Sunday, 30 June 2013

Draft Blog!

I'm live blogging the draft today! Hopefully this event offers as much humour as the Trade Deadline did!

1:05PM: Gary Bettman responds to boos from the crowd by saying that he loves the energy in the room. He could have made an awesome heel in professional wrestling!

1:09PM: Anyone else hoping that Colorado throws us all for a loop and drafts a fictitious Japanese player from the fictitious Japanese team (The Katanas)?

1:10PM: Wait, did the Newark crowd boo Joe Sakic when he thanked Lou Lamoriello? They really do like being the Devils' advocates!

1:12 PM: Apparently the Avalanche thought that the Leafs' idea of creating hostility at every position is the best way to move forward with the organization. The Avs have so many centres, they should call themselves the Colorado Chakras.

1:16 PM: Wow, Tallon has incorporated the soul of brevity.

1:17PM: Seth Jones breathes a sigh of relief as he won't have to explain what hockey is and how it's his career to residents of Sunshine, Florida.

1:19PM: Anyone want to take bets on which player Pierre McGuire will freak out over the most when a team passes him up?

1:20PM: Kudos to whomever arranged for Live's "Lightning Crashes" to play right when Tampa Bay's turn to pick came.

1:21PM: When Steve Yzerman became GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he made it clear that he wasn't interested in defence. While I don't agree with his position and his decision not to draft Seth Jones, I have to admire him for standing by that resolution.

1:24PM: Unless a T-Rex is about to save Drouin from hungry raptors, it's entirely inappropriate to play the Jurassic Park theme at the NHL Draft.

1:25 PM: I do, however, hope that someone plays the Jurassic Park theme at the NBA draft whenever Toronto loses out on a top prospect.

1:29PM: So far consistency has been the biggest winner at the draft: the Avs add another centre, the Bolts continue to neglect defence, and the Preds pick another d-man.

1:31 PM: Why did James Duthie remind an already disappointed Seth Jones that he not only didn't go 1st overall in the draft but also lost the Memorial Cup this year? Will TSN follow up that interview by informing Jones during the post-draft interviews that his hamster died?

1:39PM: I'd like to think that the Newark crowd is applauding Jay Feaster's statement on the 2013 Alberta Floods to show support for flood victims. However, based on how they have booed everything else, I wonder if they're actually cheering for the Bow and Elbow Rivers that started the whole ordeal for the province.

1:42PM: Calgarians breath a collective sigh of relief as Jay Feaster makes a decent (if unsurprising) pick.

1:45 PM: I don't know if we're ready to live in a world where both of Alberta's NHL teams draft wisely. Am I watching a bizarro draft?

1:55PM: Unexpected side effect of the #nhlDraft: remembering (after months of only watching playoff teams) all the cities that have NHL franchises.

"When did Nashville get a team again? Did the league have to give them a franchise because it lost a bet?"

1:59PM: The RCMP has been called in to investigate reports that the Vancouver Canucks have been robbed by some gang from New Jersey.

2:03PM: Anyone want to co-write a script for a buddy cop movie starring Luongo and Torts as #Canucks by day and private investigators by night?

2:04 PM: Wow, Canucks just shut me up by using that pick acquired for Schneider by getting an outstanding player. I'm a big fan of Bo Horvat.

2:14PM: Not many people are viewing the blog, so I'm going to switch to live tweeting the event. Follow me: @RinkRover

Friday, 28 June 2013

Logos Gone Loco: Part II of My NHL Entry Draft Analysis

Yesterday's post criticized the logo being used for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. While I generally think that the NHL's selection fails to represent New Jersey's people and culture adequately, it is nevertheless superior to many logos that the league has used in the past.

Here's a list of the worst draft logos in NHL history (complete with some notes on the history of the draft itself!).

NOTE: These logos have not been altered; they are real designs used (or intended to be used) in real drafts.

The Flawed Designs

The NHL has become a major entertainment enterprise, but it wasn't always so successful. Taking a look at logos from past drafts helps us to appreciate the humble roots of this sports empire.

Take, for example, the hastily composed logo for the 1989 draft in Minnesota.

Maybe design was a lot less ambitious back then, but it would take a person less than two minutes to create this promotional material using MS Paint today. The placement of the NHL's and Minnesota North Stars' logos are, at best, minimalist and, at worst, indifferent to putting any effort into making the draft look cool.

Also, what's going on with the text and format of this poster? Shouldn't it be "1989 Annual Congress AND Entry Draft?" Why is the location formatted as "Minnesota, Minneapolis" instead of "Minneapolis, Minnesota" under the title? Why is the NHL's logo a registered trademark but not Minnesota's?

I should note that this underachieving logo was the first (at least the earliest that I could find) used to promote the draft to a wide audience. I guess the league's marketing department felt that it was best to set the bar low, but draft logos didn't improve quickly after that.

This logo appears to be the most egalitarian in the history of the draft because it uses the symbol of the NHL as well as the logo of each team. The only problem with that utopian reading of this design is that the symbol of the New York Rangers is placed above all the other teams and is noticeably larger than the others. 

Why did the NHL decide to proclaim that the Rangers were above all the other teams? They couldn't have been giving a special shout-out to the host city as this draft was held in Montreal. They weren't acknowledging the Rangers as the team with the top pick in the draft: that honour belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. So why elevate the Rangers over everyone else?

What's even stranger is that the NHL didn't have to put the Rangers at the apex of this arc. While most of the teams are in alphabetical order, the LA Kings are placed right after the Edmonton Oilers and before the Hartford Whalers. If the league didn't object to screwing up the order slightly, why not put the host city at the top instead of the New York Rangers? 

Feel free to share any explanations for this oddity; I may use them to develop another episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

The League Leaks Its Megalomaniacal Scheme

The 1992 draft began a trend of incorporating the globe into promotional materials. Here are a few examples:

This design, used from 1993-1998, omitted team logos. Instead of acknowledging the host team, the ads simply announced the host city. The "world as puck bursting through the text" visual became an unfortunate design choice in one instance (pictured below).

Based on this regrettable use of colour, the 1998 event should have been called the "NHL Exit Wound Draft."

If studying propaganda has taught me anything, it's that depictions of the world in state-sponsored or commercial art always has some ideological import. In the famous "Armada Portrait" of Elizabeth I, the queen's hand is placed over North America on a globe as the Spanish Armada is destroyed in the background. Critics have long interpreted this to be a sign of England's attempt to exert more influence in the New World after defeating the Spanish.

So what does the NHL's use of the globe mean? There's no telling exactly what magalomaniacal plans of Bond-villain proportions the league was machinating in the 90s. Perhaps they planned to brainwash prospects in order to create a regiment of super-soldiers that would colonize areas depicted in the logos in the name of the NHL. Or perhaps the NHL was merely leaking the areas that it planed to target when next relocating old and/or creating new franchises.

Whatever may have been their intent, the league quickly dropped this practice and instead used logos that showed a blank globe.
Did the blank globe mean that the NHL was wiping megalomaniacal plans off its agenda? Or was the league merely hiding its plans in plain sight by lulling the world into believing that it didn't harbour such autocratic aspirations?

Star-Spangled Logos

The logo used for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft continues a longstanding tradition of incorporating stars into designs for the draft (regardless of whether or not stars have anything to do with the host team). 

If I owned the Dallas Stars, I'd consider suing the host teams for appropriating my team's iconography. It wouldn't be okay for teams to include ducks, jets, or lumberjacks in other draft logos, so why is it okay to use stars as though Dallas had no exclusive claim to its own symbols?

Here are a couple other examples of teams that have shamelessly ripped off Dallas' namesake.

Not only does this logo appear nearly fall-down drunk, but it's also propelling the puck with an elongated part of its body that appears to protrude from where we'd imagine the leaf's groin would be if it were a person. I assume that we are supposed to assume that this leaf is humanoid since leaves and other flora are incapable of playing hockey. 

So, if you owned the Dallas Stars, would you be cool with your team's symbol being tattooed to this lewd leaf? 

While Toronto's logo denigrates Dallas' namesake, at least it's more upfront than Florida's similar misappropriation of the Stars' nickname.
Nice try, Florida, but you're not slipping this one by us. We all know that Earth's sun is actually a star. Florida's self-consciously cute attempt to get away with copyright infringement makes this logo an even worse slap in the face for Dallas!

Of course, other patterns that the NHL tried to use to promote the draft were problematic. Here's one of the earliest logos used.

Maybe it's just me, but inverted monochromatic triangles always make me think of symbols used to designate internees at Nazi concentration camps. 

 It's probably best that the NHL ruffles Dallas' feathers by using stars in their logos than reviving geometric shapes used by the Nazis.  

Teams Using Logos to Lash Out Against the NHL

Some logos suggest that the draft is a celebration of the host's team rather than what it means for the league as a whole: an absurdly glamorized way for the NHL as a business to take inventory.

Problems with the team-first approach to draft logos may explain why this year's logo does not specifically refer to the New Jersey Devils. Here are some examples good logos gone bad.

A. Infighting Between the Ottawa Senators and NHL

This logo appeals well to Senators fans. If you support the Black, Red, and Yellow, you probably have some affinity for Ottawa itself. This logo celebrates that connection between the team and its host city by featuring the Peace Tower prominently. By incorporating Canada's parliament building, this logo also bolsters the notion that the Sens are Canada's team because they are located in the nation's capital and are closely associated with Canada's nationalistic architecture. 

Ottawa's franchise subtlly express dominance over the NHL as a whole in this logo by enveloping the league's symbol with the Senators' chevron pattern. I actually find this logo to be quite tasteful and effective if only because it improves upon the embarrassing logo that Ottawa was going to use for the 2005 draft.

Due to the 2004-05 lockout, the league had to scale back the draft. This downgrading of the event included cancelling plans to hold it at Ottawa's Corel Centre (later known as Scotiabank Place; now known as Canadian Tire Centre;* and possibly soon to be known as the Roll Up the Rim Arena).

To reflect that change, the league quickly developed this soulless, bland logo that epitomized the doom and gloom that plagued hockey fans after the canceled season.
If it were up to me, I would have added "rink wraiths" to this logo: ghastly depictions of Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Felix Potvin, and other players who were denied their final season before retirement would stare hauntingly at the viewer from this logo.

The Sens should consider the lockout that spoiled their draft party as a blessing because it gave them ample time to reconsider their logo. Here's what was going to be used to promote the festivities in 2005.

At first glance, this logo just looks like a slightly less refined version of the one used in 2008. There's no Peace Tower, which diminishes the logo's Ottawa-ness, but the bigger problem with this design involves the misshapen maple leaf at the top.

Did the designer intend for this logo to appear as though the NHL was engulfed in flames? If so, was that an eerie coincidence that just happened to foreshadow the disastrous NHL lockout? Alternatively, did the Senators propose this design to express their Guy Fawkesian desire to burn down the oppressive regime that would ruin an entire season for the sake of the salary cap? 

The only other canceled season in NHL history happened due to the "Spanish Flu" pandemic, so it's not surprising that a team might use a subversive logo to voice anger at the pecuniary plague that killed the 2004-05 season.

While this logo suggests some hostility toward the NHL, it also offers a rather humiliating representation of the Sens themselves. If you noticed the partial appearance of the Sens logo on the left side of the image, you're probably wondering where the rest of the Roman General's face is. Did he fail to keep his head up and subsequently collide face-first into the draft logo? 

Perhaps the NHL chose to deface the Sens' symbol as a response to the design's Guy Fawkes theme. Indeed, if you take another look at this logo, you'll see that it's designed as a struggle between the NHL and Senators to dominate the image. The colours in the rink portion of the picture are the NHL's grey and black rather than (as in the 2008 logo) the Sens' black and red. Furthermore, while the Sens' chevrons are besieging the NHL, their exemplar's attempt to take a run at the league has ended with a fatal concussion since his face appears to have been caved in.  

Perhaps the Sens and NHL put their differences aside after the lockout and symbolized their renewed cordiality by placing the Peace Tower at the top of this logo. This symbol is particularly significant as replaces the Sens' Fawkesian hostility with the Canadian equivalent of the object that Fawkes tried to destroy. 

So there you have it: these three logos offer the story of the conflict and eventual reconciliation between the NHL and the Sens.   

B. The Columbus Blue Jackets Host the 2007 Draft

The most recent defiance of the old saying that there is no "i" in "league" comes from the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose logo for the 2007 draft seems, at first, to be whisking the NHL logo away with it. The swooping motion implied by how the words are designed suggests that Columbus is swinging on a vine and, after saying "Me Tarzan, you Jane" to the NHL's symbol, taking the league on an adventure in the jungles of Ohio.

However, that romanticized (and somewhat chauvinistic) representation of the relationship between Columbus and the league as a whole is merely a facade. If you probe this logo's meaning further, you'll see that it is like a menacing revision of the "suicide king" found in decks of cards.

Take a look at Columbus' star: see how that one point seems to be driven through the NHL's logo? Did the designer intend to impale the league on the symbol of its newest franchise? That seems to be the case as the skewered symbol of the league seems to be pouring forth blood that turns into the banner announcing the draft.

So is this logo trying to suggest that the NHL made a fatal mistake by giving Columbus an expansion franchise, or did the Blue Jackets propose a design that subtly expressed its baseless hatred of the league as a whole?

If the Blue Jackets approved this hostile logo, it wouldn't surprise me to discover one day that the team had defected to the KHL. Here's what I imagine their new logo would look like: 

The Blue Jackets were named after soldiers who fought for the North during the American Civil War. To continue this tradition of naming themselves after the victors of brutally divisive conflicts, the relocated franchise will rename itself as the Columbus Soviets.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Logos Gone Loco: Part I of My NHL Entry Draft Analysis

With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft mere days away, it seems appropriate to address an oft-overlooked aspect of that event.

While bloggers diligently compare every prospect against his contemporaries and predecessors through a slew of assessments and reassessments of each draftling prior to the NHL's annual initiation ceremony, few (if any) discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the logos used for each draft.

In order to fill this gap in NHL coverage, I'm offering my analysis of past and present logos used to promote the draft. The first part of this series will analyze the current logo and offer some suggestions for improvement.

Tomorrow I'll offer a (hopefully) humourous history of how the NHL has branded the draft. I'll also provide commentary on singularly absurd logos that have been used over the last 20+ years.

The current logo

Here's the logo for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. This logo gives us an insight into what the US map would look like if all the other states crumbled into either the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The image chosen gives me the same sort of underwhelming feeling as when I found out what vital organs actually look like. It's neat to know, but the shape itself doesn't tell me anything about New Jersey--it's people, culture, and contributions to the world.

What's worse: this logo doesn't do anything to get me psyched for the draft. This promotional material makes me think that the event will be a dull affair. Surely New Jerseyans have much more to offer us than a cake-pan representation of their state's shape.

Moreover, this approach to designing draft logos itself is flawed. While this state's outline, which vaguely resembles a chicken wing or a human kidney ravaged by life in New Jersey, isn't aesthetically appealing, it's at least somewhat distinct. If the NHL tried to replicate this design for drafts held in either of the Dakotas, Kansas, Wyoming, or Colorado, the logos would be rather indistinct as as all of these states look like slightly misshapen rectangles.

My final criticism is that this logo doesn't allude at all to the New Jersey Devils. Indeed, like many of the logos that I will discuss tomorrow, it not only neglects the pride of Newark, but it also seems to pay homage to Dallas' NHL team by including stars to the design.

So how could the NHL have developed a logo that epitomizes New Jersey? Here are three suggested approaches and examples for each design.

A. Rely on NHL, TSN, and New Jersey Star Power

I swear that I did not use MS Paint to produce the image below. Putting NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, TSN personality James Duthie, and Snooki from Jersey Shore together never would have occurred to me despite my often-feral imagination. Only the absurdness of reality could concoct a way to bring these three together, and the NHL should have seized upon this serendipitous (or sangria-dipitous) moment to produce a unique draft logo. (Thanks to James Duthie for sharing this picture--minus the draft logo--on twitter.)

 I can only imagine that this was taken after TSN shot it's latest sketch (a Jersey Shore-like reality series on draft prospects partying before selection day). Or, maybe HBO had these three film cameos for a Boardwalk Empire and NHL 24/7 crossover.

Note that Duthie and Snooki have no reservations about being photographed with alcoholic beverages in their hands. Daly might seem more straight-laced by clutching his smartphone rather than a drink, but I'm willing to bet that he has something harder than liquor (perhaps a vat of adrenochrome?) in the hand hidden behind Snooki.  

To me, this logo epitomizes what New Jersey is all about: strange re-configurations of social groups produced by drunken mingling. Duthie's demonic eyes also evoke the legendary "Jersey Devil" that is said to haunt the state, so there's an extra shout-out to New Jersey's history of getting rid of an extra child by turning it into a dragon-like thing and letting it fly away, and/or of carrying on an extramarital affair with the devil.

B. Rebranding an Iconic Album

There is perhaps no celebrity from New Jersey who is more famous than Bruce Springsteen. In order to boost the draft's profile, the NHL might consider appropriating "The Boss'" most iconic album.

This logo includes the bonus track "Forechecking in the Dark."

This logo helps to promote the NHL in the USA (one of Gary Bettman's mandates) by making each selection (regardless of where he's from) American as all of their NHL careers were born in the United States. The picture itself will also encourage the audience to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" before and after every selection as each pick is a win for America. 

As a sideshow, the league could have Hulk Hogan (dressed in a Philadelphia Flyers jersey) fight all three mascots of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi to settle a contentious debate enveloping professional sports today. Having Hogan landscape eat mascot's face with body slams will declare to the world that, even though more and more players are signing lucrative deals overseas, the NHL will beat the KHL in the Hockey Cold War.   

C. Embracing New Jersey's Counterculture

Instead of revising a famous album to suit the NHL's political interests and wage a ridiculous ideological war with Russia, the league might develop a logo that pays homage to the most famous movies set in New Jersey. 

I'm talking, of course, about the loosely-connected septology that comprises Kevin Smith's "Viewaskiewniverse."

I bet the NHL could even get Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes to do the post-draft interviews (in character as Jay and Silent Bob) with prospects. By doing so, the league will break the record for "total number of F-bombs dropped in a sports show" that is currently held by Bruce Boudreau following his many contributions to the 2010-11 edition of HBO's NHL 24/7.

The movie "Clerks" used clippings from the names of products sold in convenience stores to spell its title. Drawing on that style, I've spelled "picks" in the above logo by taking letters from the following magazines: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, McKeen's Hockey, The Hockey News, and Sportsnet Magazine.

Of course, the NHL can't just hijack a filmmaker's work. But I don't foresee this plan causing any copyright problems as Kevin Smith, a huge hockey fan, would certainly be glad to lend his cinematic universe to the NHL. 

This plan, however, might backfire: parents of prospects may object to the NSFW language, drug-related jokes, and acts of animal cruelty necessary to make this draft a Kevin Smith production. Indeed, Smith and Bettman might both end up having to drink hemlock like Socrates for corrupting the NHL's youth by exposing them to New Jersey's counterculture.

Furthermore, there's always a chance that viewaskewniverse staple and covert Scientologist Jason Lee would try to crash the NHL Combine. Once there, he'd make the league's best prospects take tests to assess their thetan levels. The last thing the world of professional hockey needs is to turn the next season of the Edmonton Oilers' series Oil Change into a sequel to Battlefield Earth.


Check out my blog tomorrow for the second part of this post! 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The 2013 Alberta Floods offer a good omen for the Calgary Flames

Yesterday, I offered my own flood story, so today I thought that I would focus on the Calgary Flames. Here's what I believe the flood will mean to the teams who play in the currently-submerged Scotiabank Saddledome.

The flood caused extensive damage to the Saddledome, which is the home of the Calgary Flames as well as the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and the Calgary Roughnecks lacrosse team.

The Flames' dressing room was submerged, irreplaceable records and memorabilia were destroyed, and the arena itself was flooded up to the 8th row. Here are some photos posted by the Flames.

On the bright side, Calgary has an opportunity to stage naval battles (as the Roman coliseum did in antiquity) as part of the Stampede festivities.

This scene makes the "Swamp of Sadness" from The Neverending Story seem like paradise.

The owners hope to have the Saddledome cleaned up soon for upcoming events, but right now the only show opening is the Elbow River's "debris derby."

The murky water hides the slimy sediment underneath the flood. Based on clips of Calgarians trying to salvage their property by cleaning up this sludge, I think that it's safe to say that this pictures don't fully capture how much of the arena and its contests are irredeemably damaged.

Even more frightening for the crew trying to drain the inundated Saddledome was the sight of Harvey the Hound's head bobbing up and down in the flood. 

In case you're unfamiliar with the Flames' mascot, here's a replica of Harvey posing with his #1 fan (Heather).

If you think that I'm comfortable enough in my relationship not to feel threatened by an acrobatic, humanoid dog, then you probably didn't see my petition to rename this mascot, "Harvey the Home-wrecking Hound."

Eric Francis updated Flames fans on Harvey's status yesterday.

Eric FrancisHarvey the Hound's head was found floating in the middle of the Saddledome today as crews pump out an estimated 300,000,000 gallons of water
If that tweet doesn't alarm you, this one should at least give you a start:

Eric FrancisFlames say bulk of 300 million gallons of water now pumped out of Dome. Oh, and the rest of Harvey the Hound's body still missing
No one knows why Harvey, a former "first pound pick" by the Flames in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, was beheaded by the torrent. Some might see this event as nature finishing off what the Edmonton Oilers's GM Craig MacTavish began when (as the head coach of the Oilers) he ripped out Harvey's tongue during a game at the Saddledome. 

I, however, see this event as a good omen.

In the history of superstitions, finding severed heads has a long track record of being a sign of good fortune. The Roman historian Pliny claims that a severed head was found during an excavation of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. That temple was thereafter called Rome's "capital" (derived from the Latin word for "head"), and the shocking event was interpreted as a sign that Rome would lead the world.

During the English Civil War (1642-51), in which members of England's parliament took arms against King Charles I over his supposed tyranny, Oliver Cromwell and his supporters resolved that the captured king should be executed for treason.  

To defend Cromwell's decision to behead Charles I, the poet and statesman Andrew Marvell wrote an ode that (by drawing on the story from Pliny) interpreted the king's execution as a favourable omen for England, which had been re-founded as a republic. Great nations, it seems, begin with grisly and unwanted incursions with severed heads.

Alas, poor Harvey. I knew him, Horatio. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath born the faintly flickering Flames on his back a thousand times. Here hung the tongue that wagged at many an opponent. Where be your gibes now? your shirt-gun? your drum? your daring walks along the ledge that made the crowds gasp and roar?

Being submerged is an unpleasantly ironic way for Harvey to spend his pearl anniversary as part of the Flames organization, but it does offer some hope. For those looking for a silver lining behind the discovery of Harvey's head, I recommend taking it as a sign that the Flames will soon establish an NHL dynasty that will dominate the league for a time somewhere between the duration of the Roman Empire and the shortly-lived Commonwealth of England (1649-1660). 

Even if their dominance lasts for only a decade, it will still be the longest-tenured dynasty in NHL history. If the Hitmen and Roughnecks similarly establish dynasties in their leagues, then Calgary will emerge from this flood as a glorious city of champions.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Service Interruption

I had hoped to post something last Friday, but last Thursday's evacuation of my neighborhood in Calgary has made that impossible.

Since the evacuation, I've been putting together a post on what's been going on in this city-turned-waterpark.

On Thursday, my partner Heather came home early from work so that we could pack some things "just in case" there was an evacuation. She is always poised to deal with disaster, so I went along with the plan thinking that we'd be unpacking toiletries and pajamas in an hour or so.

Then we decided to check out the rising river to get some pics.

To be honest, those pics are no longer all that impressive compared to the stream of photos and videos that were shown on Global News. So I'll just share this picture of Heather throwing caution (the city hadn't issued a mandatory evacuation notice yet) to the breeze and snapping some pics.

As we strolled back from the river we noticed something disconcerting: the two puddles that were on either side of the street as we went to the river had now merged to form a small lake in the middle of the street. We also noticed that water gushing from another storm drain was flowing uphill toward our home. Worries stemming from these sights were exacerbated when, toward the end of our survey around the perimeter of our home, we saw this flooded street a block from our apartment.

I didn't take this picture, but I do take some credit as it wouldn't have been possible had I not fended off a plague of mosquitoes that were menacing Heather.

After seeing that, we went straight home and found out about the mandatory evacuation that had been issued for our neighbourhood. Unlike the rest of our neighbours, we had our essentials packed, so we headed for the LRT station immediately. Passengers must have thought we were hysterical as they were passing info about the imminent flood casually as part of their after-work commute while we were huddled together on a seat--crowded by our dearest possessions--and comforting our puppy.

Percy was mixed about the train ride. He didn't like the speed, but he loved the opportunity to greet people as they came aboard after work. I think that he was born for a career as a host.

He didn't, however, appreciate the next leg of the journey: immediately after his first train ride, he had to board the escalator or, as he perceived it, a stampeding staircase.

After the flood-induced hurly-burly was done, Percy was able to relax over a pint at the home of a relative that was kind enough to accommodate us indefinitely.

"I don't always abandon my worldly possessions to a deluge of unknown proportions, but when I do, I chase my trauma with Big Rock's Traditional Ale."

As we tried to settle in to life as first-world refugees, we were worried by reporters that the worst of the flood was yet to come, and there was no telling the extent of the impending damage nor the length of the crisis. The Bow River wasn't expected to peak until around 3 or 4 AM, and the reports before we went to sleep was that the river had flooded the Saddledome and other areas further from the banks than ours.

The stressful aspect of this situation was having to consider all possible outcomes between dealing with a bit of silt on the floor of our apartment to accepting that our basement unit had been flooded from floor to ceiling. It would have, strangely enough, been easier at that time to accept that everything had been washed away. We had reconciled ourselves to the loss, but the idea of having to throw out soggy, mud-caked memories seemed unbearable.

The other problem was that we had no idea when we would be able to return. Had we known exactly when we could return and what the damage would be, we would have been able to accept it and bide our time more easily. Not knowing these details drew out every moment of the experience by putting our imaginations on the rack. 

The sound of rain as we tried to sleep that night only made our worries grow.

The next day we saw some aerial photos courtesy of Global News. Our neighborhood was almost completely flooded except for a little strip that looked familiar to us. We decided to disregard the evacuation notice and return to our place to survey the damage and perhaps get some more things out.

The drive back (in the pouring rain) was tense! The city made it seem that the river was waiting outside our homes to sweep us away if we dared to leave. We didn't get ambushed by the river as we left, but the drive was still an intense experience because the river was creeping closer and closer to the road, and it had commandeered many parts of the city.

This, for instance, used to be a golf course.

When we arrived back home, we were happy to see that the river had stopped about a block and a half away from our doorstep. We did, however, have a problem as a clogged drain resulted in our parking lot becoming flooded with rain water. As we entered the basement, we saw that the outside door had become a fountain spouting water toward our home. With the help of our neighbour, who refused the evacuation notice, we cleaned up the area and began to pack.

Even though it looked like the river wouldn't make it to our doorstep, and that the worst damage would be caused by clogged storm drains and backed-up sewers, we feverishly packed as much as we could and stacked everything else high up. Luckily for us, it turned out to be unnecessary, but we'd never been refugees before.

After putting out-of-print books in safe places, packing extra clothes and dog toys, and, of course, stuffing our bags with Leafs paraphernalia, we left again. Even though we felt relieved about our personal situation, the ride back was still scary.

This used to be a power plant. 

There was no sign that we'd be able to return the next day, so we decided to take a look around the area. It turned out that our new location was about a kilometre from the river, but we were elevated, so there was little concern about being forced to evacuate again.

Here are some pictures from our walk around:

Apparently the Bow River hates bicycle paths as much as some motorists.

The river should be about 500m away from here, but apparently it decided to take a stroll through this lovely park.

The person who bought this property probably didn't plan on it being a river-front home.

Checking out the flood became the most popular pastime among Calgarians last weekend.

Luckily for us, we were allowed to return home the following day. Upon returning, we found our place even drier than when we last saw it. We are extremely fortunate not to have any damage to our place (aside from a musty smell) considering that the neighbourhood last night was filled with the sound of sump pumps, and the streets were flooded with water returning to the river. Less than three blocks from us were rows of houses in which a jungle of hoses were sprawling into the streets and spewing forth remnants of the river left behind by the flood's recession.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

4 Ways to Increase Scoring in the NHL

The initiative to increase scoring remains toward the top of the NHL's agenda each year. The latest efforts to forestall the supposed doomsday scenario of the league entering another "dead puck era" were passed by the NHL's General Managers yesterday. These measures include making the nets shallower and (I assume) the plan to decrease the size of goaltending equipment.

These provisions may allow a slight increase in the average number of goals scored per game, but they aren't enough to make a substantial difference in the league's stats in the long run.

I urge NHL executives to vote down the recently passed measures at the Board of Governors meeting on June 26 because these adjustments to the game are insignificant. Instead, the BOM should table the following suggestions, which will certainly cause scoring to spike.

1. Implement the "Hot Potato" protocol

Before a game begins, it's common practice for officials to freeze pucks in order to reduce each disc's bounciness. This procedure is the exact opposite of what the NHL should be doing.

Reducing a puck's bounciness makes it easier to shoot but allows goalies to catch it with just as much (if not more) ease. What can be done to make the puck harder to catch? Heat it!

Benefits: By super-heating pucks, goaltenders will likely give up more rebounds as they won't be able to freeze the puck without it causing their equipment and skin to fuse together. The fear of searing their flesh will give netminders an incentive to keep the puck in play. Consider this plan a way to increase scoring through negative re-enforcement.

Super-heated pucks will also make it easier to score on a goalie's glove-hand as there's a strong chance that the puck will simply burn through the trapper and scorch its way into (and perhaps passed!) the net.

Drawbacks: If the puck catches on the netting around the rink or goes out of play, it's quite likely that the entire arena will be engulfed in flames.

Still, if serious goalies can play through pain, then they can certainly play through an unexpected inferno.

2. Increase each team's arsenal

One frequently-suggested method of increasing scoring involves changing the dimensions of the playing surface. Proponents such as Brian Burke argue that the ice surface needs to be expanded as players are larger, quicker, and more skilled than the bygone greats for whom the current dimensions of the rinks were designed. By giving teams more room to play, they will be able to create more scoring chances.

Of course, the increased space might make scoring even tougher by giving each team more neutral zone space in which to wage a war of attrition in a one-goal game. I agree with the notion that the game needs to be updated, but I think that we should adjust play to reflect advances in concentration and the number of on-ice officials as well as the players' increased speed and skill.

Why not add more pucks to a game?

Benefits: Having two or more pucks in play at any given moment will exhaust a goaltender's ability to make every save on any given night. Simply put: shutouts will become an endangered species.

Having more pucks will also make the game harder for the skaters. Teams will struggle to handle two pucks in either zone or score with one before their opponent scores with the other. Challenging each team's ability to control puck possession by adding a little chaos to the game will cause a flurry of action and, by extension, excitement for fans.

Here's how this modification would work: one linesman and ref would have to monitor one end of the ice alone. They'll just have to trust their partners on the other end of the ice to make the right calls as they won't be able to oversee the action at the other end of the rink. By forcing refs to concentrate on the action in their zone, we'll eliminate controversial calls like the penalty on Daniel Sedin for boarding during overtime in the 2013 playoffs.

When one puck goes out of play, action continues until a stoppage. After which, the additional puck(s) will be reintroduced into play on the next faceoff.

If this change in rules pans out the way that I think it will, we could see the NHL livening up the action further by randomly throwing out a third or fourth puck for a limited time. They could also make one puck worth more points if scored, or put a "skull and crossbones" on a puck to signify that a team who scores with it will actually lose points. (The latter suggestion would be kinda like the "death mushroom" from Super Mario Bros.)

Goalies will commonly drop their sticks and welcome the "death puck" into their nets.

Drawbacks: There will be a rapid deterioration in the mental health of players, officials, time keepers, score keepers--well, pretty much everyone involved in the game.

Goalies will struggle to handle the emotional roller coaster that will take them from making an amazing save to giving up a soft goal in a matter of (real time) seconds. Officials will be traumatized by the onslaught of offence taking place in their end of the ice. Time keepers will hide under their desks rather than attempt to determine when play stopped. Score keepers will have meltdowns while trying to figure out who assisted on which goal and whether a goal added a single, multiple, or a negative point to a team's tally on the evening.

3. Take away the goalie's little helper

I'm not referring to Valium (as The Rolling Stones did in "Mother's Little Helper") but the goalie's stick.

The NHL is concerned about reducing the size of a goaltender's equipment, but they might have more success in their goal (see what I did there?) to increase offence by instead eliminating part of a goalie's equipment.

Benefits: Well, there's the obvious increase in scoring resulting from goaltenders losing a key part of their defence.

Also, we'll eliminate the statistical embarrassment stemming from goalies whose stickhandling results in them racking up goals and assists. I am, of course, assuming that the league introduced the "trapezoid rule" because everyone hated the idea of goalies having any offensive prowess.

Yes, the elimination of the goalie stick is really just the foregone conclusion to the introduction of the trapezoid behind the net. Instead of a stick, goalies will have the option of using two trappers.

Drawbacks: Well, every goalie will look like a huge sissy who is afraid of getting hit by the puck as he flails his arms in the hopes of knocking away each scoring chance. Others who focus on catching pucks will look like a monstrous genetic modification of crabs. But hey, isn't the whole point of increasing offence to humiliate goalies?

The real problem is that this plan will take a long time to implement. The NHLPA will object to the sudden elimination of sticks, so the league will have to produce a long-term plan that will lead to this equipment's removal from play.

The plan will begin with making goaltenders use cricket bats. Goalies will at first jump at the chance to use a bigger stick, but the lack of a blade with which to pass the puck will diminish their ability to play their position well. After that, the league will introduce a smaller implement each year: we might go from cricket bats to lacrosse sticks, curling brooms, pool cues, tennis followed by badminton rackets, and then ping-pong paddles before they're given nothing in place of the goalie stick.

Of course, the players' union might strike back by forcing the league to accept contraptions that would give goalies extra arms: picture something like Dr. Octopus from Spider-Man in net.

Here's what Craig Anderson would look like if he rocked this future equipment.

4. Introduce "Morphing Nets"

As many commentators have noted, defensive players are stifling offence by not only blocking shots but standing in the way of shooting lanes so that enemy forwards have few options to create scoring chances. Despite the prevalence of this problem, the NHL's Competition Committee has done nothing to address it.

So how do we move defensive players out of the way while creating new shooting lanes? Re-engineer nets to include telescoping posts and crossbars that expand and contract unexpectedly.

At any point in the game, the net could be as wide and tall as a soccer net, or as small as a (square-shaped) dartboard. Any sized rectangle or square between those extremes are likely to take shape in a game with morphing nets!

Benefits: Players may be able to block one shooting lane, but they'll be terribly out of position when the next one opens up. Goalies won't be able to rely on making positional saves because the net itself will betray them.

This innovation will also make attackers work harder as they will need to develop their cycle game around the reality that a scoring chance may present itself and then suddenly disappear before they have a chance to take a shot on net.

In the end, the expanding-contracting nets will be responsible for as many unfortunate goals-against as they will provide unexpected saves by moving the post or crossbar in the way of a decent shot. That sort of balance should make this option the most agreeable of the ones that I am suggesting.

Drawbacks: If there's one thing that the league and its fans hate, it's delays. New technology means there will be a greater chance of a malfunction that requires the game to be paused for an extended period of time. Also, new rules will need to be added surrounding malfunctions. Will the malfunction cause a stoppage in play or will players have to resume defending/attacking a stationary net until the next stoppage in play?

There will likely be more injuries resulting from the nets as skating around them will be treacherous. It's bad enough when a player sticks his leg out to knee-cap an opponent: imagine the damage caused when the net itself blindsides a skater!

Even worse, there's a possibility of a catastrophic malfunction in which the net suddenly expands and contracts violently. If a goalie is deep in his crease when this happens, it will look like he's being consumed by a Hellmouth.

On the bright side, getting eaten by the net will at least take Roberto Luongo's mind off his terrible contract.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Mick versus Quick: How the Rolling Stones Rocked the LA Kings out of Stanley Cup Contention

I've modified this article, originally posted by The Hockey Writers, to include bonus tracks! Check out two new Rolling Stones parodies at the end of this post.

The scapegoat most blameworthy for the elimination of the LA Kings from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs is perhaps the most unlikely candidate: The Rolling Stones.

The Stones played three sold-out shows in Chicago on 28 and 31 May as well as 3 June. For the LA Kings, the Stones took playing sold-out shows to a new level as they used Chicago's playoff fever to revise some of their hit songs into anthems for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Of course, to be fair, Mick Jagger has been a diehard Blackhawks fanatic since they won the Stanley Cup in 1934. That's almost as long as Vince Vaughn has been a fan.

Here are three examples of songs that the Stones altered to torment the LA Kings and motivate the Blackhawks to oust the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions from playoff contention.

1. (Kings Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Kings can't get no satisfaction.
Kings won't be a repeat faction.
Sure they try, and they try, and they try, and they try.
They won't get no, They won't get no

When I'm drivin' in my car;
With Ray Ferraro on the radio.
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
On Quick's Conn Smythe accreditation.

Quick won't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

Quick won't get no satisfaction.
Kings won't get no Stanley action.
Sure he'll try, and he'll try, and he'll try and he'll try
He won't get no; he won't get no.

When I'm watchin' my T.V.
And Ron MacLean comes on to tell me
Just how high he rates Doughty
But he can't be that great 'cause he doesn't block
As many shots as Duncan Keith.
He won't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

When I'm ridin' round the world
And I'm singin' this and I'm signin' that
And I'm tryin' to tell some girl
That she better not come back till later next week
'Cause the Kings are on a losing streak
They won't can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

Kings won't get no Stanley action.
They won't be a repeat faction.


2. Anze (Based on "Angie")

Anze, An-ze, when will your playoffs disappear?
Anze, An-ze, Where will your summer go from here?
Well you're scoring very low, one assist and one lone goal;
You can't say you're satisfied.

But Anze, An-ze they can't say you never tried.
Anze, you're wonderful, but ain't it time we said goodbye?

Oh, Anze, don't you weep, your highlight reel was pretty sweet
Till that luck was struck out of your stride.
But Anze, I won't call you lazy.
Your compete level won't receive the blame.
There ain't a centre who comes close to you
'Cept for maybe Toews, and Shaw and Kane.

But Anze, An-ze ain't it good to say goodbye?
Anze, An-ze, they can't say you never tried.

(Rob Grabowski-USA Today Sports)

3. Goalie's Little Helper ("Mother's Little Helper")

What a drag it is getting owned.

"Things are different today,"
I hear Jonathan Quick say.
Quick needs relief these days to calm him down.
And after speaking broken French,
He forces Bernier from the bench.
Quick goes running for the shelter of his goalie's little helper.
Bernier helps him look away from a lousy losing game. 

"Things are different today,"
I hear ev'ry player say.
Blocking shots for a flailing goalie's just a drag.
Quick fans on an easy clear, and the Kings' lead disappears.
Quick goes calling for the shelter of his goalie's little helper
To relive him in the game, help him share in taking blame.

Sutter, please, relieve the crease.
In game four, Quick allowed three more.

What a drag it is getting owned.

"The Kings just aren't the same today,"
I hear other players say.
The defence don't understand that Quick gets tired.
They make so many give aways, and so few that Quick can save.
Then he goes running for the shelter of his goalie's little helper;
Bernier helps out the Kings' plight by letting none in on the night.

Sutter, please, defend the crease.
The Kings can't score four goals or more.

What a drag it is getting owned.

"Hockey's much too hard today,"
I hear LA's forwards say.
The pursuit of Stanley Cups just seems a bore.
After stealing one of four, the Kings won't win games anymore.
No more running for the shelter of their goalie's little helper
Who helped them on their way through their cup run's dying day. 

4. “The Last Time”

(With the Blackhawks taking a 3-1 series lead over the LA Kings, the Rolling Stones released this song ahead of the fifth and final game, in which Patrick Kane’s hat trick would dash the Kings’ hopes of becoming to first team to win back-to-back cups since the 1997 Detroit Red Wings)

Well we beat you once and we beat you twice,
And you didn’t learn, so we beat you thrice.
You don’t try very hard to beat me.
And with your lineup that should be easy.

Well this could be the last time.
This could be the last time.
Maybe the last time,
I don't know. Oh no.

Sorry Quick but you can’t make saves.
Playin’ like you do these days.
The net used in your final game.
Should read “property of Patrick Kane.”

Well this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know. Oh no.

Well I beat you once then I beat you thrice,
But it hasn’t seemed to make you wise.
Now here’s a chance to save your pride.
By taking our last game to overtime.

Well this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know. Oh no.

5. “Nineteenth Blueline Breakdown” (Based on “19th Nervous Breakdown”)

(Shortly before the Stanley Cup Finals began, the Stones felt enough time had passed to poke fun at the Toronto Maple Leafs for the disastrous conclusion of their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade. The Stones didn’t pull any punches in letting the Blue-and-White know that they haven’t always been stellar over the decades since their last Stanley Cup victory in 1967.)

You’re the type of team whose self-esteem comes from undeserved fanfare. 
Hockey's richest team, your playoff dreams are still stuck in disrepair. 
'Cause it seems to me that Reimer's seen too much in too few years.
And though you've fought, it's all for naught: 
Game seven will end in tears.

You better stop.
Look around.
Here it comes. Here it comes! Here it comes!! Here it comes!!!
Here comes your nineteenth blueline breakdown.

Since you last contended,
You've been too contented
With icing mediocre teams. 
You slept on the laurels of bygone goals
To get you through the night.
Past GMs who neglected you balked at building through the draft.
And Raycroft was all you got for trading Tuukka Rask.

You better stop; look around.
Here it comes. Here it comes! Here it comes!! Here it comes!!!
Here comes your nineteenth blueline breakdown.

Oh, who's to blame? 
Phaneuf’s gone insane. 
Nothing O’Byrne does seems to work.
His positioning only makes matters worse.

You were in a playoff drought when you figured out
You had to spend within the cap.
But even after that you never turned your back
On letting free agents rob you blind.
In Burke’s first year he tried so hard to rearrange your lines,
But after a while he realized that you just weren’t the playoff kind.

You better stop; look around
Here it comes. Here it comes! Here it comes!! Here it comes!!!
Here comes your nineteenth blueline breakdown.
Here comes your nineteenth blueline breakdown.
Here comes your nineteenth blueline breakdown.