Saturday, September 29, 2007

Solo Stands Alone

Embattled Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo will not be with her teammates when they play Norway Sunday in the Women's World Cup third-place match. Idiot coach Greg Ryan has determined that Solo did not stand strong by her teammates during the "hard time" that was the US 4-0 blanking at the hands of Brazil in the semi-final and that she does not belong with her team on Sunday as a result.

This is a childish move by a coach who ruined his squad's chance at a World Cup title and is trying to deflect the blame and spotlight away from himself. Ryan said he came to this decision after meeting with "team leaders". To be fair, some of the vets on the team are publicly siding with their coach on this one. Striker Kristine Lilly went as far to say that having Solo with the team against Norway would be a distraction. Apparently then, not having her in goal against Brazil wasn't a distraction so maybe the team needs to step up and take the heat for getting humiliated by Brazil.

Beyond not allowing Hope to be with the team on Sunday, Ryan and some of his players have called into question whether she still has a future with the team. First, no player should be commenting on anything even close to that. That is a complete joke. Second, Ryan should be worrying about his own future more than Solo's. United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati is already starting to position himself to send Ryan packing, either by simply not offering him a new contract at the end of the year or by letting him go sooner. Either way Ryan should never have anything to do with USA Soccer again after this week's disaster.

As for Hope, she has apologized and said that she did not intend her comments to come across as a criticism of fellow keeper Brianna Scurry, and I believe her there. She does still maintain that coach Ryan made the wrong decision by not playing her against Brazil. Again, couldn't agree more. Solo is taking some heat for her comments, but she said what needed to be said and I think a lot more people are supporting her than are vilifying her. My guess would be that she has gained at least twice as many fans as she has lost. The bottom line is that she was right and hopefully (no pun intended) we haven't seen the last of Hope Solo in goal for Team USA.

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's Getting Drafty In Here!

So a couple days ago we here at TOFTT got an e-mail from Carlo over at Poolhardy about taking part in his "Battle of the Blogs" fantasy hockey league. Now how could I resist? Especially since I'll get to take on the gang over at Abel to Yzerman and lay the proverbial smackdown on some Wings fans. So we just finished the Live Draft about a half hour ago and here's how our team shaped up. We had the 5th pick and it was serpentine style.

The Team
  1. (5) Alexander Ovechkin - LW
  2. (18) Jason Spezza - C
  3. (27) Ryan Whitney - D
  4. (40) Marc-Andre Fleury - G
  5. (49) Martin Havlat -RW
  6. (62) Alexander Semin - LW
  7. (71) Brian Rafalski - D
  8. (84) Cam Ward - G
  9. (93) Andy McDonald - C
  10. (106) Kimmo Timonen - D
  11. (115) Brian Gionta - RW
  12. (128) Vesa Toskala - G
  13. (137) Chris Kunitz - LW
  14. (150) Petr Sykora - C
  15. (159) Teemu Selanne - RW
  16. (172) Ruslan Salei - D
  • Part of me really wanted to land a "top-tier" goalie, but it became clear pretty quick that wasn't going to happen. At that point Spezza fell into my lap with the 18th pick and then I had to sweat out trying to land Whitney and MAF with my third and fourth round picks.
  • Our Right Wing is one big question mark. Can Havlat stay healthy? Did we get the Brian Gionta from two seasons ago who scored 48 goals? Will Teemu play this season? If the answer to at least two of those questions is "yes" we could be sitting pretty. Petr Sykora can't get RW eligibility soon enough!
  • Getting Selanne with the 159th pick could turn out to be genius. If he doesn't play I'm not really out that much. I see it as a more than worthwhile gamble for the guy who was 4th overall in the Yahoo game last season.
  • Cam Ward is a steal if the 'Canes have the kind of season I think they will. If they don't this could be a long fantasy season.
  • I have AO, Semin, and Havlat on both of my fantasy teams. If any of those guys get hurt it won't be pretty around here.
  • Yes, I feel dirty for drafting AO.
  • No, I have no problem saying I'm hoping for big Semin production this season.
  • Sykora, Timonen, and Gionta could all end up being real good picks. Lotta upside on this squad.
  • At the end of the day, we have MAF... life is good.

NHL Puts Downie In The Timeout Chair

NHL head disciplinarian Colin Campbell sent a message to the entire NHL today by levying a 20 game suspension on Flyers prospect Steve Downie for his vicious hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond. I won't go into too many details of the hit itself, but I would like to applaud Campbell for sending a strong message to players that these types of hits will no longer be tolerated.

I'll be honest here, if Downie keeps his feet on the ice than this whole thing is nothing more than a hard, but clean, hit and all of the hoopla that has ensued doesn't (or at least shouldn't) happen. But Downie did leave his feet, and that is where he crossed the line. The second Steve Downie's feet left the ice he went from trying to land a hard hit to trying to seriously injure Dean McAmmond, and that is why he needed to be made an example of by the NHL front office. My only regret at this point is that Steve Downie may never set foot on the NHL's ice again and the Senators will never get the payback the must surely want right now (then again we are talking about Ottawa...)

When examining this story there is no looking past the entire body of Steve Downie's hockey career. He has a history of violent incidents against teammates, opponents, and officials and that has to come into play at some point. Colin Campbell said he did not hold Downie's past against him when determining his punishment, saying Downie had a "clean slate" with the NHL. I don't think Downie will be so lucky with regards to the other teams in the NHL. I think there is a very real chance that if things don't work out for Downie in Philadelphia, that his NHL dream will be over. I just can't see another team bringing in a kid with this much baggage that is such a risk to his team. Steve Downie's NHL career may be over before it even started, and I for one am more than fine with that.

Lost in all of the commotion around the Downie hit was a deplorable response by the on ice officials and in particular one of the linesmen. As the inevitable wave of Senators converged on Steve Downie following the hit the pileup of players grew and a couple of them, Flyer defender Lasse Kukkonen fell on top of the motionless and defenseless McAmmond. The linesman who was standing right there had a responsibility to protect the vulnerable McAmmond and instead elected to skate off and verbally engage the fighting players. Let's be real clear here, he did not even start to break up fighting players, he simply proceeded to talk/yell at them, all the while the concussed McAmmond has players fighting on top of him. It was not until Senators forward Patrick Eaves transported the team trainer to McAmmond's side that Dean received any sort of protection from the fracas going on around him.

In my opinion the NHL is very lucky that McAmmond was not further injured by the negligence of the on-ice officials. I would love to see the NHLPA step up and call out the officiating team for their disgraceful handling of the situation. I would like it even more if the NHL took a proactive approach to the problem and handed out some sort of discipline to the on-ice officials at the game. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for a major disciplinary measure to be handed out, but I would like to see the league hold the officials responsible for the safety of the players on the ice. Otherwise they might as well play the games without officials at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Team USA Loses Its Hope

The USA Women's National Soccer Team was shelled 4-0 today by Brazil in the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup in China. The loss ended a 51 game unbeaten streak for the US women and was the worst loss ever for the US women in World Cup competition.

Surprisingly absent from the American squad was star keeper Hope Solo. US coach Greg Ryan benched his top keeper in favor of 36 year-old Brianna Scurry. To put this in perspective, Solo had not been scored on in over 300 minutes of play, while Scurry had not played a full 90 minutes in over 3 months.

Predictably Hope Solo was disappointed with the decision, and she let it be known:

"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it's not 2004 anymore. It's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that's what I think."

As a fan, this is just the type of reaction I want from Solo. She had earned the start against Brazil and she was flat out robbed of the opportunity to play.

Apparently coach Ryan had decided to go with Scurry well in advance of this match (months allegedly) and had even met with Scurry about playing her against Brazil. Scurry's history against the Brazilians notwithstanding, this is an inexcusable move by Ryan. Quite frankly, this move should cost him his job. Whoever runs Team USA needs to inform Ryan that he will be allowed to coach the third place game, during which he will start Hope Solo, and he will then promptly resign afterwards. If he doesn't agree to that then you fire him on the spot. He cost this team the World Cup, that's all there is to it.

I am not trying to overlook the fact that the Americans were pretty much dominated by Brazil today, but I do think the switch in goal played a huge role in the defeat. I won't even begin to try to guess the kind of emotional impact this move had on the other 10 players for the US. I can only imagine how shocked they were that Solo was not going to be in goal. And now, thanks to Greg Ryan, the prohibitive favorite to win the World Cup will leave China without the championship they worked so hard to claim, and we are all left to wonder what could have been. At least we'll still have a Hope in 2011.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NHL 07-08 Season Prediction Panel

Welcome to what I be the first of what I hope will be many NHL season prediction panels. I have convinced some of the hockey blogosphere's best and brightest (and the gang from thepensblog) to put their credibility at stake and forecast the upcoming NHL season. Hopefully some of us will actually be right with some of our picks.

The Players:
Loser Chris and Snoopyjode - your friendly neighborhood TOFTT writing staff.
ThePensblog - Derek and Adam from They do more than just write Big Batch News you know!
Jes Golbez - writer of Hockey Rants, and Sidney Crosby Show and AOL NHL Fanhouse contributor.
Mike Chen - writer of Mike Chen's Hockey Blog,, and Battle of California contributor. Sharks season ticket holder, and ex-Blackhawks fans. I apologize to any team's fans that I offend with my predictions, except if you're a Maple Leafs fan -- your management is so predictably short-sighted that it doesn't even warrant mentioning them in this. (ed. note: take that Canada!)
Steve Ovadia - Puck Update writer.

1) Who will win the Atlantic Division?
Loser Chris - Pittsburgh. I don't want to be too biased here, but the only other team I can see that could take the division would be the Rangers and I don't think they have the blue line depth to pull it off.
- The Pens of course!!! Well, I suppose the Devils could edge them out for the division, but I'm keeping the faith and sticking with the Pens!
ThePensblog - Gary Roberts.
Jes Golbez - New York Rangers.
Mike Chen - I don't buy into the changes that the Rangers and Flyers made, especially Philly. Getting Jason Smith is not going to help an already immobile blue line and I'm almost certain that Daniel Briere's points will drop. The Rangers are still an interesting mix, but I don't think getting both Drury and Gomez was necessary, and the money would have been better spent getting some defensive depth. That's not to say the Rangers aren't dangerous, I just don't think they're as good as the roster is on paper. I'm giving the Atlantic to Sid and the Penguins.
Steve Ovadia - Pittsburgh. They almost won it last year, and they're only getting better.

2) Who will win the Northeast Division?
Loser Chris - Ottawa. This team is too talented not to win this division. Buffalo is too depleted and the rest of the division is in disarray. I just don't see another team in the Northeat able to challenge the Senators.
- The Senators will probably go the distance here.
ThePensblog - Ottawa.
Jes Golbez - Ottawa Senators.
Mike Chen - I don't see any of these teams coming close to Ottawa. Buffalo will still be good, but you don't lose two first liners (ed. note: and your co-captains) and not feel it somewhere.
Steve Ovadia - Ottawa. Not that it matters.

3) Who will win the Southeast Division?
Loser Chris - Carolina. Only a year removed from winning it all, I expect the 'Canes to bounce back in a big way this year. I look for Eric Staal to put this team on his back and take them far.
- Tampa Bay, St.Louis + Lecavalier + Richards = money in the bank.
ThePensblog - Tampa Bay.
Jes Golbez - Atlanta Thrashees.
Mike Chen - This is always a crapshoot, but I think the Florida Panthers' time has come. You've got Vokoun in net, I think Weiss and Horton will have true breakout years, and Jokinen and Bouwmeester will put up great points. However, I think Carolina will bounce back, Tampa Bay will be a tiny bit better, Washington should improve, and Atlanta should be around the same. I think the Southeast will be much more competitive than people give it credit for, and that should make for some great hockey.
Steve Ovadia - Carolina. Last season's dip was more of a Cup hangover than anything else.

4) Who will win the Central Division?
Loser Chris - Detroit. I hate picking the Red Wings to win anything, ever, but this division is terrible. It may be the worst division in NHL history. The Wings could have the division title clinched by New Years.
- Detroit. Don't they always win this?
ThePensblog - Detroit.
Jes Golbez - Detroit Red Wings.
Mike Chen - Every year I predict Detroit to fall, so this year I'll pick them to win. Hopefully that'll curse them into self-implosion.
Steve Ovadia - Detroit. They should really just rest the Central down. The rest of the Central is like when they bring in new characters on Lost, purely for the purpose of getting killed.

5) Who will win the Northwest Division?
Loser Chris - Calgary. This will be that first season where Mike Keenan is able to come in and do great things before he inevitably wears out his welcome in Calgary. Vancouver has Roberto Luongo and not much else, and since I'm not Canadian I don't subscribe to the Ryan Smyth is an elite player theory so that rules out Colorado to me. Minnesota probably has the best chance of pushing Calgary, if Backstrom plays like he did last season and they can stay healthy.
- Vancouver. Luongo is like the Berlin Wall.
ThePensblog - Vancouver.
Jes Golbez - Vancouver Canucks.
Mike Chen - I think Colorado's back on the mend. You look at the revolving door of excellent young talent, combine that with Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk, add in Ryan Smyth and a rather underrated defense, and you've got a good mix. If Peter Budaj can be as consistent as he was in the second half of last season, I think the Avs offer just a little bit more as a collective team than their Northwest competitors.
Steve Ovadia - Colorado. Ryan Smyth will be huge for them.

6) Who will win the Pacific Division?
Loser Chris - San Jose. Anaheim is the best team in this division, but I think they will suffer enough of a Stanley Cup hangover to allow the Sharks to win the division. They also have a lot of uncertainty regarding their roster (i.e. Selanne and Niedermeyer). Of course the Sharks will promptly choke in the playoffs so it won't really matter that much.
- Anaheim, the defending champs.
ThePensblog - San Jose.
Jes Golbez - San Jose Sharks.
Mike Chen - If Scott Niedermeyer returns, Anaheim. If he doesn't, San Jose by a hair.
Steve Ovadia - Anaheim. Even without Scott Niedermeyer (if he actually retires), this is a strong, dangerous team.

7) Who will meet in the Stanley Cup Finals? Who wins?
Loser Chris - Anaheim and Carolina will make it to the Finals in a meeting of the last two Cup winners. Anaheim takes it in 6.
- Pens vs. Canucks. Pens win (hopefully)!
ThePensblog - Sharks vs. Rangers. Rangers win.
Jes Golbez - Ottawa vs. San Jose. Sharks win.
Mike Chen - I always hate predicting these sorts of things because you never predict trades, injuries, etc. On paper, I think the league has more parity than ever before, and it's really hard to separate the top 10 teams in the league. So I'll make a pick but I wouldn't put any money down on it: San Jose vs. Pittsburgh with Captain Sid lifting his first Cup. Really, I'm just making this pick to appeal to both the fashionable (Crosby) and the homer (San Jose). (ed. note: but we're still holding you to it Mike!)
Steve Ovadia - Rangers vs. Anaheim. Rangers win.

8) Who will win the Art Ross Trophy?
Loser Chris - Sidney Crosby. Don't expect that answer to change for at least 10 years.
- S-I-D-N-E-Y! Who else?
ThePensblog - Sid.
Jes Golbez - Sidney Crosby.
Mike Chen - Crosby will finish with 145-150 points this season.
Steve Ovadia - Ovechkin. I have a feeling he is going to thrive with Michael Nylander.

9) Who will win the Maurice Richard Trophy?
Loser Chris - Jerome Iginla. I think playing under Keenan will agree with the Calgary captain.
- I'd like to say Sid, but he's more of an assist man, so I'm going with Heatley or Lecavalier. Or, if Ovechkin gets it right this year he could have a real chance to snag this one. (ed. note: way to take a firm stance on that one Snoop!)
ThePensblog - Alexander Ovechkin.
Jes Golbez - Alexander Ovechkin.
Mike Chen - Ovechkin will top the league with Michael Nylander feeding him for 62 goals.
Steve Ovadia - I have no idea.

10) Who will win the Vezina Trophy?
Loser Chris - Luongo. I think too many people in the media and around the NHL are completely in love with this guy and will gladly give him the Vezina unless someone completely blows him away. Which I don't think will happen.
- Luongo. He was robbed last season.
ThePensblog - Luongo.
Jes Golbez - Roberto Luongo.
Mike Chen - Roberto Luongo will win it and cry when he accepts is because he is so very tired from stopping a gazillion pucks with no goal support.
Steve Ovadia - Luongo.

11) Who will win the Norris Trophy?
Loser Chris - Dion Phaneuf. This may be a bit of a reach, but Phaneuf had something of a quiet second season and still put up 50 points. This guy is the total package and I think he's more than capable of earning himself some hardware this year. Plus I'm way too biased to pick Lidstrom.
- Lidstrom. Again - he's really good.
ThePensblog - Pronger, if Lidstrom doesn't die.
Jes Golbez - Niklas Lidstrom.
Mike Chen - Scott Niedermeyer will win if he returns. Otherwise I'm going to go with the underdog and pick Dan Boyle, just because he's a personal favorite of mine.
Steve Ovadia - Lidstrom. He'll win this after he retires, people just love to check that box with his name in it.

12) Which high profile offseason acquisition will have the most success with their new team?
Loser Chris - Chris Drury. I love Drury, let's get that clear from the start, but that's not why I'm picking him. Drury will be playing with more offensively talented players in a wide open system. As long as he can stay healthy I think Drury is going to thrive in New York.
- Chris Drury. The Rangers are already a great team, and Drury's a great player. Hopefully they aren't so good that the Pens can't bury them!!!
ThePensblog - Drury and Gomez with the Rangers.
Jes Golbez - Scott Gomez. Playing on Jagr's line with an offensive minded coach = uber points.
Mike Chen - I think Chris Drury will perform up to expectations the most. More importantly, he'll give the Rangers a little more of the grit and determination that Brendan Shanahan instilled in them last season.
Steve Ovadia - Mike Keenan in Calgary. He's going to bring discipline, accountability, and grit back to the Saddledome.

13) Which high profile offseason acquisition will be the most disappointing with their new team?
Loser Chris - Daniel Briere. While I have high hopes for Briere's former teammate Drury, I don't think things are going to work out as well for Drury in Philly. This may just be wishful thinking on my part, but I just don't think he's going to have the kind of success he had in Buffalo. Briere is a good player, but he's not a franchise player and he's not a "Flyers" type of player either. I think he'll be hearing it from the Flyers faithful by the end of the year.
- Daniel Briere. He's not good enough to carry a team.
ThePensblog - Daniel Briere in Philadelphia is overrated.
Jes Golbez - Mike Keenan (coach), Dustin Penner (how can you live up to that contract?)
Mike Chen - I think Scott Gomez will bomb in his first season on Broadway.
Steve Ovadia - Daniel Briere. I'm not sure how much impact a guy who's like 5'2" can bring to any team unrelated to horse racing.

14) Which team do you think is poised to have a huge breakout/turnaround season (i.e. show the biggest improvement from last season)?
Loser Chris - Carolina is going to have a big turnaround this year in my opinion. Hopefully missing the playoffs last season will inspire them. Keep an eye on St.Louis too, they aren't that great, but they play in the Central.
- While these seem like two different questions to me, I think the Flyers will have the biggest improvement over last season, but that doesn't mean they'll have a breakout season by any stretch of the imagination.
ThePensblog - Chicago Blackhawks. Fear Martin Havlat.
Jes Golbez - Philadelphia Flyers. I don't think they'll make the playoffs, but they should do a lot better, points-wise.
Mike Chen - Florida. Their young talent really is underrated because of where they're located, but they're on the cusp. Add in a steal of Vokoun and you've got the potential, if everything goes right, for not only a great regular season but a solid playoff run.
Steve Ovadia - St. Louis will make the playoffs. The NHL is all about parity so I don't think there will be anything more dramatic than that.

15) Which team will show the greatest decline from last season?
Loser Chris - Nashville. This one is almost too obvious, but between the exodus of talent during the offseason and the ownership situation it's going to be a long season for Predators fans. All twelve of them.
- Buffalo. Tee hee !! (My boss is a Sabres fan so we've got an office rivalry here.) They lost a number of players in free agency and they'll need time to build the team back up.
ThePensblog - Devils.
Jes Golbez - Dallas Stars or Nashville Predators.
Mike Chen - It seems like the Devils keep having their core picked away at and they somehow manage to cheat death. I think even with Marty keeping them in the majority of games, losing Rafalski and Gomez will really expose the depth of the team, despite a bounce back for Gionta and improvement for Parise.
Steve Ovadia - Nashville. I also predict they'll only suit up 11 players a night. (ed. note: that's a good way to save on salaries, Steve may be suited for front office work with the Preds!)

16) Who of the following pending UFA's is most likely to be traded during the upcoming season; Miikka Kiprusoff, Markus Naslund, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, or Marian Hossa?
Loser Chris - Wade Redden. Ottawa is going to be faced with trying to resign Heatley and Jason Spezza (a pending RFA) and I think that spells the end for Redden in Ottawa. They have too much money invested in other defensemen (Phillips and Volchenkov) to keep him, Spezza, and Heatley. That new deal for Mike Fischer doesn't help Redden's cause too much either.
- No way the Sens trade Heatley or the Canucks trade Naslund. I don't really know and I'm usually wrong when I try to make predictions (so these questions will probably all come back to haunt me in April), but I guess I'll go with Marleau. (ed. note: Marleau was a choice before the Sharks resigned him, right after Snoop answered these questions. So in a way she was right, she is wrong.)
ThePensblog - Naslund if the Canucks struggle, or Kiprusoff since Keenan is the coach up there now.
Jes Golbez - I'll take none of the above. Naslund as a no-trade, the Sens will be battling hard for the Cup, and the Flames will want to keep Kipper around, so I don't see any of these guys being traded DURING the season.
Mike Chen - I'll go out on a limb and say that the Flames will have a messy year under Mike Keenan and impending UFA Kiprusoff is traded for a huge package. I think the Flames' season under Keenan will either be a giant success or a spectacular disaster -- no inbetweens.
Steve Ovadia - Atlanta is out of love with Hossa. If they can find someone to take him he's out of there. For extra credit, I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up in Boston. (ed. note: Hossa for Chara maybe?)

So there you have it. Now all we have to do is wait around until the season ends so we can see how wrong we all were after Phoenix sweeps Florida in the Finals in June. Now drop the puck!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NHL 08 Review

Every now and then a game comes along that redefines the way we look at what a video game, and in this case a sports game, can be. NHL 08 on the XBox 360 is one of those games. As this game got closer and closer to release the positive hype continued to build. I generally pay no attention to previews since they are usually more or less written by the publishers themselves, but these were "hands-on" accounts and they were all glowing. That, along with my pressing need to have a good hockey game to play, convinced me to bite the bullet and upgrade to an XBox 360 in time to grab NHL 08 the day it hit store shelves. Was it worth the investment?

Brian Rolston about to be humiliated

From the moment I first "took to the ice" in NHL 08 I knew that I was in for something special. EA Canada's new skating engine is easily the best and most realistic representation of hockey skating ever produced. The skating in this game feels 100% real and natural and that makes it a joy to just cruise around the practice rink, let alone lace up the virtual skates to play an actual game. The game also looks gorgeous. The player models look great, but more importantly the animation set for the players (especially the goalies) really brings the game to life. Having real looking players doesn't get you very far if they move like robots. Thankfully that is not the case here. The enhanced controls mapped to the right analog stick also help to give players unprecedented puck control during play. The control scheme in NHL 08 will take a little getting used to for anyone who didn't play 07, but once you get the hang of it the game feels completely natural.

Eric Staal contemplating how bad he can make Ray Emery look

Where NHL 08 really shines though is in the AI department. A lot of the hype around the game went into the adaptive AI system and how it learns and adapts to your playing habits. This has seemed a bit superficial to me so far, but I've never been one to run the same play over and over so I may just be beating the system without trying. Aside from that though, the AI in this game is what takes it to another level from any game of hockey that has come before it. Put simply, the CPU controlled players just play great hockey. Player positioning and decision making is awesome and it really helps the game play like a real game of hockey. This also helps produce the first truly challenging sports game I have played in ages. This isn't a hockey game that tries to provide a challenge by pitting you against superhuman goalies (like in some incarnations of the NHL2k series), you are going up against teams that just play smart and take advantage of your mistakes. Leave an opposing forward alone in the slot and you're going to pay. Get caught pinching on D and prepare to get burned by a streaking winger. I can't stress this enough, for the first time ever you feel like you are participating in a real game of hockey. Frankly, some of the teams in NHL 08 play smarter than their real life counterparts.

As I'm sure you've caught on by now, I'm pretty much in love with this game. Hockey fans no longer have to hearken back to the glory days of the Sega Genesis to recall NHL video games at their peak. EA has gone back to the drawing board and produced the best hockey video game and one of the best sports video games ever made. Yes... EVER. If you are a hockey fan you have to buy this game. If you are a fan of sports games in general you have to buy this game. If you hate hockey and sports games but own a 360, you still owe it to yourself to give this game a try. I can sum up my thoughts on NHL 08 quite easily in two words: best ever.

It's Fantasy Hockey Time!

We've got a Yahoo Fantasy Hockey league all set up and there are a few spots left for whoever wants them. It's roto-style with an autodraft (by request). If you are interested please join up and we can get this show on the road!

To join:

  • League ID#: 27685
  • Password: keepurheadup
Come one, come all! Once we hit the team limit (10 teams) we'll draft and be on our way. Good luck to all!

League is full and ready to roll. Good luck to everyone involved!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The NFL's Not-So-Secret Shame

On Sunday, September 9, 2007, Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett suffered a "catastrophic" cervical spine (neck) injury when he ducked his head while driving in to tackle the Denver Broncos' Domenik Hixon. The original prognosis was very grim: It was said that paralysis was probable, with some doctors wondering aloud whether or not Everett would even survive the injury. But by Friday, September 14, Everett was showing "stunning" improvements following surgery on his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae. He is able to feel touch on his arms and his legs, and he was able to move his fingers.

Despite the improvements, it is highly unlikely Everett will escape without lasting neurological effects, and it is almost a given that he will never return to the gridiron. He will likely end up needing some kind of advanced medical treatment for the rest of his life. Considering he is a mere 25 years old, that kind of care will be extremely costly. If he is left unable to work and unable to earn money, who will pay for that care? If you think that the NFL's pension plan will cover these expenses and provide Everett with money to pay for food, clothing, and housing, THINK AGAIN...

There are several accounts of ex-NFL players sidelined by injuries who are now living in poverty, having gone through their earnings paying for medical care. For an example, let's discuss 35-year-old Brian Demarco. He was in the NFL for 5 years, playing for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cincinnati Bengals. Over his short career, he suffered the following injuries:

His back is fractured in 17 places, his elbows were both shattered, and he has significant nerve damage. Often times his hands do not work and he loses all feeling from them. Due to the severe back injuries, Brian can barely walk. He also suffered a minimum of 12 concussions and now suffers from headaches and tremors. All of Brian’s injuries are a direct result of his NFL career. Over the years he has exhausted all of his savings on medical care. NFL players lose their health insurance just a few years after football and can not obtain health insurance for their pre-existing football injuries.
Demarco is married with two small children. He and his wife have gone without food so their children can eat, and the family has been homeless 3 times in the past two years. The family is in such dire straits because Demarco cannot work and, due to his injuries, he is virtually crippled and requires round-the-clock care. This next fact may shock you, as it did me:
The families dire situation is due to the fact that Brian does not currently receive any disability support from the NFLPA. He has been trying to get disability from the NFLPA for four years. He has phoned the NFLPA over 100 times in the last several months.
This man literally gave his body to the money-making machine that is the NFL, yet they can't (more likely won't) support him and his family now that he is no longer able to suit up and sell tickets and merchandise to fans. It is not an NFL pension that has been helping the Demarco family, as one might assume. NFL pensions don't kick in until the former player is 55 years old, which, incidentally, is around the time the average former pro-football player dies.

There is an organization called Gridiron Greats. From the website: "Mike Ditka, Willie Davis, Harry Carson, Gale Sayers, Joe DeLamielleure, Tom Nowatzke and others form The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and coordination of social services to retired NFL players in dire need." The Gridiron Greats foundation has been supporting Demarco and his family as well as a number of other ex-NFLers like him who also need financial help. Gridiron Greats gets this money from donations at the same time the chief of the NFLPA, Gene Upshaw, enjoys a whopping $6.7 million salary while claiming that there is no money left to help former players like Demarco and Everett.

These men wage a weekly war on a field for our entertainment. When they are no longer able to take part in battle, they are cast aside and forgotten. Without the bodily sacrifices of these men, the NFL would not exist. Whether disabled for life by injuries or mentally diminished from repeated concussions, one thing is certain: these men and their families deserve more than the NFL is giving them. The NFL has taken a step in the right direction with the "88" plan, but there are many more players like Brian Demarco that don't qualify for the "88" plan because they don't suffer from dementia. These men need an "88" plan too.

Gridiron Greats
Fox News
Sotoroff, Paul. "The Forgotten Casualties of the NFL" The Week Sept. 14, 2007: 40-41.

RBK EDGE Jerseys - The Winners and Losers

Now that all of the new NHL RBK EDGE jerseys have been released (compliments of a leaked code for NHL 08 by EA) I thought it would be a good time to look at the biggest winners and losers of the new jersey era. Let's look at the winners first, since that is a shorter list:


The Phoenix Coyotes:
Probably the only thing to be excited about if you are a Coyotes fan, the 'Yotes had nice jerseys coming in and manage to escape RBK's wrath with a simplified version. These jerseys have a nice, classic feel to them. If only the team looked half as good.

The Chicago Blackhawks:
The Original Six all got by with minor changes if any to their uniforms. The Blackhawks are here just because they have better jerseys than the other five. Too bad the product on the ice hasn't been as attractive lately.

The Minnesota Wild:
The Wild pretty much left their away jersey alone and took on their third jersey to be their new permanent home jersey. This is a good move since the maroon jersey is one of the best in the business hands down.

The Montreal Canadiens:
Like the Blackhawks, Montreal bought into the "don't mess with a classic" theory. I'm not a big Habs guy, but these jerseys are still timeless.

The Ottawa Senators:
Sure pink sequined jerseys would be more fitting for this team, but I have to admit their new jerseys are pretty sharp. They'll look even better skating off the ice after the Pens knock them out of the playoffs this year.


The Colorado Avalanche:
For my money the Avalanche were the biggest losers in the switch to new jerseys of any team. They had an awesome, unique, original jersey coming in and now have arguably the worst looking jerseys in the league. The stripes on the sleeves are a joke. To make matters worse, at the unveiling they put the new jersey right next to the old one so you could see just how big of a disaster it is.

The Columbus Blue Jackets:
I'll be honest, these jerseys could have been a lot worse, but that new logo they've taken on just rubs me the wrong way. Why even call yourself the Blue Jackets with that logo?

The Edmonton Oilers:
The Oilers had very solid jerseys before, and now will look like about half the NHL with these cookie cutter EDGE monstrosities. The sleeves and vertical piping are a mess.

The Florida Panthers:
see Edmonton Oilers

The Nashville Predators:
Predators fans this season (all six of them) can look forward to a team that will look almost as bad as it will play. Nashville's offseason game plan:
- Gut roster
- Ruin jerseys
- Raise ticket prices
Gotta love that new NHL!

The New York Islanders:
The other team with a legitimate claim to worst jerseys in the league, these new ones are a mess. And they look even worse in action. Good times ahead on the Island.

All in all I'm not too happy with the new jerseys, but I'm sure they'll grow on me. There are only a handful of teams that should really be excited about the EDGE jerseys, and those are mostly teams that made no changes. Minnesota and Ottawa are really the only teams to make actual improvements to their look. Oh, and the real good news... these new jerseys are more expensive too! The NHL... it's FANtastic!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why Football > Football

As the American masses prepare for the renewal of NFL football, I thought this would be a good time to look at why real football (soccer for the sake of this discussion) is better than American football.

  • Soccer players play 90 minutes in well under two hours, it takes twice that long for football players to get in 60 minutes. Maybe if football players didn't need a 40 second break after each 6 second play...
  • Soccer doesn't start each play with one player putting his hands on another player's ass.
  • You actually need to be somewhat athletic to play soccer. Try to imagine this guy running up and down the pitch for 90 minutes.
  • Helmets? Soccer players don't need no stinking helmets! Well, generally speaking...
  • Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and the Cincinnati Bengals do NOT play soccer.
  • Soccer players are committed enough to play more than once a week.
  • You can watch a soccer game without having to sit through 9,000 Peyton Manning commercials.
  • This!
Don't get me wrong here, football is okay. It just isn't as great as the American media machine wants us all to think it is. I couldn't even begin to guess that last time I sat through an entire football game (with the exception of the Texas/USC Rose Bowl) in recent years. As far as I am concerned the NFL is just a really elaborate way of generating fantasy football stats every week. And let's be honest here, fantasy football and Madden are the two best things the NFL has going for it. So while American sports media outlets bombard us with season previews and predictions this week, let's all take a second to remember that for most of the world real football season started a few weeks ago.