When’s the last time you heard of a serious injury from court storming?
If you’re having a little trouble, that’s because they happen as much as you actually starting that diet and exercise routine. A quick Google search yields no incidents post 2004. Every other article’s headline contains the words “before someone gets hurt,” or “potential.” That’s all it is, potential.
This increasingly preventative culture we find ourselves in won’t be satisfied until all seven billion of us live in padded rooms and talk in clichés. Then again, I’ve heard straitjackets can cause those awful pins and needles. Ban them.
The court-storming at the University of Virginia produced zero injuries – well, save for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s bruised ego. Video packages of his kvetching poisoned the airwaves. A simple solution for you Coach K? Quit losing to inferior opponents.
It’s ironic this tsunami of prevention doubled in size after the court-storming at U.Va. It directly contradicts Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that all of us have a right to the pursuit of happiness. A novel idea the talking heads should explore.
Court-storming is an exhilarating experience for students. In 2006, I rushed onto the field at Lane Stadium after unranked Virginia Tech knocked off then-No. 10 Clemson. That ranks in my top five moments at college. Football coach Frank Beamer had the players come back out of the locker room to mingle with the fans.
Take that away, and the gluttonous football programs become even more isolated from the college experience (SEE: SEC, which banned field-rushing and court-storming nine years ago).
Arguments attacking the court-storming frequency have more credence but still are misguided. Students yearn for that bliss they see on television when a winless-in-the-Big-10 Penn State team shocks a top-five Michigan team. So, they lower the court-storming criteria.
Let them have their fun. The only people I see complaining about it are the ones who no longer have the chance to participate.
Crazy isn’t it?
To think back to some of the games throughout the season and know how little hope some Packers fans (me) had in the team making the playoffs is crazy.
Those back-to-back overtime losses against Washington and Miami seemed like backbreakers. And considering I’m stuck in Redskins country, I had to hear about it more than I needed to. Actually, Skins fans will continue to bring up beating the eventual World Champs.
That’s fine, though, because the Packers are the World Champs.
What a great Super Bowl. My heart started pounding through my chest around the top of the 6 o’clock hour. The family was having burritos, and the TV was left on in the kitchen to watch the pregame festivities — rarely is the TV ever left on during dinner.
After inhaling three burritos, I raced back upstairs to watch the game. I declined an invitation to watch the game downstairs on the even-bigger screen. Chalk it up to superstition.
I posted the same “Go Pack Go” YouTube video as my status as I had done before the previous playoff games. I donned an Aaron Rodgers jersey and black sweatpants and put on a Packers hat backwards. The hat was a new addition to the regular lineup, and it didn’t disappoint (more on that later).
My computer was off to the side with Twitter and the ESPN comment section for the Super Bowl open. I enjoy reading instant reactions.
So with the annoying Glee product placement singer and botched National Anthem out of the way, it was time for kickoff, which seemed a bit rushed; Joe Buck didn’t have time to do the what-seems-like-usual “..And Super Bowl 45 is underway…*ball kicked*).
It was a decent return, like many other kickoff returns against the Packers. O, Packers special teams, how many games hast thou forfeited?
The Steelers go three-and-out and punt. Packers punt returner Tramon Williams muffs the catch and my heart drops. “Are you kidding me?” I asked out loud.
Luckily, the Packers recovered. Now looking back, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the Steelers did? Cue alternate history timeline.
The Steelers use the short field to go up 7-0. Aaron Rodgers drives to midfield but a dropped pass ends the series. Pittsburgh, now sensing even more Packers nerves, converts a deep pass to the five-yard line. Rashard Mendenhall runs it in, and it’s 14-0 Steelers early. Rodgers attempts to make a valiant effort for a comeback but it’s too late. The game eventually ends 37-21 for Pittsburgh, and the world hears about the Steelers every minute of the offseason. Ben Roethlisberger is immediately crowned a future Hall of Famer.
Yuck. Even imagining that is hard to do.
It just so happens it’s the Packers who go up 7-0 first on a perfect pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson on 3rd and 1. I scream like a banshee (S.L.A.B., remember that). I can’t take being down in any game, not even down by one. I just like knowing that the other team has to score somehow to tie or go ahead.
My pounding hearts calms a tad until WOOSH! Nick Collins swoops in to intercept a Roethlisberger pass, and Collins streaks toward the endzone. Now, I’ve always had an irrational fear of a fumble after any and every interception I witness. So this feeling is multiplied by 1,000 since it’s the Super Bowl.
Collins dives from inside the five and into the endzone sending me into SLAB mode. UNBELIEVABLE! IS THIS REAL LIFE? DOUBLE TOUCHDOWN ALL THE WAY!
14-0 already? NOICE! Oh, and I also have a ridiculously stupid fear of seeing my team miss extra points after each score. I hate myself for it. But the point is made, and I’m feeling great.
Games are so much more enjoyable when your team is up by 14, wouldn’t you say?
As a fan of the San Jose Sharks, I know a thing or two about choking. Naturally my brain’s tainted logic lobe started working and reminded me, “Ray, these two touchdowns were way too early in the game. Think about all the football and hockey games you’ve watched where one teams jumps out on top before getting slaughtered the rest of the way.”
Here come the Steelers marching down the field to score 3 points. My mind fast-forwards to the end of the game where the Packers are down by 3 and need to kick a field goal to send the game to overtime. All because of that second-quarter field goal. It ruined EVERYTHING. (Clearly Mason Crosby missed the tying FG in my fast-forward daydream.)
This is how my brain operates during a game. Fun, huh?
So I decide to turn my hat forwards to get some new mojo, and alas, it’s another Packers interception! Jarrett Bush! Jarrett Bush? Gotta be some mistake. You mean the Jarrett Bush who rivals Ahmad Carroll as worst defensive back in the history of mankind? You mean the Jarrett Bush that gets burned even by putting his hand on a room temperature piece of papers? YES. SLAB! I love you, Jarrett. Never doubted you for a second, buddy.
OK, but can the Packers capitalize? They do. Rodgers to Greg Jennings over the middle, and Jennings gets walloped by Troy Polamalu.
SLAB. 21-3. 21-3! Over my most hated opponent in all of sports? Simply stunning.
Things can’t remain this good for my team, though. I see Donald Driver out with an injury. Sam Shields goes down with a shoulder injury. And then Charles Woodson goes down with a shoulder injury. Wow. Really? This is happening to my team. At the Super Bowl. Three critical players all injured. They had enough injuries in the regular season to last a decade.
Maybe they can play after halftime, though. The score is 21-10. Then the reports come in: Driver, questionable. Shields, questionable. Woodson, out. WHAT?! WOODSON OUT? This can’t be. A broken collarbone.
It’s over. Give the title to Pittsburgh. The defense has now reverted back to the 2009 days when Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards against the Packers.
I change my hat back to backwards to try to regain some of the first quarter magic.
And it starts. The Packers can’t get anything going on offense in the third quarter, and Pittsburgh scores on their first possession. 21-17, just like that. I reminisce about the 21-3 lead. It was so young. Where does the hour go?
Enough of the backwards hat. Let’s go sideways to the left.
Pittsburgh starts driving at the end of the third quarter and I’m feeling awful. As far as I’m considered, the entire East Coast was just hit with a tsunami of pessimism. I think ahead.
“Can I really make it through a year (a lifetime, really) of Steelers fans bringing up this game?”
“Why am I a fan of teams who constantly choke on the big stage?”
“Why isn’t Roethlisberger in jail?”
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is Clay Matthews and his hair is the Sun!
Forced fumble by the Claymaker! Packers recover! SLAB.
It would be stellar for my heart health for the Packers to score a touchdown here. But it’s now 3rd and 10. Hopefully they can gain a bit of ground for a coffin corner punt. Jordy Nelson says No. He catches a pass and takes it 38 yards to the Steelers 2. Rejoice.
Two plays later it’s a touchdown to Jennings. Putting the team on his back! 28-17. I can live with an 11-point lead this late in the game. Well, 4:23 later, Pittsburgh scores. AND they make the two-point conversion. 28-25. Wow.
If you’ve learned anything so far, you know where my mind’s at.
Yes, I think one character at a time in situations so dire.
Time for another hat change. Sideways and to the right (which would be the last position it would be in).
Next drive, the Packers are looking at a 3-and-out. Here it is. The breaking point. Pittsburgh will take the next drive and go up 32-28. Watch. WATCH.
Nope. Rodgers on another 3rd and 10 completes to Jennings for 31 yards. Man, Rodgers is good. How is he doing this? How is he not throwing late-game interceptions that cost playoff games?
Now with 1st and Goal, I’m feeling optimistic for the first time. We’ve been scoring touchdowns easily. No way they stop us and make us a kick a field goal. NO WAY I TELL YOU.
“…And Crosby makes it 31-25 with a 23-yard field goal.”
This is why I can’t have nice things. No more optimism pour moi.
I’ve seen this situation before. If the Steelers score, they win by one point. December 2009. Steelers defeat Packers, 37-36. Ah yes, of course.
So here we go. Go ahead Roethlisberger. Two minutes left. I know you will drive them down to at least the Packers 20. You’ll probably have a good 45 seconds left too. Stick the dagger in me now, America.
Easy pass to Heath Miller for 15 yards. Yep, I told you. Five-yard pass to Hines Ward. Here it is, setting something up. Incomplete pass. That means nothing. Here comes the deep ball. Incomplete deep ball. Whoa. What’s going on? It’s 4th down ALREADY? Eh, no sweat. Go ahead Ben, make this the first of 3 fourth downs you convert on the game-winning drive.
SLAB. SLAB. SLAB. I break my bed. Bedlam. I cannot believe…what I just saw. Super Bowl Champs! Wait, is there a flag? No flag! Super Bowl Champs! We just beat the freakin’ Steelers!
There was about a full two minutes of yelling in excitement before I settled down to watch the trophy presentation. Nothing but smiles on my end. I patiently waited to see the only commercial I want to see: “Packers fans! Your team just won the Super Bowl! Here’s your chance to own…” When it finally came on, the victory just barely started to sink in.
The Aaron Rodgers “I’m going to Disney World!” commercial came on the next day and it became more real.
What a great feeling. And the feeling won’t leave for another year. That’s a great feeling about another great feeling. Sorry, that’s confusing.
Anyway, that was my stream of consciousness during the game. My voice was raspy a couple days later, and I probably burst a few blood cells.
It was worth it.
Oh, and the hat? That’s all true. I changed right around those times.
Crazy isn’t it?
Are you ready for some hockey?
I have never been sure why a P.A. announcer would ask the question “Are you ready for some hockey?” because obviously every hockey fan is ready for hockey. The months of June-September are the longest three and a half months for any hockey fan. So to answer the question, we have our drinks, our jerseys and our hats (always useful to bring one or two to a game, just in case someone scores three goals and a hat trick breaks out), so yes that makes us ready for some hockey.
This season, the 75th of the American Hockey League, promises to be a good one. The league welcomes the Barons in Oklahoma City, the Checkers in Charlotte, and the Devils in Albany, to the league. There is youth and talent throughout the league and hopefully those skills can be showcased nationwide, with the possibility of players getting the call up to the NHL.
Once again, the Hershey Bears are stocked and are poised to reach the playoffs again, but this season may not be a complete runaway. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins stocked up on talent and the Norfolk Admirals are under new leadership, and after missing the playoffs by less than one game last season, are ready for to take that extra step into the playoffs. The rest of the East Division (including new comer the Charlotte Checkers, formerly Albany River Rats) all have one more year of experience under their belts and should make the Bears and Penguins route to the playoffs a little more difficult.
The Worcester Sharks, behind the goaltending of Alex Stalock and the veteran presence of Jonathan Cheechoo, have a good shot at winning their division once again, along with the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Chicago Wolves, who are almost guaranteed playoff spots. All three teams will be challenged by opponents day in and day out, as almost every team in the league have made improvements.
Boys, let’s play hockey and to those of you who have always wanted to attend a hockey game but never have, make this year different. Attend one game and there is a pretty good chance that you’ll be back for more. Remember fans, wait for the stoppage in play before leaving your seats and enjoy the next nine months, because before you know it, summer will be here once again.
East Division—Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins/Hershey Bears
West Division—Texas Stars/Chicago Wolves
North Division—Abbotsford Heat/Hamilton Bulldogs
Atlantic Division—Worcester Sharks
Calder Cup Champion—Hershey Bears (No matter how much I hate to say it)
I’ll be back in throughout the season to update everyone and to update my predictions.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan named Joe Thornton captain today — a minor surprise for Sharks fans. A lot of fans, including myself, expected Dan Boyle to be named the 11th captain in Sharks history. Turns out Boyle will be a permanent alternate captain, with Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe alternating the second ‘A’ for home and road games.
Probably the immediate reaction from most hockey fans is that we’ve seen Thornton be a captain before — in Boston — and how it failed miserably.
Thornton, 31, says he’s much more mature now being a father and having more experience as a person and hockey player. While you can’t deny that, he still is very much the same type of person he’s always been. A laid-back, glass half-full type of guy. With that said, let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons of his captaincy.
- He’s positive. Jumbo Joe will never panic; that word is not in his vocabulary. After every game, he’ll give some version of the phrase, “We’ll be fine,” either after a win or a loss. What’s intriguing about this is Boyle is the opposite. Boyle wears his heart on his sleeve, giving the Sharks a nice dynamic in leadership.
- He’s the face of the franchise. This doesn’t pertain much to play on the ice, I know, but it could be a good marketing tool for the Sharks in reaching out to potential NHL fans. Hockey fan or not, a lot of people know the name “Joe Thornton.” Now they can ID him more easily with the team in San Jose and as a captain.
- Regular season prowess. In order to win the Stanley Cup, you have to make the playoffs. While the Sharks have claimed the top spot the last two years, Thornton’s point totals have fell to the upper 80’s. Having the captaincy could make him step his game up in the 82-game audition for the playoffs.
- It’s a contract year. This could change in the first month of the season, with rumors of an extension going on for some time now. But if GM Doug Wilson chooses to let the season play out, it could be even better play from Thornton, who will be looking to cash in. I think the captaincy also puts to rest the trade speculation, but you never know with Wilson. But in all honesty, I see an extension for Thornton by December.
- He’s positive. Yep, this is exactly the same thing as the “pro” above. Having a captain who is always looking at the bright side of things isn’t always good. Thornton mentioned he likes to keep things light and fun off the ice and serious on it. Sometimes you need someone to step up in the locker room, off the ice, and tell the players what needs to change. When it comes to speeches, I’ve always thought of Joe up in front of the players cracking jokes while trying to convey a serious point.
- Inconsistent passion. Contrary to how Joe says he is extremely passionate about the game, he fails to bring it all every night. You can find him coasting around the ice on some nights, not really caring, and committing atrocious turnovers from lazy passes. That is not captain material.
- Postseason pressure. Joe answered most critics this past postseason playing his heart out. It was amazing to watch, but can he keep it up? Rumor has it McLellan tried to get Thornton to play a rougher style (Only what fans have been screaming for forever) and it worked. Hopefully, Thornton still knows how to flip the switch a notch higher come April, May and June, and this will turn into a “pro.”
- Distractions. The weakest “con” of them all, Thornton did just have a baby and a lot of attention must be given to “Mini Joe.” One of Thornton’s quotes was something like, “I already look after one guy, now I have to look over 22.” It was a quip, but if you’d like to overanalyze, it kind of sounded like looking over 22 players is a burden,
Bottom line: The jury’s still out on Thornton being captain, but no doubt the majority of NHL fans are laughing at the Sharks right now. I’m very weary of the move and would have preferred Boyle be captain with Joe Pavelski getting an ‘A.’ But I’m not a coach or see the inner-workings of the locker room, so for now it’s just about supporting the decision and cheering for the Sharks.
Nathan (Michigan) and my (Virginia Tech) college teams finally have something in common — they are the only ranked teams to lose to an FCS school.
I started to worry furing the first quarter against James Madison when the score wasn’t 21-0, and it all went downhill from there.
Coming into this season, every Hokie fan knew we had a lot to replace on defense, but the problems are far greater than anyone imagined. Even the most fundamental part of defense — tackling — is difficult for them.
Where do these players get off thinking they can just push people and they will go down? Why is it so hard to wrap up a player and bring them down?
Linebacker Bruce Taylor has already started making excuses saying practice tackling doesn’t equal game-speed tackling. Of course it doesn’t, but why don’t you start using proper technique and it won’t be a problem — especially against a second-rate opponent in JMU.
Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is struggling mightily in Cody Grimm’s old spot.
So, how much blame should be put on Bud Foster for the defense? About 50%. Allowing 33 points against Boise, then 21 against JMU should never happen under Foster. I could be giving him too much credit, but I think his schemes alone can limit teams to 15 points.
As for the absurdly bad offense, it’s time for a change. Bryan Stinespring has got to be in the bottom five for worst offensive coordinator in college football. With so much talent, how can Tech put up 16 points last week?
Tyrod is scrambling way too much. Every play he is rolling out of the pocket. Why? He is a good passer, and he used to have great chemistry with Danny Coale. I think I’ve seen Coale catch a handful of passes this year.
You’ve also got Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson in the backfield, the latter of which is already saying he regrets not redshirting. The Hokies don’t need any more drama.
I could go on forever about the offense, but I’ll stop.
Last but not least, Frank Beamer. He’s now 1-26, I believe, against top-five teams. And now he’s lost to a FCS opponent. It’s time to start looking for a replacement now.
But the last thing we need is a Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno situation. Just because Beamer has gotten Tech on the map and a household name in college football doesn’t grant him an automatic 10 more years of mediocrity.
Clearly whatever he says to the team before big games fails. It’s like a broken record — a big game involving Tech? Put all your money on the Hokies losing. It sucks to even say that, but it’s true.
Everyone seems Bud Foster is the easy pick to step up. I’m not sure if that’s the right pick. I’d be worried about a Norv Turner situation — great coordinator, bad coach. Foster’s enthusiasm is unquestioned, though, and it just might be what all the Hokies need to hear.
Whatever the case, something needs to change now.
Sharks fans everywhere scoffed at acquiring Antti Niemi throughout the summer and they all were forced to eat crow Sept. 2 when the Sharks officially announced the signing of the Finnish goalie.
San Jose now boasts a goaltending tandem of also Fin, Antero Niittymaki and Niemi as opposed to last year’s twosome of Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss.
But you won’t see any partying in the streets. Reaction everywhere on Sharks forums is negative and pessimistic. Of course, being a Sharks fan, the only thing you know is bad luck and seeing the glass half empty.
The addition of a Stanley Cup-winning goalie is an upgrade over Niittymaki first and foremost. You can argue technique and positioning all day, but Niemi has shown he can make the big saves when called upon.
Niittymaki has only played in two NHL playoff games and looked awful (.828 save percentage, five goals against in 73 minutes). That isn’t a big enough sample size to judge him on playoff play, but it puts him in the same boat as Thomas Greiss.
Previous all-star Nabokov was an OK playoff performer (.907 save %, 2.56 GAA), but couldn’t steal enough games by himself to bring his team to the promise land. Some fans have even dared to bring up how good he is in the regular season. Are you kidding me? Every Sharks fan should know by now how much the regular season means.
But didn’t Niemi have a great defense?
The biggest argument against Niemi and his Stanley Cup ring is that he had a spectacular defense in front of him. That’s very true, and playing for the Sharks will be a completely different experience.
However, we don’t truly know how that defense affected Niemi’s psyche. Maybe knowing he had a defense in front of him, he didn’t play up to his potential and relied on the defense to clear out his gigantic rebounds. Now backstopping an average defense in San Jose could spark him to step up his game to higher level.
Pure speculation but it’s something to think about.
Niittymaki supporters like to mention that “when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.” This is an argument I love to hate. When any goalie is “on” they can be unstoppable. And if you have to use that argument at all in the first place, it means the goalie is inconsistent.
The puzzle is still incomplete
One odd reaction to the Niemi addition is that people seem to think this is the roster the Sharks will enter the season with — three NHL starting goalies on one team with another star prospect (Alex Stalock) in the minors.
There is no way this team stays the way it is now. I think some trade will happen before the season starts — probably involving Greiss — to acquire a defenseman.
Ryane Clowe is a name that’s been thrown around numerous times for a package deal to bring in a top-4 defenseman. Something does have to be done about the defense, it doesn’t matter if Patrick Roy were the Sharks goalie, the defense has to improve.
San Jose lacks a shutdown pair, and unfortunately, Huskins-Wallin just won’t cut it (haha).
I’m not a fan of the Dan Boyle-Douglas Murray pair, just because I’m not a Murray fan. I think he’s a pylon who’s only good for one big hit a game. He was terrible in the playoffs, always being a step behind the play and leaving a man open.
There’s been rumors of the Sharks trading Greiss + other assets to Philadelphia for Braydon Coburn, and other whisperings of a potential offer sheet for Rangers restricted free agent Marc Staal.
Either would be an upgrade over Murray, but those may be forever pipe dreams.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson must know the defense needs an upgrade, so I wouldn’t fret about the Sharks defense as it is now. It will change — hopefully sooner than later.
Nathan Skytta takes some time from his busy summer schedule to take a look at the NHL offseason and its many twists and turns. Note: Article written Aug. 14.
Just over two months ago, fans of the NHL witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1960-61 season. Now, with the countdown just over fifty days away from the drop of the puck in Helsinki, Finland, the Blackhawks have dismantled their championship team, the most prized free agent is still unsigned and those are just the beginning of the highlights that have made this summer so interesting for the fans of the NHL.
The Kovalchuk Puzzle
The highlight of the offseason was the signing, or so we thought, of Ilya Kovalchuk by the New Jersey Devils. The agreement was for 17 years and over 100 million dollars, but as soon as it was signed, the NHL rejected it. The arbitrator assigned to the dispute upheld the NHL’s ruling that the contract went against salary cap regulations and therefore was illegal. We are now in the middle of August, and the most heralded free agent on the market this offseason, remains just that.
Getting back to the Hawks, Antti Niemi, who was in net when the Hawks won the cup, won an arbitration hearing and was awarded a 2.75-million dollar salary. Because they are so close to the cap, the Hawks had no choice but to let Niemi, 26, become a free agent. The Hawks had a plan in place just in case they were forced to let Niemi go. The Hawks turned around and signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco. Turco, a three time all-star, had been let go by the Dallas Stars earlier this summer and was looking for a new home. Niemi remains unsigned and there’s no word on where he may end up.
Clipping more Hawks wings
Along with Niemi, the Hawks parted way with players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd. When the Hawks raise the banner on opening night against rival Detroit, they will have a roster that has many people wondering if they will be able to repeat.
More Interesting Moves
Some other highlights of the offseason include former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov signing to play in the KHL (Russia), Mike Modano, a Michigan native, heading home to play for the Detroit Red Wings after signing a one-year deal, the Philadelphia Flyers either acquiring or signing every free agent defenseman on the market—not really but at one time they had 10 defenseman on their roster—and Steve Yzerman taking over the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, in hopes of bringing another championship team back to the Sunshine State.
A New Season Emerges
In the last 65 days since Patrick Kane snuck the championship-clinching shot between the legs of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, teams have been revamped, players have changed addresses, and some big names remain on the market. Along with the aforementioned Kovalchuk, players like Paul Kariya, Miroslav Satan, and Lee Stempniak remain unsigned.
In the next few weeks, teams will begin reporting to camp and start writing the script on what they hope is a championship season of hockey. With two outdoor games scheduled this season, a new roster for the Blackhawks, and many teams making changes to their rosters, anything can happen. So fans, get the jerseys out, the hockey packages ordered on your cable network, and get your vocal cords ready for what’s going to be another fantastic season of NHL hockey.