Archive for May, 2005

May 31st, 2005

Some Thoughts On Danica Patrick And The Indy 500

Boy, Dan Wheldon really knows how to spoil a party, doesn’t he? And any other year, he’d be a huge story for IRL, charging from the middle of the field to take his first Indy 500.

But of course, just as Jimmy Connors stole the spotlight from Stefan Edberg at the 1991 U.S. Open, the 2005 Indy 500 will always be known for Danica Patrick’s fourth place finish that included the most memorable 360 degree spin at the Brickyard since Danny Sullivan in 1985.

I won’t soon forget how the crowd rose in unison when Patrick took the lead with ten laps to go, and actually had a chance to win. But with fuel running low, Patrick had to throttle back, only to see three other racers pass her in the last few laps.

And as she climbed out of the car at the end of the race, I couldn’t help but be struck at just how unsatisfied she seemed to be. After all, this was a driver who was willing to risk the inside spot on Row 2 during qualifying because she thought she had an honest shot at winning the pole outright.

And it looks like I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Here’s Newsday’s Steve Zipay:

ABC’s coverage of the race, in which Patrick led with 10 laps to go before slipping to finish fourth, produced a 6.6 overnight rating, up 40 percent from last year and the highest preliminary rating for the race since a 7.4 in 1996. Sunday’s final laps, in fact, from 4 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., earned an 8.8 rating and a 21 share of the viewing audience. Even the pre-race show from noon to 1 p.m. generated a 58-percent increase in ratings from last year. An overnight ratings point represents about 770,000 homes.

Considering that the Indy 500 had plummeted from a 16.4 national rating in 1974 to an 8.3 rating in 1994 to a 4.1 last year, Patrick’s appeal cannot be denied.

Who knows, maybe Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman can convince Patrick to take a shot at playing goalie?

And even though she had to endure endless questions about IRL using her sex appeal to promote the sport, it’s pretty clear the lady is all business and no B.S. With Patrick on the scene, the future of American open wheeled racing hasn’t looked this good since I was a teenager.

For an entertaining recap of the race, check out George Katinger’s post at Fast Machines. Understandably, he’s suffering from a little Danica fatigue. But be sure to read closely to find out some things about her drive that you won’t see in too many other places.

May 31st, 2005

Poker Tips From Star Wars

That’s what Jason Scavone is offering over at StickandMove:

In honor of the latest marketing campaign … er, movie, I’d like to give you my favorite ‘Star Wars’ quotes as they relate to poker:

Search your feelings. You know it to be true.’ Vader, back to Luke after the big reveal. If you have a strong instinct for a situation, trust it. If a tight player makes a sudden, strange move, that you can’t figure out where it comes from but you think means bad news for your top pair, let it go. If you have developed strong instincts for this game, you’re probably picking up something unconsciously that you haven’t quite consciously parsed yet.

There will be no bargain young Jedi. I shall enjoy watching you die.’ Jabba to Luke after Skywalker offers the Hutt a deal to return Han. We all know what happened to Jabba afterward. Take caution not to underestimate anyone at your table, because that’s a mistake that can prove extremely costly.

There’s plenty more where that came from, all as entertaining as they are informative.

May 31st, 2005

Robinson And The Home Run That Wasn’t

Tom Boswell wanted to give Frank Robinson a pat on the back after getting umpires to overturn Brian Jordan’s home run in yesterday’s Braves-Nats game.

Chris Needham doesn’t want to hear any of it.

There’s a reason why he calls his blog Capitol Punishment.

May 31st, 2005

Time Wasters

Some interesting time wasters: basic civil engineering with pennies.

And here’s more than you ever wanted to know about tipping the pizza guy.

Thanks to reader Dave Smith for the penny pointer.

May 31st, 2005

Ovechkin To NHL, Caps: Nyet Yet!

Major kudos to Jes Golbez for picking up reports from Europe that Russian phenom Alexander Ovechkin has decided to play the 2005-06 season for Dynamo Moscow. This shouldn’t exactly be a surprise.

If the reports are accurate, this is a disaster for Washington. As many of you might recall, the Caps shipped just about every recognizable name in the lineup out of town once the wheels came off of the 2003-04 season — not that they had any choice. And with Ovechkin taking a powder, there simply won’t be anything for the Caps to build a marketing campaign around.

Toss in the fact that the Caps will have to compete for the attention of the casual fan with the newly-arrived Washngton Nationals and a resurgent Washington Wizards, and things are looking awfully grim for ice hockey in Washington.

May 31st, 2005

Come For The Carnivals!

Well, it’s finally come to this: A hockey blog is going to be hosting this week’s Carnival of the NBA. Thanks to Matt Berhardt of Bulls Blog for extending the invitation, and letting me borrow his baby for a week.

For those of you who would like to participate, please send me a permalink to the NBA post you would like to see featured, along with a brief description no later than Wednesday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT. I’ll post the compilation by sometime after Midnight on Thursday.

But wait, there’s more! Realizing that we may very well be seeing a resolution to the NHL lockout sometime this week, I’d also like to announce the inaugural Carnival of the NHL! Just follow the same guidelines, with a deadline of Thursday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT. I’ll post that Carnival sometime on Friday.

That’s right, two carnivals for the price of one! Such a deal I got for you. And it’s only right, considering that the two leagues normally share plenty of arenas throughout North America.

To recap:

Carnival of the NBA deadline: Wednesday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT

Carnival of the NHL deadline: Thursday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.

Terms: Permalink to the post you want featured, along with a brief description of what it covers.

Looks like it’s shaping up to be a busy around here — kind of like the times when Madison Square Garden would host the Knicks, Rangers and Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus in the same week.

May 30th, 2005

Eminently Unconstitutional?

What does a condo project in Connecticut have to do with publicly-funded sports stadia? Daniel McGraw at Reason explains.

Thanks to reader Bill Lenihan for the link.

May 30th, 2005

The Devils In The Details

You’d think there were more important things to worry about in the State of New Jersey:

What chance do the New Jersey Devils give a proposal that would give the NHL team a less demonic name?

Think hell freezing over.

“I can assure you the Devils name will never change, and I think there are more important things to be thinking about than something that will never happen,” chief executive officer Lou Lamoriello said. “It’s who we are and what we want to be.”

State Assemblyman Craig Stanley is taking issue with a satanic symbol representing the team, which has won three Stanley Cup championships.

“This is an age where symbolism is very important,” said Stanley, a Baptist deacon whose resolution to rename the team is to be introduced in the Assembly next month. A new name would be chosen in a statewide competition.

In most cases, I don’t like seeing folks who profess deep religious beliefs get mocked in public, so I’ll just say this: Here’s hoping the good assemblyman reconsiders introducing the resolution. Especially now that it’s had it’s intended effect, right?

Thanks to Joe Tasca for the pointer. And Joe, let me join the chorus in saying “welcome back.”

May 30th, 2005

‘Out’ In Net

Maybe one day, this won’t matter, as long as you’ve got game.

May 27th, 2005

ESPN To Decline NHL Option


The National Hockey League’s pocket book has taken another hit.

Sources tell TSN that American cable sports giant ESPN will decline their option to retain their NHL broadcast rights for next season. The option to retain their national cable rights was for $60 million US.

ESPN has declined to comment on the matter, but the decision is expected to be officially announced next week.

This doesn’t necessarily mean ESPN won’t air NHL games next season, as they still can negotiate a new contract — presumably at a lower rate. And when replacement programming is getting higher ratings than the NHL, their logic seems impeccable.

May 27th, 2005

Support Women’s Rugby

Back in the day, I played one Spring season of Rugby on the B side at Catholic University. Aftrer five matches, one try, and one blocked punt (against Georgetown), I hung up my cleats forever.

As fate would have it, one of my co-workers here at the office, Elizabeth King, is a member of the Northern Virginia Women’s Rugby Football Club, also known as the Piranhas.

This year the team has advanced to the Elite 8, and plays next in Blaine, Minnesota on the weekend of June 4th. But as Liz says below, flying 30 female ruggers to Minnesota isn’t cheap, and they’d like some help:

As some of you know, my rugby team chalked up another WIN in the first round of nationals two weeks ago up in New York, which means we have qualified to compete in the Elite 8 Competition in Blaine, Minnesota on June 4th! This is great news for the team, but not so great news for our wallets. A long season and a number of away games have taken their toll on our funds, and it’s not cheap to fly 30 women to Minnesota!

To raise money for the team we are holding the following fundraisers…feel free to spread the word to other colleagues, friends, and family that might be interested!


Grand Prize: Fully catered four-course meal for 10 arranged at your home!

Many other prizes donated by players and sponsors

We are asking for a donation of $10 per ticket
ALL proceeds benefit the NOVA Women’s Rugby club trip to the USA Rugby Division I National Championships in Blaine, Minnesota

Drawing will be held at the Black Rooster Pub 1919 L Street NW on Wednesday, June 1st, 2005. Winners will be notified by mail, phone, and e-mail.

Also on the schedule for this weekend…..


May 28th, 2005 from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM
1207 Ellison Street
Falls Church, VA

Athletic Gear! Clothing! Furniture! Books! CDs!

From 66, Take exit 66 for Route 7 East
Turn Right on West Street
Turn Right on Ellison Street

Obviously the catered meal is only available to my readers in the Washington area, but I’m more than happy to pass along any donations you’d like to make. So, for the next week, any donations I get via or PayPal will go to the team.

Please help if you can. Thanks.

May 27th, 2005

Lockout Update

Both Bird and HDH at Hockeybird say sources are telling them a deal to end the NHL lockout could be announced in the next few days.

See if you can find the encouraging sign in the following statement from the NHLPA:

At the conclusion of today’s meeting in Chicago, National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) Senior Director Ted Saskin released the following statement:

May 26th, 2005

Nats Notebook

Summer is going to be long. Time to add some regular coverage of the new local baseball team. Thankfully, we have so many aggressive Nats bloggers in town that my job of rounding things up is going to be comparitively easy.

Before we get to the depressing news on the field, where the Nats were crushed by the horrible Cincinnati Reds, 12-3, it was announced yesterday that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is joining the high powered Washington Baseball Club ownership group headed by Fred Malek.

After a couple of weeks of ranting by local Nats bloggers, Washington Post beat writer Barry Svrluga has begun to question Frank Robinson’s decision-making in print:

Wednesday, though, provided the latest in a string of curious moves from Robinson. Over the past four days, he has pinch hit reliever Gary Majewski in the 10th inning of Tuesday night’s loss, even with hitter Tony Blanco on the bench; started left-handed hitting catcher Brian Schneider in the last two games against left-handers and right-handed hitting Gary Bennett in the last two games against right-handers; and given left-handed-hitting Ryan Church his first start against a lefty all year Tuesday, only to pull him after he struck out in his first two at-bats.

Wednesday, Brad Wilkerson led off the game with a double, an opportunity for the slow-starting Nationals to score early runs. With the count 1-1, second baseman Jamey Carroll followed by calmly bunting Wilkerson to third.

“I think we’re just trying to get a run there,” Carroll said. “Anything to start something.”

Even with Vargas on the mound, it sent a clear signal that the Nationals have almost no confidence in their stumbling offense.

“Hell, a single run would look pretty good,” Robinson said. “The lack of scoring? The way we’ve been going? A single run would look pretty good in that inning.”

The Nationals, though, didn’t get even the single run. With runners on first and third, Guillen, who finished the day with a pair of solo home runs and a double, struck out, and Church bounced to second. No big inning. Not even a small inning.

More from Chris Needham. Nats Fanatic isn’t letting Robinson off the hook for the team’s recent run of poor play:

Think hard Frank.

Think long and hard. And don’t go putting this all on the players either. You said, “All I can do is make out a lineup.”


All I can do is make out a line up. I’m just some schlub with a website. You’re one of the best managers out there. You can do a lot more than make out a lineup.

Basil from Nationals Review says it’s time for other Nats bloggers to stop whining about Orioles coverage in the Post. Ryan Moore from Distinguished Senators is now cross-posting at Capitol Dugout. DirecTV customers only saw half of yesterday’s game, thanks to what the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network termed, a “miscommunication”:

“We gave them the schedule of games. For whatever reason, there was a miscommunication, and it just fell through the cracks,” said Bob Whitelaw, MASN executive vice president and general manager. “This unfortunately is the sort of growing pains you go through as you start up and try to build something.”

Remember, here in Washington, you can’t see just about half of all the Nats games unless you’re a subscriber of DirecTV or the miniscule RCN Cable. Thanks to District of Baseball for the pointer. And finally, Nationals Review says it’s time for Mike Piazza to head for the glue factory — or just the American League.

May 25th, 2005

Champions League, Interrupted

Just as I have for the past few years, I programmed my TiVo to record the finals of the Champions League between Liverpool and AC Milan this afternoon. On days like this, I try my best to stay away from the Soccer Web sites during the afternoon, lest I accidentally see a score, and spoil an evening’s worth of fun.

I figured I was safe, that was, until I opened an email from a friend of mine:


Tonght, the Mersey runs Red!!!!!!!!!

Next, I checked the game recap on Soccernet.


May 25th, 2005


From an LA Daily News profile of Drew McCourt, son of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who is learning the ropes of running a baseball team the hard way:

The Dodgers made a grand gaffe on April 27, when they distributed 50,000 fleece blankets in a promotion. The blankets celebrated World Series championships in 1962 and 1966, rather than the correct years, 1963 and 1965. The Dodgers still handed out the blankets – many of which are being auctioned on eBay, the errors highlighted – with a coupon to receive a corrected version. Sources say Drew signed off on the promotion.

And, indeed, you can find one right here.


Truth be told, you have to feel for the kid. After all, how many of us have made a mistake in front of 50,000+ folks, and then have to read about it in the newspaper?

POSTSCRIPT: One detail I failed to mention: It was the young Mr. McCourt’s idea to sell seats in the left field bleachers for $2 on Tuesday nights — the decision that’s generally credited with sparking the recent fan misbehavior at the Stadium.

May 25th, 2005

Second Guessing Robinson?

Chris Needham continues to beat on Frank Robinson like a drum:

Last night was full of the madcap hijinks we’ve come to expect when Frank Robinson is awake on the bench.

Combine Tony LaRussa’s penchant for overmanaging and asserting himself in the game, with a BPGer’s knowledge of strategy, and a healthy dose of quaaludes, and you’ll get decisions like those in yesterday’s game.

Chris has plenty of details, including more than a few mistakes that would seem obvious even if your only MLB experience is with six-sided dice and Strat-o-Matic. He makes the additional point that Nats beat writers aren’t tough enough with Robinson when it comes to his managerial lapses. I’ll have to take his word for that, because as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve outsourced my Nats coverage to folks who don’t have to worry about creating an uncomfortable moment over the pre-game buffet.

For more raps on the drums of war, check out Distinguished Senators.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s easy to see that Cristian Guzman is having a rough year in D.C., but the Nats Blog has taken a far more discerning look, and things are actually worse than you might imagine. Start here, go here and finish here.

May 25th, 2005

The New “Black Hole”?

For more years than I can count, my impression of LA Dodgers fans were that they were a fairly sedate lot. But it looks like it isn’t that way anymore. Here’s Matt Welch on the atmosphere in Dodger Stadium during last weekend’s Angels-Dodgers series:

Speaking of the Ravine, its transformation into the Raiders-era Coliseum is now nearly complete. Even with the extra cops, there is no control of the stands, violence always seems about one sneeze away (as we were walking out of the place, two guys were squaring off in the parking lot over the deeply relevant issue of whether one of them had tattoos or not); and everyone just chucks whatever they can find — hot dog wrappers, cokes, flaming javelins with little screaming Darth Vader heads — from the upper decks onto the saps below.

T.J. Simers reported much the same thing in the Los Angeles Times a little more than two weeks ago, and draws many of the same parallels that Welch does in the above passage.

May 25th, 2005

Catching Up With Eklund

Tom Benjamin has some thoughts on the rise of Eklund. Be sure to check out the comments, complete with the interesting observation that the anonymous one has apparently erased his archives from before February 2004 in an attempt to cover his tracks.

So I decided to check in with The Wayback Machine to see if we could find a cached copy of his earlier predictions. And when I pumped in the URL for his blog, here’s the answer I got:

Robots.txt Query Exclusion.

We’re sorry, access to

has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.

No, he’s got nothing to hide. For the Off Wing Eklund archive, click here. And for the most comprehensive takedown, check out Dubi — complete with a number of pre-February excerpts.

May 25th, 2005

“Baseball’s Green Cathedrals”

If you love baseball, you’d do well to stop by Andrew Clem’s site. In addition to some everyday baseball blogging, Andrew has created an immense catalog of stadium diagrams from throghout baseball history. I was so impressed, I decided to sponsor a page myself. Stop by today.

May 25th, 2005

Bad Footballers Behind The Wheel

Pardon me, officer, I’m in a bit of a rush:

Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United and England footballer, has been baned from driving for 28 days and fined

May 25th, 2005

TiVo Malfunction

Tuesday is usually my big television night, with both House and The Shield locked in to my TiVo. Unfortunately, my area of Virginia is prone to intermittent power outages during the day.

But while my TiVo powers right back up when the juice comes on, my cable box does not. The result: Two hours worth of blank screen where my two favorite shows ought to be.

Luckily for me, FX re-runs The Shield more times than I can count. On the other hand, last night was the season finale of House, which probably won’t get re-run anytime before August. Anybody out there have a copy burned to DVD? I’ll gladly pay for postage.

May 25th, 2005

A Needless Tragedy

It’s sad to see people get hurt, when simple to use instructions are available.

I mean come on people, RTFM!

Then again, it’s always nice to see somebody put some extra effort into grabbing a nomination.

May 24th, 2005

A Different Plan of Attack For Bain

The Rodent has posted an extended rant that posits a line of thinking that I really hadn’t considered: if the folks at Bain Capital and GamePlan are willing to pay more than $4 billion for the NHL, why wouldn’t they consider starting a competing league — especially if the NHL remains in deep freeze?

The question is how will this play on the mind of Union Chief Bob Goodenow.

He’s no dummy. Particularly if he has been chatting with Game Plan all the while and realized that alternatives exist for most of his constituency, even if not with Game Plan.

Let me rephrase that.

What if Goodenow was working in concert with Game Plan to make life so frustrating to NHL owners that those owners would be more pliable towards accepting Game Plan’s offer?

Follow me, here…

It’s an interesting theory, and as far as I’m concerned, just as credible as any other that’s been floated about GamePlan and Bain Capital over the past few months.

Meanwhile, we’re actually beginning to hear some encouraging noises from reputable sources who don’t mind being identified.

May 24th, 2005

Is It Time For Robinson To Retire?

About a year or so ago, Jay Sokoloff, Off Wing’s Montreal-based correspondent, was more than happy to inform me that Frank Robinson had seen better days as a major league manager. While I can’t recall specific circumstances, a pointed critique of Robinson was something I could always count on when I got into contact with Jay.

Well, now that Robinson has decamped to Washington, his deficiencies as a manager are being put under the microscope. Here’s Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment:

Were I still a young, idealistic student, instead of a jaded bitter old man, I’d have easy access to Lexis Nexis, so I could see how many times the Washington newspapers have used the insipid phrase “Manages by his gut,” to describe Frank Robinson’s management style. Instead, I’ll make it up and say it was eleventy-billion times.

Regardless, last night’s game exposed it for the over-written cliche it is. What exactly does it mean? Until last night’s game, I was entertaining the offer that it meant he was using his thousands of games of experience to make informed hunches based on what he’s seen with his aging eyes.

When he famously boasted about not using computers, I mounted a casual defense of him, saying that it’s possible that the long catalog of game experiences he’s had serve as a sort of database in his mind.

Well, I was wrong.

The man’s a doddering idiot.

Plenty of specific examples follow.

Here’s a note for the folks at the big newspapers: when I follow the Nationals, I generally get my game recaps and box scores from the AP or

But about 90 percent of everything else I read about the team, with the exception of the odd Tom Boswell column, comes from Chris, Ryan, Nationals Inquirer, Nationals Review and Ball Wonk, among others.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

May 24th, 2005

Lunchtime Links

Super agent Leigh Steinberg says Ricky Williams wants to rejoin the Miami Dolphins next season. ESPN’s John Clayton has the Q&A with all the angles.

Todd Sauerbrun goes to court.

Malcolm Glazer’s fellow NFL owners may have a problem with his purchase of Manchester United.

John Buccigross is wondering how the media will handle a possible NBA work stoppage:

I am praying, praying, praying, praying, praying, and praying for an NBA work stoppage. I long for the polls saying nobody cares about the work stoppage, that the fans are apathetic and think the owners are greedy and the players are selfish. Of course they will leave out the declining NBA ratings, and the fact there is a scoring problem in the NBA, and they will never say the NBA overexpanded, or that there are too many foreigners with names people can’t pronounce. Let’s see if they bash the NBA like they are bashing the NHL.

Apparently, the NBA owners who also own NHL franchises are looking to squeeze the union, just as they are in the NHL.

NB: an NBA labor stoppage would most likely cut into the airtime of one Stephen A. Smith. The news just gets better and better. And now the NFLPA is starting to act up.

About that West Side stadium in Manhattan . . .

It’s tough being a mascot these days:

You’d think these would be tough times for SJ Sharkie, the spasmodic mascot of the San Jose Sharks.

The 7-foot, foam-headed shark eats, drinks and breathes hockey. His biological clock is set for Stanley Cup playoffs, which would be reaching a crescendo right now in a normal year.

But this isn’t a normal year. The labor lockout ended the hockey season before it began, leaving Sharkie all dressed up with no team to root for.

And face it: Being a mascot without a team really bites.

Here in Washington, I can’t help but be struck by the fact that we never saw Winger anymore once Slapshot started making the scene. I wonder if there’s a connection? BTW — if you’re up for a career change, click here.

Favorite AC Milan meets Liverpool in the finals of the Champions League tomorrow in Istanbul.

Brother Ralf and Michael Schumacher aren’t playing nice on the F1 circuit. And once they get back to the office, look for some rule changes.

Danny Graves is looking for work.

The Washington Nationals still don’t have a home on local cable television, and the legal wrangling continues.

Andre Aggasi says au revoir to Stade Roland Garros.

Marquette still doesn’t have its head on straight when it comes to the school’s nickname.

The equipment improves, but scores stay the same. Here’s Bill Pennington from the New York Times:

New and technologically advanced golf balls fly farther than ever. Oversize golf drivers hit the ball straighter. Space-age materials make irons easier to swing. Ergonomically engineered putters roll the ball more precisely. Golf courses are more plentiful and maintained better. Instruction is more accessible, at public and private clubs, not to mention every night on a cable television channel devoted entirely to golf.

There is even a better golf tee, revamped to let the ball soar longer and more accurately.

The only thing in golf that has not changed is the average score for 18 holes. Neither the average weekend player nor the world’s best golfers have managed to get the ball in the hole any sooner.

Mark Cuban recounts the 2004-05 Mavericks season, and not enough owners are that gutsy. At the Washington Times, Tom Knott writes that Cuban was right to let League MVP Steve Nash to go to Phoenix.

Clifton Brown says Drew Rosenhaus is the agent that non-players love to hate. Listen to this interview from AOL Sports Bloggers Live, and decide for yourself.

And finally, the late Pat Tillman’s parents have some harsh words for the U.S. Army. And I don’t blame them.

May 23rd, 2005

What Does He Know That We Don’t?

This would seem to be an odd time to be considering a career with the NHL, but Orlando Magic GM John Weisbrod doesn’t seem to think so:

Orlando Magic general manager John Weisbrod has resigned to pursue an opportunity in hockey, the club announced Monday.

“We wish John all the best in making a return to the sport of his passion,” said Magic President Bob Vander Weide. “We thank him for his leadership and vision over the past eight years. He will be missed.”

Weisbrod, who was named Magic general manager and chief operating officer 14 months ago, leaves the club without a head coach.

Harvard grad Weisbrod kicked around the minor leagues for a stretch, and is the former GM of the defunct Orlando Solar Bears. He’d been rumored to be under consideration for the GM post with the Ducks.

May 23rd, 2005

Lord Stanley’s Stay On Long Island

The years pass quickly, don’t they. That’s the first thought I had while reading Larry Brooks’ column from Sunday’s New York Post on the 25th anniversary of the New York Islanders first Stanley Cup title:

There’s never ever been a better hockey team than the one constructed by Bill Torrey and coached by Al Arbour that won four straight Stanley Cups beginning in 1980 and a major-league sports record 19 straight playoff rounds until their drive for five ended amid exhaustion and injury in the 1984 Finals in Edmonton. There’s never been a more perfect union of toughness and finesse; of speed and strength; of smarts and size; of leading men – plenty of those, with egos bumping up against each other in all four corners of their room, you’d better believe it – and character actors.

No team since has won more than two straight Cups, not the Oilers, not the Penguins, not the Red Wings; no team since has won more than nine straight playoff rounds, not even half as many as that team [19] that captured its first Cup 25 years ago this coming Tuesday – May 24, 1980 – when Bobby Nystrom scored at the supremely memorable 7:11 of overtime.

As much of a hockey fan as I was, I nearly missed the big moment when Nystrom scored to send Long Island into a frenzy. During the Finals that year, my father had some business in Los Angeles, and after about a week, my mother took me and my two siblings to join him there.

For some reason that I can’t quite remember, I asked out of an evening activity with the family to sit quietly in the hotel room and watch some television. That year, Game Six of the Finals was on CBS, and suddenly in the midst of another program I was watching, the scene shifted to Long Island just long enough for me to see Nystrom score under Tim Ryan’s play-by-play call.

Then, as quickly as the image appeared, it was gone. It didn’t matter, I got the message anyway. And soon enough, a trip deep into the playoffs (and the requisite demolition of the Rangers) became just another rite of Spring on Long Island.

There were other moments just as delicious: like Clark Gillies showing Terry O’Reilly who was really boss during one playoff game in Boston; Bobby Bourne skating the length of the ice to score against the Rangers at home (does anybody skate the length of the ice to score anymore?); or how about Mike Bossy putting the puck past Richard Brodeur of the Canucks, with only the blade of his stick on the ice?

But it isn’t just the superstars you remember. There was Gord Lane and Dave Langevin. Anders Kallur and Stefan Persson. Wayne Merrick and Lorne Henning. How about Billy Carroll, who left Long Island after the 1984 season, only to turn up as a fierce penalty killer on that Edmonton team that took the Cup in 1985?

I was just tripping into my teenage years, so I couldn’t completely appreciate that I was getting the chance to watch one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time up close.

Then came 1984 and the rise of the Oilers. Expecting that Islanders team to actually win five in a row seems grossly unfair right now, as if four cups and 19 straight playoff series victories didn’t provide enough enjoyment to last a lifetime.

Soon enough, the annual rite of Spring was suspended (with the exception of the run to the 1993 Conference Finals), and replaced with an annual trip to the draft lottery. Drafts that ultimately yielded picks that would rise to stardom elsewhere.

But now is not the time to be bitter. Rather, just savour the memory Islanders fans, secure in the knowledge that the nexus of the hockey universe once was settled in Uniondale, New York.

Thanks to Steve Ovadia for the pointer and the memories.

May 23rd, 2005

Sports Bloggers Nab Rosenhaus

Congrats to Jamie Mottram, all purpose AOL sports guy, for getting an interview with super agent Drew Rosenhaus. He’ll be a guest on Sports Bloggers Live, tonight at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.

May 23rd, 2005

Bain’s Dogged Pursuit Of The NHL

From the Bloomberg wire:

Bain Capital LLC, the buyout firm whose managing director owns a stake in basketball’s Boston Celtics, increased its bid for the National Hockey League by at least $500 million to more than $4 billion, people familiar with the proposal said.

Bain and Game Plan LLC, a Boston-based firm that arranges the sale of professional sports teams, in March made a $3.5 billion offer for the league, which still hasn’t resolved a labor dispute with players that forced it to cancel its season. The new offer, which topped $4 billion, was made yesterday, said the people, who asked not to be identified.

“We haven’t given up, that’s for sure,” Bob Caporale, Game Plan’s chairman, said in a telephone interview. He declined to confirm that a revised offer was submitted to the league.

Back in March, I said I thought that the Bain story was just another negotiating tactic in Gary Bettman’s bag of tricks, and it may still turn out to be that way. Then again, it’s been three months, and these guys are still hanging around — which lends some credence to Chris Lynch’s view that Bain is simply tryng to peel off a majority of the owners in a hostile takeover of the NHL.

For more from Lynch, click here.

Interestingly enough, it was only a few days ago that Strategy Today, a blog run by a group of business students at the University of Chicago, wrote a detailed analysis of just how advantageous a Bain takeover of the NHL could be:

While the NHL

May 22nd, 2005

Another Triumph By Google

Picassa 2 rocks.

Just download and fire it up. You’ll get it right quick.