Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You Know You Spend Too Much Time at the Rink When...

- someone asks how old your child is and you reply "Minor Atom"
- your odometer hits 100 000km in the arena parking lot
- it's just as dark outside leaving the arena as arriving
- you convince people that practice Sunday mornings at 6AM isn't really that bad
- people you don't know call you by your name
- it's so cold outside starting the car would take longer than the trip to Timmy's so you break down and drink the arena vending machine coffee
- said vending machine coffee tastes good
- any fecking coffee tastes good at 6AM
- you know where the warm(relatively speaking) seats are in every local rink
- you keep different types of hockey tape in your purse
- you keep track of time by skate sharpenings
- you wake up two hours early to shovel the driveway to get to the game/practice
- that glove smell no longer induces vomiting
- you know whose turn it is to make the coffee run
- no one knows whose turn it is and no one cares because it all evens out
- a stranger stops you at the grocery store and asks, "Don't you work at the rink?"
- your holiday schedule is planned around games
- you see your friends at there more often than anywhere else
- you remember the rink you where in when your friend called to tell you she was finally pregnant
- you know what rinks have amenities for grandparents(viewing rooms and heat lamps!)
- despite all the hassles, you jump out of bed quicker for games and practices than anything else
- you don't think I'm crazy for doing it week after week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prospects Report - Euro Style

Swedish Elite League – Erik Karlsson

The Ottawa Senators surprised many when they selected Erik Karlsson 15th overall in the 2008 draft. Currently listed at 5’11 and 165 pounds, the biggest knocks against Karlsson are boosting his speed and bulking up. Despite his size he still dishes out big hits and that will improve as he fills out. Karlsson currently anchors the blue line for Vastra Frolunda HC Goteborg of the SEL, notching 1 goal and 2 assists in 23 games. He is using his excellent hockey sense and positional play to full advantage this season, only picking up 8 PIM. No doubt the Senators could use a big hitter in their own zone. Don’t be shocked if he’s at training camp in 2009.

Kontinental Hockey League – Evgeni Dadonov

This has been a difficult period for Russian prospects. Alexei Cherepanov, picked 17th by the New York Rangers in 2007, died tragically during a KHL game. Kirill Petrov, selected 73rd overall by the Islanders in 2007 has yet to play a game this season with Kazan Ak-Bars due to an undisclosed injury. Luckily Evgeni Dadonov, Florida’s third rounder (71st overall in 2007) has stayed healthy. The nineteen-year-old clocks in at a solid 5’10, 178 pounds and has amassed 3 goals and 3 assists in 23 games with Chelyabinsk Traktor. He was at the Panther’s training camp and drew praise from Scott Luce, Director of Scouting who compared Dadonov to Pavel Datsyuk. The biggest draw back against Dadonov is the lack of a transfer agreement between Russia and the NHL, but Florida has to take some risks.

Czech League - Tomas Kubalik

Czech draft picks such as Jakub Voracek (#7 in 2007), Michal Repik (40th in 2007) and Tomas Kundratek (90th in 2008) have successfully made the jump to playing in North America’s top hockey leagues. This bodes well for Tomas Kubalik, picked 135th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008. Kubalik, 6’2, 189 pounds makes up in chippiness what he lacks in point production. He’s only posted 1 assist in 20 games with his hometown team Plzen HC but picked up 37 PIM. Rough and tumble is picking up in the NHL but Kubalik must improve his skating to stand a solid shot at becoming a third or fourth line grinder.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hockey’s Smallest Hazard

Hockey’s biggest pest is not Sean Avery. Fans and players alike are familiar with the risk of physical injury from high sticks and hip checks but the bacterial strain methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) packs a far more lethal punch than Zdeno Chara’s right hook.

MRSA(pronounced mer-sa) is a form of bacteria that is highly resistant to traditional antibiotics; it first emerged in hospitals during the 1960s. The version that occurs outside of hospitals is known as community-acquired MRSA(CA-MRSA) and it became a frequent visitor to dressing rooms in the late 1990s. In 1999 it was responsible for the deaths of four previously healthy children in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Amateur athletes can be considered at higher risk of contracting MRSA than the pros due to less stringent sanitary measures in local rinks or stadiums. That’s not a knock against the caretakers, merely acknowledging the staff at places such as the Air Canada Centre have higher budgets and more resources with which to minimise the risk.

That doesn’t entirely eliminate the risk. Professional athletes including NHLers Mikael Renberg, Joe Thornton, and Ed Belfour have required hospital stays due to MRSA. Renberg’s case, triggered by a skate blade cutting his skin, was particularly nasty with his hand swelling to the size of a boxing glove. His doctors seriously considered amputation before the infection relented its grip. Death was indeed a possibility. An unfortunate few such as Lycoming College football player Ricky Lannetti have died from MRSA.

Treatment is difficult not only due to the bacteria’s drug resistance and constant evolution, but also due to lack of information. Most people are stunned to learn that more Americans died of MRSA than HIV-AIDS in 1995.

But don’t pull little Parker and Posey out of house league just yet. Prevention is possible. Luckily the most effective way to keep MRSA, and other illnesses at bay is also the simplest and most cost effective – hand washing with soap and the hottest water you can tolerate.

Another option for those times when the arena taps run colder than the ice you've skated on is Hockey Hands. This product is a heavy duty hand sanitizer, similar to the familiar little bottles such as Purell. The main ingredients are rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, and mint.

That’s great for hands but who washes their gear thoroughly after every game or practice? Usually it gets tossed into a hockey bag and stays in the trunk until next time. A Mississauga entrepreneur, Sam Mauro of Core Marketing Solutions has come up with a twist on the traditional hockey bag. According to Mauro, his product, The Hockey Hangup reduces the risk of MRSA. The built-in hanger allows it to hang on dressing room hooks instead of germ-infested floors. It is 85% mesh so the equipment dries in the bag, avoiding the hassle of removing and hanging individual items. Mauro admits Hockey Hangup is not a cure but after playing hockey his entire life and dealing with hockey bag hazards, he created the product. “I want people to need the bag, not want the bag.” The time and money spent is heavy – each prototype cost $650.00 and takes two months. Mauro is not discouraged; he views his work as a way to make his hockey mark.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Open Letter to Bobby Orr

Dear Mr. Orr,

You might recognise me(HA!) as the woman who neither cheered nor applauded as your number was raised to the rafters last night at General Motors Centre in Oshawa. Please don't take it personally. I was merely doing my job. People have to give up a couple things when they get media passes; contrary to popular belief, a mind is not one of them. The rules are:

1)Media cannot cheer or boo.

Do you have any idea how tough it is to see the number of arguably hockey's greatest player retired and not cheer? People who don't know you're media, who don't know press box etiquette glare as though you're clubbing amputee seal pups.

2)Media cannot ask for autographs.

It is so frustrating to be around athletes yet unable to ask for autographs. Having Ilya Kovalchuk's ice pack drop on my boots, while memorable, isn't quite the same. Twice I have met Robert Gordon Orr and not once could he sign anything for me because of my press pass. I've let people in front of me at events to avoid the temptation of asking Wendel Clark to sharpie his John Hancock on a jersey.

Being Slovak I'm devoid of the "hide emotions" gene. Slavs are not renowned for their emotional restraint. At the rink displays of emotion are kept in check(Czech?)away from the public eye. My heart sees and feels it all even though others might think I'm some soul-lacking automaton.

Someday, Mr. Orr, we will meet when I don't have a pass. You'll recognise me as the person hugging you, finally getting that autograph after 38 years.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

As Grand as Playing Your First NHL Game

That's how I felt today, or more accurately, I felt the way I imagine hockey players do when they play in their first NHL game. What brought this on? My name is listed in The Hockey News under "interns." I've seen my name in credits before but this means more than all the others combined. As I kid, I saved my allowance to buy The Hockey News when it really was a newspaper - how I miss that hot-off-the-press smell and the ink all over my hands. Back then there was no girls hockey where I lived so The Hockey News was the closest a small town girl could get to the daily grind of hockey life. Reading about Ron Duguay, Darryl Sittler, or some kid named Gretzky fuelled my hockey furnace. There were no female hockey writers but my childhood imagination didn't run on reality. I dreamed and dreamed that someday my writing would appear in The Hockey News. That hasn't happened but some of my edits are in there, not like the staff writers need much editing. They are not excellent hockey writers - they are excellent writers - period. I feel intense pride seeing a piece I worked on in the magazine or on the web site, not a boastful, arrogant pride - I'm just so damn happy to be involved with something that has been part of my life for years. If this is the first game feeling, I can't wait to get the writers equivalent of the Stanley Cup feeling.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Faceoff Follies

Leafs Faceoff Follies

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made it no secret that they are in rebuilding mode, or more accurately for long time followers, building mode. That is no excuse for poor performance in the faceoff circle. A centre snagging the puck doesn't guarantee a goal right off the draw but it certainly makes it harder for the opposition to pot the puck into the twine.

With faceoff specialists in the form of Joe Nieuwendyk as Special Assistant to the General Manager and Keith Acton as Assistant Coach this is one area where the Leafs have an excellent opportunity for improvement. Nieuwendyk no doubt has a lot of paper work to deal with in his day job, but surely Acton could spend more time on faceoffs with his pivots. Dealing with draws is done but these days the stats show it needs more practice.

Pittsburgh beat Toronto 4-1 last night but looking at the faceoff stats that's no surprise:

Mayers - 3/5 - 60%
Grabovski - 5/10 - 50%
Stajan - 2/4 - 50%
Antropov - 2/5 - 40%
Mitchell - 5/14 - 36%
Moore - 4/16 - 25%

Compare that to Pittsburgh's pivots:

Crosby - 16/22 - 73%
Talbot - 5/8 - 63%
Staal - 7/12 - 58%
Zigomanis - 5/11 -45%

Head-to-head versus Crosby no Leafs centre could win more than 50% of the draws against him.

9-out-of-12 games played tonight were won by the team with the better faceoff stats. In the age of the salary cap, puck possession off the draw is as cost effective as it gets.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Seeing Green

My son's hockey season recently started. His skating and puck handling improved tremendously after only one week of sports camp. It dawned on me that he might move up a level in house league. It was not to be. His league only has enough players for a blue team or a green team, and white seems to be a touch above his skill level. With so many first time players and skaters, it looks as though the team will stay in the green level.

At first I was a bit disappointed but quickly came to my senses. The first time I laced up my son's skates I vowed to never, ever become one of "those parents" - the ones who shove instead of support, who guilt instead of guide, who pounce instead of praise. For a few minutes, upset that my spawn had gone down a level instead of up, I became one of "those parents" and was disgusted with myself.

House league is about the sheer fun and joy of hockey, at least it should be. The kids on the team who had never skated until tryouts deserve to play Canada's game as much as the ones who were seemingly born into blades. House league should never be about what colour level our kids are in; it has to be about learning the basics and enjoying the game.

This season I'll be seeing green and loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Weekend to End Breast Cancer Experience

There is nothing quite like sitting on a stinky port-a-potty the morning after having walked 33km and sleeping in a cold tent to discover you need a tampon. Upon exiting I informed my teammates I needed to stop at a drug store en route. When they asked why I replied, "Well, the good news is I'm not pregnant." This didn't deter me from walking the remaining 27km. One nap, two feminine hygiene products and three painkillers worked wonders.

The walk is not a race but I started out quite well, keeping a brisk pace. Before lunch I slowed down to really enjoy the experience. I love long walks and I love Toronto. The Weekend to End Breast Cancer is the only time all year my schedule allows spending two days pounding the pavement without any distractions or obligations. My original goal was to keep pace with a speedy friend but I changed it. I stopped to enjoy the scenery, to soak in the atmosphere.

That could easily be the atmosphere soaked me. A steady rain fell on the second day of the walk. I didn't have a poncho or an umbrella so I used the ultra thin polymer warmth sheet a.k.a. one of those annoying as hell crinkly shiny things that retain body heat. I did not need to stay warm but it kept me dry. Anyone on the walk would remember for two things:

1) I did the walk in sandals
2) On Sunday I asked people if they would trade their ponchos for my sheet.

As we approached the downtown core I felt tired and entertained thoughts of quitting after walking past Princess Margaret Hospital. I was soaking wet, on the rag, and my sandals were squishy from the rain. The encouragement I needed came in the form of a human angel at the northwest corner of Church & Wellesley. A woman asked me if I was doing the walk. When I said yes she gave me her umbrella. I couldn't believe it. A total stranger just handed me her brollie. It wasn't just an umbrella. It was the kindness and support of someone I had never met and will likely never again meet. It was a sign that I could do it, I would do it.

I also had one of those weird childhood flashbacks. "The Courage of Sarah Noble" was a story I loved reading. The title character was a little girl wise beyond her years who would say "Keep up your courage Sarah Noble" when things got rough. If that little 8 year old could schlep through woods I could do this. One of my instructors gave me the word "commit" as a mantra. Instead of using it to get through on air assignments, I repeated it during the walk.

Just in case I needed another boost, the people lined up outside Princess Margaret provided that in spades. There was no way I could quit 5km from the finish line when cancer patients applauded me. Sometimes we need that kick in the metaphorical ass.

Someday we'll kick cancer's ass out of our lives but until that comes I'll be doing my small part one weekend per year.

P.S. - I still need to raise $300 so if you want to donate leave a message.
Amateur athletics in Canada gets very little recognition, and seemingly less funding.
In an Olympic year like 2008, that is inexcusable. Despite the national tendency to doom and gloom there is a glimmer of hope.

Canada’s better than expected showing at the Beijing Olympics, coupled with Chantal
Petitclerc’s three world records and five gold medals at this years Paralympics has
boosted interest in amateur athletics. It would be a good time to springboard that into some additional income.

There is a movement among Canadian municipalities to have the federal government
return 1% of GST or gas tax revenue to cities for infrastructure. A similar thing could be done for amateur sport.

Allocating 1% of the GST levied on pro sporting tickets to Canada's amateur athletes and organisations would be a win fall. According to a 2006 study by Forbes magazine, the average ticket price for a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game is $70.00 A single game at Air Canada Centre would generate $13 160.00 The Leafs’ 41 home games alone could bring in $539, 560.00

Factor in five more NHL teams, the CFL, AHL, and the Toronto Raptors that is a
significant, steady revenue source. The beauty of it is that there is already an established collection system in place. The current bureaucratic system would need minor shuffling to distribute the funds but that is far better than creating yet another government department that doesn’t know its assets from its tennis elbows.

This proposal is a win, win situation. Ordinary citizens don't have to pay extra, businesses don't lose any cash, and the government still gets a cut.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My First "Hate" Mail

Other broadcasters warned me that it happens and I finally got to experience it first hand. I was a female sports scribe who made a mistake. I couldn't make it on air where it disappears, oh no, I had to go whole hog and make mine in print where it glared on the monitor. Thankfully, readers pointed it out to me, most in a polite and civil fashion. In case you were curious, yes, I do know that Jack Johnson played 74 games for the Los Angeles Kings last season. Yes, I know he is not in the minors. Yes, I know I had Dustin Brown on the second line. Yes, I did a poor job editing my work and accept full responsibility for the oversight.

A couple of readers seemed to think that the error was due to my estrogen levels. It was due to my being human; male or female we all screw up on occasion. Some readers thought that "women like you" are bad for "girls who desperately try to prove they know a man's game." One gave me the impression that I had no writing ability whatsoever and I "shouldn't even bother if that's the best you can do."

Guess what? It isn't the best I can do, but even with my estrogen levels I still have the balls to put my work out there and deal with the feedback. I will make mistakes and hopefully what I learn from them makes me better.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For hockey fans, September is akin to New Year's Eve. The upcoming season brings the promise of new talent and the familiarity of veterans. For me, it also marks a different way of watching hockey. I'll be watching to write, not for personal enjoyment. 2008-2009 will be my first full season of hockey reports and stories. In theory that should mean daily posts on this blog. In practice, between school and intern assignments, I'm aiming for two posts per week here at hockeytalkie.

What I'm looking forward to the most is seeing OHL and GTHL games. Living close to some of the arenas is something I'll take full advantage of. You might well spot me observing the St. Mike's Buzzers, Don Mills Flyers, North York Rangers, or Toronto JR Canadiens. The Brampton Battalion and Mississauga St. Mike's Majors also figure in my hockey plans.

The downside of being media is that you don't get to cheer. Luckily I can still do that at my child's hockey games.

Professionally and personally, this hockey season is gearing up to be one of the most wonderful times of my life, not just the year.

I'm currently working on an NHL Pacific division preview and hockey camp experience. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CSM Students Eager to Get Feet Wet

David Lanys, President of the College of Sports Media promised more real world experience for his students. After attending the recent Ontario University Athletic Association(OUAA) conference, Lanys delivered. CSM students will be doing volleyball and basketball broadcasts for the University of Toronto and York University. Queen’s University wants CSM to cover their rowing events, but at the moment the logistics pose an obstacle. The universities have also expressed interest in having CSM provide coverage for other sporting events.

CSM student Ryan Bolta is no stranger to media studies, having graduated from Seneca’s Broadcast Journalism program in 2007. He stated, "It's a great opportunity for us to get some hands on experience on a smaller scale, with athletes that will be more receptive to our coverage”

A mere five months into their studies, students from the College of Sports Media have already had some intern positions others dream of. The entire faculty was responsible for putting together, Tennis Canada’s daily online broadcast during the Rogers Cup. A core of five students does the regular weekly show the rest of the year. Other students are gaining experience at, Rogers Cable, Angus Glen Golf Club, and Fan590.

Matt McCloskey attends CSM and sums it up nicely, “It's where we can get our feet wet and learn in an environment where we can be more relaxed and have less pressure on us. That way, if we make mistakes we're not going to have thousands of viewers bashing us. We can learn from out mistakes and improve as broadcasters”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Congrats Detroit Red Wings

"No undeserving team has ever won The Stanley Cup" - me

As a Leafs fan the worst thing about the Red Wings is not being able to dislike them. From the ownership to the scouts to the players to the octopus remover the organisation is top notch. Congratulations Detroit. I can only keep dreaming of the day the Leafs once again win the Stanley Cup. By then I'll likely be so old and senile I won't know if it's real or yet another Leafs TV repeat broadcast.

The 2008 Stanley Cup Final didn't find me cheering for either team; I cheered for Game 7. I didn't want any old game 7; I wanted an octuple epic. Game 5 had me hoping for more overtime. I was sad when it ended.

Tonight I felt the annual tinge of post Cup sadness. There are other sports, and my current studies in sports broadcasting have made me appreciate and understand them more than I did in the past. I actually went to a baseball game and enjoyed it, but hockey is my first, and you never forget your first.

The Stanley Cup presentation means the season is over, and while I'm happy for the winners, there's always a spoonful of sorrow until October.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leafs Need to Open the Check Book

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment are often accused of being tight-fisted with their wallets, or more accurately spending sums from their seemingly endless coffers foolishly.

The Leafs don't need cheques, they need checkers. One would think a team that routinely ices 11 fourth liners should have no trouble doing just that; one would be wrong. There's a difference between a true checking line and run of the mill, third and fourth line grinders.

Players like Pohl, Earl, and Tucker are a dime a dozen. Players like Berg, Zezel, and Osborne were a dime a dozen in their day. Bill Berg was a pest extraordinaire; unlike enforcers he was smart defensively and had some speed. Peter Zezel, a top scorer in junior, spent hours studying linesman and other centres en route to becoming a premiere faceoff man. The fact he was harder to move than an ox due to his soccer legs helped. Mark Osborne was also a bit of a pest, but he could draw penalties as easily as he took them. He had more hits than a sailor on shore leave.

Individually, those players were not spectacular. The genius was in putting them together and giving them a common goal. The current Leafs have the players, all they need is the plan, the mission, the coach, the will and the genius.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Crunch@Marlies Game 2/Period 1

I'm live from Ricoh Coliseum where the Crunch lead 1-0 after 20 minutes in Game 2 of their playoff series with the Marlies. Penalties posed pesky problems for Toronto from the start of the game. With Walser and Battaglia both in the box, Zenon Konopka scored for the Crunch@2:32, assists to Brassard and Westcott. Toronto’s outshot the Crunch 14-10 but can’t bury the biscuit in the basket. Signing off live from Ricoh,Syracuse 1 Toronto 0 heading into the second.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Syracuse Crunch @ Toronto Marlies Game 1-Report 2

Halfway through the second period at Ricoh Coliseum Syracuse leads the Marlies 3-0. It’s been another very chippy period but with fewer penalties than the first frame. Right now, Syracuse’s David Cullen is in the sin bin…make that 3-1! David Ling has just put the Marlies on the board at 13:26! Assists to Jiri Tlusty and Bates Battaglia.

Syracuse Crunch @ Toronto Marlies Game 1

The Marlies are down 2 – nothing at the end of a very feisty first period. 3 seconds into the game, the puck barely out of the face off circle, when the Crunch’s Zenon Konopka and Toronto’s Colin Murphy dropped the gloves. Derek McKenzie scored @ 1:40 and Clay Wilson @ 11:04. Toronto had some good chances, including two by Bates Battaglia, whose goal won game 7 against San Antonio.

Toronto’s Kyle Rogers and Derek Dorsett of the Crunch finished the first as it began – with fisticuffs

Franzen Cleans Up Big Time

Johan Franzen could easily get a second career with Molly Maid after cleaning house last night. His hat trick in Detroit’s 8-2 white wash swept the Avs out of the 2008 playoffs; it also cleared the dust from Gordie Howe’s now former record of 8 goals in a playoff series. Franzen’s 9 goals in the series equalled Colorado’s combined scoring total.

This is the second time in the 2007-2008 season the 28 year old Swede has shattered one of Mr. Hockey’s records. Franzen notched his sixth game winning goal of the season in March, topping Howe’s benchmark set in 1952. He is also the first player since Jari Kurri in 1985 to get two hat tricks in a series.

When asked how he felt about surpassing another Howe achievement, Franzen quipped “I didn’t follow the game back then.” Detroit’s head coach, Mike Babcock added “If you’re going to break records, you might as well break Gordie Howe’s”

Somewhat lost in the hoopla surrounding Franzen’s achievements were the performances of fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and Mikael Samuelsson. They both netted two goals. Tomas Holmstrom’s single score rounded out the scoring – all the Wings goals came from Swedish players.

This series marked a departure from the heated and close battles between the Avs and Red Wings in the 90s. Zetterberg didn’t feel bad about it: “I won’t apologize for beating them like this,” “I know they’ll came back at us next year.”

Joe Sakic, the Avs fabled Burnaby Joe may not return. The 38 year old, 20 year NHL veteran is contemplating retirement if his health doesn’t hold up. He missed 38 games this season and played this series with tears in both groins. Sakic is tied with Leaf fan favourite Doug Gilmour for seventh place in all time NHL playoff points with 188.

Colorado was hit hard with injuries. Ryan Smith, Paul Stastny, Marek Svatos all missed games.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Habs Pay Price for Switching Goalies

The Flyers 4-2 win tonight gave them a commanding 3-1 lead in their series with Montreal.

Philadelphia’s offence was sharp, but Martin Biron’s stellar play was a dagger to the heart of Habs’ playoff hopes.

On the night Canadiens’ coach Guy Carbonneau was nominated for the Jack Adams(Coach of the Year) Trophy many questioned his decision to replace goalie Carey Price with Jaroslav Halak.

In his post game comments, Carbonneau came right out with it: he didn't think Carey Price had the consistency needed to win and put Halak between the pipes.

R.J. Umberger added to his impressive playoff performance with two goals.

Daniel Briere got the game winner for Philadelphia.

Flyers Umberger Fries Habs

The Flyers 4-2 win tonight puts them up 3-1 in their series with Montreal.

R.J. Umberger scored twice, including an empty netter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Basketball Interlude

Sorry hockey fans, but homework prevails yet again, this time with a piece on the Toronto Raptors.

Let's face it, I'm not a basketball fan. I don't hate the sport but given a choice between curling and hoops, this Northerner picks ice every time.

That said, I've actually watched some Toronto Raptors games this season because, GASP, I wanted to, not because I had to. Purists will hate me for this, but I proudly admit that I watch the game for the players not the plays, and not in the puckbunny sense of "watching players."

I'm fascinated by the personalities. Sam Mitchell switches from intellectual to irritated in a new York second. Chris Bosh stands out because his dirty habit is airing his own bad acting on youtube. As far as NBA habits go, that's nothing.

This team will keep me watching for as long as they're in the playoffs. Who knows, they might yet convince me to be a fan.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Thank God for Mathematical Elimination

Die hard Leafs fans should be breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Whether you wanted the Leafs to tank and win the Stamkos/Filatov/Doughty Derby or whether you wanted them to get into the playoffs, the pressure is off.

Where they end up in the standings is no longer worth fretting over. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to watch young players like Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty tell off Richard Peddie with their actions. They each scored two goals hours after MLSE henchman Peddie publicly stated the Leafs, the team he was in charge of, had no young players worth watching.

Not even Peddie's comments can shatter the remaining ruins of this Maple Leafs' season. Enjoy what's left, because that's all you have.

fil-lw CSKA/stam-c sting/doughty-d/guelph

Amateur Lip Service

Amateur athletics in Canada gets very little recognition, and seemingly less funding. In an Olympic year like 2008, that is inexcusable.

I've come up with a scheme to help combat the financial crunch faced by amateurs.

The GST recently dropped to 5%. Instead of pooling all that money into one giant money bag at Revenue Canada, I propose some of that go to amateur sport.

Allocating 1% of the GST levied on pro sporting tickets to Canada's amateur athletes and organisations would be a god send. I'm not advocating huge salaries, but enough to live on, and above all - infrastructure.

There are so few facilities to go around. Some of that GST revenue would go a long way to help repair and expand older buildings. It could also help break ground on new arenas, tracks, and courts.

This is a win, win situation. Ordinary citizens don't have to pay extra and businesses don't lsoe any cash.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hockey Central? Not By a Long Shot

Toronto is not the Centre of the Hockey Universe; it is merely the Capital of Leafs Nation.

The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to sell out game after game, season after sub-par season. The Marlies, 3rd in the AHL, North division leaders, clinched a playoff spot a week before the Leafs lost their post season dance tickets. According to the game sheet, attendance at Ricoh that night was 4 309. I was at the arena and to say 1500 bums were in seats would be generous.

Leafs lemmings blindly shell out $50.00 for standing room to watch the Leafs lose, yet $40.00 gets a platinum seat to the Marlies. $120.00 gets 4 tickets, 4 pops, 4 popcorn and 4 hot dogs at Ricoh! At the ACC that gets a couple three hours leaning against a cold rail, as far from the ice as possible.

A 30 minute schlep from the ACC gets you even more bang for your hockey bucks. Just over $500.00, the cost of two golds at Always Counting Cash, buys season tickets for the Mississauga St. Mike's Majors. They even throw in the parking and programs! MLSE just seems to throw in the towel. The Majors prices are similar for the other 6 0HL teams within an hour of the Big Smoke.

Brampton and Mississauga were both in the OHL playoffs, yet struggled to fill the seats.

This isn't a new phenomenom. In the 1970s, Toronto's WHA team, the Toros managed at best 10 000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens. That was largely due to star players Frank Mahovlich, Paul Henderson amd Vaclav Nedomansky.

The Toronto Roadrunners, Edmonton's AHL affiliate had a terrible time getting crowds to Ricoh Coliseum. Pundits placed the blame on bad location and no connection to the Leafs. Location is a non issue; over 1 million people manage to get there just fine during the CNE, thank you very much. Toronto FC fans have no problem getting to BMO Field, and they're not smarter than hockey fans. If they were they wouldn't be at a footie match!

Lacking a Leafs connection is another baseless argument. The Marlies have a 100 year long umbilical cord to the Leafs. For 62 years the Toronto Marlboros were the Buds breeding ground. Despite that, they still had rough spells when it came to ticket sales.

You see, you can't say Torontonians are hockey fans. The ticket take screams otherwise.

Sorry Hogtown, you're Leafs greatest fans, definitely not hockey's.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

George Gross - R.I.P.

Readers from outside the Toronto area might not be familiar with George Gross. Please, do yourselves a favour and go through his columns online. I was saddened to hear of his death on Friday and wrote this.

The number glares at me from my cell phone, a high tech haunting.

I should have completed that call. "I can't! I'll be late for class! I'll wait until after Easter."

A few hours later, it was a moot point. George Gross passed away before I had the chance to meet him in person. We had exchanged emails, and he'd extended an invitation to a weekly get together he had with friends. Not being one to crash the party, I held back for a few weeks.

This week, I decided I would go. Oddly enough, George Gross and I patronised the same spot on Saturday mornings. He, being the early bird was there bright and early, between 7:30 and 9:00; this night owl usually arrived after 10:00

Today, I arrived earlier; I knew I could not meet "The Baron" but I had to keep the promise I had made to myself.

They aren't too many famous Slovak Canadians. To a Slovak Canadian writer, Gross is an inspiration.

Long before I knew about the hockey history lurking in the walls of an Etobicoke bakery, it was one of my favourite spots to read and write about hockey. Once I found out, it all made sense.

The best stories, the greatest insights are not found in musty, post-game dressing rooms. The best stories are found at the table - coffee, croissants, and conversation.

George Gross taught me that.

God Bless, Baron, God Bless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dear GTHL - Give the Kids a March Break

I can understand holding rep tournaments during March Break, but give the house leaguers a break, a full March break. My son's team was down 2 players for each of their break games, but others fared worse. One Mississauga Hockey League(MHL)team had to play a game with only 7 kids. They were beyond exhausted.

Spare me the spiel about knowing the schedule months in advance; we don't know. The schedules were done week to week, two weeks if we were lucky. Some teams play this weekend, Easter Weekend. To further complicate things, the playoffs fell during March Break, and during playoffs teams have to play within 18 hours notice.

18 hours to fly home from Florida? 18 hours to re-arrange your work hours, school schedule? Some parents are in school and have our own exams to write that week, thank you very fucking much.

You find out in September when March Break will be. Adjust the schedule accordingly so kids, coaches, and parents can a week together without leaving little buggers exhausted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heroics & Hysterics

Hockey is a game of heroics, and hysterics. No team serves them up better than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Right when we thought it was safe to order Stamkos sweaters, the Leafs started to pull wins out of their asses. Last night's game was no ordinary victory.

The Leafs coming back from behind, coming back from 3-nothing, coming back from a 2 period long coma, coming back on Sundin's spine once again, was a message from the players themselves.

The message was clear: we love our teammates, our fans, our pride.

Mats Sundin and Pavel Kubina, considered selfish, stupid bastards a few weeks ago for not waiving their No Trade Clauses were the reason the Leafs won this game.

Sundin, as usual, spoke first – the sound of a slap shot landing behind Biron was sweet music to Leafs fans. Kubina hit another note with his goal, one that rang with hope. Jeremy Williams, goal-a-game Williams struck an even chord. Kubina's overtime heroics were the booming bass that sent Tank Nation into hysterics.

Too little, too late? For the playoffs, most likely. For pride? It's never too late to play for pride.

It's never too late to play for the fans. Kubina handed his stick to a fan after the game; he'd left his heart on the ice.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Leafs Trade Day

Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Fletcher lived up to his nickname Trader Cliff. He made 3 moves at the deadline. Teh first one sent fan favourite Wade Belak to the Florida Panthers for a 5th round draft pick. Popular with team mates, Belak often watched games from the press box.

He'll join Chad Kilger who was dealt to the Panthers for a 3rd rounder.

Hal Gill was traded from the Leafs to the Penguins for two picks. He'll join the newest Penguin, 5 time all star winger MArion Hossa. Along with PAscal Dupuis, he was traded from the Thrashers for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito, and a first round pick.

Hossa brings the threat of secondary scoring, something the Pens have lacked. Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin are pleased with the addition.


The Toronto Maple Leafs are in full flight to finish 9th in the Eastern Conference. They nipped at the heels of the Panthers in a 4-3 shootout victory. Jeremy Williams scored the first Leafs goal. It was Mats Sundin donning the Captain Clutch helmet, scoring twice, including the tying goal with barely a minute in regulation. Tomas Kaberle, lone scorer in the shootout, had the winner.

Mixed Martial Arts Blog

Boxing, wrestling, karate I understand the interest. To the casual observer Mixed Martial Arts is nothing more than legalised blood-letting, lions and Christians for a modern audience.

Boxing, even with its innate brutality, has moments of skill and grace. I'm not a fan of blood sports. Watching two guys in the ring or on the mat doesn't do it for me. That said, I'd watch those over M.M.A.

From the clips I've seen M.M.A. is nothing more than an excuse to see how close to men can get to murder without serving time.

Give me a good old bench clearing brawl instead.

Off The Cuff School Assignment

If it weren't for big money tournaments, no one would give a damn about televised poker. It's less exciting than watching paint chips dry.

Poker can't hold a candle to the fast-paced, high flying flurry of Euchre. No time to sit and stare - Euchre is the action man's card game.

When people finally come to their senses Euchre will trump poker as the ace game.

Sundin NTC - 25.02.08

Just say NO. That's exactly what Toronto Maple Leafs Captain Mats Sundin did when asked to waive his No Trade Clause. He issued the following statement:

"I cannot leave my team mates and join another NHL club at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player."

With the off ice antics surrounding Sundin resolved, the Leafs play the Ottawa Senators tonight. It'll be the Leafs first of a 4 game road trip.

Teemu Selanne parlayed his scoring prowess into a hat trick, leading the Anaheim Ducks to a 6-3 win over the Back Hawks.
The Toronto Raptors rebounded from Friday's loss to the New York Knicks, topping them 115-92. Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with 25 points, but Primoz Brezec stole the show. In his first game as a Raptor he surprised new team mates with "an energetic performance" popping in 11 points.
Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink is once again the bridesmaid not the bride. Manitoba skip Jennifer Jones led her rink to a 6-4 victory in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final. The Manitobans get an automatic berth in Olympic trials.

Leafs/Sabres 22.02.08

Buffalo Sabres 5 - Toronto Maple Leafs 1

That was the score of last night's game at ACC, helping to speed the Leafs slide towards the NHL basement. The lone Leaf to score was Pavel Kubina, with his breakawy goal fueled by a pass from Czech mate Tomas Kaberle. Ales Kotalik led the Sabres point tally, with two goals. High flying Thomas Vanek was held to an assist.

With Leafs losses piling up, so do the rumours swirling round the team. Sources claim a trade with Philadelphia was nixed when Tomas Kaberle declined to waive his No Trade Clause. Other signs of disgruntlement, Leafs fans cheered Sabres goals and booed the hometown team off the ice - again. the most ominous sign was Captain Mats Sundin refusing all interview requests. Matt Stajan was sent out for post game comments.

They used to stay in seats until the bitter end. Last night half the seats were empty by the third period.

Raptors Rant

The only difference between the Leafs and Raptors is that they lose to bottom feeders on different surfaces. The Raptors didn't simply lose their second straight to the mangy, scabby Bobcats, they didn't even mask disinterest.

They were listless. They were lethargic. They were losers.

Worse than tossing a meaty win to Charlotte's feeble feral kitties, the Raptors lost home court playoff position. Being Bosh-less is no excuse. If you can''t win without your top player, you don't deserve him.

The Raptors need to take adbantage of their easy schedule before other teams sntach it from their crumbling claws.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leafs Pushing Their Luck

Note: I am repeating myself on purpose in this post. For a school assignment I have to write 2 blog posts on the same topic, one for a sports station update, the other for a news sports update.


Whether your Leafs shot glasses are half full or half empty, one certain is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are pushing their luck. Those with the half full hooch holders maintain the Buds are pushing towards a playoff spot. The people with the half empty ones are convinced the team is pushing their way out of the Stamkos sweepstakes; the annual ninth or nothing stampede doesn't sit well with them.

I've come to the conclusion that after the Top Two draft picks, it's a roll of the dice, "draft schmaft" to quote current GM Cliff Fletcher. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not bad enough to end up last. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not good enough to guarantee making the playoffs.

What's a fan to do in this dastardly dilemna? Enjoy some good hockey. I don't give a damn if it's too little too late. Seeing Sundin's post score smile is something we should all be happy to see regardless of the standings.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans are divided into two groups. "Tank Nation" which expects the team to deliberately lose in the hopes of clinching a top draft pick, and the "Parade Planners", who believe the Leafs can win all their remaining games, get into the playoffs, and finally win the Stanley Cup.

I teetered towards tanking. Historically the draft is a roulette spin past the top pick. Professional athletes didn't get where they are by packing it in. The Leafs won't deliberately lose. This Leafs fan is simply going to sit back and enjoy the victories as they happen.

Weekend at the Rink

Big rinks boast amenities a plenty but hockey's heart beats loudest in local rinks. That's where I spent most of my time this weekend. I experienced the excitement of house league playoffs. My spawn and his team mates had a 7-0 victory; don't let the score fool you. The competition never let up; it was a goalie having a house league career game that made the difference!

After Spawn's game, we walked over to the bigger rink and watched the St. Mike's Majors take on the Ottawa 67s. Things looked dim for the Majors. Down 1-0 until Kyle Neuber scored his first OHL career goal, the Majors picked up their energy. Casey Cizikas notched the game winner.

The hockey marathon continued when we got home. Saturday nights in our home mean Hockey Night in Canada. Being a fan of Russian hockey, it was a treat to see the Washington Capitals Russian roster - Fedorov, Ovechkin, Semin, host the Toronto Maple Leafs. I got the best of both worlds - Ovechkin scored and the Leafs won!

Sunday morning it was hockey practice. For this night owl, waking up that early on a weekend - UGH. With only a couple more to go, I'll miss them.

Lucky for me I need never look far to get a hockey fix.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Paddock Out to Pasture

The Ottawa Senators sent head coach John Paddouck out to pasture. Fed up with the Sens grazing not gobbling up victories, General Manager Bryan Murray fired his bench boss. Murray didn't have to look far and wide for a replacement; he is grabbing hold of the coaching reins. It's familiar territory; he coached the Helmet Heads for 2 seasons before becoming GM. The Sens slippery slide from atop the Eastern Conference continues. Assistant Coach Ron Low was also sacked.

Leafs vs. Panthers. 27.02.08

The Toronto Maple Leafs are frequent flyers in their annual flight to finish 9th in the East! They have won 5 of their last 6 games, 6 points out of a playoff spot.

Some in Leafs Nation have been drinking the kool-aid, eating the 'shrooms and think the Leafs are now playoff contenders. Seriously - no drug can be THAT powerful.

The Buds nipped away at the Panthers' heels Wednesday night, taking 2 points. Jeremy Williams scored the first Leafs goal. Williams now holds the record for a quirky stat: he is the only NHLer to have scored a goal a game in an NHL games in 3 separate years.

It was yet again, Mats Sundin donning his Captain Clutch Helmet to steal the game. Sundin's second of the game, with barely a minute remaining in regulation, tied the game. Tomas Kaberle was the lone scorer in the shootout, sealing the deal for the Leafs.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Now Appearing in the Swimsuit Issue - Miss Remember

If I were to blog about Roger Clemens and the he said/he said steroid scandal running amok in the halls of Congress, it would be a short post indeed. Along the lines of...some players got juiced, they lied, they were caught, get on with life.

However, my assignment is to write one. I must find a way to turn my indifference into an emotional, response generating rant.

Sports and politics aside, what really got to me during the Clemens congressional hearings was the most unmanly thing I've seen an athlete do in a long time. Clemens ditched the blame over to HIS WIFE. Maybe some guys didn't pick up on it, but she had the spousal stare of death in her eyes. I would too if my husband blamed me for the biggest foul of his career.

Roger Clemens attempted to deflect the steroid/H-G-H debacle from himself to his wife. Mr. Clemens claims Mrs. Clemens(maybe not for long!)took them to boost her physique for a swimsuit spread. Note to Roger - that's Miss November not misremember!

How Debbie Clemens can play along with this charade is beyond me. If my spouse stood before a hearing and brought my name into it without merit, I'd have to say something. I would have to defend myself not to Congress but to the media, the public, and above all, myself.

I could not sit silently while my husband has the chance to clear his name(whether he's successful or not)by slinging mud on mine. If it were true, that I took them and to my knowledge my hubby never did, I'd say it. I'd say it because I matter, because my spouse matters.

People are forgiving. We love to see celebrities rise, fall, and rise again because it makes us feel better. If Mr. and Ms. Multi-Millionaire can fuck things up, admit it, and move on, we love that stuff. It rememinds us that money isn't all it takes.

A pair of balls big enough to tell the truth is worth more than money. Hopefully someone in the Clemens household figures that out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Clemens' Most Important Pitch

Roger Clemens continues to pitch his version of the truth at today's House Committee hearings.

Clemens and former trainer Brian McNamee gave conflicting reports regarding the pitcher's alleged use of steroids.

Under tough questioning McNamee asserted that he injected Clemens at least 16 times. Former teammate Andy Pettitte's affidavit offered supporting information.

McNamee confirmed he has needles and bandages allegedly used by Clemens and offered them for DNA testing.

The star pitcher's adamant denials of steroid use and his poor memory paint a very different picture. Clemens is convinced Pettitte "misremembered" their H-G-H talks.

Hearings continue.

It Won't Be All Hockey Talk

Sincerest apologies to my fellow female hockey fans at

I have to throw some non-hockey posts into hockeytalkie. Don't blame me! One of my school assignments is writing a sports blog; instead of creating a new one I'll use what I have.

No matter what sports I'm asked to blog about, rest assured hockey will always be the heart of my sporty soul.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Mogilny Rant

People who say Alexander Mogilny shouldn't be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame make my blood boil.

Legends including Tikhonov and Tretiak consider the issue a no brainer, so why do some self proclaimed hockey experts fail to see the light?

We all know I'm biased when it comes to hockey's original Alexander the Great, so I'll hit you with the info AGAIN.

Mogilny's talent shone all the from dingy industrial Khabarovsk to General Tikhonov at CSKA Hockey Headquarters in Moscow. The same independent streak that often landed AlMo is military hot water got him to freedom in the West. People tend to forget that he wasn't just another disgruntled Soviet citizen who found a way out; he was an officer in the Soviet Army. They tend to shoot deserters.

The fact that this upstart Junior Lieutenant(even if it was in name only)managed to sneak away from tyrannical Tikhonov and the watchful eyes of the KGB is incredible. I'll be putting in anadvance order on that book!

While hockey fans recognise Mogilny as the first Soviet hockey player to defect from communism's clutches, how many can name the last? Hint: his initials are A.G.M. Yep, Alexander Gennadevitch Mogilny. You see, after he flew the Russian roost, Soviet authorities finally allowed players to leave for the West. After Mogilny, they didn't have to defect.

Whilst waxing poetic about Mogilny's determination is great, that doesn't get a guy into the HHOF. His accomplishments speak for themselves:

a) first Soviet hockey player to defect
b)top player at World Juniors
c)gold medal in World Jrs.
d) gold medal in Worlds
e) gold medal in Olympics
f) Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey

He would have been the first Russian to reach 100 NHL points if not for injury. When Srgei Fedorov achieved that milestone, the first words out of his mouth were that he shared the honour with Alex, because he should have had it.

While Mogilny may not have record setting stats, he is a prime example of the sum being equal to more than the parts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leafs vs. Caps, Along With Why I've Been Gone

What a night! A friend of mine couldn't go to the Leafs/Caps game at ACC tonight so I got the tickets from him at face value. In most cities that would be normal but here tickets for the season are sold within a couple hours on the first day so it is always a big deal to get them.

Our seats were in the gods but a great view. I couldn't have asked for a better script, Ovechkin scored a goal for the Caps, but with 30 seconds left in a tie game, Captain Crunch(Mats Sundin) scored the game winner.

The people behind us were hilarious, a bit soused but great fun. They kept hollering "BOYD FRANCHISE DEVERAUX" and swore a lot, but they were so entertaining.
When we were waiting to leave after the game, I noticed one of the guys was using a Carlton(Leafs mascot) hand puppet as a beer cup holder! I asked him if he bought it at the arena because I'd love to get one and he just gave it to us, to "make up for all the swearing" What a nice guy! My kid named his new acquisition Mats Boyd Sundin.

As for where the hell I've been the past few weeks, I had to give myself a crash course in sports other than hockey. Apparently they really do exist! The reason is that I've been accepted into a brand new private college, devoted exclusively to sports media. Radio, TV, print, online - they have promised to teach us all we need to know to get started in the biz. Despite not knowing much about basketball, football, or baseball my passion for hockey, along with my voice and writing skills helped me get my foot in the door.

My emotions run the gamut from nervous as a virgin during Fleet Week to sheer joy. For over 20 years I have wanted a career in broadcasting and dabbled in it until life gave me other plans. I always knew I'd end up back in school but never expected it to happen so quickly, quickly being a relative term. This is an overnight decision that took 20 years! Simply put, this opportunity is too good to let slip away, and people in the field have told me this is what they'd do of they were not already in media.

Wish me luck, and if I don't get to this often, it's because I'll be working ym way towards a diploma.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Holly Jolly Hockey Holiday

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! I'll spare you the non-hockey details of my trip to Washington, DC no matter how amusing they were to me. On the first day that we did touristy things, I spotted this vehicle on Capitol Hill:

Like any good hockey fan, first thing I did once the trip details were finalised was to check the schedule. LUCK! The Caps were hosting the Lightning on Boxing Day so I bought 2 tickets, 2 tickets so great I couldn't believe they were still up for grabs. I shall let the pics do the talking.

Coming from Toronto where tickets are sold out the first day of sale I was floored that such prime seats were there for the taking. I also bought tickets to the New Year's Day game vs. the Ottawa Senators. Those were farther up and I didn't bother taking pics. The Caps came through for me and doubled the Sens, 6-3.

What struck be most about both Caps games was how empty the arena was. To say it was at 50% full would be generous. I know DC is not a hockey town, but a lifelong hockey fan, as a long suffering Leafs fan, seeing all those empty seats when a player of Ovechkin's skill me, it's a hockey sin.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

O Canada!

How sweet to come home from Christmas holidays in time to see the Canadian JRs win a fourth straight gold medal! I'll post more later, likely Monday night as I've got to wake up for hockey practice at 0:600