The Winter Classic…Fenway Park

10 04 2009

The Green Monster and Fenway Park are not your typical setting for a hockey game, but that is exactly what will take place this coming New Years’ Day.  For the NHL, the Winter Classic has been a gold mine of sorts bringing new fans to the game, and tv ratings that haven’t been seen for hockey games in far too long.  The past two have been at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo and this past year at Wrigley Park in Chicago and were viewed as wildly successful.  Bringing hockey to an open air environment has so much upside and for the most part little downside involved.  If this is an event that the NHL can manage to recreate in some form or another each year, thereby not running the risk of overuse this may become the foundation of the return of the NHL to national consciousness.

Boston Herald Graphic

Boston Herald Graphic

The odd part about this whole thing is the speculation that the opponents being debated between are the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals.  Clearly, I would never dream of belittling the team of my current city and the Flyers and Bruins do have a fairly big rivalry, but I just don’t see it.  The management of the Boston Bruins has been pushing for this game pretty much since its inception and the thought was always that this would be an Original 6 game.  It only seems appropriate, Boston has one of the most storied franchises in the sport and why would you not want to pit them against one of their oldest and fiercest rivals for an event of this magnitude.

I understand the rationale behind putting the most exciting player in the whole sport onto the sport’s largest stage.  But in some respects the rivalry in itself should be enough of a draw, although admittedly I am probably not the target demographic for the NHL.  Watching fans at games, every time Alexander Ovechkin touches the puck there is a palpable excitement running through the crowd.  With that in mind, I can imagine my friends watching the game explicitly because the Great 8 is in the game and tangentially because it is a cool event, hockey outdoors in Fenway Park.  Obviously, not your typical hockey game.   The league obviously has a strategy behind the cities they choose for this games and the teams they ask to play in the Winter Classic.  Since they are so adamant about bringing the young guns to the forefront of the game then there could be no better choice than the Washington Capitals.  I truly hope that when all is said and done that the Boston Bruins are facing the Washington Capitals at Fenway Park in Boston on January 1st, 2010.

How do you say no to a man that can sing and dance like this…

Especially when he can do something like this…

I guess I understand why the NHL is leaning away from the Bruins and the Canadiens and to a team with that man on it.


Fighting and Hockey (also posted on Danny’s blog)

29 01 2009

One of the most persistent debates about the NHL and hockey in general is the role of fighting in the game. For many, it is hard to understand not just how a sport can condone violence but how central it is to the game.  These concerns are only compounded by the incidents that have plagued the game in recent years. While very few of these were related to fighting, these incidents only affirm the beliefs of many people.

I tend to hate the argument that because something has always been done one way, that it should continue to be done that way.  But, I’m going to do it anyways. Fighting is a part of the tradition and history of hockey. There is a code of honor, a degree of ethics that exists between all those who choose to fight in hockey and it is based on mutual respect.

– It is very rare to see someone in a fight that clearly doesn’t belong.
– You don’t grab a guy from behind.
– A fight requires two willing participants
– You won’t see sucker punches or anything like that.
– If one person won’t fight, that’s the end of it.
– When a player hits the ice, the fight is over.
– Most of the time, these are fights to protect players who can’t fight for themselves.

There are a number of pros and cons to the existence of fighting in the NHL. I have seen the excitement that a fight can put in an arena and in a team, the feeling can only be described as electric. But I will say that a big hit can achieve the same effect. Some people have argued that fighting is such a turn off that it keeps people away from the game.  That maybe true for some, but I would argue that there are many fans that go to games purely for the spectacle of the fights, this is especially true in the minor leagues. Now whether or not that is a good sign for the state of the game that’s a whole other issue.

Would I still watch hockey if fighting wasn’t a part of the game? Definitely.  But, there is something absolutely thrilling about watching a fight in a hockey game.  Maybe that is the savage caveman in me shining through.

I can’t stand Sean Avery

5 12 2008

Yes.  I am a grump and this post will only confirm this, but I don’t care.  Sean Avery of the Dallas Stars absolutely infuriates me; he has zero respect for the game of hockey, the fans and even worse none for his teammates.  This is nothing new.  In his career, he has time and again managed to set the hockey world aflame, all the while achieving Youtube infamy, be it through his incessant diving, his penchant for the dramatic or his all consuming desire to infuriate the other team.

The sad part is that he is a truly talented hockey player.  The issue is whether he is worth it to teams; there is a reason why he gets traded almost every year.  This week he crossed the line, AGAIN:

I like tough players, that are willing to back it up and know how to get under the skin of other players, but this is just too much.  Granted, this is a really fine line to be trying to draw in the sand, and it is impossible to make a hard and fast rule on the words and thoughts of individual players.  This mentality has always been a part of the game and there is nothing wrong with that.

The thing that bothers me most about this is that it was in no way a slip of the tongue, despite how Avery might want to explain it.  The Dallas coach had spent the morning defending Avery to the Canadian press, the PR staff asked if he wanted to talk to the media at all and he said no, then he goes and seeks out the camera to say this.  This was no accident, it was planned and it was way over the line.

I am not one of those hockey fans that gets all shrill about how the game is too dangerous and how they need to stop fighting.  I think that the physicality is one of the best things about hockey and fighting is an integral part of the game.  So I wouldn’t change any of that and generally speaking I think that sports are going a little too far too quickly in terms of cracking down on the players on and off their respective arenas (hello Mr. Goodell, stop suspending people for good hits on quarterbacks).  But in this case I really hope they throw the proverbial book at Sean Avery.  If not the NHL then the Dallas Stars organization.  It is too bad because they spent a lot of money on him, but the team has under performed and he has been a major distraction and not shown those great hands that made him so valuable to the New York Rangers.