Friday, 25 October 2013

Lewis Carroll to Leafs TV: "Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves."

A farcical sideshow is threatening the integrity and value of NHL hockey right now. Unfortunately, the league has done nothing to protect its assets from being brutalized by one-dimensional "contributors" to the game.

I am, of course, referring sportscasters who abuse alliteration in order to offer "clever" observations about the game. These one-dimensional rhetoricians are bludgeoning the English language into a senseless heap of words dislocated from their former meanings. The league must do something to protect the English language, one of the league's most valuable assets as most markets are predominately Anglophone.

The main offender behind this fiasco is Joe "the Voice of the Maple Leafs" Bowen. Of course, he'd probably refer to himself as the "spirited speaker of the sap-spewing shrubs."

Now, I have nothing against Joe Bowen personally, but someone has to call on him out in order to stop his ongoing accumulation of alliterated atrocities.

See? This corrupt style has even spread to its detractors. Soon we will all speak in sumptuous sounds that make scarce sense.

The source of this disease can be traced to the Toronto Maple Leafs' facebook page. Before every game, the team's account posts a picture capturing the alliteration of the day. We are less than a full month into the new season, and this gimmick has already degraded into elaborate nonsense. Here's a timeline outlining this literary device's decline into absurdity.

On October 8, this picture was posted ahead of a game against the Colorado Avalanche.

So the goalies are hockey royalty whose official residence is named after the thing that they doggedly try to prevent from ever entering their domain? As strained as the logic in this Bowenism is, we can still understand (and excuse it) as a heavy-handed attempt at irony. After all, if beating us over the head with irony were a crime, George Orwell would have been imprisoned for wiring Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the Ministry of Truth rewrites history to please the government; the Ministry of Love oversees torture; and the Ministry of Subtlety curates Orwell's works.

Irony also informs the picture used ahead of a game against the Nashville Predators on  October 10.


The problem with this phrase is that goalies, unlike cowboys, do not want to corral things (e.g. cattle, pucks) into their own nets. This faulty analogy might have been funny had Jonathan Bernier not inadvertently corralled the puck into his own net one week later.


It's safe to say that the hockey gods took Bowen's comments as a curse upon Bernier. However, Bowen took no responsibility for foreshadowing Bernier's own goal. Rather, he suggested (as you can hear in the clip above) that Bernier had learned this trick from former colleague Jonathan Quick, who had redirected a puck into his own net earlier that month. Thus Bowen deflected culpability for the own goal toward the Los Angeles Kings' coaching staff.

To recap, we've moved from silly irony to ominous irony. From here on in, Bowen's alliteration lose sight of making any sense. 

Ahead of that regrettable game against Carolina, this picture appeared in the newsfeed of Leafs Nation:


Apparently, some populist uprising has taken place and the aforementioned "puck palace" has become the "disk dungeon." Just as the last Tsar of Russia and his family were imprisoned by the Bolsheviks in the Winter Palace, the pucks, with which the Avs handed the Leafs their first loss of the season, have been confined to a former symbol of their power and grandeur. There they will remain until the time of their execution.

The above analogy seems ridiculously strained because the "disk dungeon" metaphor makes no sense. Prison guards are hired to keep inmates in prison, not to prevent them from entering the penitentiary as goalies try to bar the puck's path into the net. This analogy comes close to affronting the concept of jurisprudence by likening the law to a game. Fortunately for Leafs TV, this quip is too nonsensical to be subversive. The real dungeon here is the press level where alliteration has been put on the rack in order to offer strained sentiments on the game.

Perhaps sensing that his alliterations were becoming increasingly anti-establishment, Bowen's kenning ahead of the game against the Anaheim Ducks on October 22 was less politically volatile.


However, his rhetoric levels a caustic criticism at the Leafs nonetheless. Instead of forecasting an own-goal, this comment reflects negatively upon the Leafs' defensive woes. A "gazebo" is generally defined as "a freestanding roofed structure usually open on all sides". So the net is gazebo-like in the sense that the Leafs' defensive breakdowns make it open to entry from all sides!? Does Bowen secretly hate the Leafs?

Once again, nonsense appears as a form of saving grace. While goalies might be likened to gladiators, their nets are not and probably have never been gilded.

Here's James Reimer in a net typically used in hockey games.

Reimer thanks the hockey gods for not gifting him with an own-goal. (picture source)

Now here's James Reimer in a gilded hockey net.

Reimer collaborates on his off-season training regimen with Drake (featuring T-Pain).

Normally I wouldn't raise such a fuss about the eccentricities of one sportscaster, but the plague of alliteration is spreading throughout hockey coverage. Earlier this month, Mark Lee of Hockey Night in Canada credited Carey Price with a "scintillating save" during a game against the Vancouver Canucks. 

Was the save truly a "brilliantly lively, humourous, or witty" maneuver, or has alliterative athletic analysis assimilated another analyst? 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Toronto hath no fury like a Calgarian scorned

In case you missed it, there's been an awesome development in the Canadian Women's Hockey League. Calgary's team (formerly known as Team Alberta and, later, the Alberta Honey Badgers) has changed its name to the Calgary Inferno.

The Toronto Furies still have the coolest name, but they're falling behind in the race for best image. That shortcoming is due, in part, because they didn't take my advice and introduce this jersey as their official uniform.

This jersey seriously needs more ice time!

Last month, the newly-branded Calgary Inferno unveiled their new logo, and it is spectacular!


I'm not a huge fan of the "n" turning into a hockey stick. It's a bit too Washington Capitals for my liking. However, that ostentatious flourish is balanced by the subtle way that the negative space inside the "o" forms the province of Alberta. Despite changing its name to reflect its city of operation, the team has managed to assert its status as Alberta's team nonetheless.

Like the Toronto Furies and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Inferno have a partnership with the Calgary Flames. The NHL club will promote the team and thereby help them get more exposure in a vibrant hockey market. Presumably in honour of that partnership, the anonymous woman in the logo has flaming hair over her right shoulder. The fiery hair, of course, is reminiscent of the Calgary Flames' logo. Thus the design rather cleverly represents the Flames as the Inferno's right-hand men.

So who or what exactly is the woman in the logo? I haven't found any details about what she's supposed to represent, so it's up to us to speculate. Horror-film nerds might take the women's hockey mask as a sign that she's some sort of hell-spawned, female version of Jason Voorhees. 

Meanwhile, comic-book geeks might interpret her appearance as somewhat reminiscent of Dark Phoenix from the "X-Men" comics. The latter interpretation might seem more persuasive since Dark Phoenix was once a member of the "Hell Fire Club" and "inferno" denotes the fires of hell.

Of course, if the team wanted to evoke the X-Men, it should have used this logo instead.

Personally, I'd rather focus on the mythological and chthonic implications of the word "inferno." In Greek and Roman mythology, there were a group of underworld spirits called Empusae who, like the lady in the logo, had flaming hair. They were also said to be like vampires.

However, they're not like Count Daniel Alfredsson. (I'm reusing this pic because Halloween.) 

What's interesting about the Empusae is that Hecate often sent them to terrify travelers. They'd frighten an unsuspecting trekker with their infernal appearance and reputation for snacking on humans. In a hockey context, Calgary's use of Empusae expresses the team's intention to make their home arena hell-on-earth for visiting teams.   

This rebranding is significant to the league as a whole as one third of CWHL teams are now represented with hellish imagery. That number could rise to half of the league if Quebec's team changed its name from Montreal Stars to Montreal Morning Stars, which has Luciferean implications. I should also note that Alberta's team might have been hellish to begin with if "honeybadger" was actually a euphemistic term for succubus.

Anyway, Toronto's and Calgary's chthonic team names not only assert each club's ferociousness. They also continue a great tradition in women's hockey. Decades ago, an Ontario team staged a preemptive strike against gender stereotypes by naming their women's hockey club the Don Mills Satan's Angels. It's great to see Toronto and Calgary picking up that badass torch. In doing so, each team signals that, while some NHL teams strive to play with truculence and pugnacity, CWHL clubs aspire to play with hell fire and brimstone!

Friday, 18 October 2013

What to expect from the cash-strapped Sens

Once again, Eugene Melnyk is publicly lamenting the Ottawa Senators' financial woes. Apparently, the franchise has lost $113 million during Melnyk's tenure.

Without clarifying the reasons for the team's financial misfortune, Melnyk has left baffled hockey writers to ponder how a Canadian team in a major city loosely-incorporated suburb could lose money.

I speculate that there are two primary causes for the team's monetary hardships.

1. Spartacat's many indiscretions

Some cats chase mice, but Spartacat chases vice. The Sens' mascot has a long track record of reckless behaviour. For instance, here's a video of him blatantly littering on camera.



Casting off stray pieces of paper astray, however, isn't Spartacat's only act of careless littering: he's also the subject of numerous paternity suits lodged by various humane societies located throughout North America. At one point, a legal team had to work nonstop to devise out-of-court settlements for the dozens of paternity suits that arrived daily.

Making matters worse was Spartacat's on-ice extravagance. In seasons past, Spartacat often used his t-shirt gun to fire Faberge eggs filled with beluga caviar into the stands.

He also wore a diamond grill and a Flavor-Flav inspired Sens clock.

To his credit, Melnyk reportedly took the blame for Spartacat's incorrigible behaviour: he curbed these problems by paying to have the froward feline neutered.

2. Hiding Alfie's victims

Ever wonder how Daniel Alfredsson has managed to play competitively into his 40s? His secret doesn't have anything to do with genetics or off-season conditioning. No, the answer is simple: he's a vampire.

Alfie spends the off season building a new fleet of coffins and filling them with soil from his native Gothenburg, Sweden. Once stashed around NHL markets, these materials help Alfie rejuvenate during wearying road trips.

Here's a picture of Alfredsson taken shortly after a grueling NHL season.

Due to quirks related to being a vampire, Alfie's shadow gets credited with an assist whenever he nets a goal.

This prep work costs thousands on top of the expenses associated with concealing the many victims of Alfie's vampiric blood lust. Thus it's no surprise that the Sens quibbled with their former captain over his salary demands last July.

Before you mention having seen Alfie in daylight, keep in mind that some folklore traditions (e.g. Bram Stoker's Dracula) maintain that vampires walk about in the day, but their powers are weakened. So, Alfie's poor play in the upcoming Winter Classic matinee game should confirm his undead status.

Since Alfie's departure and Spartacat's neutering, the Sens have diminished two major sources of financial hardship. Yet they still need to recoup losses accrued over the last decade. Here are some austerity measures that we might see the franchise enact in order to make a profit in the near future.

1. Murray must make due

On top of imposing an internal salary cap, Melnyk will slash front-office expenses by laying off the organization's scouting staff and downgrading its technological resources. To help Murray multitask during the trade deadline, Melnyk will crazy glue a Zack Morris phone to Murray's ear so that the GM can send paperwork via carrier pigeon while he continues to take calls from colleagues.

Pictured: Bryan Murray rocks being a GM old school.

2. Salary circumvention

Although the Sens aren't experiencing any salary cap crunch, they will reduce costs associated with their hockey operations by having long-tenured defenceman Chris Phillips declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This proposal will honour Phillips' dedication to the team. Unlike franchise players such as Alexei Yashin, Danny Heatley, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara, and Daniel Alfredsson, Phillips has never demanded a trade, held out during contract negotiations, refused to take a pay cut for the team, or walked away as a UFA over Melnyk's miserliness.

By making Phillips a heritage site in recognition of his unique willingness to be a career Senator, Melnyk would receive funding to ensure that tourists can visit the team's rare cultural artefact.

3. Rebooting bench-side refreshments

The Sens will stop providing Gatorade on the bench during games. Instead, water bottles will be filled with a mixture of Kool-Aid and crystal meth. At first, this measure will incur expenses as players chew through several mouth guards each night. However, those expenses will eventually drop along with the players' meth-rotted teeth.

4. Creative cap circumvention

During home games, the Sens will hold the "Anyone Can Be a Senator" fan contest. The winner will get to serve as a linemate during an actual NHL game (after he or she signs both a waiver regarding potential injury and an agreement to donate their league-minimum salary to a charity of Melnyk's choice). The charity will most likely be the Senators' "Help Stop this Contest" foundation for fans permanently injured after being conscripted into on-ice service.

5. Throwbacks that throw waaay back

In order to cut equipment costs, Melnnyk will introduce prelapsarian throwback jerseys. These outfits will allow players to skate as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Should anyone complain about the franchise's decision to ice an entire lineup of naked men, the players will be instructed to put on Sens-themed fig leaves.

Instead of "thank you fans," Melnyk will have a sign reading "you're welcome, ladies" placed under the ice at  Canadian Tire Centre.

6. Corporate restructuring

To shelter revenues from taxes, Melnyk will push to have the Ottawa Senators reclassified as a charity. To provide evidence in support of the team's charitable status, Melnyk will point to Erik Karlsson's many giveaways.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My Guilty Conscience

Recently, I've dreaded talking to hockey folk. When discussing teams, people tend to point out the Toronto Maple Leafs' place atop the NHL standings as something that I should be happy about. Generally speaking, it's fair to assume that fans will rejoice at news of their team having a strong start.

However, that isn't the case for me. Indeed, I loathe hearing about the standings this early in the season because of what happened the last time that the Leafs had such a strong start.

In those blissfully ignorant days of my youth (back in the fall of 2011), the Leafs were unexpectedly successful in the young NHL season. Some particularly foolish fans (e.g. myself) even mocked naysayers by sennding screen caps of the NHL standings (such as the one pasted below). Even now I can't look at this pic without thinking of the ominous lyrics from The Beatles' "Yesterday."


"Yesterday, the Leafs seemed to luck out every game. Their detractors seemed to me inane. Oh, I believe in yesterday. Then suddenly, they weren't half the team they used to be. Lupul succumbed again to injury. Oh, yesterday came suddenly. Why Lupes had to go I don't know: he couldn't say. Someone wrecked his arm. Now I long for yesterday." 

When great misfortune befalls sports teams, stats junkies blame the team while superstitious fans blame themselves. Proponents of advanced stats would probably say that the 2013-14 Leafs are on more-or-less the same road to disaster as the 2011-12 team. They're badly out-shot and out-chanced in almost every game. According to the numbers (or "paper wisdom" as Hunter S. Thompson once called it), the team's bad habits will ruin them eventually.

However, the narrative produced by those numbers only hides the truth: the Leafs' failure in 2011-12 was entirely my fault. Let me explain.

In early February 2012, I was shopping at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa when I saw an awesome Leafs hat at The Clubhouse. It had an old-school Leaf placed on a plaid pattern.



I justified purchasing this headgear in the harsh Ottawa winter by saying to myself, "This hat would be great to wear in the spring."

Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear. Never did I add "during the playoffs" to that thought. I didn't mean to be presumptuous, but that's exactly how the hockey gods interpreted my meaning. "Oh," the head of the pantheon on mount Goalympus must have said, "a mortal thinks that he should plan his playoff wardrobe for the spring during the dead of winter? Well, we'll see about that!"

You know the rest of the story. February turned into one of the longest months in Leafs history. The calendar cruelly lengthened the month by a day just so the Chicago Blackhawks could hand the Leafs another loss on the 29th. At one point, the Leafs went on a streak in which they won only one of 12 games played. March was no kinder and April offered no compassion other than the long-awaited coup de grace.

The only highlight from this winter of discontent was then-GM Brian Burke's interpretation of events, which he phrased in the form of a parable: the story of the 18-wheeler that went off a cliff. Basically, Brian Burke was watching Maximum Overdrive right before that memorable press conference.

For those of you unfamiliar with Stephen King's atrocious cinematic adaptation of a story by Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive was basically a retelling of Christine with a twist: the possessed vehicles had much higher levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence, and belligerence than the titular car in Christine.

 Incidentally, I'm putting together a kickstarter for a Leafs-themed remake of Maximum Overdrive. Interested investors should leave their contact info in the comments below.

So, if you want the Leafs to succeed, do not buy any Leafs merchandise that can only be used in the spring. That means no Leafs-themed barbecue covers, bikinis, or golfing equipment. As a matter of fact, if you own a 12-month Leafs calendar, please tear out the spring months. You never know what the hockey gods will consider to be presumption.

Whether or not Toronto makes the playoffs is essentially up to us. As William Shakespeare once wrote (according to the wikipedia page that I'm about to edit), "The fault, Leafs Nation, is not in the stats but in ourselves that Leafs are underlings."

Friday, 11 October 2013

The hypocrisy of Hertl haters

In case you missed it, the San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl caused an uproar on Tuesday night by scoring a flashy goal. Here's the goal in dispute on social media and among hockey writers.


For some reason, people consider this awesome goal to be insulting toward the New York Rangers (the Sharks' hapless opponents that night) but also to the NHL as a whole.

Yes, Hertl's feat somehow disgraces the NHL, the same organization that has altered the rules, the dimension of nets, and the size of goalie equipment over the last few years in order to increase the number of goals scored per game. Given that directive, how could Hertl's goal cause such an uproar?

Aren't these exactly the type of plays that all-stars such as Pavel Datsyuk get praised for performing? Isn't there a statue commemorating a moment in which Mario Lemieux made two defencemen look incredibly stupid?

SPOILER ALERT: yes, there is such a statue of Lemieux deking around two d-men before scoring one of his most memorable goals. 

And here's how stupid those defencemen look. Whatever hockey-hating anarchist designed this statue apparently had the audacity to leave it outside of the Pittsburgh Penguins' arena. I'm sure that the NHL will send officials to remove this affront to the league ASAP. (Photo source)

Lastly, here's Lemieux addressing the media about the statue. I'm sure he's telling reporters how shocked and hurt he was by the sculptor's flagrant abuse of his former opponents. (Source)

Kate Carrera of The Washington Post tries to explain the outrage by focusing on an objection from Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates: "During Oates's playing days, a goal like that would have brought at least a fight or a solid slash from a goaltender, if not more."

I'm usually a proponent of fighting, but here's one case in which I find the circumstances for dropping the gloves to be baffling. A young player makes your team look stupid, so you try to start a fight with that kid or his teammates? Shouldn't the dressing room beat themselves up for letting themselves look stupid? Shouldn't the goalie slash his d-men or even himself for playing so poorly?

I'm okay with teams starting fights to save face in a losing effort. That's part of securing a moral victory in an otherwise disastrous outing. But such fights should be predicated on defending the reputation of the team, not as a punitive measure. The fight shouldn't be pursued as an act of revenge because the players have nothing to avenge. Hertl didn't do anything wrong. If the opposition has a problem with the way he scored, then they should learn to play hockey better.

Other hockey writers are debating this goal as a breach of etiquette. Damien Cox of The Toronto Star leads the charge in accusing Hertl of poor sportsmanship.



 

Apparently players are supposed to hold back when the game's outcome is no longer in question. Such decency is expected not only from opponents but also reporters, who eagerly seize upon any opportunity to write that a team nearly blew a multi-goal lead by failing to press their attack for a full 60 minutes. 

Cox's comments also make me wonder when a game is no longer competitive. Even when a team has no chance to make comeback, aren't players still competing for the league's top honours? Hertl's fourth goal could make the difference between winning and being a runner-up for the Calder Trophy as well as other NHL accolades. 

Aren't such efforts to tally as many points as possible the stuff that hockey legends are made on? Aren't these accomplishments the keys to the Hall of Fame? Every award given to scorers is predicated on other teams looking bad. How could the NHL wag a contemptuous finger at overachievers with the one hand and give out awards to top scorers with the other? 

Joe Thornton understands the hypocrisy of Hertl's detractors. I'm not a San Jose Sharks supporter, but I'm a big fan of how Joe Thornton stuck up for his rookie teammate when a reporter asked Patrick Marleau if he thought that Hertl was showboating. The Neutral of fearthefin.com said it best when he praised Thorton's response as exactly "what a captain should do in coming to the defense of his teenage linemate."  

Well, maybe making boasts about on-ice masturbation isn't exactly how a captain should respond, but Thornton's heart was in the right place even if his other bits weren't.

I generally dislike it when players call out their critics by pointing out that most reporters haven't played the game, but that line of argument was appropriate when Thornton used it during his confrontation with the meddling reporter. In professional hockey, it's a forward's job to score goals regardless of what the scoreboard says or how an extra tally might hurt the opponents' feelings.  

The "showboating" question was an inane attempt to bait an experienced NHLer into causing even more controversy for his rookie teammate. Whoever asked the question should be pleased to have received an unexpected but nevertheless headline-worthy response, which is exactly what she or he wanted.

Good on Jumbo Joe for blocking a cheap shot directed at one of his club's future stars. Now if he'd only sign this jersey to commemorate the interview.




Thursday, 10 October 2013

Glenn Healy wants Twitter to sober up and/or shut up?

Aside from playing Eli Thompson on HBO Boardwalk Empire, Glenn Healy makes a living by disliking pretty much everything.

One of these two is a short-tempered curmudgeon who loathes his colleagues and despises successful people. The other is a character on a TV series.

If you ever hear a customer reprimanding a waiter for giving a "serviette" instead of a "ma'amviette" to a female diner, you've probably found Hockey Night in Canada's post-show pub. (Please send me directions!)

When not accusing his electric toothbrush of having no heart or hustle in its game, Healy often incenses hockey fans by finding fault with anything even tangentially related to the sport. It seems that people stopped getting upset with Healy recently. How else could we explain his decision to instigate a fight with Twitter in general?

Healy begins his tirade by proclaiming that he never had and never will use Twitter. This news caused many sports fans to celebrate like the Ewoks after the second Deathstar was destroyed.

I haven't been able to identify the people in this gif yet, but I believe James Duthie and Bob "Bobo" McKenzie are dancing at centre.

After making this boast, Healy gets defensive. "Some of my colleagues may criticize me, but they don't watch the games anymore. They just read the tweets about them."

As my partner, Heather, pointed out, Healy seems to be taking a swipe at TSN with these comments. Maybe Healy was thinking of a certain TSN broadcaster who was too busy blocking people who called him out about his ignorance "My Little Pony" to cover the game one night. 

Whatever the reason, Healy has decided to scorn Twitter. Instead of tweeting, Healy will type up his maddening musings in a new feature called "140 Words."

In announcing his new feature, Healy offers the following gem of a quote: "The truth is, before you are allowed to tweet you should have to take a breathalyzer test."

Fun fact: if you so much as bring a breathalyzer into a hockey game, it will malfunction in such a way that gives the device artificial intelligence and the desire for US citizenship. 

BTW, that was a reference to the Short Circuit franchise, which basically a g-rated version of Robocop.

Why did Healy go out of his way to point out the pink elephant in the room, and then blame us for Dumbo's drunkenness? 
 
The average tweep, according to Glenn Healy.

Healy then tells us that he will only discuss the "road to the Stanley Cup" in this feature. He promises, "I'm not going to bore you by telling you where I am or what I'm eating." Of course, many hockey fans would be impressed if Healy could pinpoint his location (at any given time) within the right hemisphere.As for eating, we all know that his traditional Saturday night dinner includes


Finally, Healy ends with an ultimatum of sorts. He says, "Enjoy the 140 words. If you don't like them, tweet that to all of your friends. #dontwastemytime"

I'm surprised by these comments because I thought that Healy's whole shtick was getting a rise out of fans. By offering horrendous criticisms that embroil him in controversy, Healy garners attention for HNIC, right?

Apparently I was wrong That mistake makes me wonder if Healy has been genuinely surprised by fan reactions to his "coverage" of hockey. Is he making a conscious effort to speak only the things that he thinks are appropriate to say on air? If so, does Healy have material that he keeps to himself because he feels that it's too incendiary for TV?


I won't get into any musings on what dark thoughts might dwell behind Healy's brow of furrowed fury. Such material is best left for Stephen King and other horror writers.

Anyway, the gist of Healy's conclusion is that he doesn't want to hear any negative responses to what he says.

So, sit back; read Healy's "140 Words"; and shut your whine-hole.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Playoff picks

Just so I can say "I told you so" later on (if any of my surprise teams make it), I'm putting up my playoff picks now. Feel free to disregard this material should my every pick turn out to be embarrassingly wrong.

I'm listing these in alphabetical order because I'm no fan of ranking things according to any kind of maths.

East

Boston Bruins
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Pittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington Capitals

West

Anaheim Ducks
Chicago Blackhawks
Dallas Stars
Edmonton Oilers
LA Kings
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Predictions for the 2013-14 NHL Season

Records

Sidney Crosby will stun the hockey world by not only getting into a fight with Zdeno Chara but decisively defeating the Bruins' captain. Afterward, Crosby will develop a superstitious belief that he must thrash Chara before every game. When Chara tries to go into hiding, HBO sponsors a new hockey documentary that films Crosby as he, aided by the star of OLN's Mantracker,  stalks the towering Slovak to the ends of the earth. Crosby's 73 bouts with Chara sets a record for most fights in an NHL season. Meanwhile, Ray Shero reverses his position on fighting in hockey.

Patrick Roy's outbursts will set a record for most fighting penalties assessed to an NHL coach in a single season. The new bench boss of the Colorado Avalanche will initially target players and other coaches, but he'll soon drop the dry-erase board to fight Louie (the St. Louis Blues mascot) and S.J. Sharkie (the San Jose Sharks mascot). Fines for Roy's misconduct will exceed the GDP of most African nations. 

Franchise News

Prince will purchase his hometown team--the Minnesota Wild--and rename them "The NHL Team Formerly Known as the Minnesota Wild." Here's a sneak peak at their new purple uniforms.

The third jersey will feature a weeping-dove logo.

It's no coincidence that Tim Thomas' return to the NHL occurred in the same year that the US Government shut itself down. Thomas will seize on this crisis to declare himself "Dread Lord of Florida" and campaign to have the state cede from the union.

The full import of Martin St. Louis' appointment as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning will be revealed later in the season when plans to relocate the franchise to Quebec City are revealed.

In an attempt to change their name to something that sounds less like a group of registered sex offenders, the Nashville Predators will rechristen themselves as the "Tennessee Toothy-Tigers."

Firings

Brian Burke will dismiss Jay Feaster before the trade deadline. Afterward, Burke will appoint himself interim General Manager just in time to appear on TSN's deadline-day coverage in his signature look: a disheveled tie. Following in the footsteps of SNL cartoon "The X-Presidents," Burke will assemble a staff comprising fellow fired GMs who will monitor hockey operations by day and fight crime by night.

Claude Noel will keep his job as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets for most of the regular season. His future in Manitoba will hinge upon whether or not the season ends with his team finally committing to the playoffs (like Ross and Rachel at the end of Friends) or breaking up definitively (like Kevin and Winnie at the end of The Wonder Years). Either way, fans will need a box of Kleenex to get through Noel's emotional roller-coaster.
  
Paul Holmgren and/or Peter Laviolette will be fired before the end of the season if the Philadelphia Flyers struggle. I'd be surprised if both made it to Christmas. There's no joke here; I seriously think that this will happen.

Lawsuits

Capitalizing on his unexpected stardom on NHL 24/7 as "Coach McEffbomb," Bruce Boudreay will file a lawsuit against HBO after Randy Carlyle or Mike Babcock infringes on his trademarked manner of cursing.

After being issued a cease-and-desist order empowered with the death penalty, I will stop pestering the LA Kings about my ideas for a cool third jersey. Since you'll never see Dustin Brown or Drew Doughty wearing these threads, I'll leak my idea in this post.

"King me!"

Sens fans who have become "Alfie apologists" will be hardpressed to defend the former captain of the Ottawa Senators when behind-the-scenes footage exposes some of the Swede's awful sides. In interviews held to promote the 2014 Winter Classic, Daniel Alfredsson will dish on the lurid secrets behind Erik Karlsson's beauty regimen (skincare products by Elizabeth Bathory). The Sens, however, will have the last laugh when they go deeper in the 2014 playoffs than the Red Wings.

Trades and Acquisitions

Prior to the trade deadline, Ryan Miller will be dealt to a team that is on the cusp of playoff contention. In true Miller fashion, the Sabres goalie will trash his former team under the premise that he's "just giving honest answers." Miller may reveal that former teammate Jason Pominville was born with the surname "Appleton," but he had it changed after being relentlessly heckled with Perfect Strangers references as a kid. 

At least one team will pick one player off waivers because they mistook him for another. For instance, the New York Rangers might mistake Capitals' defenceman John Carlson for Sens' defenceman Erik Karlsson.

Game Changers

Paul Bissonnette will become convinced that the NHL's ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes is proof that the team is nothing more than the hockey equivalent of The Truman Show. To support his conspiracy theory, Bissonnette will spend the entire season gathering evidence suggesting that the team, its opponents, and its arena in Glendale aren't real.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will win at least one game in the shootout. Head coach Randy Carlyle may torment Leafs Nation with puzzling personnel decisions--including the decision to bench both James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier in favour of onetime goalie prospect Keanu "The Wall" Reeves--but the Leafs will return to the postseason in 2014.

After reading an interview with Dallas Eakins from an issue of The Hockey News, I'm convinced that Edmonton's new head coach will lead the Oilers into the postseason. The interview describes how Eakins suffered many sleepless nights as he agonized over ways to make under-performing centre Nazem Kadri realize his potential. Eakins may end up looking more sleep deprived than Vince Vaughn, but he will find a way to get more from the Oilers' under-performing personnel.

Conversely, John Tortorella's tyrannical leadership will reduce the Vancouver Canucks to a fragile group of panic-stricken insomniacs. They may make the playoffs based on sheer talent and fear of reprisal from their head coach, but the team's best years of Stanley Cup contention are now behind them. Once word gets out that Torts is more despotic than Mr. Tarkanian (the paragon of abusive bosses, played by Will Ferrell), unrestricted free agents will shun the Canucks.

By next July, we'll hear UFAs saying, "I'm not signing in Vancouver after Torts killed Ryan Kesler with a trident!"

Tragedies

After a weekend of partying with Tyler Seguin proves fatal for Jamie Benn, Seguin's attempts to trick everyone into believing that the Dallas Stars captain still lives. Along the way, Seguin will learn to reform his reckless ways, find true love, and help Benn (albeit posthumously) set new personal records for goals and assists in a single campaign. These events will be adapted into a third installment in the Weekend at Bernie's franchise.

To save on travel costs, the New York Islanders will charter a boat for travel to games against their new divisional foe, the Carolina Hurricanes. The team is lost at sea after the ship is hit by a tropical storm one night. Thereafter, they will be forever referred to as "Gilligan's Islanders."

Most Ridiculous Moment

In honour of the Montreal Canadiens' EGG line (Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk, and Brendan Gallagher), Pierre McGuire will cover each Habs game in character as Egghead, the least threatening nemesis of Adam West's Batman.

"Yolk-upov just tied the game up for the Egg-monton Omeletters!"

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The NHL Needs to Ban Ice, Gravity

Despite last night's injury to George Parros during a hard-fought game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, the NHL has done nothing to prevent ice and gravity from further afflicting its employees.

The incident in question occurred following a fight between Parros and Colton Orr. After slipping on hockey's infamous playing surface, Orr accidentally brought Parros down with him as the Leaf's hand was tightly clasping the Hab's jersey.

Fans of the sport often defend ice as part of the game, even though other forms of hockey (e.g. field and road) have proven that ice is not a necessary element to the sport. Nor should it be an integral part of hockey's entertainment value. Indeed, skating and deking are embarrassing sideshow that make a mockery of an otherwise well-respected contact sport.

Ignorant cavemen have long defended the role of ice in professional sports, but this support base has dwindled over time. Ice has had a longstanding reputation as a treacherous aspect of the Canadian wilderness, but cases of people being plunged into thawing rivers or being felled by slippery sidewalks in winter have eroded enthusiasm for ice at a glacial pace.

However, ice has been under fire recently following a Hollywood documentary that captured its brutal, bloodthirsty nature. The film Thor depicts humanoid ice-people (dubbed "Frost Giants") as a sentient race that is both fully cognizant of the havoc that frozen water can wreak on people, and yet entirely unapologetic of its devastating effects.

Do scenes like this enhance our enjoyment of hockey? 

Gravity is perhaps the more insidious of the two culprits because its destructive tendencies have been dismissed as unavoidable acts of nature. Players such as Colton Orr are held responsible for actions that may have been beyond their control, but forces such as gravity aren't held at all accountable for their actions. Therefore, the primary villain in the incident involving Parros is Sir Isaac Newton, who first dignified and assuaged this brutal, belligerent force of nature of any culpability for its actions in his theory of gravity.

Parros' blood is on your apple, Newton!

Despite the obvious role that ice and gravity have played in this tragedy accident, some commentators consistently blame fighting for such incidents. This position is advanced by reporters such as James Mirtle, who incenses fans by presenting his own personal diatribes as news stories for Toronto newspaper The Goad and Flail.

In this article, Mirtle patronizes mourns the enforcer Parros by lamenting that he, "a bright man, who graduated from Princeton", wasted his brilliance and Ivy-league pedigree on a vocation that is so inconsistent with Mirtle's views of hockey. They say that there is no tragedy greater than the death of a stereotype, so we should probably excuse Mirtle's excessive grief over the loss of his convenient definition of hockey fighters.

However, other writers responding angrily to the Parros incident shouldn't be excused so easily. Behind the over-the-top outrage is a sense of disappointment.

Some reporters, desperate to prove themselves right on the matter of hockey fights, seem let down when a player doesn't die during a tilt. Like a grad student waiting on a vital book to arrive via inter-library loan, each reporter's thesis (on why hockey fights and those who enjoy them are bad, Bad, BAD!) remains unfinished until the final proof of their rightness arrives via body bag. Many have prematurely typed the headline "NHL Player Dies in Hockey Fight" numerous times before having to backspace their wishful thinking into oblivion.

Damien Cox is apparently scandalized and affronted by people who enjoy hockey fights. How else can you explain his decision to describe fans as a "bloodthirsty Bell Centre crowd" who luridly "roared" as they were "thrilled by its [their team's] new goon [Parros]."

Cox represents the extremity of reporters who harbour (and freely showcase) a seething spite for hockey fighters and fans of fighting in hockey seems extreme. I wouldn't be surprised if Cox became a vigilante reporter who would take matters into his own hands just to rid the NHL of fighting. After fulfilling his prophecy that a fight would one day end fatally, Cox could then spend the the rest of his life as a tenured "I told you so" reporter.

Based on his self-righteous indignation toward hockey fighters and fans who enjoy hockey fights, I wouldn't be surprised if Cox were overheard speaking a variant of Jon Hamm's famous line from The Town.


"Fortunately though, for Orr and for Bettman, Parros, who is two-thirds a moron despite his education, has miraculously clung to life. Now, if it were up to me, and they gave me two minutes and a wet towel, I would personally asphyxiate this designated goon so we could see hockey fights end with a bag on Orr's head and a paralyzing agent running through his veins." 

Perhaps we can also excuse Cox because his egregious flaws are nonetheless human. Cox works under the assumption that he is smart; therefore, anything that he thinks must be right, and anyone who thinks otherwise must be stupid. This form of neurosis is quite common among hockey writers whose contributions to contemporary journalism are all bluster and little substance.

It must be tough for Cox to cover the sport when so many players make a mockery of his self-proclaimed intellect by failing to finish each fight in martyrdom. Every time a star player defends an enforcer--every time a renowned fighter signs a lucrative contract, Cox's sense of self-assurance takes a heavy blow. We may not excuse such behaviour, but we can certainly feel pity for someone with such a grasping desperation for integrity that he must insult others just to assert his own worth.

Of course, the issue is often presented as much more than the defence of one's self-esteem. Cox and Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless tried to make fighting in hockey more than a matter of opinion by resorting to the use of false dichotomies and fear tactics.


In other words, 


According to Cox and Lawless, either you oppose fighting, or you're in favour of jeopardizing the future of the sport and the welfare of children. Apparently kids everywhere are horrified by violence. That's why so many kids when I was growing up feared the possibility of joining "G.I. Joe," the "Ninja Turtles," and "X-Men." We longed for the days of--wait, when was there a time when fighting wasn't a thing? Even Playmobil has toys designed to combat each other.

Those of us about to die salute you!

Never mind the fact that there is no evidence correlating the decline in enrollment to fighting in hockey. Disregard the fact that enrollments didn't dwindle in the 70s before the NHL outlawed bench-clearing brawls and the Philadelphia Flyers. Such nitpicking is best left for cavemen.

For writers such as Cox, what matters in the fight over fighting in hockey isn't whether or not they are in the right. What matters is that they stick up for their teammates fellow writers and the code their conception of journalistic integrity.