Friday, August 29, 2008

Top Songs in Sports

Today while listening to my iPod during my "workout" at the ESPN gym, one of my favorite songs came up, The Who's "Baba O'Riley". Roughly the first minute of that song is all instrumental and it just gives me chills each time I hear. Mainly it's because I associate it with being in Yankee Stadium on a brisk October night starring Aura & Mystique.

What that did was jog my memory of a list of other songs that I'll always associate with sports.

"Bro Hymn" by Pennywise - This song was written for in remembrance of a deceased member of the band. But when I hear it, I immediately think of the Flyers or Ducks scoring a goal at home. It's just a great song that has an awesome sing-song chant that's very catchy.

"We Will Rock You" by Queen - An easy one. I can't name one game I haven't been where I didn't hear this song. Even if it's just the easy stomp-stomp-clap. If you've done that, you've done your part to keep this song alive.

"Sirius" by The Alan Parsons Project - What by who? If I said, "You know, the song the Chicago Bulls would use to announce their starting lineup to," then I think you might know what I am talking about. It's tough to not get pumped up when you hear that song. Plus it's the instrumental that leads into one of the more underrated songs of the early 1980s, "Eye in the Sky".

"Workaholic" by 2Unlimted - You might know them better for their hit song "Get Ready For This". But the reason why this song appears in the list is just for the first 10 seconds. It's played every time the Yankees score a run or when a road team takes a penalty at an Ottawa Senators home game.

"Right Now" by Van Halen - If that piano intro doesn't get you ready for a game, you might want to check your pulse. This is the essence of why Van Halen was BETTER with Sammy Hagar. If I ever made it to the Major Leagues or the softball team in our league that brings a boom box to the games, this would be the song I would come up to in my first at-bat. Arguably the best 5:21 in music history.

"Enter Sandman" by Metallica - There might not be a song that better describes why it's played in sports. Mariano Rivera comes in and 90 percent of the time at Yankee Stadium, it's been prophetic, the team he faces goes to sleep and the game ends. Just the mention of the first note has gotten 50,000+ people on their feet roughly 35 times a year at Yankee Stadium. Another classic

"Rock & Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter - For the moment, let's put aside the fact the performer of this song was convicted and imprisoned on child pornography charges. It's one of the most popular songs in any sports stadiums. I'd like to think one of my favorite teams indirectly helped bring it to light in sports. The song was reportedly first used in a sport stadium during Colorado Rockies games -- no, not the baseball team, but the hockey team that later became the New Jersey Devils. The New York Islanders used "Rock & Roll Part 1" when they scored a goal. After Glitter was arrested, the NFL asked teams to stop playing the song. I'll always associate it with the Minnesota North Stars as the song they played during their memorable run to the 1991 Stanley Cup Final

"Kernkraft 400" by Zombie Nation - Some people might think I just got the title and name of the performer reversed. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I don't know, I don't care. The Sport Chant remix is the most popular version that you'll hear at sports stadiums. The song gets over 100,000 people at Beaver Stadium to start bouncing up and down. But it's the song I hear when the Devils score a goal at their new home, the Prudential Center. It was also the song used after the Oilers goal horn during their run in the 2006 NHL playoffs.

Feel free to add or comment on your faves!

Monday, August 4, 2008

20th Anniversary of "The Trade"

On August 9, it will be the 20th anniversary of one of sports' most controversial trades. On that day, Wayne Gretzky, arguably hockey's top player of all-time, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a move that changed the game forever.

It was just hours after the Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup in 1988 that Gretzky learned from his father the team was looking to possibly trade him. It was during his honeymoon he received a phone call from then-Kings owner Bruce McNall, who was interested in acquiring the Great One. After discussions and negotiations, McNall and Gretzky came to an agreement on a deal and only one thing stood in the way. Gretzky had to request a trade.

It was on August 9, 1988, "The Trade" happened. Gretzky was traded along with defenseman Marty McSorley and center Mike Krushelnyski to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, the Kings first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993 and $15 million in cash.

Needless to say, this upset not only Oilers fans but all of hockey fans across Canada. It had such an effect that even the Canadian government tried to block the deal. However, when the dust cleared, Gretzky would be off to Los Angeles and his impact was immediate. The team switched their colors from the Purple and Gold that mirrored the Los Angeles Lakers to the Silver and Black that was associated with the Los Angeles Raiders.

In that first season, Gretzky and the Kings faced the Oilers in the Smythe Division Semifinals. Facing a 3-1 series deficit, Gretzky and the Kings rallied and won the series in seven games.
He made many popular returns to Edmonton. The first time back in 1988, Gretzky received a four-minute standing ovation. When he came back in 1989, Gretzky would break Gordie Howe's career points record with a goal.

Gretzky's effect in Los Angeles spurned many things. Two more franchises were born in California (Sharks and the-then Mighty Ducks). Non-traditional hockey fans were selling out the Forum, a building more known for the other sports tenants, the Lakers. It also proved that hockey below the Sun Belt, could exist and be popular.

After nine years in Los Angeles that saw Gretzky guide the Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final (where they lost in five games), Gretzky was traded again. On Februray 27, 1996, Gretzky was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson and two draft choices. Gretzky played out the remainder part of that 1995-96 season with the Blues, leading them to the Conference Semifinals. Unfortunately, it was Gretzky's giveaway in Game 7 which led to Steve Yzerman's famous double-OT goal in a 1-0 Red Wings win.

Gretzky would finish his career with the New York Rangers, but he failed to do what he did four times with the Oilers -- win a Stanley Cup. But that doesn't overshadow what most people remember as one of the most memorable days in sports history. Many people will never forget where they were on August 9, 1988, the day hockey (and sports) changed forever.

Other famous hockey trades:
May 15, 1967
The Boston Bruins acquire Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Blackhawks for Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris

Dec. 6, 1995
The Colorado Avalanche trade Martin Rucinsky, Andrei Kovalenko and Jocelyn Thibault to the Montreal Canadiens for Patrick Roy and Mike Keane.

June 30, 1992
The Quebec Nordiques trade Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Chris Simon, Ron Hextall, two draft picks and $15 million

Other famous sports trades:
The Cubs trade Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio

The Mets trade Tom Seaver to the Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman.

The Athletics trade Mark McGwire to the Cardinals for T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick, Blake Stein

The Baltimore Colts traded John Elway's draft rights to the Denver Bronocs for quarterback Mark Hermann, the rights to offensive tackle Chris Hinton and a first-round pick in the 1984 draft (Ron Solt).

June 9, 1980
The Golden State Warriors traded center Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick in the 1980 draft (Kevin McHale) to the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 pick in the draft, which they used to take center Joe Barry Carroll, and the No. 13 choice, which they used on guard Rickey Brown

October 12, 1989
The Dallas Cowboys trade Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for five players, six conditional draft choices and a 1992 first-round pick. The Cowboys would use those draft choices on running back Emmitt Smith and safety Darren Woodson.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 19, 2004 - The Day Boston's Sports Luck Changed?

With the Bruins on the verge of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit on the Canadiens, it came to mind the last time a team came back from such a deficit in the NHL. That was done by the Canadiens against the Bruins in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the same round as the teams are meeting in this year. The teams met in Game 7 on Patriots' Day in Boston and things have changed for Boston sports fans since that fateful day when the Bruins collapsed.

The Day Boston's Sports Luck Changed

April 19, 2004 - a day that should live in infamy in Boston sports lore. That's the day when the city of Boston went from having the worst luck in the world to having all the luck in the world. And they should thank the Boston Bruins for it.

It was Patriots' Day and earlier that day was the annual Boston Marathon and was a day the Red Sox played the Yankees. The first pitch was thrown out by Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who had just guided the Huskies to their second National Championship in a Final Four that saw them beat Duke in a classic comeback before easily defeating Georgia Tech in the Final
The Red Sox would come back from a 3-0 and 4-1 deficit to win the game 5-4 on a RBI single by Gabe Kapler in the bottom of the 8th inning off Tom Gordon. It wouldn't be the only comeback the Red Sox would make against the Yankees that year. More on that in a moment.

Later that day, the football Patriots threw their name into the mix. They traded a second-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for running back Corey Dillon, who was unhappy in Cincinnati. All Dillon would do in that 2004 season was rush for a career-high 1,635 yards and a then career-high 12 rushing TD as he helped guide the Patriots to their second straight Super Bowl victory.

But that night was the low point on what would be a memorable day. The Bruins came into their own building for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with their rival, the Montreal Canadiens. They had blown a 3-1 series lead and were now sent to the brink of elimination thanks to a 5-1 loss in Game 5 followed by a 5-2 loss in Game 6.

With the game scoreless into the third period, Richard Zednik would break the tie for Montreal, scoring on Boston rookie netminder Andrew Raycroft. Zednik would then add an empty-net goal as the Canadiens would go on for the 2-0 win, becoming the 20th team to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in NHL history.

The Sports Gods must have thought Boston had suffered enough. The Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918, the Celtics were in the midst of a major rebuilding stage and although the Patriots had won two Super Bowls, it still seemed the jinx was in on Boston.

But after that day when the Bruins bit the bullet, everything has come up in spades. Just six months after the Bruins collapse in the playoffs, the Red Sox completed the greatest comeback in MLB history against the hated Yankees. They trailed the series 3-0 and were down to their last outs in the ninth in Game 4 when they tied the game against the greatest closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera. They would tie the game and win it in the 12th inning on the first of consecutive walk-off hits by David Ortiz.

Then came The Bloody Sock of Curt Schilling and the Grand Slam by Johnny Damon in Game 7 and before you knew it, the Red Sox would sweep the Cardinals to win the World Series.
The Red Sox aren't the only local area team to enjoy success in the wake of the Bruins collapse. As said earlier, later in the Fall and Winter of 2004, the Patriots would go on to defeat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXVIII, their third Super Bowl victory in the Bill Belichick era.

While the Bruins haven't delivered a Stanley Cup to Boston since 1972, Boston College got into the mix on the ice since that Bruins collapse. It advanced to three straight Frozen Fours since 2006, finally coming away with the National Championship with a win in 2008 over Notre Dame.
All the luck may have come to a head in Boston in 2007. The Red Sox won the World Series again and they didn't have to come back from a huge deficit or beat the Yankees to do so. Although the Patriots ultimately failed in their Pursuit of Perfection, they still became the first team to finish a regular season 16-0 in NFL history. Then the Celtics went out and traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and alongside Paul Pierce, resurrected the retired ghosts of Bird, McHale and Parrish. The Celtics would go on to complete the greatest single-season win turnaround in NBA history.

There were even some close calls to titles in the Boston area in sports not familiar to the pre-Patriots' Day 2004 jinx. The New England Revolution have advanced to the MLS Cup the last three seasons, but have not come away with the title. The Boston College football team, led by potential top draft pick Matt Ryan, received a No. 2 ranking in the BCS at one point in the season. The UMass soccer team lost in the National Semifinals 1-0 to Ohio State.

So maybe all this luck in the area can finally rub off on the one team that's lay dormant in the Boston area for many years, the Bruins, who look to come back from a 3-1 series deficit against the team that did it to them four years ago, the Canadiens. They don't have to look far. Their coach, Claude Julien was the Canadiens coach when they pulled off the three-game comeback.
Hopefully for many Boston fans, maybe this Patriots' Day will be just as memorable as that one four years ago.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rating the 16 Goalies Heading into the Playoffs

The Sweet 16 - a phrase served best for the recently-concluded NCAA Tournament, but can hold true for the 16 teams that vie for the Stanley Cup. No team wins the Stanley Cup without strong play from their netminder and thus we rate the top netminders from 16 to 1 as we begin the chase for Lord Stanley.

16. Tim Thomas, Bruins - There may not be a more exciting goalie to watch in the league. No goalie shows more emotion than Thomas, but that can also be his downfall. He almost single-handidly kept the Bruins in the playoff race, going 4-1-1 with a 1.48 GAA in his final six starts of the season. He was fourth in the league this season in save percentage (.922) but has never played in a playoff game.

15. Martin Gerber, Senators - Much like the Senators themselves, Gerber has gone through two "seasons" already even before the playoffs start. He was 12-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA in his first 13 starts to the season, but won just 18 games in his final 44 starts after that and had a GAA over 3 in that stretch. Gerber has started just four playoff games in his career, but was a part of two teams that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in the Ducks and Hurricanes.

14. Martin Biron, Flyers - It's pretty hard to believe this is Biron's 12th NHL season and yet he has never even appeared in a playoff game. That's what happens when for years you back up someone by the named of Dominik Hasek. Biron did post his first 30-win season since 2001-02 and his highest save percentage of his career (.918). Biron finished the regular season in spectacular fashion, posting consecutive shutouts against the Devils and Penguins.

13. Dan Ellis, Predators - A forgotten man in Dallas, Ellis has taken the reigns as the top goalie for the Predators. In just 37 starts this season, Ellis posted a franchise-record six shutouts and recently finished a stretch where he didn't allow a goal in 233 minutes and 38 seconds. The 27-year-old netminder also led the NHL in save percentage (.924). Like many goalies in this postseason, Ellis has never played in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

12. Jose Theodore, Avalanche - It's been a huge bounce-back season for Theodore, who had struggled since coming over to Colorado at the 2005-06 trade deadline. Down the stretch, Theodore was a mainstay for the Avalanche, going 12-4-1 withb a 2.27 GAA in his last 18 starts. Theodore was playoff-tested in Montreal and was the Canadiens netminder when he helped pull off the upset against the Bruins in 2004.

11. Niklas Backstrom, Wild - Backstrom made a splash in his rookie season last year with the Wild and continued his strong play in 2007-08, leading the Wild to the Northwest Division title. He finished in the top 10 in wins, GAA and save percentage this season and was impressive down the stretch, posting an 8-1-4 record in his final 14 starts. Backstrom played well in his only playoff series of his career last season against the Wild, not allowing more than three goals in any of the five games, but the Wild went down in five games.

10. Marty Turco, Stars - Is this the year? That was the slogan for the NHL's PR campaign this season and that question can hold for Turco's playoff history -- Is this the year he takes the reigns and leads the Stars on a long playoff run? Turco has won only one playoff series in his career and no goalie had a hard-luck situation in one series than what he went through last season. In a seven-game defeat to the Canucks, Turco posted three shutouts, a 1.30 GAA, including 51 saves in a 4-OT loss in Game 1.

9. Cristobal Huet, Capitals - Alex Ovechkin may be the MVP of the league, but the Capitals most likely aren't in the playoffs without Huet's stellar play since coming over from Montreal at the trade deadline. Huet went 11-2-0 with a 1.63 GAA and an awesome .936 save percentage in 13 starts in a Capitals uniform as Washington won the Southeast Division on the next-to-last day of the season. Unfortunately for Huet, he has a little bit of adversity to overcome in the playoffs. He was Montreal's netminder in 2006 when it lost in six against Carolina in the East Quarterfinals, a series in which the Canadiens led 2-0 going home. Huet played well in defeat, allowing just a total of nine goals in the final four games.

8. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins - A No. 1-overall pick with tons of pressure on him in Pittsburgh going into the playoffs. That description not only holds true for Sidney Crosby, but for Fleury too, who was the top pick in the 2003 NHL Draft. Fleury missed an extended period of time with a high ankle sprain, like Crosby as well. But in his return, he showed no ill-effects, posting a 10-2-1 record with a stellar 1.53 GAA and .947 save percentage in 14 starts. Fleury also gets to exact some revenge on the team that handled him in his only playoff appearance -- the Senators, who knocked out the Pens in five games last season. Fleury had a dreadful 3.77 GAA in the series.

7. Carey Price, Canadiens - A rookie netminder heading into the playoffs, stop me if you've heard this before in Montreal. Like Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden before him, Price has the weight of the top hockey market on his shoulders, something he's thrived on. He was 12-3-0 with a 2.12 GAA after the trade deadline when Montreal traded Huet to Washington. While Price has never played in a Stanley Cup playoff, the 20-year-old won the Calder Cup and was MVP of the playoffs last season. Price also was named Tournament MVP at the 2007 IIHF World Junior (U20) Ice Hockey Championship as he led Canada to the gold medal.

6. Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames - It's tough being a goalie under Mike Keenan and Kiprusoff joins a long list of netminders who struggled in the coach's system. Kiprusoff posted his second-highest single-season GAA (2.69) and a save percentage of .906 which ranked 30th this season. However, Kiprusoff has been known to steal games, especially in the postseason. He was the netminder for the Flames in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, a year in which he posted a 1.85 GAA and .928 save percentage in 26 games. Unfortunately for him and the Flames, they have bowed out in the Quarterfinal round in each of the last two postseasons.

5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers - He's got the looks to be a star in New York, but can Lundqvist guide the Rangers back to the Stanley Cup Finals? By looking at his stats, the answer is a firm yes. He led the league in shutouts and became the first Rangers goalie to post 10 shutouts since John Ross Roach posted 13 shutouts in 1928-29. Last season, he was stellar in the playoffs as he allowed just six goals total in a four-game sweep of the Thrashers in the Quarterfinals and played well in defeat to the Sabres in the Conference Semis. Lundqvist faces the New Jersey Devils this time in the Quarterfinals, a team he went 0-3-0 in the 2006 playoffs against but was 7-0-1 against this season.

4. Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks - The league's hottest team heading into the playoffs is led by the netminder who finished the regular season two wins shy of the single-season NHL record (46). Nabokov was also third in GAA at 2.14, but was 23rd among qualifying goalies in save percentage at .910. Nabokov also started 43 straight games during one point of the season, the second-longest streak by a goalie since the 1989-90 season. He does have plenty of playoff experience, starting 44 games in his career, but hasn't been able to get the Sharks over the hump and into the Stanley Cup Finals so far, losing to the Flames in the 2004 Conference Finals. Last season, Nabokov had an impressive 2.09 GAA in the Conference Semis vs Detroit, but the Sharks lost in six -- a series they led 2-1.

3. Dominik Hasek & Chris Osgood, Red Wings - Hard to argue with this tandem, so hard that it's tough to put who will get the bulk of the playing time in the postseason. They take home the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against the season (184) and both were ranked in the top 4 in GAA, including Osgood's league-leading 2.09 GAA. There's also a ton of playoff experience between the two of them, a total of 202 playoff games combined. Osgood is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and Hasek was the backstop the last time Detroit took home hockey's holy grail in 2002. That was also the last time a team won the Presidents' Trophy and Stanley Cup in the season, something the Red Wings hope to do this postseason.

2. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ducks - No team has repeat as Stanley Cup champions since Detroit in 1996-97 and 1997-98, but Giguere might give the Ducks the best chance to end that streak this playoff. He won 30+ games for a third straight season and was second in the NHL in GAA at 2.12. Giguere though, makes his money come playoff time. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in a LOSING effort in 2003 as he led the Mighty Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2003. Then last season he helped the Ducks to the title with a 1.97 GAA in 18 playoff games. And we haven't even talked about his play in OT. How about a 12-1 career playoff OT record that includes a NHL-record shutout streak of 197 minutes and 52 seconds. In 250:47 career playoff OT minutes, Giguere has a 0.24 GAA and a .990 save percentage.

1. Martin Brodeur, Devils - This was supposed to be the year Brodeur showed he was human. Gone were Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski, the Devils had a new coach, their offense struggled pretty much all season. Yet Brodeur still wins 40 games for a NHL-record third straight season and seventh time overall while leading the Devils to the 4 seed and home-ice in their series with the Rangers. However, he has played in at least 70 games in 10 straight seasons and appeared to be tired in the playoffs when the Devils were bounced in five games to the Senators last season. But it's hard to knock this playoff resume: 3 Stanley Cup rings, 4 Stanley Cup Finals appearances, 94 playoff wins (2nd all-time), 164 playoff games (2nd all-time) and 22 playoff shutouts (1 away from tying the NHL record).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


It's hard to describe how I felt after the first day of NHL Free Agency was done, but I think my buddy Nick summed up all my feelings as a Devils fan in two words via text message:


Not only did the Devils lose their top puck-moving defenseman in Brian Rafalski, but they also lose their best puck-moving and playmaking center in Scott Gomez.

Most who know me know that I am not upset that Gomez left. I always wanted Gomez to shoot the puck more because I thought he had an incredible slap shot. However, he had no aim. If there was a league leader in pucks that hit goalies logos in the center of their jersey, Gomez would not only lead the league, he might be among the most all-time.

But he went to the Rangers. The cross-town rivals, the ones that beat the Devils in 1994 en route to ending every person in every arena's ability to chant 1940. The team that gets half their fans into the Devils arena to say Devils suck over and over again because they can't talk trash about recent history between the teams.

Gomez said that it's just a buisness. I never understood that phrase. How as a player could you sign on with a team you hated for your entire career, was your chief rival and you were doing better than every year. I figured a guy like Gomez could have went to Los Angeles, where he could have ate the Latino market up and been a star for a struggling franchise. He could have went to Phoenix and thrive under Wayne Gretzky, who last I checked was a pretty decent center in his day.

Now I know how die-hard Red Sox fans who loved Johnny Damon felt after he left Boston for New York. Jokingly I texted my buddy with my Famous Traitors list (not a long one): Benedict Arnold, Johnny Damon, Scott Gomez.

Again, I am not upset that Gomez left. There was no way the Devils could afford the kind of money he could make on the open market. It was just a shock that it was for the Rangers.

However, as Devils fans, we've seen this before and for the most part the Devils could laugh at what past players have done after leaving obscurity in New Jersey for the bright lights of Manhattan. Here's a list of some of those recent moves:

Bobby Holik: signed a 5-year, $45M contract in 2002. He never had scored 30 goals in a season and got $9M a season. In his two seasons with the Rangers, he scored just 41 goals in 146 games

Bruce Driver: after winning the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995, Driver moved on to the Rangers and finished his career playing three seasons in NY. Driver played in 26 playoff games with the Rangers and did not score a goal

John MacLean: After leaving NJ via trade to San Jose, MacLean signed on with the Rangers for the 1998-99 season. Johnny Mac played decent hockey in NY, scoring 28 goals that first season, but the Rangers did not make the playoffs in either of his two campaigns in Manhattan

Now the real shocker was Rafalski. He seemed like the type of guy who felt settled in New Jersey and wouldn't leave for really anything. But when Sunday came and he didn't have a contract with the Devils, I had a funny feeling he was gone. There would only be one place Rafalski would go to if it wasn't NJ, that was his other home.

Rafalski is a Dearborn, Michigan native so it makes sense for him to sign a rather large deal ($6M per for five seasons) with the Red Wings. This one didn't upset me because I thought for the most part he was exposed by Ottawa in the playoffs. In Game 1 alone, he had three blatant giveaways, two that led to goals. I think him being the go-to-guy in NJ may have been too much for him to handle. He thrived with Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer alongside him on defense. Now he gets to play with arguably the best offensive defenseman of the last 20 years in Nicklas Lidstrom. I think this is a win-win situation for both the Devils and Rafalski.

Great Scott, look at what the Devils have lost via free agency or retirement in the last two offseasons:
Scott Stevens - just elected to Hockey Hall of Fame, retired due to injuries
Scott Niedermayer - signed for less money to play with brother in Anaheim
Scott Gomez - signs ridiculous contract with cross-town rival Rangers
and Brian Rafalski - underrated puck-moving defenseman, awesome power-play defenseman

So now its time to lock up the restricted free agents. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac must be first-priority before someone throws them an out-of-this-world offer sheet. See if you can bring Sheldon Souray back to the team he was drafted by. He's good friends with Marty Brodeur, hell they own a Rivière des Prairies pizzeria in Montreal. Take a $1M shot on Eric Lindros to play 4th-line center. Bring in a Curtis Joseph to back up Marty.

Just do something to get rid of the feeling from BLACK SUNDAY

Monday, June 25, 2007


There once was a guy who used to write recaps. But that was a long, long time ago. Thank goodness for the internet. I have been able to find some recaps from games I wrote back in 2000. Here is a taste as to what I used to do for the fledgling company.

This was a recap which I found on about a month ago. It was a recap after Gonzaga beat St. John's to advance to the Sweet 16. What I remember about that was normally on a given night, you were given two recaps (sometimes three) and one of the games you wouldn't really watch, relying on a reporter who was paid fairly little to help describe the contest. On this day, I was told to do nothing but watch this game. You be the judge

TUCSON, Arizona (Ticker) -- The victory will go down as an upset. But for Gonzaga, this is nothing new.

Matt Santangelo scored eight of Gonzaga's final 13 points as the 10th-seeded Bulldogs advanced to the "Sweet 16" for the second consecutive season with an 82-76 victory over No. 2 St. John's in a West Region contest.

"We had success against their zone and made them go man," Santangelo said. "That opened up the perimeter. I just stepped up and knocked down some shots." Gonzaga led by five with 1:46 to go before Santangelo buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Bulldogs (25-8) their biggest advantage of the contest at 76-68 with 41 seconds remaining.

Erick Barkley drained a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to pull the Red Storm (25-8) within 79-76, but Santangelo hit 1-of-2 free throws and Casey Calvary converted two attempts at the line to account for the final margin.

"I'm just so happy for these kids," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "They've worked so hard throughout their entire basketball careers. I couldn't be more proud of a group of kids."

Barkley finished with 21 points for St. John's, which joined top-seeded Arizona and No. 3 Oklahoma as upset victims in the West Region today.

Last season, the Bulldogs -- also as a 10th seed in the West Region -- bounced second-seeded Stanford to reach to the "Sweet 16" before falling to eventual national champion Connecticut in the regional final.

Gonzaga will battle sixth-seeded Purdue in Thursday's regional semifinal in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Bulldogs trailed 36-33 to start the second half and went on a 7-2 burst to take their first lead of the contest at 40-39 with 17:50 remaining after a 3-pointer by Ryan Floyd.

The lead changed hands six times and was tied on three occasions before Mark Spink started a 9-2 run as Gonzaga took the lead for good. Calvary capped the burst adding a pair of free throws to give the Bulldogs a 63-56 advantage with 6:02 to go.

Before Santangelo's devastating 3-pointer, the Red Storm narrowed the deficit to 67-64 on an emphatic dunk from Lavor Postell with 3:25 left.

St. John's controlled the action in the first half, mostly because of second-chance shots. The Red Storm scored 10 points on offensive putbacks but allowed the Bulldogs back into the game by sending them to the free throw line 12 times in the opening half and by going 1-of-8 from behind the arc.

A key for Gonzaga all season has been its ability to drain the 3-point shot. Tonight was no different as the Bulldogs drained 9-of-22 from beyond the arc, with Santangelo hitting on six of his 10.

Axel Dench added 17 points for Gonzaga, which shot 57 percent from the field in the second half and held a 38-34 rebounding edge.

Anthony Glover scored 18 points and Postell recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm, who shot 47 percent from the field, but were only 12-of-21 from the free throw line.

This marks the first time since 1992 that the two top seeds in one region did not make at least the regional semifinals. Kansas and Southern California were bounced in the second round of the Midwest Region that year.

St. John's won the Big East Conference championship for the first time since 1986, but just like that year, was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the second round.

The next one I found was in response to one of the darkest moments in NHL history. What was crazy was because the game wasn't close, I had the entire first-run of the story ready to go. All I needed was the game to end and I was good to go. Then McSorley "took over". Take a look at this video and then read my take on the incident:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Ticker) -- Marty McSorley made Dale Hunter look like a saint.
Todd Bertuzzi scored twice and Andrew Cassels added three assists as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins, 5-2, in a game marred by one of the most vicious incidents in recent history.

With three seconds left and the outcome already decided, Bruins defenseman Marty McSorley slashed Canucks enforcer Donald Brashear in the side of the head as retaliation for an injury to former All-Star goaltender Byron Dafoe.

Brashear immediately fell backward to the ice and slammed his head, knocking himself unconscious for 30 seconds. Canucks captain Mark Messier immediately jumped on the ice with the team's trainer to tend to Brashear.

"It was a dangerous play," said Messier, a former teammate of McSorley's. "Donald's hurt, we can't allow that to happen in the league. I don't know what else to say. That really deflates everything that happened tonight and everything else that's gone on in the last little while.

"It's really tough. Everybody knows it's a dangerous game and we all know injuries can happen. But, something like that takes the air out of the game. What else can you say?"

Following the game, McSorley was cleary shaken and nearly driven to tears when he issued this statement to a local radio station: "I want to apologize to the city of Vancouver, to Donald Brashear," McSorley said. "I don't know what was going through my mind at that time. It was a stupid mistake."

At the other end of the ice, goalie Garth Snow went after McSorley, setting off a brawl. Fans littered the ice hoping to hit anybody on Boston. Other fans were being handcuffed by police after starting fights in the stands with people who had on Bruins jerseys. Once things were settled, referee Brad Watson ended the game without playing the final three seconds.

"I just saw Brash down," Snow said. "Seeing him down like that, I knew it was a cheap shot because no one could do that straight up with him. I haven't seen anything like that since the Ted Green incident, it's just bad."

Brashear was motionless before being placed in a neck brace and carted off while surrounded by teammates, who each tapped his equipmemt wishing him well. Brashear apparently came to on his way to the hospital.

"The doctors are looking at him," Canucks coach Mark Crawford said. "Obviously, he is suffering, but he is in the hands of the best medical care. It makes me sick to my stomach, that's exactly how I feel. It's sickening to me, it's sickening to anybody to see this kind of thing. There's no other words to describe it. There is absolutely no room for this, no place in hockey. It was a dispicable act."

McSorley, who began the night third to Dave "Tiger" Williams and Hunter with 3,352 career penalty minutes, was given a match penalty for deliberate injury. The penalty comes with an automatic review for suspension.

Brashear and McSorley battled early in the contest, drawing fighting majors 2:09 into the first period.

"It started very poorly," Bruins coach Pat Burns said. "They were all over us, it was a nightmare. We have enough players that went down in this game. All I recall is Donald coming over flexing his muscles at our bench and it probably irked something or someone on our bench."

McSorley's ban could rival that of Hunter, who received a 21-game suspension -- the longest for an on-ice incident in NHL history -- at the beginning of the 1993-94 season after delivering a callous blow to Pierre Turgeon of the New York Islanders in the 1993 playoffs.

McSorley's action may have stemmed from an incident in the first period when Brashear charged to the net and fell on Dafoe's right leg. Dafoe left the ice on a stretcher and was not optimistic about the injury.

"I just got kind of tangled with (defenseman Kyle) McLaren and Brashear," Dafoe said. "My knee went a funny way. My cartilage might have been flapping and it flipped up and locked up on me. I felt it right away. When it locks, it feels like it's going to tear if you move it either way."

The terrible incidents mirror the Bruins struggles. They are winless in five straight (0-3-2), 2-6-3 in their last 11 games and five points behind Buffalo for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Canucks have won three straight games for the first time since the start of the season. They are unbeaten in five games against Boston since a 2-0 loss on October 17, 1997.

Matt Cooke scored the eventual game-winner 4:48 into the first and Bertuzzi capped the four-goal period with his first of the game as the Canucks built a 4-0 lead.

"When you get your chances, you have got to capitalize on it. Tonight, I was fortunate enough to capitalize on them," Bertuzzi said. "Everybody is playing well, we are on a roll right now and we've got to keep it going."

Garth Snow stopped 21 shots for the Canucks, who won for just the third time in their last seven games at GM Place.

After defenseman Greg Hawgood tallied to make the score 2-0 just 2:29 into the contest, coach Pat Burns pulled Dafoe after stopping two shots. Burns then yanked backup John Grahame after he allowed the goals to Cooke and Bertuzzi.

Sergei Samsonov tallied early into the second period to make it 4-1, but Bertuzzi added his second goal of the night when he roofed a shot over the glove of Grahame, giving the Canucks a 5-1 lead with 9:15 remaining in the period.

Future Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque scored the only goal of the third period with 3:26 to go, but his tally was far from his mind.

"It's the first time I've witnessed something like that," Bourque said. "It's not fun, they battled all night. You have to ask Marty if he had a reason. I don't want to be a part of that. It's tough to watch. You can't justify an act like that, it's not a good night if you're a hockey player tonight."

Vancouver also received a double shot of bad news. In addition to Brashear's head injury,
Bertuzzi left the game with a dislocated thumb. His status is day-to-day.

Those are just some that I was able to find. I'll keep you all alert on any new ones I find on this thing called the information superhighway

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


10. '00 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 2 -Devils 2, Panthers 1

This was the first playoff game I covered as a reporter. It was also the first playoff hockey gamefor my now wife, father-in-law and sister-in-law, so it was pretty exciting all-around. The Devils had trouble winning playoff series after their Stanley Cup title in 1995, having lost three first-round series, two of which came when they were the top seed. Scott Stevens scored the game-winner in a 2-1 victory. The Devils would go on to sweep the series and to steal a line from a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight, "more on this playoff run later".

9. '00 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 6 - Devils 3, Maple Leafs 0

Another game I covered as a reporter. The Devils scored goals early in the first and early in the second period. But this game was more known for its defense. New Jersey held Toronto to a modern-day record six shots on goal ... for THE ENTIRE GAME!!!! It was like a countdown, three shots in the first, two shots in the second and one shot in the third for the Maple Leafs. Seeming it was a series-clincher, going into the locker room, I had never seen so many TV cameras ever for a Devils game. I think I got on CBC a few times standing with my tape recorder. But I was so nervous going into the Maple Leafs locker room because their season was over. However, everyone was professional and it was relieving. Toronto goalie Curtis Joseph revealed that he played with a broken hand, pretty amazing that he lasted that long.

8. '97 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5 - Rangers 2, Devils 1 (OT)

In the light of Stephane Matteau's lucky wrap-around goal in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7, I had to witness another wrap-around, season-ending, OT goal (are there enough qualifiers?!). This time it was by Adam Graves, coming around the net in the same angle that Matteau did. This game would be known for a in-the-crease goal that was taken away from Steve Thomas and an unbelievable save by Mike Richter on John MacLean late in regulation. Richter flipped over and did a snow angel and made the save with his bare hand as his glove came off. Having to be a row away from one of my friends from home who was a Ranger fan and who was at my house in 1994 as well, LESS THAN IDEAL!

Look for it around the 2:25 mark of this video:

Here is the Richter save in the same game:

7. '92 Patrick Division Semifinals Game 6 - Devils 5, Rangers 3

This game will be mostly known for the brawl which occurred after the game's final horn. New Jersey had forced its cross-town rival Rangers, who were the President's Trophy winners, to a seventh game. But tensions still ran high as most notably Scott Stevens and Claude Lemieux fought the likes of Tie Domi and Adam Graves. Players ended up in the Devils bench, but no suspensions were handed down. What I remember most was how loud the Devil fans were chanting "Rangers Suck!". It was nothing new, but for the first time in their team history, Devil fans had the feeling they had the upper hand on the Rangers and could keep 1940 (the last year the Rangers won a Cup before 1994) alive. Unfortunately, the Rangers would win Game 7 easily by a score of 8-4.

6. '88 Wales Conference Finals Game 6 - Devils 6, Bruins 3

The Devils forced Game 7 with their victory. This was a wild series that had the likes of "have another doughnut", a coach suspended and referees boycotting a game. But this was rather uneventful other than it would be the last home game of the year. I remember leaving this game and my dad telling me I would be going to Game 1 of the Final against the Oilers if they made it. And being all of 10 years old, all I could think about was beating Wayne Gretzky, who said years earlier the Devils were a "Mickey Mouse organization". It was not to be as the Bruins won Game 7 6-2.

5. '07 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 2 - Devils 3, Senators 2 (2 OT).

In what would be the last time I would see a Devils home game at the Continental Airlines Arena, Jamie Langenbrunner made my trip worthwhile with a double-OT breakaway goal. The Devils blew a 2-0 lead, allowing a goal by the killer Dany Heatley with less than a minute in regulation. A co-worker of mine would later ask me, "how many F-bombs did you drop when Heatley scored?" as I have tended to get a tad frustrated in those situations. Surprisingly, I was quite cool, only putting my head down in frustration knowing that my wife and I had to drive back to Connecticut after the game. Thankfully, Langenbrunner scored and after my jump for joy from the last row of the corner in the upper deck in the opposite end of the arena, I just put my head down on my wife's shoulder and yelled "THANK GOD!"

4. '88 Patrick Division Semifinals Game 6 - Devils 6, Islanders 5

The first-ever playoff series win in their first attempt and I was there! The Devils had a 6-1 lead midway through the second period and I can remember just being so ecstatic. They were going to beat the mighty Islanders! Happy retirement Denis Potvin, whose family was sitting right near me. But in the immortal words of Lee Corso, "NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS!!!!". The Islanders chipped away at the lead and had a chance to tie the game right before the buzzer sounded. But Sean Burke made a save on Pat LaFontaine on a shot which would have counted had it gone in and the Devils won the game and the series. I remember sticking it to my Ranger fan friends the next day in school because the Devils had knocked the Rangers out of a possible playoff berth on a goal in OT on the last night of the regular season and they were still playing while the Rangers were booking their tee times

3. '97 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 1 -Devils 5, Canadiens 2

The CBC version:

The FSN NY version:

In my first live playoff game in two years, an ordinary Devils victory turned into history. With the Devils leading 4-2 and less than a minute to go in the game, Martin Brodeur picked up the puck behind his net after Montreal dumped the puck in. He skated to the post and flipped a wrist shot in the air and into an empty net. He became just the second goalie in NHL playoff history to physically shoot a puck into a net in a playoff game. He tried many times during the season and just missed on different occassions. But this one was right down the middle of the net and the place (and I) went nuts. I lost my voice yelling "BRODEUR SCORED A FUCKING GOAL, HE SCORED A FUCKING GOAL!!!" I actually saw his other "goal" he was credited with, three years later against the Flyers when he was the last to touch the puck after a Flyer accidentally passed it in to his own empty net on a delayed penalty

2. '03 Stanley Cup Final Game 5 - Devils 6, Mighty Ducks 3

My first Stanley Cup Final game. My friend Scott and I bought the tickets at the box office just hours after the Devils beat the Senators in an exciting Game 7 of the Conference Finals. We decided to buy tickets to just one game because that's all we could really afford with an $80 face value and having to buy for more than one person. After great debate, we decided on Game 5 figuring that was our best chance at a clincher. After the Devils won the first two games, we looked to be in good position. However, the Devils lost the next two games, both in OT, making this game a non-clincher. It still was thrilling to be there and memorable for me personally for something more than just the final score and the fact the Devils were one win away from their third Stanley Cup since 1995. Earlier that week, my wife Norah's aunt passed away suddenly. That game happened to be the night of the funeral and I remember Norah debating whether to go or not. She would eventually go mainly to use it as an escape, to forget about it for a couple of hours. I'll never forget when she cheered after the Devils scored the first goal. Just for a moment, we could laugh and cheer and think about something else for a little while. On the ice, it was the most goals the teams would score combined in a single game during the series.

After much debate and internal struggle, I had to make this #1 ... it sucks because it was not in the Devils favor, but for historical reference, nothing beats this game.

1. '94 Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 - Rangers 4, Devils 2

Two words, Mark Messier. Although the Devils lost this game, it's still the most memorable game I have ever had the fortune to be at live in any sport. It started on the ride to the game. Having been in high school all day (junior year), my father picked me up at the house and threw the New York Post and said to me, "LOOK WHAT THAT HORSE-FACE SAID!" (that's what he called Messier then) and on the cover was the popular "WE WILL WIN TONIGHT". I thought, oh no, that's all we need. Getting into the arena, it was a surreal atmosphere. For the first time, the Devils could advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a win on home ice AND beat the Rangers in the process. The Devils would jump out to a 2-0 lead. When Scott Niedermayer scored on a slap shot on a delayed penalty, I never ever heard the arena as loud as it was at that moment. I could feel the chills up my spine, it was unbelievable. But the Rangers would chip away, scoring late in the second period on a goal by Alexei Kovalev, assisted by, guess who, Messier. After the second period, I turned to my father, who was separated from my mom at the time and also was a cop who worked early hours, and uttered a line which I believe jinxed my team. I said vaguely, "if something happens, will we stay for the whole thing," The something being the Wales ConferenceTrophy presentation and everything. He didn't answer. Well sure enough, Messier takes over. He scores on a backhand goal, which from my angle and my seat, I never saw go in. Then he scores on a rebound to give them the lead and the building goes crazy again. All the Rangers fans who were sitting on their hands in the first period were yelling as loud as the Devils fans did. Then with Brodeur pulled, Messier flipped a shot from the faceoff circle at the opposite end ofthe rink and into the empty net. UGH!!!! GAME FREAKING 7!!!! When the game was over, I turned to my dad as we were walking back to our car, a mile away in the Giants Stadium parking lot, and said "there's no way they are winning Game 7, there's no way." It turned out I would be right.

While it sucked to be there, looking back on how important and how unbelievable a performance it was, I can say that it was the top game I have ever seen in person.

Honorable mentions:

In what would be known as "The Save" to Penguins fans, 1991 Patrick Division Semifinals Game 6:

I was in MSG seeing this game on Garden Vision ... Game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final: