The NHL Today: What is going on?
I don’t know if it’s me, but there seems to be something happening behind the walls of the NHL.
And I am not so certain it is for the good.
Without the aid of a super awesome HD mega LCD plasma LED Quattro wall mounted television, or having the sufficient funds to subscribe to game center from NHL.com, I rely upon the good old internet to understand what’s happening around the league. A lot has changed from the beginning of this season, and I am going to take a non biased look at it.
At the beginning of the season we saw teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers at the top of the standings. These teams were playing well when the teams that had been predicted to be doing the same, were going through terrible stretches. The Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres were having some difficult times.
Now that the regular season is almost at its end, and became balanced the way most professional analysts predicted, we have seen some odd things happen. Record breaking home win stretches, amazing goaltending, heartbreaking seasons and tragic endings. We have seen the media blow up and become a monster, personal achievements never thought possible before and the word concussion becoming a normal everyday discussion.
Right now it seems that there is a bit of a lull going around the NHL. Lately, those same teams I mentioned before, are back being subpar teams, whether it be due to injury, sickness, complacency or what have you. Vancouver, Boston, New York, San Jose, Detroit and countless others, just don’t seem to have the heart as of late. Granted Vancouver Boston and NY have all pretty much punched their ticket into the first round already and probably relaxing before going as hard as possible come April 8th. For the other teams fighting for playoff spots, some of them look plainly embarrassing some nights, and like supermen the next. Some teams are putting themselves on the brink of elimination just by sitting back and hoping the other team loses. Teams like San Jose, Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto, Buffalo and Phoenix are now hard put to make the playoffs because they simply can’t pull the trigger. They all look to be golfing unless they pull themselves together. In fact the only team that hasn’t been having an up and down month is Pittsburgh, who look downright amazing, especially with getting the player of decade back in Sidney Crosby.
Another factor that may be weighing down upon the players and management maybe the fact that the NHLPA’s collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of this season. There is a lot to discuss, re alignment being the elephant in the room. With the Winnipeg Jets coming back into fruition, the league needs to make changes. They had already suggested a proposal that made no sense whatsoever, and rightfully so the players association shot it down in flames. All of this however after the league announced it to the media like it was a done deal and was already in the process of. This is the biggest part of the puzzle that needs to be rectified in order to right the ship. Salary caps, travels and scheduling will also headline the news that the mammoth new CBA will deal with. As more factors become prevalent to the here and now, the masses become aware and we all have our opinions. All of us not on the board of governors or player representatives have some input as to what we would like seen. However, because we are not a part of those said special groups we have no power over what happens. Owners and coaches to players and hockey fans are all going to be widely affected by what happens in the summer months of renegotiation, and if all does not go well, which I am predicting it won’t, we will all be in for a very long and cold “summer”.
With all that said, something needs to happen. I wasn’t as closely involved with the politics of hockey during the last signing of the agreement, but I know that both sides are looking to get the best for their chosen sides, which of course is not what the other side wants. Be it East or West, Player or Management, Jedi or Sith, we all have something huge to lose this off season.
Thanks to an 8 hour flight, a nap courtesy of stolichnya, and a job with the Vancouver Canucks writing staff, I find myself in Minnesota for the second time in a month and half. Its very warm here today. A nice and comfortable 25 degrees celsius.
The last time I was here I met an amazing person in Bret Hedican, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. You can read that here.Poor guy, I left him in dire straights. Anyways onto my story. I decided to walk around the streets, to my not amazement the city was very grey and boring, much the same as it was when I was last here. I go into the same starbucks I was at before and see Mr Alex Edler.
MattTheMascot: Hi Alex, I’m Matt. I’m the newest writer for the Canucks. Can I bug you for a few minutes?
Alex Edler: Sure. Let me fix my beautiful blonde hair.
MTM: This isn’t a televised interview.
AE: These things do not matter.
MTM: Right. So you had a very nice goal in the last game against the Blue Jackets, are you going to try doing that more often?
AE: Only if my hair looks better. I saw the replay and my hair was coming out of my helmet a bit. Totally ruined it.
MTM: Regardless a lot of people were very impressed. What inspired you to make that play?
AE: Well the twins are always bugging me, saying I’m slow and have bad hair. So I wanted to make them look bad. They look bad all the time, they don’t even have nice hair to judge me with.
MTM: How long do you it will be before a shampoo company makes you there spokesman?
AE: I already have one in Sweden. Its called “Begravning föräldrar”. I look very nice in the commercial.
MTM: I was making a joke. You talk about your hair too much.
AE: Says the fat man with balding spots. In Sweden people are not allowed to get fat. We send them to fat camps in Norway. Where they are very mean and make you put together Ikea furniture.
MTM: There are worse things in the world.
AE: But they don’t let you bring hair products and they make you eat meatballs. We do eat things other than meatballs you know.
MTM: What’s your starbucks drink?
AE: I got a venti caffe latte no whip no fat misto one pump caramel one pump vanilla.
MTM: Why does that not surprise me.
AE: Why are you being so ignorant? Why don’t you bow down before me. He who has godly hair. He who can skate as fast as the wind.
MTM: He who has trouble defending his own end, also know as doing your job as a defenceman?
AE: You worm. How dare you!
(He reaches into his hair and pulls out a small dagger. No bigger than two inches long it has a green emerald in its handle.)
(He is about to swing at me, but a hand grabs his wrist. Henrik Sedin twists his wrist causing the dagger to fall)
Henrik Sedin: My apologies friend. Alex here is unable to take criticism.
AE: Sorry master. My anger blinded me.
HS: Don’t let it happen again.
(Henrik walks away)
AE: I’m sorry. My hair, it has a mind of its own. It controls me sometime.
MTM: You were going to stab me! I’m sorry? That’s all your going to say?
AE: I can give you money or something. Here have some Swedish Tire Kronas.
MTM: Swedish Tire?
AE: You know, its like Canadian tire but in Sweden.
MTM: Forget it. I’m finished here.
AE: Come on friend don’t be angry. Ill give you some shampoo then!
I leave the starbucks and go head down to the arena. My media pass was rejected. And then Ryan Kesler threw a banana peel at me.
Can today get any worse?
Photos courtesy ofnhl.com
Thanks to a Dan Hamhuis stone stunner, an international six city not by choice road trip, and a sympathetic Vancouver Canucks organization, I have been given an opportunity of a lifetime. I have been tasked with writing for the Canucks, interviewing its players and the players of teams they play. I even get to travel with them and stay at fancy hotels.
For my first interview as a Canucks employee, I chose Mr Kevin Bieksa. He has gone from whipping boy to one half of the league’s top shutdown defense pairings. A local fan favorite, and a good old canadian boy too, he was a logical choice. On a rare complete day off, I catch up with Kevin at the players clubhouse.
Kevin Bieksa: Sure, I was just about to watch some old reruns of pokemon.
KB: What what? Do you have a problem with that?
MTM: Sorry I didn’t mean to offend. Its just odd in my eyes that you are watching a cartoon from the 90’s.
KB: Well it was popular among my friends growing up. And its my goddamn day off. So watch it pal.
MTM: No offense intended. Let’s move on shall we. You joined the team in the 05 season and the team has gone through a few changes. What do you remember the most from that rookie campaign?
KB: Well it was the season after the lockout so a lot of the veteran players were apprehensive to say the least. Big name guys were angry but happy to be playing hockey. We the rookies didn’t understand what was going on.
MTM: Are you referring to the shootout?
KB: The rule changes weren’t the biggest problems. Although no one liked the delay of game penalty. It was just a feeling everyone had. Maybe it was the rules. I can’t explain it.
MTM: In that rookie year of yours, was the debut of Crosby and Ovi too. Do you know those guys very well?
KB: I’d like to smash Ovi’s face until its pulp. But he’s pretty quick for a russian dude. Sid though, I played against him in junior a few times. Nice guy, even if he is a bit of a milk hot dog.
MTM: Milk hot dog huh. I saw your after hours interview, in which you explained how that came about. You said the Sedins gave you $200 to squeeze that into an interview. Who is your favorite twin?
KB: I like the third Sedin, Cory Schneider. He’s my favorite.
MTM: That’s not what I asked you.
KB: Hey look what’s on! The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!
KB: SHUT YOUR FACE! This was the coolest show growing up!
(He jumps off the couch, and pretends to do some martial arts kicks. He falls down horribly, landing with his right knee behind his head, screaming bloody murder)
MTM: How can I help?
KB: Go get our doctor! He’s in the room across the hall!
(I run across the hall. I hear Kevin crying and screaming again. I enter the room. There is a man, standing over 7 feet tall, he has white paint on his dark face. The tall man has feathers sticking out his long jet black hair.)
MTM: Are you the doctor?
Witch Doctor: (Nods)
MTM: Come with me, Kevin is hurt bad!
WD: (He nods again)
(We walk back into the room. Dan Hamhuis is sitting by Kevin, offering Jesus’ prayers for his health)
Dan Hamhuis: Oh hey buddy. What happened?
WD: (He puts his finger to his lips, indicating we be quiet. He fumbles in a pouch, pulls out a grey ball and waves at Dan and I. He throws the ball to the ground, and thick smoke fills the room)
MTM: Kevin? Dan?
(No one answers. Once the smoke clears, no one is in the room. I leave the room, down a hallway. All of the lights are out. I can hear murmuring in another room. I go through the door)
DH: Who’s there? What’s happening?
(I turn on the light. Hamhuis is attached to a makeshift cross, blindfolded. Someone has smeared red lipstick on his mouth and all around his face. White makeup covers his cheeks)
MTM: What happened to you?
DH: Buddy? Is that you?
MTM: You look like the joker haha. Ill go get help.
(I leave the room. I am greeted by the witch doctor outside the door. He puts his hand on my forehead and I collapse)
(I awake some time later. I am back on the couch with Kevin)
MTM: Are you ok? What just happened?
KB: What are you talking about? We were just watching power rangers when you fell asleep and started grumbling something.
MTM: Really? Do you have any advil? I have a headache.
I enter the room across the hall. The room looks the same, even the same doctor. He doesn’t have feathers in his hair or face paint but its him. He looks at me, winks and disappears into thin air.
I ran out of that clubhouse as soon as I could.
I ran to the company shuttle and left that place with its ghosts far behind.
Thanks to a broken leg, a bottle of jagermeister, and a ride in the cab of a trucker who smelled like a russian’s armpit, I have finally made my way back to my home, Vancouver British Columbia. Its sunny outside, with a few clouds, but that doesn’t matter, I’m home!
After a much needed shower and a change of clothes, I take my dog for a run around the seawall. After a while I stop to take a break at a bench, and I notice a familiar face, one of the newest Vancouver Canucks, Mr Zack Kassian.
MattTheMascot: Hi Zack, my name is Matt. I’m a well traveled journalist, can I bother you for a few minutes?
Zack Kassian: Sure I’m just waiting for some of the other guys to come from starbucks.
MTM: How does it feel to be part of the Canucks team?
ZK: It’s an amazing feeling. Especially coming from the asshole of America, stupid Buffalo.
MTM: Buffalo? Really? I have heard is a great place to live. Why did you not like it there?
ZK: One name, Ryan Miller. The guy is an absolute prick. Biggest prima donna I’ve ever met. He can’t go one day with talking about his hair, and his smile. He always made fun of my missing tooth.
MTM: I wasn’t here for the game saturday night, but I saw the highlights. How would you have done better if you could rewind time?
ZK: I would have gone all buck shit crazy. I would have punched everyone in the face until they all chased me, giving the guys free time to score.
MTM: That’s one method of getting yourself attention. Who on the team have you gotten to know the best since joining the team last week?
ZK: There has been two actually. The first is Manny Malholtra. The guy is a saint. Reminds me a lot of my dad, jebus rest his soul. Manny looks out for us, and holds us accountable for our actions. And then the other is David Booth. He bought me a copy of the Lion King. He said I’m Simba.
MTM: Wow. You’ve left me speechless.
ZK: I also like the Polar Express, and Aladdin. But Booth said he can’t watch it with me. He said its Cody’s moment with him.
MTM: Seriously, I don’t want to know. Let’s change the subject.
ZK: Oh! There Manny now! He brought me my hoco!
Manny Malholtra: Here you go big guy! A hot chocolate for my new friend!
(I shake hands with Manny)
MTM: Hey Manny glad to meet you, my name is Matt.
MM: I know you, don’t I?
MTM: I’m not sure. I’ve met quite a few of you guys on the Canucks now.
MM: Now I remember! Kes and Hammer passed around a photo of you in a box passed out sucking your thumb.
MTM: Yeah, I need to talk to Hammer, can you get a hold of him for me?
(Dan comes to sit on the bench)
Dan Hamhuis: Oh hey buddy. Glad to see you made it back.
MTM: We need to talk. You owe me and you said you’d make things right.
DH: Is 40 dollars ok?
ZK: I can lend you my Lion King dvd!
MM: I can give you a discount at sportchek, I used to work there.
MTM: Guys! Calm down. Get me into a Canucks game front row, and a press pass.
ZK: I can get you an ice cream cone!
DH: I’ll get you the tickets buddy. But you have to come to church with me first.
MM: I’ll get you the press pass. But you’ll need to takeover my runescape account and make my characters good again.
MTM: NO! Do as I say, or I’m going to the highest levels of the NHLPA, the NHL and the police. But I don’t want to do that. I love this team too much to do that. So please, I think I deserve this much from you especially Dan.
DH: Fine, ill take care of it. Let me make a phone call.
(He walks away and phones someone)
MTM: So Zack, now that you have been here for a few days, what are you looking forward to living in Vancouver?
ZK: Well growing up in Ontario we used to smoke so much we…….
MM: Don’t finish that sentence Zack.
DH: Ok, everything is prepped and ready. Ill drive us all down there. We have a players meeting to go to anyways.
MTM: Good. Let’s go.
(We jump into Hammer’s gold Toyota Sienna. It has bumper stickers that say things like “My boss was a carpenter” and “Jesus loves you”. His dashboard has a bobblehead of a very white, blonde and big headed Jesus Christ. Its winking and giving a peace sign)
(After a few minutes we arrive at
General Motors Place Rogers Arena, I check in with security. I meet up with TC Carling, head of Canucks Communications. I tell him of my story, of which he feels is a tragedy and not very good PR. He offers me a job as a writer for the Canucks. I gladly accept. I leave the arena very happy and feel like the last few months were some form of destiny. Waiting outside is Zack)
MTM: Well Zack, I am sure am glad to have sat down at your bench. Things worked out pretty well.
ZK: So I get to see you again?
MTM: You bet kid. I’ll be here a lot.
My trip across North America has ended. But my adventure is just beginning. Who knows what next week will bring!