16 June 2011 – A Black & Gold Championship, Stating the Obvious and Going out on Top

Sadly, hooligans used the Stanley Cup final as an excuse to go apeshit in Vancouver’s downtown core. Vandalism, arson, looting and assorted acts of violence have stained our beautiful city. A very small group of Neanderthals went out of their way to mimic the riots of 1994 — these “people” (and I use that word loosely) have no connection with hockey whatsoever. Real Vancouverites, hockey fans or otherwise, are disgusted by these acts, and embarrassed that a wonderful run of great hockey has now been marred, even overshadowed by this ferret dung in loose pants posing as Canucks fans.

And now, on to the hockey.

1. Congratulations to the Boston Bruins for winning their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Sure, we’d love to see a city north of 49 win it all, but if it’s not going to happen, the Bruins are as good as it gets. The Canadian content on the Boston roster outstrips even that of the Blackhawks and Flyers last year. It’s the third time in four years an Original Six team takes home hockey’s holy grail. A great achievement for this team of pluggers who virtually nobody chose to outskate the skilled Canucks. There were five Bruins teams to make the finals since 72 – guys like Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and Andy Moog weren’t able to win it all in Boston. Now names like Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton will go down in Bruins lore beside Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. That sounds like a sarcastic comment, but it’s not. I’m honestly impressed by the sheer strength of team play that the Bruins put together this year. On paper they’re a decent team. On the ice, they’re quite literally world-beaters. Continue reading 16 June 2011 – A Black & Gold Championship, Stating the Obvious and Going out on Top

15 June 2011 – Seven Fans in Vancouver

Vancouver fans have a reputation around North America for being obnoxious. Sadly, I actually met a group of those jerks at the Rogers Arena game six viewing party on 13 June. They were lewd, lowbrow, and once Boston put the game out of reach, threatening. If all Vancouver fans were like them, I wouldn’t want the Canucks to win the Cup, either. They joked about starting a riot if the Canucks lost, and swore a blue streak – loudly – despite the presence of kids and seniors. This group of young men and women – of an ethnicity that I will not mention – were, and are, an embarrassment to their families and to Vancouver as a whole. Shame on you, you selfish sacks of crap. Shame.

On the other side, I’ve had the luck to meet plenty of fans of these Canucks who are decent folk partying it up in support of their team. They deserve a championship, and I truly believe in the next few years they will get one. Here are seven of them:

1. Joe wears a Flying V jersey and some of the most vibrant face paint in the city.

Continue reading 15 June 2011 – Seven Fans in Vancouver

10 June 2011 – Lou’s rebound control, Tanev’s balls of steel, and for the love of all that is holy, somebody buy Maxim Lapierre a drink

1. Roberto Luongo acquitted himself nicely in game five Friday night, backstopping Vancouver to a 3-2 series lead. It’s hard to imagine, considering the type of heat Lou has taken in the media for what was clearly the team’s poor performance mid-series against both Chicago and Boston, but he now leads the NHL with four post-season shutouts this year. He was the best penalty killer in a blue jersey, and dug deeply enough to rebound from giving up more goals in two games than any other keeper in Stanley Cup finals history. Now, wait. Before you get me the wrong way: I’m just going by pure stats here. Luongo was not the problem in games 3 and 4, he just has the nasty numbers beside his name in the loss column. In game 5, however, he was every bit the first star of this game for Vancouver. Some goalies, like Chris Osgood for example, get playoff shutouts by stopping 12 shots from the outside behind defensively impossible teams like Detroit. Luongo made 31 saves in game 5, many of them spectacular. He was solid through traffic, in tight, on deflections, with rebounds, early and late. He was everything the bandwagon jumpers said he couldn’t be: clutch. Continue reading 10 June 2011 – Lou’s rebound control, Tanev’s balls of steel, and for the love of all that is holy, somebody buy Maxim Lapierre a drink

8 June 2011 – Drubbings, Beatings and Poking the Bears

1. As good as the Vancouver Canucks have been this year, they have not reacted well to blowout losses – at first, anyway. In fact, the last three times the team gave up a touchdown, they’ve followed it up with another loss. Don’t remember the details? Well, that’s why we’re here:

  • November 20 vs Chicago, regular season – 7-1 loss. They followed this up with the now-famous players-only meeting, led by new captain Henrik Sedin. The next night against the Phoenix Coyotes they came out fired up, right? Laid down some whup ass on the desert dogs, and kicked some… Nope. They lost. 3 – 2. Of course, right after that game, they went on a ridiculous run that saw the Canucks go nearly a quarter of the season without a regulation loss.
  • Game 4 vs Chicago – 7-1 loss. Next game, loss. Heck, they threw in a third loss for the fun of it before dispatching the Hawks, outlasting the Predators and spanking the Sharks. Counting the first two games of the finals against the Boston Bruins, the Canucks went 11-3 once they righted the ship.
  • Game 3 vs Boston – 8-1 loss. Next game, shutout loss. Do they have another dramatic turnaround in store with the series returning to Vancouver?
  • In other news, Zdeno Chara is frickn’ tall. Look at the guy. Jeez. Continue reading 8 June 2011 – Drubbings, Beatings and Poking the Bears

2 June 2011 – Goalie Duels, Grumpy Bears and Om Nom Nom

1. After an obscenely long eight-day wait, the Vancouver Canucks finally opened the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins with a dramatic last-minute victory in game one at Rogers Arena. This game had everything you could ask for, unless you’re a Bruins fan: a torrid pace to open the game, huge hits, spectacular goaltending, controversy (in the form of an alleged biting incident) and a great goal by Raffi Torres to win the game with 19 seconds remaining on the clock. Chances at both ends, blinding speed, hits galore… Stupendous penalty killing, spectacular goaltending, excellent emotion from both teams… Ed Willes at the Province called it “a dull, grinding affair”, only proving how out of touch sports writers tend to be. Don’t believe what you read, folks. And you, Mr Willes? If you’d rather watch Pass it to Bulis play Scrabble with Tanner Glass, then give your cushy press box seat to someone who enjoys hockey at its finest. Like me, you sour bastard. Continue reading 2 June 2011 – Goalie Duels, Grumpy Bears and Om Nom Nom

Seven Things about Hockey in Winnipeg

This post was originally published at The Hockey Writers

Chances are they will update this logo.

So Winnipeg is back in the NHL party, is it?

Mark Chipman’s work for the people of Manitoba has been remarkable. He’s been a huge figure on the Winnipeg scene, from programs for First Nations youth, girls and other community groups to traditional boys’ hockey; from lobbying provincial and federal politicians for new support to athletics and the arts, to building the rink that the new NHL team will inhabit; from a huge role in the 1996 Save the Jets campaign to the May 31, 2011 purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers. Continue reading Seven Things about Hockey in Winnipeg

1 June 2011 – Crazy Eyes, Power Forwards and Hoarseness

Citizens of Vancouver, after a long, long wait, it is finally upon us. We first learned of it last week, and details of its imminent arrival have been trickling in for days now. This event has not been to any Canadian cities, no matter how deserving. It’s gone to such warm-weather markets as California and Florida, much to the chagrin of prairie dwellers and mountain climbers alike. From west coast la-la-landers to Maritime good ol’ boys, we Canadians have been champing at the bit for this for far too long. That’s right: Real Housewives of Vancouver is coming to a disreputable television station near you.

Oh, and the Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Finals. Game one goes Wednesday June 1 at 5 PM. Here are Seven Things we want to see out of this series.

7. First, we want to see good hockey. The Canucks and Bruins lone meeting this year was one of the high points of the long regular season. The score was tied late into the third period, with both teams hitting, skating, and passing with the best of them. Ironically, considering their playoff woes on the power play, the Bruins’ winning goal that day came with the man advantage after a late, questionable penalty call. Milan Lucic had three points as the Bruins won 3-1.

The biggest D-man in the world versus the league’s deepest defensive corps. Some of the best pure power forwards in the game in Lucic, Ryan Kesler and Nathan Horton. The last two scoring champs in the Sedin twins. Two Vezina finalists in goal. Two teams that alternately score up a storm or shut the freakin’ door. This series should be playoff hockey at its finest, and a series long remembered regardless of the outcome.

6. Lots of hits would be nice. Whether it’s Raffi “Crazy Eyes” Torres sprinting the width of the ice to knock a defender on his ass, Keith Ballard cartwheeling someone with a picture perfect hip check or Alex Edler standing up a forward in the neutral zone, the Canucks have played their best hockey this post-season when they’ve worn down their opponents physically. Sure, the Bruins can dish it out too, but the Canucks are already the superior team in both top-end talent and depth; if they can wear out the Bruins best players, this series will be a quick one.

5. We want to see the Sedins shed their last critics. After ten NHL seasons, an Art Ross trophy and an Olympic gold medal apiece, a Hart trophy for Hank and a nomination for Dank, the Sedins still have their detractors among casual fans. Even more knowledgable fans, the ones who no longer refer to them as “soft”, or “sisters”, still sometimes criticize them for being too bland. (Obviously they don’t listen to Henrik in the post-game scrum very often. This guy’s sense of humour isn’t brash like Ryan Kesler’s bombing of teammate’s interviews – Hank is subtle, clever.)

Now is the twins’ time to shine. The wizardry that Henrik and Daniel display daily – the way they can dominate shift after shift with precision passing that boggles the mind – is something that needs to be seen regularly to be believed. Well, here you are, guys: a seven-game series in prime time, with nothing to distract the hockey fans of the world from the way you spin Zdeno Chara around so frequently he looks like the world’s tallest figure skater. Make us proud.

4. We really want to have nothing to bitch at the refs about. At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical Vancouverite, the refereeing in the conference finals left a lot to be desired. I’m not usually one to dwell overmuch on the officiating – I’m a carded umpire myself, so I know how athletes and fans tend to blame the zebras when a game goes the other way – but there have been some bizarrely called games this playoff. Game three of the Western Conference Final saw a staggering eleven minor penalties called against one team. Game four of that same series saw five straight penalties called against one team, before the seesaw tilted the other way in the form of three consecutive five-on-three powerplays. Game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals saw the other extreme, with no penalties called at all. For the record, that hadn’t happened in a playoff game in twenty-one years.

A happy medium would be appreciated in the finals. We recognize that not every minor stick infraction is going to be whistled down, but the officials need to find a balance between too many penalties and none at all. Just call the game fairly – call the penalties that should be called, and leave out the tickytack crap – and we’ll be fair to you too. Promise.

3. It would be great if centremen could take face-offs. My last bit on officiating – we hope – is on the linesmen. Can we PLEASE just drop the puck? It seems like more face-offs are contested by a winger and a centre, or two wingers, than are actually contested by the two people who lined up to take the draw in the first place. It’s ok to not throw a guy out EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

2. We need the Rogers Arena faithful to support the team as loud as they can. We tried, unsuccessfully, to secure tickets to game five. As we predicted in our podcast episode 32, we think game five is when the series will end. Since we can’t be there ourselves, we charge those lucky few who nabbed tickets to make Rogers Arena the fortress it should be. Our building is normally not nearly as loud as, for instance, the Bell Centre in Montreal. At game 3 against Nashville, a couple next to us sat silently through the entire game. They weren’t physically challenged – they walked to their seat and animatedly spoke on their cel phones during the intermissions – but they did not react to the game or the crowd even once through three periods of second round action. Unacceptable. You all paid massive amounts of money to be there. If you did not pay for your ticket, you ought to scream louder, dammit, even if – especially if – the Canucks are behind, or give your seat to a true hockey fan who’s been priced out of the building. Get up and yell until your voice is gone or you’ll be hearing from us again at the end of the series!

1. Finally, after what we think will be a great series, we want to see what will be one of the most touching moments in sports history. After all the artistry we’ve witnessed from Henrik Sedin over the last eleven years, we want to see him make the easiest pass of his career. We want to see the image that will supplant the photo of an exhausted Trevor Linden sharing defeat with goaltender Kirk MacLean after game seven in 1994. We want to see our captain hand the Stanley Cup to his twin brother Daniel.

Episode 32 – 2011 Stanley Cup Final predictions

Pucked in the Head is so giddy about seeing the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup final, they were barely able to contain themselves long enough to put together a podcast prior to Game 1. But here it is, in all its season-ending glory, with a few jokes about severed fingers and Japanese monster movies thrown in for good measure. We hope you enjoy.

  • Introduction
  • Opening theme by the Orchid Highway.
  • We’re in the Stanley Cup finals!
  • Where were you in 1994?
  • An ode to the Lightning.
  • Tip of the hat to San Jose.
  • Final predictions – like they’re a surprise.
  • Closing theme by the Orchid Highway.
  • Thanks for listening.