Friday, December 31, 2010

We'll Take A Cup of Kindness Yet For Auld Lang Syne

Photo by: Me

After about a foot and a half of snow, flights being canceled, and a 21 hour drive from Brooklyn to Tampa, I am back home. The city of New York could have solved all of it's plowing/shoveling issues by getting all of the Floridians who are amazed by the snow to shovel it. Seriously. We couldn't get enough. Until our flight was canceled, then things were much less romanticized. I got plenty of sleep and am finally feeling more alert. On the drive back, I started writing a post comparing the sports fandoms of Boston and New York. But Auld Lang Syne is running through my head and I am thinking of the past year.

Frankly, I'm glad to see 2010 go. The new Lightning ownership and seeming resurgence of the franchise has been very welcome, but to see if they can keep it up and have success in the playoffs the calendar needs to change. In the meantime, I can revel in a thrashing of the Candiens to end 2010, Cedrick Desjardins' NHL debut and victory, and Steven Stamkos' 30th and 31st goals.

I had an interesting relationship with the Red Sox this year. Even as the injuries continued to pile up, they still found ways to win. In spite of all of the frustration with pitching and lacking guys like Pedroia or Youkilis in the line up, they were still competitive. Combine that with the sensational off season moves and the waiting for spring training is definitely the hardest part.

I'm excited and looking to the future. 2011 looks to be a good year, sports wise and for my personal life. And that's what I'll be thinking of when the clock chimes midnight this evening. Cheers and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Photo by: Me

Part of what makes the holidays unique is my annual trip to New York City to spend Christmas with my family there. If posts are light for the next few days, that's the reason why.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Public Service Announcement With Guitar

Before the 2008 elections and the artist Shepard Fairey became known for his Hope posters of President Obama, he made the above print of Joe Strummer back in 2002. I have one of those signed, numbers prints on the dresser in my bedroom. And I will pretty much never be convinced to sell it.

December is a bit of a melancholy month in spite of the hopeful Christmas music and all of the twinkling lights. I observe the passing of two of my musical heroes this month. John Lennon died on December 8th 1980. Joe Strummer died on December 22nd of 2002. Both made music that profoundly influenced my life and the way I view the world.

What does this have to do with sports? I'll tell you. I grew up in a family where there were two children, both girls. My father made sure to teach us about sports. Baseball, football, etc. Sports were a part of our lives. It wasn't until I got older and realized that not every girl had that same upbringing. That my passion for sports is sometimes even seen as an oddity. I never let that stop me. I love what I love without apology. My gender has absolutely no bearing on my capacity to enjoy the game. Because I grew up and into punk rock and rock & roll, rebellion has been embedded in my subconscious. And I have guys like John Lennon and Joe Strummer to thank for a lot of that.

Back to sports tomorrow. For now, I'll listen and be thankful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

That Just Happened

Photo by Me

Back at the beginning of November, I wrote about how impressed I was with the Lightning and Steven Stamkos' play at that point in the young NHL season. Well, they have floored me again. I was at the Lightning's 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes last night and the milestones were flying all over the place. Teddy Purcell had his 13th point in 13 games. Vinny Lecavalier tallied his 750th career assist. Marty St. Louis passed Vinny to be come the franchise leader in game winning goals scored. These are all fantastic, but one milestone stands out a bit more.

At 16:26 in the second period, Steven Stamkos scored his 100th career goal. That statistic is impressive enough without anymore detail. But wait, there's more. Stamkos is only 20 years old. He has only played two and a half NHL seasons. He is now one of six players to reach that mark before his 21st birthday. Some of the other guys who have done it: Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson, Brian Bellows, Ilya Kovalchuk. This kid keeps getting better.

I am really enjoying seeing what will happen next. The team is off to their best start in team history. There is some nagging doubt at the back of my mind. Like all masochistic sports fans, I can't just sit back and enjoy the good times. I have to worry about our goal tending inconsistencies. Mike Smith was just starting to get hot and he's out 2-3 weeks due to a knee injury sustained at yesterday's practice. Will he be able to pick up that momentum when he gets back? Yes, Dan Ellis did play his best game of the season last night. But can we really count on him for more of those performances? His teammates aren't always going to have an flurry of offense and score 5 goals. We have Cedrick Desjardins on the bench as a back up. I was very impressed with him during training camp, but he is untested in an NHL setting.

Then I go on and worry about what happens at the end of this season when Stamkos needs a new contract. I am very, very worried that the Lightning won't be able to hang on to them given their current contract restrictions with some players. I know there is nothing that one fan can do to change what is going to happen. I am just really enjoying this season. And I don't want that feeling to end anytime soon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm All In For Life

Photo by: Linda Hamilton

I had big plans for today's post. I took my parents to the Lightning/ Buffalo game last night and we had a great time. We taught my mom about icing and offsides. The more Labatts that was enjoyed meant that icing and de-icing were confused a few times. We ended up closing down the bar, Shots, that is outside of the arena and got home around 1 am. So I'll keep things brief.

Congratulations to Steven Stamkos on his 25th goal of the season. It was an absolute beauty. I tried finding it on Youtube, but my tired fingers are having trouble spelling.

A good night and a good win. Good celebrating with good friends. This is one of the best parts about being a sports fan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Road To the Winter Classic Episode 1

Brief update before I head off to sleep. Due to not having HBO and being at the Lightning/Thrashers game last night, I missed the debut of HBO's 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. I got around to watching it tonight and have quite a few thoughts. And am actually surprised I enjoyed it so much.

I'm sure that I am like most hockey fans who are not Capitals or Penguins fans in that I'm kind of sick of the manufactured rivalry between those two clubs being hyped beyond belief. Going into the mini series, I fully expected it to be four weeks of following Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. I should have known better. HBO does a lot very well, especially when it comes to their sports documentaries. Sure Ovie and Sid were part of the show, but they weren't the whole show. We saw a team riding high on a win streak and another team struggling just to win games. We saw home games and road trips. Guys at home with their families, teams going on the road and hotel pranks.

One of the most interesting parts is hearing what the players and coaches say when they're on the bench or the ice. So many fans like to consider ourselves to be knowledgeable, but this kind of view behind the curtain is unprecedented.

The best part? HBO has made the game of hockey look FANTASTIC. The shots of skates being sharpened, sticks being taped, and the footage of the games being played. It is a feast for the eyes and I honestly can't wait until the episode. Whoever decided the NHL should be involved in this deserves a huge pat on the back. It is intriguing.

My only gripe is having to look at Sidney Crosby's straggly mustache until Christmas. That thing is just creepy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can't Buy Me Love

Photo by: AP Photos

As a sports fan, it's really easy to get disillusioned by the high value contracts that are bandied around every off season. We saw a lot of that in hockey this past summer with Ilya Kovalchuk's 15 year, $100 Million dollar deal. It's something that is especially rampant in baseball since MLB hasn't organized a salary cap yet. And I don't see that happening any time soon. What you do frequently see is well known , talented players who say they will never leave a team they supposedly love when the highest bidder places the biggest stash on the table. I'm looking at you, Johnny Damon.

The biggest shock with baseball free agency was when former Texas Rangers' ace Cliff Lee did just the opposite. Before the World Series had even ended, I was telling my friends that it really bothered me that Lee would probably be wearing the dreaded pinstripes when spring training rolled around. Pretty much everyone figured he'd end up in the Bronx because they were really the only ones with the financial clout to entice him in. Hank Steinbrenner and crew offered out a 7 year deal valued at $150 million. The longer everyone waited to hear about the signing, the more it seemed inevitable.

Until the news broke last night as I was heading to bed. Cliff Lee is returning to the Philadelphia Phillies for a $120 million, five year contract. To me, that says a lot about his character. He left $30 million on the table to go back to play in a place he liked and where his family was happy. Not that his baseball career is going to suffer because of the move. Hell, if nothing else Philly now has arguably the best rotation in the league. But for once, money wasn't everything to a professional athlete. Don't get me wrong, he is still going to be insanely rich. But probably a lot happier.

I'm sure it wasn't the final deciding factor in Lee's signing, but I can't help but think about some news stories I read that came out after the Rangers were playing the Yankees in the Bronx during this year's ALCS. Where Yankees fans were rude, cursed, and even spat at Rangers players' wives in the stands. Maybe thing about this next time, jerks. Be nice. You never know what you could gain or lose.

Monday, December 13, 2010

There Is a Santa Claus

Photo by: Me

I've been blamed for the cool weather in Florida ever since I got back from Boston. Whatever the reason for the cold front, I am enjoying it and it is definitely putting me in the Christmas spirit.

So are the Belfast Giants of the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League:

Brilliant. NHL teams need to do this. I can totally cast a remake of this with Lightning players. My pick would have been on Victor Hedman to be the elf, but I don't know if he would mince around merrily enough. So, I think I have to give it to Mike Smith.

News just broke that the Yankees are out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes and he is set to join the Phillies.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, Yankees! HAAAAAAAAAA! I am going to be laughing about this for days.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello, My Name Is Awesome.

Photo by: Getty Images. Used without permission.

Even with all of the hot stove business, I've still been paying attention to the Lightning. It's not always easy. Believe me. After witnessing the 8-1 beat down in Boston on December 2nd, I was walking the streets near the Garden yelling about how much I hated my team. But, like any good masochist I am back for more.

I watched the first period of the game against Vancouver last night, but was tired and full of food and drinks from my mom's early birthday celebration. I saw Brett Clark's goal, wished them good luck, and went to sleep. My parents get the NHL Network in their cable package, so I sat through a bunch of NHL on the Fly replays before finally getting the highlights from the game. My immediate thought? Steven Stamkos definitely seems to have gotten out of that 7 game scoreless streak. A goal against Edmonton and two last night against Vancouver, most importantly being that #24 was the game winning goal in overtime. So, Stammer is awesome. There you go.

The main thing I wanted to write about was the shoot out loss to Edmonton on Friday night. The Lightning made a great come back in regulation to tie things up. The effort was definitely there. But they ended up coming off as sore losers. Linus Omark of the Oilers won the shootout on this goal:

In the post game press, both Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Malone were quoted as how they thought the spin move was "disrespectful" and "a joke". It was extra disrespectful because it was his first NHL game and he was already being a cocky young whippersnapper. Ok, maybe they didn't actually say that. But judging by the quotes, you could almost see them shaking their canes at the young upstart. I mean, heaven forbid a player do something different or show some personality. Seeing as how I am a fan of Jeremy Roenick, it's easy to see why I would come down on the side of personality.

I also find the verbal barbs pretty hypocritical given that Marty St. Louis has done something similar in shoot outs before. Not the full on spin-o-rama, but he definitely turns his back to the goalie. As seen here against Marc Andre Fleury from January of 2007:

A bit of an overreaction, probably stemming from the frustration that Khabibulin was showing flashes of the brilliance he showed at the end of the 2004 playoffs and the fact that they could not seal the deal in regulation or OT. Put the blame where it belongs. Don't shove it on a kid who scored the game winning goal in his first NHL game.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Well, Beat the Drum and Hold the Phone

Photo by: Elsa/Getty Images

Yup. That looks good. Before the news about Adrian Gonzalez broke when I was in Boston last weekend, me and my buddy Josh actually talked a bout how it had been a very quiet hot stove season. Except for the Werth deal, no team had made a big splash. Usually the team splashing around at all the free agents is the Yankees. This year? The Red Sox pretty much cannon balled right in. I'm still trying to adjust to all of it. Having a hard time believing it's happening and then getting bummed because we still have to wait several long months for baseball to actually be played. I am so high on the 2011 Red Sox right now and they haven't even set foot on the ball field.

Another brief thought. I'm in Jacksonville for the weekend and there is Christmas shopping to be done. But I am reveling in all the Yankees/ Cliff Lee drama. Adding a seventh year to the deal? Really, Hank? And using Andy Pettitte as an example of how older pitchers can still succeed? Probably not the best example you might want to give what with the whole juicing thing.

If the Yankees have invested that much time and effort to try and land Lee and he goes somewhere else? Man, I will throw a one woman parade. Childish? Sure. Vindictive? Absolutely. But the Yankees deserve nothing less.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kind of a Big Deal

Photo by: Getty Images

My buddy Rich messaged me at about 8 am this morning and was amazed that I hadn't heard the news. The Red Sox signed Carl Crawford while I was sleeping.

About 15 hours later, I still can't believe it happened. I didn't even think we were on his radar. It was all the Angels and the Yankees taking CC and his agent out for dinner.

Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are going to be wearing Red Sox uniforms on Opening Day. This is going to take some time to process.

All those pundits and writers saying that 2011 was going to be a bridge year for the Sox? Pretty sure the front office just drove over your bridge and gave you the finger.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let Five Goals In Three Minutes

Photo by: AP Photos. Used without permission.

Ok, so the Captain Tractor lyric used as the title isn't entirely accurate when it comes to the Lightning's loss to the Calgary Flames last night. Dan Ellis let in two goals on seven shots in the first period of the game. Pretty sure even the baseball people who read my blog can tell by simple comparison that that isn't good. I try to be supportive of my team at all times, which has been really difficult the last few seasons. OK Hockey, Brian Lawton, residing in the basement of the league, Alex Tanguay, etc. There is one thing that has me on the verge of really losing my patience this season. Goal tending. Or the lack thereof.

I had a fear going into this season that the Lightning were playing two goalies who only had the capability to be career back ups. Mike Smith and Dan Ellis aren't doing much to make me eat my words. Being a goalie is a very difficult job. I get it. I gained a lot of respect when I put on a mask and Dominic Moore shot foam pucks at me at Hockey and Heels a few weeks ago. I understand that it's impossible for one man to stop every single shot. I also understand that the defense isn't 100% innocent in some of these losses.

But their Goals Against Average is over 3.00. All the goal scoring forwards in the world won't help this team progress in the playoffs when it often takes a goalie literally standing on his head to make spectacular saves to ensure advancement. A GAA of 3 and higher does not win you a Stanley Cup.

It's extra frustrating as a fan because you know something needs to be done. But what? There were a few good free agent goalies available over the summer but none that would have worked with the Lightning's salary cap limitations. And I don't see those limitations going away anytime soon. If nothing else, money is going to be tighter when Stamkos is (hopefully) re-signed. Our goalies aren't the answer. Unless someone hypnotizes them to believe they are Patrick Roy or Terry Sawchuk.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John Lennon 1940 - 1980

I try to stay largely on topic when it comes to my blog. Every once and a while, a day comes along when I have to veer off of the sporting topic and talk about something else. I'm a little early, but December 8th is one of those days. Almost 30 years ago today, John Lennon was killed.

I am a huge fan of the Beatles and John was always my favorite. I was a weird, loner of a kid when my sister brought home a Beatles Greatest Hits cassette. For whatever reason, the music spoke to me and I felt some sort of kinship with Lennon. So much so that after I would say my nightly prayers, I would lay in bed just talking aloud to him. Even though he died before I was born and the Beatles had broken up even longer before then, I felt like he was a friend.

Today, I choose to remember his life, music, activism, and message.

We still love and miss you, John.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Down By The Banks Of The River Charles

Photo taken by Josh Blue

Apparently it was wishful thinking that I would update my blog after getting back to Tampa yesterday evening. My flight got in in the late evening and I brought the chilly weather with me from up north. What a trip. It was so amazing that even watching the Lightning get absolutely decimated 8-1 in person couldn't dampen it.

Between the Garden and the Freedom trail and Cambridge One Pizza and everything else, I was trying to think of one thing that would summarize my trip to Boston. It would have to be Fenway Park. I ended up in or around the ballpark on all three days of my visit. When I arrived on Thursday, one of the first acts of business was taking the tour of the park. Due to beer, pizza, and good but meandering conversation, Josh and I missed the 2 o clock tour. This gave us plenty of time to walk all the way around Fenway and even stop in the Bleacher Bar for a pint of Guinness.

A lot of work is being done there this off season. When we were there, almost all of the right field grandstand seats had been removed in order for construction crews to redo the concrete. The dugouts were covered with giant sheets of plywood and almost the entire field was covered in sheeting. It was cold and windy and empty and... amazingly beautiful. It's really cheesy, but each time I visit Fenway Park I become even more enamored. And there wasn't even baseball being played.

On Saturday evening, we were hanging out at a number of bars in the Fenway area. While walking down Yawkey Way, I told Josh "I'm going to hug Fenway." So I did. I'm pretty sure it hugged back.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Believe in the Church of Baseball.

For the first time in... well, it seems like forever I am traveling for something other than Christmas. I am leaving very early tomorrow morning and shipping up to Boston. One of the first orders of business will be taking the Fenway Park tour. My day in Boston will begin there and end with a hockey game at the Garden with the Lightning taking on the Bruins. It's no small exaggeration to say that I will probably be the happiest woman in Boston tomorrow.

It's easy to wax poetic about the glorious baseball parks of days gone by, most of which aren't around anymore. Fenway is almost 100 years old. It's imperfect. And it's beautiful. I'm not a religious person, but this will be visiting sacred ground for me.

There probably won't be any updates until I get back on Sunday, but I have been told to take a lot of pictures. I'm sure that won't be a problem.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh, You Didn't Know?

I stopped by the mailboxes on my way home today and I was thrilled to see the latest issue of the Hockey News waiting for me. I am going on a little vacation to Boston this coming weekend and have saved up three issues to take on the plane with me. I was happy enough to see a new issue of the magazine, but then I pulled it out and saw someone very familiar on the cover. Steven Stamkos. Being dubbed the the NHL's best new player.

It's very refreshing to have such a widespread, respected publication singing the praises of a player in such a non traditional hockey market as Tampa. Either he is just too good to ignore, or the hockey journalists are finally coming around to the idea that not all Sun Belt expansion was a bad thing. Have the Lightning had quite a few lean years? Sure. But so have a lot of franchises that are older. And those same older teams in more traditional markets are having attendance issues as well. It's not a disease relegated to the Southern United States, as much as the people who stand on their soap boxes proclaiming that the league should never have expanded from it's Original Six teams would want you to believe.

Haven't read the article yet, but really looking forward to it.

In other news, I just wanted to say Rest In Peace Leslie Nielsen. A great comedian with amazing comedic timing. He will be missed.

One of my favorite scenes from one of his movies, and it has to do with baseball:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

F-L-O-R-I-D-A! S-T-A-T-E!

Photo by: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images. Used without permission.


Yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a hockey and baseball blog. I just can't help it. I am a proud alumni of Florida State University and today was their annual meeting against their arch rivals the University of Florida Gators.

To my Red Sox friends? The Gators are the Yankees of Southern football in my eyes. They haven't had a great year due to losing a lot of seniors or whatever. Really, I don't care why they have been having troubles, I have just been enjoying it.

And enjoy today's 31-7 victory? Did I ever! The Seminoles had not beaten the Gators since 2003. Usually those losses were by a margin of more than 20 points. Demoralizing defeats at the hands of your most hated enemies. But not today.

Today, they were victorious. And go on to meet Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game next week. And then hopefully on to a BCS bowl game. I'm so happy. Happy for the students who hadn't seen this before. Happy for the seniors on the team who had never beaten UF in their playing careers. Happy for the resurgence of the FSU football program. And, it might make me a poor winner, but man am I happy that the Gator fans will have this one stuck in their craw for the next year.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Genetically Programmed For The Wheel of Misfortune

Photo by: AP Photos. Used without permission.

Wow. Glad I didn't watch that game. After two days of turkey and stuffing (dressing, whatever), it would have only given me heartburn and indigestion. A 6-0 beating at the hands of the Division leading rivals the Bolts are trying to catch? Ugh.

I didn't see the game, so I can't really comment on the play. Judging by the score, I can tell that it was obviously bad. It is one thing I worry about. Every so often, they have these games where the system just doesn't work. And the way the 1-3-1 works, if it's not being used effectively it's a disaster.

The Capitals are a team the Lightning have to beat. In order to win the division, in order to compete in their conference. The Caps are a good test as well. They have been so good during the regular season the past few years, if the Bolts can compete with them then I will start to realize that these wins and the record are actually for real.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When Friends Rejoice Both Far And Near, How Can I Keep From Singing?

According to the audience tab on the statistics page of my blog, I have visitors from all over the world. Which is pretty intriguing to me, especially all of the readers from Scandinavian countries or Eastern Europe. Anyways, for you guys today was just another Thursday. Here in the USA, it's Thanksgiving. I spent the afternoon with family and lifelong friends, enjoying a lot of great food and drink. Then falling asleep during a football game, waking up and eating some more. Thanksgiving is a lot less commercial than the coming Christmas season because it's about food and togetherness and remembering all of the good things we have in our lives. Since this is a sports blog, it's time to do a run down of things I am thankful for in relation to my teams.

1. Steven Stamkos. I could just stop there. The first half of his rookie season was a rough ride, but he has turned into one of the best players in the league in such a short amount of time. Watching him try to go for 50 goals in 50 games has been so insanely entertaining. I can't wait to see what happens next.

2. Martin St. Louis & Dustin Pedroia. Pedie was out for a while this season, but his presence and attitude was definitely still there. I could have just named this one "The Little Badasses". Marty is the heart and soul of the Lightning lockerroom and I honestly believe he is playing better than he ever has at the age of 35. It's just my opinion and I know there are some who would disagree, but I think he should be the captain of the team. Oh, and just so I don't have to throw in another bullet point, I am thankful for Marty and Stamkos playing on the same line. Stamkos' skill is putting the puck in the net, but Marty has incredible vision on the ice and his passes make a lot of them happen.

3. Jeff Vinik & Steve Yzerman. This one could also be labeled as "OK Hockey and Brian Lawton getting the boot!". Things are turning around on the ice and everywhere else in the Lightning organization. It's wonderful to see and makes me very proud as a fan.

4. The 2010 Boston Red Sox. Yes, the losses and string of improbable injuries were maddening. I was pretty sure they had given me an ulcer come August, but in spite of everything they were in it up until the last few days of the regular season. Even though they were held together with duct tape and dreams, they nearly made it. Hope doesn't always have to come from achieving the ultimate goal. My hope this year came from their resiliency.

5. My fellow members of Red Sox Nation. We are crazy, irrational, and we refuse to give up. I have had the great pleasure of becoming really close friends with a number of you and I love you all. Thank you for being my Red Sox family.

6. My hockey girls. You're with me during warm up skates and you're with me at the bar afterward. Thank you for being there for the Roenick Luau and Disco Christmas and all the Winter Classic parties to come.

7. My family family. For putting up with my obsessions and obsessing over my sports teams and love me anyways. I love you all more than words can say.

I have a lot to be thankful for, but one more thanks to everyone who has read this far!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vaya Con Dios, Victor

Photo by Me

The news broke when I was at work. Victor Martinez signed with the Detroit Tigers today. A four year $50 million dollar contract. Apparently the Red Sox offered him a 3 or 4 year deal at al lower price. I've read some things saying that Victor was looking for more longevity in his deal, which I can understand. He's a guy with a family and kids, and the less you have to uproot them especially when they are school aged the better. As with any news of a major player leaving the Sox, some people are flipping out.

Yes, Victor was fantastic at the plate after he came back from injury this past season. His bat will definitely be missed in the line up and it's a void that will need to be filled. But defensively? A lot of noise was made when V-Mart came on board about what a big defensive improvement he was over Jason Varitek. I love Tek, so I am a bit biased. But I didn't see that big of a difference in defensive prowess between the two. Especially earlier in the season when Victor couldn't throw Johnny Pesky out at second base.

I'm interested to see what happens. Varitek wasn't offered arbitration. I hope it's Theo's way of trying to get a lower contract price for him, but you never know what is going to happen with a client of Scott Boras. Tek would be a great mentor for Saltalamacchia. All in all, I think the Sox made the right move. Now. On to Adrian Beltre.

That being sad? They need to keep Little Victor on the short list of players to draft in a few years. Check out that swing!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sing With Me, If It's Just For Today

Photo by AP Photos. Used without permission.

Lightning win versus the Bruins tonight. Stamkos scored his 20th goal. Oh and.. Jim Craig, goalie for the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team was at the game.

They were showing a video package from the Olympics and I was like "Jim Craig. Oh, it's Jim Craig... HOLY SHIT, JIM CRAIG IS HERE! AHHH!"

More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

HBO's Road to the Winter Classic

I wrote about the Winter Classic a few months ago when Pittsburgh's Heinz Field was officially named as the site for this year's game. I know a number of my baseball friends tuned in this past New Year's day to see the Bruins and Flyers take the ice in our beloved Fenway Park. It's no secret that I was more than a little disappointed that the Pittsburgh Penguins were selected for their second Winter Classic, especially since a game with that much visibility should give exposure to more teams. Well, the game is about to get a whole lot more exposure.

HBO is known for their sports documentaries, most recently getting a lot of press for their Hard Knocks series on the New York Jets. They are pointing their cameras at this year's Winter Classic competitors, the Penguins and the Washington Capitals in what is being called 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic. When the word of this project came out, I was less than thrilled again. Ever since Sidney Crosby of the Pens and Alexander Ovechkin of the Caps have come into the league, they have been incessantly billed as the marquee attractions. As a fan of a team other than the Penguins or Caps, it's a bit frustrating to see your talented players get overlooked in favor of more hype for this manufactured rivalry.

After seeing the preview? I am really close to changing my tune. The first few minutes are largely a primer for the non hockey watcher, but then? I started imagining the unparalleled access to the off ice meetings and the locker room. Seeing what the players will go through in the time up to the Winter Classic will be amazing. And since it is HBO, it's sure to be much less censored and sanitized than we get to see in two minute post game interviews.

Here is the preview:

I'm not exactly thrilled about Crosby vs. Ovechkin, but it is a fascinating take on the process. I heard from a number of people who caught Hard Knocks and got into it even though they aren't football fans. Something similar might happen with 24/7. The NHL is the forgotten member of the big four pro leagues here in the states and it's amazing that it will be getting this kind of coverage. I trust that HBO will do it justice and maybe more people will get to see why I love this sport and its players so much.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

Photo by Me

It might be the fact that it's still almost 80 degrees out, but the annual off season longing for baseball hasn't hit me as hard as it has some of my other Red Sox friends. One of the blessings and curses of living in Florida. It's a curse in that I could probably wear shorts on Thanksgiving and that isn't very holiday season-y at all.

Baseball has been coming back into my mind more and more with all of the free agency talk and even some of the trades. Things have been pretty quiet for the Sox so far, mostly a lot of rumors of who they are interested in. There was talk of going after John Buck, but he signed with the Marlins. I'm secretly glad for it, as much as we probably could have used a seasoned catcher with Victor Martinez's return uncertain. His name is just too close to "Joe Buck" and that causes bad, bad reactions.

Really the only concrete dealing that has been announced is the signing of Taylor Buchholz to the pitching staff. Everything else is very nebulous at this point, so I'm adapting a laid back "wait and see" approach. For now at least. I'm sure something will happen to get me fired up soon enough. Theo always seems to keep things interesting.

I'll be at the Tampa Bay Lightning's watch party this evening at Curtis Hixon Park downtown to catch the Bolts/Sabres game, so there is sure to be news from there. Get to see if Stamkos can keep rolling with goals and the boys can pick up another W.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mr. Stamkos' Wild Ride

The game has been over for a while now, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened. I fully intended to actually get to the Red Sox hot stove talk, but then the Lightning/Flyers game happened.

9 goals in the first 20 minutes. Stamkos scores a hattrick. He and Marty St. Louis have a 5 point night. There was so much back and forth I felt like I was watching a tennis match.Two wins in two nights, hopefully that helps to exorcise some of the demons from the crappy West Coast road trip.

The Bolts play in Buffalo on Saturday. I'll be attending the game's watch party being held at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa. They have opened an ice rink there for the holiday season. I really want to take a spin around the rink, but I'm still recovering from a sprained ankle. Knowing the luck I had with re-injuring the ankle while dancing to "I Will Survive" at a friend's wedding, I will have to hold off until I've healed a bit more. Maybe after Christmas.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No One But Me Can Save Myself

Photo by Linda Hamilton

The term "mental illness" has a very negative stigma, even in these modern times. Mental health issues get mentioned and most people don't know what to say and kind of look away. I know this first hand. I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder every day of my life.

Anxiety or depression are difficult to figure out. It's not like a broken bone that very plainly heals. There isn't really a point where it gets better, there gets to be a point where you learn to manage it and hopefully get to live a more normal life in spite of your problems. My anxiety got so bad while I was in college that I was on the verge of dropping out and becoming a hermit because the very thought of leaving my apartment and interacting with people, registering for classes, or going to campus was enough to bring on panic attacks. Because anxiety issues aren't something that are talked about very often, I didn't know what was wrong with me. I regularly thought I was going insane.

I can look to that time as the lowest, darkest point in my life. Without my family and their helping me to get help through counseling and later medication, I'm not really sure what would have happened to me.

Why do I bring this up today? The very sad news that came out about former Lightning player and current Ottawa Senator's coach Luke Richardson's teenage daughter's passing. A memorial service was held for her today at Scotiabank Place. We don't know the circumstances that lead to her death, but I have seen the words depression mentioned a lot.

I'm not saying there is a quick fix for mental health challenges, because there isn't. I underwent a year of counseling while in college and was later put on medication. I'm still on medication and still in a place where I think I need it. But I have come miles from where I was, even if progress was an inch at a time. If you're in a dark place, please go to those you love. They will help you, even if you think it's irrational and insane.

My thoughts go out to Luke and his family in this very sad time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Beg To Dream & Differ From the Hollow Lies

Photo by me of my world famous sign

Being a big sports fan, you're bound to read a lot of crazy things when it comes to sports journalism. Whether it's writers trying to garner attention for themselves, or if it's something wacky that someone does. It's almost common place. So, it takes a lot for me to really get going when it comes to an article or story. Jeter winning the Gold Glove was one. Another was a recent article I read about former Lightning General Manager and my arch nemesis, Brian Lawton.

The full article can be found here: Stevie Y's Inheritance

Everything starts out great. Talking about what a big turn around the team has experience since new ownership took over and Steve Yzerman's first season as a GM and giving credit for the work he has done in the first quarter of the year. And then, Damian Cox loses me really fast. He goes on to say that so much of what Yzerman was able to accomplish was because of work that Lawton had done in the previous two years.

REALLY? He is given credit with drafting both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Two years ago the Lightning were the worst team in the league and Stamkos was the top prospect. Ditto with Hedman once the Islanders took John Tavares. I didn't know that a team official deserved credit for making no brainer moves when your team underachieved so much. Excuse me, I didn't know that's how it went. Lawton is also praised for the trade that sent Matt Carle to Philly and brought Steve Downie to Tampa Bay. What is conveniently left out is that Matt Carle came to Tampa in the lopsided trade that sent Dan Boyle packing to the west coast. Matt Carle played twelve games in a Lightning sweater. I am pretty sure a trade that involved a bag of pucks and some stick tape would have been seen as a good return.

The article argues that Tampa was on it's way back to success before Yzerman came in. I think that is the biggest load of crap I have heard in a long time. I am able to look at a lot of things objectively when it comes to sports because I understand at the heart of everything, sports are a business. Lawton was bad business when he was here and I sincerely hope that that stigma follows him for the rest of his non career in the NHL.

Lawton is quoted as saying he thought he did a good job while he was in Tampa. I say one of the happiest moments of the last few lowly seasons was the news that he had gotten the boot. You are not missed, sir.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spend your lives in sin and misery..

Photo by Me. Voo Doo Doll by Linda Hamilton.

Now that I'm starting to blog more regularly, a question came to mind during tonight's Lightning. Penguins game:

Can I be taken seriously as a sports blogger if I say things like "Matt Cooke is still a bitch"?

Ponder that for a while. The game was disappointing. Mike Smith's confidence is his downfall. He lets in a goal or two and his game goes down the toilet. Other than the rash of injuries that seems to have followed me from baseball season into hockey season, the goal tending continues to be an issue. But, the team was kind of handcuffed by the cap when it came to goalie options this offseason. Smitty is quickly playing himself into a lifetime career as back up. There is only so much you can do, though. Last year of his contract, I am underwhelmed.

If everyone gets healthy, I'm sure I'll change my tune. And per Jon Jordan's Stamkos Math on Twitter, Steven Stamkos is now on pace to score 76.875 goals on the season. So, we have that going for us. Which is nice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Out Into The Cool of The Evening Strolls The Pretender

Disclaimer: I am a Red Sox fan. Nothing I could ever say or write on the subject of the Yankees could ever be without bias and hatred. There's no point in even trying to hide it. I have to put this out there so people know that there is no love lost for them in my house. Now that that's been said, I am going to make another revelation. I hate them. But that hatred has no effect on how I feel about Derek Jeter's Gold Glove or the debate about George Steinbrenner possibly being on the next Hall of Fame ballot.

I'll deal with Jeter first. A lot of the articles I have read in the wake of his being awarded the Gold Glove fall into two categories. The first is "What the hell were the managers and coaches thinking???" and the second school of thought is that there are many things other than defensive statistics that make a player worthy of winning a Gold Glove award. Really? Things other than defensive statistics when it comes to winning a trophy that is FOR defensive prowess? Forget what uniform he's wearing. Imagine his name is Merek Schmeter and he played shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. With his numbers, the possibility of his winning a Gold Glove isn't a conversation anyone would be having. If anything else, his numbers got a boost due to his lack of range and not any special skills he has. If awards are handed out based on a player's name or star power or the uniform he wears instead of his play, are they even relevant at all?

Another article I read over at Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew got me thinking about another Yankee figure. This time the figurehead, George Steinbrenner, and the possibility that his name will be on the Hall of Fame ballot at the end of this year. Yes, the Yankees were very successful while he was in charge. But they were very successful before he took over as well. The 1980s were the franchise's worst years. During his tenure, the most success the Yankees had was when he was suspended from baseball. And that brings me to the main reason why I think he shouldn't be up for candidacy: suspensions. He was suspended from the game for a year and a half due to illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's campaign. His lifetime suspension was later reduced, but he hired a gambler to find dirt on Dave Winfield. He hired a gambler. The suspensions themselves should be enough to keep him out of the hall, but it probably won't. I'll leave it at this: If Pete Rose is out forever due to his actions, Steinbrenner should be too.

In happier news, here is a video of some of the Lightning players discussing their involvement in Movember:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stop, Stammer Time!

One thing I have learned in my years of being a sports fan is that it's incredibly easy to become jaded. Especially with your own team. Especially after several lean years strung together made it seem like light at the end of the tunnel had been turned off in order to save money. We all do it, whether we notice it. No one is more critical of our teams than ourselves. It is very rare that we think our teams are as good as they are and can truly appreciate when something amazing is happening right before our eyes. A moment like that is happening for the Tampa Bay Lightning right now. It's hard to register that you are seeing records being made on a nightly basis, but there it is. Steven Stamkos scored his league leading 12th and 13th goals in the Bolts' 4-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Let me explain.. no. There is too much. Let me sum up. He has the most goals in the NHL right now and the most points of any other player. He is in the top five for assists. He has the most power play goals in the league. More goals than Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. He is on pace to not only reclaim the Rocket Richard trophy, but not have to share it with a damn soul this time.

You can't put up numbers like that without the rest of the league and the press starting to take notice. I am seeing more mentions in the TSN twitter feeds, in articles in the Hockey News, stories on the NHL site itself. We are so very lucky to see him play on a regular basis. We are watching the birth of a genuine star. A far cry from the tough first half of his rookie season when people were ready to send him packing to the AHL.

I can't wait for the next game. I can't wait to see what this team will do next. Patrick Roy might have said that the system Guy Boucher employs isn't exciting, offense minded hockey. It might be different, but things have been plenty exciting at the arena this year. And it's only the beginning of November.

A little something to leave you with, more Stamkos:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hockey 'N' Heels

Yup, that is me behind the mask. I am the goalie in Doc Marten boots. Being shot at by an NHL player, Dominic Moore. Yes, they were foam pucks. And yes, Dominic, they did actually hurt a bit. I am still trying to register how cool this evening really was.

For several years, the Lightning hosted an event geared towards women during the season called Hockey 'n' Heels. Tonight's event was the first one I was able to attend, and I definitely plan on going next year as long as I still have the means. The basic idea is they take groups around to different stations in the building and you spend time at each one.

Our first stop was with Nigel Kirwan, the Lightning video coach. He had a very large dry erase board with a rink on it and he went on to explain a few of the systems used in the NHL, like the neutral zone trap. He then went on to explain how it differs from the new system that Guy Boucher is using, then went on to show specific examples of the different scenarios with video clips. Hockey is so fast and it can seem very chaotic, but when you see it slowed down and broken down you see that there really is more of a structure. That being said, I know more about the 1-3-1 system and it terrifies me more than ever.

The next stop we made was out on the ice. Nate Thompson, Randy Jones, Teddy Purcell, Matt Smaby, & Dominic Moore joined us with some passing and shooting on the net. Matt Smaby was lovely and very encouraging to me and my friends, even telling me I had to have a victory celebration after making a goal. I went for the standard arms in the air pose. I thought about doing the Ovechkin "hot stick" routine, but we only had so much time. Next, Dom Moore recruited us for the goaltending station. Which basically involved us putting on a mask, glove, blocker, and holding a stick while he shot foam pucks at us. So.. so.. SO much fun. I don't mean to fangirl, but an NHL player told me I made some good stops. SO COOL.

After that, we were taken to the next station with featured a former referee and Dominic Moore's wife Katie. Katie has been with Dom through trades to eight different teams and moves. From Montreal to Minnesota to New York. All over the place and through a lot of time alone. I also gained a lot of respect for the refs and what they go through. You never think about it, but their families are affected by all the travel as well, and every single one of their games is an away game.

The next station was up in the press box with Rick Peckham and Bobby Taylor of the TV crew and Dave Miskin from the radio broadcasts. Everything ended up with a trip to the locker room and the trainers rooms. It is mind boggling to think about what goes in to the day to day operations of a sports team and the amount of stuff that has to go on the road with them.

It was a great night and I can't wait for next year. Tomorrow when the Bolts take the ice, one of the goalies will be where I stood. Hope I left some good luck on the goal posts.

Friday, October 29, 2010

30 days and nights of literary abandon

If I'm not around much for the month of November... that is why. National Novel Writing Month.

30 days, 50,000 words. I have wanted to do this for a long time, but I am really excited.

More info here:

I'll definitely keep you updated on my progress and hopefully have a finished product at the end of the month.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And I know I'm Indestructible Tonight.

Photo by: AP Photos. Used without permission.

The Lightning are tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference. No, I’m not hallucinating. This isn’t what I planned on talking about in my next entry at all. I had even started writing an update about how Sidney Crosby is bad for the NHL. My venom for him might have to be reserved for closer to this year’s Winter Classic. Don’t worry, Crosby lovers. Ovechkin doesn’t get off scot-free either.

The build up to last night’s game was pretty epic for such an early season match up. The media lens was focused in on the Bolts with the Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town. Pittsburgh ’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa ’s Steven Stamkos tied for the league’s goal scoring title and shared the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy for that feat at this year’s NHL awards. Everyone was buzzing about the match up, asking if this would be the year that Stamkos became one of the league’s elite players. I think he is already, but my bias is showing since I get to see him play 7 months a year. The game was also being billed as the first real test for the Lightning and their coach. Guy Boucher has pioneered a brand new style this season and is definitely being viewed with curiosity. He is the youngest head coach in the league, has not coached at this level before, and is doing something no one else is doing. The Penguins have been to the Stanley Cup finals twice in the last three years. Playing them is definitely a good benchmark of where your team is between the penthouse and the basement so to speak. This win is huge.

The West Coast road trip over the next week will be a big test. The Western teams always play a very hard hitting, physical style. One of my biggest worries going into this season is the lack of a physical presence on the bench. Other than Steve Downie, who is willing to drop the gloves? It might not be part of the new system, but it is definitely something other teams will take advantage of. I am interested to see who steps up.

Also? Marty St. Louis is still a bad ass. At the end of the game, he carried the team to victory on his small but muscular shoulders. I know this might upset some people but... he should be the one with the C on his sweater.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Protection is what you're here for. Protection--it's the stars who score.

We all have those players that come along and have big personalities or so so much for the team that you can overlook some short comings in their game because you can tell they love it so damn much. I have had a number of these guys in both hockey and baseball. Kevin Millar. Andre Roy. Zenon Konopka. They aren't the highest paid guys on the roster. They aren't the most talented. But they give everything that they have and the fans love them for it.

That's one reason I was very disappointed in my fellow Lightning fans this past Thursday in the game against the New York Islanders. Former Bolt and fan favorite Zenon Konopka was back in Tampa for the first time since his trade in the off season. Now, the soft spot in my heart for the guys who are willing to drop the gloves and fight is well documented. Konopka was definitely our primary fighter for a while. He had a big personality, the nicest guy you could meet off the ice, and hey. He's part Polish just like me. Pirogi connection was definitely present. I loved the guy. He was one of the players I knew I would follow for the rest of his career because he made that big of an impression on me in the time he was in Tampa.

For the baseball fans that follow me, signs are a big deal in hockey. Especially during warm up skate. About half an hour before the game starts, the players come out for about 15 minutes to skate, take shots at the net, stretch, and get the goalies warmed up. People make signs and put them on the glass, the players read them. In a sport where there are giant panes of glass between you and the playing field it is some small means of communication with them. Or with the hockey world at large: see my "Place Brian Lawton on Waivers" sign made for the ex GM. When former Lightning players come to town, I will sometimes make a sign and go over to the opposition's side of the ice for warm up.

This Thursday I was the only Lightning fan who came out for Z. It was simple. A small piece of poster board that read "We miss you Z". A small means of communicating that I remember what he did for the team. I remember the nights when his hands were so swollen from fighting, but he would still do what he had to do to spark his teammates. I remember his winning 60% of the face offs he took. I remember the big hits and the role he played in the lockerroom for his teammates in a time when things were bad for the franchise. I remember and will remember for the rest of the time he is in the NHL.

I got several smiles and a wink from Konopka for my sign. I don't expect a puck or any more of a reaction. I am glad I was there to let him know he was and is appreciated for what he did. Wearing a different sweater won't change that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All In Tonight

Photo by Me

I am going to take a break from planning the “thank you Bengie Molina” parade through downtown Tampa to get back to hockey for a moment. I missed the Lightning’s home opener due to being out of town for a friend’s wedding, so my first regular season look at the new system took place during Monday night’s game against the Dallas Stars. Brad Richards was back in town with the Stars as well. It got me thinking about the trade that sent him to Dallas and the glory days of 2004. Is it coincidence that I start getting extra philosophical about these types of things the more Labatts I drink?

The new playing system being used by the Bolts has some huge upsides. It’s fast, creative, and it forces the opposition to be the ones to react. It can lead to a ton of scoring chances as evidenced by the fact that the Lightning are one of the top teams in the shots on goal count in this young season. They were one of the worst in the league last season in scoring chances, so that is definitely an improvement. You get more chances, you get more goals. It’s just a law of the universe. The biggest downsides I am seeing with the system so far is that the Lightning seem to be more tentative with the puck when they are leading a game. When they are leading, they should be extra aggressive so no one backs off and allows the other team a chance to creep back in, like Dallas almost did. There is a big upside when it's played well. When it's not? Well, we get what happened in the loss to the Panthers.

It's exciting though. And fun to watch. Really fun. It's been a long time since Lightning hockey has been this enjoyable. I don't know if it's the novelty of a new season, but I am enjoying it all so much.

The Islanders are in town tomorrow night to play the Bolts and I'll be there. It will be interesting to see if anyone squares off against former Bolt Zenon Konopka. Man I'm glad hockey is back.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Prairie Sky is Wide and High

To paraphrase Bill Janovitz, we're all Texans tonight.


More later on the hockey side of things.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whoops. My Bad.

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images. Used without permission.

I KNEW IT! I knew as soon as I mentioned the winning streak, it would come to a screeching halt. And boy, did it. The Bolts lost to the Panthers 6-0. Dan Ellis was pulled before the first period was even over.

I kept having this scene from the immortal hockey classic Slapshot run through my head:

Oh well. You can't win them all and there is another game on Monday. And I am pretty sure Coach Boucher made them do Herbies till they puked for not following the system.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Everybody smash up your seats and rock to this brand new beat

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

I am going to take a break from laughing at the Yankees being down 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Rangers and head over to the Lightning. It took a lot of time for me to start writing about my hockey team because... well. They have kind of shocked me into silence.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 3-0 on the season so far. I had to write it out to remind myself that it is actually happening. My brain keeps telling me not to get too excited. That it's extremely early in the season and in a league where any team can win on any night, there are way too many variables to tell where a team is going to end up just by viewing the first few games. I mean, in 2007-2008 the Lightning won their first three games. Then spiraled to the worst record in the league from there. Not to focus on the rough times in the last few years, but this hot start has me thinking of another team in recent memory. Namely the 2004 team that won six straight to start the season and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

I need to calm down. I'm getting way too ahead of myself. It's only been three games. But two of those were victories against Montreal and Philadelphia who both went deep into the postseason a few months ago. I think maybe I am getting so excited because there has been very little TO be excited about when it comes to Lightning hockey in the last few years. I am still bitter that the lockout robbed them of retaining almost the entire championship team the following season, only to have most of the players jettisoned to reconfigure under the new salary cap system. I am pissed at what OK hockey did to the franchise, the building, and the fans. Now? With good ownership, a hockey legend as GM, a phenom coach with a brilliant new system, and talent stacked on every line? I'm like a starving woman being handed a giant steak.

Of course, the ol' sports paranoia kicks in. I didn't want to go into great length about the winning streak because as soon as I acknowledged it, it would stop. If the Bolts do lose tomorrow, well. We'll call it a mulligan. But for now? It's unbelievable. I am going to love watching this team this year. And Steven Stamkos is going to be the sole winner of the Rocket Richard trophy by the end of it. Mark my words.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Here we are, Born to be kings

Photo by: Boston Globe

I am definitely late in giving my final thoughts on the 2010 Red Sox. The more I think about what I want to talk about, the more I realize that there isn't much more for me to say. Especially since the post season has already begun. As amazingly as the kids from Pawtucket did, we're not in the post season. No matter how you paint it, it sucks. So. 129 days until pitchers and catchers report.

The end of baseball was prolonged a little bit with ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Four Days in October” airing this Tuesday. It might sound silly, but watching the 2004 Sox come back from the dead in the ALCS helped me to put this season in perspective. It also really, really made me miss the 25 guys on that team. Even Johnny Damon. You know, before he died. It also helped refresh my memory with things that I had forgotten or just miss.

1) I love and miss Billy Mueller. He always seemed like he would be the guy packing bag lunches for his teammates before they went on a long road trip.

2) After the incident with A-Rod slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove, I forgot how ugly things got in Yankee stadium. I forgot about the riot police and the fans throwing everything that wasn’t bolted down onto the field. As history has proven, the umps made the right call.

3) Nelson!

4) David Ortiz was. Well. There is no other way to describe it. It was MAGIC at the plate. Game after game, he came through with miracles exactly when they needed them. He had more magic than Harry Potter. Pretty sure he could have defeated Voldemort in way less than 7 books.

5) Didn't forget this, but it was one of my favorite moments of the ALCS. Bellhorn's point to the dugout when rounding the bases after his home run rang off the foul pole.

Between Ken Burns' Tenth Inning and Four Days in October, my mind has been swimming with the 2004 post season. It makes the fact that there is no fall baseball this year a little bittersweet. But it also makes me insanely happy. 2004 showed that a team can come back from the dead and make the impossible happen. And if they can do that? Well, next year should certainly be interesting.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

And In The End...

Photo from Reuters Pictures

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone." - Bart Giamatti

The above quote is entirely true. Just change the date to October 3rd. It was a very emotional weekend when it came to baseball. I cried for Mike Lowell's last game. His curtain call. The Thank you Mike ceremony. Johnny Pesky's 91st birthday. Tek's last at bat. Tek being taken out of the game and the crowd giving him an ovation.

I have plans to eulogize the season at greater length, but not tonight. Tonight? I just want to say thank you to the Red Sox. I am so proud of you.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thanks, Mike.

Because so many have already said what I want to say better and with more articulation. All I really wanted to to is say thank you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

So I Will Pave This Road Till Glory Sets Our Broken Spirit Free

Photo by the awesome Linda Hamilton

My hockey social season continued this Tuesday with Ice Fest being hosted at the St. Pete Times Forum. It was my first time in the building in months, the last time was for an arena football game so the setting was definitely different. Ice down instead of astro turf. The building has undergone almost as much of an overhaul as the team itself. The arena has been painted, the floors on the concourses are in the process of being redone, the locker room has been renovated and decorated to go along with Guy Boucher's cerebral coaching approach. It's almost like the building itself had to be purged of the previous regime. A fresh start in pretty much every way.

The first thing I noticed was the new glass and boards system. The panes of glass are much wider with fewer dividers between them leaving a much less obstructed view of the ice. It's kind of almost like being in a hockey aquarium. The boards seem much more substantial. One thing I don't like is that the glass doesn't have the same give as it used to. When you used to pound on the glass after a goal or someone was checked face first right in front of you, the glass moved. I'm sure it will all be for the best. They probably learned their lesson after Kurtis Foster's slapshot broke so many panes last season.

Another thing that was really cool was how many past players were brought in to participate in a charity game to benefit the families of two Tampa PD officers who were killed recently. Guys like Dave Andreychuk, Brian Bradley, and Chris Dingman who are very involved with the franchise. But they also brought in guys like Stan Neckar, Darren Puppa, Enrico Ciccone, and John Tucker. The Lightning are still a relatively young franchise, especially compared to the Original Six teams which have been around for over 100 years. The Lightning aren't even 20 yet. An acknowledgment of the past is one of the things that create... and I hate to use the word since it is used so often in connection with the Yankees... but it helps create mystique. Remembering and honoring the past can be a great way to set goals for the future. In the case of the Lightning, it can also serve as a reminder of how far they have come. And how far they need to climb out of the hole OK hockey left them in.

The only home preseason game is set for this Saturday. I'll get a first hand view of the new players in a real game scenario. I am ridiculously excited. Not just because hockey season means I get out of the house more. The building is electric with possibility. This year has the potential to be huge. To prove to the league that a once proud and successful team can be again. With Steve Yzerman as my witness, we'll never be called a circus again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

If You Want To Destroy My Sweater

This entry is going to be about commitment. It's about loyalty and big decisions. This all came about when I realized it was finally time for me to invest in a new hockey jersey. The one I have worn for the last six years is pre- new Lightning logo. It's pre- Reebok dry fit aerodynamics. It's got Andre Roy's name and number on it. And he hasn't played for the Lightning since 2008. It was my first personalized jersey and I had a three year adventure getting it signed. I have a lot invested in that piece of fabric. It isn't signed by a superstar, but it is priceless to me. But the time has come for a new one.

This train of thought led me to a certain process of elimination as to whose name and number will go on the new one. Everyone who knows me knows I love the hockey players who drop the gloves and fight. Hence the Roy jersey. It's also a fact of the game that enforcers tend to be journeymen throughout their careers. Andre Roy did two stints with the Lightning with a fair amount of time in between, so career longevity is definitely something to consider when selecting a player for your new sweater. As much as I love enforcers, jerseys have gottn so expensive the only way I'll get a goon on my back is if I win one for free. Longevity is a big factor in my decision.

Another factor is the numbers themselves. Towards the end of last season, I toyed with getting a Ryan Malone #12 jersey. This summer, the Bolts brought in Simon Gagne from Philly. Gagne has worn #12 throughout his career as well. It turns out that Malone gave Gagne the number and will now be playing while wearing #6. A friend of mine won a Malone jersey at the silent auction table late last season and now she's pissed. Understandable so.

Choosing a new personalize jersey is a big deal. You want to get as much use out of it as possible. Even after you get it signed and reverently wash it in the bathtub with Woolite to protect the autograph. I have been thinking long and hard about my new jersey. And why not? It's almost like entering a new relationship. My Andre Roy jersey may be headed to the back of the closet, but it will always have a place in my heart. My future Victor Hedman jersey? Can't wait for our first date.