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Fight for Your Right

20 Mar

It can be tough to explain fighting to someone who doesn’t watch hockey.

Try explaining this:

Three seconds into the game (yes, first period), the Rangers and Devils had three simultaneous fights break out.  That’s barely enough time to make a “Yo Mama” joke!    Gloves and helmets, report to the ice surface.

So what’s the story?

The Rangers have lost 6 of 11 in March.  The red hot Penguins (now with extra Crosby!) are breathing down their necks for 1st Place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.  A slip would knock them down to 4th and a cage match for playoff home ice advantage with the Flyers.  The Devils have similar Feb and March records, and are firmly planted in the playoffs.  They could claw into 5th, or drop into 7th, but they’re going to make it either way.

Be honest.  Was it just because the Devils had to wear those awful green uniforms on Saturday?

No(t only).  There’s a ton of history and bad blood between two teams living so close together.  It’s like fighting with your bother in the back of mom’s station wagon on the way to day camp.  Just this year:

– On December 20, Mike Rupp fought Cam Janssen three seconds into the game (yes, first period) . [video]

– On February 7, Rupp and Janssen decided “why wait?” and dropped the gloves two seconds into the game (yes, again).  Bradon Dubinsky and Eric Boulton also fought at that time. [video]

So one fight at the opening faceoff, then two fights… you see where this is going.  In the six Rangers vs. Devils matchups this season, as a total of 22 fighting majors have been handed out.

Who are these madmen?

Each of these guys is a brawler.  Starting these lines is like stepping into the ring, gloved up and ready for a heavyweight title bout.  Last night was crazy, but every one of the players was well-matched and ready to go.

And what’s the point?

Ah, the age old question of fighting in hockey.  Some say let ’em swing.  Others, like this SBNation writer, think premeditated stage fights like this need to be eliminated, lest the NHL wax hypocritical about player safety.  The discussion over fights has heated up lately, with so many man-games lost to concussions and even Ralph Nader lobbying Bettman to ban brawls [link].  (Wow, was that a slow news day.)  Others cite the NHL’s nearly 100-year history of policing itself with a little on-ice law enforcement [link].

I admit that I laughed my butt off watching this fight.  Brawls like this don’t happen often and I don’t think allowing fights promotes fighting.  We’ve all seen bad fights – attacking a smaller guy, hitting someone who’s down, even a non-fighter squaring off against an experienced combatant (Jay Beagle, how’s your head?).   For the most part, the dangerous plays (hits from behind, boarding) are being addressed by the NHL, albeit with varying success.  That alone won’t keep players safe in the brutal, physical game of hockey.  But outlawing fighting won’t change that – it could even open the ice for big guys to run other teams’ stars without fear of consequences.  Don’t tell me penalties are consequences, unless we’re getting robot referees with laser vision and the ability to stop time.  Their job is the call by the rules.  A fighter’s job is sometimes to call by the heart.  Every hockey fan has seen a fight change the course of a game, because it’s part of the game.

Overall, I say guys who don’t want to fight, don’t fight – like Stamkos [link].  Guys who don’t fight but sometimes need to fire up their teams?  Well, they fight Matt Niskanen [link].  Neither way makes them bulletproof.  That’s hockey.

Last night wasn't Bickel's first dance.

What do you guys think? I’d love to hear from someone who wants fighting banned – there are a lot of good arguments and probably a million examples I haven’t considered.

30 is the new…

19 Feb

If I have to be up early on a Sunday, let there be good news every time.

James Neal scored his 30th goal of the season yesterday in Pittsburgh’s win over Philly.  This morning, the Penguins announced they’ve signed Neal to a six-year contract extension [link].  Six more years?! Excuse me while I…

The deal is worth $5 million/year (average) and will keep James in Pittsburgh through 2017-2018.  By then, you’ll be able to be a flying Nealmobile that runs on rainbows and wrist shots. HONK!

Okay, shameless Sunday morning celebration:

No, really…

One more?

You guys, come on.

Congratulations James!  It’s well-deserved and if his performance continues at this rate, he’s an absolute steal at $5 mill/year.  Capgeek.com has already factored in Nealmobile’s new salary and you can look at how it effects the Penguins salary cap for next season [link]. (Wait, Paul Martin makes $5 mill/year? Woah.)

And the winner is…

15 Dec

I missed 24/7 last night because I fell asleep re-watching Fright Night with Colin Farrell.  I mean he’s in the movie, he wasn’t with me.  And the movie’s great.  But I will have to catch up on the Rangers/Flyers this weekend, and from the sound of your Tweets there is plenty worth watching!

Another thing I’ve missed up until now is the NHL All-Star Game voting.

I restricted my choices to people currently playing.  Obviously I believe Crosby should be in – he was more of an all-star in his few games this year than most people are in a whole season.  But if he’s well, he’ll get in.  (See the leaderboard here.)   I deliberately sent my votes where they can count.

1) Nicklas Backstrom – If Ovi gets in and Nicky doesn’t, someone will receive a strongly worded letter written in cut-out magazine letters.

2) Jonathan Toews – scored his 300th career point last night, overall superstar and BAMF.  You don’t see a lake named after anyone else.

3) James Neal – needs no explanation. HONK!

4) Duncan Keith – Did you see him rob Matt Cullen on a shorthanded breakaway last night?  Norris Trophy, what?

5) Shea Weber – 100+ MPH shot, massive blocking body, all-star playoff beard, friends with Dierks Bentley.  Scored from the cheap seats (and we mean in the net!).  Haven’t seen it?  Puck Daddy has it, they always do [link].

6) Marc-Andre Fleury – Forever holding it down in the back, never knowing who might be available to stand in front of him every night.  And for the off chance he’ll spin like a ballerina or sass Carey Price.

You can vote up to 30 times at vote.nhl.com.  I’ll let you guys win the trip to Ottawa, because I’ll be on my honeymoon until that Saturday. I’m missing the draft and  skills competitions in real-time, so Chuck will have to man the Twitter and express all of my squee-tastic opinions.

I Googled this photo, which led me to another WUYS post. Of course.

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

9 Dec

I’m all for the old-fashioned let your kids play outside and get dirty, and yeah sometimes they get hurt.  They’re kids, that’s the way it goes.  But when it comes to multi-million dollar professional athletes:

WEAR A VISOR.

Martin St. Louis was hit in the face during Tampa Bay’s practice yesterday.  He suffered facial and nasal fractures that can’t even be properly determined until the swelling in his face goes down.  This is the man who, in last year’s playoffs, had a two teeth knocked out, a double root canal and was back on the ice the next day.  We know you’re tough, Squishy.  And right now you’re “out indefinitely” with an avoidable injury.

Last week Jordan Staal caught  a puck near the eye against Carolina.  The camera cut to Eric, looking worried and probably thinking, “Shit, Mom is going to kill us.”  Jordan, who has been seriously injured by a shot to the face before, was lucky to have no structural damage and didn’t miss any games.  But he has played the last two matches with a visor.

There are a million instances of visor-preventable injuries.  Hell, even Pronger’s wearing one now after his most recent stick-to-the-face.  I think visors should be mandatory.  Remember before helmets were compulsory, and how totally asinine that seems now?  As much fun as it was to watch Craig MacTavish’s curls blowing in the wind, by the time he was the only bare-headed player on the ice he looked foolish and antiquated.

I know some players hate visors.  I understand how it can disrupt peripheral vision and create distortion when you look out from underneath.  Puck Daddy’s anonymous NHL-er “The Player” made his case this week, prior to St. Louis’ injury [link].  I wear glasses for distance and it was a long-term process to adjust, especially since I don’t wear them all the time.  But you do get used to it.  And if everyone wears a visor, any disadvantage is negated.

These days, with “player safety” as much the NHL’s industry buzz-word as “Kardashian” is to gossip mags, the simple argument of “I don’t like it” seems petulant.  People don’t like wearing seat belts or eating vegetables, but it’s stupid not too.  And when you get hurt, we can’t just say I told you so.  We count the cost in man-games lost, points unscored and positions left open.

Obviously a visor won’t prevent all injuries.  There’s also the issue of fighting, which the League hates to love, and the stigma of throwing punches with a shield on.  If everyone wears a visor, does everyone ditch their helmet and whip their hair before duking it out?  Who knows.  Don Cherry thinks only wusses and Europeans wear visors.  I disagree – I think smart guys who dream of long careers wear visors.  You’re going to get hurt playing hockey, that much is clear.  Limit injuries where possible and save your blood for another battle.

And the award goes to…

6 Oct

NEALMOBILE for the first goal of the Penguins season!  Get it, baby.  It’s going to be a great year.

"Pants was Tweeting about you before you scored." "That's so nice! She's great."

"She thinks she controls the universe." "I hope she's right, since she likes me."

"It's a little more serious - she named her car after you." "Oh. Now this is awkward."

Stop, you can’t even!  James Neal is trending WORLDWIDE.  How many Tweets did I write?!?!

Because We Say So.

5 Oct

It’s time to predict the eventual winners for the 2011-2012 season, so we can look smart and important when spring rolls around.  Or not.  Last year we all picked some combo of the Caps, Blackhawks, Canucks and Penguins [link].  That 25% result is less than the chance that Intern Jeff Skinner’s going to take you to the prom.  So here we go again:

CHUCK:

Eastern Conference Finals: Bruins vs. Capitals

Eastern Conference Champs: Bruins

Western Conference Finals: Canucks vs. Kings

Western Conference Champs: Kings

Stanley Cup Champs: Bruins

We all know that repeating as champs is nigh impossible though in the NHL these days, but the Bruins only lost two players to free agency (Kaberle & Ryder) and 1 to retirement (Recchi).  The heart and soul of the Bruins are still here.  Bruins have arguably the best and deepest set of forwards in the game and can get production from all 4 lines.  Plus, let’s not forget that you have Tuukka Rask, a top-notch goalie in his own right, backing up Thomas.

Kings are my dark horse team.  After picking up Mike Richards and Simon Gagne and resigning Drew Doughty, the Kings look to be a serious contender in the Western Conference. They have good young netminder in Jonathan Quick and if Gagne and Anze Kopitar can stay healthy, they could be the team to watch.

PANTS

Eastern Conference finals: Penguins vs. Capitals

Eastern Conference Champs: Penguins

Western Conference finals: Canucks vs. Sharks

Western Conference Champs: Canucks

Stanley Cup Champs: Penguins

Like everyone else, I think the Capitals will be a force to reckon with this season.  It’s (mostly) selfish hope that they will carry it all the way into the playoffs, so I can have the longest hockey season ever.  But I think the Pens will be strong early with Malkin and Staal in, and maybe James Neal will get his scoring touch back.  The Return of Crosby will be like Willy Wonka somersaulting down the orange carpet to greet his lucky minions at the gate.  Chocolate Stanley Cups for everyone!

Much like the Caps, I think the Sharks are long overdue for a dominating post-season performance.  They’ve won their division the last four years in a row and made it to the Conference finals the last two years.  Ultimately I don’t see them beating Vancouver, but I think they can do better than last May’s 4-1 failfest.

So, let’s hear it – who are your picks to have a great 2011-2012?  Feel free to shamelessly back your favorite teams – we obviously have.  Don’t hate us because they’re awesome.

 

17 Years Ago Tonight… Rinse and Repeat.

25 May

the food chain prevails ... nom nom nom ...

Bieksa the Berserker was the only one who knew where the biscuit was on the ice … with a freaky deaky goal in double OT and down go the Sharks. It’s 17 years to the day that Vancouver claims the Western Conference title in a double OT as well and will face either Boston or Tampa Bay for Lord Stanley’s Cup. I’d call it Freaky Friday but it’s Tuesday so go figure!

foxy friday alum ryan kesler - who was injured snapped this one by anti-nemesis for a biscuit

But riddle me this? I get that Vancouver was excited about this, but good gravy  why would you drop confetti on the ice before the presentation and then have your players out there skating around? Are you TRYING to trip them? Kesler was already injured and Luongo has a hard enough time stopping the puck as it is, he doesn’t need a greater handicap!

this is the only dance move i know, the robot, get it, sedin-the-machine, the robot, oh, if I have to explain it's not a joke.

So since I picked them for the Western Conference winner winner chicken dinner back in September, here’s a little ra-ra for your cha-cha Sedin-machines and Foxy Ryan Kesler and Bieksa-Lenta: