Martin Brodeur

When Did We Become Such Cold Weather Crybabies?

I think it started during the football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Green Bay is not exactly known for its balmy weather and tropical beaches. It’s the midwest.  It’s frickin cold out there.  Even fans of the Packers joke about how many layers they need to wear.  I wish I could find it, but the point has been moot for me, there was an article in the New York Times a few years back about a fan who wore several layers in preparation for late seasons and playoffs games.  It’s a ritual, and something accepted amongst football fans in cold weather climates.  Think: Buffalo, Green Bay, Chicago.

Prior to their playoff game on January 5th, everyone was beside themselves.  OOOOOH, it’s gonna be freezing…in Wisconsin…in January.

I was surprised.  I mean, isn’t it a given that it’s an occupational not to mention a spectator “hazard” that if you work or watch an outdoor sport, unless you are in a dome, you’re going to be exposed to the elements?  I mean, shit, football doesn’t even have postponements or delays related to rain (unless, of course, there is lightning).  You play through that shit.

The beginning of 2014 hasn’t exactly been boastful of an unseasonably warm climate, especially in the northeast, where we’ve had the phrase Polar Vortex become an essential part of our lexicon.  It’s snowed quite a few times, and I’ve even joked around with my friends about how the cold isn’t so bad, but factor in wind and snow elements, I’m over it.

We chat about the weather with total strangers.  We joke about not wanting to be outside in the elements.  People buy dog booties for their dog walks.  We get bundled up to walk to the corner store or even to drive somewhere.  It goes with the territory.

But I draw the line at people complaining about it being cold at a voluntary outdoor sporting event.  Really?  I mean, REALLY, guys?  It’s January, and it’s in the northeast.

IT’S GONNA BE COLD HERE.

I will give fans who attended the game credit: I didn’t see many people complaining on that end about the Stadium Series on Sunday.  Most of the folks there are die hard.  They do get the fact that one needs to bundle up to enjoy the game.  Yet, I see tweets like this that get my blood boiling.

Every single person in that stadium yesterday was there voluntarily.  Each person presumably bought a ticket, and attended on their own free will.

The players, however, get paid a very handsome salary to play these games.  The night before, a game was played in Los Angeles, not exactly a hotbed (pun not intended) of perfect outdoor ice hockey activity.  We didn’t hear one problem with the “ice.”  But in the Bronx in January by the goddamn Harlem River, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur blames the ice on his poor performance (The Rangers scored 6 goals against him before he was taken out of the game…mind you the Devils also scored 3 goals in the first period…no one had a problem with the ice before then??)

Oh, but there’s more.  This week, Super Bowl XLVIII will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  Now, all the cold weather crybabies are reporting on the nonstory that “WAHHH! It’s gonna be COLD and elemental in New Jersey IN JANUARY. WAHHHHHHHHH!”

Bite me.

This time around, it’s not Uncle Daddy or any of the players crying about the weather or potential hazard of it.  It’s mostly the sportswriters who all of a sudden have a sympathy for the players who get paid millions of dollars to play on the big stage…in the snow, rain, or sleet.  Shit, I’ve seen frickin beautiful days here with low temps.  Has anyone considered that the Super Bowl could be played in something like THAT??!

The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks kind of corner the market on playing in the elements.  Denver gets snow.  Seattle gets rain.  The only people I see “inconvenienced” with the weather are people who have to sit in the stands (who are paying around $2,000 for an upper bowl seat) and the writers who are subscribing to some of the laziest journalism I have ever borne witness.

Their headlines are akin to chatting about the weather.  Is this the state of sports writing today?

I just have a tough time believing that when New York/New Jersey was chosen as the Super Bowl venue, that no one considered weather factors.

It’s January in the Northeast.  Guess what?

It’s cold here.

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Perspective

  I was at a baseball game a few weeks ago with my husband, and we met up with two of our friends, BlondeBombKels and ItsThat1Guy (aka Alvin).  Not only do we share the same baseball allegiances, we have the same hockey allegiance (my husband only by osmosis, since he wasn’t into hockey before he met me).  My ticket rep with the Mets is also a Rangers fan.  We talked about the season, and preseason, and I guess I was in denial with the fact that there was still a slight possibility of a lockout.

See, last year, Alvin got a bunch of us tickets for a Rangers/Devils preseason game at the Pebble.  It was fun, it was raucous.  We had a good time.

Alvin shook his head when we chatted about the preseason game, which the same crew was still interested in doing this year, and said, “It’s not looking good.”  At first, I thought it was the possibility of us all getting together to see the game.  Then I realized, he was referring to the lack of an agreement.

It then became a distinct possibility that in a year where I’m expecting my team to rebound from a great run yet disappointing end to last season that I might not see hockey for awhile.  I mean, keep in mind that during the last time this shit happened, I had all but given up on hockey for good.  Thank goodness, I suppose, for Mets late season collapses in September, when I needed an outlet besides a once a week fill for football.

So I was back, and I had a lot to look forward to as a Ranger fan.  The emergence of Captain Callahan and King Henrik becoming one of the best goalies in hockey, let alone Ranger history.  Looking forward to the passionate fan bases and going deep into the playoff season.  I was right last year, that anything less than a visit to the Eastern Conference finals would be a failure, it was just too goddamn bad they lost to the Devils.

Barring all that, most Ranger fans were optimistic and eager to get their team returned to the ice.

What’s more though, outside of being a Ranger fan is that another large market team, the Los Angeles Kings, finally went all the way and won the Cup.  This was a feat for themselves, their fans, and even the passionate hockey fans who followed certain players on the team.  Yes, 2011-12 was a fun season for most fans.  Even for Phoenix Coyotes fans, who saw their team actually go deep into the playoffs.  Even for Devils fans, who may have seen a last hoo-rah for Fat Uncle Daddy Marty.

So I say to the NHLPA, the NHL, the owners, Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr, the hockey gods…while you’re nickel and diming each other (and hey, I’m a supporter of Unions, but these asses are just arguing about pennies while they’re letting diamonds go away in the form of fans), remember to take some perspective.

One year ago today, the hockey world was rocked with news of the Lokomotiv Yaraslavl plane crash that took the lives of the entire Kontinental Hockey League team.  Scott Burnside writes on ESPN today: “Friday, Sept. 7, marks the first anniversary of the crash and marks an opportunity to reflect on the men whose collective impact on the hockey world cannot easily be summed up.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a bunch of horses’ asses are arguing about MONEY.

I don’t know what the deal is with the KHL, if there were collective bargaining agreements or unions or ability to get paid the way they do in here where the NHL exists.  What I do know is that several players, including a former 1994 Ranger Alexander Karpovtsev, died while traveling to play a game they loved.

A game I’m sure most players would have said back when they were kids, they love it so much they’d play for free.

But they’re not playing for free.  They’re playing for real money, and real dollars, and owners and players and the league are arguing about who gets more.

It’s a shame really.

Like I said, I’m all for unions, I’m all for collective bargaining tools.  I’m all for what makes workers’ unions strong and beneficial.

But being a fan of a sport that is about to embark on its third lockout in 18 years, the first one took half a season, the next one took out an entire season…what’s next?  Take out TWO seasons?

I’m not saying I’m most fans.  I remember when hockey came back after the last lockout, a few of my friends were pumped it was returning.  By then, I had checked out.  Some of it was devoting more time to my baseball fandom (even became a season ticket holder during that time).  A lot of it had to do with my team at the time.  I was not happy with the directions of the Rangers at the time, and thought devoting time and energy to having Glen Sather as the General Manager was nuts.  But sticking with him turned out to be a good thing, I’m rooting for a hard working, blue collar type of playing team that makes Rangers fans proud.

The same blue collar types that made Unions strong.

But my question to everyone involved in…what the FUCK is taking so long?

My answer is to put things into perspective.  Count your blessings that you live in a society that you can bargain for this and take your sweet damn time with it.

Then look at the past year, of losing fellow hockey players in a tragic crash, and saying, what the fuck are we arguing about now?

I’m not saying one side is more at fault that the others.  But what are CBAs for anyway.  TO COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN.

Get your shit together, both sides, and figure this out already.

Bargaining over lost dollars won’t matter when you alienate another generation of hockey fans once again.

That Was Yesterday

A lot can transpire in 18 years.  A newborn then can now not only possess a license but can vote and is graduating high school.  That same child’s parent may be wondering where the time has gone, as they give their child the keys to the family car or signs the first tuition check.  Someone may be planning their 20 year reunion from high school. A loved one may have passed away, you may be pulling six figures in a job where you were a lowly analyst 18 years ago.  You may be living in a different part of the country.  Or you may have just stayed put from where you grew up, but you don’t recall having a 36-inch waist 18 years ago.

Eighteen years ago, the New York Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a heated seven-game series.  Prior to that, the Rangers defeated the rival New Jersey Devils, also in a heated seven-game series, in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the word “Matteau” is a dirty word to most Devils fans to this day, though they themselves have had success in winning three cups in response while the Rangers have won none.  In that time period, the rivalries shifted from Rangers/Flyers and Rangers/Isles to Rangers/Devils.

Tonight kicks off the Rangers and Devils duking it out in the Eastern Conference Finals again, where winner continues to the Stanley Cup finals, and the other team goes home to shave.

To this Ranger fan, the only thing that remains similar to that series 18 years ago is that Martin Brodeur is still the goalie for the Devils. And even he’s 18 years older.  And that’s about it.  The ownership has changed for the Rangers, the coaches have changed, the team has certainly changed.

Sure, there are similarities.  But it’s NOT the same.

The Devils have won three cups since the last time these two teams faced off in the finals.  The storied guys that helped them on those runs with names like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko are long since retired.  The last cup was in 2003.  That was 10 years ago.  Eighteen years ago, the Devils were playing in the Swamp.  Now they play in a nice new arena called Prudential Center.

The Rangers have visited the Eastern Conference Finals one other time since then, and it was lackluster.  They’ve since had their storied guys not only retire, but their numbers are now enshrined.  Names like Richter, Messier, Leetch and Graves are now hanging from the rafters at the Garden, where the Rangers have stayed but the refurnishing of it makes it seem like a brand new arena.

The 1994 team was full of mercenaries and then there was Brian Leetch and Mike Richter, who came up with the team.  Neil Smith, then-GM, thought it prudent to trade away the future and try to recapture some of the Edmonton Oilers success.  This ultimately led to changes at the top, such as Glen Sather coming in and trying to do the same recipe.  Until he realized it no longer worked.

Apparently, there is some pact with Sather and James Dolan that we’re not privy to that will only happen if the Rangers make the “big” finals.  Because of that, Sather started to focus less on the free agent mercenaries and allowed the growth movement to start from within.  Guys like Lundqvist, Callahan, Girardi, sprinkled with guys like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  It’s no longer Mike Keenan but John Tortorella.  Dave Checketts isn’t pissing off his talent, but it’s now

True, those guys in 1994 were very hard working.  But they were mostly established.  Messier had won several championships.  He was the Captain of all Captains.  Callahan wears his “C” with pride, but he believes in the team work ethic that clearly trickles to the rest of the team.

To think that this is some sort of “revenge” match-up, to think this is something of a “torch passing” of a fat overrated goalie to the future of goaltending, diminishes what this series is all about.  To call this is a revenge series is laughable because, I don’t know call me crazy, isn’t three cups in an eight year span one that says, “Hey, we’re not so bad either guys.”

These are two teams that have worked very hard to get to the finals, and will work harder to get to the next level.

To me, the differences are clear.  Yet most of all, 18 years ago was a long long time ago.  Nine years ago was long long time ago.  Then was then.  This is now.

Take Those Rings And Shove ‘Em

There’s a curious thing happening here in New York City.

The Rangers are playing some stellar hockey, to the extent that it’s time to think about playoffs, and I mean *deep* into the playoffs.

Then there’s the Jeremy Lin phenomenon on the Knicks, where it’s all anyone is talking about.  Even lay people who aren’t into basketball (like yours truly) have been jumping on the #LINning tweet hash tags and wondering what this kid can’t seem to do.

The Rangers are getting their due respect.  Henrik Lundqvist is finally coming into his own as an elite goaltender, Ryan Callahan is proving to everyone why he was named Captain of the team and these guys would take a bullet for one of their own teammates.  The Knicks are making their fans believers again, to the extent that people who had given up on them a long time ago are coming around again.

That’s not to say everyone is thrilled with these happenings.  I’m sure Devils, Isles and Flyers fans don’t care much about how the Rangers are performing (or Bruins fans, for that matter).  Is anyone outside of New York following Jeremy Lin-sanity?

So then when anyone brings up the fact that Henrik Lundqvist is a frontrunner for the Hart, Vezina and any trophy that can be anointed to any hockey player not a defenseman, or that anyone is a great player in New York…those who don’t care?  Those who like New York sports?

“How many rings does Henrik have again?”

“Has Jeremy Lin won any championships?”

Yes, folks, there are those people who want to piss all over the success of individual players by pointing out their shortcomings in the championship arena.

I could go the shorthand route and say, “Well it’s a team sport and any rings earned is based on team performance.”

But it’s something that any fan goes straight to, regardless of sport.  I mean, has everyone turned in Yankees fans to use their team’s overall success to diminish the greatness of a few individual players?

Look at the Devils’ Martin Brodeur.  Uncle Daddy Fatso has won three Cups under my watch and he was the star goaltender of those teams.  Yet, those teams won as a UNIT with the likes of Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko leading the way.  Without those players, I doubt you get to fully appreciate how good Brodeur was for those teams.  And yet, when we all point and laugh at Marty, any of their Devils fans are all, “Well, how many Cups has Henrik won?”

Are you FUCKING SERIOUS?

Then there’s the whole Eli Manning ballwashing that has occurred.  Not to diminish any of his accomplishments because I’ll even admit that he has shown the capacity to really come through for his team when they need him most.  Yet, a few months ago, weren’t his fanbase and the local media throwing him under the bus for…well…whatever reason?  Look, mad respect for him…but does he win those rings with any other team?  Maybe not.

But then, does that mean he’s one of the best?  That remains to be seen.  But then we can look at the careers of Jim Kelly or Dan Marino and see that sometimes, life isn’t fair in sports.  Some of the best QBs haven’t won ONE ring, let alone two. Then Tom Brady is known for his failures to lead his team to two Super Bowl title when he already has earned THREE with the New England Patriots.

Football is strange though, because there are smaller margins of error in a season, and most games are more critical because there are fewer to play.

Basketball also has those great players who never won a championship.  I was a fan back in the day when John Stockton and Karl Malone were the core unit of the Utah Jazz.  They’re both Hall of Fame players, and don’t have a ring to their accomplishments.  Does this mean they were horrible players?  True, they’re not Michael Jordans, but even Dirk Nowitzki won a championship last year with the Dallas Mavericks, when the Miami Heat were all but anointed champions before a game was even played.

And don’t get me started on baseball.  I live in New York City, where I have to bear witness to the Yankee ballwashing that goes on a daily basis, 162 games a year, and 365 days a year when it’s all anyone harps on.  Forget the “Miracle” 1969 Mets.  Forget the Amazin’ 1986 Mets that we still haven’t gotten over.  It’s Derek Jeter – BEST SHORTSTOP EVAH according to their fans and local media.  How about Mariano Rivera?  All-time saves leader and has five rings.  But look at the teams they played on.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that those teams won because of the TEAMS and not because of one or two players?  Look at the Jazz again.  If it were up to one or two players, championships would be easier to come by.  Even the 1980s Mets were faltered because of the game of chance.

Which is all some championship seasons are.  Chance.

But then, look at the Rangers.  If they win the Stanley Cup this year, IF Henrik Lundqvist wins the Vezina or Hart (or that may be one of his teammates, Marian Gaborik), IF IF IF IF…

When someone talks about how great of a season and improbable run as Henrik Lundqvist has had, they’ll say, “Yeah…but he doesn’t THREE CUPS.”

To that, I only have one response.

TAKE THOSE RINGS AND SHOVE ‘EM STRAIGHT UP YOUR ASS KID!!!

To take a team accomplishment and make it into an individual accomplishment defeats the purpose of sports.  But hey, it’s a game of one-upmanship for fans to participate in.  But it’s a flawed argument and I hope that “real” fans understand the difference.

When Worlds Collide

As a sports nut, I have many rooting interests, sometimes conflicts of interest (especially regarding what game I need to prioritize if multiple events are being shown) and mostly conflicting seasons.  Meaning, end of summer isn’t just about beginning of football or baseball wrapping up, but it also means that hockey is in my cross hairs.

What’s also interesting is how many people seem to think the same way I do about these events.  It’s tough to find many Mets and Rangers fans.  It’s a lot easier to find say, Mets and Jets fans, even Mets and Giants fans, but Mets and Rangers are usually as far apart as I don’t know, Yankees and Mets.  See, the Mets were an expansion team, and the Rangers are an Original Six.  While both have their unique and sometimes quirky history, they are as far apart on the spectrum as any team’s history can expect.  However, the way they operate is very similar.  They both have clueless front office and ownership is family-oriented, meaning sometimes the best decisions are not necessarily made and it’s done more to protect the family than of making their investment better.

Yet, when Alvin, a Mets friend of mine, suggested a few of us get together and see a Rangers preseason game in New Jersey versus the hated Devils…I couldn’t say no.  Preseason games usually aren’t my thing (ESPECIALLY when I have to travel for it), but the people I went with are really good folks and I wanted to see them too since it had been awhile.

 

Preseason games usually don’t mean anything to me, but when I’m with such good company, it makes the trip worthwhile.

Now first things first, the moment we enter the place, it was like we owned it.  Ranger fans are very territorial, and I would say even with the success the Devils have had in recent years, the population is 50/50 at most Devils/Rangers games, and I would even venture to say the over goes to Ranger fans (it’s typically more economical to visit the team on the road in NJ, and especially convenient to the NJ portion of the Ranger fanbase).  In fact, when we walked in, a Swedish news reporter asked us about Henrik Lundqvist and why we followed the Rangers.  Of course, we all offered our opinionated views on why we love the Rangers.

The arena, Prudential Center, is much nicer than the previous hole the Devils used to play in, the Swamp, er uh…Meadowlands “I’m Calling It Brendan Byrne” Arena.  Of course, I am biased with it because while I think The Rock is a nice place, it’s nowhere near as cool as MSG.  The thing I will give it over MSG is that a) it’s newer and b) is easier to navigate than MSG.  During the playoffs last season, I was claustrophobic walking around the Garden.  This place has never given me the shrinking walls syndrome that MSG always does.  The food is also marginally better at Pru too.  Yet, I feel like I am at high school gymnasium when I attend games there, with their Devils Dancers and the overall homage to Jersey they have.  I’m from freaking Jersey, and I hate that this is the representative “Jersey team” and that it’s crammed down my throat.

 

Nice arena, but certainly not my cup of tea.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand which is the game itself…

Well, Not Henrik played, Uncle Daddy Marty (aka Martin Brodeur) did.  We got to see Ryan Callahan and his Sweet C.  Even some role guys like Mike Del Zotto showed up.

   

Some aspects of history were brought up, some sad, some kind of interesting.  One thing was that we heard most NHL teams had a dedication to those we’ve lost this summer, most specifically the plane crash that took the lives of the Lokomotiv Russian team.  It was a tearjerker for sure, and even highlighted one of the ’94 Rangers, Alexander Karpovtsev.

For the interesting part…not many people know that prior to his now synonymous #30, Brodeur was #29 at the first point of his career.  I bet this chick thought she was all hard-core wearing not only her fugly red and green originals, but that she was on board with #29 before everyone else.

As legend has it, the Rangers won in the 3rd period with a go-ahead goal and all was right in the world.  Well, I was annoyed and a bit bored since Pru did not get the memo that a) I was there and b) would like to be served immediately if not sooner between periods (especially when all I want is a goddamn soda). Plus, I had to run 10 miles the next morning and needed to get a good night of sleep.  Trust me, this stuff doesn’t happen during the season.  Plus, it was kind of entertaining to see the Devils fans treat this game like a Stanley Cup playoff.  I just had fun hanging with the people who make it worthwhile for me to root for a team and be an active participant as a spectator.

Some other observations I made, albeit quickly and with a watered-down preseason team: Passing looked smoother, they took more shots (no la-la-la pretty set-up dancing) and their power play looked at least a bit tighter.  Clearly, the boys did their homework over the summer break.

Yet, the same night, the Mets were supposed to play, and did not because of a rain out.  Typically, we are going out all out trying to keep up with the scoreboard watching, even though the Mets game meant nothing, even though it’s a meaningless game in September.  But for all intents and purposes, we were also sitting at a meaningless game.

It took more meaning with the people I was with, who also have active interests.  This is what happens when my sports worlds collide.

Oh and not only did my sports worlds collide, my arena worlds collided when the only true dancer of hockey, the Blue Seats’ own Dancin’ Larry, came and regaled us with a few moves at one point in the game!

Preseason games aren’t always to warm the teams up, it’s to warm the fans up too. Judging by the turn out for this particular game, I think it’s shaping up to be a fun season.