Monday, October 29, 2007


I am deeply disappointed that the Flyer's Randy Jones has been given a slap on the wrist for nearly killing Patrice Bergeron. NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Cambell said, "There have been suggestions by some that this hit was comparable to incidents earlier this season where players received significant game suspensions for blows to the head. These comparisons and suggestions are wrong."

No Mr. Campbell, you are wrong.

What is the difference Mr. Campbell? Were the earlier instances the result of intentional acts to harm? If so, then this is an admission that the players involved should have been kicked out of the NHL altogether and assault charges should be filed!

Is it because Jones has a clean record? Like someone else so succinctly put it, "not any more." What happened on the ice was inexcusable. When a person exercises such negligence off the ice which results in serious injury they are put in jail. Just try intentionally shoving someone into a concrete wall on the sidewalk from behind and see what it gets you. Do you think the excuse, "We were playing roughly," will get you off? But in hockey they get a slap on the wrist and a list of excuses! Hockey players are supposed to be professionals. This was not the action of a professional.

Not only should Jones have been suspended for much longer, but the entire Philly franchise should be fined a large sum of money for the wanton disregard their players have shown for safety this season. That would get their attention and might have a real impact. This slap on the wrist--it amounts to little more than saying "it's a rough game boys." This should have been a 30-day suspension. And the "other" incidents should have been for entire seasons or more. I fear for what is going to happen now that not only are players from other teams going to be incensed about the Flyers, but the NHL has made it clear that they will give you a slap on the wrist unless it is obvious that you intentionally try to kill someone!

Some people will say that I'm just overreacting as a Bruins fan. But I've given that a lot of thought. What if it were my Bruins who were going around carelessly injuring people? What if it were my Bruins who were being suspended every few weeks? The answer is that I would be ashamed!

Mr. Campbell: as of this moment I am ashamed. I am ashamed to be an NHL fan.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tim Thomas No. 1 Player Overall

While everyone is talking about Kessel's scoring streak and Chara's big fight, I'm still in awe of Bruin's goaltender Tim Thomas's incredible run to start the season.

I'm not the only one. TSN's player rankings has Tim Thomas not only as the No. 1 goaltender in the NHL, but the No. 1 player overall. Their rankings are a mathematical formula based on statistics meant to weigh the impact each player has. It's basically how important they are to their team.

Meanwhile ESPN shows once again how biased they are in their absurd power rankings. As always seems the case for Thomas, the opinions of the "experts" don't come close to matching his actual performance. He never seems to get the credit he deserves. A perusal of their ranking of the top 15 players in the league shows no sign of Thomas, even though they include two goaltenders with inferior statistics! As far as I'm concerned, ESPN is no longer relevant anyhow. They turned their backs on the game after trying to take advantage of the lockout to screw the NHL.

They do still have some people associated with them whom I respect, and one of those is Barry Melrose. Recently Melrose has spoken glowingly about Thomas, saying that he is "rooting for him" and that Thomas is "what sports are all about."

I could not agree more.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Manny Meets the Goalie Grinder

The Bruins Goalie Grinder is an awesome force. In recent years it has consumed Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivanen. Now it seems set on destroying Manny Fernandez. The only goaltender who has been able to excel in the Bruins net in the last three years is Tim Thomas, who somehow seems immune to the grinder. Maybe its that coin he wears around his neck.

I don't pretend to understand it. I just wish it would stop. Some suggest it's the coaching. Some say it's the Boston media scrutiny. Some even claim it is a curse on the Bruins for not retiring the number of Gerry Cheevers (or any other goaltender). Half of the more fickle fans will tell you that Raycroft and Toivanen suck, and will now turn their ire toward Fernandez. The other half of them are biding their time for Timmy to lose a big game so they can once again claim he's, "not a true No. 1" with confidence. But how many goaltenders have been hailed as the great solution in the last ten years? Too many to count. And how many have thrived? One. Forget Thomas' early stats--that fact alone should make him a fan favorite.

I wasn't able to see the Habs game on Center Ice (thanks so much versus). I am sure it was ugly to watch. It was definitely ugly to listen to. I do have some thoughts though. Why do the Bruins allow so many fewer shots on goal when Timmy isn't in the net? This was true last year as well. Last year they seemed to be trying so hard to cover for the goaltender (usually Toivanen) that they would eventually get caught out of position and allow a good scoring opportunity. I can't tell if that's what was happening yesterday, but I wouldn't be surprised. With Timmy it's usually 1-2 goals on 30+ shots but put anyone else in the net and it's 6 goals on 20.

Regardless, I must admit to being mystified when I heard that Fernandez was going to start against the Habs. I understood giving him a game, but two? When the guy on the bench is the hottest tender in the league? That seemed crazy to me! How long can Timmy sit on the bench before he loses his edge? Julien said that he'd play people based on their performance not their salary. I'm not an NHL coach so I'm not going to second guess. But as a fan I do expect the coaches and the players to match their actions to their words.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bruins Fun in the Sun

On Friday afternoon we set out in the car on the way to our Bruins adventure in Phoenix Arizona. For me Phoenix has always been one of those places I drove through or made a connecting flight. When I lived in San Diego, Phoenix was that place where all the tourists came from to crowd the beaches in the summer. We called them "Zoners." Visiting Phoenix for me was at once new and exciting and yet familiar.

We awoke on Saturday to a beautiful sunny day (of course). I opened my laptop to check the latest news online; Bish was saying that he was going to head over to the Arena in an hour or so. I also found out that I had won our family pool to guess the score of the game in Dallas the night before. I won the jelly bean with the closest guess of 3-1 Dallas (the actual score was 4-1). I was pleased to see that Fernandez had started and with 4 goals against it looked likely that we'd see Timmy that night. My 8-year-old and I are big fans of Tim Thomas and it was our fondest wish that we'd get to see him play.

I called the Bruins fan line and it was still claiming the Bruins would have a pre-game skate at 11:30 AM. I tried every number I could find to see when the Coyotes would be practicing, but came up empty (it was a Saturday after all). So we just headed across town to the Arena.

Phoenix is a typical southwestern city: dirty brown desert, malls, and homes spread out as far as the eye can see. I was surprised to discover that the Arena was far enough on the Western edge of Glendale (and civilization it seemed) that the area around it was almost rural. The parking would likely amaze those used to a more urban setting; the Arena is attached to a mall and theater complex and you can park anywhere you like in the surrounding lots for free. I asked about the Bruins skate at the ticket window and they directed me to gate 3. The security guard at the door was nice, but seemed a little confused. He said that the visiting team practices weren't generally open to the public. But the Coyotes were still on the ice so he let us in.

The Arena is gorgeous! The seats go up steeply and I could see immediately that we'd have a great view from ours. There were only a few small groups of fans in the seats, mostly near the top. Most of the Coyotes had gone, and all but one assistant coach. We went right down to the glass and watched Fredrik Sjostrum, Josh Gratton, and Martin Hanzal shoot on David Aebischer. They were all scratches that night. It wasn't Bruins but it was fun nonetheless. When they were done Sjostrum and Gratton tossed some pucks over the boards for us. I had to look these guys up when I got back to the hotel as I don't pay all that much attention to other teams. Sitting there I was struck by how little I knew about the players I was watching. I couldn't pick them out of a lineup even with their numbers on.

As they left the ice it was a half hour before the Bruins skate was scheduled and we figured we'd just sit there until someone told us we had to leave. But it wasn't long before a very nice man came by and diplomatically informed us that the Bruins had canceled their pre-game skate. Everyone had been very nice.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Glendale and were back at the Arena when the gates opened at 5:30. They were having some sort of event outside but it was crowded so we just went straight in. My wife and I split up with one adult and one kid. I got the oldest who is eight, and my wife got our 6 year old. We wandered all around the Arena. As game time neared we met near the Bruins tunnel. The first familiar face I saw was NESN's Rob Simpson, who was standing at the Bruins bench. He looked very cross. It made me wonder if he was just having a really bad day or if he's the kind of person who turns it on for the camera? I smiled at him (which wasn't hard because I was wearing a permanent grin at the time) and I actually noticed him avoid looking at me. I think I spotted Bish up by the press area on the main concourse.

The tunnel is covered with black cloth nearly to the end so there wasn't much to see of the players emerging. That, and there were several Arena people standing in the few places one could get close. My wife ended up along the boards near the door, chatting up the people who were sitting there. I ended up a few rows back, trying to stay out of the way as best I could. Fortunately there weren't a lot of people sitting in that area. There was room for my 8-year-old with my wife so I sent him down to her just before the players emerged. They announced the Coyotes and I looked toward their tunnel. In doing so I missed the first Bruins skate onto the ice in front of me. It was almost overwhelming even for me (and I can only imagine what it is like for an 8-year-old) to see the Bruins explode onto the ice with the loud music, flashing lights, and roaring crowd.

Looking out on the ice I suddenly saw all these familiar faces! There was Chara, and PJ, and Savvy. Hell, they were all there! I was struck by how earlier in the day I didn't know anything about the players I had been watching practice, yet here were my Bruins and I didn't need names or numbers. I recognized their faces. There went Lucic, and Muzz! And of course, Tim Thomas. Timmy skated out from the tunnel then doubled back and sat down on the ice to stretch along the boards right in front of us! My wife pointed to Timmy's head, which was mere inches away. I just stood there grinning, trying to take it all in. It was fun to watch the players check out the crowd as they skated by, trying not to be obvious. They all looked happy to be there. At some point Timmy skated from the goal out toward the blue line and in profile I saw that grin of his. I knew right then that everything was going to be all right. Not only was he going to start but he was going to have a great night.

Back in our seats the game went quickly. The crowd was friendly and low key. There were grumbles over the turnovers in the first period but most people seemed resigned to just enjoy the game no matter who won. I could see Gretzky screaming at his players on the bench. There were Bruins jerseys scattered all around. A guy one row down had an Esposito and the guy a few seats to his left an Orr. There were a lot of couples in the crowd; it was always he in his brand new Bruins sweater and her in her Coyotes Brown. I was the guy in the regular shirt. My wife had been seen shopping online for a Jersey for me for months, so I expected her to come through with one. Sigh. When the Bruins scored there was a pretty good cheer from the crowd. It was enough to drown out the moans. And I was glad that the Coyotes scored because it was fun hearing the crowd roar. I am sure it made an impression on the kids.

A couple of things impressed me. Kobasew had a great game. This was the first time he's impressed me. The forecheck looked great, and it was refreshing to see such hustle after the misery at the end of last season. Kessel was buzzing all over. Timmy was both solid and fun to watch. I loved the save while laying on his back without his stick! The best goalies are the ones who play a little crazy. And I really liked the lines. They made sense to me. Last year's lines always mystified me. Take for instance, Lucic with Kessel and PJ. It's a combination of skills and levels of experience that compliment one another. I really liked what I saw. The fact that the Bruins won was just icing on the cake.

The evening was capped-off perfectly when they announced the three stars and Timmy was the No. 1. We couldn't have asked for a better time! All the way home I kept high-fiving my son and saying, "We got to see Timmy play and he was the first star!"

Monday, October 1, 2007

33 Years Between Games

The first time I saw the Bruins play in person was also the last time. I was a young teen and a cousin of my Father's had season tickets to the L.A. Kings. Knowing of my love of all things Bruin she graciously offered them to us when we and the Bruins both happened to be in town. I must have been dumbstruck by the spectacle because I don't recall all that much. I remember that the Bruins lost and they didn't take it very well. Near the end of the game I vividly recall Bobby Orr being sent to the penalty box so angry that he broke his stick over the boards. Back in those days the guys really hated to lose in general, but to lose to a west coast expansion team was considered downright inexcusable.

That was 33 years ago. Why haven't I been to any games since? Because I have never lived in an NHL city, much less Boston. The opportunities simply have not been there. In 1990 I did spend a week in Boston, but as luck would have it the Bruins were out of town.

Back in '95 when the old Garden was no more, most fans were saddened by the thought of all the great games and history that was going away. I was saddened by the realization that I would never see a game there. Not all dreams come true, it seems.

Today I live on top of a 9000 ft mountain in New Mexico, so my chances of seeing a game are pretty slim. The unbalanced schedule makes it seem a very distant possibility indeed. When the '07/'08 schedule came out I had a look at it out of curiosity. The second game jumped out at me: Phoenix. Phoenix is the closest NHL venue to me, although it is still quite a long way away. I wondered: what were the chances that this game would be in Phoenix and not Boston? What were the chances that it would be on a Saturday night (the only night that I could possibly make it). To my utter amazement, the game was in Phoenix on Saturday October 6. Trying not to run, I found my wife in another part of the house. She's a casual hockey fan at best. I sidled up to her and innocently asked, "So... um... how'd you like to see Wayne Gretzky in person?"

Long story short, I am finally attending my second Bruins game, this time with my wife and kids in tow. It'll be a seven hour drive to get there, but I can't recall looking forward to something so much in a very, very long time!