Monday, March 15, 2010

It's all Fun & Games until Someone Loses an Eye

I was going to write a light-hearted cheery blog about hockey rivalries - but then this weekend happened. More specifically, Ovechkin's hit on Campbell and Downie's hit on Crosby happened.

I'm not going to lie I absolutely adore a good hockey fight. I went to the Ottawa - Vancouver game Saturday night and was thrilled to see Rypien go at it with a Senator. And as Rick skated towards the penalty box and lifted his arms asking for more cheers - I gladly gave it to him. Rick Rypien is a goon. Burrows is a pest, like the notorious Sean Avery. These players serve a purpose in the game both for entertainment value and for point scoring and more importantly penalty killing reasons. And whether anyone wants to admit it or not, a good clean dust-up can change the momentum of a game. It gets the players juices flowing and the fans’ as well. But let me make this clear - fights aren't the problem.

Fights are 2 players acutely aware of what is going on and fully engaged in the act. Hits like Ovechkin's and Downie's are blatant attacks without warning and thanks to the league, with little or no consequence.

You can see Ovechkin's hit on Campbell here:
You can see Downie's hit on Crosby here:
Ovechkin’s hit garnered a penalty, which turned instantly into a game misconduct and now a 2 game suspension. But Downie’s hit garnered (so far) nothing more than 2 freaking minutes in the box. WHY? If I had to go lean on someone it would be – and I hate to admit it – Ovechkin. He didn’t extend his arms and it seems that he didn’t intend to cause bodily harm, but just wanted to give Campbell a shove. Steve Downie intentionally and maliciously tried to physically injure a player. You can blatantly see him move his knee behind Crosby’s.

That said, I don’t think either of them should have gotten off easy. Both hits were dirty, by payers with a history of dirty moves. The only difference in these two hits was the physical results.

Campbell was taken out of the game, his season most likely ended. Miraculously, Crosby didn't suffer a devastating injury and was back skating later in the game. But if Downie doesn't get some kind of suspension for this hit then what the NHL are saying is that bodily harm is all that matters. And if that's how they want to run the league, then they can't go screaming a horrified "foul" when there's another Bertuzzi-Moore neck breaking moment. You can't complain about the results when you ignored the warning signs.

Colin Campbell is ruining the league with his arbitrary and nonsensical idea of discipline. Essentially the stand he's taken is akin to a judge in the legal system saying "Yeah, you intentionally tried to shoot your wife, but you missed so no need to punish you!"

What blows my mind more than anything is that the viewpoint seems to be widely accepted... until the unthinkable happens. The announcer (from Tampa Bay) in the Crosby clip actually says Downie was just "finishing his check". I commend Florida for their support of people with disabilities. But the other States and Provinces (who, unlike Tampa, don't hire mentally retarded people for their on-air commentary) clearly state it was a dirty hit. Still not many clearly state Downie should have been kicked out of the game.

During the Flames-Canucks game on Sunday John Shorthouse, the local Vancouver announcer and his crew, made this statement after Darcy Hordychuk was clearly tripped by a Calgary player: "If you're a sniper you get the call but if you're Darcy Hordychuk, you don't."

So because Darcy isn't a leading goal scorer and odds say he wouldn't have scored anyway, we don't need to call penalties? Pretty ridiculous rationale. But it's that mentality that leads to the Referees thinking that Crosby wasn't seriously injured so Downie can keep skating. It applied to Ovechkin too who originally went to the box for a 10-minute penalty. It wasn't until the referees conferred and realized the severity of Campbell's injuries that they then tossed Alex to the dressing room.

Since you asked - (whatever, I'm telling you anyway) here's how I would fix the NHL's disciplinary problems.

Hold the team and Refs accountable. When Ovie boards someone again (and he will) and when Downie actually succeeds in tearing someone's knee apart (which he can do in his very next game if he wants since the NHL can't be bothered to suspend him) the team should be affected by the suspension just like they are by a penalty.

If you suspend a player then the team should have to play a man short until he returns to the ice. Killing a penalty for 2 minutes might be doable but 2 games at 4 on 5... not so much.

Coaches like the Capitals’ Bruce Boudreau might not be so quick to excuse his star player's dirty tricks then. (Murray actually rolled his eyes on the bench and pitched a fit as Campbell lay reeling in pain on the ice).

Furthermore the referees should also have it marked on their file when they fail to properly discipline a player - like the monster known as Steve Downie - and when the player actually succeeds in severely or permanently injuring a player the refs who gave him 2 minutes on a slew foot instead of a game misconduct should be fined. That way they'll be less likely to turn a blind eye or let someone off easy when it happens the first time.

And the number one way to really stop malicious, intentional attacks? Fire Colin Campbell.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Open Letter to Ryan Kesler

Dear Ryan Kesler,

I was devastated when I read that you apparently said "I hate Canadians". I was devastated and fuming mad.

You were the first Canuck I got behind when I moved to Vancouver. And not just because you grow the hottest playoff beard on the team. I loved the way you played aggressive but clean. I loved the passion you seemed to have for the game. I loved your sense of humor (walking arm-in-arm with Ohlund after you had a media-worthy dust-up in practice).

I defended your hair (your flippy airplane wings/faux hawk combo is adorable!) And I even had a nickname for you: "Leg-Kick Kesler" because you almost always kick your leg up when you shoot. My fiance actually ran into you once and got his picture with you. When he told me about it, the conversation started like this; "I'm so sorry that I saw Ryan Kesler without you. Don't kill me please."

Most importantly I spent $300 to see you play with Team USA against Norway and endured hardcore attacks from everyone I know for also buying a Team USA T shirt and American flags to wear/bring to the game. As a Canadian girl, during an Olympics on home soil, you should realize that I almost had to go into the witness protection program for that one! (Which in Canada I am fairly certain means moving to Winnepeg.)

And then I hear "I hate Canadians". And I think... wow. He hates me. He hates us. The people who support him in-and-out through every season - and even when he's not in a Canucks jersey (did you hear the cheers when they put the medal on your neck? Just your neck, no other Team USA players) Ryan Kesler "hates" us. Wow. Like Brodeur said in the same article, "hate" is a strong word.

But tonight TSN announced you swear you were "misquoted". They say that you now say you don't hate Canadians, you just get miffed that they claim the game of hockey as "their own".

Dude... Those Coca-Cola commercials got to you, huh? (Please note I am using "huh" instead of "eh" ... trying to speak American, out of respect, of course).

I can sympathize because after you & Ryan Miller smoked our butts in that first USA-Canada match-up I threw up a little in my mouth every time they played that damn ad. I wanted to file a harrassment charge against Coke with the CRTC.

But think about it Ryan - you've lived here long enough now, you must know. Hockey is all we've got! Our basketball team here in Vancouver lasted 3.5 seconds, the Raptors are.... the Raptors. We don't have an NFL team. The Expos are R.I.P and the Blue Jays might as well be. And until there's more MILF Curlers to keep the Olympic interest going year round ..... it's just hockey, Ry. Just hockey.

We don't boast about anything else. Ever. And we apologize for everything - except hockey... and Nickleback even though we owe everyone a BIG "sorry" for them. We need to own hockey - or else all we have is Health Care. We can't have a Health Care Night in Canada, Ryan. That's not going to gather generations of families together around their television sets every Saturday. And seriously, what the hell would Don Cherry do if we didn't have hockey - sell used cars? Or worse, Toyotas?!

But you almost left us with just that. You, your incredible goalie and the rest of the well-oiled, fine-tuned machine that was Team USA. You almost took our only game right out from under us. (and we don't hate you for it, btw)

Silver isn't a consolation prize, Kes. It's an achievement. One Ovechkin didn't manage to come close to. Or the Twins. Or Demitra. Or Salo. Seriously, you should be proud. You were so good out there for those 2 weeks, we'd have sacrificed a moose in a satanic ritual if it meant we could have had you on our team.

I think many Canadians were surprised to realize when the lines were carved in the ice that you weren't on Team Canada. Because we love you & admire you like you are one of us. That's why the alleged "hate Canadians" comment hurt so much.

Trust me, considering you one of us is the best compliment we could give you. It means we think you aren't just playing OUR game.. your playing YOURS too.

Does that help a little?

If not please also keep in mind - Coca-Cola is an American company.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Congratulations Canada, the best team won!

It's over. That fat lady has sung...... well actually in Vancouver (a very fit &
active city) probably wasn't a fat lady so much as a young, sexy thing in Lululemon pants holding a small dog that was yapping rather than singing, but either way - it's done.

And Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Martin Brodeur, Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, Marc-Andre Fluerry, Patrice Bergeron, Dan Boyle, Danny Heatly, Scott Neidermeyer, Chris Pronger, Brenden Morrow, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton and Roberto Luongo are all on planes heading back to their respective NHL teams wearing Gold Medals.

It was a dogfight. It was a nail-biter. It was a passionate, competitive, glorious battle to the finish.

At this point I don't really want to breakdown the game because - well when it's for a gold medal it's more about the path that got you there than it is about the three 20 minute periods that put a medal on your neck.

America's path could have been a fairy tale. It kinda was. They were young, mostly virgins to the Olympic pressure and intensity. Unproven and thereby underdogs. And yet they repeatedly and steadfastly plowed through the competition. Some (Norway) were easier than others (Canada in round 1) but they still got through it all. Some games they depended more on their goalie than any other player, but that's not the end of the world when your goalie is Ryan Miller. He was solid and as near to perfect as I have ever seen. And the rest of their team did find their legs fairly quickly.

Team Canada on paper we were the odds-on, unarugable favorite. We had every elite hockey player. The #3 goalie in the NHL as our starter. The gutsy goal scoring Flames captain, the veteran gold medal winner, and last but not least The Next One.

But yet, Team Canada struggled when faced with even the slightest real challenge.Brodeur was clearly in a slump, and all those leaders couldn't figure out who to follow. Rock bottom for me was the constant game of Hot Potato they played with the puck during the 1st game against USA. Everyone tossed the puck around and no one bothered to take a freakin' shot! C'mon guys, Canadians polite but not THAT polite. You ARE hockey players afterall! And The Next One? Well, there were a lot of grumblings that he was The Non-Existent One. (I wore your jersey proudly Sid. You know I love you, baby. Call me!)

The loss to the USA in the round robin was devastating. Because, hello, it's the US. Our loud obnoxious neigbour who usually don't realize we exist and now want to take away the one thing that makes them acknowledge our existence! But more importantly - it meant our dreams would be dashed with just one more mess up.

But head coach Mike Babcock learned from his mistakes. Lines stopped changing faster than Vancouver's weather. He stuck Iginla, Crosby & Staal together - a great combo. He sat Broduer and his pretty eyes on the bench and dressed the man the World now thinks we "boo" - LUUUUUUUUU!

Roberto Luongo did what he does for the Canucks every playoffs - he held the competition at bay until his forwards and defensemen found their legs. The difference this time is that, unlike the Canucks in playoffs, the forwards and defencemen found their legs. And even when they lost them again - I swear to you the dying seconds of the Slovakia game cost me 5 years off my life! - he made all the saves necessary to get Team Canada through!

Was LU perfect? Nope. But then again if Ryan Miller had been perfect, I'd be unable to write this article through my sobbing and tears. Yeah Luongo might have let in a cheap goal, but it was only 1 as opposed to the 3 Brodeur let in in only 2 games. Bobby Lu was our only hope - and he did his Country proud.

And was Sidney Crosby's game winning goal in overtime simply luck (or karma for being the most awesome, timbit popping, puppy dog adorable hockey player on the planet)? Despite Sid's admission he had no real strategy and had no idea how it got in - nope. That wasn't luck.

Sidney's goal came from determination, talent and a relentless effort to not give up. And if Iginla, Toews, Luongo and every single other Team Canada player didn't have those three qualities working overtime (in overtime and all the way through the tournament), then they wouldn't have won.

Team Canada DESERVED to win that Gold. They were the better team. The fought harder and longer than the USA. They faced bigger threats (Russia and the brilliant, albeit surprising, force of Slovakia) and bigger obstacles (unrelenting homeland pressure and expectation) and they triumphed.

In this case, it may have been the turtle that beat the hare. But isn't that the way it should be?