Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Defenders of the Faith

I'm okay with being unimpressive. I sleep better
Eliezer Alfonzo (Defenders) and Jeff Winchester (Phillies) do battle

The Connecticut Defenders lost to the Reading Phillies in Reading last night, 3-0, in a game that saw nine players ejected (four from the Phillies and five from the Defenders) after an on-field brawl in the sixth inning.

Here's how the Reading Eagle's Mike Drago described the action in this morning's paper (the photo above was swiped from Drago's Keeping Score blog):

Things got wild in the top of the sixth, when Scott Mathieson clipped Defenders catcher Eliezer Alfonzo in the lower left leg with an 88 mph fastball. It was the third Connecticut batter hit during the game, which seemed to be one too many for Alfonzo's taste.

He immediately turned toward Reading catcher Jeff Winchester. The two exchanged words, then went at it. In a heartbeat they were tangled on the ground, joined soon after by all their teammates.

“He turned around and started popping off,” said Winchester, who has been with Reading for just nine days. “He's a catcher, and I'm sure he knows when things happen, usually it's a joint decision. I know there's a little something going back and forth between these teams, and I just kind of walked into it.”

Mathieson, a former hockey player growing up in western Canada, was right in the middle of the skirmish, taking as good as he was giving. He was thrown to the ground once, and was the target of several haymakers.

The fight lasted but 40 seconds, but it was packed with some fierce action and left it's share of wounds, including a cut behind the ear of Connecticut shortstop Jake Wald, who had to be taken to the hospital for stitches.

The Defenders ended up having to insert three pitchers in the game as position players, at first base, second base, and left field. If the brawl wasn't enough, the game was further delayed by rain for almost an hour in the eight inning.

This wasn't the only interesting game this week for the Defenders, who still lead the Eastern League's Northern Division (by one game over the Portland Sea Dogs) despite sitting at the very bottom of the league in runs scored. A few days earlier, on Monday, the Defenders lost at home to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 23-9.

It's Summer School For Russian NHL'ers

Go get sacrificed! I don't subscribe to your religon!
Vladislav Tretiak

One of the more interesting items that I read on the Russian web sites yesterday was the announcement by Vladislav Tretiak, the head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, of his plan to conduct a "training school" in the United States for Russian NHL players, "to discuss with the players the importance of their participation in the hockey life of their home country."

Tretiak, along with his partner, fellow hockey legend Slava Fetisov, is planning to invite forty Russian NHL players to Chicago for a week-long training session at the end of August, in an attempt to turn around the fortunes of the Russian National Team.

Tretiak is apparently fed up with the National Team's long string of failures in international tournaments lately, the most recent being at the IIHF World Championships in Latvia, where Russia fell two games shy of reaching the medal round. Alexander Ovechkin was the only NHL player to join the Russian squad in Latvia.

These were Tretiak's comments, as reported by the RIA:

"We are a united hockey family. It cannot be forgotten that our best players in the NHL are students of Russian sports schools, that they play for Russian hockey clubs before leaving for overseas, and that many of them return to finish their career in their native land. The main thing is that they are Russian citizens, and must be prepared at any moment to protect the honor of their country in Team Russia.

"It is neccessary for us to show respect for our compatriots who have achieved the highest results in the world of hockey."

In other words: if you can't honor your predecessors by winning gold just like they did, then all hell's gonna break loose.

Bryzgalov: "It's obvious we've played better than Edmonton"

Say, where'd you get those fresh Pumas, bro
Ilya Bryzgalov

After Anaheim's 6-3 victory over Edmonton on Thursday, for which Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was benched in favor of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Mark Leyderman from Soviet Sport caught up with Bryzgalov in the visitor's lockerroom.

Although the interview was brief, Bryzgalov showed more than enough Russian candor:

Are you upset over being benched?
Why should I be upset? What good does it do if the team doesn't win? I was replaced, and we won.

But wouldn't you say with the number of goals that Anaheim scored, that you would've won also?
No. If I had played, then we might've scored differently. Who knows?

The determination in the Ducks was noticeable from the first period on. How was it that the team was so fired up against your opponent?
It is obvious that in all four games we played better than Edmonton. That was enough to inspire us. I believe if we win at home and close the margin to 2-to-3, then it is over for Edmonton and we will win the series.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Alexei Morozov: "Now I have an offer from NHL"

How do you like my new desk? I built it myself, and I have all these pieces left
Alexei Morozov-- the caption reads,
'Ak Bars - champion!'

Alexei Morozov, the leading scorer in the Russian Super League this past season, was in the headlines of almost all of the Russian sports sites earlier today, after garnering just about every major post-season award given by the RSL. Morozov took home six tropies all told (seven, according to the story in Soviet Sport), including League MVP (as voted by the head coaches), playoff MVP, top scorer and top goal-scorer, and Best Forward Line (along with Ak Bars teammates Sergei Zinovjev and Danis Zaripov).

In at least two interviews that Morozov gave (including to Soviet Sport and, Morozov confirmed that passport delays during a recent visit to the United States were what kept him from joining the Russian National Team at the recent World Championships in Latvia. Morozov also revealed that he has applied for papers to work in the U.S., claiming even further that "now I have an offer from the NHL." Morozov repeated his plans to hold off on making a decision until after July 1st, and said that if all things were equal he would remain with Ak Bars Kazan. Morozov has already gone on record as saying that he is interested in playing for the Detroit Red Wings (Alexei Morozov to Red Wings?).

As a sidebar to the story on Morozov that ran in Sport Express, it was noted that, in addition to a salary cap, the Russian Super League is considering a "foreign player tax". Each club would have to pay $50,000 for each foreign-born player on their roster, $300,000 if the player is a goaltender. This would go along with the limit of three foreign-born players, already in place. Similar to what Greg from The Post-Pessimist Association already brought up in a comment made on an earlier post (in jest, of course): as little as Canadians want Europeans on their teams, Russians want Canadians on their teams even less.

Yushkevich signs with SKA

I mean, you know where you got that shirt from. And it damn sure wasn't the men's department
Dimitri Yushkevich: watch out for the hair

In other news, it was announced today in Sport Express that former Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers defender Dimitri Yushkevich will remain in Russia, as he signed a two-year deal with SKA-St. Petersburg. The hard-hitting Yushkevich collected 31 points (8 goals, 23 assists) in 50 games while playing for regular-season champs Metallurg Magnitogorsk this past season, earning him the award for Best Defenseman among the awards given out by the RSL.

The Greatest Fedor Fedorov Blog Ever

I could be the Walrus and I'd still have to bum rides off of people
Fedor Fedorov definitely not this one.

Still, it'll give ace photographer CalderCup2000 something to read, if nothing else (even though he's single-handedly trying to drive up the market on Russian game jerseys).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SKA Vows To Sign Sushinsky

Either quit smoking or get a new lighter
Maxim Sushinsky captaining the Russian National Team

Boasting that "Maxim Sushinsky will sign with SKA no later than the end of May", SKA-St.Petersburg's team president, Boris Vinokur, has vowed to sign the star Russian forward away from Dynamo Moscow and the NHL, according to an item that was just published in Sport Express ( also has a link). In his comments to Sport Express, Vinokur acknowledges that impending changes in team partners/sponsorships, as well as a possible salary cap for next season, loom as budget obstacles.

Sushinsky has already stated, in an interview with Sport Express in March that was translated on, that he is "99% sure" that he will play in the NHL next season. However, two Russian Super League teams-- SKA-St.Petersburg and Avangard Omsk-- are also said to be pursuing Sushinsky, with SKA believed to be the front-runner should Sushinsky remain in Russia. Sushinsky started his career in St. Petersburg, which is also his home town.

Speculation has been that Sushinsky would likely go to the New York Rangers, and Jaromir Jagr (who played with Sushinsky in '04-'05 with Avangard) has been quoted as saying that he would like the Rangers to bring Sushinsky to New York.

Sushinsky played in the NHL for the Minnesota Wild in '00-'01, scoring 11 points (7g, 4a) in 30 games. He has long been regarded as one of the top Russian forwards in both the Russian Super League and in international play, collecting 236 points in 225 games over the past five RSL seasons while also being named the tournament MVP of the IIHF European Champions Cup the past two years in a row.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sheffield goes 1-3 in rehab stint

Still plenty of good seats available...if you're just drivin' around

A crowd of 4288 at New Britain Stadium watched as New York Yankees RF Gary Sheffield went 1-for-3 in a rehab stint with the Trenton Thunder earlier tonight, as the Thunder handed the Rock Cats their second straight loss, 7-4. Luckily, I wasn't freezing my butt off at the game* (game-time temperatures dipped into the 40s), instead listening to the internet feed at home in-between watching Buffalo lose one to Carolina on OLN.

Sheffield, batting third in the order as Trenton's DH, stroked the Thunder's first hit of the game, a ground-ball single up the middle in the first inning. In the third inning, on a 3-2 count with two out and the bases loaded, Sheffield drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to deep left that was struck solidly but was held up by the wind that was gusting near 25 MPH.

I haven't stolen a ten-speed in over 2 years

Sheffield struck out on a curveball in the 4th, and grounded out in the sixth before being pinch-hit for in the top of the 8th. Sheffield then left New Britain Stadium under escort before the game ended, on his way to rejoin the Yankees up in Boston, though he did sign some autographs prior to the game.

*also known as "Deadspinning-it"-- reporting on games that you didn't actually see in person

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rock Cats win 6th in a row

If I can't smoke and swear, I'm fucked
#9, Doug Deeds

The New Britain Rock Cats notched their sixth victory in a row yesterday, defeating the Connecticut Defenders, 7-5, on the strength of a six-run third inning. Doug Deeds and Jose Morales each had 2 RBIs for New Britian in the third.

New Britain had to hang on for the win when the Defenders came back with 3 runs in the top of the ninth, off reliever Tristan Crawford. Prior to Crawford's shabby outing, the Rock Cats' pitching staff had been mowing 'em down recently, carrying a 1.14 team ERA over the previous seven games.

New Britain is currently in third place in the Double-A Eastern League's Northern Division, while the Defenders (formerly known as the Norwich Navigators, before changing their name after the end of last season) remain in first place. The Defenders have been benefitting from great pitching so far this year, with an EL-leading team ERA of 2.73.

Fuck community college, let's get drunk and eat chicken fingers Cripple fight!

Meanwhile, the somewhat silly front-office rivalry between the two teams, while hardly a blood feud, continues to simmer. Will Hernandez, a sports reporter for the Norwich Bulletin who also keeps a separate blog on the Defenders, had this to say in a post titled "New Britain antics" from about a week ago:

The New Britain Rock Cats are really going out of their way to not recognize the Connecticut Defenders. In the Rock Cats media guide, the Defenders are simply recognized at the Defenders, no Connecticut attached. On the Rock Cats schedule "DF" appears instead of CT or maybe CTD. Even the standings on the Rock Cats' website have been altered to say Defenders.

I kind of find this whole thing childish on New Britain's part. Those guys draw more than 300,000 fans. I don't think the Connecticut Defenders are trying to take away from that fan base, they are just trying to strengthen their own. There is no reason for New Britain to stoop to juvenile level when it comes to something like this. New Britain should want the Defenders to succeed and build a sort of friendly rivalry. I mean don't all teams in the league want to see the others do well? That would only make sense.

I'll say this to Will-- it's hard to ask for common sense from a team (New Britain) that has 7000 fans showing up for every weekend game, yet only has parking for about 6 cars, but that's your prerogative. Keep fighting the good fight!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Alexander Ovechkin Should Get One Right Eventually

Citizens of Anvilania, I stand before you-- because if I was behind you, you couldn't see me

With the semi-final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning tonight, the four Russian prognosticators (Alexander Ovechkin, Andrei Nazarov, Valerie Bure, and Victor Fedorov) have returned with their predictions for the Conference Finals, as part of an ongoing pick 'em contest in Sport Express.

Obviously this forecasting business is a tough racket, as Ovechkin and Bure were the only ones who got even a single pick right in the previous round, with both of them picking Edmonton over San Jose. Nazarov and Fedorov each went O-for-4.

Eastern Conference Final: Carolina vs. Buffalo
Western Conference Final: Anaheim vs. Edmonton

Alexander Ovechkin: "My Stanley Cup Final: Afinogenov and Brysgalov"

"Of the two teams playing in the Eastern semi-final, I was more impressed with the way that Buffalo played in the first two rounds-- especially with the tempo of this team, and in particular the play of Maxim Afinogenov. Carolina is a good club, also, but Buffalo appears stronger to me, and I'm figuring on them being able to advance into the Finals.

"As for the West, Ilya Brysgalov is on top of his game, and to beat him will be very difficult. This will most likely be a very evenly-matched series, and one factor might be that Anaheim destroyed Colorado in four games, giving them a week off to get themselves very well-prepared.

"Buffalo in five, Anaheim in seven."

I was gonna make a speech, but I just can't be bothered anymore

Andrei Nazarov: "Edmonton will have problems with bad ice"

"The East matches up two similar team-- quick and explosive. I prefer Carolina's chances, since this is the team that knocked out New Jersey, who I had considered the best club in the Eastern Conference. Also, I'm hoping that, at long last, Carolina will free Oleg Tverdovsky from his reserve role.

"As for the West, since I played for Anaheim, I know how bad the ice in California can be during May. Edmonton is privleged with the best home ice in the league, and I think because of that they will have problems playing on the poor surface when the games are in California.

"Carolina in six, Anaheim in six."

The others:

Valerie Bure: Carolina in seven, Anaheim in seven

Victor Fedorov: Carolina in seven, Anaheim in seven

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Got a case of Pabst soaked in me gourd, bought my Action Slacks from Montgomery-Ward
Maxim Afinogenov

Has having an abundance of European players meant failure in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs?

Following the Mikhail Grabovsky post from a day ago, I poked my nose into the message forum, starting a thread that has since branched off into a discussion of European-born vs. Canadian-born prospects.

One of the posters on the forum put up this bit of information:

The following is a break down of the teams that were in playoffs and the amount of European players that each team had (results after Round 1):

1. New Jersey Devils 2
2. Colorado Avalanche 3
3. Calgary Flames 3 eliminated
4. Nashville Predators 3 eliminated
5. Edmonton Oilers 4
6. Carolina Hurricanes 4
7. San Jose Sharks 6
8. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 6
9. Ottawa Senators 7
10. Buffalo Sabres 7
11. Tampa Bay Lightning 7 eliminated
12. Dallas Stars 8 eliminated
13. Montreal Canadiens 9 eliminated
14. Philadelphia Flyers 9 eliminated
15. Detroit Red Wings 9 eliminated
16. New York Rangers 14 eliminated

Taking no other variables into consideration, it seems that 6 of the 8 teams with seven or more Europeans on their roster lost in the first round, while only 2 of the 8 teams with six or less European players were eliminated.

Could these numbers (mind you, I didn't check them) be giving us a true picture, or are they just a bunch of "horse hockey"?

A couple of weeks back, Scott Burnside wrote a column for that discussed the merits of having a group of Europeans from a single country on one team, such as the Rangers did with Czech-born players:

It has been almost a decade since Scotty Bowman made hockey headlines when he sent his five Russians over the boards en route to the Detroit Red Wings' first Stanley Cup in 42 years.

But there remained for many years the idea that teams who had too many Europeans ran the risk of not having enough chemistry, not having enough chutzpah to win when it counted. Mike Smith, a former GM in Winnipeg and Chicago, was a master at uncovering European talent but couldn't quite translate that into playoff wins, which added fuel to the debate.

Then, when Bowman looked down his bench and decided it made sense to roll out a forward line of Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov and Igor Larionov backed up by defensemen Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov in 1996-97, the hockey world waited for the collapse that didn't come.

Greg, from the uniformly excellent The Post-Pessimist Association blog, provides another counterpoint, while discussing the same Burnside column:

But in hockey, it's still considered quite acceptable to Euro-bash.

It's not just a playoff issue -- witness the debate over the two star rookies. When it's finally grudgingly admitted that Ovechkin had a better year than Crosby, it comes with the caveat that he's two years older. Like he cheated. Canadian fans act like they'll undergo a nationwide penis-shrinkage if it's acknowledged that Ovechkin might actually be in Sid's class.

But it's the postseason where the weirdo hockey nationalists really come out to play. The Rangers won't win because they have too many Europeans! They'd rather be at the World Championships! No, the Rangers won't win because they don't have enough depth and their defense is pretty thin.

There've been enough excellent European playoff performances by now -- off the top of my head, Bure in '94, Kamensky in '96, Zubov, Kovalev, Hejduk, all those Red Wings douchebags -- that it's not really any sort of valid question any more, but there's still an undercurrent of "Euros disappear in April." It's a sad, silly argument, and the underlying causes aren't easy to counter -- is it best to send Patrik Eliáš and Martin Havlát around to explain their first round stats? Perhaps kneecap Don Cherry? Hell, I dunno. It's late and I've had a bit much to drink.

Now, that's something that I wish I could've written... maybe I just don't drink enough?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pack Sent Packing

I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored
Dan Girardi #48

The Hartford Wolf Pack were defeated by the Portland Pirates in overtime on Sunday night, 5-4, losing their Atlantic Division Finals series to Portland in six games. Pierre Parenteau's power-play goal at 3:06 of overtime-- his second goal of the game-- was the blow that brought about the end of Hartford's '05-'06 season.

Hartford came close to forcing a Game Seven at home, taking leads of 2-1 and 4-3 in this game, but ultimately couldn't hold on, as Garrett Bembridge tied the score for Portland both times the Pirates found themselves trailing in this game. It was Bembridge's goal at 1:10 of the third period that tied the game at 4-4 and sent the game into overtime. Portland held almost all of the momentum in the third period, receiving four power plays (including two in the final 6 minutes of regulation) in the third period to Hartford's none, outshooting Hartford in the period, 10-4.

You think that you're too cool for school, but I have a newsflash for you Walter Cronkite... you aren't
Chris Holt knocks the puck away from Bobby Ryan

What seems like ages since the Wolf Pack's last home game will now actually end up being all summer. Each of the last four games of the series with the Pirates were played on the road in Portland, making it almost as if the team dissapeared into the Maine woods a week-and-a-half ago and never came back. About all there is left for Connecticut hockey fans (or even Southern New England hockey fans, for that matter) is to root for the Danbury Trashers, who lead the Muskegon Fury in the U-Haul League semi-finals, 3 games to 2.

Yeah, and if a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its ass when it hopped
Lauri Korpikoski checks Shane O'Brien

Portland will now move on to face the Hershey Bears in the AHL Eastern Conference Finals.

Montreal to sign Mikhail Grabovsky

Theatrics do not forge good learning skills
Mikhail Grabovsky

The Montreal Canadiens are about to sign 22-year-old Dynamo Moscow forward Mikhail Grabovsky, according to a news item that appeared yesterday on the Russian web site The items quotes Grabovsky's agent, Gary Greenstin (who is also the agent for Pavel Datsyuk) as saying, "Mikhail Grabovsky will almost certainly leave to play for Montreal next season. The Canadiens have been in constant contact with me, and there has been enormous interest shown from their side."

Drafted in the 5th round (150 overall) by the Canadiens in 2004, Grabovsky has spent the majority of his pro career playing in the relatively low-scoring Russian Super League, where he has put up 26 goals and 37 assists in 108 games playing for Dynamo Moscow and Neftkhimik over the past two seasons.

Grabovsky is second in scoring at the current IIHF World Championships with 8 points (5 goals and 3 assists) in 5 games, playing for Belarus, including a hat trick on Saturday against Ukraine.

I found my sensitve side, and it has a rash
Mikhail Grabovsky (#84, center)

Mikhail Grabovsky's player profile, from Russian Prospects:

Mikhail Grabovsky is a talented scoring line forward who has speed, vision, skill and shooting ability as his primary strengths, with his lack of size (5-11, 180) and ineffectiveness in physical play as his primary shortcomings. Skating is definitely one of Grabovsky’s top strengths, with an above average top speed and very good acceleration. A gifted player with strong puckhandling skills, effective in one on one situations with opposition players and is imaginative with the puck. Has an above average wrist shot with a quick release and a precise slap shot with a quick release. Makes precise passes on the tape. Possesses an impressive vision of the ice, seeing plays developing and creating scoring chances for himself and his linemates. Returns to help out in his own zone and at times is even deeper in the defensive zone than some of the defensemen. Is aggressive and works hard to harass the opposition.

Update 6:56pm - Thanks to a tip from the Montreal Canadiens message forum, I have found a link to another source for this story. It's in Slovakian, I think, but you can still understand it pretty well.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The NHL Encourages Everyone To Drink Responsibly

This reminds me of that old saying: You idiot

Is it just me, or does this logo for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft look like it could be the label from a bottle of beer?

(Logo swiped from this post on Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed. I know, I know-- it's a logo that I could've found laying around just about anywhere, but I like to give credit where credit is due.)

Love and Latvia, pt. 2

This looks like a lot of fun (from

My fear of a meaningless cosmos was no match for those two theologians known as meat and cheese

Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, but hit a man with a brick and you can have all his fish

Passengers will refrain from KILLING MY SOUL!

The top two photos are from May 9th in Riga, Latvia, and the bottom photo is from the May 11th game against Canada. By the way, USA vs. Latvia at the World Championships later today...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Pack Drop Game Five

How come whenever you see Satan in a video, it's always just some dork in a costume?
Martin Grenier squashes Simon "Turd" Ferguson

The Hartford Wolf Pack lost to the Portland Pirates in Portland on Thursday, 4-1, to fall behind in their best-of-seven Atlantic Division Finals playoff series, 3 games to 2. Zenon Konopka tallied 2 goals and an assist for Portland, and now has 9 goals and 10 assists in 11 playoff games this year. Konopka also has a 23-game points streak dating back to the regular season.

The Wolf Pack were whistled for 18 infractions in this game, good for 58 minutes in penalties, with Martin Grenier getting suspended afterwards by the AHL for two games "as a result of his actions in the game on Thursday". That's the generic official explanation, at least. The good news is, Grenier got sick of seeing Simon Ferguson constantly running into goalie Chris Holt (that's Holt on the ice, in the background of the photo above), and decided to do something about it. If you remember, Ferguson is the guy who practically took Holt's head off with a spear and a high stick in Game One of the series (Game, Blouses).

Game Six will be played in Portland on Sunday, with Game Seven scheduled for the Hartford Civic Center (you know-- a building that actually has lights and real bathrooms and everything) on Wednesday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

All's Hell in Love and Latvia

The Canadian government has apologized for Bryan Adams on numerous occasions
Latvian captain Aleksandrs Semjonovs and Canada's Sidney Crosby

Earlier today at the IIHF World Championships in Riga, Latvia, Canada routed Latvia, 11-0, in a game that had to be stopped twice when angry Latvian fans threw coins, shoes, and debris on the ice.

IIHF web site -- Canada thrashes Latvia 11-0, nine PP goals
Reuters -- Canada pounds Latvia as unruly crowd disrupts play

Canada scored a staggering nine power-play goals en route to an 11-0 win at Riga Arena Thursday night in one of the most extraordinary games in international hockey history. The game, refereed by American Rick Looker (who worked in the DEL this year), was dominated by a total of 23 minor penalties, 16 of which were incurred by the Latvians.

The Canadians had already scored 4 power-play goals by the time Looker called the eight penalty of the game against the Latvians at 18:00 of the first period. Fans renewed their whistling and littered the ice with refuse, the most interesting item being a single shoe. That culprit, no doubt, was easily discovered. More dangerously, the idiot element in the crowd threw coins as well, difficult to spot and dangerous to players. At this point, Looker had no choice but to send the teams to the dressing room early so the ice could be properly cleaned off.

Then, the Canadians scored three times within the first 2:24 of the third period-- first at 4-on-4, then at 5-on-3, and last at 5-on-4, making the score 8-0. After another Latvian penalty, the fans started littering the ice again with hundreds of various objects, and Looker sent the teams to the dressing room for a second time, just 4:50 into the third period.

Latvian forward Janis Sprukts came out onto the ice, went to the penalty box, and took the microphone from the PA announcer. In Latvian, he told the fans that he understood their anger at the referee--the players felt the same--but please, he begged, let the teams finish the game. He skated off the ice, back to the dressing room, and the Zambonis came out to clean the ice.

The teams returned and the scene degenerated further. Kyle Calder scored on the power play while Looker had his hand in the air to send another Latvian to the penalty box. The goal negated that. Seconds later, however, Calder scored again, this time 5-on-5, to make it 10-0. Scott Hartnell scored a ninth extra-man goal at 10:17 to round out the scoring.

Sidney Crosby has scored in all four of Canada's games and leads the World Championships in scoring so far with nine points.

Tings awr inebedably going to change! Goddammit, open your f-in' eaws!
Ukraine's Vitaliy Lytvynenko and Russia's Evgeni Malkin

In other action at the World Championships today, Alexander Ovechkin scored a goal and two assists while linemate Maxim Sushinsky had two goals and one assist, as Russia scored 5 third-period goals and downed Ukraine, 6-0.

("That culprit, no doubt, was easily discovered." Ahh, that cracks me up...)

Update 5/12/06 6:50pm -

European Hockey, of course, also has a story on the Canada - Latvia game ("Latvian fans can no longer be considered best in the world"), and posted these photos:

What can I say? One day I had this gonzo headache, and before it was over I could speak and read Chinese
I'm not nuts, I'm condiments. I've been promoted
You don't own space, so stop acting like you do!

The top photo shows Janis Sprukts, microphone in hand, trying to settle the crowd down. (Photo credits: Roman Kucera)

Monday, May 08, 2006

How Many Ovechkins Are There?

Ned, I would love to stay here and talk with you... but I'm not going to
Alexander Ovechkin at the IIHWC in Riga, Latvia

Alexander Ovechkin, the only current NHL player on the Russian roster, scored three times as Russia pummelled Kazakhstan, 10-1, in their opening match at the World Championships in Riga, Latvia, this past Saturday:

The Russians struck fast and early with a relentless, overwhelming force. That might sound like the first half of Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, but it was actually the script for a tournament-opening 10-1 rout of Kazakhstan Saturday night in Riga.

Full of youthful enthusiasm with 12 1980's-born players, the Superleague-laden Russian roster completely outskated, outpassed, and outchanced their opponents. Their 10 goals came on just 27 shots, and six were power play markers.

Alexander Semin also had a hat trick, and Evgeni Malkin added a goal and three assists against the beleaguered squad from Kazakhstan, who went on to lose 6-0 in their second game, against Slovakia earlier this afternoon.

One amusing side note: in the game against Kazakhstan, the public address announcer kept adding an "S" to Ovechkin's last name, pronouncing it as "Ovechkins", according to a story and interview that ran on the website of the radio station, "Маяк" (if you're curious, click here to hear the audio of the interview with Ovechkin, in Russian).

Maybe Ovechkin scored so often that it only seemed like there were two of him...

The Russians had a somewhat more difficult time in their second game, a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Belarus.

Canada and USA, both in Group D, are each 2-0 after their first two preliminary round games, and will face each other on Tuesday.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Pack Level With Portland

Go on and make your jokes, Mr. Jokie-Joke joke-maker!

Following a 4-3 overtime loss in Portland on Saturday, the Hartford Wolf Pack rebounded to beat the Pirates on Sunday, 4-2, knotting up their Atlantic Division Finals playoff series at two games each. After a few days off, the two teams will face off again in Portland for Game Five of the series on Thursday.

Any New Haven hockey fans finding themselves homesick for the architectural disaster that was the old New Haven Coliseum should make a pilgrimage to Portland's Cumberland County Civic Center. The CCCC is an awkward building about the size and shape of an IHOP, shoehorned into one narrow block on a steep hillside in downtown Portland. Like the New Haven Coliseum, ugly concrete roof supports dominate the view in all four corners of the arena. The seating areas have shallow stairsteps that are tricky to climb even if you haven't been drinking, and there are slopes and angles in odd places along the concrete floor for no obvious reason other than to fuck you up. The lobby and concourse are both fairly tiny, and there are only two sets of bathrooms inside the arena, creating long lines along with a solid shoulder-to-shoulder mass of humanity during intermissions if there's a decent-sized crowd like the one at Saturday's game (almost 5500 fans in a building that holds somewhat more than 6000).

Oddly enough, the Civic Center web site has a slide show of the place as it was being constructed, possibly to serve as a warning to other cities on what can happen when you allow mental patients to build a hockey arena.

He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!

Portland's Bruno St. Jacques had the game-winning goal in Portland's 4-3 overtime win on Saturday, his goal coming not even three minutes into the first overtime period. St. Jacques, who was highly-touted as a prospect while he was in the Philadelphia organization a few years back, then took a belly-flop at center ice while the rest of his teammates piled on.

Alexandre Giroux scored twice for the Wolf Pack, and Dan Girardi had a goal and two assists.

Hartford had taken a 2-1 lead early in the second period and were playing pretty well at the time. Not long after Portland tied the game at 2-2, however, Dale Purinton took consecutive minor penalties (at 8:19 and 10:36 of the second period), forcing the Pack to play back on their heels and taking away whatever momentum they might've had. Portland scored during the second power play to take a 3-2 lead, and even though Hartford came back to tie it on a third period goal by Alexandre Giroux to send the game into overtime, Purinton's two penalties were a big turning point in the game.

Along the way, Alexandre Giroux had three breakaway tries in the first and second periods and failed to convert on any of them, which has pretty much been the pattern with him all season. Two of the breakaways were almost identical to each other-- beginning with a two-line pass straight up the ice, splitting two Portland defensemen, while Giroux was streaking down the wing all alone into the Portland zone.

The Pirates attempted to pull off a "white out" for both of this weekend's games, asking every fan to wear white t-shirts, but they didn't even come close on Saturday, despite the near-sellout crowd. Nearly half the people in the crowd (including fifty or more Wolf Pack fans) wore their jerseys instead; I wasn't at the Sunday game, but with a reported crowd of 3273, I'm sure that it was no better. I think if teams are going to try to make the "white out" thing work (though it's a pretty dumb idea, anyway), they should hand out blank t-shirts at the door.

All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine
Dwight Helminen and J.B. Bittner (Photo credit: some freaked-out Portland Pirates Fan, apparently)

With their backs to the wall, down two games to one and facing three more games in Portland, the Wolf Pack pulled off a 4-2 victory on Sunday.

The Wolf Pack's Greg Moore, a former Maine Black Bear, scored Hartford's third goal of the game late in the second period, after Marvin Degon was nearly deposited into the players' bench as he sent the puck up ice. Lauri "Corporal" Korpikoski added an insurance goal for the Wolf Pack early in the third period.

The game's final buzzer was preceeded by a bunch of fisticuffs at the 19:59 mark, according to the Chicken Hawk's call on the radio, though no fighting majors were handed out (only roughing minors to four different players). In what was probably an amusing sight considering the circumstances, Hartford's enforcer, Martin Grenier (a defenseman), took the final faceoff for the Wolf Pack.

Brad Smyth, one the Wolf Pack's best goal-scorers, was a healthy scratch in both of this weekend's games.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ovechkin tries again: "No one can compete with Ottawa"

A flute with no holes is not a flute. And a donut with no hole is a danish

Following up a 4-for-8 performance in his first-round predictions (including predicting a sweep of Edmonton by Detroit), Alexander Ovechkin is back with his selections for the quarterfinal round.

Alex's predictions are part of a pick'em contest that Sport Express has been featuring since the playoffs began, and so far Alex is in last place, behind Victor Fedorov (Sergei's and Fedor's father), Andrei Nazarov, and Valerie Bure.

Maybe for the next round, I'll start listing the picks of someone who is actually on the winning side of the ledger.

Just kidding...

"Everyone saw what happened with my predictions, but let's give it a try again." --Alexander Ovechkin

Buffalo vs. Ottawa - Ottawa will prevail in six games. This is a series between two aggressive, attacking teams, both having won in fine fashion in the first round, justifying my predictions. I am confident that Ottawa will come out on top. Now that Detroit has been eliminated, it seems to me that there is no one left who can compete with Ottawa in the battle for the Cup. Ottawa was one of the NHL's best in team defense, which is a main key to success. Even better, still, if Hasek returns...

New Jersey vs. Carolina -New Jersey in seven. I am very surprised that Carolina got past (Alexei) Kovalev and Montreal. I think their luck runs out here.

Edmonton vs. San Jose -Edmonton in seven. I won't say that the West is the weaker conference. Simply, Ottawa is the definite favorite, and all of the rest of the teams in the two conferences are about equal. Personally, in the West, I like Edmonton most of all-- a brilliant, quick, young team. I thought they'd be finished by Detroit, and subsequently, I'll be pulling for them. I can't have any belief in San Jose. Their outlook mainly results from two players, Thornton and Cheechoo, and in the playoffs they'll be asked to overcome more well-balanced opponents.

Colorado vs. Anaheim - Colorado in six. This series is difficult for me to predict, because I didn't face Colorado this year. I'm picking them over a team that we beat in the regular season.

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice
Ilya Kovalchuk (Ak Bars, Class of '04-'05) says, "Alex-- maybe it's
best to keep quiet!"

And, for you Ovechkin fans, here's an extra little treat.

Friday, May 05, 2006

While You Were Out

I refuse to play your Chinese food mind games!
Wiseman scores! (Heather Sperrazza/HWP photo)

The Hartford Wolf Pack evened-up their playoff series with the Portland Pirates at 1 game apiece on Thursday night, after dropping the Pirates in overtime, 3-2, on a controversial goal by Chad Wiseman.

I wasn't at the game, nor was I able to listen in on the radio-- I was at a concert down in Bridgeport with Mrs. Brushback (it's our First Anniversary next week, send us some gifts)-- so, here's the recap of the goal as it appeared in today's Hartford Courant:

Chad Wiseman's backhander off a scramble on a power play 3:22 into overtime gave the Wolf Pack a 3-2 victory over the Portland Pirates Thursday night.

But it took about three minutes for referee Chris Ciamaga to determine if Wiseman's shot under a sprawling Jani Hurme crossed the goal line before he stopped play.

I'm sensing something very Canadian about this place
Courant photo

Thomas Pock set the decisive play in motion with a pass to the right circle to Jarkko Immonen, whose pass through the crease found Giroux at the post. Hurme stopped Giroux's shot, but Wiseman, camped in front, poked in the rebound a split second before Ciamaga raised his arms.

Wait, I thought Johnny Potsmoker was MY alter ego
Chris Rutsch photo

"The light went on kind of delayed, and I don't know if any of the officials were really in good position to see if it went in or not," Wiseman said. "I somehow managed to contain Alexandre Giroux's shot on my backhand and just whacked at it, watched it go in and put my hands up. I don't know who made the final call, but it's a good thing they made the right call. There's no question the puck was in."

I guess you think, ya know, you're an authority figure. With that stupid fucking uniform. Huh, buddy? ... King Clip-on Tie here. Big fucking man.... You know, these are the limits of your life, man. Ruler of your little fucking gate here. There's your four dollars. You pathetic piece of shit
Courant photo

When the Pirates disputed the goal, Ciamaga consulted linesmen Jim Briggs and Marty Demers, who couldn't tell if the puck had crossed the line. Ciamaga then consulted goal judge Jim McCaffrey, who reaffirmed why he had turned on the goal light.

Pirates coach Kevin Dineen saw it differently and got a gross misconduct and automatic fine for arguing.

"You saw [Ciamaga's] arms waving and the players let up," Dineen said. "I can argue until the cows come home, but that's just the nature of the business. Obviously the puck was in, but there are four very strong opinions - ours, the Wolf Pack's, the ref's and the right one."

There are an infinite number of monkeys outside, who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they have worked out

Because of scheduling conflicts with the Hartford Civic Center, the next four games of the series will be played in Portland, with Game Seven to be played in Hartford if necessary.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Alexei Morozov to Red Wings?

Smokey, this is not Nam, this is bowling. There are rules
Alexei Morozov playing for Ak Bars vs. Lokomotiv

Alexei Morozov, the leading scorer for both the regular season and playoffs in the Russian Super League this past season, is "seriously interested" in playing for the Detroit Red Wings next season, according to an item that appeared earlier today in Sport Express. According to the item, Morozov is currently in the U.S., and will give Ak Bars Kazan until July 1st to offer a new contract.

Morozov, a restricted free agent in the NHL, is a one-time 20-goal scorer for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Morozov has been playing for Ak Bars Kazan (the current Russian Super League champions) over the last two seasons, and has previously stated his intentions to return to the NHL.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Game... Blouses

Chris Rutsch/HWP photo

The Hartford Wolf Pack dug themselves a hole on Tuesday night, losing Game One of their Atlantic Division Finals series to the Portland Pirates, 6-2. The Wolf Pack could ill-afford to lose one of their home games in this series, due to a scheduling quirk (involving the lack of open dates at the Hartford Civic Center) that has the Pack playing the first two games of the best-of-seven series at home, followed by four straight road games in Portland.

What in the Wide Wide World of Sports is a-goin' on here, I hired you people to try to git a little track laid, not to jump around like a bunch of Kansas City faggots!
We're Pirates, get used to it

The Pirates were getting chances often and early in this game, holding a 13-3 shot advantage at one point midway through the first period. Too many times in the early going, one of the Portland forwards was left to himself next to the net on the backside of the play, making the perfect target for a quick centering pass and an easy back door scoring opportunity.

Portland scored the first two goals of the game before the Wolf Pack got on the scoreboard, on an Alexandre Giroux tally 15:26 into the first period. Barely one minute later, one of the worst fouls I have ever seen occured, when Portland's Simon Ferguson blatantly attempted to injure goalie Chris Holt, drawing a mere 2-minute high-sticking minor. Ferguson was skating at full speed, following the puck behind the Hartford net. As he started to skate past Holt (who was merely standing in place with his hands by his sides), Ferguson jabbed the blade of his stick straight into Holt's chest, right above the "F" in "Wolf Pack". Ferguson's stick then slid up into Holt's throat, knocking the goalie's helmet off and sending Holt face-down to the ice. This was not an accidental glance off the shoulder, but was done with an obvious spearing motion straight to the chest, which hopefully Ferguson will be called into account for as the series progresses.

Marked man: #29, Simon "Turd" Ferguson

Almost as bad was a ridiculous goaltender interference call on Chad Wiseman, 8 minutes into the third period. Jani Hurme's goalie stick got caught up in Wiseman's legs just as Wiseman was putting a shot on goal, pulling Hurme to the side while Wiseman, Hurme, and the puck were all still in the crease. Colby Genoway then jammed the loose puck home, which would've made it 4-3. Instead, Wiseman's penalty negated Genoway's goal, and Portland scored on the ensuing power play to make the score 5-2. The game was pretty much over after that, with Darien, Ct., native Ryan Shannon scoring the final goal of the game on an empty netter with 1:08 left to play, giving Shannon a hat trick.

Colby Genoway's nullified goal (Chris Rutsch photo)

With the game out of hand, some rough stuff started down in the Portland end with 9.5 seconds left. Being on the opposite end of the rink, I didn't see exactly what started the whole thing, but at one point, Craig Weller was landing one huge shot after another on Geoff "Red" Peters, who seemed unwilling to punch back. Both players still had their gloves on, so as Weller swung away, he resembled a heavyweight boxer getting in a workout on the heavy bag. Chad Wiseman had to be restrained from starting a fight himself, and Chad could still be seen yapping at whichever Portland player it was that had ticked him off, even after he had been corralled and brought to the Hartford bench.

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind, you could have done better but I don't mind, you just kinda wasted my precious time
Weller vs. Peters (Chris Rutsch photo)

Game Two of the series will be held on Thursday night, in Hartford.