Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes where he'll team up with his brother Eric. The Maple Leafs followed suit on Saturday, finally pulling the trigger on a long-rumored trade that made Luke Schenn a teammate of brother Brayden on the Philadelphia Flyers.

But while it was an interesting quirk to have both deals made within 24 hours of each other, it's not all that unusual to see brothers sharing the spotlight in the NHL. From the Richards to the Espositos to the Sedins, the league has a long history of siblings sharing the ice as both teammates and opponents.

Here's a look at some of the other NHL brother acts that have played together or otherwise crossed paths during their careers.

Rich and Ron Sutter - Became the first set of identical twins to suit up for the same NHL team during the 1983-84 season in Philadelphia, marking the only time that Flyer opponents were able to see double without first getting sucker punched off the opening faceoff.

Rob and Scott Niedermayer - Won a Stanley Cup together in Anaheim in 2007 while establishing themselves as prototypical Brian Burke players, in the sense that neither one of them has any idea how to play goal.

Saku and Mikko Koivu - In addition to being brothers, both players have been NHL captains who've been criticized for not communicating properly in the local language; Saku in Montreal, because he could not speak French, and Mikko in Minnesota, because he is able to properly pronounce vowels.

Max, Doug and Reg Bentley - A goal by Reg in 1943 marked the first time in NHL history that three brothers all recorded points on the same goal and it will sure be fun to do the same thing in Carolina in a few years, says Marc Staal before realizing he probably wasn't supposed to say that last part out loud.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Announcing "The Best of Down Goes Brown" - In bookstores this fall, available for pre-order now

This is an actual real thing that now exists.
Hi everyone. Today I can finally share some news that's been filed away in the top secret category for the better part of the last year: I wrote a book, and it's coming out soon.

The book, creatively titled The Best of Down Goes Brown, will be released in September by Wiley Publishing. It's a paperback, and will list for about $20.

The book will feature 250+ pages of material, such as:
  • 46 old favorites
    (many of which have been revised and updated), including:
    - The suspension flowchart
    - The official map of an NHL rink
    - A detailed look back at game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, which due to a scheduling error had to be published twelve hours early
    - The Code: Hockey's unwritten rules revealed
    - The other former NHL stars who interviewed for Colin Campbell’s job
    - How the NHL stacks up against the NFL, MLB, UFC and others
    - The 1993 Leafs/Kings liveblog
    - A hockey fan’s guide to modern TV technology
    ... and more.

  • 24 chapters of exclusive brand new material, including:
    - The NHL War Room's top secret flowchart for deciding whether a goal counts
    - What an official suspension call really sounds like
    - A beginner's guide to advanced statistics
    - A history of the NHL in pop culture
    - In-depth comparisons: Eric Lindros vs. Peter Forsberg, and Mario Lemieux vs. Patrick Roy
    - A brief history of Wayne Gretzky
    - A period-by-period look back at the 2012 Stanley Cup final
    - A history of the NHL's greatest rivalry: Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs
    - The ten greatest coaches in NHL history
    - A complete transcript of every postgame call-in show ever broadcast
    ... and more.

  • Forewords by TSN's Bob McKenzie
    and James Duthie.

  • Update: You can now find a sample chapter and full table of contents here.

Here's some additional information about the book in a handy FAQ format, since long-time readers know that I'm incapable of just writing in paragraphs like a normal person:

When will this be in stores?
The date will vary depending on when it ships from publisher's warehouse, but right now it looks like mid-September. Just in time for the lockout that will make everyone not want to read about hockey!

Can I pre-order?
Yes. You can pre-order today from sites like,, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Wiley.

I'm from the Internet. What is this "paying for things" concept that you speak of?
I was a little hazy on that one too, but I'm told that apparently you can exchange money for things that you feel have value. It's all very confusing, but the accountants at the publishing house seemed to think this part was important.

Will there be an ebook version?
I'm told that there will be. Details to come.

What does "exclusive" new content mean?
It means that the new stuff will only be available in the book. It won't appear on this site or in the National Post, or (except for any excerpts they do for promotional purposes) anywhere else. If you want to read the new stuff, you have to buy the book and/or awkwardly read it in the store aisle while everyone stares at you.

Wait, Bob McKenzie and James Duthie wrote forewords? Do they even know who you are?
Well... not necessarily. Let's just say McKenzie covers this topic in his foreword.

Will there still be typos that I can race to be the first to point out?
Probably. Feel free to write pithy comments about them in the margins.

There will be more detail coming as the release date gets closer. I hope you all get a chance to check out the book and enjoy it. And once again, sincere thanks to everyone who has been reading, forwarding posts, sharing links and just generally helping the site grow over the years. You're the reason this sort of project was possible.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A look at the 2012 Hall of Fame candidates

The Hockey Hall of Fame's selection committee is scheduled to hold its annual meeting this Tuesday in Toronto. By the end of the day, the committee is expected to formally announce who it will induct as part of the Class of 2012.

It won't be an easy job. This year's list of possible inductees is one of the strongest ever, featuring an excellent crop of newly eligible stars and several strong candidates who've fallen just short in recent years. With a limited number of spots available each year, there's no doubt that some deserving candidates will be snubbed.

Here's a look at some of the names that the selection committee will be considering this year.

Jeremy Roenick - Recently made an extremely eloquent and impressive case for his induction to the members of the selection committee, and was disappointed at the end when they all took their Stanley Cup rings out of their ears and said "sorry, what?"

Mats Sundin - Leaf fans are eager to see him take his place in the Great Hall, partly due to his accomplishments and career statistics but mostly because they just want a chance to see him surrounded by some decent wingers for once.

Markus Naslund - No player who was primarily known as a Vancouver Canuck has ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame but Naslund has a chance to finally change that, assuming he spends some time emailing the selection committee YouTube videos of how awesome Pavel Bure was.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2012 NHL Draft Preview

Unsurprisingly, Brian Burke is desperate to trade up
for the one who apparently can't tie a necktie.
With the Stanley Cup final wrapping up last Monday, hockey fans were forced to endure over one full week without any major NHL news. Luckily, our long collective nightmare is now over: The NHL draft starts on Friday night, and we can spend the rest of the week speculating about which young players will wind up where.

Of course, NHL scouting departments have been preparing for this weekend for months. They've compiled detailed reports on each player available and can recite their strengths and weaknesses with ease. But the casual fan may only be getting caught up on the top prospect now, which doesn't leave much time to cram before things get started on Friday.

Here's a look at some of the names that fans can expect to hear called early in the 2012 NHL draft.

Nail Yakupov - The consensus top pick has recently added a previously unseen physical aspect to his game, according to all those holes he punched in his wall after watching the Oilers win the draft lottery.

Alex Galchenyuk - Impressed scouts at the combine by showing off his surgically repaired left knee, although some admit they'd have felt even better if it hadn't been inside a jar with holes poked in the lid.

Ryan Murray - The young blueliner has been described as a perfect fit for the New York Islanders, so apparently he's really good at turning to the referee and saying "I think our goalie's bones just exploded".

Filip Forsberg - Is often incorrectly assumed to be related to former NHL star Peter Forsberg, which is understandable since he's Swedish, an excellent two-way center, and retired from hockey four separate times last season.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Behind the scenes at the auditions for the 2012 NHL Awards Show hosting job

Scene: An empty auditorium in Las Vegas. A banner hanging above a stage reads "2012 NHL Awards Show - Host Auditions". In the first row sit three judges, waiting to watch the various candidates read for the part.

Gary Bettman: Hey guys, thanks again for helping me out with this, I really appreciate it.

Brendan Shanahan: No problem, Gary.

Brian Burke: Yeah, I'm not really busy this time of year.

Bettman: OK Brendan, who's up first?

Shanahan: Our first audition is … Tim Thomas.

Tim Thomas (strolling casually on to the stage): Hi guys!

The judges stare at him nervously.

Thomas: What?

Shanahan: Um… I think I speak for everyone when I say we're all waiting for you to say something crazy.

Thomas (laughing good-naturedly): What? Guys, come on, don't believe everything you read. I'm just a regular guy who happens to be a proud American.

Shanahan: Actually, every American I've ever known in hockey makes terrible decisions…

Burke: Hey!

Bettman (reaching to high-five Shanahan): Ha! Burn on you, Brian!

Thomas: Nah, I'm the same guy I've always been. Sure, I've expressed some political views, and they may not happen to be the same ones you share. But that doesn't make me a bad person.

Shanahan: You know, that's actually a very fair point. So why don't you flip to page 12 of the script and read through some of the host's lines. This is the part of the show where you give out the awards that are already pre-determined, like the Art Ross, the Rocket Richard, the President's Trophy…


Thomas immediately tears off his tuxedo to reveal a vintage revolutionary war uniform underneath.

Burke: Um, did you make that yourself?

Thomas (proudly): Out of tinfoil!

Shanahan: Let's just get to the next audition.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Winners and losers from the 2012 NHL playoffs

"Wait. When coach said my ice time would
need to be much lower, maybe he meant..."
The Devils and Kings were at it again last night, with the Kings finally ending the series and claiming the first championship in franchise history. But while the Kings will understandably be dominating the league's headlines in the coming days, they're not the only team that's been busy over the past few months.

Between the three prior rounds of postseason play and all of the intrigue among teams that are already in off-season mode, there's been no shortage of news around the league since the season ended. After all, everyone wants to someday find themselves in the same spot the Kings and Devils were in last night, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

Of course, not every move turns out to be the right one. Here's a look at the some of the names that have been making news over the past two months, both positive and negative.

Winner: Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh Penguins - His new job as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury is a perfect fit for an aging veteran coming off of an injury, since it means he won't have to play in any playoff games until six or seven minutes in.

Loser: Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers - Had hoped to use this season to finally establish himself as a top-tier playoff goaltender, so will probably be devastated when someone eventually gets around to telling him that the Flyers were eliminated four weeks ago.

Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning - Their Norfolk Admirals farm team won the AHL's Calder Cup while gaining invaluable experience, such as figuring out how to pause the game, access the options and menu and turn offsides off.

Loser: Brendan Shanahan - Showed poor taste by having a fake Raffi Torres head mounted on the wall of his office, although you have to admit it's pretty neat how it occasionally blinks and whispers "please help me" in that oddly realistic way.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A New Jersey Devil's guide to coming back from a 3-0 series deficit

So the Devils aren't quite done after all.

With the entire hockey world expecting to see the Stanley Cup presented to the Kings once they completed the sweep on Wednesday night, the Devils played spoilers with a 3-1 win. That sent the series back to Newark for tonight's fifth game, and may have created just enough momentum to get people thinking about a comeback.

Can the Devils pull it off? History says probably not. After all, only three teams in NHL history have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. But New Jersey has taken the first step, and they can extend the season again with another win tonight.

More hockey is always a good thing, so I want to help. Since my market research shows that the entire New Jersey Devils organization is made up of faithful DGB readers, I've put together a list of tips for them on coming all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit.

DO: Explain to younger teammates that while coming back from 3-0 is difficult, it has been done in the past by teams like the 1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders and 2010 Flyers.
DO NOT: Be surprised when those younger teammates just stare at you in stunned silence, since it will be the first time they've ever heard of the Leafs or Islanders winning in the playoffs.

DO: Closely study film from Game Four to try to determine why you were able to score twice in 23 shots against Jonathan Quick after struggling so much offensively in the first three games.
DO NOT: Become discouraged when you realize it's because he played the entire game with his eyes closed "to make it more challenging".

DO: Attempt to draw inspiration from any sports fans you meet by asking them to tell you all about any recent examples of their favorite team being down 3-0 in a series.
DO NOT: Ask anyone wearing a Red Sox cap, unless you have nine hours to kill and/or a cyanide pill handy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A look back at the captains who have raised the Cup

"What a wonderful moment," thought Bettman.
"I'd better schedule a lockout."
We still don't know which team will win the Stanley Cup this year. But we can be sure of one thing: for only the second time in history, an American will be the captain of the winning team. And that means that either Dustin Brown of the Kings or Zach Parise of the Devils will get to take part in one of the best moments in all of sports. (Spoiler alert: It's going to be Brown.)

Unlike other leagues, where the championship trophy is handed over team owners and various corporate sponsors, the Stanley Cup is handed directly to the winning team's captain. And whether that captain takes the Cup for a victory lap or immediately hands it off to a deserving teammate, the moment always seems to end up being a memorable one for hockey fans around the world.

While we wait to find out whether Brown or Parise will get to enjoy that moment this year, here's a look back at some of the other NHL captains who've had a chance to accept the Stanley Cup on behalf of their teammates over the years.

1999 - Dallas Stars captain Derian Hatcher accepts the Cup while standing in the wrong spot, but for some reason everyone involved just ignores that and pretends that everything is fine.

2010 - The moment that Gary Bettman hands him the Stanley Cup is the happiest one of Jonathan Toews' entire life, apparently, since his one eyebrow looks like it kind of twitched there for a second.

1992 - As Mario Lemieux triumphantly lifts the Cup, the various NHL defensemen who have been clinging desperately to each of his limbs since the season opener sheepishly begin to realize that they can probably just let go now.

2008 - The historic moment of the first European captain receiving the Cup is ruined when a confused Nicklas Lidstrom asks if the big silver thing is some sort of fancy ashtray for his unfiltered cigarettes, Don Cherry imagines.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A brief history of Nicklas Lidstrom

SEE? I'm not the only one who can't spell it!
The NHL said goodbye to one of the greatest players in recent history on Thursday when Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom officially announced his retirement. While the announcement wasn't a surprise, it was still a difficult moment for fans who'd become used to seeing him patrol the Red Wings blueline over the past 20 seasons.

Most hockey fans can recite the numbers by now: Lidstrom won seven Norris Trophies, was a first-team all-star ten times, and won four Stanley Cups. But perhaps just as impressive, he leaves the game as one of the most-respected players of his generation. Even in this cynical age, it seems as if nobody in the hockey world has a bad word to say about the classy superstar.

Here's a look back at the NHL career of Nicklas Lidstrom.

June 17, 1989 - The Red Wings select Lidstrom with the 53rd overall pick at a draft which is perhaps best remembered for the major traffic jam that apparently caused every team in the league to miss the first 52 picks.

October 3, 1991 - Lidstrom is a team-leading +2 in his NHL debut against the Chicago Blackhawks, who immediately vow to only let him dominate them like that maybe 150 more times, max.

January 20, 1996 - A 25-year-old Lidstrom makes his NHL all-star game debut, then celebrates with fellow young all-stars Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr by taking a few swigs of that weird bubbling elixir offered to them by a cackling Chris Chelios.

November 3, 1999 - A bored Lidstrom makes a bad decision in the defensive zone, just to see what it's like.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kings vs Devils: The 2012 Stanley Cup preview

Dustin Brown attempts to confused Martin Brodeur with
a rarely seen trick play he calls "remaining upright".
It took an eight-month regular season and three rounds of playoffs, but we're down to arguably the most unlikely Stanley Cup final matchup of all-time. With the presumptive favourites all on the sidelines, the #6 seed New Jersey Devils and the #8 seed Los Angeles Kings will take to the ice tomorrow to begin the battle for the Stanley Cup.

How did we get here, and who has the edge? Let's compare the two finalists by breaking down the key matchups.


Devils: Peter DeBoer became involved in a heated screaming match with John Tortorella in the conference finals but that probably won't happen again this series, according to the five Sutter brothers cracking their knuckles behind the Devils bench.
Kings: Darryl Sutter is trying to draw on the experience of losing in the 2004 finals, according to players who are starting to get tired of the constant "make sure you shoot the puck as far over the goal line as possible" drills.


Devils: Team officials have enjoyed watching Zach Parise play the best hockey of his career, although they admit they could do without his post-game ritual of immediately sprinting up to Lou Lamoriello's luxury box and scrawling another zero at the end of his free agency contract demands.
Kings: Struggling star Jeff Carter is having a miserable playoffs and probably wishes he wasn't even there, Rick Nash keeps telling himself bitterly.


Devils: They focus on using their speed to create turnovers in the transition game and attack with an aggressive forecheck that pins the other team inside its own zone. Or, as everyone will spend the next two weeks calling it out of force of habit, "the neutral zone trap".
Kings: While they acknowledge that he's a great player who plays in all key situations, the team's other five defencemen still say it's not cool how they all have to wear jersey nameplates that read "Not Doughty".