We've Waited 44 - What's A Few More?
An Open Letter To The NHL

NHL,

Over the past several months with the expiration of the current CBA looming, we the fans have been waiting patiently for the signing of a new one.  Most expected it to get done in the months of summer to avoid a labour strike, but here we are in September - no CBA, and no hockey.  Now I know that the process of creating a new agreement is by no means easy, but you would think that coming off one of the most profitable years for the league, there would be more urgency to get it done.  The reason that fans are so irate, whether it be with the NHLPA, the NHL, or both - is because we have had to endure an entire summer with talks picking up only in the latter half.  Now I use the term ”pick up” very lightly.  As you may know, the NHL released a message to fans this morning (if you have yet to see it, it can be found here) - not an apology, a message.  Within the first thirty seconds of reading it, I was angered

“Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.”

          Sorry, but since when does “committed to negotiating around the clock” mean to meet up around once a week, break off talks, and not hold any meetings in the last day that the CBA was in-tact?  Then it goes on about how this past season was one of the league’s finest.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that mean they would try their hardest to build on that momentum?  I guess the NHL would rather take George Costanza’s approach, and leave after a high note has been reached.  What bothers myself, and many other hockey fans about this message is why, nowhere in those 231 words did we see one that would have held any type of meaning - sorry.  Now I’m not saying that would have made everything better, but really NHL?  You send a message to your irate fans trying to make them understand your garbage, and you only use it to feed them more garbage?  Something is not adding up here.  This comes as a surprise, as I am sure we are all familiar with the NHL’s amazing apology strategies for the last lockout in 2004/2005; writing “Thank You Fans” on the ice sure made me feel a lot better - how about you? 

          What doesn’t make me feel better, however, is how the fans are what fuel the league.  Without the fans, the NHL would be nothing.  We are the ones buying the tickets, merchandise, jerseys, apparel – heck, we even buy toasters that are branded with our favourite teams – so that people, seemingly so similar to us, can have a life we can only dream of; and make millions doing it, at that.  The reality is, the players get paid an excessive amount of money to play a game, and that is all because of us.  The league generated 3.3 billion dollars in revenue, and you cannot think of a way to divide that?  Mo’ money, mo’ problems I guess. Now even though the players get paid a stupid amount to play a game, majority of the money is rightfully theirs.  It is because of them that arenas get filled in, night in – night out (apologies to the Islanders). 

          At the end of the day, fans are not paying their hard-earned money to watch the owners sit in the press box.  We don’t walk around with Brian Burke jerseys, either.  Before Chicago drafted the likes of Kane and Toews they were pretty much last in attendance and almost headed for bankruptcy.  Now, they sell out the Madhouse on Madison and are atop the league in revenue.  One can make the argument that the players would not be there without the owners, but in the end, the owner’s jobs depend on the players – whose careers depend on us.  The NHL and NHLPA are fighting over our money.  I am not saying that we are not partially to blame – we created this monster – we still go out and buy jerseys, merchandise and tickets. That says a lot, considering how most NHL fans are regular, blue-collar folks with 9-5 jobs just trying to get by.

In conclusion, NHL, I leave you with this: While you are fighting over billions of dollars, think about us.  You know that kid who works the concession stands trying to put himself through university; That father who worked a week straight of overtime, just to take his daughter to her first hockey game. While you are trying to divvy up those 3 billion dollars, think about the people who put you in this prestigious position.  With the way it’s being handled right now, it’s a good thing for you we do not have the ability to take it all back.  But then again, writing Thank You Fans on the ice makes everything better, right?

You may say I’m a dreamer…Turns out, I am the only one.

Hi all. Haven’t written in awhile, and I thought hey - what better way to come back than with a blog that has been long overdue. Many of you know how bothered I get by certain aspects of this topic, but only a select few know why. Today, that mystery is a mystery no longer - alas, today is the day you find out about my thoughts on women in sports media. Now, this post is by no means meant to trash anyone;it is merely a strongly based opinion piece (some might call it a rant) on the difference between dreams and reality.

"The Dream"

As many of you know, it has always been my goal to be involved in sports media. Ever since I was young, all I’ve wanted to be is sitting on that infamous TSN/Leafs TV desk, analyzing everything under the sun. The dream seemed flawless. Whenever I would think anything was too much work, or I wondered why I was putting in so much effort - I thought; I thought about that TSN desk, and suddenly, nothing else mattered. Nothing was “too much work”, or “not worth it”. I knew in my heart that it was all going to pay off in the long run. I’m the type of person who, no matter what it is, I never give up. Now of course I knew that anything worth while doesn’t happen overnight; you have to work extremely long and extremely hard if you want it to happen. And that’s more than okay with me. I believe that if you want something bad enough, you can do anything to make it happen - no matter what (hey, just ask me about my “Jp Arencibia Prior Committment”). I’m a dreamer, what can I say. That has always gotten me through, day in, day out. Recently, though, I have found myself doubting that all too perfect allusion of “the dream”; no longer am I seeing that panel-desk in my future reality - no no - something has begun to take the place of it. What seems like a more realistic option now is a future involving black tights and no insight to the game of hockey.

The Reality

I keep telling myself that I’m different than these women who get jobs at these mega sports media outlets without knowing about the game - thinking I have the upper hand - when in reality, it seems to be the other way around. I started paying close attention to womens’ roles in these types of situations, and I found a lot to be strikingly similar about them. What did I learn? That their main purpose is to compliment their male counterpart; they are professional tweet readers; and the type of stories they report on, are about a player’s social life outside of hockey. That is not what I want to do. I compliment people and could be a tweet reading champion already - I want to do the real stuff. Sadly, this is as real as it gets for some ladies in sports. When you think about it, you can’t even tell how much a women in this business knows their stuff. What bothers me a lot, is the fact that people will compliment them as if they had just found a cure for global warming - or even worse problems like Matt Cooke. I don’t have the intention of sounding bitter, but really? You’re telling a girl who just read tweets for 2 hours how she did exceptional work, is one of the best in the biz, and deserves verification from twitter. Alittle over the top, aren’t we? Watching that All Star draft was a little heart breaking for me, in all honesty. Not in a jealousy way, but if you can’t see my point in all of this, consider the following:

If you’re working your whole life to get a certain job, and you have all of the skills - the perfect knowledge, ability to understand and accept opposing views, etc - and you see someone else get that job, without showing any of those skills, a passion for the subject, or any insight at all, all because they have a pretty face - how would you feel?

Now I don’t mean to belittle our friend at TSN, but that is just the most heartbreaking thing on this earth for me. And for the past little while, that all-too-perfect allusion of my dream has been s h a t t e r e d.

…But I am not giving up.

That’s not me. I’m not going to let this get me down and alter what I’ve been hoping to do for years - If there’s anything I love to do, it’s have a friendly debate/argument about everything sports - and I will not stop until I can do that professionally… ;)
If there’s something I want you all to take out of this blog, it’s that no matter what adversity you may face, no matter how many times you’ve been told you can’t do something - don’t just take it. When you find your back’s against the wall, just do one thing:

Prove. Them. WRONG.

Relationships 101

Inspired by recent events, this blog post is all about that special relationship between a fan and their favourite player.

This is a topic I have much experience in, because if you know me, you know that iI will defend my favourite player to the core - you diss him, I WILL go all Colton Orr on your butt! When I tend to have a favourite player, I usually don’t go for the superstars (except for my fave right now, because Phil Kessel is an absolute MONSTER). But we’ll get back to me later - lets move on to the relationship.

When you see him step on the ice for a shift, you focus solely on him - and there’s a thousand possible beauty plays running through your mind where he’s the hero. When he hits a post, or misses an opportunity, you’re probably just as mad as he is. And if someone on the other team shoves him? Oh, well you just want to go all ape crap on him.  And if your favourite scores? OH MAN - Get out of my way;  Everyone in sight will lose an arm and a leg if they’re within spitting distance when he snipes a beaut. You would be surprised how many emotions you can go through while watching a Hockey game.  Now, I did not mention any player specifically because I didn’t need to; you’re thinking of one right now, aren’t ya? 

Whether you’re at home in your pj’s and a jersey or out in public sporting your team, these overbearing emotions will take over.  This relationship is unlike any other - You have one side who knows just about everything concerning the other, and the other one not even knowing you exist.  Yet, YOU MAKE IT WORK!  It’s a love so strong it keeps you coming back for more.  This player could be scoreless for 15 games, or have a GAA higher than 4, but if he’s your favourite player, you will love him regardless.  You know he will break out of the slump with acouple lazers, or string together a few shutouts.  You don’t know when - you just know he will. 

As the old saying goes, all good things come to an end.  The end is arguably the lowest moment for a fan, because it’s when the player gets traded.  When news breaks that he is leaving town, no matter how long ago it was - you definitely remember where you were.  When my favourite goaltender got traded, my heart shattered into a million pieces.  I was at home, sick, on a Sunday afternoon about to watch NBC’s game of the week and I had just called my good friend to tell her it was on TV because Detroit is her favourite team.  There was a call from my uncle on the other line but I let it go to voicemail.  When I checked it 4 minutes later, I heard this come out of the speaker:  “Hey guys, looks like the Leafs just made this huge trade involving 7 players, turn on Leafs TV”.  I ran to the TV, my heart pounding, to see Brian Burke announce the deal to the Calgary Flames.  PHEW at least my favourite didn’t get traded.  I was relieved, untill he declared that another trade should be done within half an hour.  gulp.  I knew he was getting traded, I just knew it.  So I grabbed his player shirt, his bobblehead & sat patiently on the couch, praying to god the other trade doesn’t go through.  Alas, it did.  As soon as I heard Mr. Burke spit out the first vowel of his name, I let out the most bloodcurling scream one could imagine.  My favourite player was now an Anaheim Duck - Don’t worry, it wasn’t Jason Blake.  It was Vesa Toskala, and I’m STILL proud to call him my favourite goalie in the world - come at me bro!  I remember crying, and recieving 15 phonecalls within the next hour.  But when he went to Anaheim, I would stay up just to watch the game on the internet in hopes of atleast seeing him on the bench.  My teachers didn’t appreciate me making up for it the next day in class though.  Nonetheless, I stood behind him.  When that happens to you, don’t give up.  Stay behind him because this is the monumental point in your relationship.  This is when the tables turn - he needs you more than you need him.  After years of cheering your heart out countless times with him not hearing a word, this is the time he will hear you louder than ever. 

This post is dedicated to my friend;  Yuri, I hope this made you smile a bit, and made you feel ALITTLE better! :)

An Offseason in Canada

Ahh, an offseason in Canada.  There’s nothing quite like it, I must say.  Now, if we were talking about Hockey’s quiet time in the States, it would be different, but when there is no Hockey being played in Canada, this country as a whole get’s a heck of a lot weirder.  So as this offseason comes to a close (thank God) I thought it would be good to put a microscope to all the strange activities that arise for the common Hockey fan during the dark months of Summer. 

First off, we begin with Saturday Night Fever:
Yeah, from October to June your eyes are glued to the television every Saturday night - you get together some close friends or family, food/beverages of choice, throw on your Saturday Best (in this case, a jersey is all you need) and just let the evening drift away to the sounds of Ron and Don.  You yell at the refs through your TV (though that probably doesn’t only occur on Saturday nights) and you just lose track of time (except when your team get’s a penalty - that couldn’t feel longer) because after a busy week of whatever it is you do, Saturday night hockey is the official start of the weekend to any Hockey fan.  If you’re a Leaf fan like myself, you get this luxury every week without fail on Hockey Night in Canada.  If your team of choice is different, Saturday night games just feel that much more special when you know they are a rarity.  During the offseason, Saturday night TV (and I’m putting this delicately) sucks!  Instead of having a few heavy weights “dance” it out at centre ice, you have an ex-NFLer in tights actually dance with a ballerina in a ballroom.  Instead of having a superstar netminder flash the leather on an unsuspecting rookie, you have a woman flashing the new Fall collection of leather jackets up for auction.  There’s many more I have, but I’ll end it there - you get the point.  Saturday nights with no Hockey are  a w f u l.

Next up, is that sinking feeling you get when you see a membrance of anything puck-related.  A jersey, a ticket, a picture - anything.  You are reminded of the season that was, and get a little disappointed inside.  We’ve all been there.  You’re in that place where you love the Summer weather, but miss being in those cold rinks waiting for puckdrop - an interesting conundrum, I must admit.  This withdrawal leads to my next topic of the countdown.  Every hockey fan has done this at one point or another - when you miss hockey so much you see how far away that covedent opening draw is.  There are three types of countdowners: Full-Timers, Part Timers and Full Part-timers.  Full-Timers are the ones who go all out, non-stop.  Day by day, just counting the days.  Part-timers are the ones who pretend they have a countdown going, but really are enjoying Summer too much to be bothered with thoughts of Fall.  Now, Full Part-timers is where it gets special.  You really want Hockey season to start, and you have a countdown that’s on…untill you find a beach.  The countdown is on again off again for the entire Summer, which is a very delicate balance.

More off-season woes to NOT look forward to:

  • Old game Re-runs on TV - they may seem okay at first, but beware - with the sweetness of watching Hockey in the Summer comes an ugly after-taste when you realize you won’t see a new one for a while.
  • Taking up New Hobbies - With the Stanley Cup passed out, you will feel the need to find something new to keep you busy for the next little while - most people in Toronto resort to Baseball; They become huge fans of the Jays…but evidentally forget all about them as soon as someone mentions Training Camp.  That’s strike three - You’re Ouuuuuuuuuuut!
  • Patriotic Overload - Where no matter where you are under the Summer sun, you want EVERYONE there to know where your heart’s at.  Wearing your Kessel player shirt, your vintage TML hat - or maybe just starting up a random conversation about next season just hoping someone overhears and engages - Is it October yet?

And just for my twitter friends:
Whenever a Hockey player tweets, you get even more excited for the season to begin so you try to engage them in a little conversation, untill you realize it’s far off, and they don’t want to think of Hockey in their free-time because for them, it’s just an occupation.

So I bet you’re feeling kinda down about yourself now, and this journey we call the offseason.  I bet you’re wondering why I wrote this so late, or even at all…  That was the point.  Cheers to all the weird stories you’ll have for telling after this Summer, because…

Hockey season is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY!


Keep your chin-strap up because the worst is over, folks.  Dust those hoodies off, break in that new pair of skates and be glad you made it out alive.  We’re in the final stretch!  Game on.

We’ve Waited 44 - What’s A Few More?

   As a huge Leaf fan and optimist, a first blog concerning “The wait” just seems right.
A lot of people have been saying how the Leafs are “trading all their good players" and hardly getting anything in return.  Naive folks, these critics.  What the Leafs are getting in return is more than what meets the eye.  It is something indefinite, something natural, something that leaves you feeling either really paid off, or really ripped off…. This "thing" is spontaneous.  This "thing" is  a  f u t u r e

Things are quite complicated for the most part in Leaf land right now (when are they not?) - You have the true fans, the ones who are ecstatic for next season, who love the offseason moves (no matter how small) and who are just oozing  o p t i m i s m.  Then you have the other ones, also known as the people who live in Toronto and watch Hockey on occasion.  Now this populous species may seem to be Leaf fans, but beware - what they are really fans of is being delusional.  Did ya hear the one about Stamkos becoming a Leaf?  How about Parise?  Tavares?  Of course you did because their rumours spread like wildfire.  When the superstar doesn’t come to Toronto, as a result this species blames everyone. Here are some favourites: 
 
Brian Burke (he must need surgery from all the weight these folks have donned on his shoulders) Troops shmoops! We want a player that we probably don’t have a chance of getting and overpay for him! Burkie can control everything hockey in this universe, obviousy it’s all his fault!
Ron Wilson he’s an awful coach that lashes out at media when they call him out, 600 wins? Big whoop, my grandma could do that!
(Insert player here) Seriously? You’re from Toronto and you cannot take a little paycut? Oh and we also have too many ______s, so you need to play another position. Dustin Byfuglien did it, why can’t you?

This species includes certain sports newspaper columnists (yes, that one) and as mentioned earlier, casual hockey watchers who call Toronto home.  They are in great shape (jumping from bandwagon to bandwagon is great for the core) and they like to feast on everyone in the Toronto Maple Leaf organization. 

Now enough about them, let’s get back to the future.  We have acquired some great prospects and young players lately which don’t seem like much right away, but in time the improvement will be  e p i c.  These young guys will grow as line mates, and friends.  They will have superb chemisty on and off the ice, which is essential for a contender.  Look at the past Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh and Chicago - You see the core group of guys everywhere together - dinners, golfing and not to mention pre-game rituals.  Eventually this class of Leafs prospects will know each others tendencies on the ice inside and out, because they will have developed with each other for years.  A team that grows together, wins together.  They will bring the team mentality that the Leafs need.  Think of it like an apple tree: You can buy manufactured, chemical-stricken, shiny apples that you know you can eat right away and will be good, or with patience, grow that apple tree and have yourself delicious, natural apples for years to come.  It’s the same thing with developing a contender - win now and let it last a season, or win later and have a team that will have a chance every year.  Hey, these prospects might never work out - they may never make the show, or keep falling below expectations.  But just remember, all it takes to go from the basement to the Promised land is a leap of faith - the question is, how far will you jump?