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The truth is out there...somewhere

Thursday, July 30, 2009

As the Dany Heatley deadlock rolls on, tiny cracks are beginning to appear in the vault of silence that surrounds the truth. The presentation to the public has always been that this is a beef between head coach Cory Clouston and No. 15. But few have found that so-called reason to be totally plausible.

Heatley, in the meantime, has completely shut himself off from the Senators. Not only that, he's refusing to take calls from some of his closest friends. And while we haven't gotten to the point of total-frustration-off-the-record-meltdown-on-a-golf-course-by-a-player yet, those inside the dressing room have indeed indicated that this involves some pretty heavy stuff, which goes beyond a simple tiff with a coach.

You may have seen some rumours flying about on Senators-related message boards over the past few weeks. Anything out there is naturally going to be taken with a grain of salt by the sensible. However, it should be noted that certain members of the traditional media have been flapping their gums off-the-record about the Heatley drama, and what they're saying is not far off from we've been reading on sites like HFBoards. Keep in mind, this is one of the biggest small towns out there, kids. Everything comes out eventually.

In short, based on what I've been told by my sources, I'm starting to lean towards the where-there's-smoke-there's-fire side of this situation. History has unfortunately proved that to be the case when it comes to the Sens.

More later.

Monday morning linkage

Monday, July 27, 2009

* Jason Spezza served veal at his wedding. Perhaps he was waxing nostalgic for the days when Jacques Martin used to treat him like said-politically incorrect meat. (Ottawa Citizen)

* The names of the UFL teams have leaked -- notables include the Las Vegas Locomotives and the Orlando Tuskers. A "tusker" -- according to nationhahn, who posted the story on Twitter -- is a wild boar. I was hoping for some sort of Gulf-based dwarf walrus. (UFL Access)

* As featured on Yahoo! and Deadspin: Starbury TV. In the short time I watched, Stephon Marbury claimed to want to do an "Oprah-type show where (he) flew everyone in on a private jet." He also fancies it when you refer to him as "CEOBury." Utter (expletive) madness. (Starbury TV)

* The Globe and Mail's Jeff Blair is a good media choice to follow on Twitter -- he's fairly entertaining and is willing to answer questions/engage in light debate. (Jeff Blair -- Twitter)

* An older link, but worth revisiting during the slow days of summer: Brutal hockey tattoos. Is there even such a thing as a good one? (The Hockey News)

Bingo's back

Friday, July 24, 2009

Good news from Chris Stevenson:

The Binghamton Senators will host the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, Nov. 8 at Scotiabank Place.

The two teams will also meet at the Bell Centre in Montreal Nov. 6.

I always enjoyed seeing the B-Sens play their annual game at the then-Corel Centre back in the day, and their fans are wonderfully enthusiastic. My one quibble is that I wish this game was happening later on in the season. We'll see a good portion of these prospects in training camp, which isn't far off from the game itself. If it were in, say, February, we'd have a better idea of how they were progressing as the year went on. No matter. It will be nice to have them back.

As reported by Brent Wallace and Chris Stevenson, Dany Heatley will not be showing up to Jason Spezza's wedding in Ottawa this weekend. How much fear and dread can the softball Ottawa media put into one player? They may be disappointed that they won't get a crack at Heatley right now, but it wouldn't surprise me if they're secretly thrilled to have "scared him off."

That being said, I just thought I'd throw out this conspiracy theory for you, courtesy of The Driver: What if this was a red herring to throw the media off, and Heatley does manage to pull off a stealth appearance? It may piss off the media something fierce, but who cares? If he does end up staying here through some weird turn of events, it would go a long way in repairing the relationship with his teammates.

Chew on that. More later.

Dany Heatley: Victim?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

That's what NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly told Dan Tencer last night on Edmonton's 630 AM radio.

"I think that this been kind of twisted in a negative way, which is unfortunate for Dany. I think he's just a victim of a bad set of circumstances," said Kelly about Heatley, who requested a trade earlier in the off-season.

"While it is true that he requested a trade, it was not Dany Heatley or his agent that made that fact public. I think Dany's been unfairly treated by the media and by the (Senators) organization."

Want some icing on that cake? Alrighty then, try this:

"I know that Dany doesn't harbour any ill will towards Edmonton and, in fact, would seriously consider playing for the Edmonton Oilers."

Read more and download Tencer's entire interview with Kelly here.

Yes, Jordan Staal really did take the Cup to the Hoito. Bless his heart. For more on the Cup's adventures in Thunder Bay, check out this piece from the Chronicle Journal.

(Much thanks to reader Scott B. for the photos.)

When I first heard about what happened to ESPN personality Erin Andrews -- my natural reaction was one of horror. Erin's privacy was violated during a moment when her guard was at its lowest. She was in her hotel room, naked, and likely preparing to go through the typical female ablutions. We all do it, and none of us think about it. We shouldn't have to...unless some freak with fibre optic equipment and a penknife decides to go Jack Bauer on the drywall in the adjacent room.

That being said, I have a few random thoughts on this incident -- and its fallout -- I'd like to share.

1) To witness some of the reaction from the bigger blogs on this topic is rather interesting. Many who initially allowed links to the video have since retracted the posts and gone into "protective pseudo-boyfriend" mode. They "feel badly" for Andrews, and state repeatedly how she "doesn't deserve this." While I wholeheartedly agree with those statements, it's a bit hard to swallow coming from writers who were previously content to objectify the hell out of Erin -- both for the sake of increased traffic and their own personal amusement. How many female sports media personalities were subjected to largely-spread photos of them eating a sandwich, or tales of their visits to a media buffet that featured a "taco bar"? The minutiae of Erin's life have always been up for discussion, and it largely has to do with her personal appearance. I suppose I should be appreciative that these bloggers are finally drawing the line publicly on the objectivity issue, but part of me also wonders how many of them immediately went looking for the video as soon as it was available.

2) While I reiterate that this never should have happened, I sincerely hope it causes Erin to reconsider certain things about life in the business. Yes, she's a very attractive woman. We all know that, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), nothing can be done about it. However, Erin has previously been under scrutiny for wardrobe choices and flirtatious behaviour in the past. These decisions will likely exacerbate any kind of objectionable treatment she receives. Am I saying she's to blame? No. This isn't a, "girl dresses a certain way, she's getting what's coming to her" rant. The fact of the matter is, that while not all men are capable of doing dangerous/criminal things, most are more than capable of objectifying women to some degree -- be it publicly or privately. The spotlight is on her in such a male-dominated business, and her appearance adds to that. Anything -- and I mean ANYTHING that can be perceived as questionable (a hand on a player's shoulder or a dress cut to mid-thigh) can and will lead down a slippery slope.

One of my biggest outcries regarding this issue incidentally came right before this drama took place. Andrews was spotted at the ESPYs wearing a black Herve Leger strapless dress with cutouts down the front. This dress had previously been spotted on other celebrities, and has been repeatedly been crucified in the press for causing its wearers to look like, well, $5-dollar whores.

Did the dress suit her? She certainly has the body to pull it off. But that's not the point. This is a night where the attention would undoubtedly be on her, and she could have chosen to wear something far more sophisticated. Instead, she went for full-on sexpot. Why? It's not necessary. Furthermore, it does nothing to dissuade people from thinking that she's nothing more than a sideline princess -- a fun bauble to look at, but who gives a (expletive) what she says? We all know she's pretty -- why does she insist on feeding the beast?

3) I have stated multiple times on this blog that for a woman, you're more likely to be taken seriously in print as opposed to the other two mediums. I believe print offers the greatest opportunity to neutralize one's gender -- in short, if you can make readers forget that they're hearing from a woman, there's a better chance of being taken seriously. Granted, print is also where the money is the sparsest, so I understand the need to push towards television. No matter what your appearance, this is no easy world to deal with. In nearly ten years of messing about in this industry, I've been told to "sound sexier", "wear something pretty" and "think about being a golf cart girl or a cheerleader for a day -- it'll be a good story." Keep in mind that I'm a relatively average-looking woman who doesn't (expletive) around with work and seriously wants to discuss a team's defensive foibles -- and not which of the blueliners I may find "cute." Nothing is ever going to stop men from objectifying women in this business, but playing the straight and narrow never hurt anyone -- if you truly care about what you're doing, that is (and I believe Erin does).

What happened to Erin Andrews was totally uncalled for, and I can't imagine how she must be feeling right now. I've dealt with some creepy nonsense during my time, but nothing on par with that. All of that considered, I hope this incident causes people -- and women -- to think about the way things go down in sports media...fair, unfair or otherwise.

Related: Erin Andrews and Guilt, Imagined and Otherwise -- Deadspin
Assault on Erin Andrews' Privacy Scary For All Female Journalists -- Yahoo! Sports
Erin Andrews and The Dark Side of All This -- RandBall

For those of you who don't follow Martin Havlat on Twitter, you're missing out. Havlat initially indicated unhappiness with not being able to re-sign with the Blackhawks, and wrote that the "real story about what happened in Chicago (was) to come out", and that "there's something to be said for loyalty and honor." Now today, there's this:

"I guess everyone saw what happened to (Blackhawks GM) Dale Tallon....yes, the story is starting to come out but it's just the tip of the iceberg."

"Lot's (sic) of people are telling me to stay quiet but shouldn't the fans know the truth? It's your loyalty, season ticket money and emotions here."

So will Martin be able to spill, and better yet, can he do it in 140 characters or less?

Stay tuned -- you can follow the drama here.

P.S.: Scotty Wazz over at The Strangest One Of All has chimed in with his thoughts -- definitely worth checking out.

Initially charged this summer with the Sisyphean task of depositing the disgruntled Dany Heatley with some unfortunate buyer, Senators GM Bryan Murray may now have to consider what life (and the cap) could be like if No. 15 stays in the fold.

Owner Eugene Melnyk has already coughed up the required $4-million bonus, and the attempted swap involving the Edmonton Oilers turned into a fiasco that led absolutely nowhere.

So, what exactly, would Dany Heatley have to fear by staying in Ottawa?

Here's your answer: Absolutely nothing.

Oh sure, we've all heard about the "wrath" of the media. But keep in mind that Ottawa is unlike any other Canadian hockey market. To outside observers, it offers the cachet of a north-of-the-border team, however, players don't face the same sort of feet-to-the-flames treatment as in other cities. The capital's traditional media remains largely sheathed in situations such as these. True, they have a voice, but it's rarely one that the intelligent sports fan can take seriously. Any attempts at emotionally-based vitriol come off as juvenile, and any diplomatic observations tend to ring hollow. Naturally, there are exceptions, of course. (Aside: I'll leave you to obsess over who they might be. For me, the Citizen's James Gordon comes to mind. What say you?)

If the media won't make Heatley's life a living hell should he return, what about the fans? Keep in mind, this is the same group that could barely remember to boo Alexei Yashin five visits into his stint with the Islanders, and are content to allow Leafs, Habs and even Penguins fans to overrun their building. Sens fans aren't the type to put "For Sale" signs on players' lawns, or burn their likeness in effigy. They're passive, and if Heatley returns and goes on a blazing streak, they'll also become incredibly forgetful for the time being.

That just leaves the head coach, Cory Clouston -- the alleged impetus in this entire drama. Here's the thing about the Senators' coaching situation as of late: It's become like the weather -- wait a while, and it will likely change. Clouston was given a great deal of credit for getting the Sens back-on-track towards the end of last season (and was rewarded for it by having the "interim" tag removed from his title). But barely righting a team on the brink of disaster when all post-season hope was lost can only be taken with a grain of salt. Essentially, Clouston gave a successful refresher course on the basics -- and Ottawa did show some signs of cohesion under his tutelage. This is the young coach's first NHL gig -- does he have any legitimate tricks up his sleeve to truly get this franchise on the right track, or will he just be another in line to cast aside? Based on recent history, Dany Heatley, should he stay, likely wouldn't have to wait long to find out.

In short, the road would be rocky in the beginning if Heatley were to remain an Ottawa Senator for whatever reason. However, it's important to remember that this city, and all its facets, remains a very soft touch within the National Hockey League. Whatever Dany Heatley potentially faces if he does leave the team, will be far worse than anything he could possibly experience if he stays.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

(The lazy-arse link edition)

* Newly appointed target of rage Alex Kovalev says he "(didn't) really have any options, choices" when he made his decision to come play for the Senators. Edmonton must be having a field day with this one. Hey Alex, have you ever heard of a little thing called a "white lie"? You know, like that yarn you tell people when they accuse you of losing your hair. (Ottawa Sun)

* Does Jason Spezza get a Team Canada invite with Joe Sakic's retirement likely imminent? Sens fans always did have a soft spot for unintentional comedy. (HFBoards)

* Neate Sager acts as the Voice of Reason regarding the sagas involving Steve McNair and Manny Ramirez. Without trying to sound like too much of a sycophant, it has to be said: Quebecor doesn't deserve this guy. (Out Of Left Field)

* I made a glaring omission from our luncheon table during the last blog post -- Sportsnet's Patrick King was also sitting with us. Pat's depth of knowledge during the entry draft made the majority of us look like total slackers, and he does a killer imitation of my facial expression in my passport photo. Analysis: Quality guy (despite the fact that he's younger than me, but I won't hold that against him). P.S.: He also has a Twitter account -- be sure to check it out. (Patrick King -- Sportsnet.ca)

* Whose opinion do you really want when Jason Whitlock loses it? That's right -- other cranky sports journalists...on a message board, no less. Welcome to their secret lair, and marvel at their inability to stay on-topic. (SportsJournalists.com)

...because I'm back. Let's not make a big deal out of it.

What can I tell you? Well, in the last three months, I a) have morphed approximately 75% of the way into a Blackhawks fan*; b) would give anything to be back in La Jolla right now (go Spunt!) and c) finagled Team Scott Norwood into covering the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal for Kukla's Korner, where we got to see Boo Boo sporting a Family Guy t-shirt at Newtown.

(If that doesn't top your high comedy list, check this no-I'm-not-kidding seating arrangement at the prospects luncheon: Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski, my partner Patrick Williams, The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek, Boo Boo and myself. Oh yeah, it was epic...and really comfortable. On the plus side, there was a poutine station at the lunch buffet. I think someone caught Pat Hickey drinking out of the gravy boat, but don't quote me on that.)

All right, that was then and this is now. I don't want this to head into Bill Simmons-esque territory, so I'm going to cover the two topics that matter. You want to hit on anything else, you know where the commentary goes. Let's get to it.

Dany "Notice Me, Give Me Attention -- I Don't Get Enough At Home" Heatley:
I know you've all been e-mailing with your thoughts on the matter, and were curious as to mine -- which I haven't shared until now. Here's the thing: I already went through this once this year with the Denver Broncos. Remember when Jay Cutler tripped out and demanded a trade due to new babyface head coach Josh McDaniels (and the rumours that the QB was expendable)? Remember how it turned out? This is my freaking quarterback now:

In short, I'm trying to tell you that I already have an idea of how badly these things can end. That may not really come as a shock to you, but this might...

...I don't really give a damn how this particular tale ends.

Here's the thing: I haven't felt an affinity for Heatley in any way, shape or form since late December, 2006. What was so special about that time? That's when Jason Spezza went down with a knee injury and was out for 14 games, from just before Christmas, until the end of January. Heatley was forced to move ahead without his partner, and showed that he was capable of functioning as more of a complete player. He -- for whatever reason -- was willing to work at both ends of the ice, and it made me realize that he could be contributing so much more. So what happened when Jason Spezza returned to the team? No. 15 slipped back into his old ways, and I was left thoroughly disappointed, but not completely surprised.

Everyone talks about numbers, particularly about Heatley's capability to score 50 goals in a season, but they don't discuss the type of goals that they are. Are they clutch goals? Are they go-ahead goals with five minutes left in the third? Every once in a while, but the majority of the "sniper's" goals are garbage shots from down low, or right beside the net. There's a reason why this guy is dubbed a floater. He pads the total -- good on paper, but he's not an elite player. He's not a Crosby, and he's not an Ovechkin. Truth hurts, kids.

At this point, I would be heartily content if Bryan Murray flipped him for a handful of high draft picks and called it a day (even if I did want to see the GM tackle Ladislav Smid's name at least once). All of this "disappointment" from the front office and owner, combined with butterknife-edged response from the local media is so tired. Get rid of the cancer. Yesterday.

But you might want to have another round of chemotherapy on standby, because straight from the 514....here comes...Alex Kovalev!


Various deities bless the self-indulgent social media application that is Twitter. Watching the Kovalev news break was like a car crash that Sens fans couldn't turn away from. Right now, there are so many unanswered questions. Will he show up for road games? Will he and Jason Spezza fight over hair product? Will there be enough alcohol in Kanata to sustain his defensive foibles for two entire seasons? Welcome to Turnover Country, Ottawa! It'll be the mad hotness.

(Oh, and can someone be a dear and get me the season ticket sales for 2009-10? I've got it at 9,000 [taking the under] and I'd like to add a parlay of Spezza and Kovalev hitting 125 giveaways by January. Thanks, dollface.)

I know it's not enough after so long, but it will have to do for now. It's good to be back (reprise), and in the meantime, your punk asses can follow me over here.

More later.


* Don't be coming at me with any "postseason bandwagon" nonsense. This has been several years in the making -- I wrote about it in the old column, for God's sakes. For the record, bank says I'm the only one in the city with a Patrick Sharp t-shirt.