Friday, December 4, 2009

Ok, it's not you, but it's time we saw other teams...

Tonight only! Come one, come all! Join in on the longest 100 year anniversary since the Bicentennial of the United States! The Montreal Canadiens are 100 years old! Today! We know we said that all last season but that worked out kinda’ crappy, so this time we mean it!

As my oldest son would say...”meh”

Why do the Bruins have to be included in this self-congratulatory hoopla? As fans we don’t care nearly as much about the vaunted Habitants as the Montreal fans are semi-obsessed with the Bruins. Couldn’t they have pestered the league to face the Leafs on their biggest ‘holy day’?

Geesh, you couldn’t have two teams with a different trajectory. The Bruins are a team still on the rise, the fans spoke up a few years back and stayed away from the New Garden (then named the Fleet Center) in droves, forcing a complete overhaul in the Bruins roster, management and mindset.

The Canadiens, however, are on the downward spiral. Their fans too fanatical to not overpay for a substandard product, they ride their glorious history like a nag that is overdue for a trip to the glue factory. Why improve and adapt to the modern day when fans will still fill the house and pay top dollar for the same-old, same-old?

C’mon Bruins fans, do we really need this crap? We have real teams to deal with.

Now we have to deal with a full hour of lasers shows, overblown and over-amplified bilingual announcers, and special guest from the Jurassic era just so we can witness a damn not-even-mid season hockey game. What a pain in the ass.

Every Bruins fan knows how this will work out at the final buzzer, if the Habs win it will be because they ‘dug deep and soaked in that pride that represented all thing Canadiens, they were the giant-killers, they overcame and conquered, they were the chosen team’

And if the Bruins win it’ll be because ‘the ref’s stink’.

It’s the same as it ever was, just in a shiny commemorative wrapper and just as useful after the final buzzer.

Face it, the only fun over the past few years between these two teams was watching the fascinating new ways that Milan Lucic slapped Mike Komisarek around.

Lucic is injured and Komisarek is taking bad penalties in Toronto, what’s left to get the juices flowing? A George Laraque ‘invitation only’ fight? A couple dozen uncalled Montreal dives? Those goofy Doctor Seuss uniforms? Pretty thin gruel if you ask me.

Tell you what, Montreal. If we bump into each other on the street, maybe we can do something; just don’t get too clingy, Ok? Otherwise, just lose our number. It’s become a bore, now go play with Toronto.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Next Bruins Captain

Submitted for your approval, a young hockey player, once perilously close to death due to a tragic on-ice accident, continues to re-find and redefine his game, now he plays in...The Twilight Zone.

Patrice Bergeron has so far lived the equivalent of veteran players entire career, the problem is he’s only been in the NHL for about 6 years.

So far he has been through and achieved:

-Signed and playing at the NHL level when he was 18
-Shouldered the burden when the Bruins essentially gave up on franchise forward and epic whiner Joe Thornton
-Played (gladly) in the AHL during the lockout with nary a whimper or night off
-Developed into an NHL top five two-way forward
-Survived a terrifying head shot, culminating in a near-career (and life) ending concussion
-Went from being the offensive leader on a team with no depth to being a second or third line forward without any bitching or moaning
-Five on five, man advantage, penalty kill, shootout, it doesn’t matter; Patrice Bergeron plays in every situation.
-He wears the ‘A’ for Alternate Captain (for two seasons now)
-He is, thus far, the Bruins MVP this season.

He’s 24 years old.

In recent history the Bruins have been led by defensemen, be it Bobby Orr (all bow), Brad Park, Ray Bourque, or the big Z himself, Zdeno Chara, defensemen have been the first over the wall, shouldered the biggest load, and provided that moral anchor so needed by a team.

The history may well find itself changing.

The towering Chara is the present Bruins Captain, and he’s a damn good one. He leads by example, always keeps himself in peak physical form, is one of the most feared fighters and one of the finest defensemen, but he will be 33 years old before the season ends, Bergeron will still be 24.

Can you say ‘Captain in training’?

Personally, I never bought into the Patrice Bergeron as offensive dynamo expectations that many hung on him. It was easy enough to see when watching him play and carry himself that this was the penultimate ‘total package’, not merely a one-dimensional gunslinger, A Steve Yzerman in the making, if you will.

Do the Bruins need to be led by a defenseman to pave to the ultimate glory? Sure, it’s worked before but can’t a lead-by-example do the job too?

For now we can leave Patrice where he is, wearing the ‘A’ and learning all he can from another lead by example Captain.

But one day that ‘C’ may well be his.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is the "Thrill" truly gone or just beginning?

What had to happen finally happened, another poorly kept hockey secret was removed from the NHL landscape.

No, the Coyote’s are still in Phoenix for the moment, the other secret.

No, Dany Heatley actually showed up at the Sharks camp and hasn’t tried to cripple the team yet with demands for more ice time…the other, other secret.

No, Dan Kelly hasn’t come out with a tell-all story explaining why scheming and underhanded half-wits are secretly running the NHLPA…the other, other, other secret.

Phil Kessel, the guy who thought $4 million a year to play for a serious contender like the Bruins wasn’t nearly enough dough finally got his wish to play for someone else for 20% more money, 50% less chance at a cup and 100% less Claude Julien.

Phil the Thrill will be making $27 million over 5 years, at 21 tears old that’s not too shabby a paycheck.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this deal as it works out for Phil though:


He is now THE scoring star for the offensively bereft Maple Leafs; he’s the show, the poster boy, the guy on the billboards and posters.

Word has it that he bristled under the strict accountability that coach Claude Julien demanded of every Bruins player to play defense and with some degree of physical presence.

He is playing for a GM who absolutely adores him as a player for Team USA.


For a guy who everyone says is shy and unassuming, if he couldn’t handle the attention and pressure in Boston he may end up deep fried and a feature menu item in hockey obsessive Toronto.

If he thinks Claude Julien might be difficult to get along with, wait till he gets a load of Ron Wilson, a man also not known for tact, civility or subtlety and may in fact be the first generation in his family to walk erect.

He is playing for a GM who wants to mold the Leafs into a physically imposing team.

Yikes. File this in the “careful what you wish for” category.

To Brian Burke’s credit he has brought in a player that will help the Leafs achieve some degree of legitimacy and has brought a decent amount of buzz to Toronto without impacting the immediate level of ‘talent’ currently on the roster for this year.

Hopefully, for Toronto’s sake, Burke can find a way to turn some of his vast surplus of NHL ready defenseman into a set-up man that can at least approach the effectiveness of a Marc Savard, because as of now he is lacking that one component to make the Kessel move effective.

I’ve seen probably very game Kessel has played as a Bruin, so allow me to share my observations as to why Toronto fans might have some cause for concern:

Phil is a very fast skater with a great shot release (wrist shot only) and a tremendous pair of hands that allow him to frequently baffle opposing goalies, but he does not take slap shots, does not work the corners to get the puck for himself, and occasionally baffles his own defensemen with his disappearing act after the momentum shifts in the other direction. He will react to a carefully placed boot in the rear section but only if it is a VERY carefully placed boot.

If all this makes me sound bitter as to losing the 36 goals that Mr. Kessel provided last year then I’ve given the wrong impression, I’m absolutely thrilled with this deal as it stands.

The Bruins didn’t have to take any salary back in return, didn’t end up having to adopt any of Toronto’s marginal young ‘talent’ (who would have ended up in Providence anyway) and will receive TWO first round draft picks (2010 and 2011) and a second round pick (2010) for an organization that already has one of the top scouting legions in the league.

Should the Bruins decide to take a run at the number one overall pick in the next draft, they have the package to possibly put it all together to make it happen, and I don’t mean by tanking the season (a la Pittsburgh or Ottawa).

The goals provided by Phil the Thrill will be ably filled in for by a year older and stroger Blake Wheeler, a now healthy Marco Sturm, an even more terrifying Milan Lucic, a still very savvy Mark Recchi and a player that has learned his role better (along with proving that he can, in fact play two-way hockey) in Michael Ryder.

So on Saturday, September 19, 2009 we have three party’s who all have come away happy, everyone getting what they wanted.

Me included.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Ode to Fred and Derek

As Bruins fans, much like our chosen team, we both tend to focus (historically) a bit more on the Battles than the overall War.

Many of us have gotten used to, at one time or another, a shortage of something for followers of the Spoked-B. Be it a second line, a substantial Left Wing, goaltending, coaching, defense past Bourque, there was always something that had us still rooting while mentally overcoming some pre-destined disadvantage.

Unfortunately for this fan, the broadcast crew since Fred Cusik and Derek Sanderson has been lacking in one form or another.

For those who didn’t remember these times, this isn’t really for you. Go back to Pokemon, texting, or watching “Saw” movies, this is for the more (ahem) experienced fans.

Fred and Derek, as they came to be known (convenient considering that was their actual names) breathed life into teams that couldn’t cut it and teams that came oh-so-close. Short explanation: They saw some shit.

Fred Cusik was the consummate broadcast professional…almost.

Fred was silky smooth, interjected enthusiasm at just the point in the action, and knew how to fan excitement.

But he had one element that elevated him from super-polished pro to a true Bruins Broadcaster.

He had just the right touch of sarcasm. Fred didn’t take many shots, but the ones he took were made with snipers accuracy, especially if the target was Derek Sanderson.

It was good to have a professional and balanced opponent for Derek to have as well, a lesser play by play man would be eaten alive by “the Turk”.

When the play described a good play-by-play description or the game just got boring, that’s when Derek could be counted on to ride to the rescue. His quips were frequently the stuff of legend.

Did the goalie give up 5 goals on 10 shot’s?

“He’s got sunburn on the back of the neck from the red-light”

Did the goalie get hit while out of the crease?

“If he leaves the crease he’s fair game…this isn’t tennis”

Did a Bruins player get beat so bad that he was removed from the ice with a spatula?

“I think he got a few good ones in there…”

Was a “soft” player trying to pick a fight and draw a penalty?

“I don’t know who he thinks he’s fooling…”

Fred was always there to real Derek in, and on the occasion the game wasn’t ‘popping’, set him lose.

It never took more than a “what do you think about that, Derek?” to introduce a hilarious monologue on just that event that was guaranteed to offend nearly everyone equally.

It was genius.

Fred and Derek had chemistry, when the game was great they knew when to step back (except for the well timed golden tones of Fred’s) and when the game was a dud, they made some of it fun (does anyone remember the famous ‘Derek’s dog ringing the doorbell sketch’?)

As Bruins fans we had great broadcasters for decades, we were comfortably, we were satisfied, we were happy.

We were about to pay for those sins.

You can’t really fault Dale Arnold and Gord Kluzak, sure they had less chemistry than a raided meth lab but they were following the wrong two guys.

You don’t follow Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin with Regis and Kathy Lee, it just doesn’t work…you have to ease into that transition. Like over several hundred years.

The Arnold and Kluzak cavalcade of droll was replaced by the easily excitable Jack Edwards and the somnambulistic Andy Brickley.

Now don’t get me wrong, Edwards does inject some life in to the game he calls, but he has a tendency to act like a hyperactive ten year old that got into the Mountain Dew a little heavy at somewhat inappropriate times, like…anytime the Bruins have a puck.

“Brick” also has his good points, like the fact that he can call plays that happened in a 1/10 of a second accurately, unfortunately he adds all the life to the broadcast that one would expect from a long time and well traveled journeyman player, which is unfortunately not much.

So there we are Bruins fans, if you think we have it rough just listen to a Florida Panthers game some time, where they actually refer to the players by numbers. Apparently someone injured themselves at one point on some tongue-twister name like ‘Vokoun’ or ‘McCabe’. I guess I’m saying we could have it a lot worse.

But it still doesn’t ease the pain that we will never hear the great tandem of Cusick and Sanderson again, except on the NESN ‘classic’ re-broadcast games.

That reminds me, I have to stock up on VHS tapes.

Fred, Rest in Peace my man, you’ve earned it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tha Battle of the Gardens

The “New” Garden (Gahdin: in Boston speak) has finally adopted a name that has a link to its past. It only took 14 years and a series of Banks that folded quicker than the San Jose Sharks come playoff time, but it has now adopted a name that even the most beer-soaked fan can finally remember; The New Garden.

Name wise, it’s not exactly a paragon of imagination or creativity, but at least it’s not something fruity like “the Greater Boston Sports and Exhibition Pavilion”.

But the question remains for those who can’t figure out why cars ever got rid of vent windows: how does the New Garden stack up against the “Old” Garden.

Truth is, it doesn’t stack “up”, seeing as the new one was built next to the old one as building it on top would have strained the tensile strength of rats, WW1 era pot metal, bricks of Aztec origin and various sports announcers coagulated cigar smoke. But I digress…

As far as comparisons go, I’ve decided on some informal statistics listings, and by informal statistics, I mean:

a) They aren’t listed or counted by any known means
b) I made them up.

So lets get on with the vital statistics and comparisons...

1) Average amount of time it takes to acquire a beer between periods:
New Garden- 7.4 minutes
Old Garden- 7.4 days

2) Average amount of distance traveled to said beer vendor:
New Garden- 64 steps
Old Garden- 7,356 steps

3) Chances of finding a Strawberry Daiquiri or frozen Mudslide cocktail:
New Garden- 100%
Old Garden- 0%

4) Chances of getting beaten up for asking for a Strawberry Daiquiri or frozen Mudslide cocktail:
New Garden- 0%
Old Garden- 100%

5) Chances you’ll get stuck in hearing range of a self-absorbed twit on a cell phone during the game:
New Garden- 105%
Old Garden- .0214 %

6) Chances you will walk away from a urinal with pee on the top of your shoe:
New Garden- 10%
Old Garden- 35%

7) Chances you will actually find a bathroom:
New Garden- 85%
Old Garden- 12%

8) Chances that something toxic will fall from the ceiling into your beer
New Garden- 2%
Old Garden- 60%

9) Chances that you will be wedged next a very large person who hasn’t bathed since Independence Day:
New Garden- 3%
Old Garden- 25%

10) Chances that you will be in a seat with a stunning view of a part of the building superstructure, directly in the line of sight:
New Garden- 0%
Old Garden- 15%

11) Chances you will be stuck behind some over-eager mouseketeer who keeps a giant foam finger raised in front of your face:
New Garden- 35%
Old Garden- 0%

12) Chances you will suffer temporary hearing loss during a Bruins come-from-behind go ahead goal:
New Garden- 1%
Old Garden- 40%

13) Chances you will be surrounded by a crowd that knows when to cheer without the aid of a “jumbotron” or other tacky and foolish means:
New Garden- 0%
Old Garden- 100%

14) Chances of having to suffer through the 12,372nd listening of “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring over a PA system:
New Garden- 100%
Old Garden- 0%

As you may have noticed, each venue has (or had) a somewhat different appeal. The “New” Garden is a relatively state of the art sporting facility, offering sports enjoyment to a newer and pickier crowd, one that expects entertainment, comfort and convenience.

The “Old” Garden offered few of these same items or amenities, it made you suffer a bit to enjoy your favorite team. You left the Garden either with a clear memory of a great game or with lower back pain, ringing ears and a possible bronchial infection.

The difference is like comparing a new performance car to a vintage muscle car. The new car is as fast or faster, offers more comfort, better mileage, and an up to date look, while the muscle car offered terrible ergonomics, noise, pollution, no handling or braking, but when you endure a 500 mile trip in either vehicle only one offers you a sense of significant accomplishment.

The Old Garden was that muscle-car, the new Garden, while very nice, just isn’t the same.

Of course a person would go insane trying to drive a muscle car day in, day out. The moral of the story is, essentially, you can’t go back…no matter how much you want to.

And unfortunately, that’s probably a good thing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

2010 Winter Classic

Boston’s New Years gift, the Winter Classic game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, should prove to be a watershed moment for both Boston and Philadelphia hockey fans and possible future hockey fans.

Why? ‘Cause its in Fenway, in Bahstin. We can freeze, drink and get those wonderfully deadly Peppers and Sausage (Peppah’s ‘n Sahssage to us locals) gut-bombs in front of the game.

Shh, Don’t tell the Philly fans about our secret weapon, alternative-energy methane cleverly disguised as junk food. When they run to the can we can grab their seats.

Ask around town amongst the Bruins fans about the Boston Vs. Philadelphia Winter Classic game and changed are, you will likely hear that it should be “Wicked Pissah” (that means exciting/good)

Ask Montreal fans about the same game and they will probably say “The Flyers? They should be playing the Canadien’s, the Bruins don’t have a rivalry with the Flyers.”

Get over yourselves.

After last season it’s not like the Bruins have much of a rivalry with the very punchable Hab’s either. Go play with the Leafs.

For all those prospective “24 cups” ranter’s that are almost guaranteed to show up whenever something like this is written, time’s change guys, Hudson once ruled NASCAR and the Dodgers were once in Brooklyn, move on.

This Winter Classic is a big deal for the NHL as it will represent two teams that have learned the lessons of the hockey lockout better than most, and are subsequently similar teams, both in present execution and history.

Both teams had a dreadful season in recent memory, keeping fans away in droves and forcing substantial changes.

Both teams learned the post-lockout lessons well, i.e. draft well and protect your youth assets.

Both teams have a history of beating the cheese-whiz out of other teams, and when they fight each other it’s a sight for the ages.

Both teams were run by guys who had far exceeded there “best if used by” date by more than a decade, and were replaced by much smarter guys.

So in the spirit of peace and brotherly love for those brave Philadelphia fans who will descend on our beloved Fenway, I offer some friendly and helpful advice:

1) Parking: don’t hyperventilate when the guy in the booth tells you what it will cost and by all means, be nice. Just pay the money and smile or you’ll end up parked between two leftover concrete dividers from the Big Dig or come back to find a Hummer parked on top of your Civic.

2) By two of the Peppers and Sausage gut bombs, roll up your sleeves and don’t be afraid to lick the grease off you elbows. You’ll feel weird at first until you notice everyone around you is looking like they’re limbering up for floor gymnastics. Welcome aboard.

3) Philly fans fight and drink, Boston fans drink and fight: you should fit right in but leave your Patriots bias at home; it can get you killed here.

4) Don’t bring up Patrice Bergeron, don’t even say the name, just…don’t. We’re trying to get over it but it’s best not to tempt the fates.

And there you have it, Revo’s tips for the winter classic. I don’t actually live in Boston and it’s doubtful I will be attending as I have a refrigerator with beer, a big-ass TV, parking and heat, but I hope to see a loyal turn out while I’m warm, semi-intoxicated, and sitting on a couch.

And to our Little Brothers (the Flyers) and their equally disturbed fans (i.e. just like Bruins fans), just follow my simple etiquette rules and everything will work out fine. You might turn out to like Boston. Grab some seafood, park and walk everywhere and you might find a second home, then we can both get back to what’s more important: ranking on Pittsburgh and Montreal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Growth by shrinkage

As we here are probably all aware, business can be ruthless. Successful business, anyway.
Hey, we've probably seen some ruthless moves and assessments here, and we do this for free.
The NHL, like it or not, is still a business at heart, a cold, black, inky heart, just like the big boys.
They have employees in Human Resources, Sales and Marketing, Quality Control, and Production.

They have one overriding objective: To get more profits from customers and to expand their market position.

Just like every other business they have to realize that at some point you have to batten down the hatches, stockpile what you need, get rid of excess, and ride out the storm. It's not fun: feelings get hurt, lives are affected, and security feels to be non-existent.
That's why, generally, only the strong and smart survive.

Surviving is great, but the truly visionary develop a plan that would put them ahead of the curve when the storm finally lifts. While a gamble, this is what can create greatness.

The storm appears to have only just started, so survival is objective number one. The dead have very limited options.

Objective number two is to see how to swing survival to one's advantage. If you're going to survive a situation, try to end up stronger than your competitor, if they survive.
The NHL, if it plays the chess-game correctly, has an opportunity to have a power and domination not seen in its entire history within the next five years.

You may want to take a moment to think about that sentence and consider the possibilities, or to swallow that drink before you scatter remnants of it all over your keyboard. Those with dry sinuses please read on.

In it's primary marketing target area (the United States); the NHL has never been higher than number four on the professional sports landscape. It put up a good show and fight for a while, but has slowly been losing ground over the last 20-30 years as NASCAR, Golf, Tennis, and (ahem) Poker have all had tried to move up the food chain with varying success at staying there.
In its secondary marketing target area (Canada), the NHL has a product that dominates the sporting landscape. Much as baseball is perceived in America, Hockey is bolstered by History, Tradition and Mythology. It is a revered and romanticized entity. The church is already filled to overflowing (so to speak): the sales pitch is not needed.

But the U.S. is a fickle and elusive beast. So much size, population, and ethnic variation make its reactions far less predictable, but the rewards are immense. The money pouring into Baseball and Football in this country, while bound to be reduced over the next few years, would still boggle the mortal mind with astronomical figures. Everything below second most popular may well be up for grabs soon. That's the brass ring that the NHL needs to target, the number three position.

...then sink its hooks in deep enough to stay there.
The NHL has several ingredients for success percolating along nicely:

1) Youth hockey in the U.S. is on the rise. The popularity is slipping down the age brackets at the amateur ranks.

2) Say what you will about the southernmost franchises, they have helped to raise “awareness” of the sport, where none previously existed.

3) Carbon fiber, advanced electronics and lightweight materials make hockey one of the more technologically savvy sports products (excluding F1).

4) Filmed right, hockey can pick up dramatic and sensationalistic attributes not available in other sports.

So how does this make Hockey more of a saleable product, and why does it need a five year plan to reach its ultimate success?

More quality product will be available:
The rise of interest in hockey, at a younger age, will increase the available amount of talent that is coming to draft age. Couple this with the inevitable dissolution of the KHL (nice try guys, but no cigar) and hockey may no longer look quite so…diluted…as it has for the past few decades.

Awareness of product in new areas:
Hockey is perceived as, for the most part, a Caucasian dominated sport. No one race has a lock on all talent, so consider all the untapped ability and talent out there that is just waiting to be nurtured and cultivated.

America is technology obsessed: everyone knows it and everyone caters to it. Hockey is a natural as it could readily accept all sorts of gadgets and gadgets sell.

Camera presence:
Filmed capably, hockey has a bit of everything: Racing speed, screaming crowds, obscene chatter, and John Woo levels of violence.

F*#! art, baby…lets dance.

Hockey has a certain “traditional” filming technique, pick up a few out of work rock video guys to inject some new blood into the filming crew and see how interesting the results are.

Put all these factors together and Hockey could dominate the landscape, accommodating and evolving with they future while keeping its past identity. The best of both worlds.
So what’s the catch?

The catch is that thing have to get worse before they can get better. A lot worse.
…and by worse, I mean contraction. When the market tanks and the purse isn’t big enough, that means lay offs and sacrifices.

The NHL has to sacrifice some parts to keep the rest of the body healthy. It cannot sustain maintaining franchises in area that are not capable by either population, available disposable income or marketing interest, of supporting their own survival. It’s time to cull the herd.
Who to cull? That’s a possible avenue for future discussion, and I’ve expressed enough conjecture and theory for one article.

But consider, for a moment, the possibilities. Younger fans probably have little recollection of when Hockey was a viable force in the U.S. of A: but older fans remember a time where most hockey players would be recognized on the street, when a hockey game could be found on a major network, when local sports radio actually discussed hockey on a regular basis.
Believe me kids, these things once existed.

…and could again.