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Ramblings 06/07/2010

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I snapped this picture of Ryno coaching 3rd base Sunday in Des Moines.A Monday morning mish-mash….

I spent a BEAUTIFUL Sunday afternoon watching AAA baseball in Des Moines, home of the Iowa Cubs and their current head coach Ryne Sandberg. I grew up a Cub fan, and visited Wrigley Field in most summers growing up. I have seen many Cub greats play in the Friendly Confines. Santo, Banks, Reuschel, Suter, Monday, Jenkins, Beckert, Grace, Maddox. The list goes on and on. I then watched the Cubs when they visited Coors Field when I lived in Colorado for the 90’s and most of the 00’s. I guess I have seen most every Cub great play in person for the past 40+ seasons. To me, the greatest Cub of all during that time was Sandberg. His Hall of Fame Career in Chicago has cemented him as one of the best 2nd baseman to ever play the game. During his career, he combined tremendous range and skill defensively with power at the plate. A rare combination at 2nd at the time. He was a 10 time all-star, won 9 gold gloves and 7 silver slugger awards. He was the NL MVP in 1994 and was elected to the HOF in 2005. In addition, he is still the last 2nd baseman to lead his league in home runs when he topped the NL in ’90 with 40 round trippers. I have been out to the ball yard a few times this season and I must admit it is still a thrill to see old #23 in Cubbie blue. My hope is to see him manage in Wrigley in the future……..

The Flyers allowed 7 pucks into their net in game 5 (photo Jim McIsaac-Getty images)

The Flyers are in trouble. They dropped game 5 to the Blackhawks in Chicago to go down 2-3 in the series. Sure, the home team has won all 5 games so far, but in the 3 games played in the Madhouse on Madison, Philly has had no answer for the energy the Hawks draw from the largest, and perhaps loudest crowd in the NHL. That place gets ROCKING during the National Anthem and the Flyers find themselves down before they gain their legs. Even if they can extend the series by winning a game 6 in the City of Brotherly Love, game 7 will be back in the Windy City. The Hawks WILL win the Cup!………

What a gutsy performance by the Celtics in game 2 of the NBA Finals. After failing to show up in game 1 against the Lakers and getting waxed in LA, Boston

The Celtics rose above the Lakers Sunday, capturing game 2 and sending the series to Boston tied at a game each (photo: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images)

came out and took a big lead early in game 2. To their credit, the Lakers refused to roll over, and took a lead in the 4th quarter. Boston then closed out a 16-4 run over the last 5+ minutes to take game 2, and home court advantage, away from LA. As the series now shifts to Boston, make no mistake about it, this will be a long series. If Beantown wants to prevail over Hollywood, they can not afford to take another game off as they did in game 1……

Finally, as I flipped back and forth between the NHL and NBA games on Sunday, I was reminded of an old addage. While the seconds of the last 2 minutes of the basketball game melted slowly away, the final few minutes of the hockey game flew by. It took twice as long to play the final 2 of the Celtics-Lakers than to play the final 5 of the Flyers-Blackhawks, reminding me that if you only have 2 minutes left to live, you want it to be the last 2 minutes of an NBA game.

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Fresh Blood 10/21/2009

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It was a tough spring for Denver sports fans.  With in the span of a few short weeks, 3 of the 4 major sports franchises that call the Mile High City their home fired their head coaches.  The local sports scene seemed to be a mess.  Now, not so much.

The NFL Broncos fired long time head coach Mike Shanahan and hired New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to lead this storied franchise.  All McDaniels, a

McDaniels has them fired up in Denver

McDaniels has them fired up in Denver

first time head coach and one of the youngest NFL head coaches ever, had to do was to replace the only Super Bowl winning coach in Bronco History.  Though 10 years removed, Shanahan had led Denver to 2 titles in 1998 and ’99.  Replacing a popular head coach is never easy, and the tumultuous off season that greeted McDaniels is well chronicled.  All seems forgiven now, as the Broncos head into their bye week with a 6-0 record and a strangle hold on the AFC West title.   Those 6 wins double the season win total predicted by many pundits.  Fans that were calling for McDaniel’s head before he even coached a game seem to now embrace him.  All is well in Bronco Nation.

The axe fell on baseball’s Clint Hurdle after a rough beginning to the ’09 campaign.  The Rockies were 10 games

Tracy turned the Rockies around and led them to the post season

Tracy turned the Rockies around and led them to the post season

under the .500 mark and going no where fast.  Hurdle had struggled as the Rockies manager but did lead Colorado to the World Series in 2007, Colorado’s  only appearance in the Fall Classic so far.  A scant 19 months later he was gone, replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Tracy.  Tracy had previously been a MLB manager, most notably in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.  The Rockies took off shortly after Tracy took over the reigns and were in the NL West race right up to the last series of the season.  While the Rockies failed to win the West, the improved Rockies played better than 30 games over .500 for Tracy and won the Wild Card playoff spot.  The team finished with a franchise record 92 wins and finished with more wins than losses on the road for the first time ever.  They made their third post season appearance in their short history, bowing to Philadelphia 3 games to one in the NLDS.  The Rockies are attempting to sign Tracy to a long term contract at this time.  The future looks bright for Rockies fans.

Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato’s second stint as the Avs head coach was a short one, just one season.  After leading the

Sacco has the young Avs off to an amazing start

Sacco has the young Avs off to an amazing start

Avs to their worst record since the move to Denver in 1995, Granato was let go just a week after finishing a 32-45-5 campaign.  Joe Sacco was promoted from the Av’s Lake Erie AHL affiliate to take over the Avalanche.  Many predict a dismal season for the Avs, projecting them to again miss the playoffs.  With a new goaltender and 2, yes 2, 18-year-old centers playing, this young team may have a long season ahead.  But the start has been simply brilliant.  The Avalanche enter their game in Minnesota as the top team in the Western Conference.  The 6-1-1 start is all the more impressive when you factor in the fact that all but 2 of the games have been played on the road.  It is too early to tell what will happen with this young team, but the fans are back and there is an excited buzz among Colorado hockey faithful.

What a difference a few months can make.  Three head coaching changes and all 3 seemed to have worked out.  Throw in the fact that the NBA Nuggets made the Western Conference finals last season and it seems that winning teams abound in Denver.

Super Joe 07/08/2009

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If life were a western, Joe Sakic would ride off into the sunset after his retirement press conference on Thursday. 

Joe Sakic lifts the Stanley Cup in 1996

Joe Sakic lifts the Stanley Cup in 1996

Heroes always go out that way.  Sakic never wanted to be, and would deny that he ever was, heroic, but this humble, sincere, gentleman is a hero to sports fans all over Colorado.  You see, as the captain of the new sports franchise in town, Sakic became the face of the first major sport championship team in Denver.  After the parade, when Sakic came out onto the steps holding the Stanley Cup for the over 200,000 fans to see, it was Joe Sakic who showed Denver that they were champions.  The Broncos had been there for decades.  The Nuggets for years.  The Rockies were in their infancy.  But it was this team that had transplanted to the Mile High City from Canada just months earlier that first made Denver a winner.  The embodiment of that moment will always belong to Sakic.

The only captain the Colorado Avalanche has ever known, “the

Sakic and some hardware

Sakic and some hardware

Captain,” or “Super Joe” is hanging up the skates after 20 seasons.  All of those years were played with the Qubec/Colorado franchise.  He did sign an offer sheet from the New York Rangers in 1997, but the Avs matched the offer and Sakic remained in Denver.  He has big time numbers, to be sure.  Along with the 2 Stanley Cup championships (1996, 2001), he won the Hart (NHL MVP, 2001), Conn Smythe (playoff MVP, 1996) and Lady Bing (sportsmanship, 2001) trophies.  A 13 time all star, Sakic also won World Championships (1994), World Cup (2004) and Olympic (2002) gold medals with Team Canada.  His 1641 points are eighth most in NHL history, and his 625 goals rank as the 14th most all time.  Sakic should be inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligability (2012), where he will join goalie Patrick Roy as the 2nd Hall member to have won 2 Cups while playing in Colorado.  Sakic, Roy and Peter Forsberg formed the nucleus of the Avalanche during the Cup runs.

Beyound the numbers, Sakic was always a class act.  He was humble, refusing to take the spotlight away from teammates.  He was always a

Cup number 2 came in a game 7 in Denver

Cup number 2 came in a game 7 in Denver

 leader in the

 locker room, and was involved in the community beyound hockey.  He possessed a wicked wrist shot, and passed with precision.  When the Avalanche need a critical goal in the playoffs, more times than not, it was Sakic who answered the bell.  Injuries had reduced playing time during the past 2 seasons and Super Joe decided that the time has arrived to leave the game.  He will be missed.

When the Avalanche take to the ice next season, someone not named Sakic will wear the captain’s ‘C’ for the first time.  But Super Joe will always be The Captain.

The Captain

The Captain

Seven Heaven 06/12/2009

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Now, THAT is why we love sports!

Is there anything better than game 7 of a Stanley Cup final?   Football may have the Superbowl.  Baseball can have a game 7 of the World Series.  There can be a game 7 of what the NBA brazenly calls The Finals.  They all pale compared to the ultimate Hockey celebration of sports!

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skates with the Stanley Cup ar the conclusion of game 7

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skates with the Stanley Cup ar the conclusion of game 7

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings played a masterpiece at the Joe in Detroit.  There were bodies flying all over the ice.  The crowd was so electric that you could not even hear the commentators on tv for long stretches of the third period (and  that ain’t all bad!).  With the game standing at 2-0 for the Penguins heading into that final 3rd period, the Red Wings came alive.  They scored with  just over 6 minutes left to set up the wild finish.  With the Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood on the bench in favor of a 6th attacker,  the Wings watched as Penguin goalie Marc Andre Fleury made two bang-bang saves as the clock expired, the last one sliding to his left and lunging at a shot by Nick Lidstrum, making the game saving stop to seal the improbable victory.  

 Most of the hockey world anointed the the Wings as prohibative favorites before the series began.  And almost

Malkin wins the Conn Smythe Trophy

Malkin wins the Conn Smythe Trophy

everyone else joined the band wagon ad they won the first 2 gamed in Detroit.  But the first 6 games each went to the home team, bringing the 3-3 deadlock into game 7.  Surely the Wings would win game 7 at home.  The last 6 times the Cup finals went to a game 7, the home team won.  Someone forgot to tell the Penguins, however.  And the Pens fought from the first puck drop, survived an injury early in the 2nd period to their captain Sidney Crosby, and rode 2 second period goals by Maxime Talbot to the promised land.  Sid the Kid returned for a shift or two in the third period and became the youngest team captain to hoist the cup as champion.  Evgeni Malkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy, emblematic of the playoff MVP, for the Pens.

The only dark spot on the evening came, ironically enough, during the best tradition in playoff hockey. 

The Penguins with the Cup

The Penguins with the Cup

 The two teams line up at the conclusion of the series and shake hands.  This ultimate sign of sportsmanship was greeted by a loud chorus of boos from many in the Detroit crowd.  Last year, the Red Wings won the cup in 6 games, also playing the Pens in the finals.  They clinched in Pittsburgh, but the fans there did not boo the Wings.  Fortunately, as Crosby hoisted the cup given to him by NHL commissioner Gary Betman, the Detroit crowd redeemed themselves and cheered the champions.

NOTHING measures up to a game 7  Stanley Cup Final!!

Wednesday Whimsey 06/10/2009

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Some random thoughts and observations…..

Flipping between game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and game 3 of The Finals of the NBA reinforced my long held opinion that there is more crowd energy at a hockey playoff game than at an NBA playoff game.  I will admit that I have attended many more NHL playoff games than NBA playoff games, but that building in Pittsburgh rocked from the first puck drop.

The rackus "white out" fans in Pittsburgh raised the roof all game Tuesday

The raucous "white out" fans in Pittsburgh raised the roof all game Tuesday

What a game between the Red Wings and Penguins.  Game seven on Saturday should be quite a battle.  I know this series has been all about home ice and the last six game sevens in a finals series went to the home team.  That’s why I’m picking the visiting Penguins to win the Cup in Detroit.  They had more energy in game six.

No such luck in the NBA Finals.  The underdog Orlando Magic won game 3 (their first at home) to make the series 2-1 Lakers.  But If I were a Magic fan, I would be concerned that Orlando shot 62% from the field and still only won by 4 points.  Sure, they sped the game up as they needed to do, and they broke the century mark for the first time in the series, but they can not continue to shoot at this rate.  The Series is in the bag for the Lakers, probably in 6 games.

The way that the MLB Atlanta Braves treated future hall of fame pitcher Tom Glavine last week was disgraceful. 

Tom Glavine deserved better treatment from the Braves

Tom Glavine deserved better treatment from the Braves

 I have no problem that he was given his release.  Baseball is a business.  But all Glavine did for the Braves in his 17 seasons with them was to record 244 of his 305 career wins with them, make 8  all star games and win 2 Cy Young Awards. (He also had 2 All Star appearances during his 4 seasons with the New York Mets.)  This guy gave his heart and soul to the Braves.  He deserved better than to have been released after a rehab stint in A ball.  The Braves organization showed a complete lack of class.

While we are on baseball, has anyone noticed that the hottest team in baseball currently is the Colorado Rockies with 6 straight wins? ……. No, I didn’t think so!  Hey, 6 more and the Rocks will find the .500 mark.

Word out of New York is that the Jets and their first round (#5 overall) pick QB Mark Sanchez have reached a contract agreement.  Sanchez was already in camp learning the system and is battling Kellen Clemens for the starting job.  How refreshing to see a high skill position draft pick actually show that he wants to play, and not miss part of camp for a contract holdout.

Avs Direction 06/03/2009

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The axe finally fell today, ending Tony Granato’s second run as coach of the NHL’s  Colorado Avalanche.  Also removed by Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix were assistant coaches Jacques Cloutier and Dave Bahr, goal tending

Tony Granato was fired as Avalanche coach today

Tony Granato was fired as Avalanche coach today

 coach Jeff Hackett, assistant to the GM Michel Goulet and P J De Luca, video coordinator.  General Manager Francois Giguere was fired last April immediately following the worst season the Avalanche has had since the franchise moved  from Qubec to Denver following the 1994-95 season.  Lacroix had offered Granato’s job last week to former Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy, thus placing Granato in the awkward position of watching the search for his successor proceed while he still held the job.

In the 9 seasons the Avalanche played in Colorado before the NHL lockout in 2004-05, they made the playoffs every season, won 8 division championships and won 2 Stanley Cups.  They finished under 96 points only once, with 95 in the 1997-98 season.  In the 4 seasons since the lockout, the Avalanche have missed the playoffs twice, not won a division championship and never finished with 96 points or more.  After 3 straight 95 point finishes, last years team finished with 68.  What changed?  Part of the collective bargaining agreement was a salary cap.  Clearly, the Avalanche have had a hard time adjusting to the constraints of a cap.  It was time for a change.  Or was it?

Also today,  Lacroix named Greg Sherman the teams new General Manager.  Sherman has been the team’s Assistant GM for the past 7 years.  In a statement, Lacroix said  “Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business.”  That may be true, but his duties as AGM included working on contract

Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix is on the hook for a 'new direction'

Avalanche President Pierre Lacroix is on the hook for a 'new direction'

 negotiations, and salary cap management.  And mismanagement of the cap is the cause of many of the Avalanche’s problems last season, and next.  14 players under contract for next year account for some $44 million in cap funds.  That leaves in the neighborhood of  $12 million to address their needs.  Captain Joe Sakic and goaltenders Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft are not under contract for next year, and may take a large slice of the available cash.  Lacroix said of Sherman that  “Surrounded by a strong hockey staff and under my supervision, he will have all the necessary support to lead the Avalanche in this new direction.”  Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Sherman at least partly responsible for the cap mess?  And wasn’t Lacroix there also?  Just exactly where is this ‘new direction’ going to come from?  Was it wise to hire from within a system that has been  unable to solve the cap puzzle?

The inescapable fact is that there are no more scape goats for Lacroix.  He has a GM of his choosing, from within his system.  He will have a new coach, all ‘under his supervision.’  He pulled off the trade that cemented 2 Cups for Colorado when he traded for Roy in 2005.  With attendance in a free fall, this once proud franchise needs him to pull another rabbit out of his hat.  If he fails, the next axe to fall will claim him.

Mile High and Out of Here 05/29/2009

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The ax fell on Rockies manager Clint Hurdle today.  After seven seasons as the manager for the National League

Rockies Clint Hurdle and Broncos Mike Shanahan lost their coaching jobs in Denver

Rockies Clint Hurdle and Broncos Mike Shanahan lost their coaching jobs in Denver

baseball team, Hurdle was released with a 534-625 record.  It aws just 19 months ago that Hurdle and the Rockies won 21 out of 22 games, including a wild card playoff game win and sweeps of the NLDS and NLCS series to land in the franchise’s first World Series.  The Roctober run ended as the Rocks were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 Series.  The Rockies followed up that magical run with a 74-88 campaign in 2008 and an 18-28 start this season.

Denver may be a great sports city.  It has one of the best fan bases in the country. But it is a bad time to be a head coach in the city.  Besides Hurdle’s ouster with the Rockies, longtime Bronco’s coach Mike Shanahan felt the ax at the end of the last NFL season.  Shanahan is the only Broncos coach to win a Super Bowl (XXXII and XXXIII), but the decade of frustration since John Elway retired as quarterback claimed Shanahan’s job.  And Hurdle was almost not even the first coach in Denver to fall this week.  The Colorado Avalanche reportedly offered the head coaching position to it’s former Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.  The Avs had their worst season by far since they relocated to Denver in 1995, and they turned to their two time Stanley Cup winning goaltender to help get things back on track.  (Roy also won 2 Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.)  The trouble is that the Avs have a coach, Tony Granato.  On Tuesday, Roy said thanks, but no thanks right now to the Avs offer.  Granato has to wonder how much longer he will be behind the bench.

Even the Nuggets, having their best season in their NBA history,  almost had a shake up this season.  Coach George Karl was on the hot seat after having lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last 5 seasons.  Karl credits the

Avalanch coach Tony Granato and Nuggets Coach George Karl are still in charge....for now

Avalanche coach Tony Granato and Nuggets Coach George Karl are still in charge....for now

 trade early in the season that sent Alan Iverson to Detroit and brought Chauncy Billups to Denver.  Billups has provided the leadership on the court that the Nuggets needed, and as a result they play the Lakers tonight in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, their deepest playoff run in 24 years.  According to Karl, if that trade had not been made he probably would not have lasted the season as coach.   And the city of Denver would have had potential coaching turnover in all 4 major sports teams in the same season.

Yep, it’s a tough time to be a coach in Denver.

Fantastic Finish Friday 05/23/2009

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If you are a sports fan, Friday evening was for you.

In the NHL, the Blackhawks return home to Chicago for game 3 of their Western Conference Finals.  After dropping the first 2 games in the best of 7 series in Detroit, the Hawks need this game to stay in the series.  And they get off to a fast

Patrick Sharpe tallied the game winning marker for the Blackhawks

Patrick Sharpe tallied the game winning marker for the Blackhawks

 start.  Midway through the first period, Chicago has a 2-0 lead.  About the time Chicago scores their second goal, the city of Cleveland begins to rock.

In the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers are tipping off game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic.  The Magic came from 16 points down to steal game one, and the Cavs are trying to salvage a split before the series shifts to Florida for games 3 and 4.  The Cavs jump out quickly, amassing a 14 point lead at the end of the first quarter on their way to opening up a 23 point lead.

Back to Chicago.  The first period ends with the score 2-0 Blackhawks.  They then add a goal 45 seconds into the 2nd period, increasing the lead to 3-0.  Looks like the Hawks are on their way to an easy victory.   Detroit scores a power play goal with 5:22 left th the period.  Then they score again two and a half minutes later and the 22 thousand folks at the United Center start squirming in their seats.  Finally, with just 59 seconds left in the period, Detroit knots the score at 3-3.  The action is fast and furious in the 3rd period, but there is no scoring and the regulation time ends 3-3.  Overtime is on the way.

As the Hawks and Wings play to a stalemate in Chiago, the Cavs once comfortable lead is slowly evaporating.  The large lead has been widdled down to 6 by the Magic at the end of the third quarter.  That is about the time OT begins in Chicago.

This is the second straight game in this series to go into overtime, with Detroit winning game 2 with an overtime marker.  This time it is the Blackhawks who make short work of the Wings as Patrick Sharp takes a pass just to the left of the Wings net and buries the game winner 1:52 into overtime.  The Hawks avoid the 3-0 hole and now will skate into game 4 with a chance to tie the series at 2.

As Sharp’s heroics are ending the hockey game in Chicago, the Magic are attempting to take a strangle hold on their

The Cavs LeBron James hit the last second 3 pointer for the win

The Cavs LeBron James hit the last second 3 pointer for the win

series against the Cavs.  With just under ten minutes left in the game, the Cavs hold an 82-73 lead.  Things are going to get interesting.  Over the next 3 minutes, the Magic hold the Cavs scoreless and tie the game at 82.  The score remains tight to the end and with one second left the Magic’s Hedo Torkoglu made about an 11 foot jump shot to put the Magic up 95-93.  Cleveland calls timeout, but all seems lost.  The time out allows the Cavs to advance the ball to mid court, but with one second left all there is time for is a desperation catch and shot.  It appears that the Magic will have a 2-0 lead in the series heading home for game three.  Then the miracle happens.  LeBron James catches the inbound pass at the top of the key, turns and lofts a rainbow towards the basket.  The buzzer sounds while the ball is in flight and James finds gold at the end of the rainbow.  His shot finds nothing but net, and the 3 pointer gives the Cavs a 96-95 victory as the stunned crowd of over 20,000, silent as could be just seconds before erupts into bedlam!  The Cavs grab momentum heading to Florida.

There is nothing like playoff action! And the last channel button on your remote.

Civility 05/13/2009

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Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, yells at the Mother of a Denver Nuggets player as he leaves the court after his Mavs lost a heart breaker to the Nuggets.  There was controversy at the end, and the emotional Cuban was

As a team owner, Cuban needs to set a better example

As a team owner, Cuban needs to set a better example

 mad.  But does that give him the right to go after the Mother of a player from an opposing team?  This incident and others have brought fan behavior to the forefront.  Just what type of behavior is appropriate in a stadium or arena?

I have been attending NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and minor

league sports for as long as I can remember.  And I will tell you, things have changed.  For some reason, there are now people who think that the purchase of a ticket and the tenant of free speech entitles them to act in the most bile and disgusting way towards opposing teams, opposing players, and other fans in the stands.  They toss F-bombs and other obscenities without any regard to others sitting around them.  They question sexual orientation, parental lineage, personal life choices, etc., of players and fans who disagree with them.   They feel that they can attack verbally opposing team fans and families.  And some will even turn on their own players.  And they feel it ok to toss beer and debris at players.

Toronto player Tai Domi reacts to beer being thrown at him while he is in the penalty box during a game in Philadelphia

Toronto player Tai Domi reacts to beer being thrown at him while he is in the penalty box during a game in Philadelphia by spraying water on fans.

This is not to say that I want every one to sit on their hands.  I have attended, and will continue to attend sporting events in person because I love the energy and atmosphere of the crowd.  Both at home and away.   Lets face it, for most games you get a better view on TV rather than in the stands.  But you can not  feel  the game on TV.  I am not one of those who scream at fans to sit down.  Heck, that type of energy and emotion is what I am there for.  But a ticket is not a license to act as an irresponsible jerk.  Whether we are rooting for the home team or the visitors, we have responsibilities as fans.  And the first responsibility is to keep the arena/stadium safe for all, fans and players alike.

Being at a game allows you to heckle an opponent.  That’s fine!  But confine it to the game.  Leave personal attacks at

Player/fan interaction at Wrigley Field in 2000

Player/fan interaction at Wrigley Field in 2000

home.  And be aware that there are other fans around you.  Try, at least on occasion, to utter something other than a profanity.  There are kids around you.  And others who may be offended.  Try being clever, not just profane.  I once got a MLB player to step out of the batters box simply by referencing an event from the previous nights game.  He was laughing.  Fans in the stands were laughing.  And there was no hint of profanity anywhere.  It can be done.

As a visiting fan, it is ok to wear your team colors.  Go ahead and root for your team.  But if you want to be treated well in an opponents arena, perhaps you should not disparage the city that you are in.  Or the population of that city.  Good natured kidding will be met with good humor most of the time.  Obnoxious and rude behavior will most often be met with a poor response.  My experience in crowds tends to bear that out.  Be respectful to those around you, and 99% of them will be respectful of you.

The lines of civility are being crossed more and more often.  You see plyers and coaches being pelted from the stands.  You see beer being thrown on players.  A ticket to a game is not a license to do these types of things.  And it is never a license to attack a family member of a player who is attending the game.  We need to return to civility.  Have fun, but not at the expense of the enjoyment and safety of those around you.  If the misbehavior continues, you will see more events like the the events of November 19, 2004, when Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers went after fans in the stands in Detroit after having had things thrown at him from the crowd.

Artest altercation in 2004

Artest altercation in 2004

That type of behavior is ugly.  Lets return to sportsmanship.

Hockey Forrest 05/06/2009

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It is the age old question.  If a tree falls in the forrest with no one around to hear, does it make a noise?  That is the question currently facing the NHL.  In round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the league has it’s best individual match up, as well as a series that includes the last two Cup champions. 

Hockey considers itself the forth major sport in the US.  But with the majority of  TV coverage limited mainly to

Super stars Crosby and Ovechkin face each other in round two

Super stars Crosby and Ovechkin face each other in round two

 regional networks, is that a fair assessment?  Broadcast coverage of the NHL is limited at best during the first two rounds of the playoffs.  NBC covers two games a week, one each on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  It will pick up coverage during the Cup final series.  The only other network coverage is on the Versus network (channel 603 on DirecTV), which carries games in all time slots played.  There is hope, however for the league.  Amid concerns that the current economic downturn would mean that playoff games would be contested in half empty venues, fully 40 of the 44 first round games were played to sellouts.  In addition, Versus reported a 22% increase in US viewership this year compared to last.  The April 19 game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on NBC was the most watched opening round broadcast TV game since 2001, according to the NHL.  While the numbers are small compared to NFL and MLB playoff numbers, the increase is encouraging.

Now we come to the round two showcases.  Washington – Pittsburgh features the two biggest young stars in the game today.  The Capitals Alex Ovechkin and Penguins Sidney Crosby match up is akin to a Kobe – James match up in the

Red Wings-Ducks will feature hard hitting action

Red Wings-Ducks will feature hard hitting action

NBA or a Manning – Brady NFL dual. With the added dimension that these two do not like each other.   And in the first two games of the series, these two mega-stars have not disappointed.  Game one, a 3-2 Washington win features a goal by each player.  Alex the Great lead his team to a 2-0 series lead with a hat trick in game two.  Not to be outdone, Sid the kid answered with 3 goals of his own in the 4-3 loss.  The series now switches to Pittsburgh for games 3 and 4.  Viewership should be up for this series.  In what may be the most exciting team match up in round 2, the 2007  Cup champion Anaheim Ducks are contesting the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.  This series features hard hitting, fast skating and an energy level that creates excitement all game long.  After a Detroit 3-2 victory in game one which featured the game winning goal in the last 50 seconds of regulation, game two went to the Ducks 4-3 in triple overtime, sending this series to Anaheim tied at one game each.  Game 3 went to the Ducks 2-1, but an apparent game tying goal by Detroit with one minute left was disallowed when it was ruled that a referee’s whistle had stopped play before the goal.  Hockey fans will not want to miss a second of this match up.  In addition to these two series, the big market Chicago Blackhawks have moved past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1996.  These three series should help viewership  continue to increase in round two.

This increase of viewership has to continue.  Hockey needs to drive the type of numbers that will make it attractive to more main stream TV outlets.  A better broadcast agreement would help, but at the very least a cable/satellite agreement that will allow for exposure into more homes is needed.  The NBA has agreements with TNT and ESPN, for example, which allows for potentially larger exposure.  Something akin to this, and the money such agreements would bring to the league is what is needed for the NHL to be considered one of the big boys in US sports.