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18 Jun 2012 NHL Hopeful Nikita Jevpalovs Ready to Shine

Nikita Jevpalovs

Jevpalovs is ready for his closeup.

Nikita Jevpalovs will not be on many fans’ radar on June 22.  That is because the young Latvian was not even ranked in the NHL scouting report until January, when he made a big splash at the IIHF World Junior Championships.

Not even 18 years old, he is one of the youngest ranked players in this year’s draft.  But don’t let that fool you.  His rise up the list of top-ranked European prospects for this year’s NHL Draft is the result of a quickly maturing young man.  He has skill, drive and hockey sense well beyond his years — something that has not gone unnoticed by scouts.

Jevpalovs first began to turn heads in this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships where, despite being the youngest player on Latvia’s squad, he was the team’s captain and leading point getter.  Scoring at crucial times — such as the game-winning overtime goal against Denmark to keep Latvia’s position as a top-tier country in the World Junior ranks — he proved he can not only rise to such challenges, but thrives on them.  He has a nose for the net, yet is known as a solid two-way player, playing what many would consider “North American style” hockey.

In spite of his recent success, he is skeptical he will be drafted this year.

“I really, really hope I do,” he said eagerly.  He was quick to add that he knows not playing in North America is something of a disadvantage.  Playing far from the eyes of most scouts, he has not had the exposure many others have gotten.

Perhaps it is not his time — yet.  Already a big boy, chances are he is still growing.  Already 6’0″ and 181 lbs, he almost certainly would come into the 2013 draft bigger still.

Those worried about the “Russian factor” can relax.  It is not an issue for Jevpalovs.  Born and raised in Riga, Latvia, he is part of a new wave of talented Latvians who are far more European than Soviet.  Although he speaks both Russian and Latvian, he is also fluent in English, picking up the language quickly during the year he spent in Toronto where he played for the South Muskoka Shield of the GMHL (Greater Metro Jr. A Hockey League).

Though he returned to Latvia to play in the MHL, the Kontinental Hockey League’s Junior development league, he said the move was a practical one — giving him the best opportunity to develop his skills.   But back in Riga, North America was constantly on his mind — especially Toronto, which he called his “favorite place in the world.”  He said he has no desire to play in the KHL, as Russia is as foreign to him as it is to most North Americans.

He stressed that while he knows he isn’t ranked as high as many other Europeans, he holds out hope that he will be drafted so he can return to North America and live his dream of one day playing in the NHL.

Given his age, Jevpalovs is the best of both worlds.  He has the finesse of a European skater and the tenacity of a North American.  He already possesses an amazing amount of leadership ability and talent and has only just begun his development.  Combine that with a humble, positive and eager outlook, Jevpalovs just may be one of the draft’s dark horses.

Photograph:  Courtesy of Nikita Jevpalovs


29 Mar 2012 NHLers’ Small Steps a Giant Leap Forward
Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist is one of several NHLers to appear in the the 'You Can Play' ads.

The National Hockey League has embraced the fight against homophobia — and it’s about time.

With the death of Brian Burke’s son Brendan and the subsequent ceasing of one of the first advocate for potentially gay professional hockey players,  many in the LGBT community wondered if the efforts would continue.

Well, they have. Not only has Brian Burke continued the advocacy, but his other son Patrick has put his efforts into raising awareness about gay athletes.  After his brother’s death, Patrick hit the road with Glen Whitman, the founding member of GForce, a Denver based hockey organization that has morphed from an all-star, all-gay hockey team to a full-fledged advocacy group.  Focusing on college athletes, the group presented panels at the University of Denver, Boston College and the University of Toronto.  Now, he’s created a new non-profit, called the “You Can Play” project.  With several NHL players as spokesmen, appearing in video clips, the support for gay athletes appears to be moving full speed ahead.

More and more pressure is being put on professional athletes to be accepting of teammates and opponents of all backgrounds.  The LGBT community has traditionally lagged behind in public acceptance, but hopefully with help from current NHL players and the efforts of supporters like Glen and Patrick, things will slowly begin to change.  Where it was once commonplace to hear not just the uneducated, homophobic slur, but to hear conscious bigotry against homosexuals, the locker room seemed to take on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality with teammates that were either rumored or suspected to be gay.  Now, the doors of understanding are opening and players will soon be faced with accepting teammates who refuse to hide their sexuality.

Take the March 17 episode of Hockey Night in Canada’s ”After Hours” program.  Vancouver Canucks forward Chris Higgins was asked by a gay Tweeter for his opinion on the “You Can Play” campaign, and how he would feel if he had an “out” teammate.  Kudos to the HNIC staff for allowing the question to be asked, or for literally making Chris Higgins sweat!

Who will be the first NHL player to come out?  Probably someone we least expect.  After all, being in the NHL to begin with defies all stereotypes.    And in my opinion, this is a good thing.

 Photograph:  Screen capture from “You Can Play” ad

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24 Jan 2012 Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.
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The Boston Bruins with President Obama

I had a co-worker a couple of years back who was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet. Friendly, genial, helpful. And every once in a while he’d go off on a diatribe about liberals that would make anyone near him  raise an eyebrow, if not two.

I have a notion that’s how it is with the Boston Bruins and their teammate Tim Thomas.

If my co-workers and I were invited to the White House, I have no doubt whatsoever that my aforementioned co-worker would decline the invitation, and none of us would be surprised. According to media reports, Bruins’ management was aware that Thomas would not attend the White House reception for the Stanley Cup champs on Jan. 23, but the players were not. But it’s almost impossible to believe that they didn’t see it coming.

Here’s the statement from Thomas:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

and the statement from the Bruins:

“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”

Full disclosure: I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. And I adhere to Voltaire’s dictum: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That said, it was not the time nor the place for Thomas to make a political statement. An invitation to the White House is an honor that should be accepted no matter who’s in charge. We’re not talking about canoodling with Robert Mugabe or Momar Ghadafi here. This is the president of the United States – OUR United States (Tim Thomas is an American); I was no fan of George W. Bush, but I know he’s an inherently decent human being who was doing the best job he could, and if he invited me and my co-workers to visit, I’d put politics aside and visit.

(And for those who wish to point out that Theo Epstein didn’t visit when Bush was in office and the Red Sox were invited, he was wrong too.)

What really bothers me about this whole stramash, however, is not Thomas’s politics (though really, if you want to live in a country with boundless freedom and no taxation, I hear Somalia is the perfect place), it’s the fact that he called attention to himself on a day that was meant to honor and celebrate his team. That’s a selfish, self-centered act, and is absolutely contrary to what the Bruins stand for.

And for that, I’m disappointed in Tim Thomas.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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11 Oct 2011 Don’t Cry Because it’s Over, Smile Because it Happened

Peter Forsberg speaks at his jersey retirement ceremony

Saturday night was one of the most moving, emotional nights for me as a hockey fan.  It was the night that the jersey of one of my hockey heroes, Peter Forsberg, was retired.

Like all retirement ceremonies these days, it was more than just the raising of a banner, a nice parting gift and video montage of the player’s career.  In fact, by Avalanche standards, this was exceptionally extravagant.

For the first time ever, a player actually entered from the concourse, down the arena stairs, shaking hands with fans, and entered the ice for one final victory lap while waiving to fans one final time.  Pierre Lacroix was there, along with Stan Kroenke and son Josh, now owner of the Avs.  By pure chance, we were sitting rinkside on the isle that Peter walked down.  Both my husband and I got to shake his hand in what will be one of the most memorable moments in hockey for me.

Peter Forsberg will always hold a special place in my heart.  I rediscovered hockey in 1990, after meeting my now-husband.  My dad had been a Colorado Rockies season ticket holder when I was a kid, and once the team left town, I lost interest in hockey.  Back then, I love Rene Robert and Lanny McDonald.  As a born-again-hockey fan, I saw Wayne Gretzky in his prime and watched Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne in their first years.  But as a Colorado Avalanche hockey fan, I saw Peter Forsberg from the beginning of his career, day in and day out.  While the Eastern Conference media personalities were shrugging their shoulders at his name, fans in Colorado and players all over the league were talking about this amazing player.

I had the opportunity to meet him once before.  Cody McCormick was playing for the Avalanche and his father was in town.  A family friend, he took us down to wait for Cody, and with his encouragement I asked Peter for a photo.  He was friendly, smiling – not the stereotypical stoic Swede.  Whether he was or not, he seemed real.  For all my years as a fan, it was my first, and one of my only, pictures with a player.

Number 21 banner is raised in honor of Peter Forsberg

On Saturday night, the finality of it hit and I was overcome with emotion.  To see a player begin and end his career, one that you had love to watch so much, along with the realization of how much of your own life has passed, is quite an emotional experience.

I will remember every detail of the night – the hand shake, Pierre Lacroix having to be delivered directly to his chair on the ice (does anyone know what his ailment is?), to watching Peter cry as they lifted the banner with his number to the ceiling to hang next to Joe Sakic’s and Patrick Roy’s.

While the finality of his goodbye finally hits me, perhaps I can take a bit of inspiration from a career that was too short and attempt to make my own accomplishments equally as great.  Our opportunities will be gone before we know it, after all.  Or maybe I just bask in the memories of watching one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

Photos: Peter Forsberg and jersey raising by Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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27 Jun 2011 Avs Report: The Good, the Bad and the Potentially Ugly

Well, the 2001 draft has come and gone and this goddess has some mixed feelings about her hometown Avalanche. This is actually good —  for the first time in a number of years they’ve done some things that have needed to be done and I’m not left swearing off hockey for a couple of months while I accept the fact that the Avs will suck yet again.

First and foremost, the Avs picked a solid, scoring winger that is ready to play in the NHL right now.  How many years in a row have I bemoaned the fact that the Avs have become a holding ground for a homogenous group of North Americans, waiting for them to develop, fall out of favor or be traded?  How many drafts have I anxiously awaited the arrival of a skilled European to give us the diversity every team needs to succeed?  Well, we finally got it with the big Swede Gabriel Landeskog.  I’m not alone when I say that the Avs desperately needed this piece of the puzzle – a big left winger with wonderful hands.  And don’t forget our second pick Duncan Siemens who they’re calling a “throwback defenseman” for his stay-at-home, crushing mentality.  Goodbye Liles, hello real defense!

That is the good.

The bad?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that ol’ Kroenke clearly meets the  criteria for that role – especially when you have a team that is costing you $28 million in salary and you are $36 million under the cap.  That’s right, folks.  The owner of the NHL Rams, soccer legend Arsenault, the Pepsi Center and numerous other teams and business ventures, can’t seem to spend any of his hard earn cash on the team that has given so much to him and his fortune.  It might be excusable if he were struggling for cash flow but the money is there in abundance.  So why is Kroenke refusing to open his wallet?

That, my friends, could be the ugly in all this.  The Avs have money.  The Avs need a goalie.  There are no legitimate goalies available (I will shoot myself if we get another struggling goalie such as Vokoun as people are speculating) and the Avs’ don’t even have a semi-developed goalie ready to step in.  This may mean that the Avs are banking their money and a couple of stellar players for a trade to acquire a big time netminder.  Ugly because while they desperately need a bona fide goalie, I’m not sure I’m ready to say good-bye to Stastny, Duchene Johnson, or whomever else it would take.

The solution?  With the CBA ending this year and next year being a potential strike year, maybe they just call up one of those youngsters and give them a shot. If they’re lucky, they end up with an up-and-coming breaking out into the league.  At this point, they’re better off going with an unknown than with a mediocre known quantity.  If it doesn’t work out so well, they can snag a well-known name after this year.  Lord knows there will certainly be enough cash flow for it.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the best way out of the pickle the Avs have gotten themselves into.  So maybe we can end up with The Good, The Bad and – the Not So Ugly.  Could be worse, I guess.

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21 Sep 2010 Hey Caps! Stay Angry Boys

Marcus Johansson gets down to business.

This past weekend ushered in the Washington Capitals 2010 training camp nestled eight stories in the air in Arlington, Virginia. Slowly but surely the opening games of the 2010-2011 NHL regular season creeps ever closer. It’s a time of newness, excitement, and acknowledgment of wounds still not entirely healed for 29 NHL teams.

The week prior featured the annual rookie camp for those trying to make a name for themselves inside the Caps organization. A lucky few earn a spot in the official team training camp, which can make or break their chances of seeing real NHL playing time within the near future.

This years notable rookie camp standouts were the fiery redhead Cody Eakin, highly touted Swedish center Marcus Johansson, and the talented Russian winger Dmitri Kugryshev. Each played a key role in the 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers top rookies in their traditional intra-rookie camp scrimmage. The highlight of the intense game being Kugryshev’s fantastic backhand goal to put the Caps rookies ahead of the Flyers rookies 4-3 in the dying seconds of the 3rd period. The Caps rookies managed to stave off the Flyers rookies to win the annual scrimmage and leave KCI with the first Caps victory of the season.

Cody Eakin scans the ice.

With the talented crop of young Caps players stockpiled from within, one can’t help but feel bright about this season and seasons to come. However, after last seasons demoralizing first round exit in the 2010 play-offs, fans and players alike enter this season with a heavy sense of mixed excitement and frustration. Head coach Bruce Boudreau put it best in his summation of how the team — and arguably their loyal fans — feels going into this season.

“We’ve got an anger still of what went on and how we lost,” Boudreau said. “And I hope we’re carrying that chip on our shoulder throughout the course of the year. … We think we’re a better team than what we got credit for, when it’s all said and done.”

Alex Ovechkin waits for another shot.

Many of the Capital’s players echoed these sentiments from Captain Alex Ovechkin, to NHL vets Mike Knuble and Tom Poti. In fact, the entire organization seems like they are playing to prove something to the NHL, their fans, and themselves. The whole atmosphere in the building is clearly tainted with the memories of last season. You can see it in the players faces, in the way they skate, the way they talk to each other. They know what happened and they won’t soon forget. They will carry with them this season a small sense of shame knowing how far they fell at the end of the 2010 play-off campaign. They finally know what they have to do to get back that intensity, they have to change the way they think.

Evidence of that mindset is clearly stated as you watch the team repeat drill after drill. You see a different team than what we saw last season. This isn’t the same happy-go-lucky group of young guys with a dream of winning trophy’s and setting records, this is a group of determined and focused young men finally realizing nothing else matters but winning the Cup in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom.

Perhaps they will put that hard learned lesson to use in understanding it’s not the team that puts up the most dominating regular season showcase that wins a Cup, but one that never lets up and never backs down. A passion to win is burning the eyes of the Capitals, and if they had it their way, the play-offs would start tomorrow to skate towards redemption.

It’s all there, written on the back of their team shirts for training camp, sending a message to everyone. A message of understanding of what a season ending in heartbreak can only bring to a team:

“Stay angry … believe in yourselves.”

Photos: Marcus Johansson, Alexander Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom courtesy of BridgetDS; Cody Eakin courtesy of Sarahm19. Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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03 Aug 2010 Yes, It’s Over…The Thrill Is Gone
Mike ModanoMike Modano, the former face of the Dallas Stars, will reportedly suit up for the Red Wings in 2010-11.

Last night the Detroit Free Press announced that Mike Modano had texted them with the words: Big announcement Thursday.

Mike Heika got a text from Mike this morning saying he was currently on the golf course in Scotland with some friends, and would be back in the States at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

A friend of mine scooped both of these sources by posting his blog on Saturday that sources had told him that Modano would sign with the Wings this week. (Way to go, Travis!)

Either way, Mike Modano will be wearing the winged wheel this season. It’s not something any Dallas Stars fan would ever want to see, the face of their franchise wearing that uniform. And to add more fuel to the fire, who do the Stars take on for their first home game? That’s right! The Wings! This could seriously be a PR nightmare for the Dallas Stars, and I cannot wait to witness it! More on that in a later blog.

Mike Modano wearing No. 39 in an exhibition game versus Dynamo Riga in the Soviet Union.

As for what number Mike may sport, we all know that he won’t be wearing his No. 9 as that belongs to Gordie Howe. There’s a possibility of No. 27, which is what he wore in the All Star games when Paul Kariya had more votes than him. I’m also going to throw out there No. 39, which was his original number with the Minnesota North Stars.

The other Stars news yesterday was that Marty Turco would be taking over the pipes from  Antti Niemi in Chicago. I honestly feel badly for Niemi. This shows why arbitration this late in the summer is a bad thing. I’m not sure he’s going to have a starting job in the NHL this season, as most teams are set. And to think, he was the goalie for the Stanley Cup winners. That being said, I think Turco is going to do well, and show everyone he still has it. Let’s face it, he hasn’t had a real defense in front of him the last two seasons. I’m looking forward to seeing Patrick Kane grab one of Turco’s passes and scooting down to the other end. It’s gonna be a thing of beauty!

Photo: Mike Modano at Dynamo Riga, from the book, “Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne,” by Bob Showers; Modano in tie from MikeModano.com.

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02 Aug 2010 Hey Hockey Fans — How is Your Summer?

Mike Modano and his Dallas Stars crushed the hearts of Buffalo Sabres fans one summer night in June 1999.

Do you need something to distract you from the stifling heat?

I’ve been enjoying the offering of 35 years of Stanley Cup Finals on the NHL Network. What they’ve done in their Raising the Cup series, is to take the Cup-clinching game of each year and show it in its entirety. True greatness! (Although not shown in Canada.)

We’ve been able to see some of these games before on their Vintage Games series, but the games are always compressed and chopped up. So when I see that they have five hours dedicated on August 6 for the 1999 game, excuse me while I get a little excited. Few, if any, have that entire game on DVD. Now, because of the NHL Network, we’ll have a chance to throw away our deteriorating VHS tapes of that triple-overtime fingerbiter.

I’ve watched bits and parts of most of the games, including the North Stars loss in 1981 to the Islanders and the 1991 loss to the Penguins. Why? Because they are moments of time that my favorite team will never get back. How great was it to see rookie Dino Ciccarelli, or a young Mike Modano weaving his way through defenders? To see Neal Broten as captain still encouraging his clearly outmanned team?

And what Canucks fan wouldn’t want to see the beloved Trevor Linden single-handedly almost beating the Rangers? Or a Blackahawks fan watch Chris Chelios in his full glory almost decapitating Larry Murphy, or the skinny kid Roenick try to get a puck past Barraso? Even though you know your team didn’t win, how great is it to see your favorite players back in their prime? AND… still on your team!

To me, the worst part of this series has been some of the game presentations. Sometimes you get the CBC coverage, but there have been MSG, and Pittsburgh feeds also. Brutal … that’s all I can say about those Pens’ feeds. Especially against the Blackhawks. Blech! Talk about homers! It makes today’s Avs and Ducks guys seem tame in comparison. (oh, and Jack Edwards, I miss the OLD you!)

Tom Mees formerly of ESPN

Tom Mees former ESPN SportsCenter anchor and hockey play-by-play man.

My favorite game so far has been the 1993 Kings/Canadiens game with the ESPN feed. It wasn’t seeing all the Habs players who ended up in Dallas, or seeing Denis Savard’s eyes glistening as he stood behind the bench, or even Barry Melrose’s superior mullet. Nope, it was seeing Tom Mees again.

Who is Tom Mees you might ask? Tom was hockey on ESPN. He was one of the original Sports Center anchors, but when the NHL started on ESPN in 1987, he became their chief play-by-play guy.  He was also instrumental in furthering NCAA hockey coverage, as well as bringing the Frozen Four to national prominence. Unfortunately, Tom died in 1996 of an accidental drowning. During the work stoppage, I often wondered what role his voice could have had in ending that madness sooner.

A few other goodies gleaned from the broadcast?

  • That Patrick Roy was about to become the first $3 million goalie.
  • That ESPN2 was about to be up and running.
  • The interview with Brian Bellows where he talked about how happy he was to win the Cup, but that he wished he could have won it two years earlier for the fans of Minnesota. I may have teared up at that.

So thank you NHL Network for sharing these full game gems with us. I’ll be watching for 1999 and 2000, even though the latter didn’t turn out the way I would have liked.

P.S.  This is a tough week for my old Norris Division heart. Congrats to Marty Turco, and a possible congrats to Modano, who I hear is about to sign a deal with the anti-Christ.  Patrick Kane is going to score a gazillion goals with Marty’s puckhandling skills, and Mike??? Continue being you.

Photos:  Mike Modano from Getty Images; Tom Mees from Wiki Commons.

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21 Jul 2010 I Said “Ha-Ha!” (Sorry Kovy)

Ilya Kovalchuk

Is Ilya Kovalchuk's future once again hazy? Looks like it.

Much like Nelson Muntz (of “The Simpsons” fame), I had to let out a tiny giggle at the NHL bringing down the banhammer on Ilya Kovalchuk’s new contract. I know that there have been a few others like this in the last few season; but I asked the same question of them that I did of this one … Does our pal Kovalchoo really need a deal that would last until his oldest child graduates college and would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of the Gross National Product of a small African nation? (For more puzzling questions, see fellow Goddess Kaatiya’s piece: Kovy’s Contact Rejected — Why?)

To be honest, I am not a Devils fan in the least. Not only am I a Pens fan and still have a bit of a grudge against Scott Stevens for laying out my boy Paulie K in Game 6 of the 2003 Finals; but the beating of my Ducks in that series make them not too friendly around these parts.

However, Ilya has always fascinated me; and after he was traded to New Jersey, I was actually kind of happy for him. Things in Atlanta have never quite gotten off the ground, so with Los Diablos, Mr. Kovalchoo was finally going to a club that had the same level of talent to match his own. And that is a problem with this contract; they might not be able to keep all of it for as long as they would like and at the price tags that talent would be asking for.

Anyway, I thought I would leave you with a few pictures from today’s press conference in New Jersey.

A greeting from one of his alternate captains (Patrik Elias)...

and one from his goalie (Martin Brodeur)...

The posse sits in support or in wait to speak to Lou Lamoriello about this huge-ass deal that THEY would like to have as well; or maybe a bit of both...

Little do these guys know what lies ahead in the next few hours?

Kovalchuk poses outside the Devils' arena this afternoon; but will he still be there if they cut down his deal?

Photos:  Ilya Kovalchuk by Getty Images and The Associated Press.



02 Jul 2010 Columbus Calling: Dan Hinote’s New Career
Dan Hinote

Hinote joined the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching staff Thursday.

Amidst the July 1st free agent signings was one that was of particular interest to me.  That’s because it involves my friend and former Avalanche player Dan Hinote. Well, he isn’t really a friend.  I mean, we don’t keep in touch or anything, but Dan has a way of making everyone he meets feel like his friend.

I met Dan a little more than three years ago.  We were both rehabbing at the same physical therapy practice: He after yet another shoulder surgery and me after surgery for a tri-malleor fracture of my ankle. By then, he was a member of the St. Louis Blues, but living in Denver in the off-season, he chose to rehab close to home.

Honestly, I hadn’t been all that star-struck.  After all, one of Denver’s “Most Eligible Bachelors” (as voted by a local magazine) wasn’t what I considered a dreamboat, nor was he someone that did much for me on the ice.  Yet after spending many hours working out, rehabbing and chatting with him, I realized what all the fuss was about.

Dan is one of the most genuine guys I have ever met.  He takes great interest in everyone he meets.  He never forgets anyone’s name.  He asked me a lot of questions about speed skating, about my competitions, my injuries.  We had a common friend on the Avalanche, and he had nothing but glowing things to say about him.  Every time I saw him, he’d come sit on the treatment table next to me and ask me how I was doing.  Elderly women would come in and Dan would remember all of their names and give them a big hug.

He was humble, and talked about how lucky he was to have broken in when he did — when it was still a trapping, clutch-and-grab league because he was just scrappy, and guys like him were no longer being drafted or given a shot in the NHL.

He was in love.  We got to hear all about Amy, his then-girlfriend (now wife).  He talked about taking her to the Sushi Den for her birthday.  He told us all about his trip to Las Vegas with the guys where he would relax and decide if he really was going to pop the big question.  When he got engaged, we all knew the next day.

It wasn’t hard to see why he was so well loved in Denver.  He was very social, being seen out and about the city, having a great time with whoever was willing.  Back then, you might see him hanging out at the famous country bar Stampede with Peter Forsberg, partying downtown or dining with John-Michael Liles in the ritzy Cherry Creek area where he lived.  He became a media darling, a fan favorite, and women and men alike just fell in love with him.

Then in 2006, he signed with St. Louis, but no one felt ill feelings towards him.  You just couldn’t.  He was cheered when he returned with his new team to play the Avs.  People still followed his social life and his lavish wedding back in Colorado was an item of great interest.  And, of course, we all cheered when he reunited with Peter Forsberg this year to play for Modo of Sweden’s Elitserien.

Today, we again applauded Dan when we heard he would become an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets. I can’t think of a better guy for the team.  He’s smart. Very smart.  After all, very few get accepted to West Point.  More importantly however, is his personality.

Much like Ted Nolan, Dan cares about people.  With a young, budding team like the Blue Jackets, he will be the perfect man to nurture these kids, to instill confidence in them and to give them advice.  He will be a shoulder to cry on, a confidante and a great role model.  He will quickly learn what makes each player tick and will know how to get the most out of them.  For now, he’s only an assistant, but I predict he is going to have more of an impact on this team than anyone is expecting.

Just ask anyone in Colorado.  Because we all know him well.

He’s our friend.

Photo: Dan Hinote by Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2008-2010. All Rights Reserved.

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28 Jun 2010 Draft Day – Perspective From a Goddess

Team scouts fill the floor of the Staples Center on draft day.

Well, it’s been a whirlwind two days for this goddesses, with non-stop draft action.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This is by far my favorite NHL event.  To see these young kids having their dreams come true is just awesome.  Sure, some will make it to The Show, others may not, but this weekend, those that are selected by an NHL organization have every chance to play professional hockey.  My only regret is that goddess Kaat was not here to share in the excitement.

Mr. Goddess and I went down the hotel lobby just before noon to see an anxious Pierre McGuire.  Most of the media were already checking out, as they would only be there for the first day.  Mr. Goddess approached him and asked if he was ready for a big day.  He responded with “It’s already been a big day.”  By then, rumors of a Ballard trade with the Canucks were widely circulating.

While the draft didn’t start until 4PM local time in Los Angeles, doors opened at 2PM so we went down to Casey’s, an Irish pub and bar just down the street from the Biltmore.  More agents and consultants were on hand, trying to get a bit to eat.  Phones were ringing and guys were looking stressed out.  I noticed they all ordered salads.  Ah, the joys living on the road and eating the food that goes with it.

Just before 2PM we hopped on one of the buses that the hotel was providing for the Biltmore and Hilton.  Just a few staff members were on the bus, as well as a handful of Russians that I assume were team staff as well.   Upon our arrive to the Staples Center, we began to see prospects and agents filing in.  Most of the scouting staffs were already set up and were already at work.

Finding a seat wasn’t bad even though we were relegated to the 3rd level with the rest of the commoners.  Going to see the NHL draft on a beautiful Friday evening in LA isn’t a big attraction for most Californians.  However, I was disappointed that they didn’t at least have a flyer with the final prospect rankings to give the fans.  Although I followed many of the prospects closely, I hadn’t memorized the rankings and it would have been nice to give people something to look off of – at a small cost.

Taylor Hall becomes an instant celebrity after being chosen first overall

We watched with great anticipation for the first pick.  It was no surprise that Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin were picked one and two.  For most, seeing the first pick is the highlight of the day.  Instantly, Taylor became a celebrity and had a small mob following him around, asking for autographs and photos.

I’ll talk about specific picks in a follow-up post, but suffice to say there were some surprises, including Stanislav Galiev not being picked in the first round.

The pace of a professional draft is slow, so the NHL tried to show general profiles of the kids and some other little snippets of interviews.  These were actually very entertaining, and there certainly would have been plenty of time to show perhaps a more detailed profile on each pick with interview clips and narrated highlights -  a thought for future drafts.

The interviews were short compilations where they would ask kids a question and show several answers.  It was a great way to get to know these prospects and I found myself pulling for a couple of kids based on their answers.

The newly dedicated "Rush" star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame - Maybe Alex Petrovich visited it too.

One such interview clip asked the question “If you could play in any band, what would it be?”  Alexander Petrovich, who was eventually taken by Florida (man did they have a lot picks this year) said “Rush!”  It warms me to see the younger generations discovering such a classic group.  Oh, Alexander, you have a couple of fans for life in the goddesses.

Another “awww” moment came when prospects were asked what was one thing they couldn’t live without.  Among the “iPod” and “xbox” answers was Phoenix Coyotes pick goalie Louie Domingue’s awesome response.  “My cats,” he said. “I love my cats.”  He has officially earned a spot in my heart.  Who doesn’t love an emo French-Canadian boy?

After everyone had been picked, we sneaked down to speak briefly to Ron Delorme, old friend and chief scout of the Canucks.  The scouting staff had had a quiet day as they had traded their first round pick to Florida in a trade that gave them Keith Ballard.  Ron admitted it hadn’t been a very exciting day for the scouting staff and they’d do a lot of sitting the next day as their first pick now wasn’t until the 4th round.

Fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen outside the Staples Center

Leaving the arena, most people had left but we did run into Ryan Johansen, the 4th overall pick by Columbus.  He was still on an adrenaline high, so I stopped to chat for a few seconds and snap a picture.  He said he was super excited to be drafted by Columbus.   He had been courted by them and fell in love with the organization and said he was totally psyched to have been picked by them.  In fact, he was so excited he asked me to take a picture with him.  He really wanted to share his excitement.  What a great day for a great kid.

While waiting for the bus we saw another mob scene.  It turned out to be Sidney Crosby literally being chased by a large group of autograph seekers.  He was smiling, waving and signing as he rushed to his limousine.  It was oddly reminiscent of a movie star being caught outside a restaurant.  I’ve gotta give it to the kid – he’s got it down.

The ride back to the hotel was interesting, as I ran into Slava Malamud from Washington D.C.  For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the bald guy with glasses that interviews all the Russians in D.C. in the locker room.  He works for Sport-Express and was there for the first round before running up to San Jose to cover a fight.  We talked about Russia, Moscow and the Russian language.  I have to say, he was a great guy.  There was absolutely no pretense or attitude that many members of the media have and I really enjoyed our conversation.  No wonder he’s so successful.

After getting back to the hotel and downloading some pictures, an exhausted duo headed to dinner at an expensive seafood restaurant near the hotel, then back to Casey’s for a drink.  There, we saw three of the Thrasher’s scouting staff.  I stopped on my way back to our table that was right next to theirs and congratulated them on picking Alexander Burmistrov.  Maybe the day hadn’t gone how they planned, but they looked at me as if I was from Mars, arms crossed and sarcastic responses to my questions.  Maybe it’s because I was woman, and we certainly don’t know anything about hockey.  Or perhaps they’re such celebrities that they get bothered all the time and get tired of the attention.  Maybe, it’s because they’re the peons of the scouting staff.  Whatever the reason, my 30 second conversation clearly was something they had no tolerance for.  It’s too bad, because the Thrasher’s already have problems with getting fans.  You think they might at least humor one of their few supporters.

The night ended far too late as we had to get up and do it all again early the next day, but it was lots of fun.  So much so, I think I’ll try to do it again next year.  This time – with goddess Kaat in tow.

Photos:  NHL Entry Draft weekend by Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

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08 Jun 2010 Chicago Blackhawks Logo: Should it Stay or Should it Go?
Chicago Blackhawks logo

Chicago Blackhawks logo

Last week, Damian Cox published an article in the Toronto Star discussing the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo suggesting it was perhaps time to abandon the stereotypical image.  Since I am of Native heritage, Goddess Kaat suggested that perhaps I weigh in on the topic.  We have had numerous conversations about sports teams and the use of Native names and mascots and she thought it was finally time for the Goddesses to address it.

Initially, I was hesitant.  After all, we have much larger issues that are pressing to First Nations peoples, but upon further investigation I was shocked to find that Cox’s article had spawned a racist backlash on numerous message boards.  This is not uncommon when people feel their sports team’s history is being threatened.  Nothing gets people as riled up as their home sports team and its traditions.  Yet the misinformation and racism that was being thrown out on various forums was too disturbing to ignore.

Let’s briefly address the issue that has caused the big uproar.  Cox claims that the Indian head logo is much like the cigar store Indian and that the time has come to stop using ethnic groups as mascots.  He erred on the side of caution – by proposing the removal of the Indian head on the Blackhawks’ jersey.

This is a legitimate debate.  Indians have had their names and likeness appropriated by the dominant culture for years.  Yet whereas some issues seem pretty cut and dry (the nickname “Redskins” or the caricature Cleveland Indian,) the Indian head logo is not.  Some Native tribes actually use this same logo for their own sports teams.  When asked about the logo, Blair Atcheynum, a Native and former member of the Chicago Blackhawks, said it didn’t bother him.  But to other Natives it is still a symbol of the European conquest and hegemony.

To me, the real issue seems to be the fallacies in arguing for keeping the logo and the racism that has reared its ugly head in response to such an article. Such as:

-       “It’s the third most popular jersey in the league!  Thousands of people spend their money on team apparel because they like it.  It’s stupid to get rid of it.”

This is the ever popular “bandwagon fallacy.”  Think 5 billion Chinese people can’t be wrong?  Why not?  Guess what folks, they can.  The thousands of Nazis all thought they were right too.

-       “I don’t see it as insulting. I see it as honoring Native Americans.”

Great.  But this isn’t about you.  It’s about the group that is being represented.  They should be the ones determining what is honoring and what is insulting.

-       “Other teams are named after ethic groups.  What about the fighting Irish?”

Ever hear the term “two wrongs don’t make a right?”

-       “People are too PC anymore.  Indians need to get thicker skins if they’re offended.”

Well, we have pretty thick skins as it is.  We wouldn’t have been able to survive 500 years of conquest if we didn’t.  It’s not being PC. It’s common sense.  I think we can all agree that if a team logo was an Arab man with stereotypical Arab features wearing a Muslim headdress there’d be trouble.

-       “I’m from (such and such) tribe and don’t find it offensive.”

We’re getting closer.  If the people that are being represented are not offended, then perhaps it’s not an issue.  But if some are, then clearly it is.

-       “That’s not offensive.  Offensive would be a dirty Indian huffing glue … even though it would actually be more correct.”

Wow.  Really?  And this was one of the tamer of the racist posts I saw.

Unfortunately, what this post really brought to light was that Native Americans are the one ethnicity that are still allowed to be represented without their consent.  It also revealed that such ugly racism is accepted when it comes to certain ethnic groups.  And while I was initially on the fence about this particular team identity, I am beginning to think that the casual acceptance of such logos only tells people that it’s ok to be not only culturally insensitive but outright racist about that particular group.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am a sports fanatic and can appreciate the tradition behind many teams.  I understand that many people’s identities are largely based on their sports teams.  I’m more than willing to engage in an intelligent conversation about the topic at hand.  I simply think that in today’s society it’s become an all about “me” scenario and what might be disappointing to an individual fan of a sports team, rather than the good of an entire group of people.

Seems a bit petty when put that way, doesn’t it?

Image: Chicago Blackhawks logo from NHL.com.

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