Friday, February 22, 2002

On to the gold!: Belarus goes down 7-1, and Canada gets to go for the gold medal on Sunday night...
Britain all abluster about ... curling?:
With Great Britain's women's team on the brink of Olympic gold in Salt Lake City, the nation rushed to embrace a sport it had successfully ignored for the past 200 years. Offices and shops across the land were dominated by heated arguments about tough ends, four-foot rings and stones in houses. Generally speaking, few would give a monkey's about the exploits of a Scottish housewife and her broom. But, when there is even the slightest chance of sporting glory, the country will take even the strangest pursuit to heart - as a glance at the history books shows... (BBC: When a nation unites)
Duck sighting: Paul Kariya rips in a goal off a feed from Steve Yzerman to put Canada ahead 4-1...

And they're pulling Mezin?! What the hell?! Do they think their backup can do a better job?!
Beam me up Scotty!: A pretty backhand pass sends Lemieux into the offensive zone, and in the ensuing 3 on 1, he feeds Scott Neidermayer for a great slapshot through the Belarussian 5-hole.

Second Period, Canada 3 Belarus 1
Mezin's a punk: Ok, he's not at all, but he sure fumbled that puck. Canada goes ahead 2-1 on a Eric Brewer goal.

By God, these Belarussians play a creative game - if the puck comes past the blue line they chip it right out...
Olympic classifieds: For Sale: Ice skating judge. Slightly used. Bad fur, no spine. Contact: French Figure Skating Federation. Willing to trade. Make offer. (from the Happy Fun Pundit Classifieds)
Russia threatens to boycott the Olympics: What, a new Cold War? Citing excessive drug testing and "unobjective" judging (as I've said before, there's not many other kinds), Russia threatened to quit Salt Lake and boycott the next Olympics.

The Russian outburst provoked Don Cherry, the volatile CBC commentator, to say: "They're always quitting, all the time. Good. Let them quit. Let them go home ... Better off without them. I've been trying to tell you people for so long about the Russians, what kind of people they are. And you just love them in Canada, with your multiculturalism."

And just after Washington Post columnist Charles Krautheimer had advocated rooting for the Russians in tonight's hockey game...

And you thought the Canadians had it rough...: The Swedes are not taking the loss to Belarus on Wednesday too well....

Canadian women take hockey gold: Sick of always losing to the Americans, the plucky canucks won the gold medal last night in a 3-2 win over Team USA.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Woo-hoo! I watched my vid tape of the Canada-Finland game this morning, to much applause... I smell a gold medal game!
Bob rejected as name for Canadian province: (AP)Bye-bye Bob. The Northwest Territories of Canada won't be renamed Bob.

The legislature has decided to drop the search for a new name for the territory for a second time.

Back in 1999, a poll suggested the most popular name was the current one, followed by Bob.

Legislator Bill Braden says it looks like politicians got the message that they should find better things to do.

But some citizens still don't like the name official name. The provincial premier says Northwest Territories isn't a name, but a direction.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Russia goes on to the Semis: Russia beat the Czechs 1-0, despite a furious barrage of pucks fired on Khabibulin late in the game. Russia gets to play former Soviet province Belarus in the semi-finals.
Maxim scores: Maxim Afinogenov just scored the first goal, a wicked wrister, putting Russia up 1-0 on the Czechs five minutes into the second period. And of course, I had to see it on replay because MSNBC insisted on going to commercial at the wrong time...
Belarus kings for a day! Belarus has upset the Swedes 4-3. Dogged defensive play, a stellar performance from goalie Mezenin, plus those two shorthanded goals early in the game spelled Sweden's doom... Who says you need NHLers to win?
Slap shot shoo in: Sweden's death watch is on. A Belarus slap shot puts them ahead 4-3 with 2 minutes left...
Holy Crap! Penguins draft pick Konstantin Kovalev just scored a pretty goal on Tommy Salo, to put Belarus ahead 3-2.

With all due respect to my colleagues at LCS Hockey who worship the Swedes... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Belarus looking hot: Belarus, at the start of the third period, is tied at 2 with Sweden! They were actually ahead for awhile too. If they could pull off a win (doubtful, but you never know), that would qualify as upset of the year in my book!
Breaking the Olympic bank: The General Accounting Office has calculated that the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City are being subsidized by $342 million in federal U.S. tax dollars. In addition, $50 million will be allotted for additional security, bringing the total to $392 million. And that is a cautious estimate!
Slovak swansong: A Miami Herald columnist rightly gives the NHL a dressing down over the treatment of the Slovaks.
Successful expansion team, at least off the ice, according to Rob Oller:
The team's estimated $11.3 million in operating income during the 2000-2001 season was fifth-highest among the NHL's 30 clubs, according to a recent survey. Team revenues were estimated at $60 million.

The estimates were compiled by Forbes magazine, which annually calculates revenues and operating income for all major professional sports leagues in the United States.

The magazine also determines a value for each franchise, and Columbus came out almost in the middle - 16th in the NHL - with a value of $145 million. The league average is $157 million.

The Jackets, to no one's surprise, dispute the magazine's estimates, saying they are too high. Who wants to look like a smart businessman getting richer with each game when the product on the ice is faulty?

That is the problem, eh? If they are banking those profits to spend later, as the team matures, then all is well and good. But if they are just doing what we would expect (keeping the money for themselves), time to skewer away...
Please don't hurt me!: "A minor hockey league in Prince Edward Island will demand next winter that parents sign a pledge not to attack or harass anyone at the rink if they want their children to play in the league." (The National Post)
Olympic mens quarterfinals today:
Sweden Vs. Belarus 1:00 p.m.
Czech Republic Vs. Russia 3:30 p.m.
United States Vs. Germany 6:00 p.m.
Finland Vs. Canada 10:15 p.m.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Slovaks still simmering: "We readily acknowledge we are not the only nation which suffered... But given the fact most of our best players participate in the NHL, we were the most affected."

(Slovak hockey players' letter to the IIHF and the NHL)
Torpedo: I was at a bit of a loss to properly explain the Swedish "torpedo" system to my fiancee, but thanks to Slate, I think I can now.
In the traditional hockey formation, responsibilities are divided simply among three forwards (left wing, center, right wing) and two defensemen, whose duties and placement more or less conform to their names. The Torpedo converts two of those forwards into super-forwards (the "torpedoes") and sends them into the corners of the offensive zone, where they press the opposition relentlessly for half-minute spurts, or else they hang high in the defensive zone for fast-breaking outlet passes. Two more players become all-purpose "halfbacks," who quarterback the offense from the top of the face-off circles and are relied upon to work the corners (fighting off the opposing torpedoes) on the defensive side. A lone, central defenseman (the "libero") protects the front of the net for his goalie and brings up the rear on the offensive attack.

Here is a diagram off the web of the system.

Slate argues that the Torpedo would not work for the NHL.

1. The half-backs need too much skill, and there aren't a ton of NHLers that could pull it off full-time.

2. Breakout passes are more limited in the NHL, b/c the NHL has the center red line.

3. It does not actually increase the offense, so who cares anyhow?
Calling St. Pat: Slate says that Team Canada will not win the gold because they need Patrick Roy.

Would I feel better with Roy in net? Yes. Do I think we can win without him? Damned straight. Watching Lemieux take over last night and Brodeur making spectacular saves... I think the "presence" of Roy is more than compensated for by the "presence" of the Magnificent One.
Echoes of the '72 Summit Series: As I listen to the Fan 590, they are drawing comparisons between Gretzky's speech last night and Esposito's speech when the Canadians were in trouble in the Summit Series with the Soviets in 1972. Espo sounded kind of sad and desperate in '72. Gretzky, in contrast, whether he was faking it or not, seemed blinded with rage.
Democrats and Republicans jostle for the best seats at baseball games:
Baseball owners aren't the brightest bulbs in the box. A day after once again suffering through a hearing in which senators lambasted Major League Baseball's anti-trust exemption, failed contraction plan for financially weak small market teams, and failure to have one of those teams moved to the nation's capital, MLB commissioner (and Milwaukee Brewers owner) Bud Selig on Thursday told his fellow owners that it's time to change their game plan in Washington.

"We've been in bed with the Democrats for a few years now, and it hasn't done us any good. These guys put Bud up on the stand and just roast him on everything. We're paying good money in that town and now we're beginning to wonder where it goes," says an executive of a West Coast Major League team. "Maybe Bud ought to forget his own political leanings and remember who's sitting in the White House. He was one of us for a time."

It's true that Major League Baseball once had a large lobbying presence in Washington, but lately it has cut back on its spending. Today its most prominent lobbyist is Lucy Calautti, wife of Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. But aside from keeping its anti-trust exemption, baseball hasn't had much to lobby for on the national level. Calautti is given high marks for her connections on Capitol Hill and for the job she's done.

Meanwhile, Republican representatives and senators are grousing that perks, such as seats to Major League Baseball games, are hard to come by for themselves and their staffers. "Those seats Major League Baseball owns in Baltimore always seem to be taken by Democrats," says a Republican senator. Whenever he's at an Orioles game, the senator adds, "I make a point of walking by because I have a friend who sits nearby. Those MLB seats are real nice. I wouldn't mind sitting there every now and then when my hometown team comes in for a series."

Never mind that under lobbying gift guidelines, senators and congressmen shouldn't be accepting such tickets to begin with. So what is MLB looking to do? "Perhaps we ought to up the lobbying budget to get a few Republican-friendly faces on the payroll," says the baseball executive. "Everyone else does it. Why shouldn't we?" (The American Prowler)
Even The Great One says it!: Even the Great One has finally snapped - in hockey, Canadians are the ones to beat, and beat on.

"It sickens my stomach to turn the TV on," Gretzky said. "It makes me ill to hear what's being said about Canadian hockey. If a Canadian player had done what [happened to Fleury], he would have been suspended. We have to eliminate this from the game. He was speared and cross-checked on the same play."

"Am I hot?" Gretzky said. "Yeah -- I'm tired of people taking shots at Canadian hockey. If we do something like that, we're hooligans.

"Americans love our poor start. Nobody wants us to win but our players and our loyal fans. We're very proud -- I guarantee you we'll be standing at the end.

"They should remember that there's payback in this game, and it won't be pretty."

Theo Fleury: Both Gretzky and Team Canada coach Pat Quinn accused the Czechs of dirty hockey -- in particular a Roman Hamrlik crosscheck on Canada's Theoren Fleury late in the third period -- and promised there will be "payback" later in the National Hockey League season that resumes once the Olympics are over.

Probably true, since Theo plays for the Rangers and Hamrlik for the Islanders. I can imagine them throwing down back in the NHL... but real payback in the tournament cannot happen. If you get a match penalty, even, you get suspended for one game. And fighting? You're outta here. Sure, the NHL officiating is atrocious. That is why fighting still exists in hockey, to pick up the slack.

Mind you, Fleury was asking for it in a major way. He was flopping all over Hasek in the crease. My fiancee said he was just trying to get up, but he was not "trying" too damned hard...

Monday, February 18, 2002

Hull-isms return: "Hockey still has to become hockey," he said. "Hockey will change when GMs, coaches and owners change their attitude on what kind of product they want on the ice. If they're going to just put a product out that's holding and hooking, the game's never going to get any better. You've still got 20-25 teams doing that.

"Until that changes, it'll never change. So, work on the attitude first, and then you can work on the things on the ice."

Asked if the game between Russia and the U.S. looked liked more of what the NHL should offer, Hull said, "You think? I would think so."

The only problem, of course, is that NHL games don't have 30 all-stars in them. One could argue that the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild could play on a sheet of ice twice regulation size and still produce a snore-fest.
Overlawyered NHL: The lawsuit by former Penguins coach Ivan Hlinka continues. His lawyers have filed a national origin discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that Hlinka, from the Czech Republic, was fired as Penguins coach on account of his national origin.

"We believe that coach Hlinka was fired because of the fact that the team no longer needed a Czech coach, because it no longer had a Czech superstar," said Hlinka's attorney, Mike Florio, of Clarksburg, W. Va. (Pgh Trib Review)

These lawyers are glossing over two important facts: 1. The Penguins were losing badly. 2. Coach Hlinka refused to learn English.