29 September 2008

Ice cream and hockey

What's better than hockey camp after a long summer? Hockey camp that's in the Green Mountain state. The Bruins have been training here among the leaf peepers for a few days, and tonight they will be at the main Ben and Jerry's factory in Waterbury, signing autographs and basically reaching out to a Vermont community that loves their hockey, and their 'home town' boys on the Bruins. The University of Vermont has housed a few NHL-ers in it's time, Tim Thomas being one of them (honorable mention goes to Mighty Mouse St.Louis and John LeClair), so this autograph session should be a nice touch to the Bruins stay and organization.

So B's fans, if you're in central Vermont at around 8pm tonight, you should check it out. I recommend the Phish food and a handshake from Patrice Bergeron.

(thanks to Teka for the heads up)

27 September 2008

Pack up your tents and macaroni art, camp is over.

That's right, kids, camp is over and the preseason is in full swing. The Penguins, who have topped the Atlantic in the preseason (which as we all know, means about jack in the long run, but it's still nice to see the Flyers below the Pens) seem to be getting their lines together and working pretty well, but with some changes coming into their (last?) season at the Mellon.

-Departures are always bittersweet, but Ryan Malone will be missed on the top line. Apparently SATAN and his ex-Islander counterpart are making their new homes there, and easing the ache left by he of the wonderfully tattooed arms. We will miss you, Malone! Enjoy sunny Florida and the Lightning.

Honorable mentions go to Ruutu and Laraque, who are going to missed for the character they brought to the ice...and the neverending intimidation and irritation to the opponent. Who is going to annoy the crap out of visiting teams and lead the Pens faithful in confusing chants that sound like booing? 'Coooooooke' doesn't have the same ring to it.

Hossa doesn't get a full sentence.

-Malkin is the new pointman? Apparently until Gonchar is healed (get well soon!) Malkin will take point on the power play, sounding excited about the prospect. Is it me or is he talking without the aid of a translator in his Trib interviews lately?

-A sign of the times: the Penguins have their own Facebook page.

A couple odds and ends here, but has anyone checked out the model for the women's t-shirts? Pretty, yes. Nice figure, yes. Vacant expression like someone drugged her? Yes. Come on, you're posing a nice looking lady in hockey clothing for oodles of cash and you can't do a smile?

Now, while my camp councilors this summer, a nice set of people in white coats that told me that making angry pictures with flying wheels and then burning them was a bad thing to do, recommend that I not talk about the damn Red Wings, it looks like the dirty rat bastards Wings will be hosting a rock concert for their opening banner raising ceremony on October 9th. Tickets are 35-45 bucks, which seems rather reasonable for the Wings. Congratulations to them and their win this past spring. Jerks.

So now that the Penguins are leaving for Europe this afternoon, the preseason is winding down and the 2008-2009 season is a week away, what are fan expectations for their favorite team? Anyone else think Tampa might be more of a challenge than expected? Capitals make a run for the Cup? Flyers fail horribly and cry themselves to sleep in April?

Either way, go Pens.

22 September 2008

Time Out

Preseason is rearing into full swing and there is blessedly more hockey coverage appearing by the day. However, as exciting as all that may be, there's always something to come along and remind us all about the things in life that are really more important.

Fellow HLOGger Bethany just texted me with some absolutely tragic news regarding former Oiler Jussi Markkanen:

Jussi Markkanen's son Oli-matias (4) fell out of a window in the goalie's apartment in Moscow yesterday and died almost instantly ... the CSKA goalie brought his family to join in him in Moscow just a couple of weeks ago ... it seems Oli-Matias was playing with his younger brother, climbed on the window sill and fell.

Unsure whether Jussi will stay or will require a break, the team has called up a spare goalie [...] The entire team went to Markkanen's place after the [last] game, to spend time with him and his family.

Of course an incident like this is always a tragedy, but Jussi has always been a favorite here at NPI - in fact, Jussi was one of the biggest part of 06 Oilers Cup run that brought Elly and I together as fans. I speak for both of us in saying that we would like to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to Jussi, his family, and everyone else affected by this loss. Whether or not Juicy returns to the CSKA lineup or takes a well-justified break, he will be always be missed as an Oiler in our hearts here, and our support will always be with him.

We love you, Jussi - all our best to you and your family.

17 September 2008

Bobble the Vote!

The Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's AHL affiliate, announced their promotional schedule recently - most of the promos were the standard hockey cards, dollar beer nights, team posters and the like, but it was the picture at the top of the page that really caught my eye:

This is the sort of thing that makes me wish I still lived out on the west side of the state, where I used to catch Griffins games all the time. For those, like me, curious about just what is going on here, the blurb about this particular promo is as following:

"The Griffins’ early-season promotional schedule will be highlighted by “Bobble the Vote ‘08” on Saturday, Nov. 1 -- three days before Election Day -- with a giveaway of John McCain and Barack Obama bobbleheads that depict each candidate in a Griffins jersey. One thousand bobbleheads of each candidate will be available to fans, who will select their favorite upon entering the arena. The first candidate to run out of bobbleheads wins!"
While 'bobble' doesn't quite have the same ring to it as 'rock', props for coming up with such a ridiculous and yet excellent slogan as well as promo. I wonder how hockey mom Sarah Palin feels about her glaring omission? (Sorry Becca - the photoshop was too good not to toss up.)

For more information about Griffins schedule, tickets and promos - I can vouch for the games myself, they are cheap, a TON of fun and a great alternative to driving 4.5 hours from Grand Rapids to Detroit, a feat that gets a bit pricey for those living on the west side - see their website. Other particular notables include limited edition figurines of Darren McCarty (Dec. 20) and Valtteri Filppula (Jan. 10). For some reason the figurines have been given names, of sorts - McCarty's is referred to as "Hat Trick" for obvious reasons (WOW do I not vouch for that Griffins...themesong) but Filppula's is the slightly more obtuse "Superman". I can only imagine - and hope - that it has something to do with this.

14 September 2008

Needs more Red Sparkles

As it seems I'm stuck with the mantle of dispersing the Ty Conklin news and as he is now, in fact, a Wing (I'm still not over this, it makes me laugh every time I see it), here would appear to be the first look at his Red Wings mask, though he hasn't (yet, anyway) been using it in practice:

Rather matte for Conks, although it does seem to be in a similar vein as his Pittsburgh mask - quite a bit less shiny than what he wore in Buffalo.

Ticket Woes

There's been lots of good Wings news lately - the team wins the Cup, they resign almost all of their players to contracts that work for both the players and the team (the most recent being another year for Chris Chelios and two for Kyle Quincey - the article also includes a great bit about him working with Aaron Downey at fighting; it's always great to see a player putting for extra effort to find a niche that allows them to truly benefit the team, and as Quincey is NPI's Griffins favorite, this was especially promising news for me.), they secure at least one year of Marian Hossa to bolster their firepower...the list goes on.

However, there's always a dark side to things. Red Wings tickets, fallen in favor this past season due to the economy woes of much of Detroit and potentially even the team's habit of falling just a little (or a lot - see the 05/06 playoff exit) short of the big prize (the season opener last year against the Ducks didn't even sell out), are once again a hot commodity. Winning the Cup set the tone for the coming season - prices could, and would, raise.

Of course, back in July we were collectively told that several upper bowl seats were actually going to drop in price - and for good reason:

Violetta said lowering the prices for some of those upper-bowl seats -- which basically run from goal line to goal line -- was done after research from this past season. Many of those seats were unsold as fans simply went to the next section up and bought $22 tickets.
Makes sense - in fact, I did exactly that last season, especially when it came to playoff time. Make no mistake, I'm a poor recent college graduate, then college student, and of course I was looking for the filthiest of dirt cheap - but even so, it sounded like a good idea to get more bodies in the Joe - after all, I'm not the only poor college student who loves her team.

Well, then the price chart washed up from the depths of the internet and lo and behold, the season ticket holders were the only ones really benefitting from these recent price drops. The rest of us saw across the board price raises from, according to James Malik, $4-$65 per ticket. Of course, it's not completely unreasonable to see a team jack up prices, even in a job-draught town like Detroit, after a Cup win. The really good part is what comes next - the team quietly, and by quietly I mean without any notice at all, introduced the sort of 'premium game' ticket pricing some teams (like the Buffalo Sabres, for example) have. Imagine my surprise when yesterday morning at noon I logged on to Ticketmaster with the futile hope of getting tickets to the season opener, and the more likely one of nabbing a few to see the Rangers on October 18th, and the Oil on at least one of the two dates. After a thorough round of fighting with Ticketmaster's website, I realized that the ticket prices for the two games were substantially different - to the Rangers game you could pick up seats in the upper bowl, row 18, for $55 apiece. The Oilers? Row 17 for $48. Let Malik explain:

In addition to boosting the prices of single-game tickets in a state that continues to lose jobs at an astonishing race based upon a Stanley Cup win, they've also introduced "premium" game pricing. If you want to go see the Wings raise their Stanley Cup banner against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 9th, you pay from $45-125 in the upper bowl, and from $125-235 in the lower bowl.

Want to see the Wings play an Original Six rival in the Rangers on Saturday, October 18th? It'll cost you from $35.00-$95.00 in the upper bowl, and from $95-195 to sit in the lower bowl.

Sneaky, very sneaky. Other games that are effected and considered 'premium' are the Original Six rivalries, the Penguins game on November 11, and the home game against the Blackhawks directly before the Winter Classic. The $9 tickets from last season still exist for purchase at the box office, going on sale in two month increments, but from the picking around I did it looks like the next step up - the $25 tickets - are practically unacquirable.

While I think it's very unfortunate to have this sprung on the fans, and it does truly suck that it's this hard and this expensive to get tickets to see the team you love, it's hard not to be happy that perhaps the team will be able to fill the Joe's seats again, following this victory. And besides that, it's something special to be a follower of a team like this in a city like ours. I can't say how many times I've thought it would be unbelievably nice to live in a city that didn't care, where you could walk up to the arena on the day of a game and pick up decent tickets from the box office a few hours before the game - but the more I've considered it every time I've realized I would hate to be in a town that didn't care, convenience or not.

It's a tough line to walk - on one hand, the price-gouging, especially in a city going through what Detroit is right now - is making it almost impossibly hard for some fans to attend games at all. How spectacular is having Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Hossa, Lidstrom, when you can't afford to see them live? On the other hand, being able to call this successful, this dynamic a team your own and to live in a city that bleeds for them, a real hockey city, often makes it feel worth it.

However, I ended up buying tickets to only two games, rather than the handful I would have liked, at least for now - and that sucks. While I'm not mad at the team per se, it's hard not to bear a little resentment at how thin my pocketbook is at the moment. So, what do you think? Worth it or not? Rip off, or okay? Would you rather life somewhere tickets cost spare change? I think in the long run, I like it here - unfortunate as it is. We'll always have FSN.

04 September 2008

Pavel & Henrik, sittin' in a tree...

For all Mike Babcock says about Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg agreeing to be split up because both wanted to play center, Datsyuk appears a little broken up over it, when asked about his feelings on the matter:

"My reaction?" Datsyuk said Thursday after an informal skate at Joe Louis Arena. "I start crying. I can't sleep two days. But now everything is fine."

Datsyuk and Zetterberg were a dominant one-two punch when they played together last season.

"I help Hank, Hank helped me," Datsyuk said.

Datsyuk is taking a wait-and-see approach with the proposed break-up with Zetterberg.

"Every year we start like that (on different lines)," Datsyuk said. "It's not new. It's a long season. Nobody knows. I'm happy we're still on the same team. I hope we finish on the same team."
It seems Pavel is as skeptical as the rest of us about whether or not the move will last. It's great to see the comradery and chemistry between those two (as D-Mac said last year, "they're together"), as well as Datsyuk's always entertaining humor. (Okay, I admit, that was the real reason I wanted to post this.)

03 September 2008

"We can still be friends."

Coach Mike Babcock has confirmed - "not maybe, for sure" - that the Eurotwin superstars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk will be broken up for the upcoming season. Says Babcock,

"They're not playing together. It would be crazy to play them together. They both want to play center anyway."
While I've never heard anything on Zetterberg professsing the desire to play center rather than wing, they were both natural centers, told by Babcock when they were put together to decide amongst themselves who was going to play what, if I remember the story right, it certainly makes sense.

Adding Marian Hossa over the summer, and the breakout performance of Johan Franzen last season are the number one reasons the move is possible - and it's impossible to argue that with the new depth of the team, breaking up the stars isn't smart. Earlier in the summer the rumbling was that perhaps the big line would stay together, allowing for a second line of Hossa, Valtteri Filppula, and Franzen, but the plan for now is that Datsyuk will open training camp on a line with Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom, while Zetterberg will play with Franzen and Jiri Hudler, squashing all speculation of a Franzen-Filppula-Hossa line.

It's an amazing thing to see the team have enough depth to make a move like this, but questions remain. Will the new lines gel in the same way that last year's top line did? Not only that, but will Babcock stick to his guns? It's hard to doubt the man, but Babcock has tried on many occasion to split up the two and still, the standard philsophy these past few seasons has been whent he team struggles, put the Eurotwins back together and things will fall into place. While I hope the new lines succeed, seeing Datsyuk and Zetterberg playing together is something pretty special:

I for one am certainly torn - you always want to see the team succeed however possibly, and creating this much depth and allowing your best forwards to improve those around them is a great way to cement future success. With the talent the Wings have developing, it probably is crazy to put all your eggs on one line. But still, you have to love to see the sort of chemistry the Eurotwins possess. As usual, speculation is practically useless - everyone will have to wait until at the very least training camp to see the new lines, and the new Wings, at work for now.