A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Guest Column: It’s a Goony World Out There

Nathan Skytta graces us with his presence yet again! This time, he talks about the importance of “goons” in the hockey world and presents us with a list of some of the best.

Whether you support it or not, fighting is part of hockey, and it is going to be part of hockey for seasons to come.

Fighting in hockey is on the decline and has been since the mid-1980’s. Fans today see less than one fight a game, partly because of the two-minute minor for instigating which can be assessed to the player who starts the fight. Fighting is not the same as it was during the “Gretzky Era,” but it is still around and is much needed to protect the stars of the league.

Now, what non-hockey fans don’t understand is that it’s not the stars of the league that fight (with a few exceptions of course). There are players today who get paid to protect their star teammates and get paid to stand up against the other teams “antagonists.”

Yes, some players do let their emotions get out of control, but if you have ever attended a hockey game where a fight has broken out, you’d see the fans jump out of their seats and cheer on their players.

Tiger Williams was a surgeon of fisticuffs.

Even the players on the bench of the teams support their teammate — usually with a simple tap of their stick on the side of the bench. The “goons” gain the respect of their teammates and fans by being the protector of the star athletes.

They give it their all to prove to the other team that if they want to attack the star players, then they are going to have to mess with the tough guys. The goons in the NHL have earned a spot in the sport, and that’s what makes the NHL different than any other sport.

From the 1950’s when fighting in hockey included stick swinging and bench-clearing brawls, to nowadays, goons have earned their right in the history of hockey. Players like Tie Domi and Tiger Williams made their money not by leading the leagues in goals or assists, but by punishing the other team with strength.

They made sure others did not attack the smaller players of the league. Here’s a top ten list of goons:

10. Red Horner

9. Donald Brashear

8. Tie Domi/Marty McSorley

7. Stu Grimson

6. Gordie Howe

5. Clark Gillies

4. Terry O’Reilly

3. Joey Kocur

2. Dave Schultz

1. Tiger Williams.

This list is just a basic idea of how the times have changed. Ever since the lockout in the NHL in 2004, the NHL has required more speed and more skill than ever before.

For the first time in hockey history, the bigger the player, the less likely they are to get big contracts. Players such as Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk will flourish for years to come because they are fast and have more puck-handling skills than players such as Brashear and Todd Bertuzzi.

Tie Domi legitimized the old saying, "It's the size of the fight in the dog."

The goons in the league have had to improve their skill with the puck instead of sitting on the bench and waiting for the chance to start a fight.

There are players in the league that have a mixed combination of both size and agility, though. Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are two stars that have brought their teams from the bottom to the top of the league.

They’ve done so by using their force and strength but also by flying past their opponents and putting the puck in the back of the net. The more skills a player has and the faster they are, the more ice time they will get.

Hockey nowadays requires speed and skilled hands, but power and strength will always be a necessity in the sport of hockey. So, for those who think goons have lost their place in hockey, you have lost your mind. Hockey would not be the hockey it is today if it wasn’t for those goons who spent their careers doing their best to protect and preserve the star players.

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April 14, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Column: Playing for Life

Former afanofthegame blogger Nathan Skytta pops back in to tell the story of BYU’s dream of a national championship. The Cougars’ head coach Dave Rose overcame cancer last summer bringing more emotion into the 2009-10 college basketball season.

Note: Story written after first round and before second round of NCAA tournament.


After Brigham Young University’s coach Dave Rose beat pancreatic cancer last summer, the team and the school did not want this season to be just another season for the team.  After having a successful past few season, BYU wanted to continue their regular season domination of the Mountain West Conference this season and to advance into the deeper rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Even though the Cougars did not win the conference outright, they did finish second in the conference and that was enough to enter them into the tournament.

When BYU was matched up against the University of Florida, they knew that a challenge was ahead of them. BYU came into the matchup having lost seven straight first round matchups and knew Florida had won 12 games in a row.

They knew that it was going to be a big game for both teams, but for BYU, it meant something more. They hadn’t won a tournament game since 1993 and hadn’t advanced any further since 1981, when Danny Ainge was on the team.

BYU head coach Dave Rose won the most important battle of his life last summer — against cancer.

Led by James “Jimmer” Fredette, BYU defeated the Gators 99-92 in double overtime. Fredette led the team with 37 points, including knocking down two three-pointers in the second overtime. With the victory, the Cougars advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time in 17 years.

“We had a second life, or a third life, or whatever it was,” Fredette said, “and I just wanted to go out there and try to get it done because I don’t know if I could have played another overtime.”

Florida didn’t make the game easy for the Cougars. In fact, if you ask the Gators, the game should have been theirs.

“You can’t complain about the looks we got at the end,” said Chandler Parsons, who landed game-winning shots at the final buzzer against North Carolina State and South Carolina this season. “We fought hard. Everyone was tired but they were just as tired as us.”

Parsons missed what were, at the time, potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime period. Fredette and his teammates did not allow Parsons or any other Gator clean shots during the second overtime, and therefore did not allow for what could have been a dramatic finish.

When asked what his thoughts were on the victory for his team Rose said, “This was a long time in coming for our program, and it’s a big win. One of the most important goals we had at the start of this season was to get into this tournament and advance, and we’re advancing. I’m proud of our guys.”

Probably the most fitting quote that could come from a cancer survivor, a coach, and a mentor to many athletes, Rose told the attending media members, “You’re playing for your life,” he said. It’s one and done at this point.”

BYU moves on to face Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the team will fight just like their coach has inspired them to do all season long. Their coach was successful at defeating his opponent, and that’s exactly what his team plans on doing until they can cut down the nets and raise the championship trophy.

–Nathan Skytta

April 2, 2010 Posted by | College Basketball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 41

Quite the felicitous win for the Sharks as they defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout. The story of Pacific Division goalies trying (and sometimes succeeding) to steal games grew old weeks ago. Leave it to Yotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to keep the story alive.

He was robbing people left and right, up and down.  He definitely made it known his placement on Team Russia is no joke. Sharks goaie Evgeni Nabokov stood taller on this night, however, and legitimized his starting role on Team Russia.

But I’ll stop the Olympics talk there.

This was a fabulous game to watch. It’s why hockey is the best sport in the world — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The game featured defensive struggles, monstrous hits, intricate strategies, fierce battles ending in a pressure-filled one-on-one war between skater and goalie.

Folks, this is hockey.

71 shots

50 hits

36 blocked shots

65 minutes

1 Victor

The Sharks wanted it more tonight, and they’ve been playing this way lately. Only good things come out of a mentality like this.

I'm going to pump -- you up! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Pavelski played outstanding tonight, notching one shorthanded goal in regulation and the only goal of the shootout. That wrister of his is top-5 in the league.

Douglas Murray played his best game of the season tonight. He just found out the other day he was chosen for Team Sweden (whoops, more Olympics talk). No lapse from him. He crushed people and put on a defensive clinic. His stick was in the right place, his positioning was phenomenal, his intelligence showed. I can’t rag on him at all after tonight’s game.

But I do have to find some criticism. Devin Setoguchi finally scored to end his schnide over the past few weeks. However, he took two bad penalties — one in overtime of all places — that really put the team in a pinch. The Sharks penalty kill stepped up in that four-on-three overtime situation, though. Nabby saved it for the Sharks and for Seto’s job.

Throwing in the Towel

During the overtime period, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett threw a towel on the ice to ask for a timeout. Sharks analyst Drew Remenda (yes I finally got the Sharks feed for the first time in months!) scorned the refs for not calling a delay of game. I’m not sure what to make of the towel, but how hard is it to yell for a timeout like everyone else? I’m sure they’ll be a rule against towels tomorrow, though, knowing the league.

Stats to Chew On

The Sharks are now:

14-1-3 when scoring first.

4-2-5 after regulation (W-OTL-SOL)

4-0 against the Pacific Division after starting out 3-2-4 against divisional opponents.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  PHX 24; Murray led the team with five.

It was a tough game for Joe Thornton; he was slammed into the goal post from behind and was a -2; the lowest on the team.

The Sharks welcome the Capitals to town on Wednesday. The Caps dominated the Sharks in their first meeting, winning 4-1.

–Ray

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 23

Quite the steal-and-run performance by the Sharks in their 3-1 win against the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks were outworked on every part of the ice, but goalie Evgeni Nabokov stole a victory for his team.

I can’t remember the last time the Sharks were this badly outshot (39-17) and still came out with a win. But your goalie has to keep you in games and sometimes steal some. I wouldn’t say Nabby stood on his head though. Despite the huge number of shots, most of them weren’t clear shots at the net. A lot of the times the puck would deflect off someone, and roll around the crease before Nabby covered it.

The game featured a lot of big hits and intensity. Devin Setoguchi plowed two Blues players — Roman Polak in the first and T.J. Oshie in the third. The Blues dished it back in the form of a fight, which was one-sided. Cam Janssen dropped the gloves with Brad Staubitz and Janssen whooped Bitz. No contest at all.

The fight did help spark the Blues as they scored off a bank-shot late in the first.

Unfortunately for the Blues, this game was decided in 16 seconds; that’s all it took for the Sharks to score two goals. They came in the second period; Dany Heatley deked around a Blues defender and beat Chris Mason. Right after that, the Blues turned it over to a waiting Manny Malhotra, who shot the puck off Mason, and Ortmeyer batted in the rebound.

That’s about all the offense the Sharks could muster, except for the empty net goal by Joe Thornton at the very end.

Two of the three goals were on the power play, so that is still hot on the road.

Picture 13

Jamie McGinn tries to skate past Roman Polak (From SJSHARKS.com)

Once again the Sharks’ third period was weak. I wish I had a good explanation for this. Maybe they’re getting tired out there; their best period is the second, so maybe they’re wearing themselves out? I’m not sure. I would love to get in the locker room and ask coach Todd McClellan what’s up with that.

But again, the game belonged to Nabby. This is the front end of a back-to-back, and he’ll probably start again tomorrow against Chicago.

Givin’ You the Blues

Blues owner Dave Checketts ripped the team yesterday for their weak play. That obviously played a huge part in the emotion St. Louis played with tonight. I wonder what Checketts thinks right now about this loss. Gotta be tough, but I concede the Blues deserved this one. But in order to become that elite team, you have to win ugly. Not sure if the Blues have learned that yet.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  STL 18; Patrick Marleau led with four hits, while Seto, Heater and Douglas Murray added three each.

I saw Jamie McGinn on the penalty kill tonight. Can’t say I’ve seen him there before, but it’s good he’s getting rewarded for his hustle. That kid might be Scott Nichol, Jr.

I forgot to mention last game that Torrey Mitchell was reassigned to Worcester for conditioning. Big step for Torrey. Hopefully he gets his legs under him quickly.

The Sharks travel to Chicago tomorrow to take on the Blackhawks. Should be an entertaining match.

–Ray

November 15, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 8

Quite the humdrum performance by both teams in the Coyotes 1-0 shootout win over the Sharks. The Sharks were slapdash throughout the contest not stringing together two passes more often than not. The whole game was a giant hodge-podge. The Coyotes faired no better, and their style of play made for a top-5 contender for most boring game of the year. I really do hate Dave Tippet’s (Coyotes head coach) style of play. I can’t stand the trap — so dull; so monotonous. But Phoenix won with their tedious, mind-numbing play.

At least San Jose got a point.

The Sharks could have used to Drain-O to unclog the neutral zone, because that’s where all the Phoenix players were the entire game. San Jose tried to execute some dump-and-chase plays to get behind Phoenix, but they were always one step ahead of the Sharks.

I’d had to give the MVP to Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. He kept the game 0-0 and made so many spectacular saves — much more crucial saves than Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Phoenix’s shots were more potent and in open ice, while the Shark’s shots were just kind of “blah, here’s a shot, maybe something will happen.”

Scott Nichol and Jamie McGinn were the best players on the ice. They threw their body around and Nichol’s speed and determination were evident every time he stepped out on the ice. I thought the signing of Nichol was suspect, but he’s proven me wrong so far. Nichol had seven hits in the game and was 64% in the faceoff circle. Excellent stuff.

Once overtime hit triple zeroes, I knew the game would end in a Sharks loss. Nabby is so bad in breakaway situations — it’s nauseating. He’s now 13-16 in shootouts I believe. Yikes.

Sharks Goalie Evgeni Nabkov looks for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks Goalie Evgeni Nabkov looks for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sharks could have really used Joe Pavelski’s amazing shootout skills, as well as Jeremy Roenick’s shootout prowess, but hey, at least they sent out Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Dan Boyle.

*Cue record scratching sound* Wait, what?

Heatley is awful in shootouts; Setoguchi has only scored one shootout goal; Boyle is 2 for 8. Why did you pick them Todd (McClellan)? Heatley shot the puck into Bryzgalov’s pads, Setoguchi shot it wide, but Boyle did make it. In fact, Boyle looked like an all-star forward with his forehand-backhand move.

The Sharks get a point, though, before heading out to their Eastern Conference road trip. They’re now 3-2-1.

Fight

Jody Shelley continued his punching bag status — this time getting beat up by Paul Bissonnette. It’s getting really old now. Shelley chooses the right time for a fight but doesn’t finish what he started.

Other Notes

Frazer McLaren was sent down to Worcester before the game and Steven Zalewski was called up. It was Zalewski’s first NHL game, but unfortunately for him, he only played five minutes.

The Sharks outhit the Coyotes 31-18 and and dominated the faceoff circle going 35-19.

Next game: At Washington, 7 ET. The Sharks better pick up the speed if they want to skate with the Caps and Alex Ovechkin.

–Ray

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment