One of the best parts of my job is that I get to hear from readers. One of the worst parts of my job is that I get to hear from readers. I'll leave it to you to decide which of the above categories today's first letter (from a chap who was so perturbed, he forgot to begin his question with my name) falls into.
Do you even like hockey?
Your blog seems to be more about what you don't like, than what you do like.
No one's asking you to put political spin on stories for the sake and popularity of the game, but I have a hard time remembering an entry that spoke to what you actually like in the game. No players you enjoy, reasons why you watch, etc. I think you watch just to find something to criticize, and then regurgitate the next morning.
You mention the fight in the Ranger game, but you don't mention how well the Rangers played, or that Shanahan had a nice return, or that you picked the Rangers to swan dive out of the playoffs. I know it's typical in the Â“jaded, never-wrong, sportswriterÂ” mantra to do that, but it's also a bore.
There are so many great things in the game of hockey, that I feel like you're spoiled in seeing them every night, and you take them for granted. No wonder hockey remains unpopular in the States - most of the articles are about what's wrong with the gameÂ…and they're written by people who claim to love it.
Brandon C., New York, N.Y.
First of all, I don't believe I've ever claimed to always be in the right. In fact, a quick mental recount of some of my choices in (a) fashion (b) financial investments and (c) female Â“acquaintancesÂ” confirms I've made some dumb-assÂ…er, regrettable moves in my 34 years on the planet.
And you're absolutely right Â– my estimation that the Rangers wouldn't make the playoffs isn't looking very savvy right now. But check out my Screen Shots column this week, and you'll see I haven't done all that bad in my pre-season picks.
I don't, though, have any regrets about my skeptical disposition. The NHL has certainly come a long way since I've started covering it professionally, but in many ways, it remains the sporting equivalent of a tortoise in a track meet of Olympic athletes.
To show you how mistaken you are regarding my appreciation for the game, here's an incomplete list of the things and people in the league I derive much pleasure from:
The wit and wisdom of Jeremy Roenick, Andrew Ference, Brian Burke, Paul Maurice, Ray Emery, Brendan Shanahan and Darren Pang; Mats Sundin's backhanders, Marian Gaborik's forehanders, and Rick DiPietro's glovehanders; Olie Kolzig's commitment to the Capitals; the sound that occurs when wind meets Dominik Hasek's vocal chords; all things Ovechkin; the emerging talents of Zach Parise, Niklas Backstrom, Anze Kopitar and John Davidson; shootouts, the competition committee, and arenas that still employ organists; Original Six jerseys; Sidney Crosby's passion on the ice, and Mike Emrick's passion off of it.
Could you tell me if you have heard anything as to whether or not Brian Leetch has played his last game? If he is finished playing in the NHL, how long do you think it will take the Rangers to retire his number?
Fred B., New York City, N.Y.
If Leetch wanted to play this season, there was no shortage of teams willing to sign him. The fact he isn't playing tells you he's done like (Mike) Danton.
And if the Rangers don't retire the number of the greatest blueliner in their history in the very near future, there are more problems with their ownership than many Blueshirts fans currently suspect.
What's the deal with the Bolts? When are they going to get their act together? Do they have any shot at the Southeast Conference crown? Which goalie do you think will be given the nod if they do make it to the post-season?
As you may be aware, I've been quite vocal about my concerns with the Lightning this year. Those concerns (goaltending, defense) haven't changed, but Tampa Bay has ridden the stunning abilities of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis all the way to a just-about-locked-up playoff berth.
When I look at what's left of the Lightning's regular-season and compare it to that of the Southeast-leading Thrashers (currently two points ahead of the Bolts with the same number of games remaining), I'm favoring Atlanta. Why? They're hot (7-3-0 in their last 10 games), and neither team's schedule gives them a clear advantage.
Similarly, neither Johan Holmqvist nor Marc Denis is stepping up and grabbing the No. 1 goalie gig. That fact in and of itself has to be most troubling for Lightning fans. That said, I'd go with Denis. Seven years of NHL experience has to count for something.
I have a completely off-topic question, but I'd like to hear your expert
opinion. In the following video, a hit occurs in a playoff game that added fuel to the fire between two German teams whose fans like each other as much as Red Wings and Avalanche fans do.
The hitter is T.J. Caig (former player of the U. of Minnesota-Duluth and a Kelowna, B.C. native); the player on the receiving end is Peter Mares, a Czech-born player who clearly is the go-to-guy for his team. As a result Caig was penalized with a gross misconduct and Mares was hospitalized with craniocerebral injury.
My question is:
1. Was this hit clean or was it a cheap shot?
2. If it was a cheap shot, is the hit comparable to the likes of Chris
Simon's "high stick" or Jordin Tootoo's so-called sucker punch?
3. Based on NHL criteria how many games should Caig be suspended?
I'm sorry for asking you such an off-topic question, but I'd also be very thankful if you could give me your opinion. It would certainly
help both fan camps to calm down just in time for Games 3 and 4 of this best-of-7 series.
Felix Waibel, Freiburg, Germany Â– the only German city Wayne Gretzky ever played in (during his Â‘94 lockout tour)
1. It was a cheap shot, as Caig jumped into Mares and threw an elbow at his head.
2. It wasn't comparable to what either Simon or Tootoo did, but it was closer to what Cam Janssen did to Tomas Kaberle, or to what Colby Armstrong did to Trevor Letowski.
3. Based on NHL criteria, Caig should sit out a minimum of three games. But if the league really wanted to eliminate head shots, they'd give him at least five.
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