Archive for June, 2006

June 13th, 2006

On Ben Roethlisberger

Radley Balko gets it right on Ben Roethlisberger:

Ben Roethlisberger is a grown-up. He made a grown-up decision. Consciously (he has boasted about not wearing a helmet when he rides). He’s now paying for that decision. It’s not the government’s job to regulate away risk. It’s telling that personal freedom is so scarce these days that editorial writers feel the need to put the word in scare quotes.

Bingo.

UPDATE: This story seems positioned to be hopeful about his return to the field, but then you read this:

Roethlisberger’s doctors stressed during a brief news conference Tuesday that his knees are not injured, positive news for an athlete who needed knee surgery only last season.

They also said his brain is functioning normally despite the concussion and the trauma of a crash that caused Roethlisberger to fly off his motorcycle and smack a car windshield with such force, his head left a glass-cracking dent in the shape of his skull.

“He is awake, alert, oriented and is resting with his family by his side,” said Dr. Larry Jones, the chief of Mercy Hospital’s trauma unit.

He could miss most of training camp, and is expected to lose weight because of the jaw injury. He’ll need time to regain his strength, timing and conditioning.

Doctors also cautioned that medical problems can develop after such an accident, though all signs in Roethlisberger’s case appear to be positive.

Sounds to me like they’re crossing their fingers. Elsewhere, it seems that the Steelers warned the QB in writing that a potential injury while riding a motorcycle could jeopardize his contract with the team.

 
June 13th, 2006

New To The Blogroll…

Be sure to stop by NHLDraftNet.

 
June 13th, 2006

Black Ice

Thanks to my old friend Robert George for turning me on to this new documentary project:

Comprised of the sons and grandsons of runaway American slaves, the league helped pioneer the sport of ice hockey changing this winter game from the primitive “gentleman’s past-time” of the nineteenth century to the modern fast moving game of today. In an era when many believed blacks could not endure cold, possessed ankles too weak to effectively skate, and lacked the intelligence for organized sport, these men defied the defined myths.

It was called The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, and I want to hear more about it. Stay tuned.

 
June 13th, 2006

I Was At A Riot And A Rugby Match Broke Out

From the AP:

Police responding to a report of a large group of men fighting on Sunday evening found dozens of cars and people gathered in an empty field on the outskirts of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, and what appeared to be a fight between criminal gang members.

More than 70 officers detained about 100 people before determining they were playing rugby instead of brawling, and released them several hours later after scolding them for not alerting authorities ahead of time.

“Given the difficult, troubled situation in the region, at a time when counterterrorism actions are being actively conducted, citizens are obligated to inform (authorities) either verbally or in writing of their intentions,” said a precinct police officer, who was not authorized to speak to the media and so did not want his name to be used. “Then there wouldn’t be such an unpleasant situation.”

I guess this explains Chechnya.

 
June 13th, 2006

Hockey And The Mob

Here’s a story that knocked me out of my stupor:

The Danbury Trashers, whose owner was charged in a federal Mafia indictment, will not compete in the United Hockey League next season.

Team owner James Galante was arrested Friday on charges of racketeering, extortion, witness tampering and circumventing the league’s salary cap. Prosecutors say he overpaid players and their wives with money from his mob-connected garbage companies.

The United Hockey League on Monday did not indicate whether the team intends to regroup for the 2007-08 season. The minor league team’s players are expected to be dispersed in a draft later this week.

Something tells me “circumventing the league’s salary cap” isn’t a criminal violation, but I bet Gary Bettman wishes it was.

I’m back, more later…

 
June 9th, 2006

Stanley Cup Playoff Notebook: Off Day

We’ve got a little more than 24 hours until Game Three in Edmonton, and quite frankly, I’m grateful for the layoff.

I’ll see you all tomorrow.

 
June 8th, 2006

Welcome…

To all the Washington Capitals fans who found their way here through the “hockey-friendly blog” listing over at the team’s official Web site.

And be sure to check out the other blogs listed there:

Japers’ Rink
Kukla’s Korner
DC Sports Chick

All are well worth your time. And thanks to the Caps for thinking of Off Wing.

 
June 8th, 2006

Stanley Cup Finals Notebook

Carolina 5 Edmonton 0: The Carolina Hurricanes moved one step closer to securing their first Stanley Cup with a convincing victory over a seemingly overmatched Oilers squad. Rookie goalie Cam Ward had 25 saves, and five different Carolina players scored, with rookie winger Andrew Ladd getting the game winner in the first period.

On the other side of the ledger, Jussi Markkanen, pressed into service after Dwayne Roloson’s injury and Ty Conklin’s brain fart, played better than the stats would indicate, yielding the five Carolina goals on just 25 shots. But more often than not, the Finn was left hung out to dry by his Edmonton teammates. Covered in Oil liveblogged the pain last night, while Sacamano at Battle of Alberta is just looking to kick some butt:

They tried to be too cute instead of just shooting the damn puck at a goalie who was giving out rebounds like a trampoline. They took idiotic penalties. They gave up odd-man rushes on stupid pinches. They refused to direct anything towards the net on powerplays. At least Hemsky looked good.

I’m actually happy the Oil got spanked tonight. If you are going to lose a game, you might as well do it in a fashion that pisses some people off. This was such a frustrating game to watch. I was absolutely furious for most of it. I’m still furious. I’m livid. I want to go to the airport to meet the players — and kick their asses.

Mudcrutch is still puzzling over the shot count and outcome of Game One:

Looking at some of the Canes blogs, they seem satisfied that their team picked it up in the third of G1. Casonblog is an example of this; he says “The Oilers were clearly the better team last night…until they weren’t”, whatever the hell that means. Comments from their players seem to indicate the same. From what I know of the Oilogosphere, I don’t think that the reaction to a win like that would be quite so positive.

I’m a bit mystified by this reaction, but maybe that’s how the Canes won games this year-they were 8-2-1 this year when getting outshot by 12 or more. Edmonton outshot the opposition by 12 or more shots 15 times this year; they were 10-4-1 in those games. The Oilers were only outshot by 12 or more twice this season; maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time seeing the good for the Hurricanes here. Given the choice, I’ll have every game play out with the shots and balance of play like last night and take my chances.

He also goes back to the well with the old saw about how the Canes are only winning because every other team is suffering major injuries, and makes sure he takes a couple of shots at the Cainiacs for not knowing their hockey.

People, can’t we all just get along?

In other Oilers blogs, Andy Grabia needs some Prozac, Lain Babcock is holding out hope and BDH says the Oilers have no margin for error.

Meanwhile, back in Raleigh, Red and Black Hockey has the offical B-List celebrity sighting list from last night’s game:

Kid Rock
Carolina Panthers wide recievers Steve Smith and Ricky Proehl
ESPN’s Chris Berman
Mia Hamm.

When your team is up 2-0 in the Finals you can get away with worrying about stuff like this. The Acid Queen says it’s no time for Canes fans to get haughty, and CasonBlog wanted some retaliation after Georges Laraque got a little punchy:

Seriously, that crap out of Dredy Locks Laraque was absolute thuggery. He takes a run at Wallin’s legs then boards Andrew Ladd when the boy’s head is down. And the Canes take it? You’re up five goals and nobody takes a shot at Moreau? That’s the only bittersweet thing about tonight for me. The Canes played the game right start to finish. They blocked shots, played great team defense, created great shot opportunities, Cam was the man, and they kept their discipline…too much friggin’ discipline.

One thing that drove me nuts last night: Once it was clear the game was getting out of hand and the Oilers started to play a little chippy, OLN color man John Davidson (apparently heading for St. Louis soon enough) kept saying that Edmonton was playing “nasty”. And he kep repeating it in such a way that it seemed like he couldn’t reboot his brain, like he was searching desperately for another word and couldn’t find it.

So when that failed, he resorted to pronouncing the word with a flourish, as if we wouldn’t notice he was saying the same thing over and over again. I almost put my foot through my television.

Now we’ve got a pair of off days until Game Three on Saturday night in Edmonton, as the NHL makes its triumphant return to network prime time in the U.S. Bob Eckstrom has a message for NHL fans in the U.S.:

Yours can no longer afford to remain a secret order dedicated to preserving the esoterica of a once sacred game. You must come to terms with the fact that ‘Bowling Night’ successfully replaced your sport on its former network, and the WNBA now outdraws it on its new home on OLN. Your game’s next generation of fans are more apt to be the fallout who dosed off during ‘Elk Country Journal’ or ‘The Lance Chronicles’ and awaken to a hockey game and a missing remote. That is not a sufficient source to carry you back into prime time.

Blah, blah, blah. Since when is it the responsibility of NHL fans to bail the league out of its difficulties? If you like the game, please feel free to watch. And if not, just please leave us alone.

Carolina leads series, 2-0.

 
June 7th, 2006

TiVo Dives Into Web Video

Here’s hoping the NHL jumps on this bandwagon:

TiVo on Wednesday steps up its effort to erase the line between broadband video and conventional TV

 
June 7th, 2006

Stanley Cup Finals Preview, Game Two

The Oilers get to return to the scene of the crime tonight as the Finals get back underway tonight in Raleigh. But plenty of folks were still talking about the blunder that ended Game One and gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in the series. Here’s Al Strachan.

Thanks to Covered in Oil for finding the clip.

As you might imagine, Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish is playing coy about his choice in net to replace the injured Dwayne Roloson, though Hockey Night In Canada‘s Jason Murdoch is convinced Jussi Markannen will get the start:

So is it Jussi or Ty tomorrow night? Coach Craig MacTavish didn’t say, but the smart money is on Jussi.

Conklin screwed up big time yesterday, although some would say it was just as much Jason Smith’s fault and Markkanen would give the Oilers a clean slate to start on.

The big problem is that neither of these goaltenders have seen ANY playing time in the last month and a half. Both are really rusty and it’s hard to believe that either of them have the mental toughness to withstand the pressure of playing in the finals.

But, we will see. Some of the crew think that Edmonton will bounce back. Some think it’s wishful thinking and as one reporter said, “The Oilers are done like toast.”

Pierre Maguire votes for Markannen too.

And for those who missed it, here’s the clip of Marc-Andre Bergeron checking Andrew Ladd into Roloson and knocking him out of the series. Turns out Roloson suffered a hyperextended elbow as well.

Some thoughts from Jes Golbez:

If I’m the Hurricanes, I’d drive to the net with even more reckless abandon. Juicy Markkanen or Ty Conklin will give up many more rebounds than Roloson the vacuum, so it’s important to throw the puck and the net and follow up on the play.

Oh, and Oilers fans ought to send some of their venom to Mr. Bergeron. Pushing an attacking forward into your own goaltender is a stupid, stupid, stupid move. I see this happen quite often in scrums in front of the net, but a guy will cause more damage when he’s skating fast directly towards your goaltender.

It’s safe to say Rod Brind’Amour helped out his Conn Smythe chances with two goals on Monday night, but it was his incredible performance in the faceoff circle that was raising hackles in the Edmonton camp according to Bob McKenzie:

The Oilers, in turn, have labelled Brind

 
June 6th, 2006

Stanley Cup Finals Notebook

Carolina 5 Edmonton 4: Somehow, someway, after going down 3-0 to the Edmonton Oilers, the Carolina Hurricanes staged another playoff comeback and pulled out a 5-4 victory on a night when they were not playing their best hockey.

On the other side of the ledger, the Edmonton Oilers didn’t just lose a game, they also lost their #1 goalie, Dwayne Roloson, to a knee injury for the rest of the series.

It’s safe to say that Sacamano isn’t in a good place right now:

Well, that was a kick in the nuts. The Oilers dominated the first two periods, and came out of it with a loss, an injured Roloson, and a backup goaltender who is likely to be burned alive if he comes back to Edmonton. Didn’t we waive Conklin? Gawd.

A few other quick hits before I start patching the holes in my drywall…

I think it might be time to consult Bill Simmons and the 13 Levels of Losing.

And this was on a night when Chris Pronger converted the first penalty shot in the history of the Finals.

Yahoo Sports has a photo slideshow.

The unstoppable Paul Kukla has transcripts of both coaches postgame press conferences (MacTavish, Laviolette).

More later, as reaction pours in all day and night long.

UPDATE: Gary Bettman gave his annual state of the game press conference, and it was a little rough:

The salary cap as previously reported will rise from the current $39 million to about $43 million or $44 million, Bettman said thanks to revenues that will be “at an all-time high for this league.”

Tom Benjamin has some questions about his accounting standards.

UPDATE: My friend Chris Lynch was in Toronto last night, and he has some interesting observations.

Covered in Oil is musing over the fate of Ty Conklin:

Is this the end? It’s tough to say. Well, no: it’s not tough to say when it comes to Conklin. That idiot is done. If he ever plays another game in the NHL, it’ll be a miracle (or as a backup in Vancouver). Considering how the chips of public opinion were so unfairly stacked against him already, just letting in the winning goal would have been a death sentence; what philosopher could have fathomed the depth of Edmonton’s hatred for Conklin now, after he gift-wrapped the winning goal so beautifully, in such a singularly perfect manner? Was there ever any way else we could have lost? Could God himself was created a more nightmarishly delicious ending to a night full of positives?

On the other hand, Andy Grabia thinks Jason Smith ought to be wearing the goat horns.

Jason Murdoch is a staffer with Hockey Night In Canada, and he’s blogging from Raleigh.

CasonBlog points out a statement that Hurricanes fans will be flogging Mudcrutch with for a long time.

This passage from the Acid Queen gave me a chuckle:

Umm….yeah.

Another opposing player goes down, and yet more people whine and cry that their team would have won the game if that player had been healthy.

Nevermind that the ‘Canes had already hung a four-spot on Roloson before Marc-Andre Bergeron decided to do his impression of a freight train and send the Hurricanes’ Andrew Ladd (who was well outside the crease) flying into the guy. Clearly, if the Oilers were healthy they’d sweep the Hurricanes because they’re Charged By God with bringing the Cup back from the Dirty South. Or something.

Some more chuckles from Sisu Hockey.

I think Neate Seager sums things up well:

For the first 54 minutes last night’s game, it was building up to be the rare Stanley Cup final that’s as good as the series that led up to it, with excitement and interest building with each game. Then two plays — The Injury and The Giveaway — turned the Oilers from vital to a vapour.

That about says it for me. With the Roloson injury, we may have been robbed of a series for the ages.

 
June 5th, 2006

Stanley Cup Finals Preview, Game One

[Due to subject matter, I've moved this post to the top -- EMc.]

After what seemed like an endless layoff, the Stanley Cup Finals get underway this evening in Raleigh. I picked Carolina to win the Cup at the start of the playoffs, and I don’t intend to back off that pick now (though Maggie the Monkey disagrees, click here for video). Then again, there are all sorts of factors that make me think this series is going to go the limit.

GOALTENDING: Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson has got to be the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe, as he’s been the critical factor in every series the Oilers have played in the postseason. He’s not only stopping pucks, he’s not giving up rebounds, and his defensemen are giving him clear lanes to the shooter so he can see the puck. And he’s seen a lot of rubber — nearly 600 shots — far more than Carolina’s Cam Ward.

As for Ward, his play, while not as flawless as Roloson’s, has been occassionally spectacular. But tell me this: What coach in the world would want to be riding a rookie goalie into the Stanley Cup Finals? And as we’ve seen, for all the talk that Laviolette is just as confident in Martin Gerber as he is in Ward, from what we’ve seen so far, the Hurricanes don’t seem to be the same team when they play in front of him — that one shutout against Buffalo notwithstanding.

DEFENSE AND PENALTY KILL: Let’s face it, the best defenseman, and perhaps the best player left in the playoffs is Edmonton’s Chris Pronger. He really has done it all, eating up the minutes, playing the penalty kill and the power play, all the while punishing the opposition without losing his head the way he used to early in his career.

But to end the discussion with Pronger wouldn’t give the rest of the Oilers defense its due. Here’s Pierre Maguire:

And while Pronger will be the player to watch for the Oilers in this series, because the Oilers give up so many shots, it’s not just about Pronger, it’s the way the Oilers clear the crease.

Dwayne Roloson’s big strength is that he doesn’t give up a lot of rebounds. But when he does, the Oilers defencemen knock everyone down so that nobody wants to go near the crease.

No team has given up more shots in the playoffs than the Edmonton Oilers but they keep everything to the outside, force bad angle shots and allow Roloson to see the puck. If you try to get to those second chance opportunities, they pulverize you.

One other very simple thing the Oilers do is stick to the fundamentals on the penalty kill. Just watch them — every player keeps his stick on the ice throughout the entire power play — all the better to break up passes when the opposition passes up the shot from the point and tries to work a pass across the zone to get the goalie going side to side. Just watch, it’s happened in every series, and it’ll happen again in the Finals.

But the other X factor on the Edmonton penalty kill is Michael Peca, a man who is prone to spring himself or a teammate for a shorthanded goal at a moment’s notice. Laviolette, who coached Peca for two seasons on Long Island knows this, but I can’t see how he can help his team prepare for it other than to warn them to keep an eye out.

Check back here throughout the day as I compile links from around the Web before the puck drops. It’s sure to be an interesting day.

UPDATE: Here’s another piece on bad television ratings from the Washington Post.

UPDATE: James Mirtle, who has doubted Carolina before (the same way I’ve doubted Edmonton), likes Edmonton in five. Battle of Alberta has the Oilers in six. And of all people, Ron Francis failed to make a prediction.

Paul Kukla is holding his own Stanley Cup Challenge — name the winner and who scores the series clinching goal. My pick: Carolina and Bret Hedican.

UPDATE: Here’s Darren Eliot’s take.

The NHL has posted video of the Media Day activities. Click here for Carolina, and here for Edmonton.

Here’s Mike Commodore on the tradition of throwing a slab of Alberta beef on the ice in Edmonton following the Canadian National Anthem:

The raw meet sometimes sticks to the ice upon contact.

That’s okay with Commodore. “A little blood on the jersey never killed anybody,” he added. “I just hope they unthaw it.”

UPDATE: Ted Leonsis sounds off on this morning’s Washington Post piece on the state of the league:

I am very happy with the decision made by the NHL to go to Outdoor Life Network (OLN). OLN is owned by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company. Comcast has shown great respect for the NHL and the fans, and I believe, they will make the investments necessary to engage our existing fans and to connect with new fans.

As I’ve written before, I’m pleased with the way the coverage on OLN has developed, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop in the 2006-07 season. In the meantime, I think Larry Brooks is correct, and that the network needs to inject some polite disagreement into the studio show next season. And I would hope that OLN would carry the NHL Network’s On The Fly: Final, every night of the week.

CasonBlog is calling out an Edmonton Sun columnist. Neate Sager says Carolina in seven.

More later.

 
June 5th, 2006

Are Soccer Fans Unhappy With ABC Play-by-Play Voice?

From Broadcasting and Cable:

With the World Cup kicking off this week, soccer aficionados are showing ESPN and ABC the yellow card for the networks

 
June 5th, 2006

Do New Contacts Give Athletes An Edge?

Nike and Bausch and Lomb have co-developed a new contact lens that they’re targetting at athletes:

When Camille Walters plays soccer, her normally brown eyes have a spooky red tint. That’s because the 15-year-old wears tinted contact lenses that block certain wavelengths of light and help athletes see better.

Oh, and they look cool, too.

(snip)

The lens — large enough to extend a ring around the iris — comes in two colors: amber and grey-green.

The amber lens is for fast-moving ball sports, such as tennis, baseball, football or soccer. Grey-green is better for blocking glare for runners or helping a golfer read the contour of the ground.

The real question for me is this: Do they really give somebody an advantage, or is this just another way to separate an athlete from his/her money when sunglasses could do the same trick for a fraction of the $160 price tag? Unfortunately, that’s a question the AP story doesn’t answer.

Then again, something tells me there won’t be a shortage of buyers. For more, click here and here.

 
June 5th, 2006

Bob Uecker Has A Stalker?

Believe it, or not. Poor guy.

For more, go visit The Smoking Gun.

 
June 5th, 2006

Wie In U.S. Open Qualifier

Here’s something to keep an eye on today: Michelle Wie’s attempt to become the first woman to ever qualify for the U.S. Open. To make it, Wie needs to finish in the top 18 over 36 holes at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.

Though Wie struggled in a practice round last week, I know I’m rooting for her. Are you?

UPDATE: Wie finishes 1st round at -2. Click here for the live scorecard.

THE 39TH HOLE: Wie falls short.

 
June 3rd, 2006

Blog Writing Presentation Cancelled

I got a note from the 2006 First Person Festival, and they gave me the bad news that they hadn’t enrolled enough participants in Sunday’s Reality Day Program where I was to give a presentation on blogging. As a result, they cut back the program, and my session was left on the cutting room floor.

Bottom line: I won’t be in Philly this weekend. Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at giving the presentation some other time.

 
June 1st, 2006

Off Wing Stanley Cup Challenge Update

Congratulations to the Carolina Hurricanes for reaching their second Stanley Cup Final in four seasons after defeating the Buffalo Sabres earlier this evening in Raleigh.

And with the Finals set, it’s time to look in on the Off Wing Stanley Cup Challenge, now down to six contestants:

Matt Haws: Edmonton
Camille Klein: Carolina
Chris Lynch: Carolina
Josh Crockett: Carolina
Jamie Mottram: Carolina
Lindsay Oliver: Carolina

Congratulations to everyone who made it this far, but especially to the mighty Matt Haws, the only contestant to choose Edmonton, the Western Conference Champ.

To review, here’s how things will shake out:

1) If Edmonton wins, Matt Haws is the winner, and Off Wing and our benefactor Thomas Luongo, will donate $100 to the charity of his choice.

2) If Carolina wins, a random drawing will be held to determine the winner.

Thanks again to everyone for playing. Now get ready to enjoy the last hockey you’re going to see until October!