Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday!

At 6:22 am this morning, I became an aunt. My sister and her husband have welcomed a healthy, beautiful baby boy into the world. It was so exciting to finally meet him. He is really tiny and very sleepy. And super cute.

I wore a Red Sox t shirt to the hospital this morning when we were seeing him for the first time. Between that and the Wally toy waiting for him at home, I am doing my part to set him on the right path. I plan on giving him the same freedom my dad gave me when it comes to baseball. You can root for whoever you want. Except the Yankees. There might be some gentle cajoling towards the boys in red socks, not going to lie.

But now? Sleep.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Duke of Flatbush

The Brooklyn Dodgers are revered in the house I grew up in. Especially the World Series winning 1955 team. My father grew up a Dodgers fan in Brooklyn at that time. As a result, I grew up hearing his stories about that team and that time in the city. The Dodgers have become a part of my own baseball traditions. I always re-read "The Boys of Summer" by Roger Kahn before the start of Spring Training. I wear a #42 pin on my favorite jacket, surrounded by the pins for all of my favorite bands.

That reverence is one of the reasons I was so sad to learn of Duke Snider's passing today at the age of 84. The last of the regular starting Boys of Summer is gone. He goes to join Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Junior Gilliam, Billy Cox, Carl Furillo, and Jackie Robinson in baseball heaven.

I think it speaks of the timelessness of baseball and the men that play the game between generations. I never saw the Duke play a single game, but the news of his death brought tears to my eyes. In that way, baseball is eternal and its legends never really die. And that immortality is rather comforting.

Rest in peace, Mr. Snider. There's plenty of spectacular center field catches to be made in the hereafter.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Going The Distance

Photo by Me

I missed out on the Lightning's 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils last night because I needed a good night's sleep. For the first time ever, I was participating in a race. As part of pirate season here in Tampa, the Gasparilla Distance Classic is held over a weekend. There are several races and I did one this morning.

Ok, so just a 5k. And I walked the whole thing. But I walked fast and I never stopped once.
I received a medal for finishing. After the race I got to thinking. It's the first "prize" I have ever received for an athletic event. I received trophies for dance recitals and things like that, but never a race. I wore my Lightning St. Patrick's Day hat and hauled my butt 3.1 miles along Bayshore Boulevard. I am tired, have some blisters, but very proud that I finished.

Next plan? Keep walking. Keep moving. I want to do the Warrior Dash in Lake Wales early next year. Now.. Zzzzz...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thrice As Nice

Photo by AP Photos. Used without permission.

I was more than a little concerned for the Lightning going into last night's game against Phoenix. The long home stand seemed to be taking it's toll, especially in late losses to Philly and Florida. Let's not even talk about the absolute beating at the hands of the Red Wings. The Coyotes were riding an eight game winning streak as they came into town. I was ready to settle in for a bit of a battle. And then Teddy Purcell scored his first of the night just shy of two minutes into the game.

And the goals kept right on coming. 5 in the first period alone. Teddy ended up scoring his first career NHL hat trick. Marty St. Louis scored two goals and Steve Stamkos scored one to break their goalless stretch. Vincent Lecavalier came out of nowhere and had a five point night. They looked amazing. And it was great to have that kind of dominance on display again.

A night removed from the game, I can't help but tell myself that Phoenix had just played a game the night before in Philly. That Jason Labarbera had only played 8 minutes of game action for quite some time. I'm trying not to get too excited, especially with the re-surging Devils in town for a contest tomorrow night. I'm trying to be levelheaded. But then I say screw it. Last night was great. It was just what the Lightning and myself needed.

The NHL trade market is heading up ahead of Monday's deadline. It will be interesting to see what Stevie Y has in store before then. Now could be the time when the Bolts get that missing piece to really help them in a run for the Cup.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Today is the 31st anniversary if the USA Hockey team's defeat of the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. I have developed a bit of a tradition every February 22nd. I watch "Miracle" and the HBO sports documentary on that team and the gold medal run. It might seem odd that something that happened before I was born has such huge meaning for me. I look at it this way. It was a moment in time where the sport of ice hockey, always the perennial after thought in American sports culture, meant so much to the entire nation. So much so that it has been voted the biggest sports moment of the 20th century.

It's definitely a moment that will never be duplicated in the Olympics, especially as long as professional athletes participate in the ice hockey tournament. I got a bit of a glimpse of what it might have been like during Team USA's 2010 run at the Vancouver games. Canada was the big red monster then. Stocked with household name talent. Team USA might have had NHL'ers, but none of the name recognition of Sidney Crosby or Brodeur or Toews. I had people coming out of the woodwork to talk hockey with me. Gold medal game didn't go the same way as 1980, but it was inspirational and hopeful to me as an American hockey fan nonetheless.

But today, the recognition has to go to those 20 guys and the coach who made it possible 31 years ago today. Without them, USA's national hockey program would look very different. That game will forever serve as a reminder that the impossible can happen. And we should always believe in miracles.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Heritage Classic

Photo by Getty Images. Used without permission.

It seems kind of odd that Hockey Day in America culminated with an outdoor game being played in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Odd until you really start to think about the sport itself. The roots of the game are in Canada, that will never change. Seeing the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadians playing on an outdoor rink was amazing. You know more than one guy on both benches was flashing back to their youth spent on the pond learning the game. It's nostalgic and romantic, that's for sure. The Heritage Classic was amazing. It's always great to see such love and respect for a sport that is close to my own heart.

One of the most interesting things about the coverage of Hockey Day in America was seeing all of the different and varied places that were celebrating. Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, Florida. Hockey might be Canada's game, but that game is growing in the USA and in some very unexpected places. It will be interesting to see how the NHL changes as a result in the years to come.

I would like to see the NHL continue with the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic as annual outdoor events. It's unconventional and has always come off really well. This year's Winter Classic might have been doused with rain and today's Heritage Classic might have been so cold that the ice was fragile, but I was glued to the television. I was by the TV most of the day, actually. Note to the NHL: If the NFL has a lost season due to collective bargaining issues, do Hockey Days in America more often. It was fantastic. Promote, promote, promote.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Love Is Our Resistance

Photo by AP Photos. Used without permission

"You may glory in a team triumphant,... But you fall in love with a team in defeat."

Roger Kahn wrote the above about the Brooklyn Dodgers in his amazing book "The Boys of Summer". When spring training rolls around, I always pull that book out and re-read it. To get ready for the summer and baseball and the Dodgers that my dad grew up with. The quote I used has always stuck out to me because it really is true. It's easy to be a fan of a team that wins all the time. That has dozens of championships or rings or trophies. It's easy because your loyalty is never tested.

Following a team that has a history of loss and defeat and disappointment can make you very bitter. But it also makes you resilient and makes it very difficult for you to give up on your teams. The Red Sox & Lightning have taught me that over the years. The Jaguars have taught me that. FSU has taught me that.

The Lightning may have been crushed by the Red Wings on Thursday night, but I'll be back in the stands for tonight's game. Wearing my gear and cheering my heart out. The Shawshank Redemption been on tv and in the hearts if a lot of my Red Sox brethren lately. It's definitely what I need to remember going into hockey's stretch run to the playoffs. Hope is a good thing. As long as we have that, anything is possible.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And I'll Find Strength In Pain

Photo by Linda Hamilton. "The Faces of Lightning Hockey"

Tonight was the most depressing experience I have had at a Lightning game in a very long time. Not since OK Hockey and Brian Lawton and having 40+ defensemen suiting up for the team in a single season. The Red Wings were in town, the media was hyping things out of control since it was Stevie Y versus his former team. And it felt like I was in Detroit. There were that many red jerseys in the stands. There were that many people cheering each Red Wing goal. There were three octopi thrown onto TAMPA ice. It made me absolutely sick to my stomach.

I understand that the Lightning will never have as many fans as an Original Six team. There's too much history there. It's complicated further by the fact that so many people who live in Florida are from somewhere else originally. They might locate and adopt local teams, but they keep their allegiances to the teams they grew up with. I can't point fingers there, I'm from somewhere else originally. I live in Tampa but maintain my loyalty to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Boston Red Sox. It's just frustrating. Really really frustrating.

This is when we have to take the advice of the coaches and players. Forget about this game and move on to the next one. Tomorrow is another day to regroup and move forward. Another day for the guys on the injured list to get a little bit healthier. There's another game on Saturday. And I'm pretty sure I won't be surrounded by a sea of Panthers jerseys then.

Smooth Operator

Photo by AP Photos. Used without Permission

Tonight the Lightning play the Red Wings down at the Forum. The 2nd place teams from both conferences are facing off. And all the media can seem to talk about is how Lightning GM and Red Wings Legend Steve Yzerman feels about the match up.

Stevie Y is being diplomatically detached, saying it's just another game. He's not giving any flowery speeches about his Hall of Fame career in the Motor City. The only goal he has been verbal about is focusing on the Lightning securing a spot in the playoffs.

Damn. He is one suave mofo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It Feels Like Years Since It's Been Here

Photo by Jim Davis / Boston Globe. Used without permission

I was absolutely transfixed by this photo on It looks like a painting. All of the bright promises of spring training when the ball players take the field for another summer. I write about hockey a lot. It's no wonder, I have season tickets to the team in the city where I live. I attend a lot of the events. My hockey fandom is like punk rock. Fast, passionate, unpredictable.

But come February, an old love always comes back into the picture. Baseball was the first sport I learned to love. And my heart is so glad seeing the Red Sox on the green grass in Fort Myers. Their return has also brought me the first spring pictures of Jason Varitek. Which is always a good thing. It wouldn't be quite the same if he were in another team's uniform.

The Boston media is swirling and there are some trying to stir up controversy already. I'm not paying any mind. Baseball is back. And it doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boucher Cubed

Photo by Getty Images. Used without permission.

The last time that Brian Boucher, Guy Boucher, and Me Boucher were in the same building together the Lightning won 4-0. Unfortunately forces did not align in the Bolts' favor again tonight. The game remained tied through overtime and the shoot out went 7 rounds before Philly got the extra point. The game definitely lived up to the hype of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference clashing, that's for sure. It's also encouraging that the Lightning were down 3-1 in the second before moving to tie things up. They're dealing with a rash of injuries, so you can't help but wonder if things might had been different if all of our guys were healthy.

Not that I haven't been impressed with the AHL call ups. I was impressed with Johan Harju during training camp and thought he was pretty close to making the main club squad during the season. Big congratulations to Mike Vernace on his first NHL point with an assist on Teddy Purcell's goal.

It's disappointing, but it is what it is. I'm sitting here finishing some warm milk in my Shakespearean insult coffee mug. All of those insults are way too nice for the Flyers. I officially have a new loathe of my hockey life. It's going to be very interesting to see how things end up over the rest of the regular season. Very interesting indeed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love You 'Til The End

I don't think that it's any coincidence that the official start of Spring Training and Valentine's Day come so close together. Nothing really happened down in Fort Myers today as team physicals aren't until tomorrow and the first game isn't until the end of the month. Symbolically? It's the start of another love affair with the game of baseball. I am very excited.

In the meantime, the Lightning's ten game home stand over the month of February is most than half done. It's too early to say they have definitely earned a spot in the playoffs, but if they can keep winning it's definitely a possibility. There have been a few injuries, but hopefully we'll be getting guys like Malone and Lundin back when they are needed most.

Short entry. I was out last night at the Flogging Molly show and I am still riding that high. A great, great start to the week. Keep it going, Bolts. Beat the Flyers tomorrow.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why I Hate "The Wave"

Photo by Me

There are a few things in the sporting world that I hate with a real fiery passion. The New York Yankees. The New Jersey Devils. The Instigator Rule. An old nemesis has recently come to the forefront again since it has been performed en masse at the past two Lightning games. That's right. The Wave. Apparently it's the 1980s again and no one told me. I hate The Wave in football. I hate it in baseball. For a while, hockey has been safe out of it's grasp. But now? Now nothing is sacred.

I know what you're thinking. "But The Wave is a fun thing to do to pass the time at a sporting event!". And sure, it might be fun for you. However, if I am sitting behind you trying to watch the Lightning bring the puck into the offensive zone and take a shot on goal I want to see it. I don't want to see your back and arms waving around just as Steven Stamkos lets loose on the puck. The same goes for baseball. Some of us find the sport interesting and want to pay attention to the pitches or the at bat. It's disrespectful to your fellow fans who also shelled out their hard earned money for their ticket. I'm also pretty sure that you came to the stadium/ballpark/arena to watch the event. Not to do the wave. SIT DOWN.

Not to mention, I think it's pretty disrespectful to the players on the field or ice who are busting their asses for your entertainment. To me, the wave says the crowd is looking for other ways to pass the time because what's going on in the game is boring. At tonight's game, the wave made several passes around the arena before dying out when Marty St. Louis broke into the Carolina zone with the puck. Hockey moves fast, you should pay attention in case you miss something. SIT DOWN.

It's 2011. The Wave is high entertainment value for you? Really? SIT DOWN.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beat On The Brat

Photo by Getty Images

A little late chiming in on Matt Cooke's latest run in with the NHL Disciplinary system. For those that missed it, the following hit took place on Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night:

2 days after that, Cooke was suspended four games. And there has been a lot of outrage. Deserved outrage in my opinion. Cooke has built up a large resume of "questionable" hits and incidents in the last few years. He clipped Alex Ovechkin's skates when the Pens played the Capitals on Sunday. And now this. Cooke will forfeit over $80,000 of his salary during that suspension. I have to wonder, if losing that amount of money isn't enough to make this guy reconsider how he plays what will?

I'm also shaking my head at the NHL for not taking a firm stand on this guy's behavior. When Sean Avery stood in front of Martin Brodeur's net waving his arms and stick around to obstruct his view, the NHL put an official rule on the books making that act illegal in the sport. They are very lucky that Tyutin's neck wasn't broken or worse. It took them years to recover from the Todd Bertuzzi/ Steve Moore incident and all the bad press. Not to mention the end of Steve Moore's playing career. Is it going to take someone being paralyzed or killed on the ice before Bettman deigns to stop such dirty play?

20 year NHL veteran Ken Daneyko stated that the NHL should declare on open season on Cooke for one week. That any player who hit him or fought him, whatever.. no matter what, they would not get suspended. He sees that as the only way that might stop Cooke from playing dirty for the rest of the career. I'm inclined to agree. According to the rules, players have no real recourse against Cooke and the league that governs them isn't protecting them. If he faced regular tastes of his own medicine, I bet we would be seeing a much different Cookie on the ice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are you F**king Kidding Me?

Photo by Me

That sucked. Really. I don't remember the last time I was THAT angry at a game. And I never leave games. I suppose I only have myself to blame for my own masochism. But that was... without a doubt... the worst officiating in a Lightning game I have seen in a very long time.

Yeah, I might have lost some class by responding to the Sabres' fans cheer with "No Cup Buffalo!". But during a streak of 12 home games I was bound to snap sooner or later.

As I was driving home from that gruesome defeat, John Fogerty's "Centerfield" came on my iPod. I remembered that there is a truck filled with Red Sox equipment heading south and I had to smile.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just Can't Wait To Get On The Road Again

Photo by Steve Silva /

Truck Day is a difficult thing to explain to non baseball fans. Well, more specifically non Red Sox fans. Simply put, Truck day is the day in February where a big 18 wheeler gets loaded up with all of the uniforms, bats, vacuum cleaners , etc and starts the journey down to Florida. Truck Day means Spring Training is just around the corner and with it, the boys of summer coming back into our lives for another year.

Yeah, I know it's silly to get excited about a truck. Pitchers and catchers don't officially report for a few more days and we're even further away from Opening Day. We haven't exactly had a blisteringly cold winter here in Florida, but I am ready for baseball. Forget Punxsutawney Phil, THIS is a sure sign of spring. It means that soon we'll hear the sounds of bats cracking and the sharp thumps of baseballs in leather gloves. Soon the Red Sox will be back out on the diamond, and how can that be a bad thing?

I think that Truck Day has taken on a special meaning for Red Sox nation because we are so intensely involved with this team. We eat, sleep, and breathe them 12 months a year. Truck Day means that Next Year is here. And with the line up that Theo & Co. put together in the off season, who wouldn't be excited by that?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Our Trophy Is Better Than Yours

Photo by Me

Everyone else was focused on the Super Bowl this evening. And I can't lie, I had the game on the tv. Today's main sporting event was the Lightning hosting the St. Louis Blues this afternoon. I made sure to get there early as the Stanley Cup was in front of the arena for three hours before puck drop. The Cup was in town last season, but you couldn't get anywhere near it. The last time I got to touch it was 2004 before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Not only did I touch it then, I gave it a big kiss. Today, we were able to get really close and I got a bunch of great pictures. It is an absolutely stunning trophy.

My bias really started to come out while watching the presentation of the Lombardi trophy after Green Bay became Super Bowl Champs. The Stanley Cup is the best trophy in sports. Not just because part of the trophy is over 100 years old. Not because it's made of sterling silver. Because of what it means and because of how hard it is to win it. And when your team does win it, every person gets 24 hours with it. Every single member of that team gets their name engraved on it. As Marty St. Louis and Tim Taylor said after the Lightning won, that team walks together forever on the Stanley Cup. For all to see.

The Stanley Cup is also a guaranteed way to make a tough hockey player verklempt and speechless. THAT is how much it means.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

If I Fall Back Down

Photo by: AP Photos

Being a Red Sox fan has done a lot of really positive things for me when it comes to my rooting for my teams. I am insanely loyal, almost to a fault. I am very invested in my teams. My family has had Jacksonville Jaguars season tickets since the inception of the team. When I moved to Tampa, one of my goals was to buy season tickets for the Lightning and I have been a season ticket holder for the last two years. I continue to hope and believe that my teams can achieve until they have been mathematically eliminated or things are so bad there's no possible way a playoff berth can be won.

Unfortunately, there is a darker side to having a deep seated Red Sox fandom in your brain. The sinking feeling there behind all of the good stuff, that the other shoe will drop. Especially when things are going well and your team is winning. The Lightning were riding a 6 game winning streak going in to last night's game against the Capitals. They soundly beat Philly on Tuesday and the Flyers have the best record in the Eastern Conference. All that success just made me terrified of meeting the Capitals. Things had been going TOO well. It's times like this that I hate being right.

Some of my friends are blaming the new logo being announced this week and being placed all around the arena. Pretty much the only place where the old logo is still being used is on the jerseys the Lightning will play out the rest of the season in. The idea is that the Bolts had a good thing going and all of the change messed with the ju-ju. I don't know if I would put last night's loss on the altar of the supernatural just yet. Things weren't sharp. The defense just wasn't there. When a team as fast and creative as the Capitals comes to town, you have to keep the puck away from them. And nothing seemed to work.

A win would have been good. We're getting to the point in the season where it would be pretty difficult for a division rival to overcome a 7 point deficit in the standings. It's also impossible to win every single game. I would really have liked to come out with the two points last night though.

A few random thoughts about the game:

When did Teddy Purcell become such a sniper? He has been really impressive the past two games.

Steve Downie was like a wild beast let loose from a cage last night. Good to see him playing with that edge, it was really missed when he was injured.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Yes. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is spending $35 million of his own money to completely redo the St. Pete Times Forum.

The news broke yesterday and I am still blown away. All the fans were told to make sure we are in our seats early before tomorrow night's game against the Capitals for a special video presentation. After a week of surprises, who knows what is coming next?

I said it on Facebook and I said it on Twitter and I'll say it again. I haven't felt THIS good about the Lightning since the 2004 playoffs.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

For Amy. And Isaias. And Sue. And Dziadzius. And Aunt Barbara.

To say that everyone's lives have been touched by cancer is a huge understatement. Mine definitely has, so my friend Amy's cause is very close to my heart. See, her cousin's son Isaias lost his battle in 2009. Just days before his 10th birthday. Amy used him as the inspiration behind Project Cupid, which is having it's second charity date auction event this Friday night at Whiskey Park in Boston.

More information can be found at:

If you are in the area, definitely try to attend. You can bid on dates with some eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. There will also be a ton of memorabilia and gifts up for auction. I know the Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics have all donated items. 100% of the proceeds go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

If you can't be there in person, you can donate via the website: Any amount can help, no matter how small.

To paraphrase Amy's husband Josh and my brother from another mother: This is why we fight. In memory of those who have lost their battles and in hope for a future where a cure will be found.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Photo by AP Photos

It's late and I need to get to bed, but I am still riding high on the Lightning's 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. I had concerns about this game. The team hadn't played since the 25th and in all of the post practice stories from today Coach Boucher said they were sluggish. I guess that wore off pretty quickly with Teddy Purcell's goal 19 seconds in to the game.

Dwayne Roloson posts his 4th shutout in 11 games. Purcell has two goals. Steve Downie manages not to fight someone. Steven Stamkos scored his league leading 39th goal of the season. This was a match up of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and for tonight, mine came out on top. The Flyers come back to town in a few weeks, so that one should be interesting.

One of the most encouraging things I noticed about tonight's game was that the home fans outweighed the visiting fans. For big markets this seems like no big deal. But for a Sunbelt team, in state with as many transplants as Florida has it is a huge deal. The building had some of the old energy back in it. It's bringing back a lot of good memories. Tonight, I am happy.