August 28, 2009

Yet another Forsberg comeback

Forsberg among 69 looking for roster spot

Ice time for Forsberg
Wearing No. 7 instead of his usual number 21, the 36-year-old Forsberg played center on the first line. He didn't produce any points, but was on the ice when Modo scored the first goal of the game. Modo eventually won 2-1.
The number change is kind of weird. I wonder what that's all about. If anything. And I was pretty much kidding when I said I was waiting for his next comeback to start.

Peter Forsberg is one of my favorite hockey players, but he really just needs to stop. I can understand wanting to go out on your own terms - I really can - but someone needs to tell him no and mean it. He's been struggling with this foot problem for seven or eight years now, and it just needs to be over.

Tre Kronor isn't helping matters much, either. They've just named him to their 69-man initial Olympic roster. Way to encourage him to try to play in the Olympics again, Team Sweden. That's all he needs - encouragement to try to play.

If he decides to come back to the NHL - which you know he'll try to do - I hope that Colorado picks him up. I'd rather not see him in the Eastern Conference. And I don't want Tampa Bay to even think about picking him up - which I can totally see them trying to do. The whole thing just makes me sad, and I don't want to have to watch Forsberg up close in his "twilight years". I'd rather remember him as he was in his prime, thank you.

August 27, 2009

Five Reasons Why I Love Hockey

As posted on Raw Charge....

Over at Puck Daddy, they're doing a series on why various people love hockey. So I thought I'd throw in my two cents worth. Which, with the prices of copper these days, is probably closer to being worth a dime or so, but I digress. I figured, why not join in on the fun?

So, here you go - five reasons why I love hockey.

1. Tacoma, Washington, and the WHL

I'd always known that I'd like hockey. Even as a kid. It wasn't something I grew up with, but I knew that if I took the time to sit down and watch it, I'd probably love it. Well, it wasn't until the WHL came to Tacoma that I got a chance to sit down and watch it. Sure, the Seattle Thunderbirds have been around for decades, but I was rarely in Seattle - it was an hour and a half away. My family is from Tacoma, tho, and I was always there for one reason or another.

At 19 years old, I went to my first hockey game. It was in the Tacoma Dome, and it was a playoff game between the Tacoma Rockets and the Spokane Chiefs. My friend and I ended up sitting behind the Tacoma bench - which became our regular seats for the following two seasons. Not season tickets, but just as a preference. I don't remember who won that first game I went to, but it didn't matter - I was hooked.

So hooked, in fact, that a group of girls I'd met while watching hockey and I got together and started up our own team. We figured that since it was so fun to watch, it must be fun to play. At the time we were told, in the early 1990s, that it was the largest women's ice hockey group on the west coast of North America. And we were right - there is no better sport to play. I've been a diehard fan of the game ever since.

2. Hipchecks

Weird, I know, but true. A well-thrown hipcheck is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, it's a dying art. No one does open ice hits anymore. Which may not be a bad thing since most guys probably don't know how to take an open ice hit and not get hurt. You've got to know how to land after receiving a hip check, after all.

I saw only one all last season. Anton Stralman of the Toronto Maple Leafs threw a hip check on Tampa Bay Lightning captain, Vincent Lecavalier. It was a clean open-ice hit (see video HERE), but Vinny came up spitting nails - I guess he didn't care for it. Maybe that's why nobody does them anymore.

3. Atmosphere

I grew up watching football. Football is my first love, but hockey is my true love. And the atmosphere during a hockey game is comparable to the atmosphere of a college football game - only without the annoying cheerleaders - but in an entirely different way. It's hard to describe, but if you've been to both, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

4. Practices

I love going to games, but sometimes going to practice is far more interesting and entertaining. Seeing how the coaches and the players approach the game, the work ethic the players put into a practice, and the odd little things they throw in to a practice are what make it interesting. I wanted to throw training camp in on this, too, but that's not really the same thing.

At practice, for instance, the casual fan probably has no idea that individuals will practice how to fight. It's not so much the throwing punches part that they're working on as it is working on their balance on skates while throwing punches. And occasionally a forward or defenseman will borrow goalie gloves and sticks and practice goaltending after regular practice. That kind of thing is usually accompanied by a lot of joking, laughing, and hamming things up for effect. It's a good time, actually. Both watching and participating in, if you play yourself.

5. The Players

As a woman, I can take this one of three ways, so I'm going to make this a three-part answer and cover everything.

A. In most big league sports, the athletes tend to cruise a little bit. For many individuals, getting to the Show and collecting a hefty paycheck is pretty much all they had ever hoped for. Not many of them still have that fire in their belly to win a championship after that, sadly. And quite a few of the most talented players exert just enough effort to get them by, instead of truly competing.

Hockey players are typically the lone exception. Maybe it has something to do with the ingrained philosophy that hockey is a team sport first, last, and always - or maybe it's because a lot of hockey players are small town guys who have their heads on straight. I don't know. But come around playoff time, you have to be dead to not get on the ice to play. And even teams who aren't in the running for playoffs still put in a good effort down the stretch. That's almost unheard of in the NFL, the NBA, and MLB. The individual and team efforts in hockey is what puts the entire sport head and shoulders above the rest.

B. The players themselves are the most normal guys you can come across in professional sports. (They're still not exactly "normal" - whatever "normal" means - but as compared to the rest of professional sports, it's close enough.) They take time to talk to the fans, they're involved in the community, and most of them are totally unpretentious. There are always exceptions to every rule, of course - Dany Heatley sort of comes to mind for some reason. But, for the most part, they're genuinely good guys - including the star players. The time they'll take to patiently do autographs and pictures for everyone, especially for kids, is just amazing. You don't get that with any other sport these days.

C. Hockey players are the best looking crowd of athletes - after soccer players, of course. (On the hierarchy of attractiveness for most female sports fans, no group of athletes can compare to soccer players.) Some might argue that baseball players are better looking than hockey players, and that'll always be up for discussion, but there's no disputing that hockey players are a good looking group of men. After soccer, hockey, and baseball, tho, the attractiveness quotient drops significantly for the rest of the major sports. Which is sad, but true. Women don't typically watch football for the players, unless it's maybe college ball - and that's a big maybe. Sorry to disillusion all of you men out there.

August 26, 2009

Hockey Season Is Coming

Team Canada no longer has room for Lecavalier and Thornton
"This year we're going to get to know each other better. That's why we're doing this here -- getting to know each other. That's how you get to be a team, how you gel." -Vincent Lecavalier
Seriously, Vinny? Really? It took you this long to finally figure that out? Come here so I can kick you in the shin. Hard. With very pointy shoes. Normally, I'd kick you in the ankle, but since you've got the season to play, I'll make an exception just this once so you won't get seriously injured. Considerate of me, I know.

Sorry if I'm a little bitter about how last season turned out. I don't hate anybody or anything like that, but thinking about it still doesn't make me very happy. So why pretend? We're all friends here. Or something.

[...deep breath....] Okay. Well. Back to the topic at hand....

Hopefully that kind of thinking will at least do the Lightning some good this season. God knows they need it. They need something, anyways. Although, to be honest, I think they'll be pretty decent - and possibly make playoffs, tho that might be a close call.

I believe that the determining factor will be coaching this season, more than anything else. I have nothing against Rick Tocchet personally, but to me, he didn't really get the job done last season. I realize that it was a difficult season in terms of on-ice personnel changes, but usually there's at least a minimal improvement once there's been a coaching change, and last season their record actually got worse. That doesn't really inspire confidence in me.

The current ownership thing just won't even compare to the revolving locker room door of last season. Luckily, most of the team is still intact, so they'll have experienced worse than ownership problems. Just about anything will be better than last season, so it should be easier on the players almost regardless of what happens. So that's something at least.

But I have to wonder - what's up with the five games in five nights in five different cities? I would think they'd split up the training camp attendees into two squads and go about things that way, but that'd probably make far too much sense for them to do. I was seriously considered flying back to Washington State for that game in Everett. I really want to go to that, but I probably won't.

I do plan on going to the game in Norfolk, Virginia, tho. A co-worker of mine, maybe two, will probably go with me to that. It's the Tampa Bay Lightning versus their farm team, the Norfolk Admirals. Norfolk is only about a 2½-hour drive, which is no problem for me. It's convenient for me that they decided to book a game in Norfolk, isn't it? After that, the Lightning won't be back up this way (DC-area) until January, I believe.

I was also considering hitting up Washington Capitals training camp, and maybe a preseason game of theirs as well. And I still might be hitting a couple of Caps games in October when a friend from out-of-town visits. So we'll see how that goes. Not that I'll ever become a Caps fan, but they are the local team, after all.

Am I looking forward to hockey season, do you think?

August 24, 2009

Facebook Hockey Survey

It's another one of those random Facebook surveys that I thought I'd post up. This is hockey-centric, of course. Otherwise, it probably wouldn't go up on my blog, right?

1. Who is your favorite NHL team?:
The Tampa Bay Lightning, I guess. I write about them, anyways.

2. Who do you think is the all time greatest hockey player?:
Bobby Orr.

3. Who do you think is the all time greatest goalie?:
Right now, Patrick Roy - at least until Martin Brodeur breaks all of his records.

4. What team do you think is or was the greatest ever?:
The obvious would be Montréal and their 24 Stanley Cups, but I think I'll go with the 1917 Stanley Cup Champions, the Seattle Metropolitans - just because I can - who beat Montréal to win it all, incidentally.

5. How many NHL games have you attended?:
Was I supposed to have kept count? I don't know. 50-60 or so, maybe?

6. Have you ever seen a team win the Stanley Cup live?:

7. If you could see one player return to hockey in his prime, who would it be?:
Peter Forsberg again.

8. How many hockey jerseys do you own?:
Two: an old practice jersey of mine, and a '91-'92 Toronto Maple Leafs game-worn jersey that belonged to Kevin McClelland - for obvious reasons. (Similar last name, in case you missed it.)

9. Ever get hit by a puck?:
Yes. A few times. Last one was Jeff O'Neill when he played for Carolina. Flipped a puck at me at a practice in Vancouver just to be funny. And it wasn't.

10. Gary Bettman: Hate or like? Why?:
Neither. I am ambivalent. To hate or like the man would require more energy then he deserves.

11. What city would you like to see a hockey game in?:
Montréal, Prague, Göteborg, Örnsköldsvik, and all the other arenas that I haven't been to in the NHL.

12. Who do you think are the best NHL fans?:
I think they're all about the same, really.

13. Who do you think are the worst NHL fans?:
See above.

14. Do they even have fans?:
I plead the 5th. Anything I'd say would be too incriminating, speaking as a Tampa Bay blogger.

15. Do you like the newest NHL rule changes since the strike?:
At first, yes. But now that it's been a few years, it's going back to how it was before.

16. Who do you want to win the Stanley Cup this year?:
The underdog - whoever they might be. Washington or Chicago, maybe?

17. Who do you THINK will win the Stanley Cup this year?:
Either Pittsburgh or Detroit. Again.

18. What was the best NHL game experience for you?:
The last game I went to at the Meadowlands during the middle of the '06-'07 season - the season before the Devils moved to Newark - Philadelphia at New Jersey. It'd take far too long to explain, but it was a good time. Except for the drive up from Philly, which is where I flew in to, that is.

19. What was the worst NHL game experience for you?:
The first game I went to in DC, end of the '07-'08 season - Tampa Bay at Washington.

20. Do you prefer upper lever seats or lower level seats at a hockey game?:
I prefer the lower level, about halfway up (15-20-ish rows up from the ice), in the corner or end.

21. Ever been to the Hockey Hall of Fame?:
Nope. And I'm not sure I want to go, either. At least, not until they decide to start inducting women in.

22. Who is the dirtiest player in the NHL?:
Currently? Chris Pronger, by general acclamation.

23. Who is the cleanest player in the NHL?:
Probably Henrik Zetterberg.

24. Don Cherry? The man, or a jerk?:
I vote in favor of "senile" myself.

25. Ever been to an NHL All Star Game?:
Nope - and I would prefer to see the Skills Competition, anyways.

26. How far have you driven to see a hockey game?:
Tallahassee to Nashville - 500 miles-ish.

27. How far have you flown to see a hockey game?:
Tallahassee, FL, to Philadelphia, PA - 950 miles-ish.

28. What was the funniest moment for you at a hockey game?:
There have been far too many. I have to pick out just one? Ummm...'95 partial lockout season, Québec at New Jersey, warmups was a hysterical! (It'd take far too long to explain....)

29. What was the scariest moment for you at a hockey game?:
Seeing Marty McSorley take a baseball swing at Donald Brashear's head in Vancouver. (Yes, I was really at that game.)

30. If you were a penalty, which one would you be?:
Double minor for roughing.

31. Do you think someone from the NHL should be banned from the game? Why?:
Can't say I've thought about it. The flavor of the moment would probably be Heatley, tho.

32. If you could see ANY moment in NHL history live, what would it be?:
Colorado's 2001 Stanley Cup win over New Jersey.

33. Did you used to like a different NHL team? Who was it?:
A few. Vancouver, and then Philadelphia for a time. But then I tend to follow players and not teams.

34. If you could bring back any defunct NHL team, who would it be?:
Maybe the Québec Nordiques? But only if the Avs stay in Colorado.

35. If you could put a NHL team anywhere, USA or Canada, where would you put them?:
Portland, Oregon. The fans are so great there, and they already have an NHL arena (The Rose Garden). They should get a team.

36. Who is or was the greatest NHL coach?:
I don't know about "greatest" - as in "ever" - but I really like Jacques Lemaire and John Tortorella.

37. Which arena, new, old defunct, was or is the best place to see a hockey game?:
I've really enjoyed watching games in Atlanta so far. Their arena is unconventional, and I kind of like that.

Minor League Cities Rankings

Top Minor League Markets (US): Final Ranking

So, being from the Pacific Northwest, I automatically look for the Washington State towns. That's probably bad of me, but whatever. These are towns with a minor league team from any sport.

So in order, out of 239 (for Washington State towns, that is):

5. Spokane: arena football, major junior hockey, baseball, soccer
44. Tacoma: basketball, baseball, soccer
47. Pasco-Kennewick[-Richland] (AKA Tri-Cities): arena football, baseball, major junior hockey
196. Everett-Monroe: baseball, lacrosse, major junior hockey, racing
201. Yakima: baseball, football, racing, soccer

Interestingly enough, down the road from where I currently live is Richmond, VA - the worst city on the list.

August 14, 2009

Peter Forsberg

I don't usually watch videos like this. The cheesy music and commentary are enough to drive me mad. But Peter Forsberg is probably my all-time favorite hockey player, so when I stumbled across this I had to watch it. Particularly since I haven't seen him play for a long while.

The first time I saw Forsberg was in New Jersey. It was his rookie season with the Québec Nordiques. I remember more about warmups than I do the game, tho. Even still, I'd heard all about his infamous Olympic goal against Canada in the last Olympics when hockey was only for amateurs, and I was curious. Although, my sister Jill was far more interested in seeing him play than I was at the time.

Just watching this video really brings back why I liked Forsberg. Sure, he had a wicked backhand and could make insane passes. And yeah, he wasn't afraid to take a lot of abuse and play physical. And trying to knock him off his skates or the puck was pretty much impossible. But the real reason that I liked Forsberg was because he wasn't afraid to play a little bit dirty. Not badly, but that edge he had really made him a very effective hockey player.

He did take the occasional dive. Anyone who watched him, and is totally honest about it, knows that. And he was definitely a little free with his elbows. But, you know, it wasn't because he was out to hurt anyone. It's just that he wanted to win so much that he took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. And if elbowing a guy early in the game made him back off just a little bit later on, then all the better.

I guess the real reason why I liked him so much - if I'm going to be truly honest about this - is because that's how I used to play sports. I could identify with what he was doing. I was never the best player out there, but I wasn't afraid to put myself into physical situations and I did play a little dirty. It was psychological warfare. The real trick is to not take it too far. And Forsberg rarely did.

Want to know the funniest thing about this video? It's mostly goal scoring. Forsberg never thought of himself as a goal scorer. He was a passer - the guy who set up plays. He usually had twice as many assists as he did goals. He really didn't shoot all that much. So this is why people told him his entire career that he should shoot more.

The Tampa Bay Lightning And Social Media

Lightning Let Fans Know They Traded Artyukin Via Twitter

Twitter Tracker Hockey Edition: The best official Twitter accounts

I saw that. I didn't think much of it, to be honest. Not after how they twittered stuff at the draft. They run a Facebook fan page as well. Frankly, I almost think they keep those two things updated better than the actual team website.

Yesterday, the team started following Raw Charge on Twitter, too. They've re-tweeted posts of ours before, tho, so it's not too suprising. They run a Facebook fan page as well.

I believe that Angelina Lawton is the one running the Twitter account for the Lightning. And probably also the Facebook page. Which makes sense since she's the Director of Corporate Communications for the team. (And yes, she's also the wife of GM Brian Lawton.)

August 11, 2009

CLS NHL Re-draft - Seventh Round Update

As posted on Raw Charge....

I know, I know. I've been slacking. In my defense, however, it is the offseason. And many of the blogs John posts tend to be collaborations.

Enough of this tedious self-justification. Here's your update on where we're at with the Cycle like the Sedins NHL Re-Draft. First, let's go over where current Lightning players have gone.

We just started the 7th round. Interestingly enough, Vinny and Mattias ended up on the same team. And in the Southeast Division, no less.

Round Pick CLS Team Player Position Cap Hit
1 10 Atlanta Thrashers
Vincent Lecavalier C $7,727,273
2 40 New Jersey Devils
Martin St. Louis RW $5,250,000
4 116 Chicago Blackhawks
Steven Stamkos C $3,725,000
6 171 Atlanta Thrashers
MattiasOhlund D $3,607,000
7 183 Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan Malone LW $4,500,000

Yes, I even managed to pick up a current Lightning player in this draft. Crazy, ain't it? Here's where I'm at so far:

Round Pick Player NHL Team Position Cap Hit
1 3 Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers G $6,875,000
2 58 Mike Cammalleri Montreal Canadiens
C $6,000,000
3 63 Mark Streit New York Islanders D $4,100,000
4 118 Milan Hejduk Colorado Avalanche
RW $3,900,000
5 123 Brent Burns Minnesota Wild
D $3,550,000
6 178 Matt Stajan Toronto Maple Leafs
C $1,750,000
7 183 Ryan Malone Tampa Bay Lightning
LW $4,500,000

The grand total so far, for seven players, is $30.675m - which isn't bad, as these things go. There are actual NHL teams that have 4 or 5 players that tie up that amount of cap space. That means that I have $26.325m for the rest of the team. The majority will probably have cap hits of $1m or less.

So this is what I'm thinking. Top line may be LW Malone, C Cammalleri, RW Hejduk. It'll depend on what wingers I can pick up in the next round. Which, unfortunately, will be the 238th pick. I'm thinking a winger and another defenseman for the 8th and 9th rounds.

The interesting thing about this draft has been the people who haven't been drafted as of yet. I really wanted to pick up Brad Richards. I thought about it long and hard. I still even have him on my list of who I'd like to pick next. The one thing that's stopping me - and is stopping everyone else as well - is his price tag. And it's not just Brad, but a few others as well. This is what it means to play with a salary cap.

You can find out more on the CLS: Re-Drafting the NHL Boards.

August 8, 2009

Playing For The Stanley Cup

I still don't care for Crosby much as an NHLer - as in, his style of play. During the regular season, he just hasn't impressed me, and certainly has not lived up to the hype. Particularly the couple of times I've seen him play in person. Tho he really reminded me of Peter Forsberg during playoffs, and Forsberg was one of my favorite players. Which isn't necessarily a good thing, actually, considering Forsberg's style of play also seriously increased his chance of injury.

Still, it's not his fault that the NHL totally overkills marketing him. And his team doesn't seem to help much with that, either. He really ought to consider taking over the management of his image and giving it to someone he trusts with that kind of thing. I don't know that hiring an actual publicist is necessary, but it could be.

He also really needs to get over doing the traditional Canadian thing of stoic interviews with canned, clichéd answers. Makes him look like he has all the personality of dry toast. Of course, he comes from a conservative part of a conservative country, and that doesn't make things any better. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just an observation.

Anyways, if this video is anything to go by, he seems like a pretty decent guy off the ice - with an actual personality, even. And this idea of playing for the Cup with his buddies was absolutely brilliant. It upped my opinion of him hugely, actually. Which is sad of me to say, but there you go.

And who knew that he could play goal? His form isn't bad, even. Although, I'd like to see him try that on the ice. Or, at least, on wheels.

My Hockey Playlist

As an offseason exercise, a friend suggested we come up with a 12- song playlist of hockey-related songs with a reason why each song reminds you of hockey. I kept it at 12 - but it was hard! And, following a friend's example, I added in links to videos in case you don't recognize song titles. You'll probably recognize most of the music, tho.

So here's mine:

1. "The Hockey Song (The Good Old Hockey Game)" by Stompin' Tom Connors
A classic - need I say more? Almost required on any hockey song list.

2. "The Zamboni Song" by Gear Daddies
Another classic. Also almost required on any hockey song list.

3. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey
This one's for you, Vinny and Marty.

4. "Song 2" by Blur

5. "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors
Oh, Tacoma Rockets, why'd you have to move to Kelowna?

6. "Rock and Roll Part II" by Gary Glitter
This will always make me think of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Always.

7. "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
And this will always make me think of the Kamloops Blazers.

8. "Even Flow" by Pearl Jam
Memories of the Tacoma Dome....

9. "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns n' Roses
A favorite of the Tampa Bay Lightning - and arenas everywhere. Also a favorite of the college I went to.

10. "I Saw Her Standing There" by The Beatles
GM Place in Vancouver used to play this all the time.

11. "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers
Another for the Tampa Bay Lightning - one of their warmup songs the last time I saw a game in Tampa.

12. "Rock and Roll All Nite" by KISS
Yet another classic arena rock song. Gotta love KISS.

August 2, 2009

CLS Re-Draft - Lightning Update

As posted on Raw Charge....

In the effort to not let this blog be overrun by the Cycle like the Sedins Re-Draft, please refer to their website for overall updates. They have thankfully created an updates/rules page to make life easier. So it's 20 rounds, and we're almost thru the third round. The next Lightning pick in the fourth round comes at the end (snake order) with pick #118, closely followed by the 123rd pick in the fifth round, which may take place either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The two Lightning players that have been chosen so far are Vincent Lecavalier (Atlanta Thrashers - 10th overall, first round) and Martin St. Louis (New Jersey Devils - 40th overall, 10th in the second round).

Now that we know what's going, here is where the Lightning stand after three rounds:

Round Pick Player NHL Team Position Cap Hit
1 3 Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers G $6,875,000
2 58 Mike Cammalleri Montreal Canadiens
C $6,000,000
3 63 Mark Streit New York Islanders D $4,100,000

Any suggestions for the next two picks are welcome. Please keep in mind that there is a $57 million salary cap. However, there are going to be just 20 rounds instead of 23 for a full roster - 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders.