In some sort of bizarre, twisted, parallel universe, Sunday the 29th of January 2012 would have been regarded as a Glory Day (my apologies to the Boss) in sports with the NFL Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star Game falling on the same day in a perfect storm confluence of semi-celebrity sighting, corporate palm greasing, e-Bay jersey signing, kind of way. However, in this real world – you know the one I speak of: where we still allow fans to vote for players that have been sidelined most of the season – these two events were about as painful a viewing process as sitting through a Tyler Perry marathon explaining the in-depth plot lines and racial innuendos to Larry the Cable Guy. That being said, the only thing that prevented these two events from being less like the games they are purported to represent would have been if Team Chara had been granted home ice advantage for Stanley’s Finals in a Bud Selig Major League Brain-cramp attempt to inject meaning into the pomp and circumstance of the festivities.
Here’s what I will say – the NHL has at least accepted the ridiculousness of their version of ‘the finest players in the game’ by introducing the All-Star Draft during which, each year, we get to witness who is the annual fat kid with the taped glasses and short shorts assigned to warm the bench in PE and of course, hockey’s version of “No Need to Dodge Ball.” This year’s winner of the sympathy Kessel car was former Ottawa 67, Logan Couture who immediately Tweeted: “First order of business. Pimping that Honda out.” Great, Couture’s back in San Jose, channeling his inner Vin Diesel and the press corps back in Ottawa is still trying to get Tim Thomas to give a straight answer as to why the Nation’s Capital north of the border is entitled to his presence and the U.S. version only seems to warrant his scorn. Thankfully, Thomas is one of the very few hockey interviews which isn’t cookie cutter and time-capsule worthy like so many these days. Perhaps it comes from having to deal with Pierre McGuire – hockey’s answer to the cold sore – doing interviews between the benches, but the majority of the games’ stars have retreated into their shells, preferring to answer questions with the blank stare and lack of interest of that famously well-coached Durham Bull, Tim Robbins.
Speaking of good interviews though – noticeably absent from this year’s festivities was Alex Ovechkin who felt that his 3-game suspension for leaving his feet during a check was adequate grounds for not appearing in Ottawa for the yearly Don-a-Superman-cape-shootout and puck signing. Some have said that this was a classless move. Not classless in an Aaron Rodgers calling out Pro Bowl teammates’ effort level after being the most prominent QB to not organize off-season workouts during the lockout sort of way. No, not that kind of classless. Instead the Great 8 headed to Miami, cruised South Beach in a rented Sebring, top-down, Will Smith pumping and sporting his Sharapova For Men banana hammock for all those phone-camera happy tourists who actually recognized him. If you think that is classless, then move over Skipper, I’m on board. What’s refreshing with OV is that he is always on point to prove that stereotyping is not just a North American thing anymore!
The truth is there will always be a market for the All-Star Game – big business who are allowed to enjoy a weekend, private box drunk and shake hands with #87, #8 or whoever markets their brand of visor or marshmallow cereal, and the kids. It is the one game of the year where parents have no need to call for earmuffs or blinders and we the Fans get to see hockey the way the Sedin twins and Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault think it should be played were they ever to wrest control of the NHL rulebook from the cold, live hands of Brendan Shanahan. Shanny for his part enjoys the ASG as he finally gets a week in the season devoid of his Charlton Heston meets the Buggles persona where in 5 of the longest TV minutes not devoted LA Clippers highlights, he explains why the latest Boston Bruin should be de-iced in a segment known as “Video Killed…” Truthfully, I don’t expect Gary Bettman to legislate any changes to this annual love-in although expect Zdeno Chara to have to use a butterfly net instead of a stick in years to come for the Hardest Shot if he surpasses the 110 mph ceiling. One bold move on his part for the 2013 edition was taking the event to a non-NHL city in Columbus, Ohio where it is rumored Jeff Carter was last seen on a carton of 2% and is known to be the final resting place of James Wisniewski’s lost luggage. Oops, gotta go, Rick Nash is on the phone claiming I’m not giving the quality Jack Nicklaus golf courses in the area the respect they deserve!
Written by: Matthew Blunk
The Philadelphia Flyers aren't the only NHL team keeping busy this summer.
One week after locking up left wing Taylor Hall with a seven-year contract, the Edmonton Oilers signed forward Jordan Eberle to a six-year, $36 million extension. The newly "man-strong" Eberle posted 34 goals and 76 points in 78 during the 2011-12 season, in a breakout campaign for the 22-year-old right wing.
Written by: Matthew Blunk
Amidst the uncertainty of this NHL offseason, with murmurs of a potential lockout to come, the Philadelphia Flyers have signed two more players to long-term deals.
Philadelphia signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a 6-year, near $24 million extension on Aug. 16. On Monday, the Flyers agreed to extend forward Scott Hartnell with a 6-year, $28.5 million deal. …
Written by: Matthew Blunk
1) Evgeni Malkin, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
2) Sidney Crosby, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
3) Claude Giroux, C - Philadelphia Flyers
4) Steven Stamkos, F - Tampa Bay Lightning
5) Jonathan Quick, G - Los Angeles Kings
6) Alexander Ovechkin, F - Washington Capitals
7) Henrik Lundqvist, G - New York Rangers