Why I (usually) stay away from Jr. B

by Steve, October 30th, 2006

hockeyA junior B hockey fight spilled off the ice last week in Calgary, turning into a free-for-all that left a linesman unconcious after taking a kick to the head. All players and coaches from both teams were suspended indefinitely. Today, the league, Hockey Calgary, announced it was suspending two players for two years and one parent for one year from attending any junior hockey events in the city. A 21 year old spectator was charged with assault.

Repeat after me: It’s only a game.

Our two local Junior B teams provide a full slate of fights when they play, thanks to their respective dominance (Ft. Vancouver Pioneers) and fecklessness (River City Jaguars). When games get lopsided, the gloves come off. The Jaguars are 0 and 13 this year, so you know they’re frustrated. Especially when they’re on the receiving end of 16-2 thrasings. The Pioneers, on the other hand, lead the conference with a 12 and 2 record. Not much to build a cross-town rivalry on, so I’ve pretty much stayed away from the local Junior B scene this year.

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #63

by Steve, October 18th, 2006

politicsIt’s been a while since I’ve done a Thursday Thirteen list, and even longer since I’ve written about anything but hockey here. (And there’s been some damn good hockey so far this season!) But this being election season, I am bound to get into politics again sooner or later. So why not start with Thirteen Failures of Geo. W. Bush ?

1. Iraq. Wrong target, wrong reason, wrong plan. Now we find ourselves backing a Shi’a regime (which also enjoys the backing of our fundamentalist extremist friends in Iran). We are fully engaged in a civil war, with our troops used to prop up an Islamist regime with direct ties to unlawful militias and death squads. We’re on track to lose around 100 US service men and women this month. Nice. Way to support the troops. Thanks, George.

2. Afghanistan. We went in there to… get bin Laden? Bzzt! Failure. To defeat the Taliban? Bzzt! They’re coming back with a vengeance. Liberate women from the Burqa? Bzzt! Didn’t happen (To quote Arundhati Roy, “It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission. If so, will their next stop be America’s military ally Saudi Arabia?”)

3. North Korea. This will probably go down in history as his greatest failure, even bigger than Iraq. Why? Because when Bush took office, the US had a working policy, the Agreed Framework, that had successfully contained North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. This Framewok had been in place since 1994, and under it North Korea had halted all nuclear development. Bush promptly discarded the Framework, and North Korea promptly went back to the nuclear drawing board and—surprise!—produced a nuke. And Bush has the chutzpah to suggest that dialog with North Korea had failed. Wrong George! Withdrawing from the Framework is what failed!

4. Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Another brilliant example of the complete lack of realpolitik in Bush’s foreign policy. In the Bush world view, we don’t talk to our enemies, and—surprise!—they don’t do what we want them to do. Because of the Bush policy of freezing out the relatively moderate Fatah government, Fatah became completely ineffective. And they were voted out in favor of the religious fundamentalist Hamas party. Had we worked with Fatah, this could have been avoided. Really.

5. Lebanon. Again, Bush’s failure to talk to non-allies (in this case Syria and Iran) and his green light to Israel led to the near destruction of Lebanon and it’s fragile coalition government. For all its talk of promoting democracy in the Middle East, the Bush administration has all but destroyed the only two democratically elected Arab governments in the region.

6. Iran. Another case where not talking to our enemies has emboldened them.

7. Privatizing Social Security. For this failure, I am glad. Bush’s only significant domestic policy push wildly misjudged the popularity of one of the last vestiges of New Deal Social Democracy in this country.

8. 9/11. First, in not taking the specific threat seriously. Second, for completely freezing in the face of the attack. Third, for running away like a scared child instead of going back to Washington to take charge.

9. The Patriot Act. His first giant swipe at the constitution. (This is more properly thought of as a Bush success that is a failure for democracy and human rights.)

10. The Military Commissions Act of 2006. This suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus for anybody Bush arbitrarily determines to be an “enemy combatant”. One little problem: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9) I don’t see no Rebellion or Invasion here, so this law is clearly unconstitutional. This is Bush’s most flagrant power grab, and, again, a Bush success at the expense of liberty.

9. Enron, Halliburton and the culture of corporate corruption.

10. No Child Left Behind. Better to call it “No Child Left a Dime.”

11. The tumors on my dog’s ass. I don’t know how, but somehow Wacky Mommy thinks we should be able to blame Bush.

12. Global Warming. Bush refuses to submit the Kyoto protocols for ratification. The US stands alone with Australia in its refusal to ratify this treaty.

13. The loss of Congress in the ’06 mid-term elections. I’m calling this one in advance.

My favorite bumper sticker of late has a very simple, very encouraging message: “January 20, 2009”.

Made the Top Ten in Something…

by Steve, October 10th, 2006

hockeyPortland may be looking at the cellar of the WHL’s U.S. Division in this rebuilding year, but we’ve still made somebody’s top ten list. From Terry Frei on ESPN SportsTravel:

Oregon, not Maine.

First, sample one of the game’s most heated rivalries, driving on Interstate 5 to catch barn-to-barn Western Hockey League games between the Winter Hawks and the Seattle Thunderbirds.

The best set this season is February 2 in Portland at the glass palace, Memorial Coliseum, which is where Cam Neely, Glen Wesley and Marian Hossa, among others, played; and where Bill Walton played when he didn’t talk at all, much less so darned much. Stick around after the game as long-time radio voice Dean “Scooter” Vrooman hosts “Hawk Talk” and visits with a Portland player on the ice, with the sound heard both in the arena and on the radio. Then catch the rematch the next night at Seattle.

Eat at Huber’s in Portland, having the turkey and the famous Spanish coffee afterwards. Dine at Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle, but be sure you allow enough time because of the gridlock traffic and take great care not to get on the Lake Washington bridge accidentally because there’s no turning back for miles.

There also is a slight chance it could be raining, so take an umbrella. And don’t let it bother you that you’re pretty much watching a bunch of Canadian teenagers playing under the Canadian Hockey League umbrella.

If you want to extend the trip, you could follow the Hawks to Kelowna, Prince George, and Kamloops, all in British Columbia.

Smelly Stinky Hockey Gear

by Steve, October 10th, 2006

HockeyAnybody who’s ever played hockey (or lived with someone who does) knows there is a special stink that grows on hockey gear after just a couple uses. It is unlike any stink in sports. Why’s it so bad? Well, consider the environment: cool, damp and sweaty as hell. Hockey pads being what they are (lots of foam rubber sewn into layers of synthetic fabric and plastic), the gear never fully dries out if you play regularly. I think you’re getting the picture.

So when the Everett Silvertips announced free admission for fans dressed in full hockey gear, there were some raised eyebrows on the WHL e-mail forum. And the Everett quips started pretty quickly. “I think I’d rather pay the $10 than have to show up with all that stinky gear on. Then again, most Everett fans smell pretty bad anyway so maybe this is a real deal for them,” snarked on Portland fan. “Perhaps they can get some of these participants to drink 8-10 beers as well…Everett Silvertips …’our fans act as bad as they smell’,” suggested another list contributor.

Now, I’m reading these comments, feeling like there’s just something…. well, more weird than meets the eye. The next comment jarred my memory: “They left off the part about how after the game the participating fans will be loaded onto a bus and taken for a four hour drive by Kevin Constantine.”

Constantine, the head coach and general manager of the Silvertips, was fined $5000 and suspended four games in September after he forced his team to ride the bus home in their full game gear after a pre-season loss.

So either the folks in the Silvertips’ front office are having some fun with this, or the joke’s on them. Not sure which, but it gave me a good chuckle. What’s really funny is the list of gear that’s required to get in with “no exceptions”(!):

Hockey Helmet
Shoulder Pads
Elbow Pads
Hockey Pants
Hockey Shin Pads
Hockey Socks
Favorite Hockey Jersey
Gloves are optional
(No Sticks or Skates Allowed)

If they catch you with a jersey that’s not your favorite, you will be ejected.

Opening Week

by Steve, October 5th, 2006

hockeyAh, the long wait is over, and hockey season is upon us in all its glory! Wacky Mommy and I went to the Winter Hawks’ home opener Saturday at the old Memorial Coliseum and got our first look at this year’s young team in action against a real opponent and all the pagentry of opening night. It was resplendant with pratfalls, real live veterans (it’s Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum, doncha know), young children in their hockey gear, and the new president mumbling a few words in the dark at center ice before dropping the ceremonial puck. I’m what Scooter calls a “traditional hockey fan” who just wants to get the game going. I don’t give a rip about the smoke and stobe lights and rock music and platitudes about how the new owners are going to return the “Glass Palace” to its former glory.

But anyway, they really try to pump things up for the home opener, which means they introduce the whole team. The team mascot came out before hand and skated around the ice to pump up the crowd, while trying to avoid the rug they put out for the vets (oops, hit that and took a dive), the strobe lights they strung out on the ice in front of the tunnel (managed to miss those), and the cable for the on-ice camera (oops, hit that and nearly dragged the camera man and his gaffer to the ice). Then they introduced… wait for it… this year’s Portland! Junior Hawks mite team! Okay, the massive crowd of 5,400 (oops, forgot to run any ads for opening weekend) seemed a tad deflated as the little guys and gals stumbled out of the tunnel and formed two lines between which the big Hawks would soon come. But they were having a hard time standing on the ice in the dark, and they were tripping on the aforementioned strobe lights. For a moment, I thought the trusses with the spotlights might be dragged to the ice, but things managed to get straigtened out enough to finally(!) introduce the team. Every. Single. Player. One. By. One.

The Hawks have gone to a 7:30 start time this year, but by now we were looking at 7:45. Then managing partner and president Jack Donovan came out with his vet friends and delivered some underwhelming paltitudes and easy cheer lines about the guys who fought for our freedom. Somwhere in there, the visiting Kelowna (B.C.) rockets came out in the dark, carefully avoided tripping over the rug, and took up their spots on the blue line. After the cermonial puck drop, we were treated to squeals of feedback obscuring the first several bars of Oh Canada, then “That Song the Girl Sings at the Hockey Game”, a.k.a. the Star Spangled Banner (so called by my 7 y.o. daughter). At our house the song ends “…and the home of the brave. Drop the puck!” The puck didn’t actually drop until 7:50.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of the team. And I’m patiently awaiting all the big changes promised by Donovan and company (new replay screens and Coliseum improvements chief among them). But they’ve been talking really big, and were really pumping up expectations. What we saw was a Coliseum virtually unchanged from last season (including the leftover kegs of beer by some accounts), a disappointing turn-out, and an overblown, over-long opening ceremony.

But hey, wait a minute! There was a hockey game, too! And it turns out the Winter Hawks showed some serious spunk against fellow cellar dwellars Kelowna. The final score was an impressive sounding 5-2. Veteran Hawks forward Nick Hotson came up just short of a hat trick, and not for lack of trying. Hawks also got goals from rookie Euro import Viktor Sjodin, veteran d-man Max Gordichuk, and an empty netter to cap things off by newly aquired over-ager Rob Klinkhammer. Klinkhammer, traded from Seattle for a future draft pick, aquitted himself pretty well except for giving Kelowna 3 of their 6 power plays, one of which led to one of their two goals. Gordichuk is back from wrist surgery and looking great. Sjodin looks like a keeper, and Hotson was playing the way we need all our vets to play.

Sunday night, I watched the first of the Winter Hawks TV games. They’re broadcasting 30 of their 36 home games on local cable this year, at the expense of cutting all radio. That works for me (road games are still going to have free Web-cast audio), but it’s really pissed off a lot of old timers. Anyway, we were told they were pulling out all the stops, and they were going to be “NHL quality”. Now, Himself believes one should not set expectations too high, lest one set oneself up for failure. To put it charitably, Sunday’s TV game was not NHL quality. We should probably just leave it at that. Oh, and it’s not going to be NHL-quality. Sorry Scooter and Andy. You guys do a great job, but the team isn’t spending the kind of money they’d need to spend to get NHL-quality telecasts (nor should they). The game was another win for Portland against another weak team, this time a record 12-round shoot out win against the Kamloops (B.C.) Blazers. Portland got regulation-time goals from Gordichuk and Klinkhammer, and rookie Tristan King won the shoot out. The official attendance was (ahem) 3023. Combined attendance of the two opening weekend games would be a respectable opening night turnout. But the new owners have “other priorities” besides selling tickets, so we’re all just supposed to be patient.

Speaking of color-guy Andy Kemper, he’s got his After the Whistle blog back online, only this time it’s a real blog with comments and all. Welcome back Andy! I’m going to put a link to his blog on this site one of these days.

Whew. So that’s the rundown of the local Major Junior hockey team.

The NHL season opened last night, and we were treated with a rematch between the Carolina Hurricanes and the team they eliminated before going to the Stanley Cup Final last year, the Buffalo Sabres. I only caught highlights, mostly looking for contributions from former Winter Hawk and local boy Paul Gaustad. Not such a great night for Paul, whose main contribution was a power play to Carolina on a holding call (either the replay didn’t show it, or the refs made a bad call). His second penalty, a brutal hit from behind into the boards, was negated when Carolina’s Eric Cole retaliated with his fists. Then, in the third, he took a stick to the face. Like I said, not such a good night for Paulie. I’m sure he’ll come around. And, by the way, that, my friends, was an NHL-quality broadcast.