Monday, February 27, 2006

The Nike "Swift Hockey" Abomination

The Unfortunate Product of Nike's Secret Queer Eye for the Hockey Guy Program

Ever one to focus on the cosmetic and peripheral in hockey, I want to build a bit on a shot I took at Nike in a comment on Hockey Rants yesterday. On Sunday morning, I told my wife that if Sweden were to win the gold medal I'd blog about how sweet it was that the old school sweater won out over all the slick and form fitting Nike rags worn by nearly all the other competitors.

I've hated these uniform combos since I first saw them unveiled at the WJC and that night on OLN when the Team USA roster was announced. Nike calls them the product of "Swift Hockey" technology. Wind tunnel tested, and perspiration wicking, they are none the less silly and butt ugly.

This bit of propaganda from the NBC Olympics site:

Jordan Wand, director of Nike's Advanced Innovation Team, said the development project included the first wind-tunnel tests of hockey uniforms, as well as research that determined hockey was lagging behind other major sports in terms of sleek apparel.
His goal was to make the uniforms more comfortable and efficient - not to revolutionize the look.


"The psyche of a hockey player is like nothing I've ever seen before," Wand said at Nike's New York office. "The culture and tradition of the sport -- you've got to make sure you don't do anything to denigrate that."

The biggest differences come in the jersey -- made from four different fabrics and featuring mesh vents to help evaporate sweat -- and the socks, 40 percent lighter than traditional hockey tube socks.

Overall, Wand says the streamlining produces a 14 percent reduction in drag, enough to provide a 20-inch advantage over a traditionally clad skater of equal ability in a 50-yard sprint across the rink.

I just hate the unfinished look of these hideous things. I look and see plain CCM practice sweaters that somebody slapped reflective tape on as an afterthought. I see socks that look like they are adorned with grocery store bar codes. I see vertigo inducing wavy striping under the armpits. I see girlish squared off collar cuts.

All uniforms lacked uniqueness and balance in any sense of the word. When Team USA wore white, everything but their breezers looked plain white on TV. On certain days, every item of clothing the Czechs wore was red-their helmets, sweaters, socks, and breezers, all nearly solid red. It practically burned out the picture tube on my beloved Sony. The Soviets, errrrr Russian Federales, had a slick and gaudy gold embroidered double-headed Romanov eagle, but the rest of the uni had the same striping scheme and just as much overkill red as the Czechs. It's clear to me that all of these uniforms were designed to look like slight variations on a central "Team Nike" identity first and foremost. Only the Swedes found a way to make Nike respect their national and hockey heritage. And the magnificent bastards won the gold!

Hockey players aren't NBA stars. Fashion has never driven hockey culture. Hockey players don't want a form-fitting, sailor collared, micro fiber leisure suits. All were probably embarrassed to take the ice wearing these things in Torino. All a hockey player really wants from a sweater is enough material to go over that separated shoulder with minimum agony-a sweater that is roomy enough to not catch and bind on all the worn out velcro straps that hold their shoulder and elbow pads in place.

Shame on you Mr. Jordan Wand. You and your crew blew over the line and right into denigrationville. Your design team disregarded the national identities of your team/clients in an effort to sell a global and Nike-centered identity. Like everybody at Nike, you secretly long to "revolutionize the look," to mold hockey culture so that it will ultimately conform to the latest fashion dictates eminating from Beaverton. The real message you wish you could say is that it's a Nike world and we should be honored that they have finally chosen to emancipate hockey culture from the shackles of a Neanderthal past.

Come on. Did Derian Hatcher really get 14 % faster in this tournament?

Wait, I think I see black helicopters with strange white swooshes hovering outside my window...

Team USA-Version Next

photo: usahockeymagazine
Adversity Can Become Opportunity for Team USA
The hockey world might as well get used to JJ's John Elwayish smirk

A changing of the guard is underway, and I look forward to the long overdue change. The miserable performance of Team USA last week has caused many to long for the days of a US Olympic team composed of college kids. Others argue that once the best in the world no longer play, you have a vastly more watered down product. You think interest was down this year? Wait till Team USA reverts to Billy Schmidlap from Lake Superior State centering Team USA's no. 1 line. That's sure to attract the largely female olympic-watching demographic - NOT! For USA hockey, unless we're deeply engaged in a cold war with a fellow hockey power, only a tradition of winning will attract attention and US viewership in 2010.

Despite the debacle of Torino, I think USA Hockey is moving towards a future that will still put the best US-born players on the ice, and many of those players will have grown up playing together in the U-17 and U-18 national teams. I think the future of USA Hockey will not be a series of ad hoc teams comprised of independent contractor-NHL millionaires. By 2010, Team USA will be NHL millionaires who have a strong sense of national identity, and a history of playing together in high-pressure international tournaments.

Mike Modano's post-Torino blast at USA Hockey may just speed the transition to a national selection program that keeps faith with the kids who rise to prominence as players in the National Team Development Program (NTDP). John-Michael Liles, Rick DiPietro, and Jordan Leopold are all alumni of the program, and the list will undoubtedly grow as players like Ryan Suter, Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel, and Miami Redhawk Nathan Davis make their way to the NHL. The NTDP has only been putting teams on the ice since '97. That original roster included DiPietro, and NHLers David Tanabe, Adam Hall and Andrew Hutchinson. It's now attracting some of the best and brightest (ex. Jack Johnson). Three of NHL Central Scouting's top North American skaters ('06 mid-term rankings) are current NTDP players.

By the Time Vancouver '2010 rolls around, Tkachuk, Guerin, Chelly and Hatcher will be working the sports memorabila circuit and Team USA will be younger, meaner and more united than ever. They will have grown up playing within a system and with a history of covering each other's back. How sweet would it be for Hurricane blueliner, Jack Johnson, to roll back into Vancouver on a gold medal squad? I can see him now standing on the medal platform, that huge smile on his face, soaking up all the boos from a crowd of bitter Canucks who no longer have George Bush to hate, but who still loathe Johnson for the elbow he applied to Steve Downie's mellon in the '06 WJC.

If it happens fours years from now in Vancouver, it won't be because the US has placed the whole of it's national prestige on the shoulders of the squad. It will be because like the Miracle on Ice team of 1980, Team USA will already be a band of brothers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tough Day for Us New Worlders

In Canada
Look later tonight for some serious post-olympics angst and scapegoating in all media eminating from The Great White North. It's Canada's Game, eh? Not today hoser. Release the hoooouuunds!

In Those Parts of the USA not Glued to American Idol or Figure Skating
Look for some bitching about how Team USA was run from some in the media and maybe a few of those players left on the bench at crunch time today. Think a few might not have liked the tongue lashing they got in the first period?

9:23 pm UPDATE-Modano is already bitching

Think you might hear some carping about the two 'Canes (Dougie Weight and Eric Cole) being on the ice for about the last minute-and-a-half?

Dumb penalties kill-Gomez and Tkachuk should know better.

The Good News:
Millions of folks outside the FSN South broadcast area now know who Erik Cole is.

That little bug Gionta is gonna be the next Marty St. Louis.

The stars of the past will have faded away by the time the next Olympics comes around. Look for guys like Cole, Gionta, and Ryan Leopold to lead a lethal next generation Team USA that will include guys like Jack Johnson, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Suter, Zack Parise, and maybe Phil Kessel.

Looks like no Hurricanes got hurt-Everybody but Frankie Kaberle will have a few extra days to rest up.

The Bad News:
Team USA never really jelled. Yeah, they weren't picked by most to medal, but I don't think anybody expected them to stink up the joint. Lavvy has received nothing but love this season. He deserves a good portion of the blame for this fiasco.

My predictions are ruined. No Canada-No Slovakia.

My wife is gonna want to watch American Idol tonight.

Judgement Day Torino

Time for Team Canada to "Play Whack a Mole"
Had to get up at O-Dark-Thirty for work today, and I find myself really getting jazzed about today's action. As the morning rolls on, I find myself more and more interested in the Canada v. Russia tilt. If the Finns beat Team USA today, that's Ok. I'd kind of like to see the Finns bask in some long-overdue glow. As long as somebody lays some solid lumber to Ollie Jokinen, I'll be good whatever the outcome.

I can't seem to help it. I still dislike Russians. If you grew up a Red Sox fan, you still hate the Yankees even though Bucky Dent is long gone. I see Ilya Kovalchuk preening, pouting, and showboating his way through an NHL season, and I'm reminded that I don't like Russians. I see Alex Ovechkin talking smack at the WJC and blowing kisses to himself, and I'm reminded that I don't like Russians. I see Darius Kasparitis lay a cheap shot to somebody's knee, and I'm reminded that I don't like Russians.

The only Soviet I've ever really liked was a guy named Helmut Balderis. I once saw him do something very un-Soviet in a game at some olympics. He carried the puck over the blueline with only the defenseman and goalie to beat, did a 360 spin, dropped the defenseman on his can, and roofed one for a goal. It was only later that I found out Helmut wasn't even Russian. He was Latvian and hated playing for Victor Tikanov and the Soviets.

Mike over at Confessions has a post questioning the whether the Miracle on Ice was really all that. His line, "If you listen to the "historians", they talk about the Commies as if they were 40 feet tall, had three eyes, and they feasted on rubber tires," shows the degree of his skepticism. I was 18 in 1980, and yes, Lake Placid was that 'Uuuuge. The Soviet hockey system was without parallel. These guys were like Spartans, conscripted into the Red Army at a young age and groomed to play together like a well-oiled machine. The Soviets invested a ton of national prestige in the sport of hockey. They treated their record of hockey dominance as a testiment to the superiority of their political system. Those who lived through the time still look back in awe of the stunning victory pulled off by a bunch of over-achieving college boys and their quirky coach.

I'll try to watch both games today around intrusive things like work, but the game I'll probably get real worked up about is Canada/Russia. Today, I don't care about how the jerks at the WJC treated our boys. Today it's about somebody from our side of the pond going to battle against the evil empire, version 2.0. Today it's about Ryan Smyth parking in front of the net, taking the punishment and slamming one home. Today it's about Chris Pronger mauling some little Ivan who dares to try and screen his goalie. Today it's about Shane Doan rolling Ilya Kovalchuk over the sideboards and into the Team Canada bench (where he might get a nice facial massage). And today it's still going to be about big, fast and physical North American hockey vs. the finesse of Soviet-style Eurohockey.

Predictions sure to be forgotten:
Canada 5 Red Army 3
Finland 4 USA 1

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Evidence of the Global Sports Culture Divide

photo: about.com
Laker Girls Need Not Worry About Their Job Security
I've been watching these gals undulating in the isles at the hockey games in Torino. They don't really seem to cheer lead-they just kind of bob up and down with pom poms.

These uniforms also look like some cross between a Roman Centurian costume and something Elizabeth Hurley might have worn in the first Austin Powers movie. Not terribly sexy-very 60's. Looks like only one Slovak is even paying attention. You drop a couple of real live Laker Girls on these sons of Slovakia, and they'll quickly forget they came to watch Peter Bondra and friends.

Note to Torino organizers: Real, modern cheerleaders only come in two varieties-the ones that do unbelievable aerobatic and human stacking routines during breaks in the action, and those who don Daisy Dukes and grind and bump to hip hop during breaks in the action. Scrawny little girls who clog aisles during the action, and bob at half speed, do not qualify.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Come On USA-Just Finish!

photo: usa hockey
He Came to Play...Just Hope He Stays
Caught most of the weekend games involving Team USA. I was Canada-challenged beyond the first two periods vs. Switzerland. Looks like they are more challenged. In my pre-Oly prognostication, I said I was looking forward to watching the Team USA forward corps. Yeah, they buzz around real nice. Jason Blake can't hit anything but dasher and pipe. Keith Thachuck is banging all over the place, but rarely is in position to take a shot. Gomez and Gionta are trying like crazy to make things happen, but don't have a lot to show for the effort. How many times have you cringed in frustration right after they blew a great scoring chance? It's been at least four-score for me.

Talk about nothing to show for some herculean effort-Erik Cole has been the best player on the ice for Team USA. Just couldn't stop JD from gushing about him all game yesterday. Colesy is drawing penalties on breakaways and making beautiful passes that others don't finish. I think his NHL rep was working against him with Dan Marouelli yesterday when he went flying after a clear trip along the side-boards. That should have been called.

Is it just me, or did/do/does...

  • John-Michael Liles make a lot of dumb and dangerous passes in the defensive zone?
  • Rick DiPietro over-commit when he slides across the crease so that he's routinely out of position?
  • Chris Chelios just keep getting punk'd along the boards. (the slash to the back of his skate vs. Slovakia comes to mind)
  • I just see the faces of Bill Guerin and Mark Parrish on milk cartons in the local stop-n-rob?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Redhawks CCHA Champs

photo: miami
Number two program in the nation...
Most wins ever...
First CCHA title since '93...

Beating Ohio State to get there...priceless

Next up Meee-sheee-gan State in the CCHA Tourney. Love and honor to Miami!

If I'm a Coyotes Fan...

The morph of Wayne Gretzky into the Pete Rose of hockey has been put on indefinite hold. Reports today say the Gretzkys will not be charged, probably won't be called as witnesses and are not even "persons of interest" in the case." That's good both for hockey and the Great One's place in history.

Now if I'm a Coyotes fan, I might be looking at this thing differently. I think this series of unfortunate incidents bares to the world glaring problems with Coyotes leadership. It looks like nothing less than the Wayne Gretzky cult of personality home-boy club. General Manager, Mike Barnett, made his name in hockey as a high powered hockey agent with IMG - Gretzky's agent. As far as I can tell from Coyotes media, he has joined the 'Yotes with no background in hockey player-personnel development. The team had the former Hockey News' "Man of the Year and "Executive of the Year," and Hall of Famer, Cliff Fletcher, in place as Executive VP and GM, but he "...relinquished his duties to Barnett in 2001 (direct quote from a Coyotes game program)." Fletcher is now a senior executive vp in charge of hockey ops, but Barnett is GM and Alternate Governor. Don't governors trump senior executive vp's? Looks to me like Fletcher is managing office supplies and time cards for the janitorial staff. How much you wanna bet that personnel decisions are made by Gretzky and Barnett's role is to respond, "Yes Mahhhhsturrrr (channeling Darth Vader)."

As a potential Coyotes fan living two hours south, I'm starting to look at Gretzkgate from a different perspective. I'm seeing a Wayne's World where Gretzky has surrounded himself with a posse of cronies and yes men - a world where nobody tells Wayner "NO!" let alone, "What? Are you F'n nuts?"

I don't condone in any way the media feeding frenzy of last week. Just because Gretz' has successfully crafted a reality that places him in absolute power over his environs isn't cause to crucify the guy. And placing a bet through a bookie is not illegal in NJ.

It's also not illegal to demonstrate a total lack of common sense or self-restraint. In his column the other day, John Buccigross said:

Your $100 entry fee for a fantasy football league is comparable to an
NHL player's $10,000 bet on NFL games. This story is about really only two
people, and maybe three if you are an NHL fan. Janet Jones-Gretzky is not one of
those people. If she wants to bet $100,000 during the NFL playoffs, whatever.
What are she and her husband worth? $30 million? A $100,000 bet is three percent of Janet's net worth, assuming her and Wayne share everything.


I try not to begrudge folks their fortunes, and I don't want somebody to tell me what I should do with my millions (if ever). I just can't fathom ever making the jump to thinking it's a gas to bet five figures on a coin flip. Lots of folks in my life would be there to tell me, "You're an idiot!"

Around November, you started seeing trade rumors hinting that the Coyotes were looking to pull off deals to bring in "character guys." One of the first things I learned as a junior officer in the Navy was that all organizations take on the personality of their leadership. If the 'Yotes are looking for character guys, I think they need to start in the executive suite.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Yee Haw, We Tied Lithulatstonia!

depressing photo:nhl.com
Irbe to assembled media: "Screw Moose and Squirrel. We Just Punk'd Uncle Sam!"

ARRRGH! We can't beat Boris and Natasha! Team USA just kissed their ugly step-sister, and she's a dimunitive goalie with Soviet-era pads who just happened to make 39 F'n saves.

Somebody better keep Tka-chunk away from the all-you-can-eat pasta and Sangria bar tonight. You know he tends to binge when he's depressed. Chelly might have to crank up the Olympic Village dorm destruction blowout keg party a week early. I hear Bodie Miller has already RSVP'd.

Ok, if this *!&$*%$#*?! continues, this third-generation Slovene will be jumping on the Team Slovakia bandwagon by the weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Feeding Frenzy Gone Bad

Going into the weekend, the news was nearly all bad for the Gretzky's. It looked like he might not survive the weekend as a member of the Canadian Hockey, NHL or International hockey communities, and she might not survive in his good graces. I listed a bunch of damning Web headlines on Friday, but The Sporting News', Kara Yario, had the one I thought jumped quickest to final judgement-"Gretzky must step down."

Over the weekend the story evolved a bit. First it was a report from NJ that wiretaps seem to confirm Gretzky's description of events. Then well-placed hockey pundits starting jumping to the Great One's Defense (Buccigross, Grapes, McKenzie).

Today, the whole tone of the story has changed. Journalists who last week were ready to rig the guillotine outside the Glendale Arena, now want to be first in line to decry the injustice done to the man-the institution. Yario, who called for Gretzky's head on Friday, now wants to talk about allowing checking in women's Olympic play. No mention of Gretz. Got to hand it to the MSM. They can jump off a story just as quick as they pile on.

What continues to bug me is that media hyenas in the arenas of sports, politics, and culture lose all sense of ethical restraint when a story possibly involving famous people, political intrique, human tragedy, or lots of money drops in their lap. The push to be first drives them to speaking in themes vice examining details. I think their first impulse is to hammer out a sensationalist theme that they think might have legs, and then pursue angles that best reinforce their chosen theme. This keeps them in the news by association. Egotistical little bastages.

A pox on the house of MSM. I think the end result will be a Team Canada empowered throughout these Olympics by the elixer of "It's us against the world."

Millenials Talk Hockey

Millenials is the term marketers use to describe the new breed of teens to twenties. They are socially conscious, adept networkers, and more engaged and open with their parents.

So anyway, I'm at the rink last night for a little stick and puck, and I'm sharing the locker room with a bunch of prep-school millenials. The boys start talking NHL hockey. First one says, "Can you believe the F'n (millenial dialog is sprinkled with "F-bombs," "Dudes" and "likes") Carolina Hurricanes lead the East? They're like a bunch of nobody's. Nobody sees them, nobody cares about them." Another says, "They'll choke in the playoffs just like they do every year." Millenial #3 then chimes in, "Who's like their captain? Like Rod Brind 'Amour? Who the hell is he? Who's ever heard of him?" The oldest of the gaggle, then says, "Yeah, they're nothing without F'n Ron Francis. The only reason they made it to the Cup finals a few years ago was F'n Francis." The first millenial then finishes the exercise in group-think with, "Dude, who's like gonna beat the Wings anyway? Like the Predators? No F'n way. Like who the hell are they?

The conversation ends with consensus on the superiority of the Hockeytown machine and the boys move on to talking about who signed up first for a private session.

Moral of the story-Win a few F'N Cups, and like the mere aura of your legacy might trump reality among impressionable youth, age 11-29.

Monday, February 13, 2006

CasonBlog Olympic Preview

New Digital Video Technology Rocks
By far the coolest thing thus far in Torino is the new camera technology that allowed NBC to superimpose downhill skiers on top of one another at various points/times in the run. It allows you to see how the skiers' runs compare at exact points in time. They showed the Austrian and the Gold Medal winning Italian coming over a ridge near a gate and you could see where the Italian gained his .4 second, or whatever, margin. The Austrian got loose and high and the Italian stayed tucked and low. That was the difference in the race. It's amazing that guys/gals on skis, or in that wacky luge competition, register times that are mere milliseconds apart. What athletes. What equipment. What science. What a steriod masking agent. Way cool.

On to Olympic Hockey
Overall, I think there are at least six teams who might find enough ad hoc mojo to bring home the gold. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Czechs, Team USA, or the Finns on the highest riser at medal time. That being said, here's my SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess).

Gold
Gretzky's Gamblers: The speed, size and grit everywhere to shut down opponents and dominate play. Yeah, some injuries on the blueline, but nobody matches up very well against the Canadians. I think the adversity angle will add to the fire in their bellies. The Canadians truly believe that every tourney is theirs to lose. Four years of Pierre Mcguire and Don Cherry ranting awaits them if they do lose.

Silver
Slovaks: Band of brothers, national pride, sick of living in the shadow of their Czech big brothers, yada, yada. I think their defensive corps present a nice mix of studs and playmakers. Goaltending quality might kill them in the long run, but as long as the Slovaks aren't taking penalties, there should be plenty of opportunities for Hossa, Gaborik, Demitra, and Svatos to dazzle with the puck. They'll come in under-the-radar and unrespected.

Bronze
Russia: The good news-forwards who might just own all that open ice. The bad news-a blueline of playground bullies and relics who might put those Bolshoi-caliber forwards on the PK way too much. Having to play defense could kill Kovalchuck's and Yashin's fragile morale. If the Soviets are hitting on all cylinders and jump out front early in games, they will be tough to stop.

And the Award for Best Olympic Village Blowout Dorm Destruction Keg Party
Team USA: Might as well renew the tradition of Nagano if the boys aren't gonna medal. Still, I can't wait to see this bunch of forwards at work. I think Grahame might be peaking at the right time-in time to give the boys a shot in a few critical games. Come on Lavvy. Just say, "No" to DiPietro-he's Milbury's boy anyway. Burning question: If a Hatcher falls down in the defensive zone, will anybody yell "Timber?"

First Game: Wednesday at 3 pm. Team USA vs. that cute little orphan goalie and crew from Lithulatstonia.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Millions of photos to choose from. ESPN and CBC put this one front and center on their Websites.
photo: espn.com

What do you think? Was this pic chosen to show a righteously indignant innocent man and hockey legend, or an accused gambler, possible mob co-conspirator and celebrity about to plunge off the ledge?

Sample headlines from Friday afternoon on the Web show that the media is already moving past Rick Tocchet in pursuit of a much bigger fish:

FSN: Stay Away Wayne!

TSN: Gretzky: "I've done nothing wrong"

CBC: Games brace for Gretzky's arrival

Hockey News: Gretzky won't step down

Slam: Gretzky: "I'm innocent"

SI: Tough Spot

The Sporting News: Gretzky must step down -and- Gretzky already tainted

Screech and Joey Buttafuco are on the Air in Tampa

Mishkin? Mishkin? Wasn't he the guy that let in Eruzione's GW Goal in '80?

While I never hesitate to drop bombs on the Thrashers and the way they grandstand and thug-up games, I've never had anything but respect for the Lightning. They play up-tempo, and with a nice balance of physicality and finesse-much like this year's 'Canes. I can stomach Thrashers color guy, Darren Eliot. He's a homer, but he'll still call out Ilya Kovalchuk when he dogs it on "D."

Driving around last night, I searched in vain for Chuck Kaiton on the Sirius radio, and had to endure the Mishkin/Espo broadcast team. These knuckleheads spent as much time whining about referee mistakes as they did calling the flow of the game. God they suck. Espo sounds like a some old guy in a wife-beater t-shirt, kicking back in his lazy boy recliner, seven beers into a twelve-pack, griping and grumbling incoherently more to himself than anybody else in the room. The only diversion from homer propaganda I heard last night was an Espo rant directed towards Darryl Sydor. It kind of went like this: "That was terrrible. Just terrible. What are you doing Sydor? Agnes, get me my smokes and another beer." And that little weasel Mishkin-in a nanosecond, he goes from the monotone delivery of Chris Schenkel calling a Pro Bowler's Association event, to some lathered up Hamas protester at a "Today we hate the Danes more than Jews" rally.

The Mishkin SCREEEEEEECH is particularly annoying. He screeches at nearly every save made by a goalie. The final straw for me was the screeeech that accompanied the empty net goal at the end of regulation. Who screams at an empty net goal when you are already up a goal?

Chuck Kaiton is class in the radio booth. He just calls a balanced game and screws nicely with the pronunciation of Czech and Slovak names (Mal-eck Mal-eek, Rah-zim Vuh-Bada). The Lightning tandem of Screech and Joey Buttafuco truly pale in comparison. Champions on the ice-bush league in the booth.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Tocchet Affair-Let's Put the Media Under the Microscope

Great fodder for discussion and digital molotov cocktail throwing this one. Jes Golbez's take is that this gambling thing is but a small blip on the radar, and everybody is overreacting. Acid Queen is sounding the horns of Valhalla in alarm, especially given the seeming involvement of Jersey-based organized crime. Ditto James Mirtle, who has a nasty little habit of investigating things like a journalist.

Based on the media's coverage of recent scandals, I started my initial take yesterday with the thought that it wouldn't be long until the media started turning this thing into an exercise in character assassination, hand-wringing and muck-raking. Yesterday, it was the image ESPN and other major sportsmedia outlets chose to depict Rick Tocchet. Black suit, black shirt, silver tie, constant scowl, knitted brow-very gangster chic'. Reminds me of the time, Time Magazine doctored OJ's picture to make him look more black and more sinister. To me, it's as much about the media, stupid.

Today or last night, ESPN's Sal Palantonio pulled his head out of Donovan McNabb's ass long enough to file a report for Sportscenter. The video that played behind his voice-over included highlights of Rick Tocchet the player and coach. The video chosen included Rick getting slammed into the corner boards, getting face washed, committing obvious interference and holding the stick penalties. The video of Rick the coach showed a guy kicking the bench and hollering disgustedly at Coyotes players from his station above and behind, chomping his gum in a fashion that would land you or me in middle school detention, and close-up shots of Rick's eyes shifting nervously left and right.

Tocchet scored 440 goals and registered 512 assists in an 18 year NHL career. Think they might have fit some snips in the montage showing an achivement or two Tocchet might have experienced during his career? Naahh, they just sampled those clips that could put him in the worst light. Just like OJ (who was actually sinister enough without the Photoshop tweaks).

My Prediction:
Janet Jones-Gretzky goes from glamourous former actress to flawed mother and addicted gambleress. The pics we'll see will go from shots to her and Wayne all gussied up and in happier times to a Gollum-like Janet diseveled and scrambling to get out of sight.

In other news:
Feb 27 is Casino Night with the Hurricanes. Gambling-it's the fabric of our lives...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Garth on NHL Live

I used to love this guy when he was a guest on Mike Solarte's 850 radio show. Garth took a nice swipe at Don Waddell today on NHL Live. EJ Hradek tried his best to disrupt the rant (isn't EJ a bit over-the-top and boorish?), but Garth still got off a nice salvo at Waddell's methods and final choice of goalies for Torino. I've always liked his kind of Don Cherry meets Hulk Hogan presence and delivery. Every adult league team I've played with has at least one Garth in the locker room. Guys like that make the culture of hockey a great refuge for manly men, who do manly things in manly ways... (HT to Michael Palin).

Yeah, he dropped in a shameless plug for hockeybuzz.com right at the end. Everybody seems to keep an Eklund voodoo doll close by, and he attracts a lot of venom. But just like all of you, I still find myself checking his site during my daily scan. Going to hockeybuzz is like picking your nose-we all think it's disgusting and beneath us, but in the secret of our DSL connections, we check the site out just about every day.

I agree with Garth. Ryan Miller ought to be the go-to guy for Team USA. At the time the selections were made, Miller was coming off an injury, so you can kind of understand Waddell's logic. Garth asserted that Waddell was bitter at Darcy Regier (and thus Miller by association) for not working a deal when the ATL needed help in goal. EJ kind of gave Garth that point. Right now Miller's the #1 US goalie available, but it looks like USA Hockey politics and inter-GM protocol might cost us next week in Torino.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Coach Tocchet. There's a Guy Named Pete Rose Here to See You

photo:espn.com
Ever notice how the media always seems to find the right picture to drop into negative piece? Could Rick Tocchet look more like a mobster than he does in this pic from ESPN? This bubbling scandal might be huge. I just hope it doesn't involve a lot of players and coaches in cahoots with sleazy underworld types and Thrashers.

Next, I expect to see a Lindsay Lohanesque pic of Janet Gretzky in a full-length coat, scarf and dark glasses fighting to escape a legion of paparazzi hell-bent on knocking her and her sainted husband off their pedestals.

Sometimes I don't know what's worse-the scandal or the character assassination and scapegoating that immediately follow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Krispy Does PHX

He's Baaaaaack.....
The 'Yotes have called up perennial underachiever Pavel Brendl. How long do you think it will be before Coach Gretz runs out of patience with his bouts of on-ice lethargy and clubhouse pouting?

Check out this blast from the CasonBlog archives for a review Krispy's vagabond season in Europe last year.

Don's Guarantee

Yo Don,
How about a guarantee that the Thrash will start playing some **%#*&%#! DEFENSE?

Thrashers GM, Don Waddell, is quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Saturday guaranteeing the Thrashers will make the playoffs for the first time in the bird's history:

“If you want to write 'guarantee,' I have no problem with that.”
Well, at least he waited until the team's seven game losing skid ended. Don's a proud man, and he did a lot in the offseason to bring the top-notch players he thought would make the difference. Marian Hossa has been a stud. Peter "Brittle" Bondra is showing his age. Bobby Holik, a supposed stud defensive centerman and clubhouse leader, has been an expensive flame-out (16 pts and a -10).

As it stands now, the Thrash will have to put some distance between themselves, the Leafs, the Canadians, and the Bruins in order to lock up a playoff spot. Unfortunately, a number of things are working right now against the Thrash. The Bruins do, in fact, play defense. The Leafs have issues, but they play with a lot of heart (unless they are getting whacked by the Sens). Many nights the Thrash run out of heart early in the contest and quickly resort to tuggery.

Ilya Koval-Cheat will have to dig deep into his illegal stick reserve to score enough points to cover Atl's nightly defensive and discipline lapses. The Thrash are fourth from the bottom in goals allowed, and have only allowed three fewer goals this season than the lowly Pens. The Thrash also spend the third most time in the league killing penalties. Don's "guarantee" was no doubt designed to light a fire under his club. For Waddell and the Thrash to deliver on the guarantee, they'll need a quick and sustained infusion of heart and discipline. Now, who get's to tell Ilya for $6.5 mil/year, he might be expected to play a little defense?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Crap Envy

Welcome back AWard!
Great weekend of hockey. 'Canes bowed to the resurgent Devils Friday on Scott Stevens night, and then found a way to win vs. resurgent B's on Sunday.

For the first time in my life, I have Washington Crap envy. JP over at Japers' Rink got to hang out with Ted Leonsis in the owner's box Friday night. JP's got a great blog, and it's right that a savvy new media businessman like Leonsis has honored his passion. Let's call it one small step for hockey blogdom, and one giant leap into the Beltway social strata for JP.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

This just in: Redhawks do not suck

The mighty Miami University Redhawks are now the number one ranked NCAA hockey team in the country in three separate polls. This is the first time Miami has ever had a #1 ranked team in any collegiate sport.

Could be a banner year for Miamians. Ben Rothlisberger is headed for the Super Bowl, Kevyn Adams looks to be headed for a Stanley Cup run, and the Redhawks are in position to win their first ever NCAA Ice Hockey Championship. Stand by to raise your toasted rolls in honor of the mighty Redhawks!

Carnival Time Again - Wings-Style

Abel to Yzerman is hosting Carnival #18. Focus is on goalies. Kudo's to the Chief for thinking of CasonBlog while we were offline.

Back in the Game

Moving Day errrrrr Week takes CasonBlog Offline
Took a long weekend to move the family out of the rental house and into my mother-in-law's house while we wait for our new home to be built. This time, we decided to get a P.O.D. and do the move ourselves. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It took five days.

The Weight Deal
While I was out JR made the Dougie Weight deal. I love it. Many are saying that he'll just be a rent-a-player for the remainder of the season. I'm not so sure. If he digs playing with winners and the team vibe, can live with the "Mayberry-supersized" nature of the Triangle, and thrives under the leadership of Lavvy on the Hurricane and Team USA rosters, JR may well have a shot at resigning him for next season. If he does head back to St. Louis or off to greener pastures, we'll be losing a 35+ year old winger who might have about two years left in the tank. Less than three million bucks out the door and a handfull of draft picks that can be recouped in subsequent moves is a small price to pay for a better chance at going deep in the playoffs. If this move helps bring the Cup to Raleigh and ensures hockey's future on Tobacco Road, it will all be worth it.

Signing Weight also keeps him off Ottawa's roster. Let them go after somebody like Mike Comrie. By April he'll be sleeping with Bryan Smolinski's wife and the club will melt down. You hear the name Olli Jokinen mentioned as possibly going to the Sens, but he's Mike Kenan's guy, and moving him would surely signal the blow up of that club at a time when they still hope and need to generate gate receipts.

What did we lose in the deal? Three guys with zero futures on this team, a 2006 draft pick we hope will be in the 29 or 30 spot, and some later round picks in '06 and '07. Two of those picks were banked from previous fire sale deals.

Some questions I have going into Friday's tilt with the Devils and the remainder of the season.

  • Will Weight play center or forward?
  • If Weight is to play center, what does that do to Matt Cullen's ice time when he returns?
  • Is Big Joe a write-off for the season, playoffs, and as a future member of this team?