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Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category

Hockey’s back, baby!

The lockout has dragged 113 days and I wasn’t holding out much hope for any kind of season, shortened or otherwise. But this morning, I woke up to fresh snow outside and a shiny new agreement-in-principle that could see the NHL returning as soon as next week:

Depending on when a new CBA is reached, the league – according to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun – has 50-game and 48-game schedules drawn up. A 50-game season would start on Jan. 15 and a 48-game season would start on Jan. 19.  The existing 2012-13 NHL schedule was already canceled through Jan. 14.

Now, there are an awful lot of people — even here in hockey-mad Montreal — who are responding with “who cares?” Fed up with the labour disputes and with the bickering between millionaires and billionaires, they’ve long since declared a curse on both houses and have merrily gone about finding alternative sources of entertainment. There’s a very real question about whether the NHL can truly recover from this, and if so, how long it might take.

But I’ve missed hockey. A lot. I daresay I’m not the only one. In absense of hockey, we naturally look for other blood sports to draw our attention. The red square protests, the Charbonneau commission, the ugliest Quebec election in decades, the rekindling of the language wars… we desperately need a distraction from all of it. And if the bleu-blanc-rouge can provide one, even in a compressed season, well, I’ll take it happily.

Welcome back, hockey. Don’t do it again.

I miss hockey

There’s nothing more depressing than a pub in late October with no hockey on the big screen.

Players, owners, settle this thing already. We need our hockey back.

Winter of discontent

How has this winter been lousy? Let us count the ways…

Hockey discontentment

The Habs just wrapped up their worst season in recent history. After finishing dead last in the East and the third worst team in the entire league. This season saw local favourite Mikey Cammalleri shipped off to Calgary in the middle of a game, coach Jacques Martin fired mid-season and replaced — albeit temporarily — by “maudite anglais” backup Randy Cunneyworth, and — finally — some housecleaning in the front office that saw Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey get the long-awaited boot.  The prospect of drafting high is small consolation to the fans, and it’s clear that we’re in for a long painful rebuilding process. Meanwhile, there might not even be any hockey at the start of next season, as the threat of lockout looms. Might be time to start taking an interest in another sport. The Montreal Impact just went MLS this season… any footy fans out there?

Weather discontentment

It was an unseasonably (some would claim unreasonably) warm winter, with very little snow and summer-like temperatures that saw crowds of spectators take in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in shorts. For those of us who actually like winter — and, y’know, for businesses who make money from it — it was a lousy year. Sure, the naysayers will be happy, but I’m still bemoaning my waste of a ski season. Enough with this global warming already; I miss winter, dammit!

Student discontentment

I’ve been saying it since my student days: Quebec’s tuition freeze needs to go.  And it looks like this time, it might well happen, as Jean Charest has sworn he won’t cave. Of course, the student union groups are having none of it, out protesting shit-disturbing as they claim they’ll settle for nothing less than free education. Never mind that the numbers don’t support their cause, or that the whole concept of a student strike is nonsensical when you consider that the only people it hurts are the students.

Public opinion is not on the side of the student groups this time around (unless you consider the ever-opportunistic PQ, always trolling for votes). Even many students have had enough, with at least one case of a successful injunction by a student who just wants to go to class and (gasp!) get the education he’s paying for.

The fact that Quebecers pay by far the lowest tuition in Canada and still will after the hike, or the fact that enrollment is lower here than it is in provinces with higher tuition, or even the generous increases in bursaries, none of those arguments are going to sway anyone. And that’s because the so-called students — who are actually political wannabes with romanticized notions of the 60s who enrol in one class per semester so they can live off the student fee contributions of actual students — don’t want to compromise; they just want their names in the paper, and maybe a chance to smash stuff.

And before you go accusing me of being dismissive of an important issue, we’ve lived this all before. Many times. I’ve written about it before. Many times. The only difference is that this time, something might actually change.

The seven million dollar man

Scott Gomez will make $7.5 million dollars this year.

Gomez is the Habs’ highest-paid player. He had 7 goals and 38 points last season. He hasn’t scored a goal in a game that counts since February 5th.

Just to put that in perspective, here are some other NHLers who are making around the same amount of money this year, along with their goal and point totals from last season:

  • Jarome Iginla – $7 million – 43 goals / 86 points
  • Eric Staal – $7.7 million – 33 goals / 76 points
  • Rick Nash – $7.5 million – 32 goals / 66 points
  • Henrik Zetterberg – $7.75 million – 24 goals / 78 points
  • Shea Weber – $7.5 million – 16 goals/ 48 points (and he’s a defenceman)
  • Ilya Kovalchuk – $6 million – 31 goals / 60 points (in what was considered a slump year)
  • Daniel Briere – $7 million – 34 goals / 68 points
  • Joe Thornton – $8 million – 21 goals / 70 points
  • Steven Stamkos – $8 million – 45 goals / 91 points
  • Daniel and Henrik Sedin – $6.1 million apiece – A combined 60 goals / 198 points!

Now, I have no love lost for Count Jacques-ula as a coach. But for those who are quick to blame the coach and excuse the front office, just think about who a competent GM might have gotten for those $7.5 million bucks.

Ouch, Habs, ouch!

You know it’s gonna be a rough season for the Habs when it kicks off with a 2-0 shutout loss to the dreaded Laffs. Last night’s game was just wince-worthy.

Here’s hoping we step it up against the newly-reformed Jets on Sunday.

Still Canada’s game

Hockey’s coming back to the ‘Peg:

The True North Sports and Entertainment group announced on Tuesday that they have completed a deal to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and move them to Winnipeg in time for the 2011-12 season.

And, right on target with the wish-I-could-punch-him asinine comment is Gary Bettman:

“Hockey in Canada has never been stronger,” said Bettman. “We get to be back in a place we wish had not left in 1996.

Considering the source, that’s rich.

Meanwhile, Vancouver kicks off the Stanley Cup Final against Boston tonight, aiming to not only kick some serious Bruin ass, but to bring the Cup home to Canada for the first time since the Habs did it in ’93. And with history on their side and the stronger record, I see no reason why they shouldn’t pull it off.

Go Canada!

ETA: If you’re American and reading this, and you happen to be a bit confused about this whole hockey thing, Pete McMartin wrote you a primer.

On Chara-gate

By now, everyone in Montreal, Beantown and everywhere in between knows about the ugly hit by Zdeno Chara that landed Max Pacioretty in the hospital with a possible career-ending fractured vertebra and concussion:

It still hurts to re-watch. And not just because we all know the outcome.

With the news that no discipline would be forthcoming from the NHL, Montreal fans – understandably – went a little nuts, demanding justice, decrying the NHL, and calling for heads to roll.

On the hit: It was ugly, that’s unquestionable. It was illegal, that’s also unquestionable, and Chara got a game misconduct for it. It was frightening to watch, because we know how it turned out. And it was part of a high-energy, high-speed game, delivered by a guy who isn’t known for using his size to injure but certainly has it in him. And the fact that Pacioretty was having his breakout season and playing first-line solid hockey only made it that much harder of a blow to absorb.

On intent: Did Chara mean to hurt Pacioretty? He says no. I’m inclined to believe him, with a caveat: I think that, within the context of hockey, he was trying to get back at Pacioretty and this was a continuation of the feud that they had going on for a few games. In other words, I don’t think this was just an accidental check gone wrong. Since a Habs-Bruins playoff matchup is a strong possibility, I’d even allow that teams start to play dirty and there’s some intent to injure going on with good players. But it’s not the same as intent to injure, off-ice, and I’m sure that’s what has the league wringing its hands at how to mete out punishment.

On bias: Mike Murphy had to make this call because Colin Campbell was biased, what with his son Gregory playing for Boston. This isn’t the first time that Campbell has needed to recuse himself from a disciplinary decision, either. I still think he should have resigned the minute his son made it to the NHL. But it does argue that there’s too much discretion in these kinds of disciplinary decisions. Either way, the rules need to be clearer, and there can’t be so much in the hands of one man.

On criminal prosecution: Nope, don’t agree with it here. Despite the massive public pressure and outcry in the wake of the NHL’s decision not to suspend Chara (and seriously, people, tying up the 9-1-1 line for hockey? Not cool.) I don’t believe that there’s any place for criminal charges in hockey, unless the incident was outside the boundaries of the game and crossed the line to something else entirely. Trying to get the courts involved is just another way of absolving the NHL of responsibility for this kind of stuff. It happens within the parameters of the game, which makes it the NHL’s responsibility.

On violence in hockey: Is the game too violent? Is there too much fighting? Should we make them all wear bubbles and carry sticks made out of foam? Hell no. I like my hockey fast-paced, hard-hitting and tough, and I suspect most of the league’s fans do too. But there’s a difference between a clean hit and a dirty one, and that’s where I think the system is broken.

The bottom line: If you rob a store and wave a gun around only meaning to scare the clerk, but you accidentally shoot him, sorry, you’re going down for murder.

Likewise, I think the rule should be simple in hockey: If you injure a guy on an illegal play, accident or not, you’re out as long as he is. If he misses the season, so do you. If you end his career, you’re gone too.

Implement this rule, enforce it a few times so the players understand it’s serious, and watch the ugly headshots disappear like magic.

Speedy recovery, Patches.


We’ll miss you, Halak

Five thousand people turned up today for Halak’s farewell autograph session at Fairview. That’s about ten times the crowd that the organizers were expecting. And I hope that Gauthier – and Price – were both paying attention.

Price won’t win any popularity contests if he keeps posting mediocre numbers and displaying a bad attitude. Halak is truly a class act, and the way he was treated by Gainey and the Habs’ management was disgusting. I hope he gets the success – and credit – he deserves in St. Louis.

Things I’ve been thinking about

A few things that have been on my mind lately:

1. Idiots are their own worst PR nightmare. Let ‘em talk long enough, they’ll shoot themselves in the foot. No need to do it for them.

2. Laziness is an addition, just like alcoholism. And it has enablers. Don’t be one. Next time someone asks you a question instead of looking it up themselves, send them this link:

3. It seems to me that people are much less shutter-happy than they were a few years ago, and are more likely to put away the camera. Has the novelty of digital allowing us to take thousands of photos worn off? Do we have photo fatigue?

4. Food really does taste better on pretty new dishes.

5. I used to think that writers were just being hyperbolic when they talked about sirens “screaming”. Now I know better. They mean it literally.

6. Summer’s not over yet. There’s still almost a month to go until NHL Preseason begins.

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April 2014
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