Monthly Archives: December 2010

All I want for Xmas is a….

Nothing could be better than the smell of pine wafting from the Christmas tree, presents, treats and festivities galore, except a Detroit Red Wings win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 27. After all the gifts are opened, Franzen needs to pull out a power-play goal, Rafalski must deliver the hits, and Justin Abdelkader needs to put on his boxing gloves for a present every Red Wings fan wants.  This game will be a celebration.

With the series tied 1-1; the Detroit Red Wings will hit the Mile High City two days after Christmas. The altitude and attitude of the feisty Avalanche should put the Wings to the test. Though the Avs have slipped in the Western Conference standings a few notches, they are still only two points behind Detroit, who sits in the top spot. The last meeting proved educational for both teams. Both proving they could keep up despite the age and experience level, junior or senior.

The Avalanche lost to the Wings on Nov. 13 at Joe Louis Arena, 3-1. No fights in the game, and only J-M Liles scored for the Avs. In a prior game played on Oct. 12, also in Detroit, the race was tight. Going into a shootout, Colorado was able to win off of a goal by Brandon Yip. Exciting game and a fight ensued between Cody McLeod and Doug Janik, now in Grand Rapids with Detroit’s AHL affiliate Griffins.

So it goes, with a new configuration it could go either way. But it must go the way of the tiebreaker. Grab your beer, jalapeno poppers and some grit because this one expects to be a battle. A renewed rivalry? Not so much. For those who remember the swagger of the old rivalry understands the modern NHL debate, Yzerman or Sakic? Some were blessed with both in the forefront of their hockey memories, not the history books.  If we look at the new faces, the pivotal figures haven’t clearly been established. Stastny vs. Zetterberg? The legends are on their way, but not to the extent of Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. Stastny is by lineage a hockey power, and Z brings the dominance of the European play of Sweden.

No matter the outcome, these two teams will remain as the elite of hockey with their past wins and illustrious rosters. I leave you with the gift of five for fighting in this tremendous rivalry that has ignited such memorable moments.

From 1997, this is the classic hockey brawl:

Yes, even goaltenders want payback:

And to the recent brawl:

 

Happy Holidays and Go Wings!

 

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Big Chill at the Big House

The most exciting event is happening in my hometown, Ann Arbor. Just blocks away from my aunt’s house, crazy collegiate hockey fans will pour into Michigan Stadium for a legendary game.  College football is done, so bring on the hockey!

NCAA hockey has taken over the nation’s largest football arena. The Michigan Wolverines will host the Michigan State Spartans for” The Big Chill at the Big House,” an outdoor hockey game on Dec. 11 before a sold out crowd of 110,00. The two teams met previously on Oct. 6, 2001 at Spartan Stadium for what was called “The Cold War.” In a 3-3 tie, both teams hope to change the past.

Big Chill at the Big House

Michigan brings a veteran team that has been inconsistent this season (9-5-4, 8-3-1 CCHA), but is pushing for a tournament tour. The Wolverines have the most NCAA championships than any other collegiate hockey program. Coach Red Berenson anticipates a strong show for Michigan, expecting 80-85% maize and blue. Berenson, who played some World Championship games for the Canadian National Team as a teenager, coached two outdoor games with the Wolverines.  Michigan and Wisconsin drew more than 55,000 hockey fans to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., last February for an outdoor game.

Rick Comley, Michigan State’s coach also grew up playing outdoor hockey. Michigan State hasn’t fared as well as their state rival (6-8-3, 3-7-1 CCHA).  Michigan State goalie Drew Palmisano attended Ann Arbor Pioneer High, directly across the street from The Big House. He attended many Wolverine football games, and anticipates a memorable game and experience.  Wonder if ex-MSU goaltender Ryan Miller will use his day off to watch the game?

The Michigan hockey team will sport retro-inspired game jerseys designed by Adidas, to honor the “The Big Chill at the Big House.” The design is similar to Wolverine jerseys worn by the 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 teams with an image of a wolverine on the front and stripes on the shoulders.

A fireworks display, will introduce the Wolverines as they take the ice, plus more fireworks with a Michigan goal. Post-game fireworks, will be choreographed to the music from the movie “The Big Chill.” Big Chill co-writer, director, and Michigan grad Lawrence Kasdan, will take part in the pre-game ceremonial puck drop.

To help prepare the ice for Saturday’s big game, Michigan Stadium have scheduled hockey games, including high schools, youth leagues and a few alumni groups. A public skate will end the festivities on Dec. 12.

Former MSU forward, Mike Modano will watch, as well as other former Michigan players Kevin Porter, Mike Knuble and the other  Wolverine players now in the NHL.

Catch the game on the Big Ten Network at 3 p.m.EST. Go Blue!

The coast with the boast

What’s with the love affair with the Western Conference? Los Angeles seems to be a hot bed for hockey now that Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Justin Williams is the supporting cast for Anze Kopitar- the depth of the bench holds great value. The youth movement hit teams like the Kings, the Avs and the Sharks. Couture is in, and the Blues are singing happy tunes.

The lowest team in the East lags behind the wins in the West by seven. Toronto’s fall from grace was heard around the league, yet the struggling Rangers pulled their team up with their groomed talent in Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. The West takes bigger chances. The East sticks to tradition. There is more pressure in the East to win, not so in the West. Ebb and flow. Los Angeles chose to rebuild and invest in marketing and public relations with the other Heidi. Colorado got lucky with some smart picks who were willing to take a salary reduction. Numerous reasons have put the West into high gear for now. The population influx in western cities is evident, but few are relocating eastward. Old school hockey fans live in the West now and expect a higher level of play from their NHL franchise. That’s how it goes in Denver, where you will meet people from the cold northeast looking for 360 sunny days a year in the Mile High City, and a hockey team. It’s the people who influence, the demand for the product. It’s pure demographics and market research before investing in the product. If the population pressures the management, more will be spent on building.

The Western Conference used to stop in Detroit. Since Chicago stole the show and grabbed the Cup last season, the westward migration continues. Vancouver, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix speak to the newest generation of hockey fans. Don’t get me wrong- the East is not dead by any means, but the trend shifts west for now. A generation has turned more aware of hockey, growing up with Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman as the superstars in the West. Gretzy in Edmonton, Los Angeles, and St. Louis brought more attention past the Mississippi.

Montreal, Philadelphia and New York have emerged recently to wow fans. Washington and Pittsburgh are no slouches, neither are Overchkin and Crosby, who still dictate hockey stats. Stamkos has become the new face of NHL hockey, and he’s in the East, and a beach league to boot. The expectations in the Eastern Conference are fierce and that has caused the stern look at the differences. The Western Conference has been under rated for so long, that the shock of their revival emphasizes the weakening of the East. Right now in the standings, in the West, Vancouver has 31 pts. and sits in the No. 2 slot, while Tampa Bay also has 31 pts. but sits in the No. 6 slot in the East. The consistency in the West allows an evening of the race in standings almost weekly. The hold on the top spot is tighter in the West, thus more competitive match-ups regularly. More attention to detail and fewer mistakes is a must if your team is facing stiff competitors.

The West has stayed competitive to keep up with the Red Wings over the years. Yes, I said it. Every team wants to keep up with the Wings, now and in the past. But for teams truly in the west, it seems ironic as the West touts the lone gunslinger mantra, yet the team concept translates well. Teams work well in an ambush. The East develops individual talent, so the team concept has dropped in significance, some have suggested. The Flyers seem pretty tight, as does the Rangers. Benchwarmers in the East aren’t as NHL ready as they seem to be in the West. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an eastern team benefiting from the knowledge through Steve Yzerman’s leadership. Stevie Y. learned from the best franchise team both on and off the ice.

Best bets for the Stanley Cup have pitted the Detroit Red Wings against the Washington Capitals. Another speculation could be Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Some exciting possibilities have been created in this fluctuating season sending fantasy teams into clunkers and numerous hat-tricks. Great games are great gifts for any hockey fan, so may the season be magical!