Monday, January 31, 2011

This Month's "Shut Your Yap"

Photo by AP Photos

Big news broke in Tampa today. The Lightning unveiled new uniforms that will go into rotation next season as well as a whole new philosophy and direction for the franchise. The surprising reaction from a lot of fans has led me to a new feature on the blog. The back story goes like this. During the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, then Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock allegedly mouthed off at a Lightning player during Game 2 of the series. The next day, then Lightning head coach John Tortorella used a media interview to fire back at Hitch and take some of the heat off his players. His rant went on for a while, but the three words that have lived on in Lightning history were "Shut your yap!".

This month's Shut Your Yap is going out to all of the people who have spent all day bashing the new jerseys and the new logos. It's not the end of the hockey world in Tampa Bay because you don't like them. When OK Hockey was holding the reins two years ago, this franchise was close to flat lining. Now we have an owner, CEO, and GM who are all committed to a fresh start. I can't blame them for wanting some new branding to go along with it.

I know some of the knee jerk reaction has to come out of the fact that people don't like change. Especially not when it comes to sports. Now, I love the Lightning and have to have an open minded approach to the 1990s NHL expansion. We wouldn't have a team otherwise. I can appreciate how things have been streamlined and the dated font for the "Tampa Bay" being gone. This is a jersey that can still be used in 40 or 50 years without looking that out of place. Yes, I have been a fan of the all black home uniforms and will miss the silver incorporated throughout. But I can understand how these new uniforms will stand the test of time. No one says the Maple Leafs or Red Wings (two teams whose unis the new ones have been compared to today) need to change their logos or styles. I hope that these will do the same for the Lightning.

It's also hard to argue with the new direction for the team when the guys at the top plan to honestly show the fans how much they appreciate us. From what I've read, the plan is for every season ticket holder to receive one of the blue home jerseys for next season. Every jersey will have a special season ticket holder's patch on it and will include a microchip that can be scanned for special privileges in the arena. Some of those being 25% off of all concessions and 35% off of all merchandise in the building.

To all those who are speaking out so loudly in opposition to the change.. (LINDA HAMILTON ;) ), give it a chance. Give it a few days or weeks and see how you feel about them then. I hate the current third jerseys and you don't see me tearing my hair out about it. Change can be good. This is something that can carry us in to the future. If you can't find it in you to give it a chance, the other option is for you to shut your yap.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

So Sing To Me A Song From Yesterday

Being computer-less for a few nights made me really sit back and relax. Several movies, home cooked meals, laundry. About the time I was giving myself a home pedicure on Thursday night I started thinking about sports and information. Things move so fast it's amazing. That morning The Hockey News said something on twitter about how Matt Cooke is a victim of the culture perpetuated in hockey. That the way he plays is perpetuated by the call for brutality. By the afternoon, NESN had posted an article in response. Everything moves so fast and reactions move so quickly. It makes me wonder how things were before entirely live broadcasts, Facebook, & ESPN.

One of my rituals before and during Spring Training is re-reading "The Boys of Summer" by Roger Kahn. There are stories of how you could walk the streets of your neighborhood during the summer and always keep tabs on the games being played. Everyone's radio would be tuned in and the play by play would waft out through the open windows. People got their info that way, newspapers, and word of mouth. I have to wonder if the instantaneous transfer of information is that much better. Always having access to what is going on can be desensitizing.

We're tuned in to our teams 24/7. A constant stream of information from the computer, print, and television. All this info takes us further behind the curtain than ever before. It's great in helping you find out more about players who aren't interviewed in the papers as much and what's going on with the organization. HBO's coverage of the winter classic highlighted the ice crews and equipment managers. I might be romanticizing a time that I never lived through because with the good comes the bad. A lot of unflattering news also comes to light.

Good God. I'm waxing poetic about baseball when I'm still days away from Truck Day. These last few weeks are going to be tough.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is it a fantasy draft if it was acutally taking place live?

Got my computer back today after getting worked on. It was actually kind of nice to disconnect from everything for a few days. Even that didn't stop me from writing. There will probably be two new posts tonight as I transfer things over from my notebook. Anyways, last night was the first ever All Star Fantasy draft. Team Lidstrom & Team Staal chose from the selected all star players to comprise their individual teams. These teams will stick together for the Skills Competition tonight and the All Star Game itself tomorrow. I jotted down my thoughts while watching. Here you go:

- I have my ice cold Lightning beer much filled with Brooklyn 2 & ready for the draft. Ready for playground justice.

-I like the blue jerseys! This is cheesy but mmm beer.

- Marty's totally going for Stamkos..... Oh! I was right. Oh, Kaner going "Should we take your boy?"

- Ovie looks weird cleanshaven. And he was hanging out in an airport bar? Shocker!

- Daniel is the first Sedin selected. Will the twins be split? Are we sure THAT is Daniel?

- The twins are apart! Twin fight! Twin smack talk!

- Marty is the spokesman now? Oh, I called him picking Thomas. UVM!

- Too many children of the corn! (side note: that is what I call the Staals)

- Henrik Lundqvist always looks ready for a GQ photoshoot.

- Toews looks pissed! Patrick Sharp looks like a catalog model.

- Aw, I wish Dan Boyle was with Marty. I miss him.

- If they have to take a Pen, I'm ok with Flower.

- Jeff Skinner is a baby. I feel old. He looks 12.

- Is Ovie sleeping?

-Marty is the spokesman! Ugh, Richards.

- Get a haircut, Letang.

- Good for Yandle. 44 points for a D-man? Amazing. Wish the city would support the Coyotes.

- Were he not a Flyer, I might like Giroux.

- Havlat has a very well groomed beard. It is Mike Lowell - esque in it's exactness.

- This is supposed to last until 9:30?

-Elias still looks like a gnome. Nice sweater though.

- I would take all of those guys before Kessel. But what do I know?

- Get Duchene & Stasny on the same team. We need an All Star Bang Bang Dance!

- I don't underappreciate (some name. Seriously. I can't read my own handwriting). You bastard.

-No! No bang bang dance!

- Kessel last. I called it! Good night!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Technical Difficulties

If my computer had to pick a time to have issues, at least it's during the All Star Break.
So, yeah. Hopefully I'll be back soon and not be out too much cash.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Je Ne Sais Quoi

Sports are cyclical. That's just the way it goes. Teams triumph, teams struggle, teams rebuild. Every once and a while, you get a squad that's different. That's got a certain something. A spark, whatever you want to call it. Sometimes you are lucky enough to be a fan of a team that just has something special. After the Lightning's 2-0 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on their way into the All Star Break, I realized that I am starting to get that feeling about the 2010- 2011 Bolts.

It's not always the championship winning teams that leave a mark on your memory. The 2002-2003 Lightning made it to the second round of the playoffs in dramatic overtime fashion only to lose to the New Jersey Devils. The 2010 Boston Red Sox, ravaged by injuries but still finding a way to win. Not with big names like Pedroia or Youkilis. But with names like Kalish or McDonald or Nava.

Then there are the teams that do have that spark and do win the championship. The 25 Idiots who brought the Red Sox their first World Series title in 86 years. The 2004 Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning who shocked everyone into believing they were for real. The picture in this post is from a practice before Game 7 of the Cup Finals of that year. It certainly was a miracle. This year's Lightning squad has the makings of one of the teams that will live on in my memory. And I can't wait for the rest of the season to play out.

This is what gave me that feeling about this team. Yes, I know it's weird.

Monday, January 24, 2011

20 Days Until Pitchers & Catchers means...

"I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... "

Been a long day and no hockey tonight for me. Since we are within spitting distance of truck day, time for another baseball movie recommendation. Bull Durham. Seriously. If you haven't seen it, do so immediately.

It also gives you something to quote during games when every single member of a team gathers around the pitcher's mound. "Candlesticks make a nice gift.."

" It's a long season and you gotta trust. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm putting this whole town in my rearview mirror

Photo by Me

I missed the Lightning's blowout 7-1 victory of the Atlanta Thrashers due to feeling like crud warmed over. I went to Islands of Adventure yesterday and must have spent too much time in the chilly air in Hogsmeade. Or inhaled something on a roller coaster.

I spent the evening curled up on the couch watching the copy of "The Town" that Netflix sent my way. Really enjoyed it. I took some NyQuil, and I'm wondering if I'll wake up with a Boston accent.

The mood was ruined a bit in certain parts by my yelling out "STOP SHOOTING FENWAY PARK!". That's all I'll say, don't feel like being yelled at for spoilers.

I am aware I am a nerd.

Friday, January 21, 2011

These Exiled Years

Some hot stove news broke this evening that I definitely wasn't expecting. I had seen rumblings that the Rays were kicking Johnny Damon's tires to see if they wanted to give him a go. A few hours later, it comes out that not only have they signed Damon but... Manny Ramirez. Yes. THAT Manny Ramirez.

It's easier with Damon. He's not in a Yankee uniform anymore, so a lot of the animosity is gone. I'm not going to give him a standing ovation, but I'm not going to boo and yell obscenities. It's difficult for some people to understand, and it might seem childish. Damon signed with the Yankees in 2005 and played for the Tigers after that. I think after the 2004 World Series, Red Sox fans held the 25 members of that team in such high regard that such a level of betrayal is difficult to get over. At least it has been for me. Johnny is in the sunset of his career and I hope he can end it on a good note. Just not when the Rays are playing the Sox. Call it vindictive. I can't fully forgive. And I definitely haven't forgotten.

Manny, Manny, Manny. As complicated as things were with Damon after he left the Red Sox, there were quite a few complications while Manny was still IN Boston. My honest reaction to hear about his signing was "Ha! How the mighty have fallen!". And then I got quiet. And then I got pretty sad. Manny meant a lot to Red Sox Nation and to the team in his tenure there. For all of the crazy shenanigans, he and Ortiz were the best hitting tandem I can remember seeing. And you don't forget that. I'll never boo Manny. I appreciate his contributions too much to do that. It's just too... complicated.

Trying to snag tickets to a game when the Red Sox play the Pirates in Bradenton during Spring Training. Hopefully the Pirates virtual waiting room will be kinder.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Everything I Do Is To Try & Make Me Good Enough For You

There has been a big marketing push leading up to the 2011 NHL All Star Game in Raleigh at the end of this month. The league has teamed up with famous comic book legend Stan Lee for "The Guardian Project". The basic idea is that a superhero is created for every team in the league to... well. We're not really sure what it's for. Other than look a bit silly on paper so far.

Today, Yahoo's Puck Daddy posted an article where they spoke with the Chief Creative Officer for the Guardian Project and he wasn't really giving up much info. Apparently there is a big origin back story, but one main thing stuck out to me. Mr. Creative said that the project wasn't really all about hockey. A sports league's big marketing project has seemingly very little do with the sport that they play. I thought the point of ad campaigns were to sell the product they were promoting.

A lot of the big hockey fans I know have been very skeptical about this whole thing. I am proud of the NHL for branching out and doing something different. Going on HBO's 24/7 was brilliant and beautiful. They were the first league to use pink sticks as a promotion for breast cancer awareness. Clearly, they are not afraid of blazing a trail. Moves like this just seem be to extra frustrating because a) it doesn't seem to take into account the hardcore fans they already have and b) it's difficult to see exactly how these superheroes will promote the league outside of having some logos on their tights.

More HBO tv time. Less.. whatever the hell the guy in the picture is supposed to be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Of All Stars & Defensemen

A typical conversation between me and my brother from another mother:

Me: what should i write about in my blog tonight?

Josh Blue: me. i'm an awesome subject

Me: but what about you?

JB: how awesome i am. fuck that dude on Chuck. write about how the red wings got fucking robbed in the all-star game or, a piece on lidstrom, being named captain of the all-star squad

Me: you are the second person saying i should write about the all star captains but i don't want to write about eric staal. the staals creep me out

fuck the other guy. it's all about the greatness of lidstrom,
one of the ...5 best? of all time?

Me: d men?arguably i'd have to look at the numbers

JB: gretzky, mario, howe,

Me: i believe it was the players who voted on the captains and that speaks volumes

JB: gretzky, mario, howe, orr....

Me: i'll throw richard in there. i recommend the movie "the rocket"

JB: goalies?

Me: .roy, brodeur, throw in some sawchuck. maybe plante. you're catching me off the cuff lol

JB: lidstrom top 10 of all time?

Me: for defensemen or just position players

JB: i mean, definitely the greatest defenseman of his era

Me: oh no doubt. just hard when you put it up against some of those names

JB: so then you compare him against the best of all time

Me: this is where i think it's difficult to compare players from drastically different eras of hockey sometimes

JB: orr? bourque? stevens?

Me: unlike baseball, which is pretty much the same as it's always been. excepting PEDs

JB: coffey?

AB: skates are different. they used to play with uncurved sticks. al macinnis

JB: Brian Leetch

AB: surprised you didn't throw chelios in there, red wing boy

JBChris Chelios - 3 time norris winner

AB: what about denis potvin? or if we're going really old school.. Eddie Shore

JB: larry robinson

AB: yup

JB: harvey. but you see...only ones i think touch lidstrom are orr, maybe bourque

Me: scott niedermayer

JB: macinnis oh, one of my faves: housely

Me:you can even divide things up more. cause you can't always compare more offensive defensemen. i am a nerd!

JB: yea, but still.. orr and lidstrom - then everyone else

AB: i could just copy and paste this conversation into my blog, you know

JB: true but honestly, there is a gap: orr and lidstrom, then you talk about the rest
(just take out my bad typing)

Me: i miss scott stevens' hits

JB: he was perfect in the devil's scheme

Me: i hate the trap though. don't let me close this without copying it

JB: okay product of a system, or just thrived under that system

AB: well he did play a large part of his career in new jersey. and the devs were using it by the time he got there. i'd say he thrived with it. because he was much more offensively minded earlier in his career. i need beer to figure this out. mm eddie cahill. sorry. lol

JB: lol

Me: now i want to watch miracle

JB: admission: i like mystery alaska more than i like miracle. miracle had the more preditable ending

Me: uh


Me:i seriously am going to copy this whole thing in. haha

JB: correct my mistakes

this is running just like most of the rambling conversations we had while i was up there

JB: my brain is a scary place. i just went toe to toe with a yankees fan: i argued olerud was better than mattingly. i thought he was going to have a heart attack

Me:one less yankees fan

JB: jumping off. say hi to your readers for me

-Fin -

Monday, January 17, 2011

It Feels Like Years Since It's Been Here

Photo by Me

If my calculations are correct.. and they might be wrong. I was an English major:

Truck Day is 22 days away.

Pitchers and Catchers don't report for 27 days.

The first Spring Training game is 39 days away.

I am definitely starting to jones for baseball.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Always Scratching At The 8 Ball

I like to consider myself a reasonable, intelligent person. That's why it is always surprising to me when I get so superstitious and cautious when it comes to a lot of things in sports. Athletes have their rituals, and so do we as fans. For example, I bought a lightning bolt pendant years ago. I always wear it on Lightning game days. We get so wrapped up in our passion for our teams that a lot of that logic flies right out the window and it's fascinating to me.

During baseball season I watch most of the Red Sox games through since you know, I don't live in Boston or get NESN. If the Sox are up to bat and are doing well, I will not get up out of my chair to get a drink or use the bathroom. Unless it is an absolute emergency, my butt is glued to the chair. Because the position of my butt is directly responsible for hits or strike outs. It's ridiculous. But I do it anyways.

During the 2004 NHL playoffs, I developed a very specific ritual on game days. I would make special nachos to be ready and eaten during the pregame special. The night before I would eat steak sandwiches. I would wear my stadium give away Martin St. Louis shirt because it had good mojo. I was utterly convinced. I had a stadium give away Brad Richards shirt I wore once, but the Bolts lost. So that one was bad luck from then on. During the Eastern Conference Finals, I was so excited to see Jeremy Roenick play. I went on and on about it. Until the Flyers beat the Lightning 6-2 in Game 2. From then until the end of the series, my JR McFarlane figure was buried in the very back of my closet.

It makes no sense. As I wrote out all of these instances, I know how ridiculous they are. I'll keep having my superstitions though, not much I can do about it. It's my way of trying to control the unpredictable, uncontrollable nature of sports. Just don't tell my bladder that baseball season is coming back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Some Days are Diamonds, Some Days Are Rocks

Photo by Me

Well shit. The Devils have our number.

This was one of the few good things that happened tonight:

Why is that man not the Captain of the team?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Good Life

Photo by Me

During the 2004 NHL season, I would occasionally drive down to Tampa from Tallahassee to catch games. It was always a big event for me since it was a 5 1/2 hour drive and up until then almost all of the games I had seen were on television. The team would do random giveaways during tv time outs or stops in play. It was a bit frustrating for me because I would be sitting in my $8 day of game nosebleed seat watching great prizes given out to people sitting in the lower level within reach of the glass. Those are the most expensive seats in the arena, I thought. If those people can afford to sit there, they don't need free prizes. At some point in the playoff run, my friends and I even started referring to them as "bourgeois seats". Several years later, I hate to say it. I would still rather have a ticket than none at all, but those bourgeois seats are fantastic. How do I know? Well, last night I was a bourgeois pig at the Lightning/Capitals Game.

My friend Linda had finagled her way to a suite as a way to celebrate her birthday. I was very lucky to sit in the suite, and I just have to say that it is amazing. We didn't do food or anything, but that didn't matter. We had our own cushy leather seats in which to watch the action. A great view on the second level in the corner of the arena, perfect for seeing action at both end of the ice. The best of all? We had our own bathroom in the suite. No trekking up or down dozens of stairs at intermission only to spend most of it standing in line at the ladies room. It was fantastic.

The game was also fantastic, seeing Dwayne Roloson putting up his second shootout since joining the Bolts and the Lightning winning 3-0. When the playing system goes wrong, it really goes wrong. It just did in Pittsburgh last week. But when things are working correctly, it is a joy to watch. It's amazing that a 41 year old veteran goaltender has been one of the best pick ups over the course of the season. Since Roli is 6 years older than Marty St. Louis (previously the most senior guy in the lockeroom), I like to imagine him sitting in his stall complaining about the loud music "kids these days listen to". This is why we need more 24/7 coverage.

The Lightning host the Devils tomorrow. The Devs put a hearty beating on the Bolts last week. Hopefully things will be different this time around. Martin Brodeur be damned!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Story So Far

Photo by Me

It's my opinion that I lapsed into a coma last night. I meant to update last night before going to sleep, it just didn't happen. So, here it is. The just a little past the halfway point of the season for the National Hockey League. As it stands tonight the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied for first in the Southeast division and second in the entire Eastern Conference. Let me just say wow. Going into this season I had hoped for a better start, more consistent play, hopefully some more wins. My expectations have been absolutely shot through the stratosphere. Of course there's the play of Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis to talk about. But I have noticed quite a few other guys who go out every night and play every shift so insanely hard it's difficult not to notice them. So tonight, it's time to recognize some of my unsung heroes for the Bolts so far:

1. Nate Thompson: Apparently, he is right out of the mold of what Coach Boucher wants in his players. I read an article earlier this year where the boys in the lockerroom had taken to calling him Textbook or Nate Boucher because of this. Nate seems to almost always be where to need him. Whether it's chipping in defensively or scoring the game winning overtime goal against the Rangers on New Year's day. He's not afraid to get into battles and it's nice to see that he is being rewarded with goals and ice time.

2. Adam Hall: Hall is another guy's name who doesn't show up too often on the score sheet, although he has chipped in 6 goals. Whenever I am at a game, Adam always catches my eye because he always seems to be skating with flat out speed. To keep the puck in, to cut off the progress of an opponent down the ice, etc. He just works hard. And that deserves to be noticed.

3. Sean Bergenhem: Bergy has been a great surprise for me. He came in from the Islanders riding a reputation as being a great skater with a penchant for scoring some impressive goals. I've come to view him as a guy who always ends up with breakaway chances. For some reason, the puck always seems to end up on his stick when he is alone in the offensive zone. He's also (pun ahead) Lightning quick and a pretty physical player. This is why I love Finnish players. They play hard, skate well, and have great hands. He's been down with the flu lately, so wishing him a speedy recovery.

4. Victor Hedman: Yeah, I know what some of my Lightning friends are going to say about this one. But I have to give the kid credit. He has now played one and a half seasons in the NHL and his play has improved drastically. He's starting to read plays better and using his big size to his advantage. I tend to cut young defensemen a fair amount of slack because I think it takes longer for them to learn and excel at their position than it might be for a forward. Especially given the drastic change in playing style from last season. This kid is going to be a monster when he gets it all together.

There it is. I am attending my first home game of the second half of the season tomorrow night. Lightning vs. Capitals. This one is going to be a barn burner.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Until Pitchers & Catchers Report

Since the reporting date is still a ways off and the Lightning seriously disappointed me by losing badly to my most hated team in the league, I thought about going through my baseball movies. I like to watch several of them every year around this time. Even though the weather is nice here in Florida, spring doesn't officially begin until baseball arrives. The movies help to stay the craving if only for a little while.

First movie up? The Sandlot. Love this one. I saw this one in the theater when I was a kid and it's always held a special place in my heart. The adventures you had as a kid, when playing games and catch were the most important things in the world. Always a favorite, even though it took me a while to finally pick it up on DVD.

Short update. I'm tired and I am ignoring the Lightning so they can think about what they have done. To quote the Sandlot, "You're killing me, Smalls!"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Rooters Gave The Other Team A Dreadful Fright

Design by the people at

I have the very unique pleasure of writing about my favorite hockey and baseball teams on here pretty much everyday. The Red Sox have been around for over a hundred years and have legions of loyal fans. America IS Red Sox Nation, as is evidenced by the number of fans that are wearing team colors whenever the Sox go on the road. Far or near, there are fanatics there. The Lightning haven't hit their 20th anniversary yet, although we are pretty close. There are some very loyal fans, myself included, who do travel to see the team and support them. Nowhere near the numbers of say the Bruins or any of the Canadian NHL teams. Maybe that's because it's a hockey team in Florida. Maybe it's because there are several other pro teams in town. Maybe it's because so many people are from other places and maintain those loyalties.

Whatever the reason, I have never had a problem getting tickets to Lightning games. When I first moved down here, I would walk up about 45 minutes before a game and be able to pick up a ticket. I have really cheap season tickets and attend all sorts of events for the team. There is so much access, I think a lot of people here take it for granted.

Let me tell you a little story, Lightning friends. Red Sox spring training tickets went on this sale this morning. Games that have no bearing on the standings for the regular season. And fans had been camped out in front of the box office at City of Palms Park for over a week just to buy tickets to these games. The tickets went on sale online at 10 am. I overslept and didn't get to the computer until about an hour later. I was looking to attend the game on March 26th since it was a weekend and that's what I can swing with my work schedule. An hour after the sale began, standing room only tickets were all that was left. I still might make it to Ft. Myers, but it's looking more like plans are being adjusted to see the Sox when they play the Pirates in Bradenton. And yet, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Just don't get me started on the virtual waiting room for regular season tickets.

I get to see the Sox in person so rarely that I really enjoy and appreciate every time. I look forward to and enjoy every Lightning game as well. Maybe because I know that it's not as easy for everyone to have that with their teams. I am very, very lucky. Now. If only pitchers and catchers could report a little sooner...

Friday, January 7, 2011

The End of the Road

Photo by Getty Images

"Hockey won't sit still to give you a better look. You wouldn't want it to anyways. It's the action that makes the possibilities endless. The next practice, the next city, & the next game await."

My thoughts as the credits of Part 4 of HBO's Road to the Winter Classic rolled? Pardon my French, but my thought was "Hockey is f**king beautiful". And that pretty much sums it up. HBO gave unprecedented access inside the workings of not only the Winter Classic but every single game and practice. From the top of the organization to the equipment guys to the trainers room. It was revealing and brutal and funny and breathtaking. All at once. And my team wasn't even involved in the program.

I have had a lot of my non-hockey friends talking to me about this show since it began. Some friends had gotten away from hockey, but watching this and more games had reminded them exactly how much they love the sport. They are coming back to it. I don't know if the Winter Classic or the HBO special will win over droves of brand new fans. I don't think it will and I'm not entirely sure that was the point.

To me, the show was a love letter to the sport of hockey. By revealing and reveling in it's speed, skill, and ritual I know I fell a little more in love. Which I didn't think was possible. I was really smitten as it was. I hope the league does this again. They have to. It was brilliant. Imagine a show like this focusing on the Stanley Cup playoffs. Or the Olympics. Or in the final weeks of the season when teams are fighting for position in the post season. The term warrior is thrown around a lot in sports. Hockey players ARE true warriors and they were very compelling to watch. Unpretentious. There to do their job, whether it's to score goals or to drop the gloves.

In the final moments of the show, Muse's Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 swelled. And my eyes welled up a little. Because hockey is f**king beautiful. I have more than my fair share of issues with the league, but this show was a great decision to make. Please give us more soon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hey Trouble, I Hear You Call My Name

Photo by Getty Images

The Lightning's 1-0 overtime, shut out victory of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night was absolutely exhilarating. They beat the winners of the Winter Classic on their own turf. The thrill was short lived, unfortunately. They had a game the next night against the losers of the Winter Classic, the Pittsburgh Penguins. To say they beat the Bolts 8-1 doesn't really encompass the disgust I felt watching the game. I turned it off in the second period. I NEVER do that. I usually sit through until the bitter end, stewing in my own misery. I decided instead of watching the Lightning crap the bed, I would watch the Top Gear Vietnam bike episode. And I think that worked out well for me.

That being said, I can't help but mention something in regards to the Lightning's games this week. That is Steve Downie returning from his high ankle sprain. It wasn't until he got back that I realized what a void had been left in the physical part of the team's game. The Lightning are far from a physical team this year, outside of some big hits from Mattias Ohlund. Downie is the loose cannon. Downie is the one who will drop the gloves, which he did in his first game back against Matt Hendricks. I refer to him as the little pit bull of the team, and there is very good reason.

The photo above shows what he got from that fight. It's a beauty. Welcome back.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Baseball Cities

I had the unique experience of visiting both Boston & New York City within the same month this December. After talking sports with my cousins on Christmas Day, I started thinking about baseball. It's roots and role in both places. They aren't separated by a large geographic distance, but in some aspects the fans in both cities are closer than we might think.

Not Yankee fans. Oh hell no. See, my cousins in Brooklyn are born and raised Mets fans. Who talk about how they are ready to give up on the team, but with each season they are back rooting and hoping. Sounds kind of familiar to me. I talked about faith and Red Sox fandom a lot last season, and this really stuck out to me.

Another thing that stuck out is how people who weren't even close to being born still talk about the Brooklyn Dodgers as if they moved to California a year ago. While their brethren in the Bronx enjoyed decades of World Series rings, another borough had a lot less luck.

Yeah, we're different. But on Christmas day, full of great Italian food and wine, we can all agree on one thing. That we hate the Yankees. God Bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Defending the Winter Classic AKA Shut Your Yap, CHB

The name Dan Shaughnessy is well known by my fellow members of Red Sox Nation. He has been referred to as "the most hated man in Boston", but I usually just think of him as a "journalist" who spouts off to garner more attention to himself or to sell some books. So it might come as a surprise when I say that the following post will center primarily on hockey.

I read the following article on Sports Illustrated today Time to Retire the Winter Classic

Apparently Dan, who I have never heard utter a single word about the sport of hockey before today, has decided that the outdoor hockey game is an idea whose time has passed. That because it rained in Pittsburgh and things were a little wet, an outdoor hockey game will never work. Now, I don't have all that high of an opinion of a lot of mainstream sports journalists but the assertion that an idea won't work because of... weather? If you don't like hockey, that's fine. Not everyone does. If you hate that you had to go to Pittsburgh, I can even respect that. This year's Winter Classic had a number of problems but I don't think the weather was the biggest one of all.

It's really hypocritical given the number of baseball games that are rained out over the course of a season. In the last month, we have seen a number of NFL games snowed out. Hell, the ceiling of the Metrodome collapsed into an avalanche. THAT is a reason to blame the weather. The sport of hockey was born outside, and like any activity outdoors you run the chance of having to deal with the elements. The snow came down in giant flakes at the first Winter Classic in Buffalo. No one was complaining then.

Outdoor games are always a gamble when it comes to the weather. It's a gamble that has really paid off for the NHL. They have had high ratings during the last few Stanley Cup playoff rounds on NBC. They won the ratings on Saturday night with the soggy Winter Classic. A number of networks are going to be courting them for their television rights, especially with possible work stoppages approaching for both the NFL and NBA. I have more non hockey fans sending me messages or talking to me about the sport on New Year's Day because of the Winter Classic. For an event that is designed to promote the roots of the game and appeal to new/casual fans, that seems like a success to me.

In the immortal words of Coach John Tortorella, shut your yap. The Winter Classic is awesome. Maybe next time you should bring a damn poncho.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Water Classic

Photo by: Getty Images

Finally home after ringing in the new year with a few of my hockey girlfriends in downtown Tampa. A large part of last night was spent at the Lightning/ Rangers game at the Forum. At the Lightning arena, they have an area called the XO Club. You can purchase a ticket to this area, where all food and drink is included in the cost of your ticket. If you're planning to go all out for an evening, I definitely recommend it. Especially given that the big cans of beer on the concourse are $11. And they are out of Labatt's till they get a new shipment. I was told they would have more in by the new year. They have until the next home game on the 12th to get it in, then boy will there be tears.

XO is also filled with a lot of television screens showing other sporting events that are taking place. Even most non-hockey fans have come to know that the NHL stages it's annual outdoor game, the Winter Classic, on New Year's day. As I've mentioned before, this year's game took place at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. There were a lot of questions about the weather going into the game, since temperatures were looking to be much warmer than the last few classics and the fact that it was forecast to rain most of the day. The weather caused the game to be pushed back to start at 8 pm. I was bummed, mainly because the Lightning game started at 7:30. With an XO pass, I was able to keep an eye on both games. It was hockey sensory overload and I loved every second of it.

That being said, they probably should have supplied the players with snorkels and flippers. Especially in the third when the rain was just pouring in. Given my own bias, I was really glad the Capitals pulled out the win. Since I have been watching HBO's 24/7 I knew more about the players who scored the game's goals. And none of them were named Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. Yes, they are insanely talented players and superstars of the league. But you run into problems with almost solely promoting the Winter Classic on two players. Neither of them got a point in the game. Whoops.

The next outdoor game takes place in about a month, this time with the Heritage Classic being played in Calgary. 2004's Heritage Classic was insanely compelling. It will be shown on Versus on February 20th and I can't wait. Canada is so passionate for their hockey it is going to be a great show. And next year's Winter Classic? Let's just hope they don't need scuba tanks.