Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Peter Forsberg Sweepstakes?

Will he come back?

I think the answer is a firm, "I dunno."

Reports from camp Forsberg indicate that he wants to return to the NHL, but given his previous setbacks, who really knows what's going to happen.

Here's what we know for sure: he turned out an offer from his Swedish Elite League team MoDo to play the season because he wants to keep his NHL options open.

Forsberg attempted a bit of a comeback last fall when he began practising with MoDo in preparation for a tournament. However, it was apparent that his ankles were not ready to play, so he had additional surgical procedures in December. After resting for over a month, he has only recently begun skating and all looks to be good - 'looks' being the operative word.

I'm not saying that Forsberg will return to the NHL. He has had many setbacks in the past, and he has only been skating for about a week. That being said, Forsberg has told his agent to begin discussions with NHL teams for a possible return to North America, and I'm sure that half the League is salivating at the thought of acquiring Forsberg.

Signing Forsberg would be a great move for many teams, and I wouldn't necessarily oppose the idea of Shero going after him. First of all, the Pens would not have to give up anything to get Forsberg. Second, I don't think that signing him would be super-expensive, salary-wise or years-wise. I could be wrong on this, but I think that Forsberg may take a smaller contract to get himself back into the NHL and prove that his past injuries are just that - in the past.

There are certainly risks to signing Forsberg. We don't know how his ankles will hold up in the NHL. He could get back into the game and experience the same problems as before.

But if Forsberg is ready to come back and play, the Penguins may want to pursue him. Sure, it would be a risk, but if the price is right, then it may be a good move given the recent injuries in Pittsburgh.

Something interesting to think about...

ESPN pays attention to hockey

(Okay, so it seems as though just about everyone is posting a link to this article, so why shouldn't I?? I am, after all, a Pens fan...)

Yes, it is actually an ESPN article (I hear it's pretty much a miracle that ESPN pays ANY attention to hockey) about Crosby. It's a little long, but it's a fun read.

I especially liked the bit about Army dancing with a cardboard version of Crosby in a Montreal coffee shop (Tim Horton's?)....or how about Army dancing along with Ellen DeGeneres?

"He doesn't know anything about TV shows, not like I do," Armstrong confides. "He likes 'Friends.' I know. It hurts."

Crosby's rebuttal: "He's into those reality shows and that celebrity stuff, and I'm not too big on them.

"We'll get in late, and it always seems like they have those National Geographic shows on at 2 a.m. in the morning in the hotel, so we get stuck watching stuff like that ... For the most part, he likes things like 'American Justice' and 'Cold Case' and things like that."

Crosby then says his roommate has a television secret of his own ... "Ellen."

"I'm going to throw him under the bus on that one. He loves Ellen DeGeneres," Crosby says.

Right before a pregame nap?

"No, it's right after. It's hilarious. To a T, we wake up from our nap and that show's coming on and she's dancing."

When Armstrong finds out Crosby has spilled the beans, Armstrong drags a reporter over to Crosby and announces loudly that he wants to do the interview over, that he's going to reveal Sid's affection for Chandler on "Friends."

Crosby interrupts, revealing that not only does Armstrong love "Ellen" but he also likes to dance along to her show opening.

The two players are in stitches.

These two crack me up...

By the way Army, there's NOTHING wrong with sitcom of all time, in my humble opinion. Chandler is the best...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Should he stay or should he go?

What are the Senators to do with Ray Emery?

Last season, Emery was their numero uno goaltender. He took the team to the Cup Finals and got a big, shiny new contract in the summer.

This season? Emery is the backup with a 8-7-3 record, 2.95 GAA, and a SV % of .891 compared to Martin Gerber's 23-8-1 record, 2.64 GAA, and .914 SV %.

Even more worrisome is Emery's off-ice conduct. He has been late to practice on a number of occasions, and even missed the team plane to Jersey during the playoffs last season. He fought his teammate in practice earlier this year, and he threw his stick in a fit when he found out that he wouldn't be starting that night's game.

He has been called out by his coach and his captain, but he doesn't seem to be learning. On Monday, he showed up late to practice because he said that he thought the practice was going to be held at Nassau Coliseum, not the Islanders' practice facility, and was promptly kicked out by Coach Paddock.

Was it just a simple mistake? Yeah, it probably was, but these 'mistakes' happen too often with Emery. Maybe it's just me, but if I was being paid millions of dollars to play hockey, I'd make sure that I knew where practice was being held and that I had a good alarm clock to wake me up in time for practice. Heck, I always set my alarm clock and my alarm on my cell phone just to get up in time for class.

At least this time Emery will be paying for his actions; the Senators have fined Emery a reported $14,705 in the hopes that he'll get it.

I'm sure these stories are blown up a little bit, considering it concerns a Canadian hockey team, but shouldn't he realize by now that his actions are widely publicized in the media and that this could eventually have a negative effect on his team? It's the nature of living under the microscope north of the border.

Many have said that Emery needs to go before he ruins the team. Perhaps he'll do better in a less hockey-crazy market? Maybe Los Angeles?

I think Bryan Murray is (at least) considering trading Emery, but who would want to take this potential distraction? Besides, Gerber has not exactly been a tower of strength in the last month of so. My non-professional opinion is that Murray will probably wait until closer to the deadline to see how Gerber does, and he'll give Emery a few more starts to see how he plays. If Gerber starts to channel Ty Conklin's magic, maybe Murray will try to trade Emery at the deadline (maybe to LA for Blake?). If not, I wouldn't expect a change.

In any case, this could be the year the Cup comes to Ottawa. The last thing they need is for Emery to distract them from their ultimate goal.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's a European Game...?

The NHL has formally announced that the 2008-09 season will open in Europe, just like it did this year.

However, there is one difference: four teams will open their seasons in Europe.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators will open in Stockholm, Sweden, while the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning will play a home-and-home in Prague, Czech Republic.

Granted, these countries love hockey. The game in Sweden will be nice because the Swedes love Daniel Alfredsson, and the Czechs will go nuts for Jaromir Jagr.

But, in my humble opinion, this is not the greatest of ideas.

First, I remember how the Anaheim Ducks played after starting the season in London, England - they were tired and didn't play well.

Second, why in the world is the NHL focusing on Europe? Is this further proof that Bettman wants to expand across the pond?

Silly me, I thought the NHL wanted to make hockey more popular in the US, where they already have 24 teams but are hardly more popular than Major League Soccer.

I thought that it didn't make sense to play four games overseas and forfeit most of that revenue. I don't think the money from those sold out arenas are going back to the NHL clubs...

I thought the only logical thing would be to stabilize your product where it already exists before branching out. Maybe relocate a few franchises to cities that actually care about hockey...perhaps focus the cash and the efforts on marketing plans and events this side of the Atlantic...

But hey, what do I know?

The 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Hot-lanta.

It's midway through the season. Most players get a few days off to rest, heal, babysit the kids and prepare for the crazy playoff race. But for a select few players, this is not a holiday - it's work.

But fun work!

Tonight is the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills Competition (including the YoungStars Game).

Tomorrow night is the All-Star Game.

What it lacks in intensity, it makes up for in fun. I still remember last year's game, when the broadcasters talked to Marty Turco while he was playing. He would be talking to the guys upstairs about his job and what goes on in his head, and then he'd say something to the effect of "Wait a minute, gotta work for a sec." He'd make a save, then continue on as if nothing happened.

Or how about Lindy Ruff behind the bench for the East and how he'd bring one of his kids behind the bench and kick them out in favour of another kid because the team was losing (okay, so he 'rotated' his kids so that they could all have a turn with Dad).

There may be a lot of players missing from this year's edition of the All-Star weekend, but that doesn't mean that the remaining players are second string by any means. There's still Ovechkin, Lecavalier, Alfredsson, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Iginla...lots of great players indeed.

This is definitely how you should spend your weekend. After all, you always watch hockey on the weekends, right?

Monday, January 21, 2008

High Ankle Sprain???

Pens fans are still mourning the loss of their captain to an apparent high ankle sprain. Note the word 'apparent'.

Docs are not exactly sure what's wrong with Crosby's leg, other than the fact that it hurts like hell. They initially thought it was a high ankle sprain, but they need to do more tests to confirm that diagnosis.

As we await the results of the MRI, we can only guess how much time he will miss. Will it be 4 weeks? Only the crazy-optimistic people are thinking that's a possibility at this point. Will it be 8 weeks? Even this may seem a little optimistic for some.

Heck, maybe he'll miss the rest of the season, and I think everyone needs to start thinking that's a distinct possibility.

I'm not saying that we should be the ultimate pessimists - we just need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that he won't be back this season and rally behind the players who are not injured.

Saturday's win in Montreal was one of the most important wins of the season. Just look at everything going against them: Pittsburgh rarely wins in Montreal (and Michel Therrien has never won in Montreal since becoming head coach of the Pens), and the Pens have never won without Sid in the lineup, and Montreal has the 2nd best power play in the league - a PP that has burned many a team. Not only did the Pens get the win, but they also held the Canadiens scoreless, thanks to Sabourin.

It's amazing to see what the team has done in the last few months. They have managed to find a way to win despite losing their top goalie, top defenceman, several energy guys, and now their best player.

In spite of it all, I can't help but wonder if losing Crosby will ultimately be the straw that broke the camel's back.

In order for the winning trend to continue, several things need to happen: Sykora needs to become a sniper, Staal needs to break out of his funk, Malkin needs to carry the team on his back, Laraque needs to keep playing to the best of his ability (and those were some pretty sweet moves on Saturday night), Conk and Sabou need to keep impersonating brick walls, and (most importantly) the team needs to tighten up defensively. Can this happen??

The team now knows that they are not just Crosby and Company, but can they keep that momentum going into the next few months?

Only time will tell, but this could be the 'best' thing to happen to the Pens (if you can find a silver lining when losing your franchise player).

Facing adversity will make a team stronger and hungrier.

Just as the WJC gold medal winning team...

Countdown to the Super Bowl

Yep, I admit it, I'm counting down the days until the Super Bowl. I believe it is now 13 days.

And no, it's not because I want to see the Patriots cap off a perfect season.

And it's not because I want to see the Giants spoil the party in New England.

It's because I don't care for football, and I can't wait for the highlights to disappear from SportsCentre. Let's keep the highlights for hockey, with the occasional Raptors update. Thank you very much.

That's my last anti-football rant for the season.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Martha Stewart, this is NOT a good thing.

Right now, we're in the middle of the Pens/Lightning game, but the big headlines all over the place go something like this:

Crosby suffered high ankle sprain in the first period.

Oh crap.

"High ankle sprain"....seems like the Pens have been collecting this injury around the dressing room. In fact, they've been collecting injuries in general. High ankle sprains....broken fibulas....torn ACL' name it.

If this is, indeed, what Crosby has, then how long will he be out of the lineup? Talbot was out several weeks, Fleury's may be out another month. Granted, a butterfly goalie like MAF will have more pressure and strain on the ankle, so it takes a lot longer to come back from that kind of thing. And who knows, maybe Crosby's injury is more on the 'slight sprain' side of things, as opposed to a 'severe sprain'.

I'll refrain from being a Chicken Little. The Pens have played amazingly well for the last month and a half, despite missing a number of players for a significant stretch of games. Maybe the guys will keep rallying....

But, you have to doesn't look good, does it?

About the only good thing here is that the All-Star break is coming up, so that's one or two games that Crosby won't have to miss...but if he's out six weeks, then I guess that doesn't matter, eh?

Speaking of the All-Star's next weekend, and I'll be working on a package for Faceoff-Factor, similar to what I did for the WJC.

Anyone notice how the guys who were named to the All-Star teams are dropping like flies?

Maybe we'll have a whole new set of All-Star teams by the time the break rolls around.

Something tells me that Malkin will get the nod, but it's a really sucky way to get named to the All-Star team.
By the way, did anyone see that Rick Nash goal last night?

Jaw-dropping awesomeness. Yep.

And here's some video evidence of said goal:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chills. That's all I can say.

2006 Playoffs. Good times - until Carolina won. In Game 7. It sucked.

This video gives me chills everytime I see it.

Every home crowd needs to do this, regardless of nationality.

Edmonton even sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Those are some good people, them Oiler fans.

Game Tonight!! Woooooo!

Pens and Rangers. Tonight. Only game in the NHL and it just happens to be on TSN.

Know what that means?

No studying for my quiz tomorrow. Eh.

It's the Penguins - 9 game point streak going on, and I just have to watch it otherwise they'll lose and they won't win a game for the rest of the season and they'll hunt me down and beat me. Yep, I can justify watching the game, for sure. It's for my own well-being.


All joking aside, the mess in Toronto is really shaping up to be a disaster of epic proportions. Well, at least that's what you'd think if you paid attention to the Canadian sports media, which holds the Maple Leafs above all others.

What's really a kick in the face is that fans thought all season that Scotty Bowman didn't want the Toronto gig. They could deal with that - who the hell in their right mind would WANT to go into Toronto? The Leafs organization is seriously messed up. But then Scotty Bowman came on HNIC on Saturday night and told Ron McLean - and the rest of Canada - that he had meetings with Tanenbaum and Peddie of the Leafs and that he WANTED the job, but that they said no.

The reason why I think (and I'm speculating here because Tanenbaum, Peddie and company haven't given their reasons) Bowman wasn't hired was because he wanted a Bryan Colangelo type of deal, where he had complete control over what happened with the team/management and MLSE didn't want to relinquish control over their beloved Leafs.

Let's look at things...

Colangelo came in to the Raptors, shook things up, made some controversial decisions, and made the Raptors a pretty good team in the NBA. In fact, last season's improvement over the season before pretty much parallels the success of the Penguins.

Scotty Bowman = money. And not in the sense that he would be too expensive for the Leafs. Heck, the Leafs are swimming in cash. They love the salary cap because it leaves more money for the big guys up top. Bowman was asking for $3M a year minus whatever the GM would be making. For a team that is consistently the most valuable franchise in the NHL, they can spend a few measley million dollars on Bowman.

No, the money comment on Bowman refers to his track record. He has nine (NINE!!) Stanley Cups. NINE!!!! He knows what it takes to win, and he knows how to put a team together.

But hey, why would the big guys at MLSE want to bring someone in and give up complete control over the team? Not winning the Stanley Cup since the Original Six era (1967 to be exact) hasn't hurt their attendance record and merchandise sales aren't exactly down. The Leafs can keep on being a bad team, and people will still flock to the games and the suits will still buy the luxury suites and fill the lower bowl.

Who cares what a Stanley Cup win would actually do to the city?

Who cares that you'd have the biggest Cup celebration of all time if the Leafs won Lord Stanley's Mug?

At this rate, the Raptors will win an NBA championship long before the Leafs even look like Cup contenders. And that's too bad, really.


One final note, my heart goes out to the families and friends of the seven students and teacher killed in an accident over the weekend in Bathurst, NB when their 15-passenger van hit a transport truck on the way back from a game in Moncton. The seven students were all members of the Bathurst High School boys basketball team and the teacher was the wife of the coach. The coach, his daughter, and two more students were taken to hospital.

Sad times in the Maritimes...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Absolutely PARALYZED!

Okay, so the title is cheesy. Maybe that makes me a little cheesy too.


I'm so psyched that my favourite song of 2007, Paralyzer by Finger Eleven, is getting big-time air play in the US.

First, they were number one in Canada for like 3 months last spring/summer.

Then they landed a great gig on the 2007 NHL Awards show.

Now they're #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, with a sweet performance on the Tonight Show last night.

What's next?

Always nice to see a Canuck band find success elsewhere in the world - and to crack the oh-so-hard-to-crack US market.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Alfredsson the Canuck

Daniel Alfredsson made good on a bet today when he donned a white Team Canada jersey after Canada beat Sweden for the WJHC gold medal.

Looks just like MY jersey!

Not unexpectedly, Alfie's teammates had a few comments about his performance in practice.

“I thought his heart looked big today. He backchecked harder and did a lot of the little things. Definitely, the jersey rubbed off on him a little bit," said Jason Spezza with a laugh.

“There was a little extra grit in there, maybe,” added Ray Emery.

“He’s got an Olympic gold medal (in Torino, Italy, in 2006),” said Dany Heatley. “Nobody else in here has one. He’s got one for Sweden, maybe he can trade countries and help us win one.”

"There is no chance," said Alfredsson.



Some more post-WJHC news: TSN is reporting that the gold medal game on Saturday drew an audience of 2.22 million viewers (which peaked at over 3 million as OT began). This was the fourth most watched program on TSN EVER, and the second most watched program in Canada this week (behind Desperate Housewives...what the frig?).

The most watched sporting event in Canadian history? The men's gold medal hockey game at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics between Canada and the US. Over 10 million people watched that game (or about 33% of the nation's population), and thankfully the Canucks won, otherwise we would have had 10 million people rioting in the streets from St. John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, BC.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

True North Strong and Gold

Team Canada held on to win the gold as the Swedes stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game late in the third period.

An OT victory makes the gold medal even sweeter.

Stefan Legein, one of my favourite players on this team, said during an interview before the Finland game that Canada would win the gold.

After that game, the Canadians lined up (as usual) and sang O Canada. When the camera landed on Legein, he said, "Two more, two more baby, two more."

Fast forward to the end of the Canada/USA game yesterday, and Legein was saying, "One more baby, one more."

Today, Legein (with his right arm in a sling after separating his shoulder) was saying, "I TOLD YOU CANADA, I TOLD YOU!!!"

Yes, you did.


I am truly grateful for TSN's extensive coverage of the World Juniors because, not only do they provide us with each and every Canadian game, but they also give us groundbreaking, behind the scenes stories. Stories like "The Nicknames," and Legein's Geno Reda impression. We are all able to see just how close this team is - and their sense of humour.

One of the funniest things that TSN caught onto was the 'Post Goal Smooch.' Every time Canada scored a goal, the goal scorer got a nice big kiss from his teammates. It was usually on his helmet, or through the cage (like Simmonds on Tavares). And the guys were in a kissing mood after today's game, as evidenced by Legein's wet one on C-Bul (TSN's James Cybulski) after getting a towel full of whipped cream in the face.


Watching these games are like watching the Stanley Cup playoffs for me, and winning the gold is as exciting as winning the Cup.

I love how excited the guys are after winning, and how they enthusiastically sing O Canada (even though many can't sing).

I loved how these guys got the huge flag down from the upper bowl and waved it on the ice in tribute to the thousands of fans who flew over to the Czech Republic to support the team.

I love how the guys bring the trophy over the boards and into the crowd to share their victory with the fans.

I love how thousands of fans make the trip overseas to support Team Canada. Most of this year's group of fans stayed in Prague, which is a 60-90 minute train trip from Pardubice, and I hear the trips have been wild.

I love how countless current and former NHL players (including Gretzky, Toews, and Doan), Prime Minister Stephen Harper and thousands of fans call the team and send faxes and emails, wishing them the best of luck.

I love how Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers watched yesterday's Canada/USA game at home with his Team Canada jersey on his back.

I love how NHL players, like Jason Spezza, watched the game even though they played tonight.

I love how Daniel Alfredsson lost his bet with Ottawa Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk and will have to wear a Team Canada jersey at practice on Monday.

I love how fans across the nation will take a sick day in order to watch big hockey games, and how kids sometimes watch the big games at school.

I love how Canada also won the Spengler Cup and the World U-17 tournaments this week.

I love how Canadians are not ashamed of saying that we excel at hockey and that we expect a gold medal, even though we (generally) don't like saying that we're good at other sports.

I love the hockey stories that are on TV all the time, like the story about the little kid who got a goal in his first game, and on his second breakaway he passed the puck to a kid on the other team and told him mom that it was okay because it was the other kid's turn.

I love the absolute national pride I feel when I watch Team Canada play.

What a great day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Captain Clutch at Ice Bowl...and the Canucks are still in the hunt at the WJC

My, what a busy Christmas vacation this has been. Lots of Christmas shopping...traveling here, there and everywhere...covering the WJC for Faceoff Factor...and digging out of countless snowstorms. Nice to have high speed back after a few weeks of prehistoric dial-up...

And it was great to kick off 2008 with a WIN AT ICE BOWL!

There are so many recaps out there, and conspiracy theories (those Caps fans should really just give it a rest) to last a lifetime, but wasn't that just the most perfect game for Pens fans? Crosby made the first goal happen, and he was the one who scored the shootout winner. He isn't the best at the shootout, but he scored when the world was watching. Wasn't it just great immediately after he scored, and everything was quiet and you could just hear him screaming? Yep, I freaked out right along with him.

I think that the Pens and Habs should play an outdoor game next year in the Maritimes...


World Juniors = awesome.

It hurt...really hurt...when the Canucks collapsed in the third period against the Swedes, and they still have lots of issues (especially when it comes to scoring), but I'm loving it all just the same. Now it's a rematch of last year's semifinals. Canada. USA. Friday. And I have a stupid class at that time. Whatever - maybe I'll just not show up. It's not like they'll go and check the pub or something, eh?

After today's game against the Finns, when O Canada was playing and the crowd (and team) was singing, Stefan Legein said "Two more, two more baby." Yep, just two more wins....

Speaking of the crowd, one of the things that I absolutely love about this tournament is that so many Canadians make the trip to wherever to cheer on the team. The stands are filled with red and white jerseys, and fans are waving the flag...or trying to wave a 40' x 30' gigantic flag. They paint their faces red, white, and sometimes black, and you can hear them singing O Canada in the middle of the game. The team scores and you would honestly think that the game was being played in Halifax, or Ottawa, or Vancouver, not in Pardubice.

Best of all, you don't hear those stupid whistles that the Europeans blow that sound just like the refs' whistles. How many times do they have to get burned to figure out that those whistles might be a bad idea?

Canada, USA....this is gonna be a huge game. Now all we need is for Toews to get over his knee injury, fly to the Czech Republic, and score FOUR shootout goals to top last year's performance.

Bring it on van Riemsdyk!!