Monday, April 30, 2007

OK, so I lied

Yeah, I know I said I was going to write up the Devils/Senators game from Saturday night--and it was a classic--but then I got wrapped up in the Sabres/Rangers game on Sunday, which was also pretty good, not to mention even longer. And at the risk of bringing down the hatred and scorn of co-AHF'ers/Buffalo fans Jack and Jen, if that was a "distinct kicking motion," I'm Gordie Howe. Maybe it doesn't make up for Brett Hull, but you guys got a freebie there for sure.

The Devils, too, dodged a bullet on Saturday, despite taking an extra 20+ minutes to dodge it completely. They could have put the game away with ease if they had maintained the pressure they applied in the first period. Instead they put 8 shots on net in the final two periods of regulation. Generally not a recipe for success against a team that has the kind of firepower that Ottawa does, but once again, they found a way to win.

They also found a way to quietly dominate offensively throughout the playoffs. The Devils are leading the playoffs in almost every stat...6 of the top 15 point-getters are Devils (with Gomez at #1), Gionta and Parise are tied for the lead in goals, and Gomez leads in assists (with Elias, Rafalski, and Langenbrunnner also in the top ten). And just look at Brodeur's numbers. He's tied for second in wins, and just a hair behind Miller for minutes played. Oh, and look, he's also first in...goals against?

Wait, what?

Anyway, playoff action continues tonight, but until then, please enjoy this Fark photoshop contest from Round 1 (some entries NSFW).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Your final

More tomorrow, but was this ever a sight for sore eyes:


Friday, April 27, 2007

Cool hockey event tonight.


Sadly, I heard about it too late, and it's already sold out, but this is pretty cool.

The Rangers and MSG have rented out the Ziegfeld Theater, which is pretty much the best place to see a movie in the known universe. They'll be showing tonight's Sabres/Rangers game in HD, and if the Rangers put out the same kind of effort they did in game one, you'll be able to head to 54th street and 6th Avenue around 10:00 PM tonight to see the most disappointed group of people filing out of the Ziegfeld since the New York premiere of Star Wars Episode II.

I went to the Devils/Senators game last night, and I gotta tell you, if you're a hockey fan, get your ass to Jersey and quick, cause this is gonna be a good series, and tickets are available.

I bought a 60 dollar upper deck ticket to the game, and as I was attending with a Senators fan, snuck down to the glass before puck drop to watch warmups. He wanted to marvel at the Senators up close, and I wanted to give Wade Redden a piece of my mind for fucking up my fantasy team this season.

I'm still pissed at that son of a bitch.

As warmups ended, there were still a lot of empty seats, so we- well, sat down- center ice, about 6 rows behind the penalty boxes. We had a plan fully in mind, and engaged in a little crafty pantomime of pulling out our tickets and looking at them, then looking at the seats, then decisively sitting down. We figured out what section we were in, what section we would claim we thought we were in, and then watched an entire Stanley Cup conference semifinal game from there.

It was amazing.

The Meadowlands was maybe 75 percent full, and there were empty seats all over the lower bowl. It did fill up in the second period, ( I think they were embarrassed) and we were even emboldened enough to leave our seats, go get food and beers and come back. They had guards at the entrances but if you had food in your hands and didn't look lost, they didn't hassle you. At first, I was upset that playoff tickets for a second round matchup were going unused, but then I realized that this is a fairly awesome situation and bitching about it is for morons. Big Lou is still rich, playoff hockey is still playoff hockey and I paid 60 bucks to sit in the 6th row! If anyone can see a problem with this scenario, I'm all ears.

In fact, maybe that's it. Lou takes over behind the bench and the rest of the guards figure he isn't watching them, so why should they watch us?

Either way, it's a great thing for true hockey fans so I'm not going to complain.

I mean, seriously- I used to lament the fact that people didn't give a crap about hockey in this town, now I'm coming to embrace it. I've attended three Stanley Cup playoff games already this month, paid a total of 220 dollars for all three games, sat directly behind the glass once and 6 rows back another time.

No complaints here, people.

Don't like hockey?

That's cool with me.

Go watch baseball, you won't be missed.

Seriously, have you guys seen A-Rod this season!?

He's sure hitting a lot of baseballs!

As for the hockey game itself, Dany Heatly is a terrifying force up close, Alfredsson is a great forechecker above and beyond his offensive talent and the Devils proved that even with a bad night of goaltending, they aren't giving up. It wasn't Marty's night last night, but his strength has never been that he's an all star every night, it's that bad games don't affect him. And to see the Devils offense come back the way they did, especially without Elias, was impressive.

Too little, too late, but impressive.

How many other 5 goal games do the Senators think they're going to get?

My guess is, not many.

The strength of the Senators on the other hand, which is something that will be hard for any team to overcome is how fast they start. The scored early in the first period after a devastating hit from Alfredsson, and after the Devils roared back in the second, scored another quick goal in the first minute of the third, effectively killing the Devils momentum and taking the crowd out of the game.

Still, the interesting thing about the game was we didn't really get a good look at either team. The Sens were as stunned as the Devils were to jump out to that big lead, and left themselves open to that comeback. The only period where the teams were on equal ground was the third, and each team got a goal.
So who knows?

Should be a good series.

Oh, and I didn't even see highlights of the Sharks/Wings.

How'd they look?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Play hockey, cure cancer.

If you're in New York City this Saturday, enjoy a good game of street hockey, and hate the big C, I have a great opportunity for ya:

Some of the folks involved in the great NYC institution the Blacktop Street Hockey League have hipped me to a charity street hockey tournament taking place this Saturday.

Here's the skinny:

Who: Anyone over 18 who can play a clean, NON-CONTACT game of street hockey for a great cause.

What: Street hockey tournament with a 3 game guarantee and possible playoff games.

When: Saturday April 28th, registration (signing a waiver and paying the entry fee) begins at 8:30am, the games will start at 9:30am sharp (yes, they did start at 9:40am last year). Expected ending time will be 4pm.

Where: Tanahey Park/Moffo rink in downtown Manhattan near Cherry and Catherine.

How: There will be 8 teams. All players will be randomly assigned to the 8 teams to ensure that there is an equal distribution of males, females and talent across the teams. There will be two simultaneous games running, one in the hockey rink and one on the basketball courts adjacent to the rink. There will be 2 divisions with 4 teams each and there will be three 40 minute games round-robin style per team. This will be followed by a playoff game between the top teams from each division. If time permits, there will be a semi-final playoff round preceding the finals.

There is a $25 entry fee and that goes directly to the American Cancer Society.


There's plenty more information at the webpage for the tournament, so- um, go there.

This is a great opportunity for anyone who loves playing hockey and will be in New York City this weekend.

I'm looking at you, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators.

The Devils and Sens need to be back at the Meadowlands by 6:00 for an 8:00 PM start.
No conflict there.

The Rangers and Sabres finish up game 2 around 11:00 PM Friday in Buffalo, but if it goes anything like game one, the Sabres won't be tired at all, and Jagr will have stopped skating by the second period, so he'll be fresh as a daisy for the morning. The only person who might have a conflict might be Sean Avery, who might still be busy with the long, slow, adoring sponge-bath that he receives daily from members of the media.

I'll be at game one of the Devils-Senators tonight.

As perplexing as it seems (as of 2:20 PM) tickets are still available.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Well, it's after 2:00 PM-

- and the Amazing Kreskin hasn't called.

Maybe all the reading I've been doing on him these days has rubbed off on me, because somehow I knew he wouldn't call.

I just knew it.

My powers are only just beginning to manifest, and I find the transformation exhilarating. Yes, there is some fear, and some doubt, but with birthing comes pains, and I will be all the stronger for it.

I'll give Kreskin's management a call tonight, and we'll see if we can't get him on before the conference finals.

For now though, I will be picking the winners of the remaining four playoff races using Kreskin's method for picking lottery numbers, which is available on his website, by clicking the "Lottery" tab on the upper right. I quote:


All you will need to be successful is a pad, a pen and a nice quiet spot where you can sit back and relax for a few minutes. It is very important that there are no distractions, so you will want a room free from the blaring of the radio or a television. Once you get into a nice comfortable position, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Hold the third breath for the count of five and release it, along with all the stress you have built up throughout the day. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until you feel completely relaxed and your mind is clear.

Once you have reached this state you are ready to start finding your winner. Begin by concentrating on numbers in your head. Let the numbers run randomly through your mind, don't try to grab on to any yet, just let them dance around without attaching any particular significance to any number. Take a few minutes and get acquainted with the numbers. For years you have used them in your every day life and have taken them for granted, but now it is time to find that special set of numbers that will change your life forever.

When you feel that you have connected with the numbers, I want you to reach out with your mind and randomly grab one from the bunch, take your pen and write it down, but make sure you don't break your concentration. Repeat the process until you have chosen the correct amount of numbers to play your favorite lottery game.



Sweet.

I'm on it.

For both the victor of each playoff series, and the number of games, I will be repeating Kreskin's method.

I sat in my comfortable new chair, turned off all TV's, radios, and computers and started letting first the teams then the numbers 4-7 run randomly through my head.

Deep Breath.

Deep Breath.

Deep Breath- Hold it- and exhale with 5-4-3-2-1.

The winner of the Rangers and Buffalo will be:

Buffalo


They will win in the following number of games:

4

The winner of the Devils and Senators will be:

Senators


They will win in the following number of games:

5

The winner of the Sharks and Red Wings will be:

Sharks

They will win in the following number of games:

5

The winner of the Ducks and Canucks will be:

Ducks

They will win in the following number of games:

7


Well, there you have it.

My Stanley Cup second round playoff picks based on the methods of the Amazing Kreskin for picking lottery numbers.

We'll see how I did, and if I blow it, hopefully we can get Kreskin on the horn, and see what I did wrong.

If you make it up to his Toronto show, put in a good word for me, will ya?

Shitting on the Lettered People, for a Change


A little homage to the good folks over at Fire Joe Morgan, whose fine writing and unrelenting devotion to weeding out hack sports journalism makes me want to grow a giant set of balls so that I’d be able to tell everyone how much bigger theirs are. Nothing eases the blow of finding out that there’s other sports besides hockey out there like Ken Tremendous and the FJM boys.

From Evan Grossman’s NHL.com ode to Mad Lib hockey journalism, “Avery at center stage of Round 2”:


In the first-round sweep against Atlanta, Avery got under the skin of opponents like Ilya Kovalchuk and Keith Tkachuk, he chipped in on the offensive end and the most effective agitator in the game solidified his reputation among Ranger fans as being a blue-collar maniac they find simply irresistible.

Not since Jon Casey’s mask has the sport of hockey been as emasculated as the day when the lead article for Second Round Playoff opening day on NHL.com included the phrase “simply irresistible.” Robert Palmer actually just rose from the dead, dug his way out of the grave, went to the town hall, filled out the requisite paperwork, waited three days for a firearms permit, purchased a gun, then shot himself in the head out of shame for popularizing a phrase that would one day be used in such a manner.


“I'm going to hurt them, I'm going to hit them, I'm going to be in their face as much as I can,” Avery told the New York Post in the days leading up to the best-of-seven against the top team in the regular season. The Rangers, following the example set by coach Tom Renney, have not been quick to anoint the Sabres the next Cup championship. They believe – and they have every reason to – that they belong in the playoffs and that they have what it takes to play with Buffalo.


It’s not the fact that the Rangers not rooting against themselves is somehow newsworthy, it’s that it apparently took an example set by the team’s coach for them to do so. Now, I’m as big a Buffalo fan as any out there—except Jack, who quite frankly, scares me a wee bit—but if there are two groups of people out there who I expect to adopt a firmly anti-Buffalo stance out there, it would be 1. The people being paid millions of dollars to beat them and 2. the Sioux.


Except when that comes out of Avery’s mouth, it sounds like this: “I'm sure there's going to be a little bit of adversity,” Avery was quoted as saying this week. “I don't necessarily foresee us winning in four. I anticipate a long series. It could go six games or five.”

I hear seven is a possibility, also. But I’d definitely rule out three.

The Thrashers had special meetings in the first round to instruct players to stay away from Avery, to not listen to him or let him get under their skin. That sticks and stones can break your bones, but names will never hurt.

Says captain Scott Mellanby: “Now that is some hackneyed writing. I’m outta here.”

But ever since Avery arrived in New York in February, he’s molded himself into an important part of the Blueshirt machine. He’s been every bit as important to their success as core guys like Jagr, Shanahan and Lundqvist. Only two other forwards, Jagr and Michael Nylander, got more ice time than Avery against Atlanta, which shows Renney isn’t afraid to have the sparkplug out there.

No, it doesn’t. Do you think Pat Quinn actually wanted to get near enough to Tie Domi’s mouth to tell him to take the ice? You don’t play someone because you’re not afraid to have them out there. You play them because that’s what you’re getting paid to do. But, hey, I’m new at this. Maybe I’m just not psychoanalyzing the stat enough.

The coach can’t seem to play him enough. The fans have been buying up Avery 16 jerseys like they’re going out of style. But more importantly, Avery’s teammates are also smitten with him.

What’s the over/under on the number of times “smitten” will be used as a punchline in the Rangers locker room? Thank God, because Henrik Lundqvist has really been overusing “enamoured”.

“Well, what makes him tick, it's kind of what made him tick in juniors and then into the NHL: He's got a tremendous desire for the game itself,” Shanahan said. “I think he's certainly a guy that, you know, loves the game of hockey. This guy watches hockey games. He loves to play. He loves to practice. He trains hard in the summer. He grew up in Toronto being a big fan of the NHL.

Well, he certainly sounds smitten. Also, new strategy for any Sabres encountering Shanahan on the ice in the coming weeks: he’s easily distracted by the color red and when you jangle keys in front of his face.



Playoff Predictions Round 2: The Amazing Kreskin?

Well, all of us here at American Hockey Fan have been a bit aflutter over the past day, thanks to the news that for the next round of playoff predictions, I have been in telephone contact with the manager of the world's preeminent mentalist The Amazing Kreskin.

You heard me.

While I am told that Kreskin will not predict who will be the winners and losers of each of the playoff series, I am hoping that he will have some insight into how I might be able to do so myself. I am also told that Kreskin is a fan of the game of hockey, and has a longstanding relationship with Gordie Howe.

I got into contact with Kreskin's people through his website, and had an interview scheduled for 9:00 AM this morning, which was cancelled by his representative via cell phone call around 11:00 PM last night.

Kreskin is on a Canadian tour right now, was performing in Lakefield, Ontario April 22nd, and will be appearing at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto on April 27th.

The word is, Kreskin is excited to do the interview with me, but is travelling, and wants to make sure he can be at the height of his mental powers.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

We have rescheduled the interview for 1:00 PM today, if he feels up to it.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You know, for kids!

It's no secret that the ongoing viability of hockey as a professional sport relies largely on creating new fans. And that means getting kids interested in the game, even if their parents aren't.

Well, the marketing folks at the NHL are no dummies...they know this better than anyone. That's why they've created NHL Kids, a special section of their website geared towards the tender youth who might be on the fence about whether to ask Mom and Dad for a Crosby jersey or a set of official Nextel-branded Jeff Gordon barbecue forks. And so the league has done the only sensible thing to win the admiration and respect of these kids...they're putting their best foot forward, and shining the spotlight directly on the heroes of the sport.

Click the link above, play the "Who Am I?" game on the front page, and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Save the cheerleader, lick the Cup

Unfortunately, the quiet dignity and grace of the sport appears to be beyond saving.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The NHL on NBC.

First off, it LOOKS great.

Hockey in HD is such a joy, that I almost don't mind NBC's cowardly and obnoxious editorial angle on the Calgary/Detroit series. Prior to the New Jersey/Tampa Bay broadcast, once again, the nefarious stench of Bettman was most certainly hanging in the air. I'd expect and embrace it from former Red Wing Brett Hull, but this from Ray Ferraro, the NHL color man once known as a little ball of hate*, but now mostly famous for spilling food on his shirt:


"We'll wait to see on suspensions, but the only thing the Calgary Flames did in the third period is embarrass themselves."

And this, from Mr. $20,000 dollars for a inspirational speech/snake-oil salesman Bill Clement:

"If you had a foul taste in your mouth this morning, it might be because you watched the end of the Calgary-Detroit game"

Doesn't that sound a little harsh?

Yes, there were punches getting thrown, and some cheap shots taken by the Flames, but to ignore that there was a strategy behind their actions and simply call them ignorant thugs is to do a disservice to what makes a long playoff hockey series so great.

After Daymond Lankow responded to a hip check with one of the most entertaining uppercuts I've seen in the NHL in years, Detroit didn't rise to the bait. So Jamie McLennan went into the Calgary net to relieve one of the best goaltenders in recent history who (according to the Flames) has been getting run into all series. Already losing 5-1 and about to go down three games to two in a hard fought series against a heavily favored opponent, Mclennan stands up for his teammate and starts swinging his stick. He is trying to light a fire under his team in a losing effort, and sacrifices what little postseason playing time he is likely to receive. He is saying loud and clear that if Detroit wants to beat this team, they aren't going to do so without a couple of lumps to remember them by. You know what that's called?

Taking one for the team.

Was it illegal?

Yes.

Should he have been thrown out?

Most certainly.

Was it an interesting, creative and aggressive way to up the ante for two upcoming must win games?

Well, according to NBC, it was "embarrassing," "awful," "classless" and "deserves suspensions."

There are plenty of instances in recent years of behavior on NHL rinks that deserves this kind of reaction. The Todd Bertuzzi hit on Steve Moore, the recent Chris Simon cross check on Ryan Hollweg's throat, Marty McSorely cracking Donald Brashear over the head with a stick were all awful and deserved the criticism that they received.

But the end of that Calgary game was simply not a similar situation.

When Clement, Ray Ferraro and Brett Hull all join the chorus of how terrible and shameful and awful the Calgary Flames behaved, it's quite simply poor hockey reporting. There certainly is an argument that can be made for some Calgary players getting suspensions. But what makes me angry is the utter lack of understanding or debate that there were logical, strategic reasons for Calgary to behave this way.

The Stanley Cup is on the line, the Flames have two games to win, and let's be honest- they're not going to be able to win them with Jaime McLennan in net, which makes him expendable. They weren't going to win game five and wanted to send a message. Yes, the Flames wanted to give the Wings some deep bruises, force them away from the front of the net, and fire up their team. They are an 8th seed, playing a very good Detroit team, and were facing two straight elimination games after being beaten soundly in game five.

So what would you have them do? Skate out the tail end of a 5-1 loss like gentleman?

Offer a gentle curtsy to the Detroit Red Wings and wish them well in the next round?

They had good reasons for doing what they did, and the story, if there is one, is how that strategy simply didn't work, thanks to the tremendous discipline and class of the Detroit Red Wings for not rising to Calgary's bait. The Flames had no weapons left. They weren't going to outscore them, so they thought they'd try outfighting them, and getting fired up for game 6. Detroit, realizing they didn't need it, walked away, and were denied the credit they deserve for weathering the storm of an aggressive, violent strategy by the Calgary Flames.

There is a way to respect the game and its traditions, and if the NBC team had explained to it's audience how classy the Wings were, instead of how awful the Flames were, the game would have been done a service.

Instead, once again, they came out in front of America, and spilled food down the front of their shirts.






*CORRECTION: 4/23/07: Oops. I should have known this, but Pat Vebeek was the "little ball of hate." Ferraro was known as the "big ball of hate." I was writing fast, and F'd it up. Thanks to Dougie for the catch.

Friday, April 20, 2007

New York Islanders Defenseman Sean Hill-


-has been suspended 20 games for a performance enhancing drug violation. It's sad to see this in the NHL, but like in other sports, we should have seen it coming, and it's high time the journalistic community started asking more questions.

Check out this picture of Hill, who is now 36, in his first year in the league.

The difference is striking.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I think I figured out how Atlanta got swept

Enough is enoughalo


Over the past few days on this site, there has been more talk about Sabres than at Luke Skywalker's last garage sale. I mean, it's all well and good for our resident Buffalo fans to enjoy and celebrate their casual stroll to (at least) the conference finals, but for the rest of us - okay, not Ritch, but everyone else on the site (i.e. me) - the post-season is a grueling dogfight, an all-out, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, no-quarter-asked-and-none-given hyphenated-expression-fest.

I'm talking, of course, about the Devils/Lightning series.

Give this man's butt a rest.

Now if any of you humps out there try and tell me that the Devils are boring to watch, I will ask you to kindly not roll over my foot with the wheelbarrow in which you transport your enormous balls. Yes, the Devils play tight defense, and they have the best shutdown line in the league with Madden, Pandolfo, and Brylin. But this series has proven that if the opposition is talented enough and hungry enough, the Devils system can be overpowered, plain and simple. Of course, it helps to have the Rocket Richard winner, but still. I have always said that the Devils aren't boring, your team's just not working hard enough to beat them.

Talentwise, this is far from the best team the Devils have fielded in recent years. We still don't really have a #1 defenseman, our so-called top line has been underperforming all year, and without Marty Brodeur in nets, they wouldn't be touching the playoffs with a 10-foot pole (or even a 7-foot Slovak). But despite their shortcomings, they have this knack for always finding a way to win. Last night's game was a perfect example. It was a do-or-die game. You go down 3-1 in the playoffs, you can pretty much pack your bags and join the Rangers on the back nine.

Wait, what? They did? Quit fucking with me. Really? Jesus.

Anyway, last night's game was a real classic. Both teams just punching and counterpunching, with wild swings of momentum back and forth all night long. The outcome was completely in doubt from the first drop of the puck to Gomez's unbelievable top shelf game winner in OT, which to me is what makes for great hockey.

I think you know where Ma keeps me.

I seriously think this might be the best matchup of the post-season. Going in, I expected it to be Pittsburgh/Ottawa - Heatley, Alfredsson, and Spezza have been on fire all year, and I understand the Penguins have some sort of exciting new youngster in the lineup. The league should find out a way to call some attention to this kid.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and watch this series. If it doesn't change the way you think about New Jersey Devils hockey, I will personally come to your house and hit you over the head with a comedic reference to something unusual that would cause you great pain if it were to strike you in the head.

Courtesy, Long Island Style. (Part Two)


Well, I was at game four of the Sabres/Islanders last night with Jack Kukoda, and I gotta tell you, sitting right behind the glass is extraordinary.

When you're that close, it's hard not to simply marvel at how REALLY good at hockey these guys are.

Even Tom Poti.

I swear, it's true.

Also, seeing Yashin's turtleneck up close is a deeply troubling experience.
Just to refresh your memories, here is the YouTube video of the Isles fans we were sitting in front of during game three. The full story of these Yahoos can be read here.



I was curious about how the crowd would measure up in the pricey seats, so I brought my camera again. Check out this rowdy gang of toughs:


It's a miracle we got out alive.

Still, the problem with the first row was not the fans at all.

It was the media.


I returned from a quick bathroom break during a TV time out in the second period to find none other than TV's Deb Kaufman sitting in my seat.

You heard me.

For those of you who are not exposed to the New York Hockey Market, Deb Kaufman is the tiny, adorable New York Islanders player interviewer who has been the sideline reporter for the Islanders for a number of years. She knows her hockey, is a New York sports media fixture, and both Jack and I were thrilled to see her.

We greeted her in the manner to which I'm sure she has grown accustomed, by pasting two big, stupid grins on our faces and shouting "Deb!" She apologized for sitting in my seat, crouched down to leave, and then she spilled my beer.

All class, she apologized again, and told me she would get me another one. I claimed it was no big deal, but she insisted, so I agreed. And then, Deb Kaufman was gone, my delicious beer with her.

The second period ended.

No Deb, no beer.

Jack and I were still thrilled to have seen Deb Kaufman, and when she ran by again at the beginning of the third, we felt like old friends.

"Deb! What's up!"

"Hi guys!"

"So- Am I getting that beer or what?"

"Yes! I'll definitely get you one!"

And that was the last we saw of her.

Deb Kaufman, I have been a loyal fan for many years, but now- now, I am shocked and stunned at your betrayal. You steal a guy's seat, spill his beer, promise to replace it, not once but twice and then don't come through?!

As President Andrew Jackson once said in 1883:

"LET NO MAN INTERFERE BETWEEN ME AND THIS PERSONAL INSULT!"

Deb Kaufman, I am owed a beer, and goddamn you, I will have it.

To paraphrase Ahab, Aye, American Hockey Fans; aye, my hearties all round; it was Deb Kaufman that spilled my beer; Deb Kaufman that brought my bottle of Miller Lite to the dead, empty stump I held in my hand last night!

Aye, aye! it was that accursed Deb Kaufman that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of my beer for ever and a day! Aye, aye! and I'll chase her round Good Hope, and round the horn, and round the Norway maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give her up!

And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that Deb Kaufman on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till she spouts black blood and rolls fin out!

Or you know, at least until I get that beer that I am owed.

The author and his beer, in happier times.


Deb Kaufman, behold the face of the man you wronged.

J'accuse, Deb Kaufman.

J'accuse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Addendum


While we're on the subject of classy Islanders moments- my own personal discovery that wearing a Sabres logo across your chest is the best way to get assholes to stop staring at it was actually quite useful, scientifically speaking- I think mine was when someone took the opportunity of a moment of silence for the VA Tech shooting victims to communicate to the Coliseum what we were all really thinking at the time, that is, "Rangers Suck Cock!" It really encapsulated my grief in just a few simple and true words.

Game Three: An Incredibly Biased and Somewhat Cocky Recap



With some quick thinking on Jack’s part, the Earl and I were able to score some tickets to Game 3, my first playoff game and my first professional sporting event as the Away team. A hop, skip, LIRR, bratwurst, three tall boys, and a taxi ride later, we found ourselves amidst a massive congregation of people who wanted to kill us. With 75% of us wearing Sabres gear—Ritch looking surprisingly natural for a man whose skin hasn’t touched a jersey with a 50% win rate for a considerable number of years—we’d at least thought there would be a few Sabres fans to get our back if shit went down, but it was nothing but an angry sea of orange, blue, and gold chains. I’d never been out with both Jack and Ritch together before, but their resemblance to a bundle of sticks and branches is apparently uncanny, as people yelled at them everywhere they went.

Though I had been assured that our section was where “all of the Buffalo fans would be sitting”, I was grateful to be in the top row, minimizing the risk kidney punches. Not like there was much cause for awhile. Two pucks to Ryan Miller’s head in the first period had me more worried than Mother Miller herself, and the Isles were looking pretty sharp, probably spurred on by home-guido advantage. The Sabres at least held their own, though I got sidelined by a nacho quest and had to find out about the third goal in true Northern New York fashion (a passing woman in a Drury jersey yelled “Fucking A!”). Though the refs were apparently doing a pretty solid job when Buffalo was getting nailed on penalties, that opinion changed right about when the calls shifted to the Isles. The first tripping penalty might as well have been accompanied by the cartoon sound of a rug being pulled out from under someone, so the masses bit their tongues, but when Randy Robitaille got the same call six minutes later, we were given the pleasure of watching 20000 Islander fans attempt to throw their rally towels onto the ice, apparently hoping the Coliseum had temporarily suspended the laws of physics.

The win was ultimately celebrated with a slight, hidden nod to the other frightened Sabres fan in the section, and after avoiding a knifing in the bathroom, which had become largely populated by Buffalo fans (all the Isles girls were out pissing on people in the parking lot), we made our way back to the LIRR, where we finally encountered a critical mass of Buffalo fans, most of whom were scattered figures from Jack’s youth. Victory in Long Island smells much like burning tires, as it turns out.

Put 'em on the glass-

Well, there's been a lot of buzz both here and over at the Youtube site over the video of the facepainters I took at Monday's Islander's game.

To be fair, not all Islander fans are like this.

The vast majority were, loud, passionate, pissed off at the officiating (which they deserved to be, I think) and let us know that Buffalo fans weren't welcome in their building.

That is entirely appropriate behavior.

Walking the aisles for beers and waiting in the bathroom line, you expect to hear some boos, "go homes," "you sucks," and even a "fuck you" or two. Fair game, especially in the playoffs. When you start veering into personal insults, threats of violence and a lot of faggot-talk, you're crossing a line. And I gotta say, the guys who did cross the line that night crossed it with such aplomb, it was pretty clear that they weren't pushing any personal envelopes, they pretty much lived there. Was I asking for it by shoving a camera in their face?

You betcha.

But still, I was pretty sure I'd get a good show, and they delivered. In the year 2007, if you can't hold off from screaming the word "faggot" when a camera is pointed at you, you deserve whatever you get.

Just to let you in on their world a bit, those facepainters were dyed in the wool douchebags who smuggled cans of Sparks into the game. If you're not familiar with this beverage, it's a combination of caffeine, booze and sugar that's pretty much designed for the gentleman who says "Sure, an Orange Slice would be refreshing, but it doesn't really give me the boost I need to get into a fistfight with that parking meter. Are you looking at me, you homo?"

It came to a head in the second period, and there was a bit of a brawl with those guys that we thankfully missed, mainly because Jack was having a cigarette out in the smokers area. We were having a good conversation with a cool Islanders fan when a junkie looking motherfucker skulked up to me and slurred "Hey- areyoo a Buffalo fan? Can I ashk chew a questshun? Do you suck dick?" After his query, he stood before me wide-eyed, and swaying. As I was contemplating which of his questions to address first, especially seeing as the answers to all three were "no," the cool Isles fan we were talking to jumped in.

"Hey buddy- can you name one player on the Buffalo Sabres? Just one."

The guy looked at him, took a thoughtful pause of up to 8 seconds and decided on his response:

"Buffalo shucks cock."

Then he tried to bum a cigarette.

Fuckin' people.

Either way, to even things up, I'm going back to game four tonight with Jack, and we will be sitting right behind the glass, which will give me an opportunity for a interesting experiment in Long Island anthropology. Will the fans be the same? Different? More polite but less passionate?

I guess what I'm saying is, tune in tomorrow for a Youtube video of Christie Brinkley throwing a beer down my back and screaming that I shouldn't suck any cock on the way back to the parking lot.

We'll see how it goes.

Jesus, I love playoff hockey.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Courtesy, Long Island Style.

Well, I went to the Isles/Sabres game with Jack and Jen last night, and watched the Sabres eke out a sloppy win.

I was wearing a Buffalo shirt, and darned if the management at Naussau Coliseum didn't send us out a greeting party full of the nicest people who got us to our seats, offered us a gift basket and made sure we were having a good time.

Oh wait.

That didn't happen.

We did see these guys, though.

If you look closely, you can see the 7 year old girl who was sitting next to us with her father.

Classy, Long Island.



Classy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Given the non stop rain here in New York-


It's nice to see the New York Islanders dressed for it.

Of course, it's been a while since they've used that logo.

I'll be at the game tonight with Buffalo fans and fellow AHFers Jack and Jen, and with the Bruins on waterlogged golf courses across America, I'm going to take a couple of stiff drinks and root for the Sabres. It pains me to do it, mainly because it's the first round of the playoffs, and if the Bruins had managed to put together a stretch run, they'd be the ones in the 8 spot being horribly outclassed by the Sabres.

This isn't the first time I've had these odd feelings for Buffalo either. Here's something I wrote during last year's playoffs.

Ah, well- the Sabres are fun to watch, and you can't beat playoff hockey.

For the record though, I still hate Mike Foligno, his stupid bike helmet and that ridiculous high knee jump he used to do when he scored.

Jesus, that guy was a jerk.

Attention: Kyle Brodziak Fans

I'm sure all of us remember where we were when Edmonton Oilers forward Kyle Brodziak scored his first NHL goal. But memories fade...and why run the risk of forgetting when for a measly 25 clams, you could own this piece of hockey history?


That's right, folks. It's the official lineup card from the Oilers' March 17th defeat at the hands of the mighty St. Louis Blues. Despite Brodziak's first period heroics, this would become Edmonton's 10th straight loss in a streak that would eventually stretch to 12. (Say, how's that Ryan Smyth trade working out?) The card is signed by Craig MacTavish, and suitable, as they say, for framing or wrapping fish.

If you'd like to commemorate this important moment in Oilers' history, why not head over to the NHL's Auction Network site and place a bid? Only two days remain in the auction, so you'd better act fast if you want to outbid Mrs. Brodziak.

Friday, April 13, 2007

As you may know, I am a Boston Bruins fan.

As such, I don't have a lot to root for these days, but I'm happy to say that everybody who I know and like who still has a team in the playoffs has had their team win.

I have friends who are Rangers fans, Devils fans, Sabres Fans, and Sharks fans.

**UPDATE**
I have friends who are Penguins fans as well, but they are well aware of my deep seeded loathing for that team, and are used to me wishing them ill this time of year.

But as for the Bruins fans, whose team is spread out all over the multiple golf courses of North America, here's something for you guys.

How big do you think Zdeno Chara's golf clubs must be?

Those things must be HUGE.

Whoever has to caddy for Chara really drew shit duty.

Just sayin'

A Note to the Red Wings and Sabres Regarding the Single Goals They Allowed Their Opponents to Score Last Night


That was nice of you.

Somewhere out in a warehouse on Long Island, there's a guy who's been sitting on a couple hundred boxes of Arron Asham jerseys since 1998, and for just a moment, I imagine he looked up wearily at his black and white analog TV and allowed a brief smile to flicker across his face, before going back to hacking at his wrists with a dull utensil.

(I'm riding this Buffalo high horse all the way to the bank. I don't suppose there are any Islander fans out there with gambling problems? Email me.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Well, they've finally started listening to me.


NBC has stepped up to the plate and done what I've always thought would be the best thing for the NHL's ratings in America.

They've hired Don Cherry.

And if that's not enough 1970's era Boston Bruins joy for you, the inimitable Brushback over at Sidearm Delivery has uncovered my new favorite song:

Click to hear: (I feel like) (Gerry) Cheevers (I Got Stitch Marks on My Heart)



Enjoy the Lyrics here:

Saw a picture yesterday
Of a guy who used to play
For the Boston Bruins
And in school I always drew him
He had the longest undefeated streak
For every shot that hit his cheek
He drew on a stitch mark
And I think he played with Brad Park

I feel like Gerry Cheevers
I got stitch marks on my heart
Just like Gerry Cheevers

Saw a picture yesterday
Of a guy who used to play
For the Boston Bruins
And in school I always drew him
He wore a mask just like my heart
He had stitch marks on every part
And he wore number 30
That's how old you were when you met me

I feel like Gerry Cheevers
I got stitch marks on my heart
Just like Gerry Cheevers

I feel like Gerry Cheevers (I got stitch marks on my heart)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Versus" network, you annoy me.

I'm typing this while watching the Penguins try to weather the storm against the Senators, and it looks like Jordan Staal is the only one who showed up.

Still, while I am all in favor of watching the Penguins get bitchslapped, I'm more than a little pissed that Versus is not broadcasting these games in HD. I would like to be able to see the girlish tears of Sidney Crosby splashing to the ice with every megapixel possible.

Also, their lame-ass promo that talks about past playoff success stories mentions that "in 2001, the Stanley Cup engraver finally had to learn to spell Bourque."

Hey dickheads, Phil Bourque won two cups with the Penguins in the early '90's.

Even I knew that, and I hate the fucking Penguins.

Also, if we're writing promos about the rigors of spellchecking that Stanley Cup engravers had to endure in 2001, where's the promo for Bourque teammate Ville Nieminen?

Get your heads out of your asses, Versus.

American Hockey Fan Expert Playoff Predictions (Round One): Ritch Duncan

Reminder: These Stanley Cup Playoffs picks were decided on Monday by coin flip, and assigned to our writers, who were told to justify them. Without further ado, Boston Bruins fan and dude who is uncomfortable about writing about himself in the 3rd person, Ritch Duncan :

Wait, crap. That link from my name just comes right back here.

Just trying to be consistent.

Let's get to it.

EAST

Sabres over Islanders
How/why this will happen:
Some people might say that the Sabres will edge the Islanders thanks to superior team speed, ability to roll four lines, sublime team chemistry, more wins than anyone in the NHL this year and a goaltender who will be challenging for the Vezina. But, as William Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Oxford University and longtime Buffalo sports enthusiast puts it, "Those people are fags." Then he threw a full beer can at my head and tried to grab my girlfriend's boob.

No, for true students of the game, the reason the Isles will fail is clearly head coach Ted Nolan, whose amazing leadership brought an Islander team that was expected to finish last back from the brink, into an improbable playoff run and miraculous finish. As Buffalo fans well know, when Ted Nolan does a good job as a coach, he is immediately fired, which I'm expecting will happen sometime around Thursday afternoon, making it the 11th wackiest decision of Charles Wang's career. The rudderless Islanders will lose all four games, but won't really mind, as they'll have the entire offseason to hang around with General Manager Garth Snow, who has the magical ability to make chesty blonde girls kiss each other. Yes, the Islanders lose this series, but ultimately, everybody wins.


Devils over Lightning
How/why this will happen:

The Tampa Bay Lightning have given up 23 goals in their last five games, a glaring weakness that will will certainly be exploited by the offensive firepower of- oh wait a minute...fuck. Still, goaltending wins games, and Marty Brodeur is still the best in the world. The Devils in 6. Not games, mind you, the Devils win the series despite the fact that only 6 goals are scored by both sides, in the entire series, which somehow lasts seven games. Don't ask, it's kind of a mystery.


Rangers over Thrashers

How/why this will happen:

This will be a tight, tight series and the Thrashers will take a three games to two lead. Always the agitator, Sean Avery will arrive at Madison Square Garden for game six covered in savory BBQ sauce. Keith Tkachuk (who has struggled with weight issues) will lose control and eat him. The ensuing outcry over whether head shots in the NHL leads to cannabalism will cause hockey fans around the US and Canada to root against the Thrashers. Atlanta fans, who never really liked hockey that much to begin with, skip game seven and instead fill up the legendary Atlanta drive in restaurant The Varsity, who has just unveiled their new sensation: "Avery Dogs." Tkachuk joins them, orders 30, and weeps while eating.


Senators over Penguins
How/why this will happen:

The Penguins leap out to a three game-to-none lead based on one of the single most amazing playoff performances in the history of the tournament by Sidney Crosby, who scores 9 goals and 14 points over the first three contests. The NHL, the city of Pittsburgh, and NBC are all thrilled at what hockey can become as this young star comes into his own on the national stage. Then, on the evening of game four, Crosby is tragically killed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who slits the young phemom's belly open to quote "get all the golden eggs out." Crosby dies in the hospital, the Senators rally back and win the next four and Bettman is repeatedly raped in prison by former NHL agent David Frost. Hockey fans rejoice.


WEST

Flames over Red Wings

How/why this will happen:

Calgary jumps out to an early lead in the series by starting game one in those weird third jerseys that look like firebreathing boars. The Red Wings see the jerseys and get confused, thinking they accidentally stumbled into an indoor soccer match or arena football game. This is really embarrassing seeing as game one is being played in Detroit. They wander outside and are found in the parking lot by Stevie Y, who leads them all back inside, or at least all of them but Dominick Haskek, who decides that instead of playing hockey, he would rather sit splay-legged in a park, thinking about unicorns.



The Ducks over the Wild

How/why this will happen:

The Minnesota Wild are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, and once again, they are staring down the the team that eliminated them way back then, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who are no longer "Mighty." Actually, scratch that. They're mightier. Plus, they have the added advantage of not having jerseys that are a total laughingstock. Ducks in 5.


Sharks over Predators
How/why this will happen:

This series becomes the most DVR'd programs in NHL history as everyone in America records it thinking that it's actually a companion piece to the Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth." The are not disappointed when San Jose Shark Kyle McLaren leaps in the air, seizes Predator coach Barry Trotz's neck in his jaws and does a full 360 degree flip, tearing his head off. McLaren is fined, but seeing as it wasn't as bad as what he did to Richard Zednick a few years back, officials look the other way. Without the wisdom of Trotz, the Predators fade quickly.

Canucks over Stars
How/why this will happen:

As a concession to Canadian hockey fans, who are justifably livid over Gary Bettman's decision to deny the CBC the Penguins/Senators game in primetime for hockey night in Canada, the Canucks are given a bye in the first round. Mike Ribero sniffles a little over it, but no one else much cares.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

American Hockey Fan Expert Playoff Predictions (Round One): Jack Kukoda

Reminder: These Stanley Cup Playoffs picks were decided on Monday by coin flip, and assigned to our writers, who were told to justify them. Without further ado, Buffalo Sabres Fan Jack Kukoda :


So I've accepted Ritch's proverbial 30 pieces of silver to pick against my beloved Sabres, but only for the purpose of this site. I would never betray the Sabres in real life, at least not for a bag of silver. To buy my loyalty, it would take at least a million dollars and a guarantee that the Bills would win the Super Bowl for the next five years. But I digress, here are the picks I was given:

EAST

Islanders over Sabres
How/why this will happen:

There are three ways the Isles can pull this one off:
1) Miller gets hurt, leaving Ty Conklin to play hide and seek with the goal crease for the duration of the series.
2)The Sabres bus gets lost on the way to Nassau Colisseum, forcing them to forfeit.
3)Drew Bledsoe quarterbacks the power play.

Lightning over Devils
How/why this will happen:

Well, the Lightning did win the regular season series 3-1, I think, but I'm not about to bother looking it up. Lack of face-painters at Continental Airlines Arena disheartens Devils, Lightning win in 6.

Senators over Penguins

How/why this will happen:
Bryan Murray gives the Braveheart speech with his adorable speech impediment, inspiring the Senators. Sadly, the bar is set so low up there that winning one playoff series is the Stanley Cup for those guys. Go plan your parade, you hosers, 'cause you're not going past the second round.

Thrashers over Rangers
How/why this will happen:

Jaromir Jagr has a change of heart and decides he doesn't want to actually try this year, after all. In an attempt to fire up his team, Sean Avery picks a fight with the Atlanta mascot but gets his ass kicked after an enraged "Thrash" accuses him of uttering a racial slur against anthropomorphic brown thrashers. Despite winning the hearts of foul-mouthed ornithologists all over the State of Georgia, Avery and the Rangers fall in 6 games.

WEST

Flames over Red Wings

How/why this will happen:

Hasek something something groin something something crybaby something something choke artists.

Wild over Ducks

How/why this will happen:

Jacques LeMaire's teams are way too high scoring and dynamic to be stopped. I say they put up at least 75 goals in this series.

Sharks over Predators
How/why this will happen:

The series that will finally decide America's true hotbed of hockey: Northern California or Central Tennessee. The Sharks put the Predators out of their misery in 6 games, setting in motion a chain of events that moves the franchise to Kansas City, but which will eventually move and move again. Gary Bettman, in his infinite wisdom, sends the franchise to six other Missouri cities by the 2011-2012 season as part of his "I'm Going To Make These Southerners Like Hockey Even If It Fucking Kills Me" program.

Canucks over Stars
How/why this will happen:

Fuck you, Mike Modano, and your stupid giant teeth. Don't think I forgot you were there in '99, too. You'll never be half the American-born center LaFontaine was. Luongo wins this one single-handed.

American Hockey Fan Expert Playoff Predictions (Round One): Ben Zelevansky

Reminder: These Stanley Cup Playoffs picks were decided yesterday by coin flip, and assigned to our writers, who must justify them. Without further ado, New Jersey Devils Fan Ben Zelevansky :

EAST

Sabres over Islanders
How/why this will happen: Duh.

Lightning over Devils
How/why this will happen:
New Jersey's overwhelming commitment to team defense prevents their forwards from entering the offensive zone for the duration of the series. Each of Tampa's four GWG in this sweep deflects in off the ass of a different Devils defenseman.

Thrashers over Rangers

How/why this will happen: Despite Bobby Holik's reluctance to offend the club that paid him 8 figures to win faceoffs, the Thrashers take the series, eliciting a collective "Wait, what?" from the city of Atlanta. Side prediction: Sean Avery will bitch to the media about something.

Penguins over Senators
How/why this will happen: The Sens take it to the Pens, but the Pens keep the Sens penned in their own end. Eventually, as Fleury tends, the Pens fend off the Sens, and despite some breaks and bends, the players mend and remain friends in the end.

WEST


Calgary over Red Wings

How/why this will happen: Wait, there's still a Western Conference? So why haven't I seen them on TV this year?

Ducks over Wild
How/why this will happen: Fueled by pure shame despite a name and logo change, the Ducks sweep Minnesota just so they can change back into street clothes as quickly as possible.

Sharks over Predators
How/why this will happen: This is a tough call, since I think Predator could probably beat a Shark…after all, he had a pretty good showing against Alien. Whoever wins, we lose.

Canucks over Stars
How/why this will happen: This one's a no-brainer. Wait, are we talking about the NHL playoffs or a Goaltenders-only John Turturro Lookalike Contest?


American Hockey Fan Expert Playoff Predictions (Round One): Jen Adams

Reminder: These Stanley Cup Playoffs picks were decided yesterday by coin flip, and assigned to our writers, who must justify them. Without further ado, newbie American Hockey Fan and Sabres enthusiast Jen Adams:

A couple of things to start.
1. Random coin flip, my ass. I didn't think the laws of physics allow for a one-sided coin designated solely to crappier teams, but hey, I'm new at this.
2. No, seriously. I mean, come on. Look at these friggin' picks.
3. I'm doing this entirely without research, since the whole green thing is my angle, so keep in mind that most of what I say will be pure bullshit, unless I'm right, in which case, bow before my omniscience.

East

Isles over Sabres
How/why this will happen: Hell freezes over, the sky opens from above, cats and dogs living together.

Lightning over Devils
How/why this will happen: After straining a muscle during a routine dismissal of a girl from his bed, Marty Brodeur has to sit out the series. Much like a unicorn without its horn, in his absence, not only do the Devils not play well, but they actually cease to exist.

Rangers over Thrashers
How/why this will happen:Brendan Shanahan's concussion imbued him with a temporary Charlie Gordon-like ability to calculate velocities and angles, singlehandedly leading the team to an upset. Also, he speaks in a French accent now. Weird.

Penguins over Senators
How/why this will happen: The Penguins decide to do away with any sort of offensive formation, choosing instead to station four men around the rink with the instructions to "Defend Sid to the Death." They do, and at least two good Canadians are lost.

West

Red Wings over Flames
How/why this will happen: Over the course of a seven game series, Detroit puts the puck into Calgary's net more times than Calgary does in a corresponding manner. That was easy.

Ducks over Wild
How/why this will happen:
The home ice advantage plays a large role in this matchup, as the majority of the Wild roster has never spent more than 48 consecutive hours in above 58 degree weather. Native Swede Kim Johnsson actually melts.

Sharks over Predators
How/why this will happen:
Realizing that between the two teams, no more than a total of 64 people--most of them relatives--care about this matchup, the teams meet up at a local bar and settle the series with a raucous game of Rock Paper Scissors.

Stars over Canucks
How/why this will happen:
Realizing that they've already won the race purely by dint of not having to live and practice in Texas, Vancouver puts on a couple Harlem Globetrotter-style exhibition games to showcase their little-known slapstick skills, before turning the win over to Dallas in a show of good sportsmanship.

Happy Anniversary, American Hockey Fan!



Yes, it's true, people.

American Hockey Fan is one year old today.

There wasn't really a proper post until April 17th, but it was a year ago today that I kicked it off, so it seems that now would be an appropriate time to announce the unveiling of the new and improved:

American Hockey Fan Expert Stanley Cup Predictions (first round edition)

I have been on record before that making playoff predictions is for chumps, since they are almost always wrong, and when they are right, it's usually for the wrong reasons.

Face it, was anyone picking that Carolina would be playing Edmonton in the finals last year?

As such, I have decided that rather than having all of the folks here at AHF (myself, Ben, Jen and Jack) give their actual predictions, I would flip a coin for each matchup, tell them what their predictions are and if they don't like them, tough shit.

As knowledgeable hockey people and funny folks, they have to justify how these picks that they have been assigned will actually come to pass.

So here are the predictions for each person here at the blog- their reasons for their picks will be coming in over the next couple of days provided they decide to, well- you know, do it.

I assure you, all of these picks were decided by coin flip, and they all were determined entirely randomly.

Let's see how we do!

The Randomly selected predictions for Ben (New Jersey Devils Fan) Are:

East:

-Sabres over Islanders
-Lightning over Devils
-Thrashers over Rangers
-Penguins over Senators.

West:

Calgary over Red Wings
Ducks over Wild
Sharks over Predators
Canucks over Stars

The Randomly selected predictions for Jen (Recent Hockey Convert, Buffalo Sabres Fan) Are:

East:

-Isles over Sabres
-Lightning over Devils
-Rangers over Thrashers
-Penguins over Senators

West:
-Red Wings over Flames
-Ducks over Wild
-Sharks over Predators
-Stars over Canucks

The Randomly selected predictions for Jack (Buffalo Sabres Fan) Are:

-Isles over Sabres
-Lightning over Devils
-Thrashers over Rangers
-Senators over Penguins

West:

-Flames over Red Wings
-Wild over Ducks
-Predators over Sharks
-Canucks over Stars

And, the randomly selected predictions for me (Ritch, Bruins Fan) Are:

East:

-Isles over Sabres
-Devils over Lightning
-Rangers over Thrashers
-Senators over Penguins

West:

-Calgary over Red Wings
-Ducks over Wild
-Sharks over Predators
-Canucks over Stars

Once again, each and every one of these picks is entirely random, and the writers will be forced to justify how in God's name it could actually happen.

Stay tuned, and once again, Happy Birthday to AHF!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Birth of an American Hockey Fan Week Nine: The Last Regular Season Game


Figured I'd bring this thing all round again in some quaint circle of life fashion and wrap up this up with the Sabres final regular season game, a game of so little importance that they scheduled it for Easter, cornering the niche market of Jewish hockey fans (Ben, that's just you. Just you.).

In order to wrestle the remote away from my mother before tucking into our Easter spaghetti, I had to defend the sport of hockey and justify its viewing during the Master's (Mother: Are they still skating back and forth on the ice? Me: Are they still hitting the ball, running after it, then hitting it again?). When my choice triumphed, I found myself in the position of having to explain not just the rules of hockey, but the very concept of professional sports to my grandmother, much in the same way it was once explained to an ignorant little me a few months ago. Intrigued by the fighting- that's my old girl- she picked up the basics pretty quickly, and now calls Buffalo her team, as she is unaware of any other team's existence. In a nicely symbolic moment (and with some divine help from above/silverware diagrams), I was able to explain icing for the very first time, and when my grandmother called Conklin on handling the puck outside the trapezoid even before the refs did ( "Where did the goalie go? Shouldn't he be in front of the net?"- close enough), I felt like Arva Orr, watching my flesh and blood fly through the air. *

Gamewise, this was actually my first opportunity to see Ty Conklin in front of the net, at least in a non-handing the playoffs to the Hurricanes capacity. While I wasn't horrified at his performance, I was unimpressed. There's something about the way he moves and the way he lets in four goals to the worst team in the entire league that gives me the feeling that he talks to himself in the mirror and carries a good luck talisman in his pocket. I'm sure there was cake and ice cream and Mylar balloons stating "You didn't completely blow it!!" waiting for him when he got home, but I'm going to be sacrificing livestock in the name of Ryan Miller's health before every playoff game. The rest of them were looking pretty decent for a bunch of guys essentially trying not to waste any platelets before the playoffs, especially Pomminville, and as Useless Henineken Light Intermission announcer pointed out (Heineken Light? Really?), they really are doing much better on the power play, not that yesterday's stats provided much empirical evidence. A nice, easy little pickup game to whet my appetite for the carnage to follow in the next couple of months.

*Feeling pretty goddamn proud of myself for this one.

Birthing Status: Fully Dilated

This weekend in the NHL-

-one of the greatest playoff races in the history of the NHL was played out.

The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs brought an entire country to its feet in one of the best hockey games I have ever seen.

A defensive battle it was not, but it was high scoring, as fast paced and aggressive as a seventh game of a Stanley Cup playoff series, and was everything that American critics of the game have been claiming the game has needed for years. The momentum shifted radically at least twice, and the game ended with a Toronto victory in regulation, eliminating Montreal and allowing for maximum drama in New Jersey the next day, putting the New York Islanders in position to eliminate the Maple Leafs and gain a playoff spot with a victory.

The next day, in the largest media market in the country, an entire season came down to one game, was tied up with less than one second remaining and after a thrilling, five minute overtime, was settled by a shootout that pitted two rookie goaltenders against each other with the seasons of two storied franchises on the line.

You know what was on NBC?

Car racing.

NBC did show an NHL game- it was the Buffalo Sabres, who had clinched the division last week and had nothing to play for, facing off against the last place Philadelphia Flyers, in a matchup that was interesting almost exclusively to relatives and close friends of Ty Conklin.

Do I need to mention that Ty Conkin does not have many close friends?

Oh- and by the way- the head broadcaster, and face of hockey in America for the NBC High Definition broadcast was this man:




If you'll allow me a moment, I'd like to compose an open letter:


Dear Whoever Is In Charge Of Selling The Game Of Hockey In America,

It's your pal Ritch.

I just wanted to let you know that on the most exciting weekend of the entire hockey season, with a budget of millions of dollars, you decided to show the nation a meaningless game that no one wanted to watch and paid a snake oil salesman to host it.

Seriously.

The face of your sport is on record here comparing Wayne Gretzky to Richard Simmons.

Let me be clear:

You are missing what makes this game great.

Real hockey fans lost an entire season because idiots like you were allowed to make decisions about our game.

You have a great product that people will watch, and you are doing a terrible job.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs, the best tournament in sports, is starting on Wednesday, and it is so goddamn entertaining that even you guys probably can't fuck it up.

You will note that I say "probably."

If those games get good ratings, it isn't because of anything you do.

There are two facts that at this point in the hockey season are unchangeable:

1) The Stanley Cup Playoffs are great

2)You are terrible at your jobs


Oh, and just becuase I love the game and I love American hockey fans, here's a tip- with the Devils, Islanders and Rangers in the playoffs, you're gonna wanna say that there are three New York teams in the playoffs this year, and that's the first time this has happened since blah, blah, blah.

Well, Buffalo also happens to be in New York, and there's a good chance they are going to beat each one of those teams on the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

Sincerely,

Ritch Duncan

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Will the real Bill Clement please stand up?

We all know Bill Clement, right?

Inoffensive, middle-of-the road, company man hockey announcer that seems to be first guy called for pretty much every national hockey broadcast that comes down the line?

Yeah, Bill Clement!

That's him.






So who the hell is this guy?

This is the picture that appears next to Bill Clement's name on the website of Nopac Talent, "America's Premier Celebrity and Sports Talent Agency."

They seem like a reputable company that provides professional athletes and celebrities for speaking engagements.

Jeremy Roenick is also available, and you can tell it's the real Roenick because it's April, and he's on the golf course.

Now I know what you're thinking- that guy kinda looks like Bill Clement, right?

Same facial structure, same hair, same borderline heterosexual Magnum PI mustache- well,maybe it's just a picture of a younger Bill Clement?

Well, here's a picture of young Bill Clement, and if you're still not convinced that they have the wrong guy, here's a frankly splendid look at both a young and old Bill Clement, doing a commercial for "Backwoods Off!"

I found it on his website, and has the added bonus of seeing him shirtless and surrounded by biting insects. It's really kind of extraordinary:



For all the people who arrive at this site after googling "shirtless hockey players," I'm thrilled to finally have something to offer them.


OK- so if that dude isn't Bill Clement, NHL broadcaster, Backwoods Off! Spokesman and Motivational Speaker, who the hell is he?

Well, it's interesting actually. That guy actually happens to be Bill Clement, member of the 2005 Canopy Formation World Record holding skydiving team, who, along with 80 other skydivers, successfully undertook an 81 person canopy formation parachute jump.

I shit you not.

Check it out, people, there he is- number 16, between Tamsin Causer and Martin Clennon
for all the world to see. Click his name, and you're treated to this photograph, which also coincidently, comes up on the first page of a Google image search for "Bill Clement."

If you're asking people for $20,000-$30,000 to produce Bill Clement, is it asking too much that you could, um- pick him out of a lineup?

Oh, and if you're curious about skydiving Bill Clement, here's a photo of his World record breaking jump.



According to the website, Bill Clement is fourth up from the bottom, and third from the left.

You see him there?

He's the one with the mustache.

Congratulations, skydiving Bill Clement!

Oh, and if you're curious about what you'll actually get if you do plunk down the $20,000+ for Broadcaster Bill Clement to come and speak to your corporate or business group, here's a pretty sweet sample (also from BillClement.com) of the "Value Added Leadership" he's offering. If you can make it all the way to the end, he makes a joke that's worth every penny of that twenty thousand dollars. Seriously. Try to make it through.




Holy Christ.


I wonder how much they charge for the skydiver?

No hockey last night.

I was at home with the lady, and since I've been pretty clear about the fact that I'm gonna be watching two or three hockey games a night when the playoffs start, I figure it's a good idea to let up and watch something else on the nights when there's no playoff race on. It wasn't all that hard, all that was on was Caps/Thrashers and Ducks/Sharks, and while I do get a kick of out hearing the Atlanta broadcast team continually explaining to their audience what a playoff game is, it's better for my relationship if I give the hockey a rest for right now.

Anyway, we took advantage of our new DVR to attempt to watch American Idol. We've tried to watch it a few times in the past, just to see what all the fuss was about, but all we would ever see was a group of awful people saying awful things about awful singers who sing awful songs.

That's the whole show, right?

Anyway, we tried again last night, and surprise, it was fucking awful.

But here's where the genius part comes in. Everybody always talks about how DVR is a great thing because it allows you to skip the commercials, but as my pal Michael Reisman has pointed out, the real beauty of the DVR is it also lets you skip through the shitty parts of the actual shitty shows themselves. As such, we watched pretty much the whole show in about 8 minutes, which seems hard to believe, as I feel like I now have at least ten minutes of material on it.

Jesus, that show is wretched.

The best part was when the girl with the short skirt and the girl with the tight shirt were clutching onto each other waiting for one of them to be eliminated, as though they were being forced to await the verdict on whether America ultimately defines itself as more of a leg man than a tit man. When one of their names was called, their reactions of joy and despair were identical, ie- crying, rending garments, pulling hair over eyes, etc.

This was great because after they took all this time and drama unveiling who was to go, they finally told us, and we still had fully no idea which weeping, squalid clownface was the one who had gotten the sack. As it happened, America went for the tits, which seemed to me about par for the course.

I did like the part where they actually mocked a contestant's physical appearance by suggesting that he resembled the lead character from the Disney flop "Chicken Little," which he completely did. It was as though they said "Enjoy mediocrity? Don't bullshit me. We know you do. Well check out how much this mediocre thing you didn't enjoy watching that much resembles this other mediocre thing you didn't enjoy watching that much! High Five!"

Honestly, if America loves mediocrity this much, you'd think Bruins hockey would get higher ratings.

Oh, and speaking of the Bruins, the only joy I have left on that front is rooting for Montreal to lose. Lucky for me, my pal Eric has come though again with tickets to the Rangers and Canadiens tonight. If the Rangers either win or make it to overtime, they will clinch a playoff spot, and we'll be checking the scoreboard all night for the Leafs/Islanders as well.

If the Isles get eliminated tonight, the "Potvin Sucks" chants should be ringing from the rafters with particular luster.

Either way, it should be really fun.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A musical message for the Carolina Hurricanes:

I just hope it's not overkill.



OK, it was Overkill.

Yes, the Carolina Hurricanes were officially eliminated from playoff contention last night, making this year the first time in history that both the previous year's Stanley Cup champion AND challenger failed to make the playoffs.

How's that for parity, Mr. Bettman?

Oh, and as it happens, these Devils fans from the 2006 playoffs eventually did end up being right, they were just 11 months early.



By the by, it's looking like a big night in New York this Thursday with four teams still battling for a playoff spot all meeting up in the big apple. The Rangers clinch with a point, so if I'm doing my math right, if they beat the Canadiens and the Isles beat the Leafs, we could be setting up a Saturday night showdown between Montreal and Toronto, on Hockey Night in Canada with a playoff berth on the line.

If this happens, everyone in Canada will be watching this game.

I guess what I'm saying is, anybody wanna drive to Canada with me this weekend for some good, old-fashioned looting?

Hell, we could do it in the nude for all they would notice up there.

We'll start drinking during warmups, and as soon as the puck drops, we strip naked and stroll to the center of downtown Toronto with this bitchin' metal saw. Then we cut down a parking meter, pitch it through the window of a JC Penny's, pick up some stereo equipment (and perhaps a sharp new suit of clothes) and saunter back to the hotel room in time for Coaches Corner.

It'll be the perfect crime.

Who's in?

Define "spotless"

OK, we've had some fun here at AHF with this whole Julien firing, and that's important. But as the site's resident Devils fan, I see that it falls to me to provide some perspective. After all, I've been watching this team all season, and if attendance is any indication, you sure as hell haven't. So give me just a moment to collect myself here, and speak out in defense of Lou Lamoriello.



Oh, yeaaaaahh...that's better.

First off, I haven't been wildly impressed with Julien's coaching. And before you point to the standings, let me assure you that if you'd been watching them all year, you wouldn't be too impressed either. This team has had to work WAY too hard to get where they are. I don't care to look up the stats (Forechecker?), but the number of one-goal games they've played this year has got to be some kind of record. And yeah, they've won most of those games, but if your team has to go full throttle to beat Philly 3-1 (including an empty-netter, no less) there's no denying that something ain't right.

Yeah, they've had some injuries lately...a lot, in fact. And having players like Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta, and John Madden all out at the same time is going to be a kick in the crotch (or in this case, groin) no matter who your coach is. But why so many injuries? At the time, the team blamed bad ice at the Meadowlands after the circus had been in town...but I didn’t really see that ice affecting the other teams. Might those injuries be due to a reduced number of practices, or a lack of intensity in the few practices they did have? Or was it the overworking of the top three lines resulting from a resistance to play a fourth line that, while not exactly offensive superstars, are still one of the best "energy" lines the Devils have seen in years?

Putting that aside, though, injuries are part of the game, and the beauty of the Devils' system and of their much-heralded (and rightly so) scouting department is that you can call up guys from Lowell to fill those roles. Rod Pelley demonstrated that he is a Madden-in-training, matching up against some of the top players in the league, going only -3 in 9 games, and winning faceoffs with a vengeance. And David Clarkson knocked us all on our collective ass notching 4 points in his first 7 NHL games, including 2 goals on the power play – and that's to say nothing of his gritty physical play on both sides of the puck. The talent was there, even during the stretch of injuries. But the team just wasn’t clicking...so who do you blame? (Hint: the coach)

If you're still wondering whether dumping Julien was the right move, take a look at last night's game against Ottawa. The second most productive offense in the league, and the Devils took them through 6 rounds of a shootout before John Madden (the captain of this team - sorry, Patrik) put the final nail in the coffin. Another one-goal victory, but it was like night and day compared to that game in Philly.

So maybe Lou's "house" was "spotless." It was certainly plenty clean enough for the likes of you and me...let's face it, we live like pigs. Empty pizza boxes all over the place, laundry stacked a mile high in the corner – if someone came in a washed a dish, that'd probably be enough to satisfy us. But in this case, I'm reminded of one of Lou's apocryphal quotes – "Good is not good enough when better is expected."

See you in the playoffs – In Lou We Trust!

UPDATE - The Forechecker rules. Anyone with theories on why the new NHL features so many one-goal games, let's hear 'em.