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Tuesday evening deglaze

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Because it was my goal in life to receive an email from John Rocker's publicist...

· Praise your various gods, puck junkies. The NHL resumed today. There are some that still believe the NHL's presence at the Winter Olympics should continue. After the quality of hockey I observed during the entire tournament, I'm not so sure. There are obvious benefits of being able to see players like Kovalchuk, Ovechkin and Kovalev play together. But for every treat there were various disappointments. Multiple times during the tournament, I was reminded of pre-lockout play. This can be attributed to two things: The reimergence of the trap, and obstruction penalties (both called and uncalled).

For the most part, I didn't notice a difference in speed, which normally occurs with the larger ice surface -- the only exception to that would be the Canadians, who were surprisingly slow. My concern right now is that some of this play will make its way across the pond and begin to slowly resurface within the NHL. The officials have a responsibility to maintain the the crackdown on obstruction, but the Finns were able to demonstrate how the trap hasn't lost its potency. Newer rules have made it difficult for teams to implement the trap, but coaches are creative. Hopefully the fine balance that has been struck thus far will continue.

· Here's a thought: Do you think that Bryan McCabe sent Todd Bertuzzi a fruit basket after they returned from Torino? After all, when the critics came out en masse against Team Canada, it was Bertuzzi's pick in the quarterfinal game vs. the Russians that was referred to as "the penalty that killed Canada". (I'm using quotation marks because that was exactly how Ron MacLean referenced it after the game.) McCabe finished the tournament with a -3 and 18 penalty minutes -- the most out of the entire team. He was repeatedly called for easily prevented infractions and appeared overwhelmed for the majority of games. Okay, so he prevented a goal. Does that redeem his play? Doubtful. But with a single penalty, Bertuzzi was thrust in the spotlight (yet again) for emotional play, coming at the cost of the team. I wonder how Glenn Healy feels about Bryan's performance? After all, it was the TSN analyst that jocked the inclusion of McCabe harder than anyone.

· As I referenced above, I received an email from John Rocker's publicist after what I wrote in this week's column. I found what appeared to be John Rocker's profile on match.com, after perusing SportsbyBrooks -- the profile has since been removed, but you can read the story on SbB (3/4 of the way down the page as of today). Here's what I wrote:

"Cheers to SportsbyBrooks.com for unearthing John Rocker's profile on match.com. Rocker describes himself as "mature," with a penchant for bowling and erotica (respectively, not combined ... I hope). He's so cosmopolitan. All this time I assumed he was just a racist who could run fast."

Here was the response:

"As John Rocker's publicist, I can assure you he isn't on match.com."

Debi Curzio
Public Relations & Promotions

Bloody hell...how many of these do you think she sent out? I know
Deadspin also received one after posting the story.

· In spite of me catching Olympic fever (not to be confused with anything that would require a round of penicillin and a trip to the free clinic), I will not miss hearing or seeing any references to that freeloading tool, Bode Miller. Miller has all but admitted that he used his Olympic experience to party on his corporate sponsors' and Team USA's dime. And this would all be forgotten if he hadn't gone 0-for-5 on the podium. What a jackass. Oh, and by the way, I'm convinced that SI photoshopped out his beer gut from the ski team's cover photo several weeks ago. No one gets down that much, only to appear shockingly svelte in a skinsuit in a much-publicized photo. And if you saw him in action in Torino, you know what I'm talking about.

See you tomorrow. Uh...maybe.

Day orf

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'm not going to hang about and wait for someone to put a pretty spin on any game the Finns participate in. It's the trap, it sucks and I can't wait until it's over.

So that's it -- a day off that you can chalk up to Olympic burnout. The only Senators players left in the tournament are Anton Volchenkov and Daniel Alfredsson. Heatley, Spezza and Redden are scheduled to return to the city soon, and practices with the rest of the team are already underway. Puck bunnies, rejoice. I'll see you Monday.

And Canada goes down...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"If you just sit back and record what you see; the tragic and exquisite are the same to some degree. But most events depict a common theme: There's far more disorder than there is harmony."
-- Bad Religion's Mediocrity

I'm not here to pose the pensive questions about who should've been on the roster and who should have stayed behind. The holier-than-thou Canadian media deem that to be below them...but then, they proceed to launch into a discussion of Staal v. Bertuzzi. Sigh.

Is it wrong of me to be strangely relieved that this is all over for Canada? Is it wrong of me to place my priorities with what occurs on the Senators squad?

Stanley Cup first. Gold medal second. Those are my priorities, and if that makes me an unpatriotic heathen, so be it.

I know it makes little to no sense. Sure, it's nice to see Sakic and Thornton in Canadian jerseys. The American fans and media like to remind Canada on a regular basis that, "they may be yours, but they play for us". The Olympics are one of those rare occasions where the elite come home and represent the nation.

Pity they couldn't pull off anything successful.

It's pleasant, and it's refreshing. But ultimately I hold no allegiance to Sakic, Thornton or any other player in a non-Senators uniform. And I know there are no guarantees for players like Alfredsson or Chara to remain in an Ottawa jersey permanently. But these are the players I associate with the most. I spend year in, and year out cheering for them. I cover them for the majority of the year.

The Senators had a mind-boggling eight players head over to Torino to participate in the Olympic tournament (nine, if you include Jason Spezza's position with the taxi squad). Dominik Hasek has already gone down with an injury that will sideline him once the NHL resumes. And rumours of other minor injuries to Ottawa players are surfacing as the tournament continues.

It's sounds pathetic and maternal, but I can't wait for the Olympics to be over and for the remaining Senators to return to Ottawa (hopefully in good health and spirits). I'm well beyond concentrating my focus on the Olympic run. It's the Stanley Cup run that I care about now. Truth be told, it was my priority, long before Canada exited the preliminary round.

The following is a transcript from an audio clip that Lee Jenkins recorded for the New York Times website on late Tuesday:

Hi, this is Lee Jenkins reporting on the men’s Olympic hockey team in Turin, Italy. The result of all the upsets in the early rounds actually might have had a fringe benefit for the United States. In the quarterfinals the United States is going to face Finland, which isn’t regarded as one of the powerhouses, even though they’ve had a successful run in the Olympics. In many ways the United States would rather face a team like Finland than face Canada, which is known as the most dominant team in the field, even though they’ve lost twice.

By facing Finland, the U.S. could probably harbor some chances for an upset. Finland has only allowed two goals in the Olympics, but they don’t have that truly marquee goaltender. The Americans have had a hard time scoring goals in their first few games of the tournament, but if they can get past the Finland goaltender once or twice, they feel they can get the confidence to bust through.

The player the Americans will have to stop is Finland’s Teemu Selanne, who was actually on the verge of retirement a few years ago, but now has become the offensive star of these Olympics. Containing Selanne will be key for the Americans to advance to the semi-finals, and to have a chance at a medal.

Good luck to you!

UPDATE: The U.S. fell to Finland 4-3 early this afternoon. Doug Weight, feel free to resume your ping-pong.

ESPN SportsNation Poll

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This was the poll from ESPN's Page 2 that was posted on Tuesday.

Who's been the biggest flop? (after 3,920 votes)

Bode Miller -- 54.5%

The person that wrote this question -- 24%

Ricky Williams -- 10.3%

Canadian men's Olympic hockey team -- 6.8%

Apolo Anton Ohno -- 3%

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1.1%

Not to go completely homer on everyone, but is it fair to be putting Canada on this list when they weren't even out of the preliminary round?

Monday afternoon deglaze

Monday, February 20, 2006

Because if I were Dick Pound, I'd not only have a porn star name, but I'd check into getting the women's ice hockey medals to count as 18 towards our total, as opposed to one...

We're keeping busy through the Olympic break with plenty to talk about. And apparently when Peter hasn't been battling injuries, he's been busy as well. Let's get to it.

· Adductor, abductor, groin, leg...who knows anymore? Hasek's injury was serious enough to force his return to the Nation's Capital, and it is not yet clear how much time, if any, Dom will miss once the Senators resume play. I tackled this issue in Sunday's column, as well as the quandary that John Muckler faces in regards to the upcoming trade deadline. It's been well documented the Senators are seeking a top-flight centre, but many are speculating that Muckler may be seeking insurance in net, beyond the slumping Ray Emery. The name that keep coming up in Sens Nation is Curtis Joseph. This is a bizarre suggestion. Anyone that is potentially brought in must strike a fine balance with the No. 1 goalie, regardless of whether he's up and running. Has everyone forgotten the history between CuJo and Hasek in Detroit? My preference right now is Vesa Toskala. He wants out of San Jose, his salary is manageable (he'll be making $684,000 in 2005-06 -- all terms US) and his numbers currently do not reflect his legitimate potential as a true No. 1.

(And as for the Hasek conspiracy theory -- the one that suggests he's exaggerating to prepare for the playoffs and to save face with the Czech Republic -- cynics, take heart. Dom is far too competitive to pull a stunt like this. And besides, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't okay with it. Right now, a Stanley Cup is this fan's priority.)

·Wasn't Wayne Gretzky supposed to deflect the heat? Gretzky has come down on the young guns, stressing an improvement in play. First of all, when did "young players" refer to those in the 26-30 age range? There's no Staal or Spezza to criticize thus far. I would have to believe these first-timers are looking to the veterans for leadership -- should we assume that players like Chris Pronger are setting the ultimate example of how to win an Olympic championship? Bottom line: No one has stepped up, young or old. No one is debating that veteran leadership would assist in the dressing room, but you can't expect the roster from the '87 Canada Cup to roll out against some of the speed that Canada will need to face in this tournament. Youth is necessary, but so is assertive, simplified play and behaviour. And as of right now, Gretzky may want to rethink his psychological strategy. He's the most effective when he absorbs the pressure and media scrutiny. Perhaps Janet can set up a 3-card Monte table outside the Olympic village tonight. Anything to deflect the attention from the team.

· The women's team got it done today and switching from the CBC to the NBC coverage was high comedy. Some classic analysis included the statement that, "This next goal will make it either 2-1 Sweden, or 3-0 Canada," and "The game known as Ringette is quite popular in Central Canada."

Do you know how long I've gone without a quality ringette reference? (Sigh) I miss home.

(Okay, so these guys weren't there. But damned if they don't look like they're having fun, right?)

It's definite trip city mode for the Canadian media, as they prepare to put the doomsday spin on Team Canada's second consecutive game in which they shot blanks. Can this vasectomy be reversed?

(Most people wouldn't have stooped to that level. I'm not most people.)

During this afternoon's game, I saw a lot of the same problems befalling the Senators before the Olympic break. Sure, Team Canada doesn't have a remedy for the trap right now (shocking when you consider who's behind the bench), but there's more to it than that. Not beating your man to the puck. Coming out flat, and letting the opponent control the tempo. Missing those key second chances on the rebound. (Does Rick Nash play horseshoes? He's coming so close.) And of course, Marcus Allen's Key To Victory: Winning faceoffs.

During a rare Shirley Temple-esque moment, Bob Cole felt the need to remind the CBC audience that our team is "trying ever so hard", and it should be noted that there was a marked improvement in Canada's play during the second and third periods.

Cynics should also recall that in 2002, Team Canada didn't gel completely until the last game in the preliminary round, coincidentally against the Czech Republic -- Canada's upcoming opponent on Tuesday.

This type of hopeful outlook is beneficial in the meantime, but some of the criticism has been perplexing. During the after-game commentary and analysis with Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey, MacLean began to question the play of some of the "youngsters" on the squad. Thankfully Hrudey had the good sense to remind him that players like Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman were no longer a viable option (truthfully, he didn't word it quite as delicately). How can one want to question the youth (read: speed) factor when Team Canada is facing a squad with velocity like the Finns?

The Finnish team seems to be thoroughly enjoying proving people that they are indeed for real, regardless of whether Miikka Kiprusoff is backing them to victory or not. Remember that it was the Finnish team that was the runner-up to Canada in the 2004 World Cup. Their hockey program has legs and prospects to come -- their junior team clinched bronze in the World Junior tournament this year. Very impressive feats for a nation of 5 million people.

Pat Quinn and Co. have a day to regroup before they give it another go. Hopefully the team has some bonding activities in the works on Monday.

Radio tonight

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'll be on North Coast Hockey Tonight at 6:30 on the Sports Talk Cleveland network. Streams are available on the website.

Hasek goes down; dons towel afterward

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ottawa's No. 1 goaltender buggered his hamstring during the Czech Republic's opening game versus Germany today. Luckily, Team Canada won't be affected by the loss of the star goalie. Whaa?

One question here: Why is the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on Olympic hockey? If they're going to do so, the copy editor might want to lay off the THC.

Anyway, here are your two obvious reactions for the afternoon: 1) OF COURSE Hasek would get hurt during the Olympic period; 2) Thank God this has occurred early on in the tournament. We can only hope his removal from the game was a precautionary measure, and that the MRI on Thursday will return with a positive result. If not, I'd hate to be on the receiving end of John Muckler's BlackBerry bills this month. Stay tuned.

Monday evening deglaze

Monday, February 13, 2006

Because I perfected my chicken piccata recipe this week...

·I'm loving something that Rogers is doing (for once). They've made all of the Olympic coverage from each day accessible through their On Demand service. That might sound like an American's version of hell, but it's working out perfectly for me thus far. The Driver was on holidays last week (hence the sporadic posts), and we were able to fly through four hours of opening ceremony coverage in just under 90 minutes, thanks to the fast forward feature.


How? Why? Please don't hurt us. And for the record, why do they have tongues?

I don't know why I religiously watch the Olympic opening ceremonies, but I always have. Multiple hours of interpretative dance, wild costumes, a smattering of the local culture...it's fascinating. I was slightly disappointed with Torino's display (with the exception of the pyrotechnics) -- mostly because I found the majority of it forgettable.

With one exception.

What the bloody hell was this all about?

For clarity's sake, I took that picture with my cell. I'm in disbelief that no one else has photos of this, or for that matter, is discussing it. Apparently I have too much time on my hands. According to the CBC coverage, the "alpine scene" was a tribute to the surrounding mountainous countries that border Italy. Seriously though -- massive bovine being swung around on wheels, complete with mooing special effects in the background? Did Torino forget that they were dealing with a world audience, or has acid come back into vogue in Western Europe? Somebody help me out here. I'm completely perplexed.

More on the Olympics: I was able to go back and watch freestyle moguls champ Jennifer Heil ski her gold medal-garnering run. Afterward, Heil was finally enjoying a semi-private moment with her family, when she was accosted by a CBC reporter and forced into an interview. The reporter then asked the mother to express her feelings -- not to him, but to her daughter -- as the camera rolled. Envision part-hockey interview, part-bad Dr. Phil crisis intervention. It was unintentional high comedy at its finest, but I felt for the family's intrusion. "CBC: Home of the Champions"? Home of Destroying Priceless Family Moments, more like.

·And your Olympic coverage troika: There was a Curt Harnett sighting in Torino last week, which naturally thrilled the hell out of me. After all, we're both from the land of Staalapalooza and grew up as Port Arthur Collegiate Redmen.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Harnett visited the Olympic media village and was handing out scarves. How thoughtful. This is the same man that once showed up to my childhood home in a Sylvester the Cat costume, to go to a Hallowe'en party with my older sister. You know I'm dying to work that into the column somehow.

· This participant of the Strawberry Alarm Clock/Fun With Math II Death Pool was surely thrilled to see former New Jersey Devils coach Pat Burns in seemingly robust health, during an appearance with Off The Record Wednesday evening.

· There are some that still believe the Senators are going to seek out an established centre for the playoff run, so I was inclined to defend the retaining of premium trade bait, Antoine Vermette. Regardless of whether Martin Havlat is available for the playoffs, I don't see how the inclusion of a forward, specifically a centre, will make the ultimate difference. I'm not saying I wouldn't like to take the heat off of Jason Spezza -- however, how does this solve the goaltending issues for the present and future? How does this solve face-off problems (unless he's a specialist, in which case the Sens should have gone after Yanic Perreault, solely for this purpose)? Does this take care of our overpopulation of left-handed defensemen? There are other issues at stake here, and while we've been wringing our hands, the majority of other teams in the NHL have figured the Senators out. Right now -- at this time, in this condition -- I don't see the team making it past the second round. That's not a pessimist's attitude. It's the attitude of a realist.

Flossing a dead horse

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Not much hasn't been said already regarding the Rick Tocchet gambling ring story. However, ESPN.com felt the need last night to remind us that Tocchet's favourite movie was listed in the 2000-01 Flyers media guide. His selection? The Godfather.

Seriously? Seriously?

(Jesus, I'm starting to sound like Katherine Heigl.)

In honour of the Steelers victory

Monday, February 06, 2006

May I present the following goodness. (Warning: Immediate video and sound)

I made Crosby Nation cry...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

... and apparently, it gave them the urge to do some decoupage. The hilarity. The irony. The ignorance. Check this out:

I knew Crosby Nation was bitter, but apparently they have a frightening amount of time on their hands as well. Oh, and for the record, they're also smarter than Wayne Gretzky. I'm paraphrasing, but one reader in Pittsburgh wanted to inform us that we're going to pay for not putting Sid on the Olympic team. Pay, damnit!

Crosby Nation: Enough Already!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

(Ed. Note: This is an extended version of the column appearing in the February 5 Ottawa Sun.)

I knew something was up with Sidney Crosby. I could sense it at the draft.

Sidney Crosby is the epitome of hype -- the one element that I have always rebelled against. I hate the hype. Always have. And as I meandered about during the entire draft weekend -- taking it all in, making observations -- something felt amiss.

And it had to do with that kid.

The coronation of No. 87 on the weekend of July 30 was the slickest of P.R. presentations. It all had to go according to plan, seeing as the league was emerging from an unprecedented lockout. Every question under the sun was asked of Sidney Crosby during that period. It's a wonder someone didn't inquire if he had lost his virginity yet.

Sidney answered them all, like the puppet he is. I'm sure his handlers put him through a rigourous testing before unveiling him to the masses.

The answers were polite and boring. The smiles were forced. The media raved about a maturity that seemed to reach far beyond his 17 years. I stood back and watched it all, and wondered to myself if this child had a personality.

Well, it turns out he does. How unfortunate that it makes its presence known on the most public of stages.

Sidney Crosby is not likeable. His play and skill are, but his personality is not. Unfortunately for those of us that remain on the outside looking in to Crosby Nation, that opinion is an unacceptable one.

Crosby will never be a Tom Brady-type, regardless of if he also is fortunate enough to bring home three championships. He lacks poise. He lacks maturity. He lacks mystique. He lacks the elusive quality that gives an athlete the ability to cross over into mainstream culture.

But that hasn't stopped people from jamming him down our throats at every turn. The kid appeared on the cover of GQ, for God's sakes. Did I mention that he also lacks pulchritude? Seeing that child without his shirt off makes me feel like I'm venturing into Mary Kay LeTourneau territory.

Crosby Nation also has a fierce ally in their corner: The media.

Example: In an early December matchup between the Wild and Penguins, FSN analyst Bob Errey claimed that after Sidney Crosby had received a penalty for a delay of game, referee Dan O'Rourke was goading The Kid into an unsportmanlike conduct, simply by staring at him. In Errey's opinion, this was an attempt to make Sid chirp.

Example: In mid-January, a well-known Toronto columnist wrote, "Sid (The Kid) Crosby is quickly browning off old-style NHL traditionalists with his consistent whining and good for him for not getting in line, which is the hockey way."

Example: Over the past two months, there have been numerous discussions on all three Canadian sports networks regarding the two Calder trophy frontrunners -- Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. There have been multiple suggestions that the race is an unfair one, given that Ovechkin is older, and therefore more experienced than Crosby.

What is this? Sarcasm?

I can't take it anymore. Every night it's another excuse, and I'm led to spew profanity-laced vitriol under my breath as I read The Globe and Mail in the Hazeldean Starbucks.

I don't put this all on Crosby. That would be unfair. His practice appearance in Toronto where he arrived in a limo? That was his handlers' fault. It wasn't his fault that he was made an assistant captain (but that doesn't justify the decision). And his handlers obviously only saw the positives and none of the negatives of him moving in with Mario Lemieux.

But every favour he receives -- every action that creates more of an individual and less of a teammate -- makes him more unlikable in some people's eyes.

Try to convince me of otherwise. It can't be done.