November 29, 2007

Penguins Gives Make-A-Wish Kids Day of Their Lives

For the 22nd season, the Penguins and the Make-A-Wish Foundation partnered up to allow sick kids meet their hockey idols. After attending a morning practice, the kids and the players had lunch together, with plenty of photo opportunities.

I just posted on a message board the following quote about an Alex Ovechkin story where he took time after a game to meet with a girl diagnosed with cancer:

"We need less Jiri Tlusty stories and more stories like this in the MSM.

It seems as if everyday there's always some athlete getting arrested, suspended, or mouthing off. These type of stories are saved for a short blurb in a newpaper or the last fifteen minutes of your favorite highlights show. While I realize that drama sells newspapers and headlines all news, it's nice to see stories like this to put things (and life) in perspective.

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Pictures courtesy of PittsburghPenguins.com

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Attend the Winter Classic and Be Warm?



Did you miss out the first time the NHL released tickets to the January 1, 2008 Winter Classic between Buffalo and Pittsburgh at Ralph Wilson Stadium? Did you miss out recently when the Penguins held a lottery for an additional 1500 tickets or so? Fret not and open up your wallet as NHL Auctions has a pair of tickets that will warm the heart, literally.

You have the chance to bid on two seats in the "Red Zone Club, Row 1, Seats 9 and 10" with the winning bid going towards Hockey Fights Cancer. According to NHL Auctions, the face value of each ticket is $225. The real value will be that these seats are indoor and knowing Buffalo weather, that will be very important, especially when there will be about 70,000 other fans battling frostbite on New Year's Day. A lucky winner and their guest will be sitting in one of the corner end-zones, most likely with a great view and the satisfaction that they won't need to borrow a toque from Jose Theodore.

Bidding will end on December 17th and the tickets are up to $805.

Ballhype: hype it up!

November 28, 2007

Where's the Love for Mike Richards?



If you asked ten hockey fans who the guy in the picture was, I would bet that all ten would have no clue. If you asked ten Flyer fans, they would all identify him as their one of their teams leading scorers, Mike Richards.

In case you haven't noticed, Mike Richards is having a damn good start to the 2007-08 season. As of tonight, in which he added two assists in a 3-1 win in Carolina, Richards has notched 30 points, good enough for sixth in overall scoring in the NHL. His 14 goals and 16 assists has helped revitalized the Philadelphia Flyers and brought back some respectability to the franchise after a disastrous start to the post-lockout NHL. Yet, while Philly is on the East Coast, he doesn't seem to be getting any attention from fans. Looking at the latest All-Star voting numbers, Richards is 18th with 19,783 votes, behind teammates Daniel Briere (62,867) and Simon Gagne (22,946), even though the Flyers captain has only played in 10 games this year and tallied 8 points. Richards has only been kept off the scoresheet five times in twenty-four games played this season.

I've stated before that I'm not a big fan of the "Vote for Rory"-type campaigns, but someone has started one for Richards. While the "Vote for Rory" situation was just a way to exploit the NHL's All-Star voting process, any campaign to put Mike Richards in Atlanta is definitely well-deserved.

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Bettman Hesitant on NHL'ers Heading to 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia

From Yahoo! Sports

Gary Bettman was quoted as saying that the NHL may not send players to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Moscow, mostly because the length of travel from North America to Russia. The momentum of the season would be hurt as well as it would be a strain on the players participating to go over there and come back, ready to start up the remaining NHL schedule.

"Vancouver was an easy call because we're going to play the games in Canada. I think after Vancouver we'll have to take a deep breath, debrief and make sure we balance the pros and cons from going to the Olympics."

I would also tend to believe it also has something to do with the Russians still not apart of the IIHF transfers deal. Why send the best players in the world to help Russia's hockey tournament look good (and get worldwide press) when you could send junior players?

While I have enjoyed watching NHL'ers in the Olympics since 1998, I still would like to see it returned back to amateur/junior players, especially if they are going to keep the World Cup of Hockey around (which I'm wondering when it will return). After watching last year's World Junior Championship Final between the US and Canada, I think it would be even more exciting to see that game with an Olympic gold medal on the line. Having a two and a half week break in the middle of the NHL season does kill some momentum and hurts teams down the stretch by tiring players.

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Tuomo Ruutu Misidentified as Robber...Doesn't Get Hurt in Process

From The Daily Herald

That's Blackhawks forward Tuomo Ruutu there. After practice today, he decided to go for a jog at a local arena, you know, get some extra conditioning in there, maybe not find himself on the injured-reserve list again in his career. That's when things got hairy,"

"The reported crime happened about 11:50 a.m. Tuesday at the Brentwood Apartments, 630 E. George St., when a man displaying a handgun entered the building's office, said Linda Dickson, Bensenville's director of communications.

The man demanded cash from the rental manager, then searched the office's safe, Dickson said.

When he discovered the safe contained no money, the man left the building and was last seen running east, Dickson said.

The manager said the suspect was wearing a black jacket, black hat and pants and was about 6 feet tall.

...Ruutu happened to be wearing his black team sweat suit and a black knit hat."


Luckily for the Finnish forward, a witness came to his aid and told police that he was indeed, not the suspect they were looking for. Ruutu was then released from the back of the police car that he had been detained in.

Ballhype: hype it up!

November 27, 2007

NHL Network US Releases December Schedule

Wednesday, December 5 Ottawa @ Florida 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Friday, December 7 Minnesota @ Detroit 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Wednesday, December 12 Vancouver @ Anaheim 10:00 ET/7:00 PT

Friday, December 14 Toronto @ Atlanta 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Friday, December 14 Minnesota @ Anaheim 10:00 ET/7:00 PT

Wednesday, December 19 Los Angeles @ Detroit 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Wednesday, December 19 Colorado @ Anaheim 10:00 ET/ 7:00 PT

Friday, December 21 New York Islanders @ Pittsburgh 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Sunday, December 23 Boston @ Pittsburgh 3:00 ET/Noon PT

Wednesday, December 26 Toronto @ New York Islanders 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Friday, December 28 Montreal @ Florida 7:30 ET/4:30 PT

Ballhype: hype it up!

November 26, 2007

"It's a Great Day for Hockey!"


Monday marks the 16th anniversary of the tragic death of former Pittsburgh Penguin and University of Wisconsin coach, "Badger" Bob Johnson. On November 26th, 1991, Johnson succumbed to brain cancer, which he had been diagnosed with shortly after Pittsburgh won the 1991 Stanley Cup. The 1990-91 campaign was "Badger's" only season with the Pens. He had made a name for himself while coaching the Wisconsin hockey team for sixteen season, leading them to seven NCAA tournaments and three national titles.
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Johnson was a coach that player's loved to play for. He was always upbeat and optimistic about things. There was never a bad day at the rink and he could find the good in anything. You may have heard his famous quote, "It's a great day for hockey" being uttered in an arena or during a hockey broadcast. He was a winner in every sense and was forever immortalized in the Hockey Hall of Fame, posthumously, in 1992.
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"Badger Bob" was a guy that you could not help but like. He had a warm, friendly personality and his love for the game of hockey rubbed off on everyone he came across. I remember watching the 1990-91 Penguins Stanley Cup VHS and seeing Johnson in the massage room with a Pens player. With a cheery look on his face, he tells the players aside from getting a massage to relax, to go watch a John Wayne western movie. His exuberance was contagious and probably a good reason why the 1990-91 Penguins had so much success.

This is the pre-game ceremony the Penguins held before their game on November 27th, 1991 where they unveiled "It's a great day for hockey" painted on the ice at the Igloo.

The hockey world has not been the same since Bob Johnson left us 16 years ago. Every person in hockey misses him and we can all only hope to be so optimistic like Badger Bob was.

As hockey fans, every day is truly "...a great day for hockey".

Ballhype: hype it up!

November 25, 2007

Puttin' On the Foil - A Weekly NHL Recap 11/25

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It's pretty frightening that we're already passed American Thanksgiving and into the Christmas/Channukah season. Time really does fly by. It seems like yesterday we were in London waiting on the O2 Arena to fix their lighting problem and get the Ducks/Kings game underway. That was September 29th. The grind of the NHL season is in full gear. Injuries start to linger. Arenas get even colder. The stitches start to pile up. The intensity of games increase. What more could a fan want?


MONOLOGUE
What is the deal with home teams wearing white in their own building this season? I thought the NHL decreed that road teams wear white jersey's and home teams wear their dark set? Last night, the Maple Leafs wore their blues on the road in Phoenix while the Coyotes had their whites on. Was this because the game on was on Hockey Night in Canada? Earlier this season, the Capitals did the same thing against the Penguins in Washington because they had marketed that game as a "white out". It was a poor showing by the fans. Also, the Islanders, on the night they honored Al Arbour in his 1500th game, wore white as well since they won three of their four Stanley Cups at home on Long Island.


There have been other teams that have done this as well this season and what I don't understand is why? What's the point of the NHL making this a "rule", yet allowing teams to bend it? You have to have some sort of consistency. If a team wants to wear the whites at home for a specific reason, let them use throwbacks instead of their current jersey's. When the Islanders honored Arbour against the Penguins, I think it would have been cool to see them wear retro uniforms, especially since two of the Hall of Fame coach's biggest accomplishments was the 1975 comeback down 3-1 in the playoffs and the 1993 upset victory, both against Pittsburgh.


At first, I wasn't a big fan of switching the colors at home when the NHL first implemented this a few years ago, but it's grown on me and I'm now accustomed to it. I know it's just a minor ripple in the big pond that is the NHL's issues, but it's something that's been bothering me since I've now seen it occur a handful of times already this year.

NEWS AND NOTES
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Glen Hanlon was fired this week by the Capitals after their 6-13-1 start to the season. Washington was 3-0 after the first week, but have since struggled mightily, falling eight points behind Florida in the Southeast Division. Bruce Boudreau was the Caps minor-league head coach at the Hershey Bears for the past three years and will take over in an interim basis. Since he took over on Friday, Boudreau and the Caps have won two straight over Philadelphia and Carolina, that after they had lost 9 of their last 10.


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Hockey Canada is taking a stand against injuries caused by body checking. It was announce this week they will "outlaw checking until the age of 11." A study had shown that kids were twice as likely to have a severe injury in leagues that allowed checking, compared to those that had banned it. The focus is also to help players better develop their hockey skills.


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After missing four games due to a neck injury, Hurricanes forward Erik Cole returned to the ice on Friday night against Tampa. Cole notched an assist and seems to be fine after another neck injury a few weeks back. I can imagine the Hurricanes doctors are monitoring his neck closely as this was the second injury he has received to area in three seasons. Cole is one of my favorite players and he's a hard-working forward that definitely gives his all every shift. I'm happy to see him back out on the ice, yet am worried at the same time that another neck injury, could see an end to his NHL career.


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The Toronto Globe & Mail's Eric Duhatschek reports that as we hit the quarter point in the NHL season, while the usual suspects sit atop the league standings, there is a movement that shows parity is alive and well. Duhatschek notes that in the Western Conference, only eight points separates the last place Los Angeles Kings from the second place San Jose Sharks. In the Eastern Conference, just ten points sit between 14th place Buffalo and the Rangers who are second.


AROUND THE BLOG WORLD
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Was Jiri Tlusty targeted in "photo-gate" last week that caused an uproar in the Toronto media? James Mirtle investigates and introduces many of us to the worthless gossip columnist that started it all, and how he did it.


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Who knew there was a coach incompetence advisory system? Barry Melrose Rocks warns those coaches around the league that are feeling the heat behind the bench.


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A fan of the Oil, MC79 Hockey, wonders if Kevin Lowe can trade his way out of the mess that he's found himself up in Edmonton.


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Is journeyman Martin Rucinsky the "most" player ever? Melt Your Face Off investigates. Rucinsky did get me two big goals when I was playing NHL 08 the other day, so I like him!


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I'm a little late to the party, but I found this after clicking around the other day. The Pens Blog lists some very interesting facts about Mario Lemieux. Did you know Mario Lemieux can speak braille?


LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE!
Possibly the second best rendition of the National Anthem, next to Whitney Houston's at the Super Bowl. Wayne Messmer belts it out during the 1991 All-Star Game in Chicago, just days after US troops entered Iraq as part of the Gulf War.


The best goals around the NHL in the past week


Snoop Dogg being interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada during the Stanley Cup last June.


Another weekly staple here, this weekend's "Coach's Corner" featuring Don Cherry and Ron McLean from Hockey Night in Canada


PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ilya Bryzgalov gets put on waivers by Anaheim, picked up by Phoenix the same day, then beats his old club a few nights later. Bryzgalov was 4-0 this week with his new club with a 1.20 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. He might be the saving grace of coach Wayne Gretzky.


UPCOMING GAME OF INTEREST
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuesday, November 27th, 7:30pm EST
The Leafs are struggling. The Habs are rolling. This rivalry is always intense and the Toronto media is already counting the days until either general manager John Ferguson Jr. and/or coach Paul Maurice are going to be fired. Will a loss against their long-time rivals be the final straw that broke Maple Leaf Enterprises back? Can Vesa Toskala or Andrew Raycroft bring consistency to both the Leafs and their individual games?


GRATUITOUS PITTSBURGH PENGUINS RELATED AWESOMENESS
A behind the scenes look at a Penguins road trip to Florida when they faced off against both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.


Back in the saddle I am, so come back next week for more "Puttin' On the Foil"


Ballhype: hype it up!

November 24, 2007

Now That's a Way to Rebound

Three guys who have been struggling all came up big for the Penguins tonight in a 5-0, pardon the pun, thrashing of Atlanta. Jordan Staal and Colby Armstrong contributed goals (Staal looked dominant out there and could have easily notched a hat-trick) and Marc-Andre Fleury, just two nights after being pulled after only four shots, stopped 28 shots for his second shutout of the season.

It was possibly the most complete game the Pens have played all season. They were ferocious on the forecheck and stingy in their own zone. That's back-to-back big wins against good teams in their conference. You can see confidence and chemistry building among the four lines. Of course, the schedule maker is putting an end to that as the Pens don't play again until next Friday night against Dallas. It's not as if Pittsburgh is heading on a long west-coast road trip, no. The tilt against Dallas will be at home, just like tonight's game against Atlanta. Can we have the boys play some hockey?

Hopefully Michel Therrien will be able to keep the Pens sharp and allow them to build on these two important wins. It might be early, but this could be a stretch of games here that turn Pittsburgh's season around.

Ballhype: hype it up!

An Inside Look at the Sprint Center

What does an arena, who's been dying for a tenant, and almost stole my beloved Penguins look like on the inside? Well, a reader sent me the following photos and after a little investigating, I found this message board where they came from. There are loads of more photos throughout that thread if you want to see every aspect of the Sprint Center

Apparently, on October 10th, Kansas City's own Sprint Center officially opened and special guests were given the opportunity to explore the arena via an open house. A few nights later, Elton John broke in the place with the first official event held there. And no, that isn't real ice on the floor there, just hardwood. I guess they were trying to brainwash Kansas Citians into think the Predators deal was going to happen.

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Nice looking place. Of course, all new arenas are. As a Penguins fan, well, it sucks for you Kansas City! Sorry, had to throw that in there. Personally, I see a NBA franchise moving into the Sprint Center before any NHL team does. The Seattle Supersonics situation seems much more dire than what's going on in Nashville with the Predators.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Podcasts I Like: The Faceoff Hockey Show


After I received my IPod two years ago, I searched through dozens of hockey podcasts on iTunes and pretty much filtered out the crap and only a handful have survived.

WHO The Faceoff Hockey Show

WHAT Five friends from the Maryland area who discuss everything in the world of hockey

WHEN Every Wednesday night, from 9-11pm EST

WHERE Listen live every week through their website or download their show via iTunes or wherever you get your podcast

The show, which is dubbed "A Show About Life With A 30% Chance of Hockey", has been around for over five years and their host, Scotty Wazz, is also a contributor to our little home here at Going Five Hole. The FOHS has a handful of staples you'll find each week and every hockey season.

Lyle Richardson, aka Spector from Spector's Hockey, has a weekly segment where they discuss trade rumors and speculation running rampant across the league. When the Joe Thornton trade went down, the crew was on air and probably the first ones to break the story.

Another weekly segment during the NHL season is their fantasy hockey recap with the famous roving correspondent, Jimmy Chunkybutter, who sounds eerily similar to a drunken Harry Caray...wait, isn't that the same thing? The FOHS does a fantasy hockey league, or should I say leagues, for their listeners are typically have between 50-60 teams in a number of divisions throughout the season. They determine a winner in a "Suicidal Six-Way" or a some other insane way to determine a fantasy hockey winner.

One of my favorite staples is the annual Draft Show, held every June. When the NHL Draft rolls around, most (if not all) of the FOHS crew ventures to the host city for a weekend of debauchery and somehow fit in a radio show during it. This past June, the crew set up shop at the "R Bar" in Columbus and were welcomed with open arms by "BJ Nation"...ok, "Blue Jackets Nation", that sounds better. Next summer, when they all head to Ottawa for the 2009 Draft, Lyle Richardson will be in attendance which should be a great show, what with the free-agency period beginning not to far after that.

If you take a trip over to their website, Faceoff Hockey Show.com, you'll find an online store where you can guy your girlfriend a "I <3 href="http://www.fantasyhockey.com/">FantasyHockey.com and have their own message board mixed in with fantasy hockey sections. There you can discuss the previous weeks show, post breaking news, or even check out pictures of assorted Ice Girls from around the league (God bless those girls).

VITAL INFO
Website
Myspace
Facebook Group
EMAIL: comments@faceoffhockeyshow.com

Ballhype: hype it up!

All-Star Balloting Update



Voting for the NHL All Star Game has been underway for just over a week now and the NHL has released the early totals for both the Eastern and Western Conferences. If you want to vote for your favorite NHL players, visit NHL.com to make your voice heard. Below are the standings as of November 19th.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Forwards

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh 94,118
Daniel Alfredsson Ottawa 41,198
Daniel Briere Philadelphia 32,751
Alex Ovechkin Washington 30,686
Vincent Lecavalier Tampa Bay 28,615
Dany Heatley Ottawa 27,121
Ilya Kovalchuk Atlanta 26,628
Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh 18,015
Saku Koivu Montreal 17,891
Maxim Afinogenov Buffalo 17,782
JaromirJagr NY Rangers 16,604
Chris Drury NY Rangers 15,600
Mats Sundin Toronto 14,046
Jason Blake Toronto 13,317
Simon Gagne Philadelphia 12,394
Jason Spezza Ottawa 11,902
*Mike Richards Philadelphia 10,315
Thomas Vanek Buffalo 9,701
Patrik Elias New Jersey 9,358
Eric Staal Carolina 8,746
Marian Hossa Atlanta 8,648
Martin St. Louis Tampa Bay 7,546
Brendan Shanahan NY Rangers 7,057
*Alex Kovalev Montreal 5,990
Bill Guerin NY Islanders 5,805
Vyacheslav Kozlov Atlanta 4,651
Justin Williams Carolina 4,611
Olli Jokinen Florida 4,466
Scott Gomez NY Rangers 4,304
Marc Savard Boston 3,205
Brian Gionta New Jersey 2,909
*Nik Antropov Toronto 2,373
Brad Richards Tampa Bay 2,275

Defensemen
Andrei Markov Montreal 48,134
Zdeno Chara Boston 45,949
Tomas Kaberle Toronto 36,125
Brian Campbell Buffalo 33,857
Kimmo Timonen Philadelphia 30,951
Wade Redden Ottawa 29,457
Ryan Whitney Pittsburgh 27,028
Jay Bouwmeester Florida 23,454
Chris Phillips Ottawa 19,174
Bryan McCabe Toronto 18,840
Dan Boyle Tampa Bay 17,255
Henrik Tallinder Buffalo 12,702

Goaltenders
Henrik Lundqvist NY Rangers 30,324
Martin Brodeur New Jersey 29,631
Martin Biron Philadelphia 27,849
Cristobal Huet Montreal 24,515
Ryan Miller Buffalo 14,112
Ray Emery Ottawa 11,752
Cam Ward Carolina 10,565
Rick DiPietro NY Islanders 10,352
Tomas Vokoun Florida 6,949
Olaf Kolzig Washington 5,623


WESTERN CONFERENCE
Forwards
Player NHL Club Votes
Henrik Zetterberg Detroit 58,074
Jarome Iginla Calgary 42,552
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit 39,041
Joe Sakic Colorado 33,307
Mike Cammalleri Los Angeles 32,650
Joe Thornton San Jose 28,117
Paul Stastny Colorado 25,408
Jonathan Cheechoo San Jose 23,802
Ryan Getzlaf Anaheim 20,546
Marian Gaborik Minnesota 20,539
Rick Nash Columbus 20,508
Jason Arnott Nashville 19,015
Mike Modano Dallas 17,753
Paul Kariya Saint Louis 13,994
Anze Kopitar Los Angeles 13,203
Ales Hemsky Edmonton 11,122
Shane Doan Phoenix 10,787
Ryan Smyth Colorado 10,634
Martin Havlat Chicago 8,948
Milan Hejduk Colorado 8,832
Andy McDonald Anaheim 6,965
Brian Rolston Minnesota 6,774
Patrick Marleau San Jose 6,289
Daymond Langkow Calgary 6,175
Keith Tkachuk Saint Louis 5,801
Markus Naslund Vancouver 5,796
Henrik Sedin Vancouver 5,075
*Patrick Kane Chicago 4,019
Daniel Sedin Vancouver 3,699
Brenden Morrow Dallas 3,568
David Legwand Nashville 2,279


Defensemen
Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit 80,903
Dion Phaneuf Calgary 56,664
Chris Pronger Anaheim 41,046
Rob Blake Los Angeles 30,393
Francois Beauchemin Anaheim 22,954
Brian Rafalski Detroit 22,054
Sheldon Souray Edmonton 18,018
Scott Hannan Colorado 17,741
Sergei Zubov Dallas 16,082
Ed Jovanovski Phoenix 14,249
Lubomir Visnovsky Los Angeles 12,479
Mattias Ohlund Vancouver 11,840
Robyn Regehr Calgary 7,382


Goaltenders
Pascal Leclaire Columbus 37,574
Roberto Luongo Vancouver 34,050
Dominik Hasek Detroit 21,062
Niklas Backstrom Minnesota 19,756
Jean-Sebastien Giguere Anaheim 18,325
Miikka Kiprusoff Calgary 17,026
Evgeni Nabokov San Jose 11,246
Nikolai Khabibulin Chicago 8,592
Marty Turco Dallas 8,400
*write-in candidate


There has been over 2 million votes cast so far and you can continue to vote until January 2nd, 2008.

Ballhype: hype it up!