Monthly Archives: December 2011

Winter Classic Wonders

If you haven’t noticed, the Winter Classic is days away. After your New Year’s hangover tune in on Jan. 2 for a classic match between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. I won’t spew a bunch of numbers or stats, rather top reasons to watch:

1. Jaromir Jagr– legend in his own time for both his skill on the ice and off. Jagr was formerly the captain of the New York Rangers and took the city by storm with his skill, hair and partying. The classic hockey hair is the mullet of Jagr.

2. Henrik Lundqvist– called King Henry by his followers and fans who hate him, he is the best of the best in his craft of goaltending. Watch him make ridiculously spectacular saves in the face of sticks and pucks flying at his pretty face. He won’t flinch or cry at all.

3. Claude Giroux– one of the most talented skaters on the ice. The Flyers have a piece of hockey gold with this one and expect some skilled offensive play with his 46 points on the year.

4. GAS LINE- Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan have made this line for the Rangers the buzz on the streets of Broadway and beyond. Watch and enjoy the cohesion and concept of offensive maneuvers these guys create.

5. Peter Laviolette– coach of the Flyers will look calm and cool compared to the other man on the Rangers bench. But don’t be fooled. Laviolette shoved Dallas Stars Steve Ott recently. He has turned the Flyers into a powerhouse of impressive players. It’s fascinating to watch the interaction on the bench and see how it transcribes on ice.

6. John Tortorella– on the other bench is Torts, the Rangers coach who will be shouting or hanging his head at some dumb move from the Blueshirts. His crew is young, talented, but not always the smartest. He’s entertaining for sure.

7. Carl Hagelin- this Michigan rookie is shocking the hockey community with his speed and go-to presence on the ice. New York fans are tough to win over, but he’s charmed them by the style of his play and his fabulous hair.

8. Brad Richards– has taken over as gossip column king dating Olivia Munn. His start with the Rangers was slow, but now he’s jump-started to produce almost every game.

9. The outdoor game– outdoor hockey games are the purest form of hockey. Can’t get better than that.

10. The rivalry- Only 90 miles apart, the Flyers and Rangers are fierce rivals. Bitter and promised to be a battle beyond last years Caps/Pens game.

Living in southern New Jersey, there is a split between Philly fans and New York fans. The Winter Classic  2012 represents Atlantic hockey in the eastern US and plenty of viewers will recall fond times when these two have met before. Families may be divided, friends may jeer against each other, but it’s all in good hockey fun. Happy New Year!!

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Hockey Holiday Highlights

Kicking off the holiday season, Chanukah starts tonight and the Christmas countdown has begun. Between your menorah lighting, your shopping panic and the family fun and frantic, the best gift to yourself is to take in some of the hockey highlights happening this week.

Hockey Santa
Tues. Dec. 20  7:00 EST
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils– Classic Hudson Valley rivalry as the Devils are on a four-game winning streak. The Blueshirts of Broadway have held their own, but King Henry has been iffy in goal lately. New York’s pesky agitator Sean Avery and Jersey’s rock-em-sock-em David Clarkson could bump into a brawl at some point. Great rivalry for the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
Wed. Dec. 21 10:00 EST
Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks– Nothing is like watching the Red Wings at Xmas time. Santa suits on ice. Vancouver oozes talent with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. The Wings boast Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and goalie Jimmy Howard. The list goes on and even Santa can’t keep up.
Thurs. Dec. 22 9:30 EST
Minnesota Wild at Edonton Oilers-Two of the hottest teams going with young talent at helm. Watch top draft picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins host Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak. Both teams are currently on a four-game losing streak.

Thurs. Dec. 22 10EST
Anaheim Ducks visit Los Angeles Kings– With plenty of talent, the Kings need to shake off their poor start and impress their new coach. The Ducks have weapons in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but can they surpass the goaltending of the Kings Quick? If you’re up wrapping present, catch this SoCal battle.

Fri. Dec. 23 7EST
Philadelphia Flyers at the New York Rangers– Precursor to the Winter Classic. The teams are pumped, so this is a Friday night celebration. Flyers Jaromir Jagr, ex-Rangers captain returns to the Garden for a holiday shebang. Settle in and check your holiday lists or exchange your Chanukah gift.

Fri. Dec. 23 10:30 EST
Los Angeles Kings visit San Jose Sharks- It’s the battle of SoCal vs. NoCal. Still wrapping and up late, check out this showcase of Sharks with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle as they blast their way to Hockeywood taking on Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson. Get warm and toasty and snuggle in.

No games on Christmas Eve or Christmas, but check your local listings for the week leading up to the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 when the New York Rangers travel to Philadelphia.

 

Fighting for Fighting

During the Board of Governors meeting, not only was the NHL realignment discussed but also the controversial issues of fighting. Many hockey fans favor banning fighting citing brain trauma and poor examples for kids playing hockey. Others, such as this author,   believe it’s a turf thing- part of the game and can be acceptable if under control. Players can learn to be smarter when pulling a punch.

Crosby vs. Ballard

Sidney Crosby fights Ketih Ballard

Over the summer, three NHL tough guys died:  Derek Boogaard, who died accidentally May 13 at age 28 after mixing alcohol and painkillers; Rick Rypien, who committed suicide; and Wade Belak, who reportedly committed suicide, but others insist he died in an accident. All three reportedly suffered from depression.

NHL commissioner  Gary Bettman warned about making the connection on the deaths to CTE and the role of enforcers in the NHL. The NHL has criticized researchers at Boston University, where extensive studies have been produced, for making simplistic, sensational conclusions based on unsupported claims not based on science. Bettman also drew the line of the personal lives of the players in relation to the studies.

“Do you know everything that went on in their lives?” Bettman responded. “Were there other things going on that could also cause CTE? And until you understand that what exactly causes CTE, it’s speculation as to one or two elements in each case that were in common. The data is not sufficient to draw a conclusion, and our experts tell us the same thing.”

Experts consulting the NHL have said no one can draw a straight line from head trauma to CTE to mental problems because no one has proven what causes CTE, what its effect is or what the risk is of developing it.

“It is important not to over-interpret the finding of early CTE in Derek Boogaard,” said Robert Cantu, a co-director of BU’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. “However, based on the small sample of enforcers we have studied, it is possible that frequently engaging in fights as a hockey player may put one at increased risk for this degenerative brain disease.”

Certainly the enforcers may suffer from depression, which can lead to drug and alcohol abuse. Belak was a reluctant brawler because he knew that was his talent for the team. This topic will continue to be a factor in the future of the NHL and hockey in our communities. Everyone can agree that safety is most important in the battle against brain trauma. Keep up the good fight.

NHL realignment winners and losers

The NHL Board of Governors will meet in Pebble Beach next week to discuss realigning the NHL to better serve the long hours of travel teams must face. Since the Atlanta Thrashers folded giving birth to the second resurrection of the Winnipeg Jets, the League has  been  bouncing around a few scenarios they hope to decide upon while taking in a few rounds of golf. Is this really that big of an issue? It is for the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There has been some grumbling from the Nashville Predators who would like a piece of something in all this meandering, and then there is the Dallas Stars who for some reason think they should be the helm of a new division.

But it gets better like a hint of juicy gossip that really isn’t that great as much as the  anticipation. Supposedly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised the Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch that the Red Wings would join the Eastern Conference among the modern-day dynasties like the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and even the New York Islanders. Detroit would fit right in.

Football and hockey are united in the Michigan/Ohio battle. As anyone raised in Michigan knows, at some point Ohio sticks its nose into Michigan’s business, just as the Columbus Blue Jackets are making a case for their own Eastern Conference  bid. Worried Red Wings fans? Teams like the Rangers and Bruins would prefer the ailing Jackets because they are easy prey. Detroit is serious competition.

Border Wars

The complicated plan of realignment represent this type of promising and not delivering; the easy plan swaps the Wings for the Jets. Steve Yzerman would than face his former team and who wouldn’t want to see that in Hockeytown?

Then there are the Western Conference teams who don’t want to see the Red Wings leave due to revenue stream. Hey, how about pumping up the Vancouver Canucks or the Colorado Avalanche for some money-making ventures.  The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks feed the celebrity machine which should be raising some type of cash flow or call on the Edmonton Oilers with their dynamic duo of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

That's a goal!

Both Conferences see Detroit as the excellence in the League like fighting over the driving a hot car: it would be cool to drive, but the dangers of that much power could get you pulled over.