Monday, August 31, 2009

Wings Blogger Roundtable Day 1: Olympics...

In order to help overcome our extreme off-season-induced boredom, Christy Hammond organized eleven of us Wings bloggers to discuss different topics in a Roundtable of epic proportions. She started us off today with some questions about the Olympics over at Winging it in Motown, and the series will be continuing on different blogs over the course of the next week and a half. Since there are eleven of us, it’s a bit lengthy, but definitely worth the time. Tomorrow’s edition will be hosted by George Malik over at Snapshots, so be sure to check it out. I’ll be hosting Friday’s post.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hockeyfest 2009...

I just got back from Hockeyfest at the Joe. I went with my little sister, and my dad and brother joined us later on in the evening. We had a fantastic time, and I wish I could go back tomorrow. I think I may have managed to reignite her semi-dormant love for the game. Back in the day, when she was 6 or 7, she knew all of the Wings and their jersey numbers by heart. I took entirely too many pictures, and I think my brother drank a gallon of Coke, but all in all it was a good day, even though my dog just chewed up the foam puck I won at Scor-O. I uploaded a whole album of pictures to photobucket. Unfortunately, the Joe is quite possibly the worst place I’ve ever taken pictures before, and the shots that I got of the players didn’t turn out very well.

Anyway, we arrived just in time for the Q&A with Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Some of the more interesting points:

--Lidstrom was asked who he thought the Wings’ biggest rivals in the West were. He said Anaheim, followed by San Jose and Chicago.
--They were also asked about Jiri Hudler, and the IIHF situation. Lidstrom apparently hadn’t heard about the transfer card issue, but he said, “he’ll be missed,” regarding Hudler.
--Then someone asked Lidstrom about the way he tapes his stick and the size of the knob on the end. After he finished talking about how he’d experimented with the amount of tape, but felt most comfortable with a big knob, Homer said, “Yeah, yours has gotten smaller though.” Double entendres ensued. They involved water bottles and sausages. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
--Holmstrom also guaranteed a Stanley Cup this season. That little clip made it onto the recap video on the Wings’ website (worth watching just to see Homer try to figure out what the event was called).
--Someone asked Lidstrom if he’d sign a contract for less money to free up cap space to bring in more talent. He gave the same answer he’s given before, about playing out the season and working something out. He finished by saying that he’d definitely sign a contract like Zetterberg’s, to which Homer added, “Maybe then Nick would be bald.”
--Another fan asked what Babcock was like as a coach. Holmstrom answered, “He yells at me every day. Skate Homer, skate Homer, skate Homer!”
--Apparently Lidstrom studied to be an engineer in Sweden, and would have gone into telecommunications if hockey hadn’t worked out. On the other hand, Holmstrom said he’d be a fireman.
--When someone asked if it was frustrating to have goals called back because of goalie interference, Lidstrom cited an example from the ’08 playoffs against Dallas. Holmstrom said, “You still mad at that?” Lidstrom replied, “Now that you mention it, yes.”
--Fan: “I saw that on Sidney Crosby was voted the NHL’s biggest wuss. Do you agree?” Homer: “Yah.” Then everyone laughed. It’s also possible that he was joking. But I like to think he wasn’t.
--Then a full grown man got the microphone and asked Nick Lidstrom if one of the goals from this upcoming season was to win the Stanley Cup. I would have answered that it absolutely was not one of my goals, but it turns out that Lidstrom is a little bit nicer than I am.
--Probably my favorite fan question though was the guy who got up and introduced his wife, toddler, and newborn baby. Apparently his baby was named Nicklas too, and he wanted Nick to autograph his forehead. Lidstrom: “Hopefully not with a permanent marker.”

A little while later, Kris Draper and Jason Williams did a Q&A as well. Highlights:

--Ken Daniels moderated this one, and there was some awkward seat shuffling when the three of them tried to take their seats. One of the chairs was bar stool height, and Draper said, “I think Ken Daniels should sit in the highchair.” I was amused.
--When Williams was telling a story about having his dog in a hotel and having to take it out to go to the bathroom repeatedly throughout the night, Draper chimed in, “That sounds like my old roommate, Kirk Maltby.”
--When all of the injuries were disclosed at the end of the playoffs, I seem to remember reading that Draper had torn cartilage in his neck. Apparently he fractured his thyroid, which is a common injury from strangulation. The injury happened in a game against Buffalo, and he was supposed to be out 6-8 weeks. However, he said that after the Wings lost Game 6 to Anaheim, he pushed to get back in the lineup even though it had only been 5 weeks.
--He also told an interesting story that I don’t recall hearing before. During the playoffs, they put together a 16 piece Stanley Cup puzzle. At the end of each victory, one player stood out puts a piece in. Apparently this was thought up by Draper and Marty Lapointe back in the day, and I’m almost shocked that I’ve never heard about it before. Last year the whole team signed the completed puzzle and auctioned it off for charity.
--Someone asked both of them how they chose their numbers and Draper said that 33 was hanging in his locker when he got called up to the NHL and he just never changed it out of superstition. Williams said his story was pretty much the same.
--A kid asked them why the Wings got picked on by the referees so much. Draper said, “How old are you, Joe?” Joe said he was 7, to which Draper asked, “You know how to ref?” The kid was really cute. That’s pretty much the only reason I included this.
--Another fan asked Draper what goes through his head when he’s lining up for a faceoff. He said, “What goes through my head is how I can cheat and get away with it.” Later on, he added, “When I get tossed out, it’s usually because of my wingers.”
--After that, he was asked what the mood on the bench had been like at the end of Game 7. He responded, “I really thought we were going to score,” and that they really felt like they were taking over during those last few minutes. He said that, “We were believing right till the end.”
--Naturally, someone asked him about the Handshake Incident (And yes, anonymous chastiser, I’m talking about it again.). It’s clear that Draper still isn’t over it, and he actually seemed annoyed when Ken Daniels tried to explain what might have delayed Crosby. Draper said, “Don’t justify it. It is what it is.” As much as I would like to move on, I appreciate the fact that he’s at least standing by his original statement instead of trying to write it off as a heat of the moment thing. If nothing else, maybe it’ll be motivation. I would also like to point out that I won the bet with my sister that someone would bring it up.
--For what it’s worth, someone asked Williams who he thought would win the East, and he predicted Philly.
--They were also asked who they rooted for when they were growing up, and Williams said that he would watch games with his dad. He said, “He made me watch the Leafs all the time. It was painful.”

Favorite pictures:

--The quote inside the Wings' locker room has always bothered me. "To whom much is given, much is expected." I like the sentiment, but there's something not quite right about it. And since I'm a grammar snob, it annoys me. I'm not entirely sure how it should be rephrased, but I do know that it needs a "from" somewhere in there. I have issues.
--The jersey Steve Yzerman wore the night he scored his 600th goal was on display. I was pretty excited because I was in the stands that night. After we looked at the displays, I showed my sister where I was sitting then. She could not have cared less.
--Up on the concourse, we discovered that people had taken it upon themselves to rip Hossa's picture off of the pillar. I was kind of unhappy. I thought it was pretty clear that he was a one-year rental, and I really have no hard feelings about his departure. If anything, I was much more annoyed by Hudler's leaving, as it was completely unexpected and he was a Wings draft pick who was basically lost without compensation.
--There was a joke made about Ozzie, ATMs, and savings, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. It was pretty good though. I promise. Feel free to come up with your own. There was just something priceless about a goalie, who makes saves, and a bank, where get the idea.
--Right before we left, I was attempting to take a picture of this fake Zetterberg locker. Instead I got a shot of this kid mid-nosepick. Priceless. Also, I really hope his dad does not read this blog.

At any rate, it was a great day, and I’m really glad I got the chance to go. Walking into the locker room felt like entering hallowed ground. Also, I was a little ashamed at how much I wanted to play mini sticks. And it turns out that I’m a Scor-O all star. So that made me happy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Little Taste of Hockey...

I just watched the end of Canada’s Red/White scrimmage. It didn’t mean much, but it was glorious to see some live hockey. The scrimmage ended in a 2-2 tie. Even if it was a grainy little video on my laptop. Honestly, I think my favorite part was listening to the sounds of the game without the broadcasters talking. You could hear the crowd noise, the skate blades cutting into the ice, and the crack of every tape-to-tape pass. It was like music to my ears. Can the off-season be over yet? I’m totally ready for training camp to start.

After the game, every forward took a shot in the shootout. Dan Cleary scored on his attempt. I screencapped it, but it didn’t come out spectacularly well. Cleary's Red Team ended up winning the shootout 6-2, for what it's worth.

In other news, Sidney Crosby was in the handshake line. I even managed to not make any wisecracks about it. That’s him in the middle in white, if you care. You can’t make out Cleary, but he’s the guy in red, second from the right.

For a more detailed description of the scrimmage, check out ESPN's NHL blog, which has a period by period description of the fun.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And so the Summer of Suck Continues...

Just when I thought we had all moved on, the Jiri Hudler saga has once again reared its ugly head. Seriously, between this and the handshake incident, I feel like I’ve spent my whole summer discussing stories that won’t go away. Like zombies that just won’t die. Anyway, according to Cult of Hockey, the IIHF has refused Hudler’s transfer card. Without the transfer card, he can’t play in any IIHF-sanctioned games, including those in the KHL. My biggest question at this point is why the IIHF took this long to reach their decision. I think the situation’s been pretty clear cut from the beginning. Not to mention the fact that waiting until now to make that ruling doesn’t benefit anyone involved, including the IIHF’s apparent BFF, the KHL. (Sorry, there’s a little bit of acronym overload going on there.)

Assuming this information is true, and that the IIHF doesn’t reverse its decision, this puts the Wings in a terrible spot cap-wise. Not to mention the fact that Hudler has to be feeling like got locked out of the house, pantless (although at this point I really don’t care how he feels personally).

If he can’t play in the KHL, his only real option would be to return to the NHL. And that’s where this becomes my problem. Even with Lilja starting the season on LTIR, Hudler’s return would put the Wings well over the salary cap, thus forcing Ken Holland to make some trades that probably wouldn’t make many fans very happy. There’s some good discussion of the Wings’ options over at Babcock’s Death Stare and On the Wings. Truth be told, none of the choices are particularly appealing. I really don’t see them shopping any of their long-time veterans around, and since nobody wanted to sign Williams, Bertuzzi, or Eaves as free agents it’s pretty safe to assume that nobody will want to trade for them either. That leaves the Wings with the option of putting Hudler on the market (If you were another GM, would you make an offer for him? I’m not sure I would. Who’s to say he won’t bolt for the KHL again down the road when things are worked out with the IIHF?) or trading one of the mid-priced guys who are supposed to play key roles this season. Any way you look at it, this is not just good news.

I do know of a couple of beer league teams who would love to have Hudler suit up for them. They’d probably even let him have a bigger leadership role if he asked for it.

UPDATE (8/26/09 8:15): Apparently the KHL will just ignore the IIHF and let Hudler play. And now back to my regularly scheduled boredom...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Random Things to Brighten Your Day...

Okay sunshines, I’m phoning this one in. I’ve already turned my focus to deciding what to eat for my birthday lunch in Mexicantown tomorrow, but I wanted to post these links. And yes, that decision may very well take me twelve hours. There are too many things that I love to pick just one.

First off, if you read nothing else today, read this post from Snapshots. It may not make you happy, but it’s guaranteed to make you feel better. Plus, the notion of the “all-reject free agent team” made me laugh.

Speaking of things that made me laugh, I recently discovered this gem from When Cameron Was in Egypt’s Land. I’m not sure how I missed it before, but I think I’m a little better for having read it now. I tried to think what my fantasy game would include, and I’m pretty sure it would play out just as Cameron envisioned. Highlights: In the first period,
“Then Roy tries to statue-of-liberty it and Yzerman slaps him as Shanahan pokes it in.”
I think I snickered for five minutes when I read this. There isn’t a person in the world whose life wouldn’t be improved by seeing Steve Yzerman slap Patrick Roy. Not a single one, including Roy himself. In the third period,
“Scott Stevens and Pronger try to cheap shot Yzerman collectively, miss him on the boards, and tear their ACLs.”
No fantasy game could be complete without a reenactment of one of my favorite moments of irony/karma. Finally,
“Zetterberg and Franzen put their beards together like the WonderTwins and form the Beard of Justice. It engulfs Jordin Tootoo and rids him of this world. The crowd goes crazy. Don't Stop Believin' starts playing and the PA cuts the volume for "Born in South Detroit." Game ends. Red Wings win 1919-0. Kenny Holland hands Yzerman the Cup, which has recently been re-engraved to award the Red Wings with every championship back to 1893.”
And afterward,
“I'm picked to go down into the locker room and meet all the players. Yzerman invites me out to dinner. Datsyuk's cell phone rings. Shanahan holds the Cup for me as I drink cold Blue Moon from it. The players say what the hell and have the white-glove guy engrave my name on Lord Stanley too. Right next to Stevie's.”
This kind of brilliance only comes around once in an off-season. So read it and enjoy, because if that fantasy doesn't bring joy to your life, you're probably not a real Wings fan.

Christy Hammond also posted her five reasons for loving hockey over at Winging it in Motown. This will improve your life as well. There isn't a single bad reason to like hockey, and I love that everyone has their own set of aspects of the game that drew them in.

And finally, the next time someone asks you to explain why Wings fans are the best in the world, just show them this video. We are Hockeytown.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thinking Happy Thoughts...

OK, it’s official. I really thought the Wings were done with signings after the Jason Williams deal, but the rumblings have been around for a couple of days now so I’m not all that surprised. It’s no secret that I’m not a big Bertuzzi fan. (And for the record, I hated him long before the Steve Moore incident. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I’m pretty sure that dates back to the 2002 playoffs.) I’m having a hard time getting behind Kenny on this one, but I'm going to try really hard to talk myself into liking it. So here we go…

Aside from my general dislike for Bertuzzi, my biggest issue is his injury problem. (The Wings already got hit with the injury bug at the worst possible time last season so maybe the Hockey Gods will grant them all a reprieve.) And the fact that he’s washed up. (So was Dan Cleary when he first showed up. Plus, that was one of the things that I liked about the Eaves deal. Even though Eaves is young, hasn’t peaked yet, and has never made me angry in the past. No, no, no, I’m going to stay positive here.) And takes too many stupid penalties (Exhibits '08 and '09.) Then there’s the fact that he’s kind of a defensive liability/slacker who, according to The Triple Deke, never managed to endear himself to fans in Anaheim or Calgary. (Seriously? Fans of the team that until recently employed Chris Pronger and his elbows never warmed to Bertuzzi? And we’re supposed to like him? No, there’s really no way I can put a positive spin on that one.) Then there’s the question of what his addition does to the lineup. Who gets benched? What happens to Helm’s ice time? Am I really going to be subjected to seeing Williams and Bertuzzi playing on he third line together? (Objectively speaking, having guys battle for ice time might not be the worst thing in the world. Maybe it’ll keep them from sleepwalking through a lot of the regular season like they did last year. Every player on the team has something to prove this season, and maybe fighting for their ice time every night will make them better.)

Plus, back in July, I was thinking to myself, “Now that Sammy’s gone, who am I going to complain about? And mock?” Well apparently Kenny Holland was listening because he went out and signed me not one, but two, potential definite replacements. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing. I kind of believe that every group needs one person to hate on. It’s a community building thing. I’ve seen it work time and time again in various roommate and work situations over the years. Disliking that one person gives us something in common and helps us bond. Someone has to be the go-to punchline. (Tonight I was playing a game, and we each had to write down something that was useless. I wrote ‘Todd Bertuzzi.’ Everyone laughed when it was read aloud, so see, he’s already serving an important purpose in my life.)

While I’m still not sold on this deal, between the posts at Abel to Yzerman and Babcock’s Death Stare and forcing myself to think happy thoughts, I’ve realized that it’s not the end of the world. I kind of wish I hadn’t burned all of my stuff out on the front lawn when I heard the news. I kid, but you get the idea. I’m definitely not happy, but if you stretch, there are positives. Who knows, maybe this time next year, we’ll all be writing about Holland’s brilliance and nominating him for governor.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I Love Hockey...

Inspired by Puck Daddy’s “5 Reasons I Love Hockey” series, I decided to spend the weekend writing my own list. Unfortunately, I was unable to stop at five. So I decided to write the ten biggest reasons for my undying love for the game. They’re not in any particular order because it was impossible to choose which meant more to me. So here you go.

I love hockey…

…Because every player gets his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
I know it’s cliché to say that you like hockey because of the Stanley Cup. But there’s a reason so many people love that silver chalice. What trophy out there is cooler? The NBA trophy looks like abstract art, the Lombardi trophy looks like something you’d give out to the runners-up in a middle school football league, and the MLB trophy just looks like a really good way to put your eye out. Can you drink out of any of them? I didn’t think so. What other trophy has the names of all of the players engraved on it? It’s nice to see each one recognized on it because hockey players so rarely take credit for their individual efforts. As if the Cup itself wasn’t cool enough, the traditions surrounding it are awesome. Some of the stories about Stanley’s adventures are the stuff of legend. Face it kids, the Cup is just cool. I also think it’s the shiniest thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of shiny things because I notice each and every one of them.

…Because Steve Yzerman is the greatest Captain to ever walk the face of the earth.
I loved Steve Yzerman every bit as much as I hated the Avalanche. While other girls my age grew up idolizing JTT and Leonardo DiCaprio, I had a different hero. I never had many idols growing up because I was always afraid that they would turn out to be a disappointment, but you always got the sense that Stevie Y would never let you down. When I was a kid I told my mom that if I ever got a terminal disease, I wanted her to tell Make A Wish that I wanted to meet The Captain in case I couldn’t talk anymore. Clearly, I was a pleasant child to be around. I was at the Joe the night he scored his 600th goal. Every person in the arena clapped and clapped for what seemed like forever. And Yzerman simply stood up near the end of the bench, raised his stick up in the air once, and sat back down and went to work. Because that’s what leaders do. As a Wings fan over the years, I’ve seen my share of (future) Hall of Famers come and go. Somehow, surrounded by all of that talent, Steve Yzerman always managed to stand out. Quite simply, he embodied everything that a captain should be. I don’t need to explain what he means to this team/city. It’s self-evident, and if you don’t understand now, you never will. Stevie’s character has left a legacy in the Wings locker room that still shows. And that class is one of the things that makes me so proud to be a Wings fan. There is very little that any player could ever do to surpass Steve Yzerman in my heart.

…Because mini sticks ruined my knees.
Remember when mini sticks were all the rage? I do. The fad swept through my elementary school shortly after I first got into hockey. No one would let me play at school because I was a girl, but at home, my brother and I would play for hours on end. We never got to play real hockey, so this is as close as we’d get to any real action. We both chose player nicknames that we would use when we were in the “rink.” His was “Fozzie Ozzie,” but for the life of me, I can’t remember what mine was. We agreed on very detailed rules and had an elaborate system for deciding who was right when goals were disputed. We had some epic battles over the years, and it’s a wonder that we never broke anything (furniture or bones). I fully believe that those countless hours spent jumping around my family room floor on my hands and knees is the reason why my knees are in such sorry shape at the ripe old age of twenty-two. It was worth it, though.

…Because Mickey Redmond likes to drink “ginger ale.”
My least favorite thing about the playoffs is the fact that as the Wings advance we no longer get to hear Mickey Redmond on the broadcast. He’s well-known around these parts for his catchphrases like, “Bingo Bango” and “Holy Mackerel,” but that’s not all he brings to the broadcast booth. Then there's his penchant for excessive use of the Telestrator. Aside from that, he’s as old-school as they come and he clearly loves a good “donnybrook” as much as the rest of us. And I love him for it. There are few things more entertaining than hearing him get all riled up about a call on the ice. You get the feeling at times that ol’Mick is fully prepared to head on down to the ice and drop the gloves with a ref or an opposing player to teach him a lesson about how real hockey is played. I keep waiting for him to regale us with the tale of how he used to have to walk to the rink, barefoot, carrying all of his hockey gear, uphill both ways. One of my favorite moments last season was when he and Ken Daniels interviewed Gary Bettman and Mick kept arguing with him while Daniels awkwardly searched for a way to reign him in. the fact that this moment hasn’t made it to YouTube is a fail of epic proportions. Plus, he sings

…Because I still know all of the words to “I Want Stanley.”
Back in the day, the Wings used to have an official playoff anthem every year. They were cheesy and lame, but they were strangely endearing, especially to 9-year olds. A little part of me wishes they still made them, although I shudder at the thought of what they would’ve created for “The Beard is Back.” The best of the best was “I Want Stanley” from the ill-fated ’96 playoff run. To this day, I can’t listen to the original “I Want Candy” song without hearing the lyrics to the Wings’ edition in my head. My brother and I were obsessed with the Arena Version (Rap Version here). We had an intricate, choreographed interpretive dance routine that we would perform over and over. It involved crosschecks, running laps around our family room with pretend sticks, and an excessive amount of raising the roof. Really the only things that we were lacking were spirit fingers and a few jazz squares. We fought like cats and dogs for most of our childhood, but once we threw on that CD and lined up for the fake opening faceoff that began our routine, we were a team, working together in perfect harmony. At least for those few minutes.

…Because I like being quirky.
I like being an outsider. When it’s not irritating, it can be fun. As much as it annoys me sometimes, I like that hockey’s not “mainstream.” It’s one of the major aspects of my love/hate relationship with the game. Growing up in Michigan, I was lucky to be surrounded by a lot of hockey media coverage thanks to the popularity of the Wings. But travel out of state and you’ll be lucky to find so much as a game recap for the local team. I have to admit that a little part of me likes going on vacation and picking up a newspaper only to complain that they devoted an entire page in the sports section to high school lacrosse, but couldn’t even bother to print NHL box scores. Seriously though, it’s more fun to be on the fringe. It makes you feel edgy and unique. People find it strange and quirky when you say that you like hockey. It’s fun, even if it means that you sometimes have to call around to find a bar that carries Versus. And is willing to turn it on for you.

…Because Darren McCarty turned Claude Lemieux into a turtle on March 26, 1997.
How many regular season scores and game dates do you remember from twelve years ago? Probably not many. How many fights do you celebrate the anniversary of every year? I’m guessing not a whole lot. But when Darren McCarty exacted his revenge for Lemieux’s dirty hit, he heightened a rivalry that defined a large portion of my childhood. What other sport could that happen in? If he were a basketball player, he would’ve just had teammates pretend to hold him back while hoping that their grip didn’t slip and force him to actually fight. In baseball, he would’ve just thrown his batting helmet at Lemieux. I'm not sure what would've happened in an NFL game, but I'm willing to bet that it would've involved an obnoxious celebration afterward. I still have a framed picture of that fight hanging on my bedroom wall. And my hatred that began with Claude Lemieux quickly spread to the rest of the Avs. I can’t even tell you how much I hated them back in the day. Part of me still does, even though it’s not nearly as much fun now. I’m pretty sure that I’ll always take a little more pleasure in beating the Avs than any other team. The classic Wings-Avs battles were everything that a rivalry should be. There was bad blood, amazing hockey, epic goalie fights, and repeated playoff meetings. I spent the better part of my formative years hating those guys. Nothing could get me riled up like mentioning the Avs or any of their players in casual conversation (Ask my family. It was a fun little game they used to play.) Watching those games was addictive. You never knew when things were going to boil over. I still have my Patrick Roy voodoo doll that I cut out from the Freep in ’02 sitting on my hockey memorabilia shelf somewhere. For all of the NHL’s attempts at creating division rivalries, nothing even comes close to the animosity that existed between these two teams during the height of the rivalry.

…Because the smack of a solid tape-to-tape pass is music to my ears.
I absolutely love the sounds of a hockey game. One of the reasons that I hate watching basketball is because I can’t stand the sounds of their shoes squeaking on the floor. I literally have to mute the TV on the rare occasions that I tune in. Not so with hockey. I love the slash of skate blades digging into the ice and the crisp sound of a good slapshot. The sound of boards and plexiglass rattling will never fail to bring a smile to my face. Depending on which end of the ice it occurs, sometimes I even like the cling of a puck bouncing off of a goal post. Try listening to a few minutes of play with your eyes closed the next time you DVR a game. You won’t regret it.

…Because anything can happen at any moment.
I’m one of those people who has to be doing at least three things at a time. I have the attention span of a small child in a room full of shiny objects. (As I write this, I’m watching the Tigers game on FSN, G-chatting, and semi-working on a 15-page paper.) When I watch TV shows and even my beloved Tigers, I have to have something else to do, whether it’s a crossword, Sudoku, a book, or my homework. Otherwise I get bored. Not so when hockey’s on. As soon as the puck drops, I’m riveted to the screen. There’s so much going on that I can’t take my eyes off lest I miss something. You never know when the puck is going to ricochet off of two sticks, a skate, someone’s teeth, and Tomas Holmstrom’s rear end and wind up in the goal. Things like that come out of nowhere all the time during hockey games. And if you miss that moment when the puck hits the back of the net, you miss out on part of the fun. Watching it on replay just isn't as much fun. Not only that, but the little things like great defensive coverage or gorgeous outlet passes are too easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, and too often they go unnoticed and aren’t replayed (This was more of a problem in the days before DVR.). I love losing myself in the game and completely clearing my head for a while. I can’t even follow along with the live blogs because they’re too distracting. In short, Red Wings hockey is the only thing that I’ve found that can captivate me like that. And I love every second of it.

…Because getting dirty looks from passing cars is fun.
When I was younger, my family would go on a huge roadtrip every summer. We would invariably find ourselves passing through one or two NHL cities. Accordingly, my brothers and I would spend hours in the car drawing (stick-figure goalies count as drawing, right?) Red Wings pictures and making obnoxious signs. We then proceeded to tape them all over the windows of the van for the viewing pleasure of our theoretically hostile audience. After the car was appropriately decorated, we would spend even more time waving at passing cars in an attempt to draw their attention to our handiwork. We got flicked off our share of times, which always elicited a round of cheers and high fives between us kids, words of disgust from my mother, and admonishment from my father who was certain that every driver was going to run us off the road and pull out a shotgun. In retrospect, it’s almost astonishing that that never happened and that the car was never keyed, the tires never slashed, and the windows never broken. I’m fairly certain that the only reason this tradition was allowed to continue was because otherwise we would have spent all of our time fighting. Clearly the possibility of falling victim to road rage was preferable to driving to the Grand Canyon and back with us bickering in the backseat.

The highlight of our cross-country Red Wings sign-fests came during our trip out west in 2002. The Wings had just won the Cup and we were ecstatic. Our trip would take us to Denver and St. Louis, both homes of teams that had been beaten by the Wings en route to the Finals. Fresh off of our triumph, we set to work planning ideas in advance. I even used my then-burgeoning Photoshop skills to create this little beauty that was slated for display in each window in order to maximize its effect. On our day in Denver, we all dressed head-to-toe in Red Wings gear, most of us sporting our crisp new Stanley Cup Champions shirts. Over the years, we’ve made it to just about every corner of the country, and you had better believe that every mile along the way was highlighted by our Red Wings signs, shirts, hats, and even socks.

Wow, that turned into a novel. Many apologies. Since you made it this far, I’d like to know what drew you into hockey. There are so many things to love about the game.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Required Viewing for Wings Fans...

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, we’re able to relive Red Wings history 24/7, albeit sometimes in grainy, pixilated fashion. So here I’ve collected the ten YouTube videos that I think every Red Wings fan must see. It’s a cultural literacy thing. (Sorry, grad school has officially gotten to me now.) I don’t believe you can really know who you are unless you know where you came from. I realize that this is a pretty pretentious thing to say on a hockey blog, but I’ve never made any claims of subtlety before. Anyway, after watching this collection of videos, you should be fully briefed on how the Wings came to be where they are today.

These are skewed toward the recent era for two reasons: that’s what I’m most familiar with, and that’s what’s readily available on YouTube. There isn’t a whole lot of video out there from before the ‘90s, and even a lot of the stuff I’ve linked to isn’t of the greatest quality.

10. Steve Yzerman’s Goal in Game 7 OT Against St. Louis in ‘96
This goal is what sent the Wings on to play Colorado in that fateful Western Conference Finals series that launched the epic rivalry. Even without that context, this goal speaks for itself. Scoring on a snipe like that in overtime of Game 7? That’s the stuff legends are born of. Plus, Stevie’s celebration is iconic.
9. The Dangle Dangle Interview
While serving his one game quasi-suspension, Pavel Datsyuk stopped in for an interview with Mickey Redmond. The result was hilarious. Having seen this multiple times, we all knew that Pav was a funny guy but this interview is classic. I don’t even know which part I like best. There’re just so many to choose from. At any rate, I think everyone should know where the Dangle Dangle nickname originated. The parts about having a front row seat with drinks and not minding Brett Hull yelling because he didn’t speak English back then are just icing on the cake. And since it accounts for the other half of my blog’s name, here’s The Zetterberg Song.
8. Brendan Shanahan’s Empty Net Goal to Ice the ’02 Championship
This is quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever been about an empty net goal. In theory, it doesn’t sound very thrilling. “Oh, he scored? But there was no goalie? Isn’t that nice.” But this was the goal that put a seal on the dynasty and ensured that the ’02 team’s destiny was fulfilled. Plus, like in the first video, the post-goal celebration is classic. I really can’t remember what I was doing when this goal was scored, but you can be pretty sure that it involved screaming and jumping. And possibly crying. I’ll never know for sure.
7. Zetterberg’s Epic Penalty Kill
It’s been over a year, and I still sometimes can’t believe that the Penguins didn’t score on this powerplay. It was midway through the third period of Game 4 in ’08. The Wings were leading the game and the series 2-1. When that second penalty was called, I was sure that it meant disaster for my boys. And then amazingly, astonishingly, Henrik Zetterberg singlehandedly killed off the entire 5-on-3. OK, he actually had some help from the other players, but that moment when he tied up Crosby just outside the goal crease was…I don’t even know. I have a still shot of that play that pops up on my screensaver every now and then, and it makes me swoon every time. And if that PK magic isn’t enough for you, then make sure you check out Darren Helm’s ’09 version.
6. Steve Yzerman Tribute
Because he is The Captain. And you should know why. There are a plethora of Yzerman tribute videos out there, and I just happened to choose this one. So sit back and enjoy, because you can never watch too many Steve Yzerman highlights.
5. Legends of Hockey: Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman are the two most important players that this franchise has had. We all know plenty about Stevie Y, but how much do you know about Gordie? Probably not enough, so watch and learn. I also feel that it’s necessary to include this ESPN commercial, as well as Gordie’s theme song. I want to learn to play the guitar just so I can sing this around the campfire. Also for your historical viewing pleasure: Legends of Hockey about Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuck, and a tribute to Olympia (It’s best to watch this one on mute). Apparently there isn’t a single YouTube video about Alex Delvecchio or Sid Abel.
4. The Statue of Liberty Goal
This was the goal that launched a thousand punch lines. It was a perfect storm of timeliness, irony, history, and hilarity. In short, it was everything that a goal should be. And the fact that it made Patrick Roy look like a fool made it that much sweeter. The goal did indeed count. Seriously though. Remember that series? The Wings were down 3-2 in the Conference Finals playing on the road in Colorado. The game was scoreless near the end of the first period. Stress levels were at an all-time high. And then, out of nowhere, came this moment of glory. And we all know what transpired after...
3. Darren McCarty’s Cup-Clinching Goal in ‘97
If you were a Red Wings fan in the ‘90s, the highlight reel from this game should probably make you cry. After crushing defeats by New Jersey in ’95 and Colorado in ’96, the Wings finally ended the 42-year Cup drought right here in Hockeytown. And the game-winning goal in that decisive victory? Scored by none other than our favorite grind-liner, Darren McCarty, just a few weeks removed from reducing Claude Lemieux to a bloody, cowering turtle at center ice. Clearly, this was a good year for Mac. Even out of this context, this would probably be the most spectacular goal of his career. He looked like a 50-goal scorer on that rush. I remember my dad saying, “No, that wasn’t McCarty. He’s not that good.” To this day, I believe that the Hockey Gods instilled him with some kind of dangling magic a la “Angels in the Outfield” in that one particular moment.
2. March 26th, 1997
This epic battle defined one of the greatest rivalries in sports. Along with the follow-up in '98, Darren McCarty's revenge for Claude Lemieux's hit on Kris Draper during the previous year's playoffs should be required viewing for every Wings fan. These fights were the complete package: they weren’t staged, they were bookended by great hockey, and they involved goalies. As a hockey fan, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Whenever the Wings played the Avs during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s there was the ever-present possibility that the bad blood would escalate into a full-on brawl. Plus, there are few things more fun in hockey than a good old-fashioned goalie fight. And as a Red Wings fan, you should know why the date 3/26/97 will forever be a part of team lore. For comic relief, I’ve also included Dominik Hasek’s attempt to join the legion of Wings goalies to battle Patrick Roy.
1. The ’98 Cup Celebration
If the shot of Steve Yzerman putting the Stanley Cup in Vladdie’s lap doesn’t make you at least a little bit misty-eyed, then you either have no heart or aren’t a Red Wings fan. This, more than anything defines the team in my mind. After they won in ’97, it was hard to imagine anything sweeter than that triumph. But ’98 had an entirely different feel. It was like a made-for-TV movie, except it was real. That playoff run embodied everything that fans love about sports. And what more could you ask from a hockey team?

OK, I lied. There are actually more than ten videos there. But you get the idea. And since I bookmarked all of these, and I don't intend to let that effort go to waste, here are the runners-up:
The top 10 Wings goals of the Modern Era, Samuel L. Jackson as Cheli's coach, the Winter Classic (Best parts at 1:10 and 4:40), Datsyuk dangling Turco, Franzen taking Kane's mouthguard, MAF falling before '08 Finals, Steve Yzerman fighting (also watch for Bob Probert punching the goalie's mask right off his face at the 1:20 mark), and a version of the '97 fight set to music that came highly recommended by my brother.

These are all amusing and entertaining, but not quite significant enough to make it on the list. I know I've left dozens of other great moments off. The comments section is a great place to post links that you think I need to see. I promise I'll enjoy them as much as you do.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

As Boredom Creeps In...

I don’t normally like to do video-heavy posts, but I’m finally done with classes for the summer and I’m just happy to be able to catch up on all of the random hockey links I’ve been bookmarking for the last few weeks. And since there isn’t a whole lot else going on during these oh-so-boring summer days, this is all I have to go with. If I get any more bored, I’m liable to start making Top Ten lists, and nothing good can come of that.

First I’ll start off with the Wings playoff intro from this past season. Most of you have probably seen it by now, but it’s definitely worthy of repeated viewing. I missed most of it before the game I went to because I was too busy bawling due to finally making it to my first playoff game. I’m kidding. I wasn’t bawling. I actually was trying to take pictures of the pre-game show while climbing the upper bowl stairs backwards. The beginning of the video gave me chills though. Actually, it still does. Also, I’m kind of in love with that guy’s voice.

On a related note, I also love videos like this one with game clips in front of a voiceover quote from X-Men 3. Seriously, it’s perfect. When I saw it up on the big screen at the Joe, it blew my mind. Some may say that I’m easily impressed, but I have a thing for movie/TV quotes. I have no idea why.

And last but not least, here’s a link to the NHL’s top ten saves of the year. Number ten features our very own Chris Osgood. Make sure you watch all of the replays of the save so you can catch the Versus announcer dropping the word “fabulosity” at around the 40 second mark. (The other nine saves are nice too, but they really lost me at “fabulosity.”) While it’s not the Pavel Datsyuk call that originally introduced me to my new favorite word, it’ll have to do. Seriously, fabulosity is kind of my own version of truculence, except that it’s not a real word.

Williams Back for More...

The Wings announced that they signed Jason Williams to a one year deal this morning. The terms haven't leaked yet, as far as I know, but we're all well aware of the amount of cap space the Wings had to work with, so you can expect that it's somewhere around that level. I've already made my case against bringing Williams back, so you all know how I feel about that. The one upside to this deal is that it will allow Abdelkader to start the season in Grand Rapids. I'm also curious to see how long Williams makes it before he starts whining. I'm a much bigger fan of the Eaves deal.

@joeburkel on Twitter pointed out to me that Eaves has never put up good numbers. However, he, unlike Williams, has never annoyed me before. He's coming in with a clean slate with no previous animosity built up. And I hold grudges. I'm not going to hide the fact that Williams is going to have to play twice as hard to earn my respect. Plus, I like the unexplored potential that Eaves brings. You get the feeling that he's never peaked and that there's a whole lot more that he can bring to the ice surface. On the other hand, with Williams, you pretty much know what you're getting. I'd be shocked if he surprised me at all.

At any rate, it's nice to actually have a lineup to discuss. It'll give me something to do besides watch youtube videos. Now if we could just get Lilja's head fixed...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Two Old Favorites...

Two of my favorite players made the hockey headlines today, but for different reasons. I was quite glad to see that Brendan Shanahan has signed a one-year deal with New Jersey. I’m no Devils fan, but I wasn’t ready to see Shanny hang up the skates just yet. It’s comforting to know that my “alter-ego” from my high school days is still out there suiting up. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, that iconic “Statue of Liberty” goal should have earned him employment in the NHL for as long as he wants.

Going in the opposite direction was Jeremy Roenick, who’s expected to announce his retirement tomorrow. I’ve always had a soft spot for JR, even though he was never a Wing. I love the fact that he would say outrageous things that were a total departure from the traditional NHL players’ sometimes Nyquil-like comments. (Don’t get me wrong...I would hate a league full of Roenicks. But I think that one or two guys like him are exactly what the league needs.) Plus, I firmly believe that more professional athletes need to sing and dance while in uniform. At any rate, I’m definitely sad to see him go. He’s one of the rare players out there who I actually like despite never having donned the Winged Wheel. And that says more than any contrived career eulogy ever could. Now, let the bidding war for his TV commentator deal begin...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Empty Arenas Look Depressing...

This little beauty's from the Wings channel on NHL TV.

I repeat: Can summer be over yet?

Also, I feel the need to mention that I finally joined Twitter a while back. You can follow me @snipedangle if you so desire.

Finally Some Real News...

Well, it’s certainly about time. I was running out of pointless things to write about. As has been announced nearly everywhere (I have to take this opportunity to point out how much I love Twitter/the blogging world. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had to wait until this news was printed in the paper tomorrow morning. I’m not even being facetious. I actually don’t know what I would do without instant access to news like this.), the Wings just signed Patrick Eaves to a one-year deal for $500K. I have to admit that this guy wasn’t even on my radar. I was so preoccupied by ranting about players that I didn’t want to see back in a Wings uniform, that I failed to really search around for guys who I did want. After doing a few minutes worth of Googling, I have to say that I actually really like this deal. While we were all busy debating the merits of Williams, Bertuzzi, Grier, and Sykora, Kenny Holland was once again working his magic.

The comparisons to Dan Cleary have already been made (by Jim Nill, too), so I won’t waste your time with that. But I have to believe that if any NHL club can resurrect the career of a guy like Eaves, it’s the Wings. If he’s willing to come in, play hard, and do his job by providing quality shifts on the bottom lines, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be able to succeed here. The guys on the Wings roster have a way of making those around them better. And if this does work out the way we all hope it does? Well then, I’m pretty sure Ken Holland will have a holiday named after him around these parts.

And as for Eaves, well to steal The Chief’s metaphor, this is his Golden Ticket. If he comes in here and pulls a Dan Cleary, he’ll find himself showered with love and affection from the greatest fan base in all of hockey. We like our redemption stories around here. But more importantly, we love our blue collar guys who succeed based on their hard work and character. Seriously, this has all the makings of a Kenny Holland Special.

So welcome to Detroit, Patrick Eaves. We’ve got a long and storied history of falling for guys like you. On the flip side, these comparisons to Cleary’s career resurrection have set some pretty lofty goals for you, and we’re not always kind to those who disappoint us. But the guys who buy into the system and stick around for a while tend to be rewarded. So you might want to consider getting on the phone with him ASAP to pick up some tips for success in the Winged Wheel. It'll be worth your while.