DKM Hockey Podcast

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hang your heads in shame Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets made headlines for the first time in six months that didn’t involve them sucking with the feel-good signing of Shawn Hunwick, circumstances notwithstanding. I won’t elaborate on Hunwick’s road to the NHL or his constant battling to get a whiff of playing time his first couple years of college. If Aaron Portzline's tweet report is to be believed, it’s where Hunwick played his college hockey that seems to be getting the attention, at least here in Columbus.

If you’re a Columbus Blue Jackets fan in Columbus and can’t admit to yourself that the Blue Jackets are the minor league team in town, you are indeed worse that the biggest Penguins super fan. That in itself is why the CBJ are not long for Columbus, but that’s a different story. But with that in mind, the ‘Columbus’ fans have asked Hunwick to surrender some of his pride he worked so hard for.

He's covered up his University of Michigan themed goalie mask with blue tape so that you can't see the Michigan "wings." NCAA regulations aside, I find it deplorable that this young man felt compelled to do this playing in Columbus, OH. If Kari Lehtonen can put sissy Final Fantasy toons on his lid and Ray Emery can put Mike Tyson on his, certainly the NHL is not asking him to change his winged goalie helmet.

I am sensitive to this for several reasons. Personally – I went to The Ohio State University and my wife graduated from the University of Michigan. I enjoy the rivalry and my most favorite thing to whisper in my wife’s ear late at night is “Michigan Lost.” We met post-college and because she wasn’t a Yankees fan, the relationship began. Living in Michigan, being married to a Wolverine, then moving back to Columbus, I can honestly tell you we Buckeyes are unhealthily obsessed with this storied rivalry.  Michigan fans care just as much about the rivalry, but Buckeye fans are like the Dale Earnhardt fans of college football.

Secondly, a goal mask is a defining piece of a goaltenders identity. I’ve had the privilege of being friends with a couple NHL and Colligate goalies and while to most it’s just a piece of equipment, most hang onto their masks long after all the other gear has gone to charity, sports card companies, or to pay tuition bills for their kids.  To a fan, most folks know who’s in net by their mask rather than their number. The helmet is the only piece of hockey equipment that is visually allowed to be customized in hockey. It’s singularly the most defining and identifiable piece of equipment in all of sports. PERIOD.

And so, a kid who is living one boyhood dream after another, who most likely can’t afford a new NHL spec mask, who can’t likely receive one from his surrogate professional team if he wishes to petition for an extra year of NCAA eligibility, is taping over his mask so he doesn’t get booed on his home ice during warm-ups. Be proud of this kid Columbus, don't be so primordially obsessed with a rivalry in ametuer athletics that it detracts from this kids remarkable story while it's happening in your town.

In the hockey world, I hold playing hockey for U of M holds more honor than playing in the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Think I’m wrong? Then you’re saying playing for Todd Richards is more noteworthy at a bar than playing for Red Berenson. Truly, having a cup of coffee in the NHL is a remarkable feat, but more so is walking-on the U of M hockey team and winning the starting goaltending job after two years.

So Blue Jackets fans know this, while your captain wants out, while your front office jobs and coaching positions remain mostly entry-level and unwanted, it’s this sentiment of making your emergency goaltender cover up his evil U of M insignias that will ultimately cost you the Blue Jackets. But if asking your goalie who played for that ‘school up north’ to cover up his winged helmet is that important to you, than you probably don’t give a shit about a local NHL hockey team anyways.

Just think Columbus, you could have had this instead of Rick Nash.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

CBJ Time Capsule Rant from 2008

A lot has changed with the Columbus Blue Jackets since 2008 and a lot has not.  I wrote the following email to the editor of the Yahoo Sports Hockey Blog on September 1st, 2008 to which I got a sincere reply.  I re-read it for really the first time since I sent it 3.5 years ago and feel bad.  My snark and clever wit have not diminished, my measured and high expectation for this hockey team is unwavering, and really what makes me sad is nothing has changed with the identity of the team since I wrote this.

Three good things have happened since.  1) The CBJ went from being the only current NHL team never to make the playoffs to being the only current NHL team never to win a playoff game and 2) Boomer is gone.  3) The die-hard fan base actually fills the R-Bar now.  Alas, we still have Stinger.  Read below and tell if there is any reason to think differently today than I did 4 seasons ago.  I moved back to Columbus in mid-2009.

I bet you thought that I was dead!

I love the Blue Jackets. I spent my formative years in Ohio as my family was New England transplants. I lived the Ohio hockey life from the home of the Football Hall of Fame. It was 30 minute drive to Pee-Wee practices in Kent, 70 minute drive to practice for midgets in Shaker, so on and so forth. I went to Ohio State, got a job in Columbus, and fell in love with the Blue Jackets in the fall of 2000. I saw the first game, Nash’s first goal, Zherdev’s first goal (twice), and I’ve put up with the (remedial at best) fan base for 8 years. I have since moved to the Detroit suburbs in 2006, but still love the jackets.

That novelty is beginning to fade and this season’s NHL direct TV pass may be my last.

Front office of the past:

McLean’s tenure was past it’s welcome from a ‘winning team’ point of view. He got lucky in Florida when teams were only allowed to protect 10 players in the expansion draft. However, as President and “man behind the curtain” coach in C-bus, operated a profitable franchise which is an unseen gem in the wasteland of Ohio Professional Hockey. He was too hands-on with the players as a suit, and hired yes men as coaches in King and Gallant. His free-agent “busts” all hated him (then left to win cups with other teams) Marchant, Sydor, Marshal, Hartigan x 2 (who doesn’t really count, but while we’re on the subject) and fell in love with the dirtiest of words come draft day, “potential.” You need a good talent evaluator in your front office on draft day or trading day. Mclean never understood that. Let’s hope the new guy can do that better than Mclean, or hire someone who can.

I like Hitch, but he needs someone to open up the wallet. Albert Einstein could turn poop into a party hat, but you didn’t wear it to the opera.

The players: Columbus, OH - the ultimate professional pick up hockey destination.

The team has no chemistry, no tradition, no bond. Guys like Foote, Letowski, and Richardson were amazed that after practice, the guys were off doing their own thing and not hanging out. Even the wives noticed. Caroline Marchant was amazed. She said while in Edmonton, the guys would leave for practice at 8am and the wives wouldn’t expect the guys home until 5pm, on non game days. They’d do stuff together after practice. In Columbus, Todd was home most mornings by 11am. Speaking of wives, Columbus is in last place in that category as well.

Sure those guys got into a little trouble on the road, (have you ever seen Deron Quint drink?) but Derain Hatcher would have more chicks at the bar after a game in Columbus than Manny Maholtra.

Rick Nash will leave the team in two years, or will be playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the NHL when Columbus moves there for the 2011-2012 season on a brief contract extension. Nash will win a championship with a team that can regularly make the playoffs, I don’t see him getting “Rcik Nash” punched onto Lord Stanley’s cup in Columbus. I don’t see anyone in the front office or the current ownership group of the Blue Jackets willing to invest money in the team. Hamilton deserves a team.

Second Rate Media

Ok, the print guys are great in Columbus, but broadcast media, ug. We get the Cincinnati Mighty ducks announcers. God love Bill Davidge, but Tampa has Phil Esposito doing color on the radio (yeah, I know…). The TV coverage in Carolina (where people are proud that the Cane’s won “that big tournament”) make Columbus’ TV crew look like, dead air, um, dead air. Man, the sports channel guys from the 80’s did a better job. The in-game staff at Nationwide does a great job, even after the mass exodus of the top-notch production crew during the lock-out. God love the soda sluts, I mean Pepsi Crew. Maybe that figure skating Civil War Era guy each year at the home opener is a bit much. Oh, maybe not the media’s fault, but I’m not staying up until 1am to listen to Columbus get reamed by San Jose, Vancouver, and LA 10 times a year. Ok, maybe not in LA. My favorite Jackets TV commercial of all time has to be: “Come see Michael Rupp, Jody Shelley, and Duvie Westcott take on Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Alex Tanguay of the Colorado Avalanche.” I spit milk out of my nose when I heard that one.


Pick one. The fans are going to stop buying them soon anyways. Is Stinger dead yet?

The Fan Base

Columbus is the only place in the known universe where you’ll hear: “Gosh, I miss the Glow Puck; when is Fox going to bring that back?” The only thing the casual hockey fan knows about in Columbus is the freaking FoxTrax. Six bucks and my left shoe says only 1 in 1200 Blue Jackets fans will know that RJ Umberger played hockey at Ohio State. I got booed when I clapped for Ryan Kesler once. I had a CBJ season ticket holder ask me how Dan Fritsche could play at both Ohio State and the Blue Jackets. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard a masculine voice cry, “Hand Ball!!” or “Do these guys have day jobs?” or “what does ‘stick handle in a phone booth’ mean?” Take a look at the Blue Jacket’s schedule and tell me if there’s a home game or a televised away game on a college football Saturday that involves Ohio State. What does that say about your fan base? Bobby Hoying draws a bigger crowd than Rick Nash. Bobby f-ing Hoying.

2008 Predictions

Unless two guys come out of nowhere to score 30 goals, in addition to Nash’s 30 or 40, and two defensemen tally at least 10, we finish 10 points out of 8th place in the West. I see nothing that has been done to fix the one lingering problem the Blue Jackets have always had: scoring goals. Leclaire records 9 shutouts and has a trap-era GAA and the Jackets still finish in 13th place. A top line center is nice, but one top line, two ‘salary cap casualty’ second line guys playing with rent-a-center, and two fourth lines nets you 165 goals at best. Defense wins championships, offense gets you in the playoffs. Jody Shelley puts butts in the seats.

These three things are requisite for the boys in the ever-changing sweaters to have a chance at a post-season bonus:

1. .500 season against the Wings and Preds, (or top two in division, any better than either one and you’re golden)

2. Better than .500 against the Blues and Hawks. (or bottom two in division, any worse that either and it’s tee times come April.)

3. Finish above .500 in your non-conference games against the East.

Of course, you’ll probably need to score 220+ goals to do that, or have your goalies record 19 shutouts.

Three things stick out to me the most:

1) Nash will leave the team
2) In 2007 Leclaire had respectible goaltending stats and the CBJ couldn't support with offence
3) The Blue Jackets haven't turned a profit since 2007.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Toughen Up, Cupcake

I don’t know if it’s Todd Bertuzzi’s fault or what, but something is missing from hockey today. Maybe I’m too set in my ways, maybe it’s because my interest in hockey didn’t come from 90’s Era Expansion. It very well maybe that it’s because I’m living in Columbus, OH that I notice this. What’s missing – The inherent toughness that comes from playing hockey and being a hockey player.  More over, learning it.  I’ve noticed this in two different areas - youth league and beer leagues.

In case you're wondering who Chuck Norris prays to each night.

In both instances, I blame the city in which I live. I’m going to start with Beer Leagues, especially the guys that learned to play as an adult (not to mention the roller hockey cross-over crowd) in this city. To those who learned to play as an adult: Toughen up. Beer league hockey is not non-contact, it is non-checking. You are required to wear full equipment for this reason. You are given a weapon and a means of transportation that will propel you faster than your feet ever will. The game is fast, powerful, and dangerous. You’re going to get bumped hard, you’re going to get tripped, you’re going to get hacked. I say this only once: watch what happens in the NHL on TV: 33.74 out of 35.58 body checks result in both participants skating away from each other. 99 out of 100 non-checking forms of contact in the NHL result in both players skating away from each other towards the play whether a penalty is called or not. Know what contact is allowed and what is not.

I understand the difference between getting bumped because a guy is trying to out-work me and a guy whacking me behind the knees just to be a douche. I know this because I played competitively growing up. You may have not played growing up because you lived in South Carolina, or your mom didn’t want you losing teeth, or there weren’t the funds in the household - whatever. As an adult, don’t whine like a little girl with a skinned knee of you get bumped off the puck. Don’t be a chatch to some guy who worked hard and made a physical play that took you off of your feet. It happens. However, be very cognizant of guys intentionally trying to hurt people or are unnecessarily physical and proceed with caution.

Happy Gilmore lays one on the Crypt Keeper.
Now, changing gears to youth hockey. If you’re a coach who yells at kids for crying or arbitrarily tells your kids to toughen up when they complain about contact, please don’t coach children ever again, especially if you’re a house coach. Goals come from two things, hard work and good passing. That first part, hard work, is usually some sort of a high velocity physical confrontation to win a six ounce piece of vulcanized rubber. Children under the age of 12 are still reacting to sudden and sharp physical contact with pain mechanisms that manifest themselves in tears and fears. On the other side, tears of frustration are something that need to be addressed professionally with kids over the age of 10. Crying because you got the puck taken away or missing the net should be discouraged, but in the best interest of the kids.  Don't be this guy...

Proving that you don't have to have a good career to be a hockey troll.

As a coach, you can't just tell a kid to be tough. You need to get to know the players and understand how each player listends.  After a few weeks, you get to know the players. You know the kids that drop at the slightest contact, the kids that drop when they feel they’ve been wronged, and the kids that won’t tell you if a bone is sticking out of their skin. The first two are easy to deal with if a player goes down on the ice, but no matter what, I always assume the kids are hurt. After establishing these are crocodile tears and not a real injury, I tell the player (if applicable) I have to take them off the ice. 90% of the time the kids hop right up and skate to the bench and the tears of disappointment go away. They get a little pep talk from me and they’re ready to go next shift. Sometimes, the tears increase, which confirms tears of frustration. Tears of frustration are a little more sensitive to deal with but should positively be immediately addressed on the bench.

Not missing an opportunity to teach, the coach applauds the player for not getting hurt in the offensive zone.

The manner in which you address the two types of crocodile tears is different, but the message is the same and positive. Clean physical contact is allowed and expected.  To teach this, I encourage my skills coach to run ‘battle drills’ in practice just as much as we work on breakouts so that the boys are comfortable with contact. It’s a simple 2v2 small area game where the kids are encouraged to use body position to gain puck position and at any time can shoot the puck on net. This is of course after we teach allowable contact and how to skate into the boards during contact at a non-checking age. They become comfortable with contact in a game like situation, with players they know, in an environment where you can quickly address problems or demonstrate proper technique. This is a great example of how you teach kids to work hard, and by proxy, be tough.

Legal contact at all levels of hockey.

As an adult, if you don’t know what contact is allowed and expected, our children will suffer, your beer league team will continue to stink, and women will shun you.  Don't be a beer league chatch when someone beats you with the body because somewhere a 10 year-old is better at dealing with it than you.

Remember kids, no matter how far you make it in hockey, all drains lead to the Beer Leagues.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm Back...

I'm Back....

Sorry I had to make like Lyle Odelein and dissappear without a trace for over a week.  Spring break, a hectic work week, my son's renewed interest in legos now that hockey is over, and tearing down your backyard ice rink will do that.

I was also tracking down some hockey Hall of Famers to give me some free stuff to give-a-way on my blog.  Apparently, no one takes you seriously in the blogosphere if you don't have access (or pretend to have access) to sports teams or players.  Anyways...

Poll Results

I was hoping to get more response to polls seeing as I get 52 page views a day.  I'll come up with some crazy polls.  Only one vote for Ron Tugnutt in last week's poll.

I'm finishing up a post on toughness in hockey, the lack of toughness in beer league players, and learning how to be tough in minor (youth) hockey.

You can't resist us Mr. Odelein.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Poll Results

After overwhelming responst to the polls, results are as follows:

Which Current Player has the best beak in the NHL?

Ryan Kesler

Why so blue Panda bear?  You are a buffet of manliness.

Who will be the next Blue Jacket to leave Columbus?

By overwhelming majority:  Scott Howson.

Scott Howson ponders how to improve his team with as little effort as possible.

It's also worth noting that Twitter Handle - DougieMacIsWhiggityWaK - kept emailing me pictures of Daryl Sydor saying he'll be the next CBJ to have his pictures taken down in the front office.

Psst, hey Nash...  My name's on the Cup.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dizzy from all these Concussions?

Feeling Concussed? Listen up NHL…

First, read the following from USA Hockey:

A legal body check is one in which a player checks an opponent who is in possession of the puck, by using his hip or body from the front, diagonally from the front or straight from the side, and does not take more than two fast steps in executing the check. Legitimate body checking must be done only with the trunk of the body (hips and shoulders) and must be above the opponent’s knees and below the neck. If body checking is unnecessarily rough, it must be penalized.

You know how hard it was to find a picture of a textbook check in the NHL?

Then watch an NHL game and tell me if this describes the checks or hits you see.  The NHL has it's own rulebook, and I'm struggling to find it's definition of a body check.

Trunk of the body.  Obviously man of porcelain Nikolas Kronwall missed that anatomy lesson.  Hands up and stick up.

Concussions, Concussions. It’s that evil C-word that’s flying around the NHL as it seems. Really, this is not a debate for fans, but a debate for parents and players. Coaches and referees are ultimately going to make the game safer, if it can be, at any level. USA Hockey, the monopolistic governing body of sanctioned hockey in the USA, tried to address this issue just this year.

USA hockey made contact rule changes this year for everyone under the age 12. My initial reaction, along with many others, was that we were wussifying hockey by eliminating checking until Bantams. To you uber-fans, that means you can’t check in the USA until you’re 13 (and your pretty much done checking at 18 if you aren’t playing Pro or in College). USA hockey’s practice concept was to allow checking in practices, but not in games. Yeah, that sounded pretty Ludacris to me (spell check just auto-capitalized ‘Ludacris’ Thanks Luda). You can teach checking to an 11 year old, work on it in practice, but don’t do it in a game. Seems silly to me. But, if you don’t coach, then what you don’t know is that USA Hockey wants practices to focus on game like scenarios. This is a sound principle, but not when you’re talking checking.

I was pretty upset that USA Hockey’s version of the Warren commission said the best way to reduce concussions was to change the minimum age of checking from 11 to 13. However, USA hockey did something very, very good in my opinion which was a shock.  This organization has shown very little motivation other than being a money grab for experienced players, and a "Education Camp" for newb dads. Skipping over what a joke the level 1-3 coaching certification classes are for USA Hockey, this year’s level three had one good hour of teaching hockey to coaches as it related to checking and physical contact.

In my day, it was a game of respect!

The instructor had a prepared video presentation showing what was legal contact at all ages and what was not allowed until the age of 13. Example of what is allowed at all levels - Shoulder to shoulder, an 8 year old can smear another 8 year old into the boards to obtain the puck, provided the stick is down, the hands are down, and the player doesn’t “throw” their shoulders or hips into the opposing player.  As you watched and heard more, they showed examples of clean hits, clean hard hits, dirty hard hits, and accidental hard hits.  They reinforced the good contact, not harp on the bad stuff.

The blue player is stepping into the white jersey to separate the player from the puck and gain control.

Stick down, Hands Down, the orange kid's mom is about to cry.

When a player turns 13, they are allowed to make overt checking motions – thowing hips or shoulders from front, diagonal front, or side-to-side, with hands and sticks down, to separate the puck carrier from the puck.  It's pretty simple what the NHL needs to do to help curb concussions...

Sticks down, hands down.


I think this is where the NHL is missing the mark.  Stick Down, Hands down - that's the way we like to check.  If my stick and hands are up when I hit you, there's a good chance they'll hit you in the head.  There's a good chance that Sir Isaac Newton would agree that your brain will be propelled with equal and opposite force if I get my hands up around your shoulders upon impact.  Leading with your hands and stick should be an automatic charging call.  Leading with, not simply having them up, but leading with them.  Wait, you've never heard of a charging call?  That's probably because you've just started watching hockey in the last 12 years.

The NHL rulebook doesn't say that intentionally getting your hands up and stick up constitutes a charging, but it should.  In fact, other than jumping, Rule 42 is pretty much a vague penalty in the NHL rulebook.  It simply states if a check is deemed unneccessarily violent, it should be penalized.  Inferred are things like leaving your feet (rarely inforced) and taking more than three strides.  The problem is, if we roll this out immediately, then their would be 10-12 charging calls a game, right?  But if you rolled it out in camps during the off-season, this would work. Kind of like how the normally useless USA Hockey body rolled out the changes in checking, and reinforced the legal and hard contact equally.  All we are changing is the manner in which you deliver a check, not limit it's use.

If Wyman leads with his hands and stick here, Russell wakes up in 2015. 
Look, I'm not saying you can't blast a guy.  I'm not saying slow the game down.  If players keep their hands down, sticks down, and lead with the truck of the body the way we're taught there is less of a chance for contact to the head.  There less of a chance a player's head to make first contact with a hard surface.
Don't lead with your hands, don't lead with your stick.  Football has something similar with their equipment-turned-weapon.  Hands down, Stick down.  See below.

Skate Fenders, before the fad...

Apparently, the "North Mexico" joke didn't go over well in Pre-Game.

This kind of looks like a counter from Mortal Kombat

Leading with hands and stick

What a glorious, legal, and clean hip check.  You get a chance to blast a guy like this once in a career.

And, in case you didn't think I put some serouis research into body checking, I did.  The following picture is proof.

Not the body checking image I was after...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Your sister's virtue, Grandma's Cooking, Hockey Nicknames: Things that are Sacred

I have found one fundamental difference between my friends who have played the game and my friends who are fans of the game.  And when I say 'play the game' I mean spent a measureable amount of your youth playing hockey, not spending most of your adulthood wishing you had.  The difference I'm referring to is the use of hockey player nicknames by non-players.

Oh my god, he just called Sissy, "Juggs."
I have a strict, steadfast opinion that unless you've shared dressing room space with a player, you are not to refer to a player by their nickname.  A hockey nickname is not "Super Mario" or "The Russian Rocket."  Please for give me Mr Gretzky, but I'm talking about the different between calling Wayne Gretzky "the Great One" and 'Gretz.'  The nickname is something special intended for guys who've played, lost, and won together.  They are earned either out of respect or through embarrasment.   Not every player has one, and like pubes, you get them at different times.  A nickname is something that is created organically and typically follows a player his whole life.  Sometimes a nickname is a truncated last name.  Sometimes its a by product of how a player plays.  Sometimes, you know better than to ask where it came from and just go with it. 

Did you just refer to me as 'White Devil?'

If you hear a player refer to another player in an interview by their nickname, I believe it is NOT ok for a fan to refer to them by that name.  What irks me more than just about anything on earth is when a fan in the stands refers to a player on the ice by their nickname, casually, like you played Bantams together. Or, someone uses it on twitter and all the gold fish in the twitter pond start twatting it.   In the words of Vincent Vega, that's like placing your hands on someone in a familar way.  I understand the common fan's need and desire to feel part of something they care about dearly.  I get that.  But nicknames are bestowed upon a by a player or coach and become sort of a "callsign" for those who know.  Its like telling your kid it's ok to refer to their school teachers by first name.

There is also a player-to-player code as well. If I haven't shared a dressing room with you, I am not to call you by nickname.  There are a few exceptions, but the first time I meet a guy I've never skated with I'm not going to call them by nickname. However, having Chris Pronger refer to Jaromir Jagr as "Puff Nutts" will forever be indearing to me.

I guess to me, in hockey, there is nothing that screams"Wanna Be" louder than a fan screaming to a player by their nickname. I also can't stand it's justification on Twitter because you're limited to 140 characters.  I can call him 'Rafters' you can't.  Of the NHL venues I've visited multiple times, Penguins fans have to be the worst abusers of this unspoken rule.  I can't tell you how many times I've sat next to a Pens fan in gravy-stained gray sweatpants talking to his mouthbreathing counter-part, "Sid looks good out there tonight"  and "You can tell Gino is going to get one tonight."  Please.  Stop.  It's like getting YOUR last name put on the back of your favorite team's sweater. 
I find myself curiosly aroused by this woman.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I bet she gives great Helmet

An earlier tweet today inspired this post about hockey helmets.  My first job was working at the local Play It Again Sports store owned by a neighbor.  When I turned 16 he offered me a job a couple days a week to help with hockey sales and purchases.  This was in the early - 90s, the "Industrial Revolution" for hockey.  This is when composite outsoles, slash inserts, dual density plastic, and insta-pump technology started hitting the shelves.  Remember the Sherwood Carbone?  Take that Warrior Dynasty!

But perhaps the most unique of all player equipment was the helmet.  And seriously folks, 2 years into Bill Clinton's first term, the hockey helmet had only been required equipment in the NHL for roughly 15 years.  So it was developed at a far different pace.  We all gush and find popular obscurity in the "Gretzky" Jofa helmet, but I found another to be a bit more odd:

The Itech Techlite.  It was designed for youngsters (or quite possibly Ski Jumpers) in the mid 1990's.  With no expandability and only velcro-backed foam pads to customize a fit, the high cost seemed the least repulsive.  And yes, nothing says SNIPER like the Eric Weinrich inspired yellow tint full visor.

Now, when I was a kid, we made fun of kids for wearing the "Foligno."  This probably gets mentioned by every blogger with Google when it comes to goofy helmets, but when I was a kid we made fun of anyone who wore this vert ramp special during shinny.  He was still rocking this helmet with the Leafs in the early 90's.


Of course, no one ever made fun of Lanny McDonald for wearing essentially the same helmet, but he's Lanny.  Look at that GLORIOUS Stache...

I'm going to skip Haaken Loob special and Petr Klima's mullet hider.  Everyone knows about those and google-fu will serve you well I'm sure.  Not may kids wore them because they were lame and I never saw them other than on TV.  However, the Jofa 390 was starting to get some "hair play" as Super Mario wore one.  I remember Vincent Damphousse more for wearing this helmet.  Actually, he wore the Jofa 366 which had open ears rather than ear guards.  He only wore it a during a small portion of his career. There's a great story somewhere that Damphousse came to the rink one day to find his teammates bowling with his helmet in the dressing room.  He was French-Canadien and wore a goofy helmet.  These things happen.

But of course, if you ever played in the 80's, chances are youre all too familiar with the Cooper SK2000 helmet.  You never realized how ugly this helmet was until you saw it without a cage.  However, some of my favorite memories as a kid playing and watching involve this helmet.  Lemieux's five goals score five different ways.  I learned how to win face-offs watching Messier in this helmet.  Ulf Samulson got the big ol' sucker punch from Tie Domi wearing one of these puppies.  If you did wear one, you know how thick the foam was on these.  You almost had to 'break in' the foam on one of these bad boys.  Finding yourself on the bottom of the pile was no picnic with how clunky one of these was.  The ear guards on these helmets were made with the most abrasive plastics on earth. 

Iron-on numbers, classy.  Judging by the crowd size, I'd say the Blue Jackets were in town.

But, as I got older and played at a higher level, I got to pick the helmet I wanted, which was the CCM HT2 Helmet.  I got my first HT2 when I was in Midgets.  These were beauties and you wore them until the foam started to disintegrate, long after it has surrendered any real protection.  Doug Gilmour wore one.  Wendel Clark, with his Hay Maker you could see coming from Saskatoon, wore one.  Cam Neely wore one.  Jeff Beukeboom wore one.  CCM made a 'safety first' version of these for the pros with a much reduced amount of foam so you looked cooler on TV (this is still a practice with helmets for the Pros today).  At 16, I felt like I was going to be somebody one day wearing this helmet.


As I look back, I think my all time favorite helmet is the CCM HT500.  Lightweight, good foam, great fitting, and thick plastic.  It's memories aren't as fond and are religated to beer leagues and adult nationals.  But, as Hockey started to follow the golf club marketing model, this puppy was only around for a year or two.  I cling to my Bauer 5000 now, it fits ye olde melon well.  I'm kind of in shock of where helmets are going to day.  Easton maskes some Green Goblin-looking kind of helmet.  There's some God awful Robocop Reeebok helmet that I see Pronger wearing.  "Dead or Alive, you're getting an elbow from me."  And of course, Messier is marketing his own line of helmets these days.  Dude, you're supposed to see your eyebrows when your helmet is on...

The SK2000.  Apparently, a properly fitted helmet was the last thing on Messier's mind, but he certainly used this to distinguish himself from the more talented Joby Messier

The HT500 on some 24 year-old punk right outta college.

Fear Not, there is good CBJ hockey in Columbus

It's just not the NHL team.  In 9 or 10 years these guys should be able to help the NHL squad if its still in Columbus...

2001AA  Columbus Blue Jackets - 2012 Division and Playoff Champs in the BTL Squirt AA Division

2001A Columbus Blue Jackets - 2012 Division and Playoff Champs in the CSHL Squirt A2 Division

2003AA Columbus Blue Jackets - 2012 Division and Playoff Champs in the CSHL Mite AA Division

Gimme Five!

Performance review time at my company has come and gone. I received my review from my boss, and conducted some with my employees. My boss is a retired Colonel with the 82nd Airborne. He is not an in your face, screaming, walking recital of Full Metal Jacket. He is a leader and a teacher. He has done well professionally.  What I admire most about him is his clear, fair, measurable, and reasonable expectations of me. I could ask nothing more from a boss. Every boss should do so much.

I’m trying to think of five measureable reasons why Scott Howson should continue to be the Columbus Blue Jackets general manager. I’m having a hard time thinking of two. Not in my cynical view on #CBJ life, but as if Scott Howson was a direct report of mine at work. You can’t compare the responsibilities and talents of a pro athlete to a slob like most of us in an office chair or at the mill. But what directly relates to our jobs is that of team management. Their responsibilities are not different than those of us doing the daily grind.

In my professional life, I refuse to believe that there are people smarter than me fixing what’s wrong with the company. I believe those people are of equal intelligence with experiences that allow them to exercise better judgment than me at this point in my career. I provide responsible and thoughtful contributions to my area of the company and speak to the executives with professionalism and let them know my ideas. Same with hockey.

So, in that light I look at Scott Howson as if he is sitting across the desk from me at review time. I look at the clear, fair, measurable, and reasonable expectations that I have for any General Manager. I can’t find one expectation that he’s met with full marks. Nor can I find a compliment for him professionally, other than he is genuine in his actions while being honest and approachable person.

So I turn to you, fans of the CBJ. Help me write a performance review for Scott Howson and find five compelling reasons to allow him to retain his duties and General Manager.
I’m stuck at one – He has never offered Mike Milbury a job with the Blue Jackets. Help me find four more credible reasons…

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

And blaming it on you.

A CBJ post inspired by Rudyard Kipling (or quite possibly Dennis Hopper)

Remember the CBJ "if" for all those years?  If only the CBJs had a top line center for Rick Nash.  If only they had a puck moving defenceman.  That's all they needed and they were THERE.  That's all they needed, for years. It's the hope the fans clung to.  IF... Fans overlooked two things.  The CBJ had a compliment of 3rd and 4th lines that worked hard that stole us a couple games a year. We overlooked the fact that our goaltending situation was much like having a butt ugly younger sister.  You wonder why none of your friends asked about her, but none of your friends had the heart to tell you how ugly she really was.

Rick Nash was the man in Buckeyeville.  All 500 or 600 hundred hockey players under the age of 8 in Columbus wanted to be number 61.  There were stories of Rick Nash crashing random pond hockey games in Columbus.  His charm in interviews was a combination of Bill Clinton and Bobby Orr.  He was banging the receptionist.  He had THE GOAL.  He and Joe Thornton would sand bag just a little bit playing for Davos forcing the other to wear that dumb yellow helmet.  Fun stuff that fans and hockey players liked and adored.  Life without Nash, unthinkable.  He was the constant star while all around him the organization did little else if anything right.

Then sometime in 2011, ownership decided to open up the pocketbook and stop operating on a budget.  The problem was Scott Howson was the man in charge of writing the checks.  Reward is not without its risk, but measures of consideration are to be used when spending 64 milllion dollars of your boss's money.  Fans finally got what they were told the needed, Nash got his sword and shield, but the fans lost sight of what was gone and what was really missing.  First, what did CBJ fans get?

Every Pee Wee in Charlestown knows its a bad sign when a cup contending team wants to dump it's young, high scoring center (drafted AFTER Zherdev) months into an 11 year, 90+ million dollar contract - Carter.  Was it his metal detecting foot?  Was it his Laviolette angering lack of commitment?  Was it his spot on Steven Wright impersonation?  We don't know, but none of those things stopped Howson from sending Chelsea Clinton and a used puck bag to Philly for a contract that had Commodore x10 written all over it.  I imagine Howson's visit to Carter's beach house was not unlike that scene in Donnie Bracoe when Johnny Depp needed keys to that Porsche..... badly.

Every Pee Wee in Charlestown wondered why Wiesniewski had been with 4 NHL teams in the first six years of his career.  Wiesniewski's only highlight reel moment thus far in his career was the reenactment of a bachelor partly novelty resulting in a 2 game suspension.  Oh and he had one good season, Contract year timing at its best.  With the addition of Jack Johnson, I wince a bit more when I here Wiesniewski's  "5th highest paid Defenseman in the NHL" moniker mentioned.  Oh, and Jack Johnson will be the latest in the #CBJ long line of  Scott Howson's favorite game of "You're really a solid second line guy, but will make you a top line guy here, and then everyone will get upset that you don't play like a top line guy."  We'll have to think of a better name for that...

For the record, I thought adding Carter was a bad move.  I was ridiculed for thinking this in dressing rooms, on the ice, and on the Air.  I liked what Wiesniewki had to offer, I was glad the CBJ got him, but didn't like the contract.

Secondly, What the CBJ didn't have.  When I coach my youth teams, I tell the kids, "We'll get better throughout the season, but so will the other teams. We have to work hard all year, that will make the difference."  Forget the actual act of scoring goals in the NHL because it's a by product of two things: Hard work and good passing.  Look at the other teams in the central division and see how hard they work for the puck.  That's how you keep goals out of your own net and put them behind the other goalie.  After years of minor league management, the hard working players left the team.  Sure there's Umberger, but where's Torres, Malholtra, Chimera?  What about Goalies? All of the sudden we open our yearbooks and realized how ugly our goalies were. Oh, and Duvie Wescott was still on the payroll.

I was talking about Rick Nash, wasn't I?  Well, even until about 6 weeks ago, many thought the CBJ were about to turn the corner.  Without talking to him, I can imagine one person who knew better was Nash.  In the lottery of life, he lucked out that he didn't go to Florida (people, don't give me the Florida is a divsion leader this season crap.  Florida is 3 pts from being OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS as I type this) or Atlantipeg.  But in those first years, Nash had hope.  He worked hard.  He was the darling second son to a town obsessed with football.  As the years went by, maybe he too was waiting for the mail man.  Maybe he bought into 'if' signing his most recent contract.  He owed it to the team and fans to try it again. After 8 years, it's quite possible Rick Nash was tired of 'if' tired of waiting.  Tired of seeing coaches come and go.  Tired of no good coming of anything.  Tired of hearing 'next year.'

So with the dignity we hope a professional athlete could give a perennial loser, which he was a part of, he told the front office he would like to be traded.  Fans were offended once Scotty Howson shared this nugget with the media.  The fans have a right to be upset to hear after the fact that Nash asked to be traded.  But Fans -  He didn't whine about the team in the media before hand.  He didn't go TO or Carmelo Anthony on us.  Sure fans wanted to hear him say something in disgust about the team's performance this season, and he didn't.  But how is this season different than any other?  Did he sign Carter, Nikitin, and countless russian teenagers with bad skin?  Did he promise a change in an email blast to CBJ fans that he didn't deliver on?  No.  Nash is not the Ray Lewis type captain.  He is not a Steve Yzerman captain.  But, he's better than Lyle Odelein.

I, for one, would like nothing more than to see Nash stay in Columbus.  I can understand why after 8 seasons of the same old tired thing the thought entered his mind that a trade would be good for him and the team.  But this team's tiny thread of local identity is tied to Rick Nash, what would the CBJ be without Rick Nash?   What happens to the team if he is traded?  Can you hear Jeff Rimmer's used car commerical voice over "Come see Jack Johnson, Derrick Dorsett, and Nitika Nikitin take on Pavel Datsyuk, Henrick Zetterberg, and Nick Lindstrom..."  All Nash was trying to do was be a professional, who wanted to improve his personal situation and that of his employer's, and let the team know he wanted to be traded to one of 10 teams if the offter was right for the CBJ.  Now, fans are selfish and mad.  How dare their hero want something better for himself and the franchise other than losing.

And now I leave Rick Nash with the words of Kipling:  "If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you."

What to Expect Here

I thank you for stopping by and taking a peek. If you are Blue Jackets fan, you may often not like what I have to say here. If you love, and truly love hockey, you will understand what I write here. Any day of the week, I would rather play hockey than watch hockey. I love hockey.  I revere hockey.  When I'm not playing or coaching, I love to talk hockey. In Columbus, OH, home of the losingest team in the NHL since it's inception, the conversation can be limited.  Hmm, "losingest" isn't in spell check...

I am not a fan of the Blue Jackets, however I love them by proxy. They have been my perpetual "know-it-all" teenage son since 1999.  The fan base is a gaggle of likewise teenage girls who follow my son around at the mall, peeking out from behnd displays, too embarrassed to really get to know him, but quick to defend what they adore about him. The media treats the Blue Jackets like a Junior Varsity team at a prep rally, maybe a little Freshman Rah to boot.  The print guys in town being the only credible cheerleaders, the team performance begets is broadcast crews.  But much like my real children, I don't let my love get in the way of a teaching moment or my expectations for them.  My expectations of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets are high but measured and realistic.

I am really not a fan of a team, rather a sport or an event.  I am an Ohio State Buckeye who married a Wolverine. I have Red Sox bloodlines and I see a Yankees game every chance I get.  I've owned Chevy and Ford.  I've voted Democrat and Republican.  I've had guppies named Montague and Capulet.  Those of you who know me personally understand why I grew up finding fandom to be odd.  I did have (and do have) favorite players growing up.  If either Cam Neely or Pavel Bure had a gender reassignment procedure, then made sweet love to each other and popped out a hockey player who wasn't named Doug Gilmour, I wanted it to be me.  I practiced Mike Bossy's shot in the basement, I took Phil Esposito like two-minute shifts on the ice.  Mike Greenwell is the only reason I bought baseball cards.

For the traditional fans of the Blue Jackets the only experience most have had to hockey, or how a pro sports team should be run, is the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I remember the "Welcome to the NHL, Columbus" TV commercials that ran 11 years ago.  The lasting impression in my mind was the clip of a guy standing behind a meat counter or a butcher counter saying, "Hockey?  In Ohio?"  I still think that way today as well.  To be honest, I've always thought the Blue Jackets would be the 2012-2013 Hamilton Bulldogs.  But apparently billionaire hockey lovers don't get to relocate hockey teams, but the league continues to allow Atlanta be the "Starter Wife" for Western Canadian NHL franchises.

I will always be critical of two things about the Blue Jackets: 1. the perpetual lack of talent developement in all aspects (is utterly inexcuseable)  2. The culture that management continues to allow to exist in the dressing room.  And to this point I don't mean attitude or partying, I mean culture.  Where's the easiest place to make a million bucks as a player in the NHL?  Columbus, OH.  No pressure, coaching musical chairs, minimal media atttention, and a niche (but loyal) fan base.  Management has helped develop that expectation.  Doug MacLean was poor exectution of the right idea.  He chased difference makers out of town because of contrarian beliefs.  Ken Hitchcock was a step in the right direction but he had to deal with a dollar-menu budget and a team that started losing money.  And Scott Howson, as nice of a guy as he is, isn't in a role he's well suited for and should step down.

Which brings us to today.  The casual charm of the pre-lockout Blue Jackets is gone.  We're left with a CBJ team in turmoil and a confused fan base ready to chase the only gem from a team that's otherwise only ever been a polished terd (I believe its spelled TURD in Canada and Great Britian, that "U Thing" messes me up).  This team has been in the league 11 years and it's winningest goaltender is its most loathed.  All the fans have done since the inaugurial season is they've waited for that one day when the mail man will pull up in front of the house and drop off this package called "winning."  It happened in Tampa.  It happened in North Carolina.  It happend in Disneyland.  Why hasn't it happened in Columbus?  Where are you mail man?  This is what I'm here to help you understand...

Hockey Haiku Tuesday

I am nostalgically Poetic this Tuesday.  I will leave you with my Columbus Blue Jacket Haiku.

Once Charming Glimpses
Gone. Seldom Ever Darling
Loyal Hopeless Scores

Ok - now you can review, discuss, lament...  And in case your wondering, after 11 seasons of frustration, I banged this out in around 3 minutes...