Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Ok, so here's something about the Bucks that interests me... even though the team controls its own arena (and owns the af2 team), after this weekend they appear to be all out of Fridays and Saturdays for hockey.
Fans are wondering about the current 2-3-2 with Amarillo, a format that usually doesn't come until the finals, when the teams are really far apart. Bossier and Wichita are going 2-2-1-1-1.
But there's a minimum number of miles where the league decides to do a 2-3-2, always in consultation with the owners, and Amarillo and Laredo fit the bill. With the Chayanne concert in Laredo on the 11th and Game 1 of the final pencilled for the 16th, it couldn't happen any other way. Forget expenses -- the travel time alone would stretch the series out for three more days.
Then (assuming Laredo makes the final), I can only presume this Home and Garden show is a daytime event, and one that doesn't interfere with the arena floor. Otherwise Bossier or Wichita would have to host Games 1 and 2, leaving the Bucks to squeeze in Games 3-5 (as well as a possible game 7) on weekdays or weekend afternoons.
Once again, you just can't beat that Shreveport Times web site. Three stories, all online by midnight. If every paper did that I'd be blogging twice as much.
Gotta love the fan who asked Shepherd for his autograph. Way to keep things in perspective. Really, that's the most frustrating thing about the whole affair -- you never want to see a guy get hurt, and I do think the aftermath was overblown, but at the end of the day this sort of hate/recrimination is compelling hockey theater, which there's not enough of in the post-merger CHL (come back Luch!).
And hey, speak of the devil.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
And a double minor caps off Wildfong's evening. Shouldn't there be a rule that if you start talking about retirement due to an injury you have to miss at least one game? Jeremy Roenick missed two months!
Props to Fonger for his toughness and tolerance for pain -- a different kind of player might have gone out there with a busted nose and played it soft -- but at this point I'm willing to come right out and say today's hype was completely full of shit. Masterful manipulation by the Mudbugs, which the local media bought into all the way. Seems like only yesterday that Bugs fans couldn't stand the Times (hi Brian!).
That isn't to say I have a big problem with it -- it sells papers, sells tickets and ratchets up intensity. The New York Post, or Ken Hitchcock's favorite Sens scribes, would have played it just the same.
To sum up: Jim Shepherd, not the Anti-Christ. Dan Wildfong's busted shnozz, not the worst injury in the history of hockey. And the incident in general? No one will remember it by Saturday -- they'll be too busy bitching about Leiter or Olynyk or McLean by then.
Early picks: Greg Rajan says Bugs in 5, Bucks in 5.
I say Bugs in 6, Bucks in 4.
I'll probably eat that last one, given that Amarillo won both games of the season series, but what the hell -- no one ever picks a sweep, and the sweeps that do happen are never ones that you expect (Devs over Red Wings '95, Wings over Flyers '97, Bugs over Ice Bats '01, R-Kings over Ice '03).
Besides, I picked Amarillo to make the finals in October so I come out ok either way. Also picked Indy, who I figured would upset Colorado in the semis. Oops.
Oh, and Tulsa keeps its coach. And I think San Angelo and Amarillo have a game tonight as well. Nothing to say about the Bucks, sorry.
And that's assuming Wildfong doesn't play. I figure, as today's paper pointed out, it's only the second decisive game for Bossier in seven years and potentially the last-ever for such players as Buck and Sprotter. If he can get out there he will. He's a hockey player.
And not to make light of his injury, but the hysteria today was as much about PR, gamesmanship and putting pressure on the league as it was the incident itself. An incident, which, by the way, was nothing like Bertuzzi's crime. If anything, it was more like Steve Moore's original hit on Naslund, which some thought was illegal.
Y'know, back when Dale Henry was skating for the three-time champion Mudbugs, he used to tell opposing players (grant me some poetic license here) "stay out of the slot or I'll break your fucking leg." The fact is, come this time of year, in Conn Smythe's game of "if you can't lick 'em in the alley you can't beat 'em on the ice," these things happen. And while there's no place for cheap shots or hits from behind, and you do wish people were more careful with their sticks, if a gritty player sees a chance to get away with something in the course of contact, he's gonna do it.
I guess the bottom line is this -- said with all due respect, since the guy is one of my very favorite players (in a love/hate sort of way) -- if Dan Wildfong thinks it was a dirty play, he would know.
Just a hunch: Dan Wildfong will be in uniform tonight.
Sure there is, in Corpus Christi.
See, that's a joke, and so was the "afterthought" tone of my comment. Besides, I'm pretty sure I've linked to as many stories about the Killer Bees as any other team.
But yeah, my honest response to the Laredo-RGV series, typing from 1500 miles away, is, ho-friggin'-hum. There is nothing interesting about a first-round sweep by the best team in the league -- to fall back on the old expression, that's dog-bites-man, whereas Wichita's upset and the Indy/San Angelo comebacks are man-bites-dog. I guess if I thought the Bucks were overrated, or didn't have a chance against the North, there'd be a little more to talk about -- but those topics can wait until the finals anyway.
Otherwise, if I'm not talking about your team that must mean they aren't firing their coach, hiring a new coach, not selling tickets, cheating on their affiliation, fighting with their local government, pretending to sign Tonya Harding, making desperate trades, getting their best players suspended, saying something stupid to the press, choking in the playoffs, demanding stick measurements, announcing next year's signings early or demonstrating any of the other foibles that tend to make it into the blog. Count your blessings.
Monday, March 29, 2004
First addition to my links list in a while: the smart and varied NHL coverage at Tasca's Take.
"WE HAVE BLAZER FANS DRIVING TO >> OUR << GAMES TO WATCH PLAYOFF HOCKEY!!! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS TO A LONG-TIME THUNDER FAN??????!!!!!"
Oh yeah, forgot to mention the other series. Pretty good team, Laredo. They outscored the Bees 10-0 after RGV took a 1-0 lead in the second period of Game 1. Does that mean they won with defense or offense?
And Austin fans, ask yourself this -- would you have enjoyed seeing your Bats give a similar performance as the Bees, or is it just as well you didn't have to?
So Emond and Guerrera wait for the next round with GAAs of 0.00 and 0.48, respectively. But what I said before about Levy and Reid goes for them (and DeGagne) as well. Is there great goaltending and great defense down South, or just pathetic offense? Of the top 25 goalscorers in the league, only eight played in the Southern Conference, and four of them were Bucks.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
And that team is San Angelo. Scott Reid re-takes the spotlight from DeGagne, and the Saints manage to kill off the last part of the game playing four-on-six.
It hardly seems fair that Ken Carroll took the loss in Indy, though that doesn't mean Jeff Blair should be the scapegoat. The Bugs are known for changing up the goalie on occasion in the playoffs -- the fans even predicted this one. I'm sure the one thing Scott Muscutt didn't want was for Indy's top line of Baird, Dumba and Gilmore (plus John) to be the best players in the game. Can they do that again on Tuesday, or will Carroll slam the door?
Once again: dopey Colorado fan, classy Colorado fan.
Though come to think of it, while I usually chafe at such conspiracy theories, in this case it's probably true: every single fan, owner and opposing coach wanted the New York Yankees of the CHL to lose this series.
But no, I don't think Wayne Bonney, Mark Hulshof or anyone else who worked it felt that way. And as the Thunder fans have pointed out, Bonney and Laxdal butted heads just last weekend.
Anyway, never mind what was or wasn't legal, never mind if the lucre came from Wilkes Barre or San Antone-- the bottom line is Bach, Swanson, Thompson, Crowe, Pankewicz, Tobler and Nelson likely earned as much as Wichita's entire roster, only to end up like Detroit, Colorado and Dallas did against the low-rent Ducks and Wild last year.
Also, for the allegedly hockey-savvy Coloradoans who got so worked up about Wichita's illegal sticks, how 'bout that too many men on the ice penalty? That's right, the Eagles couldn't beat Wichita with six skaters, so they tried to get away with seven. What a bunch of cheaters!
Funny that Ken Hitchcock would rip Senators beat writers for being homers. Funnier that one of them wrote about it. Funniest, Hitch's description of the effect it had on Philly's hacks. But if I were him, I'd be more worried about having to see those Ottawans in the first round of the playoffs -- not that playing New Jersey would be any simpler.
Meanwhile, no one's gonna call Mike Heika a homer based on this column.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
An Eagles fan who knows nothing about hockey.
An Eagles fan who does.
Checking in on Tulsa's off-season (hey, I'm going to the Frozen Four, does that make me a candidate?).
You hate to see someone go through the stuff that wins you the Kozuback Award: tough year for Joe Ferras.
Marty Turco gets his stick up, and Miguel Beaudry gets a phone call.
The UHL goes to 80 games? Hey, they thought it was a good idea to give Joe Milano his third hockey team too.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Wanna watch some college hockey? Many of you can.
Oh, and speaking of Colorado comebacks, it's almost downright Huberesque (sorry Jamie) not to check up on Chris Stewart's faulty (or deliberately misleading) memory. The Channel Cats never trailed the 1999 championship series more than 1-0, and only trailed the semis 2-1.
I'm actually surprised that 12 of 19 teams leading 2-0 have closed the deal in three. Gut check time tonight.
Prediction: I am more likely to score 30 goals for the Austin Ice Bats than the CHL is to become unionized.
Come to think of it, I'll just be happy when someone scores 30 goals for the Bats.
A little home province press for Brett Seguin and Chris Legg, though you'd think they also would have mentioned Seguin's 1000th point, and that he's one of the top 50 minor league scorers of all-time.
News from Lubbock. Don't know what's going to happen to Tomlinson, but this could still be the most stable year for coaches ever. It's theoretically possible that all nine non-playoff teams will return incumbents (though I'm not holding my breath on Corpus Christi).
You know you're a bush league when you screw up guaranteed fight night. "Notorious desperados" Andrew Katzberg and Ryan Anderson?
Finally, let's take a moment to bid farewell to Hockey by George, and thank Mr. Schneider for his passion and dedication to the sport.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Monday, March 22, 2004
Is an illegal stick "CHEATING", or is it just another two-minute infraction, like a hook or hold or slash?
"When a goalie's stick is illegal, that just does not happen," the sour-grapes Eagles fan goes on to attest, which is surely news to Gilles Lemoche and veteran Toronto scribe Al Strachan.
Speaking of Strachan, here he is today on the cancellation of "NHL 2Nite" and hockey's next TV deal:
... if you run a network, you have to make programming plans. That's hard to do when you are dealing with a league that can't guarantee the existence of its product. It also is difficult for the NHL to take a hard line when its ratings have fallen below those of arena football. (There may be a message there. Arena football is all offence. NHL hockey is all defence. Note which one the fans prefer.)
Of course, most American fans would still prefer a 3-0 football game to a 7-6 hockey game, but that's another story.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
That was the first time Wayne Bonney saw two stick penalties in one game because he wasn't in the bush leagues. Funny, I always thought skaters were supposed to switch to legal twigs late in a one-goal game, but no one ever does.
Oops... since I posted last we've seen the unexpected (at least to me). Suddenly the Eagles, who I thought were more like Memphis in terms of loading up with stars and/or affiliated players, look a lot like Tupelo's last team.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Friday, March 19, 2004
Ok, so playoffs or no playoffs, those of you who know what SXSW is won't be surprised if I don't blog again this weekend -- which isn't to say I won't be checking Pointstreak on my cell phone.
First up, Greg Rajan of the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Laredo in 4
Amarillo in 5
Colorado in 3
Bossier in 5
And guess what Gorillas fans? You won't have John Kaltefleiter to kick around any more... Amarillo's tell-it-like-it-is hockey scribe is headed to Athens, GA as of Saturday. That being the case, here are his complete predictions:
Amarillo in 5
Laredo in 4
Wichita in 5
Bossier-Shreveport in 5
Laredo in 6
Bossier-Shreveport in 5
(President's Cup final)
Laredo in 6
As with last year, I will actively solicit finals predictions from folks around the league (and have another contest) when the time comes. And now my own:
San Angelo in 4
If you believe it means something that Reid was the best goalie in the league over the last two months, if you believe it means something that the Saints played better down the stretch, if you believe it means something that the 'Rillas lost the last three meetings (as well as all three away from home), you gotta go with the division champion everybody underrates, especially if the Coliseum's semi-packed (the thing about San Angelo is when they have 1600 people at a game 75% are loud, proud and follow the team on a regular basis. When you have 4500 people at various other (non-expansion) cities I doubt more than 25% fit that description).
Laredo in 4
Shift for shift, it will be as close as last year's Ice Bats-Scorps tilt, but the Killer Bees' work ethic and goaltending can only slow the Bucks up to a point, especially on special teams.
P.S. -- Nothing against Scott Reid or Jeff Levy, I'm a fan of both and have seen what they can do firsthand. But while reflecting on Austin's 16th-rated offense, I couldn't help but wonder -- were those guys really that lights-out, or were Austin, Corpus, Odessa and Lubbock just pathetic with the puck?
Bossier in 5
Indy's not quite the team it was last season, and I can't help thinking they would have preferred a shot at slowing Colorado, instead of going up against a Bugs team that can out-defend them. Baird and company may get their points, but the Bugs will come through with more scoring from the second and third lines.
Colorado in 4
"Let's win one because we hate John Nath!" Not exactly inspirational. The Eagles were 8-1-1 in their last 10, without Tobler. I think they are ready to go, and Ryan Bach could end up as this year's Mark Richards.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
I will soooooo take this:
It's Slap Shot and From Behind the Red Line and Bull Durham and North Dallas Forty all rolled up into one. Too much fun.
No fooling, I told someone those were my three favorite sports movies of all time just the other day.
Who knew beer grows on vines? Let the Brent Hughes watch begin anew!
A lot of dissatisfaction around the league right now, what with the Thunder situation and the rumored unpopular rule changes (though the one about playing 60 games is not a rumor). Still, for contrast, consider the WHA2, where the GM quit a troubled Jacksonville team, the owner (and league founder) fired back and all kinds of other stuff is going on, including the Miami team quasi-folding and a game cancelled due to unpaid insurance bills.
And just in case this stuff doesn't remind you enough of the bad old days in El Paso and Corpus Christi, Taylor Hall is not only part of the Alabama team but also the WHA2 discipline czar (a suspension for Ryan Anderson? I'm getting misty with nostalgia).
Next up: playoff predictions.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Playoffs? What playoffs? Potential CHL rule changes are what what fans of nine inactive teams are on about (and fans of the active teams as well).
Will Ryan Tobler be on Colorado's playoff roster? Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say that the Killer Bees not only got themselves a couple of good amateurs; they also took a potential first step towards getting Anthony Donskov back into the CHL next year.
Eric Weinrich defends the game.
Outstanding Rookie: That one's easy -- Brent Hughes
Outstanding Defenseman: If Derek Stone wasn't outstanding, he was the cream of the crop. Carper also deserves consideration, but I don't think he was physical enough to win over the fans.
Outstanding Forward: Brent Hughes again, or maybe Tallaire. Though as disappointing as Kelly Smart's season was, especially since he bore the burden of the "C," there's something to be said for being plus.
Fan Favorite: Why, Josh St. Louis of course. Just kidding (personally I think he got a bad rap but he certainly wasn't all he could be, whether that's a 25-goal scorer -- hey, who was? -- or just a guy who goes to net every single shift). I gotta give this one to Hughes again.
'Will to Win' Award: Could see Hughes taking this one too. I'd give it to Tallaire, which is also what I said last year. Lardner's in the mix (though he should've graduated to an "outstanding forward" candidate), ditto Olynyk.
Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Forest, by far.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Sunday, March 14, 2004
First Round Playoff schedule.
Anybody notice how light the Mudbugs roster was today and yesterday? I don't blame Scott Muscutt one bit for resting players, but any chance the betterment of the big picture included helping out the team that's not the RiverKings?
Actually, as far as last night's game, it's a bit surprising that the Bugs wouldn't be more interested in hosting Game 7 of the Northern finals, but from what I understand, a potential series with the Eagles would have started in Fort Collins no matter what because of building issues.
Which is a whole other puzzlement: how does a brand new barn built by the CHL's parent company with the hockey team as its first and most important tenant shut them out of six April weekend nights?
Finally, regarding Bob Clarke's comments that he had no intention of fighting after being intercepted on his way to the Ottawa locker room in the aftermath of the brawls between the Flyers and Senators last Friday: Of course Clarke wasn't going to fight; he wasn't surrounded by Dave Schultz, Moose Dupont, Bob Kelly and Don Saleski, now was he?
And I bet Derek Laxdal choked on his computer monitor after that last holding penalty in Memphis. Parsons gets a hat trick, but it's too little, too late as the defending champs fall behind at home in a must-win situation. Congrats to the Thunder.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
So Wichita's power play and Jeff Sanger are the big heroes tonight. If I read the standings right, Colorado has won the Northern Conference and Indy could use a point but already owns the tiebreakers on Memphis, while the Thunder has to win if Memphis does. If the R-Kings only get a point, the Thunder take the second tiebreaker, which is head-to-head.
Chris Legg's first professional goal -- that's what you call karma. Austin's shootout specialists come through to give the Bats a chance to finish at .500, which I certainly didn't think was gonna happen before the road trip started.
Brahmas owner Stuart Fraser is all over the Dallas Morning News today, talking about the team and remembering the the pain of 9/11.
"If I was in Fort Worth, we'd be breaking even," Fraser contends, a quote the team's Internet watchdogs picked up on right away.
Yup, even with 15,000 people enjoying Big Ten hoops downtown, Tonya and the Ice drew 7713. How dare they?
See, it's easy for the Eagles to join the high and mighty chorus -- they're sold out every night, and play in the only CHL market where hockey is woven into the region, with the NHL and D-1 Denver U just down the road.
"I don't agree with it at all. I'm a hockey purist by nature. The dog and pony show they're doing in Indianapolis has nothing to reflect on us at all," said Chris Stewart, who previously enjoyed many successful nights in San Antonio coaching in front of the hockey purists of "Iguanas dollar beer night."
See, CHL coaches and players have every right to feel they're only in the hockey business. And people like me -- and people like you who care enough about the CHL to read my nonsense -- can pretend they are as well. But this is also the entertainment business, and hell yeah, that means a little P.T. Barnum, Bill Graham or Vince McMahon. Without the occasional dog and pony show, some of those players would not have jobs, and some of us would not have teams to root for.
Friday, March 12, 2004
I voted for three out of the four winners -- went with Mark DeSantis for defenseman. The fact that he'd scored fewer points than John only strengthened my resolve to pick him based on his superior +/-.
Ballsy piece by Jim Kelley on the Bertuzzi affair.
I'm sure Larry Linde is really losing sleep over the Tonya Harding thing now that he's been taken to task by the the media in Rio Grande Valley.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Scott Reid, Most Outstanding Goaltender.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
1000 tickets sold in one day to Friday's Tonya Harding/Colorado Eagles -- erm, I mean Indianapolis Ice/Colorado Eagles -- game.
Read page 2 of the thread and you'll also note that Larry Linde comes clean on exactly what the promotion's all about. I still say, good for him. I'd also like to think that most people are smart enough to realize the whole thing is a big goof, but the message board activity around this subject suggests otherwise.
No truth to the rumor that Jeff Gillooly is going to show up and whack Bernie John in the knees with his Most Outstanding Defenseman award.
Rayz owner Doug Frank hopes to name a coach by April 1. That's ambiguous, eh? Nice Texasville reference too, I know I've seen that somewhere before
Thanks to The Farm Report as usual -- check out today's to get caught up on the Saints, from Ray Edwards' health problem to questions about the city's hockey future.
After Amarillo's loss tonight I was gonna remind people of Kaltefleiter's prediction, but he took care of that himself this morning.
Dan Wildfong had it right about this morning's game -- it wasn't G-rated.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Oh, right, Manute's feet swelled inside his custom-made skates, that's why he didn't play.
Sometimes 66 saves are not nearly enough.
Monday, March 08, 2004
Larry "P.T." Linde is at it again: the Indianapolis Ice have signed Tonya Harding.
It's such a good publicity stunt that people are already bitching about it. Geez you guys... a "disgrace" to what exactly? The dignity of bush league hockey, where only the very best, most well-mannered players get to wear the sweater?
More to the point, she's gonna take about as many shifts as Manute Bol did. If she does get into "some sort of fight," it will be about as heat-of-the-moment as your average Hanson Brothers pre-game promotional appearance. If the Ice were to really sign her, there'd have to be an empty roster spot... and it would presumably be for a lot less than her standard appearance fee, so as not to violate the cap.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
When are 60 saves not nearly enough?
Off to San Angelo, and maybe Amarillo tomorrow.
Friday, March 05, 2004
Thursday, March 04, 2004
My my... now, despite tonight's disappearance, I don't really think the Bees are gonna get 0 points over the next three with two games against Lubbock and one against the Rayz, let alone over the next six. But it's still kind of cool that the Bats are still alive... and that they won one in DeSoto County.
The Memphis broadcasters were funny, pointing out that the Bats have to win every single game, while the Bees must drop every single game in regulation. "If it can happen to the Cubs and Red Sox..." the color guy proposed. "Didn't realize Rio Grande was cursed," Galen Clavio responded.
Toga Knight with Otis Day tomorrow in Southaven! Will Wichita and Indy get more help from Laredo?
Big doings for your average Wednesday.
Laredo scores nothing but shorties to take the Governor's Cup.
Wichita stays where it needs to be to chase down a playoff spot, as does Colorado for the Northern crown.
And all losing Tilson did was give the Rayz their first regulation win against a playoff-bound team since January 16. Amarillo thanks them.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The instant "tribute" to Leetch at the top right corner is a somewhat awkward touch.
I knew I could count on "bk" to do the math: aside from the season-opening streak, which it was silly of me to forget the Bats have won three games in a row three other times. The Blazers were an opponent during three of those four streaks.
New rumor: how 'bout the CHL at Reunion Arena?
Memphis just won't go away... still one game in hand, too bad they don't play Wichita again. We know the Bats can't win in Southaven when it really matters... the Thunder have to hope they can do it as a spoiler Thursday.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Big, bad news out of Corpus: Mike Tilson was arrested... two weeks ago.
Wow, six slots instead of five and Brent Hughes still didn't make the cut for Rookie of the Year. Given his poor plus/minus and the fact that he has just two goals in his last 20 games I'm not gonna get too worked up about that, but I'm still surprised.
MVP is where the real fun is -- if it was Cullaton as of a month ago, can it be Bes now? And where that does leave Grenville?
You can have the same conversation about Pankewicz, though it's easier to argue he's the big dog for the Eagles.
Clearly no one is more valuable to their teams than Reid or Levy, but goalies don't always get support. Conversely, Spurr isn't even the MVP of his own club. But does the emergence of Jeff Blair give rise to a "it's not Carroll, it's the system" groundswell?
And I may have to abstain from voting for defenseman to protest the absence of an actual defensive player.
NHR, but still highly amusing: Pete Rose is going to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Monday, March 01, 2004
"Hi Sonya, this is Bobby Orr." Gotta love that!
Did not realize the Bees-Saints game was this morning. The Bats can forestall elimination for one more night by keeping up their Blazers streak, or end the streak and their season all at once.
In any case, a mere shootout loss puts Rio in. Then Jeff Levy can start thinking about knocking off another Guv Cup team (though of course, the Bees could also rise to third).
One nice change from last year -- the record of the fourth place Southern team won't be any worse than the fifth place club up North.
Anyway, I'm sure it's not much consolation to the fiery captain, but with the Scorps' playoff chances fading, he could just get back to his other job if the league does deal with him harshly.
Meanwhile, just thought I'd contrast this ("We in Colorado expect more from a professional player than what your captain showed") with this ("Eagles win without class").
Chicago Wolves 12,938, Chicago Blackhawks, 12,177
And finally, everybody have a thought for Scott Muscutt's father.