Saturday, August 30, 2008

The College Life

Here I am, all moved in to my cozy new dorm room. Classes don't start until the 3rd, so I'm just going to party until then, It'll be a fun couple of days. My dorm room is actually bigger than my room at home, but that's because my room was 10x10 and I shared it with my brother. So far, so good, although I am sacrificing some things, I drink my tea without milk. But yeah, life in an all- guys dorm: going to be amazing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Pickup Flying Under Everyone’s Radar

A lot of people are talking about pickups like Marian Hossa in Detroit , Naslund in New York, and rookie stars like Stamkos, Doughty, and Schenn, for good reason of course.

Me, I’m ranting and raving about draftees like Jake Gardiner, Aaron Ness, and Joe Gleason (for good reason, just wait a few years.)

The biggest pickup, for the future, of course, might be the Blues signing goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux out of the University of North Dakota.

Lamoureux played three years with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars, averaging a .917 save percentage before moving on to the U of North Dakota where he was a full- time starter his junior and senior years, amassing ten shutouts and a .917 save percentage also.

The two knocks against Lamoureux are: Number one, he’s liable under pressure. I saw him play in the WCHA frozen four for UND, and he let in 6 goals versus Boston College. In the NHL spotlight, although in a small market like St. Louis, how he performs is anyone’s guess.

The other knock on Lamoureux is that he’s 5’8”. The only goalies under 5’ that have made it, that I remember anyways, are Chris Osgood, Manny Legace and Martin Gerber, and all three of those goalies have had trouble holding starting roles.

All told, one of the biggest things Lamoureux has going for him is his work ethic. He realizes his size holds him back to an extent, so he works on some other asset of his game. He’s got an amazing glove hand, one of the best I’ve ever seen, which kind of makes up for his lack of size.

Lamoureux is also in the Blues organization with former UND teammate and Hobey Baker winner TJ Oshie. Oshie should make the NHL team out of training camp, while Lamoureux will most likely get shipped out to the AHL or ECHL. Who knows though, the thought of someday playing with a former teammate might be just the confidence boost Lamoureux needs.

Wild Team Preview Part 1 of 4- Prospect Camp

Yesterday, the Wild announced their roster for their prospect camp, along with the announcement that the Wild will participate in the NHL’s prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.

The prospect tournament includes ten draft picks, and those attending are:

Player- League


Cody Almond- WHL

Cal Clutterbuck- AHL

Chris Culligan- QMJHL

Colton Gillies- WHL

Ryan Graham- QMJHL

Justin Hodgman- OHL

Matt Kassian- ECHL

Kevin King- WHL

Tomas Knotek- QMJHL

Morten Madsen- AHL

Carson McMillan- WHL

Jordan Mistelbacher- WHL

Scott Wasden- WHL


Tyler Cuma- OHL

Eric Doyle- WHL

Justin Falk- WHL

Alexandre Neron- QMJHL

Maxim Noreau- AHL

Frederic St. Denis- CIS

Marco Scandella- QMJHL

Tyler Schmidt- WHL


Anton Khudobin- AHL

Cody St. Jacques- OHL

Steven Stanford- WHL

Let me first say the obvious in that most of these kids won’t make the team. However, I see a few of them making it out of camp or at least in the foreseeable future.

I could see Colton Gillies making the club out of camp. Gillies had 24 goals and 47 points in 58 AHL games, which could really help out on the second or third line where scoring will be a big problem.

I think Cal Cluterbuck might also be worth a look towards the end of the season. He has put up decent numbers at the AHL level, although he might benefit from another season in the AHL; only time will tell.

Also, don’t sleep on Cody Almond. He played in the WHL last year and put up great numbers. He’s the Wild’s fifth round pick, and a long shot to make the team, but I think you could see him in a Wild uniform in the coming years.

Keep an eye on goaltender Anton Khudobin from Houston. He only played 12 games last year, posting good numbers, but I’d really like to see more games played out of him. Moreover, I don’t think the Wild can fit him in. Unless the Wild decide to carry three goalies which is highly unlikely, the Wild have no place to play him.

The Wild have a very young goaltending corps in Backstrom and Harding, so if Khudobin pans out in the near future, expect the Wild to use him as a trade chip.

Republican VP Speculation Turns on Alaska Govenrnor

With the hoopla of the Democratic National Convention over and done with, its time to start second- guessing politicians (very different than what already happens, right?). The Republicans, yet to name a VP nominee, are rumored to be looking at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I'm sure Palin would fit the bill well, but this has turned in to one big publicity stunt. No disrespect, but it seems like the Republicans are trying to match the Democrats stride stride- for- stride and blow- by- blow right now. Its kind of like, "well, you've got an African- American candidate, well then, we'll get a woman candodate." Like you've got a minority, and we might as well get one too (I'm talking minority in a political sence, anyways.) When it comes down to it, I dont care if we have a purple, blue, yellow, whatever color or gender president, as long as they get the job done.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wild to have mascot?

Blah. I hate mascots. let me say that up front. Mascots, good for little kids, but I just don't see the point in having one. I don't know if the Ducks still have one, but I remember seeing a game in Anaheim with the Ducks' mascot "Wild Wing" swinging from the rafters. I was like, "what? Is this still a hockey game?" I just think they are pointless, and don't see a reason why the Wild would waste all the PR money to create one. Moreover, our team name is the "Wild," how do you create a catchy mascot name from that?

That said, the Wild will name their new mascot October 8th.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NHL- Northwest Division Preview

With the 2008- 2009 NHL season drawing closer, I figured I would jump on the bandwagon and do a division prediction. I’m going to do a Wild team prediction as well, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Now, I’ve seen a bunch of season predictions, most namely from The Hockey News, and they barely have anything in common.

That said, here are my predictions for how the Northwest division will shake out this year:

1-Edmonton Oilers

2- Calgary Flames

3-Colorado Avalanche

4- Minnesota Wild

5- Vancouver Canucks

Before you start bashing me (and you know you will), let me defend my predictions, or at least try to.

1- Edmonton Oilers-

They are the pinnacle of the term of solid. I mean the Oil are solid from the first line all the way through the fourth. You really can’t find a glaring hole on this team, and you have Potulny, Strudwick, and Schremp waiting in the wings. You could argue that they might have problems in goal, with Garon and Roloson, but I think they’ll be all right. They’re really well balanced- they kind of remind me of the ’03 Wild to an extent.

2- Calgary Flames-

The Flames are a one-line team, maybe two. I mean, Iginla’s still one of the best in the league, Bertuzzi’s fading, then guys like Langkow and Lombardi who are solid. And then there’s Andre Roy? Their defense is pretty solid, with Phaneuf headlining, as always. They could fill out two solid defensive pairings, but you’ve got to score goals to win games. Plus, they’ve got one untested backup, Curtis McElhinney.

3- Colorado Avalanche-

Too many questions surround the Avalanche this year. Their success hinges on Sakic and Forsberg—Sakic returning to the Avalanche, and both of them staying healthy. The question marks are even bigger in goal. Budaj is a solid backup, but just that, and Raycroft is a mystery. If they can get the Raycroft that played in Boston and not the one that played in Toronto, then the Avs will be way better off. If everything breaks right for Colorado, this could be a breakout year for them. I just don’t see it happening though, they’re too old.

4- Minnesota Wild-

The Wild are my team, and I just don’t get it; the moves they made make no sense to me. The ownership took a mediocre team and made it worse. Yes, they have an OK team on paper, but they’re one major injury away from… I won’t go into the Wild situation too much, keep your eyes peeled for my Wild preview.

5- Vancouver Canucks-

I’ve heard people calling for a rebuilding year in Vancouver, but not so much. Yes, I picked them last, but that doesn’t count for much; the Canucks are still going to be competitive this year. The Canucks still have the Sedins (at least this year), a solid defensive corps, and anyone who has Luongo is always competitive.

Monday, August 25, 2008

No NHL Olympians after ’10?

It appears the NHL’s history in the Olympics is in jeopardy after all. According to a CBC article, Gary Bettman is rethinking its policy of a midseason Olympic break.

It’s a “strain on all the players,” according to Bettman, which makes sense. That might have been the case with Free Agent center Peter Forsberg, who has played for four NHL teams, as well as three Olympics, six World Championships, and two World Cups of Hockey. Along with 706 NHL Games, 59 international games, it does a number on you, makes you more susceptible to injury.

If NHL players don’t go starting with he 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, I’m sure the popularity of Olympic Hockey wouldn’t drop off the map, or drop off at all. I’m sure this would spell the end for the World Junior Championships, and extend Canada’s dominance.

In the last ten Olympics, six different countries have won the gold medal: The Soviet Union, United States, Unified team, (a collection of Soviet Republics), Sweden, Czech Republic, and Canada.

Conversely, over the same ten-year span, only four different teams have won gold in the WJC: Russia, Czech Republic, The United States, and Canada. Canada is currently on a winning streak that spans a total of four years.

The NHL already has world tournaments in place to showcase NHL talent in the global realm, so I think it would be a plus if the IOC brought back the pre 1994 Olympics for college and junior hockey players to show their talent. It might put Team USA at a disadvantage, but that’s okay with me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Wild Want More Money Out Of Us

Like most NHL Clubs, make that most major sports clubs, the Minnesota Wild have introduced “premium pricing” for some of their home games, 12 to be exact.

Premium pricing” is just a way to sugar- coat saying, “We’re going to charge you more,” as much as $20 more. According to sportswriter Michael Russo’s blog, “Single-game ticket prices will range from $24.00 to $98.00 and Premium game ticket prices will range from $29.00 to $118.00 (Facility fee and Ticketmaster charges not included).”

Why all this? The Minnesota Wild organization is already the most profitable in the NHL, and I’m no financial mind, but I know the Wild walk a fine line here.

The Wild play a very high stakes poker game, with their fans’ money. Its easy economics, really. Drive ticket prices up, and therefore less people who are able to afford to go.

I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve been to about 20 Wild games last year, and I sit in $80 club level seats most of the time. (I don’t pay that, my dad gets them through his job.) If I had paid for all those, that’s $1600 just for me. Say, tickets to “premium games” are $820, and 12 games are “premium,” that’s $9,840 for just those twelve games.

As you see in my example, $9,840 is a chunk of change. If the “New NHL” is all about branching out to the “casual fan,” you can’t tell me the majority of “casual” fans can afford that.

Heck, the majority of diehard hockey fans aren’t able to afford to see games at those prices.

Team USA Softball Loss a Good Thing For Olympic Softball?

Believe it or not, Team USA’s championship game loss to Japan might be a good thing for Softball’s future in the Olympics. Since softball’s induction to the Olympics in 1996, the U.S. has won gold in Atlanta ’96, Sidney ’00, and Athens ’02. The reason Softball has been voted out of the Olympics is because of Team USA’s dominance. For example, in Athens, Team USA outscored their opponents 51-1, and they had a combined Olympic record of 24-4 heading in to the Beijing Games. Softball and baseball, which are both being removed from the Olympics, are polar opposites. USA baseball is being blasted for not sending their best players, while Cuba brings in their best as well as Japan sending the Japanese Major- Leaguers. Meanwhile, it can be said that Team USA brings their absolute strongest team year after year. While the USA doesn’t have a professional softball league, the USA College Softball program is regarded as the best in the world. What are we to make of one loss? It may be a fluke, although it could be construed as Team USA’s international dominance faltering.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Minnesota Wild All- Time Team

I saw this was an “open mic” prompt on Bleacher Report a while ago, and it got me to thinking. Apparently, I didn’t think hard enough or long enough on it, because I forgot about it.

Well, here it is again, I finally got around to it. I’m only going two lines deep, two defensive parings, and two goalies. I chose those numbers because with only seven years under their collective belts, the Wild’s talent pool just isn’t that deep. So, with out any further ado, here it is:

Gaborik- Walz- Brunette

Parrish -Hendrickson- Vorros

Mitchell- Burns

Bombidir- Nummelin



Before you start yelling at me, let me back up my selections. My criterion for selecting players was team chemistry. I was looking for the “All Heart Team” so to speak, and I did that because most all Wild teams aren’t put together on skill at all. Here’s a player- by- player breakdown of why they are on the “All Heart Team:”

LW- Marian Gaborik: self-explanatory, he’s been the heart and soul of this team since conception in 2000. The Wild’s first pick in the expansion draft, and was he ever worth it.

LW- Mark Parrish: Okay, so he’s a right wing, but I had to get him on the team somehow. He might not be the best scorer ever (he has a nose for the net though), but I’m not basing on talent like I said. He leads by example, and is a lot like Wes Walz

C- Wes Walz: yes, on talent alone, he isn’t a first line center. In the words of the late great Herb Brooks “we don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” I read an article in The Hockey News about a year ago, and they said “Walz will have 50 goals this year; score 20 and prevent 30.” He’s a great two- way forward, him and Parrish.

C- Darby Hendrickson: This is kind of a hat- tip to him. He was a good, not great player, yet will forever go down in Wild history. Hailing from Richfield, Minnesota, he was already a fan favorite. He also scored the first regular season goal in Wild history, in 2000 against the Philadelphia Flyers. He had to get on this team.

RW- Andrew Brunette: A hard nosed, down and dirty player who is a great playmaker. He had great chemistry with Gaborik, not to mention scoring one of the most important goals in wild lore, against the Avs in the 2003 playoffs, game seven. Not to mention, he pretty much destroyed the Wild, playing for those same Avalanche last season.

RW- Aaron Vorros: He plays the game with some kind of energy. If you’re looking for an “energy shift,” he’s your man. My mom calls him a psycho, but I like him. He’s always in the middle of everything, banging the bodies and creating scoring chances; a real catalyst.

D- Willie Mitchell: Probably the best defenseman the Wild have ever had, next to Burns. I still remember in the ’03 playoffs when he played a whole series with a broken jaw, I thought he was the coolest guy ever. He isn’t afraid to muck and grind in the corners ether.

D- Brent Burns: He hits, he scores goals, he makes plays; he’s pretty much superman. One of the NHL’s best young defenseman.

D- Brad Bombidir: He was called “the bomber,” and for good reason. He wasn’t that kind of defenseman who you’d remember for his defensive ability (which in Lemaire’s mind is a one way ticket out of town.) Nonetheless, he had a booming slapshot from the point.

D- Petteri Nummelin: Most people don’t like him, I do. I really think he’s a great skater and a good playmaker, not to mention a versatile asset. He played wing on the powerplay last year, and really impressed me. Not everybody, but hey

G- Manny Fernandez: Really solid, until he signed his new contract the year before we got rid of him. I know he’s been plagued by injuries, but the first couple seasons we had had him, there was no one better

G- Josh Harding: He can be a starter in this league, no doubt. We saw flashes of it last year when Backstrom played badly. He can really step up his game when he wants to, this kid’s a great young talent.

Honorable Mentions:

Derek Boogaard: Self- explanatory as well, he’s always ready to stick up for his teammates.

P-M Bouchard: Electric player to watch, he has amazing speed. He also resurrected the Savardian Spin- O- Rama.

Jim Dowd: We couldn’t forget him and his trademark “biker shorts” look, now could we?

Matt Johnson: Pre- Derek Boogaard tough guy built in the same mold

Sergei Krivokrasov: Nothing special, I love his last name though

Richard Park: One of my favorite Wild players, and who could forget his game six goal against the Avalanche in ’03?

Cliff Ronning: Also one of my very favorites. A tireless worker and a great playmaker

And last but certainly not least, Sergi Zholtok: A great player in so many assets of the game. RIP.

So there it is. Agree? Disagree? Don’t hesitate to chime in.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

IOC Launching Investigation Into Chinese Gymnastics Team

According to a Yahoo! Sports blog, the IOC is going to open an official investigation on Chinese gymnast He Kexin’s age. This is also confirmed in an article on Times Online. This is a really long time coming, and shouldn’t surprise anybody that He is underage. This comes after a report that He is listed in Chinese documents as being of age 14.

I understand the IOC doesn’t want to be the one ruining China’s “coming out party,” but the party was already ruined with the ruthless speculation that came with the Chinese women’s gymnastics team’s performance.

Even if the Chinese women are confirmed to be underage (and it’s all been confirmed already), I don’t know what action the IOC can take. I’m sure they can wag their finger at China, but not much more. Since the Chinese government has access to everything, even private documents (including birth certificates), I’m not sure how much real difference it will make should the gymnasts be underage.

An international spectacle, a national embarrassment, yes. China might even get stripped of its women’s gymnastics medals, but who knows what the future will hold for the Chinese young (make that very young) women.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

‎Olympic Baseball 11th inning rule

That has to be the dumbest rule ever put into play. Here's what the rule is: starting in the 11th, teams start with runners on 1st and 2nd, and the next batter in the lineup bats. For example. Team USA last night had the 8th batter in the lineup at second, 9th at first, and the leadoff man at the plate. How hard is that? Put down a good sacrifice bunt (your leadoff guy is usually your best bunter), and now you have guys on second and third, with one out. A hit scores one, extra base hit scores two, a sac fly sores one also. That seems like a pretty easy way to win a ball game.

It reminds me of the College Football overtimes; Really high scoring, but also terribly boring to watch.

The Marian Gaborik Soap Opera

In our last episode, we learned Wild GM Doug Risebrough and assistant GM Tom Lynn flew to Slovakia in order to talk contract with the star left-winger. Marian Gaborik’s agent, Ron Salcer, said that the Wild impressed Gaborik, in an article by The Star Tribune. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for how they handled that," says Salcer about the four-hour dinner. It also has come out that there were rumors that Gaborik might sign with Russian league team Spartak, although that has been fiercely downplayed and denied. While Salcer says his client was impressed with the meeting, whether he was impressed enough to resign is still a mystery. Risebrough says he’s open to negotiate with Gaborik during the season; allthough wheather that will be a distraction to the team is open for discussion. In a story, Risebrough reveals that the Wild’s next move will come in the form of a proposal, which shouldn’t surprise anybody.

Gaborik is set to make 7.5 million this year, and the Wild are expected to offer him 8.5 million, but he could potentially get a lot more than that on a weak Free Agent market next year. Yes, Cammalleri, Afinogenov, Cole, Zetterberg, Connolly, Zherdev, Tanguay, Gaborik, Sykora, Sullivan, The Sedins, Niedermayer, McDonald, Gionta, Franzen, Comrie, etc. Are on the potential FA market has some big names on it, but expect half to three- fourths of those guys to get re-signed. If Gaborik doesn’t re- up with the Wild, I could easily see him going over ten million for a one year tenure.

In my opinion, if Gaborik won’t re- sign, the Wild front office won’t pony- up with enough cash, or even if his price tag doesn’t come down, the Wild should look elsewhere. Gaborik has a history of injuries, and, to be honest, Lemaire’s system doesn’t play to Gabby’s strengths at all. I think the Wild would be better off in the long run if the Wild were to trade him around the trade deadline, and here’s why: at the deadline, Gaborik’s price comes down, so he’ll look better to other teams, which will put his trade value at a premium. We then shop him around to a couple teams, maybe looking for three or four good young players or prospects that project well and that fit Jacques’ system better. That way, we could have what we really need, and let some other team worry about his contract.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lopez Lomong: Lost Boy Finds Home

    Track star and U.S. flag bearer Lopez Lomong has a story to tell, and inspiring one at that. Lomong was born in Southern Sudan in the midst of the Second Sudanese Civil War. At age six, Lomong was abducted while attending mass and pronounced dead by his family weeks later. Lomong, not dead but almost, escaped captivity and returned to his village. Lopez was one of the storied "Lost Boys" of Sudan, hiding during the days and wandering during nights. Lopez finally found himself in a refugee camp in Kenya, before Catholic Charities brought him to the US.

    Lomong was forced into being a Child Soldier, which UN deemed a War Crime, yet he ran from his captors. In an interview with ESPN, he said, ""We could hear the soldiers talking and laughing, lighting cigarettes," he said. "The more they talked, the more we realized we could get out. We went through a hole in the fence and started running."" Lopez (which isn't his given name, by the way) is still running, although this time it isn't from the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

    Lomong believes in the American Dream, and in a new start in a new country. "I came all the way here, so I have to run," he says "This is a peaceful country, a land of opportunity, so I believe my hard work will pay off one day. If I think like that, I run a little bit faster." Lopez has his new start, and his hard work is paying off. One year after becoming a naturalized US citizen, Lomong qualified for this year's Olympics in Beijing.

    During the procession of the Olympic Flame into Beijing, there were many protests over the genocide in Darfur and Sudan. The protests were put down violently by the Chinese Government, although Lomong himself is a glaring reminder of the unthinkable violence and turmoil in Sudan. China's Communist Government supports the Government of Sudan, a fact that must be weighing constantly on Lomong's conscious. In his interview with ESPN, he voices this concern: "I'll say it's not a good thing for China to sponsor the government of Sudan and kill innocent people."

    According to the interview, "The slaughter has been carried out by the Janjaweed horseback militia, a band of Arab nomads recruited and financed by the Khartoum government, which receives cash, arms and political protection from China." Lomong could be angry, he could be vengeful towards China because of all they've done to his homeland. Through all this commotion, Lopez has kept a cool head. Every month, he sends $200 over to his family in Sudan. Consequently, both him and his family thought each other were dead.

    What can we learn from Lopez Lomong's story? His is a story of tremendous courage, maturity, and determination. I was taught, when writing articles, to keep your opinion out of it; though I think I'm going to break my own rules here. What's happening in Darfur is wrong, and it takes remarkable courage to speak out in the face of adversity like Lomong continues to do. Kidnapped at the age of six, Lomong had to grow up fast. Yes, we can all learn something from the story of Lopez Lomong-not only a word class athlete, but a world class individual as well.


Monday, August 18, 2008

If you were the commissioner for one day, what is the one rule you would absolutely have to change?

So, I'm doing a debate on a sports forum, and that was my question. I wrote a piece on it, thought it wad pretty good, and here it is:


The one rule I would change would be the two minute penalty for flipping the puck over the glass in your defensive zone, no question. The Rule was put in place with the new CBA after the lockout year. We all knew the plan; open up the game, create and call more penalties in order to increase scoring. So, this stupid rule was born. I'll tell you why it was created, it was created so that teams on the penalty kill couldn't flip the puck over the glass in they're defensive zone if they were pressured. I'm all for the penalty there, killing the flow if play shouldn't be allowed. The problem is when its called, not how its called. To many times I've seen a defenseman or goalie try to play the pass up the glass to a forward, only for the puck to sail on them and go over the glass. There you go, that team's shorthanded, other guys score-that stuff decides games. What will it take for the NHL to abolish this stupid rule?

I can just see it: Eastern Conference final, game seven, Montreal- Pittsburgh. Second overtime and the game's tied at two, emotions are running high, but skill and finesse dominate both sides. This is the game the NHL wants fans to see-showcasing Sidney Crosby's diving ability-er, uh, I mean-skill. Koivu gains the line, dumps the puck, and the Habs go off for a change. Fleury skates behind his net to play the puck, aiming for a long breakout pass off the wall to catch Montreal in the change. Instead, the puck climbs the glass, hits a seam, and flies into the crowd. Montreal goes on the powerplay, and that's all they need. Koivu to Komisarek to Andrei Kostitsyn who puts it away.

Is that the way you want a game like that decided, on a call like that? Hardly storybook.

Thirdly, the whole thing is counterintuitive. Since you were playing Mite hockey, coaches were telling you to not pass it up the middle. Well, all of a sudden, change all that. Don't pass it up the boards, off the boards, because you don't want to take an unnecessary penalty. All of a sudden, you might want to pass it up the middle after all.

The (Other) Great One

What can I say that hasn't already been said about Michael Phelps? The kid's a fish, and I say kid because he's only 23. London 2012 is almost a certainty for him, barring injury of course, Chicago 2016 is in his sights as well, which would put him at age 31. Not that I'm booking tickets already, but Phelps is amazing and has a lot left in the tank, apparently. Everyone knew Phelps was something special when he jumped in the pool for his first Olympic Games in 2000. The Baltimore Bullet set his first World Record in the 400 IM with a time of 4:08.26, capturing the Gold Medal. He went on to post two new World Records, three Olympic Records, two American Records, and leaving Athens with six Gold's. He had already come a long way since Sydney in 2000, where he finished 5th in the 200 butterfly. By now, everyone knows how he did in Beijing, eight Gold Medals along with seven World Records. Phelps' dominance extends far beyond the realm of Olympic Swimming. The 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007 Swimming World Championships also belonged to Phelps, as well as the 2002 and 2006 Pan Pacific Championships. In the World Championships, he finished first 16 times, second three times, setting 13 World Records and two American Records thus far in his World Championship career. In his two Pan Pacific Championships, Phelps finished first eight times, second three times, and also set four World Records.

With Phelps passing Mark Spitz's previous record of seven gold medals in dramatic fashion, many people wonder where Phelps' place in history will be. I must admit I'm a little biased being a swimmer myself, but I think history will be favorable to Phelps. Believe me, swimming nine days in a row is no easy feat—most days multiple times a day—and eight of the nine days being finals is just an incredible physical, and mental, feat. Phelps swam 1,500 meters in finals alone this Olympics, and upwards of two miles total, which really speaks to his physical strength and ability. Swimming, in my opinion, takes all the ability it does to say, play hockey. Swimming takes physical strength (believe it or not, water is heavy), incredible endurance, as well as remarkable mental toughness and determination. In that sense, swimming is every bit as much a sport as Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Football, or Hockey.

That said, I think Phelps has to be in the same sentence as Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and the greats of sport. What Michael Phelps did no one has done in the history of the sport. In fact, only one Olympian, Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, has more total medals than Phelps. In fact, a New York Times article cited that, if Michael Phelps was a country, he would rank fourth in gold medals, behind China, Team USA, and Germany, and 14h in total medals. He's been honored with awards too numerous to mention, but including USOC and USSA Athlete of the Year, four- time World Swimmer of the Year, as well as being a six- time American Swimmer of the Year. There are not many athletes that can say they were the best in their sport six times in a row.

I was watching Sports Center the other day, the morning after Phelps won his eighth Gold, and they were talking about it, and used all the clichés that sports media minds use while not really saying anything. They said it was a great feat, and good for the sport, but they also said something that really caught me off guard: they said "nobody's going to remember Phelps in 2o years." Come on, maybe in major sports circles, but if you actually pay attention, you'd for sure know who he is. Jesus, give the man some respect, he just did something most people couldn't even dream of doing. So much for being nonpartisan, ESPN; I think that quote reinforces the idea that they only care about Basketball and Football, and that's the sad reality. Everyone remembers what Mary Lou Retton did in 1984, and that was 24 years ago; I still have an autographed Wheaties box with the 1984 Team USA gymnastics team on it. Phelps may well end up being more popular then Retton, only time will tell.

So, something died in my golf bag....

I'm not kidding, it was nasty. I don't go golfing very often, this was my first time in maybe a month. So, I guess that's how whatever it is could've gotten in my golf bag. Anyways-- it was a squirrel or something-- died, in my bag. So, I got to my tee time (keep in mind I didn't know the dead thing was in my bag yet) and I was like oh, shit something smells. So, I took all my clubs out of my bag, and noticed some of my clubs had fur on the grips. I was like, this can't be good, so I shook out my whole bag and this like -- animal pelt came out. It was disgusting, and it smelled terrible. So, I put all the clubs in my car, opened up all the windows, and rented clubs for the day. As soon as I got home I threw out my bag and threw my clubs in a ton of bleach.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wild Announce OLN/ Versus/ Whatever They're Calling it This Month Schedule

Day-        Date-     Matchup-     Time (Central)

Monday- Oct. 27-Vs. Chicago- 7p.m.
Tuesday- Nov. 18- @ Pittsburgh- 6p.m.
Monday- Nov. 24- Vs. Washington- 7p.m.
Monday- Dec. 1- Vs. Colorado- 7p.m.
Tuesday- Jan. 6- @ Boston- 6p.m.
Monday- Jan. 19- @ Chicago- 7p.m.
Tuesday- Mar. 21- @ NYR- 6p.m.
Tuesday- Apr. 7- Vs. Dallas- 7p.m.

I tell you what; I’m really interested to see the Blackhawks game. The Blackhawks are much improved from last year with the additions of Campbell and Huet (that one still doesn’t make sense to me.) Pittsburgh, of course, because Crosby is Versus’ wet dream. Washington, because Versus is also in love with AO, but The Caps are also much improved. Boston, meh, same with the Rangers. Dallas is always a good game also, and they are expected to be a serious contender this year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shades of the “Old China”

    The Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Beijing were supposed to be, some said, China's "coming out party. They were, so to speak, turning over a new leaf in China's history; where we could forget about global incidents like Tiananmen Square in 1989 and celebrate China's openness, not only to the athletes and spectators, but the global economy as well. China needed the Olympic Games to re- establish their global dominance they once had and welcome the world, both figuratively and literally, in order for then to see the "new China" they had built. The spectacular first impression they gave us was the Opening Ceremonies, starting with 2008 drummers beating their light drums in order to welcome us to the Games. Unfortunately, Russia invaded Georgia that night, but nothing could outshine the four hour spectacle that was the Opening Ceremonies. Since then, various controversies have sprung up involving China, which the communist Chinese government has downplayed. Since the Open, it has come out that some of the fireworks in the Opening Ceremonies were computer generated, whether or not the Chinese gymnasts are underage, and of course, The 9 year old girl, Lin Miaoke, who supposedly sang Ode to the Motherland was actually lip-synching.

    Audiences were captivated by the hundreds, maybe thousands, of fireworks that welcomed the world to the stadium called "The Bird's Nest." At first, the fact that some of the fireworks were computer generated didn't bother me a bit. As long as it looks cool, who cares, right? I mean, it might look different in Beijing, but no one knows except those actually in the stadium. After some thinking, and some—but not much—research, I found the whole scenario smelling fishy. From what I've found out, if a lot of fireworks go off simultaneously, like we saw in the Opening Ceremony or the steps leading up to The Bird's Nest, it would be impossible to see all of them. In other words, there would be a noise, but no flash of color that you usually see. Apparently, the Chinese government didn't want audiences –specifically American audiences—to hear the fireworks, but not see them. So, the Chinese government, who is censoring all media out of Beijing, grabbed hold of the main TV feed, and did some "touch- up" work. How they did this is beyond me, but this begs the question: Why would the Chinese be so concerned about appearances? I realize that they wanted it to look nice and perfect, but in a production as big as the Opening Ceremonies, who's going to notice something as small as a few fireworks?

    Of course, with—and even before—Team USA lost to team China there was much speculation that the Chinese gymnasts were under the age limit. The age limit rule, for all you non- gymnastics fans out there (of which I am one), states that a gymnast must be of age 16 within the calendar year the Olympics are being held. That is, a gymnast could be 15, if she is 16 before the end of 2008. That said, the Chinese gymnasts are still way underage (Remember, these are all my opinions). In fact, just released an article saying that the Chinese government had papers proving that gymnast He Kexin is underage. The AP found the papers on a Chinese website, the story says, and the next day when the AP went to investigate, the website was taken down. Yang Yilin, the youngest one in my opinion (again, these are all opinions), isn't even mentioned in the article.

    In Equestrian and Horse Racing, I know they age Horses by their teeth, why can't they do that in gymnastics? Not that I'm trying to de- humanize the Chinese gymnasts, that's not what I'm after at all. When do people loose all their baby teeth? Age 11, 12 maybe? If you'll took next time, Yilin is missing a couple teeth, presumably baby teeth. My brother just lost the same teeth, and he's 11. By that assumption, she's way too young to compete, but then, there's a lot of assuming there.

The age limit rule of 16 isn't just an arbitrary number; it's for safety more than anything. I'm not a girl, I've never been one, but I know I hit puberty around 14 or 15. So, say girls hit puberty around 16- makes sense, doesn't it? For one, 16 year olds look different from younger girls; the whole puberty thing, a girl's hips get wider and all that, they just don't look like younger girls. For two, when you're 16 (and we go off the assumption that 16= puberty), you fear more. That's why you see little kids jump off of everything and anything, fall down, and do it again. Your sense of risk comes in to play, which is, I think, why the Chinese gymnasts are fearless, they're sense of risk hasn't kicked in yet. Oh, there's one more thing: it really doesn't matter if the Chinese are underage, because the Chinese government can edit their citizen's birth certificates.

One highlight of the Opening Ceremony was Lin Miaoke, the adorable nine year old who sung
Ode to the Motherland at the Opening Ceremony. From what I've found out, the Chinese government held an "American Idol" style contests in order to pick the singer at the Ceremony. The winner of the contest was seven year old Yang Peiyi, but she was quickly dismissed by the Chinese as "not cute enough." In the words of the Chinese, she was described as having "a chubby face and crooked baby teeth." So, another contest was held by the government, this one a beauty pageant, and the winner, nine year old Lin Miaoke. Here's the cruelest part: they told Lin Miaoke that she was going to sing! So, she was singing, though it was Yang Peiyi's voice that everyone herd. The Chinese government played it off as though two families would get the glory of being in the Opening Ceremonies instead of one, and maybe that's true, but I think it's pretty cruel to undermine and use a nine year old's innocence to a country's advantage.

So, how is the "new China" shaping up? Could be better, in my opinion. Like the "old China" that was supposedly left in the past, China reminds us once again that they have both feet firmly planted in the communist camp. What do all three sad stories have in common? The Chinese government, that's what. While I realize that no one is willing to interrupt China's "big moment" with bad news, it might be slowly happening anyways, and this time China's bringing it upon itself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Relentless American Media Rears Its Ugly Head

The Downfall of American mainstream media is showing yet again. With blogging and news websites gaining in popularity, traditional media like newspaper and television must go more in depth to find stories that no one else has in order to gain viewership (or readership). This destructive obsession showed once again during last night's women's gymnastics team competition. I must prelude this by saying I'm not a gymnastics fan, although I do enjoy watching it every four years and I definitely respect the concentration and physical ability they take to perform. Team USA really looked great through the first two events, but fell apart shortly after. If you don't know by now, Alicia Sacramone fell first on the Balance Beam, then fell on her Floor Exercise. Team USA's gold medal hopes were crushed, much to the chagrin of NBC. Of course, Headlines all over the country proclaimed "it's all Sacramone's fault." It's just like the American media outlets to blame the hopes of an American gymnastics team squarely on the shoulders of a 20 year old girl. Needless to say, the poor girl was in tears, but that isn't the point. The point is, it isn't all Sacramone's fault, like the major media outlets would like to believe. The USA gymnastics team is comprised of six gymnasts, five of which competed at least once. Sacramone scored 14.1 on the balance beam (I didn't see her score on the floor exercises.) Like I said, I'm not an export in gymnastics, nor do I pretend to be, and it'll show here: I believe there are three gymnasts per team in a rotation, so two bad scores really shouldn't kill your score. In fairness, I don't think anyone on our team preformed well enough to beat the Chinese.

Regardless of how old they are, the Chinese really put on a clinic last night. I believe team USA needed to turn in an almost perfect performance in every event- from everyone- to have a shot to beat the Chinese eight year olds. Say what you like about "oh, we were only down one point going into the last event"; but the Uneven Bars were China's best event, by far. Besides, lets look on the bright side, even if nobody else does; I'll be their voice of reason. We got second in the world, which is pretty good. We still posted a really good round, despite all the mistakes by the team (yes, the whole team); we did beat third place team Romania by a whopping 5.1 points. I don't know, maybe its just me. I've been on enough hockey teams to tell you that there's no way you can single an individual out for a team's performance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ah Merde, Ces Gars-là Sont Rapides

That means "Oh shit, these guys are fast" in French. The French went on record as saying "The Americans? We're going to smash them. That's what we came here for" before the 4x100 free relay. The French came into the race as favorites, and they didn't disappoint; although you couldn't script a better ending to a race then this one. The event started with a team of Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones, Ben Wildman- Torbriner, and Matt Grievers, posting a World Record time of 3.12.23 in the qualifying heats. Three of the four swimmers on that relay team wouldn't even race in the finals for team USA. The finals were about as hyped up as a swimming race can be, with team France providing the USA with some bulletin board material. Team USA fielded a finals team of Michael Phelps, Garett Webber- Gale, Cullen Jones, and Jason Lezak. Everyone was writing the Americans off early, saying that every American team member needed to swim "the perfect race" for them to have a chance to win. Phelps led the race off for team USA, with Leveaux leading off for France. It was the Aussies though, that took the early lead, with Sullivan going out in 22.48 and coming back in 24.76 to put the Australians in first after the first hundred meters; everyone knew it would take a World Record to win the relays after team USA's showing in the prelims, but five teams were under the world record after the first leg. Fast forward to the last lap, with France leading with a total time of 2.42.86. Bernard was the anchor for France, and Lezak for the USA; Bernard went out in 21. 27, and Lezak in 21.50, so Team France was leading by a hair with 50 meters to go. That's when the magic happened. A great turn by Lezak, coupled with Bernard slowly dying, led to a virtual tie at the backstroke flags, 7 meters to go. Lezak was coming on really strong, but the cushion Bernard had built for himself during the first 50 meters ultimately saved him.

Lezak just touched Bernard out at the wall, with Bernard taking an extra stroke he didn't need to, which added critical time. Lezak came back in 24.56, for a split time of 46.06, and Bernard came back in 25.46 for a 46.73 split. When all was said and done, three teams were under the old World Record, but it was Team USA with a time of 3.08.24 beating out France's time of 3.08.32 by eight hundredths of a second. Team USA had claimed the gold medal from favorite France, as well as setting the World Record for the second time that day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gretzky to LA: The Trade That Changed the Game for the Better?

Wayne Gretzky's legendary NHL career spanned 20 NHL seasons, spanning two leagues and five teams. The majority of his career was spent between two teams, Edmonton and Los Angeles. Gretzky was traded to LA before the 1988-89 season, which drastically increased hockey's popularity in America. All of a sudden, there was the star of the National Hockey League playing in one of America's major media markets. Gretzky was a huge hit in LA, and Gretzky (and all LA Kings) merchandise was flying off the shelves. In fact, the Kings changed their colors from the old school purple, yellow and white, to the sleeker silver and black for Gretzky's first season as a King, proving once again that the NHL is a business above all things. Los Angeles embraced Gretzky, and the Kings were a threat to such media mainstays as the Lakers, Clippers, and Raiders in terms of popularity.

While Los Angeles hockey fans were thrilled with the Canadian export of The Great One, it can be said that LA is not your prototypical hockey market. 80 degrees and sunny conjures up the thought of baseball games, and certainly not hockey. This got the league thinking: if hockey works in a non- traditional market like LA, why wouldn't it work in other non- traditional markets? So the so called "sun belt" expansion began. In '91-'92, the San Jose Sharks join the league, followed by the Tampa Bay franchise in '92-'93, Anaheim and Florida in '93-'94, Phoenix in '96-'97, Carolina in '97-'98, and Atlanta in the '99-'00 expansion. Some of the added teams have been successes, San Jose is a perennial playoff contender, Anaheim has a cup, as well as Carolina and Tampa Bay. How ever, the failures—really fail. Atlanta had promising young players once upon a time, but then fell off the face of the earth, taking Florida and Phoenix with it.

Before you blame the failures on commissioner Bettman, hear me out—or rather, read me out, if you will. Los Angeles' owner at the time was Bruce McNall; yes, the guy who can be linked to the rising tide of player salaries by making two million off the sale of the Kings (yes, there is more to it then that, but I won't get into it). Among other things, McNall may have suggested expansion before Bettman took office in 1993. Before McNall's tragic downward spiral, he was named as the Chairman of the NHL Board of Directors in 1992. It is believed it is then he suggested the expansion of the NHL into non- traditional hockey markets, even though it was a plan implemented by Bettman.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Deals Never Made

I was meaning to post this a while ago, but hey, its summer, I'm lazy, that's okay. Looking back at the trade deadline, there was really very little action aside from the two or so blockbuster deals. So, the second guessing begins on my part. The deal I was semi- surprised didn't go down was Julio Lugo to... anyone. Lugo has been disappointing Sox fans for way too long; making errors, hitting for a mediocre average, and almost zero power. When it comes down to it, the Sox have 36 million resons to keep Lugo, but I'm unimpressed. I don't think there was a big market for overpriced shortstops, but the Sox have to cut ties with this guy. They've got a younger, and all around better shortstop in Jed Lowrie waiting in the wings. Every time they bring up Lowrie to fill in for Lugo and his laundry list of injuries, he impresses me. I don't think Red Sox management has a choice on this one, Lugo has to go.