Posted on: May 15, 2010 11:11 am

Game 7 - PHI vs. BOS - The Broken Spirit

Last night I made an executive decision. I was planting my butt in front of the television to watch Game 7 between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins. Because if I couldn’t get excited for this game, I probably won’t be getting excited for anything else NHL related in the near future.

And again, I don’t hate hockey. I love hockey. I just hate two people, one of which runs the whole sport.

So here’s how the night went: To avoid remote ADD, I attempt to get a few of my friends over to our local watering hole (drink responsibly, designate a driver, etc.) and sports bar. My hope was to have my buddy Zach (huge hockey fan) to keep me interested and watching the whole 60 minutes of the hockey game in between taking shots at his Mets.

Naturally, that fell through and I was left with my basement and my remote control, which naturally means I won’t be watching all 60 minutes. I would be flipping through the Yankees and Mets game because I always have ADD when it comes to me and a remote control and sports. Even with that, I got to watch a pretty good hockey game.

Boston was all over Philly in the first period, taking a 3-1 lead. Then the Bruins forgot to bring their skates in the second and let Philly back into the game, and we went into the third tied 3-3. I told my dad that the first team to screw up, loses. That team ended up being Boston, who took a bench minor for too many men on the ice and Philly scored on the ensuing power play. Typical Flyer goal too, get players to the front of the net and start throwing the puck at goal.

Even with Philadelphia coming back from three games to zero and three goals to zero in Game Seven, I’m sorry, I tried, but I couldn’t get myself interested in the game. I couldn’t get excited to actually watch playoff hockey. Even during the last ten minutes my dad and I found time to watch Ron F. Gardenhire bring in a reliever to pitch to Alex Rodriguez, that A-Rod is 4-6 against lifetime with 3 HRs (now it’s 5-7 with 4 HRs). This coming from a fan who watched two games (and an OT) of USA-Canada in the Olympics just a few months ago. I’m sorry NHL fans, but some wounds just run to deep.

But regardless of my personal feelings, congratulations to the Philadelphia Flyers on winning this series. Once again, they personify the city of Philadelphia with their mentality and drive and never gave up even facing seemingly insurmountable odds and losing another goalie. The Adams Upset Conf. will now feature the two lowest seeds (Philly/Montreal) in the final. Love it. Won’t watch it most likely, but I love it.

I’d like to thank the great people and fans of Whaler Nation on Facebook for their comments, compliments and feedback. Numerous people that I have never met on Facebook responsed with suprising force, with "likes" and comments that let me know I'm not alone in my conviction. I’d also like to take a moment to reflect on the two user comments from my Whalers entry last week. Both comments happen to be about both of those two gentlemen I mentioned earlier.

User KevinKuzia takes his shot at one Peter F. Karmanos and wonders why despite the Whalers being a national recognizable team, they moved away from Hartford. User whaler97 sees the effort that Commissioner Bettman is putting into saving teams like Phoenix and wonders where he was 13 years ago in Hartford.

Guys, thanks for the comments. First, we know that Karmanos had no intention of staying in Hartford from the get go, and competing with the UConn Huskies basketball teams is quite possibly the lamest excuse ever said. As I state in the entry, everyone wants to know where I bought my lone Whalers t-shirt and not one person has ever defended the Whalers leaving. Bettman clearly wants to keep his league in major cities with established sports teams, despite getting killing and hemorrhaging money in Phoenix, Atlanta and Florida. Apparently being in big markets and TV money is more important to the league than drawing sellouts in middle markets like Hartford. But if the NHL could actually get real TV money, they wouldn’t be on Versus.

But the real catastrophe here is the average sports fan like me. The average fan that likes the sport and gets priced out at the ticket window or just doesn’t want to or have time to watch the sport live. I’ve interned at an arena with an ECHL team and have an AHL team in my backyard. I have enough hockey around me to watch if I feel motivated to do so. And right now I don’t. And I realized this sometime in the second period last night, right after the Flyers came back and tied the game at three. I realized that I will never have the motivation to watch this sport (aside from USA Olympic Hockey every four years) until my hockey team is rightfully returned to its place in Hartford, Connecticut.

So here lies my NHL spirit. It was officially pronounced dead around 8:45 PM EST on Friday, May 14, 2010. And I have a feeling that it might never come back. I have a feeling that I might never have the joy that Minnesotans have right now with the Wild. About getting your team back after losing it to a “bigger” market for over a decade. But Minnesota has the Vikings, and the Twins and the Timberwolves. They survived without the Northstars when they moved to Dallas.

Hartford had the Whalers. Connecticut had a professional sports team. And now after 13 years, I have given up on trying to accept the NHL without the Whalers. It’s not happening Bettman. When Chris Drury (Trumbull, CT – 1989 LLWS Champion) retires, my care quotient for the NHL will be at zero. You’ve finally broken my spirit to care about the National Hockey Leauge.

But if you think for one second that you’ve killed my hope of the Whalers returning to Hartford, you are sadly mistaken. But take heart at least this one statement Mr. Bettman, crusher of deams and souls.

I have watched 3 times more NHL this playoffs (45 minutes) than NBA playoffs (15 minutes). Now I have a purpose to actually watch the NBA Conference Finals - a purpose to watch more NBA than NHL during the playoffs.

A purpose to spite you.


Posted on: March 1, 2010 11:00 am
Edited on: March 1, 2010 11:29 am

Winter Olympics End, Hockey Fades Away

Well, now that the Winter Olympics are over, sports fans can go back to their regular scheduled programs. Older fans won't be watching Shaun White throwing huge tricks in the snowboard halfpipe. Younger fans won't be watching figure skating for three hours a day. And most fans won't care about the NHL or hockey anymore now that the Olympics are over.

And that's not because Team USA lost to Team Canada in both gold medal games, which by the way, were both great games. That's because the NHL is harder to find on Versus than it was to find Olympic hockey on MSNBC. That's because Gary Bettman, the worst commissioner in sports and hasn't committed NHL players for the 2014 games in Russia. That's because hockey isn't a mainstream sport in the USA.

Why is that? Well, it could be that the minority of players happen to be American born. Most NHLers are Canadian or other international players from Europe. It could be the lack of a national TV deal. Heck, even MLS (Soccer) and NASCAR are on ESPN once a week. Earlier this decade the NHL didn't play for an entire year and alienated the general fan in the USA. To be fair, MLS is having their own labor problems, but that's not the point.

I like hockey. Over the past couple of years, I've probably watched more hockey than I have in the previous twenty years of my life. I want to keep watching it and get excited for regular season games that don't involve rivalries. I want to get excited for hockey that doesn't involve the words Winter Olympics and Stanley Cup Playoffs. I want to watch Chris Drury and the Rangers and live and die with every goal for and against them.

Now there was a lot of good that came out of Team USA making it to the gold medal game against Canada. Ratings for the gold medal game were over 17 on the ratings scale, which is probably one of the highest rated hockey games in the country. Makes you wonder why all the hockey games weren't on NBC to begin with, but I digress. Team USA was devastated when they lost. They cared about winning. Canada probably would have been worse if they had lost. The average fan learned that Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin (from Russia) is a world-class jerk since he didn't speak to any reporters other than Russia's and shoved away a fan's camera. And the average fan can now hate the Pittsburgh Penguins and refer to that kid as Sidney F. Crosby for the rest of his career.

I want to get over the one sports scar of my life, the Hartford Whalers being bought out by scumbag owner Peter F. Karmanos and moving to the hockey hotbed of Raleigh, NC. That won't happen until the Whalers return to Hartford, but until then, I'd like to actually watch Rangers or Isles games and actually care about what happens. Because right now, I don't. I care more about Sprint Cup results and MLS/EPL scores because the NHL just doesn't appeal to me right now.

But that’s my problem. I have a personal grudge against hockey. Most fans don’t hate hockey, they just don’t care to watch it that often. The NHL is currently behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAAF/B and probably NASCAR in ratings. That’s a problem for hockey, because clearly fans watched the Olympics and loved it. It proves that the NHL isn’t doing something right to appeal to national fans.

People will say the same thing about MLS and the World Cup and that somehow wearing your nation’s colors appeals to more people and fans. I wouldn’t deny this, but if front office people and league officials think that it will translate into ratings or revenue, they’re insane. Does this mean I hate Ryan Miller, Team USA and Buffalo Sabres goalie? Absolutely not, but I’m not going to buy his jersey or order NHL Center Ice.

I will continue to watch the NHL and hockey because I like the sport. But the sport is never going to convert average fans in the USA if it doesn’t get its act together. Does that mean more NHL teams in Canada? Maybe. Does that mean contracting teams? Possibly. Does that mean lowering ticket prices? Absolutely.

America wants to care about hockey Mr. Bettman, they really do. Figure out how to turn that into a positive for your league.

And if you want my hard-earned money, that positive had better include the Hartford Whalers.

Posted on: May 11, 2009 7:14 pm

Settling Your Differences on the Playing Field

This has been a rather interesting week in sports. I've heard just as much talk on about playoff series as I have suspensions and steroids. Manny Ramirez, tennis player Richard Gasquet and NASCAR's Jeremy Mayfield were all suspended for positive drug tests by thier respective sports. Likewise, there have been several suspensions for on-court/field/ice actions for several players. Lakers G Derek Fisher was hit with a one-game suspension, as was Orlando's Dwight Howard and Rafer Alston and Houston's Ron Artest has been ejected twice in the last week. This also leads to the conversation of how to properly handle an on-court incident.

So? What should happen?

Well, I'm glad you asked. Let's start with baseball. If your a pitcher, and don't like someone getting plunked on your team, then your supposed to hit an opposing batter in the back/rear area. Then everyone gets warned, talks a little smack and gets on with it. See White Sox P Bobby Jenks' pitch behind the back of Texas 2B Ian Kinsler. There's nothing wrong with that in my book, except for Jenks talking to the media about it. He took offense to several of his teammates getting hit so he fired one off late in a game behind Kinsler.

Now, the batter should never, ever charge the mound for any reason, but in the heat of the moment, players let their emotions get the best of them. If a batter does charge the mound, they must leave all the hardware behind (bat, helmet, etc.). You shouldn't throw any punches and instead just engage the pitcher in some kind of greco-roman/olympic style wrestling match. Pulling a Jose Offerman and charging the mound with a bat is the dumbest thing you can do. There are unwritten rules in baseball that the umpire's warning rule has superceeded, mainly that you should warn the second team that hits a batter, not the first. That way, the offended team gets their shot in and the matter should be settled. Baseball is generally good about suspending players for unsportmanlike actions, but the same can not be said for these next two leagues...

Now, everyone remembers Todd Bertuzzi slugging Steve Moore in the back. There are also unwritten rules in hockey about fighting. Both parties agree to drop gloves, actually drop the gloves and go at it. Hurricanes' F Scott Walker droped his gloves and slugged Bruins' D Aaron Ward late in Boston's 4-0 win yesterday. Walker somehow escaped suspension and was only hit with a $2,500 fine. Ward however possibly suffered a broken orbital bone in his face and is likely done for the series.

Sadly, the NHL generally doesn't get it when it comes to fighting. Gary Bettman always talks about how he doesn't want fighting as a part of his sport anymore. Gary, get real. Fighting is just as much a part of hockey as America and apple pie. But it has to be done properly, more or less in the outline I mentioned before. Clearly, Ward didn't think he was in a fight, considering he still has his gloves on and wasn't really even looking at Walker when he got slugged. This isn't no where near the Bertuzzi incident, but it deserved a multi-game suspension, at least, from the NHL, maybe even a ban for the rest of the postseason. Once again, the NHL has it's head up it's you know what...

Now, onto the NBA, which should consider adopting NHL style fighting rules at this point. I can't remember the last time I saw so many elbows and hard fouls in one month of play. There have been so many suspensions and reviews of flagrant fouls that Stu Jackson (NBA's Exec VP of Basketball Operations) head must be spinning. The conspiracy theorists are screaming that Kobe didn't get a suspension for his elbow on Ron Artest, which lead to Artest getting two techs after the play. The ruling said that Kobe's elbow was below the shoulders and was upgraded to a flagrant-1. Last time I checked, the neck was above the shoulders, but still, there wasn't any intent, so I'm fine with it.

The NBA's problem is that they are too inconsistent with their rulings. There are too many close plays that need to reviewed or aren't called during the game properly that puts the NBA in a bad spot too many times. Had the refs tossed Dwight Howard in Game 5 for his elbow, they don't need to suspend him. Sadly, the NBA is generally know to have poor playoff officiating. And regular season officiating. Ok, the NBA refs usually screw things up, but the leagues confusing rules aren't helping much either.

(Disclaimer: Being a basketball referee is incredibly hard. The NBA refs are the best of the best, but that proves just how competitive the NBA is.)

Someday, sports won't have these problems. Athletes won't hold grudges, teams would stop having rivalries and stop hating each other, and there would never be any discrepency in officials calls. Someday, I might win the lottery and see pigs fly too. Sports isn't perfect, it's not a utopia and that's kind of what makes them great. But all I'm asking for (as well as a lot of fans) is for a little more consistency. Besides, drama is also what makes sports great. And not having anything to talk, write or debate about whould be boring. Sure the games are nice, but I honestly can't wait for the next Rangers-White Sox game, Scott Walker's next shift for the 'Canes or the Mark Cuban-Kenyon Martin dustup. Because, that is what adds that little extra to the world of sports.

And it'd be a shame if that wasn't around anymore.
Category: General
Posted on: January 8, 2009 4:09 pm

A Night at The Garden - Canadian-Rangers from MSG

For those of you who don't know, you would assume that the Rangers are my favorite hockey team by looking at my CBS Profile. And well, your wrong. And it's not your fault. You see, the NHL has been dead to me since the Hartford (CT) Whalers left for Carolina. I haven't been to an NHL game since 1997 when I watch a 3-2 Whalers win over the Canadians at the Hartford Civic Center (now the XL Center, and home of the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack, the Rangers affiliate).

The Rangers claim my favorite team spot by default, although I probably should be a Islanders fan because their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport (CT) Sound Tigers, play 10 minutes from my house. But because the Rangers have Chris Drury, the hometown hero of Trumbull, CT, they claim the top spot. And when my friend called me out of the blue yesterday with an invite to MSG for that night's game, I couldn't say no. So despite the fact that I had no power thanks to the ice storm that hit Connecticut, the plan came together and I traveled to NYC with two buddies for my first hockey game at MSG.

Before I start rambling, let me just start with the fact that I've been to MSG before. I've seen a couple of Knicks games and a few college games as well, including the 2008 Big East championship between Pitt and Georgetown. But the atmosphere for basketball games seems subdued. The NBA seems too corporate, and considering that both Knicks games I watched were in corporate box seats, I don't mean that as a compliment. But, this was several years ago, when the Knicks, well, sucked. Maybe now times have changed and the real fans are back in force. I don't know. The Big East game was a neutral site game, so most of the crowd, including me, probably had tickets before the Big East Tournament even started and therefore probably had no true rooting interest since their team was most likely knocked out.

But hockey is different. It doesn't have that corporate feel to it. The die-hard fans always seem to be out in force and the casual fan like myself can appreciate the little things. In hockey, the crowd feeds off of every little play that could lead to a goal. During the Canadians-Rangers game, Chris Drury, who also would be considered one of "my boys" if I were on PTI, stole a pass and was one-on-one with the goalie. The crowd practically stood up and an excited murmur ran through The Garden like electricity, only to be changed to groans as Drury's shot went wide. I have yet to find that electricity in a NBA game. I've seen it in college basketball and college football and the NFL, but not the NBA. Maybe it's me, but that's one of the reason I liked college basketball more.

But, on to the highlights, and lowlights, of my first hockey game at MSG...

Lowlight: As I walked up to the automated ticket machine at the train station, I realized that I left my debit card at home. Thus, forcing my self to use $20 of the $60 I had in cash in my wallet. Not the end of the world, but certainly not the start to the evening I was looking for.

Highlight: I found an reason to actually defend my purchase of a faded blue/gray Rangers hat, with the number 23 surrounded by the words "Rangers" and "Drury" above and below the 23 respectfully. I actually had bought the hat at MSG during the Big East Championship game while browsing for a UConn hat.

High/Lowlight: Passing our first Starbucks in Grand Central sparked multiple jokes on the over/under for the number of Starbucks we would see on our little walk from the train station to MSG. We also passed a large number of McDonald's as well. More on this later, but as we entered MSG, the "halftime" score was McDonald's 5 - Starbucks 3.

Highlight: Dinner at White Castle. Do I even need to explain this one? I think not. Hmm....sliders...

Highlight: It was CapitalOne 2009 Team Calender Giveaway Night. Which means I have a cool new calender for 2009 that features all of the Rangers games for the rest of the season.

High/Lowlight: Our seats. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with any seat in MSG. It's all just perception. Where I was sitting, it was difficult to judge the depth of the puck going from side-to-side (or "East-West", benches to the penalty boxes). That drove me nuts because I couldn't tell where the shots were going. Plus, we couldn't see behind the Canadians net at all, since the boards cut off the view. Still, great seats though.

Lowlight: The first Montreal goal. Basically handed to them on a silver platter by Lundqvist when he cleared the puck from behind the net right to a Canadians player who centered the loose puck and it was put right past Lundqvist, who was still out of position. Bad times and 1-0 Canadians.

High/Lowlight: The first Rangers goal. Originally credited to Wade Redden, it was changed during the first intermission to a goal by Chris Drury, much to the delight of our group, who all hail from Trumbull. Sadly, I missed the goal because I was buying beverages...

Lowlight: ...and those beverages cost $8. That's almost as bad as Yankee Stadium ($9.50) the last time I was there.

Lowlight and Epic Fail of the Day: The gentleman sitting beside me, I believe he was Canadian, asked me how many quarters or halves there are in a game of hockey. Yes, this did happen, I'm not joking.

Lowlight: The officiating. It was awful. There's no other way to describe it. Every questionable call went against the Rangers and several blatant calls were blown for both sides, including a few open ice trips and one slash that knocked off the glove of a Rangers player. After only one penalty in the first two periods, the refs whistle two on the Rangers early in the 3rd and it leads to a 5-on-3 for Montreal, who then turn it into a 4-2 lead. This also led to me blowing up with five minutes to go and using several choice words to describe the officials, including several jokes about zebras.

High/Lowlight: Robert Lang's 1st/2nd Goal. It was just pretty. Lang split two Rangers and fired a top-shelf shot over Lundqvist. It's a shame it was a goal for Montreal and it happened on the far end of the ice. But it was still pretty.

Lowlight: The Rangers lost 6-3, with the final tally a short-handed empty net goal by Lang, his third in a row and of the day for a natural hat-trick.

Highlight: As I was leaving MSG, a random fan, started an E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES chant in the stairwell. I have no idea why, but after joining in we exchanged high-fives which started the general smack talk for that Sunday's game. Really good times.

High/Lowlight: As we're walking back to Grand Central, we decide to stop at a McDonald's (the 7th one we'd seen so far) for a quick bite to eat before our 11:20 train back to CT. As my friend comes back from the bathroom, he mentions to us that he talked with the guy who got kicked out of the Rangers game for fighting with another fan. We actually saw this happen during the game, but couldn't see exactly what was happening so thought nothing of it at the time. Still, of the McDonald's to run into the guys who were kicked out for fighting...

High/Lowlight: The final score of our great walk turned out to be an upset: McDonald's 8 - Starbucks 7. I was stunned. I didn't think anyone could supplant Starbucks in an area, but McDonald's actually has. I don't know whether to be impressed or just hang my head in shame.'
Honorable Mentions: Duane Reade (3), Dunkin Donuts (3), T.G.I. Friday's (3)
Dishonorable Mentions: Wendy's (1), Burger King (0) and to the Best Buy and Circuit City that were right next to each other.

Highlight: On the train ride back, a lady walked through our car looking for a seat. She couldn't really open the doors between the cars to well, because she was holding a plastic cup filled with something that smelled rather strong. After she entered the next car, myself, my two buddies and several other nearby passengers all exchanged smirks and just shook our heads. Ah, New York City...

And on that note, I think I'll stop rambling. I don't know if this game will change my mind about hockey. There is still a bitter hole in my heart that was caused by this sport, but I think it's healing now. I've been to around 50 minor-league hockey games and still don't mind listening to an occasional game on the TV or radio. But I will never forget my first hockey game at MSG.


- Eagle
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com