November 17, 2014

Does it happen? Yes. Will it stop? Probably not.

Dear hockey fans: let’s do more to weed out internet trolls
It shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently, it needs to be: there is no excuse for attacking a player’s wife, girlfriend or any family member. None. If you don’t know why this is inappropriate, go soak your head for a good, long while, and try figuring it out again on your own. The families of hockey players have no connection to your enjoyment of the game. Any rationalization you have to include them in your hate is fundamentally flawed, as are you as a human being if you’re stupid enough to do so.
Most women don't understand what they're getting themselves into when they date a professional athlete. They truly don't. They just fall in love with a guy, and don't realize what comes with his position as a public figure - not just the bad stuff, but the good stuff as well.

The hockey media is actually pretty good about not dragging wives and girlfriends into things. Unlike other sports that will more than happily trash the wife of a big name player in the mainstream media. Especially if she has a high-profile in her own right.

So, no. This doesn't surprise me at all. Some women just shouldn't even consider dating, let alone marry, a professional athlete because of this very thing. If you can't hack internet trolls or stupid reporters that will come after you for no real reason, then you have no business being married to a guy who deals with that on a daily basis.

This is also why athletes shouldn't talk about their wives or girlfriends, and / or families publicly. Seriously. If they give their significant other attention, then others will give them attention. And usually not in a good way. It's not just personal attacks, but also sexual harassment that's involved.

For some people, nothing is sacred. If a guy is a public figure, then by extension, everyone he knows is also public and fair game. In some cases, it's actually a fan trying to upset a player from the opposing team by going after his wife just so his team will win. Which is incredibly wrong, but it does happen - more so to NFLers in this country than anyone else, and likely also to soccer players elsewhere.

A lot of people view this as the athlete first, and the wife second - like she and the kids are acceptable collateral damage, instead of targeted victims of hateful acts as well. I can't decide if that's due to sexism (the man is more important than the woman) or the fact that she's not typically in the spotlight like the athlete is. Either way, that's also not right.

Not all women are cut out for this life, and a lot of that is because of this sort of thing. It blindsides most women, and they don't often have a thick enough skin to take the verbal abuse. Women tend to take things very personally, especially when some stranger is attacking them on a personal basis. They don't always get that the attack has more to do with the person making it than themselves.

And, of course, it doesn't help that the athletes are so used to it that they don't think to say anything to these women that it might happen to them as well. In fact, the athletes tend to not realize that it will happen to the woman they love, so it does get under their skin. Which is exactly the thing trolls want to happen.

That shouldn't stop anyone from dating anyone else, but it should be something to be mentally prepared for.

June 10, 2014

Public relations isn't his strong suit, apparently

Marty St. Louis: 'Was anyone more loyal?'
Never mind that St. Louis was eventually added to the team because of an injury to Steven Stamkos. Forget that Yzerman was not alone in picking the Canadian team. For St. Louis, who is as proud as he is talented, the circle of trust had been broken.

And so that's why St. Louis feels misunderstood now. The way he sees it, he wasn't the disloyal one.

"My time in Tampa, I gave everything I had," St. Louis said. "Everything! Who was more loyal? Look at my career there."
Marty, here's the story.

Your boss passed you by for a special project - twice - and you felt slighted and unappreciated. So you did what anyone would've done, and that's go looking for another job. Which is completely reasonable.

However, sports aren't about reason, they're about emotion. People can't identify with you and what you did because fans put athletes up on a pedestal. Supposedly, athletes aren't like regular people, which you'll agree with me is bullshit. But that's how so many fans think.

You, in particular, were put on one of the highest pedestals ever in Tampa Bay. The fans adored you. They didn't just call you the "heart and soul" of the team - they meant it. You exemplified everything every fans wishes every player could be like.

And then you turned out to be human, and they feel betrayed by that.

You see, they took it personally. They thought that all of that love and adoration they had for you was returned - and I'm sure it was. But for them, that meant forever, no matter what the circumstances.

After all, athletes don't have feelings, right? You're mere objects in which to idolized and worship. And to actually think and feel for yourself, well, we can't possibly have that. That would make it all way too complicated. Humans are messy, but heroes are always good and honorable and simple.

You didn't help yourself with the stuff you were saying while in New York, either, though. That was a big part of things. Your comments about loving being in a big market and such without any qualifiers just made it all worse. It was probably totally inadvertant on your part, but you made the Lightning fans feel like they weren't good enough, and that pissed them off.

The only way you would've been able to win would've been to have said up front that you didn't feel needed in Tampa Bay anymore, so you wanted to go play with your good friend Brad Richards. And then...kept your mouth shut. Instead, you were quiet when you should've been talking, and talking when you should've been quiet.

My advice to you is to face up to it. And then not say a word all summer to any member of the media. Let it die down and people will start to forgive you for disillusioning themselves. There will always be people who hate you for what they did to themselves, of course, but such is life.

Personally, I wish you the best of luck. I hold nothing against you about this, since you just did what you needed to do. I just really wish you'd been a bit more diplomatic in how you'd worded things after you got to New York, though. You could've avoided a lot of this angst, if you had.

Anyways, good luck with your first game in Tampa next season. Seriously. Because you're going to need it. This one quote pretty much sums up how you'll be dealing with Lightning fans for the rest of your life:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

January 8, 2014

If you feel unworthy and unwanted, why would you stay?

I'm going to hide this over here, mostly because I'm not up to getting dumped on by Tampa Bay Lightning fans today....

Sports fans are funny. They like to believe that every player on the team they root for are there by conscious choice, and that's usually not the case. Guys get drafted, can be traded without their permission, and they don't see free agency for a while. Even undrafted free agents don't have much decision in the matter - it comes down to who's making the offer, and if anyone's giving them a better choice. It's not until a player is in the latter half of his career that he has any choice in regards to the location he wants to play and live.

But to suggest that a player may not be happy where he's at is heresy for sports fans. Many consider it a complete and utter insult, in fact, which I think is just ridiculous. And that's why I'm not feeling up to posting this on Raw Charge - I've got enough drama going on in my life due to others. I don't need to actively solicit more.

So.... Hockey Canada's GM - and the Lightning's GM - Steve Yzerman has left Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis off of the men's Olympic roster, and it's causing much angst and frustration among not just Lightning fans, but also Canadians. There are all kinds of things that are being written about it, and with good reason. It's the second Olympics in a row that Yzerman has elected to not put St. Louis on the roster.

It was after the first time that Yzerman became GM of Tampa Bay, and St. Louis was going to be a free agent that summer. Yzerman had to do some fast talking to get St. Louis to not test free agency and sign with the team. Partly because of where the Lightning were at in the standings and personnel-wise, but also because St. Louis wasn't very happy with Yzerman due to the Olympics snub in 2010.

And so here we are again - second snub, but with Marty being captain now. And having just won the Art Ross Trophy last season, too. And the Lightning are in first place in the Atlantic Division, as of this morning, and third overall in the Eastern Conference - without having had Steven Stamkos in the lineup for the past two months.

So if your boss's boss overlooked you for the second time for a special project that only comes up once every few years, what would you do?

In all honesty, if I were in St. Louis's position, I'd probably ask for a trade - or find a new job, were this not a hockey situation. Though, it'd come down to what my significant other wanted to do, and what I thought the chances of the team were to win the Stanley Cup (or career advancement). But even still, it'd be hard to not want to leave when it feels like my boss's boss doesn't appreciate me. That's not a happy work environment, and I can completely relate to that, since I've been in similar positions before.

(Makes me think of this saying.... Wrong me once, shame on you. Wrong me twice, shame on me.)

I watched Marty play last night, and he looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was. And I don't blame him. I'd feel the exact same way in his skates. He may have scored two goals, but he took absolutely no joy in them. They were more out of habit than out of any spitefulness to prove people wrong. He wasn't angry about being left off the Canadian Olympic roster; he was just mentally done with his current situation.

I also watched an interview of Steven Stamkos - a guy who had been named to an Olympic team for the first time - and it took everything he had to not stand there and weep for Marty. He kept looking up at the ceiling so tears wouldn't fall, and the pain in his voice was unmistakable. He was completely heartbroken for his friend and mentor, to the point where he could take no joy in his own opportunity. And that should tell you everything you need to know about how St. Louis took the news.

So, no. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if St. Louis asked for a trade. I sort of doubt that it'll be immediate, and he may wait until the offseason, but I can totally see him wanting to go because of this. He's got one more year on his contract, and just about any team in the NHL would make room for him, if they could. Happily.

And, frankly, who could blame him if he did?

That would be the end of the honeymoon for Yzerman if St. Louis left, though. Fans were not happy when he traded Cory Conacher away for Ben Bishop, and some are even still bitter about that, despite Bishop becoming a big asset for the Lightning. So some fans are already disillusioned.

But this would be the final straw. Marty's loved by just about everyone in the fan base - and is the last active player left in Tampa that won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. So if St. Louis goes, then that absolute trust in Yzerman's decisions among fans likely goes with him.

Sure, one could argue that it was a committee decision, and not Yzerman's alone. But, as GM, Yzerman had the final say. And if he'd really wanted St. Louis on the Canadian Olympic Team, he'd be on the Canadian Olympic team. He would've found a way to make that happen since he's the guy in charge.

Personally, I would like St. Louis to stay. I've always liked him as a player, and I think he's a good guy. But I would completely understand if he couldn't stomach playing for a team run by a man who didn't think he was good enough for something more. I'm sure Yzerman had his reasons, but we'll probably never know them. And even if Marty does, I'm not sure that'll change his mind about things.

So don't be too surprised if you see Martin St. Louis in a different jersey next season - you'd probably do the exact same thing, if you were in his spot.

January 8, 2013

It's hard to care when they just want you for your money

You know, I just cannot get myself excited about the NHL lockout ending. I really can’t. I was genuinely pretty happy following the AHL and not having to write very much.

With the NHL, it’s like dating. If you do something to get a guy’s attention, but he does nothing to show he’s interested back in a similar fashion, then why keep pestering the guy? We can take a hint – you’re just not that into us, NHL.

And for me, that’s pretty much it. Why put effort into something where you’re just getting shamelessly taken advantage of? There’s pretty much no point. I realize that that’s always been the case – the getting taken advantage of part, I mean – but previously, at least the league tried to make it look like they cared about their fans.

There’s only two ways to deal with people who try to take advantage of you. One is to try to take advantage of them back, and the other is to simply walk away. And I have to say that walking away is really awfully tempting right about now.

In all honesty, there’s pretty much no bribe that will make me reconsider my stance. Free Center Ice? More access to the players? Lower ticket prices (which will never happen)? Sure – but that doesn’t mean I’ll run to you with open arms.

(Though, admittedly, I’ve always preferred the minors and college sports. The lockout just gave me a reason to rediscover that when it comes to hockey. And it help that I live within driving distance of AHL teams, too.)

I’m sure the players can understand this. I mean, when people just want you for your money, you’re not exactly interested in sticking around. Well, that’s all that the NHL wants from its fans – their money. We’re their guaranteed source of funding, and that’s all they want us for.

I sympathize with the players. I really do. They didn’t want to have a lockout, and they’re the ones who are going to have to constantly face the fans over it. But in helping them I’m also helping the NHL, and that’s just not going to happen very often.

In a way, it’s like dating a married man and expecting him to get a divorce for you. Why should he, when he can have his cake and eat it, too? There’s no incentive for change if you play someone else’s game to your own disadvantage. So, why play the NHL’s?

I’m actually not angry about this. I’m more ambivalent than anything else. It’s hard to work up any emotion over something that doesn’t really mean all that much in the grand scheme of life.

I’m not going to give up on the NHL entirely. I’ve still got a hockey blog to help run, after all, so I’ll keep up on news and watch games online. But unless I have a very good reason to go – like maybe to see some Syracuse players finally reaching their dream of playing in the NHL – then I probably won’t go to any NHL games this year.

As for next season…we’ll see.

December 18, 2012

Why not take down three hockey leagues, right?

The threat of the NHL voiding all contracts if the NHLPA does a Disclaimer of Interest isn't just an NHL issue. It's going to affect much of professional hockey in North America. And I totally believe that they'll do it, too. They're arrogant enough to think that it's a good idea.

From everything I've read, the NHL and the NHLPA aren't actually very far apart in regards to the negotiation. But, at this point, that doesn't even matter. The entire point of this little exercise is to spite NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr. That's it.

You see, the PA was broken in 2004-2005. This was supposed to be the owners time to get exactly what they wanted. Again. But then Fehr came along and ruined it all for them.

On top of that, Fehr's also gotten into NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's head. No one's publicly been able to do that before. And, as Bettman is a petty sort of individual, that's obviously got to be punished. And what better way to punish Fehr than to make his employers - the NHL players - hate him?

Yeah, that hasn't gone over well. The PA still back Fehr. So the next step is the US federal court system. Because, you know, that always goes right.

What the owners/Bettman fail to recognize is that Fehr's seen all of this before with baseball. Sure, he's not a hockey guy, but this is about business, not sport. Fehr's much better at this sort of thing than Bettman is, and Bettman doesn't want to admit it.

So this whole fiasco is going down because Bettman and the owners hate Fehr. When, in reality, they could have a deal by now. It's a pretty contemptable situation, actually, and one that I doubt a lot of fans will flock back to.

But, it doesn't just affect the NHL. If the NHL does choose the nuclear option of canceling all NHL player contracts, that also kills the AHL. The majority of AHL contracts are two-way deals that originate with NHL teams - who also foot the bill for those players. So killing NHL contracts may lead the AHL to suspend operations since AHL teams themselves can't afford to pay for 23 players on their own.

Sure, there's the ECHL, but how many of those guys are on NHL team contracts? And if the AHL pulls all of their guys up from the ECHL, what happens to that league? Likely, they'd have to suspend operations. At some point, it all collapses in a horrible, ugly way.

That's just the players - there are also arena workers, front office people, and the rest to consider as well.

And then, when the NHL finally gets back to playing, what happens then? Do they have a free agent draft or is it just a free agent signing free-for-all? I can see most of the stars staying where they had been, but after that the teams will be completely different - including the minor league teams.

Frankly, if I were an NHLer, I wouldn't go back to the NHL after they canceled all contracts. I'd take a year and play in Europe instead - particularly if I were a guy that most teams wanted to sign. The biggest statement any of these NHLers could make would be to choose to not play in the NHL after that.

Could you imagine if Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist, and a few others didn't come back right away? That would be the best. Why play in the NHL if they're just going to treat you like crap? It's about the only sort of power an NHLer has - where he chooses to play as a free agent. And if everyone becomes a free agent, well, then they can choose to not play in the league that sees them as cattle, right?

Think anyone would turn Stamkos down after being gone for a year? Think the NHL would take that chance again if they didn't come right back? The star players could get away with that, but probably no one else could - unless it was a whole lot of them that decided to do that.

September 21, 2012

Barefoot and in the kitchen making sandwiches

Why women cannot accept an NHL lockout
Who can forget the great lockout of 2004-2005? It was our first winter in the isolated countryside, and hubby took up bread making while listening to CBC Radio to dull the pain.

After that lockout, I vowed: Never again – even if it means temporarily relocating to the American South, where hockey is unpopular, to help hubby forget.

What do the women of Canada need to do to fix this impasse? I say we appeal to Mr. Bettman’s wife, Shelli, to work her magic. Couldn’t she leave a few glossy brochures promoting the benefits of early retirement on her hubby’s night table?

No more neck rubs, Gary, until you reach a settlement with the NHL Players’ Association. And Costco chicken and bagged salad will remain on the rotating dinner menu until I see a centre ice face-off.
There is just so much wrong about this, that I almost don't even know where to start.

I can deal with the stereotyping - sort of - but I think my biggest problem is that it's in a national Canadian newspaper. That some editor somewhere decided that it was a good idea to run it. I mean, this is blog fodder, not newspaper fodder.

If it were on a blog, it would annoy me, but it would hardly piss me off. The fact that this is on a newspaper site pisses me off. It's hard enough to be taken seriously as a woman writing about a sport, but then you see something like this...?

It reinforces the stereotype that women are just into sports for the men. That we only watch it because we think the guys are hot. And that we only write about it so we can get close enough to hit on the atheletes. That the entire goal of being a sports "fan" is to date and/or marry some athlete.

And do you know where that stereotype comes from? Men. Because, if the tables were turned, men would only write about women's sports to do exactly that - to watch and pickup on the hot women. If women were truly sports fans, then they'd stick to following sports teams of their own gender - like guys do - right?

Now, there are a number of women who do target athletes, so the stereotype does hold some validity. But those women are a small minority. And, let's be honest, they're not going to take the sport itself seriously, so they're not going to take the time to spend quality time writing about games or statistics or labor negotiations.

Sort of makes me wonder how many athletes actually date or marry women who are serious sports fans, now that I'm thinking about it. Sports fans in their own right, I mean. Not ones who converted to being sports fans when they met the athlete. I would guess probably not very many.

Athletes don't often meet real fans outside of doing the fan thing since they're in a little bubble of their own. If you're a celebrity, you tend to only meet celebrities. The circles that they run in are entirely different from the ones regular people do is all.

Regardless, reinforcing this stereotype makes life very difficult for the competent women in journalism. And it's also likely why there are so few women in sports journalism, since most true female sports fans will often go to great lengths to avoid looking like they're out to pick up on the athletes. This simple fact is what limits many women who love sports from working in a field that's dominated by men.

When I was at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, NC, I was one of probably 15 women that I saw in the press corps - out of over 450 journalists. Now, I'm not at all easily intimidated, so I was totally comfortable doing the media thing. But I know that most women would've probably avoided it, unless they were a spectator.

I'm not one of those people who gets offended by stereotypes. My whole job (literally) is about generalization, so I'm okay with that. But this sort of thing limits some good talent and prevents many women from enjoying sports in the same fashion as men.

But I guess that's what discrimination is all about, right? Being exclusive? And you know, many men are intimidated by women who know sports. So maybe that's the point, after all.

Playing hockey in Sweden is now officially fair game

Lundqvist, Eriksson and other locked out NHL stars now free to flock to Swedish Elite League
Previously, the Swedish Elite League (SEL) was the only top European league that wasn't permitting NHL players to sign with its teams. The country's second-tier league, Allsvenskan, lifted its ban in early September; Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings was one of the players that opted to sign there.

Could there be an appeal? Perhaps. But the Swedish Elite League teams are already snatching up NHL players, hours after the ruling.

Modo announced that it had signed Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues; there's talk that Tobias Enström of the Winnipeg Jets could be next.
Modo is in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden - which is quite a bit north of Stockholm, for those that aren't familiar with Swedish geography. Markus Naslund, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks (among other teams) is the general manager. And Peter Forsberg, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche (among other teams) is an assistant general manager.

I could never really get behind a KHL team, I have to admit. But the Elitserien and Modo? Sign me up.

During the last lockout, that's the team that I followed: Modo. So I became fairly decent at reading Swedish because of that. I can't speak a word of it, but I used to be able to at least get the gist of a hockey article in the language.

I'm sure Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning will sign there, since Ornskoldsvik is his hometown. So there will be at least one Lightning connection for me to justify to others why I follow that team. Though, in reality, it's more about Naslund and Forsberg for me than Hedman. I like Hedman, don't get me wrong, but still.

As a side note about the lockout, I think that if the players' union wants to send a serious message to the NHL owners, they'd do what Alexander Ovechkin has threatened to do recently - finish out the season in another league. The NHL isn't the only hockey league to play in, after all. And the owners, if they genuinely realized that, may finally realize that locking out players every labor negotiation might be a bad idea - because the players just might choose to not come back.