Gary Bettman Explains the Switch from NBC to Versus

The commish joined Mike and the Mad Dog as a guest on WFAN on Monday and took quite the beating. The hosts were peppering him with questions — namely, why was the plug pulled on the Senators/Sabres game that went to overtime? Well, turns out that regardless of what the wrath and scorn of the media would lead you to believe, the plug was not pulled. In fact, Bettman knew quite well that the coverage of the game on NBC would be lost if it went to overtime.

It wasn’t something that just happened on Saturday. It was something that we knew could happen and it was something that we all planned for.

When we made our deal with NBC they had a pre-existing contractual relationship with the Preakness. Covering the Preakness is more than covering the two-minute race. There are a whole host of sponsors and advertisers who buy the time that leads up to the Preakness. NBC had an obligation to carry it.

We were getting this game to the widest coverage for the longest period of time. If we didn’t do this game on NBC even with the possibility that the game was going to be switched over for overtime, then the entire game would’ve been on Versus.

So there you go — justification from Bettman. And I think he’s just in a crappy position all-the-way around. It’s lose-lose. If they televise it on Versus, nobody sees it, and everyone laughs that a NHL Conference Finals game is on a channel nobody gets. They took a gamble hoping for the best, and they got burned. The only other plausible suggestion would have been to start the game earlier. That’s something Bettman really didn’t explain well. He tried to attribute it to re-seeding from round-to-round, and the uncertainty that the game could be on the West Coast. Lame. That would have been the best solution in my eyes.

Yes, That’s an Octopus on the Ice

For the second time in a matter of days, I was asked by someone with whom I was watching the Ducks/Red Wings series, “what’s that on the ice?” At that point it hit me — many people don’t realize the tradition of fans throwing an octopus on the ice after a goal, or towards the end of a game (yes, it’s a dead one). When I was also asked why it was done, I had no answer — outside of saying it’s tradition. But I did some searching, and I found out why fans throw an octopus on the ice.

The Motor City’s proud tradition of saluting the Detroit Red Wings with slimy creatures of the deep dates back half a century.

The first octopus landed on the ice during the Red Wings’ 1952 Stanley Cup run, courtesy of a couple of lads from a local fish shop. If you know your cephalopods, you will know that an octopus has eight tentacles. In those days it took eight playoff wins to claim the Cup, hence the supposed symbolism of the gesture.

Well there you go! You learn something new every day. And I also know something else, I’m not the type who would walk into an arena and sit through two hours of hockey with a dead octopus under my shirt. I’m not exactly the guy who’s first in on the beer bong, and I wasn’t the type back in college to drop an olive in a martini glass with my ass cheeks, if you catch my drift.

Hockey Has Cheap Shots and Suspensions Too

Yeah, Amare and Diaw weren’t the only ones who got suspended for a playoff game. Back in that other sport, you know, hockey, Chris Pronger won’t be on the ice tonight for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Ducks and Red Wings. The Ducks felt it wasn’t a cheap shot, that it was a legit hit, and they feel it’s a wrongful suspension. Join the club. Their argument is that the hit was at a 45 degree angle by Pronger on Tomas Holstrom. You make the call:

The suspension leaves the Ducks at a disadvantage tonight, and could put them in a 3-1 hole. They seem doomed to me.

Sidney Crosby Is One Tough Kid

I guess winning the NHL scoring title at age 19 wasn’t enough for Sidney Crosby to impress us all. Now he has to go out there and tell everyone that he spent the last few weeks of the season playing with a broken bone in his foot. For brief perspective, Shaun Alexander missed six games of the NFL season with a broken bone in his foot, and he plays football, where guys are expected to be tough and play through injury. Crosby was smart for not mentioning anything about the injury — imagine how many sticks, skates, and pucks he would’ve taken to the foot otherwise.

“The first two weeks were pretty sore,” said Crosby, who used only light padding in his skate so as not to give away the injury.

“After that, it started to heal, so it got a little bit better. When we got to the playoffs, it was sore, but it wasn’t grueling or anything. I got hit there a couple times after [the initial injury]. It didn’t help it, but I was fine. It just needs time.”

Look, Crosby certainly isn’t the first NHL player to play through a grave injury, nor is he the last. But he’s a high profile, young, talented player, who battled through a serious injury for a few weeks without telling ANYONE. And for that, he deserves some serious tough points.

The Playoff Beard Is on Its Last Legs

There you see the evolution of the short-lived playoff beard.  And yes, you read correctly — I am writing in the past tense because the Pens are done.  Before I get to the breakdown, you should know what you’re looking at.  From left to right: prior to Game 1 on Wednesday, April 11th; prior to Game 4 on April 17th; and today, prior to Game 5 on April 19th.  And I have to tell you, this Kyle Orton neckbeard ish ain’t cool.  How the eff did he play games like that without the urge to scratch his neck every five seconds?  This ain’t comfortable at all. 

Anywhoo, I don’t even know what to say. I already dubbed Game 4 the “must-win” game for Pittsburgh.  And they lost.  So I don’t even know what to call this Game 5 with the Pens down 3-1 and having to play it in Ottawa. Suffice it to say I’ve written them off. 

Still, it’s no worry to me.  Sidney Crosby and this Penguins team will win a Cup, sooner, rather than later.  They have way too much talent.  Nothing wrong with getting bounced in the first round … baby steps, it’s all about progress.  In fact, their regular season record is enough to be proud of.

As for the playoff beard, should it live to see more days, I’d like you all to know that the mission has been accomplished.  I watched Game 4 on Tuesday instead of the Red Sox/Blue Jays game.  I’ve been keeping up with all the series. 

I can tell you that the Rangers are a juggernaut, but they better pray the Lightning beat the Devils, because they don’t want any piece of Buffalo in the second round.  I can tell you that the hockey playoffs are like the baseball playoffs; where good pitching stops good hitting, good goaltending stops good shooting.  And such, the team with the hottest goalie goes the farthest.

And that goalie looks like Roberto Luongo of the Canucks — he’s stopped 55 of 57 shots in the past two games, both Canuck wins.  Meaning, Luongo is single-handedly carrying Vanouver out of the first round.  Yeah, you like that analysis don’t you?  See, that’s what happens when you grow the beard, you get all into it. Be sure to stop by PSAMP for some Game 5 analysis coming up.

Previous Chronicles of the Playoff Beard:
Tonight’s a Must Win For the Pens
Time for the Hockey Playoff Beard

Tonight’s a Must Win for the Pens

Trailing in a best of 7 series 2-1 is never a good place to be. Luckily the Pens have a home game tonight (not as if it mattered on Sunday) to try and even things up. It really bugged the crap out of me that the NHL arranged to have the Sens/Pens play Game 2 on Saturday in Ottawa, and turn around to play Game 3 in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Rangers who played on Saturday, are off until today! I guess ratings desperation takes precedence over rationale in this instance. Same thing with San Jose and Nashville — they had two full days in between Game 2 on Friday, and Game 3 on Monday night. Whatev.

Patrick Eaves won’t be playing for Ottawa after taking a nasty shot from Colby Armstrong which was — no question about it — completely clean. Sid The Kid is having a good series so far, and by good series I mean much better than Pavel Datsyuk’s first five playoff series. Only problem, besides of course the other team scoring more goals and whatnot, is that the Sens are freaking dominating shots on goal like 3:2 (99-66). Pretty hard to win when you’re always having to defend the puck in your own zone. So yeah, today is definitely a must-win for the Pens, because if they fall behind 3-1, you can kiss the series goodbye. And you can also kiss my beard goodbye, which is just starting to come in. Witness:

Not bad eh? A win tonight guarantees this bad boy goes until Sunday at the minimum. Here’s to the Pens in a must-win Game 4.  Check out PSAMP for more Pens analysis.

Time For the Hockey Playoff Beard

OK, so by tradition I’m a Boston Bruins fan. But what the heck does that mean? Hockey had a strike, the nuclear bombs came in, blew up the league, and they started from scratch. New rules, pretty much a free-for-all in building rosters and teams, and things became nearly unrecognizable for someone like me who was just a casual fan.

But back in the early-mid 90s, I was more than a casual fan. I used to watch local Kings games on TV, I would collect hockey cards, and I even played in a fantasy hockey league — in first grade. True story. My buddy and I chose players, came up with a scoring system, and calculated our totals every morning out of the sports section. I still remember some of my players — Pat LaFontaine, Alexander Mogilny, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Theo Fleury, and of course, Cam Neely.

See Neely was my favority player. No doubt about it. I loved Cam, Ray Bourque, Adam Oates, Joe Juneau, and Andy Moog. Even later on, I was a fan of Jason Allison and Sergei Samsonov, and some of the newer faces of the franchise. One of those such faces was Joe Thornton.

Thornton was drafted by the Bruins in 1997. I remember how elated I was about the news. Here was this monster center everyone was hyping up to be the next Eric Lindros — only without the disappointment — and he was coming to MY team. I couldn’t have been more excited. But things weren’t exactly peaches at first. It took Joe a while to get it going — really, it took around four years before he became a dominant player in the league.

Only problem is Joe always seemed to get hurt. Injury after injury beset the rising star, and after the strike, the Bruins for reasons still unbeknownst to me, traded Thornton to San Jose. Of course it wasn’t until Thornton was in a Sharks jersey that he truly started to dominate the league, racking up serious point totals.

So not only did the strike ruin the interest in the game for several casual fans, it also killed my favorite team, and the interest in that team which had already been dwindling. So why the background you ask? Well, because tonight starts the hockey playoffs of 2007, and I don’t want to feel left out.

Back when I was a serious fan, I would watch every single series and truly vibe the cut-throat atmosphere and tension in which every game was played. Even in my more recent years, when my interest was teetering but I finally started growing facial hair, I vowed to stand with my Bruins until they were eliminated from the playoffs. In fact, if you check the badge for my work ID, you will still see the remnants of that playoff beard — the one time in my life I had facial hair aside from my sideburns (the Bruins lost in five to the eventual Cup Champion Devils in the first round).

Unfortunately for me, the Boston Bruins have gone downhill, as has my interest in the team, the league, and the sport. But I need to get back. I want to get back. I HAVE to be involved somehow. So here you have it, I am making my efforts to become a fan and follow this year’s hockey playoffs. And with that declaration, I am hereto for announcing the news that on 11, April, in the year 2007, I will have transferred my allegiance to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I am jumping on the train, Sid the Kid, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s the only way to revive my excitement. I will be following the Penguins quest for the cup, and in the spirit of the playoffs, today will be the last day that I shave until MY Penguins are eliminated from the playoffs.

I hope to speak to you all sometime in the near future with my playoff beard overflowing. Amen.

The last time you’ll see that clean of a shave until the Penguins are out of the playoffs 
(face last touched by a razor on 4/11/07)