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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back in the saddle 

It's been a while.

Last time I was sitting in this seat, facing the computer, while watching a hockey game with a real rooting interest, was Tuesday, April 20th. That was the day I typed:

Anyone seen Patrick Lalime? I don't think he made the trip to Toronto tonight.
Of course, that was the evening of Game 7 of the most recent Sens-Leafs debacle. I was at my computer in the middle of a crucial game 7 because I just had to avert my eyes. Lalime, of course, for those of you fortunate enough to have forgotten, had just let in a pair of horrific goals, forcing Sens fans everywhere into the fetal position. My reaction, following a blood-curdling primal scream, was to turn my focus elsewhere while keeping an eye out for Miracle on Ice II in the background.

I'm now back in the same seat, final moments of an opening Team Canada World Cup victory on in the background. Having missed the first two periods while playing softball, I don't have much in the way of analysis to offer (Canada's seemed solid in the third), but it's striking how having a real rooting difference makes in the hockey viewing experience. Like most, I watched the rest of the playoffs, post-Sens. I cheered for Brad Richards and the Lightning, I cheered for Jarome Iginla and the Flames. When the two finally met, I was torn between the "Island Boy" and the "Favourite (non-Sens) Player", but mostly went with the "Canadian Team". But in the end, neither team was one of my teams.

Canada is one of my teams. At the exhibition game on Saturday, I got a taste of what was to come. Being at the Corel Centre brought back the occasional flashback of game 6. Seeing Mario Lemieux and Jarome Iginla wearing the maple leaf, conjured memories of Salt Lake.

So, when I sat down for the third period tonight, it was both a relief and a thrill to watch a game that mattered to one of my teams as a fan. And while I know the experience is likely only a temporary reprieve from CBA limbo, it's a reprieve nonetheless.

Carpe Hockey Diem.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Lose your illusions, part 7 

Hello.
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?
The Renegades' continued their steady descent into the third circle of hell (third, of course, because they seem to be gluttons for punishment), taking a 57-16 paddling from the Edmonton Eskimos. Things got off to a promising start, with a 72-yard TD to Yo Murphy, and a single on the ensuing kickoff. Unfortunately, outside the brief reprieve of a 75-yard TD to Jason Armstead, it was all downhill from there. In fact, it wasn't even downhill as much as it was a cordless bungee jump.

(Coming soon to an unemployment office near you: Sandro "wide-and-right" Sciortino, and his most recent 0-fer-3 performance.)

Any illusions of playoff glory are now shattered, like windows at a cancelled G'n'R concert. Things are not likely to improve much against the not-so-gentil-Alouettes on Friday.
...the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Canada-Slovakia at the CC 

Tonight, I was in attendance for the second of two warm up games at the Corel Centre, as Team Canada played to a 2-2 draw with the Slovakians.

Space was abundant, from the parking lots on in, due to a surprisingly small crowd. Even the between-period lines at Tim Horton's were pretty small. While Wednesday's face-off against the U.S. rightfully sold out, only 12,812 were there to see the skillful Slovakian side this evening. Frankly, that surprised me as I was more excited to see the Slovakian players than I was the U.S. That's not anything against the U.S., who are outstanding, but a lineup that includes hometown favourites Chara and Hossa, along with Demitra, Bondra, Gaborik (who didn't play), Zednik (who also didn't play), Handzus (injured), Palffy (also injured), and Satan, to name a few should attract an equally solid crowd. So ok, the marquee value was a bit smaller in the end. Shouldn't have hurt advance ticket sales.

It was my first time attending a major (albeit exhibition) international game. Growing up in PEI, I had attended a couple of National team games when they stopped in on tour, but this was my first time with the all-star version rather than the mostly journeyman version. Despite the small crowd, the atmosphere was akin to a playoff game in its electricity.

Lyndon Slewidge kicked off the game with not only his powerhouse rendition of O Canada, but with, at least to my non-Slovak speaking ears, a fine rendering of the Slovakian anthem. An "A" for effort at least.

Canada was all over Slovakia in the early-going, but couldn't capitalize. After killing 3:58 of a 4-minute penalty to Shane Doan, Canada got a bad break as a Slovakian bowled over Martin Brodeur, leaving a wide open cage for Vladimir Orszagh. Shortly thereafter Marian Hossa pounced on the puck, broke in all alone, and snapped it through Brodeur's five hole faster than you can say "sister-in-law".

Fortunately, despite some obvious rust and team growing pains, Canada got goals from Vincent LeCavalier in the second, and Jarome Iginla in the third to force OT. They continued to take the play to the Slovakians in OT, but couldn't beat Rastislav Stana.

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Falling Sens...

A pair of Sens are now gone from the World Cup. Peter Bondra (who as an unrestricted free agent isn't technically a Sen, but I've always thought the Sens would resign him for the right price) broke his wrist tonight.

Meanwhile, Martin Prusek has withdrawn from the World Cup with a hip injury. No real word on the injury's severity, but how's that groin feeling Dom? Then again, Prusek may have until January to recover.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sens blogging from behind enemy lines 

Spotted in the comments (always a nice surpise to see that, not only is someone reading, they even took the time to comment), there's a new, and witty, Senators blogger, Aquietgirl, at Hockey will tear us apart.

A Senators fan in Toronto, she brings a fresh perspective from deep within the belly of the beast.

I loved this great take on the (at that time anticipated) Hasek signing and Lalime departure:

"i don't need to remind you that hasek is old, creaky, cranky, unorthodox, and injury-prone, but i'm too busy staring at his hart and v├ęzina trophies. i just don't think there are any better options for ottawa. prusek is mentally weak, emery is not ready, and lalime will collapse under the weight of the fan's scrutiny and $$$-power should he play another season [not that he hasn't already]. my feelings toward lalime will be like a hated ex that after a cooling off period you realise wasn't all that bad. however, even after realizing their somewhat redeeming qualities, you realize you'd still not be involved with them, but at the same time, you don't want to see them rebound before you do."
Sounds about right. I guess that would make the Yashin break-up a messy divorce with the Senators cleaning up in alimony, and the Bonk departure a slacker kid being kicked out of the basement. Go read the rest for yourself. I've added her to the Sens blogs on the sidebar.

Thursday morning in brief... 

It's a full mornin' o' news here in the nation's capital:

Canada and the U.S. squared off last night in the Ottawa leg of a home-and-home. As the U.S. did in the opener in Columbus, the home team pulled off a 3-1 win.

Bruce Garrioch and Chris Stevenson have it covered. Don from All Things Canadian was also there to witness it first-hand and from close range.

I have higher altitude tickets for Saturday's game against Slovakia. Looking forward to it, though it'll be weird to be cheering against Chara and Hossa.

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The Lynx have extended their agreement with the Baltimore Orioles for another two years.

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The Senators have hired Islander (the island in question being Prince Edward, of course) Dave Cameron to coach the Binghamton Senators AHL affiliate. Cameron was most recently coach of the St. Mike's Majors, but also once did fine work with the Summerside Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Finishing strong 

The East Nepean Eagles finished their trip to the LLWS on a winning note with a 5-1 victory over the European entry from Poland. The win makes the Eagles the first Canadian team to win a LLWS game since 2001.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Lego and baseball: a fine marriage. 

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time (thanks to Eric at Off Wing Opinion for the pointer).

Olympics Horriblis 

I just got back from an all-staff meeting with the Buzzword King (bad) only to find out that the Canadian Olympic Baseball team has given up 6 runs and a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th, Alexandre Despatie bombed on one of his dives (and is in danger of falling out of the medals), and gold medal favourite Perdita Felicien fell in the 100 M hurdles (Jeremy Wotherspoon says hi!). Bad, badder, worse, worst.

UPDATE: The Canadian ball team scored a couple in the top of the 9th, and even brought the tying run to bat. Pinch hitter Kevin Nicholson even hit what looked to be the game winning homer, only to have it knocked down by the wind and caught at the wall. Argh!!

Another update: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. To temper the disapointments above, at least Despatie finished strong to land a silver to go with the cycling gold that Lori-Ann Muenzer won earlier in the day.

Monday, August 23, 2004

East Nepean takes on Asia Kaohsiung, Taiwan 

Not too bad: The East Nepean Eagles put up a good fight against long time powerhouse Chinese Taipei, losing 7-2 (story with good pictures + box score) A 6-run second inning, including 5 walks,(bear with me, I'm currently experiencing some flashbacks to my own pitching career) was their undoing. Overall, the Eagles outhit Chinese Taipei 7-5.

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So, I was over chez my in-laws over the weekend and visited this site for its bookmarks. Lo and behold, the sidebar spacing looks crappy in IE. That represents near 70% of y'all, so my apologies. However, I respectfully suggest that you get a better browser.

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Currently watching Sportnet News and have heard the perfect line to describe most of my tee-offs:

"That( shot)'s so far to the right that Michael Moore will do a documentary about it."

(Speaking of to the right, why is it that most of the other Sens bloggers seem to be right wing or conservative?)

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I have another photo essay ready from Friday's Lynx game but I'm waiting to see if it's going to go up at Batter's Box, or if I'll put it up here.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Comic book guy loss 

Which is to say....worst....loss....ever.....

Maybe....

The most depressing book that I've ever read is Leaving Las Vegas by John O'Brien (which was later made into an equally depressing movie). In the book, the depressed protagonist holes up in Vegas and tries to drink himself to death.

Tonight's 31-19 Renegades' loss reminded me of that book, not so much because it made me feel like I needed a strong drink, but more because of the way that the Renegades seemed to be self-destructing and fraying at the seams. Instead of scotch, they drowned themselves in penalties (192 freaking yards worth!), allowed sacks, missed tackles, dropped passes, and the ever-prone secondary. On the post-game show Duke and Steph called it possibly the most frustrating Renegades loss ever. While that reads as hyperbole, tonight, I don't know that I can argue. Coach Joe Paopao certainly didn't dispute it when asked in his post-game interview. All the energy has drained from what started as an brightly optimistic season.

Hopefully, the outlook may look more positive in the morning. I'm writing angry as The Hulk right now, when really I should be writing as David Banner in the morning. David Banner would remember how most encounters with Montreal and B.C. have turned out. David Banner would also remember the Winnipeg and (first 52 minutes of) Calgary games earlier this season.

However, although I'll be much calmer in the morning, I doubt the media will. Both Paopao and owner Brad Watters hinted at big changes to come. That, of course, is blood in the water. Let the media feeding frenzy begin.

Or, in other words... Smithers, release the hounds!

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Madden Award for best technical football explanation of the night

After a 30+ yd run right up the middle by Troy Davis early in the 2nd half, I turned to my seatmate and asked:

"What the hell happened there?"

"Red Sea"

It was one of those nights.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Nepean goes to the World Series 

The East Nepean Eagles are on their way to the legendary Williamsport PA. to represent Canada in one of my favourite events: The Little League World Series. The occasional 16-year old with a fake ID aside, the LLWS is still baseball at its purest.

More Internet candy 

Hot on the heels of the at-bat music article, I offer this link (via Hegemo) to a pictorial history of the hockey video game.

I'm not much of a gamer (in the run out and buy Doom 3 sense, not the David Eckstein sparkplug run to first on a walk sense) myself, so the only ones I've owned (though not in the l33t h@x0r sense of the word) are the first International Hockey one for the Commodore 64 and one of the newer EA Sports ones (NHL99, IIRC).

Monday, August 16, 2004

KJo a go? 

Back in the nick of time...

With Darnell Kennedy and Brad Banks ailing, the timing is ideal for Kerry Joseph to return to the lineup after a month out.

On a totally unrelated note, the timing is also ideal for the long-awaited (at least by me) release of a special edition Goodfellas DVD. I'd been holding off purchasing Goodfellas on DVD for nearly 4 years, knowing that as soon as I bought it, they'd release a Super Duper Ultra Special Edition (or the Bootleg Version, as they called the Almost Famous DVD that they released after I bought the regular one. Happened with Bull Durham and Field of Dreams too).

Finally it is here (though not quite literally yet as I just got the shipping notice from Amazon this afternoon).

Friday, August 13, 2004

Friday link round-up and a TEAM1200 trade 

The Citizen has a good precis of the Renegades' offensive line situation. It appears to be available to non-subscribers too.

John Robson has an entertaining column (this one is behind the subscriber wall - How to be Spiderman) about the Olympic spirit. On a similar note (and also behind the wall), Martin Cleary continues his series of profiles of Olympians with links to the region.

Don Brennan reiterates (in a roundabout fashion via Montreal) the great value of going to a Lynx game.

J.R., Man of the People, and the voice of reason, on the morning show, has been "traded" from the TEAM1200 to the BOB FM morning job. Promotionally, CHUM has milked this well. From the tongue-in-cheek press release mirroring the Gretzky trade, to the remaining hosts talking about it constantly, CHUM is doing a great job in cross-promoting its stations. You have to give them credit for that, though if it stretches on any longer it'll be pretty irritating.

From a programming point of view, he'll be missed. On the morning show, J.R. was a stabilzing presence, keeping Steve and especially Jungle Jim roughly in line (if you can call it that). By contrast, my drive in this morning included a 60-Second Shootout that took about 5 minutes, a traffic report that JimJ interrupted about 7 times, and 10 minutes on the resignation of NJ Gov. McGreevey. After a 20-20 sports break, JimJ took over the host's chair, which admittedly was very funny, but which I think would grow old in a hurry. I think Steve would/will make a solid morning host, but who (or if) they bring in as the third guy/gal will make all the difference in how the show turns out. This morning they has regular caller Angry Al co-hosting but he didn't really say enough in the 20 minutes I was listening to get a good read. Dean and Buzz also hinted at Steve Lloyd Wednesday afternoon, a possibility I think would work well.

I didn't get a chance to listen to it often, but when I did, I always enjoyed the first hour of Sportscall that J.R. hosted. In strk contrast to the morning show, it was strictly sports, with top-notch interviews and talk.

Finally, this year J.R. has been hosting the Renegades pre-game show. He's been a marked improvement over He That Shall Not Be Named (except in a lawsuit filed by Tie Domi). Although we won't find out until the 'Gades take on the Ti-Cats next week, presumably Buzz, host of the afternoon show and the weekly Renegades show, will take his spot. Assuming that's the case, that's one spot that won't drop off in quality.

Of course all this raises more fundamental questions like, "Does it even matter?" (not really), and "Why are you listening to sports radio instead of CBC, The Bear, or a CD?" (I don't know? I can't help myself.)

However, those are questions that will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

At bat tunes + living in the past... 

A couple of interesting links...

ESPN Page 3 has compiled the coming-to-the-plate/striding-to-the-the mound music, for most hitters, and many pitchers.

Popular Science has an article written by a fellow who goes 10 days living only with technology available in 1954. Aside from the obvious lack of PCs and cell phones, there are a few more mundane technologies like drip coffee makers , Tylenol, and winter jackets made with synthetic fibers (such as Gore-Tex) that are taken for granted.

Big (Z) signing 

The Senators organization was kind enough this morning to send dispatch of this wonderful development.

On the heels of last week's last-minute pre-arbitration signings of Chris Phillips and Peter Schaeffer, the Sens have avoided tomorrow's scheduled arbitration date with Zdeno Chara, signing him to a multi-year deal. More specific details on the financial ballpark and the multiple of years have yet to emerge. Presumably it's 2 years, at least 5 million per. Ah, the relative comfort of the Melnyk era. No need to pass the collection plate around the 300-level next year to make the signing happen.

Of the team's restricted free agents, only Martin Havlat has yet to sign. Hmmm...stay tuned. Once again, we turn to the wisdom of Yogi:

"It's deja vu all over again."

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Ottawa Lynx vs. Pawtucket Red Sox: A Mini Photo Essay 

For the first time in far too long, I was able to make it to a Lynx game last night. I also brought along my camera to attempt a few pictures.

WARNING: If you looked up amateur photographer in the dictionary, you'd probably find a blurry picture of me with a finger blocking part of the frame. For real photoblogs, check out Place+Thyme or Daily Dose of Imagery.

First, I present Lynx Stadium (click to enlarge, of course):



The matchup last night featured a pair of former top prospects who had encountered some difficulties. Bruce Chen has bounced between teams like flubber the last couple of years. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Byung-Hyun Kim fuelled by high-profile meltdowns in the playoffs, has fallen out of favour in both Arizona and Boston. Not realizing that BYK was down in the minors and not simply buried in the bullpen, I was pleasantly surprised to see him pencilled in as the PawSox starter. It was my first chance to see a submariner in the flesh. Although I was toward the top of the lower bowl at the time, I was able to get a couple of pictures of his motion.


The wind-up...


Following through...



Finishing...

The pictures don't do it justice, but it's fun to watch, though the Lynx hitters may disagree.

Chen was great in the early going, striking out 6 in the first 4 innings. Kim was equally good. Unfortunately, a couple of defensive gaffes by the Lynx were Chen's undoing. He was relieved by Mike DiFelice after 4-2/3 innings. The PawSox rally went unphotogaphed as I was 1. waiting way too long for chicken fingers at the concessions, 2. eating said chicken fingers. On the way to get supper, I did get a couple of shots of a rundown, but from my vantage behind the plate, they're mostly obscured by shadows.

It was also during the rally that whoever was picking the music made a grave karmic error by choosing to play the guitar solo from the Dire Straits song "Sultans of Swing". It was only the guitar solo (an excellent one, incidentally), with none of the words, but you've got to save it for when the home team is hitting. But I digress.

Post-supper, I moved from the upper reaches of the first level, to a couple of rows behind the visitors' on-deck circle. My intention was to get some better shots of BYK's motion, but, just my luck, he was pulled after 5 innings. Should have eaten before the ballgame, I guess.

From there, I had a much better view. Here's Jose Leon bracing for the pitch:



Next inning, here's former Red Sox, and current PawSox, Brian Daubach warming up on deck:



A couple of innings, and a move to the other side of the diamond, later here's DeFelice following through as the sun sets on the ball park (and Canadian Tire):



Shortly thereafter, I took my luckiest shot of the night - a round-trip swing. Earl Snyder connects on a solo shot to lead off the Pawtucket 7th:



It can only go downhill after capturing that one.

The Sox added a couple more runs in the 9th, making the final 8-3.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Nightmare at B.C. Place 

It started out very promisingly. I turned on the TV a few minutes late, but just in time to see Darnell Kennedy hook up with Demetrius Bendross for a 71-yard TD. The Renegades scored often in the first half, and after a rocky start, seemed to be holding the BC offence mostly in check. However, it was not to be. By the end of the night I was hoping that I had fallen asleep and the whole second half had been a nasty nightmare. Down 27-20 at the half, the Lions dominated the second half on both sides of the ball, outscoring the 'Gades 27-0. The Lions ' offence threw deep at will and their defence shut down and even outscored the 'Gades offence

Being the glass-half-full kind of guy that I am, however, I offer some positives:

- Brad Banks played well subbing temporarily for an injured Kennedy. The QB depth is outstanding, which is great since it's being heavily tested
- Ranek, Ranek, Ranek (with a couple of punt returns too)
- Sandro Sciortino nailed a 46 yd. FG (that he probably would have missed a few weeks ago)


Now, to the bye week, and not a moment too soon with Kennedy aggravting his injury, and Joseph still a week or two away. Next up, a meeting with the Ti-Cats, at home, on the 19th. Just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Dave Bidini 

Cottage/beach reading. Some people read Tom Clancy. Some read Stephen King. Others read Danielle Steel.

I read sports books, especially baseball books.

While, like most, I strive to read quality literature and non fiction whenever I can, often you just feel like a ripping yarn. Luckily, the two qualities aren't mutually exclusive. In the field of sports books, baseball tends to lend itself the best to the literate approach.

During last weekend's visit to the cottage, I dove into Dave Bidini's latest, Baseballissimo: My Summer in the Italian Minor Leagues. Bidini, of course, is the rhythm guitarist for the Rheostatics, and author of two previous books: On a Cold Road and Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places.

I read Tropic of Hockey last year and enjoyed the mixture of hockey story, travelogue,and personal hockey history. I thought that the literary style was occasionally strained and overblown relative to the subject matter, but by and large it was one of the best hockey books I've read. Granted, that may sound like faint praise given the scarcity of good hockey non-fiction (fiction too, for that matter), but it's not meant as such. I really enjoyed Bidini's story, and his style in telling it. While he treats the sport, and his experience, with great significance, he keeps the mood light by never taking himself too seriously. Tropic of Hockey is the rare book which is both very funny and insightful.

So it was with great expectations that I dug into Baseballissimo, Bidini's account of his summer in Nettuno, Italy, following the Serie B Nettuno Peones. The mix of sports story (the Peones season), travelogue (his adventures in language and travel in Italy), and personal experience (both as a baseball/Jays fan and in growing up Italian) remain from Tropic. The structure works even better in Baseballissimo. Even the literary style that went periodically into metaphorical overdrive in Tropic, works more comfortably when applied to baseball's (and Italy's) rich history. And of course Bidini is as funny as ever.

Just as I'd heartily recommend Tropic of Hockey to any hockey fan, I recommend Baseballissimo even more heartily to any baseball fan.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Stanley visits Murray in PEI... 

My home province, PEI, had a moment in the sun yesterday as Brad Richards brought the Stanley Cup home to Murray Harbor (pop. 356) for a visit. In fine PEI - and Atkins - style, he ate lobster from it (rather than the Island's other staple, the Atkins unfriendly potato). A crowd of 10,000+, or nearly 10% of the Island's 140,000, attended the celebration. I would write more but Ben Wright has all the bases covered over in his guest gig on Off Wing Opinion.

Wish I could have been there.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Misc. Monday links... 

- Daniel Alfredsson got married on Saturday. Congrats! The Fanhome hockey board has some pictures of Alfie and his various Senator guests.

- Darnell Kennedy will be the starting QB again on Friday night in B.C. as Kerry Joseph isn't quite recovered. Joseph has started to take some reps in practice, although not quite at full speed.

- Pat Woodcock is following up his training camp diary on his website with a "Woodcock weekly" dispatch.

- Based on his two weekly awards, it's no surprise that Jerome Haywood was named Lineman of the Month.

- As seen on various other hockey blogs/sites: The Hockey Photo Project

- The answers to the questions that have been keeping you up at night.