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Delays (yeah, yeah...we know)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Okay, so we were at the Developmental Camp yesterday (and the only print media visible at the Sensplex -- interpret as you wish). But the column comes first, so we've been delayed while we were hammering that out (and dealing with our car that's been making disturbing noises as of late *sigh*). Just a heads-up -- Sunday's column is an interview with Ben Blood (such a nice kid), that will give you more of an overview of what he's all about. We've got additional thoughts on Blood, Foligno, Zubov and others...look for that later on tomorrow.

All lines are currently busy

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's been a deathly quiet week for the Senators thus far, and info's been extremely hard to come by -- with the exception of Ray Emery's growing RFA price. Seriously, what are we up to? Throw out a number and it allegedly becomes fact (as we pointed out two weeks ago). We started at 2 million, then 4, now we're discussing if the amount is less than 4.5? Why don't we just make it a nice, even number...like 7? And let's also assume Ray will be tendered 10 offer sheets. We said it, so it's got to be true! This whole episode is beginning to feel very Stephen Colbert-ish.

Obviously GM Bryan Murray's (God, that still feels odd) first big move will set the tone for his tenure as general manager. There's mounting circumstantial evidence to suggest it could involve the previously referenced goaltender, which may come out of left field for some. Where would that leave the maligned Swiss Manatee? Well, if one must go, someone's got to stay. Is this the big move Murray wishes to begin his GM phase with? It'd definitely create some talk, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, we'll likely be attending the Senators' Developmental Camp tomorrow (we love events like these). It's a good chance to see how the prospects are growing and maturing. Ben Blood is going to be there, so needless to say The Driver's pleased. Here's the full list of attendees:

30 *Brian Elliott
35 *Ryan Daniels

51 Derek Smith
55 *Brian Lee
57 *Mattias Karlsson
59 *Tomas Kudelka
61 *Eric Gryba
66 *Pierre-Luc Lessard
70 Ben Blood

36 Josh Hennessy
48 *Danny Bois
50 *Shawn Weller
52 *Colin Greening
53 Ilja Zubov
56 Kaspar Daugavins
58 *Cody Bass
62 Jim O’Brien
63 *Jim McKenzie
64 *Matthew McIlvane
67 Louie Caporusso
68 *Erik Condra
71 *Nick Foligno

The event's open to the public and runs through to the 4th, so go check it out if you have a chance.

If you haven't seen it...

Monday, June 25, 2007

ESPN.com's Bill Simmons did an NHL Entry Draft blog while watching feed from TSN (and torched the network quite thoroughly in the process). There's typical Canadian vs. U.S. humour (i.e. staid currency jokes from a country that still thinks the CAD is operating at 65 cents) -- but seeing a broadcasting regular like Bob McKenzie referred to as "Announcer No. 2" is quite amusing.

P.S. I hate spelling "defenseman" with a "c". Who the hell started that?

TUC has been cited as a reference on Wikipedia, and not for anything NHL or Ottawa-related. No, it's for shags. That's some nice work, kids.

P.S. A recently engaged friend of ours from Thunder Bay has moved to Winnipeg and taught us all about the shag culture in central Canada. Apparently they're referred to as "wedding socials" in the 'Peg and come with -- get this -- a 20 dollar entry fee AND a cash bar. Not even!

Data overload

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We personally know how tedious (yet ultimately rewarding) it can be to compile statistics -- that's why we love when someone else does it for us. Hockey Numbers is a blog that's willing to do the dirty work, and late last month they did some great graphic work involving goaltenders. Check these SOG comparisons between Ray Emery (left) and Martin Gerber (right):

And if that wasn't enough, they also covered shooting location. Once again, Emery and Gerber are left and right respectively:

[Thanks to Battle of Ontario for the discovery.]

Brian Murray wants the Sens to be tougher, so how can you go wrong with a kid with a moniker straight out of a B-movie slasher flick?

In the fourth round of the '07 Entry Draft, newly minted GM Bryan Murray and his think tank took Ben Blood -- a 6'3", 212 lb. left-handed defenseman originally from Shattuck St. Mary's, however, Blood was recruited by the University of North Dakota late last year. The blueliner could join the Fighting Sioux as early as September, which means he would be playing alongside '05 first round pick Brian Lee (assuming Lee stays in school).

Brian Lee has been knocked in the past for his soft play, but it doesn't look like that will be an issue for Blood -- he comes with a physical game and an offensive presence. Ben played in 63 games in 2006-07 for Shattuck St. Mary's, finishing with 36 points (11 G, 23 A) and 144 PIM (he had only 32 in 2005-'06).

We're pretty into this kid, and his name alone caused The Driver to request a Ben Blood Senators jersey for Christmas this year. Goon's World, a UND-based blog, has always been one of our favourite haunts for Fighting Sioux news. They found a great interview detailing the recruitment of Blood to UND, as well as some valuable information on the Senators' prospect. Unfortunately, the piece doesn't have a byline, so we're forced to give credit to Umdpenaltybox.com. You can read the interview below in its entirety.


Say this for North Dakota: It doesn't rest on its laurels.

Yes it has, arguably, the most stunning building in all of college hockey. Yes it has a tremendous winning tradition, and yes, it sends many top talents to the NHL.

But ask 17 year-old Shattuck St. Mary's senior defenseman Ben Blood, and he'll tell you the Fighting Sioux just don't open their doors and expect young recruits to simply say yes.

"When I took my official visit last weekend, my family and I were just blown away over how prepared they were," explains Blood, a native of Plymouth, Minnesota. "They really put effort into it. Not that the other schools I was considering didn't, but when I was there (in Grand Forks), they had an itinerary all mapped out for me. I had a pre-game meal with the players, watched video, and met with the assistant coaches several times. They really kept the focus on me," adds Blood. "Then I had breakfast with all the coaches, (including head coach Dave Hakstol), and that's when they made me an offer."

Offer made, offer accepted. Blood will join the Fighting Sioux next September, or no later than the fall after that.

"They sold me, and that's why I'm going there," says Blood, who shoots left, and stands at 6-2 and 212 pounds.

"But even more than that, the guys are just tremendous there. They all have great character, and you see all the players that came before me, (Zach) Parise, (Drew) Stafford and alike. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, and perhaps one day become one of their players who make it to the NHL."

Though highly ranked on many scouting lists--he's an A prospect per NHL Central Scouting, and 128th overall by Red Line Report-- Blood says he's keeping his focus on self improvement, and moreover, the team.

"Team is what we're taught more than anything else at Shattuck, and most of that goes to coach (Tom) Ward," says Blood. "Being here has helped me mature, become more of a man, and taught me the importance of being a team player."

Blood is in his third season at Shattuck. Two years ago, a broken left leg limited him to about 30 games in his first season.

"That was one of the hardest times of my life," Blood admits, "I couldn't do anything for almost four months, but I was determined to come back as best as I could."

He has.

An offensive minded and physical type, Blood has seven goals, 14 points and 70 PIMs in 21 games thus far this year.

"I think I'm a physical player, a decent skater with a better than average shot," says Blood in self-assessment, "what I really need to work on is my foot speed."

While at summer hockey camp, Blood worked almost three hours a day on shooting. That type of effort, be it in season or off-season, is evenly matched by what he's done in school. A 3.4 GPA student, Blood's learned that success in the classroom usually translates into success on the ice.

"Coach Ward always says he can tell which guys are struggling academically by how they play and how they practice," Blood explains. "If things aren't going well off the ice, that can easily reflect on what happens once you get to the rink."

What parent wouldn't be proud of that!

"It isn't cheap, but sending him to Shattuck was the best thing we could have done," beams Mike Blood, Ben's father. "It's been an excellent experience for him, and for us. Shattuck's challenged him academically, he's made great friendships, and the hockey atmosphere is second to none."

Aside from Ben, the middle child, Mike and Carol Blood also have two daughters, one of whom, Erin, is a junior blueliner at Boston College. Last Saturday, Erin scored the game winning goal in a 5-4 holiday tournament victory over Wayne State.

"I've always been proud and looked up to her," says brother Ben. "When she committed to Boston College, I thought, that's just what I want to do, play college hockey."

Blood also considered schools like Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud. As for North Dakota, if he doesn't join the Sioux next fall, he'll likely play a year in Des Moines, which holds his USHL rights.

"Everyone's told me not to worry about it and just focus on the team," says Blood. "If it's next year, fine, but if not, that's ok too. All I have to do is keep working hard, and things I'm sure will work out."

In it to win it

Thursday, June 21, 2007

All those rumours claiming that former Habs and Devils head coach Claude Julien was in the running for the Ottawa job held no weight. Sources tell TUC that Julien was never contacted by the Senators.

However, Julien was contacted by two bottom-feeding teams (one in each conference) -- both with coaches currently in place.


Body English

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ottawa Senators president Roy Mlakar's tone and expression at Monday's news conference to announce Bryan Murray as GM has made waves over the past 48 hours, both online and through traditional media.

Here's a quote from the Citizen's Wayne Scanlan:

In the end, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk got his man.

It wasn't pretty, what with all that blood on the floor.

The ashen face of Senators president and chief executive officer Roy Mlakar spoke louder than his words.

And from the HF Boards:

I agree that Mlakar will stay the last year on his contract, but did his body english point to being upset at this decision?
I am just now wondering if he looked like he was not going to resign after this coming year (the last year of his contract).

I understand it is sheer conjecture, but it will be interesting. If he does not resign, then you can be sure that he did not agree with this move.

Frankly, he looked very pissed off and uncomfortable during the whole thing.

We're mentioning this again because we recently conversed with someone who works for Eugene Melnyk, and apparently the Sens' owner is quite the stickler for appropriate body language -- our source said it's considered a "big deal" to him and he "does not take stuff like that lightly". One would have to assume that Melnyk would eventually see, or hear about the noticeable visual aspects of the news conference. We wonder what his reaction will be...

Sensory overload

Monday, June 18, 2007

John Muckler out and Bryan Murray in...just as we all suspected. Meanwhile, the next coach of the Ottawa Senators remains to be seen.

Here's my thinking, and keep in mind this is just speculation: I get the feeling this whole mess was caused by assumptions and long-standing promises. Bryan Murray had to have a good reason for leaving a GM post in Anaheim (hindsight being 20/20, he helped build a Stanley Cup winning franchise, but when he chose to leave, the team certainly didn't suck), and it must have been more than just an excuse to move home. It definitely would explain why Murray's coaching contract wasn't renewed (and that horrible start to the season acted as the perfect cover -- everyone just kept insisting that Murray needed to "prove" himself in order to earn his new deal after the turnaround began).

Meanwhile, if the Sens had flamed out in the playoffs, the team would possess just cause to axe Muckler, and undoubtedly he would've expected it. Conversely, if the team had won the Cup, they likely assumed Muckler would wish to go out on top -- after all, at 73, he is getting on in years. But when neither scenario occurred, the Sens probably found themselves in a bind. If the position had been promised to Murray (and again, all signs point to that being the case), the team knew they were in trouble when Muckler came out in the media and admitted he was "having too much fun" to step down. Team owner Eugene Melnyk was then left with a difficult decision.

Personally, we like this move. In respect to Murray, our mantra since the Stanley Cup Finals commenced has been, "Build it for them -- build it for us." The coaching situation however, is a bit of a quandry. Everyone assumes John Paddock will slip into the role, but Murray's playing his cards close to the vest. The next few days are going to be very interesting to say the least.

Some final miscellaneous thoughts...

- Bryan Murray stated in his opening comments that "it's hard to give (coaching) up". When the floor was opened to questions from the media, the first query asked was, "Who's going to be coach? Is it going to be (Murray) or will it be someone else?" Sigh. Ears open, mouths shut. Much obliged.

- Sens President Roy Mlakar generally gives off an intense appearance, but he looked rather pissed today. When asked if he would be leaving the franchise as well, Mlakar stated, "I'm definitely not stepping down, and I will definitely fulfill my contract -- I look forward to it." Mlakar is contracted to the Sens through 2008. After seeing his good friend John Muckler take the bullet, could Mlakar be one and done?

- We've recently been given a boatload of intel from deep inside the Senators' camp, but have been hesitant to share it thus far because of the omnipresent Sword of Damocles which dangles above the Ottawa media (see Boo Boo's repeated claims today on the Team 1200 of the Sens sending missives with a warning to "tread carefully"). That being said, anything that's been exposed publicly as of late has been in line with what we were initially told. The remaining information which hasn't been made public is quite significant, and if it does come to fruition, you can expect some intriguing developments over the next few weeks. We'd just like to add that everything we were told, we had suspected for some time -- which goes to show you don't need to be in the dressing room to "read the players' faces" all season...sometimes an intuition rooted in a double-x chromosome really helps.

P.S. If you want to go back to see the moves that John Muckler made prior to this season, click here. I'll update this ASAP to include 2006-07.

P.P.S. While Murray said that the Dean McAmmond deal as reported by TSN was still being negotiated, The Globe And Mail is claiming that McAmmond was signed to a two- year, 1.75 million dollar deal. We like it (assuming it's correct).

Based on some of the intel flying around right now (both openly and behind closed doors), we're going to wait to comment on events involving the Sens until after the 1 pm news conference.

More later.

Timing is everything

Sunday, June 17, 2007

With all the Ottawa Sun's sportswriters gone AWOL (vacation + U.S. Open coverage, we're assuming), one of their sister papers outscooped them with the news that John Muckler has allegedly been axed by the team.

What this means for Bryan Murray remains to be seen -- there was a lot of talk that GM Peter Chiarelli was waiting in the weeds to scoop Murray up after July 1st. But if tonight's news is rooted in truth, we're left to believe that Murray will vault to the GM position within the Sens' organization. The question is -- does he wear one hat or two?

Stay tuned.

Update: Bruce Garrioch had written about this story for the next day, so the reason why TSN chose to give credit to the Toronto paper is not understood at this time.

The rumours were true

Sunday, June 10, 2007

There was much speculation that Pennywise were going to play at last night's Stanley Cup celebration in Anaheim, and indeed they did -- as demonstrated by the photo above (click for a larger view -- and note that Randy Bradbury and Jim Lindberg are sporting Ducks gear).

Looking back on this season, my interview with Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge where we discussed the usage of Bro Hymn in sports and specifically the NHL, was one of my favourite interviews of the year. At that time, Dragge told me that I was the first media member to ever speak to the band about this subject.

We're experiencing a lot of traffic from Ducks fans looking for information on Pennywise, so I'm going to re-post the interview once more. Enjoy.


From TUC -- October 2006:

I spent Friday evening downtown at the Capital Music Hall interviewing Fletcher Dragge (far left in photo) -- guitarist from the Hermosa Beach, CA institution known as Pennywise. Pennywise is another one of those fantastic SoCal punk bands that I grew up listening to -- so imagine my surprise when the Ottawa Senators recently began spinning one of their tracks after a goal is scored.

The song is called "Bro Hymn", and the trend of hearing it played after goals didn't start in Ottawa -- it actually began in Anaheim during the Ducks' playoff run last year. Anaheim would play it religiously, and the fans eventually caught onto the catchy chorus. Here's a clip of the song as it's heard in both the Anaheim and Ottawa arenas:

powered by ODEO

If a song is receiving regular exposure in the venues where a major sport is being played, you'd think the band would be thrilled, right? Not necessarily...because there's a lot more to "Bro Hymn" than just a great hook.

The song was written by Pennywise's former bassist, Jason Thirsk. During a leave of absence from the band in 1996 (a decision made to battle growing problems with alcoholism), Thirsk tragically died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Thirsk had originally written the song as a tribute to friends in his life who had passed on, but after their bassist's unexpected death, the band dedicated the song to him, closed every live show they have played since with it, and included Thirsk's name in the lyrics.

So what was Fletcher's take on their sacred song being used at NHL games?

"We're not upset, but it's not cool," Dragge said. "There's a deep meaning behind that song and it's weird for it to be used in such a fashion.

"I mean, we're not that upset, because it's a celebratory thing, and the song celebrates life. Jason loved sports. It all depends what it's being used for, right? I mean, if it were being played in a shampoo commercial, I'd be bummed."

The main issue currently irking the band seems to be the importance of the song getting lost in the shuffle.

"They're only hearing the chorus; they're not hearing any of the lyrics," Dragge pointed out. "They don't know any of the lyrics, but if they did, maybe they could relate better.

"We appreciate the recognition, but the importance of the song is being missed."

Pennywise's best-known song is also significant to its fans; the band regularly hears of it being played at funerals, and Fletcher even referenced a father and mother showing up at the Toronto show on Thursday, who had recently lost their 15-year-old son.

"They played (Bro Hymn) at the funeral, and they wanted to be at the show for their son. The most normal-looking people you'd ever see," Dragge said.

But the more traditional celebratory use of the song doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. In fact, this isn't the first time it's been used at a sporting event.

"There's a Belgian soccer team that uses it -- you've got 70,000 people all at once singing it -- it's crazy," Dragge said. "We went over there, and no one knew who we were until we played the song. Then they went absolutely nuts."

No word of a mosh pit breaking out. Something tells me Thirsk would have loved to see that happen.

Bro Hymn lyrics

To our friend,
Present, past and beyond
Even though you weren't with us too long
Life is the most precious thing you can lose
While you were here the fun was never ending
Laugh a minute only the beginning
Jason Matthew Thirsk, this one's for you

Wooooaoooah Woooah Woooah Wooah

Ever get the feeling you can't go on
Just remember whose side it is that you're on
You've got friends with you till the end
If you're ever in a tough situation
We'll be there with no hesitation
Brotherhood's our rule we cannot bend

Wooooaoooah Woooah Woooah Wooah

When you're feeling too close to the bottom
You know who it is you can count on
Someone will pick you up again
we can conquer anything together
All of us are bonded forever
If you die I die, that's the way it is

Wooooaoooah Woooah Woooah Wooah

To all my friends,
Present, past and beyond
To all those who weren't with us too long
Life is the most precious thing that you can lose
While you were here the fun was never ending
Laugh a minute was only the beginning
Jason, my brother, this one's for you.

What the...

Friday, June 08, 2007

What is Jim Rome's producer (and the man solely responsible for shutting Ottawa's print media out of Jim's studio*) doing holding the Stanley Cup? I don't know, and I'd like to...except that the Team 1200 has insisted on preempting the show in favour of blatantly redundant local talk for some time. We're hoping this isn't a sign of things to come -- and that the show will return (fingers crossed) on Monday.


* If you missed it, here's the clip:

We had planned to follow Senators president Roy Mlakar to his 10 a.m. PST karma-collecting interview with the one and only Jim Rome. An early phone call to producer "Jay Stew" put the wheels in motion, but a return call from producer Travis Rogers (sic) 15 minutes later threw brakes on a deal we believed was as good as done.

At least CJOH sportscaster Terry Marcotte -- who doesn't fall under the Jungle's little- known and quite-curious rule of not allowing print journalists into the studio -- was able to spend some time in the company of their greatness.

Rule No. 1: Never believe a word Jason Stewart says;

Rule No. 2: Travis can be persuaded with a pan of fudge that's easily obtained from Chino Hills.

Of course, what would I know? It's only been 10 years.

From US Magazine:

Kellie Pickler didn’t take the top prize on American Idol, but she has won the heart of Nashville Predators hockey star Jordin Tootoo, 24. “We’ve been seeing each other since January, but we kept it under wraps,” Pickler, 20, says in the new issue of Us.

Sparks flew when Tootoo invited the singer to one of his games.

“I am this country bumpkin and he’s an Eskimo,” says Pickler, who plans to visit his central Canada hometown this summer. “I’m going to build an igloo!"

"Eskimo"? "Igloo"? Did this chick watch a couple of Pingu episodes to familiarize herself with Tootoo's background? I love the "central Canada" reference as well -- that's lovely and...vague. Maybe they're going to Flin Flon.

But a few words...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

First of all, I'll be out of the country tomorrow so I won't be here to share any more thoughts with you on Thursday. Secondly, there's always the column to worry about, so I unfortunately can't say everything I'm thinking right now -- but I will offer the following few thoughts in the short time allowed:

1) I'm already hearing on the post-game show that "people shouldn't be angry" over the end result. That's a bunch of garbage. Don't let anyone tell you how to feel -- I'm angry, and I'd certainly understand if others were as well. I'm angry because the Senators regressed into a team that we hadn't seen before in these playoffs. I'm angry that there was effort, but no sense of urgency. I'm angry at Heatley's disappearing act, Redden's complete inability to dominate anything relevant, Meszaros' incompetence and Emery's inconsistency. I'm angry that Anaheim never saw the Senators at their best. I'm angry that the road seemed paved after a failed 5-on-3 halfway through the first period in Game 1....which brings me to point No. 2...

2) Honestly, I'm less sad about this loss than I was after the Game 7 Conference Finals heartbreaker courtesy of Jeff Friesen against the Devils in 2003. The reason? The '03 Jersey series presented a true sense of a momentum shift -- desperation hockey, huge goals, the speech from Roger Neilson, the emergence of Jason Spezza...you felt like it was going to go the Sens' way. You were SURE it was going to go the Sens' way. I never got that feeling in this series -- not even when they won Game 3. I felt like we just biding our time, waiting for it to be over, and praying the team wasn't humiliated in the process.

3) Get ready for the "lack of character" crap to start again. Why the (expletive) am I still hearing Gary Roberts' name? The Senators didn't need him. They needed to beat him...and in case some media have forgotten, they did. Let it go for Christ's sake.

Finally, I'll leave you with some open-ended questions:

- How much did Emery's stock drop in the final series? At one point, you could sense he was getting ready to argue for Manatee-type money in the offseason. How much is he worth now -- putting the over/under at 2 million?

- Wade Redden: His time in Ottawa must come to a close -- yesterday. Where do you send him, and for who?

- Bryan Murray: Prime architect of your 2007 Stanley Cup winning franchise -- the Anaheim Ducks. He built it for them; shouldn't he build it for Ottawa? And if so, does he wear both hats?

- If you're Chris Phillips, how do you begin to recover from tonight?

More later. Please be good to your livers and to yourself. And remember, it's going to be an interesting and uncharacteristically short offseason...get ready.

"We covet as much attention as we can get from every possible outlet and source." -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

If only this were true. In the last 24 hours I've received the following information: Erik Ohlsson, who works for the Swedish Daily Dagens Nyheter out of Washington, D.C., was denied accreditation by the league. American ties -- Swedish captain in the Finals...how many more selling points do you need?

On the other hand, sources tell us that James Hurst, who writes a twice-monthly column for the weekly Wellington Times (a gratis paper, by the way) was granted accreditation for Game 4 in Ottawa.

Now don't get us wrong -- we're not saying one writer is more deserving than the other. We're just trying to demonstrate that there is no rhyme or reason behind the NHL's alleged list of criteria required for any press member to secure accreditation into the Finals, and the preceding is an excellent demonstration of just how random it can be.


Monday, June 04, 2007

1) Numbers rarely tell the full story. Ottawa won 33 of their faceoffs; Anaheim won 32. But watching the game, it was blatantly obvious that number should have been tipped in the Ducks' favour. If Ottawa did win a faceoff, they rarely won it cleanly. We'd also like to take this opportunity to remind you that John Muckler could've had notorious faceoff man Yanic Perreault for a song -- Perreault flapped in the breeze until Phoenix picked him up for the psychotically low price of $700,000 on October 29th.

2) Why bother to admit that the team has a good luck song if you're not going to play it? Idiotic.

3) Why are defensemen making 6.5 million per year pushing the forecheckers to the inside on breakaways? Idiotic.

4) Now the media gets to spend thousands of dollars sending their employees 3,000 miles to duck* around in SoCal for 48 hours to see Anaheim win at home, or worse still, the Ottawa faithful who have forked out for Game 6 run the risk of seeing the Ducks win at the SBP. Idiotic.


* Bad pun on my part -- trust me, that's not the vowel I wanted to use.


Friday, June 01, 2007

From today's Sun -- a piece that details the music being played at home games:

Gower is always on the lookout for a particularly potent pop tune or country classic to add to his arsenal. He found his latest secret weapon, Gwen Stefani's Sweet Escape, during the series with the Buffalo Sabres. It was Game 2, the teams were in overtime, when the Buffalo DJ played the Stefani song. Seconds later, Joe Corvo scored. Hmmm.


The very next game back at Scotiabank Place, DJ Marchand played the same Stefani tune. Holy mother of pearl, on the very next play, Alfredsson scored.

"It's been a good-luck charm for us ever since," Gower admits.

What -- you mean like this or this? Who else on Earth would notice something like that right away?