Fusspot rants, embarrassing photos of yourself and general correspondence go here: universalnicks@gmail.com

The New England Patriots are once again favored to win a Super Bowl.

So, what else is new? Are you going to tell me that Pats quarterback Tom Brady is married to some hot supermodel and that head coach Bill Belichick is still donning the grey hoodie?


Well, to no one’s surprise, the NFL super bowl picks provided by BetUs and their odds makers are expecting the Pats to win it all again.

If you haven’t been keeping track, the Patriots have already won three of the last nine Super Bowls and came about one play from winning a fourth. Needless to say, they have been the most dominant team over the last decade and even though it’s tough for dynasties to exist in the NFL (given the salary cap and revenue sharing), the Patriots have been about as close to it as you can come.

This year, it didn’t look like they’d be in contention when they started the season with a young defense and a so-so offense. Then they traded away potential Hall of Fame wide receiver, Randy Moss, and they have only gotten better.

And if you’re wondering how the golden boy is doing, Brady is having another ho-hum year. And by “ho-hum”, I mean he’s only thrown for 29 touchdowns versus four interceptions, and is among the leading candidates to win the Most Valuable Player award.

When you factor in that the Patriots already have the best record in their conference and have three easy contests left, they should be able to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. When you add it all up, it’s pretty understandable why they are favored to win Super Bowl 45.

The season might be winding down but it likes like Brady, Belichick and company are just winding up for another patented run.

(Ed. Note: The preceding post was provided by BETUS.com)

Blind Items: Repairing the Senators edition

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh my, Ottawa - this is the stuff of your worst nightmares. A well-known hockey name has been broadcasting to others that the Senators GM position is his "dream job", and he's just biding his time until he gets a proper crack at it. But why wouldn't he want to be in the city he's more associated with? That's easy - they hate him there. Now I didn't say he's in the running...just that he wants it something bad. And that's creepy enough to think about, isn't it?

And I hate to be the bearer of more bad news, but one of the names being whispered as a replacement to Cory Clouston won't leave you jumping for joy. That said, if he comes, the Senators will sell him as a winner - they just won't mention how long ago it happened.

More later.

Your Ottawa Senators: A Bloody Mess

Thursday, December 09, 2010

As if the Ottawa Senators needed to find new ways to embarrass themselves -- get ready, because here comes "Flickgate."

You are probably aware that Matt Carkner is not my favourite player on the team. But personal dislike has nothing to do with this. As the video shows, Carkner wipes his forehead post-scrap, and flicks his fingers as he skates by the Rangers bench.

Whether it was sweat, blood or a combination of both, it really doesn't matter. This is vile, disrespectful and undisciplined behaviour, and I sincerely hope the league cracks down. Furthermore, Matt Carkner needs to cease with the ridiculous excuses, man up and apologize. Immediately.

Your question of the day

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Via Twitter, from super blogger, The 6th Sens:

"Is this how The Driver feels being a Chargers fan? Want (the) team to lose (so ownership has no choice but to) gut the braintrust?"

In a word, yes. He doesn't want his team to lose, per se, but he knows it's the only way to get things to change. Plus he's totally sick of looking at the slouchy knee-high stocking around Norv's neck. It's the exact same thing with the Senators - he's felt that way for three years, and is pleased that people are, as he says, "catching up."

P.S.: In case you missed it, Torontoist has the transcription of Don Cherry's introduction of newly appointed Toronto mayor Rob Ford in all its hideous glory. Did you know that when Cherry was nominated for CBC's "The Greatest Canadian", Bret Hart was his celebrity advocate? Bret wore pink in the then-WWF with the Hart Foundation! Now we're through the looking glass, people!

Monday afternoon mini-Deglaze

Monday, November 29, 2010

* I've been asked if a post on Dany Heatley is coming, in conjunction with his first visit back to SBP this week. The short answer is yes, but it will be appearing on Yahoo!, not TUC. Watch for the link on Twitter on Thursday.

* Mr. Eugene's short conversation with Elliotte Friedman prior to the Leafs-Sens game on Saturday left me wanting to jam my head into a snowbank. "Buckle up - we're going all the way this year?" Yes, I understand that optimism is nice, and a necessary characteristic for any owner, but that was downright embarrassing. An anonymous reporter remarked to me afterward, "If you don't talk to Melnyk before noon, those are the types of conversations you end up having with him." Um, ack?

* If you haven't seen it already - very sad news to report, as Five For Smiting is calling it quits. Paul was always my favourite Senators blogger, hands down. His writing was always thought-provoking, hilarious and he's been one of my biggest supporters (especially when the chips were down) from Day 1. If you appreciated his work the way I did, please go to his site and drop him a line. (By the way, the battle is on to get him to join Twitter....starting now.)

More later.

I just got off the phone with Ottawa Senators' VP of communications, Phil Legault and Chad Schella, the team's director of player services. Both were willing to speak on the record to me and offered an official explanation regarding the Daron Richardson press release, which was discussed the previous post.

According to Schella, the Richardsons came to the decision to release the details of Daron's suicide after discussions with their medical team and chaplin. "We never would have released it otherwise," Schella said. "(Luke and Stephanie) approved the statement and the specific words that were used. We've tried to help as much as we could."

The decision to pull the release from the website was made by the Senators PR department, as well as the club's president, Cyril Leeder. "We decided that two hours would be long enough to for it to stay on our website," Phil Legault said. "Obviously, once the statement gets out to the media, it's out there - you can't take it back, but we were also trying to be respectful for the family's sake."

When asked if the team had received any negative feedback regarding the release, Legault said that there had been none. "The family has been applauded for their bravery (in releasing the information.)"

There you have it. Much thanks to Phil Legault and Chad Schella for speaking to me, and credit to the Ottawa Senators organization for being willing to do so.

More later.

The past week has been the hardest one in my short writing career, which is ironic for two reasons: 1) Nothing happened to me and 2) I didn't write anything.

It was the events and the indirect actions of others that left me confused, angry and altogether unsure of my place and ultimate future in this business. Even now, I can't discuss the situation completely because of the repercussions it may cause, but I'll do my best.

It all started with the sudden and shocking news of Daron Richardson's death. The 14-year-old daughter of Luke Richardson died last weekend, and the news of her passing shook the hockey world to its core. The revelation that it was a suicide was hard enough to swallow so soon -- however, it was the details from the Senators' initial press release that truly caught everyone off guard.

I was taken aback by it, as were others in the business (Twitter truly is a glorious tool, as it allowed me to communicate quickly with reporters in the press box and those on the air at the time). The biggest questions: "Why was there so much detail in the release? Why did we need to know the cause of death and the breakdown of how/where/when/by whom she was found?" It was only something to ponder, until I checked in with my source, who is part of Luke Richardson's inner circle, and was aware of Daron's death before it had been made public. I told him of the details in the press release. "How do you know all that?" I told him it was all in the statement. "That wasn't supposed to get out," he said. Several hours later, the Senators had pulled the original statement from their website (the link above is the Google cache version as it appeared in the release). It was then that I knew that someone had (allegedly) made a very large mistake.

In the days that followed, my source helped me trace back through the fallout - and information released - from the death. Suddenly, I became privy to far more about this investigation that I ever expected.

But what could I do about it? Nothing.

These are the dilemmas that we should discussing in online media. Bloggers v. print in the press box? I don't give a damn about that. Why doesn't someone talk about the foibles of trying to get sources in the police department, or whether you can use a source's scoop if they gave it to you while intoxicated? When is the right time to approach a grieving family about the details of their child's death, and how do you know if you even have to gumption to do something like that without seeming like a monster? How does one question the rationale of a professional sports franchises' decision to release such graphic information, and do so without the protection of an employer, in case they want to ban you from the press box? In the same vein, how do you call them on their (expletive) for pulling the release - a clear-cut sign that they know they were in the wrong? Am I doing it now? Is this enough?

Don't talk any more crap to me about press box dilemmas. Don't tell me that I owe guys like Chris Botta a great deal, even if he did get the short end of the stick. He didn't teach me how to handle a situation like this. And as the lines between traditional media and blogging become more blurred by the day, these problems will become our new-school reality. But the question remains - how do we deal with them? Something tells me the old-school guys aren't keen to reveal what they may have learned in J-school, although I'm not sure what happened to me this week would've been covered in any class.

More later.

Apologies for my absence

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

OK, so with travel (Vancouver and Houston), work and now the flu, I've been out of commission for a while. Sorry about that. Much thanks to Dany Heatley Speedwagon for holding up the fort at Yahoo! while I was flying around the continent like a maniac.

Anyway, post to come in the next 24-48 (hopefully) on the last week or so - travel, the sports reporters panel at Carleton University this past Monday with Ian Mendes, Sean McIndoe of Down Goes Brown, James Gordon of the Ottawa Citizen and yours truly, my visit with 5-time Smak-Off Champion, dear friend and Houston radio deity Sean Pendergast and more. And I guess I should say something about the Senators, right? How about that local sports team?

More to come, Cynics. Good to be back. Stay tuned.

Sunday evening Deglaze

Sunday, October 24, 2010

...because I get to listen to Theo Fleury sing in just under 3 hours.

Who wants to sit like bumps on logs and not call Jason Spezza's off-season conditioning into question, because he's been saddled with a groin injury so early in the season? Sounds like a good time, yes? It's not like they could really use any offensive presence, seeing as Ottawa is 29th in the league in average goals per game with 2.00 (New Jersey is last, with 1.75). And in continuing with criticizing the guys who aren't playing, here's an take on Spezza from a well-known retired NHL player: "(Jason) Spezza was one of the easiest guys to play against in the league. He's soft and he's scared." Nothing we haven't heard before, except for the "scared" bit. Your thoughts?

Meanwhile, over at The Hockey News, John Grigg tells us that a trade isn't enough to fix the Sens. Who wants me to push him over Elaine Benes-style with a "Get OUT!" response? I always zero in on defence, because I'm obsessed with blueliners. I know people were concerned with goaltending, but where did they think the scoring would come from? I think I've made my thoughts regarding Mike Fisher's offensive tendencies quite clear, and Kovalev has been a lost cause since he arrived. Obviously, there are variables - we assumed Spezza would be playing, and that Milan Michalek would pick up where he left off. That said, even if they were, it wouldn't be enough to keep the Sens' heads above .500. There are too many things wrong, and it's going to take significant upheaval to make it right.

Sigh. It's difficult for me to comment on the Oilers' cheerleading controversy without seeming like I'm having a Camille Paglia moment. Truth be told, it has less to do with feminism than you might think. Full disclosure: I have never been a cheerleader. I've been asked (most notably by a Sun Media editor who thought it would be "fun" for me to perform with the 'Gades), but I've never gone through with it. The reason? As a dancer, I've always felt that cheerleading was bull(expletive). If these girls are doing even less than your standard female with pompoms, and basically standing in the stands while yelling, what purpose do they serve? (For the record, the Oilers have stated that cheer, dance, and gymnastics experience is helpful, but not an asset.) The NHL's female fanbase continues to grow steadily - men should be contented enough to look at them. If not, too bad - last time I checked, there was still a game going on. Look, if the tables were turned, and the teams were placing attractive men in the stands, I'd sooner they turn their attention to more relevant things - like improving the concession menus. *cough* Scotiabank Place *cough*

More later.

UPDATE: A reader, who was very upset with this post, my work and my "Mickey Mouse blog" in general, insists that he has the inside track on all things Sens. (I know - I really set up his credibility, right?) Anyway, this guy insists that Spezza hurt his groan (that one's for the old-schoolers) during the team's training exercise at CFB Petawawa. And what better place to look for corroborative evidence than the Sun's own Don Brennan, right? Here's a clip from Oct. 8:

"Could be wrong, but I don’t remember Spezza having a sore groin BEFORE he started pulling tanks, repelling and jumping off 50-foot platforms at CFB Petawawa."

Do I believe any of this? Meh. It's hard to pinpoint the exact time of the injury - various reports mention groin problems before, during and at the end of training camp. Camp began on Sept. 17 and the Sens' trip to Petawawa was on Oct. 4. That said, it does bring up a Chewable: Let's say for the hell of it, that Jason did hurt his groin on a team-building exercise. It would stand to reason that the Senators would want to keep it hush-hush, and hell, even let someone like little old insignificant me take shots at Spezza's conditioning instead. Anything to protect the image of the club, and not expose a major mistake.

More later.

Yesterday, the Ottawa Senators announced that there were fewer than 4,500 tickets available for tonight's game vs. Carolina. Yes, you read that number correctly.

Naturally, the excuses started rolling in. "It's a mid-week game!" Uh, Thursday games have been commonplace in Ottawa for years, and people have continued to show up. "It's early in the season!" If you are part of the majority of fans who bitched and moaned about the lack of all hockey all summer, you would think you'd be getting your ass out there every chance you got. "It's Carolina!" You claim to be Senators fans, yes? Go and see your home team. "They're 0-2-1!" Sigh. And you get pissed off when the critics call you "fair-weather." Next?

The reality is the Senators have always relied on walk-up business. The days of the 12,000+ season ticketholder fan base, post-Cup run, was short-lived and it won't be returning any time soon. Based on the way the year has opened in Ottawa, the Senators better come with some heavy promotional gimmicks, because this isn't going to be pretty - especially when the evidence appears on a national broadcast via TSN tonight.

More later.

In case you hadn't heard...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The news is out: I'll be contributing a consistent dose of snark and estrogen representation over at Puck Daddy. The dear Mr. Wyshynski, a man who, on occasion, has seen me far drunker than I'd like to admit, was kind enough to take a chance on this bitter Quebecor reject, and for that, I salute him.

If you'd like to bookmark my vitriol over at Yahoo!, use this link. Meanwhile, here are my predictions for the Eastern and Western conferences, which are just bound to piss you off.

As usual, you'll still find me here, and on Twitter. As you were, cynics. More later.

Sunday afternoon Chewable

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Another year, another power-play perimeter game from the Sens. We all know the drill: Passes along the boards/blueline, shoot it to the man down low on the right side, and await the garbage goal. It's the Greg Carvel special.

The thing is, the man down low used to be Dany Heatley - remember? Well, it's interesting to look at the stats before and after No. 15's departure in the power-play department for Ottawa. In 2008-09, Ottawa was 10th in the league, with a PP percentage of 19.5. Last year, they dropped to 21st, with an average of 16.9.

Based on the pre-season, it appears that Carvel is going with the same plan. Regardless of whether there's an improvement on last year's numbers, would it kill the assistant coach to try something new? In the last four years, the Senators have yet to finish above 10th place in PP%, and three of those years saw Heatley at the helm, which likely boosted the numbers. Collapse down low, get a man in FRONT of the net - it's hardly rocket science. Carvel's been here so long, everyone already knows how Ottawa is going to play it. Not only is it predictable for the opponent and boring for fans, but lately it's proven to be ineffective for the team.

Go ahead and chew on that.

Old and Busted v. The New Hotness

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just a thought...

Instead of backsliding into the bloggers v. traditional media debate (round 3,189), why don't we start discussing where the true advantages lie for people in this business? What's more important to a writer - the prestige of an established outlet like a national newspaper, or the eyeballs that come with a highly recognized website? Would you rather make more money with a print gig while constantly worrying about layoffs, or would you settle for a slimmer wallet and the job security that online offers have been providing? How many significant paying positions can online sports media legitimately sustain? Can traditional media revamp itself via a different format (there's talk revolving around the iPad and other readers destined to come)?

There's plenty to discuss here, but with a lot more significance than the press box debate, which in my opinion, seems trite in comparison. Have at it.

Regardless of what your political affiliations are, it's humourous to hear some say that they want the federal government to back off funding for a Quebec arena, because they want the money to "stay in their pockets." Aww, that's adorable. Do you need a refresher on which country you live in? Money will always be demanded from the taxpayers, regardless of which party is in power. If it's not this project, it will be something else. That doesn't mean it's necessarily OK to fund this arena, but to assume that we'll all be spared a few bucks if it doesn't get done is naive.

And as for Pierre Karl Peladeau being the serpentine head of this charge (and assumed eventual owner of the new-school Nordiques): I'm sure he can be trusted. After all, everyone cares about hockey. When Quebecor bought Sun Media more than a decade ago, the newspaper business was already shot. It's not like PKP made the situation worse, right? The guy is an amazing, compassionate and competent businessman, and when it comes to NHL ownership, you can't screw it up at all. I'm sure he'll be a fine addition to the league.

More later.

2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa? Ummm....?

Monday, September 06, 2010

The local gossip this weekend has revolved around the rumour that Ottawa may finally be getting an All-Star Game. Obviously one of the biggest hold-ups has been the lack of proper facilities downtown, but with the completion of new convention centre next year, the city should finally be prepared to hold the event.

A couple of things:

1) Many people (both locals and out-of-town media) love to bitch about having to haul ass from downtown (where the convention centre will be located) to the wilds of Kanata for games. How do you think they're going to feel about doing it in late January? Bank says that part is not going to go over well.

2) Peering into the not-so-distant future - how many potential all-stars do you see Ottawa producing for its own game? Karlsson maybe having a breakout year...maybe? Barring some sort of major miracle, the kid's not going to morph into Drew Doughty anytime soon (or likely, ever). Any wild predictions? And how humiliating would it be to receive a mercy spot?

More later.

Come for the potassium - stay for the rage. Here's a mish-mash of topics that have been irking us lately:

Remember that ridiculous exercise in satire a few weeks ago known as the NHL Research and Development Camp? One of the biggest potential changes setting the Internet ablaze (or a-Twitter, to be more specific) was the discussion of doing away with shootouts, and returning to straight ties. At that time, I conducted an informal survey via Twitter, and found that the preference of ties over the shootout ran at least 10-to-1. Strangely enough, at the same time, FIFA was making news because they were discussing getting rid of ties at the next World Cup.

When the subject came up on Pardon The Interruption, Bob Ryan and Dan LeBatard (yeah, I know) surmised that this change might serve as another attempt at roping in the American audience, who aren't fond of the "everyone wins and let's go have some orange slices" approach.

You see where I'm going with this? I know you do.

Look, no one likes the soccer/hockey comparison. However...

We know that whenever large rule changes based in "excitement" such as the shootout are brought in, it's usually for one reason: To rope in new fans. And who are the new fans that the NHL cares about? The Americans. So don't you find it ironic that one league is headed back to ties, while another attempts the shootout -- but both seem to be failing at reaching the heights in the U.S. market that they obviously dream about? Time to try something else, kids.


Who was the first stringer to say, "Yeah, I'll do it for the exposure!" I'd like to kick their ass down a flight of stairs. This business is hard enough - what, with the lack of money, the super-saturated market with premiums placed on beat reporters (any damn fool can go into the locker room to get quotes; come up with a fresh, inspired opinion about this league in a sea of screaming voices -- it's a lot harder than you think). My latest pet peeve involves the reverence being paid to "the former player." Honestly, this has bothered me for a few years, but it's really beginning to become tiresome. A couple of things: 1) There are a few guys who possess the ability to move into media rather smoothly and they provide quality insight; 2) I understand there will always be a demand for a player's take, if you will -- the fans are intrigued by it. That said, it's getting to the point where if some scrub played 4 minutes in the USHL, he's all of a sudden worthy of a media gig. Woman, please.


I see the Kovalchuk drama train eventually pulling into one of two stations: 60-Points Town, or Blown ACL-Ville. It just dragged on too long for this season to end on a pleasant note for either Ilya or the Devils. If I'm wrong, remind me. I know you will.


Bloggers should be allowed in the press box if they dress without affiliation (i.e. no team gear), do not cheer, and are barred from asking players questions in the dressing room. (If you get the impression that I'm not hot on the idea, you'd be right.) The question still remains -- why the hell do all of you want access, anyway? For years, many bloggers insisted that being being allowed behind closed doors wasn't necessary. Everyone was content to play Bill Simmons. What changed? Furthermore, it bears repeating: The day that the NHL and its teams regard SBN, Yahoo! and similar in the same vein as Sun Media, Postmedia, CTVglobemedia etc., will be the first. The irony of course is that those sites are actually worthy of consideration into the box. I didn't say it was fair. That's just the way it is. It's a matter for the PHWA to settle (and I never wanted to join because I'm a fusspot like that).


One more thing: Please don't ask for season predictions, or to join your fantasy pool, or to participate in your podcast roundtables. The requests are coming in, and I'm turning them all down, largely due to my commitment to other projects. Oh, and I'm generally weary of hockey mania, and it's only September. You know how it is...maybe.

More later.

TUC Top 10 - No. 1: Behind the 8-ball

Monday, August 09, 2010

When the cops were talking, and his teammates were melting down on golf courses about the issue to my best sources [a much-belated ironic hint - his number contained a '6'], I knew it was time to tackle the story as best I could. This was a difficult time for me - information was flying thick and fast, and I even had the location given to me where this supposed nonsense was going down. In the end, it wasn't about Ray - it was people allegedly associated with him. People wanted the full tale, but no one was willing to protect me. And so, I decided to stick my neck out only this far. For what it's worth, I was the first to do so, and the only one who dared to even step up to the plate at this time.

Truth or consequences (originally posted January 29, 2008)

When everybody above is ready to bout you about controversial values
Don't you think you better re-address the level of the cowardice rising to drown you?
Did you ever connect - or come to reject - or even inspect
The dreams that hound you?

When the prodigal son with a caroming shadow of hate comes to land at home
Well he's a mourning star with a champagne heart at his curtain call
And father never understood the way the work gets done
Don't look at me, no I ain't one, no prodigal son

-- Prodigal Son (BR)

Some paraphrased public thoughts from various local media on the topic of Ray Emery (no names will be used because I don't have the direct quotes and don't wish to be on the receiving end of bitchy, fusspot e-mails):

* One made reference to the idea that Emery may be involved in off-ice issues similar to those that said media personality experienced when he was dealing with drugs;

* One claimed that Ottawa is too small and if inappropriate actions were truly occurring, someone would have uncovered it and written about it already;

* Another stated that the only information he had came from what was printed or said in the media, basically insinuating that he had no inside sources to speak of.


Finally, here's a quote:

"(Ray Emery) is (expletive) out of control. I guarantee that whatever you've heard about him...95% of it is true." -- An anonymous source from inside the dressing room.

(There was more -- much more -- but it can't be posted here without repercussions of some sort. I will say that it provided incredible insight in regards to team and front office cohesiveness, and Ray's own mindset as perceived by his teammates -- again, according to this one person.)

Watching (and listening) to this psychological petri dish fester over the past 36 hours has been amusing, frustrating and somewhat surprising. For those of us who have been sitting on material -- for lack of a better phrase -- for nearly a season and a half, watching cracks finally begin to appear in the facade is somewhat of a relief.

Granted, Ray's latest truancy (on the surface) had nothing to do with The Pink Elephant sitting in the room that no one would (or could) discuss openly. But given his history of difficulties and general problematic behaviour, this latest incident, which could serve as the straw that broke the camel's back, has given many in the media carte blanche to begin dancing ever so carefully around the subject. (Aside: This alone is an experience in itself. It's exceedingly ridiculous for some of us to sit by and watch other media members pretend as if nothing is going on -- as demonstrated by some of the comments above. No one's saying you have to jump on the bomb and attempt an exposé, but if you're pulling any "Ray's just being Ray" nonsense, you need to check yourself and remain silent. There's nothing worse than any media's feeble attempt to play dumb.)

But believe me, this isn't a topic that could normally be broached with any semblance of truth or ferocity, unless you possessed a gifted photographer and an attorney on a choke chain (a fact that I have personally been warned about from friends and colleagues alike).

The thing is, the Senators now realize that they're buggered six ways from Sunday. Everyone knows about Ray Emery -- both in the city, and within the NHL. It was fine for the team to look the other way when he was winning. Now they're aware of his off-ice issues and the fact that he's not the real deal. However, they have signed him to a three-year deal that was largely predicated on one season (where both he and the team itself were able to synergize at the right time), when all signs and internal team issues pointed towards exploring alternative options. Fans and media alike must've seen this coming. A five minute conversation with anyone in AHL circles will provide you with all the required turbulent history between Paddock and Emery, going back to their days in Binghamton.

Yes, he was a troubled case. But it's impossible not to assume that the uh...issue...exacerbated the problem ten-fold.

Mark my words: As long as the Senators keep Emery in the fold, someone WILL write this story eventually (with photographic evidence and the legal protection required), and the aftermath that follows will undoubtedly be devastating for the entire franchise. If he stays, it won't be much longer before we see it. How can you assume otherwise when we're already experiencing a willingness by some to wade into potentially libelous waters?

More later.

TUC Top 10 - No. 2: TUC vs. the NHL

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Looking back, this whole incident is cringe-inducing for yours truly. To flesh out the tale even further: The Sun's union (SONG Local 87-M) had been without a CBA for some time, and was on the verge of a strike...right in the middle of a Cup final featuring the Ottawa Senators. Seeing as I wasn't unionized, there was no reason why I couldn't be included on the accreditation list if they walked (not assumption on my part - this is what I was told). Negotiations dragged on, and I was left hanging, hence this somewhat brazen stunt. After three years of freelancing, I ended up with an ulcer. I regard this incident as one of the many catalysts.

The NHL: They're just not that into you (originally posted May 28, 2007)

[Ed. Note: The following is an extremely long post. Consider yourself warned.]

By "you", I actually mean "me". Who am I? Other than the writer of this blog, I'm a sports columnist with a major Canadian daily in the Nation's Capital. At 28 years old, I'm the youngest sportswriter in Ottawa-Gatineau. I'm female. But most importantly (at least in respect to this post), I'm a person who legitimately cares about hockey and its relevance -- however debatable -- as a major league sport.

Unfortunately, none of this currently means a lick to the National Hockey League, because it's become blatantly obvious they would rather take a frozen puck to the uvula than grant me accreditation to the Stanley Cup Finals. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why.

Here's a synopsis of last week's events: I was told by my editor at Sun Media that accreditations for the Finals would be extremely hard to come by (hardly a surprising revelation). Traditionally, accreditation request forms have a set number of spots. Sun Media had already accounted for all spots in Anaheim and Ottawa -- which I was fully expecting. After all, they had to tend to their employees first, whereas I am a contracted writer.

At the encouragement of others and after informing my editor I was planning to do so, I approached the NHL on my own behalf to see if anything could be accomplished, even if it was only to obtain a practice pass. I sent e-mails to practically every major media relations member. I called the league offices in New York and Toronto. Every one of my calls and missives went unanswered.

Again, I knew the chances were slim, particularly with Game 1 creeping up on the 28th, but I figured I had nothing to lose. Meanwhile on Friday, William Houston of The Globe And Mail published this piece, detailing the lack of accreditation requests from both U.S. and Canadian outlets. Here are some clips:

When the Stanley Cup final starts Monday in Anaheim, most of the leading newspapers in the United States will be busy doing something else.

They certainly won't be sending reporters to Canada to cover the games in Ottawa, where connections are difficult and fares expensive.

"It's Disneyland against Parliament," one U.S. sportswriter said about the Senators-Ducks series. "Not only is it impossible to get directly from one place to another, but it takes a great deal of time and money.

"If I'm a sports editor, I say forget about it. I can spend my money on something better.

That mirrors the view of Newsday sports editor Hank Winnicki, who says the New York Yankees and Mets take priority at this time of year. "There's so much going on in New York that we have to throw everything we have at the big story," he said.

In addition to Newsday, newspapers not attending the Cup final will include the Washington Post, New York Post, Newark Star-Ledger, Dallas Morning News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Petersburg Times. The New York Times won't commit past coverage of Game 1.

Even in the big regional hockey markets they're staying away. The Buffalo News gave it thumbs down. The St. Paul Pioneer Press won't attend. Minneapolis Star Tribune coverage will be limited to blogs filed by its beat writer from the first game to the third.

The two big Chicago dailies, the Tribune and Sun-Times, have been absent from the Stanley Cup final for years. And, in Hockeytown USA, both the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News are taking a pass.


The visiting contingent to Ottawa this spring won't be much larger. Those accredited for the final include USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Daily News, the two Philadelphia papers, the Inquirer and Daily News and Los Angeles Times.

In Canada, there may also be fewer newspapers covering the final. The Sun Media chain will use Ottawa Sun coverage for its newspapers, with the Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones also filing columns. The CanWest chain will rely heavily on Ottawa Citizen coverage.

Initially I was buoyed by this admission, but I immediately became concerned by the attention paid to the absence of U.S. outlets. I thought perhaps this news could ironically work against me, due to the fact I was a Canadian writer -- I may be viewed as a surplus. My concerns were fortified when a friend (also in the business) sent this note:

I heard from one Professional Hockey Writers' Association member who said that the NHL is giving a lot of perfectly legitimate media people a very difficult time (for reasons that defy any sort of logic). The suspicion is that the NHL is desperately seeking the American media's heavy hitters (and hence to have to play it safe and keep spots open). Good luck with that, Commissioner Bettman.

Picture it: The NHL -- the high school boy, out of step with the rest of the cliques but desperate to seek validation, hungers for the attention of the most popular girl in school (the American media). She ignores him and regularly mocks him in front of anyone who will listen. Meanwhile, the girl with genuine interest (the Canadian media) might be plain and a bit of an oddball. But she legitimately cares about him, and yet he delivers the cold shoulder. This argument was solidified most recently by the league's incessant kowtowing to NBC during the playoffs -- who infamously demonstrated their gratitude by cutting the Sens-Sabres OT coverage in favour of the Preakness Stakes.

It sounds like original outline for Dawson's Creek -- except our Dawson in this case seems to forget that Joey Potter finally threw in the towel after chasing him for years, and ended up with Pacey Witter in the end...who could be represented by, I dunno... Mixed Martial Arts?

Fast-forward to Sunday morning. 3:21 A.M. EDT, to be precise. The following e-mail from the NHL arrives in my inbox:

Dear Mr. Nicks,

We do not credential freelance writers. Sorry.

Thank you for your interest.

Two incorrect statements in a three-line e-mail: 1) My gender (fabulous attention to detail from someone who is paid to observe such minutiae) and 2) The claim that the NHL doesn't offer credentials to freelance writers.

How do I know this?

It might have something to do with the credential for the '05 Entry Draft hanging in my office. The first post-lockout, closed-door draft featuring the one and only pseudo-deity known as Sidney Crosby. The new face of the NHL, live and in the flesh. I was there, and my position was no different than it is today. Again, I was warned that I would be hard-pressed to get in...but I did.

At the time, words couldn't express how excited I was at the opportunity. When I received word of my accreditation approval, I was in Las Vegas. I cut my trip short and grabbed the first red-eye back to Ottawa to prepare. I did it because I cared about the draft. I cared about the NHL.

And that's what makes this whole accreditation denial all the more perplexing. The NHL, contrary to its own toffee-nosed belief, is not operating from a position of power. It can't afford to treat any media regardless of stature in such an indifferent (and borderline insolent) manner, when its significance on the North American sporting stage is shrinking at a drastic rate. This league shouldn't be "thanking" people for their interest -- they should be tripping over themselves to express their gratitude. The NHL has so few in its corner; so few who are willing to step up and cover the sport, in a feeble attempt to provide it with some dignity. In spite of this, they continue to chase the big fish -- the American media -- whom they couldn't land if they waded for days while sporting bait-laden underwear. Meanwhile here I sit in Ottawa, after the niceties, formalities and e-mails forced me to check my ego at the door. I wanted them to know that the NHL was more than relevant to me. I wanted them to know it would be an extreme pleasure to cover their event. But apparently, that's not what they want. Go figure.

Why is the NHL trying to infuriate the media, when people like myself are doing everything in their power to demonstrate that they're willing to pay positive attention to their league when virtually no one else will? Maybe if I were Linda Cohn, they'd let me in. Maybe if I insulted them regularly on satellite and terrestrial radio, they'd grant me a pass. Maybe I'll pretend not to care.

Or maybe I'll legitimately stop caring altogether. Right now, I'm convinced that's what the league wants.

This fan did, and sent me a photo as proof. Have at it, Leafs fans.

This is hardcore (originally posted November 7, 2006)

Here's an excerpt from some reader mail that I received in response to the November 5 column:

I live in Brockville where the teams are split between Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal. The Leaf fans I know are religious fans, standing beside there team regardless of how they play, and that is exactly how it is with my wife and I. I have a tattoo of the Sens Logo on my forearm and Daniel Alfreddson's (sic) autograph beneath it (tattooed as well), and my wife has Spartycat (sic) tattooed on her calf, and it has also been signed by the big cat himself (herself), and inked in permanently as well. There are over 250 different Sens articles in our house, and 8 different Jerseys hanging. We are "True Fans" as my wife says to anyone that can hear. My van is covered with window clingers, and my licence is a Senator plate from the ministry.

I'm speechless. At least you know a mascot will never be traded.

Here's where I mentioned that I had received a terse e-mail from a member of the Sens' front office about a column I wrote (now that he's gone I'll tell you - it was Mlakar). I then brought up a prior incident involving local radio where, during a guest hosting stint, I was warned not to say anything disparaging about the team. William Houston - then with The Globe and Mail - somehow got ahold of the post, and all hell broke loose.

You Snap The Whip (originally posted November 13, 2006)

I thought I would just add my experiences to what's being discussed over in this Battle of Ontario post. There was a link to a Sens message board containing a post that discussed the team's issues with the media. I'll let you decide if it validates what has been said.

There are two incidents that stand out in my mind. The first occurred when I did some guest hosting for The Team, several years ago. The program director at the time made it very clear to me that I was not to speak negatively about the Senators, in any way, shape or form. I found this to be highly ironic, seeing as that I was "known" for slagging the Senators on a regular basis, using Jim Rome as a vehicle to do so.

I don't know why I was told this. Maybe they thought I couldn't operate on a sliding scale, and was incapable of making points using contructive criticism, as opposed to blatant barbs that were used solely for the purpose of humour.

The second incident occurred not long after I secured the column. I criticized Mike Fisher -- honest to God, I can't remember what I said exactly. I'd pull the quote, but those early columns are on my old (and now-defunct) PC. Anyway, the next day I received a terse email from a well-known member of the Sens' front office who took issue with what I wrote. Being the neophyte that I was, I apologized for offending him (and possibly Fisher)...he said it was fine, and now we're (seemingly) all good.

As for some of the other thoughts pertaining to the media not being hard enough on the team -- I think that's a double-edged sword: There are fans that want us to show no mercy to the players, except they forget that we have contacts to maintain, most notably with the Senators. I don't care what team you're dealing with -- a writer that acts like a perpetual a-hole is going to be put through the ringer by the team's PR. It's like the old saying goes: You catch more flies with honey than you would with vinegar. Of course, you can take this too far, and use blackstrap molasses -- like Gord Wilson tends to. And you'd be surprised at the amount of emails I get after a particularly critical piece that read, "Why do you have to be so negative? Why can't you write something positive?" People don't want to read beatdown pieces all the time.

That being said, I've always maintained that if the team deserves the criticism, I'll give it. But there's a difference between being critical, and being a bombastic jackass. I hope that's not what the Sens' front office thinks of the media -- if they do, that's a major disconnect. But if that's what the readers want, they should probably check out what the Toronto media has to offer.

And my post, after Houston's mention:

You Snap The Whip: Part II

Regarding today's mention of the blog in The Globe and Mail (if you missed it, here's the clip):

We reported two weeks ago on the perceived obsequious behaviour of Team 1200 toward the Ottawa Senators, who were struggling at the time. The station, which is the club's rights-holder, confirmed it had cut back on postgame phone-ins, but denied there had been pressure from the Senators to get rid of the angry fan rants.

Still, the Senators media have a reputation for being soft. Occasionally a player or even the coach will get rapped. But the front office, which is to say president Roy Mlakar and general manager John Muckler, is out of bounds.

The sensitivity to upper management was illustrated during owner Eugene Melnyk's media conference call of Nov. 16 during which he affirmed his support for Muckler and coach Bryan Murray. In a whiny tone, he complained about media rumour and speculation on the status of Muckler and Murray. Club owners in big-league cities wouldn't have bothered.

In an e-mail, an Ottawa fan wrote, "[Sens] have a reputation around town of being a nice, fan-friendly organization, but behind the scenes Roy Mlakar has been known for some heavy-handed tactics."

Writer Erin Nicks freelances to the sports section of the Ottawa Sun. On her blog, she wrote a while ago, "There are two incidents that stand out in my mind. The first occurred when I did some guest hosting for [Team 1200] several years ago. The program director at the time made it very clear to me that I was not to speak negatively about the Senators, in any way, shape or form. . . .

"The second incident occurred not long after I secured the [Sun] column. I criticized [Sens forward] Mike Fisher — honest to God, I can't remember what I said exactly. . . . Anyway, the next day I received a terse email from a well-known member of the Sens' front office who took issue with what I wrote. Being the neophyte that I was, I apologized for offending him [and possibly Fisher]."

I've noticed that a synopsis regarding this subject has turned up in a multitude of places, including Senators message boards. The perception by most seems to be that I have been "silenced" by various factions of the Senators and the outlets that they use (i.e. The Team).

Let me assure everyone that my radio guest hosting experience happened several years ago -- the current program director that is in place was not the one I dealt with. I don't know if I would have been given the same instructions today. Futhermore, I had little concern regarding what I had been told, because I was able to speak freely via The Jim Rome Show, and at the time, was doing so on a regular basis. Rome's show, although broadcast from Los Angeles, possessed a much larger audience, and therefore my opinions on his program could have been perceived as far more detrimental to the Senators.

If The Team's program director had a problem with what I had said previously, I doubt he would have let me guest host.

It should also be noted that at the time, I was working in an entirely different field from the one I am currently employed in. At no time did anyone from the Senators approach me, or my former employer, with a demand to cease my complaints.

As for the email I received -- I doubt I am the first writer to receive a missive like that, and I'm sure I won't be the last. I was never told to retract my comments, nor was I reprimanded by Sun Media for the column. The front office person in question didn't like what I wrote. A lot of people don't, and I regularly hear about it. It doesn't faze me.

To summarize: There has been one person that asked me to refrain from speaking negatively about the Senators -- a former program director for The Team. It happened several years ago, long before I was writing the column. The Senators, at the time, were not in a state of turmoil (i.e. trade demands and request for front office changes), so I went along with it -- if I wanted to complain, I would do so on Rome's show, and no one ever attempted to stop me. In addition, no one has ever threatened to terminate me, or have my column ceased, based on something that I have written thus far.

Anyone who attempts to claim, or twist my statements to suggest that something else has occurred involving myself, is telling a falsehood.

End of story.

Recent, yes, but there were some very strong feelings surrounding this post, so I figured it was worth a revisit.

Erin on Erin: Through The Sports Media Peephole (originally posted on July 21, 2009)

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

This one makes the list, because it's my favourite post of all-time. What can I say? I have a soft spot for King of the Hill references.


What's Swedish for "Where's my shin jelly?" (Posted September 18, 2007)

When the hell is this going to end? Now Bryan Murray is enlisting the help of Daniel Alfredsson in an attempt to woo Peter Forsberg to the capital with a well-timed phone call. What is this, junior high? Why doesn't Alfie just send a folded note with the traditional "Do you like me?" query, followed by boxes labelled "yes" and "no". And you just know that Forsberg, being the crafty bugger that he is, will return it with an additional square created (and checked) that reads, "I don't know." Of course, said note will need to be passed through Toronto and snickered at for the full effect.

Keep in mind that Forsberg is recovering from ankle surgery (again), but will still expect the Brinks truck to back up, regardless of the situation. Not to be overly harsh, but the only way I'd consider this is if Peter literally removed all problems, and surgically attached his knees to his feet like Cotton Hill. Think about it: He could skate around headbutting players (read: Sidney Crosby) in the stomach and groin with no remorse. Words cannot express how badly I would like to see that happen.

P.S. I know his feet are torched as well. When it's time for those to go, that's when Ottawa can ship him to the Leafs for their turn.

P.P.S. Doesn't the cartoon version of Jimmy Carter look just a bit like Bryan Murray? C'mon...I know you see it.

Driving TUC: Who is this guy?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(The Driver: Better than you; funnier than anyone. Also pictured: Miss Eleanor Southworth Ewing, the superbeagle.)

Since my very first days in sports media, people have been trying to find out about my personal life -- specifically if I had a boyfriend or husband. If I did, what was he like?

Well, after so many years, I figured it was time to pull back the curtain a bit.

The Driver (real name: Gary) is a very private person. People have been trying to interview him since the beginning and he's always said no. If I remember correctly, Barre Campbell was the first to try. In the tradition of Simmons, I gave him a moniker. "Sports Guy" was already taken (not that I wanted it). "The Driver" was never intended to be a long-term thing, but it stuck, and so I kept it.

So why "The Driver"? You've asked and asked, so I'll tell you. No, he doesn't have a head shaped like a Big Bertha, although he's quite a decent golfer. Here's the real reason: I didn't get my driver's license until I was in my mid-20's. Three guesses as to was chauffeuring me around?

The Driver, who is also from Thunder Bay, grew up as a Winnipeg Jets fan. He lived in Winnipeg for a short period for school and was at the game where Teemu Selanne broke the rookie scoring record:

He still has a soft spot for the Jets, but discussions of bringing a team back to Canada make him crazy. As for the Senators, he's largely checked out on them, and began following the Kings not too long after the lockout (favourite player: Wayne Simmonds). Worthy of note: He was hating on Wade Redden long before it was considered fresh.

These days, The Driver is a lot like myself -- becoming the most vocal when it involves the media. Sun Media drives him absolutely bonkers, and he claims that he can't watch Steve Simmons on TSN's The Reporters, because he can't get over his "fumbling fingers." Impressions are his specialty in this department. He does a killer Jim Fox, Steve Lloyd, Jim Jerome and surprisingly, Patricia Boal (which eventually morphs into a Chi Pig). Like a lot of people, he's become disillusioned with newspapers, and has a difficult time taking most local coverage seriously. One of the few exceptions is James Gordon of the Citizen, and for national coverage, I've recently turned him on to Bruce Arthur of the National Post. (He's more of a Globe guy, but their sports section leaves a lot to be desired. He also doesn't worship at the Church of Mirtle.)

What turns him on in sports? San Diego Chargers wins (in spite of Norv Turner's incompetence). Also in that same vein -- seeing LaDainian Tomlinson hit the bricks. He loves ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series, watching games at Staples and Xcel Energy Center, live baseball (except for the Jays), unconventional goaltenders and mobile, speedy Swedish forwards.

Sound a lot like me? Well, we are very similar, hence the reason why I think many suspected that he was the one writing the columns. You'll never know, now...will you? (That was a joke, Mensas.)

Don't take this post as a sign that The Driver will somehow begin appearing more often. He still prefers to stay in the background, although I will continue to tweet his best takes whenever possible. And as long as you're good to me, he won't have a problem with you...unless you try and corner one or both of us to talk about the Summit Series. Then he'll probably kill you.

More later.

The most popular post in TUC history owes everything to our dear friend Colin, who tipped us off to this story. How two TiCats cheerleaders go from discussing fitness to riding a Sybian (website NSFW) is beyond comprehension, but hey, it was the Howard Stern show.

Four years later, readers are still Googling this story. Check it out here (SFW).

Jim Lampley nails a troika of whiskey, vodka and pot, then chases (and manhandles) a former Miss California around his couch while his 14-year-old son watches. Welcome to one of the most popular posts in TUC history.

P.S.: The first comment? DAMN. And you guys thought I was harsh...

No, I didn't write this. But I do love it.

Again, this is a cluster of posts from the period when the Senators thought they should (or rather, could get away with) charging their fans for games on pay-per-view. I got into a fair amount of trouble for these posts, both with the Ottawa Senators and Sun Media. In hindsight it doesn't seem like such a big deal, but at the time it surely wasn't pleasant. I didn't have to come down on them as hard as I did, but I was vehemently against their decision and took serious issue with the product. Of course, the blog is a looser format, and so I took advantage of that fact. Me and my mouth...err...fingers.

I'd like to think that I helped make a difference during this period - the Sens and media are constantly lurking around here for some bloody reason or other - but c'mon...I'm just a dumb girl blogger. [Insert picture of Malibu Stacy hunched over a laptop] Special acknowledgment goes to Rob Brodie, who stuck by me the whole time. He's good people.

Here are the most controversial posts from the Senators' short and sour PPV era:

Give me my Bloody HD

Soupe du Jour

The Vicious Revolt

Question The Answers

Pass the Buck

Ah, "Dress Up Jake." The madness, the mayhem, the use of R-rated accessories.

Dress Up Jake came to me one night as I was sitting in my office, staring in total contempt at my Jake Plummer inaction figure after another brutal Denver loss. Plummer, the No. 1 QB of the Broncos at the time, could best be described as a mercurial, inconsistent fusspot. Basically the kid got on my nerves more than Brian Lee and Wade Redden combined.

(Ed. Note: I know that's a lot of hatred, but this is football we're talking about.)

I needed a way to convey my feelings on Plummer and the games in a quick-fire manner, but I also didn't want to a) pretend I was an NFL expert and b) piss off my hockey readers. I figured the best (and most amusing way) to do this, was to pose the doll in a manner fitting his performance. If he played well, I'd reward the action figure with pork tenderloin and porn. If he played poorly, I'd make him drink cosmopolitans with Daniel Alfredsson (see above).

I never would have guessed that DUJ would take off the way it did. Deadspin linked to every week I featured it, and Stefan Fatsis (a noted Bronco honk) of the New York Times also picked it up, and included it in a piece for Slate.

Looking back on it, I probably wouldn't have been so ribald, but the readers were eating it up, so I felt I had no reason to take my foot off the gas. It was all meant in fun, regardless.

For the entire DUJ archive, click here.

The premise is a simple one: TUC is counting down 10 of the most (occasionally) memorable posts from the blog's history. Choices will be based on popularity, controversy and maybe a couple of my personal favourites, with a little write-up on each on my current feelings towards the posts (possible regrets, changes in opinion etc.). Please enjoy it --hopefully it helps to fill the time while we wait for Kovalchuk to see his shadow.

Stay tuned for No. 10, after the break.

I'm telling Tim

Monday, June 28, 2010

'Cause it's not what you've done/It's what you've been
If you fuck up/I'm telling Tim

-- I'm Telling Tim (NOFX)

Regarding the "anti-Spezza" posts on Tim Baines's new blog:

1) Don Brennan and Bruce Garrioch are big boys - one would hope they could defend themselves;

2) Don't you wish this blog was around in 2008? It would have been interesting to see Baines take up for his writers when this was going on.

More later.

Semin. Brodeur. Spezza. Huselius. Brassard. The fourth-round pick.

Stop spreading it. Why are you giving him the publicity he obviously craves? And don't start with the, "We need to expose him as the fraud he is!" How long has he been doing this - at least five years now? Nearly everyone knows that he shouldn't be taken seriously. This is no longer about him. It's about the people who insist they despise him, but are content to spew his garbage all over the Internet, regardless of whether it comes with a warning.

And what's with the new-school preamble of, "I heard this on the Internet/this is online everywhere"? We know where it's coming from. Your vague cover-up is doing nothing to help the matter.

Don't feed the machine. It doesn't matter if it's in jest, to point out his ridiculousness, or to just "put it out there." Very few of us - both bloggers and media - are truly in the business of legitimately chasing rumours. There's no need to broadcast these foolish ideas as quickly as possible, even in a casual fashion (such as Twitter).

Media, stop. Bloggers, stop. Hockey fans, stop. Stop talking about him, and stop spreading his [expletive] around.

Why are hockey fans getting so upset at Jay Mohr? I know he's recently unemployed, but I'm sure he didn't ask the NHL if he could host their awards. If the guy doesn't like the sport, that's his prerogative. Is it hypocritical for him to take the gig? Probably, but someone's got to keep Nikki Cox in Rystylane (seriously - Google some recent photos of her).

If anything, it's the NHL that's coming out of this with egg on their faces for not doing their research on the guy. The irony is, now that I know Mohr's hosting, I will make an effort to catch the broadcast, because he actually amuses me. It'll just be icing on the cake if he can goof on Ron MacLean while being forced to introduce Trooper, April Wine or similar.

More later.

P.S.: Jay Mohr once claimed on radio that he would like to wear Maria Sharapova as a hat, hence the title. See? I do my research.

You know this is the type of thing I live for.

You may have heard that a pocket of Senators fans are planning to have a rally in support of Jason Spezza. According to their Facebook page, the gathering is to take place this Saturday at Parliament Hill (as of the writing of this post, there were 131 confirmed guests).

The Ottawa Citizen was tipped off on the gathering, and Allen Panzeri wrote an article about it. Guess what ensued? High comedy, of course. From the Panzeri piece:

"The aim of the rally will be to convince the Ottawa Senators to keep the mercurial centre instead of trading him before his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1."

"Mercurial"? Spezza? Jason would laugh like a lunatic if I waved a Twizzler in front of his face. You know the gold thread on the Ottawa sweaters? They added that so Giggles would have something shiny to hold his attention when he attempted his passes. If Spezza's mercurial, then Chris Pronger is due to appear on an episode of 'The First 48' any day now.

"The participants will come from two Facebook groups that have overlapping memberships: the “Let’s Keep Jason Spezza in Ottawa” group, which has more than 900 members, and the Red Scarf Union, which largely occupies a Section 319 at Scotiabank Place and claims 1,190 members."

Wow, and they're expecting such a turnout already? I guess everyone's going to the cottage that weekend.

Waiting for the icing on the cake? Here it comes:

"(Rally organizer Louise) Tremblay admits to being one of Spezza’s biggest critics initially, but said that with the arrival of coach Cory Clouston, Spezza’s work ethic has improved.

'He’s not floating as much as he used to,' she said."

Bloody hell, if that's not a selling point for a gathering, I don't know what is.

Now, before Senators fans jump down my throat, know this: I'm not anti-rally or anti-Spezza. I'm anti-ridiculousness, which unfortunately for Jason, his fans and Mr. Panzeri, this piece seems to have in spades.

More later.

A TUC experiment

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Please note the poll on the right-hand side, and vote accordingly. Nothing huge -- just short videos of yours truly opining on whatever might be going on (that's sports-related, of course). Thanks for your input.

P.S.: I refuse to include nudity or use the word "vlog." Sorry about that.

Am I supposed to be offended by this?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

If you ask some women, the answer is "yes." My answer is "no."

I created a bit of a stir last night on Twitter when I wrote that I wasn't upset by yesterday's photo from the Chicago Tribune. Some women have viewed the photo as sexist, and one of the loudest voices on the subject was from Christine Brennan of USA Today. To paraphrase, Brennan is tired of seeing feminine traits/characteristics being applied to male athletes for the purpose of comedy. In short, women are used to portray the idea of being less than equal in the area of sport.

Brennan even went so far as to include comments on the photo from Angela Ruggiero, a former member of the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team.

"I'd like to see that editor out on skates," Ruggiero told the Associated Press. "I'll take them one-on-one on the ice any day."

Notice how Ruggiero challenged the editor, Jane Hirt, and not Chris Pronger? Funny that. If the issue here pertains to equality among the sexes, why am I finding it difficult to believe that Angela wouldn't be able to skate as fast as Pronger, shoot as hard or steal pucks with an equal amount of malice? (Sorry, a bit of levity was overdue.)

Does that validate Hirt's decision? Of course not. But I felt like this story needed a dose of reality. Furthermore, when you consider the bounty of negative material that Chris Pronger provides, it drives home how stupid, unnecessary and uninspired this dig actually was.

As for my tweet, I stand by it. I believe as a woman in this business, you have to pick your spots if you want to be heard. If I let every perceived slight get to me, I'd be a) in a mental institution or b) Jason Whitlock. I'm not fond of either choice. For me, it wasn't offensive enough to warrant a feminist retort. For me.

From the mind of Daniel Alfredsson*

Friday, June 04, 2010

Jesus tapdancing Christ. I don't need this (expletive).

Jason Spezza? Seriously? Woman, please. It's pretty much common knowledge that a few years ago, I allegedly went to Bryan Murray and asked him to lock up Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley to deals, because I wanted to be sure that I had someone to play with long-term. We know how the latter part of that bargain turned out. I dealt with Heatley and before that, I dealt with Alexel Yashin. Remind me why I should put up with this stupidity again?

Jason's unhappy that he was booed at home at the end of the post-season? Tell to come here -- I'll give him a shoulder to cry on...then I'll bust him square in his toothsome cakehole.** No one in the league gets booed at home more than I do, and I handle it just fine. Well actually, when it happens, I play like hell, but that's not the point...

Sorry, I lost track of what I was saying. I also just impregnated Bibi again. That guys's going to be a blueliner. God knows the club could use a decent one.

I'd really like to know where Jason thinks he can go with that albatross of a contract. He's signed through 2014-15 at $7-million a pop. Maybe he still thinks he has a chance of morphing into Steve Yzerman, v. 2.0. That crap makes me laugh harder than Don Brennan's wardrobe.

And I really don't know what's worse: The fact that the Senators will get jack for him in return if they did trade him, or that this drama is being played out in the media again. Same nonsense, different player. It's so bush-league. I guess I won't have to wait long for a resolution, because the little jackass's no-movement clause kicks in on July 1.

I'm getting too old for this. I'm turning 38 this year, I'm banged up, I've slowed down considerably, and I have snowball's chance in hell of winning a Cup in this town. I should be the one asking for a trade -- to a contender. I might as well, seeing as I've already begun to tell friends that I'm planning on retiring at the end of next season.

Whoops, did I think that last part out loud?


* Not really, but the post does include some information from my lovely and trusted sources. Deal with it.

** Don't you think he could get away with this phrase? Come on now.

Fun with math

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Since 1994, only eight NHL teams have failed to make it to their respective conference finals. Would you like to guess the teams? Go ahead and put in your call to Liam Maguire. I'll wait.

Give in? Here they are:

Boston, Columbus, L.A., Nashville, Phoenix, Atlanta, the New York Islanders and...


Of course, the statistic becomes even harsher when you realize that Phoenix was awarded a team in 1996, Nashville joined in 1998, Atlanta arrived in 1999 and Columbus rounded out the group in 2000.

Now, how many Stanley Cups has Montreal won since 1982? Easy answer, right? Two. But how many times have the Canadiens won the conference finals in the same period? Three. Three times in 28 years. A team like Carolina, however, has been three times (and won twice) in just over a third of the time -- only eight years. Of course, Montreal fans would be quick to point out that they have but one Cup to show for it.

So what's the moral of this mathematical tale? Perhaps it's that Montreal might be effective if they get far enough into the playoffs -- but they can't seem to do it very often. Why don't we hear more about this? Just something to chew on, when you hear the national media bagging on other Canadian teams for their lack of postseason stamina.

More later.

Mid-week morning Chewable

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Random question of the day: Who's less deserving of a job in media? Those who resent the protection that keeps them employed in the first place, or those who can't do their own jobs without resorting to outside assistance? (i.e. "Hey readers, I'm interviewing ____________ in an hour. What should I ask him/her?")

As for the Senators, please view the following photo:

I'm not doing this again, goddammit. Fix your goaltending. Bolster your blueline. "Best players have got to be your best players." Just read the freaking archives, OK? Oh, but they made the playoffs? Success! I guess I'll just sit back and wait for You Know Who to insist that he's "schtaying the coursh." (Sorry.)

More later.

Seeing as TUC has had a lot of dictionary-related discussion over the past 24 hours, I figured it was fitting that I pass this on. From urbandictionary.com, it's the "Spezza Pass".

When a hockey player swings the puck with their stick behind their back in the hopes of making some incredible passing play to their team-mate, and it instead goes tape-to-tape on the stick of the opposing player who is heading the other way. Usually results in a goal against or at the very least a strong scoring opportunity where the goalie has to save the day.

Note: A fancy attempt of tilting your wrist in the wrong direction can only be referred to as a 'Spezza Pass' if it results in the other team getting some kind of scoring opportunity.

Announcer: "And here comes Spezza across the line looking for the pass . . . what . . . the . . . *BLEEP* Did you see that Spezza Pass! AND THERE GOES OVECHKIN THE OTHER WAY! IN ON GOAL..."

Congrats, Jason. You must be so proud. And despite all of his own current drama, Jacques Martin is surely rubbing his ears together with glee while shrieking, "See! I told ya! 'S all you need to know!"

(Rack bump to Steve Lloyd for the find.)

Not cool, Coach Clouston

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston in the post-practice scrum on the difficulty of shadowing players: "You used to be able to almost rape a guy."

How is this appropriate? Sens PR, we await your response. I hope it comes with an apology.

Credit to Dan Seguin's Twitter for this.

P.S.: And before anyone makes an "oversensitive" remark, you might want to take a look at your daughter, wife, sister or mother before you get back to me. Much obliged.

We also refer to them as the "taxi squad", but I prefer the old-school term. From the 2006 TUC archives: Enjoy. (Thanks again to Liam Maguire for his help with this.)

Monday afternoon Deglaze

Monday, April 19, 2010

...because I have Steel Panther's Community Property stuck in my head. Don't. Trust me. Just...don't.

From the Twitter account of the Senators' PR rep, Phil Legault : "Young series is 2-1, yet pendulum of media desperation has swung again in the other direction."

Oh, dear.

First off, I'd like to meet the media who were initially ensconced on the other side of the fence, and I'd like to know how firm their convictions were. (Damn, I just made myself laugh.) I think everyone reserves the right to question many of the players on this club -- from the guy in the net, to the defence, to the ones on the top line. Have there been exceptions? Yes, of course. But not enough to convince me that this series will swing back into Ottawa's favour.

A couple of issues that have been irking me:

Have you ever noticed how the Senators are nearly incapable of setting the pace for the game? This stretches back to the days of Jacques Martin, which is frightening to consider. We saw some bright points after Bryan Murray began his initial coaching stint with the team, and his push for offensive aggression made it seem as if firewagon hockey had arrived in the capital. But this notion of chasing the game perpetually smacks Ottawa in the mouth when it matters most -- the playoffs. The opposition always seems to set the tone, be it physical, a trap game, speed-driven and so on. Even when the Sens have the lead, you often get the sense that they have trouble in the driver's seat.

My other quibble involves the rare and elusive Ottawa odd-man rush. Is it just me, or can you almost see the wheels turning in the players' heads when this happens? The reaction should be instinctive, but it appears to be anything but. I can almost hear Daniel Alfredsson calling out, "OK, boys: Now just like we do it in practice." News flash: If I can see them thinking about it from the perch on my couch, the opposing defence, and particularly the goaltender can view it from a mile away (hence the reason why nearly all of these rushes are easily stifled).


More Twitter bitching (twitching?) from yours truly. How hard is it for some media to get the hang of in-game tweeting? Case in point: I follow the Senators press box list, and unfortunately, the majority of it is a write-off. (Ed. note: Bite my tongue, bite my tongue...) I'm looking for quirky observations, injury updates, things happening in the building/box that I can't see otherwise, etc. I don't need to know the score at the end of the period, and who has the goals/assists. We already have services for that. (Sincerely, Marcus Allen - CBS Sports.) Oh, but you want to save your quirky observations for your column? Yeah, that's nice. Work more, watch more, talk to your co-workers about the hotel bar a lot less. I know, what a concept.

More later.