The Universal Cynic

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Wednesday Evening Chewable

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw ... listen to the sound of my GI tract ...

Can anyone provide an example where the first negotiation offers from either union or management were accepted without question? Go ahead, I'll wait.

Okay, you can stop now. Here's your answer: It doesn't happen. Ever. Even when there's optimism, it's often tempered, masked or even hidden completely, because neither side wants to give the impression that they're caving in in the slightest. This is the reality of union negotiations. The negativity of observers, in the vacuum of venues like social media, only serves as pointless, dramatic chatter. It has no bearing on the proceedings, and furthermore, is rarely based in knowledge or objectivity.

Go ahead and chew on that.

Is this thing on?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Welcome to The Universal Cynic's fugue state.

Long story short: As we wait for the union negotiations between the PA and the NHL owners to come to a full stop (in any way, shape or form), I figured it would be a good idea to crank the old girl up in the interim. I want this to be a safe space to discuss what's going on in the League -- albeit with less vitriol than you're used to.

My official stance on the matter: I refuse to take sides, and there are a number of reasons for my position. Firstly, I work for the League, so it benefits me for it to be functioning. Secondly, I live with someone who is well versed in union negotiations. The chess game that takes place between the two sides makes it virtually impossible to side with someone. There is no black or white -- only shades of grey. I understand others will pick a camp and attempt to explain their reasons why to me. That's their prerogative. I am not in a position to back one party, regardless.

What I will say is this: It's very difficult to watch others casually discuss the situation with such negativity. A great number of them will be permitted to work -- after all, someone needs to cover the situation, should the League choose to lock out the players. My first year with the Ottawa Sun was the lockout season, and while I was initially concerned, I quickly discovered that there was much to discuss. However, I am in a new situation with the League -- one that solely provides coverage of the games and events themselves. No League on the ice equals no work for me. Anyone who has suddenly found themselves out of work and with very little information to go upon in regards to a return, can surely sympathize. The entire situation has already been very stressful, and indeed, emotional for me. I want to go back to work.

As we move forward, I'll continue to decide how to use this space -- and of course, we can continue to discuss our favourite topics, like bloggers, media and the continued head-bashing.

If there's anything you like to see/talk about, let me know. In the meantime ... welcome back, cynics.

A new view...

Friday, September 02, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I'm taking over as the Ottawa correspondent for So, what does this mean? Well, first off, I'm part of the media again (you can stop laughing at any time). But it also means that the blog can't continue in its current form, for obvious reasons.

After giving it some thought, I've decided to use this space to write about my experiences in returning to the press box, media itself, and everything that goes along with it. I have no intention of being a (expletive)-disturber; I have to see/work alongside some of these people. I just thought I'd give a view of what it's like to return to the other side of the fence, through my eyes. I don't know how often I'll get to update over here -- I'll try to keep it regular (famous last words). In the meantime, any Senators-related stories of mine will be found on

Hopefully you dig the new view. If not, bugger off. See? I'm still TUC.

On paper, the trade that Bryan Murray made to acquire Nikita Filatov from Columbus in exchange for a third-round pick in this year's draft, seems low risk. Filatov is in the final year of a two-way, entry-level contract, and LW has always been a thin point for the Sens. That said, with only 36 games of NHL-level action under his belt in the past two years (and that little side trip to the KHL), you have to wonder how quickly he's going to come along. This, of course, was exacerbated by Murray's mention of Nikita's potential as a "top-six forward." Now you know how I love to get down on casino games, but forgive me if I'm a bit hesitant to take this action right now.

Murray has framed the "top-six" comment with a number of caveats -- "We're going to give (Nikita) every opportunity"; "If he's (not a top-six) we would have to look at other options", etc. In short, it actually sounds like Murray is being cautious about the matter, and how could you blame him? The Sens' history with flashy, speedy Russian forwards has been a long and woeful tale. But that hasn't stopped fans from attaching the "white knight" labels to other young Russians who have come through the system, like Alexei Kaigorodov and Ilya Zubov. Not to veer into the dreaded Cherry Day-Glo territory here, but you can't help but raise an eyebrow based on previous history...and the knowledge that Filatov has baggage (see the previous venture back to his homeland's league).

But all it took was a simple mention of "top-six", and some Sens fans seemed ready to, yet again, put all their eggs in one basket. A quick tweet by yours truly suggesting that we not pencil in Filatov for 40 goals alongside Spezza, lead to multiple battles via Twitter and e-mail on Filatov's ability, including one memorable bit of advice, which told me to "think of (Filatov) as (Alexei) Kovalev on a two-way contract." Sold! Why didn't I think of that?

It seems like Murray is prepared to temper his expectations, but I'm not sure about the fans. It's been a quite a while since fans have seen a nice combination of speed and legitimate scoring out of a single player; combine that with the need to bulk up the top end of the team, and you've set some lofty expectations for a kid who has yet to prove himself (and will need to do so within the span of next season). You may not be able to get casino reviews and subsequent action in the sportsbooks on an NHL player's future potential, but forgive me if I don't want to get down any action, regardless. And for the record, that doesn't make me a pessimist; it makes me a realist.

More later.

"Marshmallow" is one of those words I can never spell correctly, which always pisses me off. Marshmallows also once pissed off Claude Julien, coach of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins last summer, but for an entirely different reason.

Julien was playing in a charity golf tournament, and ahead of him was a foursome with a tendency to play practical jokes. After they putted out, they would leave a single large marshmallow on the green, knowing that Julien was teeing off first and would therefore think that the "ball" was his. They pulled this stunt at least three times during the round before Claude yelled at them, "Are you guys out of f*cking marshmallows yet?" Naturally the only way one of the culprits could respond was by pulling another full bag out of his bag for Julien to see. Being a good sport, he couldn't help but laugh. I imagine it probably looked something like this:

More later.

This is my friend Seanny. 5-time Smack-Off champion, sports radio superstar and soon-to-be diabetic.

When I found out that my old friend Sean Pendergast would be dropping the puck at the AHL Calder Cup Finals between Binghamton and Houston, my head started spinning. Sure, I knew Seanny followed hockey (he's a diehard Whalers fan and even attended the Whalers' Fan Fest just this past summer). But dropping the puck against the B-Sens? His team against, well, kinda mine? (Kinda?) This was too much. I knew we had to get some action down, do something stupid or possibly both. This is par for the course when the two of us are together.

To be fair, I came up with the Bet during a fast I had to complete for a blood draw the next morning, and all I could think about was food. But how could I make the stakes relevant? Then it came to me: "Local" condiments. If the Senators win, Seanny has to drink a bottle of maple syrup on-air during his show (with photographic and/or video evidence). If the Aeros raise the Cup, I have to drink a bottle of Jim Ross'' BBQ sauce (regular, not spicy) on the phone. I imagine either feat will be accompanied by the tale of many tour stop yarns (the ones we can legally tell, anyway). With the series currently tied 1-1 and heating up again in Bingo tonight, it's anyone's guess what could happen. Stay tuned...I'm sure it'll be amusing...and possibly vomit-inducing.

Ottawa Sun Rewind - On Winnipeg

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As Winnipeg is finally -- finally! -- awarded a team today, here's a dose of obvious from the old Sun column that I wrote in January, 2005:

Winnipeg might be a city most of us fly over and rarely think about, but at the World Juniors, some of their residents caught my attention.

The between-period segments on TSN were mildly amusing. The network showed shots of fans on the concourse, clutching medals that looked like they were pilfered from a junior high science fair, and displaying more signs than a WWE event. I was just about to flip over to The Score when I heard it for the first time:

“Go Jets Go! Go Jets Go!”

You’ve got to be kidding. How drunk were they? Apparently not so much that they didn’t know what they were doing – these weren’t regular hockey fans. These were Winnipeg Jets fans. They had a cause and a camera pointed right at them. It was a golden opportunity to get the message out.

Jets fan has been battling for nearly ten years to get their beloved franchise back. Since then, they’ve seen their former team become insignificant while it sits in an indifferent city. Now Winnipeggers have a beautiful new building, a seemingly unquenchable fan base and winters that have always lasted nearly 6 months. Why wouldn’t they want their team back – what else is there to do in Winnipeg?

One of the knocks on a possible proposal is the size of the MTS Centre. The building’s hockey seating is 15,015 people, which would make it the smallest in the NHL. However, television cameras around the league constantly display empty seats. We’re guilty of it on occasion, even in Ottawa. The Buffalo Sabres were planning to lower ticket prices for the 2004-05 season, in spite of an increase in payroll. They can’t fill the building. Quality of play is an issue, but so is the size of some NHL arenas. With a smaller building and a built-in fan base, Winnipeg could be on to something.

Obviously a restructured CBA benefits Winnipeg as well – the small markets need all the help they can get. And surely even Gary Bettman couldn’t ignore the sheer volume of Canadian fans taking over an international hockey event in the U.S. You can’t keep forcing hockey down the throats of Americans forever. It’s not lucrative, and has proven to be mostly unsuccessful.

Nearly a decade of support for a franchise that doesn’t exist – how much more proof do you need? Give the Jets back to Winnipeg.