Tag Archive | hockey

You Might Be a Redneck Hockey Player If…

dukes-of-hazzard-confederate-flag

An ice hockey game? Can she still wear Daisy Dukes?

I have a confession to make. I cannot make head or tails of hockey. And considering DC has the best team in the league, that is a major bummer. I respect the sport immensely but whenever I try to follow the puck, I feel like a tabby teased with a laser pointer.

I think it has something to do with being from the South. With today’s technology, ice rinks are as common as Starbucks. But skating on the lone ice rink in 1985 Memphis was as novel as walking on Mars. Keep in mind, when I was growing up, there were no Nashville Predators or Carolina Hurricanes. On a hockey freelance assignment once, I had a 10-minute conversation with Gordie Howe and had no idea who he was.

So when I look at hockey, I can’t help but bring a Southern mentality to it. Take hockey player names. Many of them properly convey the devastating power, grit and grace these athletes possess: Alex Ovechkin. Jaromir Jagr. There’s even a Michal Jordan.

Then there is the handful of unfortunates who sound like they should be throwing rocks at Forrest Gump.

Still, they are my peeps. Or at least sound like them.

Siberian cat - kitten watching light spot

Me at every hockey game, ever.

Take Dallas center Vernon Fiddler. Or Detroit’s Tomas Tatar. (I know the Slovakian player’s name is probably pronounced more like the fancy raw steak, but in my head I hear my grandma cooking “tay-ters” for dinner.)

I would give anything for Beau Bennett and Bo Horvat to team up with Luke Glendening and Luke Schenn.

Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck isn’t alone–there are actually numerous Cal’s across the NHL, but it’s the “Clutterbuck” that makes me mentally cast him alongside Dallas’ Cody Eakin and Colton Sceviour in a Bonanza episode. Throw in Jimmy Howard, J.T. Brown, and Calvin Pickard and you could pull off Oklahoma.

Finally, there’s Columbus center Boone Jenner, which sounds more “Bull Durham” than “Slapshot” to me. It manages to be both sexy and redneck at the same time—exactly the kind of guy I like, if I weren’t twice his age. So I’ll leave it there, y’all.

A Sports Poet and I Didn’t Know It…

For today, a little bit o’ verse to sum up last week’s biggest headlines:

I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm gonna make you wish you'd never picked up a football.

I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m gonna make you wish you’d never picked up a football.

Duke beats Syracuse when Coach Boeheim is sent away

Michael Sam’s football prowess overshadows being gay

Jason Collins, also gay, returns to play in the NBA

(Could it be we’re FINALLY seeing opinions on this issue sway?)

American hockey teams are sad Olympics reach final their day

With round-one knockout, Ronda Rousey makes Sara McMann pay

Dale Jr. wins Daytona (and sends first-ever tweet!) after rain delay

And a career-best win for adorable Aussie golfer Jason Day!

Happy Monday! Remember, the Olympics may be over, but pro hockey is BACK and baseball spring training is starting up! WOOT!

FBS, BCS, WTF??? Frozen Cheese, a Flopping Foot, and How Hip Is My Mom?

1–Living in Washington DC, you get used to a lot of acronyms: CIA, POTUS, IRS, OMG the NSA sees my FB? But the government has nothing on football championship nomenclature.

Tonight, Auburn and Florida State face off in the “Football Bowl Subdivision” (FBS, previously NCAA “Division I-A” football) Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Championship Presented by Vizio, Dorito’s, Capital One and My Hairdresser. FBS championships are not actually sanctioned by the NCAA, but instead determined by a controversial ranking system (the BCS) and a whole lotta sponsorship money.

Dude, if you freeze to death at this game, it's not that hat I'll eat!

Dude, if you freeze to death at this game, it’s not that hat I’m gonna eat!

On Saturday, there was another Division-I NCAA college football championship between the “Football Championship Series” (FCS, traditionally known as “Division I-AA”) teams. After a month-long playoff tournament, finalist North Dakota State defeated Towson (Md.), 35-7 for the Bison’s third-straight national title. (By the way, Northwest Missouri State was the 2013 Division II winner, and Wisconsin-Whitewater won Division III.) FBS teams will adopt their own playoff system beginning in 2014,  producing what proponents argue will be a “true” champion. The new approach has its critics, but at least we can give the alphabet a little bit of a rest.

2–Green Bay is famous for many things—“Cheeseheads,” Vince Lombardi, the Lambeau Leap, and Butt. Cold. Football. Sunday wasn’t quite the 1967 “Ice Bowl” between Green Bay and Dallas, when the temperature was an all-time game low of minus-13. Pundits geeked out about the potential blizzard conditions all week for the nighttime NFC Wild Card match-up between Green Bay and San Francisco. And temps came close at a balmy 5 degrees. But in the end, the story actually became the game itself, which saw the 49ers top the Packers 23-20 after superb performances from quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (newly returned from a broken collarbone) and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick (who rushed for 98 yards to become the fifth-highest rushing quarterback in NFL history). Also advancing in this weekend’s playoffs: New Orleans, San Diego and Indianapolis.

3—With its crime, jobless rate, and bankruptcy that had the city seeking to sell off works of art, it’s rare Detroit has anything to celebrate. But Red Wing fans enjoyed the Winter Classic New Year’s Day, the NHL’s annual outdoor hockey game, despite losing to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2. At the University of Michigan’s “The Big House” stadium (where Michigan football usually plays), 105,000 people watched the teams battle each other and a steady snow that kept rink managers busy, skating back and forth between plays pushing shovels. During intermissions, fans enjoyed family activities, the introduction of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and the Zac Brown Band.

4—Ronda Rousey retained her women’s bantamweight championship title, defeating Miesha Tate Saturday night in the second-ever women’s UFC Championship. It was the eighth consecutive victory for Rousey, a former Olympic judo medalist. After the bout, Rousey turned her back on her opponent’s handshake—the two also face off regularly on the reality show The Ultimate Fighter.

But it was the main men’s fight, a middleweight rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva, that stole the show (and had people grabbing for the nearest trash can). In the second round, the two men’s shins collided on simultaneous kicks, snapping Silva’s leg in half on live TV, with a result that resembled…um I don’t know…imagine you are wearing a long winter sock with the foot full of sand, and you are flopping it around in 360 degree circles. Weidman had handed Silva his first defeat in 17 bouts two months ago with a total knockout. Silva vows he will return to the ring.

(And of course, here’s the video. I used the Brazilian version so that maybe the Portuguese is a distraction from the carnage. No? Oh well.)

5–Speaking of gruesome breaks, just a quick tip of the hat to my mother Betsy, who fell and broke her hip the week before Christmas. A lifelong athlete, coach and a Senior Olympian who still holds records in track and field, she’s back home and on the mend–far sooner than she might have if not for making health and exercise such a priority in her daily life. We can’t change our genes or avoid freak accidents (in her case, tripping over the Geeksquad guy as she was hanging Christmas decorations), but we can prepare ourselves better for lifelong health by staying active through sports, the gym, or even just walking the dog (which isn’t so bad for him either!) Go Mom!

Hockey Help for Southerners and Other Ice-Uninformed

I have a confession to make. I love sports, but hockey makes me feel like a kitten chasing a laser pointer. I’m from the South, y’all: ice is for popsicles, not pucks.

But I respect the game immensely. Goalies dropping into splits Prince would admire. Giant men skating 30 miles an hour, or what’s harder – stopping. Hockey skates don’t have toe picks like figure skates do. Unless you can turn and dig in at a sudden 90 degrees, you will, like myself, spin yourself into a centrifugal seizure.

Couples skate, anyone?  (Patrick Sharp)

Couples skate, anyone? (Patrick Sharp)

In other words, hockey is the only sport that makes me feel like…a girl.

On the other hand, did I mention the giant men? Hockey orthodontics have improved quite a bit since “Slapshot” (one of my Best Romantic Sports Movies), ladies, I suggest you pay attention. May I present Exhibit A, Patrick Sharp, a captain for the Chicago Blackhawks who face the Boston Bruins tonight in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup?

For other tips on tonight’s game, I turned to Washington DC’s First Family of Hockey, and my favorite Washington Capitals season seatmates, the Labres: Yvon, former Caps captain and defensive legend whose jersey graces the Verizon Center rafters, and his son Cory, hockey genius and awesome sports dad to girls and boys.

Watch on a large flatscreen, in HD. I myself only dumped my analog box a few months ago, so if you don’t have one, go to a local bar. You see more of the ice, and the puck and jersey numbers are sharper. With a little practice, you can see plays develop and anticipate what will happen next. But…

Don’t sit too close. If you’re not used to hockey, watching the close-ups make it hard to follow.

I like to pick one type of play or rule and watch for it. We all see goals, but when you recognize an assist, a penalty, or a power play, it builds your confidence and you can apply that knowledge to more complex action.

Go skating. OK it may be too late for tonight’s game, but there could be a Game 7. You are more likely to appreciate a sport’s difficulty if you try it at the local rink, diamond, or just in the backyard with the kids.

Watch with someone who (like my boyfriend) plays the game and (NOT like my boyfriend) can calmly explain things even when his beloved Blackhawks are on the ropes, and I tell him don’t give up, and he stomps off frustrated, and they wind up winning (again) in overtime anyway, and I just laugh and laugh and laugh…

Pick a player to focus on, like Sharp or “Patrick Kane, USA born, and he is on fire,” says Cory. “Such fast, great hands and he controls the game–when he has the puck, they can’t catch him or hit him.” For the Bruins, center Patrice Bergeron is their best guy – if he’s healthy enough to play tonight.

Above all, have fun (and for my fellow Southerners – two months to FOOTBALL!)

10 Must-Know Sports Miracles (or Forget Slippers, Cinderella Wears a Sports Bra)

As I watched Florida Gulf Coast University celebrate advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, the first-ever 15-seed to do so, my buddy Jorge suggested I revisit some of sports’ other upsets, unusual runs, and astonishing accomplishments we never tire of seeing replayed because they remind us that anything is possible.

These are just a fraction of hundreds of heroic moments any sports fan should know—and I just stuck to the ones in my own lifetime!—but feel free to post suggestions of your own. Now, in no particular order…

Dolphins Defeat…Everyone
It’s my birthday this week, so let’s start with the second most awesome event of 1972. The Miami Dolphins achieved the only perfect NFL season thus far, beating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to finish 17-0.

ripken

Click here to see Ripken reach 2,131 consecutive games. (Courtside Tweets)

The Iron Man
Cal Ripken’s accolades would take up half of IBM’s servers, but the Baltimore Oriole infielder is best known for surpassing Lou Gehrig in consecutive games played (2,131 in 1995). He continued his streak to a voluntary end at 2,632 in 1998 and retired in 2001 a 19-time all-star.

That Slam Dunk…No, the Flu Game…No…His Return…No…
Like Ripken, it’s almost impossible to pick the best Michael Jordan moment. So I’ll go with what is simply called “Game 6.” Chicago was visiting the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan hit a jump shot with five seconds left to put Chicago ahead 87-86, giving the Bulls their sixth title in eight years.

America’s Sweetheart Sticks it to the Competition
In Montreal 1976, Romanian Nadia Comăneci became the first woman ever to score a perfect 10 (uneven bars) in Olympic history and elevating women’s gymnastics to primetime.

Eight years later, Mary Lou Retton would trail another Romanian, Ecaterina Szabo, by .15 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Retton (who was nursing a knee injury) nailed two perfect-10 vaults, becoming the first American to earn the all-around gold medal and Wheaties boxes everywhere.

The Chase for Home Run History
In 1961, Yankees right fielder Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 season homers. But in 1998, for weeks, Americans watched in awe as not one but two hitters chased the record—and exceeded it: St. Louis’ Mark McGwire (70 HRs) followed by the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa (66). Sadly, steroid allegations against McGwire have since added a silent asterisk to the honor.

Bra-va!
You probably don’t remember what it was (Women’s World Cup Soccer Finals) when (1999) where (Rose Bowl) or even who played (U.S. and China), but you will recall Brandi Chastain’s topless knee slide across the turf after scoring the fifth shootout penalty kick to win the U.S. the title. Attired in exultation and a sports bra, Chastain became one of the most photographed female athletes in history.

Red Sox Redemption
Things were looking pretty great for Boston in 1918. They had won five baseball world titles. They had the best player, Babe Ruth, on the roster. Gin and jazz for everyone!

And then it all fell apart. The team sold Ruth to their arch-rival Yankees (where Ruth went on to post historic numbers—see Roger Maris, above). And so began the legendary “Curse of the Bambino”—an 86-year championship drought until 2004, when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals, never trailing in the series, and even Yankee fans had to smile.

“Hail Flutie”
At only 5-10, Boston College’s Doug Flutie was not your usual quarterback. But he made an unusually successful career, winning the Heisman Trophy and playing pro ball in both the U.S. and Canada. His prowess was due in large part to his last-second “Hail Mary” pass to Gerard Phelan to beat defending-champion Miami, November 23, 1984. The play is considered perhaps the greatest in college sports history.

Sampras Survives
Tennis has many historic rivalries and matches—Billie Jean King defeating Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes”; Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert; John McEnroe and…everybody.

Maybe it’s not really a “miracle,” but the match that stands out to me is the 1995 Australian Open quarterfinal between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier. Sampras’ coach Tim Gullikson had collapsed at the tournament (and was later diagnosed with brain cancer). Shaken, Sampras openly wept as he played, but won. He lost in the finals to Andre Agassi, but all I remember is his determination to honor his friend (who passed away the following year).

miracel on ice

Click here to relive the miracle moment. (curtchaplin)

Miracle on Ice
Of all American sports celebrations, this moment stands skates above them all—and I think even Jordan and Ripken will agree. It was a Cold War, literally and figuratively, for the U.S. hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. They were inexperienced underdogs facing an indomitable Russian squad with a 21-game Olympic win streak and considered by far the best team in the world. Yet somehow coach Herb Brooks led this group of amateurs and college players to defeat the U.S.S.R. and then go on to win the gold medal against Finland. Disney’s “Miracle” is the movie adaptation.

So will FGCU be the next miracle to remember? We’ll find out Friday night, 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

Put Down the “Big-Un’s,” Al Bundy! (or, Why It’s an Awesome Chicago Sports Week)

Wins, and all that jazz. (Jeff Gunn)

Wins, and all that jazz. (Jeff Gunn)

OK ladies, I know stats may seem dull, but (as I explain here), keeping up with the major ones can go a long way in making sports more fun. And Chicago is having fun right now.

Unless you were like me last night, watching the Washington Capitals’ Eric Fehr score the winning overtime goal after a jaw-dropping, let’s just leave early to beat the crowds comeback (0-3 to 4-3) against the Boston Bruins, you might have noticed a few other astonishing accomplishments by the Chicago Blackhawks. In defeating Minnesota, they nailed a 10-game, franchise-record win streak and extended their streak of “points” to 23 this season, and 29 straight since the 2011-12 season. (Two points are awarded, for example, for a team win.)

(Ladies, an interesting little fact is the Blackhawks’ 23 points are the same numeral as Michael Jordan’s famous jersey. Bet your husband didn’t catch that. See? Kinda cool.)

Speaking of Jordan:

Things were looking pretty good for point guard Derrick Rose when he was drafted number-one by the Chicago Bulls after one season at the University of Memphis. He got to return to his hometown and earned Rookie of the Year followed by MVP the next season, the youngest ever. Then came the ACL tear that has kept him benched for 10 months now.

But tonight, maybe, just maybe, the team Michael Jordan built might just get to see its phenom–oft-compared to Sir Michael himself–return to the court against the San Antonio Spurs. Coach Tom Thibodeau is calling Rose “day-to-day,” but he has reportedly been going full-contact at practices.

Unfortunately the Bulls will meet the NBA’s top team (47-14) at San Antonio. But at least the weather will be a little better–and the Spurs are currently missing their own injured point guard Tony Parker (sound familiar? He’s the former spouse of “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria–now, ironically, the new host of NBC’s new show, “Ready for Love.”)

Maybe Al Bundy will get to strike his famous “Polk High” touchdown stance once again.

Sunday Fun-day

Peter Wolf

“LIGHTS OUT! Uh-huh! Blast, blast, blast!” Remember this gem from J. Geils lead singer Peter Wolf?

Unless you live under a particularly large rock, you know the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers last night, 34-31. After a fun-but-far-too-late Ravens party, I’m…let’s just say “tired,” but here’s a quick rundown of the game and other notable news from last week:

 Super Bowl Breakdown
Led by the MVP efforts of QB Joe Flacco, the Ravens dominated the first half, finishing at 21-6. But the 49ers returned in the second half with a 19-point surge to close the gap at 31-29, despite a third-quarter power outage that delayed the game for 35 minutes. Though 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh pleaded for a holding call on a fourth down with under two minutes left, the refs disagreed, and the Ravens finished on top.

Now, impress your boyfriend:

  • At four hours, 14 minutes, this was the longest Super Bowl ever.
  • The Ravens failed at the first fake field goal attempt in Super Bowl history.
  • The “OH!” shouts you heard as Alicia Keys sang “Oh say does that…” were Ravens fans mimicking a Baltimore Orioles baseball tradition of…enhancing the National Anthem.
  • Beyonce was joined by Destiny’s Child for a knockout halftime performance. “Beyonce did not cause the power outage,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joked.
  • The Ravens’ Jacoby Jones set a Super Bowl record with his 108-yard kickoff return.
  • Flacco received a Corvette Stingray for his MVP performance. And, more important, got to meet Beyonce and Jay-Z.
  • Miss any of the commercials? Catch them here.

Bold Statement
Ray Lewis gets most of the attention, but another Ravens linebacker, Brendon Ayanbadejo, hopes to use Super Bowl spotlight now and beyond—not for football, but for gay rights.

Ayanbadejo has long been vocal about his cause. In a recent New York Times interview, he described his passion’s roots in a childhood amid many diverse lifestyles, including living in a University California-Santa Cruz LGBT dorm directed by his stepfather.

“I was raised around gay people in a very liberal society. Discrimination was never allowed.” (By the way, the UC-Santa Cruz “Banana Slugs”? Best. Mascot. EVER!)

Gordie Howe and me

Gordie Howe and me on our shared birthday, March 31, in 1993. (Nice bangs, dummy.)

Icy Hot
Hockey is already well into its abbreviated, 48-game season (due to a lockout this past fall). The Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks lead the NHL, both still undefeated at 7-0…Sadly for me, Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz netted a hat trick (three goals in one game) against my second-to-last Washington Capitals in a 6-3 loss on Sunday…The Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty rejoined his team Sunday just eight days after emergency appendectomy… Catch Pacioretty against the Boston Bruins for an anticipated matchup this Wednesday on NBC’s Rivalry Night.

Know Your NHL: Hockey Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe (also known as “Mr. Hockey”) is considered perhaps the best player of all time. Known for his skills at scoring and brawling, he is the namesake of the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”—a single-game achievement of a goal, an assist, and a fight.

Dame Diggins
No. 2 Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins had a career-best 33 points in a 77-67 defeat of the Tennessee Lady Vols on Monday. UT had hoped to upset the Irish on a night dedicated to legendary former coach Pat Head Summitt, whose 1,098-208 career record makes her the winning-est coach of any Division I men’s or women’s teams ever. The court is already named for Summitt, but a banner was raised in her honor in front of a sell-out crowd. Summitt, merely 60, retired last April after a diagnosis of early-onset dementia.

Sad Stalemate
Recently featured on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Houston Rockets’ 6-8 rookie Royce White, 21, is 260 pounds and covered in tattoos. But he can’t fly, can barely drive, and can’t enter his closet if his suits and hats aren’t perfectly arranged. His generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) make his life a daily battle. And have nearly ruined his pro career.

Requiring special conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), such as a personal doctor, not the team’s, to determine his mental ability to play, the Iowa State phenom is currently suspended from his $3.3 million annual contract, and has not once set foot on the court.

“What comes along with mental health that goes untreated: alcohol abuse; marijuana abuse; suicidal behavior; homicidal behavior…I advocate for a healthy, safe work environment.”

The Rockets claim to have “bent over backwards” to meet his needs, and that the situation will cause an imbalance in authority between coaches, doctors, and players’ decisions. Hopefully the two sides will reach an agreement. Regardless, White says he will give up the NBA to prove to the world at large that mental disorders are just as devastating as physical ones.

Winter Sports Star Caleb Moore Dies
Winter X Games competitor Caleb Moore passed away Thursday after injuries sustained in a snowmobile crash. He was 25. It is the first death in the Games’ 17 years.

The Dark Knight…Disappears?
In an incident that any American woman will find hiii-larious, a confused bat recently terrorized players at a Marquette/Providence game. Players and coaches fled, ducked, and threw towels at the bat as Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train played. I’ve heard the bat both was and was not caught—will Christian Bale play in the sequel?

Table Manners
DC locals: head to the Arlington Drafthouse tonight for a special premiere of the new 106.7 The Fan Sports Junkies’ Comcast SportsNet TV show, “Table Manners” (details here).