Articles in Category: Hockey
How Can the NHL make themselves more relevant in the sports landscape?
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Special to BackSportsPage by Sean K. Palmer
There’s less than 40 days until the puck drops on the 2015-2016 NHL hockey season. As it approaches, there is a strange feeling upon me; something or someone is missing.
See, I've been an Islander fan since the day that I was born. From the moment my grandfather took me to my first game, sometime in the late 1970's. There I saw Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, and of course, the legendary coach, Al Arbour.
Howe Opens Up About His Book and Much More!!
I’m a Pittsburgh native. I’ve grown up there, in the city of “champ-yinz” for the majority of my life. When I had the opportunity to interview the great Mark Howe, I was elated. Yet, while I carried around his book with the image of him in a Flyers uniform, the glares I received from Pittsburghers, also known as “yinzers,” were comparable to those that one would get when only driving the speed limit.
Mark Howe, Gordie Howe’s son, as he continues to identify himself, exposed much of his personal life in this autobiography. Traditionally, an autobiography recounts the achievements and challenges that one individual has encountered. But, this book is more of a “family-ography” written from the perspective of just one person.
If there’s one thing David Clarkson knows, it’s toughness. The 28-year-old New Jersey Devils winger fought his way into the NHL by being a gritty, hard-nosed player who gained a reputation as a physical checker, vicious fighter, and ideal teammate in the locker room. In his first full regular season on the Devils, Clarkson had 21 fighting majors. More often than not, he is fighting on the ice to stand up for a teammate who might not be able to stand up for himself.
A Pittsburgh Penguins Preview
On Wednesday, January 16, 2013, after a long-endured hockey off-season, the Pittsburgh Penguins took to the ice at Consol Energy Center to play a televised scrimmage game that was open to the public. Because of the lockout, various teams across the league are trying different tactics to apologize to fans for the frustrating lost half season. The San Jose Sharks promoted 30% discounts on selected merchandise for season ticket holders and free Sharks jerseys for the first 200 fans to purchase two tickets to four or more home games. The Penguins are offering three free concession items and 50% discounts on all team merchandise. If you buy tickets to the Florida Predators' home opener, you get tickets to the next home game, too. While the promotions are nice, the Pens couldn’t have been happier as they opened up the luxury suites for the fans and unfortunately, had to turn away even more patrons outside the arena as over 18,000 hockey-hungry fans entered the building.
Hockey is back, but what does that mean?
With the National Hockey League now officially set to return, the game has been engulfed in a blizzard of opinions and assumptions as people scramble to make sense of the process which led us to this bizarre point in hockey history. From talking heads in television studios all the way down to the average fan’s Facebook and Twitter updates, mixed reaction seems to be the order of the day. Whether predicting the outcome of the coming season, or placing the blame for the fact that it will not be a complete season, common ground has become a scarce commodity in the world of hockey.
The truth is, only the passing of time, and its subsequent blurring of facts, will tell us what all of this posturing has meant to the National Hockey League’s position within the North American sports landscape…but then again, truth rarely gets in the way of good reporting. So here’s how I see the situation breaking down, in terms of both how we have gotten here and what fans can expect to see moving forward:
The debate continues: Should fighting be eliminated from the game of hockey? The problem with the debate is that this is not a valid question. Fighting is not a part of the game of hockey. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary (because who uses an actual dictionary anymore) states: “a game played on an ice rink in which two teams of six players on skates use curved sticks to try to shoot a puck into the opponent's goal.” Nowhere in that definition does it say anything of fighting. Moreover, if one were to travel to a young person’s local hockey game, he would view a natural and normal state of the fundamentals of the game. From there, it is merely an opinion as to whether that game is interesting, barring there is no personal investment in the game.
A look at the structure of hockey's worst teams
Is Bob Nicholson Trying to Kill Two Birds With One Stone?
According to Nicholson, this leaves many players in a sort of career limbo, caught somewhere between the professional and amateur ranks at a key point in their development process. Many players find themselves drafted at a young age, but end up parked in an NHL press box rather than garnering valuable on-ice experience.
Be a Better Hockey Fan
When you head out to see your local boys lace ‘em up and bang, please keep in mind the following tips for being less of a knucklehead:
-Banging on the glass. Has any clear pane of material ever been erected that was designed for grown men to slap their hands against and scream? No. This might seem obvious, but the glass is there so you can see the game and not fear for your safety. It is not a fishbowl…and if it was a fishbowl, would you really taunt the fish? What kind of sicko are you? These are professional athletes, supposedly entertaining you. Are you going to disrespect the years of training and continuous effort it took them to reach the pinnacle of their profession by yelling in their face and playing patty cake with the glass? Sit down, cheer and clap like a sane person. Kids bang on the glass. Hipster posers bang on the glass. Bandwagon-jumping, fair weather fakes bang on the glass. Fans don’t bang on the glass. Fans respect every player on the ice.
-Booing the visiting team’s star player every time he touches the puck. We get it: you don’t like the guy. Maybe he scored on your team a lot in the playoffs. Perhaps there has been a war of words in the press. A personal rivalry between the star players on the home team is often the catalyst for these sorts of situations. But when you boo vociferously each time the puck touches his stick, you sound petty and dumb. The entire arena seems like a school yard hissing at an unpopular kid. It is a base and vulgar reaction. What does this act of mass ignorance accomplish? The player already knows you don’t like him. Do you think you are going to rattle him? Is he going to think, ‘Oh no, they hate me! Guess I’ll just lie down and die then.’ More often than not, this type of taunting has the opposite effect, spurring the player on to perform at an even higher level. Again, act like a sane person and cheer for your team. Booing against someone instead of cheering for your guys just proves you fear their skill.
-Whooping or yipping when a former player touches the puck. How small-minded can you be? There are a finite number of players skilled enough to play in the NHL. There are also a finite number of teams. Therefore, players will be traded or sign with multiple teams throughout their career. Even the Great Gretzky played for several teams. Think of your favorite player. If he hasn’t already played for more than one team, odds are he will and soon. Did they leave for more money? My god, what a traitor! None of us fans would do anything like that, would we? None of us has ever left a job and moved across the country for a career boost and better pay. So much of bad behavior in arenas is driven by emotion. If you’d stop to think about the better opportunities afforded by a move, perhaps you’d cut the player some slack. Their careers are short relative to our own and they have to make hay while the sun is shining. Sometimes that means moving on to better pastures. And when you yelp at them, you are decrying every good play, every bit of joy and entertainment they provided to you while they were with your team. Be respectful. You never know when they might be back for a second go round in your town.
-Mock cheering for a goalie having a bad night. Exactly what purpose does this serve? It won’t make him play any better. Or do you seek to humiliate one of your favorite team’s players? Pointing out his failures will surely bolster his confidence. What was done to you as a child? Did your father mock clap when you fell face first in the mud? Do you feel that made you stronger? Does derision serve as a coaching tool with your children or at work? What a joy you must be at family gatherings. If you can’t cheer for a struggling player, just be quiet. Or I’ll come to where you work and golf clap when you screw up.
-Talking on your cell phone and waving at the camera. When I am watching the game at home, the last thing I want to see is you standing up and waving with your cell phone jammed against your stupid face. When I am at the game and you are doing this, you are annoying and are blocking my view. Either way, you look like a jerk that has never been away from home before. I can just imagine how that conversation goes: “Look ma, Cletus is on the TV box. He sure done made the big time now. Cletus, bring me home one of them city street hot dogs that the police mans eats on the Law & Order.”
-Getting drunk. There are several factors at play here. Firstly, you need to understand the appropriate level of inebriation for a public place. The arena is not a bar. There are children at the games, as well as people who don’t want to deal with your drunken ass. Many arenas have bars. Feel free to sit in the bar and watch the game, but for the life of me, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just drink at home and watch the game on TV. A lot of venues have drink and meal packages before the games with unlimited beer. Know thyself. Unlimited does not mean “drink as much as you possibly can to get your money’s worth.” Worst of all are those who show up to the game late, already tipsy, have a couple of beers and leave during the second intermission. This happens at downtown arenas on weekends when young men and women are on the prowl. They have no interest in the game, only in lurking and being seen. I abhor these people. In general, if you are loud and belligerent and you feel it is your duty to berate the officials, we all know you are hopped up on false courage and are a tiny little man on the inside.
Now for the twist: I have done every one of these things. I have gotten drunk and screamed at refs until I turned purple. I have booed opposing players, mock cheered, yipped and banged on the glass. When hockey was new to me, it was all very exciting. I wanted to see fights all the time. That was in the bad old days. I didn’t know any better. As in every other aspect of my life, my appreciation for hockey has also matured. Being a Washington fan, my taste went from Dale Hunter to Peter Bondra: from brash and violent to elegant and sleek. I no longer let the emotions of a young man control me. I see things more clearly, with a fuller appreciation for the details. The items I have listed are barriers, vestiges of an adolescent response to the game that hinders one from enjoying the NHL experience at its full potential.
WHY MONTREAL WILL NEVER AGAIN REIGN SUPREME
Imagine two teams, if you will. One team is made up of mostly Canadian talent and led by French Canadian superstars. In the past decade they have won a Stanley Cup, won their division twice and had a league MVP in their midst as well as the winners of the Ross, Byng, Pearson and Richard (twice) trophies. The other team is made up of mostly Canadian and European talent and is led by notable American players. In the same time period they have won no Stanley Cups, they have won their division once and they had a goaltender that experienced a career year in which he earned the MVP and Vezina trophy. He was then traded after three sub-par seasons, not the first goalie to crumble under this cities scrutiny. Despite their differences, both teams seem to continually make the playoffs, but considering half the league makes the postseason, that really isn’t saying much. One of these teams plays a systematic game, says all the right things and presses deep based on solid team play. The other has had wildly random results based on how hot their goalie du jour is playing.
A PRIMER ON WINNIPEG