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Tuesday, September 25, 2007



Sorry I’m a little late with this posting. I was out purchasing a new television after I broke the screen on my last one on Sunday while watching Bomber kicker Troy Westwood shank field goal after field goal against the Argos. Seriously, when are they going to get rid of Westwood? Is there anyone who kicks worse than he does (aside from the entire roster of Toronto FC)?

Moving onto hockey, but staying on the subject of television….

The preseason is a time when NHL teams trot out some players in their farm systems for tryouts, and players make mistakes while working out the cobwebs following a summer on the links. That’s normal. But this year, it seems like the irregular decision-making goes beyond the rink, and into the television studio as well, as evidenced by a couple of recent developments at the self proclaimed ‘Canada’s Sports Leader’, TSN.

1. TSN Hires Former Isles GM Mike Milbury as a Hockey Analyst.

There’s this big trend going on right now where all the big on-air sports shows need to have like twenty guys on the panel at once. You see it everywhere – look no further than ESPN’s NFL Countdown, which has succeeded in hiring every ex-player and coach in history as an analyst, taking a major weight off the NFL’s pension plan. So it shouldn’t be surprising that TSN decided to follow suit and add to its cast (then again, nothing should be surprising seeing how the network already has a monkey doing its NHL playoff picks!) But what is surprising – or at least should be to anyone who followed his GM career - is that they went with Milbury. I won’t sit here and tell you that Mike Milbury made some bad decisions during his tenure. But let’s just say that if you look closely at footage of when the Indians decided to sell Manhattan for $1, you can pretty clearly make out Milbury in the background proclaiming “This is a Great Trade! Let’s even throw in a first round pick too just for fun!” So yeah, I’m surprised.

2. SportsCentre is showing way too many preseason fights

Listen…I know. Fighting in hockey is great. It’s exciting, it makes players accountable for their cheap shots, and it’s essential to growing the sport south of the border. And I enjoy watching a good fight just as much as the next guy. I even still have all my old 1980’s Rock’Em Sock’Em Beta videos somewhere. But the thing is, a good fight involves real hockey players…guys on the roster…guys we know and can cheer for and against. That kind of stuff can be Highlight of the Night material sometimes. What I can live without is this: highlight after highlight of last year’s tenth leading penalty minute getter in the ECHL going toe-to-toe with some other guy who’s trying to prove he can make the Blue Jackets while being called up for a quick tryout from Moscow Dynamo. There’s got to be better things to fill half an hour with (like, say, anything sports-related but NASCAR).

Speaking of Nascar and hockey fighting….I spent the summer in the U.S. and A. (as Borat calls it) and it’s clear that this peculiar activity involving cars making left turn after left turn has completely supplanted hockey as the fourth major…ahem…sport. ESPN’s SportsCenter almost always devotes a full segment of each broadcast to discussing a cast of characters named Jimmy, Bobby, Danica, and Dale Jr. Hockey, even during the playoffs, barely gets mentioned. Granted, this is partly due to major TV contract between NASCAR and ESPN, and the lack thereof between the network and the NHL. But another reason, in a free market economy governed by supply and demand, has to simply be this: Americans don’t care about hockey anymore. And I don’t think this is going to change whether or not fighting in hockey goes up or down. In fact, I know it isn’t. Something else needs to be done (aside from relocating the Predators, Lightning, Panthers, or Blue Jackets to Winnipeg), and that something is this:

Every NHL intermission should include a 2 hour Zamboni Race. That’s right. Instead of one Zamboni boringly cleaning the ice, we will now see FIVE (5!) Zambonis descend on the ice surface at once. These Zambonis will then race around the perimeter of the rink (making only left turns, of course), until one of them wins. (I don’t know how someone wins a NASCAR race, but however they do, well, then that’s how you’ll win a Zamboni race too).

I’m confident this proposal will help the NHL gain in popularity south of the border, and if I’m wrong, then at the very least it should pique the interest of Al Gore (Zamboni fumes can’t be good for global warming, can they?) and draw some much-needed attention to the league.

Moving on……

I can’t pen a column without addressing one of the strangest incidents in recent memory…..

Gretzky Gets Caught Wearing Tocchet’s Gloves

For those of you who missed it, an astute reporter noticed at last week’s Coyotes practice that head coach Wayne Gretzky had taken the ice wearing a pair of gloves with the name of embattled former assistant coach Rich Tocchet embroidered on them. Tocchet, of course, was suspended by the league after it was revealed that he was intimately involved in an illegal gambling operation. When asked why he was wearing the gloves, Gretzky apparently responded by saying something to the effect of, “These were the only gloves I had around.”

Right. That line is almost as hard to believe as the fact that Gretz once dropped 212 points in a single season. Are we really supposed to believe that Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player of all time, endorser of seemingly every product in the universe (both hockey and non), didn’t have another pair of gloves lying around…and the Tocchet gloves just happened to be the only ones he could find? I don’t know about you, but I think this has to go down as one of the nominees for “Worst Excuse About A Glove….Not Involving OJ Simpson.”

I don’t really know what to make of the whole situation, except to say that Gretzky has been extremely supportive of Tocchet throughout his ordeal. Just this week, Gretz said that if Tocchet were cleared, he would welcome him back behind the bench with open arms. This seems a little strange, since illegal gambling is nothing to sniff at, especially in light of the recent NBA scandal. All I can say is that Tocchet should be happy that his boss has decided to go from The Great One, to being The Grateful One, at least with regards to his former assistant.

I’ve got a lot more to say, but since I have my four-year hockey pool (see Adam Gutkin’s article earlier today for more on that) as well as a regular one-year draft coming up later this week, it’s time to start doing some research! You think Mike Milbury might be kind enough to give me some advice? I wouldn’t bet on it (but Rick Tocchet would!).

Ballhype: hype it up!

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