Tuesday, 30 April 2013

#spOilers

Last weekend, I learned that it is VERY difficult to get a hashtag game going. Nevertheless, I did have some fun and great contributions from my awesome friend Ian.

In case you missed it, here are the various ways in which Edmonton's players have been #spOilers. Their reign of terror began a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, and culminated in endangering the Wild's playoff hopes (with a 6-1 beatdown last Friday) and sending the #Canucks to the playoffs with an unhealthy injection of self-doubt after losing to Edmonton last Saturday (7-2 including 5 goals in 3 minutes!)

I'd love to hear which of the following is your favorite #spOilers tweet. Please feel free to offer your own!

1. I'm TRYING to enjoy an episode of Oil Change, but the Oilers have already leaked how the series ends: failing to make the playoffs yet again. 

2. I've never seen an Oiler put the cap back on a marker. 

3. 11 friends and I once robbed a casino; an Oiler told the owner, so we ended up having to make  to repay the casino

4. I heard that an Oiler turned off the unicorns' alarm clocks on flood day 

5. I almost won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but an Oiler pointed out that my novel was derivative of R.L. Stine 

So Quentin Tarantino is the only one allowed to receive critical acclaim for writing postmodern homages?

6. I've heard that dinosaur supervisor for Jurassic Park (Phil Tippett) was once an Oiler. 

7. I used to get away with muttering things under my breath until an Oiler added subtitles. 

8. You help an old lady across the street and an Oiler one-ups you by restoring her youth and independence.  

9. I once overheard an Oiler mansplaining to Tina Turner that Ike's behaviour was her fault. 

10. I almost skipped ahead in line at the movies, but Jordan Eberle noticed. He didn't, however, rat on me: he full on beat me up

I'm sorry Jordan, but is it a crime to see a movie in a Canucks jersey? I guess you've lost sight of the fine line between competitiveness and virulent hatred.

11. I've had to wait in line at Safeway for hours because an Oiler insisted that each of his items must be bagged separately. 

12. An Oiler knew Jocasta was Oedipus' mother; not only did he withhold that info, but he was also Oedipus' best man at the wedding. 

13. I had trouble taping a hockey stick, so Jordan Eberle did it for me. Now I'm a failure in life because I never learned how to deal with adversity. 

14. Nug-Ho knew the Rebel Alliance was headed for a trap, but he let the fleet be deployed anyway.  

15. Edmonton's 7-2 win over the  last Saturday has given Oilers fans hope for next season, and we all know how THAT will go. 

Akbar: Do you want the empire to win, or do you find it funny to watch your friends get zapped to death?

Nug-Ho (Not paying attention): Craig MacTavish should rebuild the Oilers like the empire did the second death star. We can hold training camp in the Ewok village and use speeder bikes instead of skates!

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Matrix Is Real

How else can you explain this amazing save in which Marlies goalie Drew MacIntyre utterly dumbfounds Rochester Americans forward (and Buffalo 2012 1st round pick) Zemgus Girgensons? I hope MacIntyre followed up the play by taunting Girgensons, quoting Agent Jones in sneeringly saying, "Only human."


I'm not sure if the strange bolt of light in this clip is a sign that the machines in The Matrix have changed something, a luminescent boom following MacIntyre's thought process exceeding the speed of light, or perhaps thousands of time travelers appeared at the same time to relive the best save in AHL history.

Forgive me for exaggerating: you see, the AHL Marlies offer Leafs fans an escape from and a mirror-image of the reality facing the blue and white this spring. While fate cruelly set the Leafs against Boston in the first round of the NHL playoffs, it was equally barbarous for positioning the Marlies against the Amerks. While Boston has outplayed Toronto over the last two seasons, the Marlies have dominated the Amerks (winning 16 of 17 match ups--including 5 playoff games--since March 2012). While it would take a miracle for the Leafs to make it through the first round, it would take a catastrophe to prevent the Marlies from advancing.

If this keeps up, maybe we should change the Marlies' name to the "Bizarro-World Maple Leafs" since they now win division championships, play hockey in May, and live up to their intimidating reputation regularly.

Friday, 26 April 2013

If I were Randy Carlyle....Redecorating the Leafs locker Room Part II

If I had Carlyle's authority to redesign the team's backstage and on-ice image, I'd probably try to outdo all the teams that enter the ice through arches (e.g. Predators, Sharks, Oilers) by arranging for my starting lineup to take the ice inside a large wooden horse and then burst out from it and skate about menacingly.

On top of that, I'd incorporate more war-related references into the Leafs dressing room, which already has one military maxim ("Burn the Boats") emblazoned on the wall.  These modified World-War era propaganda posters are other militaria that I'd use to decorate the backstage areas of the ACC.

It's time to die--black bird of playoff drought (?). Okay, I'll level with you: I was originally going to go for the obvious here and have the black bird represent the Blackhawks. However, something seemed wrong about having a Canadian soldier bayoneting something with the likeness of a First Nations person on it. 

This poster equates gamesmanship with improving Canada's economy. Hey, if you're going to win underhandedly, you might as well do it in a way that creates jobs!

The Leafs' last championship in 1967 was (as Ottawa fans love to remind us at Scotiabank Place) a long time ago, so it's helpful for team morale to remind the current Leafs that some teams have never won. As depressing as it is that the Leafs haven't had a single post moon-landing championship yet, the players shouldn't just swallow drought-related insults from the league's eleven cup-less teams.

I don't personally have anything against Chara, but the Leafs need to get riled up before playing the team that's owned them in a worse way than Harold Ballard did in the 80s. I tried and failed to put a Bruins "Stanley Cup champions" hat on Chara's head. Maybe the German Pickelhaube helmet from the original poster works better: it could mobilize Leafs to defeat the Bruins by reminding them that they're named after the Maple Leaf Regiment from World War I.

What better way to shame Phaneuf into playing his heart out in the playoffs than to give him a glimpse into a future in which his daughter can't find his name in the annuls of hockey legends, and his son cherishes a signed Matt Stajan jersey. Oh, and it looks like his chair of woe is adorned with Quebec Nordiques logos. The horror . . . the horror.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

And the 2013 Stanley Cup champs are . . .


I'm making a nation- rather than team-specific prediction for this year’s winner. I predict that a Canadian team will win the cup this year because the "Curse of the Kings" (a.k.a. the "The Habs Hex") has been lifted. 

Since I made up those names and the basis of the curse, I'll explain how it goes. 

The hockey gods wanted the Kings to win the 1993 Stanley Cup finals. However, when Habs coach Jacques Demers audaciously demanded to have the curvature of Marty McSorley’s stick scrutinized, the ensuing penalty for the stick infraction became the turning point in the series that ended with the Habs triumphant. In response, the hockey gods doomed Canadian clubs never to win the cup again until the Kings had fulfilled their destiny.

Now nearly 20 years later--with last year's Kings having finally realigned themselves with their postdated fate to win the cup--no fewer than four Canadian NHL teams will make the playoffs and one, as the stars have foreordained, will hoist the trophy of trophies in 2013.

Some of you might say that this curse doesn’t make sense because the Habs’ coach did nothing wrong. Well, you’re right and you’re wrong: you’re right that McSorley's penalty was warranted. But, you’re wrong in the assumption that the gods care about fairness, justice, or the laws of man in general.

Take, for example, what the Greek gods did to the Trojan priest Laocoon. 

SPOILER ALERT: Here's Laocoon (centre) dying a horrible death.

He tried to thwart the Greeks who hoped to win the Trojan War underhandedly by hiding in a wooden horse. Distrusting the enemy's gift, Laocoon proved that the horse was hollow and even rightly guessed that a platoon of soldiers could hole up inside of it. Did he become a national hero for saving the Trojans from being slaughtered by a band of Inglourious Basterds? 

Nope.

Instead, the gods punished Laocoon for almost ruining their even more inglourious basterdry by sending sea serpents to kill him. His death dissuaded others from opposing the plan to bring the horse into Troy.

Before anyone tries to excuse the gods for being a bit partial to the Greeks and maybe being slightly unfair to the Trojans, keep in mind that the sea monsters also killed Laocoon's very innocent sons who had nothing to do with the matter other than being related to a guy whom the gods hated for being a Debbie Downer. 

"Is the wooden horse a trophy for winning the war or a celebration of deforestation that will eventually lead to us being besieged by greenhouse gases? If you thought the Greeks were relentless, wait til we're invaded by a coalition of skin cancers. Also, the nails holding the horse together look rusty: anyone had a tetanus shot recently? Of course not--it hasn't been invented yet. Well, at least we won't notice the muslce-tearing, bone-fracturing spasms of tetanus when the Greeks hidden in the horse come out to burn our city to the ground." 

Yes, the Greek gods are more vengeful and less just than heroes from Tarantino movies. Although in Tarantino's defence, Wolfenstein 3D raised us all to think that killing Nazis is always okay.

Especially Robo-Hitler.

So in conclusion, before you delete that Trojan Horse virus on your computer, consider the possibility of snakes jumping out of the screen and killing you and all whom you love.

Wait, no, in conclusion, a Canadian team will win the Stanley Cup. Woo!


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Redecorating the Leafs' lockers, or, "Rudyard Kipling: Leafs Laureate"

Along with "Burn the Boats" and "Make Today Count," Randy Carlyle's rhetorical redecoration of the team's dressing room should include this poem engraved into each Leaf's locker.

"If--" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired or waiting,
For your chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.
If you can bear to hear your own fans forsaking
You for Blue Jays when your season's up;

If you can watch your picks and budding draft-ling,
Traded for your rival's hoary players,
Or play losing years, yet lose again in each year's rafflings,
And never ask to leave through trade or waivers;
If to hear the year your team last won
Twisted by knaves into a chant of scorn--
Or st see that former fame turn food for moths to feed on,
Makes you not mournful, fretful or forlorn;

If Harold Ballard's ghost shakes not your virtue,
Nor losing to the Kings on Fraser's watch;
If rarely beating Bruins doesn't vex you,
Though you remember Burke's pugnacious talk;
If you can hit the post each OT minute
And clinch the playoffs with no shootouts won,
Then yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Leaf, my son!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Spoiler alert! Bernier wins Geller Cup!

Earlier today it was reported that Jonathan Bernier is being considered for the 2013 Masterton Trophy.

Right on the heels of the announcement, Bernier has requested a trade. He's hoping to swap the award with whomever wins the Hart trophy, but he says that he'll settle for the Lady Byng or even the Geller Cup.

This Friends relic is considered the highest honour awarded for pettiness in the field of athletic achievement.  


A source who identified himself as Bernier's LA poutine connection informed me that Bernier openly derided his nomination, saying, "what did I persevere through? The adversity of finally getting a chance to do my job while Quick was on IR?"


Reports of Bernier's displeasure do not come as a surprise as he has often complained about being relegated to playing backup for Kings starter Jonathan Quick last season. The team only added further insult to Bernier's non-injury related reasons for by sending him a participant ribbon rather than a Stanley Cup ring following the Kings championship, which was predicated on Quick's Conn Smithe winning performance as LA's crease curator.

Meanwhile, a ficus located in the NHL's New York office leaked that the award probably stems from an unreported incident that afflicted the Kings backup netminder during the 2012 off-season. Bernier's ego suffered a near career-ending injury when nobody cared about him first asking and then declaring his expectations to be traded. If he hadn't immediately received emergency silent treatment from the team's medical staff, he likely would have succumbed to a common disease among disaffected goaltenders (acute Hissy Fit-itus). Bernier has denied these reports and attributed his injury to an unrelated incident involving pancakes. (Hey, that excuse worked for Penner, right?)

To cap off an already awkward situation with irony, it's possible that Jonathan Quick will be called upon to accept the award on Bernier's behalf should the backup be unwilling or unable to accept it. Quick will undoubtedly thank his broken back on Bernier's behalf for the award.


Winter Classic Countercultures

There have been a surprising number of blogs, tweets, and bellicose bar conversations in protest of the NHL's decision to expand the number of outdoor games played next year.

Yes, the NHL is cashing in on an already-profitable venture. But more than that, they are working to elevate hockey's place among the big four sports in North America. By having more outdoor games, hockey might not just become more mainstream but merge with the American psyche and/or cultural zeitgeist by becoming part of American counterculture.

Along the same lines of Woodstock for hippies and the Krusty Burger's Ribwich for Ribheads, next year's outdoor games have the potential to create discrete cultural sub-communities among hockey fans. Here are a few possibilities.

1. The Beat Generation: Like the previous beats, these fans feel beat down by the machinations of the NHL that have turned a fun, folksy sport into a billion dollar industry. To symbolize their disenfranchisement with the business of hockey, they wear the jerseys of defunct teams as they rove around the venues hosting outdoor games. They're not like the flash mobs of Quebec Nordiques fans who invade arenas to demonstrate support for the revival of an old franchise. No, the Beats have no hope in such restoration, so they wear California Golden Seals, Kansas City Scouts, Hamilton Tigers, and other jerseys with a sense of nostalgia that doesn't long for the past but indicts the present for murdering hockey's innocence. As a group, they bond by venting mutual feelings of being both under-represented and unrepresentable (note how "resent" forms both descriptions of this group) by mainstream hockey. They typically hitchhike from venue to venue, regaling drivers with elegiac tales of how the game has lost its grandeur and America, its wonder.
Don't let the beret fool you: this guy can really wail a "Go Leafs Go" chant on the bongos.

2. The Wandering Warrens: Every in-door game sees a bevy of puck bunnies, but the outdoor games will attract roving warrens of those fickle fans of the game's physical form. Dressed as though even antibiotics are unable to resist their charms, these warrenites will crowd arenas with the same density as the villainous viruses in the latter stages of Dr. Mario.

Incidentally, "Chill" (the blue virus) was intended as the microbial equivalent of the puck bunny.

At first, these groupies will resemble the "band aids" from the movie Almost Famous, but as their numbers grow, their social organization will proliferate into mutually hostile, ideologically-opposed groups. Bands of libertarian puck bunnies will clash with communist enclaves that will, in turn, at times ally themselves with and at other points clash against fascistic groups of hockey hares. The power struggles between and assaults upon each group by the others will make the struggles of bunnies in Watership Down seem like a kid's book. Wait, Watership Down was a kid's book? Jesus!

3. The Mirthful Hippies: This group is more cohesive yet nonetheless chaotic than the warring warrens of puck bunnies. Part circus, part anarchist movement, these pranksters will offer the same entertainment value as Vancouver's Green Men except on a much larger and more menacing scale. Gathering together in hippie-like communes, they will travel around in renovated school buses painted with team logos after the psychedelic aesthetic.

As with a magic-eye picture, if you let your eyes unfocus, you'll see each NHL logo existing in perfect, cosmic harmony with each other.

The problem with these hooligans is that they will persistently try to upstage the event they follow by making their mere presence a spectacle wherever they go. They will likely crash religious retreats to preach the gospels of their teams while administering Stanley-Cup superstitions like sacraments, and descend like unseasonal locusts on winter festivals held in communities hosting the outdoor games. Only a trail of regurgitated maple candy will portend the next destination to be enveloped by their fandamonium. Through these antics, these pranksters will bring havoc wherever they go in an attempt to vie against the teams they worship in terms of news coverage. In short, these fans are their team's greatest enemies.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A brief post . . .

to commemorate the Leafs making the playoffs!!!


That's a clip of my partner (the one jumping up and down), her mother and sister, and myself celebrating the Leafs trouncing the Sens last year (4 February at Scotiabank Place). How appropriate (at least for us) that the Leafs make the playoffs this year by downing the Sens yet again!

And here's a gif in anticipation of a possible Leafs-Habs match up in the first round.


Friday, 19 April 2013

The New OT: 4 on 4 then Gore on Gore

Some see fighting in hockey as a longstanding, integral part of the game, and others argue that it is a pointless sideshow that detracts from the main event. What if there was a way to appease both of these groups by enhancing the role of fighting in hockey while also making fights more meaningful--indeed, what if fights could be elevated to being not just potential game-changers but quantifiable game winners?

This shortened season has provided two controversial statistics: a marked rise in both the number of fights and of games won in the shootout. Both phenomena have caused various fans to call for each practice to be banned or to have its role diminished, but I'd rather solve the one problem with the other rather than eliminate either from the equation.

Here's what I'm proposing: at the end of OT the coaches have the option to decide the victor by shootout OR single combat. In other variations, the visiting or home coach decides which method to pursue for awarding the extra point or the refs flip a coin to determine how the game will end. Anyway, either a skills or spills competition will end the game. This method makes fighting a vital to the the game and honours its role in hockey history by uniting it with an even older pugilistic practice.

After all, single combat was used to decide the fates of the Israelites when David fought Goliath; of the Britons when Nennius fought Julius Caesar; and of the Norwegians and Danes when old Fortinbras fought old Hamlet, so why shouldn't we turn to this centuries-old tradition to settle stalemates in hockey?

In case fans are worried their team might lose because their champion is having an off night, each team could send three fighters for the single combat. The game would be decided by whichever team wins the best of three bouts. If they're tied, then just as in the shootout, teams would turn to their benches for extra fighters. This way, we'll have all the excitement of a bench-clearing brawl with all the orderliness of a registrar's office.

Oh, and if a player beats up the other team's entire bench, his team automatically wins the game regardless of whether it's in OT or regulation. We'll call this the "Darcy Tucker rule."




Now, you're probably thinking that I'm just a biased Leafs fan whose team leads the league in fights but doesn't have a single player not named "Bozak" with a shootout goal this year. You're right, but surely we can agree that deciding the winner with a skills competition is just as arbitrary as trial by combat.

Furthermore, I've heard fans complain that teams resort to boringly conservative play during OT because they don't want to screw up and miss a chance of eking out a win in the shootout. The fear of getting their faces punched in if the post-OT combat requires extra fighters will surely make the faint of heart take greater risks to win the game in OT.

If you're still not convinced, ask yourself one question. Which is more exciting to watch--

This?


Or this?



Or, in terms of the Winter Classic, this?




Thursday, 18 April 2013

Grinders of Grunge: Things I Learned at the HHOF Part 1

Some argue that Pearl Jam originated grunge music and others, Nirvana. Some see Neil Young as the prototypical grunge rocker, but others trace grunge's roots back to 70s punk rock. All these conceptions, however, are wrong as the true originators of the Seattle style that dominated 90s pop culture were the Seattle Metropolitans hockey club. This picture should settle the matter once and for all.



Unwashed, torn, faded, and disenfranchised (as the sweater explained to me) by an establishment that refuses to mention Seattle's defunct team when discussing its favorite children--the original six (or "total sell outs" as the sweater calls them). This sweater is also almost entirely ignored by the "suits" visiting the hall (except for the occasional passerby who mistakenly tosses it some change). 

This sweater is so mopey that even it's letters are sulkily slouching down as to avoid eye contact. I wouldn't be surprised if it somehow penned Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," or if we could hear the faint sound of Nirvana's "In Bloom" when we put this relic up to our ears.

In case anyone thinks this picture reflects the age rather than the attitude of the team, the picture (taken from a contemporary magazine following their Stanley Cup victory) below illustrates that grunge formed both the style and substance of the Seattle Metropolitans:



  

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

On the Habs' hegemony

There is an rogue Canadian citizen who, even as you read this post, seeks to limit our freedoms, undermine our nation's glorious traditions, impose ideologies upon us, take away our right to choose, impose a rigid conception of Canadian identity upon us, and dictate how Canadians will be seen on the international stage.

No, I'm not talking about a political party or some radical group on the fringes of Canadian society: I'm talking about a megalomaniacal Habs fan.

While attending an academic conference recently, I met a professor from Dubai who was an avid sports fan (if we can rightfully consider soccer a sport rather than a re-enactment of Sisyphus' eternal punishment).

I naturally forced the conversation away from the seemingly pointless ball-kickery of soccer to the more dynamic game of hockey. At which point in the conversation, the professor shocked me by explaining that (in his understanding) Canada has only one real hockey team. Although locals will cheer for the team playing in their city, the rest of Canada cheers for the Montreal Canadiens.

That's right: some Habs fanatic is trying to repaint Canadian history and identity in bleu, blanc, et rouge.

Had this conference taken place in Montreal, I might have understood the misunderstanding. But we were speaking less than a kilometer away from the ACC where I'm sure the ghost of Conn Smythe--disturbed from his grave by my colleague's profane statement--stalked the empty arena, bewailing this insult like a banshee and howling like a Fury for vengeance at this blasphemy spoken so near to the sanctum sanctorum of Toronto sports.

And it shouldn't just be Leafs fans who are ready to pillory the Montreal malefactor. Surely the various nations or armies of Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Jets, and Sens fans should mobilize and march in protest of this effort to redraw the hockey-ographic map of Canada. If we fail to oppose those who would decide for whom we, as a nation of sports nations, cheer, then a dystopian future assuredly awaits us (pictured below).


Behold the end of Canada and the dawn of Haberia!

In Haberia, all other Canadian teams have been abolished except for the Leafs. As their age-old nemesis, the Habs have allowed the Leafs and their fans to live out their days in the extreme northern climes of Canada where they are cordoned off into penal colonies nicknamed (after Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's influential book) "The Gulag Arch-Lupulago." 

In order to fight this insidiously approaching future, we must resort to iconophilia. While past dynasties asserted their rule by smashing icons of the previous rulers, hockey fans must do  the opposite and spread the heraldry of their teams wherever they can. Celebrate your team's every victory over the Canadiens as though it's Independence Day, carve effigies of your favourite players into the mountains, , pledge allegiance to your team's flag, set up consulates for your team's fans in other countries--do whatever it takes to stop the Habs' hegemony! 













*The awesome pic of Canada divided into hockey teams is taken from hockeygods.com. While I'm grateful for their efforts, I have to point out that they have severely marginalized the Leafs' fanbase and exaggerated the Senators' sphere of influence. 



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Liveblogging hockey/cinematic history!

1:15 PM:  Reports indicate that the Philadelphia Flyers have called up Conan the Barbarian to play for them. Right now there's no indication that this call-up involves either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jason Momoa donning the black and orange. I will update as this story unfolds.

1:17 PM: Updates indicate that Conan will be asked to play defence, but it probably won't take long for him to go on the offence against someone who killed his parents or tricked him into animating a demonic version of a god from the Hyborian Age.

1:18 PM: I have contacted James Earl Jones' reps, but they have declined to comment on Conan's apparent revival as a hockey player. No one has indicated what number he might wear.

1:19 PM: While waiting on sources, I thought I'd address the backstory of this transaction. At the trade deadline, many thought the Flyers would trade Conan to the Tampa Bay Lightning so that his constant cries of "Crom" would help form chemistry with teammate B.J. Crombeen. The Flyers organization is now relieved that deal didn't go through.

1:20 PM: Major development here, but I can't quite confirm it. Some of my sources (and I stand by the pracitce of not naming any of my sources) indicate that Conan hasn't been called up to play with the Flyers but to start in a hockey movie as a Flyers' defenceman.

 1:22: Still nothing from my unnamed source. Since he's not playing ball, I'm just going to out him. His name is Bob-Pierre McLebrunzie.

1:23 PM: Potential titles for the hockey-themed Conan installment include the following: 
1. Cimmerian Quack-tastrope: Conan Vs. The Mighty Ducks 
2. Slap Shot 4: The Riddle of Composite Blades (a.k.a. "The Riddle of Steel: Slap Shot goes Fourth")
3. Youngblood 2: Crush Your Enemies, See Them Driven Before You, and Hear the Lamentations of Their Women. 

Here's a prototype poster for option #1.


1:22 PM: I'm now hearing that Universal Pictures is trying to get the rights to make all three of the above movies, and, as a teaser, Arnold Schwarzenegger (as Conan) will play with the Philadelphia Flyers for the remainder of this season. He will also suit up with the Flyers against the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Kraft Hockeyville celebrations in the fall of 2013.

Well, there you have it. We're finally going to get a third Conan movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and, as an added bonus, he'll help the Flyers tank out the rest of the season by plundering their blue line. Hopefully the Wells Fargo Center doesn't hold a "bring your camel to the game" night. We don't want to see this happen again!  

UPDATE 3:10 PM: Apparently the Flyers have actually called up defenceman Matthew Konan from the Adirondack Phantoms. Well, perhaps some of what I wrote above can be salvaged. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

On the etymology of Nug-Ho



Earlier this week, I mentioned that I refer to Oilers' centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as Nug-Ho rather than his current nickname ("the Nuge"). Here's my justification, which I hope will turn into a grass-roots movement to re-christen him.

I'm against calling him "the Nuge" because it only reflects half of his name. Since he's pained the people responsible for stitching his jerseys, announcing his goals, designing his trading cards, etc. by insisting on having two surnames, his nickname should reference both.

Moreover, we already have enough "ooh" sounding nicknames, and they're going to cause some confusion when running into each other. How are we going to tell if fans are cheering "Looooo" or "Nuuuuge" during a Canucks-Oilers game? Also, it's impossible for TV viewers to tell if the long "ooh" sounds are cheers or boos. Since the Oilers have given their fans much to boo about this year (like when they were beat soundly by the Flames 4-1 last night), their fans would voice their occasional support more clearly if they started chanting (like a company of galley slaves) "Nug-HO! Nug-HO! Nug-HO!"

Nug-Ho would also, I hope, remind people of The Thundercats--a cartoon that aired in the late 80s, coinciding with the Oilers' heyday. (Who doesn't remember "Thundercats, Ho!"?) So the proposed nickname at once nostalgically alludes to a happier, simpler time in Edmonton's hockey history, and it also "lionizes" the current team by comparing them to the most influential group of feline superheroes in history.

With that, Nug-Ho also gives Oilers fans a chance to characterize their closest rivals in terms of the Thundercats' enemies.

  "Ancient spirits of evil, transform this decayed form to Miikka the Everliving!"


Friday, 12 April 2013

Crouching Kessel, Hidden Gardiner


The annual game of leap frog in the standings has made Leafs fans feel like they are trapped in a giant hamster ball that bounces around a giant roulette wheel. Where the ball lands is still uncertain, but the last 48 hours have seen fans elated by a possible Habs match up and then deflated by a chance that the Leafs will play Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

Since the Leafs have been all-but dominated by the Bruins over the last two years, hopeful Leafs fans have been sobered up before they even felt the intoxicating buzz of playoff hockey. Personally, I'm already having nightmares about Bruins fans celebrating a sweep of the Leafs by brandishing Swiffers with "thank you Kessel" stamped on them.

OR perhaps the dread of facing Boston is completely unfounded. Maybe Dave Nonis--seated in some dimly-lit, dystopian office--is laughing right now as everything has developed as planned.

What if the Leafs have been coy over the last two years, making it seem as though they are unable to beat the Bruins? What if, now that everyone (including the Bs themselves) expect an easy sweep if this match up happens, the Leafs shock the world by turning TD Garden into a bear-baiting ring?

Not buying it? Consider the following statistical absurdity: Phil Kessel is a point-per-game player right now, and yet he (if I'm not mistaken) hasn't scored against Boston this entire season. Furthermore, his record against Boston has been pathetic since he became a Leaf. Does Kessel simply forget how to play hockey because the sight of his old team dumbfounds him, or is he simply holding back?

I predict that Kessel is stockpiling offensive energy for the first day of the playoffs, in which he will score 42 goals, notch 39 assists, KO Tyler Seguin off the opening face off, and end the game with a +/- rating of +7. When he levelled Seguin last month, Kessel--who is likely in on the conspiracy--gave us a teaser of what's to come in the playoffs.

Here comes the #81 pain-train: destination, Sweepsville.

How will Kessel score so many goals against Boston? Simple through the Leafs' previous tampering with Tuukka Rask's DNA. Few doubt that Boston won the Rask-for-Raycroft trade in 2006. But this apparently lopsided deal may have actually been a deviously well-orchestrated attempt to infiltrate and then implode Boston's crease by sending them a goalie who is biologically wired to self-destruct this spring. The Leafs could have struck earlier, but Boston moved Tim Thomas ahead of Rask in their goalie depth. Now with Thomas' mysterious disappearance, the Leafs' patience will finally pay off.

So to recap, Leafs fans have nothing to fear because they have lulled the Bruins into a false sense of superiority, which will be shattered when Kessel unleashes his full offensive potential on a goaltender whose athletic ability has served as a Trojan horse concealing the genetic deficiencies that have turned him into something like a fifth column. Add to this conspiracy theory the possibility that Brain Burke was fired because he wouldn't cooperate with these plans, and every blunder the Leafs have made over the last seven years suddenly seems ingenious.

Still not convinced? Consider this last point: Nonis' name backwards is Sinon, which is the name of the guy who convinced the Trojans to tear down their walls and bring the Trojan horse into the city.








Thursday, 11 April 2013

If I ran the Oilers . . .

Last night's Oilers-Coyotes game ended in an infuriatingly interesting way for Edmonton fans: with over two-and-a-half minutes left in the game, the Oilers pulled goalie Dubnyk for the extra attacker. After incurring a penalty over a minute later, they reinserted Dubnyk for the PK, and the Coyotes promptly scored. These events inspired me to play anarchist armchair coach today.

Self-portrait.

Following that game-spoiling goal, a lot of people were probably thinking, "Why even bother having a goalie in the first place!?!" And yet those same people would probably think that the Oil should put either Dubnyk or Khabibulin in net for the next game. To that I would say, "Did you learn nothing from last night? Shouldn't the Oilers stick with icing six skaters from now on?"

During the eighteen-wheeler's plummet last year, the Leafs ended many losing games by pulling their goalies. While they rarely got the equalizer goal(s), the Leafs did have an impressive streak of not having empty-net goals scored against them. Unfortunately for my insane machinations, the Leafs are doing better this year so I haven't been able to propose that they ice six skaters and no goalies. But now, hopefully, Edmonton's desperation has renewed interest in the topic.

Surely the Oilers have the offensive talent to keep the puck in the attacking zone for most of the game. They'll need a goalie for a few minutes at the beginning of periods, when killing penalties, and after goals, but other than that, they should have faith that Hall, Yakupov, Eberle, Nug-Ho (that's my nickname for Nugent-Hopkins, and I'm sticking with it), Gagne, Paajarvi, and J. Schultz have the skill to hem the puck in the opponent's zone. After all, my wrists are feeling repetitive strain just from having to type out the names of all their star-calibre players!

Aside from generating interest among non-Oilers fans, icing six skaters for the majority of the game would be instructive. When a team tanks, onlookers inevitably opine as to whether defensive lapses or inept goaltending is to blame. By removing the goalies from the equation, commentators will be able to weigh in on this age-old debate with better statistics. Meanwhile, the young players may learn to develop a stronger esprit du corps and respect for their goalies when they have to bear the burden of every goal against.

Or perhaps it will show the world that Edmonton really needs a better goaltender as having none is keeping them more competitive than icing either of their current options in net. In which case they can send a signa

Of course, there's a strong chance that forcing the young Oilers to fend for themselves will quickly make the team devolve into Lord of the Flies levels of depravity. But, on the plus side, Oil Change will become both a gripping reality TV thriller and a critically acclaimed anthropological study on the dark side of human nature.

Proposed cover for the upcoming Oil Change DVD. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Who's your CWHL team?

Orestes: Women who serve this house, they come like gorgons, they wear robes of black, and they are wreathed in a tangle of snakes . . . . These are no fancies of affliction. They are clear, and real, and here; the bloodhounds of my mother's hate . . . . Ah, lord Apollo, how they grow and multiply, repulsive for the blood drops of their dripping eyes.
(Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers)

I love the Toronto Furies not on account of where they play, their partnership with the Leafs, nor even their decision to wear the Leafs' colours. Rather, I'm a Furies fanatic because they are one of the few North American sports teams that appeals to my geeky interest in classical literature. Indeed, they chose a name that both better reflects my research interests and better expresses a team's desire to win through badassery than the Toronto Argonauts.

The Furies or Erinyes, cthonic deities of vengeance from Greek and Roman mythology, had snaky hair, blood-drops streaming from their eyes, and (sometimes) wings. They pursued wrongdoers relentlessly. While driving their targets insane and making them ill, the Furies would also afflict entire communities who harboured transgressors by making them suffer disease and dearth.

Some traditions claim that they sprang to life from the blood of Uranus after he was castrated by his son, Saturn. Is there a better way for a women's hockey team to assert their determination to carve out a niche for themselves in a male-dominated sport than to name the franchise after creatures that evoke emasculation? The closest thing would be the Amazons who supposedly cut off their right breasts they got in the way of their throwing or arrow-drawing arms.

Here's a picture of two Furies during some down time.

   "Don't you hate it when your hair bites your wings?" "Well, as a vengeance goddess such as yourself, I hate pretty much everything."

These lounging figures might not looking threatening, but they're probably just letting their last victim digest before seeking out the next one. Unlike other figures in classical mythology who became unemployed and forgotten following the spread of Christianity, the Furies were kept on the underworld payroll and assigned to administering infernal affairs in the lowest circle of hell in Dante's Inferno.

So Toronto's CWHL team has chosen a nickname that corresponds with unfailing, unfaltering, and nearly indefatigable female vengeance. All they need now is a new jersey that better captures their ferocious self-image. Might I suggest the following?




Sunday, 7 April 2013

An Uneven Sc-Orr, or, A Raw Orr-deal

I don't want to debate the role of fighting in hockey; rather, I'm writing to air a grievance regarding a specific fight that topped off an already-terrible night for Leafs fans: last Thursday's bout between Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill (formerly of Leafs infamy).

To recap, Orr fought Rosehill in retaliation for a hit that sent Lupul out of the lineup for the rest of the week (and perhaps much, much longer).

Orr's motivation to pick and his subsequent loss in a fight with Rosehill reminds me of a satirical piece that Richard Steele wrote in The Tatler back in 1709. Steele suggests that when a person challenges another to a duel, he's really saying something like the following:

"Your extraordinary Behaviour . . . and the Liberty you were pleas'd to take with me, makes me . . . give you this [letter], to tell you, because you are an ill-bred Puppy, I will meet you . . . an Hour hence; and because you want both Breeding and Humanity, I desire you would come with a Pistol in your Hand . . . and endeavour to shoot me through the head to teach you more Manners . . . . Sir, if you will not injure me more, I shall never forgive what you have done already."

Like the typical duelist described by Steele, Orr fought in order to make an example of Philly's enforcer so that others would think twice before taking liberties with the Leafs' star players. And given the outcome of the bout, Orr may as well have initiated it by saying, "How 'bout you throw me some faceward punches 'til I drop?"

What Steele doesn't mention is the investment of others watching two men duel. Fans shouldn't expect Orr to win every fight, but surely the hockey gods should smile on him when he's trying to pummel someone for a just cause. Instead, Rosehill beats Orr in the fight and then scores the game-winning goal. 

Maybe Lupul will bounce back from this injury quickly, and there will not have been any need for Rosehill to face a divine reckoning. But if this latest injury ends Lupul's season (or even jeopardizes his career), it will be the most inglorious blow to athleticism in terms of skill and aesthetics since a snarling, hairy boar killed Adonis.



Lupul's beauty isn't a matter of taste but vision: if you disagree, you are obviously blind.

Maybe I expect too much from the universe, but civilizations have literarily been destroyed for lesser offences than the heinous misfortune that has befallen the Leafs. Was it too much to ask for a bottomless pit to appear momentarily in the Wells Fargo Center so that Orr could kick Rosehill down the chasm like Leonidas did to the Persian messenger in 300


"This is Taranna!"

Friday, 5 April 2013

Apocalupes Now

With Lupul missing practice today with what everyone suspects and Randy Carlyle dares not identify as a concussion, we're all left to wonder how the team plans to move forward (for now at least) without one of their top emotional and scoring leaders. Since we won't get access at the level of HBO's NHL 24/7 until next year, we can only speculate about what's being said in the dressing room.

Let me begin the discussion by speculating wildly. Here's my impression (or, if you will, overly dramatic representation) of events that may have occurred earlier today between Carlyle and the team following practice.

The Maple Leafs' dressing room. Enter MACARTHUR, PHANEUF, and MCCLEMENT as returning from practice. Music: a dead march.

MacArhur: How are we going to steady the boys after last night, Neuf?

Phaneuf (staring off distantly): Mac, we gotta . . . buckle down. We're a good team--give us credit. We're not making any excuses. Injuries happen. We have to . . . deal . . . with that and carry on. No one's quitting.

Enter CARLYLE.

McClement: Randy, is Lupes at home or still being seen by the physicians?

Carlyle: No matter where. Of comfort no man speak!
             Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,
             Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
             Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
             Let's call our scouting staff and talk of picks.
             It must be so; for what else can we compete
             Save a higher pick in the choicest round?
             For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
             And tell sad stories of the death of Leafs--
             How some have been concussed, some scratched in health,
             Some haunted by old teammates who were waived,
             Some poisoned by the press, some sleeping traded.

Exeunt severally.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Trade deadline epilogue

I'd just like to dedicate this song to all of the players who were traded today.

Surgite!!!

Deadline Diatribes: Liveblogging the Trade Showdown

All times are Mountain, which means I woke up two hours earlier than last year (grr).

6:30ish: When asked which former GM did more to help their team get to where they are this season, both Craig Button and Shane Hnidy picked Scott Howson over Brian Burke. I assume TSN's just lashing out after their formerly unlimited supply of Burkie dogs abruptly ended this season.

7:26 AM: With nothing doing on the trade front, TSN might consider the following ways to jazz up their coverage:
1. Make the commentators wear a variety of silly hats.
2. Have the main panelists switch outfits during commercial breaks.
3. Direct the trade experts (often visible in the background) hold copies of classic literature rather than their smart phones.
4. See who can slip in the most "meows" during their analysis without laughing.
5. Take product placement to the next level: Timbit fight!!!

7:43 AM: Of course, the TSN coverage could be more entertaining if segments like Either-Or had some debate involved. Has the network whipped the vote this year, or are they treating these moments of potential disagreement and conflict as team-building exercises? The unrelenting sense agreement and collegiality is making me actually miss Nick Kypreos, so I'm switching to Sportsnet for now.

8:06 AM: So far Sportsnet seems committed to not taking themselves seriously in all the right ways: getting Marty McSorley to reminisce about terrorizing teammates, showing bloopers of players arriving at practice, and blaring 80s hair metal while going to commercial breaks.

8:13 AM: Things I've learned thus far #1: Phil Kessel doesn't park his car let alone his self in front of an opponent's net.

8:28 AM: The best part of the Strombolopoulos-Kypreos Sportsnet skit is Strombo's reaction: he's not devastated by losing his show but the fickleness of Canadians for not only dumping him but hastily starting a new relationship with Kypreos as though their eight-year relationship with Strombo meant nothing!!!

8:43 AM: I think it's time to distinguish between a fire sale and a fire ship. A fire sale, of course, involves a foundering team unloading assets for picks and prospects that will aid a rebuild. A fire ship, however, refers to a military tactic in which one opponent sends flaming boats loaded with explosives toward its enemy's fleet.  In trade terms, a fire ship involves a team sending a bad contract to an opponent in the guise of a fire sale (Jay Bouwmeester, anyone?). The foundering team thereby strengthens itself not only by unloading an expensive roster player and accumulating assets for the future, but by also hampering the future success of its rivals.

 Artist's rendering of Luongo arriving at Toronto Harbour.


9:02 AM: I originally planned to write up a trade-deadline drinking game blog ahead of today's coverage. I'm glad I dropped that plan now that Darren Millard has one-upped the idea by suggesting that the Sportsnet panel actually start playing one (beer pong). #AllYourBaseAreBelongToUs

9:10 AM: Maybe the NHL could liven up deadline day by giving fans a vote: based on a poll conducted via social media, fans can send one player (from a list pre-selected by the league) to a team of their choosing. #fandemonium

9:16 AM: With Gene Principe nearly getting run over while reporting on location, trade-deadline day ironically gains a pulse by almost getting a body count.

9:33 AM: Doug MacLean says he wants the NHL to investigate the Flames for cap circumvention if Kiprusoff retires after this season, but his rancor suggests that nothing less than charging #34 with treason will satiate MacLean's bloodlust induced by today's deadline-doldrums. Meanwhile, Kypreos reports on the matter by dusting off an age-old medium of social media: yelling from his off-screen desk.

9:43 AM: There's still no pun on nhl.com regarding Kiprusoff's decision. My prediction for the upcoming headline is "Kipper's off (the table)." Update 10:01 AM: My personal preference for the headline would be "The Old Man and the (Flaming) 'C'". Update 10:24: Had the trade gone through, I would have picked "Let's Miikka Deal!"

9:47 AM: Seeing Denis Potvin in his tight, baby blue underwear has scarred me for life in ways that conventional torture never could.

10:12 AM: Breaking--James Reimer apologizes for calling the deadline a "distraction." This could be the most Seinfeld-esque moment in the history of sports retractions: Reimer has made an apology about nothing in order to bury the hatchet with nobody (well, maybe the always-irate Doug MacLean, but even he seemed indifferent to the unremarkable aspersions that Reimer cast upon TD-Day).

10:32 AM: Too many people who play armchair GM focus on trades alone. What about abusing the power that goes along with trades? For example, if I were Dave Nonis, I'd play ambiguous and ambivalent music at Mastercard Centre today while the the Leafs and Marlies practise. Imagine pondering your place in either organization while a continuous loop of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" serenades your self-doubt and trade anxiety.

10:53 AM: I hear that the Leafs have approved switching from using DVDs to Blu-rays for video coaching. That may be as close as they get to acquiring an impact player.

10:59 AM: Since the trades are coming in slowly, I wonder if the networks covering the deadline might disclose the names of players swapped through charades with their fellow panelists. I wonder what sounds like "Luongo."

11:23 AM: I'm not looking forward to dealing with this year's post-trade hangover. Sooner or later, we'll all sober up after being intoxicated with the many deals over the last week. In the sometimes bleary, sometimes glaring light of hindsight, we'll begin to question the NHL's life choices as well as the meaning of life itself given its many absurdities and injustices. Iginla's undislikeable smile will always look photoshopped onto a Penguins player no matter how long he wears that uniform. Conversely, Flames fans will likely photoshop a picture of Iginla with the cup so that it looks like he won it back in '04 with the Flames. While some fans counterfeit history to assuage their sense of loss, somewhere in Florida, Jarred Smithsom has to explain to his wife and newborn child that they've been banished from Sunshine to Edmonton.

11:49 AM: Well, one commentator just decided to take trade-deadline reporting to a biblical level. Here's the tweet:


Reason for lack of trades today? Crosby's jaw is wired shut, meaning he can't reach out and speak to other players.


That's right. What appeared the other night as a freak accident was actually the hockey gods smiting an infidel for tampering with the holiest of holy sacraments--the trade--by wooing Iginla by proxy. With Sidney (a.k.a. "Sid the kid," a.k.a. "The Whore of Babylon") Crosby on the sidelines, GMs can undertake transactions without #87's impious interference.

Of course any failure on behalf of the NHL to enact supplemental discipline will undoubtedly be seen by the spiteful deities as hubristic adherence to the laws of man rather than awful deference to the ways of the gods. We'll likely see the ice in the Consol Energy Center be changed into blood and frogs will rain down upon the Pens-NYR game tonight. We will not have seen such undeniable evidence of divine vengeance since the hockey gods cursed Jaromir Jagr never to win the cup again after he chopped off his immaculate mullet.

12:24 PM: I haven't seen any white smoke pluming out of the Saddledome, so I guess the Flames have finished making their trades.

12:29 PM: So the Flyers are going to fix a problem with one over-hyped and/or underachieving goaltender by trading for another one? Next, they might consider retiring the team's plane and travelling only by Titanic and Hindenburg.

12:55 PM: I appreciate the honest journalistic exchange happening on Sportsnet right now. Damien Cox, Doug MacLean, et al. want to see Luongo traded not because it makes sense at this time for the Canuck or Leafs. They're just sick of discussing this always-imminent but never culminating trade.

1:00 PM: Commentators gripe about having to get makeup done at 6AM. #manplaining

1:05 PM: With the deadline passed, now's the time I wonder if teams start using shenanigans to break the rules like undergraduate students. The old "I tried to email you about this; I guess it got lost it cyberspace" or the "I slipped the trade notice under your office door before the deadline" might come in handy now.

1:25 PM: I'd love to see Damien Cox coach a team in Toronto (at any level). He has no patience for any Toronto-based excuse like the pressure of the big market, the constant media attention, and the unpredictability of the metro system. "Got run over by a streetcar Kessel? Well, quit crying and walk that protruding bone back into place, princess."

1:28 PM: Luongo on reason why he can't be traded: "My contract sucks." Yep, fair enough. Still, you have to feel for the guy: he looks like he sees himself as an unbearable weight weighing down a sinking ship. Nevertheless, I'd still avoid calling his contract an albatross: it's not like Luongo has to play with a bunch of grumpy zombies who were killed and reanimated because a fellow seaman killed an albatross. After all, zombie Kesler would probably be healthier, less-accident prone, and more productive than the living version. #RimeOfTheAncientMariner

2:04 PM: Well, I think this is a wrap for the live blogging. Please follow me on twitter (@RinkRover) for more discussion on the day's events. Thanks everyone for reading the blog today!



Monday, 1 April 2013

Lupul's accolade endangers player safety and the game's integrity

Joffrey Lupul's selection as the NHL's first star of the week poses a danger to player safety and the integrity of the game. While some might see the award as both deserving and inspiring given Lupul's outstanding performance after an unfortunate injury earlier this season, #19's success will undoubtedly lead to copycat injuries by players hoping to find a quick fix to their offensive problems. The reason for the imminent rise in player injuries can be summed up in a single image:

This smiling face is responsible for an as-yet unrecorded  spike in player-induced injuries during the 1990s.

Today's generation of NHL stars grew up watching Rookie of the Year, and many enjoyed the film's fanciful depiction of adversity translating into unmerited opportunity: Henry Rowengartner suffers a broken arm in an accident and subsequently develops the ability to pitch like a major leaguer at age 12. For players frequently told that no one gets easy breaks on their journey to the big leagues, the fictional Rowengartner offered a resounding (albeit squeaky-voiced) exception.

Until now, Rowengartner's success has not posed a serious threat to the safety and integrity of major-league sports: self-inflicted injury has not yet eclipsed doping as an athlete's top choice for fabricating a competitive edge. With Lupul's recent success, however, trainers will likely begin helping players break limbs rather than giving them "B-12" shots.

It may seem far-fetched that a little-known baseball movie will turn Lupul into an insidious example for his hockey colleagues, but 21st century coverage of pro sports and reality TV offer support for this claim. With the popularity of NHL 24/7 and other shows offering unprecedented access to athletic clubs, it's possible that kids who grew up with Rookie of the Year will misremember it as an early installment of HBO's The Franchise. Aiding this false memory is the anomaly of Gary Busey, whom players probably know to be famous for unknown reasons. It's perhaps more likely that players today will remember Busey as a former pitcher for the Cubs than a one-time Academy Award nominee (for The Buddy Holly Story in 1979).    

With that in mind, don't be surprised if the NHL team suffering the most injuries this season makes the most unexpected transaction on deadline day by hiring of Gary Busey (Rowengartner's pitching mentor) as a player development specialist.

Had his mentorship with a madman continued, Rowengartner would have become a more deranged disciple than Dennis Hopper's character in Apocalypse Now.