April 28, 2009

Canada is not the solution for the NHL

New battle lines are drawn

"Paul Kelly went to the meeting — he brought common sense with him to that meeting and said, hey, this might work. [Moving a team into Toronto] might work a little better than some of these other areas that are down south and we just can't seem to fix."
These people make me tired. There's a reason why teams had to leave Winnipeg and Québec City. Heck, Edmonton can barely support an NHL team most years. Just because a team is in Canada does not automatically guarantee revenue.

I support the idea of possibly moving a team into the Greater Toronto area if there isn't any other choice for that team available, but the reality is that there aren't many other Canadian cities that can support an NHL team.

And so much for Sunbelt teams being unworthy. Two of the four remaining teams in the Eastern Conference are from the Southeast Division. Not to mention there's still Anaheim in the Western Conference. So that makes three of the last eight playoff teams playing in the NHL this season technically from the Sunbelt, doesn't it. Funny how that works.

World Championships Update - Tampa Bay Lightning Edition

I thought I'd post the periodic update on how Tampa Bay Lightning players are doing on their respective national teams at World Championships in Switzerland.

Canada: RW Martin St. Louis (3 G, 2 A, 0 PIM) & C Steven Stamkos (2 G, 0 A, 0 PIM)

Canada is 2-0 on the tournament so far, and beat Hungary 9-0 yesterday. (Is there no mercy rule in international ice hockey tournaments?) St. Louis had himself a four-point night, scoring himself a hat trick and registering an assist on Shea Weber's goal. Stamkos was pointless on the night, but score two goals in the previous game against Belarus (with St. Louis getting an assist on one of Stamkos's goals). Canada's next game is against Slovakia later today.

Finland: G Karri Ramo (1-0, 0.947 SV%, 1.00 GAA)

Finland is also 2-0, having played Norway and Denmark so far. Ramo started the game against Denmark, where he allowed only one goal in 60 minutes of play on 19 shots. Finland's next game is against the Czech Republic tomorrow.

Latvia: RW Martins Karsums (1 G, 1 A, 2 PIM)

Latvia is 1-1, losing to the US in their first game and beating Sweden in a shootout in their second game. Karsums scored a goal in the shootout against Sweden as well as took a slashing penalty earlier in that game. Latvia's next game is against Austria tomorrow.

The United States of America: None

The Americans are also 2-0 in the tournament so far, beating Latvia 4-2 and Austria 6-1. The United States' next game is against Sweden tomorrow.

[For game summaries, please go to the IIHF > Statistics page]

April 26, 2009

Georges Laraque - good all-around guy

My friend Su had posted something up on Facebook last night about Georges Laraque, who plays for the Montréal Canadiens. I'd read something about his website earlier in the day yesterday, and I let her know about his website. Turns out, that was a good thing.

I guess she was going thru his site, and she found that he'd linked to a blog post of hers that she had written about him last summer. Needless to say, she was thrilled and emailed him about that last night. I guess since she's emailed him, he's emailed her back twice in response to her emails - in one night.

He's one of her favorite athletes - partly because he used to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but also because of all of the philanthropic stuff that he does. She's asked him to put her name on that blog post she wrote that he's put on his page, which I'm sure he'll do. She said that she got the impression that someone had passed that blog post of hers on to him.

She's like me in that personality and charitable acts really do make a difference when it comes to the athletes you like. I mean, a big reason I like the guys that I do has to do with their personalities. And the fact that their good people also makes a big difference. Talent, yeah, that's impressive, but who they are as people is even more so.

Personality trumps talent, in my opinion. Incidentally, Su's also bought something from Vinny Lecavalier's website to help out with his charity. And I totally would if I could. But that's just the kind of person that she is.

Su's struggled with her writing over the last season. Not because she doesn't know what to write, but because she doesn't think it's good enough. All of us that know her keep telling her that it is, which helps, but she's still insecure about it. So hopefully the fact that one of her favorite NHL players linked to her blog and a blog post that she'd written about him - and was kind enough to write her back so promptly about it when she wrote him - will help her confidence.

April 25, 2009

The opening of World Championships

The men's ice hockey World Championship got underway in Switzerland yesterday. Canada won their first game against Belarus yesterday, and the United States won their first game as well today against Latvia. The gold medal game will be played on May 10th, and right now it's the round robin part of the tournament.

As American hockey fans can tell you, finding any information or updates on international hockey tournaments can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Trying to find televised games? Forget it - good luck with that.

Even when it's the Olympics, or even if the international tournament takes place here in the United States, it's impossible to locate any information outside of the official tournament webpages at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) website. USA Hockey's site isn't even all that helpful. The American sports media essentially ignores international sports in general, and they also find the NHL or hockey in general to be optional. Add the two together, and it becomes pretty much impossible to follow international hockey here in the States.

Which, I think is part of the problem the US has had in playing in international tournaments. Part of it is cultural. Americans are taught to be self-sufficient and independent. The concept of teamwork isn't typically a focus when raising children. And because of that, there's a "everyone for themselves" kind of mentality here. So when you throw together a bunch of highly skilled Americans in any field, it's hard to develop team chemistry because everyone is out to use the situation to their best individual advantage.

There's also no real pressure or expectation for Team USA to achieve anything since there's very little coverage. Male athletes use that pressure and expectation to motivate themselves, so without it, the motivation sort of disappears. Female athletes, on the other hand, have never had that kind of pressure or sense of expectation, so they've figured out other ways to motivate themselves. Which explains why American women's teams tend to perform much better than American men's teams on the international stage.

It's not that American teams lack talent. In all honesty, they compare well with the likes of Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic. It's just that they have a hard time with chemistry and playing a team game, and have for a long time now.

April 24, 2009

Is Montréal imploding under the pressure?

Canadiens' season far from a lost cause

Why would anyone want to play here? I realize that when they're winning, there's probably no better team to play for in the world. But when they're losing, I'm sure there's no place worse to play in the world. Sure, high expectations like that can motivate players, but it ups the level of stress causing them to burnout faster, too. Not everyone can deal with that kind of scene, especially for a long period of time.
"Obviously, Gainey is going to revisit the Vincent Lecavalier situation
before the Cup winner’s no-trade kicks in July 1. For those who think his
outburst napalmed any chance of such a deal, well, there’s reason to believe he
can still pull it off, if he wants to.

"First, the Lightning are so desperate to unload that contract and
there aren’t a ton of trading partners (although the Kings may be very
interested and have the prospects/cap room to do it). Second, Gainey was upset
that his deal to get Marian Hossa at last season’s deadline fell apart – and it
didn’t stop him from trading for Mathieu Schneider this year.
"

Okay, you might want to take that "so desperate to unload that contract" phrase with a grain of salt. This is a member of the Canadian hockey press talking here. They typically only have a sketchy idea of what goes on south of the border at best. While I agree that the Lightning would like to unload that contract, I'm not so convinced that it's at that do-or-die stage yet.

The interesting bit of that quote is the mention of the LA Kings. My blogging partner on Raw Charge, John, and I were chatting online a couple of weeks ago, and I was outlining what a team would need to have in order to make a serious bid for Lecavalier. John was looking at the salary cap numbers, and he suggested that LA might be able to accommodate that contract of Vinny's. After I took at look at what he was talking about, and took a look at the roster, I had to agree. Outside of Montréal, LA might be the most likely trading partner for the Lightning, if the Kings are interested.

April 23, 2009

The state of Tampa Bay's finances - a summary

Can Lightning strike twice?

It's nothing I haven't read about or heard of already, but this is a nice financial overview of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Basically, it's a summary of what's been bandied about for the past six months or so. No suprises here for me.

Gainey blames the Lightning for the Montreal sweep?

Gainey lashes out at Lightning

I suppose it's easier to throw this kind of stuff out there when you're pretty sure you're going to be fired. Is Montréal a mess or what? Yikes. They don't quite rival how the Lightning were this season, but they certainly have their problems.

So I guess Montréal wasn't the only team that Tampa Bay was talking to about trading Lecavalier, huh?

You know what Gainey's trying to do. He's trying to discredit the Lightning ownership/management so that they'll be less likely, or even unable, to swing a trade with Montréal - in the event that Gainey's fired, which he's almost certainly will be. His comments are spiteful, and I'm sure he'd like nothing more than to spite all of the entire city of Montréal at this point by preventing the hometown boy Lecavalier from playing there. And possibly in the rest of Canada as well, since Canadian-based teams seem to be susceptible to that kind of propaganda. It won't stop most American-based teams from trying if they can afford to, tho. It's not to prevent Tampa from trading Lecavalier, but to prevent Montréal from getting him.

This whole thing is just damned awful. I wish the Lightning didn't have to trade Vinny - but they probably will. And when they do, I'm done with Tampa Bay - no matter what happens. I'm not sure I can take another season of their arrogantly ignorant incompetence.

I don't think they're bad people. I just think that they're bad hockey team owners and managers. They don't seem to have a lot of business sense, nor do they seem to even have much common sense. And it takes them a long time to learn from their mistakes.

It's one thing to be new and to try to figure things out as you go along. It's another thing entirely to not have some kind of plan going in. If they did, they never shared it with anyone publicly, nor did they appear to have one if you look at the sum of all of their moves. I mean, who goes into buying a hockey team, guts the management and coaching staff, and then doesn't have some kind of a plan?

April 22, 2009

Hockey Night in the US? Not Likely.

Most people in hockey seem to think that ESPN is going to save the NHL. Or, at the very least, promote the sport better. When in reality, the people writing about such things want hockey on ESPN to make their own lives easier.

As we all know, hockey does not translate well on to TV. This has more to do with poor camera angles than trying to follow a little black puck on white ice, frankly. But HD TV seems to make a difference, even if that's mostly because it has a larger screen.

Seriously, do you want to see Rod Brind'Amour's face in High Definition? Really? I didn't think so.

Versus isn't the best network. We all have some kind of beef with them. Whether it's the poor camera angles, the limited number of games, the weird blackout restrictions, or whatever, it's not good. It's a wonder that the NHL hasn't taken them aside to point out a better way to do things. But I suppose that would imply a certain level of intelligence that the good people at the NHL offices may or may not have.

NBC is better, if only because it's a non-cable national network. But they prefer to show Eastern Conference teams for some reason. I suppose that's because they're based in New York City? Or, perhaps, it's because teams in the Northeastern United States tend to be popular nationwide regardless of the sport - like the New York Yankees, the New England Patriots, or the Boston Celtics. They were capitalizing on the tried and true, you might say.

Putting the NHL back on ESPN would change fix everything, right? Yeah, probably not. ESPN showed plenty of NHL games before the lockout, but the NHL still didn't make big ratings. Which is probably why the NHL couldn't reach an agreement with ESPN.

In all honesty, the NHL would benefit more from having NBC (or ABC, or CBS) broadcast their games regularly all season twice a week, instead of just the last half of the NHL season once a week. Make the broadcast more like College Football Gameday, instead of like CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. Bring the sport to the football fans instead of placing it after football season.

Has the NHL's Winter Classic on New Year's Day taught the NHL nothing? Putting the NHL up head to head against football is a great idea. People regularly flip through channels during the fall on Saturdays and Sundays. Placing a hockey game in the middle of all that channel flipping can only broaden the interest of the sport. Hockey is just as hard hitting as football, and sometimes there's nothing to watch between two great football games. Hockey is a great way for those bored or disappointed football fans to pass the time - and to become hockey fans themselves. The NHL shouldn't shy away from that competition, but embrace it.

Imagine this for a moment. You're sitting there on the sofa watching football, and your team is getting blown out of the water. So you start channel flipping to see what other games are on. There's a good game on in a couple of hours, there's an okay game on now, and another game no one could pay you to watch since you hate both teams.... But wait - hockey is on? Let's see what that's about.

Simple, right? Yeah, don't even get me started. The NHL has no concept of marketing. It's like banging your head against a brick wall.

April 19, 2009

A little recognition is nice

HBIC Playoff Clean-up

"Cassie may have left Bolts Blog, but the people at Raw Charge should be happy about getting her contributions. Cassie is a talented writer, and Raw Charge will benefit from her addition as the SB Nation team gets a little stronger."

Awww! Isn't this nice? Now this brightens up my day a little bit. God knows I've needed something to make this weekend a little bit happier. I'll get back to writing about hockey soon. I just needed a little bit of a break is all.

April 14, 2009

Tampa Bay Picks Second Overall

LIGHTNING RETAIN SECOND OVERALL SELECTION IN 2009 NHL ENTRY DRAFT

Assuming they don't trade that pick away - because it could happen - Tampa Bay will likely take Victor Hedman of Sweden as the second pick overall in June.

The Pending (?) Lecavalier Trade

Let's be honest, through serious mismanagement, the Tampa Bay Lightning simply cannot afford him - despite having been the ones who negotiated that 11-year, $85 million contract extension with Lecavalier in the first place. They just laid off 20 people from the front office just yesterday. If you can't see the writing on the wall just with that, then I don't think I can penetrate the level of denial that you're living in.

If Lecavalier's lucky, they'll trade him before his contract extension kicks in July 1st. If he's really unlucky, he could be sitting out or playing hockey in Europest but instead tried to trade him afterwards. next season because they didn’t trade him before July 1

To current team ownership, no-trade clauses mean absolutely nothing. They happily signed Dan Boyle to a contract with a no-trade clause last February, and still managed to move him by July. So even if they can't find a deal they like before that contract extension kicks in, they might try to force Vinny into allowing them to move him to another team, anyways - like they did with Boyle. And if Lecavalier gets stubborn about it and says no, then that could mean him sitting out or playing in another league. Or more.

The initial former head coach, John Tortorella, was furious with how he was fired. Boyle complained of being treated very badly when he was forced to waive his no-trade clause. Former GM Jay Feaster was ignored by ownership and management alike until he got the hint and quietly went away on his own. The former head coach after Tortorella, Barry Melrose, was unceremoniously canned after 16 games. Mark Recchi wasn't impressed with how he was treated when he was dealt to Boston. And I suspect that Gary Roberts was conveniently forced to retire in an equally unpleasant fashion, but is so far keeping quiet. Obviously, this ownership/management group already has something of an unsavory track record in how they deal with people they find to be expendable.

So if Lecavalier genuinely believes that they'll follow through with their promise to contact him, and/or his agent, before they start talking with other teams, then he's a wide-eyed optimist. They certainly didn't do that before they almost traded him to Montréal in January. And I seriously doubt that they'll do it before they actually do ship him off sometime this summer.

It could get really ugly, and really complicated, really fast. And it could end up involving a lot more than just a single player, his agent, and the GM. The worst case scenario could involve the players union, the league, the owners, and litigation. It just depends on how both sides deal with any of a number of scenarios.

So what are the facts that lead to the conclusion that Lecavalier is likely gone?

***

  • Dan Boyle signed a 6-year, $40 million contract with a no-trade clause 25 February 2008.
  • Steven Stamkos is drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa 20 June 2008.
  • Barry Melrose is hired as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning 24 June 2008
  • Boyle is traded to San Jose with Brad Lukowich for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, and two draft picks 04 July 2008.
  • Vincent Lecavalier signed an 11-year, $85 million contract 13 July 2008.
  • Melrose is fired 16 games into the season 15 November 2008. Rumors went around that Lecavalier was a reason why he was fired.
  • By 14 January 2009, while the team was in California, rumors are flying that there's a deal in the works between Tampa Bay and Montréal. Lightning GM Brian Lawton flatly denies the rumors that he has been shopping Lecavalier to Montréal.
  • Lecavalier goes to the All-Star Game in Montréal 25 January 2009 and holds court with all of the NHL's Canadian hockey media stating over and over again that he has no control over the situation.
  • 18 February 2009, Montréal Canadiens' GM Bob Gainey reveals that negotiations with Tampa Bay for a Lecavalier trade were, in fact, going on in January.
  • Lecavalier's season ends early by having wrist surgery 03 April 2009.
  • Stamkos ends rookie season with 23 goals and an invite to Team Canada at the World Championships.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning ends the 2008-2009 29th overall in the NHL, and is awarded the second overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montréal.

(The bottom line is this: Lecavalier was expendable the moment they drafted a center (Stamkos) first overall in the 2008 draft. It was just a matter of when Stamkos would be ready to carry the team on his own. Since the ownership insisted early on that Stamkos stay and play in Tampa, instead of being sent back to juniors like he probably should've been, that was probably going to happen sooner rather than later in the eyes of the ownership. And that's not Stamkos's fault; that's just how the business side of hockey goes. The younger and cheaper player typically wins out over the older and more expensive player of a similar talent level.)

***

The fundamental problem with Lecavalier's contract situation is one simple fact - under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), players are not allowed to renegotiate standing contracts. Article 11, Section 11.10 of the NHL-NHLPA 2005 CBA states that "No Renegotiation. In no event shall a Club or a Player negotiate a change any terms of a Player SPC [Standard Player's Contract] for the then-current season or for any remaining season of an SPC."

I can understand why the NHLPA would want that little blurb in there, but it's a little shortsighted if you ask me. There should've been some amendment to that allowing renegotiation under certain extenuating circumstances. The economy notwithstanding. It helps the players in the short run, but not in the long run. In Lecavalier's situation, if allowed to renegotiate in the case where the contract is detrimental to the team due to economics (yes, I know - really poor management), and if the player is above a certain age and wants to stay since he has a vested interest in the community and has been with the same team for a certain length of time, then they should be able to do that.

I realize the NHLPA’s argument against that is that the team should never have signed a player to a contract that they ultimately couldn't afford and the team ought to pay the penalty - even if it's at the detriment of the individual player. And it sets a bad precedent to allow a player to downgrade his contract in the overall scheme of the union. It's for the greater good of the union and the players overall and blah, blah, blah. But ultimately, shouldn't it be the other way around? Isn't the union supposed to represent the players and not the players represent the union?

I can't help but wonder if Lecavalier realizes just how much power he has in this situation. It'd be easy for a person in his position to feel powerless, but he's probably got the most power of anyone in this situation. For instance, he can beat the team to the punch and ask for a trade before the draft. Or, in the event that they try to force him to waive his no-trade clause after July 1st, he can refuse and cause all kinds of problems. Not just for the team, but for the NHL and/or the NHLPA. He could force a revamp the CBA all on his own, for good or ill. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who would do that, but there are all kinds of options there for him to do, or not do, as the case may be.

***

No one wants to see Lecavalier go - his coaches don't, his teammates don't, the fans don't, and Vinny himself doesn't, either. Whether the owners and management do or not is up for debate. But the fact is that he was as good as gone when they drafted Stamkos, traded Boyle, and signed Melrose last July - even before he signed that contract. It was just a matter of time is all. That was obvious to me at the time, although most people didn't seem to understand that.

Now it's a matter of where he'll end up. The most obvious choice is Montréal, but I don't know if that's likely. They definitely want him, but does he want them? And if it is open season on Lecavalier, and the entire league gets a shot at him, will the Canadiens be able to offer the best deal? Who needs a world-class center in his prime, who has the depth to get him, and who can afford his contract under the salary cap? I'm guessing that there are only a handful of teams that would be able to meet all of those criteria.

I haven't touched on whether or not Tampa Bay will get what they should for Lecavalier in a trade. The reason for that is what most people would agree would be a good deal is probably not what the Lightning will want. In January, the asking price seemed to be pretty high - or so the rumors went. However, I think that the asking price is going to drop significantly this summer for payroll reasons and due to time constraints. There's no way that the Lightning are going to be able to get what he's worth out of another team - even the generally agreed value and not the pie in the sky value they'd placed on him midway through the season. Other teams know that they have to get him off their payroll before July 1st, so other teams will work that to their advantage. I expect they'll end up trading him for almost nothing because of it. Relatively speaking, I mean.

Will Lecavalier stay? Will he go? And if he goes, where will he end up? Your guess is as good as mine. Right now, though, it looks as if he'll probably end up going. We'll see how it ends up. Eventually.

April 13, 2009

NHL Playoffs: Washington vs. NY Rangers

I was looking over the matchups for playoffs last night, and I kinda want to go see a Washington Capitals game. Not because of the Caps, but because they're playing the New York Rangers. I've been meaning to go see the Rangers play all season, and now's my chance. Washington will almost certainly win the series, but hopefully the Rangers can drag it out a bit.

Or, I could try to catch a practice. I wonder where the Rangers will be practicing around here. The Caps practice in Arlington, and that would seem to be the logical place the Rangers would be. I haven't seen the Caps practice - and for good reason. While I like players off the team, I don't like the team. Do I really want to take some time off from work to go to practice, tho? Hmmm.

I've wanted to see the Rangers because Naslund's playing there. He's really the biggest reason I'd like to go. And now that Tortorella's coaching there, too, well, that's sort of an added bonus. I also like Lundqvist, Drury, Gomez, and Redden. Not much of an Avery fan, but whatever.

Going by myself, tickets probably wouldn't be much of a problem to find. Heck, if I were going with another person, I could probably still find tickets. Anyone want to go with me to a hockey game this weekend?

I don't typically follow teams when playoffs hit - unless the team I follow is in them, of course. But I've never actually been to a playoff game before. It'd be really cool to be able to catch a game in Madison Square Garden, since I've never been, but I don't think I can make the trek up to NYC for a game. I probably shouldn't even be considering a game here in DC, really. But it's a nice thought, anyways.

I'm sort of hoping that another SB Nation NHL team blog will adopt me for the playoffs. (I write for the Tampa Bay blog, Raw Charge.)I'm not picking a team, I want them to pick me. Not sure what the rules are about it, or even if there are rules, but I thought I'd let everyone know that I'd write for them if they wanted me to - mostly because I feel a bit left out. So we'll see if there are any takers. I wonder who my new team will be if they let me do that.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the US women won the gold at World Championships. So the US won gold, Canada got silver, and Finland the bronze. That's the way it should be - US gold, Canada silver. Too bad the US men have got problems - problems I could fix, but who listens to me?

I still want San Jose to win it all, tho. I just want to be clear about that. But that's because I'm being spiteful.

April 11, 2009

Tampa Bay Game 82: at Atlanta

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their last game of the 2008-2009 season to the Atlanta Thrashers 6-2.

Wow. That was a miserable little season, wasn't it? Thank god that's finally over.

So the Lightning end the season how they started it - on a losing streak. The started the season with a five-game losing streak (0-2-3; all one-goal losses), and ended it with a nine-game losing streak (0-5-2; losing by an average of two goals every game). Sadly, with trades, injuries, and all of the other nonsense that went on this season, only five guys that were in the lineup for the season opener in Prague were in the lineup tonight: Artyukhin, Mihalik, Prospal, St. Louis, and Stamkos. And of those players, only Prospal and St. Louis played every game this season in between.

The game started out well enough for the Lightning. They out shot the Thrashers in the first period 13-7, had a power play goal, and had some good energy. Of course, there were three fights, they gave up a shorthanded goal, and also a power play goal. But they were still accomplishing things.

Then they gave up three goals in the second and pulled their goalie McKenna. And it just went downhill from there. They weren't great on faceoffs, and took too many penalties, but they did outshoot Atlanta 35-26 on the game. Strangely, they seem to get more goals when they shoot less. I don't know why that is, unless it takes the opposing goalie out of the game.

There will be a season recap forthcoming in the next few days. Not so much to revel in the agony and horror, or even to point out what went wrong. It's to document the series of events that led the team to this place and to perhaps give us all hints as to which direction it may be going. Past actions typically indicate future ones, after all.

It ought to be interesting to see who's been hiding minor injuries - and who else will be going in for surgery - this coming week. As well as who will be invited to join national teams. Other than the draft lottery on Tuesday, it should be relatively quiet and uneventful in Tampa for the next couple of months. At least until right around the draft in June.

So sit back, relax, and figure out which team you want to follow during playoffs. And there's always World Championships in Switzerland towards the end of the month. If you have the energy or interest for either of those, at this point. I'm hoping that San Jose (with Dan Boyle & Brad Lukowich) wins the Stanley Cup myself.

Thanks for reading and keep checking back for more posts this offseason.

Once upon a time in the Czech Republic

It was the beginning of the year 1998. It was February. Winter. Snow everywhere. And there was a girl. 11-year-old girl who was in her 5th grade. She was a typical girl of her age – she had some friends, she loved to draw or paint, she loved her plushies and puppets. She didn’t know much about hockey. Because she didn’t care… yet.

The big change in her attitude to this sport was about to come. And what was it? What made her to pay attention to hockey? Yes, of course it was the Olympics in Nagano. Those who remember that tournament know, that the Czech Republic won the golden medals. For the first time. The whole country lived for hockey at that time. Since the time zones, it was always in the morning when the games were played. People at work, children at school… everyone was hooked. Including the small girl… yes, I know you’ve found out it was me. I remember the semifinals against Canada (with Gretzky, Roy and many other tremendous players). I was at school and we were supposed to study new things but not that time. Every single class in the school had the TV turned on and everyone’s been watching the game. I still have the Czech flag I’ve made by my own only from paper and painted the colors using the crayons. I can remember the scary silence when the shootout was about to begin and I can hear the enormous noise after it, when we knew we were in the finals. The school building almost collapsed. Since then I was crazy about our national team and I wanted more and more hockey.



My first experience with live hockey was when my dad took me to see our national team playing in my hometown. It was part of the event which is called „Euro Hockey Tour“ and its Czech part called „Ceska Pojistovna Cup“ (for more information click here). I was totally amazed. I was so glad that I could see my heros with my own two eyes. And I was that lucky to get the Czech flag and a picture signed by Robert Reichel. Those are moments I will never forget.

When the time went by I started to figure out that the national team is far not enough to satisfy my desire for hockey. Yes, I loved them, but I wanted more. And that’s how I became a fan of my hometown team – the Zlin hockey club. It was so easy to fall in love with them because they were (and still are) wonderful. I began to attend the games on regular basis and I became a member of their official fanclub last year. I love my boys in blue & yellow so much! I have so many amazing memories which are connected to them. The year 2004 when we won the Cup, the season 04/05 when many great players from NHL came here to play for my team (including Roman Hamrlik or Petr Cajanek – both natives from my city), or my teenage days when I was having crush on so many players (yep, you could say it sounds like I was a puckbunny, but no… I was anything but puckbunny). I was wearing my team colors everywhere, I was escaping from school in order to be at the arena on time so I could buy a ticket for upcoming game (when I was a seasonticket holder in few seasons things were much easier). Everytime I am at the game I cheer, I sing, I jump, I scream, I do anything to show my support to the team.



Did I miss something? Of course! I missed the very important point and that would be how I became an NHL fan and why did I choose the Lightning? This story is so ridiculous but it’s totally true. I started to pay attention to the NHL in the year 2000. My brother had this PC game – NHL 99 and I gave it a try. God, I was hooked! I had so much fun playing the game. You would expect that I was playing for the Lightning but I wasn’t. I chose the Ducks (Mighty Duck at that time) because of one funny reason. My name is Katerina (with weird pronunciation – you know, Czechs), it’s very common name here and one of the nicknames for that name (like Michael can be called Mike) is “Kačena” (I could write “Katchena”) and that word is also used as a name for female duck. Funny, isn’t it? And I loved the old logo of the Ducks. So… my first NHL team I liked was Anaheim actually. But I wouldn’t call myself their fan because I didn’t follow them as much as I follow the Bolts now. But I still like them, I wish them all good and I was happy to see them with the Cup.

In the year 2001 my dad went to US, to Florida, to Tampa Bay. He went to the Lightning game as well and when he got back home he had some gifts for me (as always everytime he goes to US) and one of them was very special – it was the Lightning hat! I was so happy about it and I fell in love with it immediately. I started wearing it everywhere. I was being recognized in the high school by that hat. Everyone called me: “that girl with the hat”. And at that time I started to follow the Lightning and eventually became their fan. How funny is that?

So… My love for the Lightning has grown and now it’s huge! I can’t imagine the league without them, I can’t imagine I could ever give up on them. Even though I have some weakness for the Flyers they can never take place in my heart which belongs to the Bolts for eternity.

April 9, 2009

Tampa Bay Game 81: vs Washington

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Washington Capitals 4-2.

I actually got to watch this game on tv instead of on my computer because I live in Virginia. The Caps announcers are alright, I suppose. Sort of middling since I've heard better and I've heard worse. Although, they were a pretty happy couple of guys. But it's easy to be happy in sports when your team is winning, right?

The first period was pretty good. Stamkos's goal in the first was beautiful. It was one of those plays that just magically came together. Konopka had a stumbling poke check that ended up on Stamkos's stick and he one-timed it and it went in.

The second period wasn't so nice. The Lightning looked tired to me. But then, they've collectively been looking tired to me for the last few games. Both mentally and physically.

Penalties ended up being even, strangely. I say "strangely" since there seemed to have been a lot of penalties against Tampa Bay. But maybe that's just because they were one after another in the first. After all of those penalties in the first and second, the refs just let the players play in the third.

Again, being down by a couple of goals going into the third, the Lightning stepped it up and played a pretty good period. Pettinger got a goal to get the team within one of Washington, but that's essentially how it ended. Empty net goals don't really count when it comes to overall team effort. They just count where it matters most - on the scoreboard.

Considering that the Lightning played with only one full-time NHL defenseman against the fourth best team in the NHL, they really did pretty well. I never got the sense that the Capitals were playing down, so it was a genuine effort on their part. Seriously, that's pretty respectable. And maybe they did so well because the defensemen that were playing for Tampa Bay already knew and played together in the AHL. It's hard to say, really.

On a completely different, but still hockey related, note.... Women's Ice Hockey World Championships have been going on in Finland. Tomorrow, the United States plays Canada for the gold, while Sweden plays Russia for the bronze. Women's ice hockey is an Olympic event, with the first medals awarded in 1998. The United States won the first ever Olympic gold medal for women's ice hockey in Nagano, Japan.

Give blood, play hockey

Wings' Rafalski back Thursday; Lilja out for start of Stanley Cup playoffs

Well, if this isn't absolutely horrific, I don't know what is. The poor guy. I hope he heals soon. A bleeding brain definitely isn't a good thing. Although it's apparently relatively common in servere concussions.

More on hockey & marriage

I cower at her love of the puck

In my experience, most men prefer having a woman who likes sports. It's only been in the rare instance that I've encountered a man who finds it a turn off. And usually, he's an older man, probably unhappily married or recently divorced, and is rather insecure about himself in general. It's the secure and/or younger guys who love it. I'd say the cutoff is around 40 years old, generally.

April 8, 2009

Atlanta Thrashers Public Service Announcement

This is way too funny.

Marriage & Hockey

Hockey is good for the marriage

Hmmm. This is about goalies married to goalies. Where's the fun in that?

When I used to play, I'd do the occasional drop-in game and be the only woman on the ice. Of course, I wasn't a goaltender but a defenseman. Most of the time, the guys treated me as they would any other guy - which was cool. I preferred that, actually, and it doesn't hurt that I'm as tall as many men so they could better forget the gender difference.

But I remember this one time some 6'4" guy accidentally ran me over when my head was down and left me sprawled out on the ice. They all stopped and gathered around me to make sure I was okay. (There was a no-hitting rule since it was drop-in.) I was fine. In fact, I was lying on the ice laughing at them, saying I deserved that since my head was down. Although, they might've stopped since they knew I was playing with a broken elbow, too. (I had pins it it and was a couple of months out from surgery - tho a month or so away from the next - so it was alright.) But it was all good, tho they treated me like glass for the rest of the session.

I did get dressed in my own dressing room, in case you were wondering. Anyone who practices and plays at public rinks, and uses the general public facilities, know how these things go with co-ed hockey. The men are very respectful of the women, and vice versa And dressing rooms are typically separated by gender instead of by team (if there's a space crunch at the rink, anyways) at the beginning and end of games.

It really makes me want to play again, tho, I have to admit

April 7, 2009

Tampa Bay Game 80: vs Pittsburgh

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-4.

This game started out slow for both teams. You almost had to wonder if anyone cared enough to do anything. Other than St. Louis, of course. Things sort of drifted along until the second period when Pittsburgh started scoring.

And then, true to season form, the Lightning attempted a comeback from a 4-0 deficit in the third period. If they could start a game being down by three or four goals, I think they'd do so much better. It seems to be the way they prefer to play. Or something. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but that's the way it's been all season.

Ramo had a pretty good game, but I've seen him do better. Halpern had a great second half of the game. St. Louis finally got his 30th goal of the season. Unfortunately, Malone broke his right hand while blocking a shot - or so I'd heard was the case. Hopefully, that's just a simple fracture and not something more complicated.

Special teams were awful. They couldn't convert on the seven power plays they were given. And they allowed two goals during the five penalty kills they had. But they did out-shoot the Penguins 37-31, so that was something.

April 6, 2009

Hockey Game Music

Daily Su: Power Plays & Power Chords: Hockey's Rockin' Deejays

Now here's something a lot of hockey fans don't think about: who's playing the music. We notice when the songs are good, and when they're not, but that' usually about as far as it goes. At least, that's the case for me. Here's an inside look on what's going on behind the scenes. By my friend Su.

April 4, 2009

Tampa Bay Game 79: at the New York Islanders

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the New York Islanders 3-1.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the worse the officiating gets, the longer the games end up being?

This was the Lightning sixth loss in a row, and their ninth loss in their last ten games. The worst part isn't all of the losses or all of the injuries. It's the fact that they've actually played good games but have not been able to win them. Four of those losses were in overtime, after all.

This game against the Islanders is a good example of that. They actually out shot the Islanders 30-21, and put up a good sustained effort most of the game. But they weren't able to score more than one.

Special teams were about average. They converted one of their three power plays, but allowed two goals on five penalty kills. Along with that, they also took those penalties which gave the Islanders those power plays. And faceoffs, while better than the previous game, weren't that great overall.

Karsums had a good game. He seemed really into things. Of course, his six penalty minutes weren't exactly great, but you take the good with the bad, I guess. Pettinger had a good game as well. Stamkos started and ended strong, but then sort of disappeared for the middle part of the game. So it wasn't the usual characters that really ran the game on the Lightning side.

April 3, 2009

Tampa Bay Game 78: at New Jersey

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in overtime to the New Jersey Devils 5-4.

It's always interesting to see how a team does after they lose a key player. Sometimes they're broken, sometimes they're improved, and sometimes it has no discernible affect - or various stages in between. The Lightning, it seems, were all three.

What was broken were the faceoffs. They were awful. They only won a third of the total faceoffs. It's clear that Lecavalier was the guy propping up those stats. Maybe not all of the time - maybe - but often enough.

What was improved were their special teams. Sure, they only scored on one power play, but they only had two. That's 50% efficiency right there. And their penalty kills weren't bad, either.

What was unaffected were the shots. They started off strong in the first, and then they turned into a trickle in the second and third. They also gave up just almost 40 shots again this game, too.

Ramo was again brilliant. It may not seem so with him letting in five goals, but he was. The score could've been a lot higher. Artyukhin also had a very good effort on the night. He stepped his game, which is a good thing. And I noticed that the defense featured in three of the four Tampa Bay goals with assists. So good for them. By the way, congratulations to Stamkos for tying the team rookie goal scoring record.

I've been asked to participate in a online radio roundtable by the guys with the Hockey Night on Long Island blog. A Colorado Avalanche blogger, myself, and the Islander bloggers will be discussing the draft, and then the Islander bloggers and me will be discussing tomorrow night's Lightning game at the Island. It kicks off at 3:30 pm Eastern, so feel free to tune in. (See previous post)

Being interviewed by Hockey Night on Long Island

Well, those crazy guys from the Hockey Night on Long Island blog want me back on their internet radio show. Some people are just gluttons for punishment. There will be a round table discussion with a Colorado Avalanche blogger discussing the bottom of the standings and the draft, and we'll be discussing tomorrow night's game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders.

The fun starts at 3:30 pm ET. You can click on the link below; or if you happen to miss it, the episode will be archived HERE. If you'd like to listen to it, that is.

Listen to Hockey Night on Long Island on BlogTalkRadio talk radio

April 2, 2009

Tampa Bay's Lecavalier done for season

Lightning Captain Vincent Lecavalier to Undergo Arthroscopic Wrist Surgery

I'm sure everyone one was sort of wondering about this, since this surgery wasn't done last year because of that dislocated shoulder. It would also explain why he hasn't been taking many shots, why his faceoff percentage has dropped, and why he hasn't been scoring. Sounds like a routine sort of surgery, so I'm sure he'll be ready to go for training camp in six months. Hopefully, he'll be ready for Team Canada's Olympic camp in August in Calgary as well.